Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Low-Sodium Substitute for Dry Onion Soup Mix

As I have mentioned before, heart disease and high blood pressure run in both of our families, so I appreciate low sodium alternatives when I find them.

We have several recipes we enjoy that use dry onion soup mix (French Dip, Cranberry Chicken, etc.) but WHOA does that have a lot of sodium!

So this recipe that I found on Recipezaar made me very happy.

The recipe is the equivalent to one envelope of dry onion soup mix and can be substituted in any recipe that calls for it!

Low-Sodium Dry Onion Soup Mix


1/4 cup dried onion flakes
2 tablespoons low-sodium or sodium-free beef bouillon granules
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon parsley flakes
1/8 teaspoon celery seed
1/8 teaspoon paprika
1/8 teaspoon pepper


Stir together. Use as a substitute for 1 envelope onion soup mix.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Crispy Oven-Fried Chicken

This is one of my favorite ways to make chicken - and it came from a heart-healthy magazine!

I used to try recipe after recipe for oven fried chicken looking for that perfect crispy exterior - I have I mentioned I love fried chicken? - but I had very little luck.

When we tried this one, I was very happy with the results and it is now on our menu every month!

I use boneless skinless chicken breasts and cut them into strips to make our own homemade chicken tenders! It's a hit with the whole family, especially with dipping sauces...Jeremiah-ketchup, me-honey, Stephen-marinara!

Crispy Oven-Fried Chicken

Vegetable oil spray
4 cups wheat-flake or cornflake cereal, lightly crushed
1 medium garlic clove, crushed (optional)
1 teaspoon ground ginger, or to taste
1 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon salt (optional)
Pepper to taste
6 pieces skinless chicken with bone (about 2 1/4 pounds), all visible fat discarded
Vegetable oil spray, butter-flavored or original

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly spray a baking sheet with vegetable oil spray.

In a pie pan or on a piece of aluminum foil, stir together the cereal and garlic.

In a small bowl, combine the ginger, paprika, salt if using, and pepper. Sprinkle the seasonings on both sides of each piece of chicken.

Roll the chicken in the cereal crumbs to coat. Lightly spray the chicken on all sides with vegetable oil spray and put on the prepared baking sheet.

Bake for 45 to 60 minutes, or until the chicken is golden brown, tender and no longer pink in the center. (Timing will vary according to the thickness of the chicken pieces.)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Top Secret Brownies

Before you read this recipe, let me tell you that my son ASKED for these for lunch today and I sent two containers of these to his church class and most of them were gone - eaten by a bunch of three-year-olds!

One more disclaimer - a friend of mine tried them and did NOT like them. I, however, DO like them. I promise.

How's that for a lead up?

These are yet another attempt to get more veggies into my son's diet. And it works. Deceptively Delicious strikes again!

Yes, DD recipes take some prep work but again - totally worth it to know he's getting some good stuff!

If you have a chocolate lover in your house like my Big J then give these a try! He is thrilled to have brownies for snack!

Deceptively Delicious Brownies


Nonstick cooking spray
3 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate
1/2 cup carrot puree (After peeling and trimming the ends, steam for 10-12 minutes and then puree in a food processor for 2 minutes)
1/2 cup spinach puree (Steam for 30 to seconds, then puree in a food processor for 2 minutes)
1/2 cup firmly packed light or dark brown sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tablespoons trans-fat-free soft tub margarine spread
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 large egg whites
3/4 cup oat flour, or all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Coat an 8x8-inch baking pan with cooking spray.

Melt the chocolate in a double boiler or over a very low flame.

In a large bowl, combine the melted chocolate, vegetable purees, sugar, cocoa powder, margarine, and vanilla, and whisk until smooth and creamy, 1 to 2 minutes.
Whisk in egg whites. Stir in the flour, baking powder, and salt with a wooden spoon.

Pour the batter into the pan and bake 35 to 40 minutes. Cool completely in the pan before cutting into 12 bars.

These brownies are low in calories (only 133 per brownie) and saturated fat. They're also packed with 3 grams of fiber (which is just crazy for a brownie!), while spinach and carrots provide two powerful antioxidants that help your kids' eyes stay healthy. - Note from the cookbook

Monday, September 21, 2009

Baked Chicken Parmesan

I made this recipe from the American Heart Association Cookbook for friends the other day and they loved it!

Now, I don't eat cheese, so I can't tell you how it was but Stephen was a fan as well! And he will always recommend some marinara with Chicken Parmesan :)

Proof that healthy food can be yummy!

I was also able to flash freeze the cooked chicken (laid out on a baking sheet in the freezer until frozen, then put in a freezer bag so they don't stick together) and it reheated very well. I love discovering more freezer meals!

Baked Chicken Parmesan

Vegetable oil spray
4 slices whole-wheat bread
1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
1 1/2 tablespoons finely snipped fresh parsley
1 1/2 teaspoons paprika
3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme, crumbled
1/2 cup nonfat or low-fat buttermilk
6 Boneless chicken breast halves (approximately 4 ounces each), skinned, all visible fat removed
Vegetable oil spray


Preheat oven to 450F. Lightly spray with vegetable oil spray a rectangular baking sheet and a rectangular cake-cooling rack of a slightly smaller size. Place rack onto baking sheet. Set aside.

Place bread in a blender or the work bowl of a food processor. Process into fine crumbs. Pour crumbs into a shallow bowl. Add garlic powder, paprika, cheese, parsley and thyme. Stir to mix well.

Pour buttermilk into a shallow bowl.

Rinse chicken and pat dry with paper towels. Dip chicken into buttermilk, shake off excess and then dip into crumbs.

Place chicken on prepared rack. Spray each breast with vegetable oil spray.

Bake 15 minutes; turn chicken over and bake 10 minutes more or until done.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

In Honor of Game Day: The Taco Ring Repost

Yes, I am reposting a recipe.

But this repost is in honor of a big game in Husker Nation today. Lots of people will be watching the Big Red take on the Hokies this afternoon so I think somebody needs to make this.

And invite me over to eat it.

Christian, this one's for you. Tell your mom thanks again for introducing us to this.

And I'll gladly take you on again to see who can eat more of this any day :)

Go Huskers!

The Taco Ring

1 lb. ground beef or ground turkey
1 envelope taco seasoning (less, if desired)
2 crescent roll cans (8 oz. each)
Shredded cheddar cheese
Taco fixings (optional): lettuce, tomatoes, salsa, sour cream, etc.

Brown ground beef or turkey; drain fat. Season with taco seasoning according to envelope directions. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Unroll both cans of dough; separate into 16 triangles. Arrange triangles on a pizza stone or greased cookie sheet with short sides of triangles toward center, overlapping into wreath shape and leaving a round opening in center. On a pizza stone, this could make an inner and outer ring. You may also make two rows on a cookie sheet instead (tips still overlapping). Lightly press short sides of dough to flatten slightly.

Evenly distribute the taco meat along the widest part tips of the dough. If desired, sprinkle shredded cheese over the meat (cheese may also be served on the side after baking instead). Pull end points of triangles over filling and tuck under dough to form ring(Filling will be somewhat visible).

Bake according to package directions (11-13 minutes). Cut into 16 pieces and serve with taco fixings on the side.

Serves 2-4 people as a meal or more as an appetizer/snack.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Loser Fish Tacos

So every once in a while, I feel the need to throw in a recipe I like even though this site is called "Cooking for the Boys."

I adapted this recipe from one of the Biggest Loser cookbooks - hence the name - and I was pleasantly surprised.

For the record, I like fish. My husband does not. So I had that going for me when we tried this.

The original recipe was too spicy for both of us so I put a range on the seasoning so you can decide how spicy to make it.

Try this and you can be a loser too! In a good way, of course.

Loser Fish Tacos


Soft or hard shell tacos
1 pound Alaskan Pollack (mahimahi or monkfish are great too), cut into 1” pieces
1-2 Tbsp salt-free Mexican seasoning (like Mrs. Dash Southwest Chipotle)
Salt, to taste
Olive oil spray
Toppings: lettuce, tomatoes, olives, cheese, etc.
½ cup fresh pico de gallo or fresh salsa (refrigerated, not jarred), drained if watery
2 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro, or more to taste


Season the fish evenly with the seasoning and salt.

Place a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, lightly mist with the olive oil spray. Working in batches if necessary, add the fish pieces in a single layer. Cook, turning occasionally, for 3 to 5 minutes, or until the fish flakes easily in the center and is slightly browned.

Meanwhile, microwave the stack of tortillas in a damp paper towel or lint-free dish towel on low until warmed, 15 to 30 seconds or heat hard shell tacos in the oven until crispy.

Divide the fish evenly among the tortillas, placing it in a strip down the center. Top with the preferred toppings, then the salsa. Sprinkle with the cilantro, fold the tortillas to form tacos, and serve.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Apple Snack Squares

I just realized I've had apples coming out of my ears for almost a week now and I haven't made these yet!!! Are you kidding me? What was I thinking?

Mindee posted this recipe last year and I made them right away. And ate them right away.

Now it's your turn. I'm going to the store for butterscotch chips.

Apple Snack Squares

2 cups
2 eggs
3/4 cup vegetable oil
2 1/2 cups self-rising flour*
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 large tart apples; peeled and diced.
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional - but recommended!)
1 cup butterscotch chips

In a bowl, combine sugar, eggs and oil; mix well. Stir in flour and cinnamon (batter will be thick). Stir in apples and nuts. Spread into a greased 9x13 inch pan. Sprinkle with chips. Bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes or until golden and a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool before cutting. Makes about 2 dozen.

*If you don’t have self-rising flour on hand and hate to go to the grocery store as much as I do, you can use this substitution:
For each cup of self-rising flour, place 1 1/2 tsp of baking powder and 1/2 tsp of salt in a measuring cup. Add all-purpose flour to equal one cup.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Apple Butter

Last year, I discovered a new fall favorite when I tried Mindee's marvelous Apple Butter recipe. I froze a bunch and have been eating it - and loving it - ever since.

Well, now Joshua loves it too and I have a lot of apples to use. So I thought, let's try another Apple Butter recipe!

Mindee's recipe starts with applesauce and this time around I wanted a recipe that goes from apples to apple butter. And my friend Annie was kind enough to share this one, about which I have heard rave reviews.

Now, this is in the slow cooker right now so I can't tell you how I like it yet, but if smell is any indication, I'm going to LOVE it!

The recipe calls for 4 cups of sugar, and being the great planner that I am, I only had 3 cups of white sugar on hand. So I used 1 cup of brown sugar as well - hope I didn't mess it up! We'll see!

Now, for your enjoyment...

Apple Butter
Makes approximately 4 pints

5 1/2 lbs apples, peeled and finely chopped (I use 3-4 different types of apples)
4 cups sugar
2-3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt

1. Place apples in a large bowl.
2. Combine sugar, cinnamon, cloves and salt.
3. Pour over apples and mix well.
4. Place in crock pot, cover and cook on high for 1 hour.
5. Decrease heat to low; cover and cook on low for 9-11 hours or until thickened and dark brown.
6. Stir occasionally.
7. Uncover and cook on low for 1 hour longer.
8. If desired, whisk until smooth.
9. Spoon into freezer containers, leaving 1/2-inch head space.
10. Cover and freeze.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Applesauce - Slow-Cooker Style

As you might have read on my other blog, we have a LOT of apples to use right now so I may be posting several apple recipes in the near future.

Including this one.

This is an incredibly easy way to make applesauce and it is very yummy. It is another great recipe shared by the Crockpot Lady - so thankful for her!

This applesauce tastes especially good when warm but is delicious cold as well.

I am trying another recipe tonight and I'll keep you posted on how that one turns out!

Crockpot Applesauce

4 large apples, skinned ,cored, and cut in quarters
juice from 1 lemon
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla
1 T brown sugar
1/4 cup water

I used a 4 quart crockpot for the applesauce.

Skin, core, and cut your apples into quarters. Plop the pieces into your crockpot. Add the juice from the lemon, and the water. Pour in the vanilla (imitation or real - either works), and add the cinnamon and brown sugar.

Cover and cook on low for 4-6 hours. When the apples are super tender, mash with a potato masher or large fork. 4 hours was long enough with my slow cooker, but it will vary between appliances.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Calling All Fall Lovers!

I love fall.

I mean, I LOVE FALL.

And I love fall foods - soups, chili, warm drinks.

And I love apples and pumpkins.

So I am going to be posting lots of favorite fall recipes and would love to hear (or read, I guess) your best apple and pumpkin recipes.

So won't you please share?

You can e-mail them to me or post them in the comment section.

Come on people, share the fall love.

Have a nice day :)

Grilled Cheese - the Healthy Way

Yes, I am one of those moms who hides healthy stuff in her kids' favorite foods.

Jeremiah won't eat veggies - that he can see. So Mom just sneaks them in here and there.

This recipe is a lunch staple around here because both boys love their "cheese toast!" And that makes me love it!

Hiding veggies does require some prep but I think it is totally worth it. Ice cube trays and freezer bags have become my good friends.

So here it is, from the wonderful Deceptively Delicious cookbook.

DD Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

* 1/2 cup of shredded reduced-fat cheddar cheese
* 1/2 cup sweet potato or butternut squash puree
* 1 tablespoon trans-fat-free soft margarine spread
* 1/4 teaspoon salt (I didn't use any)
* 4 slices of whole-wheat bread
* Nonstick cooking spray
* 1 teaspoon olive oil

1. In a medium bowl, mix the cheese, vegetable puree, margarine & salt. Spread two slices of bread with the cheese mixture & top with the other two slices.

2. Coat a large nonstick skillet with cooking spray & set it over medium heat. When the skillet is hot, add the oil. Put the sandwiches in the pan & spray the top with cooking spray. Cook 4 -5 minutes per side, or until bread is crisps and the filling is melted. Let sit a few minutes before cutting - Jeremiah like his cut into triangles :)

Do you hide healthy things in your kids' food? Successes? Failures?

Friday, September 11, 2009

Meatloaf Muffins

To be fair, I actually like these the best in our family. But the boys will eat them so they're getting thrown on this site!

I love this recipe from Kraft Foods because it is EASY and versatile. I also like them because I am a big fan of the crunchy outside of meatloaf and with muffins, you get lots of crunch!

My favorite is the Mexcian variety - I like some spice - and no cheese of course. Stephen would prefer the Italian version with LOTS of mozzarella.

I just made a batch of Mexican and a batch of Italian today, flash froze them and now have them on hand for a quick meal!

Any other variation ideas? Let me know!

For all varitations you'll need the following...
1 lb. extra-lean ground beef
1 pkg. (6 oz.) STOVE TOP Stuffing Mix
1 cup water

Then you can mix & match your recipe from these options...

Seasoning - 1 tsp Italian seasoning
Add-in - spaghetti sauce (I used pizza sauce)
Cheese possibilities - shredded mozzarella

Seasoning - 2 tsp chili powder
Add-in - salsa or taco sauce
Cheese possibilities - Mexican style

Seasoning - 1 tsp dried oregano
Add-in - chopped roasted red peppers
Cheese possibilities - crumbled feta

Seasoning - 1 tsp garlic powder
Add-in - barbecue sauce
Cheese possibilities - shredded cheddar

Heat oven to 375°F. Mix meat, stuffing mix, water and seasoning until well blended. Press into 12 muffin cups sprayed with cooking spray.

Make indentation in center of each with back of spoon; fill evenly with 3/4 cup add-ins.

Bake 30 min. or until meatloaves are done (160°F). Top with 3/4 cup cheese; bake 5 min. or until melted. Let stand 10 min.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Super Power Muffins

So I can't believe I haven't posted this yet because this is Jeremiah's FAVORITE - for snack, breakfast, anytime really.

I think they are pretty darn yummy as well!

I found this on a blog a while back in the comment section so I don't have anyone to attribute to - but whoever came up with these - THANK YOU!

Healthy, filling, full of protein and produce - what more could a mommy want to give her boys for breakfast?!

Jeremiah especially likes them in mini-form :)

Super Power Muffins

1 cup brown sugar (I don’t pack it!)
½ cup peanut butter
1 banana
½ cup of applesauce or carrot puree
1 egg
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
¼ cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix all dry ingredients well and set aside.

Blend everything else and then sift in dry ingredients. Truth be told, I don't have a sifter. They still turn out great.

Spray muffin tray. Divide batter between muffin tins, filling 2/3 full.

Bake for 15-18 min. Makes 12 muffins or 24+ mini-muffins.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Pumpkin Spice Lattes - in the Crockpot!

Fall is my favorite. For so many reasons. Pumpkin Spice Lattes are one of them.

In case you are unaware of this fabulous drink, they are only available at Starbucks in the fall. Which used to be a reason for sadness for me.

Until I found this recipe from the Crockpot Lady. Now I can have them all year round and they won't cost me a small fortune.

My hubby is not a coffee drinker so I have to share these with friends - a good excuse to get together often!

A couple of tips:
*I make a pot of extra strong coffee and then freeze it in ice cube trays to have on hand whenever I want to make these - very handy!
*This recipe uses a small amount of a can of pumpkin, so why not freeze the leftover in ice cube trays as well?! Works great!

Happy fall!

Crockpot Pumpkin Spice Lattes

--2 cups milk (I used 1%)
--2 T canned pumpkin
--2 T white sugar
--2 T vanilla (not a typo. it asks for tablespoons)
--1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
OR: 1/4 tsp cinnamon, 1/8 tsp cloves, 1/8 tsp nutmeg, and a teeny tiny pinch of ground ginger
--1/2 cup brewed espresso or 3/4 cup strong brewed coffee
--garnish with whipped cream (optional)

The Directions.

This will make enough for 2 people to have a big mug with a bit leftover. If you are having friends over, adjust the recipe accordingly. I used a 4-quart crockpot, but as small as a 1.5 quart will work with these amounts.

Add the coffee/espresso and milk to the crockpot. Whisk in the pumpkin, spices, sugar, and vanilla.

Cover and cook on high for 2 hours if everything is cold. Whisk again.

Ladle into mugs, and garnish with whipped cream and additional cinnamon.