Baked Chicken Taquitos

My brother and I grew up in the back of the kitchen of our family restaurant.  No joke.  We had our own little study/play area.  It was pretty sweet, as I look back in retrospect.  [The play area, that is.  Not growing up in the back of the kitchen.] We had our own 13 inch TV with our old-school Nintendo unit hooked up to keep us entertained, out of trouble, and out of any danger from the kitchen chaos itself.  My parents had very little time to spend with us because they worked all day long.  Well, except for the fact that they still found ways to breathe down our necks to finish our daily homework assignments.  Ahh, Asian parenting.  So quality time was limited in our family.  As I was growing up, I longed for the “normal” family units that my friends had.  But my parents did their best to spend time with us.  My parents would take us to [insert fast food chain] after they closed up the restaurant for the night, order food, and we’d eat in front of the TV.  This was our way of spending quality family time.   So food, albeit it wasn’t always the healthiest, was our way to spend time together.

One fast food chain we used to frequent as a family was Jack In The Box.  Do you remember when Jack In The Box used to serve beef taquitos (and tacos)?  It was probably during the early 1990s when they rolled out with this menu item.  I can’t believe I’m going to say this, and am a little embarrassed to admit this, but I thought they were really, really tasty.  They were the perfect snacky, greasy, finger foods.  I’d ask for an order of taquitos (I think it was five taquitos to a box), and beg my parents to buy the guacamole and sour cream on the side for an additional charge.  I think Jack In The Box was my first introduction to guacamole and sour cream, and possibly even “Mexican” food.  Hysterical, yet pathetic, right?

I don’t know if they still sell them or not, but I do crave them from time-to-time, like I crave french fries from McDonald’s.  Mmmmmmm.  But I haven’t had fast food since 2006, and won’t start now.     So I’m always on the hunt for healthier alternatives…

Baked Chicken Taquitos (adapted from Our Best Bites)

1/3 cup Toffuti cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup salsa verde
1/2 lime, juiced
1 teaspoon chile powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
3 tablespoons green onion, chopped
2 cups cooked and shredded chicken
1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
10-12 (6-inch) corn tortillas
Salt, to sprinkle
Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.  Line a baking sheet with foil and lightly coat with cooking spray.

In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine softened cream cheese, salsa verde, lime juice, cumin, chili powder, minced garlic, cilantro, green onion.  Stir to combine.  Add chicken and shredded cheese, and combine thoroughly.  Season with salt, if necessary.

Heat corn tortillas until soft and pliable, about 30 seconds, on a plate with damp paper towels inbetween and on top of the tortillas to “steam.”   Spoon about 3 to 3 tablespoons of the filling onto the lower third of each tortilla, and roll tightly.  Place taquitos, seam-side down on the prepared baking sheet.  Repeat with remaining tortillas and filling.

Lightly spray the top of the taquitos with cooking spray, and sprinkle with salt. Bake for about 15 to 20 minutes, or until the tortillas are crisp and golden.  Serve with your favorite salsa, guacamole, and greek yogurt.  Yum!

Makes 10 to 12 taquitos.

Reconstructed Vegan Strawberry Cheesecake

I just so happened to glance up from my computer and caught a glimpse of what Paula Deen and her son was making.  I just had to make these today.  But I wasn’t that motivated to get off the couch.  You see, I declared today a lazy day when I got off of work last night.  It was one of those days in the emergency department where I left work feeling a little demolished.  So all I wanted to do today was to cuddle with my two little boys, catch up on recorded DVR shows, and rest.  And of course, it was just my lucky day because I had all the ingredients the recipe called for, so my lazy behind didn’t need to get off the couch to make a special trip to the grocery store.  Although I had all the ingredients for the recipe, I wanted to do more to it.  Give it a little more pizazz.  Make it a little bit more healthy.  And it just clicked… vegan strawberry cheesecake with graham crackers.

These are amazing and delicious little morsels of yumminess.  Wow.  These would be EVEN better with real cream cheese.  I think these might make the perfect dish to bring to a potluck or dinner party.  In fact, these are what we will be bringing to the next potluck we are invited to.  They were really simple to make.  It probably took us less than 15 minutes to put together.

You’ll love these.

Trust me.

Yum.

Reconstructed Vegan Strawberry Cheesecake (adapted from The Deen Brothers)

20 whole large strawberries, hulled
8 ounces Tofutti cream cheese, softened
1/4 plus 2 tablespoons cup confectioners’ powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon lemon zest
2/3 cup graham crackers, roughly chopped

Cut a thin slice from the bottom of each strawberry so the berries stand upright. Place berries, cut side down, on a serving platter. Carefully cut the berries into 4 wedges, cutting almost to, but not through, the bottoms with a criss-cross cut. Fan wedges just slightly, taking care not to break them. Set aside.

In a mixing bowl, beat together the Tofutti cream cheese, sugar, lemon zest, and vanilla until combined but still stiff. Using a teaspoon or pastry bag with decorative tip, fill the strawberries with the cream cheese mixture. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. When ready to serve, place chopped graham crackers on top of the stuffed strawberries.

Makes 20 stuffed berries.

Vegan Cheesecake… It’s a Close Second to the Real Thing!

I’m by no means a vegan. Not a chance. I am too much of a carnivore to be one. However, with that being said, I do enjoy having vegan and/or vegetarian days. Especially more so now that I’ve discovered vegan desserts. I really love desserts. It’s something that definitely contributed to my weight gain. Well, that and my lazy, inactive butt on the couch watching trashy reality TV shows. So finding vegan recipes that almost mimick “the real thing” is a fun challenge that I’ve engaged myself in.

I cut out desserts almost completely when I started my diet and exercise plan back in late August 2010. It was on a strict caloric intake per day and coupled with exercise has led to my success now. However, cutting out sweets was a really difficult thing. I love a good port with something sweet at night. I started having sugar withdrawals when I cut out the sweets (no way could I cut out my evening night cap!). I’ve slowly introduced desserts back, but only if it’s vegan. It amazes me how lower in fat vegan recipes can be compared to recipes that use butter and shortening. And that’s the thing, butter and shortening. The two very ingredients that can make anything taste good. But finding butter, egg, gelatin, shortening alternatives has been a wonderful and interesting learning experience.

Vegan Cheesecake (adapted from Happy Herbivore)

1 prepared graham cracker pie crust
14 ounces silken tofu
8 ounces Tofutti cream cheese
1/2 cup raw sugar
3/4 teaspoon almond extract
2 tablespoons cornstarch

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Prepare pie crust if you have not already done so.

Place tofu and Tofutti cream cheese in a blender and blend for about 30 seconds. Stop and scrape the sides, and blend for another 30 seconds. Add remaining ingredients and blend for another 3 minutes, stopping periodically to scrape the sides.

(Yes , that is a blender circa 1970.  It was my parents’ blender that I got to inherit!  It’s one of my favorite tools in the kitchen.  They just don’t make them like they used to!)

Once fully incorporated, pour into prepared pie crust and smooth top with a spatula. Set the cheesecake pan on a large piece of aluminum foil and fold up the sides around it. Place the cake pan in a large roasting pan. Pour boiling water into the roasting pan until the water is about halfway up the sides of the cheesecake pan; the foil will keep the water from seeping into the cheesecake. Bake for about 45 minutes. Remove from oven and place somewhere to cool to room temperature (about 2 to 3 hours). Chill overnight or for at least 6 hours before serving.

Blueberry Topping

1 pint blueberries
1 lemon, zested and juiced
2 tablespoons sugar

In a small saucepan add all the ingredients and simmer over medium heat for 5 minutes or so until the fruit begins to break down slightly. Leave to cool before spreading on cheesecake.

Makes 6 servings.

Vegetarian Lavash Wrap with Tofutti and Hummus

I have been on a weight loss kick since August 2010.  I’ve lost about 20 pounds so far and still have about 10-15 more pounds to lose.  It’s been difficult.  Actually, that’s an understatement.  It’s been REALLY difficult, especially because I love to eat… and all I want to ever do is eat.  I also loved to not do anything but sit on the couch and watch endless amounts of Food Network, HGTV, the Travel Channel (only if it about food), and the Bravo channel.  My life was very sedentary and FULL-filling.  I went to the gym one day in August, got on the scale, and almost had a heart attack.  I realized I was at my heaviest, which made complete sense, because my “fat clothes” were starting to become a little snug on me.  So it finally occurred to me that I needed to lose some weight or else I was putting myself at serious risk of developing diabetes, hypertension, and hyperlipidemia.  All of which runs in my family.  Eek!

So here I am, twenty pounds lighter, and still going.  I’ve really cut down my portion sizes, and eating a lot healthier than I used to.  I’ve also reduced buying out for lunch by about 90% while at work, which I feel has helped me significantly! In fact, packing my lunch and dinner (I work 12 hour shifts) has forced me to get creative with making healthier, yet enjoyable recipes.  I’ve experimented with many different kinds of salads for lunch.  Unfortunately, I was as creative as I was getting, I started to get bored with salads.  So my new obsession is the veggie wrap that I came up with recently.

Just in case you’re wondering, I still occasionally enjoy my favorite foods.  Moderation is the key to success.  Who ever said you had to completely cut out all those unhealthy foods was wrong!  If that were true, I would have failed my diet by now.

Vegetarian lavash wrap with Tofutti and Hummus

2 whole wheat lavash
1 small yellow bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 roma tomato, seeded, thinly sliced
2 medium-sized artichoke hearts (in water), chopped or sliced
1 small carrot, cut into thin matchsticks
1/2 avocado, sliced
Baby lettuce mix (or whatever you have on hand)
4 tablespoons Tofutti cream cheese
4 tablespoons of your favorite hummus

Spread 2 tablespoons of toffuti and hummus onto the middle of the lavash.  Top each lavash with thinly sliced bell peppers, sliced tomatoes, artichoke hearts, carrots, 1/4 of the sliced avocado, and a little lettuce mix.  Roll each of them up tightly and cut in half on a diagonal.

Makes 2 servings.

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