Saturday, January 17, 2015

From the Kitchens of Cheesecake Farms

Everyone has a favorite nacho recipe and here's mine.

It's extra easy and you can mix or match the ingredients however you like. 

Start by putting a layer of restaurant style tortilla chips in the bottom of your pan then the sky's the limit!

Loaded Nachos

All ingredients are approximate.  Use more or less as you like.

Don't like a particular ingredient?  Leave it out.
Make sure you have plates and forks for these nachos.

Makes 1 (9 X 13 inch) pan


1/2 (13.5 oz) bag restaurant style tortilla chips

1/2 pound ground beef (or vegetarian ground beef - cooked, drained and crumbled) or sausage

1 (16 oz) jar marinated artichokes (drained, reserving juice)

2 (15 to 16 oz) can light red kidney beans (drained, rinsed and drained again)

1 cup corn (fresh and cut from the cob, frozen and thawed or canned and drained)

1 (28 oz) can petite diced tomatoes (drained)

1/4 cup pickled jalapeno pepper rings and 2 tablespoons juice (to taste - optional)

8 oz sour cream (reduced fat or fat free not recommended)

3 to 4 oz easy melting cheese (like Velveeta - cut into 3/8 inch cubes)


2 ripe avocados

1/4 cup lemon juice (bottled is OK)

2 cups shredded ice berg lettuce

1/2 cup ranch dressing (or to taste)

1 (2 .25 oz) can sliced black olives (drained)

Position oven rack so nachos will bake in center.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Coat pan with cooking spray.
Place a layer of tortilla chips into the pan. Top with ground beef.

Mash beans and mix with juice from the marinated artichokes until it makes a consistency similar to refried beans.  Dollop mixture over beef.

Top with artichokes (and any remaining juice), corn, drained tomatoes, and if desired, optional pickled jalapeno rings with juice.

Dollop sour cream over all. Sprinkle cheese over top. 

Bake in a preheated oven about 20 minutes or until toppings are hot and cheese has melted. (Chips will not feel hot.)

While nachos are heating, cut avocado.  Remove pit and scoop out pulp.  Mash pulp with a fork and mix with lemon juice.  Dollop over hot nachos and sprinkle with lettuce.  Drizzle ranch dressing over all and sprinkle with olives.  Serve hot.  YUM!!!


Think nachos are fattening?

They are but minimize the damage by using baked tortilla chips instead of regular. With all the toppings, you'll never know the difference. 

Other tricks to curb the blimp monster:
1.  Skip the refried beans (they're loaded with fat) and use plain, mashed beans instead.

2.  Use fresh, ripe, mashed avocados mixed with lemon juice instead of prepared guacamole. You'll save a ton of fat and calories.  Add lemon juice till you get the consistency you like.

3.  Use real sour cream - not fat free or reduced fat.  OK, real sour cream has a lot of fat but a little goes a long way in adding good taste and creamy-ness that the fat free or reduced fat can't match.   Also, fat free or reduced fat sour cream are higher in carbs.

4.  Pump up the volume of your nachos by adding a low cal veggies to the mix - like lightly steamed broccoli, zucchini, carrots, corn or yellow squash.  Shredded lettuce works well, too, to lighten the caloric load.

5.  Use an easy melting cheese like Velveeta.  It melts better so it goes farther and tastes cheesy-ier than cheddar.  You'll actually need less for the same taste effect.


Saturday, January 10, 2015

Super Bowl Snacks - Easy, Home Made New York Style Pizza

 In less time than you think.... and for a lot less money  (and with so much good taste) you can whip up real, yummy, olive oil drippy pizza at home.... can there be anything better? 

Treat your Super Bowl crowd to home made pizza.

Pizza Primer

Know you pizzas........

New York Style
Thin crust ....  but not too thin.  
Just enough crust to perfectly balance the equal amounts of sauce and cheese.  

California Style
Very thin, cracker crisp.
Usually has non traditional toppings like avocado, blue cheese or goat cheese.  
Often has no tomato sauce but may have fresh, raw tomatoes.   

Chicago Style
Traditional pizza only with a very thick crust.... usually an inch or more.
It's more crust than sauce or toppings.

Easy, Home Made New York Style Pizza

Makes 1 (14-16 inch) pizza

Pan size - a 14 to 16 inch pizza pan is ideal but any similar round or square pan will work.
Large pizza pans (disposable or reusable) are available in most grocery stores. 


3 tablespoons old fashioned (coarse) grits (not quick cooking or instant)
1 batch dough (recipe follows)
2 cups thick pasta sauce (your favorite - about 20 oz.)
1 teaspoon dried oregano
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups shredded, whole milk mozzarella cheese (or to taste - skim milk or part skim milk cheese not recommended - see Karla's Tip #1 below)
Optional pizza toppings (as desired - see Karla's Tip #2 below )

Grease pan or coat with cooking spray.  Sprinkle grits evenly over bottom. 

Using your fingers, press dough over grits to fill pan bottom. (Dampen hands with cool water to prevent sticking.  Do not use flour. It's OK if dough shrinks back from edges of the pan.) 

Using your finger tips, lightly rub dough with 1 tablespoon of oil.  Be sure to oil the edges of he dough next to the rim of the pan.

Spread sauce to within 1/2 inch of edges.  This is important.  Leaving the 1/2 inch edge will give you the traditional looking crust once the dough has risen.  

Sprinkle with oregano.  Top with cheese.

Toss toppings in remaining oil and distribute over cheese.  Use a plastic scraper to get all the oil out of the bowl and onto the pizza.  (If you're not adding any toppings, just drizzle the remaining oil over the cheese.)

Let rise in a warm place until edges have doubled in size - about 1 hour. (Don't worry about the whole pizza doubling in size.... it's only the edges that need to rise.)

After dough has risen, position the oven rack so the pizza will bake in the center of the oven. 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.   

Bake 40 minutes or until edges are lightly browned and cheese has melted.
You know how to serve it........


Karla's Tip #1  - Mozzarella Cheese
Get whole milk mozzarella cheese - not skim milk or part skim cheese.  Whole milk melts better and gives you that traditional stringy texture with every bite.  Skim milk or part skin cheese is more common - especially in the pre-shredded packages - but whole milk is readily available - just read the labels.

Also - avoid pre-shredded cheeses.  They are usually coated with an invisible film of cellulose or starch to keep the shreds from sticking together.  You don't need that extra starch and the quality (and taste) of coated cheese is not as good.

Karla's Tip #2  - Optional Toppings
Anything/everything....the sky's the limit!
(But you can also just leave the pizza plain.....)

Raw veggies (broccoli, onions, mushrooms, green/red/yellow peppers, egg plant, ....etc.)
Cooked meat or seafood (sausage, ground beef, meatballs, chicken, shrimp, Canadian bacon)
Fresh basil leaves 


Pizza Dough
Using a bread machine makes this a snap!
You will never buy one of those expensive pre-baked (and often taste-less) crusts again!

1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 cups warm water
1 tablespoon Kosher salt (or 2 teaspoons regular salt)
4 1/4 cups bread flour (not all purpose flour)
2 1/2 teaspoons dry yeast (1 envelope)

Using the Bread Machine
Put ingredients in order into a bread machine.  Set on "pizza dough."  (No pizza dough setting?  Use the regular "dough" setting.)  

Continue with recipe after dough cycle is complete.

By Hand
Mix all dry ingredients together.  Stir in water.  Knead 10 minutes or until elastic. Cover and let rise in a warm place until double - about 45 minutes then continue with recipe.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

How to Be Healthier in 2015

You already know the basics: eat right, exercise, get enough rest.
Your mother taught you that.

That should be enough but sometimes it isn't.

An apple a day keeps the
doctor away.
You know it's true because
 your mother told you so!

Sometimes, no matter what you do, you get sick.

Health information we receive is constantly changing (eat this, don't eat that... do this, don't do that) and ALWAYS seems to contradict itself.

It's hard to know what to do!

Simply put, being healthy means having your body, mind and soul in balance.  That's a tall order but that's all it really takes!

By our very nature, we are continually in flux. 
We are NEVER in perfect balance.

The ebb and flow of our external and internal tides effects our health moment by moment.

When you are in balance, your health is optimal.
When you are out of balance, you get sick.

Can you ever have continually perfect health?
Probably not.

Can you have better health?

Strive for a balance between body, mind and soul by first following your mother's advice then expanding your knowledge. 

Put into practice those things that will add value and blessings to your life.  In your heart, you know what they are....  just listen to your inner voice.

Feed your body, mind and soul with the very best then hunger for more.  That's all it takes to be healthier! 

Now go have an apple, think good thoughts and enrich your soul.
Your mother will be happy and you'll feel great!!