Helping families eat healthier for less

Helping families eat healthier for less

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Clay Pot Chicken for Easy Entertaining

Clay Pot Chicken
Treasured cookware is the theme this month for Recipe Redux.  I decided to pull out my clay cooker that my oldest brother gave me over 25 years ago.  It’s a Romertopf clay baker.

Romertopf Clay Baker

Clay pots have been around for centuries in all parts of the world. Clay pot cooking can be healthy as some recipe call for very little fat. The moisture in the pot (from soaking) helps the cooked food stay moist, making your finished dish more flavorful, tender and succulent.

I decided to do a classic baked chicken using one of the recipes that came with the dish. However, I modified it (imagine that) to use chicken parts instead of a whole chicken and I added more veggies.   I used chicken thighs and split chicken breasts that were both on sale. This recipe is perfect for entertaining company because everything gets cooked together in one pot. You can assemble the dish ahead of time and then it cooks, unattended, for about an hour and 15 minutes. No basting or watching  required.

According to The Best of Clay Pot Cooking by Dana Jacobi, there are six rules of cooking in clay.
Clay Pot Cooking by Dana Jacobi

  1. Always soak unglazed pots completely submerged in water before using. Soak new pots for 30 minutes; after that, 15 minutes.
  2. Never subject a clay pot to quick or extreme changes in temperature. (That’s why you put it in a cold oven and bring it up to the desired temperature.) Don’t add cold liquid to a hot pot.
  3. When opening a pot after cooking, tilt the cover away from you to prevent steam from hitting your face.
  4.  Use long oven-proof mitts when handling a hot clay pot. 
  5. Don’t store food in a clay pot; the flavors will seep into the clay.
  6.  Never use scouring powder or steel wool on a clay pot. Scrub with a fiber or nylon pad(or a stiff brush).

Individual Serving of Clay Pot Chicken

Here is the complete recipe.
Clay Pot Chicken

1 medium onion, peeled and cut into wedges
1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
2 medium Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
4 carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch slices
3 inner stalks and leaves of celery
4 lbs. chicken parts (with or without skin)
Non-stick cooking spray
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1 teaspoon dried thyme

Soak clay dish in water to cover for 15 minutes. Place, onion, sweet potato, gold potatoes, carrot, and celery onto bottom of clay pot. Place chicken pieces in single layer on top of vegetables.  Spray chicken with non-stick spray and season top of pieces with rosemary and thyme. Cover and place in cold oven turned to 450 degrees for about 75 minutes, or until chicken registers 165 degrees on meat thermometer.

Makes 6 servings.

Nutrition Information per Serving:
301 calories, 8 g total fat, 2 g saturated fat, 86 mg cholesterol, 4 g dietary fiber, 31 g protein, and 153 mg sodium. One serving of this low cost recipe provides an excellent source of protein, vitamin A and C, niacin and B-6 and a good source of riboflavin, thiamin, and fiber.

Cost per Serving: $1.41

Pricing Note: all ingredients were at “regular” prices except  potatoes which were on sale for $2.99 for a 5-pound bag.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Salmon Patties Help Celebrate March

Salmon Patties Perfect for Spring Menus

In celebration of St. Patties day, the Recipe Redux theme for March is patties, whether they be beef, chicken, tuna, bean, or whatever. I love salmon so I decided to make fresh salmon patties. Add, in keeping with St. Patrick's Day theme, I added dill for a bit of the green.

Fresh or frozen salmon can be used for this recipe, but I find it is best with fresh. The salmon in this recipe is chopped by hand instead of using a food processor to give the cakes a courser texture.

 Here is the recipe:

Dilly Salmon Patties


1 pound fresh or frozen (thawed) salmon fillet, pinbones and skin removed if needed

1 slice whole wheat bread, crusts removed and discarded, chopped fine

2 tablespoons lowfat mayonnaise

¼ cup finely chopped green onion

1 lemon, divided (1/2 used for juice; other half cut into wedges for garnish)

2 tablespoons fresh dill or 2 teaspoons dried dill

¼ teaspoon salt

½ cup white wheat flour

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

1 cup panko bread crumbs

2 tablespoons canola oil


Line a baking sheet with foil. Set aside.

Cut salmon with knife into pieces about ¼-inch in size. In medium bowl, combine chopped salmon, bread, mayonnaise, onion, lemon juice from half a lemon, dill, and salt. Using a ¼-cup dry measure, make 6 patties and place them on the foil-lined baking sheet or plate. Freeze the patties for about 15 minutes.

Dip each patty into flour, then egg, and, lastly, the panko bread crumbs. Heat oil in large non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add the patties. Cook about 3 minutes on each side. You will likely need to cook the patties in two batches, depending on the size of the skillet. Serve with lemon wedges.

Makes 6 servings.

Nutrition Information per Serving:

298 calories, 12 g total fat, 2 g saturated fat, 42 mg cholesterol, 2 g dietary fiber, 20 g protein, and 341 mg sodium. One serving of this low cost recipe provides an excellent source of protein and several B vitamins.

Cost per Serving: $1.61

Pricing Note: all ingredients were at “regular” prices except the green onions which were on sale for $0.59 a bunch.

Click here to download and print a copy of this recipe.

Be sure to check out these other March patties.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Macaroni and Cheesy Cauliflower

Macaroni and Cheesy Cauliflower

I received a gift card to offset the expense of my ingredients. By posting this recipe I am entering a recipe contest sponsored by the California Milk Advisory Board and am eligible to win prizes associated with the contest. I was not compensated for my time.

March is National Nutrition Month and the theme this year is "Enjoy the Taste of Eating Right." It’s also time for another recipe challenge. This time the California Milk Advisory Board  is celebrating "dairy good" nutrition by challenging Recipe Reduxers to lighten up some of their favorite recipes with real California dairy foods. The hardest part for me was deciding which California dairy products to use, as there are hundreds of them available nationwide.

California leads the nation in production of milk, butter, and ice cream. They are number two in cheese and yogurt production. While they may not be the leader in cheese production, they are at an all-time high.  Real California milk and dairy products are sold nationwide and can be identified with the Real California Milk or Real California cheese seals on packaging. Look for the Real California Milk seal on packages of butter to identify dairy products made exclusively with milk produced on California dairy farms.

Click on RealCaliforniaMilk for an extensive list of milk and dairy products, recipes, cooking tips and numerous cooking techniques on proven ways to work with California dairy products.  Also, go to the website of the Dairy Council of California for information and resources for educators and schools, health & wellness providers, and consumers who want to eat healthier for themselves and their families.

This “healthier” mac and cheese shows how California dairy products (milk, butter and cheese) can play an important role in a healthy diet. One trick is to use an extra sharp cheese so that less of it is used than in a “typical” mac and cheese recipe. And sprinkle some of the cheese on top to get more cheese flavor. The butter is just enough to add wonderful flavor and nonfat milk is used to make a lower fat cheese sauce. Also, because cauliflower is such a hot trendy vegetable right now, I decided to use it instead of two-thirds of the macaroni that would be used in a typical mac & cheese recipe. This substitution alone saves close to 600 calories for the whole recipe. Kids and adults will love the cheesiness of this comfort food favorite.

Macaroni and Cheesy Cauliflower


1 cup dry macaroni (whole wheat or high fiber)
1 medium head cauliflower, trimmed, cored, and cut into florets (about 5 cups)
2 tablespoons California butter
1 medium onion, peeled and finely chopped
3 tablespoons whole wheat flour
3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
2 cups California nonfat milk
1/2 cup frozen peas
6 ounces California extra sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded, divided
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground chipotle pepper, or to taste
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1-1/2 cups fresh whole grain bread crumbs
1 tablespoon dried parsley

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Boil macaroni in large pot of boiling water, covered, until tender, about 10 minutes (or according to package directions). Add cauliflower florets to pasta water during last 7 minutes of cooking. Remove pasta and cauliflower from pot; set aside. Reserve 1 cup cooking water.
Melt California butter in large pot over medium-low heat. Add onion and cook until onion is soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in flour and garlic and cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Whisk in California milk, garlic, and reserved cooking liquid. Cook over medium heat 7 to 10 minutes, or until sauce is thickened, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat. Stir in peas, all but 1/2 cup shredded California Cheddar cheese, ground peppers, and nutmeg; stir until cheese is melted. Stir in cooked cauliflower and macaroni.

Spray a 9 x 13-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Transfer cauliflower mixture to dish and spread evenly.  Top with bread crumbs, remaining 1/2 cup shredded California Cheddar cheese, and parsley. Bake 30 minutes, or until casserole is hot and bubbly. Place under broiler for 2 to 3 minutes, until breadcrumbs are crisp and lightly brown.
Makes 6 to 8 servings

Nutrition Information per Serving (1/8th of recipe):
247 calories, 11 g total fat, 7 g saturated fat, 31 mg cholesterol, 4 g dietary fiber, 12 g protein, and 266 mg sodium. One serving of this low cost recipe provides an excellent source of protein, vitamins C and K-1, calcium, and folate and a good source of riboflavin and thiamine.

 Cost per Serving (1/8 of recipe): $0.83
Pricing Note: all ingredients were at “regular” prices.

Be sure to check out these other "healthier" favorites.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Pistachio Pairings Just in Time for Valentines Day

salted pistachios + chocolate cheesecake + fresh raspberries + ruby port

I received free pistachio samples from the Pistachio Health Institute mentioned in this post. By posting this pairing, I am entering a contest sponsored by Pistachio Health Institute and am eligible to win prizes associated with the contest. I was not compensated for my time.

 Pistachios were one of my favorite nuts as a young girl. I loved them. My mother purchased them sporadically, so it was a real treat when she did. So, when I learned about this Pistachio Pairing contest with Recipe Redux, I got excited.  I decided to enter the “indulgent” category. Valentines’ Day is right around the corner, so I thought I would come up with a romantic pairing for my husband and I.

Cheesecake Factory chocolate cheesecake + pistachios + fresh raspberries + ruby port

Chocolate cheesecake with fresh raspberries is nothing new. But pair it with a good Ruby port and pistachios in the shell … and you have a real tasty and decadent treat. Ruby port is wonderful when paired with chocolate desserts. It’s sweet red wine with powerful fruit like plum, cherry and berries.  It goes very well with the creamy texture of the chocolate cheesecake. The pistachios add a nice texture, saltiness, and contrast to the cheesecake and port. I was able to buy Cheesecake Factory chocolate cheesecake at my local Costco store. It comes frozen and includes 6 original and 6 chocolate cheesecake portions. It's great to have in the freezer for dessert "emergencies" or special events.

I encourage you to visit the Pistachio Health Institute for a wealth of information and resources for consumers and health professionals. This includes information about pistachios and heart health, weight management and other research studies.  I was amazed to learn that one ounce of pistachios (without the shell) amounts to 49 nuts! That’s a lot of nuts and more nuts per one-ounce serving than any other nut.
49 pistachio shells

Leaving your empty pistachio shells  on your plate or napkin (compared to immediately throwing the shells into a trash can) can actually help you not overeat. They serve as a visual cue and you are likely to consume less.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Pizza for the New Year

Pumpkin Chili Chicken Pizza

The theme for Recipe Redux for January is pizza. Everyone loves pizza. There are an infinite number of ways to make pizza. Almost anything goes. For me, I love a hearty, thick crust pizza in winter. I also like thin and crispy, but when it is cold outside and you are looking for something warm and filing, deep dish works for me. This is a pumpkin chicken chili pizza and is very hearty.

Pumpkin Chili Chicken Pizza


1 pound ground chicken
1/2 large onion, peeled and diced
1 medium green bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 cup shredded raw pumpkin
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 (15 oz) can kidney beans, reduced sodium if possible, rinsed and drained
1 Tbsp chili powder, or to taste
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
2 thin 12-inch ready-to-cook whole wheat pizza crusts (such as Boboli or other brand)
2 tsp olive oil
1 (15 oz) can pizza sauce, (look for brand with the lowest sodium)
2 cups shredded reduced-fat cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a large nonstick skillet, cook chicken over medium heat until browned. Drain if needed. Stir in onion, bell pepper, pumpkin, and garlic. Cover and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in beans and seasonings. Set aside. Place pizza crusts on pizza pans or baking sheets. Brush pizza crust with olive oil. Divide pizza sauce evenly between 2 pizza crusts and spread into an even layer. Divide chicken chili mixture evenly between the 2 pizzas and spread into an even layer. Top each pizza with 1 cup shredded cheese. Bake at 400 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes, or until cheese is melted. Remove and cut each pizza into 8 wedges.

Makes 8 servings (2 wedges each).
Preparation Note: You can use your favorite pizza dough from scratch, if preferred.

Nutrition Information per Serving:
444 calories, 16 g total fat, 6.5 g saturated fat, 69 mg cholesterol, 7 g dietary fiber, 26 g protein, and 448 mg sodium. One serving of this recipe provides an excellent source of vitamins A and C, calcium and fiber and a good source of vitamins B-6 and niacin. Note: sodium could be reduced further if homemade pizza crust was used and kidney beans were cooked from scratch instead of using canned.

Cost per Serving: $1.73
Pricing Note: all ingredients were at “regular” prices except ground chicken was $2.99 a pound and cheese was on sale for $1.50 for 8-ounce package of shredded reduced fat cheddar cheese.

Click here to download and print a copy of this recipe.

Be sure to check out these other pizza creations.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Wild Blueberries, a Nutrition Powerhouse, Makes This Pilaf "Wildly Good"

Stuffed Winter Squash with Wild Blueberry Quinoa Pilaf

By posting this recipe I am entering a recipe contest sponsored by the Wild Blueberry Association of North America and am eligible to win prizes associated with the contest. I was not compensated for my time.

There’s a lot of confusion out there when it comes to blueberries. Wild blueberries (found in your grocer’s freezer section) are very different (and better, in my opinion) than fresh blueberries, found in the fresh produce section). The differences are many. Wild blueberries have grown in Maine, eastern Canada, and Quebec for 10,000 years, are naturally occurring lowbush varieties, and are more genetically diverse. This contributes to their more intense complex blueberry flavor, sweet-tart taste, and more intense color. Wild blueberries have a higher skin to pulp ratio so you get more antioxidant-rich pigment and a better freezing blueberry. Wild blueberries have been shown to have twice as much antioxidant capacity as fresh blueberries.

Fresh blueberries, on the other hand, are cultivated and come from several highbush varieties that are propagated, planted, and harvested in commercial operations. Fresh blueberries contain more water and fewer antioxidants. Because they contain more water, they bleed more in baking and do not freeze as well. Because wild blueberries are found in your supermarket’s freezer case, you can use them year ‘round for healthy, delicious meals. Frozen wild blueberries make it easy to get your “Daily Dose of Wild blue.”

Additionally, numerous research studies have been done on the health benefits of wild blueberries. Because of their higher concentration of beneficial phytochemicals, such as the flavonoid anthocyanin, they are a powerful ally against many diseases. Click here to review research studies on the Wild Blueberry Association of North America’s website. Their research summarizes the health benefits of wild blueberries and brain health, cancer prevention, lowering diabetes risk, gut health, heart health,  metabolic syndrome, urinary tract health, and vision health.

I purchased a large bag of wild blueberries at my local BJ’s warehouse. The 3-pound package was just under seven dollars, or about $0.60 a cup. One bag provides 10 cups, enough to test my recipe and many of the recipes by my fellow Recipe Reduxers.

 Here is a photo of the bag of wild blueberries from BJ's warehouse store.

I love wild blueberries in sweet dishes, such as cobblers, muffins, and pancakes. I use wild blueberries regularly to make my husband and myself a fruit smoothie after a morning workout. I add the wild blueberries to a frozen banana, skim milk, and a scoop of protein powder. It’s a fast, easy breakfast when we are on the go. 

For this contest, however, I wanted to use the wild blueberries in a more savory application.  I thought I would experiment by creating a quinoa/lentil vegetarian main dish. Most of us just don’t eat enough beans and lentils. So, I love finding ways to sneak them into dishes.

For this recipe, I combined three nutrition powerhouses: wild blueberries, quinoa, and lentils into a stuffing for a baked winter squash, another nutrition powerhouse. This recipe makes a makes a wonderful vegetarian main dish. As an option, instead of stuffing a winter squash, the pilaf could also be served as a side dish, under a grilled chicken breast or fish fillet.

Here is the complete recipe:

Stuffed Winter Squash with Wild Blueberry Quinoa Pilaf

2 medium winter squash, halved and seeded
1 teaspoon canola oil
1-1/2 cups chopped sweet onion
1 cup uncooked quinoa
1/4 cup uncooked lentils
2-1/2 cups low sodium chicken broth
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup wild blueberries
1/4 cup toasted slivered almonds
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar


Heat oven to 375 degrees. Place squash halves, cut side down, on baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes.

 Meanwhile, heat oil in large skillet over medium heat; add onion. Cook, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes, until onion is soft. Stir in quinoa, lentils, chicken broth, and nutmeg. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

 Gently stir in wild blueberries, almonds, and balsamic vinegar. Divide stuffing evenly among partially baked squash halves. Place on baking sheet, cover with foil, and continue to bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until squash is fork tender.

 Makes  4 servings .

 Nutrition Information per Serving:
353 calories, 8 g total fat, 1 g saturated fat, 3 mg cholesterol, 11 g dietary fiber, 14 g protein, and 231 mg sodium. One serving of this low cost recipe provides an excellent source of  protein, fiber, folate, riboflavin, thiamin and vitamins A, B-6, and C.

 Cost per Serving: $1.38

Pricing Note: all ingredients were at “regular” prices.
For more information on wild blueberries:

Website: and
Click here to download and print a copy of this recipe.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

For Good Luck in 2014, Try Baked Brown Rice Pudding

Baked Rice Pudding Brings Good Luck

The theme this month for recipe Redux is “Good Luck Foods.” We were asked what we will be serving to get the New Year started with a little luck? For some, it might be it black eyed peas and greens, or Chinese noodles or even a special family recipe. For me, it is pudding. Yes, pudding.  Many years ago when I was doing my dietetic internship in Minneapolis, I was invited to a friend’s house for New Year’s. This family was of Swedish descent. Their tradition was to serve a large bowl of rice pudding and the person who got the whole almond in their bowl was the bearer of good luck for the year. I was the one who got the almond. I don’t remember of my following year was especially lucky, but I have never forgotten that prize.


I have learned since then that many cultures, in addition to Sweden, treasure almonds as a symbol of good luck, good health and good fortune. One story I read said that the person who finds the almond is said to get married in the coming year. That didn’t happen to me.


Here is the recipe for Baked Brown Rice Pudding.

Inspiration for this recipe came from: All Recipes. Made with some modifications, mainly using brown rice for white rice.


Non-stick cooking spray

2 large eggs, beaten

3-1/2 cups 1% milk

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup uncooked jasmine brown rice

1 tablespoon light butter, melted

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon almond extract

1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 whole almond


Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Spray 2-quart baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.

In a large bowl, beat together the eggs and milk. Stir in sugar, rice, butter, extracts, and nutmeg. Pour into prepared pan. Stir in one almond.

Bake for 2 to 2-1/2 hours, stirring every 15 minutes during the first hour.

Makes  6 servings.

Nutrition Information per Serving:

216 calories, 4 g total fat, 2 g saturated fat, 69 mg cholesterol, g dietary fiber, 8 g protein, and 102 mg sodium. One serving of this low cost recipe provides an excellent source of riboflavin and vitamin D and a good source of protein, vitamin B-12, and calcium.

Cost per Serving: $0.50

Pricing Note: all ingredients were at “regular” prices.
Click here to download and print a copy of this recipe.

Be sure to check out these other “good luck” foods from fellow Recipe Reduxers.