Monday, October 25, 2010

Creamy Ham and Potato Soup

As the leaves begin to change and the temperatures fall, it starts to feel like soup season to me. I had an extra large bag of potatoes that I wanted to find a use for and craved something warm. So I searched for the perfect potato soup recipe. The Girl Who Ate Everything posted a delicious looking Creamy Ham and Potato Soup a few weeks ago and I thought I would give it a try. As originally posted, this soup provides:

600 calories

26.5 g fat

1196 mg sodium

72.5 g carbohydrate

7.6 grams fiber

20.2 grams protein

When people think of making healthy changes, they often limit their scope of “healthy” to calories, fat grams or carbohydrates. But healthy changes can come in a variety of forms. Soups especially tend to be very high in sodium. The average American only needs 2,400 mg of sodium each day but many Americans consume 8,000-10,000 mg or more each day. Eating too much sodium (or salt) can contribute to elevated blood pressure, cardiovascular disease and just plain old fluid retention.

In this recipe, I changed the chicken broth to low sodium chicken broth, omitted the ½ tsp salt and switched out the diced ham for Boar’s Head brand reduced sodium ham. With those changes, I was able to cut the sodium nearly in half. I also only used 2 Tbsp of butter and 2 Tbsp of flour to make the roux and it was perfectly thick enough.

Creamy Ham and Potato Soup - BETTER

3 ½ cups peeled and diced potatoes

1/3 cup diced celery

1/3 cup finely chopped onion

½ cup carrot, diced

1 cup diced low sodium cooked ham (such as Boar’s Head)

3 ¼ cup low sodium chicken broth

1 tsp ground white or black pepper, or to taste

2 Tbsp unsalted butter

2 Tbsp all purpose flour

2 cups skim milk

Combine the potatoes, celery, onion, carrot, ham and chicken broth in a stockpot. Bring to a boil, then cook over medium heat until potatoes are tender, about 10 to 15 minutes. Stir in the salt and pepper.

In a separate saucepan, melt butter over medium-low heat. Whisk in flour with a fork, and cook, stirring constantly until thick, about 1 minute. Slowly stir in milk so that lumps don’t form and until all of the milk has been added. Continue stirring over medium-low heat until thick, 4 to 5 minutes.

Stir the milk mixture into the stockpot and cook soup until heated through.

Top with cheddar cheese, chives and bacon if desired. Serve immediately.

(Reheats well for lunch the next day, too!)

Makes 6 servings

Per serving:

317 calories

8.6 grams fat

606 mg sodium

46.2 grams carbohydrate

4.9 grams fiber

14.7 grams protein

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls

In Michigan, we are all about fall. The leaves are BEAUTIFUL, the pumpkin patches are overflowing and the abundance of apple orchards provide endless entertainment for families. My husband and I enjoy a fall weekend with many of our friends every year at one of our friend's family farm. We drive across the state for a weekend full of outlet malls for the girls, poker for the guys, hayrides, apple orchard and tons of food.

I wanted to make sure I brought along a treat for the occasion that represented fall and it's many tastes. So of course I had to find something pumpkin! (I already have made a fall apple treat here). I came across this recipe for Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls at Sweet Treats and More. As made in the recipe, these cinnamon rolls provide:
252 calories
6.5 g fat
49.1 g carbohydrate
1.1 g fiber
4.4 g protein

When baking yeast breads I am often hesitant to make too many changes as baking really is a chemical equation - which has the potential to fail miserably! The only change I made to the ingredients was to use half wheat flour and half AP flour for a little extra fiber.

When a recipe doesn't allow for huge adjustments, the next thing to evaluate is your serving size. The recipe states that it makes 12 cinnamon rolls, but I rolled mine out so it made 14 cinnamon rolls, thus making each a little less in calories, fat, carbs, etc. You could even make this into 16 or 20 cinnamon rolls, just roll out the rectangle to be a little more oblong and you'll have more room to slice more rolls.

Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls
1-1/2 cup all purpose flour, divided
1-1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup solid-pack pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
2/3 cup skim milk
2 Tbsp sugar
4 Tbsp butter, divided
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon

Caramel Frosting
2 Tbsp butter
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 Tbsp skim milk
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
dash salt
1/3 cup confectioners' sugar

In a bowl, combine 1-1/2 cup all purpose flour and yeast; set aside. In a saucepan, heat and stir pumpkin, milk, sugar, 2 Tablespoons butter and salt until warm (120-130 degrees) and butter is almost melted.

Add to flour / yeast mixture along with egg. Beat on low speed for 30 seconds. Beat on high speed for 3 minutes. Stir in whole wheat flour, 1/2 cup at a time, to make a moderately stiff dough. Knead on a lightly floured surface until smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes. Place in a greased bowl, turning once to grease top. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour.

Roll into a 14x9 inch rectangle (or longer /narrower if you are increasing the number of servings). Melt remaining butter; brush on dough. Combine brown sugar and cinnamon; sprinkle over dough. Roll dough, jelly roll style, starting with the longer side. Cut into 14 slices, 1 inch each. Place rolls, cut side down in a greased 9x13 inch baking pan. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 30 minutes. Bake at 375 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack.

For frosting, melt butter in a saucepan; stir in brown sugar and milk. Cook and stir over medium-low heat for 1 minute. Stir in vanilla, salt and 1/4 c. confectioners' sugar; beat until well blended. Add more sugar, if necessary, to achieve desired consistency. Drizzle over rolls. Yields: 14 rolls.
210.9 calories
5.7 g fat
41.3 g carbohydrate
2.2 g fiber
4.1 g protein

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Jen's Frozen Beef Enchiladas

Make ahead meals are something I’ve thought about for a while but haven’t had much success in actually making them. Not because the recipes don’t turn out… but because I previously had no where to store them. When we built our new home six months ago we purchased a deep freezer and my make ahead possibilities seem to be endless. Many people plan make ahead meals when they are getting ready for a new baby. I, however, had a baby eight weeks ago and didn’t do much make ahead meals prior to delivery but rather now, during my maternity leave. I am preparing to return to work full time in a few days and hope to have several make ahead meals ready in the freezer for when I come home from work and still want a home-cooked meal on the table.

Upon searching for make ahead meals, I came across this post at The Sisters’ Café which lists many make ahead meal options. I chose to make Jen’s Frozen Beef Enchiladas. As listed, this recipe’s nutrition facts are as follows:

588 calories

21.3 g fat

55.3 g carbohydrate

3.7 g fiber

41.2 g protein

My husband and I really enjoyed these enchiladas, and I’m looking forward to when we have the second frozen portion in the future.

As a main dish, this isn’t too bad for fat or calories. But if you are trying to watch your waistline, every little bit makes a difference! I only made two small substitutions. I decreased the portion of meat and added a can of black beans for protein and added fiber, without the additional fat of meat. I also substituted 2% cheese as I often do in recipes. When cutting the fat in cheese, 2% typically cooks similarly to its full fat counterpart and I rarely notice a change in taste. Fat free cheese, however, I NEVER recommend. It doesn’t taste cheesy and it doesn’t melt – not exactly what I want on my enchiladas!

Jen’s Frozen Beef Enchiladas – BETTER

1 pound eye of round beef

1 can red enchilada sauce

1 ½ cups shredded 2% cheese

1 can diced green chilies

1 can black beans, rinsed and drained

15 7-8” tortillas

1 additional can red enchilada sauce

½ c. shredded 2% cheese

Leave the roast in crock pot all day with a cup of water. After about 5-7 hours on high heat, it should shred pretty easily.

Add one can red enchilada sauce, 1 ½ c. cheese, green chilies, and drained black beans to shredded beef. Put meat mixture in tortilla and wrap. Place in a freezer bag. When ready to bake, put in baking dish (10 fit in a 9x13, 5 fit in an 8x8). Pour additional can of enchilada sauce on top and sprinkle with ½ c. cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes.

529 calories

13.1 g fat

63.2 g carbohydrate

6.5 g fiber

37.4 g protein

Banana Carrot Bread (or muffins)

I’m not a big banana eater. I will buy them a few times a year for my husband to eat but he usually forgets about them and they turn brown and mushy on the counter. So I toss them in the freezer for their inevitable fate of banana bread.

This past weekend my brother and his family came from Pittsburgh to see our new house and meet our new baby. I assume all young children eat bananas so I purchased a bunch for my 2 year old niece and 11 month old nephew to eat. Turns out they are not banana eaters… so banana bread it is! I went searching among the food blogs for a banana bread recipe. I came across this recipe from The Sisters Café for Banana Carrot Bread and thought I’d give it a try.

As originally posted, this recipe provides:

Per serving (18 servings per recipe)

200 calories

9.8 g fat

30.5 g carbohydrate

0.9 g fiber

2.3 g protein

This recipe has a lot of good qualities. The bananas provide a good source of potassium which helps your heart and muscles. The carrots are a good source of vitamin A which has many benefits, including vision health.

I only made two small changes in this recipe. I substituted unsweetened applesauce for the canola oil to decrease the fat.

I also substituted whole wheat flour for the all purpose flour to provide added fiber and a source of whole grains.

The result was a batch of delicious, flavorful, and tender muffins.

Banana Carrot Bread – BETTER

1 cup mashed bananas (~3 very ripe bananas)

1 cup brown sugar

¾ c. unsweetened applesauce

2 eggs

2 cups whole wheat flour

1 tsp baking soda

½ tsp salt

½ tsp cinnamon

½ tsp nutmeg

1 cup finely grated carrots

Combine bananas, brown sugar, applesauce and eggs in mixer. Sift flour, soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg together in a large bowl. Stir in banana mixture. Fold in carrots. Spoon into greased and floured large loaf pan. I baked in lined muffin tins for 20 minutes. Bake at 350 degree F for 45-50 minutes or until done. Do not over bake.

118 calories

0.9 g fat

30.9 g carbohydrate

2.3 g fiber

3.3 g protein

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Caramel Apple Cheesecake Bars

First of all, everything about this recipe sounds awesome. And I can only imagine that as the recipe as posted by The Girl Who Ate Everything, it is amazing. But also sounds incredibly indulgent:

Per serving (makes 24 servings)

377.5 calories

22.4 g fat

46.7 g carbohydrate

1.3 g fiber

5.0 g protein

I decided to make this recipe way before I tried to make it healthier. I was going to an event at church and knew this would be the perfect fall dessert. But I just couldn’t bring myself to put three packages of cream cheese into. I read the original blog post more thoroughly and noticed that the original recipe was from Paula Deen and the filling only had TWO packages of cream cheese – voila! I could make that!

When making desserts healthier, you have to tread carefully. Certain ingredients (often butter and eggs) have structural roles in the recipe and really can’t be substituted. So you have to come up with other ways to improve the nutritional value. Whole wheat flour – although calorically similar to all purpose flour – can provide added fiber to a recipe, which was one way I tried to improve the recipe. In this recipe I like the whole wheat flour, it provides a nutty taste to the crust.

Caramel Apple Cheesecake Bars – BETTER


2 cups whole wheat flour

½ cup firmly packed brown sugar

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened

Cheesecake Filling:

2 (8-ounce) packages of reduced fat cream cheese

½ cup sugar, plus 2 tablespoons, divided

2 large eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract


3 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and chopped

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

Streusel topping, recipe follows

½ cup sugar free caramel topping

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a medium bowl, combine flour and brown sugar. Cut in butter with a pastry blender (or 2 forks) until mixture is crumbly. Press evenly into a 9x13 baking pan lined with heavy-duty foil. Bake 15 minutes or until lightly browned.

In a large bowl, beat cream cheese with ½ cup sugar with an electric mixer at medium speed until smooth. Then add eggs, 1 at a time and vanilla. Stir to combine. Pour over warm crust.

In a small bow, stir together chopped apples, remaining 2 tablespoons sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Spoon evenly over cream cheese mixture. Sprinkle evenly with Streusel topping. Bake 30 minutes or until filling is set. Drizzle with sugar free caramel topping and let cool. Serve cold and enjoy!

Streusel Topping:

1 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1 cup whole wheat flour

½ cup quick cooking oats

½ cup (1 stick) butter, softened

In a small bowl, combine all ingredients until crumbly.

Nutrition Facts (24 servings)

294.1 calories

15.9 g fat

40.9 g carbohydrate

2.7 g fiber

5.0 g protein

Monday, October 11, 2010

Hot Hoagie

When you see a recipe featured and linked between several sites, you assume it’s a good one. When that recipe contains the word “hoagie” that perks the ear of this former Philadelphia-area resident. Although, really, this recipe reminds me NOTHING of the ham, salami, capricola, chewy bunned sandwiches of my childhood – yet still tasty.

As prepared, the “Hot Hoagie” featured on My Kitchen Café and later by Real Mom Kitchen, the recipe is not exactly figure friendly. Here’s the lowdown:

Per serving (8 servings):

Calories: 632

Total Fat: 22.4 grams

Sodium: 1301 mg

Carbohydrate: 77.7 g

Protein: 28.2 grams

That’s even using reduced fat mayo and sour cream!! I made a few changes and still came up with a tasty dinner.

Hot Hoagies – BETTER for you

1 loaf French bread, cut lengthwise and hollowed out slightly

1 ½ cups cooked, shredded chicken breast

½ cup light mayo

½ cup fat free sour cream

2 green onions, thinly sliced (white and green parts)

¼ tsp. garlic powder

1 cup fresh, chopped spinach

2 Tbsp dried parsley (or 1/3 c. fresh parsley)

1 cup 2% Cheddar cheese

¼ cup shredded Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place hollowed out French bread on a large baking sheet. Mix all topping ingredients together in a bowl. Spread topping evenly on top of both lengths of French bread. Bake for 15-20 minutes until bubbly and edges are lightly browned. Slice into pieces and serve immediately.

New nutrition facts:

Calories: 389.9

Total Fat: 10.0 grams

Sodium: 863.8 mg

Carbohydrate: 54.7 grams

Protein 18.9 grams