Thinking Outside the Bun Hot Dog Lunch

It’s been a mad house around here since the holidays. Just getting the Christmas decorations put away has taken nearly a month. As for cooking, there’s been very little of it. I have relied upon take-out dinners and soup lunches. Since today is Valentine’s Day, I am renewing my love affair with Blimpy Girl meals and focusing on getting back into my normal eating groove. The holiday grazing has come to an end.

This out-of-the-bun hot dog was today’s lunch. Make a lengthwise slit in a turkey dog (98% fat-free), fill the slit area with small chunks of Velvetta cheese (1/2 ounce) and top with diced onion. Microwave the dog until cheese melts. Plate cooked hot dog and garnish with sweet relish and mustard. It’s a 100 calorie hot dog.

If you can’t eat a hot dog without fries, try these oven-baked red skin fries. Here’s how:

  • 4 red skin potatoes (don’t bother peeling)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Use a broiler pan with a wire rack to keep air circulating around the potatoes while they bake.

Wash and cut the potatoes into wedges. Mix the oil/seasoning to a large bowl and thoroughly coat the potatoes. Layer the wedges on the wire rack (single layer) and bake in oven for 10 minutes. Flip the potatoes and cook an additional 8 minutes or until golden brown. Serve immediately.

The above recipe serves four. Calories per serving are in the neighborhood of 170. Potatoes are a “filler” food. The carbs help your tummy fill full which means you eat less.Say bye-bye to the ketchup. If you can’t live without a dipping sauce, use low-fat ranch.

The final verdict: An under 300 calories meal with a serving of the baked fries.

 

 

Rice & Roasted Veggies w/ Gorgonzola

Rice with Roasted Vegetables

Blimpy Girl has been on sabbatical from food preparation due to my recent trip to Paris. As of yesterday, I hope to be back on track with my posts. This starts the busy season for my business, so I’m seeking out meals that are quick, easy and take little supervision while cooking.

This was last night’s dinner. The goodness of roasted veggies with a side of white rice. I coupled this dish with a endive-spinach-basil salad (the spinach helps offset the bitter of the endive) topped with shaved carrots and thin slices of zucchini. The salad was drizzled with balsamic vinegar and olive oil (and a handful of grated Parmesan Reggiano). In hindsight, the salad was an overkill. I could have made a meal out of just the salad and a piece of hard crusted bread.

The only thing missing from the salad were roasted walnuts. I should have thrown a handul onto the baking dish with the veggies. Walnuts are an excellent source of vitamin E and Omega 3.

There were enough roasted veggies to generously serve two. You will need the following:

  • (2) large onion slices
  • (1) large onion slice separated into rings
  • 1/2 eggplant (slice into 3/8 inch slices)
  • (2) large tomato slices
  • Chopped carrot
  • 1 small zucchini sliced
  • 1/2 red and 1/2 yellow bell peppers, cut into strips
  • Cooked rice (3/4 cups per person)
  • 1 teaspoon Balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons of Gorgonzola cheese
  • Salt & pepper to taste

 NOTE: You can substitute couscous for the rice. That was my first intention, but I didn’t have any in the pantry.

Arrange veggies in a single layer on baking sheet.

 

Lightly spray non-stick olive oil cooking spray on a baking sheet. Crank the oven up to 350 degrees and begin your chopping, dicing & cutting. Place veggies in a single layer on the baking pan (best you can). Spray with non-stick cooking spray and season.

 

Roast in oven for 25 minutes, remove from oven and place a dollop of Gorgonzola cheese on top of the tomato/onion slices. Return to oven and roast for another 5 minutes. Plate the rice using an ice cream scoop. Arrange roasted veggies on plate and drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. A sprinkle of cracked black pepper and you’re ready to devour a healthy dose of veggies.

Each serving (minus the salad) is in the neighborhood of 290 calories. If you swap out the rice for couscous, deduct 21 calories.The biggest calories are in the starch (rice/couscous) and the Gorgonzola cheese. Fore go the Gorgonzola and deduct another 50 calories. For me, the cheese splurge was worth it. It’s not often I have vein thickening, cholesterol building cheeses. But in small doses, it’s good for the soul.

 

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.

Stuffed Basil Tenderloin Croissant Appetizer

Stuffed Basil Tenderloin Croissant

This is a must try finger food. Pair it with a side dish of pasta or serve as appetizers. It’s super easy to make and takes about 12 minutes to bake in the oven.

Ingredients

  • Can of Pillsbury crescent rolls (reduced-fat, if possible)
  • Fresh basil leaves of generous size (about 12)
  • 3-4 ounce beef tenderloin (you can substitute beef with chicken). I personally like the beef flavor. Cut the meat into strips. Cook on stove top with garlic and onion until medium rare. Leave in pan until ready to use. The meat will continue to cook when the croissant is baked in the oven.
  • 2 tablespoons basil flavored olive oil
  • 4 tablespoons grated or shaved Parmesan cheese
  • 5 tablespoons marinara sauce
  • 1 zucchini (I added the leftover zucchini to a pasta sauce)
  • Garlic clove diced
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion

Place zucchini slices, basil leave on crescent.

How To

Separate the crescent rolls and flattened slightly with palm of hand. Brush lightly with basil olive oil. Position basil leave and slices of zucchini onto the crescent dough (about a third of the way down from the longest point).

Place a strip of cooked tenderloin on the zucchini strips. Coat croissant with marinara sauce, chopped basil and a portion of the onion/garlic mixture used when cooking the meat.

Sprinkle with a layer of Parmesan cheese. Roll croissant dough into a crescent shape.

Repeat this process for all eight rolls.

Spray a cookie sheet with non-stick oil and bake the croissants for 12 minutes at 375 degrees.

Remove from oven and serve while warm. You get the best flavors if served warm. However, you can cook ahead and place in the fridge. Allow croissants to come to room temperature and serve. Quite honestly, these are good both hot and cold.

So what’s the caloric damage for one of these delicious, can’t eat just one, sandwich? Not as bad as you might think. One serving is 150 calories. You can eliminate 15 calories by using non-stick basil flavored cooking spray. Lightly coat the croissant dough with basil spray before adding the stuffing ingredients.

For my Vegan friends, here are a few ideas. Substitute the meat with blanched green beans, snap peas, fresh spinach leaves or Boca Italian meatless sausage links.

EZ Basil Pesto Sandwich

Open face Basil Pesto Sandwich

It was a typical Monday. The day was a whirlwind filled with every Murphy’s Law scenario imaginable. By 5 PM, I was panting for nourishment. Waiting more than 5 minutes for something to cook was not an option.

So what does Blimpy Girl do when pursued by a hunger attack… and trying to avoid the Cheez-it box and chocolate hidden in the 4th drawer next to the dishwasher? OK, OK, I’m getting a little sidetracked just thinking of what could of been… chocolate melting in my mouth intermingled with a handful (or two) of Cheez-its…

My strong will prevailed. Instead I walked outside, picked some fresh basil leaves from the garden and made these open-faced sandwiches.

Open face basil & tomato sandwich

Ingredients

  • Two slices French baguette bread (I used poppy seed flavor)
  • 2 slices of tomato
  • 2 tablespoon of marinara sauce
  • Onion slice cut in half
  • 4 teaspoons artichoke & asiago tapenade/pesto (purchase at Costco)
  • 5 pitted Kalamata olives cut in half
  • 2 tablespoons shaved/grated Parmesan cheese
  • 4 fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped

How To

Add the following to each bread slice:

One tablespoon marinara sauce, 1/2 of the chopped basil, 1/2 of the sliced onion, 1 tomato slice, 1/2 of kalamata olives, a layer of cheese and 2 teaspoons tapenade/pesto.

Bake in toaster oven until bread is toasted and cheese has melted. About 5 minutes. You’re in the neighborhood of 302 calories for two open face sandwiches. Add a garden fresh salad with tomatoes and shredded carrots (drizzled with garlic balsamic vinegar) for an additional 20 calories.

Oops, let’s not forget the drink of choice for this dish… Pinot Grigio. A four-ounce serving will add an additional 98 calories. If you opt for Chardonnay, add 80 calories.

 

 

 

 

Henny Penny Chicken Salad Sandwiches

Cluck Cluck Chicken Salad Sandwiches

Half the fun of preparing Blimpy Girl meals is coming up with a name for the finished dish. This dish is named after one of my favorite story book characters. My concoction has chicken meat and eggs along with fresh garden goodies: tomato, onion, green pepper, pickle relish, celery and lettuce. I promise the sky won’t fall when trying this recipe and Henny Penny would be proud that farm fresh ingredients were used.

I threw together this dish before heading out for a steamy day on the lake. As usual, I grabbed food items available at the time. I keep plenty of chicken breast on hand (thank you, Costco) and garden items are at their peak (YES!!). When I discovered a loaf of French baguette bread in the freezer, the meal plan began to unfold.

This is a sandwich recipe  that “goes with the flow”. If you don’t have celery, then use grated carrot, if you don’t have green pepper, use diced green olives.

You can shred zucchini, add basil leaf, even serve the chicken mixture in red/yellow bell pepper halves. There are so many options for this easy-to-prepare dish.

Ingredients

  • 2 six-ounce cubed, cooked chicken breast
  • Chopped celery (about 2 stalks)
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts (optional, but adds a nice crunch)
  • 3 tablespoons sweet pickle relish
  • 1/2 cup green pepper, chopped (you can substitute with 1/4 cup green olive)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped onion (look for the sweet Vidalia type)
  • Salt / Pepper to taste. NOTE: if using green olive, which are already salty, cut down the amount of salt used.
  • French baguette slices
  • Lettuce (or spinach leaves) & sliced tomato (I cut mine slices in half to fit the baguette)
  • 1 hard boiled egg, chopped
  • 3/4 cup low-fat mayo PLUS 1/4 cup no fat mayo

How To

Mix together all the ingredients except the lettuce and tomato slices. Top each baguette slice with a lettuce. Spread chicken mixture over lettuce and dress with a tomato slice.

This recipe makes approximately 12 sandwiches. Calories, depending on your options are around 170 calories per serving. Add a spinach salad with a low-fat vinegarette dressing, carrot sticks or broccoli florets and you have a 200 to 225 calorie meal. Heck, if you’re still feeling hungry, chow down a second sandwich. Omit the bread and save on calories for the indulgence.

Turtle Hamburger

A turtle burger any kids would love!This was last night’s dinner for the grand kids. They generally are not burger kind of kids, odd as that may seem. I decided to try a different take on presenting the burger especially since the wine guy had purchased an enormous package of burger meat from Costco.

Well, it worked! All three kids chowed down and ate every last bite of their burger. They even ate the tomato and lettuce. The turtle burgers were served with corn on cob. It was a fun meal and easy to make. Here’s the how-to:

The beginnings of a turtle hamburger.

  • Shape hamburger or ground sirloin meat into patties. Cook as desired.
  • I didn’t have burger buns so I cut white bread slices into circles using a used a cookie cutter. I liked this idea better because the bread wasn’t so thick.  English muffins are another option, but my grand kids aren’t muffin fans.
  • Slice baby dill pickles to make the turtle’s head, tail and feet. Use any extra pickles to make the turtle shell (see below).
  •  Add burger, cheese and ketchup to the bread base.Add any other condiments you want, E.g., mustard, mayo, relish.
  • Top with Iceberg lettuce and add slices of dill pickles to create the turtle shell.
  • The turtle eyes are small dollops of mayo with a raisin cut in half.
  • Serve with a side dish like corn on the cob or mac & cheese.

This turtle theme can also be used to create a before dinner craft. Here are links to a couple of easy turtle ideas using items you have around the house. Link #1, Link #2

This is a great opportunity to teach kids about turtles. I’ve noted a few links that might prove helpful.

Link #1, Link #2, Link #3