Reducing Calories Without Losing the Flavor

Love Olive Garden? There’s a way you can save both money and calories without losing flavor.

I add a degree of healthiness by replacing the sausage with chicken without changing the flavor of the dish.

The secret is to make up for the spiciness lost by removing the sausage.

First, here’s a link to the ‘original’ copycat recipe I use as a foundation.

Now, you will see what changes I make when preparing the dish. My changes to the recipe (and other input) are in red.

Servings: 4-6
Units: US | Metric

  • 1 lb boneless chicken breast
  • 2 large russet baking potatoes, unpeeled, cut into cubes about 1 inch thick
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 cups kale, chopped
  • 2 (8 ounce) cans chicken broth, or equivalent (I find it more economical to buy the bigger cartons.)
  • 1 quart water
  • 1 cup half and half
  • 1-2 tablespoons of red pepper flakes (depends on your spice level preference)
  • Salt (to taste)


  1. Chop or slice uncooked chicken into small pieces.
  2. Sauté chicken in skillet until fully cooked.
  3. Add chicken, chicken broth and water to pot and stir.
  4. Place onions, potatoes, and garlic in the pot.
  5. Cook on medium heat until potatoes are done.
  6. Add salt and black pepper to taste.
  7. Simmer for another 10 minutes.
  8. Turn to low heat.
  9. Add kale and half and half.
  10. Heat through and serve.

Most of these changes (chicken instead of sausage, half and half instead of heavy cream, etc.) can be applied to almost any dish containing a different type of meat.

In this dish, the red pepper replaces the spiciness lost by removing the sausage.

Even though this dish still retains the use of black pepper, I am a huge fan of using red pepper to spice up almost any dish.

Instead of an obvious pepper flavor, it simply enhances the ‘heat’ level and the flavor of the other spices.

Tips on Food and Wine Pairings

It’s no secret that drinking the right wine while dining enhances the flavor of the dish itself. The trick is to find the type of wine which will complement the dominant elements of a given meal. Basic guidelines by Food and Wine Pairing state that there are determinants to take into consideration before uncorking a bottle of wine.

The dish should first be classified as lean or fatty, mild or flavorful, or acidic or rich. Once established, select a wine which will balance the flavors of the meal. For instance, Indian food with strong flavors may be matched with a sweet and spicy wine.

Wine Folly also gave a few factors to consider for ideal food and wine pairing. One tip is not to pair bitter food with wines which have high tannin content. So before selecting a high tannin M&S wine from the cellar, make sure that the dishes to be served are either fatty or salty.

If wine is to be paired with desserts, the wine should be sweeter, otherwise it will only leave a bitter taste. To avoid drinking flabby-tasting wine, it should have higher acidity than the dish.

According to Wine Mag, the six basic elements to food and wine pairing are acid, salt, texture, fat, sweetness, and bitterness. Acid adds freshness both to the wine and dish. An acidic dish should go with an acidic wine—a tangy salad is perfect with herbal flavored wines. For fried and salty meals, opt for sparkling wines.

Textures of the wine should match that of the food—if the food is light, the wine should be too. Fatty prime steaks will mix well with cabernet-based wines. Desserts which are based on dark chocolate may be paired with sweet red wine. Remember that bitter-tasting food combined with a bitter wine (which usually comes about when unripe grapes are fermented), the unpleasant tastes combine, so it’s best if they aren’t paired.

Photo Credit: wickenden

Testing and Making Small Batches of Beers

brooklyn brew shop beer kit

So we’ve been brewing quite a bit since we got started. I just finished a batch of Smoked Wheat last week and this past Saturday we went ahead and bottle our first batch, a Maple Brown Ale. Maybe you’re interested in getting started with home brewing, but perhaps you don’t want to jump all in and put that much money down. There is another option that may work well for your budget.

Brooklyn Brew Shop Kits

Besides getting the equipment to make 5 gallon batches, I also got a small all grain equipment kit from Brooklyn Brewshop that allowed us to brew an all grain recipe quickly and easily.It’s $40 (free shipping with my amazon Prime account) and the kit includes most of what we needed for the brew, with the exception of 4 chestnuts, a funnel, strainer, honey, and a brewpot.

We had picked up a funnel and strainer at the store and already had the pot and the honey at home. (Alas chestnuts were nowhere to be found. )brooklyn brew shop beer kit

  • beer making mix (grain, hops, and yeast)
  • 1 gallon glass fermenter
  • chambered airlock
  • glass thermometer
  • racking cane,
  • tubing, tubing clamp
  • screw cap stopper
  • packet of sanitizer

The kit is usable so you can simply order another mix bag from them or you can go to your local brew supply shop and assemble your own ingredients. I think it’s an affordable to get started and it is easy to prepare. If you want to simply get the recipe kits from Brooklyn Brew Shop, it’s $15 and it comes with the grain, hops, and yeast that you need.

If you’re more handy with recipes, you can use all grain recipes that are available online and go to a local brewing shop to get your supplies. Either way, using the kit is a lot of fun, very easy to store, and very affordable. I’ve been using it both with my husband and by myself. One gallon brews are much lighter to move around than the buckets we use for the 5 gallon brews.

Thoughts on Small Batch Brewing

How many of you have used Brooklyn Brew Shop’s kit for brewing? What are your thoughts on it?

Getting Started with Homebrewing

We have recently added another kitchen activity to our cooking list – we brewing our own beer. after taking so many tours of breweries around the area, we thought it would be fun to try it out ourselves. We’ve busy this month with 3 brews fermenting right now. Getting started with brewing wasn’t expensive and we discovered there are some great local and online resources to help us.

Picking Up the Beer Brewing Supplies

The first thing we needed to get started with brewing was grabbing the supplies at an affordable price. We went to American Brew Masters, a local brew supply shop right here in Raleigh. They had some great deals that were lower than what we saw online and having people we could talk to in person to ask questions definitely made it a worthwhile trip. We decided to grab a deluxe brewing kit and added a second fermentor to it so we could both brew a batch.
homebrewing raleigh

  • 2  6.5 gallon heavy duty fermenters with drilled and gasketed lid.
  • Bottling spigot
  • 3 feet of bottling tubing
  • 2  Three piece fermentation (air) locks
  • #2 drilled stopper
  • Deluxe double lever bottle capper
  • Bottle cleaning brush
  • Automatic bottle filler
  • Triple scale hydrometer
  • 6.5 gallon heavy duty food grade bottling bucket
  • Auto siphon with 5 feet of 5/16 tubing
  • Lab Thermometer
  • Heat Resistant Spoon
  • Home Beermaking guidebook
  • Extract Recipe Kit

In addition to equipment that comes with this set up, we also got a second recipe kit so we both can make a batch that we love. We grabbed a Traditional Stout and a American Amber Ale. We already brewed the stout and we did smaller smaller batches of an Indian Pale Ale (IPA) and a Chesnut Brown Ale.

The kits at American Brew Masters start at $80 and move up according to upgrades and additions. With everything that we got, the total came out to $230. Besides getting the basics and getting the extra bucket, we also wanted to get some equipment now rather than wait and upgrade. We plan on using this quite a bit.

Is this cheap? No, but with every batch that we make the cost per use will decrease as we only need to get ingredients for our batches. We’re sanitizing and reusing old beer bottles for our brews.

Are You a Home Brewer?

As the brews are bottled and tasted, I’ll share my reviews right here. We’d love to get your tips and stories if you have home-brewed in the past or are brewing now.

How to Cook Dried Beans and Make an Awesome Meal

Once with cooking at home is to optimize our spending and still have great meals. I don’t want to go cheap on ingredients and sacrifice taste just to save money. Instead I’d like to learn ways to prepare meals that

How Much Do I Need

One of the first questions I had before preparing the beans was figuring out much I need to use to make the right amount for the 3 of us. I found a handy guide online that I used as my reference point.

1/3 cup dry beans = 1 cup cooked beans
1/2 cup dry beans = 1 1/2 cups cooked beans
2/3 cup dry beans = 2 cup cooked beans
1 cup dry beans = 3 cups cooked beans
2 cups (1 pound) dry beans = 6 cups cooked beans

Soaking the Beans 

There are different schools of thought when it comes to soaking beans. Some let them soak for 6-8 hours or overnight. I prefer the ‘quicker’ method of bring a pot to boil, adding your beans (boiling them for about 3 minutes), removing them from the heat and letting them soak for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.  You then cook them as usual.

If I can get my beans tasting well and ready to go in a shorter period of time, then that’s method I’ll use. However there are many who feel strongly about soaking their beans longer before cooking, so try both and see what works best for you.

Espresso Black Bean Chili

How can I have a post about preparing beans and not share a fantastic recipe that uses them in bold way? I came across this wonderful Espresso Black Bean Chili on Bittman’s site and instantly fell in love with it.

Time: 1 1/2 to 2 hours, largely unattended

  • 3 tablespoons neutral oil, like grapeseed or corn
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 3 cups chopped ripe tomato (about 1 1/2 pounds whole; canned is fine; don’t bother to drain)
  • 1/2 to 1 cup freshly brewed espresso, 1 to 2 cups brewed coffee, or 2 tablespoons espresso powder
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1/4 cup dark brown sugar or 3 tablespoons molasses
  • One 3-inch cinnamon stick
  • 1 pound dried black beans, washed, picked over, and soaked if you like
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  1. Put the oil in a large pot with a tight-fitting lid over medium-high heat. When hot, add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another minute.
  2.  Stir in the tomato, espresso, chili powder, brown sugar, cinnamon, and beans and add water to cover. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat so the liquid bubbles steadily but not violently. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the beans are beginning to soften, 30 to 40 minutes. Add a good pinch of salt and pepper.
  3.  Continue cooking until the beans are tender, anywhere from another 45 minutes to 11/2 hours. Taste and adjust the seasoning, adding more sugar, salt, or pepper. Serve or store, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

With colder days already here in many parts of the country, this recipe is even more appealing to me.

Thoughts on Cooking with Dried Beans

I’d love to get your cooking tips and tricks. For those who’ve cooked with dried beans before, how you like to prepare and season them? What are some of your favorite dishes that you use them in?

Photo Credit: ohbernadine