Monday, October 31, 2011

Scary Soup, Spooky Salads and Saran

You know how I love good alliteration - I couldn't resist tonight.

Today was one of those completely ridiculous days. With Halloween kinda a big deal to the 8-year-old crowd, we had a packed schedule. But, I managed to squeeze in time to make three dishes. For three different needs. And no, I am not popping any sort of uppers (is "uppers" such a 70s word?).

Side note: Does anyone else have issues with saran wrap? It always twists and turns and gets all screwed up whenever I try to use it. I'm not a fan of saran (!!!!).

The recipes: Let's just get right to it. I am not going to type out all of the ingredients because I don't feel like it. I did replace the called-for ingredients with low-sodium alternatives, in case you are wondering. And, if you want a specific recipe, contact me.

1. Salad: Being the good, community/school contributor that I am, I volunteered to provide a salad for tomorrow's parent-teacher conferences (I'm on the hospitality committee). Hopefully my contribution will result in stellar praise for the kid.

Seven-Layer Salad
Source: Eating Well, May/June 2009


Seven-Layer Side View

2. 'Hood Pizza Party: You've heard about my 'hood. We're all a little obsessed with each other. So, obviously, we have to gather before Halloween to eat. I've hosted this "phreaky pizza party" (oh yes that IS what I've called our shindig) for several years, but due to my travel and absent-mindedness, my good 'hoodie C hosted it. I contributed pasta salad.

Pasta Side Salad Made Over
Source: Kraft Food & Family, Summer 2006


Pasta Side Salad shot

3. Soup: Knowing the hubs would not have the opportunity to eat before trick-or-treating (he missed the party) and knowing that I would not eat with the baby on the prowl at said party, I thought a nice, warm crock pot of chicken soup for later would be a good solution. Plus, it makes the house smell cozy.

Vegetable Chicken Soup
Source: Taste of Home Heartwarming Soups, Fall 2011

BTW, the soup involves barley, 'shrooms, tomatoes and other healthy goodness.


Soup
Reviews:
I am waiting for the rest of the crew to get home, so I have only had a spoonful of soup and it was very tasty (and hot). I did not try the pasta salad, but heard that it was well-received. As for the seven-layer salad, I guess we'll see what the kid's teacher has to say tomorrow night.



Sunday, October 30, 2011

Chex it Out!

Oh yeah - I went there.

I made not one, but two variations of Chex Mix today. In fact, today I became one of "those" moms. You know the kind I'm talking about. The moms who show up to school parties with sweet little bags of pretty homemade treats. I'm usually one of "the other" moms. I go to every party at the kid's school, but I typically sign up to bring something uber-creative like bottled water or napkins. Not because I don't like to bake - obviously I have a thing for the kitchen, hence the challenge - but because I don't have a cute, cooking/creative gene in my body unless it is specifically (and easily) spelled out for me.

But today, I went for it. I signed up to bring "salty snack" (OMG the irony) for Halloween. I was going to purchase a bunch of bags of pretzels, but instead made homemade Chex Mix (with some minor variations). And, because I have sooo much of the cereal leftover, I also made a chocolate variation for our personal eating pleasure. (Note: We still have oodles of the Chex goodness to spare.) I'm not going to include the recipes here - just purchase any box of Chex cereal and you'll find a bunch of recipes on the back. And box tops. Because I'm THAT mom.



Original
Chocolate
Ready to party!


On to dinner. Per usual, when I was planning the menu for this week, I asked the boys for some suggestions. This time, the hubs offered up a "it's almost cold enough for meat loaf." So, meat loaf it is.

Dutch Meat Loaf

Ingredients:
  • 1 15-oz can tomato sauce (used no-salt added)
  • 1/4 c. water
  • 2 tbsp mustard
  • 1 tbsp cider vinegar
  • 1 lb extra lean ground beef
  • 1 c. bread crumbs (used no-salt added whole wheat)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1/4 tsp pepper (skip)
Directions:
  • Combine tomato sauce, water, mustard, and vinegar. Mix beef with bread crumbs, egg, onion, pepper and a quarter of the tomato sauce mixture. Shape into a loaf pan. Pour enough sauce over top of meat loaf to coat. Bake uncovered at 350 degrees, basting often. Warm remaining sauce, serve over sliced loaf.
Yield: 6 servings
Per serving 218 calories; 8g fat (3g sat); 19g carbs; 18g protein; 47mg choles; 431mg sodium

Roasted Red Potatoes with Lemon and Olive Oil
Source: Healthy Heart Cookbook

Ingredients:
  • 1 lb tiny red potatoes, halved
  • 1/4 c. fresh lemon juice (used refrigerated)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt (skip)
  • 1/4 tsp pepper (skip)
Directions:
  • In a casserole dish, arrange potatoes. Combine the rest of the ingredients, pour over potatoes. Roast at 350 degrees 30-40 mins or until potatoes are tender.
Yield: 4 servings
Per serving 157 calories; 3g fat; 30g carbs; 2g protein; 275mg sodium

Reviews:
The meatloaf was good. Not great. I have an amazing meat loaf recipe that will be coming your way at some point, and this one was just OK. I tasted a lot of the breadcrumbs. The potatoes were so-so - very lemony, and not crispy enough for my taste. I should have - as I have in the past - roasted them at a much higher temperature for longer to crisp them up. Oh well. The hubs enjoyed the meal, and the kid ate half of his 'loaf (no ground beef issues tonight) and predictably, a half of a bite of potato.

Ranking:
Two Forks


Meat and taters



Saturday, October 29, 2011

Scary Saturday

There's something you should know about me - as much as I love to cook and bake, I am no good at decorating or making food look pretty. You may have already surmised this based on my stellar food images, but as long as it is healthy, tastes good and looks somewhat edible, I'm not all about the food styling.

Of course, some of my friends and neighbors are especially good at this (I'm looking at you, Juls A!). That's why, when I happened across this "recipe" I knew it would be perfect for the annual Halloween fete we are going to tonight. Bring it on! (Is that so Brandi Glanville of me?)

This also fits a number of my requirements for today: Fast, easy and festive. What this does not fit is healthy. But listen, sometimes you just have to go with it. Plus, I have no intention on eating these, because they will probs be way too sweet for me.

Ghost Cookies
Source: Food Network Magazine, October 2011

"Frost" nutter butter or similarly shaped cookies with marshmallow fluff. Dot with black decorating gel. Let set. Eat. Boo!

No rankings, no reviews.



Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Fall Flavor

My sister-in-law and I have very different food tastes. For example, she loves all things lemon, whereas the thought of lemony anything makes my tastebuds hurt. So when I discovered her love of pumpkin, I kind of categorized it in the lemon-coconut-sister-in-law-icky-taste category, but was I wrong (just don't tell anyone!).

While I'm not a big fan of pumpkin spice lattes or overly sweet pumpkiny flavors, like cooking and baking with it. And, according to my friend Google, pumpkin has a lot of nutritional benefits, including a good source of dietary fiber, low in calories, no cholesterol or saturated fats, loads of anti-oxidants, etc. Bring on the pumpkin!

Pumpkin Pasta Surprise
Source: Clean Eating, May/June 2010

Ingredients:
  • 1 13-oz package of whole grain pasta
  • 1 lb lean ground turkey
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped (used minced)
  • 1 large carrot, shredded
  • 1 roma tomato, chopped (used 1/2 can no-salt added diced)
  • 1 small zucchini, diced with peel on
  • 1 roasted red pepper, chopped (didn't roast)
  • 15 oz. pumpkin puree
  • 1 tbsp low-fat plain cream cheese
Directions:
  • Cook pasta according to directions. Undercook slightly or it will get mushy later.
  • Meanwhile, brown turkey until no longer pink. Drain fat, return to pan and add onion and garlic. Saute turkey mixture until onions are translucent. Add carrot, tomato and zucchini and saute for 3-5 mins until tender.
  • Add red pepper, pumpkin puree and pasta sauce. Cover and simmer for 7-10 mins, until zucchini is soft. Add cream cheese, then turn off heat and let cream cheese melt.
  • Add pasta and mix, cover and let stand for 2 mins.
Yield: 6 servings (1 c. per serving)
Per serving: 402 calories; total fat: 3.5g (0.5g sat); 62g carbs; 6g fiber; 29g protein; 72mg sodium (!); 36mg choles

Reviews:
Clean plate club all around! Even though the hubs complained it appeared to have too many veggies, every single one of us chowed down - including the kid. I've made this one in the past, so I knew it was going to be good. Plus, it makes a ton, so the hubs has leftovers while I'm tripping the light fantastic (i.e., traveling for work).

Ranking:
Four Forks! I love that this has tons of nutritional value but kind of feels like pasta with meat sauce. It was very easy to prepare, didn't take too long to throw together - a great dish for a busy weeknight. Try it!

Surprise - it's pumpkin!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Packing a Protein Punch

Even though it's Monday, I decided to give the boys a break and go with chicken because I am going to be out of commission as of Wednesday for a few days due to a business trip.

Tonight's main even was chock full o' protein - a trainer's dream! Let's review:
  • Chicken crusted with walnuts: Obviously a boneless, skinless chicken breast has a bunch of the good stuff. When you add walnuts to the equation, you get up to 4g more, plus a nutritional bonus of antioxidants and omega-3s.
  • Quinoa: Quinoa contains more protein than any other grain, with a whole gaggle of fiber thrown in for fun. I added some almonds to the quinoa - another good source of protein.
I was not intending on making this meal all about protein, it just worked out that way. Plus, I was looking for some sort of theme for tonight's blog entry.

Walnut-Crusted Chicken
Source: Light & Delish, Spring 2010

Ingredients:
  • 1/2 c. panko
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne
  • 1/2 c. walnuts
  • 1/4 c. loosely packed parsley leaves (skip)
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 tsp Dijon
  • 1.5 lbs thinly sliced chicken breast cutlets (used regular chicken breasts)
Directions:
  • Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Spray pan with cooking spray.
  • Combine panko and cayenne. In a food processor, blend walnuts and parsley until nuts are finely chopped. Toss with panko mixture until well blended. (I just crushed the walnuts instead of using the food processor tonight)
  • In a separate bowl, whisk egg white and Dijon until well-mixed.
  • Dip chicken into egg white mixture, then coat in panko mixture. Arrange in pan then spray top lightly with cooking spray.
  • Bake until chicken is cooked through and golden brown, approx. 10-12 mins (for thinly sliced cutlets).
Yield: 6 servings (I assumed four ounces/serving - the recipe does not include portion sizes - meh)
Per serving: 215 calories; 29g protein; 5g carbs; 8g fat (1g sat); 1g fiber; 66mg chol; 280mg sodium

I paired the chicken with a pilaf-like quinoa - just sauteed some chopped carrots, scallions, red peppers, oregano and minced garlic, mixed it into the cooked quinoa and added some slivered almonds. This recipe comes from the back of the quinoa box, but I only followed a portion of it (but will not repeat!).

Reviews:
This is a good weeknight meal. It was fast to prepare and required little effort. We all really liked it - the kid finished his entire serving. The hubs and I also enjoyed the quinoa pilaf, but the kid did not at all. He noted it tasted too much like couscous, which is apparently doesn't like. When I pointed out it didn't have that much flavor in general, he countered that was exactly why he didn't like it.. Kid: 1. Mom: 0.

Ranking:
Three Forks

Sunday, October 23, 2011

A Man's Meal

Tonight is not a night for foo-foo type of foods. Our late night last night (highly atypical for us old fogeys) combined with the cooler fall temps, means we need stick-to-the-ribs sustenance. Especially if we have any hope at all of staying awake through both the Amazing Race and RHONJ reunion (do not get me started on that Teresa).

However, "stick-to-the-ribs" is not usually the healthiest of choices. Enter Clean Eating Comfort Foods with all of its tempting goodness. After perusing the cookbook a few dozen times, I decided go a bit outside of our comfort zone with tonight's main event. I went with bison. I went with fresh cauli. Ooooh.

Bison - according to BisonBasics.com by way of the USDA - is low in calories, saturated fat and cholesterol, and is chock-full of iron and omega-3s. And cauliflower has all sorts of cancer-fighting benefits, and serves as a detox support (score!). Remember, I am not a nutritionist or an expert. I find my information online so do not assume it is 100 percent accurate.

Skinny Shepard's Pie
Source: Clean Eating Classic Comfort Foods

Ingredients:
  • 2 Yukon gold potatoes, scrubbed well and quartered (used russet)
  • 2 c. cauliflower florets (peeps, I used FRESH here)
  • 1 tsp each salt/pepper (skip)
  • 1/2 c. skim milk
  • 1 diced onion
  • 3 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 lb ground bison
  • 1 c. sliced carrots, chopped into half moons
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp whole-wheat flour
  • 1 c. low-sodium beef broth (used no-salt added)
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tbsp fresh thyme (didn't use fresh)
  • 1 c. frozen peas
Directions:
  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees
  • Bring a large pot of water to boil, add potatoes and cook 8 mins. Add cauli, cook 7 additional mins or until potatoes are tender. Drain and transfer to a large pot. Add salt, pepper and mil, and mash until smooth. Set aside.
  • Heat a large skillet on med heat, mist with cooking spray. Add onion, garlic, bison and carrots and cook until bison is no longer pink.
  • In a medium skillet, heat oil on medium. Sprinkle in flour and whisk until no lumps remain (approx 1 min). Gradually add broth, whisking constantly until mixture is smooth and begins to thicken. Add Worcestershire and thyme, whisking to combine.
  • In a 10x15 (?) casserole dish, add bison mixture, broth mixture and peas, stir to combine. Spread in an even layer, then top with potato-cauli mixture. Mist top with cooking spray (forgot to do this), and bake until filling is bubbling and top is golden brown, approx. 30 mins.
Yield: 8 servings (1 cup per serving)
Per serving: 191 cals; 5g fat (1g sat); 19g carbs; 3g fiber; 3.5g sugar; 16g protein; 332mg sodium; 41mg choles

Reviews:
A mashed potatoes-meat combination? This did not go over at all with the kid. He ate approx. 1/2 tsp of the meat mixture, and even less of the mashed potatoes. Oh well - he won't starve. The hubs approved, although he noted there were "too many veggies." Yes, peas and carrots equals "too many" for his five-year-old palate. Fortunately, I liked this meal very much. The mashed potatoes with cauli turned out nice and smooth, and the bison mixture had a good flavor.

Ranking:
Three Forks


Mashed cauli mixture!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Meal Train Rides Again

I have one foot out the door right now because we are heading out of town for the wedding of one of my oldest friends (not in age, in longevity, FYI). But, I also over-committed myself today to workout, hit the salon (obvs) and prepare a meal train dish - all before leaving! I also decided to throw in a little homemade dessert to add to the food-fun-in-a-rush.

Luckily for me, my 5:15 a.m. wake-up coupled with uber-efficiency (and ability to select easy recipes) has resulted in me being done with everything with about an hour to spare. And, not to mention the hubs volunteered to do all of the resulting dishes. ("Volunteer" is a little bit of a stretch, but oh well...) So now you get a fun blog to read too!

As I've written before, my 'hoodies jump on the meal train for babies and other food-needed activities. Today's meal is for some dear friends who had a bit of a health scare. Everyone is great, so I am beyond thrilled to share this meal with them. When I was selecting the meal, I was leaning towards some sort of pasta-based dish, until the hubs noted how risky it would be "to prepare pasta for an Italian." And peeps, this Italian can cook. So instead, I went heart healthy and low-risk.

Mushroom and Artichoke Chicken
Source: Healthy Heart Cookbook

Ingredients:
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp powdered rosemary (didn't use powdered)
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 2 chicken breasts, skinned and boned (used skinless and cut into medallions)
  • 2 tsp canola oil
  • 1 14-oz can water-packed artichoke hearts, quartered
  • 1/3 pound fresh mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • 2/3 c. chicken broth (used no-salt added)
  • 1/4 c. dry sherry
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 2 tbsp water
Directions:
  • In a shallow dish, combine first four ingredients and dredge chicken. In a nonstick skillet, heat oil. Add chicken and brown, 3-5 mins on each side. Arrange chicken in a 2-quart baking dish. Tuck artichokes in between.
  • Add mushrooms and onions to skillet, saute 2-3 mins. Add chicken broth and sherry, bring to a boil. Combine flour and water and add to broth mixture, stirring constantly for 2-3 mins. Pour sauce over chicken and artichokes. Cover with foil and bake at 375 for 40 mins. Serve with rice or pasta or whatever.
Per serving: 231 cals; 6g fat (1g sat); 1g fiber; 10g carbs; 29g protein; 73mg chol; 355mg sodium

And...
Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins
Source: AllRecipes.com

Ingredients:
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
Directions:
  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Grease and flour muffin pan or use paper liners.
  • Mix sugar, oil, eggs. Add pumpkin and water. In separate bowl mix together the baking flour, baking soda, baking powder, spices and salt.. Add wet mixture and stir in chocolate chips.
  • Fill muffin cups 2/3 full with batter. Bake in preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes.

Servings: 12
Per serving: 197 cals; 7.7g fat; 35mg choles

Reviews:
Muffins were very easy to prepare - especially because I churned out three batches (oh - yeah - 3 batches - one for us, one for my sister-in-law who LOVES pumpkin everything, and one for our buds). I am the only one who has sampled it so far, and I liked it. I also have no review on the meal because I am delivering it on our way out of town. I know the recipient reads the blog, so maybe we'll see a comment/review?!?!?!?


Meal train and muffins!


Extreme muffin close up

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Drumsticks

Tonight is Thursday, which means I'm usually on my last legs of energy. I have this very early morning wake-up thing happening (4:30a!) so I can workout and be back home before the rest of the crew gets moving, so by this time of the week I'm usually pretty tired.

That must mean it's time for tonight's musical interlude - my favorite version from one of my very, absolute favorite songs. SO GOOD. Listen to this at least a half dozen times in a row. Because that's how I roll.



Unfortunately for you, dear readers, the musical inspiration is about the only inspired thing happening here tonight. I don't have any creative quips or funsie super-food updates for you, so we'll just get to it.

Three-Herb Drumsticks
Source: Weight Watchers (date, unknown, and I'm not even 100 percent sure of the source, but the recipe includes points values, so I'll make that leap)

Ingredients:
  • 8 skinless chicken drumsticks (about 2lbs)
  • Juice of 1 large lemon (used 3 tbsp lemon juice)
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced (used refrigerated)
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh sage (not fresh)
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary (not fresh)
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh thyme (not fresh)
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp Dijon
  • 1/4 tsp salt (skip)
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper (skip)
  • 1 container grape or cherry tomatoes (skip - don't like - sorry GA)
Directions:
  • Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Spray a large rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray. Put drumsticks on baking sheet.
  • Mix all of the ingredients together through pepper in a small bowl. Pour over drumsticks and toss to coat. Add tomatoes.
  • Roast until drumsticks are cooked through, approx. 40 mins., turning halfway through the time.
Yield: 4 servings (2 drumsticks and 1/4 c. tomatoes)
Per serving: 231 calories; 8g fat (2g sat, 0g trans); 123mg chol; 310mg sodium; 5g carb; 34g protein

Reviews:
The best part about this meal was the smell. The roasting chicken legs make the house smell like Thanksgiving. Yum. The kid didn't like the chicken at all - even after we just gave him plain chicken meat - and I thought it was just so-so. A little bitter, to be honest. Maybe if I used fresh herbs it would have made a difference, but I didn't, so oh well. Plus, I didn't buy skinless chicken drumsticks, so the skin removal before actually coating and cooking was kind of a hassle. That aside, it was very easy to prepare, so that's a positive. And I think the hubs liked it more than me and the kid. I served it with Rice Selects wild rice blend of some sort and roasted asparagus.

Ranking:
Two Forks

Thanksgiving, the real deal... coming soon!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Tuna-tastrophe?

The hubs is going to be sooo excited that I used his new word as the title for this post.

Tonight - or actually today - had disaster written all over it. Sick kid, lousy weather, baby flu shot, blah. So of course, why not have a matching dinner?

(A little video distraction to match NEOs weather today...)




In keeping with the spirit of trying to include more fish in our lives (and to keep my trainer happy) I selected a tuna meal tonight. However, I was unable to find one of the key ingredients, so I decided to wing it.

Remember peeps - I am not a chef. I'm a PR person. So I can usually follow a recipe, but my creativity usually manifests itself at work, not in the kitchen. Therefore, "winging it" is not always the best solution for us. Nor, by the way, is trying to open a bag of frozen veggie quinoa without scissors. Because it ends up flying all over the place. And frozen quiona is NOT fun to try and clean up.

Anywho, we ate tuna. And quinoa. And broccoli. And lived to tell, despite my best efforts to kill off this meal.

Spicy Thai Tuna Cakes with Cucumber Aioli
Source: Cooking Light Fresh Food Fast, Spring/Summer 2010

Ingredients:
  • 3 (5-oz) cans Thai chili-flavored tuna, drained (couldn't find this at all, so used super low sodium canned tuna)
  • 1 large egg white
  • 1/2 c. panko
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro (skip)
  • Cooking spray
  • 1/2 c. shredded cucumber (skip)
  • 1/2 c. light mayo (skip - I do not love mayo unless it is stirred in and can't be tasted)
Directions:
  • Combine first 4 ingredients in a medium bowl. Divide mixture into four equal portions, shaping each into a 3/4-inch thick patty.
  • Heat a large nonstick skillet over med heat. Coat pan and patties with cooking spray. Add patties; cook 1-2 mins on each side or until lightly browned.
  • While the patties cook, combine cucumber and mayo in a small bowl. Serve with tuna cakes. (Skipped this entire step)
Yield: 4 servings (1 cake and 2 tbsp aioli)
Per serving: Cals: 173; fat: 9g (12g; 3.8g mono; 3.6g poly); 10.1g protein; 11.9g carbs; 26mg chol; 413mg sodium

Reviews:
Meh. The tuna cakes were dry and fell apart. I added a little bit of Dijon mustard and some pepper flakes to flavor it up. Didn't really work. Nor did these brown after 1-2 minutes. So, I basically squished them down into a single tuna pancake and crisped them up. They were edible and I know this was a reasonably healthy dinner, but this meal was not anything to write home about. At least the salvaged quinoa and my steamed broccoli was good.

Funny note about the broccoli. Because the kid went home from school today with stomach issues, I was the only one who had broccoli with dinner (the hubs eating steamed broccoli by choice is as likely as Ohio State winning the national championship this year). I don't think steamed broccoli is a smart choice for stomach pains, but the kid pouted and pouted and pouted until I relented and gave him a tiny piece. And he was totes OK with skipping his evening treat. Go figure.

Ranking:
One Fork


Tuna pancakes

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

New, New and More New

After much anticipation, tonight was the night I tried my first recipe out of the brand new Clean Eating Classic Comfort Foods! This new cookbook combines all of my favorites: clean recipes, delish foods and pretty pictures. Bam!

So, for the cookbook's debut in our house, I stepped a teeny bit outside of my comfort zone with this one. Normally - as you may have noticed - when recipes call for fresh herbs/spices, I rely on those little jars to get me through. I don't have a garden (and most likely never will. I do not like to garden. There. I said it.), and I feel like buying a whole gaggle of fresh whatever is kind of a waste of money. Yes, I can be cheap with stuff. And lazy when it comes to chopping up little bits of herbs. Because really, who wants to do that? But tonight, I went with the real deal. Clean-tastic!

OMG did a commercial just use the phrase "neti pot thingy"?? I approve.

Baked Greek-Style Pasta with Mint and Pea Pesto
Source: You know the source! Clean Eating Classic Comfort Foods

Ingredients:
  • 2 tsp EVOO
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 3/4 lbs lean ground beef or lamb (went with beef)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced (used refrigerated)
  • Pinch sea salt/pepper (skip)
  • 1/2 c. low-sodium chicken broth (used no-salt added)
  • 12 oz whole-grain rotini (used penne)
  • 1/2 c. low fat feta
  • 1/2 c. skim cottage cheese
  • 1 c. frozen peas
  • 1 packed cup fresh mint
  • 1/2 packed cup fresh parsley
  • 3 green onions, chopped
  • 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice (didn't use fresh)
  • 2 tsp lemon zest (skip)
Directions:
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  • Bring a small saucepan of water to a boil. Add peas and cook for approx. 1 min. Transfer peas to food processor; add mint, parsley, green onions, 4 tsp oil and 2 tbsp water. Pulse until finely chopped, about 30 seconds. Scrape into a large bowl, stir in lemon juice and zest. (Use a super big bowl, btw)
  • In a large skillet, heat 2 tsp oil on med heat. Add yellow onion and cook until soft, about 5 mins. Stir in beef, garlic, salt/pepper and cook until browned. Add broth and cook for 1 more minute. Remove from heat.
  • Meanwhile, cook pasta. Reserve 1/2 c. pasta cooking water (I started the pasta at the same time as the peas, btw).
  • Add pasta and reserved water to bowl with pesto and combine. Add in beef mixture. Transfer to a 13x9 dish and sprinkle with feta and cottage cheese. Bake until golden, approx. 20 mins.
Yield: 8 servings (1-1/2 c. per serving)
Calories: 299; total fat: 9g (2g sat, 3.5 mono, 1g poly); 34g carbs; 8.5g fiber; 4g sugars; 20.5g protein; 186mg sodium; 27mg chol

Reviews:
The hubs took one look at the empty (green) blender bowl and turned his nose up. You know how he feels about green. AND this includes ground beef - we all know how the kid feels about ground beef. So I was kind of expecting the worst from the boys. Yet, they were both members of the clean plate club. The recipe was delish. My only small issue? After about 22 minutes in the oven, the top wasn't super brown, so I popped on the broiler for about 2 minutes to crisp it up a teeny bit. 

Ranking:
Three Forks: Kind of a lot of prep for a weeknight, but once that was complete, it was fairly easy to prepare.


Extreme food close-up!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Beans, Beans and Belly Shirts

Go ahead, complete the "beans beans" song. You know you want to.

That little ditty also brings a smile to the kid's face every time. Shocking, right? What else is shocking is how well tonight's Meatless Monday went over. Maybe I am converting the hubs and the kid. There were absolutely no complaints about dinner. What I DID complain about was how the kid managed to a hole right in the middle of his brand new, never-ever been worn before shirt. His claim? A snafu with scissors at math.

I think the kid needs to work on his scissor skills

A word about beans: I love them. I always have. Prevention magazine calls them "nature's perfect food." Some random site I googled referred to them as "healthy people's meat," and my friends over at World's Healthiest Foods declared beans to have "an almost magical protein-fiber combination." Whatevs. I just like beans. The fact that they are super-healthy is just an added bonus for me.

Three-Bean Veggie Chili
Source: Family Circle, April 17, 2010

Ingredients:
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped (used minced)
  • 3 tbsp chili powder
  • 2 sweet bell peppers, diced
  • 1 medium zucchini, diced
  • 1 can fire-roasted diced tomatoes (used plain, no-salt added diced tomatoes)
  • 1/4 c. ketchup
  • 1 can (8oz) no-salt added tomato sauce
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed (used no-salt added)
  • 1 can small white beans, drained and rinsed (used no-salt added garbanzo that I had on hand)
  • 1 can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed (used reduced sodium)
Directions:
  • Heat oil in large nonstick pot over medium heat. Add onion, garlic and chili powder and cook 3 minutes.
  • Add peppers and zucchini and continue to cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Stir in tomatoes, tomato sauce, ketchup and oregano. Cook 8 minutes.
  • Gently stir in the beans. Cover pot and continue to cook 3 minutes.
Serving size: One cup
Per serving: 203 calories; 4g fat (0g sat); 11g protein; 39g carbs; 12g fiber; 678mg sodium; 0mg chol

Reviews:
As noted above, no one complained about dinner. The hubs shoveled in almost his entire serving, and the kid scooped some chili onto saltines and ate about half of his portion. Score for Meatless Monday! Even though I didn't use fire-roasted tomatoes per the recipe's suggestion (I don't like using canned foods with added seasonings b/c of the extra sodium), the chili powder added enough heat for our taste buds. The recipe was also very fast to prepare - it took me longer to chop everything then it did to actually cook it.

Ranking:
Three Forks - only because the hubs is not a fan of Four Fork meatless meals.


Steamy chili goodness

Sunday, October 16, 2011

From Soup to Blue Cheese

I love soup. I don't really need for it to be cool outside to enjoy a nice bowl of something delish. Howevs, because I only recently purchased a blender, I usually have to rely on canned soup to fulfill my cravings.

Before your head starts spinning with thoughts of "OMG the sodium in canned soup is sooooo high..." I only eat Health Valley No-Salt Added varieties. I particularly like the tomato, pea and minestrone. Yum.

But, now that I have a blender that I know how to use, a whole new world of homemade soup has opened up for me, and today was my first foray into this world. I made the soup for my lunch today, as well as lunch during the week (I usually pack unless I have plans/meetings).

Roasted Butternut Squash & Pear Soup
Source: Clean Eating (not sure which issue)

Ingredients:
  • 2 firm pears, peeled, cored and chopped into 1-inch chunks
  • 1 small butternut squash, peeled, seeded and chopped into 1-inch chunks
  • 3 tsp olive oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • Pinch of salt/pepper (skip)
  • 3 c. low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth (I use no-salt added)
Directions:
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a roasting pan, combine pears and squash. Drizzle with 1.5 tsp oil, toss to coat, then spread out in bottom of pan. Roast uncovered for approx. 20 minutes until squash begins to brown and soften. Remove from oven and set aside (I roasted for approx. 40-45 mins).
  • In a large saucepan, heat remaining 1.5 tsp oil on medium. Add onion, sprinkle with salt/pepper. Saute until onion is soft and golden in color, approx. 3-4 mins. Add pear-squash mixture and broth, bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 15 mins.
  • Using a hand blender or upright blender, puree until smooth (about 45-60 seconds). If using an upright, work in small, cooled batches to avoid scalding.
  • Garnish with plain yogurt, toasted pumpkin seeds, nutmeg, if desired.
Yield: 6 servings (3/4 c.)
Per serving: Calories: 120; Fat: 4.5g; sat fat: 1g; carbs: 17g; fiber: 3g; protein: 4g; sodium: 65mg; chol: 0mg

Lots of beta-carotene in this bowl!
And for dinner...
Blue Cheese Stuffed Chicken with Buffalo Sauce
Source: Cooking Light (not sure which issue)

Ingredients:
  • 1/2 c. crumbled blue cheese
  • 1 tbsp reduced-fat sour cream
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1/8 tsp pepper (skip)
  • 4- 6oz. boneless chicken breasts
  • 1/4 c. flour
  • 2 tbsp 2% milk (used 1%)
  • 1 large egg, beaten slightly
  • 1 c. panko
  • 1.5 tbsp butter
  • 6 tbsp finely chopped, drained bottled roasted red bell peppers (skip - don't like)
  • 2 tsp water
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce (skip - totally forgot to add this)
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1/2 tsp hot sauce
Directions:
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Combine first 4 ingredients in small bowl. Cut a horizontal slit through thickest part of the chicken to form a pocket. Stuff cheese mixture evenly into pockets.
  • Place flour in a shallow dish. Combine milk and egg in a shallow dish, stirring well. Place panko in a shallow dish. Dredge chicken in flour, then dip in egg mixture, then dredge in panko.
  • Heat large ovenproof skillet over med-high heat. Add 1 tbsp buter to pan, swirl until butter melts. Arrange chicken in pan, cook 4 mins or until browned. Turn chicken over; place skillet in oven and bake for 20 mins or until done (I browned both sides and placed in glass pan to bake).
  • While chicken bakes, combine remaining butter and ingredients except for hot sauce in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a simmer, cook until butter melts. Stir in hot sauce. Serve with chicken.
Yield: 4 servings (1 chicken breast and about 4 tsp sauce)
Per serving: 392 calories; 12.9g fat (sat: 6.7; 3.4 mono; 1 poly); 47.4 protein; 18.5 carb; 175mg chol; 421mg sodium; 120mg calc

Served with Rice Selects Red Rice & Lentils
Reviews
Soup: I think the soup turned out great. A little mealier than I thought due to the pears (maybe a teeny bit more pureeing next time?), but the flavor is great and it's hard to believe there's no cream because it is very smooth. Yum. Bonus - the baby ate some for dinner and also enjoyed!

Dinner: Although we all enjoyed the chicken, I thought the buffalo sauce topping was pretty bland (maybe because I missed an entire ingredient? D'oh) and I wouldn't have minded a bit more flavor overall. The hubs loves blue cheese, so he really enjoyed this meal. The kid liked the chicken and broccoli, did not like the rice/lentil combo.

Ranking
Soup: Four Forks
Chicken: Two-Three Forks (Not bad and pretty tasty, but not super flavorful?? IDK)

Thursday, October 13, 2011

A Lie and a Pie

Tonight's dinner is not a new recipe - I've made it several times before, and actually was scheduled to prepare it last week. However, because I was a tad sniffly, it was bumped to today.

The kid is usually pretty easy to please when it comes to food, but he's pretty sure that he does not like hamburgers. Honestly, I don't get it. He likes meatballs. And countless other items that are made with ground beef, but utter the word "hamburger" and it is an insta-no-go.

Therefore, I told the kid we were having turkey pie. Because he likes things with turkey (turkey tacos, anyone?). He pointed out the suspiciously-colored meat, and I told him it was the seasoning. Yes, I lied. Blatantly and purposefully. Just another notch in my "mother of the year" status.

P.S.: A special birthday shout-out to Christy @ The Daily Dish! Check out her blog... it's fabu!

Hamburger Pie
Source: Weight Watchers Magazine, March/April 2010

Ingredients:
  • 1 c. low-fat baking mix (i.e., Bisquick) + 2 tbsp
  • 1/4 c. skim milk
  • 1 lb extra-lean ground beef
  • 1 chopped onion
  • 2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 minced garlic clove (used refrigerated)
  • 1/2 c. eggbeaters
  • 1/2 c. low-fat shredded cheddar
  • 2 tbsp parm cheese
Directions:
  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray 9-inch pie plate with cooking spray.
  • To make crust, mix 1 c. Bisquick and milk in medium bowl until soft dough forms. Transfer to lightly floured surface and knead five times. Roll out into 6-inch round, put in pie plate, pressing it evenly against bottom and side of dish.
  • Spray large skillet w/ spray and set over med-high heat. Add beef, onion, Worcestershire sauce and garlic; cook until beef is browned through. Stir in 2 tbsp Bisquick. Remove skillet from heat and let cool slightly.
  • Meanwhile, add eggbeaters, cheese and parm to a small bowl, combine. Spoon beef mixture over crust, top evenly with cheese mixture.
  • Bake until filling is set and crust is golden, approx. 25-30 mins.
Yield: 6 servings
Per serving: 234 cal; 3g sat fat (0g trans); 44mg chol; 501mg sodium; 19g carb; 22g protein

Reviews:
There's no fooling this kid. Although I don't think he caught on that it was actually "hamburger" instead of "turkey," he still didn't like it. Nor did he like the Alexia fries I served as an accompaniment. He did eat all of his broccoli, and I let him have a banana so he wasn't totally starving. We do have a rule - what I make for dinner is all you get - so the banana was a big concession. Again - mother of the year here.

The hubs and I both liked the meal - I didn't eat most of the crust because it was a little too much (and I kind of screwed it up when I was making it - too much milk), but the hubs ate his entire portion.

Ranking:
Three Forks


Appetizing!


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Happy Day!

We've had our ups and downs. You've broken my heart. But yet, when you promise me new recipes and comfort food, I fall in love all over again.

Yes, dear readers, I'm referring to (once again) Clean Eating. Because today the brand new "Clean Eating Classic Comfort Foods" hit the shelves! And there I was, ready and waiting at 6a to purchase my very own copy.

OK - not really, but I am pretty excited over this new special edition. So much so I haven't even opened it up because I want to ensure that I have the time to savor every new recipe option.

I think I have out-geeked myself with this post, btw. But the wannabe clean eater in me just can't help it.

So, to celebrate, I made a couple of Clean Eating recipes today. The first I whipped up earlier as I worked from home (2 hour delayed start for the kid - WTF?), the second for dinner.

And in case you're wondering why I didn't use a recipe out of my new cookbook - remember peeps, I plan our meals ahead. Look for some updates next week.

Hearty Lentil Soup
Source: Clean Eating, Sept/Oct. 2010

Ingredients:
  • 1 c. dried red lentils (just used regular that I had on hand)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped (used a 1/2 on had on hand)
  • 1/4 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 c. brown rice
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt (skip)
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice (skip - forgot)
Directions:
  • Rinse and drain lentils
  • Heat oil in large pot over medium-high heat. Add onion and pepper and saute until brown. Stir in cumin and red pepper flakes and cook for 1 more minute. Add 4 c. water, lentils and rice. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and cook for 20 mins. Add salt, stir and cook for an additional 30 mins. Stir in lemon juice.
Yield: 4 servings (1c/serving)
Per serving: 290 cals; 9g fat (sat: 1g) carbs: 41g; fiber: 9g; protein: 14g; sodium: 248mg; chol: 0mg

Southwest Meatballs
Source: Clean Eating, October 2011

Ingredients:
  • 1 lbs ground turkey
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 1/4 c. while wheat bread crumbs
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt (skip)
  • 1 c. frozen corn
  • 1 can black beans (I use no-salt added), drained and rinsed
  • 2 c. diced tomatoes (I used a can of no-salt added)
  • 1/2 c. low-sodium chicken broth (used no-salt added)
  • 1 tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 c. fresh cilantro (skip)
Directions:
  • In a large bowl, combine turkey, egg whites, bread crumbs, salt and pepper and mix well. Shape into 16 meatballs (I got 15), each about the size of a golf ball.
  • In a large skillet heat oil on med-high heat. Add meatballs and cook for 3-5 mins, until browned on all sides. Add corn, beans, tomatoes, broth, lime juice and cumin and mix well. Reduce heat to medium, partially cover and cook for an additional 3-5, or until meatballs are cooked through. Stir in cilantro.
Yield: 4 servings (4 meatballs and 1c. corn-bean mix)
Per serving: 320 cals; 4.5g total fat (0g sat); 32g carbs; 7g fiber; 37g protein; 340mg sodium; 55mg chol

Reviews:
Despite my high hopes for both of these recipes, neither are my faves. The soup is kind of a user-error issue: I didn't really read the directions and dumped all of my lentils in (instead of measuring out one cup), therefore making it basically cooked lentils with some other stuff thrown in instead of soup. Bah. The southwest meatballs tasted fine, but the hubs thought they were going to be a little spicier and I kind of agree - I think they needed more seasoning. The very positive of the dinner was that it took no time, which is imperative on a Tuesday evening due to our schedules.

Ranking:
Two Forks

As pretty as a cover shot - I bet K-Skull will approve!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes: Another Day, Another Guest Post

Note: My evening meeting went a little later than anticipated, so instead of eating leftovers, the hubs opted to take it upon himself to prepare tonight's planned dish. He has also officially dubbed himself "Chef Hubs." Here is his guest post.

Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes


The world has seen some mind-boggling transformations over the years.  A quick rundown of these switcharoos must include Cassius Clay becoming Muhammad Ali, Russia becoming capitalistic, and the Browns becoming… the Ravens?   Forget these mild changes, though, because what is going on in our household is something on a much larger scale.  Think Eminem releasing a Christian soft rock album.  Envision Barack Obama becoming the new leader of the Tea Party.  Imagine Derek Jeter rocking a Red Sox hat.

You get the picture.

Well, this is the type of transformation going on as Chef Hubs, a strict carnivore in every sense, has become a convert to Meatless Mondays.  Don’t get me wrong.  In no way am I switching over to become a vegetarian (or as I like to call them “veteranarians”).  I am, however, enjoying the weekly forays into the dark side of meals without meat.  Tonight’s dinner was no exception as we put a little mushroom ragu into action.  Delish!

Note: For all of his guest posting/switcheroo-ing activities, Chef Hubs still refuses to type in the actual recipe. Howevs, I much appreciate his kitchen initiative. I also super-appresh his selection of the Bowie video above. While not my beloved Beatles, Mr. Bowie holds a spot in my classic rock heart (along with Zep, Stones, and many others not of this century).

Portobello Mushroom Ragu
Source: Clean Eating, May/June 2010

Ingredients:
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium red onion, diced
  • 2 cloves peeled garlic, minced (used refrigerated)
  • 2 6-oz pkg portobello mushrooms, diced
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 15-oz can chopped plum tomatoes (used no-salt added diced)
  • Sea salt/pepper to taste (skip)
Directions:
  • Heat olive oil in large pan and saute onions until lightly browned.
  • Add garlic, saute for one minute, then stir in 'shrooms and thyme. Continue to cook over high heat until the mushrooms have softened and given off their juices, 2-3 mins.
  • Add tomatoes and cook until mixture thickens, about 10 mins. Serve over whatever (we served over whole wheat rotini).
Yield: 6 servings (3/4 c. serving)
Per serving: 92 calories; 5g fat (1g sat); 10g carbs; 3g fiber; 3g protein; 238mg sodium; 1g choles

Reviews:
Chef Hubs did a great job with this one - despite my bit of concern over his chopping/dicing skills. The ragu has a lot of texture, so you don't really miss the protein. The kid did not sample this recipe as I got home a little too late and he was already plowing through a five-star PB&J meal.

Ranking:
Three Forks

About 1 c. ragu - hungry tonight!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

We Heart Birthdays!

Birthdays are a VERY big deal in our house. This is not only because of the (fun fact) that my brother and I share the same exact birthday, two years apart, but I have to imagine the birthday over-celebration started approximately six decades ago with the birthday of my mother.

Peeps, I have never, ever met another person who loves her birthday as much as my mother (GA). Since her big day was yesterday, we decided to have my parents over for a birthday celebration tonight. And of course, I had to pull out of all the stops.

I am not going to write down every single ingredient of every single dish - if you are interested in a specific one, leave me a comment or email me or whatever and I will give it to you. This has nothing to do with the fact that I've been gently asked by a certain magazine to not record their recipes, and everything to do with me being tired and a little lazy and a lot busy after a hectic weekend that is still going strong.

An Overview:
App:
Lima Bean Dip, Food Network Magazine (October 2011)


Green goodness
Main:
Turkey Roulade, Prevention Magazine (November 2011 - huh?!)
Wild Rice with Shitakes & Toasted Almonds, The EatingWell Diabetes Cookbook


Turk-tastic


Dessert:
Chocolate Lover's Dream Cake, Betty Crocker's Super Moist Cakes, April/May 2009 (Note: There is absolutely nothing healthy about this - but the birthday girl really loves chocolate bundt cake.)


That's a lotta chocolate
Reviews:
I was a little concerned about the lima bean dip - it calls for a bacon topping that I skipped (sheer laziness), but it was actually really good - the kid really liked it, as did the 'rents, the hubs, not so much, declaring it "too green."

Everyone (except the kid) loved the turkey and rice. I kind of thought the turkey was a little dry, so the added "gravy" helped. The rice was OK - nothing special - but who doesn't love wild rice with mushrooms and almonds? The dessert was very chocolatey.

I'm not going to provide a ranking of tonight's meal because it was all over the board. As was the conversation - but as usual, we had a lot of fun and kind of ridiculous moments.

Special Note:
Not only was my mother's birthday yesterday, but today marks what would have been John Lennon's 71st birthday. In his honor, one of my favorites:


Saturday, October 8, 2011

Carb Loading

The hubs is one of those annoying people who can skip working out for six months, and just roll out of bed and run six miles at a fairly decent clip. So, when he announced he was going to do a half-marathon this fall, I didn't think much of it. Tomorrow is halfie day.

To help him prepare, he requested a meal with "chicken and pasta." After searching through countless cookbooks, we were able to agree on one that isn't too heavy on the sauces, veggies or sodium.

And while I don't have a prediction for his time, my guess is he'll clock some fairly ridiculous pace - all the more the impressive considering he has been sick for almost two straight weeks and has pretty much run only a handful of times and a handful of miles recently.

Go hubs!



Chicken Tetrazzini
Source: 500 Low Sodium Recipes, Dick Logue

Ingredients:
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1-3/4 c. skim milk
  • 1 c. swiss cheese, shredded
  • 1/4 c. grated parm cheese
  • 8 oz. spaghetti, broken, cooked and drained (used whole-wheat)
  • 1-1/2 c. cooked chicken, cubed
  • 4oz. sliced mushrooms
  • 1/4 c. red bell pepper, chopped
Directions:
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  • Melt butter in a large saucepan on low heat. Stir in flour. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Gradually add the milk, stirring until well-blended. Cook until thickened, stirring constantly.
  • Stir in 1/2 c. of swiss cheese and 2 tbsp of parm, stir until cheese is melted.
  • Add spaghetti, chicken, mushrooms and bell pepper; mix lightly.
  • Spoon into 1-1/2 quart baking dish. Bake for 20 minutes. Top with the remaining 1/2 c. swiss and 2 tbsp parm; continue baking until cheese is melted.
Yield: 6 servings
Per serving: 290 cals; 22g protein; 14g total fat (8g sat, 4g mono, 1g poly); 18g carb; 137mg sodium; 360mg calcium

Reviews:
Although I suppose the official review should come after the hubs completes the halfie tomorrow, as of tonight he was enjoying the pre-race chow and gave it a solid thumbs-up. The kid also enjoyed - no gagging, eye-rolling or other theatrics - but he did manage to pick out all of his mushrooms and red peppers. This dish is a great comfort food meal without all of calories, fat and sodium. My one comment? Next time, I might add some garlic or something for an extra bit of flavor.

Ranking:
Three Forks

If the hubs gets a new PR, I credit the meal

Thursday, October 6, 2011

A Pocket Full of Meh

I had a meal planned for last night, but thanks to my darling baby daughter and the hubs, as well as what I can only imagine to be the millions of germs brought home courtesy of the kid, I felt like crap and bowed out of my cooking duties. And tonight, I was supposed to go out with some of my fave chicks, but figured they wouldn't want my snotty, body-achey self bringing the party down, so instead I stayed home, threw on some sweats and a face mask (germs!), and made dinner.

Meh. I don't like being sick. I mean - who does, really? But I am not a fan of the mopey, moody, snot-filled peep it turns me into. (One might argue, btw - how is that really different from my every day self? That, I can not answer nor defend.)

On the bright side, my mother gets a new post to read tomorrow morning, my family gets an uber-healthy meal, and I was able to try out a bunch of new things, including... wait for it... my blender!

I am not going to post all of the ingredients in tonight's meal, btw... I don't feel like typing them in AND I don't want to run the risk of the wrath of the Clean Eating gods.

All of tonight's recipes come form the new Eat-Clean Diet Favorites - I just picked it up about a week ago. Because I need more recipes.

Crispy Chicken Bites
This recipe includes a nice mixture of oat bran, wheat germ, flaxseed and coarsely ground almonds (BLENDER ALERT!). I served this with Quinoa with Sundried Tomatoes - we've had quinoa once before, but it's been a really long time. It was pretty much just as it sounds... quinoa with onions, garlic and sundried tomatoes. Oh - I just love sundried tomatoes!

Reviews:
I loved this entire meal - so healthy, so easy, so yummy. The hubs loved it too, and we have plenty of leftovers. The kid thought the chicken bites were "awesome" but did not enjoy the quinoa.

Ranking:
Four Forks - winner all around!

Update: I wrote the first part of the post while the dinner was cooking. The pocket full of meh has a silver lining... I'm now off to join the girls for dessert - with a box full 'o Kleenex. Peer pressure, peeps.


SO healthy I can't stand it!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Sour Cream Issues

I am totally uninspired for tonight's post, so this is about as creative as I can get. No fun alliteration for you. My guess is my brain is on the verge of fried-dom - or I am completely distracted watching Glee with tonight's particularly brillz banter.

Fun fact about me: For the longest time, I had a very strange, almost unreasonable hatred of sour cream. I couldn't touch it, let alone cook with it. Of course, my father's staging of a sour cream fight whilst I was in middle school and shoveling a load of it in my face probs didn't help (I actually threw up). However, my advanced age has also brought a newfound maturity when it comes to the white stuff. I can now cook with it. I still don't like it on its own, and I still get a little skeeved when I see people eat it by the spoonful, but at least I can deal.


Hungarian Pork Chops
Source: American Heart Association Low-Salt Cookbook (3rd Edition, 2006)

Rub Ingredients:
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 3/4 tsp dillweed, crumbled (used dill seed - made purchase error)
  • 1/2 tsp caraway seeds
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
Other:
  • 4 boneless pork loin chops, trimmed (about 4oz each)
  • 1/2 c. water
  • 1/2 c. fat-free or light sour cream
  • 1/4 tsp salt (skip)
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped green onions (skip - forgot to buy)
Directions:
  • In a small bowl, stir together rub ingredients. Rub half the mixture on one side of the pork.
  • Lightly spray a large, heavy nonstick skillet. Heat over medium-high heat. Reduce to medium, add pork and cook with seasoned side down for 4 minutes. Rub the top side with the remaining mixture, turn pork over and cook for 4-5 minutes or until barely pink. Transfer to a plate, cover with foil to keep warm.
  • Increase the heat to high. Pour in the water, scraping the skillet to dislodge any browned bits. Boil for 1-2 minutes, or until liquid is reduced to 1/4 c. Reduce heat to low.
  • When boiling stops, whisk in the sour cream and salt. Cook for 2-3 minutes, or until heated through, whisking constantly. Don't let it boil.
  • To serve: spoon sauce over pork, sprinkle with green onions.
Yield: 4 servings (3oz pork + 3 tbsp sauce)
Per serving: 199 calories; 6.5g fat (2.8g sat, 0.5g poly, 3g mono); 72mg chol; 7g carbs; 26g protein; 221mg sodium

Review:
I was a little concerned with the sauce situation (see note above re: sour cream issues), but I went ahead and loaded on about 2 tbsp (3 was too many for a 3oz portion). Luckily, the sauce didn't really have a strong sour cream flavor. The kid did not like the sauce at all, and the hubs thought it was OK, if used sparingly. In his defense, he's not usually super keen on lots of sauce (vs. me, who loves it). We also had roasted asparagus and butternut squash risotto from Trader Joe's. Neither of the boys liked the risotto, with the hubs proclaiming it to be "too sqaushy" JUST before the kid took his first taste. So, you can obvs imagine how that went down.

Ranking:
Two Forks. Since neither boy really loved the sauce, and since the pork on its own was OK, I don't know that I would make this again. On the other hand, I really liked the risotto.


Saucy

Monday, October 3, 2011

Smells Like Feet

Pretty appetizing way to kick-start tonight's blog, right?

Because I pulled a switch last night and did Meatless Sunday, tonight I went with what I hope will be a "trainer-approved" meal, since I will be hitting the weights tomorrow.

Little did I know, when planning tonight's main event, that the kid was also going to have a big test of some sort tomorrow. Now, I completely trust his natural smarts, but because he thinks of salmon as "brain food" and feels smarter after eating it, this little boost of confidence can't hurt. And, as we all know, it actually is brain food - there are so many positive benefits to salmon, it would take me all night to list them. (OK - not really, I'm just lazy.)

Side note - tonight's fight with the kid included his begging for gum to chew while taking the test. This gem was obviously planted by his teacher, and despite the fact that my kid never really chews gum and I think it would distract him, he got pretty annoyed when I offered up my minty Extra instead of stopping for some kind of nasty sugary-grape-concoction.

Salmon with Balsamic Reduction
Source: Weight Watchers Four Ingredient, 10 Minute Recipes (Fall 2011)
Yes I just bought this. No, I can't resist a pretty cover picture calling me from the grocery check-out.

Ingredients:
  • 4 (6oz) salmon fillets
  • 1.5 tsp chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1/2 tsp salt (skip)
  • 1/4 tsp pepper (skip)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 3/4 c. balsamic vinegar
Directions:
  • Preheat oven to 450 degrees
  • Line a baking sheet with foil; coat with cooking spray. Place fillets, skin side down, on foil, sprinkle evenly with rosemary, salt and pepper. Drizzle fillets with olive oil. Bake for 15 minutes or until fish reaches desired level of doneness.
  • While salmon cooks, bring vinegar to a boil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook uncovered for 15 minutes or until vinegar is reduced to 2 tbsp. Drizzle balsamic reduction over salmon.
Yield: 4 servings
Per serving: 345 calories; 16.4g fat (3.6 sat; 8.1 mono; 3.5 poly); 36.4g protein; 8.3g carb; 87mg chol; 386mg sodium; 35mg calcium

We also had Rice Select Red Rice & Lentils (nominal sodium - I don't add the salt or butter) and steamed broccoli. I love Rice Select products, by the way. Not only do they taste good, but they come in kind of cool, easy-to-store canisters that seem to last forever. Here in the NEO, I think Miles Market has the most complete selection of Rice Select options. In case you are wondering.

Reviews:
So - let's bring it back to the "smells like feet" title that kicked off this post. When I was reducing the balsamic, it made the kitchen smell like sweaty feet. Seriously. So that was kind of unpleasant. However, the actual taste was pleasing, so we were all able to move past the foot odor issue. The kid did not like the rosemary and picked it off, but otherwise ate almost all of his salmon.

Ranking:
Three Forks: Tasty, healthy and as promised, super fast to prepare.


Feet-tastic!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Switcheroo

Much to the dismay of the hubs and the kid, I like to plan a "Meatless Monday" dish each week. Honestly, while I had heard about Meatless Monday for a while, and then actually went with it, I didn't realize there was an entire movement around it... I thought it was simply a fun, alliterative thing created by foodies or magazines or whatever somewhere along the way.

In fact, after visiting the Meatless Monday website, I learned not only about the health benefits of going meatless (reducing all sorts of nasty disease-y risk factors), but also about the science behind behaviors and Mondays. Interesting.


However, today is Sunday. And we're going meatless. Not for any particularly altruistic reason, but simply because the recipe seemed a little complicated, it needed a longer baking time than I usually can manage during the week, and tonight's rainy weather deemed it an ideal choice.

Truffled Wild Mushroom Lasagna
Source: Cooking Light, December 2010

Ingredients:
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 c. thinly sliced leek
  • 8 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 3/8 tsp salt (skip)
  • 7 c. cremini mushrooms (about 1.5 lbs)
  • 4 c. shitake mushrooms (about 1 lbs)
  • 2/3 cup fruity red wine
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh thyme (didn't use fresh)
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh oregano (didn't use fresh)
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh sage (ditto)
  • 3 tbsp white truffle oil
  • 1 tsp pepper (skip)
  • 2-1/2 c. low fat milk
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 3.5 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 2 c. fat-free ricotta
  • 1/4 c. fresh parsley (didn't use fresh)
  • 1 tbsp grated lemon rind (used lemon juice)
  • 8oz pre-cooked lasagna noodles
  • 1 c. mozzarella cheese
  • 1 c. parm cheese
Directions:
  • Heat olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat-high heat. Add leek, garlic and 1/4 tsp salt; saute 2 minutes. Add 4 c. cremini mushrooms and shitake mushrooms, saute 10 minutes or until mushrooms release moisture and begin to brown. Stir in wine; cook 3 minutes or until liquid almost evaporates, stirring frequently. Remove from heat; stir in thyme, oregano, sage, truffle oil, and 2/3 tsp pepper.
  • Combine milk and bay leaf in a heavy saucepan; cook over medium heat to 180 degrees or until tiny bubbles form around edge (do not boil). Remove from heat; cover and let stand 10 minutes. Strain mixture through a sieve in a bowl, discard by leaf. Set aside.
  • Melt butter in saucepan over medium heat. Add remaining 3 c. cremini mushrooms; saute 4 minutes or until tender. Add flour, stirring with a whisk until blended. Cook 1 minutes, stirring constantly; gradually add milk. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 8 minutes or until thick. Stir in remaining salt, pepper and nutmeg.
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Combine ricotta, parsley, lemon and remaining black pepper in a bowl. Spread 1/2 c. milk mixture in bottom of 11x7-inch glass or ceramic baking dish coated with cooking spray. Arrange 3 noodles over sauce; top with 2 c. mushroom mixture. Sprinkle with 1/4 c. mozzarella and 1/4 c. parm. Arrange 3 noodles over cheese. Top with 1 c. ricotta mixture. Repeat layers once with 3 noodles, 2 c. mushroom mixture, 1/4 c. mozzarella, 1/4 c. parm, 3 noodles and 1 c. ricotta. Cover with foil; place baking dish on baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes.
  • Remove from oven, increase temp to 450 degrees. Uncover lasagna and sprinkle with remaining 1/2 c. mozzarella and 1/2 c. parm; bake an additional 10 minutes or until golden brown.
Yield: 8 servings (serving size: 1 piece)
Per serving: 424 calories; 17.7g fat (6.4 sat; 2.2 mono; 8.1 poly); 23.7g protein; 41.3 carb; 31mg chol; 455mg sodium; 393mg calcium

Reviews:
Am I glad I made this on a Sunday. It took me about an hour to prepare - from chopping to assembly - and then another 40 minutes to bake. I was pretty geeked out to be able to use my truffle oil again. It's very expensive, I've used it just once, and I hate to let ingredients like that just sit on the shelf. All that being said, while I thought the lasagna was tasty and it includes some of my very fave foods (mushrooms, cheese and garlic), I'm not sure it was worth all of the effort. Both boys liked it, although the kid didn't really eat any of the mushrooms (um, isn't that the point?). And, there are a ton of leftovers, something I'm sure will make my parents happy.

BTW: Goodbye Andy Rooney. Even as you sign off, I still don't get your appeal, but the hubs has enjoyed your pointless commentary for years.

Ranking:
Two forks - I didn't think it was that special for all of the time and effort.

I didn't use extra cheese - I swear!