Friday, June 3, 2011

Compost Cookies

Okay, so this could very well be the best cookie recipe that you will ever encounter.  I mean it.  Seriously, it's amazing. This recipe comes from the fine folks over at NYC's Momofuku Milk Bar.  Weird name, I know.  But the name doesn't deter from its awesomeness.

I first heard about these cookies when I caught an episode of Live with Regis & Kelly last year.  You must know that I rarely watch this show.  Sorry Regis, but the only reason I caught this episode was because my anchor-crush Anderson Cooper (doesn't every girl have an anchor-crush?) was guest co-hosting.  He introduced the Compost Cookie as his absolute favorite.

I've read mixed reviews about people making this cookie at home.  I haven't had any major issues.  Just follow the instructions very carefully and watch your ovens.  You'll be fine. You'll be more than fine.  You'll be in cookie-heaven.

The Momofuku Milk Bar Compost Cookie
recipe by Christina Tosi
(originally featured on the Regis & Kelly website, but it is no longer posted)

  • 1 cup butter, unsalted
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp corn syrup 
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 tsps baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 cups your favorite baking ingredients (some options include: chocolate chips, Raisenettes, Rollos, Cocoa Krispies, oats, mini-marshmallows, toffee bits, etc. )
  • 1 1/2 cups your favorite snack foods (I go for salty such as chips, pretzels, etc.  On the show Kelly added goldfish to her batch.  The bottom line is, if you like it or your kids like it, go for it!!)
Note:  I change up the ingredients almost every time I make these.  This last time I used: chocolate chips, almond joy candy, M&M's, potato chips and pretzels.

In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream butter, sugars and corn syrup on medium high for two to three minutes until fluffy and pale yellow in color. Scrape down the sides with a spatula.

On a lower speed, add eggs and vanilla to incorporate.  Increase mixing speed to medium-high and start a timer for 10 minutes. During this time the sugar granules will fully dissolve, the mixture will become an almost pale white color and your creamed mixture will double in size.

When time is up, on a lower speed, add the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Mix for 45 - 60 seconds just until your dough comes together and all remnants of dry ingredients have incorporated. Do not walk away from your mixer during this time or you will risk over mixing the dough. Scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl with a spatula.

On the same low speed, add your favorite baking ingredients and mix for 30 - 45 seconds until they evenly mix into the dough. Add in your favorite snack foods last (and no, you don't need to crush the regular pretzels or chips), paddling again on low speed until they are just incorporated.

Using a 6 oz. ice cream scoop, scoop cookie dough onto a parchment lined sheet pan.  They will really expand so leave plenty of room between your cookies.

Wrap scooped cookie dough tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for a minimum of one hour.

NOTE: DO NOT BAKE your cookies from room temperature or they will not hold their shape.

When you are ready to bake, preheat the oven to 400 F.  Unwrap the cookies and bake for 9 to 11 minutes. While in the oven, the cookies will puff, crackle and spread.  At 9 minutes, the cookies should be browned on the edges and just beginning to brown towards the center. Leave the cookies in the oven for the additional couple of minutes if these colors don't match up and your cookies still seem pale and doughy on the surface.

Cool the cookies completely on the sheet pan before transferring to a plate or an airtight container for storage.

I love this cookie because you can really make it your own.  Get the kids in on the action--they'll enjoy the process of picking and choosing what goes in it, and they will definitely love the end result!  Enjoy!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Pan Seared Salmon with The Sauce

It's been waaay to long since my last food post! My apologies. We've been a little technologically challenged lately. Not only with computer issues but camera issues too!  Technology hates me--what else can I say? I think we have it all under control now. Anywhoo, onto the salmon...

Outback Steakhouse used to make a sauce that they served with their salmon entree.  After years of ordering it every time I went there, it suddenly disappeared (the sauce I mean). When I asked the server about it, he said they no longer made it. I was heart broken. Okay, maybe not heart broken, but seriously disappointed. So, this recipe was born out of my desire to recreate the Outback sauce.  Over the years, I have changed The Sauce several times.  It now looks nothing like the original, but I'm very happy with the results every time I make it. 

  • 2 salmon fillets-skin on (4-6oz each)
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Cooking Spray
For the sauce:
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup light sour cream
  • 1/2 tsp. of Old Bay Seasoning (This stuff is great for seafood. You should definitely think about investing in it if you don't already have some.  Supermarkets carry it.)
  • 1/4 tsp. dijon mustard
  • 1/4 tsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. minced capers

Season salmon by sprinkling it with salt and pepper. Spray cooking spray on a non-stick skillet and when the pan is nice and hot, place salmon flesh-side down and cook over medium-high heat for 3-4 minutes.  Reduce the heat to medium and cook until the salmon is cooked through, about another 3 to 4 minutes more. 

While your salmon is cooking, assemble your sauce by mixing all ingredients together in a small bowl.

Serve the salmon with a little lemon slice, the sauce and a fresh veggie.  I found some gorgeous asparagus today at the farmer's market, so that's what we had for dinner tonight.  At the end, we were begging for more, but chose not to be total gluttons about it.  We had dessert instead. =)

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Another Chapter Begins

I have loved every moment being home with my sweet, adorable, precious baby Hudson.  But the time has come where mommy needs to get back to reality.  The reality being...WORK (gasp, sigh, pout).  I'm not even sure if this gig is gonna last longer than the next 6 weeks, but still.  This means I'll have to shower before 10am.  Dang.  That stinks.

Things definitely don't always turn out as we plan.  For instance, Hudson was supposed to have been a gorgeous black baby boy that we adopted from Haiti.  As you can see by his picture, he doesn't even have a tan!  Right about the time when we were going to start our adoption paperwork, we found out I was pregnant. Huge shock considering that a couple of different doctors told us our chances without medical intervention "weren't good."  God had a different plan than we had for ourselves.  And I'm so grateful He did!  I mean, seriously.  Look at that face!

Here we sit again.  Working after kids was NEVER part of the plan.  But, God has other things for us yet again.  First, let me just say that I am counting myself so blessed that I don't have to work full-time.  2-3 days a week is all.  Second, I'm even more blessed to have family and friends to look after my sweet little guy, so I can rest assured that he's in loving hands--every day.

And so, another chapter begins......wife, friend, chef (to my own family, that is), baker, event planner, blogger, and now WORKING MOMMY!!!

So, cheers to all you working moms....I'll be seeing you...on the freeway...during rush hour!!!! 

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Go-To Pound Cake

I made this a few weeks ago when we had company over on back to back nights.  Instead of making two desserts, I decided that my Go-To Pound Cake was called for.  Well, that's what I call it now because it truly is my Go-To recipe when it comes to Pound Cake.  I can't take credit for this scrumptious thing.  The delightful Paula Deen gets all of that. It's her Grandmother Paul's Sour Cream Pound Cake.  This cake is moist with a fantastic crumby texture, and when it bakes up, the outer part gets this lovely sugary crust.'s "out of this world" as Paula would say.

  • 2 sticks of butter, softened
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 1 cup sour cream (I used Light Sour Cream)
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar together.  Add the sour cream and mix until incorporated.

Sift the baking soda and flour together.  Add to the creamed mixture alternating with the eggs, incorporating each egg 1 at a time.   End with the flour mixture. 

Add the vanilla and pour the mixture into a greased and floured 10-inch bundt pan.  Bake for 1 hour 20 minutes.

This usually makes me 14 servings, so it was easily spread out over 2 nights.  This is in no way low in fat or calories.  It's not supposed to's pound cake.  Just a lovely little indulgence to have every once and a blue moon.  My guests enjoyed it enough to jump at the chance to take some home (good thing because if it were here I wouldn't have stopped eating it).  It's delicious with fresh berries and cream or even a little vanilla bean ice cream, if you're really feeling naughty. 

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Last Minute Easter Treats!! Chocolatey Butterscotch Peanut-Buttery Easter Nests

I'm a little behind on my Easter "to do" list.  I needed a fast and easy treat to whip up to take to my in-laws tomorrow.  So, here is a little something for you just in case you're in a similar bind. =)

This chocolate peanut-buttery treat (we call them Haystacks) is actually a recipe that my mother-in-law gave me (Thanks Nancy B!).  With a little twist to make it fun for Easter.

I got the idea to take Nancy's Haystacks and turn them into these cute little Easter nests from a great food blogger Carrots N Chocolate.  I didn't use Carrots N Chocolate's recipe since Haystacks are a family favorite in my house, but hers look delicious too (and maybe even a bit healthier since it uses a fiber cereal in place of the chow mein noodles).  Thanks for the great idea Carrots N Chocolate!!

You only need 6 ingredients!
  • 11 oz (1 bag) butterscotch chips
  • 11 oz (1 bag) semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans (optional)
  • 1 1/2 cups crunchy chow mein noodles, slightly crushed
  • 1 cup (approx.) of Cadbury Mini Eggs (or any other hard shell candy shaped like an egg.  M&M's work nicely too)
Line a cookie sheet with wax paper.  (Of course, I ran out of wax paper, so I used non-stick foil).

Melt your butterscotch and chocolate chips in a double boiler (to be super fast and easy, you can also use your microwave).  Once it is melted, add in your peanut butter, chow mein noodles, and pecans.  Stir until well combined.

Spoon the mixture onto your cookie sheet.  Gently place the mini eggs in the center to form your nest.

Cool in the fridge until it has set.

This literally took me 5 minutes to throw together.  Love that!  And they are just as tasty as they are cute.  I promise.

Happy Easter everyone.  May you have a blessed day tomorrow.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Crock Pot Baby Back Ribs

So, it's been a couple of weeks since my last food post.  Mostly because I've just been too preoccupied to remember to take pictures until AFTER we've cleaned our plates.  Oops.  But last night, I was inspired to take photos because these ribs just turned out so pretty!  Can ribs be pretty?  Probably not, but you get the idea.

I love this recipe because it's sooooo easy.  Seriously, make it once and you'll remember how to do it forever (or as long as it takes you to forget).

Here's what you'll need:
  • 1 Slab of Baby Back Pork Ribs
  • 1/3 cup of your favorite BBQ sauce (I have yet to make my own.  It's on my list of things to do sometime in the next century.  For now, we enjoy Sweet Baby Ray's.)
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Garlic Powder
Cut the ribs in order to make them fit in the crock pot.  I usually have to make 2-3 cuts.  Don't cut them individually though.  You would just end up with a big mess at the end of the day.

Give a generous coating of equal parts salt, pepper and garlic powder.  Place ribs meat side up in the crock pot and cook on low for 8 hours.  No liquid necessary.

Once these babies have cooked low and slow for 8 hours, fire up your BBQ.  This is what helps it get that good smoky flavor without all the extra work.

While your BBQ is heating up, remove the ribs from the crock pot and brush on your BBQ sauce.  When your grill is nice and hot, place your ribs meat side down on the grill.  Flip them over after a few minutes to char the other side.  Then flip one more time so that your meat is sunny side up again to give it one more basting of BBQ sauce before you remove it from the grill.  Keep in mind, you just want to leave them on long enough for them to char a little.

When it's done, your rib meat will strip from the bone easily and it will taste like you've babysat it on the grill for hours.  It's kind of awesome.  Serve this alongside a salad or veggies to complete your meal.  Enjoy!!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Extreme Couponing??

Okay, so I just had to take a second to write about Extreme Couponing.  Have you seen this or heard of it?  It's a new series on TLC that first aired back in December.  A whopping 2.1 million viewers tuned in to see the show's premiere (It's no wonder with everyone struggling in today's economy.  We all want to save money)!  I just now saw my first episode.  I'm not sure if I'm appalled or addicted.

Here's my take:  I'm intrigued.  We started to really watch our budget once I started my maternity leave back in November.  So, I started to shop at places like Target and Trader Joe's more regularly than my local grocery store.  Before I go on a shopping trip, I usually try take a look at that week's ad, see what's on sale (that I need), and form my weekly menus based on what's fresh and available.  Add a few coupons on top of that, and I'm feeling like I'm being pretty smart about how we shop.  We usually save around 30% off the retail prices.

Extreme Couponers put my 30% to shame!!  This new reality show documents women who spend HOURS preparing for their store runs in order to BIG money.  Oh, but it comes at a price.  Dumpster diving to get more coupons (seriously?), knocking on neighbor's doors to ask for their coupons, endless hours of research, printing out internet coupons.  The list goes on and on.  The result of all this hard work?  They basically get their groceries FREE.

There's a catch though (as if dumpster diving wasn't bad enough): you have to "stockpile."  This is where they lose me.  These women have year's worth of supplies and take pride in it.  Things that they could NEVER go through are piled and stored high all over their house....closets, garages, under the kid's beds!  I mean, how can one go through 50 CASES of toothpaste?  Why on earth would I want that--even if it's free?

I would love nothing more than to save money on my grocery bill.  Fresh produce and dairy are outrageously expensive right now.  But is it worth ALL this? 

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Kinda like a lighter version of Chicken Scallopine

I needed to use up my mushrooms from the fridge, so I started checking out my favorite sites to see if I could find a good dinner recipe that included mushrooms.  Of course, I came across the Pioneer Woman, Ree Drummond.  This woman cooks like I WANNA eat.  I mean seriously, with real butter and real cream.  But, since I'm still trying to lose my baby weight, I sought out to make a healthier version, inspired by her Chicken Scallopine Recipe.  I served my version alongside a side salad and called it good. Hubby really enjoyed this one...I hope you will too!

  • 2 large whole boneless skinless chicken breasts, pounded thin, fat trimmed
  • 1/4-1/2 cup flour for dredging
  • 1 Tablespoons Butter
  • 1 package of Baby Bella Mushrooms, sliced (you can use white mushrooms also)
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1/4-1/2 of the juice of 1 lemon, depending on how lemony you like
  • A splash of Heavy Cream or Half and Half
  • 1 teaspoon Capers
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, finely chopped (You can also use Italian parsley.  I used Thyme because it's what I had on hand)
  • Salt and pepper to taste 
  • Cooking Spray
(Nutritional Information:  308 Cal., 12.9g Fat, 9.1g Carbs, 34.2g Protein)


Flatten chicken breasts to uniform thickness. If your chicken gets to be too large after being pounded, go ahead and cut it down to a more manageable portion.  This means leftovers anyway, right?

Salt and pepper both sides of chicken and dredge in flour, shaking off any excess flour. Heat a non-stick pan and coat it generously with Cooking Spray.  Fry chicken breasts until they are golden brown and cooked through.  Remove them from the pan to a plate and set aside. You'll probably need to do this in a couple of batches. 

Tip: Use wax to cover your chicken breast.  It prevents pieces of breasts ending up on your cupboards and walls.
Don't forget to shake off the excess flour!

Not too shabby looking considering there's no oil!
Throw butter and sliced mushrooms into a hot pan and stir. Immediately pour in wine, chicken broth, and the juice of the lemon. Stir to deglaze the pan, getting any good bits of flavor into that mixture.  Cook at a rapid simmer for 1-2 minutes.

Add in your splash of cream and stir.  Lastly, add capers and thyme and stir.  Turn off heat. Add salt and pepper to taste.  At this point, you could even squeeze in a bit more lemon juice if that tickles your fancy.  The key is to not under salt!

To serve, plate this by putting your pasta down first and topping with both the chicken and the mushroom mixture.  Top with a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese. 

Husband has requested that we put this meal into the rotation.  I'd say my work here is done...for tonight at least!  This is husband, by the way.  I like him...a lot!  =)
Baby Hudson decided to spit up all down Daddy's sleeve.  We don't even bother changing anymore. 

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Low Fat Banana Oat Bread sleeping.  Out of laundry detergent.  Over-ripe bananas on the counter.  You see where I'm going with this.

Oh yeah baby.  It's banana bread, with a healthier twist, of course.  Low Fat Banana Oat Bread.  I came across this Weight Watchers recipe on one of my favorite food blogs, Joy The Baker.  She made a tiny adjustment to the original recipe, and I've made my own changes by substituting some of the all-purpose flour for whole wheat to give it some extra nutrition.  I think next time I may throw in some fresh blueberries.

This bread tastes even better and more moist the next day.  At just 4 points per serving, you can slice this and freeze it in individual portions and have yourself a nice little breakfast or as an afternoon snack. 

Recipe Adapted from:
Joy The Baker 

Makes 1 loaf, 10 slices per loaf, 4 WW points per slice (Old Points system)

  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp  salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 3 tsp canola oil
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 2 medium egg whites, beaten
  • 3 large ripe bananas
  • 1 cup uncooked old fashioned oats 
(Nutritional Information:  160 Cal, 2.5g Fat, 31.3g Carbs, 12.3g Sugar, 4g Protein)


Preheat oven to 350°F.  Grease and flour a loaf pan and set aside. 

In a large bowl, stir together dry ingredients and set aside.

In a smaller bowl, mash bananas. Add oil and whole egg and mix thoroughly. 

Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix well.  Don't freak out at this point.  Your batter will be pretty thick. 

In a medium sized bowl, with an electric hand mixer, beat the egg whites until medium stiff peaks form.  I love my kitchen aid, but the hand mixer is really best for this.  Fold the egg whites into the batter in three additions.  

Pour batter into the pan and bake until the top of the loaf is firm to touch, approximately 45 minutes.  Remove from the oven and allow it to cool for 5 minutes. Flip out onto a wire rack and continue to cool for at least another 10 minutes.  

Serve with a little light margarine or even a touch of honey.  Honey would be amazing with this.  You've got breakfast on the go!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Mami Emma's Macaroni (Lightened up)

Two Cuban Grandmothers.  Decades of competition.  Who wins the cooking contest?  Mama Fina's food or Mami Emma's food?  I'll never tell!

So here is a little dish that we just call "Macaroni" in my family.  This is my Abuela Emma's recipe.  Well, almost.  I've lightened it up a little by adding more tomato sauce and much less butter.  Seriously, this is one your family will LOVE.

(Serves 6)

1 ham steak, diced (the single 1/2 inch slice pre-packaged kind works just fine)
1 link of chorizo sausage, diced (you can also substitute with pepperoni)
1/2 onion, chopped
1-2 garlic cloves, minced
15 oz. can of tomato sauce
16 oz. box of penne pasta
8 oz. low moisture, skim mozzarella cheese, shredded
1 tbsp. of butter
1 bay leaf

(Nutrition facts: 457 cal., 17.4 g fat, 49g carbs, 26g protein, 1.6g fiber)


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium sized pot, boil water and cook penne according to the package directions.  You will want your pasta al dente as it will continue to cook a little in the oven later.  When it is done, drain your pasta and set it aside.

While the pasta is cooking, over medium heat, cook the chorizo in a small skillet (about 3-4 minutes).  Line a few paper towels over a plate and pour the chorizo over it.  You want to remove as much of the fat as possible. Abuela doesn't do this, but again I've lightened this up a little, so I added this step.

In a large saute pan add butter, onions and garlic over medium heat and cook until the onions are a little soft and translucent in color.  Then add 3/4 of the can of tomato sauce and the bay leaf.  Let these flavors combine for a few minutes.

Add diced ham and drained chorizo sausage and cook for about 7 minutes on medium low heat.

While you're waiting for the ham to cook and for all those flavors to combine, this is a good time to shred your mozzarella.  Plus, I just wanted to show off this cool picture of inside my cheese grater.

Once your sauce has simmered, go ahead and mix in your pasta.

Add to a greased 9x13 in. greased casserole dish (I use PAM).  If you find that your pasta is sticking together from sitting out, run a little warm water over it.  It will magically un-stick!  Sprinkle the cheese over the top and bake for 20-25 minutes or until the cheese is melted and bubbly. doesn't this look yummy?  Like I wanna go into the fridge and eat some of it right now.  Without even heating it up.  Sigh.  Good thing Stephen took the left-overs for lunch today. Dang! 

Buffalo-Cheesy Popcorn

Popcorn has become my snack friend.  Especially being on a low-cal diet.

Crazy popcorn flavors are usually not my thing (unless it appeals to my sweet tooth--that's almost always the exception).  BUT, I've had a savory popcorn revelation or maybe it's more of a realization.  I'm not sure.  I'm too tired to tell.  What I DO know is that my mom made this over the weekend.  One taste, and I was hooked. 

This is all you need.  Seriously.  3 ingredients to snackity-snack heaven:



Pop your favorite low calorie popcorn as directed on the package instructions.  Open the bag and add a few shakes of the Red Hot sauce.  It all depends on how spicy you like it, so do this to your taste.  Did I mention there's no calories in this stuff?  If you like it hot, shake away! 

Then add about 2 Tbsp. of Reduced-Fat Parmesan cheese (mine has about 20 calories per 2 Tbsp).  Fold the top of the bag over to seal and shake.

The result?  The perfect snack to sit down in front of the TV with and catch up on the latest episode of GLEE or American Idol.  Now go make this.  It's that good.  I promise.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Loaded Low-Fat Blueberry Oat Muffins

I posted this recipe on facebook a couple of weeks ago, and finally have had the chance to add it to the blog with pictures.

My muffin kick continues these days, and I just finished another batch of these yesterday afternoon.  For some reason, if I have something a little sweet in the morning, I tend to not crave sweets the rest of the day (okay, okay except maybe around 8 or 9 pm--but that's a whole other post).  I found this recipe online and made a couple of modifications to make it my own. 

(Serves 12)
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 cup of oats
  • 1/2 cup of sugar (I used Splenda for Baking)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp of salt
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1/2 cup of low-fat milk
  • 1/3 cup of vegetable oil (you can also substitute with applesauce or a mashed banana in order to eliminate the oil)
  • 3/4 cup of fresh or frozen blueberries (I used frozen)
Nutrition facts for 1 muffin: 184 calories; 7.5g fat; 24g carbs; 1.5g fiber; 3.2g protein. 


Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In one bowl, combine the flour, oats, salt, baking powder, baking soda and sugar.

In another bowl, beat egg whites, milk and oil. Whisk for 5-7 mins. You want to get plenty of air into the egg mixture.

Stir into the flour mixture and mix together. Do not overmix, just until everything is combined (the batter will be lumpy).

Fold in the blueberries gently.  If you're using frozen, coat these in a little bit of flour to help prevent them from bleeding.

Grease the muffin tins with cooking spray. Fill each cup up to the 3/4 level. 

By the way, I'm absolutely in love with my vintage muffin tins.  They were Stephen's grandmother's, and I use them all the time.  Now, I just need to get some of her recipes!

Okay, so bake these at 400 degrees F for 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Once done allow to cool completely, then gently remove from the cups and enjoy!

Don't these look yummy?  They are best served warm with a little bit of light margarine or spray butter and perfect with the morning coffee.  I freeze mine after they've cooled so that I can enjoy them whenever.  Just pop them in the microwave for 20-30 seconds and they are good to go.  Hope you like them!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

A little diddy about me and Lose It!

Okay, so I have ZERO intention of publicly sharing my current weight.  That ranks right up there with having a route canal for me.  But, I have made some huge changes in my post-baby diet, so it's hard not to share a part that I get excited about.

First, let me just tell you that I ate anything and everything I wanted when I was pregnant.  I mean, I super-sized AND added a chocolate shake WITH whipped cream!  I'd like to blame it on the fact that I worked 60 hour weeks well into my third trimester and all we did was eat take-out.  I give serious kuddos to all the women who come home and cook every night after working a 10-12 hour day because I happily gave into whatever was convenient.  Anyway, I WILL reveal that I gained a whopping 45 lbs.  Oh ya baby.  And outside of what I saw when I stepped on the scale at each doctor's appointment, I had fun putting it on!

After having Hudson, I was on a "gotta lose the baby weight IMMEDIATELY" kick.  I'm pretty sure I uttered the words "empty carbs" within hours of giving birth.  I was soooo depressed at the state of my body.  I'm not exactly sure what I was thinking, but somehow I just sort of thought that it would fall off between breastfeeding and taking care of a newborn (sad news was that my journey with breastfeeding ended abruptly after 6 weeks...there went that automatic 500 calorie-a-day burn).  I lost 20lbs during those first 6 weeks.  Then I was then left to deal with the saddle-bagged rest of it. 

After about a month of "watching what I ate" (more like watch me drink this 300 calorie latte), I finally decided that my plan would be to go on a low-calorie diet.  I am LOVING it!!  I keep myself to around 1200 calories a day, and I'm only 10lbs from my pre-baby weight! (Mind you, I was trying to lose 15 BEFORE I found out I was pregnant, so I'm still far from my goal, but I feel like there's light at the end of the tunnel)

I've been using this fabulous little website called Lose It.  It's user-friendly and there is even an iphone app that you can use (I'm actually a Blackberry user, but my friends love their iphone app for this).  Best of all, it's FREE.  Here's the link if you'd like to check it out.  It allows me to keep track of my progress while also logging in my food choices every day.  Food logs used to make me want to pull my hair out, but this site makes it kinda fun.  And the results just keep me coming back for more.

I know the recipes I post on here are not exactly low-cal (I still have yet to figure out how our grandmothers made such amazing food and weighed all of 95lbs).  BUT, I have managed to still lose weight while eating Mama Fina's Cuban food (who knew it was even possible).  I'll try to post nutritional information on all my recipes to help all you fellow calorie counters and weight-watchers followers too. 

Happy Counting!

Rice Pudding

Okay, so I'll be honest in saying that Rice Pudding is not typically my favorite dessert.  BUT, it's my mom's favorite, so I learned how to make it so that she could enjoy it---even if Mama Fina isn't in town.

Rice pudding has very few ingredients, which makes it pretty easy and incredibly economical, once you get the hang of it.  One batch can easily provide dessert for 6-8 people in those cute little ramekins.  The trick is all about the liquid to rice ratio.

Things You'll Need:

4 oz. white rice (short grain is best - like what you would use to make risotto)
1 1/2 cp. water (to start)
2 cups of whole milk (you can probably get away with 2% to lighten this up a tad, but don't go below that.  Just keep your portions small and you'll be fine!)
3/4 cp. sugar
1 cinnamon stick, broken in half
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. salt
the peel of half of a lime

Nutrional Information (based on 6 servings): 215 cal., 2.8g fat, 43.8g carbs, 4g. protein.

Combine rice and 1 1/2 cups of water in medium sized pot.  Make sure you rinse your rice thoroughly before you begin.  If this sounds crazy to you, you're missing an important step.  Swirl the rice around in the pot with just your fingers.  If the water gets murky, rinse again!  It should be pretty clear before you continue.  Okay, I'm done lecturing now.  On with the rest of the recipe. =)

Bring rice, cinnamon stick, salt and lime peel to a boil on medium-high heat.  Once you reach a solid boil, turn your heat down to maintain a simmer.  At this point, you don't need to stir constantly.  Just occasionally. 

Keep the simmer going, maintaining a close eye on your rice to water ratio.  Your rice should always be covered with water to the point where it was when you started for the majority of this process.  Otherwise, the rice will stick to the bottom and that would not make for a good rice pudding.  Simmer on low until your rice plumps up and is al dente.  This should take about 15-20 mins.

This is what the rice will look like after 15-20 mins.

After your rice reaches the proper consistency, you can start adding your milk a little at a time.  Add about a half cup at a time.  The rice will absorb the milk pretty quickly.  It will take another 5-10 minutes to add all the milk so that the rice absorbs all that good flavor.  (Note: don't drown the rice.  Just add enough to keep the rice covered with the liquid).

Lastly, add the sugar and vanilla.  This is where your personal taste will come in.  I like mine sweet, so I added a little more than the recipe calls for.  Simmer this last step for another 5-10 minutes until your rice takes on all of those good flavors and reaches a creamy consistency.  Take off the heat and let it cool for about 5 minutes.  You can then spoon into your favorite ramekins.  We like to sprinkle ours with a little cinnamon on top.  Enjoy it warm or cold, but I personally like it hot.

Sorry this isn't a better picture of the finished product...Baby Hudson was screaming by this point!

Okay, this is making me crave something sweet!! This recipe can seem a little daunting because it really isn't one of those recipes that calls for exact measurements.  You really have to go a lot by feel and taste.  But try it!  It's creamy and yummy and a great comfort food dessert!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Ropa Vieja, Cuban Shredded Beef

I'm Cuban.  I was born here in the states, but my entire family is from Cuba.  Cubans are known for being loud and kinda crazy, but passionate too.  Passionate about many things, but especially our food!

Ropa Vieja literally translated means "old clothes."  My husband can't really say Ropa Vieja very well, so he just calls it "old clothes."  I realize this sounds a bit unappetizing, but you're gonna have to trust me on this!

Originally, the skirt steak in this was used as the base of another meal.  Cubans are resourceful (me maybe not so much, but the old schoolers like my grandmother certainly are)!  So, instead of wasting the beef, Ropa Vieja was invented.  It's now a family favorite and one of those dishes that Cubans are known for.  It's easy, inexpensive to make, and oh-so delicioso!

Here's what you'll need:
(Serves 6)

1.5 lbs. of skirt steak 
1 medium onion, chopped
5 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped (If you don't have green, you can use red too.  Use what you have!)
1/4 cp. extra virgin olive oil
5 Roma tomatoes, chopped
1 8oz can tomato sauce
1/2 cup Vino Seco (this is a Spanish cooking wine, but you can use a dry white wine to substitute)
Salt and pepper to season and taste

(Nutritional Info: 435 Calories, 29.8g Fat, 9.5g Carb, 32.1g Protein)

In a large pot, add the skirt steak and cover with water.  Salt the water like you would salt pasta water.  Simmer this for a couple of hours, until the steak is tender and easy to shred.  You can also do this in the crock pot the night before.  Set it on low before you go to bed and then turn it off when you get up in the morning.  Reserve your beef stock, and after the beef has completely cooled, shred it. Mama Fina says you can have the kiddos help with this part. 

This is Mama Fina by the way
In a large saute pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat with the garlic.  This is just to give the oil the flavor of garlic, so be careful not to brown or burn it.  Add the onions and peppers and cook until soft.

Now, add the shredded beef and season everything with salt to taste.  Add the chopped tomatoes and cook on medium-low for about 10-15 minutes.  If you find that the mixture is a bit on the dry side, you can add a few tablespoons of the beef stock you reserved.

Tomatoes when they are added
Tomatoes after they cook down
Next, add the tomato sauce and the Vino Seco.

Simmer on low for 5-7 minutes for all the flavors to combine.  There should be a little bit of sauce when you spoon this.  That's a good thing!  If the mixture seems a little dry, add a little of the beef stock.

Spoon this over rice and add a vegetable or salad on the side, and you've got a great meal! Yummm...this is making me hungry!!!