Tuesday, April 30, 2013

"Get Movin" May!

Lace up those tennis shoes... the May Fitness Challenge is here!!!!! Summer is around the corner so this month we are going to get moving, get our heart rates up, and burn some serious calories. Cardio is such an important part of weight loss and/or for maintaining your weight; 30 minutes of cardio activity a day can make all the difference in shedding those last couple pounds before summer!

The May Fitness Challenge was created with a weekly cardio goal on top of the regular daily fitness challenges. Walking, running, biking, indoor cycling, elliptical, stairs... these all count towards your goal for the week! You get to choose what cardio exercise works for you! And since the cardio goal is a weekly goal, you can determine on which days and for how long you do your cardio.

Join in the May challenge... Let's get fit and swim-suit ready together!!! For current challenge updates, tips, and motivation go to our Facebook page and 'Like' us! www.facebook.com/SistersDoFoodAndFitness

Click here or go to our Facebook page for a printable calendar.

Hope you are enjoying these monthly fitness challenges as much as we are!! Check out the previous month's challenges on our "Fitness Adventures" page of our blog.



Sunday, April 28, 2013

Easy Apple Tart

At the beginning of the week I was home sick (watching hours of FoodNetwork) and saw an episode of Barefoot Contessa featuring a free form tart.  Simply wrapping up a fruit filling in dough and popping it in the oven seemed so much easier than dealing with a the standard pie dish and topping!  Plus, going free form means one less baking dish that has to be dirtied and cleaned!!

In sticking with the "super easy and limited preparation time Sunday dinner" theme for this weekend, I decided to create a free form Apple Tart for Sunday's dessert.  To make the dessert prep even quicker and easier, I used pre-made pie crust (gasp!).  You can absolutely make your own pie crust for this recipe... I just decided being outside and enjoying some time in the sun was worth the swap for 'pre-made' crust.

With Sunday dinner shaping up nicely... my Balsamic Beef Brisket in the slow cooker and the Easy Apple Tart in the oven (the house smelled glorious), I could go outside and play!  Hey, every once in awhile a cook wants to spend a little less time in the kitchen. ;)

Easy Apple Tart
based on an apple pie recipe from The Fanny Farmer Baking Book

5 medium granny smith apples (or other firm apple, I used Fuji)
1 9" pre-made pie crust
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter

1/4 cup quick oats
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons butter

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Core, peel, halve and thinly slice the apples then place in a large mixing bowl.

Add lemon juice, brown sugar, white sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Cut in butter. Gently stir (or mix with hands) until apples are completely coated.

Place a piece of parchment paper on a baking sheet.  Gently unroll out pie crust into center of the parchment paper.  In the middle of the pie crust, begin piling up apples.

In a small bowl, mix oats and brown sugar; cut in butter. Stir together (this will create a crumble).

Sprinkle the crumble topping over the top of the apples.

Begin folding the sides of the pie crust up onto the pile of apples (about 1" up), while pinching/folding over the corners to close the circle.

Bake for in preheated oven for 45-50 min.

This Easy Apple Tart is a great dessert to make if you're in a hurry or if you need something prepared last minute.  Baking time is at least 45 minutes, but the prep time was less than 10 minutes!  I love things that are so simple, but so delicious.  You could fool anyone into thinking you spent way more time preparing this beautiful tart. :)

All in all, this was one of the easiest and most delicious family Sunday dinners we've had.  The Easy Apple Tart paired with the Balsamic Beef Brisket and Roasted Cauliflower was a winning combination.  Everyone left the table feeling satisfied and happy!

Now time to relax....


Balsamic Beef Brisket w/ Roasted Cauliflower

It's been a beautiful, sunny weekend in San Diego.  For Sunday family dinner this week, we decided on a meal that would be a quick, easy preparation and didn't require a lot of cooking steps.   I mean, who wants to spend a bunch of time in the kitchen when they can be playing outside?!

Quick, easy, 'fix it and forget it' kind of meals call for my near and dear friend, the Slow Cooker!  Plus, when you use a slow cooker you don't have to heat up the house by having the oven on.  While mulling over slow cooker ideas, I came across a 3 lb. beef brisket in the freezer... PERFECT!  So I searched and found a mouth-watering looking recipe on Pinterest.com for slow cooker Balsamic Roast Beef.  Although my cut of meat was different from the cut the original recipe called for, I figured the beef would still turn out delicious.

And it did...

We enjoyed our shredded beef brisket by itself, paired with some Roasted Cauliflower (primarily because we are trying to cut back on carbs at dinner).  But you can eat the shredded beef brisket on a roll, hoagie, in a pita, in a tortilla, on a pizza... so many yummy dinner possibilities!  Regardless of how you eat the beef... it's so good, you will not be disappointed.

Balsamic Beef Brisket
based on a recipe by addapinch.com

1 3-4 pound boneless beef brisket
1 cup beef broth
½ cup balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon honey (or light agave nectar)
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
4 cloves garlic, chopped

Place beef brisket into the insert of your slow cooker. In a 2-cup measuring cup, mix together all remaining ingredients. Pour over beef brisket and set the timer for your slow cooker. (4 hours on High or 6-8 hours on Low)

Once beef brisket has cooked, remove from slow cooker with tongs into a serving dish. Break apart lightly with two forks and then ladle about ¼ – ½ cup of gravy over beef.

Store remaining gravy in an airtight container in the refrigerator for another use.

Notes - 
If you prefer a more pronounced flavor, once the beef brisket has been removed, use a fat separator on the gravy and then pour the gravy into a saucepan over medium heat. Simmer until the gravy has reduced by half.

We had no leftovers tonight.... this beef brisket was so delicious!!!  I will definitely use this Balsamic Beef Brisket recipe again (as well as the recipe below for Roasted Cauliflower).

Roasted Cauliflower

1 head of cauliflower
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon crushed garlic
1 tablespoon Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
salt to taste
pepper to taste
sprinkle of onion powder

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Wash and cut the cauliflower into medium sized pieces (about 16-18 pieces); removing stem first.

In a large bowl place cauliflower bits, olive oil, and crushed garlic.  Mix cauliflower to coat; then season to taste with salt and pepper.

Spread cauliflower out in a single layer on a roasting pan.  Bake for 30 minutes.

Remove pan from oven and sprinkle cauliflower with bread crumbs and onion powder.

Turn the cauliflower over and season with salt and pepper again.  Return the pan to the oven and bake for additional 5-10 minutes.

Ok, I am seriously stuffed.... this was one delicious, crowd-pleasing Sunday dinner!!! Yum.

Oh and for dessert, I made an Easy Apple Tart!  It rounded out dinner perfectly...

Hope you had a great weekend!


Saturday, April 20, 2013

Cloud Pancake

Good Morning!!! I thought I'd start off this beautiful spring Saturday with a big, yummy breakfast.  I was craving some pancakes, so I decided to try out a recipe I found on Pinterest.com for a single serving "Honey Cloud Pancake".  I made a few changes to the original recipe to reduce the calories... I substituted light agave nectar for honey and omitted the butter.  It takes a bit of work (lots of whisking) to make these pancakes, but WOW!  Cloud pancakes are light and airy, but also still filling and delicious!

Cloud Pancake
based on a recipe from ThingsWeMake.com

To make a single serving pancake you will need:

1 large egg and 1 egg white
1/4 cup of warmed milk
1/4 cup of flour
1 pinch of salt
2 teaspoons of light agave nectar
1 dash of vanilla extract
Soft fruits
Light agave nectar

How to make them:

Heat the oven to 395°F.  Place a small 6″ oven proof frying pan in the pre-heating oven to warm.

In one bowl whisk one egg white until it is white and peaky.

To make the main batter, in another bowl, mix the the other whole egg with flour, salt, agave nectar, and vanilla then whisk in the warm milk.

Gently fold the egg white into the batter with a metal spoon.

Spray the hot pan with non-stick spray.

Pour the batter in hot pan and cook on the stove top for a few minutes until starting to set at the very edge.

Sprinkle some fruit on top.

Place pan back in the hot oven for 7 minutes until batter puffed up and golden.

 Drizzle with light agave nectar. (you could even sprinkle with powdered sugar!)

You could use so many different fruits and toppings in this cloud pancake!!  I can't wait to try more!  Hummmm... An apple cinnamon one would be good... or blueberry... 

For a share-able Cloud Pancake, double the recipe and use a 12" pan :) 

Have a great day!


Monday, April 15, 2013

Chocolate Butterscotch Pudding Poke Cake

At work, we normally celebrate my office co-workers birthdays with a pot-luck lunch and a birthday cake.  Recently, I've been enthusiastically volunteering to make the birthday cake... as I think it's a great opportunity to try new pudding 'poke' cake recipes.  Back in September, I created a 'Better Than' Pudding Poke Cake for my sister's birthday... and  immediately fell in love!  These cakes are not only super easy to make, they are also moist and indulgent (without being too heavy or rich).

I let the ''birthday co-worker" pick out the cake mix and pudding flavor they want; then set to work creating a yummy cake recipe.  Seriously, you can't go too wrong with cake, pudding, and cool whip!  The fun thing about these pudding poke cakes is that there are so many variations you can make.  Just pick a cake mix, pudding flavor, and a topping... the possibilities and combinations are endless!

This week, my work buddy requested butterscotch pudding for her birthday cake... so I created a Chocolate Butterscotch Pudding Poke Cake.  It turned out DELICIOUS!

Chocolate Butterscotch Pudding Poke Cake

1 (18.25 ounce) package yellow cake mix
3 eggs
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 (3.9 ounce) package instant sugar free butterscotch pudding mix
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
2 cups fat free milk
1/2 cup hot fudge ice cream topping
1 (8 oz.) tub fat free whipped topping
1 toffee bar, crushed (or Heath toffee bits)

Prepare and bake cake mix according to package directions for one 9x13 inch cake. Remove cake from oven.

While cake is still warm, poke holes down through cake to pan with the round handle of a wooden spoon. Holes should be at 1 inch intervals.

Warm hot fudge topping in the microwave for 30 seconds. Drizzle 1/2 cup topping over warm cake and into holes.

Combine the pudding mix with the confectioners' sugar and gradually stir in the milk. Beat with an electric mixer at low speed (or whisk) for not more than 1 minute. Do not over beat.

Quickly, before pudding thickens, pour about 1/2 of the thin pudding evenly over the warm cake and into the holes.

Allow the remaining pudding to thicken slightly, then spoon evenly over the top.  Sprinkle a handful of toffee bits over the top.  Chill cake for at least an hour.

Once cool, spread the tub of whipped topping evenly over the chilled cake. Sprinkle top of cake with remaining toffee bits (OR place a spoonful of whipped topping on the cake when serving).

Chill cake until it is ready to be served. Store leftovers in the refrigerator!

I LOVE PUDDING POKE CAKES!  I think I'll try a lemon version next.... :)


Sunday, April 14, 2013

Chicken Gyros w/ Tzatziki Sauce

Sunday Dinner has always been a big deal in our family.  Every Sunday afternoon we all make our best attempt to get together at my parents house to share the events of our week over a delicious meal.  Normally, dinner is a homestyle meat and potatoes kind of meal... but this week we decided to change it up.  The weather had been so warm and spring-like all week, using the grill outside to cook dinner seemed like a great idea!  We decided to make Chicken Gyros... a healthier version of the original, tasty Greek Gyro (a favorite in our house).

To begin, we marinated chicken breasts in a Greek-style marinade overnight and made some homemade Tzatziki Sauce.

Greek Chicken

5 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
3/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/4 olive oil
1 tbsp. dry oregano
2-3 cloves of garlic, finely minced

Whisk last 4 ingredients together in large bowl. Add chicken breasts and coat with marinade. Cover bowl and refrigerate overnight (if possible).

Tzatziki Sauce

2 (8oz.) containers plain Greek yogurt
2 cucumbers (peeled, seeded and diced)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 lemon, juiced
salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped
3 cloves garlic, peeled

In a food processor or blender, combine yogurt, cucumber, olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper, dill and garlic. Process until well-combined. Transfer to a separate dish, cover and refrigerate for at least one hour for best flavor.

Note: This recipe makes a pretty large batch of tzatziki sauce, you could probably half the recipe and still have more than enough to top your chicken gyros :)

To Make the Chicken Gyros:

While the grill is preheating, remove the chicken from refrigerator and cut into 1" pieces. Place chicken pieces on skewers (we also added red and yellow bell pepper for flavor).

Grill the chicken skewers over medium heat for 15-20 minutes, turning often.  Place pita bread on the warm grill for a few seconds on each side to heat.

Serve the grilled chicken atop warmed pita bread, top with tzatziki sauce, and garnish with tomato and red onion (optional).   

The whole family (even the picky eaters) really enjoyed this meal... we will make again.  We served with a large green salad and some rice.  It was the perfect Sunday dinner!



Friday, April 12, 2013

Kalua Pork in the Slow Cooker

Happy Aloha Friday!

If you’ve ever been to a Hawaiian luau... chances are you have had Kalua pig!  Kalua is a traditional Hawaiian cooking method that utilizes a type of underground oven, called an imu.  The word kalua, which literally means "to cook in an underground oven", is also used to describe the food cooked in this manner... like kalua pig or kalua turkey which are both commonly served at luau feasts!

How the underground oven works:
Traditionally, a fire using koa wood is built in a sand or dirt pit called the imu. The pit is usually about 6 feet  long, 4 feet wide and 3 ft deep.  Rocks are then placed in the pit to retain cooking heat long after the flames have burned down.  Once the rocks have become extremely hot, the hole is lined with traditional vegetation, such as banana leaves.  The meat to be cooked is salted, rubbed with herbs, stuffed with more hot rocks, then wrapped with ti and banana leaves.  To maintain even heating and to retain the meat's natural moisture, the meat is covered with wet burlap, then with a layer of sand or soil.  The meat is then left to cook in the pit for six to seven hours, absorbing smoke and steam from the koa wood and banana leaves.  When the meat is fully cooked, it is removed from the imu and shredded.

The term "Kalua pork" has been used by famous Hawaiian cook Sam Choy to describe pork shoulder butt which is rubbed with sea salt, wrapped in ti leaves, and slowly cooked in oven using liquid mesquite smoke rather than an imu.

Bottom line... You don't need a whole pig or a pit in your backyard to bring the traditional flavors of Hawaii to your table!  All you’ll need is a 6 lb. pork butt, liquid smoke, Hawaiian sea salt, and a slow cooker.  This is the easiest and most delicious pulled pork I have ever had!

Kalua Pork in the Slow Cooker
via allrecipes.com

  • 1 - 6 pound pork butt roast (pork shoulder)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons Hawaiian sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon liquid smoke flavoring

Pierce pork all over with a carving fork.

Rub salt then liquid smoke over meat.

Place roast in a slow cooker.

Cover, and cook on Low for 16 to 20 hours (or High for 8 to 10 hours), turning once during cooking time.

Remove meat from slow cooker; remove excess fat then shred, adding drippings as needed to moisten.

This Kalua pork is AMAZING!!!!!  It's super juicy and tender, falls right off the bone, and almost shreds itself!  Shredded pork can be eaten alone, on a roll or bun, in a tortilla... the uses are endless.  I will always make my pulled pork with this recipe from now on... it only requires a few ingredients and the prep is so easy.

I'm looking forward to comparing this Slow Cooker version to the traditional Hawaiian luau staple, Kalua pig, sometime soon!



Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Reduced Guilt Triple Lemon Bars

When life hands you LEMONS.... make LEMON BARS!!  

My parents lemon trees are going crazy right now, so I decided I would make a batch of 'light or skinny' lemon bars today.  While discussing the idea with my food mentor, my mom, she remembered seeing an episode of The Chew on ABC which featured a recipe by Dr. Oz's daughter, Daphne, for a 'lighter' version of the traditional lemon bar.  My mom (who has a crazy-good memory) also remembered that Daphne's 'light' lemon bars were made with coconut oil instead of butter!  I had never used coconut oil in any of my recipes so I figured it was worth a try... 

These lemon bars turned out DELICIOUS!  In an effort to 'lighten up' the original recipe even more, I substituted light agave nectar for sugar in the crust and cut back on the amount of sugar in the filling.  Using coconut oil in place of butter added an interesting and exotic note to the crust (not to mention coconut oil has many health benefits too: read more here).  The filling of this lemon bar turns out more dense and custardy than your traditional, gooey lemon bar; it's much heartier and more cake-like.  With lemon juice or lemon zest in all three components (crust, filling, and topping), these bars pack a refreshing lemony flavor without being too overpowering or tart.

Reduced Guilt Triple Lemon Bars
adapted from a recipe by Daphne Oz via The Chew

For the Oatmeal Crust:
1/2 cup coconut oil (melted)
1/4 cup light agave nectar (or granulated sugar)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 lemon (zest; reserve juice for filling)
1 1/2 cups Quick-Cooking oats (ground)
1/2 teaspoon salt

For the Filling:
7 large eggs
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 4 lemons; reserve zest)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

For Serving:
1/2 cup confectioners sugar (plus reserved zest for dusting)

Step 1 - For the Oatmeal Crust: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large bowl, whisk coconut oil and agave nectar (or sugar) for about 5 minutes. Add the vanilla extract and lemon zest and beat for another minute, or until blended. Add the oats and salt and mix just until fully incorporated. Do not over mix the dough.

Step 2 - Turn dough out into a 9x13 inch baking dish and evenly press into the bottom and about 1/2 inch up the sides of the dish.

Step 3 - Transfer to the preheated oven and bake for 12 to 15 minutes, just until cooked and pale golden color. Do not turn oven off. Cool completely on a wire rack.

Step 4 - For the Filling: In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar and lemon juice. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Slowly whisk the flour mixture into the egg mixture just until combined.

Step 5 - Pour the mixture into the baked crust and cooked for 35 to 40 minutes, or until filling is set. Remove and allow to cool on the wire rack.

Step 6 - Once completely cooled, dust the confectioner's sugar over the lemon bars and sprinkle the reserved lemon zest. Cut lemon bars into squares. Serve chilled.

Note:  The longer these bars chill in the refrigerator, the more assertive the lemon flavor becomes.  

I love lemon... and these lemon bars are yummy and satisfying.  I will make them again! :)