Saturday, December 31, 2011

Partying with the Diaper Crowd

One of my glorious friends is hosting what I can only imagine will be a super-fun NYE party for our usual crowd. However, because the babe's bedtime is 7p - 7:30 is a major stretch - we decided to sit this year out and instead do our own family shin-dig. As an homage to the party's Italian host (and Scrabbler extraordinaire, btw), we are going with Italian night here too.

Oh - I also looked specifically for recipes designated "New Year's Eve" in my holiday cookbook resources, just for a fun twist. Some of these cookbooks I have never, ever used, and probably won't use on a regular basis.

Here's a preview:
  • Make your own pizzas. My pizza will be based on Pizza Margherita, Williams-Sonoma Kitchen Library "Pizza"
  • Gooey Pizza Dip, Taste of Home Comfort & Joy, 2008
  • Breaded Ravioli, Nestle Make-It-Simple Entertaining, 1996
  • Double Chocolate Souffles with Warm Fudge Sauce, Cooking Light, November 2009
Plus salad and other fun accompaniments.

I hope you and your family have a wonderful celebration!


PS - I forgot to mention - the lasagna I made yesterday was delish. Seriously. Four Forks!

PPS - Update! The kid ended up going to the party and hung until almost 1a (!?!?!!), so it was just me and the hubs. I skipped the ravioli and the Double Fudge Souffles were not worth the effort.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Pre-Game Meal

Don't be jealous, dear blog readers, but tonight marks my big debut at the hubs' h.s. basketball game! Normally I can't attend these games because the baby has a bedtime of 7p-ish, but tonight I was able to arrange for a babysitter (i.e., GA) and off I go! BIG night out for yours truly.

Of course, I am preparing a delish dish for all of us to eat before the game. The hubs will not be partaking as he will be off doing pre-game stuff, but I have a feeling he is going to be missing out as this sounds delish.

I am breaking my own blog rules, btw, and posting this in advance of completion b/c I won't have the time (i.e., energy) to write it post-game. If you are lucky, I may provide an update tomorrow. Hope you don't lose any sleep waiting for it.

Turkey Chili & Squash Lasagna
Source: Clean Eating Classic Comfort Foods (2011)

  • 2 tsp EVOO
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced (used red)
  • 1 lb ground turkey breast
  • 3 gloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp chile powder
  • 1/4 tsp chile pepper flakes
  • 1/4 tsp ground cumin
  • Pinch sea salt and pepper (skip)
  • 4 c. peeled and cubed butternut squash (approx one small squash)
  • 2 c. strained tomatoes (used no-salt added diced)
  • 1 c. low-sodium chicken broth (used no-salt added)
  • 1 c. canned, unsalted black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/3 c. chopped fresh cilantro (skip)
  • 1 egg white
  • 1.4 c. pressed skim cottage cheese (? used small curd)
  • 6 fresh whole wheat lasagna sheets, divided
  • 1 c. part-skim mozzarella cheese
  • 2 tbsp grated parm
  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees
  • In a large nonstick skillet, heat oil on medium. Add onion, green pepper, turkey, garlic, chile powder, pepper flakes, cumin, salt and pepper. Cook, breaking up turkey with a wooden spoon, until browned, about 6 mins. Stir in squash, tomatoes, broth and beans and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to med-low, cover and simmer until thickened, about 20 mins. Stir in cilantro.
  • In a small bowl, combine egg white and cottage cheese. Set aside.
  • In a 13x9 baking dish, add enough turkey mixture to just coat bottom of dish, avoiding squash pieces so it isn't lumpy. Arrange 2 lasagna sheets over top of mixture, overlapping to fit. Layer a 1/3 of cottage cheese mixture, then a 1/3 of turkey mixture over top. Repeat with remaining 4 lasagna sheets, cottage cheese mixture and turkey mix. Top with mozzarella and parm.
  • Cover with foil and bake until bubbly, about 40 mins. Uncover and continue to cook until browned, 10 mins.
See notes above re: timing. I will tell you that chopping/cubing fresh butternut squash is a pain - although not as bad as sweet potatoes. I will also tell you that the rest was easy to throw together, and it looks super colorful (and healthy) as it cooks.

Go Comets!

Progress shot

Thursday, December 29, 2011


My hubs has a lot of great qualities. Being a super-adventurous eater is not one of them. To give credit where credit is due (and before he leaves a sarcastic comment on this post), he does try almost everything, and he is always willing to check out a new local eatery and sample random menu items.

Howevs, when given the choice, he is perfectly content subsisting on things most five-year olds prefer, such as pepperoni bread, Chex Mix, Chipotle and pizza. Therefore, I wasn't the least bit surprised when he offered up "chicken fingers" as his suggested meal for this week.

Luckily for the hubs, chicken finger recipes are pretty common in the clean/healthy eating world, so I had plenty of recipes to choose from.

Oven-Fried Chicken Nuggets
Source: Betty Crocker's Low-Fat, Low-Cholesterol Cooking Today (2000)

  • 2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (used pre-cut chicken tenders)
  • 3/4 c. cornflakes cereal (used cornflake crumbs)
  • 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 tsp salt (skip)
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp pepper (skip)
  • 1/3 c. buttermilk
  • Cooking spray
  • Heat oven to 400 degrees. Line pan with foil and spray. Cut chicken into 2-inch pieces.
  • Place cereal, flour, salt, paprika and pepper into blender. Cover and blend on medium until cereal is reduced to crumbs. Pour into bowl. (Did not use a blender - just combined ingredients.)
  • Place chicken and buttermilk in a heavy-duty resealable bag. Seal and let stand 5 mins, turning once. Dip chicken into cereal mixture and coat. Place on pan. Spray chicken with cooking spray.
  • Bake uncovered for about 30 mins or until baked through. (This took only about 15 mins to bake, btw)
Yield: 6 servings
Per serving: 270 cals; 6g fat (2g saturated); 90mg chol; 670mg sodium; 20g carbs; 35g protein

It will come as no surprise that this was a big hit with both the kid and the hubs. It may also come as no surprise that I thought it was kind of bland, but I used a delish bbq sauce to liven it up (Old Carolina - 35mg sodium, btw). But, what I really liked about this recipe was how easy-peasy it was to throw together - perfect for a busy evening.

Three Forks

Shhh... I love Axl! 

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Tidings of Comfort and Varying Degrees of Joy

And just when you thought you were done with those fun holiday tunes, I bet you are now humming "tidings of comfort and joy" due to my clever blog title.

With the weather people promising inches and inches of that horrible white stuff, I hunkered down and bought enough supplies to last us through the next several days. Because I don't drive in it. Normally I am kind of an aggressive driver, but throw in a few flakes or black ice threats, and I become THAT driver - the one who goes about 10mph on an interstate.

I digress. So, even though the snow was a non-event (maybe an inch here in the "snow belt"?) I decided to make a delish-looking chili for lunch, and a crock pot request for dinner. Selfishly, I knew going into it that my family was not going to partake in the chili, but that's kind of OK. Because I kinda love it.

Sweet Potato & Black Bean Chili
Source: Taste of Home Heartwarming Soups, Fall 2011

  • 3 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp chili powder
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 2 cans black beans, rinsed and drained (used no-salt added)
  • 1 can diced tomatoes, not drained (used no-salt added)
  • 1/4 c. brewed coffee (used Starbucks Bold - woot woot!)
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 1/2 tsp salt (skip)
  • 1/4 tsp pepper (skip)
  • 1/2 c. shredded reduced fat cheese
  • In a nonstick Dutch oven coated with cooking spray, saute sweet potatoes and onion in oil until crisp-tender. Add the chili powder, garlic, cumin and cayenne, cook 1 min longer. Stir in the beans, tomatoes, coffee, honey, salt and pepper.
  • Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 30-35 mins or until sweet potatoes are tender. Sprinkle with 1 tbsp cheese.
Yield: 8 servings (1 c chili with 1 tbsp cheese)
Per serving: 252 cals; 4g fat (1g sat); 5mg choles; 554mg sodium; 47mg carbs; 9g fiber; 10g protein

I am the sole reviewer of this. I love this chili. So good. So chock full of healthy items like black beans, canned tomatoes and sweet potatoes! The only complaint I have is that chopping up sweet potatoes is a pain. But yum - delish. I have a sneaking suspicion I will be eating this chili every single day for lunch over the next several days.

All mine!

Four Forks

And for dinner, the kid requested "tacos" earlier this week, so of course I obliged.
Thai Chicken Tacos
Source: Clean Eating, Jan/Feb 2012

I do not feel like typing this one out. There are just a ton of ingredients and frankly peeps, it isn't worth it. Basically - this is a peanut butter chicken that cooks in a slow cooker for 6-7 hours. The tacos include the chicken mixture topped with a tomato-cucumber salad and shredded red cabbage.

Here's my issue with chicken and slow cookers - I always feel like it comes out too mushy. This was the case with our dinner tonight. And I followed the timing to a tee to try and make sure the mush-chicken-thing didn't happen. The flavor was just OK - nothing too special, and it def did not have much of a kick to it. The hubs was actually a bigger fan of this dish than I was - he even added the tomato-cucumber salad AND red cabbage to his tacos. The kid ate about half a serving.

Two Forks

Monday, December 26, 2011


After the heavy eating that was experienced during the holidays, I decided to lighten the load tonight with some fish. Now, if you've been a loyal blog reader, you know my lack of success with most fish dishes. But I will never give up on the swimmy stuff. I like it, and it's super healthy.

Tonight I whipped out a recipe collection (i.e., supermarket check-out line booklet) that I have flipped through a million times, and used once or twice since purchasing, but not much more. But it is chock full of inspiring, heart-healthy related stories and tips, not just recipes, so it is a fun read. Because who doesn't support heart health?! Sidenote: I am also happy to report the purchase of a new food magazine, that, upon my first brief inspection, is full of delish new meals for me to try. But that's for another blog post.

Fish Steaks with Honey-Dijon Glaze

  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 2 tbsp dijon
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne
  • 4 halibut, salmon or swordfish fillets (4 oz each), rinsed and patted dried (used salmon)
  • 2 tsp canola oil
  • In a shallow dish, stir together honey, mustard, thyme and cayenne. Dip the fish into the mixture, turning to coat.
  • In a large nonstick skillet, heat the oil over medium heat, swirling to coat the pan. Cook fish for 3-4 mins on each side, or until it flakes easily when tested with a fork.
Yield: 4 servings (3 oz fish/serving)
Per serving: 188 cals; 5.5g fat (0.5g sat; 0g trans; 1.5g poly; 2.5g mono); 36mg chols; 215mg sodium; 10g carbs; 24g protein

Success! I didn't completely burn the fish and it was totally edible! I also liked that I had all of the ingredients on hand, with the exception of the protein itself. My only real complaint is that the recipe called for just 1/8 tsp of cayenne, and I barely tasted it, so next time I would add a bit more.

Three Forks

Just Keep Swimming

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Happy Christmas!

Brunch. My house.

My contribution to the eats:
  • Brunch Eggs Ole, Grandma's Casseroles, 2001
  • Baked French Toast, Weight Watchers Magazine, Nov-Dec 2011
  • Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins, Prevention Magazine, September 2009
  • Egg & Sausage Breakfast Ring, Pillsbury Crescents, Biscuits & More, Spring 2009
  • Bacon
Hope you and yours have a fabulous day!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Eve Dinner

Why do I enjoy the holidays? Not for the presents or the running around, but for the family time. Therefore, my posts the next couple of days will be straight to the point so I can make the most of it.

Per usual, the hubs makes a special Christmas Eve request... so here is what's included in our feast.

Merry Christmas!

Dinner tonight:
Cindy's Meat Loaf
Source: 500 Low Sodium Recipes, by Dick Logue

This is the best meatloaf ever. Look up the recipe and try it.

Macaroni & Cheese
Source: Taste of Home Comfort Food Diet, 2009

Per our tradition, I also make cookies for Santa:
Peanut Butter & Chocolate Cookie Cups
Source: Nestle

Friday, December 23, 2011

Onions for the Office

To celebrate the holiday season, we decided to have a little holiday potluck at my office this afternoon, before shutting down for the long holiday weekend.

Here's a little something you should know about my job. I'm in a creative field and I work with a lot of uber-creative folks. I am not necessarily one of those crazy-minded thinkers (I'm looking directly at you, HK and JW), but when we gather, the end result is usually pretty fun and a tad bit wacky.

So for today, we themed our potluck "Around the World" and everyone brought in something holiday-traditional from a different country. We had showings from Poland, Germany, Peru, the United States (see note re: creative!), Italy, France (champagne counts for France, right?) and more. I was at a complete loss over what to contribute, so I brought in a traditional Jewish dish - brisket. I KNOW that "Jewish" is not a country, but it filled the meat void and ethnic requirement.

In prepping the brisket, I chopped a ton of onions. So many, in fact, that my eyes were watering and my throat was stinging, which is a first. Really. And peeps - you know that I use a lot of onions in my cooking, so this eye watering business was kind of a strange sensation for me. Lest you think it is showing any sort of office-based sensitivity, immediately remove that thought from your head. It just proves that I always go the extra mile for my beloved co-workers.

Let me leave you with this one thought, which I think pretty much sums up our day today:
"I did absolutely nothing and it was everything I thought it could be."

(We actually work really hard all the time, so we deserved a little holiday cheer! OH - and name the source of the quote - what a fun game for you, blog readers. Winner may get a special prize. Or at the very least - a blog shout out. Try to contain your excitement.)

Slow-Cooked Brisket in Onion Gravy
Source: EatingWell, January/February 2011

I'm not typing the whole thing out. Nor do I have a picture.

Like most crock pot recipes, this was fairly easy to throw together. The directions included some notes about advance preparation, which was great because I did half of it last night and finished it off this morning. I was a little nervous that the meat wasn't going to be tender enough, because I cooked it on low for 4 hours, then on high for about 3 more (do the math - that means I started it at 4a, peeps), but my co-workers seemed to really enjoy it. And, since they are all loyal readers of this blog, they knew they had to provide a review.

Four Forks

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Chef Hubs Strikes Again

It's a little disingenuous that I'm writing this post, because the self-dubbed Chef Hubs did most of the heavy lifting tonight. Why, you might ask? Well, allow me to explain.
1. Chef Hubs is a teacher and is now on break.
2. I am not a teacher and am not on break.
3. Chef Hubs wanted to eat earlier than normal because he wanted to take the kid to a basketball game.
4. I'm always down for eating early and catching up on my Housewives whilst he and the kid do the sports thing.

To his credit, Chef Hubs was going to write this post upon his return home tonight, but I don't feel like waiting up to deal with it (i.e., the likelihood of me staying up much past 9p is slim to none), so you are stuck with me.

To make life easier for everyone - even before this basketball-hubs-break plan was set into motion - I decided to crock pot it tonight. However, one big issue I seem to have with many crock pot recipes is finding the healthy ones that spell out specific portion sizes, etc. So obvs the recipe gods were smiling down on me when I happened across a new little cookbook - Diabetic Slow Cooker recipes! Let's all give a woot woot!

Now, I am not diabetic, nor is anyone in my family (although there is a history), however, I knew these recipes would be healthy, and that portions would be specifically spelled out. Plus, you know I love a new resource.

The other new item for tonight is polenta. I know I included it in a meal at some point over the past few years, but my memory is pretty mushy, so I don't remember. Polenta is also mushy - cornmeal mush in fact - although I believe you can bake it for a more solid consistency. We went with the mush tonight.

Polenta with Ground Beef Ragout
Source: Diabetic Slow Cooker, from the editors of Diabetic Living

  • 1 lbs extra lean ground beef
  • 1 14.5 oz can no-salt added stewed tomatoes, undrained (used diced - couldn't find no-salt added stewed)
  • 3 carrots cut into chunks
  • 2 onions sliced into wedges
  • 1/2 c. water
  • 1 tsp dried Italian seasoning
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced (used pre-minced)
  • 1 large red sweet pepper, cut into pieces
  • 1 med zucchini, cut into slices
  • 1 16-oz tube polenta
  • 1/4 c. purchased pesto (skip)
  • In a large skillet cook ground beef. Drain fat and transfer into slow cooker.
  • Stir in tomatoes, carrots, onions, water, seasoning and garlic.
  • Cover and cook on low for 7-9 hours or high for 3.5-4.5 hours.
  • If using a low setting, with about 30 mins left to go, turn to high. Stir in pepper and zucchini and cook until crisp-tender.
  • Prepare polenta. Serve meat mixture over polenta and top with pesto.
Yield: 6 servings (1 c. beef mixture, 1 slice of polenta, 2 tsp pesto)
Per serving: 285 cals; 9g fat (3g sat); 50mg chol; 488mg sodium; 30g carb; 6g fiber; 21g protein

The kid was not a fan of the polenta. He complained about it from the moment he saw it in the tube, assumed it was a tube of cheese (?) and rolled it around on the counter. That was thrilling for me. Chef Hubs thought there were too many veggies, per usual. Of course, I am the one who added the veggies at the end, so my guess is if it was up to him, he might have "forgotten" that step. I liked it all - I liked all of the veggies, and the polenta was a funsies change-up.

Two Forks - more based on kid and hubs than me.

Look at the juxtaposition. I'm so artsy.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Of Fads and Fat

Several years ago - I think right after I had my first child - the South Beach Diet was all the rage. You remember the premise - basically eliminate carbs from your diet - and eat healthy fats. Kind of like the Atkins Diet, but I don't think South Beach wants you shoveling your face full of bacon.

So, I bought the diet book and accompanying cookbook, with the good intention of doing the diet. I think I made one thing and forgot about it. Since then, I have educated myself and now take a balanced, healthy approach that includes moderation, clean eating and lots of working out. Shockingly, that works. (At least for me - I am not reviewing the South Beach Diet nor bashing it.)

Anyhoo, I decided to flip through the South Beach Diet cookbook and found quite a few recipes that work well with my style of eating. In fact, it's almost like I have a whole new cookbook at my disposal!

Sesame Baked Chicken
Source: The South Beach Diet Cookbook, by Arthur Agatston, M.D. (2004)

  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 2 tbsp canola oil
  • 1 tsp toasted sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp water
  • 1 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 1/2 tsp salt (skip)
  • 1/4 tsp pepper (skip)
  • 2 tbsp uncooked oat bran
  • 1/4 c. sesame seeds
  • 1.5 pounds boneless, skinless chicken, cut into 2-inch pieces (didn't cut up)
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • In a shallow bowl, combine the egg, canola oil, sesame oil, water, soy sauce, salt and pepper.
  • In a small bowl, combine the oat bran and sesame seeds.
  • Dip the chicken in the egg mixture, then dredge in bran mixture. Place in a 11x7 nonstick baking pan.
  • Bake for 30 mins or until done.
Yield: 4 servings
Per serving: 339 calories; 16g fat (2g sat); 43g protein; 5g carbs; 2g fiber; 152mg chol; 568mg sodium

On the plus side, I like this recipe because I had everything on hand (except for the chicken), and it was probably one of the easiest meals I've made in a long time. No chopping. No prep. No frying. Just mix, dip and bake. On the so-so side, the chicken was so-so. It was kind of bland - I might add in some cayenne pepper or something to spice it up a bit without impacting its nutritional stats, just to give it some more flavor. Plus, the 2 tbsp of oat bran is kind of skimpy and didn't leave me enough to coat all of the chicken. But I will def return to this cookbook for future meals.

Two Forks

Oat bran this!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Eggplant, Take 2

Because we were somewhat successful with our last (and only) adventure in eggplant-land, I decided to go a bit bold for tonight's Meatless Monday dish.

I think I might have mentioned this, but I love eggplant. I wish everyone in my family shared this love. Much like I wish everyone in my family shared my love for extra sharp cheddar cheese, mushrooms, broccoli, and dark chocolate. And The Beatles. And Buffy. It would make life, meal planning and channel selection so much easier. Howevs, I guess our differences is what keeps it interesting, right? How very kumbaya of me.

Seriously peeps, I don't have much to say tonight. Let's just get on with it.

Eggplant Lasagna
Source: American Heart Association Low-Salt Cookbook

  • 6 dried lasagna noodles (used whole-wheat)
  • 3 c. chopped, peeled eggplant
  • 1 medium green bell pepper, sliced (skip - don't like)
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1/4 c. chopped fresh basil or 1 tbsp plus 1 tsp dried (used dried)
  • 3 medium garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 8-oz cans no-salt added tomato sauce
  • 2 tsp low-sodium Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/8 tsp salt (skip)
  • 1/4 tsp fennel seeds (optional - skipped)
  • 1 c. low-fat cottage cheese
  • 1 c. shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 2 tbsp parm cheese
  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and spray a 12x8x2 glass baking dish with cooking spray.
  • Prepare noodles per the package directions. Drain well.
  • Lightly spray a large nonstick skillet. Heat over med-high heat. Cook eggplant, bell pepper, onion, basil (if using fresh, add with the tomato sauce), and garlic for 10 mins or until eggplant is soft, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to medium if it starts sticking to the skillet.
  • Add tomato sauce, fresh basil if using, Worcestershire sauce, salt and fennel. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 mins., or until the sauce has slightly thickened and the pepper is soft. Remove from heat.
  • Assemble: Lay 2 noodles lengthwise in pan. Spread 1 c. eggplant mixture over noodles. Spread 1/3 c. cottage cheese over eggplant. Sprinkle with 1/4 c. mozz cheese. Repeat layers twice, ending with remaining 1/4 c. mozzarella.
  • Cover with foil and bake 30 mins.
  • Sprinkle with parm cheese. Let stand 5-10 mins before serving.
Yield: 6 servings (4x4 piece)
Per serving: 230 calories; 4.5g fat (2.5g sat, 0.5g poly, 1g mono); 15mg chol; 335mg sodium; 33g carb; 3g fiber; 15g protein; 231mg calcium

I am proud to announce that I have kind of converted the boys into eggplant eaters. Once again, the hubs cleared his plate - even though he tried to give it a so-so rating - and the kid declared it a "three fork" meal. I liked the lasagna - meaty without the meat, and filling without feeling overly stuffed. And lots of leftovers for this brown-bagging, basketball widow blogger.

Three Forks - I always listen to the kid!


Sunday, December 18, 2011

A Bunch 'o Babka

As you know, we have the good fortune to celebrate both Hanukkah and Christmas in our house. Not only does this mean a mammoth amount of running around for yours truly to try and make both holidays extra special for the kid, but it also means a mammoth amount of cooking and baking for family celebrations. To be honest, I really prefer the family, cooking and baking part of it, not so much the give give give part. But I digress.

Today we had our annual family Hanukkah party, and I was asked to bring dessert. Luckily, I didn't really need to scour my files that much because I had spotted a new challenge in a recent Cooking Light that I wanted to give a whirl. And it really was a challenge (for me at least) because although I consider myself to be half decent at baking, I don't have that much experience with the whole yeast-dough rising-kneading thing. In fact, I bought ingredients for a back-up dessert in case this one didn't work out.

Rich Chocolate Babka
Source: Cooking Light, November 2011

I'm not going to type the whole thing about because it is super long. So look it up or go buy the magazine. In case you are wondering, "babka," depending on your source, is a pastry of Eastern European descent - Polish, Jewish, blah blah - filled with fruit or chocolate. LUCKILY I am both Jewish AND Polish (and Russian, btw - score on the Eastern European front) so this is a win-win as far as my ancestors are concerned.

This was also a win-win as far as the fam was concerned. It turned out really well and the recipe made so much that we were able to keep half of it at home for our future eating enjoyment. My brother even made note of the lovely swirls. (And there's your shout-out, boy!)

Three Forks (It took a really long time to make)

Babka cooling

Extreme babka close-up

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Eat This?

You've probably seen the segments, or read the stories, or at least have heard about David Zinczenko's "Eat This, Not That" - that inspiring (ha) theory that basically tells us how horrible all restaurant food is. I mean, who doesn't love learning that one plate of somethingoranother from Cheesecake Factory is worse than eating 10,000 pieces of cheese?

Although we very rarely eat at chain restaurants (love our NEO food scene), I still find these little ditties super fun. So, I was super excited to be suckered into buying a couple of cookbooks from Mr. Zinczenko. So excited in fact, that since buying them and looking at them once, they have not left the shelf.

Until tonight! Bet you can't wait to read on!

Of course, the book comes with all sorts of flashy promises about low-cal meals and losing weight (and lots of glossy pics), but I'm not too impressed with many of the recipes as they are still too high in sodium and don't specify portion size. But in the spirit of this challenge, I decided to give one a whirl.

Sesame Noodles with Chicken & Peanuts
Source: Cook This Not That, by David Zinczenko and Matt Goulding, 2010

  • 6 oz whole-wheat fettuccine
  • 2 tsp toasted sesame oil, plus more for the noodles
  • Juice of one lime (used 1 tsp)
  • 2 Tbsp warm water
  • 1-1/2 tbsp chunky peanut butter
  • 1-1/2 tbsp sriacha
  • 2 c. shredded chicken
  • 1 red or yellow pepper, sliced (used red)
  • 2 c. sugar snap peas (skip)
  • 1 c. cooked and shelled edamame (optional - used it)
  • Chopped peanuts, sesame seeds or scallions (optional - used peanuts)
  • Note: I added in sliced carrots
  • Bring a large pot of salted (! - no) water to a boil and cook pasta according to directions. Drain pasta and toss in a large bowl with a bit of sesame oil and rice wine vinegar to keep noodles from sticking (did not toss with oil or vinegar).
  • Combine the lime juice, water, peanut butter, soy sauce, sriacha and sesame oil in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave for 45 seconds, then stir to create a uniform sauce.
  • Add the sauce to the noodles and toss to mix. Stir in chicken, bell pepper, sugar snaps and edamame. Top individual servings with peanuts, sesame seeds, scallions, etc.
Yield: 4 servings
Per serving: 340 calories, 11g fat (2g sat), 400mg sodium.

Fun note: According to the authors, this recipe is comparable to California Pizza Kitchen's Kung Pao Spaghetti with Chicken, which clocks in at 1,160 calories, 8g of saturated fat and 1,737mg sodium. In case you are wondering, that sodium content alone is almost an entire day's worth, depending on your dietary guidelines. For others who watch sodium carefully (like me - lots 'o heart disease in my family) - that is MORE than an entire days allotment. I can't comment on the similarity because I have never tried CPK's version - and honestly, haven't been there in years and years.

Tonight's kid quote? "This is very spicy for a little kid." It did have some kick, but it wasn't too bad. I thought the taste was OK, the meal OK. Nothing special, nothing too unique as I've made variations of this before, but used healthier ingredients than called for in the recipe (almond butter, not all of that extra oil, etc.). I did make adjustments as noted, and the meal was very easy to throw together. I am not the biggest fan of this cookbook, but I anticipate using it - or the other Cook This Not That edition I bought - at some point again.

Two Forks

"This is very spicy for a little kid."

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Stepping It Up

Today is the big birthday! Happy 1st, my beautiful girl!

The original plan was to have us all eat as a family, but certain "big" girls go to bed kinda early, so instead we all enjoyed a birthday cupcake. The babe in particular loved smashing it around and shoveling it in. The dog in particular loved cleaning up the mess.

What I particularly loved was the family time - and the fact that all three of us (me, kid, hubs) witnessed our gal's VERY FIRST STEPS! She took a grand total of four strides before succumbing to the floor. Woot!

What a memorable day! What is probably not going to be as memorable is tonight's dinner. Not because there were any issues with it - it's just another random meal.

Black Bean and Rice Enchiladas
Source: Taste of Home Comfort Food Diet, 2010

  • 1 green pepper, chopped (used red)
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained (used no-salt added)
  • 1 can diced tomatoes and green chiles (used plain, no-salt added)
  • 1/4 c. picante sauce
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • 2 c. cooked brown rice
  • 1 c. salsa (used Newman's Own - low sodium)
  • 8 flour tortillas
  • 1 c. shredded, reduced fat cheddar
  • 3 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro (skip)
  • In a large nonstick skillet, saute the pepper, onion and garlic in oil until tender. Add the beans, tomatoes, picante, chili powder, cumin and red pepper flakes; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, simmer, uncovered until heated through and mixture thickens. Add rice, cook 5 mins longer or until heated through.
  • Spoon a rounded 1/2 c. of rice mixture down the center of each tortilla. Fold sides over filling and roll up. Place in 13x9 baking dish coated with cooking spray. Cover with salsa, cover and bake at 350 degrees for 25 mins.
  • Uncover, sprinkle with cheese and cilantro. Cook 2-3 mins more or until cheese is melted.
Yield: 8 servings (1 enchilada)
Per serving: 271 cals; 6g fat (2g sat); 10mg chol; 638mg sodium; 43g carbs; 5g fiber; 12g protein.

The kid thought it was just so-so. He really enjoyed the accompanying no-salt added blue tortilla chips, but the enchilada wasn't a home run for him. The grown-ups (at least people keep calling us that) did like the meal. The hubs even offered up a "It wasn't that bad for a meatless dish." Wow - what enthusiasm!

Three Forks

Only one cup of cheese here - promise!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Cupcake Wars

OMG - I love the show Cupcake Wars on the Food Network. LOVE IT. I love it when they have the most off-the-wall ingredients, and when that one judge says, "It's a no for me." If you haven't seen it, tune in.

Now that my non-paid and unofficial endorsement is out of the way, let's move on to the task at hand. I did not cook dinner tonight. I had a lovely Meatless Monday dish all planned out, but honestly peeps, I am not that hungry, and the boys were later than usual tonight, so it was shelved for tomorrow's meal. Instead, I whipped out three dozen cupcakes to aid in the celebration of my daughter's first birthday tomorrow.

Now - before my trainer's head spins off its neck at the thought of me downing 36 cupcakes - I will share these cupcakes with my daughter's school and possibly my office (depending on my mood - haha), so they will not all be consumed by our little group.  Most likely, I will only shovel in three or four. I kid, I kid. Maybe.

Mini Oreo Surprise Cupcakes
Source: Kraft Foods, not sure of date

Here's a link to the recipe, along with a fab photo. I have no photos tonight, as the cupcakes are still cooling. Obviously my cupcakes will look exactly like those in the picture. Can we say work of art?

While I can't comment on taste, I can comment on preparation. Overall fairly easy to prep. I decided to double the recipe with the hope of making four dozen, but could only squeeze out three dozen, so I think the recipe (or my measurements?) was slightly off. I'm also not sure what the judge from Cupcake Wars would say about the cakes, but I bet my not-as-critical fam will approve.

Three Forks

Late breaking update: Here's a picture of the cupcakes in all their delish glory, as snapped by KSkull:

Sunday, December 11, 2011

My Pot of Gold

I have two amazing children. No further elaboration needed. And today, we celebrated the upcoming first birthday of my daughter (actual big day is Tuesday). Of course, this means family and copious amounts of food.

First, a little bit about the party. I went with a rainbow theme because I want to make sure her special day is far removed from the hub and the bub of the holiday season, plus who doesn't love a bright and cheery rainbow in the middle of a typically drab and dreary month? (Although today was super sunny.) And of course, this little girl truly is my pot of gold at the end of a very long and kind of twisted rainbow. And no, Skittles were not involved!

Since you know I'm not particularly arty when it comes to food presentation and decoration, I ordered a lovely rainbow-themed cake and smash cake from a local store, but I did prepare the rest of the eats.

The chow:
Needless to say, I have a punishing workout planned for bright and early tomorrow morning!

Since I don't put photos of the fam on this page, and since I didn't take any food pics today, we'll enjoy a little music. Instead of my beloved Beatles, I will give you another selection that was part of an amazing birthday song mix for the cake grand entrance, as created by the hubs.

Thanks for the inspiration, JZT!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Beef & Pasta Skillet

I couldn't come up with a great title for this post, so there you have it.

When the hubs and I first moved in together, and long before I saw the light with clean eating, I would make Hamburger Helper. So help me, I did. Go ahead and judge. I give you permission.

Obvs, I no longer buy or eat the stuff. Or for that matter, very much boxed anything anymore. But that doesn't mean that a good old fashioned pile of beef and noodles can't be done in a healthier way. Because it can. And it makes for a great family meal on a busy weeknight.

Beef and Pasta Skillet
Source: The New American Heart Association Cookbook

  • 8 oz dried tricolor rotini (used whole wheat tricolor)
  • 8 oz sliced mushrooms
  • 8 oz lean ground beef
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3 med garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1/2 tbsp salt-free Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 tbsp dried basil
  • 1 c. water
  • 6oz can no salt added tomato paste
  • 2 tbsp parm cheese
  • 2 tbsp fresh parsley (skip)
  • 1 tsp low-sodium Worcestershire
  • 1/4 tsp salt (skip)
  • Prepare pasta, drain and set aside.
  • In a 12-inch skillet, stir together the mushrooms, beef, onion, garlic, herb seasoning and basil. Cook, covered over med-high heat for 8-10 mins, or until the mushrooms have released their juices and are fully cooked, stirring occasionally.
  • In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining ingredients. Stir the mixture and the pasta into the skillet. Heat thoroughly.
Yield: 6 servings (I assumed one cup/serving)
Per serving: 262 cals; 16g protein; 40g carbs; 23mg choles; 5.5g fat (2.0g sat; 0.5g poly; 2.0g mono); 187mg sodium

Great meal! Super easy to prep, not a lot of mess, and the entire family enjoyed. I even managed to hide the 'shrooms enough for the kid to eat a few. AND he asked for seconds! AND we have leftovers! Score!

Four Forks

I see a 'shroom peeking out!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Working It Out

I have noticed that one cooking "technique" I am particularly bad at is sauteing meat. I can saute veggies with the best of them, but when I bread and coat meat of any type, it typically turns out a little uneven or over-cooked.

So I was initially kind of excited to happen upon tonight's main selection, which I thought called for a simple oven bake, only to find that I accidentally skipped the "saute for two minutes" line in my recipe review process. Ooops. Not being one to give up (or deviate from my plan), I forged ahead with said saute.

Of course, once again I ended up with unevenly sauteed pork medallions. But, rest assured dear readers, I am going to continue to work on this little issue I have and one day, my family will enjoy perfectly golden sauteed meat of some sort.

PS: John makes me laugh in this video.

Crispy Pork Medallions
Source: Cooking Light, November 2011

  • 2 tbsp Dijon
  • 1-lb pork tenderloin, trimmed and cut into 8 medallions
  • 1/2 c. panko
  • 1 tbsp chopped thyme
  • 1 tbsp fresh parsley (skip)
  • 1/8 tsp salt (skip)
  • 1/8 tsp ground pepper (skip)
  • 2 tbsp EVOO
  • Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Rub mustard evenly over pork medallions. Combine panko, thyme, parsley, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Dredge pork in panko mix. Heat a large ovenproof skillet over med-high heat. Add oil to pan, swirl to coat. Add pork; saute 2 mins or until golden brown.
  • Place skillet in oven; bake at 450 degrees for 8 mins. Let stand 3 mins.
Yield: 4 servings (2 medallions/serving)
Per serving: 210 calories; 9.4g fat (1.7g sat; 5.8g mono; 1.1g poly); 24.5g protein; 5.1g carb; 74mg choles; 329mg sodium

This was like all of the other panko-crusted saute/pan meals - fine, nothing special. No exotic flavors, similar to many other recipes out there. I did like the pork medallions. The hubs and kid also had whole wheat rotini, and the kid and I added steamed broccoli. Per the hubs: "The meal was OK. Solid." I concur.

Two Forks

Where oh where did my panko go?

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Hitting the Spot

Due to a mini breakdown in communication, we did not have dinner as a family, which got the kid off the hook for tonight's main event. However, he missed out on some delish comfort food that really hit the spot on a cold, rainy December evening.

I've wanted to make a white chili for some time. I have all sorts of recipes for all sorts of chilis, and I've kind of been in the mood for a chicken-based version. However, I am kind of a firm believer that chili should only be paired with cold weather, and since we've had unusually mild weather of late, my forays into chili have been few and far between. My guess is, though, that you'll be reading about a lot more chilis as we enter the long, cold, dark and miserable season that is known as winter. You will also probably read about my immense dislike of snow.

White Chili
Source: 500 Low Sodium Recipes, by Dick Logue

  • 1 lb boneless chicken breast, cubed
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil (used canola)
  • 1.5 tsp garlic powder
  • 4 c. no-salt added great Northern beans
  • 2 c. low-sodium chicken broth
  • 4 oz. chopped chile peppers
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper (skip)
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 c. sour cream (used reduced-fat)
  • In a large saucepan, saute chicken, onion and garlic powder in oil until chicken is no longer pink. Add beans, broth, chiles and seasonings. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, simmer uncovered for 30 mins. Remove from heat; stir in sour cream. 
Yield: 8 servings (I assumed 1 c/serving)
Per serving: 269 cals; 23g protein; 9g fat (4g sat, 2g mono, 2g poly); 25g carb; 6g fiber; 87mg calcium; 99mg sodium; 46mg choles

Love this! Once again, my friend Dick Logue comes through with another great low-sodium recipe. We both thought this turned out just fab.

Four Forks

I'm not going to include an image tonight. I took one, but the picture does not do the meal justice. Instead, here's another photograph:

(This is solo, btw)

Monday, December 5, 2011

No Mushroom Left Behind

I have many loves. My family and (most of) my friends (I kid!), the Beatles, the Buckeyes, and of course, this blog (ummm....). And when it comes to food, I also have many loves: Cheese, dark chocolate, garlic, and mushrooms.

So luck be a lady when I happened across a new recipe for that incorporated three of my favorite foods. And, although some of the ingredients are kind of expensive, I actually had those budget-busters on hand already, so hooray for repurposing!

A word about my love for mushrooms. OH I love them. In fact, if I happen to see something all mushroom-y on a menu, it is very difficult for me to focus on anything else. And lest you think mushrooms are just a filler food, according to my friend Google (and Vegetarian-Nutrition.Info), mushrooms are low in fat, sodium and calories, full of water, potassium, and other fun antioxidants. What's not to love?

Of course, if you're the kid, plenty, but we'll get to that in a few.

Bucatini with Mushrooms
Source: Cooking Light Our Best Pasta & Noodle Dishes, Fall 2011

  • 1/2 c. dried porcini mushrooms
  • 2/3 c. boiling water
  • 8 oz. uncooked bucatini (used whole wheat fettuccine)
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1/4 c. finely chopped shallots
  • 2, 4-oz packages exotic mushroom blend, finely chopped (stayed basic here, peeps)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tbsp dry sherry
  • 2 oz parm
  • 1/4 c. heavy whipping cream
  • 1 tsp sage
  • 1/2 tsp pepper (skip)
  • 1 tsp truffle oil
  • Rinse porcini thoroughly. Combine porcini and 2/3 c. boiling water in a bowl; cover and let stand 30 mins. Drain in a sieve over a bowl, reserving 1/4 c. soaking liquid. Chop porcini.
  • Cook pasta. Reserve 1/4 c. cooking liquid when done.
  • Melt butter in a large skillet over med-high heat. Add shallots, mushroom blend, and garlic, saute 5 mins, stirring frequently. Stir in porcini, sherry and salt (skip), cook for 1 min or until the liquid evaporates.
  • Reduce heat to medium. Stir in pasta, reserved liquids, 1/4 c. parm cheese, heavy cream, sage and pepper, toss well to combine. Drizzle with truffle oil, toss.
Yield: 4 servings (1-1/4 c. pasta mixture)
Per serving: 393 calories; 14.2g fat (7.9 sat, 4.3 mon, 0.9 poly); 15.8 protein; 49.3 carb; 38mg choles; 733mg sodium

I also made:
Cheese-Garlic Biscuits with Heart-Smart Bisquick, for the boys. I had a bite, to taste test.

I liked this dish. I thought it was actually quite rich and substantial, even for a Meatless Monday. In fact, I loaded up mine with a bunch of mushrooms, so as not to leave any in the bowl to be thrown away. Because that would be a travesty. The boys on the other hand were not the biggest fans. When he asked, "what are these black things?" and I responded spices, the kid was OK with it, but upon learning that they were actually mushrooms, he yelled, "I didn't eat them anyway. Own it!" - which was super not-awesome for me. The hubs thought the meal was bland, which I was surprised by, to be honest, because I thought the mushrooms were extra tasty. The boys did give major thumbs-up to the cheese-garlic biscuits, as well as the accompanying side salad.

Two Forks

This is the kid's serving (with biscuit). Notice the nominal amount of mushrooms - more for me!

Sunday, December 4, 2011


And we're officially off to the races! December is an insane month for our little family. We have the pleasure of observing both Christmas and Hanukkah - with multiple family celebrations, of course - and last year, we were blessed with the addition of a sweet little girl mid-December. Holy craziness, Batman! And of course, for you lucky blog readers, this means you might just get a few extra posts thrown in... you are very welcome for that.

Today we kicked off the month-long festivities by putting up the tree and other holiday-y accessories. This always involves the boys doing all of the grunt work while I point and gently critique, and me baking something for a mid-grunt-work break. The baby added all sorts of fun and games, with ample box climbing, ornament grabbing and overall mischievousness.

White Chip Brownies
Source: Very Best Baking

I am not going to type this in. Look it up - that's what I did. I only made this because I mysteriously had some white chocolate chips on hand.

Stray white chip

I also made soup today, because I felt like it.
Black Bean Pumpkin Soup
Source: Taste of Home Heartwarming Soups, Fall 2011

I am also not going to type this in - because I don't feel like it. Yes - I'm being lazy tonight. Yes, I'm tired from the ample amount of celebration running around I did this weekend. OH I love this season so much.

A nutritional powerhouse!

Finally, for dinner we had:
Quesadilla Casserole
Source: Clean Eating Classic Comfort Foods, Fall 2011

A little extra cheese... just because

First - the brownies. The hubs may have said, "I could eat this entire pan in one sitting," so I guess he liked them. I, on the other hand, thought they were OK. But, this is because I had an a-ha moment today: I do not like white chocolate. I thought the actual brownie part was delish, but the white chocolate chips brought them down a notch for me. Blech.

Next - the soup. The soup has an OK flavor - kind of bland and not as thick as I had hoped, but I like the idea of all of the nutrients in the soup (pumpkin! black beans! diced tomatoes!), so I will continue to eat it all week for lunch. The hubs actually ate it for lunch as well and seemed to enjoy it. And don't despair, I made it all no-salt added, just in case you were wondering.

Finally - dinner. This was a four fork day for the hubs. He loved the dinner. I thought it was OK - nothing special. The recipe calls for corn, which I picked out because corn and I are not besties. The kid ate the chicken, and picked out everything else. It was good - just not my usual Clean Eating good.

Brownies: Three Forks
Soup: Two Forks
Dinner: Two Forks

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Flippin' Fish

If you haven't noticed by now, fish and I don't have the best of track records. I think I'm a little intimidated by cooking seafood. I don't..

GAH. I don't know what to do. I wrote the entire blog and was getting ready to insert the image, and it crashed on me. The only thing that it saved is that line above. I don't feel like re-writing the whole thing, so you're going to get an abbreviated version. Here goes:

1. I suck at cooking seafood - mostly b/c I have issues with a fear of undercooking it
2. My trainer keeps telling me to give it a whirl, so I did tonight
3. Tilapia is healthy
4. I still kind of suck at cooking seafood, but this was at least edible

Recipe: Garlic Tilapia with Blueberries and Tender Greens
Source: Clean Eating magazine, July 2011

  • Boys did not enjoy the blueberry/green mixture. I did. The kid tried two forkfuls, the hubs barely mustered one.
  • My nonstick pan is not nonsticky enough so the tilapia, um, stuck.
  • The kid ate all of his tilapia.
  • I will try to cook it again some day.
Two Forks

No image for you tonight -  I don't want it to crash on me again. To help quell your heartbreak, here's a little song for you (not one of my faves, but will do in a pinch):