Thursday, September 29, 2011

Channeling My Aunt

Although both of my parents are only children (weird, right?), my grandfather (92 years-old and "still vertical" - his words, not mine) had four older sisters - my aunts. Although one passed long before I was born, the other three played a big role in our lives, which included frequent trips to Rhode Island for visits. Luckily for us, all of my aunts (pronounced auhnts, btw, seeing as they were proper New Englanders), lived until ripe old ages, and one - Aunt Rose - was "still vertical" when the kid was born.

Aunt Rose was also the resident homebody of the group. While she was an extremely successful special education professional and advocate, she was simply known to us as the Aunt who loved to cook and bake. And baked. She had an amazing home and kitchen, and would even go so far as to send us her specialties via UPS.

Luckily for me, I have inherited not only her love (although not necessarily her talent) for cooking and baking, but also some of her recipes, hand-written in her perfect penmanship. I thought one of her classics would be appropriate for tonight's holiday dinner.

Perfect Apple Pie
Source: Rose Waterman Pierce (my aunt)

  • 6 or 7 tart apples (I used Red Delicious; can also mix varieties)
  • 3/4 c. sugar
  • 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp butter or margarine
  • Dash of nutmeg
  • Dash of salt (skip)
  • Pare apples and slice thin. Combine sugar, flour, spices and salt; mix with apples. Line 9-inch pie plate with pastry, fill with apple mixture, dot with butter.
  • Adjust or put on top crust; sprinkle with sugar for sparkle. (!!)
  • Bake in 400 degree oven for 50 minutes or until done.
Pie Crust

  • 3 c. flour
  • 1 c. margarine
  • 3 tbsp water (I used a bit more)
  • Mix flour & margarine thoroughly until very crumbly. Mix in water until smooth. Form into ball, then divide ball into two balls. Roll out one ball until flat and not thick. Use as bottom crust. Roll out second ball and cover apples.

Is my pie sparkling?

Unfortunately, my husband does not like "fruity desserts," so I also made brownies.

Double Chocolate Brownies
Source: American Medical Association's Family Health Cookbook (1997)

  • 1 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 c. unsweetened cocoa
  • 1/2 tsp instant coffee
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 1 oz (1 square) semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp smooth applesauce
  • 1 c. and 2 tbsp of sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Coat an 8x8 baking pan with spray.
  • In a mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa, coffee, baking powder and salt. In a 2 or 3-quart saucepan, melt the butter. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the chocolate until melted, then stir in the applesauce and sugar until blended. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg, egg whites and vanilla. Whisk the egg mixture into the saucepan, then add the dry ingredients and stir until blended and smooth.
  • Spread the batter evenly into the prepared pan and bake until the brownies are just firm and begin to pull away from the edges, 20-25 minutes. Let cool at least 10 minutes.
Yield: 16 squares
Per serving: 123 calories; 3g fat (2g sat); 19mg chol; 79mg sodium; 23g carbs

The applesauce makes them perfect for the holiday
And FINALLY, I also made a side dish for dinner. There is nothing even remotely clean about this, and I would not make it for a typical family meal. However, it is very fast, very easy, very tasty, and most important, due to some dietary restrictions in our fam, perfect the the entire group.

One-Pan Mac & Cheese
Source: Kraft Food & Family (not sure of date)

  • 2 pkg Kraft Mac & Cheese
  • 4 c. boiling water
  • 1 c. milk
  • 1/2 c. (1 stick) butter, cut up
  • 1 c. shredded cheddar cheese
  • 24 Ritz crackers, crushed
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray 13x9 baking dish with cooking spray. Place macaroni in prepared dish. Stir in boiling water, cover with foil.
  • Bake 15 minutes, stirring after 7 minutes.
  • Stir in cheese sauce, milk and butter. Sprinkle with cheddar cheese and crushed crackers. Bake, uncovered, an additional 5 minutes or until cheese is melted and crackers begin to brown.
Yield: 8 servings

In addition to all of the above, I also brought last night's honey cake so my family could sample it. Overall, they all really enjoyed every item. I knew the mac & cheese would be a hit b/c I've made it before. The kid had two helpings of brownie (special dinner, peeps - not normally how we roll), everyone liked the honey cake and the pie was declared a "thing of beauty" by my mother. While I wouldn't necessarily go that far (refer to the above picture), I am also pleased with how everything turned out. Even my bro, who is the official pie connoisseur (my Aunt always made the pies especially for him), declared the crust excellent. The brownies, btw, are very sweet. And one more btw - my family is not one of those overly polite crews - if they didn't like something, they would totes report it. I guess the New England prim and properness from my Aunt's generation has lost its was down here in the NEO!

Only because I always listen to my momma, she declared tonight's effort four forks. Thanks for the inspiration, Aunt Rose!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Happy New Year!

That's right peeps, tonight marks the beginning of Rosh Hashanah. While we will celebrate this holy holiday tomorrow with my entire family, tonight my little nuclear group commemorated it on our own.

One of the things that I find so interesting about Judaism is all of its symbolism. One of the things I find so interesting about religion overall, in fact, are the traditions - both family-born and long-standing. In our "halfie" house, we celebrate pretty much every holiday, so as we teach our children and create our own traditions, I really enjoy the ongoing education.

Woah - deep thoughts!

Anywho, some of the symbolic foods for Rosh Hashanah include (in a super-over-simplified way): round challah loaves (unending circle of life); apples dipped in honey (renewing for a good and sweet year); honey cake (another way to mark a sweet new year); and many more.

Although we skipped some of the symbolic foods, I did manage to include a couple - namely - a round challah loaf (store-bought) and homemade honey cake. Our main course also included a honey component.

Challah... mmmmm
Honey Chicken with Crumb-Topped Tomatoes
Source: Good Housekeeping Best Chicken Dishes (1999)

  • 4 medium bone-in chicken breast halves, skin removed (used boneless breast of chicken)
  • 1/4 c. Dijon mustard
  • 3 tbsp honey
  • 2 tsp curry powder
  • 1 tsp fresh lemon juice (didn't use fresh)
  • 2 large tomatoes, cut in half horizontally
  • 1 slice firm-textured bread, torn into small pieces
  • 2 tbsp parm cheese
  • 1 tbsp fresh parsley
  • 1/4 tsp salt (skip)
  • 1/3 tsp pepper (skip)
  • Cooking spray
  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line 13x9 glass baking dish with foil. Place chicken, skinned side up, in dish.
  • In a small bowl, mix mustard, honey, curry powder and lemon juice. Brush mixture over chicken. Bake chicken, uncovered, 40 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, place tomatoes, cut-side up, in 8x8 glass baking dish. In small bowl, stir together bread, parm, parsley, salt and pepper. Sprinkle crumb mixture over tomato halves. Spray each tomato lightly with cooking spray.
  • After chicken has baked 40 minutes, place tomatoes in same oven and bake for 20 minutes longer or until heated through and chicken is golden brown. (Note: I have a double oven, and b/c I used boneless chicken, I only cooked it for about 35 minutes and cooked the tomatoes at the same time in my second oven.)
  • Arrange chicken and tomato halves on plates. Spoon any remaining glaze over chicken.
Yield: 4 servings
Per serving: 325 calories; 45g protein; 23g carbs; 4g total fat (1 g sat); 2g fiber; 109mg choles; 720mg sodium

I served our chicken with Trader Joe's mushroom risotto. Yes frozen. Yes easy. (150 calories/350mg sodium per 1c. serving)

GA would love this tomato

Honey Cake

  • 3.5c all purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1-1/2 tsp baking powder (I use sodium free)
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1-1/2 tsp ground allspice
  • 4 eggs
  • 3/4 c. sugar
  • 4 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 c. honey
  • 1/2 c. strong brewed coffee (Starbucks, duh)
  • 1/2 c. almonds (skip)
  • 1/2 c. raisins (skip)
  • 1.5 c. honey
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 c. water
  • 1/2 tsp lemon zest
  • 2 oz. slivered almonds
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Sift together flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and allspice. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs, gradually adding the sugar. Beat until thick and light in color, about 5 minutes. Beat in the oil, honey and coffee. Stir flour mixture into egg mixture. Chop almonds and mix with raisins, stir into batter.
  • Oil the two pans (what two pans? I used one 13x9) and line the bottom with waxed paper. Oil again. (Huh? Just sprayed it down) Fill each pan with batter to within 1-1/4 inches from the top. Bake for 65-75 minutes or until cake tests done. Let cool for 10 minutes and remove from pan.
  • To make glaze (skipped this whole step): Boil together 1.5 c. honey, lemon juice, zest and water. When glaze reaches a thick consistency, remove from heat and drizzle over cake. Sprinkle with almond slivers.
Yield: 24 servings (!?!?!)
Per serving: 316 calories; 6.1g fat; 35mg choles; 122mg sodium; 65.2g carbs; 4.3g protein
(This assumes all of the items I skipped, btw)


First up, the main event. Chicken turned out really well - very juicy. I liked the tomato, the boys - who each managed to choke down just one teeny bite - did not. In fact, the hubs wrinkled his nose, ala a 5-year-old. Awesome. Luckily, both also liked the chicken. It was also fast and easy to prepare, and the curry added a bit of interest.

Confession: I do not like honey cake. I have never found it to be that flavorful, particularly b/c I'm a chocolate gal at heart. But, in wanting to do something traditional (and also in wanting to make the house smell delish), I went with it. I had the teeniest of pieces and thought it was pretty good. For honey cake.

A solid three forks for both.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Nobody Told Me

Tonight's dinner pretty much blew. I had a lovely trout dinner from latest issue of Clean Eating magazine planned, but due to a communication fail, the wrong trout was purchased, so I made do with corn meal crusted chicken.


I've made chicken crusted with corn meal before, but tonight I kind of winged it due to lack of time.  I pretty much double coated chicken per Clean Eating's original trout instructions (corn meal, egg white, corn meal), gave it a brief fry with EVOO before baking it. Was it edible? Sure. Was it the worst thing I've ever made? No. Was it what I planned on making? Not even close. It was accompanied by Clean Eating's mushroom-potato mix, which I added some onions to, hoping to enhance the flavor. Again - not a total fail (ala the great Crock pot dessert fiasco) - think healthy hash browns - but was pretty much completely underwhelmed.

Michael Symon I'm not.

Oh well - so goes it. I'm not particularly thrilled with tonight's turn of events and I'm not the best with last-minute change up (that's the control freak side of me), but at the end of the day, it's not the worst that can happen - it's just trout! We still had a healthy meal as a family - the kid especially enjoyed the chicken (think chicken fingers-style crust), and that's all that counts.

Note: When throwing a pity party (instead of a dinner party - get it?!), John Lennon always adds in a little cheer. At least for my Beatles-obsessed self. This song perfectly captures my mood as of right now.

Monday, September 26, 2011


Last week, the kid came home all excited about his Spanish class. Not because of anything he learned, mind you, but because his teacher passed out a bunch of recipes for them to try at home. So we did. Sort of.

The recipes are for enchiladas and burritos and guac and other delish Mexican dishes. However, besides the guac, none of the recipes are particularly healthy, so I found my own variation for tonight's Meatless Monday fare.

Before I get into the recipe, I would love to be able to add that the kid helped cook the meal and we had a heartfelt mother-son-in-kitchen-bonding moment. The reality is he was first at a friend's house, and then getting his fill of educational programming (i.e., The "Regular Show" - don't ask. I don't know).

Easy Guacamole
Source: The kid's Spanish class (and, I think)

  • 2 avocados
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 ripe tomato, chopped
  • 1 lime, juiced (used refrigerated)
  • Salt and pepper to taste (skip_
Note: I cut this recipe in half since I am the only one who eats guac.

  • Peel and mash the avocado in a bowl. Stir in the rest of the ingredients. Chill.


Black Bean Burritos
Source: The EatingWell Diabetes Cookbook (2005)
Note: I do not know anyone who has diabetes - I just bought the cookbook because I figured it would have healthy recipes, and I'm a sucker for healthy recipes.

  • 1 tbsp EVOO
  • 2 green bell peppers, diced (used 1/2 of one - not a huge green pepper fan)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced (used refrigerated)
  • 2 tsp oregano
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 14.5oz can no-salt added diced tomatoes
  • 1-4oz can chopped green chiles (used mild - would consider medium next time)
  • 2-15.5oz cans black beans, rinsed (used no-salt added)
  • 3 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • Tortillas, cheese, etc (I like La Tortilla Factory high fiber, low-carb wraps)
  • Heat oil in a dutch oven over medium heat. Add bell peppers, garlic, oregano and cumin, cook, stirring until softened, 4-5 minutes. Add tomatoes, green chiles, beans and vinegar. Return to a simmer, reduce heat to medium-low and cook until thickened, about 25 mins. Add water is liquid evaporates too quickly (did not do that).
  • Warm tortillas in oven.
  • With the back of a spoon, mash some of the beans.
Yield: 8 servings (1/2 c. bean mixture, one tortilla)
Per serving: 235 calories; 5g fat (2g sat, 2g mono); 6mg choles; 40g carbs; 12g protein; 10g fiber; 581mg sodium

My pics are kind of sideways tonight

Surprisingly, no one complained about the potential of bean-only burritos. The kid did ASK "Is there meat involved in dinner," but he managed to eat almost his entire portion (we also had brown rice), which is a major win in my book. The hubs also gave it a resounding thumbs up. I am the only one who tried the guac, and I thought it was delish. But I also like plain avocados without seasoning, so who am I to judge?

Four Forks. Easy, fast and a winning meatless option

Sunday, September 25, 2011

You Know You're An Adult When...

... purchasing new cookware and appliances is super-exciting!

After doing some deep soul searching (and receiving my new Cooking Light chock full of recipes) I decided I was in dire need of a real, honest-to-goodness Dutch oven. So off I went to Crate & Barrel, where I picked up a fabulous new red Mario Batali 6-quart dutch oven.

Another stellar pic: Dutch oven in action
And, feeling flush with excitement, I also picked up a new blender, which I have every intention of using very soon. I have dreams of pesto and soup and smoothies running through my head, peeps. (I vow to you: This will not be repeated:

And while cookware and appliances may not be as thrilling as a hot new pair of shoes or fabu bag (coming my way as soon as I hit the mall), this blog is about my cooking, not about my super-materialistic tendencies, so we'll go with it.

Soy and Cola-Braised Pork Shoulder
Source: Cooking Light, October 2011

  • 1 tbsp dark sesame oil
  • 1 (3.5 lbs) bone-in pork shoulder, trimmed
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt (skip)
  • 1 tbsp minced peeled fresh ginger (used refrigerated)
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 cups cola (such as Coca-Cola)
  • 1/2 c. hoisin sauce
  • 1/4 c. rice vinegar (I use sodium-free)
  • 1/4 c. low sodium soy sauce
  • 1 c. sliced green onions (skipped -didn't feel like it)
  • Preheat oven to 300 degrees
  • Heat a Dutch oven (wheee!) over medium-high heat. Add oil to pan. Sprinkle pork evenly with salt. Add pork to pan; saute for 8 minutes, turning to brown all sides. Remove pork. Add ginger and garlic, saute; saute for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Stir in cola and the next 3 ingredients (through soy sauce); bring to a boil.
  • Return pork to pan; bake for 1 hour and 50 minutes or until tender, turning occasionally. Remove pork from pan and let stand for 10 minutes. Shred pork with 2 forks. Skim fat from cooking liquid.
  • Place pan over medium-high heat; bring cooking liquid to a boil. Cook 15 minutes or until reduced to about 2 cups, stirring occasionally. Combine pork and 3/4 c. sauce in a bowl, toss to coat. Top with onions. Serve pork with remaining 1-1/4 c. sauce.
  •  Note: You can serve this on a bun, roll, in tortillas or just on its own.
Yield: 10 servings (3 oz. pork, 2 tbsp sauce)
Per serving: 316 calories; 18.3g fat (6.4 sat, 8.2 mono, 2.8g poly); protein: 24.3g; carb: 12.8g; fiber: 0.7g; chol: 91mg; sodium: 574mg; calc: 39mg

We also had:
Corn Bake
Source: Heart Healthy Living (not sure of date; FYI: This magazine is no longer published)

  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 large red sweet pepper, chopped
  • 1-15.25oz can no-salt added whole kernel corn, drained
  • 1-14.75oz can no-salt added cream-style corn
  • 1-8.5oz package corn muffin mix
  • 1/3 c. refrigerated egg substitute
  • 1-8oz carton light sour cream
  • 1/2 c. reduced fat shredded sharp cheddar cheese (2oz)
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a large skillet with nonstick cooking spray, heat over medium heat. Cook onion and red pepper in hot skillet for about 8 minutes or until tender. Cool slightly. Lightly coat a 2-quart baking rectangular baking dish with cooking spray, set aside.
  • Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine whole corn, cream-style corn, corn muffin mix and egg substitute. Stir in cooled veggies. Transfer mixture to prepared dish.
  • In a small bowl, combine sour cream and cheese. Spoon in small mounds over corn mixture. Bake for about 1 hour or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.
Yield: 16 servings (1/3 c. per serving)
Per serving: 134 calories; 4 g total fat (2g sat); 7mg chol; 155mg sodium; 22g carb; 1g fiber; 4g protein

The kid gagged his way through tiny two bites of the corn bake - which was super endearing, btw - but honestly, I thought it was delish (and might have had a teeny bit more than one serving), as did the hubs. We all liked the pork shoulder, although shredding it was kind of a hassle. The boys ate theirs on buns with some cheese, I went plain (so I could have more corn bake). And no, the thrill of my new Dutch oven hasn't totally worn off yet.

Three Forks

Does the corn bake really look gag-worthy?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Rush, Rush

Confession time - I used to have a kind of crush on Emilio Estevez, and was more than a little annoyed when he and Paula Abdul got together. Cue obscure song reference from the early 90s.

Also cue very poor planning on my part tonight. When I was determining our weekly meal plan, I decided to forgo Thursday because the kid has soccer than football back-to-back, and I thought he'd get home too late for a family meal (i.e., I'd eat a veggie or salmon burger). But, my mental timing was off, and he was going to be home in plenty of time for us to sit down together.

When I figured this out, I decided to scour my cookbooks (in keeping with this week's cookbook theme) and see what I could together with ingredients I had on hand. Although I had to make a few substitutions, I managed to pull it off. This entire process - from light bulb "family can eat together moment" - to completion took about an hour (including taking a break to put the baby to bed). Rush, rush... (btw, kind of over Emilio these days.)

Farfalle Bolognese
Source: Weight Watchers Make It In Minutes (2001)

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 c. chopped onion
  • 1 small carrot, chopped (used a hand full of baby carrots that I chopped)
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 lb lean ground veal (used 1 lbs extra-lean ground turkey)
  • 1/2 lb ground skinless chicken breast (see note above re: ground turkey)
  • 1 (28oz) can whole peeled tomatoes, drained and chopped
  • 1/2 c. red wine (used cooking wine)
  • 1/4 c. grated Parm cheese
  • 1/2 tsp salt (skip)
  • 1/4 tsp pepper (skip)
  • 1/2 lb farfalle (used whole-wheat angel hair)
  • Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the garlic, onion, carrot and oregano; cook, stirring occasionally, until the veggies begin to soften, about 4 minutes. Add the veal and chicken and cook until no longer pink, about 4 minutes longer. Add the tomatoes and wine, bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally until the sauce begins to thicken, about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in parm cheese, salt and pepper (we just added the parm cheese to our completed meals).
  • Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the farfalle and cook according to package directions. Serve sauce over pasta.
Yield: 4 servings (this reflects the original recipe with the chicken, veal and farfalle)
Per serving: 480 calories; 11g total fat (3g sat); 84mg choles; 777mg sodium (yikes!); 56mg carbs; 5g fiber; 36g protein

I don't know if it was because of all of the sports, but the kid ate almost his entire portion. I thought this was really good for a fast, simple meal - the toughest part was chopping the onion and garlic.

Three Forks

Best. Picture. Ever.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Boys and Broccoli

Every Saturday, when I'm planning our weekly menu, I ask the boys if there's anything in particular they'd like. The standard response is either "chef's choice" (hubs) or grmphr-DS-iCarly-grmphr (kid). Much to my surprise, however, this week the kid proactively requested "Chinese chicken stir-fry."

One thing I've noticed about a lot of my recipe sources is that they looooove to publish healthier versions of stir-fry options, so this request was pretty easy to fulfill - at least from the kid's perspective. The issue is typically the hubs, who doesn't love most veggies, therefore limiting some of my choices.

Tonight, I decided to go with a recipe chock-full of broccoli, knowing that although the hubs might not totally appreciate it, the kid would go for it because he loves broccoli. Without sauce. Or cheese. I guess I've done at least one thing right so far.

I'm not going to even wax poetic about broccoli. You know it's good for you.

BTW - I really like the new Pepsi commercial that was shown during the X-Factor with old-school Brit, Mariah, Kanye, etc. Fun! (This is not an endorsement. I do not drink any soda, as an FYI. Not for health reasons - I just don't like it.)

Turkey and Broccoli Stir-Fry
Source: American Heart Association Low-Salt Cookbook (1990, 2001, 2006)

  • 1 c. uncooked brown rice
  • 1/2 medium red bell pepper, sliced
  • 1/2 large onion, sliced
  • 1/4 c. water
  • 2 c. small broccoli florets
  • 2 c. diced cooked turkey breast (I used extra-lean turkey tenderloin)
  • 3 tbsp hoisin sauce
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 2-3 tsp lime juice
  • 1 tsp toasted sesame oil
  • Prepare rice according to package directions.
  • Meanwhile, heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Lightly spray with cooking spray. Cook bell pepper and onion for 5 minutes or until beginning to lightly brown on the edges, stirring frequently. Transfer to a plate.
  • Return the skillet to the heat. Pour in 1/4 cup water. Add broccoli. Cook for 2 minutes, or until the broccoli is just tender-crisp, stirring constantly.
  • Stir in the bell pepper mixture and the turkey. Remove from the heat. Let stand, covered, for 3 minutes, or until turkey is heated through.
  • Meanwhile, in a small microwaveable bowl, stir together the hoisin sauce, honey, lime juice and sesame oil. Heat in microwave for 20 seconds or until hot (I just added it to the turkey/pepper mixture and heated through).
  • To serve, spoon the rice onto plates. Spoon turkey mixture over rice, top with sauce.
Yield: 4 servings (approx. 1.5 c. per serving)
Per serving: 265 calories; 3g fat (sat: 0.5, poly: 0.5g; mono: 1g); cholest: 66mg; sodium: 81mg; cars: 30g; protein: 29g

First, I don't get how this dish can be only 81mg sodium, considering that the hoisin sauce is pretty high in sodium, but whatevs - I'll go with it - the American Heart Association doesn't lie! The hubs picked out his veggies and even tried to sneak some extra broccoli on the kid's plate, but gave it high-marks overall. The kid enjoyed, although he did note that he prefers his broccoli plain. I thought it was good - nothing special. There wasn't much of a kick to it, which would have been nice.

Three Forks - easy, healthy

Pic is blurry from the steam, not my shoddy photog skills

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Sodium Smarts

Not feeling particularly creative tonight - sorry peeps. Howevs, what is very exciting tonight is all of the season premieres! Yes, I like my TV. Tonight's show list? Glee (obvs), Biggest Loser, 90210, Gossip Girl. PLUS Rachel Zoe. Ba-nanas! Side note - the likelihood I'll make it through anything but Glee tonight? About 0 percent, considering Tuesday is my double workout day (spin in the a.m., lift with my trainer at night).

Our selection tonight comes courtesy of another one of those "heart healthy" cookbooks I have on hand. Howevs, as you'll see with this one, many of the recipes, while lower in fat and cholesterol, still have oodles of sodium. Of course I adapted mine to lower it, but still. My personal definition of "heart healthy" includes sodium smart (!) meals. Maybe it's just me. Or maybe its just that this book was published more than a decade ago, before sodium became all the rage as it has of late (much to my joy).

Campfire Mesquite Beef & Beans
Source: Betty Crocker's Low-Fat, Low-Cholesterol Cooking Today (2000)

  • 1/2 lbs extra lean ground beef
  • 2 c. water
  • 1/4 c. mesquite-flavored bbq sauce (I use Old Carolina BBQ - 35mg sodium/serving - who knew this was right here in the NEO, btw? I sure didn't. Will have to check it out)
  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • 2 tsp bouillon granules (I use sodium-free)
  • 1.5 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1 can kidney beans, rinsed and drained (I use no-salt added)
  • 2 c. uncooked pasta (I used a whole-wheat penne/mac combo I had on hand)
  • Spray a 4-quart Dutch oven with cooking spray; heat over medium-high heat. Cook beef in Dutch oven, stirring occasionally, until brown. Drain.
  • Stir in remaining ingredients except pasta. Heat to boiling; reduce heat to low. Simmer uncovered 18 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Cook and drain pasta as directed on package. Spoon beef mixture over pasta.
Notes: Recipe recommends adding salsa (I did - use Newman's Own, which is low-sodium), sour cream (blech) or if you don't want pasta, rolling up in a fat-free flour tortilla (I would use La Tortilla Factory Whole Wheat tortillas, in case you are wondering). We did add some mozzarella cheese - I just used a sprinkle.

Yield: 4 servings
Per serving: 355 calories; 7g fat (sat 2g); choles: 25mg; sodium: 840mg (this is the original, not my variation); carbs: 57g; protein: 23g

The kid didn't have a banner evening - he was complaining of stomach pains, so he went to bed without eating. For some reason, he's not a huge fan of ground beef, so I don't know that he would have loved this anyway. The hubs really enjoyed - he's taking leftovers for lunch tomorrow, and he's not typically a leftover or pack-your-own-lunch kind of guy. I also enjoyed, although I wish that the recipe outlined specific serving sizes (I made assumptions) and started off as a low-sodium meal.

Three Forks

Campfire Meal - although there is no camping in MY future

Monday, September 19, 2011

Cookbook Week Kick-Off

The title of this post is in no way a reference to football. My Buckeyes let its nation down big time, and even though the Browns had a big win yesterday, I'm not the world's biggest NFL fan. (Sorry CLE peeps!)

Rather, this "kick-off" (which actually began with yesterday's dinner) refers to my use of a different cookbook each night this week.

I collect recipes a few different ways:
  • Cookbooks (obvs)
  • Magazines (too many to name) - I rip them out and file according to type, in my lovely orange binders
  • Online computer database (i.e., too lazy to print e-recipes and file in my binders)
I most often turn to my orange binders, ignoring the cookbooks I have amassed through the years. Therefore, when planning the meals for this week, I decided to only use cookbooks for my selections. Pretty monumental stuff, huh?

For tonight's Meatless Monday selection...

Stuffed Shells
Source: 500 Low Sodium Recipes, Dick Logue (2007)

  • 1 lbs large pasta shells
  • 4 c. ricotta cheese (go for lowest sodium possible - mine had 55mg/serving)
  • 1/2 c. shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 c. grated parm cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tbsp dried parsley (skip - substituted 1 tsp minced garlic)
  • 1-1/2 tsp dried oregano (went with 2 tsp)
  • 3 c. low sodium spaghetti sauce (I like Trader Joe's No-Salt Added Marinara - 35mg/serving)
  • Cook shells according to package directions. Drain and spread out in a single layer on waxed paper. (Did not spread them out - just cooled off by rinsing)
  • Combine remaining ingredients except spaghetti sauce. Spread 1 c. sauce in the bottom of a 9x13-inch pan that has been sprayed with nonstick cooking spray.
  • Stuff each shell with about 2 tbsp of the filling and place in the pan. Pour remaining sauce over shells.
  • Cover with foil (I always spray underside of foil to prevent stickage) and bake at 350 degrees until cheese is hot and sauce bubbly, about 30 minutes.
Yield: 8 servings
Per serving: 356 calories; 24g protein; 16g total fat (8g sat, 5g mono, 2g poly); 29g carbs; 2g fiber; 6g sugar; 247mg sodium

Big thumbs up from everyone. I've made this several times, and it always turns out well. We also had asparagus as a side (yes, both the kid and the hubs eat asparagus), and the boys added garlic bread. To quote the kid: "Compliments to the chef." To quote me: "Compliments to Dick Logue." I heart Dick Logue and his low-sodium recipes. They never disappoint.

Four Forks

Carb-loading for 5:30a spinning tomorrow!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Smell-tastic Sunday

Why Smell-tastic Sunday? First, I like the alliteration. That's always uber-important to me. Second, I made two dishes today that filled our house with lovely scents.

After the massive fail of my crock pot cake on Friday and at the request of the kid, I made brownies. He actually asked for "my famous brownies" which are neither famous nor mine (think boxed brownies in a rush). Instead, I made brownies from scratch, because they are healthier and I once again had all of the ingredients on hand. And let's be honest - I like brownies.

For dinner, I turned to one of those cookbooks that I bought with great aspirations of doing every recipe - I even went through it and put sticky notes on my possible faves - and have since picked it up maybe once. Kind of what this challenge is all about, huh? Anyway, the Moroccan Chicken - like the brownies earlier today - has filled the house with a what I can only imagine is the scent of Morocco, seeing that I have not (yet) visited said country. Unlike the RHONYC. (Actually, the house kind of smells oniony-cinnamony-cuminy all wrapped into one. I bet Morocco doesn't smell quite like that.)

Side note - I heart the Emmy's. Who doesn't love Jane Lynch? And the Fashion Police the next day? Obvs I'm tuning in until I get booted by the hubs for football. Or fall asleep.

Moroccan Chicken and Lentils
Source: The Eat-Clean Diet Cookbook, by Tosca Reno (2007)

  • 8c water
  • 3 tsp salt (skip)
  • 1 lb dried lentils, rinsed, drained and picked through
  • 1/4 c. plus 2 tbsp evoo
  • 1/2 c. red wine vinegar
  • 3 tbsp ground cumin
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced (used refrigerated minced)
  • 1 large onion, peeled and chopped
  • 2 lbs skinless, boneless chicken, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 tsp ground Cinnamon
  • 1 c. chopped fresh parsley or cilantro (skip - I have decided I don't like parsley)
  • Combine water and 1 tsp salt in stock pot over high heat. Add lentils. Bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to medium. Simmer until lentils are soft, about 20-25 minutes. Drain well. Rinse under cold water and drain well. Place in large bowl and set aside.
  • In a small bowl, mix 1/4c olive oil, vinegar, 2 tbsp cumin, 2 tbsp chili powder, garlic, and 1 tsp sea salt. Pour this dressing over lentils. Toss gently and let cool.
  • In large skillet heat 2 tbsp olive oil. Add onion and saute until well cooked, about 5 minutes. Onion should appear dark brown and soft. Add chicken and saute 2 minutes more. Add 1 tsp salt, 1 tbsp cumin, 2 tsp chili powder and 1/4 tsp cinnamon. Saute until poultry is cooked through.
  • Arrange lentils on a large serving platter. Place sliced chicken on top of lentils. Use remaining dressing and pour over chicken. Sprinkle with chopped parsley. Serve at room temperature.
Yield: 12 servings (I assumed 4oz chicken, 1c. lentils - but this book does not break it down. Annoying.)
Per serving: 391 calories; 28g protein; 25g carbs; 5g fiber; 3g sugars; 20g fat; 564mg sodium

I like my food hot, so instead of letting the lentils cool, and serving the food at room temperature, I made the chicken (and the accompanying rolls for the boys) at the same time the lentils were cooking, so I could serve it all at once, hot. I also didn't use even close to all of the dressing - the boys don't like a lot of sauce, and just little drizzles over the lentils and chicken were enough. That said, both the hubs and I liked this dish a lot - lots of flavor, very satisfying. The hubs offered that he usually doesn't enjoy my lentil dishes (huh?), but he really liked how they were prepared tonight. The kid thought the whole meal was just so-so.

Three Forks

Would the Countess approve of this Moroccan dish?

Irresistible Brownies
Source: Prevention magazine, October 2009

  • 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder (I use sodium-free)
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 2/3 c. dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 c. canola oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 c. mini chips (used 1/2 c.)
  • 1 c. chopped walnuts (skip - don't like walnuts)
  • Heat oven to 350 degrees. Coat 8x8 or 9x9 baking pan with cooking spray.
  • Combine flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt in large bowl.
  • Put sugar, oil, egg and egg white in small bowl. Whisk until smooth. Pour into flour mixture and stir until blended. Stir in chocolate chips and walnuts (batter will be stiff).
  • Spread batter in prepared pan. Put in oven and bake 20-22 minutes or until it comes out clean.
Yield: 8 bars
Nutritional info per serving (this is with the walnuts): 305 cals; 5g protein; 31g carb; 2g fiber; 22g fat (2g sat fat); 73mg sodium

Easy to prepare, but instead of coming out cake-like or kind of puffy, the brownies are very flat - they didn't rise at all, which was kind of disappointing. That said, the flavor is super-delish. Very chocolatey and decadent. The hubs and my 'rents also enjoyed as I so generously brought them samples to try at travel soccer. The kid didn't get a chance to taste one because he had ice cream instead (we don't roll with unlimited sugar).

Three Forks

Halle Berry at the Emmy Awards a few years ago. FYI, in case you were wondering, this is not me.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Hot Mess

"Hot mess" is a favorite phrase of my lovely blog designer, K-Skull, but it is also appropriate for tonight's post.

I normally do not cook on Friday nights. I'm too tired, or not all of us are home (meaning the boys since the baby goes to bed at 7p these days), so we usually order in, grill out or just eat whatever. I did not cook tonight, but I did attempt to continue my crock pot success with a crock pot-based dessert.

I have always breezed right by these recipes, because it honestly seems weird to me that you can bake a cake in a crock pot. Tonight I decided to give it a whirl because I had everything on hand, and who doesn't love a little warm chocolate cake on a chilly evening.

Hot Fudge Cake
Source: Crock Pot Slow Cooker Best-Loved Recipes (2006)

  • 1-3/4c packed light brown sugar
  • 2 c. flour
  • 1/4 c. plus 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder, plus additional for dusting, if desired
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 c. milk
  • 4 tbsp (1/2 stick) butter, melted
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 3.5 c. boiling water
  • Coat slow cooker with nonstick cooking spray. Mix 1 c. sugar, flour, 3 tbsp cocoa powder, baking powder and salt in medium bowl. Stir in milk, butter and vanilla. Mix until well blended. Pour into crock pot.
  • Blend remaining 3/4 c. sugar and 1/4 c. cocoa powder in small bowl. Sprinkle evenly over mixture in crock pot. Pour in boiling water. Do not stir.
  • Cover, cook on high 1-1/4 to 1.5 hours or until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. Allow cake to rest for 10 minutes, then invert onto serving platter or scoop into serving dishes. Serve warm; dust with cocoa powder, if desired.
Yield: 6-8 servings
(No nutritionals on this one)

When I checked it at the 1-1/4 mark, it was still a gloppy, watery mess. Then, I checked at the four hour mark and called it a night. This cake is not happening. The end "result" is kind of cakey on the bottom, and super watery all over. I guess my great experiment in baking a crock pot cake is also a massive fail. Oh well. The kid has already hit me up for another dessert over the weekend.

One Fork

Thursday, September 15, 2011

A Special Guest

By "A Special Guest" I am not referring to a guest blogger - I'm not quite ready to give up control of the blog just yet. Shocking, for those who know me, btw, that I'm exhibiting control-freakish tendencies. Instead, we had a special guest join us for dinner tonight. My most loyal reader - my mom, aka GA! Woot - welcome to the hizzy, GA!

Tonight was one of those nights where we had about 12 things back-to-back-to-back, all right at the exact time we usually eat dinner, so I decided to crock pot it. Howevs, because I leave for work before 8a every day, I selected a quick 3-4 hour crock recipe that I just threw together when I got home from work.

And seriously - who doesn't love a crock pot? I love how on a cold night, it just makes the house smell so delish. And it is seriously the easiest thing ever. Esp because I choose recipes that don't require very much effort. As you might have figured out from this blog, I'm not all about the complicated, effort-y types of recipes.

Thai Chicken
Source: Best Loved Slow Cooker Recipes from Crock Pot (2006)

  • 2.5 lbs chicken pieces
  • 1 c. hot salsa (used medium)
  • 1/4 c. peanut butter
  • 2 tbsp lime juice
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce (used low-sodium, obvs)
  • 1 tsp minced ginger
  • Rice
  • 1/2 c. chopped peanuts (I smash mine with a mallet, btw)
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro (skip)
  • Place chicken in crock pot. Combine salsa, peanut butter, lime juice, soy sauce and ginger; pour over chicken.
  • Cover, cook on LOW 8-9 hours or on HIGH 3-4 hours, or until chicken is no longer pink in center.
  • Serve chicken and sauce over rice; sprinkle with peanuts and cilantro.
Yield: 6 servings (No nutritionals tonight. The recipe doesn't have them, and I didn't feel like dealing with Sparkpeople. Sorry MV!)

The dish went over very well - especially the sauce. GA wanted more sauce on her portion, while the hubs didn't complain about it being too saucy tonight. The kid ate almost his entire serving. In addition to the chicken, I added peas, for a little bit of color, and some mini egg rolls. The only true complaint came from the hubs, who mentioned that the "chicken was too much work for his taste." Um - OK.

Three Forks

GA served as the food stylist tonight - this is her portion

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

And Baby Makes Foul

On Saturday, we just rec'd the go-ahead to give our 9-month old "real" food. While she's been happy to munch away on those little baby puffs, we are all pretty geeked out to let her begin chowing down - and of course, contributing her opinion on my cooking skills.

Tonight is the first night we've had a chance to sit down with all four of us at dinner. The babe started off with an appetizer of said puffs, then I gave her a couple of plain whole-wheat egg noodles that accompanied tonight's dish.

Um, except I totes failed to rip them into tiny-enough pieces, and after she tried to shovel one in, promptly gagged and spit up her entire bottle. Oops. This caused the hubs to almost gag right along with her as he attempted to clean this up. Surprisingly, I usually am the one who can't handle any sort of throw up, but the kid and I were fine and even proceeded to continue to discuss this incident, causing the hubs to turn various shades of green. You may now call me Ms. Sensitive.

And with that visual in your mind, here's tonight's main event:

Noodles with Roast Pork and Almond Sauce
Source: Cooking Light, October 2009

  • 1/2 tsp canola oil
  • 1/2 lb pork tenderloin, trimmed
  • 1/2 tsp salt, divided (skip)
  • 1/4 tsp pepper (skip)
  • 8oz uncooked fettuccine (used whole-wheat egg noodles I had on hand)
  • 1/4 c. almond butter
  • 2.5 tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp rice vinegar (note: I always use a no-salt added variety)
  • 1 tbsp minced peeled fresh ginger (used 1/2 tbsp of refrigerated)
  • 1.5 tsp chili garlic sauce
  • 1 c. thinly sliced onions
  • 1/3 c. finely chopped mint (skip)
  • Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
  • Drizzle oil in an ovenproof skillet. Sprinkle pork with 1/8 tsp salt and pepper; place pork in pan. Bake at 425 for 10 minutes. Turn pork over and bake an additional 10 minutes or until a thermometer registers 155 degrees. Place pork on a cutting board, let stand 10 minutes. Shred into small pieces. (FYI - I skipped the oil, salt, pepper, shredding, etc. - just baked some pork and cut it into little pieces.)
  • Cook pasta according to directions and drain, reserving 2 tbsp of pasta water. Keep pasta warm.
  • Combine almond butter, 2 tbsp pasta water, remaining salt, soy sauce, vinegar, ginger, and chili garlic sauce. Divide pasta evenly among 4 bowls, top evenly with pork, sauce, onions and mint.
Yield: 4 servings (I assumed 4oz pork); about 1.5 cups
Per serving: Calories: 398; fat 12.7g (sat 1.9g; mono 7.2g; poly 2.3g); protein: 22.7; carb: 49.3; fiber 3.7g; chol: 34mg; iron: 3.7mg sodium: 763mg

Based on my major mom foul, I was a little worried about the hubs b/c at one point he wasn't sure he was going to be able to eat. Luckily he manned up and was able to finish his meal. Both the kid and the hubs liked it overall, but thought it was too saucy. I did not think it was too saucy, and I thought the flavor was nice. The kid, hubs and babe all had rolls - and yes, I made sure I ripped the pieces into teeny, tiny bits of bread.

Three Forks: Easy to prepare, good flavor.

PS - I completely forgot to snap a photo tonight, and the one from the magazine doesn't show a ton. Instead, I leave you with this:

This is in no way even close to representative of how the hubs looks, btw!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Taco Tuesday

I know - "Taco Tuesday" is not that original, but it's late (for me), I'm tired, and today wasn't a banner day.

We love tacos - who doesn't? If you remember, when I started this challenge and broke it to the kid that we were no longer having turkey tacos, he was more than a little annoyed. However, the whole point of this challenge is that we might not have that particular recipe, but since I have gazillions of taco recipe variations, tacos will continue to be a part of lives. And really, who would deprive a kid of his tacos? Not this mom.

And now, thanks to Ladies Home Journal and its four taco recipes on ONE page, I have even more options!

Oh - and a special shout-out thanks to Penzeys Spices. WTF?! You send me a whole catalog chock-full of delish recipes that are low-sodium (for the most part) and amazing looking? My Great Big Recipe Challenge might go on for years... I have already identified a bunch of recipes I want to try out. From a catalog.

Mexican Picadillo
Source: Ladies Home Journal, September 2011

  • 1 tbsp canola oil
  • 1 lb lean ground beef
  • 1 c. chopped onion
  • 1 clover minced garlic (used pre-minced)
  • 2 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp salt (skip)
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne (skip - forgot)
  • 1/4 tsp pepper (skip)
  • 1 diced bell pepper (used red)
  • 1 diced tomato (used no-salt added canned diced tomatoes)
  • 1 c. tomato sauce (used no-salt added)
  • Heat canola oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add ground beef, onion, garlic, chili powder, cumin, salt, cayenne and black pepper. Cook, crumbling meat, until just browned.
  • Add bell pepper, tomato and tomato sauce. Simmer until thickened about 15 mins.
Yield: 4-6 servings (I assumed 4oz meat/serving)
Per serving: 230 calories; 12.5g total fat (4g sat); 525mg sodium; 9g carbs; 59mg choles; 20g protein; 3g fiber

The kid called this meal "top notch." Even with my accidental omission of the cayenne, this still had a tiny kick, and we have lots of leftovers. I served it with plain brown rice and used Garden of Eatin yellow corn taco shells, which only have 5mg of sodium per TWO taco shells. Sidebar - I heart Garden of Eatin products. Obvs.

Sidebar #2 - the above nutritionals - and all of my nutritionals, for that matter, do not reflect my adjustments (i.e., no salt, using no-salt added ingredients, etc.). Just in case you were wondering.

Four Forks. Woot!

Yes, I had to have some cheese tonight. Just one of those days.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

A Confession and a Promise

OK peeps - I have a Cuisineart. And I have maybe used it once in 11 years. I lost the direction manual sometime over our multiple moves, so I don't know how to use it. Therefore, I typically avoid recipes that call for pureeing or blending or anything that I can't do by hand. Which, kind of blows, to be honest, because I love soups and all sorts of things that call for pureeing, etc.

So, a few weeks ago, my fab blog designer K-Skull invited me lunch at the glorious Washington Place Bistro & Inn, where they were filming a segment for "Unique Eats" on the Cooking Channel. We both know the owner - me b/c of my hubs and fantasy baseball, she through work, etc. (My definition of "know" in this case, btw, is having met him once before and listening to fantasy football chat from the hubs.) 

Anyway, I digress. So, K-Skull also invited her lovely friend R, and over the course of the multi-hour taping, I was telling her about (ahem, self-promoting) the blog, and we both discovered neither of us knew how to work our Cuisinearts, and promised to try and figure it out.

For me, tonight was that night.

I found instructions online, put it all together, was ready to give it a test whirl and - epic fail. It no longer works. At all. And is discontinued. Oh well. And, seeing that tonight's recipe called for pureeing, well, I just winged it. (Side note: I also tried to puree with my hand-mixer. That doesn't work, for the record.)

So, at least I tried. And NOW, I have decided to invest in a real blender - send me your recommendations!

Chicken Tetrazzini Casserole
Source: Clean Eating, January 2011

  • Olive oil cooking spray
  • 1/2 lb whole wheat penne
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 6 oz cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 c. diced sweet onion
  • 1 medium carrot, peeled, halved length-wise and thinly sliced (about 1/2 c.)
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt (skip)
  • 2 c. low-fat, low-sodium chicken broth (use unsalted)
  • 1/3 c. low-fat sour cream
  • 3 tbsp finely chopped fresh parsley (used bottled)
  • 1 oz. parm-reggiano cheese, grated (used Kraft)
  • 2 tsp finely chopped fresh tarragon (used bottled)
  • 1/4 tsp grated lemon zest (skip)
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice (used bottled)
  • 5 oz roasted chicken breast, torn into bite-size pieces
  • 3/4 c. frozen peas, thawed
  • 1/2 c. chopped raw almonds (optional - used them)
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly mist large casserole dish with cooking spray; set aside.
  • Cook pasta to al dente according to directions, drain, rinse under cold water and drain again. Set aside.
  • Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over high heat. Add mushrooms, onion and carrot and cook, stirring for 1 minute. Add salt and continue to cook, stirring, until mushrooms are golden brown and carrot has softened, about 4 minutes. Add broth, bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium and simmer gently until carrot is tender, about 5 minutes.
  • Transfer 3/4 of broth and 1/2 of veggies to a blender and puree until smooth (um, skipped). Add sour cream, parsley, half of parm, tarragon, lemon zest and juice and pulse blender until mixed.
  • Return pureed mixture to skillet and toss with pasta, chicken and peas. Transfer mixture to prepared casserole dish and sprinkle remaining half of parm cheese and almonds over top. Bake until sauce is bubbling and top is golden brown, about 20-25 minutes.
Yield: 6 servings (about 1.5 c.)
Per serving: Calories: 269; total fat: 7g (sat fat: 2g); carbs: 36g; fiber: 5g; sugars: 4g; protein: 16g; sodium: 226mg; choles: 27my

Since I couldn't really do the recipe as in the directions, I just winged it. I also added a bit more chicken and a bit more sour cream, to make it a little creamier. This recipe made a ton - way more than six servings. Even without the pureeing, it seemed super saucy, esp at the bottom. I thought it was OK - a lot of work for nothing particularly special.

Two Forks

Looking good!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Baking for a Break

We had quite the interesting evening last night on our little cul-de-sac. The least important - there was a false fire alarm a couple of houses down, sending us nosy neighbors out into the rain to check things out around 10p (usually way past my bedtime, btw). And, earlier in the evening, my kid's best bud across the road tumbled off his trampoline and endured a pretty nasty arm break. Ick.

We were supposed to have the kid's first flag football game today, but due to rain, it was cancelled, so I took the opportunity to whip out some cookies for our peeps across the street. I doubled the recipe so we could also benefit from the cookies (duh), and since I completely and totally forgot to tell my parents that the flag football game was cancelled and they went anyway, they will also receive some cookies.

I happened across this recipe whilst (!) planning my weekly meals, and saw that I had every single ingredient on hand. That's called a no-brainer, peeps.

Banana Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
Source: Cooking Light, July 2009

  • 1/2 c. mashed ripe banana (about 1 medium)
  • 1/2 c. packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 c. butter, softened
  • 1/2 c. granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • 5.6 oz all-purpose flour (about 1.25 cups)
  • 2 c. old-fashioned oats
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • Cooking spray
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  • Combine first 5 ingredients in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until smooth. Add egg; beat well.
  • Weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, oats, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add flour mixture to banana mixture in bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended. Stir in chocolate chips.
  • Drop batter by heaping tablespoonfuls 2 inches apart onto baking sheets coated with cooking spray. Bake for 18 minutes or until golden. Cool on pans 2 minutes. Remove cookies from pans; cool completely on wire racks.
Yield: 2 dozen (serving size: 1 cookie)
Per cookie: 115 calories; 3.6g fat (sat: 2g; mono 1.1g; poly: 0.3g) protein: 2g; carb: 19.1g; fiber: 1.2g; chol: 14mg; sodium: 121mg calc: 10mg

First: Notice what's missing? Oil! Yay!
Second: This was very easy to prepare, and I was able to whip out two batches very quickly. Also - typically when I make cookies (not too often - kind of suck at it, to be honest) - the yield is never true to recipe. But this time it was! This made a ton of cookies!
Third: The kid thought the cookie was so-so (he threw half out), but both the hubs and I liked these cookies a lot. Think kind of crunchy banana chocolate chip bread. Bam!

Three Forks

Other random ranking: Ohio State: ZERO FORKS for the almost heart-attack they gave Buckeye Nation today.

Lots of cookies - batch one

Cookie close-up

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Tastes Like Chicken

I didn't have a meal planned for tonight because the kid was supposed to have soccer practice, immediately followed by flag football practice (no tackle in this house!), but due to some scheduling items, we had to skip football. Therefore, I decided to pull together a last-minute meal using ingredients I had on hand.

Usually, I do not have snapper fillets just laying around the house, but a couple of weeks ago, at the "gentle" urging of my trainer, I bought some frozen snapper fillets with the intention of eating them when I was flying solo for dinner. Honestly (and strangely?) I have never prepared snapper and don't have a strong recollection of ordering it in restaurants (and I do go out pretty regularly), so I wasn't sure how it would taste - my trainer promised it pretty much "tastes like chicken" so, OK, I went with it.

Snapper, since I assume you are wondering, is high in protein and omega-3 fatty acids, and low in saturated fat. I guess it isn't always the best choice when it comes to sustainable harvesting, so my bad. (I am not an expert  - just relaying information I found online.)  

Baked Snapper with Chipotle Butter
Source: Cooking Light, May 2003

  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin (used 1 tsp)
  • 1/2 tsp paprika (used 1 tsp)
  • 1/4 tsp salt (skip)
  • 1/8 tsp pepper (skip)
  • 4 6-oz snapper or other firm whitefish fillets
  • Cooking spray
  • 1 tbsp butter, softened
  • 1 canned chipotle chile in adobo sauce, minced (I just used some sauce)
  • Lemon wedge (skip)
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  • Combine the first 4 ingredients; sprinkle evenly over fish. Place fish on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray; bake 15 minutes or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork.
  • While fish bakes, combine the butter and chile. Spread butter mixture evenly over fish. Serve with lemon wedges.
Yield: 4 servings
Per serving: 203 calories; 5.4g fat (sat: 2.3g, mono: 1.3g; poly: 0.9g); protein: 35.2g; choles: 71mg; sodium: 317mg; carbs: 1.6g

Edamame Couscous
Source: Health magazine, September 2002

  • 1/2 tsp salt (skip)
  • 1 c. frozen shelled edamame, thawed
  • 3/4 c. uncooked couscous (I use whole wheat)
  • 1.5 tsp fresh minced parsley (skip - didn't have any)
  • 1/2 tsp grated lemon rind (skip)
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/8 tsp pepper
  • Bring 1 cup of water and salt to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add the edamame, and cook 30 seconds. Stir in the couscous and remaining ingredients. Remove the mixture from the heat, cover it tightly and let it stand for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork before serving.
Yield: 4 servings (I assumed 1/2 c. per serving of cooked)
Per serving: 218 calories; 5g fat (sat 1g; mono 1g; poly 2g); choles: 0mg; sodium: 306mg; protein: 13g; fiber: 4g

Full disclosure - I only had two fillets, so the kid ate panko crusted halibut that I also had on hand. He loved it. He did not love the edamame couscous. The hubs really liked the snapper, and I did too, even though it didn't really taste like chicken to me (sorry MV!). The chipotle butter added a nice little kick - even when used sparingly. We both liked the edamame couscous.

At the suggestion of my brillz and bubbly pal HK, I am now going to incorporate a ranking/sorting system with each of the recipes. Of course, because my technical skills are sometimes challenged, bear with me as I continue to refine this.

One Fork: Not good, would not make again
Two Forks: So-so, only worth the effort if particularly motivated
Three Forks: Very good, but not top of the pops
Four Forks: Outstanding

Baked Snapper with Chipotle Butter: Three Forks

Holy half-cup serving!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Change Up

When I was planning tonight's meal, I failed to take into serious consideration today's weather - damp, cool and November-like. So, I decided I needed something warm and comforting. And healthy - although, honestly, cheesy potatoes and a bowl of french steaming-hot onion soup sounded really tempting. But, since my doctors, trainer and heart probably wouldn't love the massive sodium intake, I instead went with a lighter version of bolognese.

I am sure that some of my Italian peeps will shudder at this version, but since my ancestors are more of the Eastern European variety, I feel no shame.

Chicken Spaghetti Bolognese
Source: Eat Better America (an e-newsletter I receive)

  • 1 lb ground chicken
  • 1 lbs uncooked multigrain spaghetti
  • 2 tbsp evoo
  • 1/2 onion, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1-28oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 1/2 c. white wine
  • 1 c. low-sodium chicken broth (I use unsalted)
  • 2 tbsp fresh basil or 1 tsp dried basil (I used dried basil)
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • salt and pepper (skip and skip)
  • 1/3 c. fat-free half and half
  • parm cheese
  • Heat oil over high heat in a medium pot. Add onions, garlic, celery, carrots and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Saute until veggies are soft, about 5 minutes.
  • Add the ground chicken, sprinkle with a little salt and pepper and brown for a few minutes. Then turn up the heat and add wine, being sure to scrap the brown bits from off the bottom of the pan.
  • Simmer uncovered over low heat, stirring occasionally until sauce thickens, about 15 mins. Remove from heat. If sauce is too thick, add more chicken stock. Taste the sauce and if it needs it, add a little more salt and pepper.
  • Add half and half and serve over 1lb of cooked spaghetti and sprinkle with parm cheese.
Yield: 8 servings
Per serving: 370 cals; 9g fat (sat: 2g; trans 0g); choles: 35mg; sodium: 690mg; cabs: 54g; protein: 19g; fiber: 6g; sugars: 8g.

First of all, look at the ingredients. Then look at the directions. Then look at the ingredients. The directions kind of skipped, um, several of the ingredients. ???? So, I improvised and just added all of the left-out ingredients in step 2. Hm. Aaaaannnd - what's up with adding all of that salt? I also let it simmer for a little bit longer than 15 minutes, because unlike in the directions, the sauce was not even close to being too thick. Plus I was on the phone and not paying close enough attention. Oh - and I completely forgot to add the half and half. Oh well. I also added a bit of oregano in addition to the basil. You may now call me Julia Child. (Just DO NOT compare my blog to Julie & Julia!)

Despite all of this, the overall taste was good. Not tons of flavor, but luckily none of us have particularly refined palates. The kid did note that he enjoyed the chicken in the dish. It hit the spot on a cold, damp night.

Forgot to add broccoli tonight as planned - oh well!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Quickies All Around

(Peeps: Get your minds out of the gutter!)

Quick post tonight to go with the quick meal. As I might have mentioned, Tuesdays are particularly hectic for us, with after-school and work commitments, etc. So, when I plan my meals, I try to select a fast and easy dish.

Tonight's meal was no exception. Reminiscent of that delish meal known as the sloppy joe, this cleans it up and keeps the nutritionals manageable. To keep the preparation to a minimum, we added sweet potato puffs from Alexia Foods.

Mini Sloppy Janes
Source: Oxygen magazine, July 2009

  • Cooking spray
  • 1/2 c. chopped onion
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 10 oz. lean ground turkey
  • 1/2 c. canned black beans, rinsed (I used no-salt added)
  • 1 c. tomato puree
  • 1 tbsp cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1/4 tsp mustard powder
  • 8 whole wheat dinner rolls, split in half
  • Lightly coat a medium skillet with cooking spray and heat over moderate-high heat. Add onion and garlic and cook until onion softens, approx. 5 minutes.
  • Add ground turkey and cook, stirring to break up the meat, until no longer pink, approx. 5 minutes.
  • Stir in beans, tomato puree, vinegar, chili powder and mustard powder. Cook until bubbly and slightly thickened. Divide evenly among rolls.
Yield: 4 servings (1 whole roll, 3oz sloppy jane mixture)
Per serving: Calories: 315; total fat: 9g (sat: 2g, trans: 0g); choles: 55mg; sodium: 352mg; carbs: 42g; fiber: 11g; sugar: 9g; protein: 20g; iron: 4mg

I've made this a bunch of times before, and it always turns out well. The boys both ate their entire portion - and there are plenty of leftovers for lunches. Although I'm hanging this one up for the year, I have plenty of other sloppy joe-like recipes stored away. Side note: The kid did not enjoy the sweet potato puffs. We've also had these before, and I'm really the only one who likes them (because neither the kid nor the hubs love sweet potatoes). So why do I keep buying them? Say it with me: Chef's Choice.

My plating is exceptional tonight

Monday, September 5, 2011

Casserole Day

I have to admit - I love fall weather. Give me a crisp, cool day and I'm good to go. I will never complain about the scorching heat and humidity, but that's only because I will complain bitterly about the snow. But at the end of the day, I love turtleneck and jeans weather.

After a kind of humid start this morning, today turned into a nice, crispy day. Hence the double casseroles! Actually, I made one for a meal train (celebrating the birth of a sweet baby boy), and the other for us.

First - the meal train dish. No nutritionals, but I can't imagine this is at all particularly healthy.

Ranch Medley Casserole
Source: Pillsbury Casseroles & Slow Cooker (Jan/Feb 2007) - another one of those grocery aisle books

  • 1 bag frozen broccoli, carrots & cauliflower
  • 2 c diced cooked ham (I used chicken)
  • 2 c. refrigerated diced potatoes with onions (used plain)
  • 1-10oz container Alfredo pasta sauce
  • 1/2 c. ranch dressing (used light)
  • 24 round, butter crackers, crushed
  • 2 tbsp butter or margarine, melted
  • Heat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, mix frozen veggies, ham, potatoes, Alfredo sauce and ranch dressing. Spread evenly in an ungreased 13x9-inch baking dish.
  • In a small bowl, mix crackers and melted butter. Sprinkle over top of casserole.
  • Bake 40-45 mins or until bubbly and topping is golden brown.
Next up - our dinner. I am cooking almost every night this week, so I opted for a Meatless Monday selection. I actually ripped this recipe from an ad out of Cooking Light - you just never know where you'll find something interesting.

Mediterranean Brown Rice Vegetable Bake
Source: Carolina Rice/Cooking Light Tested & Recommended

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped (used minced)
  • 1 c. chopped fennel (skip)
  • 2 c. finely chopped mushrooms
  • 1/2 c. sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/2 c. low-fat ricotta cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 c. chopped fresh basil (used dried)
  • 1/4 c. chopped fresh parsley (skip)
  • 2 c. brown rice, cooked
  • 1/2 c. roasted almonds, chopped (used unsalted)
  • 1/2 tsp salt (skip)
  • 1/2 tsp pepper (skip)
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 c. shredded Parm cheese (used grated)
  • Heat large skillet over medium heat. Add oil to pan, swirl to coat. Add onions, garlic and fennel; saute 6 minutes. Add mushrooms and tomatoes. Cook until all of the liquid has evaporated from the pan. Set aside and cool completely.
  • In a large mixing bowl, mix together ricotta and eggs. Add cooled, cooked veggie mixture and the remaining ingredients, including the brown rice. Mix well.
  • Lightly coat a 1.5-quart baking dish with oil (used cooking spray). Place mixture in dish and cover with foil. Bake for 40 minutes at 350 degrees.
Yield: 8 servings
Per serving: 226 cals; 14.1g fat (5.1 sat; 1.7 poly; 6.3 mono); 364mg sodium; 18.2 carb; 13.7 protein

I don't know how the Ranch Medley Casserole tasted because I've never made it before, and I delivered it to be cooked (which is also why there is no picture). I can tell you it was super fast to prepare and looked like it made a ton. I included a salad, garlic bread and (store-bought) dessert for the fam. Howevs, my guess is, even if they hated it and threw it away (!) they are way too nice to tell me!

As far as the rice bake, a couple of notes. First of all, the recipe and websites didn't include any nutritionals, which I find super annoying, particularly for "healthy" recipes. So, I used Sparkpeople to figure it out. The nutritionals are based on my version of the recipe (i.e., grated parm, no fennel, etc.). We also had rolls and broccoli.

The recipe itself took a bit of time to prep and then bake. So, probs not the best choice for a busy weeknight. Howevs, it turned out really well, and I liked it a lot. The hubs finished every last bite, and the kid deemed it "so-so" and ate about half. Winner, winner, non-chicken dinner.

Meatless Monday

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Either because of or in spite of?

About 16 years ago, as I was cruising through my senior year in college, I met a blond guy at a student association fair. It was a quick introduction - I didn't even remember his name. However, over the course of the next few months, our paths kept crossing in classes, at the student newspaper, at happy hours, etc. Fast-forward to February of our senior year, and he finally asked me out. The first date was a typical restaurant deal, and on the second date, he made me beef stroganoff.

First of all, I had never tasted beef stroganoff. Second of all, I had never had a guy prepare an entire meal for me - think salad, rolls, dessert - the whole enchilada. AND he served it on a TV tray! As you might have guessed, dear readers, I ended up marrying that blond guy and we are fast-approaching our 11-year wedding anniversary.

While this post might have been better timed around our actual anniversary, I felt like making beef stroganoff tonight. Plus, as I mentioned in a previous post, the chances of me cooking on our anniversary are pretty slim. Of course, I have multiple versions of this recipe - some healthy, some not so healthy.

Beef Stroganoff
Source: Clean Eating magazine (Nov/Dec 2010)

  • 1.5c. extra-wide whole wheat egg noodles
  • 4.5 tsp evoo, divided
  • 2 tbsp white whole-wheat flour (just used white flour)
  • 1 c. low sodium beef broth (I use unsalted)
  • 1/3c. low-fat sour cream at room temp
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1/4 tsp fine sea salt (skip)
  • 1/4 tsp pepper (skip)
  • 1.5 tsp chopped fresh dill or flat-leaf parsley, divided (skipped - forgot to buy)
  • 9oz beef tenderloin, trimmed, cut into 1/4-inch slices, then into 1- to 2-inch pieces
  • 6 shallots, quartered lengthwise (used onions)
  • 1.5 lb brown or cremini mushrooms, trimmed and quartered (used sliced)
  • Cook noodles according to directions.
  • Meanwhile, heat 3tsp oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in flour and cook, whisking constantly, for one minute. Add broth in a slow stream, whisking constantly. Bring mixture to a simmer, reduce heat to low and cook, whisking occasionally for 3 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in sour cream, Dijon, soy sauce, salt, pepper and 1/2 tsp dill. Cover to keep warm and set aside.
  • Heat remaining 1.5 tsp oil in a large nonstick skillet over med-high heat. Cook beef, stirring occasionally, until browned on both sides but still pink in center, 1-2 minutes. Transfer to a plate using a slotted spoon.
  • Add shallots to skillet and cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally until browned, about 2 minutes. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms are browned and tender, 7-9 minutes. Return beef, along with any accumulated juices, to skillet. Stir in sauce.
  • Transfer noodles to plates or a platter and top with beef mixture. Sprinkle with remaining 1 tsp dill and serve.
Yield: Six servings (2/3c noodles and 2/3c beef mixture)
Per serving: Calories: 303; total fat: 8.5g  (sat: 2g; mono: 4g; poly: 0.5g); carbs: 41g; fiber: 6.5g; sugars: 3g; protein: 20g; sodium: 195mg; chols: 31mg

I also made peanut butter brownies, just because they sounded good.

Peanut Butter Cup Blondies
Source: Cooking Light, September 2011

  • 5.6oz all-purpose flour (about 1-1/4 c.)
  • 1 c. granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/3 c. creamy peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted and cooled slightly
  • 2 tbsp 2% milk (used 1%)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs, slightly beaten
  • 1/4 c. semisweet chocolate chips
  • cooking spray
  • 4 (0.75oz) peanut butter cups, coarsely chopped
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour and next 3 ingredients (through salt), stirring well with a whisk.
  • In a separate bowl, combine peanut butter and next 4 ingredients (through eggs), stirring well. Add peanut butter mixture to flour mixture; stir until combined. Stir in chocolate chips.
  • Scrape the batter into a 9-inch square metal baking pan lightly coated with cooking spray. Arrange the chopped peanut butter cups over batter bake at 350 degrees for 19 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted comes out with moist crumbs clinging. Cool in pan on a wire rack.
Yield: 20 servings (1 brownie)
Per serving: Calories: 153; Fat: 7g (sat: 2.9g; mono 2g; poly: 0.8g); Protein: 3.2g; carb: 20.8g; fiber: 0.7g; chol: 28mg; iron: 0.7mg; sodium: 98mg; calc: 17mg

First up - the brownies. Very easy to prepare - the only issue I had was that it took longer than 19 minutes to bake through. Maybe because I used a glass pan instead of a metal one? Very good taste - I was worried they were going to be super-sweet (which I don't love), but they aren't. Me and the hubs enjoyed the brownies, the kid thought it was so-so. I think he just had his mind set on ice cream.

We also all enjoyed the stroganoff. Kind of a hassle to make with all of the different pans, etc., but good flavor.

Side note: The hubs once again showed his stroganoff chops by serving as a sous chef to help with the cooking when I got called away for some thing I had to deal with. That's also why there's no picture of the stroganoff. Double side note: Serious shout out to a couple of my 'hood mamas who came through big-time tonight!

Yum - blondies!