Sunday, February 27, 2011

Melanie's Famous Chocolate Chip Cookies: My Favorite Chocolate Chip Cookie

These are truly the best chocolate chip cookies. EVER. After making these, you can throw all your other recipes out! I know I have posted another chocolate chip cookie recipe that I claimed to be the best, but I now stand corrected. These are the best. I even made a different recipe today for Lexi's birthday treat in nursery, and when Chris tried one, he said they were good, but not as good as these bad boys! I made these this week for my activity day girls and they LOVED them! So did some of their moms. These are just absolutely the best. I have nothing else to say. Use good chocolate chips, though. I like the Ghiradelli milk chocolate chips the best, they are big and when they melt in the cookie they become gooey and out of this world! So, make these and you can thank me later :)
submitted by Brittany at

1 cube (1/2 cup) butter, softened *not melted!*
1/2 cup shortening
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
2 1/2 cups flour
3/4 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda

Mix butter, shortening and sugars - do not over mix. (he key to this recipe is minimal mixing - try it with a wooden spoon instead of a mixer.) Add vanilla and eggs. Sift together dry ingredients and add them next. Mix until everything is combined. Add one package of milk chocolate chips. Bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes. Take them out when they are barely brown. Serve fresh out of the oven with milk... YUM!

Hints: DO NOT OVERBAKE AT ALL! The bottoms and sides should be just a hint of brown, remember, an underbaked cookie is always better than an overbaked one.
Minimal mixing is crucial to success. I use the wooden spoon as suggested and just barely mix until everything comes together. It works like a charm.

Pizza Burgers and Homemade Healthy Marinara Sauce

These are terrific! The patty is like a huge meatball, smothered with cheese, and topped with yummy marinara sauce all on a wheat bun. Does that sound diet? Let me tell you, no one is deprived when eating this meal. It is delicious! We eat this for dinner and we just love it. This is another Biggest Loser recipe.

1 lb. 96% lean ground beef
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 to 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste
1/4 tsp. salt
3 oz low fat mozarella cheese, thinly sliced
1/2 cup Main Event Marinara sauce (recipe follows) or other low-fat, lower sodium, low-sugar marinara sauce
4 whole grain or whole wheat hamburger buns, split

Preheat a grill to high heat.

In a large bowl, mix the beef, oregano, garlic powder, red pepper flakes, and salt until well combined. Divide the mixture into 4 equal patties.

Grill the burgers for about 2 min per side for medium rare, or until desired doneness. About 1 minute before they are done, divide the cheese slices among the tops and let melt.

Meanwhile, spoon the sauce into a medium microwaveable safe bowl. Microwave on low until hot, 30 t0 60 seconds. Place the bun halves, cut side down, on an upper grill rack or away from direct flame for about 20 seconds, or until toasted.

Place each bun bottom on a serving plate, toasted side up. Place the patties, cheese side up, on top of bun bottoms. Spread 2 tbsp. sauce on each bun top, flip atop the patties, and serve.

Makes 4 servings
Per serving: 304 calories, 32 g protein, 27 g carbs, 9 g fat (3 g saturated fat), 68 mg cholesterol, 5 g fiber, 605 mg sodium

Main Event Marinara Sauce

This is so yummy and good for you. I now make this for everything. We put it on spaghetti, penne, you name the pasta, we have done it. We put it on the above mentioned pizza burgers. I use it on the baked ziti recipe from the BL cookbook, and everything else you would use marinara sauce for. The whole family loves this. It freezes well for a long time and stores in the fridge for about a week. Once you make a batch, you can use it on just about anything.

olive oil spray
1 cup minced yellow or white onion
2 Tbsp. freshly minced garlic
1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes
1/4 cup water
2 Tbsp no salt-added tomato paste
2 tsp honey
1 Tbsp. dried oregano
2 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
salt to taste, optional

Spray a medium nonstick saucepan with the olive oil spray and place over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until just becoming tender (they should not brown), 4 to 6 minutes. Reduce the heat to low and with a wooden spoon stir in the tomatoes, water, tomato paste, honey, oregano, basil, and pepper flakes, until well combined. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, for at least 1 hour. Season with salt, if needed.

Makes 7 (1/2 cup) servings; about 3 1/2 cup sauce

Per serving: 63 calories, 3 g protein, 15 g carbs, less than 1 g fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 3 g fiber, 156 mg sodium

Last Two BL Breakfast Recipes: Ham and Asparagus Omelet/Mushroom-Swiss Omelet

I love omelets! Normally, they are not healthy for you at all. But, thanks to the BL cookbook, I can diet and still eat an omelet, once in a while. These are my two favorites. I eat them a lot for breakfast. Very warm and again filling. It is important to me to eat filling food when I am "dieting" so that I do not crave what I cannot have. And, breakfast is the most important meal of the day, so start it off right, with a warm delciously nutritious omelet!

Ham and Asparagus Omelet

olive oil spray
1 oz 97% or 98% lean ham steak cut into small cubes
1/3 cup chopped asparagus spears
1/4 cup finely chopped sweet onion
1/2 tsp. freshly minced garlic (sometimes i omit this and it tastes just fine)
4 large egg whites
salt, to taste
ground black pepper, to taste

Place a small nonstick skillet over med heat. Lightly mist with olive oil spray. Add the ham, asparagus, onion, and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, for 3 to 5 minutes, or until asparagus is crisp-tender and the onion is tender. Remove from the pan and cover to keep warm.

In a medium bowl, whisk egg whites with a fork until they bubble lightly. Season with salt and pepper.

Place a small nonstick skillet over med heat ( I use the same skillet I cooked the ham mixture in to save me from washing too many dishes in the morning). Lightly mist pan with olive oil spray (I sometimes use nonstick cooking spray instead). Add the egg whites and cook, lifting the edges with a spatula as they start to set and tipping the pan to allow the uncooked whites to run underneath, for 4 to 6 minutes, or until almost set (mine only take 2-3 minutes, so watch it carefully). Flip the omelet. Sprinkle the ham mixture over half of the omelet. Flip the bare half over the filled half and transfer to a serving plate. Serve immediately.

Makes 1 serving
Per serving: 125 calories, 21 g protein, 7 g carbs, 1 g fat, 8 mg cholesterol, 1 g fiber, 527 mg sodium

Mushroom-Swiss Omelet

olive oil spray
1/2 cup sliced button mushrooms
1 tsp. freshly minced garlic
salt, to taste
pepper, to taste
4 large egg whites
3/4 oz (1/3 cup) finely shredded or thinly sliced light swiss cheese (I use Sargento brand and I buy the thin slices, one slice is equivalent to 3/4 oz).

Place a small nonstick skillet over medium heat. Lightly mist with olive oil spray. Add mushrooms and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, for 3 to 5 minutes, or until mushrooms are tender and any excess moisture is evaporated. Season with salt and pepper and remove from heat and cover to keep warm.

In a small bowl, whisk eggs whites with fork until they bubble lightly.

Place a small nonstick skillet over med heat. lightly mist with olive oil spray. Add egg whites and cook, just the way you did for the ham omelet. Flip omelet. Arrange the mushrooms and cheese evenly over half of the omelet. Flip the bare half over the filled half and continue cooking until the cheese melts, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to a serving plate. Season with additional salt and pepper, if desired, and serve immediately.

Makes 1 serving
Per serving: 131 calories, 23 g protein, 3 g carbs, 3 g fat, 8 mg cholesterol, trace fiber, 323 mg sodium

Spinach, Egg, and Cheese Breakfast Wrap

Here is another BL breakfast recipe, it actually is so easy I feel weird even calling it a recipe. But, I love these. So so good.

1 (7 1/2 inch) low-carb, whole wheat, or multigrain tortilla
olive oil spray
3 egg whites
1 oz (1/2 cup) finely shredded Cabot's 75% Light Cheddar Cheese
1/4 cup fresh spinach leaves, stems removed

Place a small nonstick skillet over med-high heat and add the tortilla. Heat tortilla in dry pan until just warm, about 30 seconds per side.

Using the same skillet, spray a small amount of olive oil spray to cover the bottom of pan. Using a fork, whip your egg whites until a little foamy. Add egg whites to the pan with the olive oil, and cook as you would scramble eggs. Do not overcook, egg whites that are overcooked become rubbery.

Place the warm tortilla on a plate. Sprinkle the cheese in a 3 inch strip down the center of tortilla to about 2 inches from bottom. Top with half of the egg whites, the spinach leaves, then the remaining whites. Fold up the bottom so that the bare part is over the filling. Fold the sides into the center over the egg and serve.

Banana Cream of Wheat

I LOVE the Biggest Loser! Years ago, I purchased the Biggest Loser Family Cookbook, and honestly, did not use it much. Well, for the past two months, I have made almost every single recipe in the book. All of them have been yummy, but I wanted to share some of Chris and I's most very favorite. And, if you want the rest, you just might have to go purchase the book :) With the help of these recipes and exercise I have lost 24 lbs and still counting. So, it works! These recipes hardly taste "diet-like" and are filling.

This first one I am sharing is for breakfast. If you think you don't like cream of wheat, like I have been saying for years, you might change your mind. This recipe fills you up too! Even Lexi eats this for breakfast when I make it. It is warm, and hearty, and overall good. Not to mention, it is easy to make, it takes no time at all to have a warm and satisfying breakfast waiting for your family to gobble it up. Enjoy!

Makes 4 servings
Per serving: 204 calories, 4 g protein, 46 gram carbs, trace fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 4 g fiber, 123 mg sodium)

4 cups water
1/8 tsp. salt
3/4 cup uncooked original (2 1/2 minute) Cream of Wheat
1 cup mashed, ripe banana (about 2 small bananas)
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
8 packets (.035 each) sugar substitute (I used Splenda)
4 Tbsp. crunchy, high fiber, low-sugar cereal (I used Grape Nuts)

Place water and salt in a medium nonstick saucepan and bring to a boil. Add cream of wheat, stirring constantly until well blended. Return to boil and reduce heat to low. Simmer, stirring constantly for 2 to 3 minutes, or until thickened. Remove from heat and add the banana, cinnamon, and sugar substitute. Stir until well combined.

Divide among 4 bowls. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of the crunchy cereal over each and serve.

Orange, Red Onion, Gorgonzola and Arugula Salad

In an effort of trying to lose weight this year, I have been cooking more health-fully! I have been placing my Paula Deen cookbooks on the shelf, (love you paula, but my body doesn't always) and I have been finding more nutrionally sound meals. From what I have found, I have not been disappointed and the food is yummy. So, I want to share my all time favorite recipes that are not only delicous, but good for you.

I made this recipe today, and oh boy, it was one of the best lunches I have had in a while. Delicious! It comes from a food blog entitled, Ginna's Skinny Recipes ( My friend, Michelle, introduced this blog to me and so far it has not disappointed me. The blog is all based off of weight watchers points, but since I am not following weight watchers, I like the fact that she includes calories and fat, fiber etc. as well. So whether you are following weight watchers or not, these recipes are perfect for the person trying to be smart when eating.

Now back to the salad. This salad instilled a love of arugula in me. I have never had it before, that I can recall, and now, I love it! It is a peppery green that is so yummy and tasty and jazzes up the spinach in this salad. Yum! I also now love Gorgonzola cheese thanks to this salad. The oranges didn't hurt either, and paired with the red onions, which I cannot eat enough of, this was the perfect salad. The simple to make dressing was out of this world! All the favors blended very well together and it has kept me full! It was the perfect lunch.

The recipe makes one generous serving, but can easily be doubled, tripled, etc. to feed a crowd as a side dish or starter course. I would also imagine, to make this a good dinner, you could add some grilled chicken. Enjoy!

Gina's Weight Watcher Recipes
Servings: 1 • Points: 5 pts
Calories: 241.7 • Fat: 13.7 g • Protein: 9.4 g • Carb: 22.2 g • Fiber: 4.0 g

1 small orange, peeled, chopped
3 tbsp crumbled gorgonzola cheese (blue cheese works great too)
sliced red onion (to taste)
2 cups baby arugula and spinach mix
1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp honey
salt and fresh pepper

In a small bowl combine oil, balsamic, honey, salt and pepper and whisk well.

In a plate or bowl add baby greens. Top with oranges, onion and gorgonzola. Drizzle vinaigrette over the top and enjoy!!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Almost-Famous Molten Chocolate Cake

First off, it sounds kind of complicated and even though the directions are a bit lengthy, I promise this is not hard to make at all! And, the result is fantastic! I made this for Chris to finish off our Death by Chocolate Valentine Day yesterday and this dessert did not disappoint. We LOVE the Chili's molten lava cake and this recipe was a knock-off of that, and it did taste quite similar. This dessert also looks fancy and it looks so pretty when you open it and the warm chocolate sauce just oozes out, oh, that is heavenly. So, make this for someone you love right now, seriously, this is good stuff!

Recipe found from Food Network Magazine

For the Cakes:
6 tablespoons unsalted butter (2 tablespoons melted, 4 tablespoons at room temperature)
1/2 cup natural (not Dutch-process) cocoa powder, plus more for dusting
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 1/3 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 large eggs, at room temperature

For the Fillings and Toppings:
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/2 cup heavy cream
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
Caramel sauce, for drizzling
1 pint vanilla ice cream

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Make the cakes: Brush four 1 1/4-cup brioche molds (or use 10-ounce ramekins or jumbo muffin cups) with the 2 tablespoons melted butter. Dust the molds with cocoa powder and tap out the excess.

Whisk the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a small bowl. Bring the milk and 3/4 cup water to a simmer in a saucepan over medium heat; set aside.

Combine the vegetable oil, 4 tablespoons room-temperature butter and the sugar in a stand mixer and beat with the paddle attachment on medium-high speed until fluffy, about 4 minutes, scraping down the bowl and beater as needed. Add 1/2 cup cocoa powder and the vanilla; beat 1 minute on medium speed. Scrape down the bowl. Add 1 egg and beat 1 minute on medium-low speed, then add the remaining egg and beat 1 more minute.

With the mixer on low speed, gradually beat in the flour mixture, then the hot milk mixture. Finish mixing the batter with a rubber spatula until combined. Divide the batter evenly among the molds, filling each slightly more than three-quarters of the way.

Transfer the molds to a baking sheet and bake until the tops of the cakes are domed and the centers are just barely set, 25 to 30 minutes. Transfer the baking sheet to a rack; let the cakes cool until they pull away from the molds, about 30 minutes.

How To Assemble the Cake:

Make the Filling: Microwave the chocolate, cream, butter and corn syrup in a microwave-safe bowl in 30-second intervals, stirring each time, until the chocolate starts to melt, 1 minute, 30 seconds. Let sit 3 minutes, then whisk until smooth. Reheat before using, if necessary.

Use the tip of a paring knife to gently loosen the cakes from the molds, then invert the cakes onto a cutting board.

Use the knife to cut a 1 1/2-inch circle on the top of each cake, cutting almost to the bottom.

Hollow out the cake with a spoon; save the scraps. Wrap the cakes with plastic wrap and microwave until steaming, 1 minute.

Drizzle plates with caramel, then unwrap the cakes and place on top. Pour about 3 tablespoons filling into each cake.

Plug the hole with a cake scrap. Save or discard any remaining scraps.

Top each cake with a scoop of ice cream. Spoon more chocolate sauce on top, spreading it thin so it hardens into a shell.

Chocolate Waffles

For Valentine's Day, I made a lot of chocolatey goodies, requested by husband, I am starting to think my diet and change of cooking is starting to get to him, he has been requesting sugar a lot lately. Anyways, I made these chocolate waffles for our special breakfast and both he and Lexi loved them. Chris told me it tasted like he was eating a brownie that I had cooked in the waffle iron. Lexi said it was fun to eat dessert for breakfast. I think it might have been sweet and chocolatey, huh? So, we served ours with buttermilk syrup, homemade whipped cream, and these absolutely delicious raspberries. Chris was in heaven and it was only 8:30 in the morning. I will definately make these again, and I think they would be an excellent dessert item too. So enjoy, and credit goes to Alton Brown from the Food Network.

7 ounces all-purpose flour, approximately 1 1/2 cups
1 3/4 ounces sugar, approximately 3 tablespoons
1.5 ounces cocoa powder, approximately 1/2 cup
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3 whole eggs, beaten
2 ounces unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
16 ounces buttermilk, room temperature
4 ounces chocolate chips, approximately 3/4 cup
Vegetable spray, for waffle iron

Preheat waffle iron according to manufacturer's directions. (To get it crispy on the outside and warm and soft on the inside, crank up your waffle iron to high heat).

In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, salt, and baking soda. In another bowl beat together the eggs and melted butter and vanilla, and then add the buttermilk. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir in the chocolate chips just until combined. Allow to rest for 5 minutes.

Ladle the recommended amount of waffle batter onto the center of the iron. Close the iron top and cook until the waffle is crispy on both sides and is easily removed from iron. Serve immediately or keep warm in a 200 degree F oven until ready to serve.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Sugar Gems

Even though I am dieting, and staying completely away from sweets, I could not let the month of Valentines go by without making sugar cookies. Sugar cookies are hands down my favorite cookie of all time. It has to be soft and it has to have lots of good frosting. So, these were pretty torturous to make, since I could not sample. BUT, Chris and Lexi love them! Chris said it literally melted in his mouth. Lexi, while eating, kept saying, "Mmmmmm....Mmmmmm" So, I know they have to be fantastic sugar cookies! It makes a lot, so I froze about three dozen so that I am not tempted. Also, the frosting Chris said was divine! He actually used the word, divine. So, there you go, try these and tell me what you think. And, when dieting is over, I will definately have to make these again.

from The Sister’s Cafe

Cream together:
1 cup powdered sugar
1 cup sugar
1 cup oil
1 cup butter, softened
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
5 cups flour
1 tsp cream of tarter
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda

Mix all ingredients well. Roll into golf size balls and place on cookie sheets. Flatten with bottom of glass dipped in sugar. Bake at 350 for 12-14 minutes, (mine only took about 10 minutes. Do not overbake. They should not have too much browning on the bottom, when in doubt, use your nose, if you can smell them, they are done). Cool and frost with sugar gem frosting.

Sugar Gem Frosting
2-2 ½ cups powdered sugar ( I used 2 1/2 cups and I think it was a good choice)
½ cup oil
2 tsp flavoring (almond, vanilla, coconut, etc.) – I used coconut flavoring and it was delicious!I also only had 1 tsp, so that is all I put in and the coconut flavoring was very subtle, not overpowering. I almost think 2 would have been too much)
3-4 Tbsp milk
Coloring if wanted
Mix well and add a little more milk or powdered sugar to get the right consistency.