December 19, 2011

Spicy Vegetable Soup

It is the week before Christmas! For me, that means it's cookie baking week! Cookies are, without a doubt, the hardest temptation for me to conquer. The best way to take on cookie baking week is to have a super low-point recipe on the side! (That cancels out all the cookie dough sneaking, or so I'm told!) ;)

Tonight I set out to make a low-point soup that I could eat in large quantities (I've just been really craving bulk since the cold temperatures started hitting). I mixed some of my favorite flavors together and came up with this handy little side dish...or full dinner for those of us who consumed approximately 8 points worth of cookies while baking tonight.

Spicy Vegetable Soup

Yields: Approximately five 2-cup servings OR ten 1-cup servings
Serving Size: I'll let you choose... 2 cups (huge bowl) or 1 cup (side dish)
PointsPlus per Serving: Using Recipe Builder, it's 2 P+ for a 2-cup bowl or 1 P+ for a 1-cup bowl. However, this recipe uses all 0-point ingredients. So, it's up to you how you count that. For those on Simply Filling, this recipe uses all Power Foods!

1 tsp minced garlic
3 medium carrots
1 medium green pepper
2 celery stalks
1 large onion
1 medium zucchini
1 medium yellow squash
10 oz cabbage (I used one of those bags meant for coleslaw because I was tired of chopping!)
28 oz diced tomatoes in their juice
4 cups vegetable broth
3 packed cups chopped raw baby spinach
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp basil
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp ground corriander
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 tsp ground cumin
salt and pepper to taste


Chop all vegetables (this is the fun part...not).

Saute carrots and garlic first until carrots are soft. (I did this slowly while cutting up all the other veggies).

Add onion, celery, green pepper, zucchini, yellow squash, and all spices. Saute until onions are clear. 

Add cabbage and continue to saute the veggies for about 10 more minutes or until veggies are nearly cooked through.

Add diced tomatoes with their juice and the 4 cups of vegetable broth.

Reduce heat to low, cover, and let soup simmer for 30 minutes.

Uncover and bring soup to a boil. Add spinach.

Keep soup boiling until spinach is cooked through.

Serve Hot! Or...if you're feeling adventurous...add pasta and top the soup with mozzarella cheese (this will obviously change the PointsPlus value of the recipe).



December 17, 2011

Dye-Free Red Velvet Cupcakes

Every Christmas Eve, my entire family gathers at my great grandmother (who, by the way, is a ripe and healthy 97 years old this year). Aunts, uncles, cousins, children of all ages...we all gather, Santa (yes, the real Santa!) comes to hand out gifts, and we indulge in a huge dinner and dessert spread. 

Christmas happens to be my grandmother's birthday, and every year, either she or my great grandmother brings a red velvet cake as a birthday cake. My eldest cousin happens to love red velvet cake, but she is allergic to red food dye, which happens to be perhaps the #1 ingredient in red velvet cake. Despite all of us telling her not to, my cousin generally eats a piece of cake despite her allergies and promptly gets a stomach ache for the rest of the evening.

Not this year! 

This year, I called the whole family and told them that I would be bringing the red velvet cake...and that it would be completely free of red food dye. That is a pretty hefty promise to make, but I've become sort of the "birthday cake connoisseur" in my family; I have been baking all the birthday cakes recently. I had been reading up on dye-free red velvet cakes for a couple of months, actually. The absolute best recipe I've found (based on all the pH level research) is a recipe on a blog called Sophistimom. Her All-Natural Red Velvet Cake recipe and pictures were perhaps the most convincing I'd seen! (Seriously, gorgeous cake in her pictures...mine won't be that beautiful, I'm afraid.) In any case, while her recipe looks amazing, it is a bit heavier than I was going for (she freely admits that she was going for a very heavy cake). So, I set out to modify the recipe to create a lower-calorie, lower-point, lighter red velvet cake. I decided to create cupcakes on this dry run, though the cake I'll be bringing to Christmas Eve will be a two-layer cake (you can do the same using the same measurements from this recipe)

So, I dedicate this recipe to my great grandmother (pictured below), who has been such a huge inspiration to me...especially when it comes to cooking, crocheting, and being a genuine person ;) I love you, Nana!

My Nana - 97 years old. NEVER too old for Santa Clause!

Dye-Free Red Velvet Cupcakes

Yields: 24 servings
Serving Size: 1 cupcake + 1 TBS of frosting
PointsPlus per serving: 4P+ (1 cupcake with 1 TBS frosting) 3P+ (1 cupcake NO frosting)


2 beets (enough for 3/4 cups puree)
2 TBS fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup fat free buttermilk
1 1/3 cup white sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cup white all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp table salt
4 TBS natural cocoa powder
1 container Betty Crocker Whipped Cream Cheese Frosting

Note: while I used whipped cream cheese frosting from a can for this recipe, you can, of course, make your own frosting using a different recipe. The cupcakes without frosting are 3 PointsPlus; you will need to calculate the PointsPlus of your own homemade frosting if you choose not to use the pre-made stuff!


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Peel beets. Place in a small baking dish with enough water on the bottom to cover the entire bottom of the baking dish.

Cover with parchment paper and  tin foil. Bake at 350 for 90 minutes (until beets are very tender).

When beets are fully cooked, slice into small pieces and put into food processor or blender. Blend with lemon juice until a smooth puree forms. Measure out 3/4 cups of the puree and put in small dish.
In a large mixing bowl, mix oil, buttermilk, and sugar. Add eggs one at a time. Add chocolate extract (you can use vanilla extract if you can't find chocolate extract). Mix until well-blended.

In a smaller bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt, and cocoa powder.
Slowly add dry ingredients into the wet mixture. Mix until smooth.

Fold beet puree into the batter.

Line a cupcake pan with cupcake liners.

Spoon batter into cupcake liners.

Bake at 350 for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into a cupcake comes out clean.
Allow cupcakes to cool before frosting them.


December 16, 2011

Sweet and Tangy Meatloaf

Meatloaf brings back loads of childhood memories for me. I was not raised in a house where meatloaf meant a sauced-up, overly breaded, flavorless hunks of meat. No...meatloaf meant filling the whole house with the most pleasant aromas of my youth. Tangy, sweet, and mouthwatering smells that would hit my nose and cause me to begin salivating when I stepped out of the shower, dressed down for the evening, and prepared myself for that special meal. Meatloaf meant daddy, special occasions, and celebrations. It meant I'd earned straight A's that quarter and been allowed to request my favorite meal. It meant exciting and important company was coming for dinner. It meant mashed potatoes and peas on the side, two of my favorite things.

This isn't my dad's memorable recipe; even he doesn't remember how he used to make it anymore. But I adore this recipe, and it is wonderfully similar to the one I enjoyed growing up. It's taken a couple of years, a few tweaks, and a few more adjustments to get it right, but I'm positive that this meatloaf will go down in my own children's memories as my father's did in mine. The best part -- it takes very little prep work and is a much healthier version of what I ate growing up. I hope it remains in your memories as it has in mine. And don't forget -- take a shower (or a bubble bath) while it's in the oven. I promise, the aroma when you step out of that steamy bathroom all relaxed and wound down will be better than any aromatherapy you've encountered thus far.

 Sweet and Tangy Meatloaf

Yields: 4 servings
Serving Size: 2 slices or 1/4 loaf
PointsPlus per Serving: 5 P+


1 pound 93/7 ground beef
1/4 cup skim milk
1/4 cup seasoned bread crumbs
1 large egg
1/2 TBS minced ginger root
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 TBS Worcestershire Sauce
1/4 cup BBQ Sauce (I generally use Sweet Baby Ray's)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine all ingredients EXCEPT BBQ sauce in a medium mixing bowl.

Mix and Knead ingredients together until thoroughly combined.

Form into a loaf and place inside a loaf pan. (If you do not have a loaf pan, line any sized baking pan with foil, spray with spray oil, and place formed loaf on the foil - I've done it this way a million times before discovering that I owned a loaf pan!)

Coat loaf with the 1/4 cup of BBQ sauce.

Loosely cover pan with tin foil.

Bake at 350 for 60 minutes. (This is when you should be taking that shower or bubble bath ;) Tell your husband that the recipe requires it!)

Slice into 8 slices (that's four 2-slice servings) and Enjoy!


December 5, 2011

Super Cinnamon Snickerdoodles

This evening, I had planned to treat myself to some Edy's Half-Fat Peppermint Ice Cream. However, around 7:30PM, I suddenly got a craving for cookies. ANY cookies really... So, I went digging in my pantry and decided to try my hand at some snickerdoodles. 

Here's what I got!

Super-Cinnamon Snickerdoodles

Yields: 3 and a half dozen (3 dozen if you make them bigger)
Serving Size: 1 cookie
PointsPlus per serving: 2 P+


2 cups flour, sifted 
2 eggs
2/3 cups vegetable oil
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp sugar
1 tsp cinnamon


Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a small bowl, combine the 1 tsp sugar and 1 tsp cinnamon. Set aside.
In a larger bowl, combine sifted flour, oil, remaining 1 tsp cinnamon, remaining 3/4 cups sugar, baking powder, salt, eggs, vanilla (right - that's everything!) :)

Mix well until dough forms.

Roll tablespoons of dough into balls.

Dip ball into cinnamon/sugar mixture.

Place on cookie sheet lined with parchment paper (or use a non-stick pan or spray pan with cooking spray).

Using a fork, press the cookie once across and once up and down as shown in the image (criss-cross).

Bake at 400 degrees for 6 minutes.

Remove and let cool.


November 16, 2011

Low-Fat Eggnog Pancakes with Creamy Eggnog Topping

A couple of days ago, I got a VERY tempting e-mail from my local iHop telling me about their new seasonal pancakes. Of all the pancakes to picture...their eggnog pancake was quite possibly the most tempting choice! I love eggnog... and thick creamy eggnog filling between two eggnog pancakes... how could I turn that down?! 

But, I'm on Weight Watchers, and I love to cook. So, of course I saw this as a challenge. Eggnog IN my pancake, that's easy enough... but thick, creamy, eggnogy filling that's low in points? That was going to be the challenge. And, moreover, this needed to taste real...and loaded with calories...without actually BEING terrible for me.

Well ladies and gentleman, here it is... quite possibly my favorite pancake ever. The Eggnog Pancake! Enjoy!

Eggnog Pancake

Yields: 9 servings
Serving Size: 1 pancake and 1/4 cup topping
PointsPlus per Serving: 1 pancake = 3P+, 1/4 cup topping = 2P+


1.4oz box of sugar-free fat-free instant vanilla pudding mix
1 cup low-fat eggnog (I used Horizon Organic low-fat eggnog)
1 cup skim milk
1.5 cups Cool Whip Free
1/2 tsp. Nutmeg (or to taste)

2 cups Bisquick Heart Smart pancake mix
1 cup low-fat eggnog (I used Horizon Organic low-fat eggnog)
1/2 cup water
1/2 tsp. Nutmeg (or to taste)


In a bowl, combine pudding mix, 1 cup eggnog, and skim milk.

Mix until smooth and well-combined.

Refrigerate for at least 5 minutes. (I refrigerated mine overnight for pancakes the next day!)

Fold Cool Whip into the pudding mixture.

Add 1/2 tsp nutmeg (or as much as you want depending on your tastes), and mix until smooth and pudding-like

Put pudding mixture in fridge until ready to serve.

In a separate bowl, combine pancake mix, 1 cup eggnog, water, and 1/2tsp nutmeg (or more if you prefer).

Mix Well - until all pockets of pancake mix are gone and the mixture is smooth and well-combined.

(NOTE: The filling in and of itself makes a GREAT eggnog pudding!)

Spray a non-stick pan or griddle. Place on stovetop on medium heat.

Ladle 1/4 cup of pancake mixture onto the non-stick pan or griddle. Allow to cook until small bubbles begin to form on top of the batter (NOTE: Batter MAY not bubble - I had about 50/50 occurrence of bubbling like with a normal pancake. When pancake begins to rise and bubble on the edges, flip!)

Allow pancake to cook on griddle for about 1 more minute or until the underside is golden brown when lifted off of the pan.

Remove pancake and repeat process. Should make about 9 pancakes using 1/4 cup of batter each time.

Top your pancake with 1/4 cup of the pudding topping. I put mine in a baggie, cut a tiny piece of the corner off, and drizzled that way. But it works just as well as a dipping sauce or non-fancily spread across the top :)


P.S., A tablespoon of fat-free whipped cream doesn't add any PointsPlus, but somehow makes these pancakes taste even naughtier ;)

November 14, 2011

Smoked Salmon Pizza

If you've ever had the pleasure of visiting one of Wolfgang Puck's famous restaurants, you may have noticed a peculiar-sounding item on the menu - salmon pizza.

A couple of years ago, I had the salmon pizza at Wolfgang Puck's restaurant in Disney. It was, by far, my favorite pizza ever. Tonight, I decided to attempt to create a lower-point version of this amazing creation.

I apologize in advance for how bad some of the photos are - I don't currently have the budget for a nice camera, but I'll get one as soon as I can!

Side note: the pizza crust I made for this recipe was really good! Feel free to use it for your traditional pizzas as well ;)

Smoked Salmon Pizza on a Garlic Onion Crust
Yields: 4 servings
Serving Size: 2 slices
PointsPlus per serving: 5 PointsPlus


1 1/2 cups Bisquick HeartSmart Pancake and Biscuit Mix
1/3 cup hot water
1/3 cup minced onion
1/2 TBS minced garlic

1/4 cup fat-free sour cream
1 TBS reduced-fat cream cheese
1/2 TBS fresh or dried dill (I used fresh)
1/8 tsp (or a pinch) lemon zest
1/4 tsp fresh lemon juice

3 oz smoked salmon
1 TBS capers
3 TBS green onion

Preheat oven to 450 degrees

In bowl, combine bisquick, water, garlic, and onion.

Mix and knead dough with your hands until it forms a ball.

Roll dough out with rolling pin as flat as you can on top of a pizza sheet that has been prepared with spray olive oil.

Bake rolled-out crust at 450 until golden brown (about 12-15 minutes)

Meanwhile, combine sour cream, cream cheese, dill, lemon zest, and lemon juice in separate bowl.

Spread the sour cream mixture over the baked crust

Top  pizza with the smoked salmon, capers, and green onions.

Using a pizza cutter, slice into 8 wedges.


Yes, I totally forgot to put green onions on the pizza before taking the picture.... but I did add the green onions before consuming it!

November 10, 2011

Chocolate Fudge Cupcakes with Whipped Chocolate Frosting

OK, I admit, I got the idea for these cupcakes from the  SkinnyTaste recipe for pumpkin-spiced cupcakes. It's a fantastic recipe, but last night, I was in the mood for chocolate.

I hit the grocery store with every intention of purchasing No-Pudge Brownie Mix to satiate my craving only to find that my grocery store doesn't carry the product. I was in too much of a hurry to go to another of the billion grocery stores in the D.C. metro region, so I pouted and contemplated buying a different type of brownie... like possibly those Ghirardelli ones with triple the chocolate, fudge topping, and a billion calories.

That's when I remembered the SkinnyTaste recipe and thought "I wonder if it'll work with chocolate." A quick comparison of the cake mix boxes showed that the nutrition information was the same so.... I gave it a shot.

All you need to make the cake portion of these cupcakes are three ingredients:
a 15-oz box of Betty Crocker Devil's Food Cake mix
1 cup of pumpkin (not pie mix - just pumpkin!)
and 1 cup of water

However, I am too lazy and too broke to make my own frosting. Plus, let's face it... I really wanted a finger-full of REAL frosting...straight from the jar. Fortunately, Betty Crocker also makes these whipped frostings (including chocolate!) that are only 100 calories (or 2 PointsPlus for those of us on Weight Watchers) for 2 whole tablespoons.

Ingredients in hand, I set out to test the recipe. (Note: I apologize for the crummy pictures; they'll have to suffice until I can get a better camera. I'm on a budget you know!)

Chocolate Fudge Cupcakes with Whipped Chocolate Frosting

Serving Size: 1 Cupcake and 1 TBS Frosting
WW Points Plus: 3 Points+ With Frosting, 2 P+ Without Frosting
Calories: 120

15oz package of Betty Crocker Super-Moist Devil's Food Cake mix
1 cup canned pumpkin (NOT pumpkin pie mix - JUST pumpkin)
1 cup water
Betty Crocker Whipped Chocolate Frosting


Combine the cake mix, canned pumpkin, and water in a bowl

Mix the cake mix, water, and pumpkin together until ingredients are thoroughly combined and smooth.

Spoon the mix into a cupcake pan lined with paper cupcake liners

Bake  at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Remove cupcakes and allow to cool

Once the cupcakes are cooled, top each with 1 TBS of the whipped chocolate frosting.