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

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.