Tuesday, September 04, 2012

So Good, Very Easy and Super Fast!

I have a thing for udon noodles.  OK really all noodles, but udon noodles are so thick and yummy looking I find them hard to resist.  This is why I end up buying the instant udon soup bowls from Costco.  Granted these are not the healthiest items in the world, but with a bit of doctoring you can seriously up the protein and veggie count.  The sodium is high, so just don't have it everyday, or do what I do, resist the urge to suck up every last bit of broth.

I came back from yoga today looking for a fast lunch.  I saw the udon in the pantry and that was it, I had to have it. There's nothing like a good bowl of udon with some poached eggs on top.  OK crappy carbs and good protein, what could I add?  I looked in the refrigerator and saw the bag of fresh spinach. Bingo! The addition of spinach would allow this meal to pass my "needs to be at least sort of healthy" requirement.

Ingredients:

instant udon soup bowl
2 eggs
handful of spinach leaves
1 teaspoon or so hoisin sauce
sriracha sauce
water
white vinegar

Put on a small sauce pan with a splash of vinegar and heat to almost boiling.  Meanwhile heat more water to boiling for the soup.  Place the spinach leaves in a bowl.

When the water is ready, start the soup prep according to the directions. At the same time drop the eggs into the pan with the vinegar and water to poach for 2-3 minutes.  When the soup is ready pour it over the spinach in the bowl, stir in the hoisin sauce, drop the eggs on top and add sriracha to taste.  

Friday, August 17, 2012

Stuffed Peppers in the Crock Pot



Every Thursday night is raft night at our pool, but I wasn't really thinking about that when I prepped my dinner for the evening.  What I was thinking about was how I wanted something easy and tasty to make that I could put together in the morning, so I didn't have to cook later in the day. That is the perfect description for this recipe.  There is very little chopping and preparation is fast. What is really cool is that it looks like more time was spent on it.

But is it pool food? Well, after I started putting this together a friend called and mentioned raft night, which is one of my daughter's favorite pool events, so I decided we would go.  How to get our dinner to the pool?  Lug the crock pot?  Transfer the peppers to a Tupperware container, but how to keep it hot?  I have the perfect solution.  A few years ago my mom gave me an insulated dish with a locking lid. There are no markings on it anywhere, so I am not sure if it is this brand or not but check out these bowls by ThermoKing. When I first got it I wasn't sure how I was going to use it, but this summer I figured it out. This bowl has been a lifesaver for me when it comes to bringing dinner to the pool.  It keeps things hot for hours. So yes, these peppers are now considered pool food!

As for the recipe, I adapted this version from an old family recipe that I grew up with. It was a good recipe without tweaking, but since it used minute rice, which I don't have in my kitchen, I needed to make at least one revision.  So, of course further tweaking ensued. I started with brown rice, which I cooked in vegetable broth for additional flavor. I also added carrots, fresh parsley, Worcestershire sauce, garlic and Parmesan cheese.  My mom always made this in the oven and since I was going the crock pot route I wanted to kick up the flavor a bit. Plus the brown rice and carrots give it a nutritional boost.

I apologize for only having a precooked pic, in our rush to get to the pool I forgot to take another picture before pulling the peppers out of the pot.  Don' t worry it looked pretty much the same, only cooked.

Crock Pot Stuffed Peppers


Serving Size  : 4 (Note on serving size, this recipe is set up as one whole pepper per serving and that is what the nutritional analysis reflects. But I think a half of a pepper is more reasonable serving.)



4 large  green peppers
1/2 medium  onion -- chopped fine
1 1/2 pounds  ground beef, extra lean
8 ounces  tomato sauce
1 large  egg
1 1/2 cups  cooked brown rice
1/2 teaspoon  fresh parsley -- chopped fine
salt
pepper

1/3 cup  Parmesan cheese -- shredded
1 teaspoon  Worcestershire sauce
2 medium  carrots -- shredded
1 clove  garlic -- pressed
6 ounces  tomato paste

  • Wash green peppers, cut tops off and remove ribs and seeds. Place in crock pot.
  • In a large bowl, mix the remaining ingredients except the tomato paste.
  • Stuff the peppers with the ground beef mixture.
  • Spread tomato paste on the top of each pepper.
  • Add about an inch of water to the bottom of the crock pot.
  • Cook on low for 8-10 hours or high for 4-5 hours.

Per Serving: 636 Calories; 34g Fat (47.1% calories from fat); 42g Protein; 43g Carbohydrate; 7g Dietary Fiber; 176mg Cholesterol; 962mg Sodium.  Exchanges: 1 Grain(Starch); 5 Lean Meat; 4 1/2 Vegetable; 3 1/2 Fat; 0 Other Carbohydrates.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Sunny Side Up Eggs and Veggies


Weekends at our house mean a big breakfast.  Not huge, but usually an omelet, maybe some bacon or sausage (turkey or pork), and toast, bagel or sometimes home fries.  At a certain point this gets boring.  I know you can put a zillion things in a omelet, so how can it get boring? Case in point, Saturday's mushroom, celery, asparagus and goat cheese omelet was quite tasty.  But I digress, yes, I get bored making omelets every weekend morning, I wanted something a little different. 

Some of my best ideas are free form, I wasn't sure what I wanted except that I wanted it to have sauteed veggies.  I knew the hubby wanted eggs, and the idea of potatoes sound good.  I didn't want to use an excessive amount of pans, so I decided one pan for home fries and one for the veggies and potatoes, are we wondering into omelet territory here?  Almost. I sauteed the veggies and then made space in the pan for four sunny side-up eggs.


Once everything was cooked, I wanted it to be a"dish" not three separate items, so I piled each item on top of the other.  This allowed the yolks to blend with the other ingredients.  Have fun with this, just like an omelet the possibilities are endless.

Sunny Side Up Eggs and Veggies

Serving Size  : 2 
3/4 teaspoon  olive oil
1 large  russet potato -- chopped into 1/2 inch peices
3 tablespoons  red onion -- chopped fine
salt
pepper
seasoning salt
1/2 cup  water
1 tablespoon  coconut oil
1 stalk  celery -- sliced thin
4 ounces  mushrooms -- sliced
5 stalks  asparagus -- cut in 1" pieces
4 large  eggs
1 1/2 ounces  Havarti cheese -- sliced into strips


  • In a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat, cook potatoes in olive oil for 2-3 minutes.  Add 1/2 cup water, lower heat to medium, cover and cook for about 10 minutes or until tender. Remove lid, add 1/2 the chopped onions, sprinkle with salt, pepper and seasoning salt and then brown.
  • Meanwhile, in a large non-stick skillet over medium to medium-high heat, saute celery in coconut oil for 2 minutes and then add the mushrooms for another 2-3 minutes.  Add the asparagus, cook one minute longer. 
  • Arrange veggies in a cross shape, creating four pockets for the eggs. 
  • Reduce heat to medium and crack an egg into each pocket. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and seasoning salt.  Cook until the whites are set.
  • To serve, split the potatoes between two plates.  Top each portion of potatoes with two eggs side by side.  Top the eggs with the sauteed veggiesnd then equal strips of Havarti cheese.

                                    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Per Serving: 332 Calories; 22g Fat (59% calories from fat); 21g Protein; 14g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 447mg Cholesterol; 315mg Sodium.  Exchanges: 1/2 Grain(Starch); 2 1/2 Lean Meat; 1 Vegetable; 2 1/2 Fat.

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Cucumber and Avocado Summer Rolls

Spring rolls with Portobella Mushrooms




Today's post is more of a recipe review than a recipe posting.  This is not my recipe, although I am quickly finding ways to switch it up.  I found it on Pinterest, one of my new addictions.  I have found tons of new recipe ideas surfing through pictures of food that people have posted there. As I try new recipes I find that some flop, and I kick myself for it because I can see it happening as I prepare it, but I think I should follow the recipe to the letter.  My advice to myself, and everyone else with decent cooking sense, is to follow your gut.  If it looks like it needs something, forget what the recipe says and jump in and do something!

Fortunately this is not one of those recipes.  This recipe is perfect all on it's own.  Not that I won't mess with it, because summer rolls are these cute little collections of food rolled up in a rice paper wrapper, and the possibilities are endless.  The original recipe was published on the Williams-Sonama site titled Cucumber and Avocado Summer Rolls.  The only permanent change I made to the original recipe is to add fresh cilantro.  I also do not make the dipping sauce.  I prefer hoisin and peanut sauces, which I buy in the jar at my Asian market.

I do switch up some the ingredients for my family because I am the only avocado fan in the house.  In the picture above I replaced the avocado with sauteed portobella mushroom slices.  These were quite tasty, although they were better fresh than the next day.  I also want to try and make them the traditional way with shrimp and pork.  Before trying this recipe I had never made summer rolls, so I went to YouTube and found a few videos to get a visual on the process.  I think this helped tremendously.  You can check them out here: Vietnamese Spring Rolls at #141 and How to assemble a Vietnamese Spring Roll

All in all summer rolls are relatively easy to make and are really great healthy summer food option.





Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Chicken Chili

This has been one hot summer.  It started with a very warm spring, which at the time was very welcome.  The gardens sprouted up early and everything was so nice and green.  Now everything is dry and brown. So even though it is only the beginning of August, I find myself dreaming of fall, wearing boots and long sleeves, and cooking up good comfort food.

One of my go to dishes as the air starts to get crisp is chicken chili.  This recipe is a nice balance between comfort food and eating healthy.  The fat count is nice and low and the protein count high.  Plus if you use a rostisseree chicken, the prep time is pretty easy.  You could also use fresh chicken, just add a few hours to the crock pot cooking time.  You can always do this on the stove, but of course the crock pot is great because you can get this going early in the day and then later when you are tired your dinner is already made.

Chicken Chili

1 tablespoon  olive oil
1 Rotisseree Chicken, meat only
1/2 onion -- chopped
2 cloves  garlic -- minced
1/2 green pepper -- chopped
15 ounces  kidney beans, canned -- drained
14.5 ounces  tomatoes, canned -- diced
1/8 cup  chili pepper, canned -- diced
1/2 cup  chicken broth
1 teaspoon  cilantro -- chopped
2 teaspoons  chili powder
1/2 teaspoon  cumin
1 tablespoon  ketchup
3 ounces  tomato paste
1 tablespoon  barbecue sauce
1 teaspoon  Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon  oregano
1/2 teaspoon  garlic salt
1/2 teaspoon  garlic powder
1 tablespoon  salsa verde
1 tablespoon  salsa
  • Saute chicken meat in olive oil.
  • Add onion, green pepper and garlic and saute a minute or two longer.
  • Transfer to crock pot.
  • Add remaining ingredients.
  • Cook on low for 3 or more hours.

Serve over pasta (preferably whole wheat or brown rice pasta), or with bread, and variety of fixings such as shredded low fat cheese, chopped onions and minced chili peppers.

Sunday, August 05, 2012

Red Curry Tofu Stir-fry over Rice Noodles

I love tofu, it's an inexpensive lean protein that is easy to use.  What makes it even more fabulous is that my daughter loves it.  Dinner time can be a real struggle, so I am amazed to find that that tofu works for her.  It makes sense, given that it is basically flavorless, but the texture can be hard for some kids to get past.  Although I have to admit I get stuck in a rut with it, meaning that I often use it for stir fry.  I love stir fry, it's quick and easy and a good way to put a lot of veggies into a meal.  One of my goals is to find other uses for tofu...
In the meantime, the stir-fry for this post is Red Curry Tofu Stir-fry over Rice Noodles. If you are not a tofu fan you can easily replace it with chicken, beef or pork.

Red Curry Tofu Stir-fry over Rice Noodles



Serving Size  : 4    

Ingredients:
12 ounces  tofu, firm
     water
8 ounces  rice noodles
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 small  red onion -- thinly sliced
2 cloves  garlic -- pressed
1 tablespoon red curry paste
8 ounces  mushrooms -- sliced
1 green pepper -- thinly sliced
10 stalks  asparagus -- cut into 2" pieces
1/2 teaspoon ginger paste
1 tablespoon soy sauce

  
  • Slice tofu in to 1/8 thick pieces and place on paper towels.  Then cover with paper towels and press to remove excess moisture.
  • Heat water and soak rice noodles as package directs, 8-10 minutes.  Drain and set aside.
  • Meanwhile, in a wok, saute onion in oil over med-high to high heat for a few minutes, then add garlic and curry paste, saute for 1 minute more.
  • Add tofu slices and stir fry until beginning to brown.
  • Add mushrooms and stir-fry a few minutes.
  • Add ginger paste, green peppers and asparagus.  Stir-fry until heated through.
  • Serve over rice noodles with soy sauce.
                                    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Nutritional Analysis from Mastercook.  Per Serving: 366 Calories; 10g Fat (22.9% calories from fat); 10g Protein; 62g Carbohydrate; 4g Dietary Fiber; 1mg Cholesterol; 386mg Sodium.  Exchanges: 3 1/2 Grain(Starch); 2 Lean Meat; 2 Vegetable; 1 1/2 Fat.

Friday, August 03, 2012

Seafood Stew


I've been thinking about getting this blog up and running on a more regular basis.  I cook most days of the week, some tried and true recipes and some new ideas.  Many times I am too busy to stop and write it down. Lately though, I have been trying to snap pictures as I go along, that way when I do have the time (and/or the motivation) to document the recipe I have a picture to use.  Of course, my pics are the iphone variety, sometimes glitzed up with a trip through Instagram, instead of the fancy food styling photos found on many of today's food blogs, but they will have to do.

Even though I am a little of this and a little of that type of cook with a loosey goosey measuring system, it's good for me to document my recipes. One, if I do it in Mastercook, it allows me to get an idea of the nutritional analysis and two, because it makes it easier to plan meals and filter the ingredients to a grocery list.   Planning meals = saving money.

So today I went through my on hand photos and found this one of a seafood stew that a made a few weeks back. This dish is a hearty favorite, it's one of those catch all dishes that you can throw anything into.  My version has evolved from a basic tomato base stew with fish in it, to a heartier, creamy version utilizing corn, potatoes and coconut milk. The beauty of this recipe is that you can make it mostly from items in your pantry or freezer, plus throw in a few items from the fridge that need to be used and you have a great meal.



Seafood Stew

Serving Size: 8


Ingredients:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion -- chopped
3 cloves garlic -- pressed
1 each jalapeno pepper -- minced
2 medium potatoes -- 1/2" cubes
1 ear corn
28 ounces crushed tomatoes
15 ounces chicken broth
1/4 cup red wine
1 cup water
2 tablespoons fresh parsley -- chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons basil
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
12 ounces cod
1 pound shrimp -- shells removed
10 ounces clams, canned -- undrained
13.5 ounces coconut milk

·         In large pot, sauté onions in oil until they begin to soften, add the garlic and jalapeno and sauté 1 to 2 minutes longer.

·         Cut the corn off the cob and add it to pot with the potatoes. Add the tomatoes thru the black pepper and simmer until the potatoes are almost tender.

·         Cut the fish into large pieces and add to the pot, cook until it begins to break apart.

·         Add shrimp and clams and cook 5-6 minutes.

·         Add coconut milk and cook until heated through.

·         Serve with salad and crusty bread.





As calculated By Mastercook. Per Serving: 376 Calories; 18g Fat (41.6% calories from fat); 33g Protein; 22g Carbohydrate; 4g Dietary Fiber; 128mg Cholesterol; 864mg Sodium.  Exchanges: 1/2 Grain(Starch); 4 Lean Meat; 1 1/2 Vegetable; 0 Fruit; 3 Fat; 0 Other Carbohydrates.




Thursday, August 02, 2012

Sour Cream Enchiladas

I've been craving enchiladas.  Real ones, not the low fat version.  Don't get me wrong, I can hang with the low fat version if I have to, but there is one thing I hate about the low fat version.  The tortillas are not fried and this causes a major issue, soggy tortillas.  They soak up the sauce and the liquid of the filling, and become mush.  In the interest of health I can usually make this sacrifice, since I have not come up with any other means of remedying the issue other than frying the tortillas. 
Well today, I wanted to make the long version of chicken enchiladas and soggy tortillas were not going make it worth my while.  Not that it is an overwhelming amount of work, but it does take some time. I decided the way to feel good about frying the tortillas would be to fry them in coconut oil.  This is an ingredient that I am constantly trying to get into my body for many health reasons, so even though it raises the fat count, it's a good fat.  I used organic coconut oil, which is flavorless, don't use extra virgin coconut oil for this dish, it is has too much coconut flavor. If this isn't your thing you can always heat the tortillas in the microwave or wrap them in foil and heat them for a few minutes in the oven to get them soft.
As always please note that my measurements are approximate, I rarely measure anything when I cook my own recipes, so adjust to your taste.  Also although I feel this is my recipe, I should give credit to the original recipe that I morphed my version from over time. It can be found in The Good Housekeeping Illustrated Cookbook Copyright 1980, on page 270.  It used canned chicken and mushrooms and not nearly as many other ingredients, but it is the basis for my recipe.
 
Laura's Sour Cream Chicken Enchiladas
 
Ingredients:

1 whole chicken
1 each onion -- Chopped
4 each garlic cloves -- smashed
Water
2 each bay leaves, whole
1/4 teaspoon thyme
1/4 teaspoon cumin powder
1/8 teaspoon garlic salt
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon celery salt
1/4 teaspoon poultry seasoning
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon onion powder
3/4 each red onion -- chopped
8 ounces mushrooms -- chopped
2 Tablespoons olive oil
4 ounces canned chili peppers -- minced and mild
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon pepper
16 ounces fat free sour cream
16 ounces light sour cream
1/2 cup salsa verde
20 each corn tortilla
1/3 cup coconut oil
1 cup cheddar cheese, lowfat -- shredded
 
Prepare the chicken:
 
  • Add chicken, onion, garlic and following seasonings to a large pot.  Cover with water.  over med high heat bring to a boil, then cover pot and reduce to a simmer for 1 hour, or until chicken is tender.
  • Use two forks to pull chicken meat off the bone and shred in medium size pieces.
  • Return everything except the meat back to the pot, add more water and simmer longer for stock to use at a later time. After awhile, strain the broth and freeze it in soup containers for other recipes.
 
Prepare the filling:
 
  • Sauté the onion in olive oil until slightly soft.  Add mushrooms and sauté a few minutes longer.
  • Add the shredded chicken, 1 lade full of chicken stock, canned chilies, chili powder, salt, garlic, powder, and pepper to mixture.  Remove from heat and stir in about 1/2 cup of each type of sour cream.
 
Assemble the enchiladas:
 
  • Blend remaining sour cream with salsa verde.  Spray large casserole dish with nonstick spray and then spoon in 1 cup of so of sour cream mixture to cover the bottom of the pan.
  • Heat Coconut oil in small skillet over med heat.
  • Once oil is hot, fry tortillas one at in oil for 1 or two seconds on each side, put the tortilla on a plate and spoon 1/2 cup or so of chicken mixture onto the tortilla.
  • Roll up the tortilla and place seam side down in the casserole dish.  Repeat with remaining tortillas.
  • Top the enchiladas with the remaining sour cream mixture and then sprinkle with cheese.
  • Bake at 450 degrees for about 10 minutes or until bubbly.  If you don't want to cook it right away, cover the pan with foil and refridgerate it.  Pull it out about an hour before you are ready to cook it and then cook for about 20-30 minutes, uncover it for the last 10 minutes.

 
 

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Very Veggie Lasagna

I love lasagna, but the reality is that it is filled with low value carbs and fat.  I've been cutting the fat content for years using part skim dairy products, but I wanted to up the nutritional value of this favorite to make it a guilt free option on our menu.  So I decided an increase in veggie count would be the way to go.

I started by breaking down the elements of my regular lasagna, first on the list was the sauce.  I usually use some sort of meat in my sauce, so to cut calories and fat I decided to go with a straight tomato sauce.  This does not need to be boring, there is something really fabulous about a sauce of tomatoes, garlic and fresh basil.  These ingredients served as the base.

The next element is the cheese. Usually I go with a mix of ricotta, mozzarella, parmesan and egg. I also saw some room to cut calories here.  I like the cheese, but I wanted a lighter feel to the lasagna and envisioned a thin creamy layer instead of a thicker heavy layer. To accomplish this, I cut the amount of ricotta in half, skipped the egg and added milk to make it more of a sauce, allowing a little to go a long way.

The last item, and star of this lasagna was the addition of lots of veggies.  I used a mandolin to make the most delicate paper thin slices.  I knew that these slices would not only add great flavor and bulk, but that they could also replace some of the noodles. In fact, my daughter thought they were noodles and actually ate them! SCORE!

Here is the recipe, remember this is a guideline, next time I make it I am sure some of the veggies will change.  Use what you like, what is in season, or just what needs to be used in your refrigerator.
  .
Very Veggie Lasagna

Sauce
5 cloves garlic crushed
2 T olive oil
Bunch of basil chopped
2 -28 cans crushed tomatoes
¼ cup red wine
salt and pepper
2 T. Honey

12 lasagna noodles
salt

Cheese
1 small container part skim ricotta
½ cup 2% milk
½ cup grated parmesan cheese
2 oz thinly shredded mozzarella part skim

Veggies
1 eggplant sliced very thin, salted
1 yellow squash
1 grey squash or zucchini
1 pack portabella mushrooms, thinly sliced

 6 oz thinly shredded mozzarella part skim


Preheat oven to 350 degrees and prepare large pan with Pam spray.  Start with the red sauce.  Heat oil in sauté pan over medium heat and add garlic, stir for a minute or two.  Add the remaining sauce ingredients and allow it to simmer while preparing the ingredients for the other layers.

Cook pasta in salted water according to the directions on the package. Drain and set aside in cool water until needed.

In medium bowl, mix the cheese sauce ingredients.

Prepare the veggies by slicing them thinly using a mandolin slicer. Do the eggplant slices first so you can remove some of the bitterness they hold.  Spread them out on a paper towel and sprinkle with salt and then another paper towel.  Slice the remaining veggies on the mandolin and then slice the portabellas by hand.

Assemble lasagna:  pour about 1 cup of sauce in the bottom the pan.  Then line the bottom with 4 noodles.  Top with the eggplants slices, then half of the cheese sauce. Add a thin layer of the red sauce then layer on the yellow squash.  Add another thin layer of the red sauce and a layer of 4 noodles.  Next put the layer of grey squash or zucchini and then the other half of the cheese sauce.  Top with the portabella mushrooms, the last 4 noodles and a layer of red sauce. Cover with foil and bake for 1 to 1 ¼ hours or until bubbly.  The pan I use is a huge polish stoneware pan and it takes longer to bake in this pan than others, so start checking at 45 minutes if using a glass or aluminum pan.  Once the lasagna is nice and bubbly remove foil and sprinkle 6 oz of mozzarella on top.  Return to the oven for a few minutes for the cheese to melt.  Allow the lasagna to set for at least 15 minutes before slicing.


I popped the ingredients for this recipe into Mastercook.  I estimated 12 servings for this recipe, which are very nice hearty servings, and the nutritional analysis was quite pleasing.  Per serving:

316 calories
10 grams of fat (5 saturated fat)
17 grams of protein
41 grams of carbohydrates
5 grams fiber

Seconds anyone?

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Ziti Rigate Alfredo with Shrimp and Broccoli

My new addiction is Pinterest. It is a visual feast.  I love the gardening pictures and the decorating ideas, but most of all I love the food pictures and recipes.  Although, I have to be careful not get to too caught up with exact recipes because there are many items that are very calorie heavy.  I came across a pin the other day for a Shrimp Alfredo dish by Cooking Light, but one ingredient, half and half, caught my eye.  I don't feel like I need to use half and half for an Alfredo sauce.  I've been making a mock Alfredo sauce for years for my daughter who refuses to eat any sort of red sauce.  It is quick, just a little Olivio, 2% milk and Parmesan cheese.  The starch from the pasta helps bind it.  We have gotten so used to the light version that a real Alfredo sauce is just too much. I did like the idea of using a bit light cream cheese though, so I incorporated that in my redo. This recipe was presented with asparagus on the side but I thought it would be a great one dish meal if I added the veggie to the recipe.  I had a head of broccoli in the fridge so that was what I decided to use.

I find that lately I have been trying many new recipes and some are great and some are just so-so.  On the ones that are just so-so I sometimes kick myself.  This is because as I am making it I can feel that something isn't right, but since it is new to me I stick to the recipe.  Big mistake.  I find that using my instincts and the recipe as a general guideline works much better, this is why I remade the Cooking Light recipe.  In my recipe you'll see some approximate amounts, this is because in a dish like this I don't measure out my ingredients I just add them and add a little more if needed.  Do your own thing with it.


Ziti Rigate Alfredo with Shrimp and Broccoli

1 lb. ziti rigate
salt

1 T virgin coconut oil
¼ red onion sliced thin
2 cloves garlic crushed
1 lb. shrimp
1 small head of broccoli, stems sliced, and florets in bite size pieces
1-2 T olive oil

2 T olivio
3 T reduced fat cream cheese
1 ½ - 2 cups reduced fat milk
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 t chopped fresh Italian parsley
Salt and pepper to taste
 

Cook ziti rigate in salted water as directed on the package.  Meanwhile heat the coconut oil in a wok on medium heat, add the onion and cook for a few minutes.  Raise the heat to medium high and add the shrimp and crushed garlic, stir fry for a minute to regain the heat in the pan and then add the broccoli, add a bit of olive oil as needed.  Set aside when the shrimp is cooked through.
 
Drain the ziti and set aside.  Heat the pan used for the ziti on low and add the olivio, cream cheese, milk and Parmesan. Stir to melt and mix in the cheeses.  Add the parsley, salt and pepper. Then stir in the ziti.  If needed add a bit more milk to desired consistency.  Stir the shrimp and broccoli mixture into the ziti mixture and serve.




Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Making The Most of The Roast

The makings of my beef and veggie stir-fry
At the start of the new year, I vowed to reinstate the practice of better meal planning.  This process has been great.  It saves us money because there is a plan instead of buying ingredients on a whim or craving.  It saves me time because even though it takes a chunk of time to plan the menu based on my pantry and freezer stock, what is on sale and of course what recipes I want to try; once it's done, it frees me up the rest of the week from having to think about it.  Lastly, we make better use of the ingredients we have, so there is less waste to toss out on trash night, ka-ching!

This week's menu was based around a New York strip roast that I bought last month when they were on sale for half the amount you would normally pay.  That's when I stock up and put them in the freezer.  I try to use them within a few months of the original purchase.  In the past I would thaw one, cook it and then have leftovers, but it is a lot of meat so it wasn't unusual for the last bit to go to waste.  This week's menu has taken this quantity of meat into account.  The first night it was a roast with au jus, baked potatoes and broccoli.  A good steakhouse kind of meal. 

As yummy as that was we also want to keep in mind that we are working to base many of our meals around less meat and more veggies.  That is where night two comes in.  I used a chunk of the leftover roast to make a great beef and veggie stir fry (recipe to follow) which I served over rice.  A little meat goes a long way.  This is great basic recipe that you can use with a variety of meats, tofu and veggies.  Whatever you have on hand.

Before I move to night three which will be spaced a few nights out from the original meal with the roast so we don't overdose on beef, I need to mention that there were also two lunches utilizing this same roast.  The first was the day after the original meal.  There was a baked potato leftover so it served as the basis for the lunch.  I sauteed some mushrooms and asparagus spears along with a few slices of beef.  I heated up the potato, topped it with reduced fat sour cream, and then topped it all with the beef mixture.  The second lunch was a leftover portion from Monday night's beef and veggie stir fry. 

Last but not least, the final portion of the roast will be used to make one of my favorite meals, beef stroganoff. It will be a busy day with two volunteer gigs at school as well as soccer practice during the time I would normally cook dinner, so I will employ my crock pot.  I'll saute some onions and add them to the crock pot with the leftover au jus, slices of the remaining beef, canned mushrooms and a splash of red wine.  I'll let that slow cook for a few hours. Once we get home from soccer practice, I'll stir in some reduced fat sour cream, cook some egg noodles, throw a bag of steam fresh veggies in the microwave and dinner will be ready.  Plus leftovers for lunch the next day!

So from one $24 roast, I will create three family dinners plus three lunches.  The plan is working. No wasted food. Now for the stir fry recipe.  The measurements are always approximate for this dish and the ingredients constantly change.  I think the most important thing is make sure you add the items that need to cook the longest to the wok first and then move to items that need the least cooking time.  In this recipe beef is almost last, because I really only want to heat it through.  If you use raw meat or fresh tofu, I would add it first to give it the most cooking time.  Also, have everything ready to roll, this process is fast and you don't want to over cook anything.

Beef and Veggie Stir-Fry Over Rice

Cooked rice, brown, jasmine, white...whatever you want
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 - 1 red onion thinly sliced
1/2 - 1 zucchini, sliced in large strips
1/2 - 1 red bell pepper thinly sliced
4 -8 oz mushrooms sliced
1-2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 - 1 inch ginger paste ( or freshly grated ginger)
1/4 - 1 inch red pepper paste, depending on your heat preference
1-2 cups sliced leftover beef
4-8 oz shredded purple cabbage
a few splashes of soy sauce

As discussed above have everything ready to go in the pot.  Have the rice cooked and set aside.  Heat the wok on med-high to high and add the olive oil.  Add the ingredients in the order listed, stirring each item for a minute or so, once the ingredient is hot, add the next.  Try not add too much to the wok at any one time to keep the heat level up.  Once the last item is hot, in this case the purple cabbage, remove the wok from the heat, add the soy sauce to taste and serve over rice.







Sunday, January 01, 2012

New Year, New Goals

I always think it's a bit silly of us all to make New Year's resolutions. Of course I recognize the value of using the start of a new year to mark your own fresh start, but the truth of the matter is that usually our resolutions only last for about a week or so. Not always true, but many times it is.  I know when I want to make a change I go BIG and crazy and it gets to be overwhelming and time consuming.  This past year, not on Jan 1st, somewhere like Aug 28th, I made a goal to halt the weight gain that seemed to be taking hold of my body.  I knew from past experiences that going BIG was not going to work.  So I decided on small tweaks.  The small tweaks worked, I now weigh less than I have for at least 10-12 years.  It is nice to start the year not saying this will be the year I will lose weight, but now I have a new goal.  After shaving about 10 percent of my body weight off, I want to do the same for my spending.

This is a tough one.  Since converting to a stay at home mom in 2008, I have been shaving off expenses and certainly all the low hanging fruit has been picked. Combine that with the cost of food, gas and every other necessity going up and you have a challenge on your hands.  Like the weight loss goal, I already have the tools; I think I just need to make a few tweaks.  I like to use coupons but I don't always bother because I am busy. CouponMom has a great philosophy, buy when the price is right not when you need it. This requires planning, so just as I have put mandatory gym visits in my weekly schedule, I need to put shopping planning sessions into my schedule too.  This of course requires meal planning, something I used to do, but somehow stopped.  I saw a great Tweet this morning about meal planning by the author of 3 Boys and a Dog.  She had some great common sense suggestions, things I had been thinking about, but put into a laid out plan.  I think this will be helpful for tweak number one.  I will set aside time to figure what I have in stock, what is on sale and use that info to plan a menu for the week.

So while my normal plan action is to go BIG and crazy with a new goal, I think instead I will reel myself in and start with this simple tweak.  Maybe this New Year's resolution thing isn't so silly, although I may change my mind tomorrow when the gym is overcrowded with people going BIG.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Pantry Pasta

I made this pasta last night for the teachers potluck at my daughter's school.  It's yummy and easy to make, which is always good when you are providing a dish for a pot luck.  I created the recipe a while back when I had nothing planned for dinner, but of course still need to make Something. So I looked in the pantry to see what goodies were hiding in there and came up with this creation.  Since then it's been a good, easy, go-to meal, and I almost always have all the ingredients on hand. I wish I had taken a picture for you, but alas I was not planning on blogging about it until I promised to pass on the recipe.

Pantry Pasta

2 T olive oil
1/2 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, pressed
1/4 cup red wine
2 cans diced tomatoes
1/4 t oregano
1/2 t basil
1/8 t crushed red pepper
1/4 t salt
1/8 t black pepper
1 can roman beans( or any other type of canned beans), drained and rinsed
9-10 oz coconut milk
1 lb box of pasta

Saute the onion in olive oil until soft, add garlic and saute another minute.  Add red wine, stir then add tomatoes, and spices (the measurements are approximate, so season to taste).  Simmer for about 15-20 minutes.  Meanwhile, prepare the pasta.  Add the beans to the sauce and cook for about 5 minutes, then stir in the coconut oil.  Cook for another 5 minutes.  Mix sauce over pasta.



Thursday, February 17, 2011

It’s Almost Lettuce Season!

I hate winter. I don’t like the cold, I really dislike the snow (after the first thrill of watching it fall), and I hate not having items to harvest from the garden. As soon as the weather starts showing signs of spring, I get really ramped up to go outside and work in the garden. Our temps will hit the 60’s today and 70’s tomorrow. WhooHoo!


Okay, it’s not time to put anything in the ground yet, or even disturb any protections offered to the garden by doing a clean up. The temps are warm now, but next week it is expected to feel like mid-February again. But it is time to start thinking about when, where and what type of lettuces I want to plant. Last year was my first experience with growing lettuce and it was wonderful.

Growing lettuce is very easy and trouble free. Put the seeds in the ground, keep an eye on watering needs and let it go. Forty-five days later you can start harvesting. The harvested lettuces can’t be beat. They are so much fresher than store bought and hold up much longer. I find it very frustrating to spend $4 on a container of baby lettuces only to find they have started to disintegrate after only a day or two. The harvest season can last from mid-spring up until it gets really hot. I think it is also important to stagger the plantings a bit to extend the harvest as long as possible, before the lettuces start going to seed.

This is my chosen site, last year’s veggie garden. This year I plan to scale it back a bit and leave more space to work. I’ll put in lettuces early on, then beets (another garden treasure), tomatoes, herbs and cucumbers. I would love to give zucchini another try, but last year's disaster with squash vine borers has left me feeling like it’s not worth the trouble. Right now I have few herbs that are hanging on, some parsley, catnip, thyme and rosemary. Well see if they strengthen up when the real spring weather hits. Until then I’ll sit inside dreaming…


Sunday, October 03, 2010

Building a Better Cake

This year my daughter wanted a kitty cat themed birthday party, so I decided that I would make a cat cake.  I feel that I am a pretty good cook, but only a mediocre baker.  Cakes are really not my strong point.  I decided I wanted my cake to look pretty good, so with only week to improve my cake building skills, I started my research.  My favorite bit of info came from a site called 5 min.  There were multiple videos from a master cake decorator.  So Gigi and I watched each video to pick up some important tips.  I also found a pattern for a cake cat made from two 8 inch rounds on the Betty Crocker site.

I decided a test cake using my new found knowledge would give me some practice.  I didn't want to make a cat because it would take some of the bang out the final cake.  I baked two 8 inch round cakes and quickly realized that these cakes were way too thin; they did not meet my vision of a nice thick cake.  That was fine I got to practice shaving off the uneven parts (which made it even thinner) and then put the layers together.  This cake ended up being a butterfly.

I bought two new 8 inch rounds that were much deeper than my other pans and decided to use two boxes of cake mix.  I know, all this trouble and I am making cake from the box!?  Well, I figured I had enough of a challenge on my plate without having to test cake recipes. 

The new rounds worked great although they did give me a bit a muffin top, so the top side needed to be shaved off.  Once I had my nice flat rounds, I used the pattern from Betty Crocker to cut out the tail, ears and head.  So far so good.

The next BIG thing I learned about cake decorating, is to do a crumb coat.  This is a thin layer of icing over the whole cake that seals in the crumbs.  This is the best tip ever.  Another tip I learned from some site, is to use Wilton Meringue Powder in your icing to help it harden just a bit.  I like this addition to the crumb coat icing, which was homemade, because it gave that crumb coat extra toughness.  I did have one small issue during this step.  The tip of one ear broke off.  I put some icing on it and "glued" it back on.

I put the cake in the refrigerator to set.  Once I felt it was firm, I mixed up some more Wilton Meringue Powder in some store bought chocolate frosting, and liberally frosted the whole thing.  This was going way better than I had expected.  I put it in the box and chilled it overnight.

 The next morning, I mixed up some pink icing.  Again store bought, but white.  I added some pink cake icing coloring and Wilton Meringue Powder.  I piped it on, put in some gum drops, added a bit of sugar glitter and I was finished! 

A lot of work went into the cake and I invested in some new tools, but I am glad I spent the time to study up and practice.  Now I no longer fear making a special cake.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Grilled Chicken Over Brown Rice Sauteed with Spinach

Over the past 7 weeks I have written 7 papers, and am working on the 8th.  I am completely burnt-out on writing.  So as much as I've wanted to keep this blog regular, school work has dominated most of my time.  I've put together some creative and healthy meals during this time but haven't had the time or energy to post the details.  Today I needed a break; so I decided to put a quick post together.

Season chicken fillet with salt, pepper, garlic powder and rub with touch of balsamic vinaigrette.  Grill.

Serve over cooked brown rice and fresh spinach sauteed in touch of olive oil.  Season with salt and pepper.

Garnish with fresh cucumber slices and and avocado.  Drizzle a bit of balsamic vinaigrette over the cucumber slices.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

It's 90 Degrees Outside, So It Must Be Time For Soup!

I don't know why, but sometimes in the summer I get on a soup kick.  This year I am crazy about these cool noodles soup dishes that I found in the refrigerated section of my local Asian market.  They come with fresh noodles, a soup base sauce and flakes.  I am actually not a fan of the flakes.  They have things like dried cuttlefish and dried mini shrimp with the shells still on them which have a crunch that I am not into. So I don't use it.

Today's soup is spicy noodles by a Korean company named Pulmuone.  I sauteed a few strips of tofu to add a bit of protein.  Some green onions and mushrooms would also be a good addition.  This is deliciously spicy stuff and goes wonderfully with a nice glass of jasmine iced tea.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Getting Ahead of The Game

Okay, I am supposed to be revising a paper that is due tomorrow for my writing class, as well as researching info for another paper (this one for my humanities class) that is due on Monday.  But whatever, I feel like I am ahead of the game today.

I got up at 6:30am and cleaned the shower, I still need to get the rest of the bathroom clean, but that is the messiest part.  Plus, on the way back from dropping Gigi at camp, I picked up some ingredients for dinner.  This is the best part.  Right now dinner is slowly cooking in my slow cooker.  All I will need to do later when I am dead tired, is make some brown rice to complete the meal. 

If you don't have a slow cooker, a.k.a. a crock pot, or haven't used yours in while (like me), I urge to pull it out of the cabinet.  This is like the 11th day of 90 plus temps in the DC Metro region, cooking your dinner in the slow cooker is a great way to have a nice hot meal without creating excess heat in the kitchen.  It is also a fabulous way to make a healthy meal.  Last night Gigi and I had Lean Cuisine for dinner and my mom guilt was fluttering out of control.  At least I made pudding for dessert.  Tonight we will have slow simmered chicken with veggies over brown rice.

Slow Cooked Deviled Chicken

1/2 onion thinly sliced
3 carrots, peeled and cut in half
4 stalks of celery, cut in 3 inch pieces
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 chicken, cut up
1/8 cup olive oil
2 T red wine vinegar
2 T Dijon mustard
1 T honey
1/4 t dried tarragon
1/4 t sea salt
1/8 t ground black pepper
1 bay leaf

Prepare veggies and layer in the bottom of the crock pot (always put veggies in first).  Arrange chicken pieces on top of veggies.  Mix the remaining ingredients except the bay leaf, and drizzle on top of the chicken.  Tuck the bay leaf in and put on the lid.  Cook on low for about 8-10 hours.  Serve with brown rice.

Got to go work on that paper or I will no longer remain ahead of the game. :)