Pineapple Plantation

My junior year of high school, I was lucky enough to take my first plane ride to Hawaii. My family didn’t ever really go on vacation so this was HUGE! My Grandma and Grandpa Fletcher had taken many trips over the years for free based on points earned from selling fertilizer. (But just to be clear, they always paid taxes on these trips.) That trip to Hawaii was probably my grandparents’ fifth or sixth voyage to Hawaii. It was February and my mother didn’t trust her 16 year old to stay home alone and my sister was going on her college choir tour.

The trip was an amazing opportunity. We stayed on the BigIsland – Hawaii. Grandpa got us a rental car so we were able to explore the island. It was my first time seeing the ocean which was this amazing shade of crystal clear blue. Grandpa and I flew in a helicopter over the an active volcano and you could feel the heat. I got to walk across the black sands beach which is made from the volcano ash coming from up from the ocean. We also participated in a luau just outside our hotel. Then, my mother and I flew over to Oahu for a day trip. We saw places like Pearl Harbor and a famous beach on Waikiki where they filmed a lot of movies.

One of the most interesting places we visited during that day trip was the Dole Pineapple Plantation. I had no idea how long and difficult the process is to grow pineapples. I believe they told us it takes two years. And if you have ever cut a real pineapple, you know what a prickly mess they can be. But I developed a new found appreciation for the fruit and have no issues paying the price for a fresh pineapple. That said, I did learn on the History Channel that the small or weird looking ones are supposed to be sold but canned for their imperfection. Just remember that the next time you buy an unusual one on sale at the grocery store for $1.99.

Today’s recipe also comes from Price Chopper’s produce recipe rack. You might not think this is much of a recipe but I thought it was something a little different than just eating the pineapple cold and raw. The lemon juice adds just a bit of a tang.

Pineapple Skewers with Lemon Yogurt
1 fresh pineapple, cored and sliced
3 T. of fresh lemon juice
1 tsp. lemon zest
1 (6 oz.) container of low fat vanilla yogurt
toasted coconut or granola (optional)
Skewers (Metal or wooden soak water for 30 minutes)

Cut pineapple and thread on skewers. Grill over a medium heat basting with 2 T. of lemon juice, turning occasionally. In the meantime, combine yogurt, remaining lemon juice, and zest. Top with coconut if desired. Serve while pineapple is still warm.

Nutrition Facts: 65 calories, 1 g. fat, 0 saturated fat, 0 cholesterol, 20 mg sodium, 160 mg potassium, 14 carbs, 1 g. fiber, 2 g. protein

Notes:

  • I did not have an skewers so I made the pineapple just laying it on my stove top grill. It worked just fine.
  • I made it without coconut. I substituted Honey Nut Cheerios for the crunch.
  • If you like fresh pineapple, purchase a pineapple de-corer. All you have to do is cut off the top and start twisting it down the pineapple. I keeps the juice inside the pineapple.
  • Looking to mix it up, maybe try grilling some strawberries with your pineapple.
  • Consider purchasing Yoplait yogurt right now. For every pink lid redeemed online and mailed it, your local Komen Affiliate will receive $.20 per yogurt lid redeemed. It’s an easy way to help provide dollars to fund breast cancer education, screening, and treatment in your community.
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I think I can, I think I can

In February, I returned to working out as a stress release. Every weekday morning, I get up about 6:30AM to make my way to the gym. Bob and Vince at the YMCA know me by name and hold me accountable to my workout. Most days, I walk 30 minutes on the treadmill. I’m very proud to say in about six months time, I’ve only missed four days working out (twice for work and twice while on vacation). Plus, I’ve also participated in two 5K this year. I guess that’s why I was shocked when I started experiencing pain in my leg so bad that I could barely stand. At first, I thought I had over done it because I had taken to additional long walks outside that week. Listening to my body but not wanting to stop my workout, I switched to the exercise bike. Unfortunately, that didn’t help and leg swelled severely. After a doctor’s visit and testing, I am happy to report nothing is wrong with me. Thank goodness – I’m just getting older. 

If you know me or have been following my blog, you know I don’t like to eat vegetables. My mother says that as a child, I stopped eating them because my sister taught me they were yucky. As an adult, I have tried to incorporate them into my diet. I struggle though because vegetables lack flavor. Although I have gotten better about using them in recipes, I still struggle to eat just vegetables.

My leg issue was a wakeup call for me. I don’t want to get to the point where I can’t even walk. I know I need to eat better and lose weight. So I thought about my long term goal. I want to be able to do a Komen 3-Day. If you aren’t familiar with the Race, participants walk 20 miles per day for 3 consecutive days. I’ve talked to a several people who have participated in 3-Days. Everyone says it is the hardest thing you’ll do but the training program really prepares you for it. So I went online to check it out. Although I don’t think I can be ready physically or financially in the time period they suggest, I think I can work my way toward it in the next two years.

My first challenge toward my ultimate goal is to participating the the Mt. Everest Challenge at the Y. My number on the chart is 28. Sure, I only get 500 points for my walking but I am at the gym every day. I only see one other guy there that much. Plus, I started adding 1 minute every week to my workout (5 extra minutes per week) and lifting weights. I don’t expect to win but I don’t want to come in last either.

As a part of making myself healthier, I am eating more vegetables. I don’t like canned vegetables so I buy fresh or frozen. I ran across this recipe in Price Chopper’s produce section last weekend. I have to say, this recipe made me forget I was eating vegetables.

Baked Zucchini Sticks by Integrated Marketing Services

3/4 c. panko bread crumbs 
1/4 c. finely grated Parmesan cheese
1 1/4 tsp. dried Italian seasoning
1 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 c. cornstarch
1/3 c. fat-free egg substitute
1 large zucchini, cut into sticks 1/2 inch thick

Spray a baking sheet with non-stick spray. In a shallow plate combine panko, cheese, Italian seasoning, garlic powder, and pepper to taste. Place cornstarch in a large Ziploc bag. Pour egg substitute into another shallow plate. In small batches, coat zucchini in cornstarch. Then, coat in egg. Finally, roll in breadcrumb mixture. Bake at 425 degrees for 25 minutes or until golden brown, turning once. Serve with marinara sauce if desired.

Nutrition: Makes four servings. 130 calories, 2 g. fat, 1 saturated fat, 5 mg. cholesterol, 200 mg. sodium, 19 g. carbs, 1 g. fiber, 7 g. protein

Oreo Cupcakes

Cupcakes became huge a few years ago. I remember how excited I was when a place opened by my hotel. It was so sad to discover the cakes were simply white and chocolate. A place in Blue Springs called The Sweet Tooth makes flavorful cupcakes but I never have any reason to drive that far east. The place across the street from my apartment closed quickly because of weird hours. Although I love the 3 Girls Cupcake concept because it brings cupcake deliver a block away from my office on a regular basis, my absolute favorite cupcakes are a place called “In the Middle“. It’s located in downtown Lee’s Summit but I occasionally find myself out in that neck of the woods. Every cupcake has something in the middle. My personal favorite is this Toffee Caramel Crunch. Imagine my disappointment when I stopped by their store a couple of weeks ago and they were already sold out at 4PM.

During Race, I made these treats for my volunteers because they reminded me of “In the Middle”. I completely over estimated how many sweet treats my volunteers would eat in a two hour period. As a result, I shared them with my co-workers. My co-worker Stephanie just loved them. I promised I would share this recipe with her and all of you. I think it came from a Kraft Food & Family Magazine.

Mini Oreo Surprise Cupcakes
1 package of chocolate cake mix
1 package (8 oz.) cream cheese
1 egg
2 T. sugar
48 mini Oreos, divided
1 1/2 c. Cool Whip

Spray two muffin tins with non-stick spray. Prepare cake batter according to package. Mix cream cheese, egg, and sugar until well blended. Spoon half of cake mix into muffin cups. Top with 1 1/2 tsp. cream cheese mixture and 1 cookie in each cup. Top with remaining cake batter. Bake at 350 degrees for 19-22 minutes. Cool. Frost cupcakes with whipped topping and place a cookie on top. Refrigerate leftovers.

Creamy Biscuits

When I get really tired of making the same thing, I will dig through my recipe books for something new. You can’t go wrong when you mix cream of chicken, scrambled eggs, and Swiss cheese together. The only thing that makes this recipe even better is the crunchy bacon bits are sprinkled on top of it. So if you like biscuits and gravy, give this recipe a try.

Creamy Swiss Eggs on Biscuits
4 Pillsbury Home Baked Classic Frozen Buttermilk Biscuits
6 eggs
2 green onions, sliced
2 tsp. butter

1 can condensed cream of chicken soup
2/3 c. milk
1 c. (4 oz.) of shredded Swiss cheese
1/8 tsp. black pepper
1/4 c. real bacon pieces

Bake biscuits according to recipe. Meanwhile, beat eggs in a medium bowl. Add onions. Melt butter over a medium heat. Add egg mixture and cook til almost done. In a small bowl, combine soup, milk, cheese, and pepper. Add to eggs in skillet, stirring occasionally. Cook until thoroughly heated. Spoon over open biscuit and sprinkle with bacon.

Nutrition Facts (based on original recipe): Makes four servings. 550 calories, 34 g. fat, 13 g. saturated fat, 360 mg cholesterol, 1,560 mg sodium, 33 g. carbs, 7 g. sugar, and 28 g. protein. 24% vitamin A, 40% calcium, and 14% iron.

Notes: (In the words of the First Lady, “everything is good in moderation”. Here are a few things I have done to make this recipe healthier so I can occasionally eat it for breakfast.)

  • I used Healthy Request Cream of Chicken soup to reduce fat and sodium.
  • I always use skim milk, use reduced fat/fat free cheese, and omit the butter. This helps decrease fat as well.
  • I serve this with small reduce fat biscuits (8 count refrigerator biscuits), making more servings (decreasing amount of calories and fat consumed).
  • You can use a reduced sodium bacon or turkey bacon. This will decrease both sodium and fat content.
  • I usually sprinkle parsley on top of this dish.
  • I consider the onion optional in this recipe.

Raspberry Soup

I saw this recipe in one of my mom’s Taste of Home holiday cookbooks. I copied it because it looked super cute in tall shot glasses. When raspberries were on sale, I decided to give it try this summer. To my surprise, it tastes very similar to my recipe for strawberry soup. If you want to save some money because you don’t have access to a garden full of raspberries like my aunt Irene, try my Strawberry Soup recipe.

Chilled Raspberry Soup by Amy Wenger (Severance, CO)
1/3 c. cranberry juice
1/3 c. sugar
5 1/3 c. plus 12 fresh raspberries, divided
1 1/3 c. plus 2 T. sour cream, divided

In a blender, combine cranberry juice, sugar, 5 – 1/3 c. raspberries. Strain and discard seeds. Stir in 1-1/3 c. sour cream. Cover and refrigerate for at least two hours. To serve, pour 1/4 c. of soup into 12 cordial glasses. Top each with a raspberry and 1/2 tsp. sour cream.

Nutrition Facts (based on original recipe): 1 serving equals 111 calories, 5 g. fat (3 g. saturated fat), 19 mg. cholesterol, 10 mg. sodium, 14 g. carbs, 4 g. fiber, and 2 g. protein.

Notes:

  • I used diet cranberry juice and fat free sour cream.
  • You could use sugar substitute or replace the sour cream with plain fat-free/Greek yogurt.

Homemade Meatballs

When I was in high school, I remember getting really tired of eating the same things. I started digging through my mother’s cookbooks when I ran across this recipe. It’s from my Great Grandma Reith’s church. It’s a tiny country church just outside Concord, NE. I found this recipe for meatballs that uses a sweet homemade barbeque sauce. The recipe was really large so I halved it. Even at that, you can still fill a 13 x 9 baking dish full of pretty good sized meatballs. Perhaps this recipe is the reason I like sweeter BBQ.

Meatballs
1 ½ pounds of ground beef
1 c. dry oatmeal
chopped onion (optional)
1/4 tsp. mild chili powder
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
salt and pepper
a small can of evaporated milk

Sauce
1 c. ketchup
3/4 c. brown sugar
1 T. liquid smoke
1/4 tsp. garlic powder

Line a 13 x 9 pan with foil. Mix all meatball ingredients together and form balls. Mix all sauce ingredients and spoon over meatballs. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour.

Pepperoni Poppers

This is a recipe I made for a recent fundraiser. One of my friends said her two years would love these. The original recipe came from the Taste of Home website earlier this year.

Pepperoni Pinwheels by Vicki Rebholz
1/2 c. diced pepperoni

1/2 c. shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
1/4 tsp. dried oregano
1 egg, separated
1 tube (8 oz.) refrigerated crescent rolls

In a small bowl, combine pepperoni, cheese, oregano, and egg yolk. Separate crescent rolls into four rectangles, sealing edges. Split mixture evenly between crescent rolls. Roll up jelly roll style and cut each into six pieces. Place on greased baking sheet. In a custard cup, whip egg white until foamy. Brush on top of circles. Bake at 375 for 12-15 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm. Marinara dipping sauce is optional. Refrigerate leftovers.

Nutrition Facts: (Makes 2 dozen poppers) 1 serving (2 each) equals 122 calories, 8 g. fat (3 g. saturated