Monday, March 7, 2011

BBQ Dinner Remake

A couple weeks ago, Rush Limbaugh openly criticized Michelle Obama for being seen out eating 'unhealthy' foods with her children, namely a barbeque dinner, during a recent vacation. Limbaugh claims this activity makes her hypocritical for pushing her agenda of raising healthier children. 

Traditional BBQ dinners CAN be pretty bad for you. Unfortunately, I really love such food. I love, love, love the sweet, spicy, salty taste of roasted and smoked meat products. I love cheese and butter and cornmuffins. I rarely eat these things at restaurants because they really can be terrible for you and it's difficult to guess how many calories or grams of fat components of these meals contain. Instead, I make them at home. 

Last week I made an amazing, delectable dinner. It had all the components of a traditional BBQ dinner. 

Pulled pork
 Baked Mac&Cheese with breadcrumb topping
Corn muffins
Green vegetable
Side Salad

Ok, I'm missing baked beans, but I've made those before and we just didn't have any cooked beans around.

Let's talk about 'the damage' aka the caloric cost of these foods. Now, I'll show you the breakdown of the recipes below, but I'm going to make some direct comparisons first. 

Pulled pork
I looked at CalorieKing and tried to come up with an average for restaurant pulled pork recipes. I got 200-250 calories/half cup.

My recipe: 140 calories/half cup (loosely packed)

Basic recipe:  825 calories/1 cup

My recipe: 431 calories/1 cup

Basic recipe:  216 calories each (before butter/jam)
My recipe: 140 calories each (before butter/jam)
If you actually get steamed vegetables and a smart side salad on your restaurant dinner, those would be equivalent to what I made, so I'm not going to make comparisons. BUT be sure to ask for your veggies sans butter or oil and your dressing on the side if you want to control your calorie intake. 

Now, if you are a skeptic (and I know, because I am a skeptic), you are thinking 'she just picked the worst possible recipe to compare her recipes to make her recipes look healthier'. How many of you were thinking that? Yes, I know you. I am you.
But that's the thing. With the exception of the pulled pork, which I couldn't actually find a comparable recipe for, I actually adapted my recipes from the recipes that I compare to. And yes, you can make corn muffins that are better for you than the corn muffins I compared to, or even made in my own kitchen, but the goal was to make the meal good and satisfying, not just healthy.

Every aspect of this meal made me happy and satisfied. This dinner was eaten on a 9 inch plate. Besides having to fold the asparagus in half to get them on the plate, I was full from a 9 inch plate worth of dinner. That's the way it's supposed to be! 


1 c cornmeal       442

1 c flour                407

1 tbsp bk powder

¼ c sugar              200

¼ c Splenda        0

½ c 2% milk         50

1 egg + 1 egg white         85

2 tbsp oil              240

½ c pumpkin       45

¼ c honey            200

Mix and sift dry ingredients to remove lumps. Mix wet ingredients seperately, and slowly dry ingredients. Batter will be lumpy, but that's ok. Don't overmix. Bake in greased muffin tin for 20-30 minutes at 350. Makes 12 big muffins. Store in fridge or freezer.

4 cups elbow mac, cooked       400
1/3 c nutritional yeast    100
3 tbsp smart balance      240
1/3 c flour            150
½ red pepper     15
1 c shredded Colby jack                 480
¼ c parmesan    115
½ c breadcrumb topping (1/4 c breadcrumbs + ¼ c parm)              115+110
1 tsp lemon juice + salt to taste     ~0

Cook elbow macaroni in boiling water until al dente. Rinse in cold water to prevent overcooking and set aside. This can be done days ahead of time if you prefer. 
 In blender, blend red pepper, nutritional yeast, and enough water to blend evenly. Add lemon juice and salt until a 'cheesey' taste is acquired. 

In large pan, melt smart balance and add flour over low heat. Stir until completely mixed and just brown. Add blended mixture and whisk until smooth. Allow to come to simmer and thicken. Add cheeses and allow to mix and melt. Add in macaroni to coat noodles in sauce. 

Transfer to greased oven-proof dish and top with breadcrumb mixture. Bake at 350 for 1 hour or until top begins to brown and mixture is bubbly. 

Pulled Pork
3 lbs pork loin, trimmed of all seperable fat  1800
1/2 c BBQ Spice mix 200
1 cup BBQ sauce 180

I trim the pork loin at home and cut all visible fat and connective tissue. It takes time, but the product is much better when it's done. My trick is that I pressure cook the pork in water with the spice mix added. I make my own mix and I've accounted for all the sugar in the spice mix. When it's cooked, I remove any visible fat floating on the surface with a spoon, remove the pork to a seperate bowl, and shred it with forks. To the liquid, I add the BBQ sauce and simmer to reduce. Then, I only use as much sauce as the pork will hold (calorie saving trick), so I actually use 1/2-2/3 of the sauce in the final product. The pork filled an 8 cup serving dish, so that is how I got the 140 cal/half cup serving. 

What is your favorite 'recipe remake'?



  1. Great recipes! Let me ask you - can you bake the mac n cheese with veggies in it (kind of like making it a main course)? Would you need to cook the veggies first in order to eliminate some water?

  2. Hmmm...good question!

    I think it would be ok. It might depend on which veggies you choose. Broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, and root veggies would be ok. Peppers, tomatoes, and watery squashes like zucchini, you could just saute first? They would probably gain more flavor that way, anyway!