Cooking Light, on a Shoestring

You've been gorging yourself on Thanksgiving dinner and leftovers for the past couple of days, so now it's time to lighten things up a bit.

Chef Billy Strynkowski, the executive chef for Cooking Light magazine, took on "The Early Show Saturday Edition"'s "Chef on a Shoestring" challenge and prepared some healthy recipes from his new cookbook, "Cooking Light - Way to Cook," on a tight budget of $35 or less.

Goat Cheese Bruschetta
Chicken With Cider & Bacon Sauce
Brussels Sprouts with Currants and Pine Nuts
Chocolate Cupcakes with Peppermint Frosting

Bruschetta - From the Italian bruscare meaning "to roast over coals," this traditional garlic bread is made by rubbing slices of toasted bread with garlic cloves, then drizzling the bread with extra-virgin olive oil. The bread is salted and peppered, then heated and served warm. ("The Food Lover's Companion")

Brussels Sprouts - Said to have been cultivated in 16th-century Belgium, Brussels sprouts are a member of the cabbage family and, indeed, resemble tiny cabbage heads. Many rows of sprouts grow on a single long stalk. They range from 1/2 to 1 1/2 inches in diameter; the smaller sprouts are more tender. Brussels sprouts are available from late August through March. Buy small bright green sprouts with compact heads. Store unwashed sprouts in an airtight plastic bag in the refrigerator up to 3 days; longer than that and sprouts will develop a strong flavor. Brussels sprouts, a cruciferous vegetable, are high in vitamins A and C, and are a fair source of iron. ("The Food Lover's Companion")

"Early Show" recipes galore!

Goat Cheese Bruschetta
Chopping the vegetables into small pieces allows them to cook quickly. We used a sliced baguette and a base layer of goat cheese, which adds a tangy flavor background that pairs well with our mixture of sautéed vegetables.

1/2 cup red onion, chopped
1/2 cup fennel bulb, chopped
1/2 cup tomato, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
5 teaspoons goat cheese
Baguette, sliced


Slice a baguette into 10 (1/2-inch-thick) slices, and set aside. Heat a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add onion and fennel, and sauté 10 minutes. Add tomato, sauté 5 minutes. Remove from heat, and stir in olive oil. Grill baguette slices, about 20 to 30 seconds per side, and then spread ½ teaspoon goat cheese on each round. Divide vegetable mixture over toasts. Top with fresh parsley or basil, if desired.

Chicken with Cider and Bacon Sauce
(Serve with wild rice)

4 (6 oz) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 bacon slices, chopped
1/4 cup minced fresh onion
3/4 cup unsweetened apple cider
1/2 cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth


Place each chicken breast half between 2 sheets of heavy-duty plastic wrap; pound to ½-inch thickness using a meat mallet or rolling pin. Sprinkle chicken evenly with salt and pepper.

Cook bacon in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat until crisp. Remove bacon from pan. Add chicken to drippings in pan; cook 6 minutes on each side or until done. Remove chicken from pan; keep warm.

Add onion to pan; sauté 2 minutes or until tender, stirring constantly. Add cider and broth; bring to a boil, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Cook until broth mixture is reduced to ½ cup (about 5 minutes). Stir in cooked bacon; serve sauce over chicken.

Brussels Sprouts with Currants and Pine Nuts

1 1/2 pounds Brussels sprouts, trimmed
1 tablespoon pine nuts
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 cup finely chopped shallots
2 tablespoons dried currants
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth


Separate Brussels sprouts into leaves, leaving just the center intact. Set aside.

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add nuts to pan; cook 2 minutes or until toasted, stirring constantly. Coarsely chop nuts.

Melt butter in pan over medium-high heat. Add shallots to pan; sauté 1 minute or until golden, stirring frequently. Stir in Brussels sprouts centers and leaves, currants, thyme, salt, and pepper; toss to combine. Add broth. Cover, reduce heat, and cook 7 minutes. Increase heat to medium-high. Uncover; cook 4 minutes or until liquid evaporates and sprouts centers are tender, stirring frequently. Remove from heat; sprinkle with nuts.

Chocolate Cupcakes with Peppermint Frosting


For Cupcakes:
1 cup packed brown sugar
6 tablespoons butter, softened
2 large eggs
5 1/2 ounces all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup low-fat buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For Peppermint Frosting:
2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup (4 oz) tub-style light cream cheese
1/8 teaspoon peppermint extract
16 hard peppermint candies, finely crushed (about 1⁄3 cup)


Preheat oven to 350°F.

To prepare cupcakes, place brown sugar and butter in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed two minutes or until well blended. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Add flour mixture to sugar mixture alternately with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Stir in vanilla extract.

Spoon batter into 18 muffin cups lined with paper liners. Bake at 350° for 12 minutes or until cupcakes spring back when touched lightly in the center. Cool in pan 10 minutes on a wire rack; remove from pan. Cool completely on wire rack.

To prepare frosting, combine powdered sugar, cream cheese, and peppermint extract in a bowl, stirring until smooth. Spread about 4 teaspoons frosting on each cupcake; sprinkle evenly with candies.

So, how did Billy Strynkowski do in our "Chef on a Shoestring" challenge?

red onion $0.50
fennel $0.99
tomato $1.00
goat cheese $2.99
baguette $1.99
total $7.47

Chicken & Brussels Sprouts
chicken breasts $4.47
bacon $1.99
onion $0.32
apple cider $1.49
chicken broth $0.95
rice $1.00
Brussels sprouts $1.99
pine nuts $1.99
shallots $0.16
dried currants $2.10
thyme $0.99
total $17.45

cocoa $0.99
buttermilk $1.99
cream cheese $1.69
peppermint extract $2.99
peppermint candy $1.39
total $9.05

TOTAL: $33.97

Our current leaders board for the "How Low Can You Go?" competition:

1. Robert Carter $32.24
Peninsula Grill

2. Paul Liebrandt $32.35

3. George Mendes $32.49