Tuesday, November 25, 2008

My Chinese Food Fix...

Amongst many other strange loves, I have an affinity for chinese food. However, when trying to live a healthy lifestyle, chinese food isn't typically on the menu. So, whenever I am craving chinese food--which is quite often--this is the dish I run to.

General Tso's Chicken (Adapted from Weight Watchers website) - serves 4-6
1 1/3 c chicken broth, reduced-sodium
3 TBS cornstarch (*60 calories, 0 g fat, 0 g fiber)
2 TBS plus 1 tsp Splenda or Sugar(*) go easy if you use real sugar...
3 TBS low-sodium soy sauce
3/4 tsp ground ginger
1 1/2 TBS white wine vinegar
1 medium onion
1 green bell pepper
2 medium garlic cloves, minced
3/4 tsp red pepper flakes, or 1 dried chili pepper, minced
1.5 lb uncooked boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into pieces (You can use chicken breast which is completely fine, but chicken thighs are cheaper... hence I use those)
2 c cooked brown rice, kept hot (*I like to use pearled barley instead)

In a medium bowl, whisk together broth, cornstarch, sugar, soy sauce, vinegar and ginger; set aside.

Heat oil in a wok or large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions, bell pepper, garlic and red pepper flakes, cook 2 minutes. Add chicken and cook until browned all over, about 5-7 minutes.

Add reserved sauce and simmer and stir until sauce thickens and chicken is cooked through, about 3 minutes.

Serve chicken and sauce over barley/rice. Yields about 1 cup of chicken and sauce and 1/2 cup of rice/barley per serving.

Ham and Lentil Soup

Well, first I must explain that I love Carrabba's Lentil and Sausage Soup... Recently, for reasons beyond my control, they took it off the menu--Very unfortunate!

So, I have been wanting it, but they don't have it, and sausage isn't exactly part of the "healthy lifestyle" I am attempting to lead.

So, we set out on a quest to make our own... We started with a recipe on the back of the lentil package and looked around the internet and really just went with tastes... here is how it came out...

Ham and Lentil Soup (about 8 servings)
1 TBL Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 package lentils
1 package lean ham already cut up (8oz)
2 small onions, diced
3 celery stalks, diced
1 carrot, diced
2-3 garlic cloves
1 can diced tomatoes, undrained
8 cups beef broth
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp fennel seed
1 tsp italian seasoning
salt and pepper to taste
splash of balsamic vinegar in each serving when you serve it...

Heat oil in a soup/stock pot over medium high heat. Add ham, onion, celery, garlic, carrots and saute until tender. Add beef broth and bring to a boil, add in lentils and other ingredients. Let cook - uncovered on a simmer (low heat) for about 20 minutes.

***I find that it is best to first season with salt and pepper when you are heating vegetables up and then add a little more salt before you put the lentils in and then see where you wind up...

Monday, November 17, 2008

Tamale Pie

Made this yesterday for lunch (and to eat on throughout the week). It was very good... I think that it might be missing something... some Cilantro maybe or cumin...? I do recommend this dish though...

Tamale Pie - Found/adapted from Weight Watchers community boards
1 c yellow cornmeal
2.25 c cold water
1 cube chicken bouillon
1 lb lean ground beef
1 onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
4 tsp chili powder
4 cloves garlic
1 tsp salt
Dash pepper
1 (6 oz) can tomato paste (I forgot this... Oops! It was a little watery)
1 can Ro-Tel original (undrained)
1 can whole kernel corn (I drained)
1 can dark red kidney beans, drained, rinsed
FF or soy cheddar shreds
~~~~Preheat oven to 350*. Spray a 9 x 13" casserole pan with Pam.
~~~~Bring 2-1/4 cups water to a boil, add bouillon cube. Stir in cornmeal, and whisk until fairly thick and most lumps are gone (takes a few minutes). Spread into bottom of casserole pan and set aside.(I baked this at 350 for about 7 minutes to try and get it firmed up a bit) Brown beef, onion, and green pepper. Add chili powder, garlic, salt and pepper, and mix well(This is where I would add some cumin). Add tomato paste, Ro-Tel, corn, and kidney beans. (*this is where I would add the cilantro)
~~~~Spread over the cornmeal crust and top evenly with cheese. Bake 20-25 minutes at 350*.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Chicken Thighs Italiano with Couscous

As previously stated, I went to a cooking class and while there my intense shopping desires became prevalent and I was "forced" to purchase a pan... So, today I decided to use it. I was quite impressed with my pan and with this recipe.

Chicken Thighs Italiano with Whole Wheat Couscous
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (original recipe called for 8, but I used 1 lb and decided on 1 chicken breast per serving)
Black pepper
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 shallots, chopped
1 cup Chicken Broth, divided
Juice from 1 lemon
1 (8-ounce) package sliced mushrooms
1 (14 1/2-ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained
1/2 tsp dried rosemary
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp driedbasil
1 tablespoon capers
10 whole black olives
1 cup Whole Wheat Couscous (you could use a boxed couscous which would be great as well)

In a large skillet over medium heat, heat olive oil. Add chicken and lightly pepper. Cook 12 to 15 minutes per side, until lightly browned. Transfer to a plate and cover with aluminum foil.
In the same skillet, add the garlic and shallots. Cook for 2 minutes or until they begin browning, stir frequently. Add 1/2 cup chicken broth and stir to combine and loosen any bits that have stuck to the pan bottom.
Add the mushrooms and stir to combine. Add remaining 1/2 cup chicken broth, bring to a simmer. Add tomatoes, rosemary, thyme, basil, capers and olives and bring to a simmer, cover the pan, reduce heat to low and cook for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
While sauce cooks, prepare couscous. (Add 1 cup boiling water to couscous in a bowl and cover tightly, let sit 5 mins and fluff with a fork)
To serve, place a chicken thighs on each plate. Place couscous next to chicken and top the couscous with tomato mixture.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Cooking Class

Last night I attended a cooking class with my sorority sisters in the Nashville Alum Association. It was a great event (albeit a tad long), but really great. It was held at a store that sells cookware (of the enamel cast iron persuasion)-- and, of course, I was sucked into buying a piece and would buy a few more if the envelopes (thank you Dave Ramsey) permitted...

Overall the class was, as I said, good, and I highly recommend people of all cooking levels to attend one because it is somewhat like watching the Food Network... you can't help but pick up some tips and good ideas.

So, I've decided to post the recipes for you all. They are NOT figure friendly so please do not come after me if you eat all of these in one sitting till full and gain weight... They are however workable (and I will attempt to work them into my lifestyle in the coming weeks - well maybe not the fondue or dessert)...

- please note that the instructions on these are based on the usage of the enamel cast iron pans as noted above... These pans hold heat very well and can continue cooking things like rice and meat after they are removed from the stove top. They can also be put in the oven which is great! And, it seems as though it is considered sacrilegious to use them above medium unless boiling water...

Deconstructed Pan Grilled Caesar Salad

~They did not make with the anchovy oil which I think would be essential to this dish... it was also suggested to drizzle balsamic vinegar on the finished product and I think that would help tons!

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, chopped… garlic press is easiest
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
3 heads romaine lettuce hearts
½ lemon
Shaved parmesan
Anchovy oil from can of anchovies packed in oil
Handful fresh flat parsley leaves, chopped

Heat Grill pan over medium high heat.
In a small bowl combine olive oil, garlic, a couple pinches of salt and 15 grinds of pepper. Cut lettuce heads in half lengthwise and brown with olive oil mixture.
Grill lettuce until nicely blackened and wilted. Grill in stages if your grill pan isn’t large enough to grill in one stage. Remove lettuce to a serving platter.
Squeeze lemon (cut side up) over the lettuce. Sprinkle parmesan over top and drizzle with anchovy oil. Finish with parsley.

Brie and Crab Fondue

~As previously stated, I do not know how you would make this figure friendly... if you can/do PLEASE let me know as it was definitely good... I would go a little up on the Hot Sauce~

¼ stick butter
4 shallots, peeled and chopped
2 Tbsp all purpose flour
1 ½ cups fish or chicken stock
2 cups ripe French Brie (do not use rind)
2/3 cups heavy cream
8 oz cooked crab meat, flaked
2 Tbps lemon juice
Hot sauce to taste
Freshly ground pepper
1 tsp paprika (use some smoked paprika if possible)
1 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley

Melt butter in a fondue pot and gently sauté shallots for 10 mins or until softened but not brown. Springs the flour and cook for another 2 mins to get the raw taste out of the flower. Gradually add the broth, stirring throughout until the mixture thickens, then simmer for 4 mins.
Cut brie without rind into cubes. Stir into fondue with cream. Continue to cook, stirring frequently until the mixture is smooth.
Stir in the crab meat and lemon juice, hot sauce, pepper and paprika and heat through.
Place over a fondue burner stir in parsley. Serve with dippers such as veggies, bread, pretzels, etc…

Pork Medallions with Cream and Mustard Sauce

~In the haste of the evening, I only got to try the pork and not the sauce... it explains why I thought that the pork was really lacking in flavor... I think I will try it with the sauce sometime soon... I think you could use Chicken Stock and FF evaporated milk to substitute in for the heavy cream and white wine.

2 ¼ lbs pork tenderloin
2 Tbl olive oil
1 Tbl butter
2 shallots, chopped
½ cup dry white wine
1 ¾ cup heavy cream
2 Tbl Dijon mustard
2 Tbl Whole grain mustard
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 package mushrooms

Trim the tenderloin of any fat and tendons. Cut into 1 ½ in. thick slices. Put these between pieces of plastic wrap and beat with meat mallet until ½ in thick. Season lightly with salt and pepper
Heat the oil and butter over medium heat. Add shallots and cook until soft but not brown. Add a few pork medallions at a time and fry for 2 to 3 mins on each side. Lift out the pork as each piece is ready and keep hot. Continue frying until all pieces are cooked.
Remove pan from heat and deglaze with white wine, stir in cream and mustard. Return pan to a medium heat simmer until the sauce bubbles and thickens slightly.
Put medallions and mushrooms back into sauce and reheat completely – adjust seasonings to taste. Serve with potatoes, noodles, rice, and a vegetable or salad.

Simple Vegetable and Rice

~I thought this dish was great although it needed some salt and pepper... I will definitely try this with olive oil instead of butter and with brown rice instead of white as they used last night... cooking time and time on stove top would need to be adjusted as these pans hold heat really well and can continue cooking off the stove top.

2 Tbl butter, soft
2 shallots
3 cups hot chicken broth
1 ¾ cups long grain rice
1 ½ cups broccoli florets
1 Tbl cilantro
1 tsp salt
Freshly ground pepper

Melt butter in pan over medium heat. Add shallots and gently cook without browning – 2 to 3 mins.
Stir in broth and bring to just barely a boil
Stir in rice, broccoli, cilantro and seasonings. Stir well and bring to slow boil.
Cover with lid, reduce heat to low – simmer 2 minutes
Remove pan from heat and leave to stand for 20 mins – do not remove the lid during standing time.

Mixed Berry Clafouti

~Ah, the piece de resistance... as dessert often is for me... I had a bite and it was well worth it. I would make this for family and friends in a heartbeat!!!! The mixed fruit was cherries, blackberries, raspberries, etc... YUM!

1 Tbl butter
4 eggs
1/3 cup honey
½ tsp vanilla extract
2 Tbl butter, melted
1 Tbl cherry brandy
1 cup all purpose flour
¼ tsp salt
1 cup heavy cream
1 ½ pounds mixed berries (frozen or fresh)
½ cup sugar
Whipped cream or ice cream to serve

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Grease oval or rectangular 9x13 enamel coated cast iron baking dish with the Tbl butter.
In mixing bowl, whisk eggs together with honey and vanilla. Stir in melted butter, brandy, flour, and salt… mix well.
Add creak and whisk into a smooth batter
In a separate bowl combine berries with sugar, tossing to coat evenly.
Pour fruit mixture into greased dish. Pour batter over fruit, bake for 40-45 mins until cake is firm and spongelike.
Allow to cool 5 minutes before serving with ice cream or whipped cream.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Italian Wedding Soup

This soup was pretty good... I would need to tweak it some to feel like it deserved a spot in the permanent recipe rotation, but it's definitely a good soup...

The pic is while is was still cooking on the stove, but it's just hard to get a pretty pic when it's soup... (and I ate it out of a plastic container - who wants to see that!)

Italian Wedding Soup serves 8
1 pound extra-lean ground beef 93/10 or 95/5 if you can find it
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup oatmeal
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese (*) fat free if you can find it
1 teaspoon dried basil
3 tablespoons minced onion
2 1/2 quarts chicken broth
2 cups spinach - packed, rinsed and thinly sliced
1 cup ww seashell or other small ww pasta
3/4 cup diced carrots

1 In a medium bowl, combine the beef, egg, oats, cheese, basil and onion. Shape mixture into 3/4-inch balls and set aside(Mine made about 24 meatballs). In a large stockpot broth to boiling; stir in the spinach, pasta, carrot and meatballs. Return to boil; reduce heat to medium. Cook, stirring frequently, at a
slow boil for 10 minutes or until pasta is al dente(be careful not to overcook the pasta). Serve hot with Parmesan cheese sprinkled on top.

**Notes - I added salt to the soup when boiling as well as pepper... I even threw in a little bit of ground nutmeg and 2 bay leaves for some extra flavor.
I might consider making the pasta separately and tossing it in during the last few minutes. I also might consider baking the meatballs first because I think it would give it more flavor.

Garlicky Butternut Squash

So, now you know that I like winter squash because they are cheap and good for you... well, here is a new way that I tried today to make it. I think that it turned out really well!!!

Garlicy Baked Butternut Squash Servings: 6
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1-2 tablespoons olive oil (use less for less calories
2 garlic cloves, minced - use a garlic press!
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
3 1/2 pounds butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese (*) you can sub fat free parm--if you can find it or veggie shreds

In a large bowl, combine the parsley, olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper. Add squash and toss to coat. Transfer to an ungreased shallow 2-qt. baking dish. Bake, uncovered, at 400 degrees F for 50-55 minutes or until squash is tender. Sprinkle parm on top with about 20-25 minutes remaining.

Spaghetti Squash

I love Spaghetti Squash (And apparently, so does my cat). It's very yummy, and doesn't really taste all that much like "squash". It also gives you big bang for your buck. This weekend I was able to purchase winter squash for $0.69/lb at our local veggie market (farmer's market kind of thing). Spaghetti Squash also packs a punch in the calorie department since it has under 50 calories for a cup of it. Since it can be used in place of pasta, it's great for low calorie cooking as pasta is closer to 200... and then some calories for a 2 oz serving dry.

So, how do you cook Spaghetti Squash you ask... well, it can be done in the microwave, but I like to bake it. So, cut the squash in half lengthwise, and scoop out the seeds. Prick the flesh of the squash with a knife a few times. Place into a 9x13 baking dish and put about 1 1/2 cups of water in the dish. Bake at 350 for 45-50 minutes until a fork can be insert into the skin and come out easily... Grab a fork and use it to release the strands from the flesh - it will look like spaghetti.

I really like to cook this with homemade spaghetti meat sauce, but love to have it (as I did last night) as a side dish... What I do is this...

Ricotta Spaghetti Squash
1 cup cooked spaghetti squash
1 Tbl Ricotta Cheese (*)-- you can use part-skim or fat-free
salt and pepper to taste
fresh italian parsley, chopped

Mix and serve warm

You could add some garlic, olive oil... the possibilities are endless. But, if you've never tried spaghetti squash - give it a try!!!

Here are pictures from last night...

Friday, November 7, 2008

Quinoa and Black Beans

Tonight for dinner I had what has become somewhat a staple in my new lifestyle... Quinoa and Black Beans. If you haven't yet tried Quinoa, I highly recommend it. It cooks up like rice, but has much more protein than rice. It is a grain, and I find it quite yummy and is often a great substitute for recipes that call for rice. You can find Quinoa at places like Whole Foods in their bulk aisle or Trader Joes if you have one near you... one opened in Nashville today - YAY! I have attached a picture although it probably doesn't do it justice!

Quinoa and Black Beans

1 tsp. canola oil
1 onion chopped
3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped - garlic press is the way to go here
3/4 cup uncooked quinoa
1 1/2 cups beef broth (You could use chicken, but I find it better with beef broth)
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup frozen corn kernels
2 cans (15 oz.) black beans, rinsed and drained--It is much cheaper and fairly easy to make your own and cuts down on the sodium
1/2 cup fresh chopped cilantro
**Variations, add a jalapeno (seeded and chopped), a green bell pepper seeded and chopped to the first step and some cooked leftover chicken at the end with the corn.

Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the onion and garlic, and saute until slightly browned.
Rinse quinoa with cold water (Use a Fine Sieve). Mix quinoa into the saucepan and cover with broth.
Season with cumin, cayenne pepper, salt and pepper. Bring the mixture to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes. Add corn and cook an additional 5 min. or until corn is heated through. Stir in black beans and cilantro.

I serve it with a little fat free sour cream or fat free Greek yogurt and some more cilantro...

I found out tonight that it freezes well also.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Beef and Vegetable Soup

This is my dinner tonight... I had it in the freezer, and will have the leftovers from that portion tomorrow.

I really like this soup(can you see a soup theme)... I keep it on hand at all times, and it freezes really well. You can make it in a pot as the recipe recommends, or you can make it in the crockpot--much easier if you are busy :-)

Beef and Vegetable Soup
2 Tbl Olive Oil
1 small onion diced
3 celery stalks, sliced
2 medium carrots, sliced
1/2 small head cabbage, shredded
1 medium zucchini, cut into 1/2 inch chunks
1 1/2 pounds lean stew beef, cut into 1/2 inch chunks
4/5 small turnips (diced)
1 parsnip
1 28oz can tomatoes
6 cups water (I actually use beef stock)
1 16 oz can of cut green beans, drained
3 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon basil

In a heavy saucepot, over high heat, heat olive oil, cook onion, celery, carrots, cabbage, and zucchini until vegetables are lightly browned. You will need to stir frequently. Remove vegetables with a slotted spoon and set aside.
In same pot, cook beef chucnks, stirring often, until meat is well browned on all sides.
Peel turnips and chop up as well as parsnips. Add to meat chunks the reserved vegetables, turnips, parsnip, tomatoes with their liquid, and remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer 25-30 minutes or until beef and turnips/parsnips are fork tender.

*Again you can cook this in a crockpot, and it is just as yummy... when you brown the cabbage it gives it more of a sauerkraut taste which is yummy to me. You can also substitute other veggies if you prefer... or sub potatoes for the turnips/parsnips...

This pic won't do it justice... but it's a great comforting soup...

Curried Butternut Squash Soup

I love fall because it's cool enough to start eating soups again... soups have been a staple of my diet. This one is one that I have almost every day... so yummy! Sometimes I use less curry and add poultry seasoning and ground nutmeg instead...

Curried Butternut Squash Soup (Adapted from Ellie Krieger - Food Network)
1 tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 (2 1/2-pound) butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes
6 cups low-sodium chicken broth or vegetable broth (*I prefer chicken broth)
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons curry powder (as stated above, I often use 1TBL as well as a little poultry seasoning and grated nutmeg.)
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more, to taste
2 tablespoons honey (*)
4 teaspoons plain low-fat yogurt, for garnish

Heat oil over medium heat in a 6-quart stockpot. Add onions and garlic and saute until soft but not brown, about 6 to 7 minutes. Add the butternut squash, broth, curry powder and salt and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until squash is tender, about 12 to 15 minutes. Remove from heat stir in honey and puree with an immersion blender or in batches in a blender until smooth. Season with salt, to taste.
Ladle into serving bowls and add a dollop of yogurt.

Getting Started

Well, about 2 months ago I decided to get my act together and start shedding some pounds... I've been up and down for years with my weight and It just seemed like a good time to kick it into high gear... Along with that I've been experimenting with a lot of new recipes. I decided to start this blog so that I can keep up with what I like and don't like, and also share my "finds" with all the people who (don't) read my blog :-) I am no good at blogging, but I'm going to try and get better...

As you are reading through... If you notice a (*) this is for an indulgence in a recipe. It's something that might add more calories than necessary and you might be able to find a lower cal substitute, but then again, sometimes it's worth it!!!