Avocado Stuffed Roasted Red Peppers

Avocado Stuffed Roasted Red Peppers

Summer is winding down here in Michigan and the excess from the vegetable garden is mounting. Tomatoes, cukes, peppers, squash and greens garnish every available counter space in the kitchen. Finding a purpose for these garden goodies (before they spoil) has become the primary focus of Blimpy Girl’s meal planning.

Red peppers are one of my favorites from the garden, especially when roasted. Stuffing them with avocado, tomato, garlic, onion and chopped spinach is a yummy variation and cleared some of the garden clutter from the kitchen. 

Top stuffed red peppers with cheese

Top the stuffed peppers with your choice of low-fat cheese. I happened to use mozzarella. Bake in a 400 degree oven for 10 minutes. I added sliced yellow squash to the roasting pan which paired perfectly with the peppers.

Roasted red peppers stuffed with avocado, spinach, tomato

Smash a slightly over ripe avocado, add diced tomato-onion-garlic (or you can use garlic powder), chopped spinach (or you can substitute with basil, or add both). Salt and pepper to taste, sprinkle with shredded cheese and bake.

Each pepper half makes one side serving. Serve with grilled chicken breast or beef tenderloin, even pasta is a main course option. So, let’s talk calories. This filling side dish is just under 100 calories per pepper half.

The best part is the addition of the avocado provides vitamins/minerals we often fail to incorporate into our diet… like copper, magnesium and vitamin B6.

Tea Sandwich: Avocado, Sprouts, Spinach,Tomato

Avocado, Sprouts & Tomato Tea Sandwich

Lately, I’ve been extremely busy at work and play. My “play” time has involved preparations for an upcoming wedding on Saturday. My gift to the bride-to-be is decorating the reception tables. It’s been fun, but sadly I’ve had little time to prepare a lunch. I’ve been digging into the Cheez-it box and all kinds of other high-calorie snacks and my scale was bearing witness to this naughtiness.

The bathroom scale is my constant companion. My morning weigh-in helps me keep my weight in check. I knew I had to find some easy-to-make lunch meals to prevent my pantry binging.  

Avocado and alfalfa sprouts sandwichThis tea sandwich took about 5 minutes. It was filling, yummy, nutritious and definitely better than snack foods.

Ingredients

  • Avocado slices
  • Tomato slices
  • Alfalfa sprouts
  • Baby spinach leaves
  • Spreadable cream cheese (low-fat, if available)
  • 2 bread slices
  • Seedless cucumber slices

How To

Spread cream cheese onto each bread slice. Layer the spinach, alfalfa sprouts, avocado and tomato slices on one of the bread slices. Place second bread slice on top of the last sandwich layer.

Note: For a crustless sandwich, trim off the bread crust

Cut the sandwich diagonally into halves or thirds. Place a several cucumber slices on top of each tea sandwich and serve.

 

Chicken Cannellini Quesadillas

Chicken Cannellini Quesadillas

This week I had a follow-up visit with my medical doctor to review blood work. Sadly, it indicated high cholesterol. We all know the repercussions of elevated cholesterol levels and the OCD person I am, I immediately Googled foods that might help keep this “ugly beast” under wraps. My search led to me cannellini beans. 

Not only are these creamy white beans high in iron (twice the amount of red meat), they are also a great source of fiber. Fiber-rich diets help promote healthy cholesterol levels and lower cholesterol. And better yet, these beans are a plant-based alternative for protein.

I noted several recipes were using cannellini beans in place of pinto beans. So why not use them to make quesadillas?

This recipe makes approximately 5 cups of filling. Depending on how much filling is used in each tortilla, it’s possible to get up to 10 servings.

 

Ingredients

  • 2 cups cooked chicken breast, chopped and sprinkled with Montreal Steak Seasoning. You could also sprinkle with 1 tablespoon powdered quesadillas seasoning.
  • 1/2 cup banana pepper rings, chopped
  • 1 medium size red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 small onion, diced (about 1 cup)
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed and minced
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon all-purpose flour (if using the powdered quesadillas seasoning, you won’t need the flour)
  • 4-5 cups baby spinach leaves, coarsely chopped
  • 1 can cannellini beans, drained & rinsed (around 16 ounces)
  • 1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 cups low-fat shredded cheddar cheese
  • 4- 5 wedges of Laughing Cow Garlic & Herb cheese
  • Flour Tortillas, (low or reduced fat)
  • Non-stick olive oil cooking spray
  • Low fat sour cream (optional)
  • Avocado slices (optional)
  • Salt, pepper and red pepper flakes to taste
  • Enchilada Sauce (optional). Drizzle on top of the quesadillas slices.

 

How To

In a large skillet, spray a generous amount of non-stick cooking spray. Add red pepper, banana peppers, garlic and onion and cook over medium heat until softened. Add seasonings to taste.

Sprinkle the flour or quesadillas seasoning over the sauteed veggies and mix well. Cook for an additional minute and then gradually add the chicken broth. Let this simmer until the mixture is smooth. Add spinach and cook until it begins to wilt. Stir in cooked chicken and cannellini beans. Gently mix ingredients and remove skillet from heat and set aside.

Spray a medium size skillet with non-stick cooking spray. Evenly spread the garlic/herb Laughing Cow cheese onto each flour tortilla. Place a tortilla (open faced) in the skillet and sprinkle with cheddar cheese. Add a portion of the chicken/bean filling to one-half of the tortilla. Cook the tortilla until slightly brown and flip in half. Remove from pan and allow to set for a minute. Cut the folded tortilla into thirds.

 

Serve sour cream and avocado slices as optional condiments. Quite honestly, one of these quesadillas triangles with a side salad was filling, but I generously filled the tortilla.

Calories…. ??? Um, in the neighborhood of 182 calories for each third if using 1 cup fo filling in each tortilla. Cut calories in half (per 1/3 slice) by using 1/2 cup filling per tortilla.  That’s just 273 calories for one full quesadillas. The avocado and sour cream is not included in the count.

Turkey Stuffed Bell Peppers

Turkey Stuffed Roasted Yellow Bell Peppers

Nothing (at least in my mind) screams flavor like roasted bell peppers. You can use yellow, orange or red bell peppers for this dish. I happened to have yellow peppers hanging around in the kitchen, so that’s what I used.

This recipe is so easy to whip up. Prepare the rice ahead of time and store in the fridge. You can even roast the peppers earlier in the day and then fill just before you’re ready to serve. It will take about 12 minutes to reheat in the oven.

Roasted Yellow Peppers

Cut three bell peppers in half, removing seeds/pulp/stem. Spray baking dish and peppers with non-Roast in oven for 20 minutes at 400 degrees. stick cooking oil.

While peppers are roasting prepare the turkey stuffing.

Cook 1/2 pound lean ground turkey breast. Remove from heat and set aside.

Add the following to the skillet and mix well:

  • 1 cup diced onions (I used scallions)
  • 1 generous tablespoon of packaged taco seasoning
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked rice (brown or white)
  • 1 can of black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 3/4 cups frozen corn
  • 1/2 cup salsa (the kind in a jar, you pick the heat… hot, medium, or mild)
  • 1/2 cup enchilada sauce (the kind in a can)

 

Season with salt and pepper to desired taste. Using a scoop, fill each bell pepper half with the turkey mixture.

Cook in a 400 degree oven for an additional 12 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle shredded cheddar cheese on each pepper half.

Place peppers back in the oven and heat until cheese is melted. Remove from oven and serve within 5-10 minutes. An avocado slice and dollop of fat-free sour cream is a perfect garnish.

OK, time for reckoning. How many calories is this dish going to cost you? Each 1/2 stuffed bell pepper is around 350 calories. Keep in mind that each pepper half is stuffed with both rice and turkey meat, not to mention the black beans. These are all VERY filling. For me, one pepper half is a full meal.

If you’re looking to carve calories, consider reducing the black beans and rice by half. You can easily deduct 68 calories from each serving. I would definitely opt for the calorie reduction if you plan on serving with no-fat sour cream (try non-fat yogurt instead) and a slice of avocado.

A Sangria Kind of Day

Yesterday, I sent the wine guy on a shopping mission to purchase ingredients for Sangria. We have a number of Pinot Grigio magnums to use up and neither of us are big white wine drinkers. The alternative…. SANGRIA!!

white pinot grigio sangria

Here is Blimpy Girl’s recipe:

  • 2 bottles Pinot Grigio wine (I happened to have a magnum on hand)
  • 2 liter bottle Sprite Zero lemon-lime soda
  • 1/2 cup rum (white or dark, it really doesn’t matter)
  • 1 lemon thinly sliced, remove any seeds
  • 2 lime thinly sliced, remove any seeds

The Fruit
You can use all types of fruit. I happen to select the following. My best suggestion on your choice of added fruit is to make it colorful. That’s part of the appeal of Sangria.

  • Fresh strawberries, cut larger ones in half, otherwise leave whole (cut off green stems). You will want at least a pint of strawberries.
  • Raspberries (small container)
  • Medium apple cut into thin wedges (seed and core removed)
  • 1 mango sliced or cubed. You may want to cut in half before slicing.
  • 1 nectarine or peach sliced or cubed. You may want to cut in half before slicing.
  • 1 Kiwi, peeled and sliced thinly.

How To

Fill a large punch bowl or glass pitcher with ice (about 1/3 full). Add the liquid ingredients and lemon-lime slices. Add the sliced/cubed fruit. You will need to “eyeball” how much fruit to add. You don’t want to add so much fruit that it becomes impossible to ladle the sangria mixture  into serving glasses.

There are many other options in making Sangria. You can use orange slices, chunks of pineapple, fresh blackberries or add sprigs of basil or mint. Experiment to find you own special mix and enjoy! The only MUST, serve in a clear glass to display the colorful mix (cocktail straws are a nice touch).

Non-Alcohol Version:

Substitute Pinot Grigio wine for another bottle of lemon-lime soda.
Substitue rum with one cup sweetened tea

Splurge Meal: Grilled Lamb Chops

 

I usually allow myself at least one splurge meal weekly. Even then, I control my portions. Last night was not the case. We had dinner with friends who love to entertain in a big way. When served a meal of grilled lamb chops and pork tenderloin, it’s the time to count calories or monitor portion sizes.

Dear friends, it didn’t stop there. Take a look at the dessert served. My thoughts are this, “If you’re gonna cheat, cheat big!”, so I did. There was no remorse, no turning back, and no stepping on the scale this morning. When informed how much butter and sour cream were in that twice baked potato, I decided my weigh-in can wait until Monday. No wonder the potato tasted so yummy!

Oh yeah, baby! You’re looking at double fudge and strawberry pound cakes, vanilla ice cream, strawberries and whipped cream. The only thing no calorie was the black coffee served with it.

Estimated calories for this meal: 1 kazillion fat calories

Hanging Wine Bottle Vases

Hanging wine bottle outdoor vase

My outdoor dinner party is cancelled due to rain. There are no regrets. Rain is so needed in our area. It’s been a dry summer and crops, grass and home gardens are failing.

These are the outdoor deck wine vases I made for the dinner. Thankfully, they won’t be wasted. Tomorrow’s weather forecast is sunny and upper 80’s. We’ll spend a day on the water and enjoy an outdoor BBQ on the deck with friends in the evening.

Hanging flower vase wine bottlesI wanted to share how easy these are to make. I gathered flowers from a nearby field and added a Gerber daisy as a focal point.

You need empty wine bottles (don’t bother removing labels), twine, fresh flowers and a place to hang the bottle.

Wrap the twine around the neck of the bottle and secure by tying. Leave a sizable amount of twine for attaching to the deck area.

Fill the wine bottle with water and insert flowers. If you happen to be hosting a particular event, like a bridal shower or outdoor wedding, consider designing custom labels  for the bottles. This is easily done in MS Publisher or other software programs.

For a more formal dinner, dress guest tables with white linens, or keep in simple and use a red checkered tablecloth. The sky is the limit when deciding how and where you want to hang these bottles. My only cost was the price of the twine… just pennies per bottle.

 

Crab Stuffed Cucumber Cups

Crab Stuffed Cucumber Cut-Outs

I’ve been wanting to make these crab stuffed cucumbers for over a week. I am hosting a dinner party tonight, so I finally have good reason to whip up a batch for appetizers. Many thanks to my friend, Katie, for the garden fresh cherry tomatoes, chives and rosemary.

Appetizers don’t get any easier than this. One medium size cucumber makes six servings. Plan on two servings per guest. Home gardens are filled with ripe cucumbers this time of year. Fresh cucumbers shouldn’t be hard to find.

Peel the cucumber and cut into 1 1/2″ to 1 3/4″ slices. Using a melon baller, scoop out a portion of the cucumber “guts”. You want to create a cup for the crab filling, so leave a portion of the bottom intact. Discard the scooped portion unless you have a brilliant idea for its use (obviously, I did not).

Crab stuffed cucumber slicesSet the cucumber cups aside while preparing the filling. I covered mine and placed in the fridge (for added crispness) until I was ready to fill them.

Filling Ingredients

  • 6 ounces of canned crab meat will fill 12-18 cucumbers. Drain the juice before using.
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup finely minced green onion
  • 1/2 cup cream cheese, low fat
  • 1/2 cup sour cream, reduced fat
  • 1 teaspoon hot sauce (or to desired taste)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Garnish (optional) with fresh chives, rosemary and cherry tomatoes

How To

 Mix all of the above ingredients. If you aren’t serving the cucumbers immediately, hold off filling them until ready to serve. Cover and refrigerate both the filling and cucumber cups until ready to serve. You can fill the cups within minutes. Dot each with a cherry tomato and garnish your serving dish as desired.

Calories are in the neighborhood of 35 per cucumber cup, so enjoy!

Ugh! Weekly Meal Planning: 10 Tips

You would think planning a weekly menu would be much easier for someone  working from home. Not so! It’s way too easy to get distracted with work, phone calls, laundry, cleaning, child care and errands. At the end of the day, you find yourself aksing, “What’s for dinner?”

If working to maintain weight loss, this is NEVER a good question. It’s an indicator that grazing mode has kicked in and we start looking for something (usually, unhealthy) to quiet hunger pangs.

Here are 10 helpful tips I use for weekly meal planning:

  •  Never shop hungry! (Engrave this in your stomach, heart, forehead, wherever! Heck, if you must, go get a tatoo.)
  • Make a list of ingredients needed for each meal. Highlight the items that need to be purchased. Items not highlighted indicates you already have it. I’m not sure if I’m a right or left brain person, but listing all the ingredients on my shopping list helps me to have a quick visual of the planned meal.
  • If you have access to a computer for meal planning, use it. I use a generic Excel spreadsheet that lists each day’s meal and the ingredients needed to prepare it.
  • Sunday night is my prep night. I chop, dice, cut and pre-cook ingredients that can easily be stored for the upcoming week. Things like peppers, onions, garlic, pre-cooked chicken/beef, chopped veggies or pre-cooked pasta helps speed up meal prep time.
  •  I only pre-plan dinner menus. Lunch and breakfast are easy to prepare and require much less planning and prep time.
  •  Plan meals around in-season veggies or fruits.
  • Consider ways to use any left-overs for lunch dishes. Leftover chicken is easily cut and chopped to make chicken salad sandwiches.
  • Plan dinner meals based on your schedule. Some nights you might work late, so plan a 20 minutes or less meal. On nights where you have more time, plan a meal with greater prep time. Remember, you are the menu gestapo and have full charge of what, when and time you want to serve dinner.
  • Don’t underestimate a slow cooker, it’s ideal for those late nights involving after school sporting events with the kids. There’s nothing better arriving home to the aroma of a ready-to-eat crock pot dinner.
  •  Take inventory of what you have on hand. Some of the best meals and recipes are created with nearly expired veggies, cheeses, bread and various left-overs hidden behind the milk carton.  

 

Breakfast for Mommy

Breakfast for Mommy by Chef Fischer

There’s no better way to start a Friday morning than breakfast by the infamous four-year chef, Fischer. My special buddy spent an overnight, but not without an “over-exhausted, played too hard, no afternoon nap” melt-down at bed time. Never underestimate the strength of a four-year old in full tantrum mode.

He wanted to go home and see mommy. In the gospel according to Fischer, I was the bad guy because, “I never let him see his mommy”. I found his episode (as I call it) quite entertaining. The drama was better than any TV show I might have watched.

A peaceful settlement was made when we agreed he could make breakfast for Mommy in the morning. And then, as if nothing had happened, he asked me to read his favorite Max Lucado book, Twelve Days of Christmas. And when the sandman finally took him to the Land of Nod, I whispered YIPPEE and crashed.

Buttering the wafflesIt’s truly amazing how a good night’s sleep changes the world as we perceive it. I was no longer the bad NeeNee, instead I was greeted with hugs, kisses and a reminder that a Mommy breakfast was on the agenda.

It is important to note, waffles without LOTS of syrup and butter is considered a misdemeanor by anyone under age six.

As you can see, Chef Fish had no problem applying the appropriate amount of syrup to each waffle. In fact, he emptied the remainder of the bottle. Thank goodness, it was “sugar-free”.

The calories weren’t as bad you might think. One waffle (with syrup/butter) and the fruit pictured is 155 calories. Add two servings of scrambled egg beaters for only 60 more calories.

The next time your little peep wants to make you breakfast, I suggest toaster waffles. It’s ideal for kids four-years and up. There is beaming pride when they present the dish. Forget about all the dripping syrup on the counter, or the butter that dropped on the floor. Create a memory. You can clean up sticky messes with soapy water, but you can’t recreate memories.