Salt, Pepper and Garlic

For all of you that really know me well, I am not the best cook.  Salt, Pepper, Garlic.  Those are my main ingredients in EVERYTHING I cook.  I am not a terrible cook.  I am just a plain and simple cook.  I cook every night.  Usually a lean meat, a vegetable and a salad.  I may splurge and bake a sweet potato for me and a russet potato for John.  And if I am really on a roll I will not microwave them but bake them in the oven.  You would never expect that I came from a family of chefs.

My father owned an Italian Restaurant in Evanston, Illinois called Michelini’s.  In my opinion it had the best Italian food anywhere.  On Sunday’s (his only day off) he would home cook a family meal that still to this day makes my mouth water.  All Sunday meals had several courses.  The first course was always a pasta dish.  My favorite was rigatoni with the best tomato – meat sauce.  This delectable meat sauce had just the right amount of everything in it.  Onions, garlic, tomatoes and meat.  The next course was the main dish which was usually roast beef cooked to perfection (always on the rare side) with a thick dark brown gravy.  It was always accompanied by the creamiest mashed potatoes.  Our vegetables were sautéed broccolli ladened with garlic  and olive oil and  a  tossed salad with olive oil and vinegar dressing.  A loaf of crunchy french bread and butter always completed a Camastro meal.

My mother on the other hand could not cook.  She did not need to since my father did all of the cooking.  But what she did was bake.   She made the best Chocolate Chip cookies that were so crunchy.  I love crunchy cookies. She baked a lemon crisp cake that accompanied most of our Sunday dinners – because it was a light dessert.  Fudge was always a holiday treat. And she baked the best biscotti.  I am not that fond of biscotti because the cookie is not sweet enough for me.  But I will say the almond and anise flavor were delightful.  My sister, Rose, has carried on the biscotti tradition.

My brother’s Paul and Carl joined my father in the restaurant.  The two of them are also amazing chefs.  I love it when they come to St. Louis to visit because I always make them cook.  They just seem to throw things together and magically an incredible, delicious meal is presented.  We are not talking low calorie meals either.  They use the real deal.  Real butter, real cheese, real bread – you get my drift.  Everything they cook is absolutely delicious.  

My nephew, Timothy, owner of Rollin to Go in Evanston, Illinois (the best sandwich shop) is also a chef.  He makes the best sandwiches anywhere.  My favorite is the Portabella on Ciabatta.  I do not know why Diners, Dives and Drive Ins has not found out about him.

And we get back to me.  I tend not to follow directions (a life long problem) and I season through tasting.  Most of the times I do not measure the ingredients.  I just shake or throw in the spice until it looks or tastes right.  One can never go wrong with Salt, Pepper and Garlic.

I will be adding my favorite weekly recipes to my blog.   I have found these recipes in the Weight Watcher web site and other Healthy Living sites.   I am not taking credit for any of these recipes.  I will always give credit to the chef.   Because you and I know that the chef is not me.

My first recipe is the best “FRIED CHICKEN”.  I love this web site LaLoosh  It is chalk full of healthy recipes that are all Weight Watcher friendly.


Buttermilk Ranch Fried Chicken   

Just because you are a weight watcher doesn’t mean you have to give up the good foods. The trick is just finding healthier, low calorie, low point total versions of your fattening favorites. And this Buttermilk Ranch Fried Chicken Recipe will be sure to satisfy your craving for fried chicken, but will use up only 6 of your daily points. We all know that traditional fried chicken recipes are loaded with fat and calories giving them very high Weight Watchers Points Values. I’ve seen some as high at 16 Points for ONE piece of chicken! Crazy. Instead, try this version, and you’ll be in fried chicken heaven. The key is that this Ranch Buttermilk Fried Chicken Recipe is not actually fried – it’s baked. But trust me when I tell you that this chicken is so yummy, you won’t miss the grease! And though it’s not an official one of Weight Watchers Chicken Recipes, it’s still a great meal idea for anyone who wants to enjoy tasty food at a lower calorie count.

Buttermilk Ranch Fried Chicken Recipe

– 12 oz. boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into strips
– 2/3 cup reduced-fat buttermilk
– 1/3 cup Fiber One bran Cereal
– 1 packet Ranch Salad Dressing and Seasoning Mix
– 1/3 cup Panko breadcrumbs
– 1 tsp salt
– 1/2 tsp black pepper
– 1 tsp dried parsley flakes
– non fat cooking spray, butter flavored

In a Tupperware container, or large Ziploc bag, mix the buttermilk, salt, pepper and dried parsley flakes. Add the chicken, and coat it well. Refrigerate overnight or at least 3 hours.
Preheat oven to 375ºF. Lightly coat a large baking sheet with the butter flavored nonstick, non-fat cooking spray. In a food processor or blender, and grind the Fiber One cereal to a breadcrumb-like consistency. Pour the crumb mixture into a large bowl and add in the Panko bread crumbs and Ranch Salad Seasoning Mix. Remove each individual piece of chicken from the buttermilk, and dip it into the crumb/seasoning mixture. Make sure to coat each piece thoroughly. Lay each coated piece on the baking sheet. Give them all a quick once over spray with the butter flavored non-fat cooking spray. Bake for about 1-12 minutes on each side, or until the edges are crispy.

Entire recipe makes 2 servings
Each serving = 6 Point Total

photo credit: Food Network

LISA’S TAKE   This is by far one of my favorite chicken recipes.  My husband also loves it.  I also used this recipes with chicken thighs but that adds more points.
Read more:

Vacation Dieting

We just got home from the best vacation ever. We went to Evanston, IL for a full week visiting family. We also spent 3 days in Michigan for a family wedding. But I digress.

My total weight loss for this past year on Weight Watchers has been 39 pounds (on my scale and 36 on the Weight Watcher scale). I was almost perfect with tracking every day and keeping within my 26 points. I exercised most days (mainly walking) and not too often did I eat my extra points (49 for the week and then you could tap into your exercise points, which I never did). I was not the “Biggest Loser” by any stretch. But I was consistent with small weight losses every week. I have decided that my weight loss is the result of a healthier life style. This is NOT a diet. This is my new life.

Back to the vacation and wedding.

I did not track my points for 11 days while on vacation. I took a vacation from my new lifestyle. I ate foods that I have not eaten in a year – and enjoyed every morsel. At the wedding I enjoyed delicious appetizer bruschetta thingies. I ate the best dinner and licked my plate. And had 3 delicious glasses of wine. I took a nose dive into the dessert tray. I have never eaten such delectable morsels of sweetness before. And I am not a dessert eater. But the small little cakes were absolutely delicious and irresistible.

I ate home cooked potato chips from my nephew’s deli – Rollin to Go – and had the best Portabella sandwich that I get every time I go there – once a year. It had big fat mushrooms with a sauce that would dribble down your chin. This mound of goodness was layered between crusty Ciabatta bread.

We went out to dinner and had Mexican, Cajun and Italian. I had chips with salsa and bread with butter. I had rice and it was very white. I ate pizza. We went to the movies and yes I had popcorn. And I drank wine every night.

But I did walk my 10,000 steps plus every day. I walked to the beach and all around Northwestern’s campus. We went into downtown Chicago via the Metra and walked to the Art Museum bringing in over 20,000 steps. I walked all over Evanston which was more fun than exercise. I was a walking machine and loved every minute of it.

And now I have to face the scale………I just did and I think my scale is broken. The first time I got on I gained 1.2 pounds. I did not think that was right and I got on again. I gained 2.4 pounds. I got off and on a 3rd time and I gained 1.2 pounds. I could do that all day. So I will average it out and I gained 1.8 pounds. Not bad for all the eating I did.

Today starts the beginning of my 2nd year enjoying a healthier lifestyle.

To be continued….