Lo-Co Thanksgiving Pecan Pie

Maybe you’re one of those people who love pie. Or maybe you’re like me and your dessert vice is chocolate but it’s Thanksgiving and you have to make/bring a pecan pie.

You could buy one. But it’ll be high in fat and cholesterol.

Instead, why not make one from a Cooking Light recipe? Big plus of this plan: you get to have some fun by not telling anyone it’s a lo-co pecan pie! Let ’em scoop on some vanilla ice cream or whipped cream, and listen to them rave about how delicious it is.

Then tell them it’s a Cooking Light recipe. That’s my plan. Works every time. And it is FUN.

OK, I’ve not ever made a pecan pie – so I’ve not yet tried my bait-and-switch plan with pie. But I have done this before with Cooking Light recipes and it always works. So I’m giving it a whirl.

Especially because I found not 1 but 2 great looking Pecan Pie recipes from Cooking Light. They look easy to make and the recipe pictures are beautiful (as IF mine would look this good…but a girl can dream). Best of all, they have HALF the calories, fat & cholesterol than a full-fat pecan pie. HALF, people!

In fact, both recipes look so good – and have similar nutritional info – that I can’t decide which to make. Should I go with Oatmeal Pecan Pie or Maple-Bourbon Pecan Pie?

The Maple-Bourbon pie is pictured above: that it has bourbon and a pretty ‘traditional Thanksgiving’ presentation certainly land it some votes. But then there’s the interesting duo of cholesterol-lowering oatmeal mixed with pecan. Doesn’t this more informal pie look delicious, too?

Both look so appealing I simply can’t choose. To decide, I launched a poll on my Goin Lo-Co Facebook page. Please vote: I’ll make the winning recipe.

Still not convinced you should give one of these 2 lower fat, lo-co recipes a try this Thanksgiving? Check out the nutritional stats of these 2 pies compared with the “Irrestible Pecan Pie” featured on allrecipes.com:

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Convinced? Not yet? Maybe you’re worried it’s Thanksgiving and you don’t want to risk things. I understand, I have in-laws too.

So here’s an idea. Instead of the plan I just suggested where you bake 1 of these pies and tell your family AFTER they love it that it’s low-fat/low cholesterol, try this instead. Bring 2 pies (1 of these lo-co recipes and 1 pie you buy) and have a taste-off. Same plan as above in that you don’t say a word up front about fat or calories – just have everyone choose their favorite.

Then after the voting is tallied, tell everyone that 1 pie is half the fat and calories. And as they say on Bravo, ‘watch what happens.’

My guess – you’ll really get the Thanksgiving table conversation flowing. Maybe some will even be thankful. Just don’t tell them that not mentioning 1 pie was low-fat was my idea. What with the pie bait & switch AND the low-fat crackers I’m also bringing to our family Thanksgiving, I’ll be in enough trouble with my in-laws already.


Easy Bake Oven, Mom-Style

What’s great about roasted chicken is that it’s both a healthy lo-co meal PLUS it’s the ‘dinner that keeps on giving’ with terrific leftovers.

But I rarely serve it because the store-cooked chickens are always dry, and…well… actually roasting a chicken is awful.  The sticky process of tying down the legs, the horror of reaching into the cavity for the giblets. And the guilt when you toss the carcass rather than making soup.  Because who does that, really?

So basically, I never roast a whole chicken.

But there I was at Stop & Shop last week, exiting the cookie aisle and about to head on over to frozen treats when a yellow and blue bag in the chicken cold case caught my eye.

It was chicken-in-a-bag.  Well, really, it chicken-in-an-oven-proof-bag that’s packed inside a nifty carry-bag (I’m a sucker for packaging.)

Oh, sure, Perdue has a much fancier name than chicken-in-a-bag. They call it Oven Ready Roaster – but basically, it was a whole chicken, already seasoned and prepared (read, no giblets and no leg-tying!), nestled in an oven-ready-cooking-bag.

I picked it up by its built-in handle and inspected it.  I don’t usually roast things in a bag, but this was intriguing.

Perdue Oven-Ready Roaster

From the directions, I could see that all I had to do was pop the chicken (which was, as mentioned, actually lounging, pre-seasoned, in an oven-proof bag) – into a 13x9x2 pan or cookie sheet.  Then pop it in the oven.

OK, sure, I forgot 2 days in a row to allow for the 90 minute cook time + carving time (so we had takeout for 2 nights), but once I remembered to turn the oven on at 4:30 so we could eat at 6:30, I was golden.

Golden, I tell you.  Because here’s what happened:

  • This was so easy to prepare it was like cooking in your old easy-bake oven:  no messy prep, no messy oven and not even a messy pan!
  • The chicken was divine; even the breast meat was moist.
  • My I-hate-chicken-I-only-want-beef teenager drowned it with gravy (that I whipped up from the drippings captured in the bag) and pronounced it delicious.  Actually said the d-word.
  • In fact, he liked it so much, he ate leftover chicken with gravy for the next 2 nights.
  • Plus there was so much left over, I was able to have 3 days of healthy lunches – chicken with avocado on a tortilla that I panini’ed – YUM.
  • All this, and I didn’t have to TOUCH the raw chicken or reach inside that cavity
  • Cleanup was a snap – just the cutting board, really.
  • And the chicken cost all of $9.  With rice and broccoli and the smidge of wine I threw into the gravy, I think we dined (for several days!) for a grand total of about $11.

Maybe you already know about this chicken-in-a-bag thing and how easy it makes things, but it was news to me. I’ll definitely be roasting chicken this way again – it’s a great lo-co meal and oh-so-easy.  I’d post a recipe but there isn’t one, really.  All it would say is:

  • Buy Perdue Oven-Ready Roaster, put oven on at around 4:30 then cook and carve.
  • Empty drippings from bag into saucepan, add some chicken stock and wine and simmer; thicken with cornstarch & water.
  • Put on rice cooker and chop broccoli for the steamer.

The only downside is the carving – which is a hassle (for my husband).  So today I bought the Oven-Ready Bone-In Breast which should be easier to carve.  Worried it won’t yield gravy, but I’ll keep you posted.


Why Exercise Daily?

The whole “It’s Important To Exercise Daily to Lower Cholesterol” thing is really bugging me.  (Possibly because I didn’t exercise yesterday or today.  No elliptical, no tennis, nada.)  But daily exercise as a goal feels unreasonable to me.  It seems like overkill — I mean why daily?  Why is daily so critically important?

And aren’t I exempt because I’m already in decent shape?

Searching for that exemption led me online, where I found the opposite.  Turns out, there is a concrete reason why exercising daily is important to lowering LDL, no matter what kind of shape you are in (there are probably many reasons, but I can only handle one at the moment.) Here’s an excerpt from WebMD’s “The Exercise-Cholesterol Link.”

“…But recent studies have more carefully examined the effect of exercise alone, making it easier to evaluate the relationship between exercise and cholesterol.Researchers now believe there are several mechanisms involved. First, exercise stimulates enzymes that help move LDL from the blood (and blood-vessel walls) to the liver. From there, the cholesterol is converted into bile (for digestion) or excreted. So the more you exercise, the more LDL your body expels.

Second, exercise increases the size of the protein particles that carry cholesterol through the blood. (The combination of protein particles and cholesterol are called “lipoproteins;” it’s the LDLs that have been linked to heart disease). Some of those particles are small and dense; some are big and fluffy. “The small, dense particles are more dangerous than the big, fluffy ones because the smaller ones can squeeze into the [linings of the heart and blood vessels] and set up shop there,” says Khera. “But now it appears that exercise increases the size of the protein particles that carry both good and bad lipoproteins.”

Which means that if — every day — I’m eating things that produce cholesterol (or my stupid body is over-producing it every single day), then getting daily exercise to remove that LDL cholesterol seems, um, pretty necessary. Because otherwise, that cholesterol has nothing to do but build, right?  Which is how I got here in the first place.

Well, that and Phish Food ice cream.

Is this new learning enough to get me committed to a daily workout as part of my Lo-Co lifestyle?  Not sure yet.  But it does have me thinking about it.


Exercise DAILY? Really?

For me, food is the most interesting AND most difficult part of this Lo-Co quest.  I enjoy cooking, so searching my cookbooks (and buying new ones!) for recipes to jump-start this Lo-Co journey has been fun.  That said, I am starting to enjoy it less, as the pressure mounts to PLAN and then actually MAKE a healthy dinner every day…or at least most days. Or, more accurately right now, some of the time.

But there’s more to the Lo-C0 equation than just diet.

There is also exercise.  Now here’s the thing – I’m in decent shape.  Sure, there’s always that 5 lbs that’d be great to lose.  But I do exercise – we have an elliptical in the house, and I go to a spin class occasionally and sometimes even run.  (Like 2 miles, max.)  And those gym-rat activities are OK, but the only exercise I think is FUN is tennis.  That said, I’m pretty ‘active’ as the parlance goes.

But when I started looking into the key things to do to lower cholesterol, exercising daily is listed.  Here’s what the Mayo Clinic site (the link is listed in my Resources page) said:

“Exercise regularly
Regular exercise can help improve your cholesterol levels. With your doctor’s OK, work up to 30 to 60 minutes of exercise a day. Take a brisk daily walk. Ride your bike. Swim laps … And, you don’t need to get all 30 to 60 minutes in one exercise session. If you can squeeze in three to six 10-minute intervals of exercise, you’ll still get some cholesterol-lowering benefits.”

DAILY?  REALLY?  Is that absolutely necessary?  Because who can do that?  Who has that kind of time and commitment.  Oh, right, someone who doesn’t eat ice cream daily.

OK, if I have to exercise daily (and I need to ask my doctor if  the daily part is critical), my pick would be to play tennis.  That I could happily do every day.  Though frankly, even if playing tennis daily helped my cholesterol, it’d wreak havoc on my body parts – I already snapped an elbow tendon and have bursitis in my heel.  Sigh.

I guess I could try to exercise every day that I don’t play tennis.  I mean, the elliptical is literally 3 steps from my side of the bed.  I get that makes me very lucky.  And really, how hard could it be?  I should start tomorrow.

Luckily, I have a tennis clinic tomorrow morning.



The Beans and Cabbage Lunch

So…the White Beans with Cabbage, Pasta, and Ham. How was it for lunch?  Well, um, OK I guess, but unlike most leftovers it was not better the next day.  In fact this was, if anything, blander.  Not an easy achievement.

That said, for a quick, no-plan lunch this recipe worked well enough that I downed it 2 days in a row.  And its Tupperwared existence in my fridge saved me from having to think about lunch: a big bonus, as I was on conference calls through lunch both yesterday and today.  (Yes, I mute the call while chewing.)

However, my back-patting, ‘Wow, I am doing well with this Lo-Co thing’ was short-lived.  At 6pm I realized we were all starving and I did not have one single idea for dinner.  Not a plan.  Not a thought.  Not a clue.  And certainly not a single Lo-Co idea.

And shockingly, just opening my fridge and staring did not make dinner dance right on out to the table.

So I texted in an order to Five Guys Burgers & Fries (needless to say, my son was delighted).  And no, a veggie burger is not on my ‘favorites’ list there.  Though I guess now I need to at least give that bad boy a try.

I will say this, though, about my dinner-lapse.  It did provide just enough intestinal fortitude to ward off the Phish Food ice cream calling to me while prone on the sofa watching The Biggest Loser on the DVR.

And that has to count for something.  Right?