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Posts tagged ‘healthy recipes’

Healthier Fast Food for YOU!

I can’t remember the last time I stopped for fast food. It has been so long that I decided to bring some into the test kitchen to see what it’s all about these days. I chose three popular “sandwich type” meals, dissected and analyzed them and came up with a much healthier alternative. Here they are. The “store bought” ones are listed first, followed by the healthy makeovers. Take a good look at what you are eating!

ONE:  The first one was the cheapest. At $1.05 – no joke – it was called a Beefy Crunch Burrito. I thought “crunch” sounded good, but here’s what was inside:

Taco Bell 2_1This sandwich contained 1/3 cups not so crispy – in fact very soggy things that looked like iridescent red Fritos. When I first looked at it, I said “Where’s the beef?” Then I was able to scrounge up about 1/4 cup of hamburger, not quite 1/3 cup of rice and a squirt of a liquid Velveeta type cheese. I found 1 Tablespoon of sour cream squirted in one spot, so you get that in only one bite. The flour tortilla was 10-1/2″, for comparison purposes.

This sandwich contained 540 Calories, 16 g Protein, 21 grams of Fat, 1110 g of Sodium, 71 g Carbs, 7 g Fiber an 7 g Sugar. That sugar is always there to entice you to want to eat more… and frankly this sandwich contains so little protein, you would definitely want two or three to feel full. The problem is that you can’t get the protein without all the other stuff, so then you are way off the charts in terms of healthy.

TWO:  The second sandwich – and these are all from different establishments by the way, was called a Crispy Chicken Caesar. This one weighed in at $1.37, but again I think you would need two to fill up.

Wendys Crispy Chicken Used

My first reaction to this one was, “Where’s the Caesar?” In this 8″ tortilla, I found 2-1/2 oz. breaded and fried chicken, about 1 Tablespoon of dressing that tasted like mayo, 2 slivers of Parmesan cheese included with about 1 Tablespoon of lettuce. Huh?

The crispy chicken was breaded and fried. This sandwich had 440 Calories, 17 g Protein, 26 g Fat, 970 g Sodium, 33 Carbs, 2 g Fiber, and 1 g Sugar.

I think we can do better, add some protein, use a healthier method of cooking and really get some Caesar Salad in there without sacrificing a lot of calories.

(Nutrition information came from the web-sites of their companies or Live Strong.)

THREE: My third choice was called a Chipotle Steak and Cheese with Avocado Sandwich – and I threw in some banana pepper too, but their nutrition info on their sites is not with any extras, mind you. My first reaction was NOT “Where’s the bread?” Who could miss it? This one was out of control with Carbs and out of balance with its protein. It will be an easy one to re-design. It was also the most expensive at $5.60.

Subway Chipotle Steak and Cheese 1 UsedThis sandwich contained 2-1/3 oz. of meat that looked like some sort of compressed meat or Salisbury steak but I think it was billed as Rib-eye – not sure, 1/4 cup of Avocado, about 2 Tablespoons Chipotle Mayonnaise, and 6″ of thick bread (with Parmesan baked into the top). It had 550 Calories, 28 g Protein, 28 g Fat, 1260 g Sodium, 52 g Carbs, 8 g Fiber and 8 g Sugar. So now let’s get busy and re-design these so they are healthier, easy to make and easy to carry along in a lunch bag with an ice pack. By the way, the three sandwiches cost $8.02 and at retail prices, I spent $9.07 getting the ingredients for my new ones (per serving), assuming I had condiments in the fridge already, and a tortilla costs about 25 cents. ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

ONE – FIRST RECREATION: Beefy (Crunch) Burrito 

Our Beefy Burrito has 545 Calories… pretty similar Sandwich #1 above. However, we were able to increase the protein to 33 g (from 16 g) and reduce the fat from 21 g to 19 g. We reduced the Carbs from 71 to 47 and reduced the sugar from 7 g to 2 g. Fiber was about the same.

“Crunch” sounds good, but isn’t that practical in a sandwich with this much moisture. If you want some “crunch” add a small portion of baked tortilla chips on the side. Nothing will stay crunchy inside a sandwich when it’s mixed with mayonnaise – especially if you are carrying it along for a lunch later in the day. Also, this was the most unhealthy part of the Burrito, so we decided to leave it out.

Here’s the new recipe! (Doesn’t this look a bit tastier and more substantial? Not to mention healthier!)

Beefy Burrito - LOGO

3 ounces lean ground beef, (1/2 cup) fried without oil in a non-stick pan. (Be careful not to overcook it.)

1/2 cup wild rice, cooked with 1 Tablespoon butter. (Wild rice takes a long time to cook. You might want to make some extra to save for a future meal. Multiply the amount of rice by 2 and that’s how much water you need. Bring it to a boil. Cover and reduce the heat to cook for 50 mins. Then let it stand for 10 mins.)

1/4 cup Low Fat Cheddar or Colby Cheese
1 Mex America 10″ flour tortilla, warmed
2 Tablespoons Fat Free sour cream or yogurt
Sprinkle with freshly ground pepper

Method: Put the sour cream or yogurt on the tortilla first. Top it with rice, then beef, then cheese and sprinkle with pepper. Roll up and either grill or bake just long enough to melt the cheese.

TWO – SECOND RECREATION: Crispy Chicken Caesar

Here’s the re-make on this one. Calories were reduced by 23. Protein was increased by 2.4 g. Carbs were increased by just one gram due to more dressing, which was badly needed! Protein went up 2.5 g. Fiber was the same. Fat was reduced by 5 g. Sodium was a little more, again due to more dressing, as well as sugar by 2 grams for the same reason. I do not feel these increases are significant since we added lots more minerals with much more lettuce and more cheese. I don’t think the first sandwich should really be called a Caesar when there’s 1 Tablespoon of lettuce and cheese combined! Our sandwich has much more taste and more minerals – and comes across as a real Caesar (sans croutons) – and for less Calories!

Here’s the new recipe! …………..

Chicken Caesar Taco - LOGO

3 ounces chicken breast tenders, (baked or browned in a non-stick frying pan)

1 8″ MexAmerica flour tortilla
1 cup shredded green lettuce 2 Tablespoons Fat Free Caesar Salad Dressing
1/4 Cup Parmesan cheese, reduced fat, sliced Pinch of pepper

Method: 1. Place all ingredients on the tortilla and roll it up. Enjoy your healthy Caesar Salad!


THREE – THIRD RECREATION: Chipotle Steak and Cheese with Avocado Sandwich

For this last sandwich, we were able to drop the Calories by 140! Protein remained the same. Fat was decreased by 6 grams. Carbs were decreased by 27 g! Fat was decreased by 6 g. Fiber was 4 g less. Sugar was 5 g less – cut to almost nothing. Sodium was decreased by 494 g. What a great improvement! Plus it sure looks a lot more appetizing. I think I would rather eat this one.

Here’s the new recipe! …………

Chipotle Steak & Cheese with Avocado Wrap - LOGO3 ounces Top Sirloin Steak, boneless, fat trimmed, sliced thin and browned in a non-stick frying pan with no oil
1/4 cup Avocado, mashed
2 Tablespoons Fat Free Mayonnaise
1 Chipotle pepper (Canned, in Adobo sauce), minced
1/4 cup Low Fat Cheddar Cheese, grated
Pinch of freshly ground pepper

Method: 1. Once your meat is cooked, mix the minced pepper with the mayonnaise. Spread a little of it on the tortilla.

2. Add the mashed avocado, then the grated cheese, then the meat. Sprinkle with a little freshly ground pepper. Then just roll it up and eat it!

I think you can see that with just a little planning ahead you can make much healthier sandwiches/wraps for you and your family. All you need is a lunch bag a couple of ice packs! No lines, no stopping, no waiting. Just pull it out when the hunger bug strikes! You also know exactly what’s in those sandwiches… so enjoy every healthy bite!


First to “SPRING” up: Asparagus!

white-green-purple asparagusWhen I think of Spring and especially May, my eyes light up and I’m transported back to all the times I spent in Germany during this special month. It’s special because the first asparagus tips have pushed through the soil and the first “Spargel” starts showing up on menus. You will find these tender (primarily white) tips served in an unbelievable variety of ways… with radicchio and Parma ham (one of my favorites), with strawberry sauce, in delicious, creamy soups, with potatoes and spices, with egg omelets, with fresh river trout, with homemade linguine  bacon and tomatoes, in crepes, in lasagna, in quiche, with a variety of meat dishes and simply topped with lovely, creamy, homemade Hollandaise sauce. Is your mouth watering yet? Mine is with all of these memories!

When you look for asparagus in the markets, you will find it in three distinctly different colors. So what is really the difference?

WHITE ASPARAGUS is white because it can’t get any light. This process is called etoliation. Dirt is mounded around the emerging stalks and the fields are also covered with light proof netting. No chlorophyll (which would make the plant green) develops to help the plant absorb light, because there isn’t any light, so the stalks remain white. Many plants that are grown using etoliation are small and weak, but in the case of asparagus, the white stalks are usually large and robust. They also develop a stiff outer coating that MUST be peeled in order to eat them. Try not peeling it once and you will see what I mean. The asparagus will be absolutely inedible. On second thought, trust me on this one and don’t waste this beautiful vegetable. The taste is a bit milder than green asparagus and the color can be very interesting when added to other dishes. You cook it just like green asparagus and it can be interchangeable in recipes.

GREEN ASPARAGUS, on the other hand, does not need to be peeled, with one exception. When the stalks are very large, I do peel it very thinly, using a peeler, just to remove the large “thorns”. The thorns will not prick your fingers, but when they get very large, they don’t taste that great and the texture can be unpleasant. With green asparagus, I prefer the tender, young stalks that only take a couple of minutes to steam and enjoy. The larger stems can have a very “woody” taste and are simply not as good.

PURPLE ASPARAGUS was cultivated from green asparagus. It is just as healthy, a little tenderer and has a slightly different taste than green asparagus. It needs to be steamed quickly or baked because its color fades when exposed to water. But again, it’s an interesting color addition to recipes.

All asparagus is also a GREAT diet food! It contains high levels folate and potassium as well as antioxidants that fight against heart disease and Alzheimer’s Disease. To cook it, just steam it for a few minutes or until you can just get a fork through it. It’s easy to make and a good idea to get it into your diet!

Spring Asparagus Roll

Here’s a fun asparagus recipe that I did for MexAmerica Foods: Get the recipe at:

Think like a chef.

You’re sitting in a restaurant and your dinner entrée has just been delivered. Your plate is simple but beautiful. Why? Because back in the kitchen, the chef has bins of many different items to choose from for your plate. A little bit of this and a little bit of that are what provide color and taste and make that plate special – not to mention economical and the fact that if you eat several different little things, it’s more interesting than if you eat a lot of one thing (even if it’s good). With more variety, your plate looks full, but if you think about it, in restaurants, often there is not that much on it. It just looks like it. So never forget that you eat with your eyes first. Especially when you are in diet mode, you want to present a plate that looks loaded so you feel like you are eating a lot and filling up. Making a plate that looks inviting and has interest is also really simple at home. Just learn to use your leftovers wisely. 

Here’s a perfect example. Yesterday, I picked up a fresh trout filet for dinner. At the moment, my husband doesn’t want any starch, so I headed for the vegetable bin. I found one ripe tomato, one baby cucumber, four baked cipollini onions, one scallion, and one cooked corn on the cob. These are all things I could easily have thrown out, but didn’t. And that’s what you see in the photo – all sliced thinly and set on two plates in a matter of ten minutes. The fish? Split in two, dipped in a whisked egg, sprinkled with a couple of Tablespoons of Parmesan cheese and baked at 425º F just until it flaked – about 10 minutes in this case. Verdict? Easy. Colorful. Delicious. Filling. What more could anyone ask for? Ahhhh… One more thing. Something like 1/3 the price of the same meal in a restaurant and without any butter. Now that’s a winner.

Sugar Baby, Sugar!

Like most people I know, I’m trying to diet. The minute I hear the dreaded D-word though, all I want is sugar. It pursues me through my dreams and tortures me until I submit.I realized I had to call a halt last night when I looked in the mirror and saw myself eating a dish of chocolate chips smothered in some Sanders caramel sauce I found hiding in a back corner of the refrigerater. (It was all I could find after the diet cupboard cleanout.) So what’s a girl to do? GET BACK TO THE BASICS.

One of the very best ways to increase flavor is to reduce a liquid. It strengthens and concentrates what is left and  lets us take total advantage of nature’s goodness. So try this. I took a gallon of cider and boiled it down to a cup. Add nothing. Just refrigerate it until you want to use it. Apples have a lot of pectin, so this process turns it into a delicious jam that is incredibly sweet, flavorful and filling – not to mention handy! Put it on your toast instead of sugary jam, brush it on pork chops, pork roasts, chicken or duck after cooking, stir it into your cinnamon tea, etc. etc. Have fun with it. I know you will really enjoy it.

NOTE: It can take as long as two hours over high heat to boil the cider down to a cup, so you want to do it when you will be around. Keep a close eye on it especially at the end because it will reduce faster and faster. It will froth at the end and then it’s done.

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