Meyer Lemon Bars

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It hasn’t hit me yet that tomorrow is my last day at my dialysis unit. While I feel confident in my decision to join a different dialysis company that’s more convenient to my home and teaching, it’s hard to leave what you know. And it’s hard to leave great co-workers, and patients that you love.

I was flattered when on Tuesday my co-workers were joking about how great they are and how wonderful the clinic and patients are that there’s just no possible way my new job could compare. It was cute. But I hope they’re wrong!

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Much more so than me, I think my co-workers will miss all the food I bring in to share. If you were around during the holidays, you saw the insanity that was cookie, candy, and toffee-making. Yep, my co-workers had their way with all of those goodies. I mean, I would definitely want me as a coworker…(just sayin’…)

These lemon bars were my farewell to my coworkers. And were they ever a hit!

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While grocery shopping last weekend, I ran across a bag of Meyer lemons for $1.50 and there was just no saying no. In retrospect, 2 bags should’ve made their way into my cart because when I returned to Kroger 2 days later, the lemons had vanished.

Because my oh-so-savvy method of recipe organization involves emailing myself recipes I find online (at least the subject of the email is always filling in with the recipe name!), labeling them “recipes”, and storing them indefinitely in my Gmail account*, I was able to find multiple recipes using Meyer lemons, very, very quickly. And because I am a slave to email, my phone is with me at all times – especially in the grocery store.

*Believe it or not, this method is much more methodical and time-effective than ripping pages and pages from cooking magazines.

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By the time I got home, I had a plan for my lemons. Even though I kind of wanted to just look at them. I think they’re darling.

These lemon bars were gone in no time. My coworker actually said she would choose these lemon bars over anything chocolate (!!), and several others wanted the recipe. While I cannot sing any praises for the healthfulness of these lemon bars (though I did add some whole wheat pastry flour in place of all-purpose!), they are refreshing and worth the splurge!

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Meyer Lemon Bars adapted from Smitten Kitchen and Eats Well With Others, originally from The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook

1/2 lb unsalted butter, at room temperature 1/2 cup granulated sugar 1 cup all-purpose flour 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour 1/8 tsp kosher salt

6 large eggs, at room temperature 2 1/2 cups granulated sugar 2 Tbsp Meyer lemon zest 1 cup freshly squeezed Meyer lemon juice (or regular lemon juice) 1 cup all-purpose flour

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 and grease a 9×13-inch baking pan.

For the crust, cream together the butter and sugar until light in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. In a separate bowl, combine the flour and salt and, with the mixer on low, add to the butter and beat just until mixed. Put the dough on a well-floured board and form into a ball. With floured hands, flatten the dough into the baking pan. Chill in the freezer for 10 minutes.

Bake the crust for 15-20 minutes or until very lightly browned. Let cool on a wire rack.

For the lemon layer, whisk together the eggs, sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, and flour. Pour over the crust and bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until set. Let cool to room temperature. Cut into squares or triangles. Sprinkle with powdered sugar, if desired. Yield: 24 bars.

Nutrition Information (per bar): 229 calories; 8.5 g. fat; 54 mg. cholesterol; 31 mg. sodium; 36 g. carbohydrate; 0.5 g. fiber; 2.5 g. protein

Result: Tart & sweet, these are wonderfully refreshing. Meyer lemons may be winter’s secret gift, willing the warmer weather and warding off the snow. For the lemon fans out there, these are a must-make…but be sure to share ;) Enjoy!

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Second to last day at work and then off to teach…bring on the weekend! The 3-day weekend!

Be well,

Money Matters: Chicken Tortilla Soup (+ the quickiest, most amazing chicken shredding tip!)

Classes are back in session starting today. As much as I love teaching, I enjoy having my evenings free. For a woman that loves to cook, lecturing 2 nights a week (I’m gone from 4:15pm to about 9pm) really puts a damper on any dinner plans — making or eating.

Needless to say, I’ve been enjoying my evenings off…by cooking.

I love spicy, thick soups such as Chicken Tortilla Soup. But if I’m being honest, the ingredient list is what lead me to this soup. I have seen anaheim peppers at grocery stores for years, and I’ve never (at least to my knowledge) had one. Plus, I love poblanos and jalapenos.

At $1.99-$2.99/lb, peppers are an ingredient I would love to use more of (do you know how many jalapenos you can buy for $1.99!?). Besides, I usually have about 30 corn tortillas on hand because who needs a stack of 50 for 2 mouths? Oh, and they’re cheap, too.

I was also drawn to this recipe because I got to shred chicken — a task I previously despised (I usually beg and plead to put Mr. Prevention to work shredding chicken. I usually do not get my way). But, I recently ran across one wise blogger who suggested shredding chicken in a stand mixer with a paddle attachment.

Curiosity got the best of me. And I’m so glad it did.

Shredding chicken in a stand mixer is flipping GENIUS…and it works just as good as an efficient cook with 2 forks and far too much time and patience.

I also decided to remove my immersion blender from the box and give it a whirl. Who knew soup-making could get any easier? Two shortcuts and a killer recipe. Happy gal.

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Chicken Tortilla Soup slightly adapted from Elly Says Opa!

2 Tbsp olive oil 1 lb (about 3) boneless, skinless chicken breasts 3 6-inch corn tortillas, cut into 1-inch squares 2 anaheim chili peppers, seeded and diced 1 poblano pepper, seeded and diced 1 jalepeno, seeded and diced 1 cup frozen or fresh corn 1 yellow onion, diced 3 cloves garlic, minced 2 tomatoes, cored, seeded and chopped 8 oz tomato sauce 1/2 Tbsp ground cumin 1 bay leaf 8 cups low-sodium chicken broth salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

In a stockpot, heat the oil. Sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper and then cook it in the oil, just to brown on both sides. Remove the chicken, leaving the oil behind.

Add the tortilla squares and cook over low heat until they are slightly crisp. Add the peppers, onion, garlic, and corn and stir until they are coated by the oil. Add the tomatoes, cumin, bay leaf, and tomato sauce. Simmer for 10 minutes to combine the flavors and cook the vegetables.

Add the chicken broth and chicken breasts. Bring the soup to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Simmer for about 20-25 minutes, until the flavors have developed and the chicken is cooked through. Remove the chicken from the soup and shred. Set chicken aside.

Remove the bay leaf and pulse process the soup in your food processor (in batches, if necessary) or immersion blender, to your desired consistency. Add the shredded chicken back into the soup. Serve hot. Yield: 12 cups.

Nutrition Information (per cup): 118 calories; 3 g. fat; 18 mg. cholesterol; 181 mg. sodium; 11.2 g. carbohydrate; 1.6 g. fiber; 11.9 g. protein

Result: Spicy, thick, and packed with flavor! If you are sensitive to heat – BEWARE! This is not for the weak! I did not find the spiciness over-powering, but I would suggest removing the seeds and ribs from your peppers, or testing them for their heat first (heat can vary a LOT from one pepper to the next, even of the same variety). Mr. Prevention loved this soup, as well…he even requested to take the leftovers to work. Enjoy!

Money Matters: I get my chicken from Trader Joe’s for $2.99/lb. The total cost of my peppers ($1.99/lb for jalapenos and $2.99/lb for poblanos and anaheims) was $1.17. I get 50 tortillas for $2.19 (I used 3 — $0.13). Tomato sauce is $0.60 for an 8 ounce can. Onions come in at $0.50 each. I recently found low-sodium at Cost Co for $1.25 for a 32 ounce carton — I used 2 in this recipe. Two tomatoes (about 1/2 lb) came to $0.64. The total cost of the recipe comes to $9.21 or $0.77 per cup – about $1.54 for 2 cup serving.

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Long one today. Clinic then teaching. I…can…do…it! My patients have started to say their goodbyes and some of them just melt my little heart. It’s hard to leave when you feel loved & appreciated :)

Be well,

Cheese-Stuffed Dates with Prosciutto (+ my news)

Cheese-stuffed dates.

I’ve heard of them. I’ve thought, “Hmm, those sound interesting!”. And yet, it took me over 26 years to finally give them a whirl. Being a Giada recipe, I figured they would 1) be delicious…but 2) not be so kind to the waistline.

However, the respectable 89 calories I spent on each of these Cheese-Stuffed Dates with Prosciutto were some of the best calories I’ve spent all year. No exaggeration.

I made these dates for my Mingle with Melt holiday party and of the 6 of us, 5 chose these dates as their favorite appetizer (of 4 different appetizers). Clearly, they were enjoyed by all.

What makes these even more stupendous is that they cannot only be made ahead of time, but they hardly take any time at all to whip together.

With NYE tomorrow evening, it’s not too late to add these to your appetizer round-up or to bring them to share at your evening’s event. I can almost guarantee that these dates will wow you and everyone you share them with! If you so choose to share them ;)

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Cheese-Stuffed Dates with Prosciutto from Giada De Laurentiis, as seen on Swanky Dietitian

1/4 cup (2 oz) goat cheese, at room temperature 1/4 cup (2 oz) mascarpone cheese, a room temperature 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, finely chopped Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste 20 Medjool dates (12 oz), pitted 8 thin slices prosciutto, cut into 20 oblong pieces 20 toothpicks

Directions:

In a small bowl, mix together the cheeses and basil and season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Gently pull the dates apart and stuff with about 1 teaspoon of the cheese mixture. Close the dates around the filling. Wrap a piece of prosciutto around each date and secure with a toothpick. Yield: 20 dates.

Nutrition Information (per date): 89 calories; 2.9 g. fat; 9 mg. cholesterol; 185 mg. sodium; 15.6 g. carbohydrate; 1.5 g. fiber; 2.7 g. protein

Result: Um, wow! These were, hands down, the favorite appetizer of the night. Five of the six guests chose this appetizer as their favorite. The flavors worked so well and they come together so quickly. Plus, they can be made ahead of time and kept chilled to make entertaining a breeze! My only wish is that everyone could try these…soon! Enjoy!

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So, my “big” news. (No, I’m not pregnant, for those of you who guessed my news!)

I resigned yesterday at my clinic. It’s not that I wasn’t happy there — I was very happy. But I had an opportunity fall into my lap closer to home and to campus where I teach (one clinic is 10 minutes from my house, the other is 10 minutes from where I teach), and knowing my teaching schedule for next quarter, this new opportunity would also not have me working Saturdays…or 6 days a week. Five super hectic, long days…but at least it’s not 6.

So I will still be working 3-ish (long) days at dialysis units, just at different locations and with a different company. I’m very excited about the opportunity, but it’s always hard to say goodbye to co-workers and patients.

My new schedule will be a challenge, as will getting back into the swing of things with work and classes starting next week. Going into the new year, it’s going to be all about quick & healthy meals!

Happy weekend!

Meatless Monday: Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese {+ Happy Halloween!}

Happy Halloween!

I still have to decide what I’m going to work as today…a banana or a hockey player. There’s faults with both costumes. Entering a dialysis unit in a banana costume is an interesting concept. Seeing as my patients are all on strict potassium restrictions, it’s almost a tease…or sending the wrong message (I am the dietitian, after all). Maybe I just need a “DON’T eat me!” sign to pin to my chest. Hmm..

A hockey player is a little generic. And probably a little stinky. Hockey equipment doesn’t get washed very often because…well, it just doesn’t. Seeing as I played a game until 10pm last night, that could be interesting..and potentially offensive. But, there’s always perfumes and Febreze, right? Right.

Unlike my poorly planned Halloween costume choices, there is no fault to be found in this recipe. As soon as I saw it on Gina’s blog, I knew I had to make it.

How this recipe from Cooking Light ever slipped passed my eyes is beyond me. I am known for pouring over my monthly Cooking Light issues for a really, really long time.

But that’s no longer important. What is important is that I think I modified the recipe to be even better. I don’t know that for a fact, but skipping the panko and baking not only 1) cut time and 2) cut calories…but 3) made for the creamiest, richest, most wonderful mac & cheese you may ever have pass your lips.

…For under 400 calories per serving. (Bonus points for it being orange and today being Halloween!) ;)

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Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese adapted from Cooking Light and The Candid RD

3 1/2 cups cubed peeled butternut squash (about one 1-lb squash) 1 1/4 cups lower-sodium vegetable broth 1 1/2 cups fat-free milk 2 garlic cloves, chopped 1/4 tsp kosher salt 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper 2 Tbsp fat-free Greek yogurt 1 1/4 cups (5 oz) Gruyere cheese, shredded 1 cup (4 oz) pecorino Romano cheese, grated 1/4 cup (1 oz) Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated 1 lb uncooked whole wheat pasta (such as penne or rotini)

Directions:

Combine squash, broth, garlic, and milk in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium, and simmer until squash is tender when pierced with a fork, about 25 minutes. Remove from heat.

Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat; drain well.

Place the hot squash mixture in a blender. Add salt, pepper, and Greek yogurt. Blend until smooth.

Place blended squash mixture in a bowl; stir in Gruyere, parmesan, and Parmesan cheese. Add pasta to the squash-cheese mixture, stir to combine and serve immediately. Yield: 8 servings.

Nutrition Information (per serving): 395 calories; 11.6 g. fat; 32 mg. cholesterol; 568 mg. sodium; 50.5 g. carbohydrate; 4 g. fiber; 23.3 g. protein

Result: Dare I say the best dish yet this fall? This was truly wonderful. Rich…comforting… sinful-tasting…but not so much. This is ready in 35 minutes from start to finish and is sure to be the perfect meal for kids, guests, and everyone in between. SO GOOD. Enjoy!

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Regardless of my costume woes, I must say that the other gal in this household makes the cutest ballerina ever…for the second year in a row. This dietitian mama is doing something right…the tutu still fits from last year ;) Can’t say I wasn’t a bit worried about that possibility..

Tonight is trick-or-treating in our neighborhood. Unfortunately, I am giving an exam tonight so the Princess and Mr. Prevention will be handing out candy to the neighborhood cuties without me. On the plus side, not handing out candy this year may be of benefit to my waistline. I don’t know about you all, but far too many pieces of candy make their way into my belly as I’m putting them into kids’ candy sacks and buckets!

Question: Are you dressing up for Halloween? If so, as what?

Happy Halloween!

Spicy Citrus Shrimp Tacos with Southwest Cream Sauce

When I saw the title of this recipe, I didn’t need a picture to know I’d love them. I’m hoping you feel the same way, because these pictures do this recipe no justice.

A quick marinade of orange, lime, and lemon juice mixed with the bold flavors of chipotles in adobo, jalapenos, cumin, and honey. I mean, aren’t you sold already?

No? Don’t kid yourself.

What if I said this meal could be on the table in 20 minutes, EVEN WITH MARINADE TIME? All caps, that’s right. This is a quick meal, perfect for a weeknight…or any night, naturally.

And if you don’t have a grill, don’t fret. While I think the grill adds that special touch, feel free to throw these in a skillet over medium heat for a few minutes and serve’em right up.

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Spicy Citrus Shrimp Tacos loosely inspired by Southern Living, August 2008, as seen on Pink Parsley

juice of 1 orange juice of 1 lemon juice of 1 lime 2 chipotle chile sen adobo 1 tsp adobo liquid 2 Tbsp canola or olive oil 1 tsp honey 1 tsp ground cumin 1 tsp chili powder 1 jalapeno, ribs and seeds removed, roughly chopped 2 cloves garlic pinch red pepper flakes salt and pepper 1 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined 1 cup iceberg lettuce or cabbage, shredded 8 small (6-inch) corn tortillas 1/2 lime, cut into wedges or slices

Southwest Cream Sauce adapted from Southern Living, August 2008, as seen on Pink Parsley

1/2 cup fat-free Greek yogurt (or sour cream) 1 garlic clove, minced 1 tsp chili powder 1/2 tsp cumin 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper* 1/4 tsp salt juice of 1 lime 2 Tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped

Directions:

Prepare grill.

In the bowl of a food processor, combine all the ingredients for the marinade, through the salt and pepper, and process until smooth and well combined. Pour over shrimp in a medium bowl, cover, and refrigerate for at least 10 minutes, but no longer than thirty.

Meanwhile, whisk together all the ingredients for the southwest cream sauce.

Thread the shirmp onto skewers, and grill 1-3 minutes per side, until opaque and cooked through. Use the grill to heat the tortillas as well.

Remove tails from shrimp, and divide among tortillas. Top with shredded lettuce and cream sauce, with lime wedges. Serves 4 (2 tacos, each with 2 ounces of shrimp and 1 Tbsp cream sauce).

Nutrition Information (per serving): 347 calories; 10.5 g. fat; 150 mg. cholesterol; 502 mg. sodium; 36.3 g. carbohydrate; 4 g. fiber; 30.3 g. protein

Result: Simple, delicious, and very healthy! This is a keeper recipe that we will make time and time again. They also reheated really well for lunch leftovers. Enjoy!

*Use 1/8 tsp cayenne if spicy isn’t your thing :)

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This 4-day work week FLEW by – love when that happens! My best friend (of 24 years!) is heading to Columbus for the weekend. I’m very anxious to catch up, enjoy a nice adult beverage or 2, and eat some great food. As a reader of my blog she’s always saying, “You HAVE to make that when I come!” I guess I should’ve taken notes over the past few months, because believe it or not, I have no idea what I’m going to make.

Yesterday was a good day. One of my patients told a new patient at our clinic, “If you listen to the dietitian, you’ll do just fine! She really knows what she’s talking about!” HAHA! I love it. While I find dialysis to be a challenging position, my patients can really make my day a memorable (and flattering!) one :)

Question: What are your must-have taco toppings?

TGIF! Happy weekend!

Much love,