I adore cooking food on a cedar plank. Why? Let me count the ways…
1. Baking on a cedar plank imparts a subtle wood flavor to meat, fish, shellfish, poultry, and vegetables, adding warmth and complexity to any dish.
2. The baking planks are designed for baking in the oven and they last for years (even if they crack, you can place them on a baking sheet to catch any juices).
3. Wooden planks belong in a healthy cook’s arsenal because, once seasoned the first time, they retain their moisture and require very little, if any, fat to prevent sticking.
4. Because wooden planks retain moisture, they help maintain the natural juices in meats and vegetables, keeping the food moist as well as flavorful.
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The great thing about bacon is that everyone loves it and a little goes a long way to enhance a dish. You don’t need to pile it on to get huge flavor. I mean, look at the calories and fat in this feast — it proves that you can enjoy bacon without loads of extra fat or calories.
I love the way the bacon spruces up mild-flavored chicken and keeps the lean meat moist as it roasts. I wanted to create a fantastic presentation so I cut the bacon into little squares and arranged it on top of the chicken, like rooftop shingles. I used applewood-smoked bacon because I like the way the smoky apple flavor (from various apple trees) partners with the chicken and honey mustard. You can use any smoked bacon you want, including hickory or brown sugar. Read more »
Who doesn’t love mac and cheese? But do you also love the 500-600 calories and 15-25 grams of fat per cup that comes with it (and who has just one cup)? Truth is, you don’t need heaps of fat to create a creamy and sensuous macaroni and cheese. A little butter goes a long way, as does good quality cheese. When it comes to toppings, I like the contrast of tender, cheesy noodles with crunchy toasted bread crumbs, but when you bake macaroni and cheese with a crust, the noodles dry out. So, for this dish, I created the topping in a skillet and then sprinkled it on at the end, creating golden brown, parmesan-spiked bliss. Also, lots of mac and cheese recipes call for a dash of hot sauce – the heat ramps up the cheese flavor and rounds out the dish. Instead of hot sauce, I decided to add a roasted jalapeno. The freshly roasted pepper adds the perfect amount of smoky heat and a splash of color. I think you’ll adore this! Read more »
The chimichanga, or chimi as it’s affectionately termed in the Southwest, is a deep-fried burrito stuffed with meat, vegetables and spices. Once fried to perfection, chimichangas are often topped with cheese and served with a variety of condiments, such as green onions, diced tomatoes, guacamole, sour cream and black olives. Sounds delicious, right? It is delicious, but consider that one restaurant-style chimi has around 760 calories, 34 grams of fat and 1,930 mg of sodium. With that much sodium, you’re done for the day — you’ll have reached your daily max in sodium in only one meal. Store-bought frozen chimichangas fare slightly better, with around 300-500 calories, 25 grams of fat and 1,200 mg of sodium per serving. Filling aside, it’s the deep-frying that does most of the damage. Regular burritos have about 200-300 calories and 10-20 grams of fat each, but drop them into the deep-fryer and you can add 225 calories and 21 grams of fat to each burrito. Yes, the deep-fried, crunchy exterior is great, but not worth the health consequences, especially when a healthier version is so easy to make.
You can stuff flour tortillas with delicious ingredients and then bake the chimichangas in the oven for the same, amazing result. Try this recipe and let me know if you agree. Read more »
In France they call it “en papillote”. In Italy, it’s “al cartoccio”. In America, we call it parchment cooking. What does it mean? Very simply, it’s a cooking technique that involves wrapping food, typically fish, chicken and/or vegetables in parchment paper. Once wrapped like an envelope, the “packet” is baked in the oven until the entire meal is moist, tender and cooked to perfection.
The technique may sound fancy in other languages, but it’s actually quite simple. Even better? It’s probably the least messy cooking method because it doesn’t involve any pots or pans. Nutritionally speaking, because all ingredients are assembled in a packet, very little (if any) fat is needed, making it a fantastic cooking technique for the Healthy Eats crowd. Read more »
Traditional pesto is a vibrant blend of basil, pine nuts, garlic, Parmesan or Romano cheese and olive oil. The term “pesto” comes from the Italian word pestare, which means to pound or crush (you might be familiar with the mortar and pestle, the tools often used in the preparation of pesto). Pesto has countless applications in cooking – it can be tossed with warm pasta or gnocchi, swirled into mashed potatoes, added to steamed vegetables, and spooned onto toasted bread (bruschetta). You’ll never run out of ideas and it’s a quick cook’s best friend. Keep basil pesto in your refrigerator-arsenal for last minute meal solutions. Read more »
A taquito (pronounced ta-kito) is a rolled up, filled tortilla that’s deep-fried until golden brown and crisp. In the classic Mexican dish, also known as a flauta, the tortilla is typically corn and the filling is beef or chicken. Taquitos are amazingly crunchy and delicious, and they make a fun hand-held treat. Problem is, depending on the filling, ONE taquito can have 200-500 calories, 8-28 grams of fat and 350-1,134 mg of sodium. And nobody eats just one. Since I want you to enjoy all the flavors without all of the calories, I revamped the dish to make it Healthy Eats-friendly. Not just friendly — consider this taquito your new best pal! The filling is a savory blend of grilled chicken, salsa and sharp cheddar cheese. And by baking the rolled tortillas instead of deep-frying, I was able to shed hundreds of calories and milligrams of sodium and dozens of fat grams. Check them out and let me know what you think! Read more »
Inspired by the new flavored butters on the market, here are some fresh and versatile oil alternatives that can liven up your menu while keeping saturated fat in check. Use flavored oils to spruce up marinades, salad dressings and vinaigrettes, pasta and rice dishes, and use the oils to sauté, stir-fry and sear your favorite vegetables, meats, fish and poultry.
Remember, all oils have about 120 calories and 14 grams of fat per tablespoon, so always measure your oil to keep the calories in check. Olive, canola, safflower and nut oils are higher in monounsaturated fat, vegetable and sesame oils are evenly split between monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat and corn and grapeseed oils are higher in polyunsaturated fat. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are both heart-healthy; they help lower cholesterol and they dish up powerful antioxidants that protect against cell damage. That said, it’s good to mix things up and use a variety of oils when cooking and creating meals.
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Edamame, or soybeans in the pod, shouldn’t be relegated to date night at your local Japanese joint. With just 120 calories per serving (1/2 cup shelled or about 1 1/8 cups in the pod), edamame packs a powerful nutrient punch. In fact, it’s so crammed with fiber, you’d have to eat 10 cups of chopped Romaine to get the fiber found in 1/2 cup of edamame (9 grams). The little legumes are also loaded with protein (11 grams/serving), iron (unusual for a plant food) and vitamins A and C, two very potent antioxidants. Check out my fiery way to serve them in the recipe below. I typically use the microwave-ready, steamable, frozen bags of edamame and I used those to test this recipe. Let me know what you think! Read more »
Frozen bread dough is a quick cook’s best friend – especially when you think outside the traditional 1 pound baked-loaf-box.
1. Parmesan, Garlic & Herb Dinner Rolls: Divide the dough into 16 equal pieces and shape the pieces into balls/rolls. Place the rolls on a baking sheet that’s been coated with cooking spray. Spray the rolls with cooking spray and then sprinkle with grated parmesan cheese and salt-free garlic and herb seasoning. Bake at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes, until the rolls are golden brown.
2. Calzones: Roll the dough out into a large circle, about 1/2-inch thick. Top one side of dough with shredded mozzarella cheese, mixed vegetables and pasta sauce. Fold over the untopped side and pinch the edges together to seal. Transfer the calzone to a baking sheet that’s been coated with cooking spray. Bake at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown.
3. Deep Dish Pizzas: Divide the dough in half and press each half into the bottom and slightly up the sides of two 9-inch cake pans. Top with pizza sauce, shredded cheese and toppings. Bake at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes.
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