Friday, July 31, 2015

Butterscotch Chip Cookie Cake with Low Fat and Low Carb Cream Cheese Frosting






I prepared this Butterscotch Chip Cookie Cake for my granddaughter Maddie's friends at the daycare she goes to.  Yesterday was really Maddie's 2nd birthday but we celebrated her birthday early last Sunday. We had a delicious beautiful cake from Giant Eagle.  I used the figures in this cake and copied the scene to show off the three characters from Sesame Street which Maddie loves when I prepared this cookie cake. 

I have prepared a cookie cake before using the famous Mrs. Fields Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe which included oatmeal.  I decided to look for a simpler recipe without it just in case one of the children might be allergic to oatmeal.  I also avoided using peanut butter and any kind of nuts.  

I used a recipe from Savory Sweet Life and substituted butterscotch chips in the recipe since I ran out of semi-sweet chocolate chips.  I did have dark chocolate but I thought that might be too bitter for the children's taste.

For the icing to spread for the background, I used  Low Fat Low Carb Cream Cheese Frosting.  It worked well.  For the message I used icing in tubes to write it out.

If I were to do this again, I would not use all the batter for a cleaner look.  Some baked on the sides.  I would place just enough batter so as not to reach the top of the rim of the pan. 

All the kids ate the cookie cake with gusto.  Maddie loved it and could hardly wait to eat it.

Here is how it looks without the frosting and decorations.  Pretty uninteresting but can be used as is.  Actually when serving to children, icings I found can be challenging to clean from their faces and hands.  Perhaps skipping it is better. 


Voila the magic of color and visual figures.  I used icing in tubes to write the message and it was running out and also due to unsteady hands the words came not so clearly but what the heck I tried.




Maddie proudly poses infront of her B-day cake.

Her mom dressed her to the hilt in this beautiful dress.  I love it.

Maddie almost done with her piece.

Butterscotch Chip Cookie Cake with Low Fat and Carb Cream Cheese Frosting 

(Adapted from Savory Sweet Life)

30 servings




  • 1 cup (2 sticks) salted butter, softened
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1½ cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2¾ cups (12 oz) all-purpose flour
  • ¾ tsp. coarse sea salt or 1/2 tsp table salt
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1½ tsp. baking powder
  • 1-12 oz bag butterscotch chips


  • 1.  Preheat the oven to 360 degrees.
    2.  Cream the butter, sugar, and brown sugar until nice fluffy for approximately three minutes on medium high speed in an electric mixer. 
    3.  Add both eggs and vanilla and beat for an additional 2 minutes.
    4. Mix the baking soda, baking powder, salt, and flour in a small bowl and add the mixture to the cookie batter until fully incorporated.
    5. Add the buttterscotch chips until well distributed. The cookie batter should be somewhat thick.
    6.  Fill a non stick 15 x 10 cookie sheet or a round pizza pan with just enough batter to fill the sheet below the edge of the pan. (Important note)  What ever size of cookie sheet you use, do not fill it up to the edge since two things can happen, it can overflow or it would bake up to the side of the very top of the pan which is not too visibly pretty.  I have read some people prefer to use a 13 x 9 rectangular pan but I like the look of the cake on a cookie sheet.
    7.  Bake for 20 minutes.  I prefer to leave the cookie cake in the cookie sheet pan and decorate the cooled cake while in it for ease of transport. 
    8.  Cool and ice with the Low Fat and Low Carb Cream Cheese Frosting the recipe of which is shown below.

    Note nutrition facts below are for the cookie cake without frosting.


    Low Fat and Low Carb Cream Cheese Frosting


    30 servings

    • 1 - 8 oz package low-fat cream cheese softened
    • 6 tbsps light Smart Balance spread
    • 1 tsp vanilla extract
    • 1 (or 2) cup Splenda sugar substitute (I used 1 cup only)
    Mix the ingredients thoroughly. 

    Slow Cooker Hoisin Glazed Meatballs


    There are times when we crave something from our favorite Chinese take out place.  Of course we can always hit our favorite all you can eat Chinese buffet also.  But who wants to dress up for that.  Here is what I do when I just have to have my Chinese food fix in a convenient way.  I rely on my frozen meat balls and the combination of bottled sauces and condiments in my fridge and pantry.  I almost forgot to mention I added one green pepper chopped to increase the nutrition value of the dish plus texture. 
    I am presenting to you two ways I fixed my cravings through one slow cooker recipe.  One way is to use the hoisin glazed meatballs straight as an appetizer and the second is serving them over Ramen noodles and steamed vegetables. I had both for lunch and I can go on with my life now.  Life is good.
    Here is how I prepared this simple but amazing recipe using the wonderful slow cooker

     

    Slow Cooker Hoisin Glazed Meatballs

    12 servings (2 large meatballs or 4 small ones per serving)
    • 24 frozen cooked large meatballs or 48 small ones (or your own recipe)
    • 3/4 cup hoisin sauce (from a bottle)
    • 1/2 cup rice vinegar
    • 1/2 cup apricot preserves (I used sugar free one)
    • 1 cup water
    • 1 tbsp cornstarch
    • 1/8 to1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
    • 1 green pepper, chopped (optional)
    Place all the ingredients in a slow cooker and mix them thoroughly.  Cook for 3 hours at high setting or 6 hours at low.  I used an Aroma brand rice cooker/slow cooker where I cooked the mixture for 2 hours at slow cooker setting.
    You can use the cooked meatballs as is as an appetizer.  You can also serve it over Ramen noodles with steamed vegetables. 

    Thursday, July 30, 2015

    Slow Cooker Four Ingredient Rosemary Lemon Chicken







    I decided to start a small herb garden in flower beds in our deck.  One of the herbs I bought is a small pot of rosemary.  I also bought two kinds of mint, oregano, basil and lavender.  This is my first time to grow them outside and I am very excited to see if I can make them flourish.  Once before I remember keeping small pots of basil and rosemary inside the house, but we forgot to water them  and they just withered and died.  Tsk tsk. 

    I am thinking that one way to keep me enthused in taking care of my mini herbal garden is to actually use them in my cooking.  This dish is my attempt to use rosemary straight from its mini pot. 

    I have made a similar recipe for rosemary lemon chicken in the past but the recipe employed almost a cup of olive oil and the chicken was baked.  I decided to try cooking the chicken breast without the olive oil and in the convenient slow cooker.  My husband and I are into eating healthier these days. 

    My picky husband actually liked the simply prepared dish which called for only 4 main ingredients.  He just wanted more salt on the chicken.  I am watching my salt being a diabetic so I prefer the seasoning with salt according to taste.  Serving the dish with the sea salt and pepper on the side or seasoning the chicken after slow cooking them if serving buffet style can solve the dilemma of pleasing everyone's taste for salt.

    Here is a very simple, four main ingredient dish packed with flavor and good for you. 
    

     

    Slow Cooker Four Ingredient Rosemary Lemon Chicken

    4 servings

    • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
    • Juice of 2 lemons
    • Zest of one lemon
    • 2 cloves garlic, minced
    • 1 Tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped
    • 1 tsp. pepper (more on the side upon serving)
    • 1/2 tsp. sea salt (more on the side upon serving)

    1.  Whisk together lemon juice, lemon zest, garlic, rosemary, salt and pepper.  Place in the slow cooker.  Place the chicken breasts on top. 

    2.  Cook in the slow cooker for 3 hours at high setting or 6 hours at low.  I cooked mine in an Aroma brand rice cooker/slow cooker for 2 hours at slow cooker setting.

    3.  Serve with sides of pepper and salt to sprinkle on top of the chicken according to taste.  Or you can also season the chicken directly with salt and pepper before serving.  You can serve this with rice or mashed potatoes or pasta.  Enjoy. 





    Simple Low Fat, Low Carb Broiled Haddock


    Trying to lose weight is never easy.   Health experts advise not only to be conscious of the calories but also the nutrition that one gets from the dish.  I find eating fish meets this criteria as long it is done right.  This recipe, I found in the  Allrecipes website, relies on a combination of spices to give the haddock great flavor without resorting to high fat cheeses or exorbitant use of butter to make it taste good.  It does not use carb laden bread coating either.  This dish has only 4g fat and 2.2 g carbohydrates and yet it is utterly delicious and flavorful not to mention packed with protein, 37.4 grams per serving. 

    Simple Low Carb, Low Fat Broiled Haddock

    (Adapted from Allrecipes)








      Wednesday, July 29, 2015

      Slow Cooker Cranberry BBQ Sauce Meatballs and Maddie is Two!






      Do you need an easy dish for your next potluck affair?  Here is a three ingredient recipe.  Frozen meatballs, jelled cranberry sauce and barbecue sauce. That is it.  I promise you it is a crowd pleaser.  I have been asked its recipe many times.  In fact I took it to my granddaughter's Maddie advanced birthday party this past Sunday.  She will be two years old in a few days.   Her dad really liked it and wants the recipe.  He even suggested the sauce will be good for chicken wings too. 

      As I previously mentioned, Maddie had her advanced birthday party this past Sunday.  Here are highlights of her party.  Happy Birthday Maddie.  We love you.  You have given us so much joy these past two years.

      The two boxes for this kitchen arrived more than two weeks ago.  It was assembled one week later but was hidden from Maddie for another week.  She loves playing with dishes when she is at my house.  Dishes she inherited from her Mom so we know this will be a hit with her.  She was stunned when it was unveiled and just went to open every nook and crannies for the dishes and plastic food.


      That is how excited she was.  I could not take a posed shot she was just all over the kitchen.


      Finally we were able to yank her out of her toy kitchen to open her other gifts.  Here
      Aunt B has just opened a toy cash register, one of her other favorite toy gifts.


      When we asked what theme she would like for her B-day, whether Barbie, Elsa or Elmo.  Without hesitation she answered Elmo.  Her Aunt B shopped till she dropped for everything Elmo for her B-day decoration - streamers, tabletop deco etc etc.  Elmo plus his friends as shown in this B-day cake from Giant Eagle.  It was so good together with Edy's ice cream.  I just ditched my diet for that day.


      I love this pose.  It really shows she has grown up.  She did not have to be helped on the chair which we did on her first birthday party last year.  That look of happiness on her face is precious.  Note the Elmo doll in the background that actually embraces people including Maddie.  She was afraid of it at first but she is used to it now.


      Her grandma Carol is helping Maddie blow the candles.


      In the foreground, is Kali, Jason and Anne's daughter.  Anne is holding her.  Maddie is in the background being fed the cake by her grandma Carol.


      This house was revealed to her about two weeks ago before the party.  It came with a phone just like the kitchen.  Maddie really belongs to high tech age as you can glean from how comfortable she is using the toy phone.  The side table is used a lot for serving the dishes and plastic hot dog and hamburger that came with the grill which was bought separately. 

      Slow Cooker Cranberry BBQ Sauce Meatballs

      12 servings (2 large meatballs with sauce or 4 small ones per serving)


      • 1-16 oz can jelled cranberry sauce
      • 1 cup barbecue sauce (from a bottle)
      • 24 large pieces frozen meatballs or 48 small ones (or you can use your own meatball recipe)


      Place all the ingredients in a slow cooker. Cook for 3 hours at high or 6 hours at low setting. I used an Aroma brand rice cooker/slow cooker where I cooked the mixture for 2 hours at slow cooker setting.






















































































































      Friday, July 24, 2015

      Apple Squares (Original and Healthy-fied Versions)



      I had these Apple Squares at the funeral of Fran Jankowsky's husband Neil.  Fran is also an Associate of the Sisters of St. Joseph and actually one of its first members.  Her friend Elaine Calligan provided the original recipe to me via good old mail.  It took about a month but it was worth the wait. 

      Since my husband and I are both trying to lose weight, I tried to shave some calories from the original recipe by substituting egg beaters for one of the three eggs, yogurt for part of the oil and Splenda for part of the sugar needed in the recipe.  I was able to shave around 49 calories per serving.  Every calorie counts when you are trying to lose weight so I am happy.  According to my tasters including friends at a prayer meeting and my picky husband the health-fied version gets the thumbs up.  For me who had the original, I still am craving for that version but the healthy-fied one is really delicious.
      I am providing both versions and their nutritional information.  Enjoy either one.

      Apple Squares (Healthy-fied)

      (Based on recipe provided by Ms. Elaine Calligan)

      24 servings

      Ingredients

      • 2 eggs plus 4 tbsps egg beater
      • 1/2 cup low fat vanilla yogurt plus 1/2 cup vegetable oil
      • 1 cup sugar plus 1/2 cup splenda
      • 2 cups flour 
      • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
      • 1 to 2 apples, cut into small cubes
      • 1/4 tsp salt
      • 1 tsp baking soda
      • 1 tsp cinnamon
      • 1/2 tsp vanilla

      1.  Beat eggs for 1 minute, add sugar gradually, then oil.   Beat slowly.

      2.  Add dry ingredients slowly to the egg mixture while beating.  When well mixed, fold in apples and nuts.  Mix well. 

      3.  Bake in lightly greased (if needed) 9 x 13 pan for 40 to 45 minutes in a 350 degree oven. 

      4.  Sprinkle with powdered sugar, just before serving. 



      Apple Squares (Original)

      (Recipe provided by Ms. Elaine Calligan)

      24 servings

      Ingredients

      • 3 eggs
      • 1 cup oil
      • 1 1/2 cup sugar
      • 2 cups flour
      • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
      • 1 to 2 apples, cut into small cubes
      • 1/4 tsp salt
      • 1 tsp baking soda
      • 1 tsp cinnamon
      • 1/2 tsp vanilla
      1. Beat eggs for 1 minutes, add sugar gradually, then oil. Beat slowly.

      2. Add dry ingredients slowly to the egg mixture while beating. When well mixed, fold in apples and nuts. Mix well.

      3. Bake in lightly greased (if needed) 9 x 13 pan for 40 to 45 minutes in a 350 degree oven. 

      4. Sprinkle with powdered sugar, just before serving. Do not cover, very moist.

      A Tribute to a Beautiful Song - "The Dance"

      I rediscovered this song, "The Dance", written by Tony Arata and sang by Garth Brooks, when my husband and I were discussing the meaning of the song after he sang it during a Karoake session during our recent Alaskan cruise.  He dedicated it to a couple we met during the evening sit down dinner.  They were celebrating their wedding anniversary.   I thought Bob, my husband, gave a beautiful rendition of the song even without the Southern twang that Garth Brooks puts in when he sang it.

      Somewhere in his memory, my husband recalled that it was not a clear cut romance gone bad song.  It was something else.  As usual, I googled it and found out that indeed it went beyond that interpretation though it could still be a proper one to assume. 

      In this link https://vimeo.com/60119381 Garth Brooks mentioned that when they were preparing the video for the song which is considered his signature one, they went for something deeper in terms of the significance of the song.  They wanted to focus on famous icons who lost their lives as they pursued their dreams.  In this aforementioned video, they showed archived footages of these heroes who bravely went for their dreams no matter what the odds were.  Garth assumed that if these icons knew the ending which were tragic for some they would still "leave it to chance" as the lyrics say and would not change a thing.  He also mentioned that he himself would like to live his life in a similar manner and be remembered for living it that way. 

      This video was made in 1990 for Garth's first album and the song shot to number 1 and the video won the award for Best Video that year.  (I could not upload the Vimeo video but below is a Youtube video that this blog will allow.   Do savor the beautiful melody and words of the song.  To view the Vimeo with Garth's explanation click the aforementioned link https://vimeo.com/60119381 ).


      Here is the list of people that the director of the video John Lloyd Miller and Garth Brooks included. They chose them to represent the American Icons who died for a dream. Below are the description of these dreamers as quoted from Wikepedia.

      The melody which begins with the haunting chords easily sweeps you to your own dreams as I did.  I began to ask myself, have I fulfilled them?  Would I have changed anything or leave it to chance?

      I played this song many times especially after I learned the meaning that the videographers wanted us to envision.  Everytime I felt a little bit nostalgic and a little teary eyed.  The journey was not always smooth to reach my own dreams.  There were some parts in them that were left unfulfilled.  But overall,  I am grateful to have lived the way I did and I would not change a thing.  I would leave the chips alone and let them fall whereever they had.  After all what is life without surprizes or the excitement of daring to face the unknown? Knowing the pain as the lyrics say, will leave you with cold feet and miss the dance. Isn't life more the journey than the destination?  Not to sound philosophical or theological, isn't this the beauty of  being granted freedom or our free will by a loving and trusting God?


      Skinny Chicken Enchiladas from Slow Cooker Salsa Chicken




      Two meals in one, why not?  This recipe uses chicken cooked in the slow cooker with just two pantry staples, salsa and cream of mushroom soup.  As is the chicken can be eaten just cooked this way.  My family has just done exactly that ever since I obtained this recipe for Slow Cooker Salsa Chicken.  I usually place the chicken and its sauce over rice but Denise who gave me this recipe said that she puts them over baked biscuits.   Either way this Slow Cooker Salsa Chicken dish will be a family favorite.

      This simple chicken salsa dish is simply divine but despite that I always have left overs and I wanted to recycle them to something different.  I have been a fan of the Eat Yourself Skinny blog where I found a recipe for Skinny Chicken Enchiladas.  A bulb lighted up and I thought why not use the leftover chicken and sauce from the Slow Cooker Salsa Chicken for the chicken enchiladas? 

      I tweaked the recipe so I can substitute the cooked chicken and sauce and I also added chipotle from a can instead of using the Mrs. Dash chipotle seasoning suggested in the original recipe.  The smokiness imparted by this added chipotle really made the enchiladas stand out.  I just ditched the cilantro in the list of ingredients since my husband does not like its taste.  This is a killer recipe because of the sauce and you will not be using canned enchilada sauce again.

      So here are the recipes for the Slow Cooker Salsa Chicken and the Skinny Chicken Enchiladas.

       

      Slow Cooker Salsa Chicken

      6 servings

      • 6-8 pieces of chicken breasts 
      • 1 can Cream of Mushroom soup
      • 1 cup salsa

      Place all the ingredients in a slow cooker and cook for 8 hours at slow setting or 4 hours at high.  I cooked mine in an Aroma Brand rice cooker/slow cooker at slow cooker setting for 2 hours. 

      Note:  If you are using for the Skinny Chicken Enchiladas, set aside 2 -3 cooked chicken breasts and 3/4 cup of leftover sauce for the sauce in chicken enchiladas plus another 1/3 cup for the chicken filling.  (A total of around 1 cup and 2 tbsps of leftover sauce).


      Skinny Chicken Enchiladas from Slow Cooker Salsa Chicken

      (Adapted from Eat Yourself Skinny)

      8 servings


      For the sauce:

      • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
      • 1 can diced green chilis
      • 1 1/2 cup tomato sauce
      • 1 inch piece chipotle from a can, chopped (note 1)
      • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
      • 3/4 cup leftover sauce from Slow Cooker Salsa Chicken
      • salt and fresh pepper to taste

      For the chicken:

      • 1 tsp vegetable oil
      • 2 cooked chicken breasts from Slow Cooker Salsa Chicken, shredded
      • 1 cup diced onion
      • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
      • 5 stalks green onion, sliced and divided (set aside two stalks for topping) (note 2)
      • salt
      • 1 tsp cumin
      • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
      • 1/3 cup leftover sauce from Slow Cooker Salsa Chicken
      • 1/2 cup tomato sauce
      • 8 6-inch tortillas (reduced carb)
      • 1 cup shredded low fat Mexican cheese or cheese of your choice
      • Nonstick cooking spray

      The sauce: 

      Saute garlic in a medium pan that has been sprayed with nonstick cooking spray. Add the green chilis, chopped chipotle, cumin, leftover sauce from Slow Cooker Salsa Chicken, tomato sauce, salt and pepper.  Bring to a boil and reduce heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes.  Set aside.

       

      The chicken:

      Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

      Heat the vegetable oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat then lower the heat.  Saute onions and garlic on low until soft, about 2 minutes.  Add cooked chicken, 3 stalks sliced green onions, salt, cumin, oregano, leftover sauce from Slow Cooker Salsa Chicken, tomato sauce and cook for 3 minutes.  Remove from heat and cool.

      Assembly:

      Spray a 13 by 9 inch glass baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.  Place 1/3 cup chicken mixture into each tortilla and roll it.  Place each roll in baking dish seam side down.  Top with sauce and cheese.  Cover with foil and bake in the oven in the middle rack for 20-25 minutes.  Top with green onions.

       

      Notes:


      1.  You can freeze any leftover chipotles in the can as individual pieces placed in plastic bags for future use.

      2.  You can substitute cilantro for the green onions.

       

      Monday, July 6, 2015

      The Good for You Olive Tapenade


      I wanted an olive tapenade that is not only tasty but also nutritious.  I also want the ingredients to be readily available or at least what I can use for other purposes.  I found a recipe online that fulfills this wish of mine.  I adapted it to suit the ingredients I already have and came up with this recipe which features other nutritious Mediterranean ingredients like nuts, tomatoes and red pepper. 

      I also like this recipe since it cuts down on the salt that other recipes I found online have plenty of.  For example I saw one preparation which uses capers and/or anchovy fillets which add to the saltiness tendered by the olives themselves.

      This recipe also does not use a lot of olive oil or hardly any.  For example, there is a simple recipe online which calls for only three ingredients but it uses a large amount of olive oil for its third ingredient aside from the olives and garlic. 

      This Good for You Olive Tapenade  is also very easy to make.  You do everything in a food processor.  I used a mini processor in my case.  It just chopped everything together. 

      Though simple and easy this tapenade is just as good as any of the decadent ones found online.  It is definitely also very nutritious.

      The Good for You Olive Tapenade

      Ingredients                       

      4
      • 12 cup assorted olives pitted and preferably oil-cured 
      • 2 garlic cloves
      • 6 grape tomatoes or 1 small tomato, cut into smaller pieces and preferably seeds removed
      • 1/2 red pepper
      • 1/8 cup almonds
      • 1 small jalapeno pepper  (optional).
      • olive oil from the bottle of olives for taste and presentation  (optional)
      • dry parsley or basil for presentation and taste (optional)
      1.  Add the olives, garlic, tomatoes, red pepper and almonds (and jalapeno pepper if using) in a food processor and pulsed till the ingredients are finely chopped. 

      2. You can drizzle the finished tapenade with olive oil from the bottle of olives for taste and presentation if you like and if you do not mind the added calories. 

      3. Spread on sliced French baguette.  You can garnish with dried parsley for color and taste.











      Wednesday, July 1, 2015

      Slow Cooker Barbecue Ribs Quesadillas





      July 4th is coming and you might be preparing a lot of ribs to be sure you have a lot to go around.  However in case you have the same predicament I had when I cooked a lot of the Slow Cooker Rolling Stone Spare Ribs the last time I prepared it for a tailgate party and end up with leftover ribs, here is a wonderful solution.  You can freeze the ribs and use it to make quesadillas for your next meal.   That was what I did two days ago. 

      I added cheese and green onions to the meat and we all know anything with cheese and green onions is always a winner and these quesadillas definitely is.  One can use the leftover sauce from the slow cooker ribs or just add any bottled barbecue sauce to the meat mixture. 

      Make it a point everytime you slow cook ribs using any recipe, double the batch in order to make these delicious quesadillas.  Your family and friends will love you for doing so.  Easy and simple recipe.


       Slow Cooker Barbecue Ribs Quesadillas (serves two)

      Ingredients            

      • 1/2 cup cooked meat of leftover ribs, (for example, the Slow Cooker Rolling Stone Barbecue Spareribs or any leftover ribs you might have)
      • 1/4 cup barbecue sauce or any leftover sauce from the slow cooker ribs
      • 2 stalks of green onions, sliced
      • 1 jalapeno, chopped (optional)
      • 1 cup shredded cheese
      • 2 6 or 8-inch tortillas
      1.  In  a nonstick skillet place the left over ribs, barbecue sauce, green onions and jalapenos if using and just heat through to thoroughly mix the ingredients.  Allow to cool. 

      2.  Place 1/2 of the cooled meat mixture on half of a side of one tortilla and then add 1/2 cup of cheese and then fold over. 

      3.  Place about 1/2 tbsp oil in a nonstick skillet heated at medium heat.  Place the tortilla with the meat  and cheese on skillet and brown that side and then flip and brown the other side.

      4.  Cut into wedges and serve with salsa, sour cream and guacamole if you like.