Monday, January 30, 2012

Monday Madness

Usually I try to plan a Meatless Monday meal for tonight, but this week is kind of up in the air (and not the "Clooney will visit us" up in the air, lest you were confused). The kid has basketball playoffs, which could take both he and the the hubs away three nights around dinner time depending on the outcome, plus the hubs has his own game wedged in there. Because the baby goes to bed too early for me to attend during the week, here I sit, waiting for the results and writing a blog for you. The kid also had a birthday party squeezed in just before his game tonight, which added to my funsies afternoon!

Monday Madness - get it?!

Soooo, that's why I decided to make a chili that we could just have on hand and eat at will. I do have meals planned should the kid's team lose tonight, just in case we can actually have a family dinner once this week. Cue sad mom.

Now, I have plenty of recipes for vegetarian chilis, but none of them were striking my fancy during meal-planning time.

Black Bean Salsa Chili
Source: Cooking Light, October 2009

  • 2 cans black beans, rinsed and drained (used no-salt added)
  • 2/3 c. water
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/2 pound ground turkey
  • 1 c. chopped onion
  • 1/2 c. chopped green pepper
  • 1/2 c. chopped red pepper
  • 3 sweet hickory smoked bacon slices, chopped (skip)
  • 1.5 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/8 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 1.5 c. mild salsa (used Newman's Own - it's low sodium!)
  • 3 tbsp tomato paste (used no-salt added)
  • 14 oz fat-free, less-sodium beef broth (used no-salt added)
  • 1/2 c reduced fat sour cream (skip)
  • 1/4 c. fresh cilantro (skip)
  • 1 tsp lime juice
  • Combine 1.5 c. beans, 2/3 c. water and sugar in a food processor; process until smooth. Combine bean puree and remaining beans in a bowl.
  • Heat a large saucepan over med-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add turkey and cook 3 mins or until browned. Remove turkey from pan.
  • Add onion, peppers and bacon to pan, cook 5 mins or until bacon and onion are slightly browned(Note: I added a touch of EVOO to make up for lack of bacon grease). Return turkey to pan. Add chili powder, cumin, oregano and crushed red pepper to pan, stir well to coat. Stir in bean mixture, salsa, tomato paste, and broth. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer for 30 mins, stirring occasionally.
  • Combine sour cream, cilantro and lime juice in a small bowl. Serve with chili.
Yield: 6 servings (1 c. chili and 4 tsp sour cream mix)
Per serving: 199 calories; 6.2g fat (2.6g sat, 1.9g mono, 1.2g poly); 14.8g protein; 22g carb; 5.9g fiber; 34mg chol; 740mg sodium

I don't know how this tastes because it is still simmering as I type this. I can tell you it took a while to put together, so this is not a great weeknight meal if you are in a rush. However, I am not in a rush because I am sitting here alone (present company of dog and cat and sleeping baby upstairs excluded). Again, cue sad mom.

Action shot of simmering goodness

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Strong Enough to Cook

Did you miss me? Did you even realize I was gone?

I know my family suffered from not only my lack of cooking last week, but the flu infestation that overtook our home. First the hubs, then the babe with a wicked ear infection, then me, now the kid - although the kid seems to have recovered very quickly after a therapeutic day of DS.

So while I was surrendering to germs and 8p bedtimes, my fam lost out on food and you lost out on super-fun blog posts. I am still sniffling, but am strong enough (haha) to once again prepare healthy dinners for your reading pleasure.

Who doesn't love a little old school Britney? This girl does!

Easy Salmon Cakes
Source: I have no clue - this was saved in my computer "recipe" file. I think it might be EatingWell

  • 3 tsp EVOO
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, finely diced
  • 2 tbsp fresh parsley (skip)
  • 15 oz canned salmon, drained
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1.5 tsp Dijon
  • 1-3/4 c. whole-wheat breadcrumbs (used unsalted)
  • 1/2 tsp pepper (skip)
  • Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray.
  • Heat 1.5 tsp EVOO in large nonstick skillet over med-high heat. Add onion and celery, cook, stirring until softened, approx 3 mins. Stir in parsley, remove from heat.
  • Place salmon in med bowl. Flake apart with a fork, remove any bones/skin (or buy boneless/skinless, like I do). Add egg and mustard, mix well. Add onion mixture, breadcrumbs and pepper, mix well. Shape into 8 patties, about 2.5 inches wide.
  • Heat remaining 1.5 tsp oil in pan over med heat. Add 4 patties and cook until undersides are golden, approx 2-3 mins. Turn them over onto prepared baking sheet; repeat with remaining patties.
  • Bake until golden on top and heated through, 15-20 mins.
Yield: 4 servings (2 cakes each)
Per serving: 324 cals; 10g fat (1g sat, 3g mono); 129mg chol; 21g carbs; 31g protein; 585mg sodium

Baked Mushroom Risotto
Source: Prevention Magazine, April 2011

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 med onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp salt (skip)
  • 1 lb sliced mushrooms
  • 1/3 c. dry white wine
  • 1.5 c. arborio rice
  • 3 c. chicken stock, warmed (used no-salt added)
  • 3/4 c. parm cheese
  • Heat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Heat oil in Dutch oven over med-high heat. Add onion and salt and cook until onion begins to turn golden brown, about 7 mins. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally until liquid given off by mushrooms evaporates and mushrooms brown, about 15 mins.
  • Add wine and cook until evaporated, about 3 mins. Transfer to ovenproof serving dish if desired. Stir in rice, hot stock and 1/2 c. of cheese. Put in oven and bake until rice is cooked and all liquid is absorbed, about 35 mins. Top with remaining cheese.
Yield: 6 servings
Per serving: 246 cals; 11g protein; 36g carbs; 1g fiber; 6.5g fat (2g sat); 427mg sodium

I could tell when I was mixing the salmon that it was going to be dry. I think the ratio of breadcrumbs to egg/mustard is too high - and I even added more mustard than the recipe called for. The risotto had a nice flavor. I don't have too much more to say about it - good, not great. Def healthier and fewer calories than most risottos, so that's a good thing.

Two Forks

Brain food, served up dry

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Tilapia Tuesday

Here we go again - more fish.

Here we go again - I'm tired and I don't feel 100 percent. My 3:30a wake-up time probs doesn't help (this occurred naturally, btw - my alarm is set for 4:30a - I'm not THAT crazy), but as a result, you are getting a less-than-witty and super-short post tonight. I have a hot date with my bed, The Biggest Loser and some zzzzs.

Dijon-Crusted Tilapia
Source: Taste of Home Comfort Food Diet, Winter/Spring 2009

  • 3 tbsp reduced fat mayo
  • 2 tbsp grated parm cheese
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tsp dijon
  • 1 tsp horseradish
  • 4 tilapia fillets (5 oz each)
  • 1/4 c. dry breadcrumbs (used whole-wheat)
  • 2 tsp butter, melted (unsalted, natch)
  • In a small bowl, combine mayo, 1 tbsp parm, lemon juice, mustard and horseradish.
  • Place fillets on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Spray mayo mixture evenly over fillets.
  • In a small bowl, combine bread crumbs, melted butter and remaining 1 tbsp parm; sprinkle over fillets.
  • Bake at 425 degrees for 13-18 mins or until fish flakes easily with a fork.
Yield: 4 servings (1 fillet per serving)
Per serving: 214 cals; 8g fat (3g sat); 80mg chol; 327mg sodium; 7g carbs; 29g protein

We had some pretty strong opinions tonight - the kid didn't like the "crust" on the fish, while the hubs thought the meal was delish. I am somewhere in the middle - good, not great. The best part is that it took almost no time to throw together.

Three Forks

This is the kid's portion. And yes, he ate all of his asparagus!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

National Soup Month

Did you know that January is National Soup Month? I didn't, until I visited my local Starbucks about a week ago, where a ploy-for-tips survey informed me of this fact. Obvs it makes sense, given that much of the nation typically is in a deep-freeze in January, and soup is a perfect antidote to blustery days.

I love soup. Love, love, love it. I eat it several times a week - mostly of the canned variety (and only Health Valley no-salt added, btw). Today I decided to make my own, because as much as I love Health Valley, it is kind of expensive and ultimately not as healthy as the real deal.

Not-So-Basic Tomato Soup
Source: The Eat-Clean Diet Cookbook, by Tosca Reno

  • 5 lbs fresh tomatoes (use a mixture of romas, field, heirloom, etc.)
  • 1 tbsp evoo
  • 1/2 c. water
  • 1/4 c. fresh basil leaves (used a bunch of dried oregano instead)
  • 1 tsp honey
  • sea salt and fresh pepper (skip)
  • juice of one fresh lemon (didn't use fresh)
  • Wash tomatoes and remove green crowns.
  • Boil a lot of water. Place whole tomatoes in boiling water just long enough to split and loosen their outer skin. Remove tomatoes from water and place in a bowl of ice water. When tomatoes are cool enough to handle, loosen the skins with your hands. Quarter the tomatoes and remove the hard inner core.
  • In a Dutch oven, heat the evoo over med-high heat. Place all the tomatoes in the pot. Add 1/2 c. water. Bring mixture to a boil and immediately reduce heat. Add basil, cover and simmer for approx. 30 mins or until soft, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat.
  • Place a food mill over a large bowl. Transfer cooked tomatoes to the food mill and slowly turn to make a puree. If you do not own a food mill (seriously - who does??), use a hand blender or blend in small batches in a regular blender.
  • Return pureed soup to saucepan and simmer. Add in honey and lemon juice, and season with salt/pepper. Serve hot.
Yield: 6 servings (1 c. /serving)
Per serving: 95 cals; 3g protein; 16g carbs; 4g fiber; 3g fat; 10g sugars; 19mg sodium

Positive: I made the entire recipe while the baby was napping. And it tastes pretty good. Negatives: This was a pain. It made a huge mess. Removing the skins by hand and hand-blending resulted in a seriously tomato-splattered kitchen. I did not end up pureeing the soup to a super-smooth consistency because of the mess.

Two Forks - I like the flavor a lot, but the mess is not worth it.


Friday, January 20, 2012

The Good Wife

Short and to the point.

Friday = Usually my night off
Weather = Snowmaggedon is upon us (again)
Husband = Sick for 2+ weeks
Wife = Empathetic
Result = Homemade Roasted Chicken Noodle Soup

Recipe: Roasted Chicken Noodle Soup
Source: Taste of Home Heartwarming Soups, Fall 2011

I don't feel like typing it in - see above re: night off. Catch you sometime this weekend!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

New Foods Week Day 3: Rutabaga

I wonder how many of you out there in blog- and cyber-land have ever tried a rutabaga? I have to be honest - unlike the trendy Brussels sprout, the rutabaga was not top of my list to try. Or even think about. I just happened to be perusing my big binder o' beef recipes and this one jumped out.

So I went with it, figuring that this would be perfect fare for our new foods week. I was more than a little apprehensive - there were only about three of the 'bagas hidden at the grocery store, and it is kind of strange looking. I know, I know - I shouldn't judge a rutabaga by its cover, but honestly peeps, if I wasn't the sporting type I might have skipped it based on appearance alone.

And, in case you are wondering, the rutabaga is low in calories, saturated fat and cholesterol, and a good source of fiber, potassium, folate, B6, etc. So yes, they are good for us. They are also part of the turnip family.

Couscous with Rutabaga and Beef Stew
Source: Eating Well, Jan/Feb 2012

  • 1 pound sirloin steak, cut into cubes
  • 1/2 tsp salt (skip)
  • 1/2 tsp pepper (skip)
  • 2 tbsp evoo
  • 1 lbs rutabaga (about 1/2 medium), cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 med onion, chopped
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste (used no-salt added)
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 12/ tsp ground tumeric
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper (optional - skipped)
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 3 c. reduced sodium beef broth (used no-salt added)
  • Whole wheat couscous
  • Sprinkle steak with 1/4 tsp salt/pepper. Heat 1 tbsp oil in large saucepan over med heat. Add the steak and cook until no longer pink on the outside, approx 4 mins. Transfer to a plate.
  • Add the remaining 1 tbsp oil to the pan over med heat. Add rutabaga through cayenne pepper (and remaining salt), cook, stirring occasionally, until onion begins to soften, approx 4 mins. Add flour, cook 1 min more, stirring constantly. Add broth, bring to a boil, scraping up brown bits from bottom of the pan. Cook, stirring occasionally, until rutabaga is tender and the stew is thickened, 11-14 mins.
  • Meanwhile, cook couscous as directed.
  • When rutabaga is tender, return steak to pan, reduce heat to med and cook until steak is cooked through, approx 2 mins.
  • Serve steak-ruta mix on top of couscous.
Yield: 4 servings (1.5c stew and .50 c. couscous)
Per serving: 392 cals; 12g fat (3g sat, 7g mono); 64mg chol; 41g carb; 8g fiber; 31g protein; 754mg sodium (ack)

I was kind of nervous to try this one. Really. The rutabaga was a pain to peel and chop up and it didn't smell that appealing (and yes I'm like a 3-year-old). I thought it was OK - I didn't finish my rutabaga portion, but I think I would like it better if it was a little bit softer, as it didn't turn out as tender as the recipe called for. The kid didn't like the couscous (not new to us at all) or the rutabaga, but the hubs liked the rutabaga, noting it didn't have too much flavor, but he's also still fighting the cold of the century. I disagree: I think it has a very distinct flavor. I was ready to give up on this veggie, until, as I was looking for the nutritional info, I came across different prep methods that sounded interesting - like fries! So I might try baking it in the oven next time around.

The steak portion of this was OK - next time I wold add in the cayenne for more flavor.

Two Forks

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

New Foods Week Day 2: The Boys and Brussels

I think this might come as a surprise to many of you, given my mostly healthy, veggie and fruit-eating self, but nary a Brussels sprout has ever passed these lips. I've never had a desire to touch them, cook them, eat them. That is, until I kept seeing recipes incorporating these little balls of cabbage in one form or another.

As you know, I read a lot of cooking/healthy living types of pubs, and recently, Brussels keep making appearances. Therefore, I have decided they are trendy little things (HK!) and who am I to pass up on something trendy? And, of course given all of the health benefits of Brussels sprouts, this taste test seems like a long time coming.

Chicken with Brussels Sprouts and Mustard Sauce
Source: Cooking Light, December 2011

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 (6oz) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
  • 1/2 tsp salt (skip)
  • 1/4 tsp pepper (skip)
  • 3/4 c. low-fat, lower sodium chicken broth (used no-salt added)
  • 1/4 c. apple cider
  • 2 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley (skip)
  • 12 oz. Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
  • Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  • Heat a large ovenproof skillet over high heat. Add 1 tbsp oil. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper; add to pan. Cook 3 mins or until browned. Turn chicken; place pan in oven. Bake at 450 degrees for 9 mins or until done. Remove chicken from pan; keep warm.
  • Heat pan over med-high heat. Add 1/2 c. broth and cider, bring to a boil, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Reduce hat to med-low; simmer 4 mins or until thickened. Whisk in mustard, 1 tbsp butter and parsley.
  • Heat remaining 1 tbsp oil and 1 tbsp butter in large nonstick skillet over med-high heat. Add Brussels sprouts; saute 2 mins or until lightly browned. Add remaining salt and 1/4 c. broth to pan; cover and cook 4 mins or until crisp-tender. Serve sprouts with chicken and sauce.
Yield: 4 servings (1 chicken breast; 2/3 c. Brussels sprouts; 2 tbsp sauce)
Per serving: 355 cals; 14.9g fat (5.2g sat, 7.2g mono, 1.5g poly); 42.8g protein; 11.6g carb; 114mg chol; 647mg sodium

The kid has a tip for all of you parents out there, trying to get their children to try something new: "Don't tell them what it is before they try it." Sage advice from the young man. He was the first of all of us to put in a forkful of the sprouts, and he managed to choke down a few more before calling it quits. I thought the sprouts were good - better than expected - and - hold onto your chairs - the HUBS ate every bit of his sprout serving (although he tried to pass it off that he liked them only because he has a cold and can't taste them anyway). We all decided that the Brussels sprouts were good - not worthy of a weekly appearance at our dinner table - but we are all going to embrace the sprouts again in the future. As for the chicken recipe - it was just so-so. Nothing special, sauce didn't add much.

Two Forks - for the overall recipe

Monday, January 16, 2012

New Foods Week Day 1: Trying Tofu

Even though I am not repeating recipes for a year, I do feel like we tend to eat a lot of the same kinds of meals. Therefore, I thought it would make for a fun little experiment to plan a a week's worth of meals that incorporate foods we've either never had or I have never cooked with.

Fun! Of course, the hubs is not necessarily too thrilled with this plan, but oh well. He also doesn't appreciate things like regular salon visits or trips to the mall, so I tend not to pay him much attention.

Tonight, I dove right in with a tofu-based dish, since we often follow Meatless Monday.

Are you surprised I've never cooked with tofu? Remember - the hubs isn't a fan of most veggies or healthy of any kind, so it shouldn't be too shocking. And, while I've had it once or twice in random settings, I have never been particularly motivated to prepare it on my own.

And in case you're wondering, there are loads of health benefits to this soy-based protein. Check out what our friends at World's Healthiest Foods have to say about tofu, because its pluses are way too many to list.

Spicy Stir-Fried Tofu with Snow Peas, Peanut Butter, and Mushrooms
Source: Cooking Light 10, Winter 2009

  • 1 14-oz package extra-firm tofu, drained and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 2 tsp canola oil
  • 1/4 pound snow peas, trimmed (used frozen peas - sorry peeps)
  • 1 c. red bell pepper strips
  • 3/4 c. water
  • 1/2 c. sliced green onions
  • 2 tsp minced ginger
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 c. sliced shitake mushrooms
  • 2 tbsp reduced-sodium tamari
  • 2 tbsp creamy peanut butter
  • 1 tsp cornstarch
  • 2 tsp Sriracha
  • 1/4 tsp salt (skip)
  • Place tofu cubes on several layers of paper towels. Cover with additional layers of paper towels; let stand 5 mins.
  • Heat canola oil in a large nonstick skillet over med-high heat. Add tofu to pan; cook 7 mins or until lightly browned, gently turning occasionally. Remove from pan; keep warm. Add snow peas, bell pepper, 1/4 c. water, onions, ginger, and garlic to pan; stir-fry 3 mins. Add mushrooms, and stir-fry 2 minutes.
  • Combine remaining 1/2 c. water, tamari, peanut butter, cornstarch, Sriracha, and salt in a small bowl; stir well. Add tamari mixture and tofu to pan; cook for 1 min or until thickened, stirring constantly.
Yield: 4 servings (1.5 c/serving)
Per serving: 212 cals; 8.7g fat (1.4g sat, 3.7g mono, 3g poly); 13.7g protein; 21.5g carb; omg chol; 639mg sodium

Well, two out of three ain't bad. I kind of told the kid it was chicken (despite his pointing out it was Meatless Monday) and he ate every bite, and asked for more red bell peppers - even after I 'fessed up and told him it was tofu. I liked it - spicy but not overwhelmingly so. I did find the tofu a little mushier than I would have liked for a dish like this, but overall it was pretty good.

Then there was the hubs. I knew we were in trouble when he was unpacking the groceries yesterday, saw the box o' tofu goodness and groaned, "Oh. No." Between that and the extreme veggie explosion on his plate, he pushed it all to the side and ate the accompanying brown rice.

Two Forks - but I will try a tofu-based dish again.

Can you spot the tofu?

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Double Post! Dessert Day


When I launched the blog, one of the first recipes I made was for truffles, which resulted in a few of my peeps being less than thrilled that this was a one-time deal (at least for the year).

Of course, given the fact that I have thousands of recipes, are you really that surprised that I found another variation of truffles to make? I actually made them for a party we attended last night (didn't have the chance to do an entry yesterday), and threw them in cute little mini-muffin holders.

Cute, right?

Chocolate Peanut Butter Truffles
Source: Kraft Food & Family, Holiday 2006

  • 1 pkg (8 squares) semi-sweet baking chocolate
  • 1/2 c. peanut butter
  • 1 8oz tub cool whip
  • 1/4 c. powdered sugar
  • Microwave chocolate in large microwaveable bowl until chocolate is almost melted. Stir until completely melted. Add in peanut butter and stir until well blended. Cool to room temp. Gently stir in cool whip. Refrigerate 1 hour.
  • Scoop peanut butter mixture with melon baller or teaspoon, then shape into 1-inch balls. Roll in sugar. Store in refrigerator. Per the recipe's suggestion, I also crushed up Nilla Wafers and rolled them in that. You can also use grated white chocolate, crushed peanuts, coconut, etc.
Yield: 3 dozen (I got about 2 dozen)

The truffles went super fast, and everyone seemed to enjoy them. I thought they were so-so - almost too sweet for me. They were very fast to make - I squeezed them in during the babe's naptime - and I liked doing the different variations.

Three Forks - based on ease and everyone else's reviews

And now here's your second post!When I rec'd my Jan/Feb 2012 issue of Cooking Light, I saw BEST LIGHT CHOCOLATE RECIPE EVER screaming from the cover. That's a mighty big claim, so in addition to my usual excitement over simply receiving a new recipe source, I was even more thrilled to give the BEST LIGHT CHOCOLATE RECIPE EVER a whirl and see if it truly lives up to this distinction.

Let's get right to it:
Classic Fudge Walnut Brownies
Source: Cooking Light, Jan/Feb 2012

  • 3.38 oz all-purpose flour (approx 3/4 c.)
  • 1 c. granulated sugar
  • 3/4 c. unsweeted cocoa
  • 1/2 c. packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 c. bittersweet chocolate chunks, divided
  • 1/3 c. fat-free milk
  • 6 tbsp buter, melted
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 c. chopped walnuts, divided (skip - don't like)
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups level with a knife. Combine flour and next 5 ingredients (through salt) in a large bowl. Combine 1/2 c. chocoalte and milk in a microwave safe bowl; microwave at HIGH 1 minute; stirring after 30 seconds. Stir in butter, vanilla, and eggs. Add milk mixture, 1/2 c. chocolate, and 1/4 c. wlanutes to flour mixture; stir to combine.
  • Pour the batter in a 9-inch square metal baking pan coated with cooking spray; sprinkle with remaining 1/4 c. nuts. Bake at 350 degrees for 22 mins or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean with moist crumbs clinging. Cool. Cut into 20 pieces.
Yield: 20 pieces (1 brownie)
Per brownie: 186 calories; 9.1g fat (4.2g sat; 2.2g mono; 1.7g poly); 2.8g protein; 25.4g carb; 1.4g fiber; 30mg chol; 74mg sodium

The hubs is out of town while I write this, so he'll have to leave a comment later tonight after he tries the brownies, but the kid and I each shoveled one in after his travel soccer game. Delish! I can't say with certainty that this is the best chocolate recipe ever, but peeps, it is pretty frickin' good. Of course, I will now have to have a challenge wihtin a challenge and make all of the other chocoalte recipes provided by Cooking Light in its fun little bake-off battle. I'm sure my family will hate that.

Four Forks

This is what 1/20th of a brownie looks like. I could eat the whole pan.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Special Post: Twinsicles Side-by-Side Comparison

A couple of weeks ago, the babe and I had a playdate with my self-anointed "awesome-sauce" friend (and her truly awesome-sauce daughter) when she mentioned that she had tried a recipe she found in Cook This, Not That! After further discussion, we determined it was the same exact one I had tried a few weeks before. While she and her family really enjoyed it, we were not that impressed.

Cue light bulb moment!

We came up with the brilliant idea of selecting another recipe from this very same cookbook and cooking it the same night, to see how we fared this time. We often agree on a lot of things - hence the "twinsicles" note above (her word, not mine) - so we knew this would prove to be an interesting little experiment.

Here's how it went down:
  • I selected a recipe I thought we would all like and she agreed to make it.
  • Our schedules did not allow for same-night cooking, so I made this tonight, and she made it earlier in the week.
  • She prepared a review - which I have not read until I posted it below - and sent it to me.
Turkey Sloppy Joes
Source: Cook This, Not That by David Zinczenko and Matt Goulding, 2010

  • 1/2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced (used pre-diced yellow, red & green)
  • 1 lb lean ground turkey
  • 1.5 c. tomato sauce (used no-salt added)
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste (used no-salt added)
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 tbsp chili powder
  • Salt/pepper to taste (skip)
  • 10-12 shakes Tabasco or other hot sauce
  • Heat oil in a large skillet over med heat. Add onion & bell pepper and cook for about 2 mins, until softened. Add the turkey and cook, suing a wooden spoon to break up the meat, until the turkey is lightly browned. Add the tomato sauce, paste, sugar, vinegar, Worcestershire, chili powder, salt/pepper, and hot sauce.
  • Turn the heat down to low. Simmer for 10 mins, until liquid has reduced and the sauce fully coats the meat. Divide among four rolls.
Yield: 4 servings
Per serving (includes rolls, I think): 340 cals; 12g fat (2.5g sat); 820mg sodium

Compared to (according to the authors): Subway 6-inch meatball marinara sandwich at 580 cals, 23g fat and 1,530 mg sodium. That's more sodium than I eat in a day, btw.

I don't know if the kid was super hungry, but he pretty much swallowed his sandwich whole. The hubs and I also enjoyed. This was much better than the other recipe I tried, and I'd like to think I cut down on the sodium by using no-salt added products. And, IMO, this makes more than four servings (kid and I each had one sandwich, hubs had two, and we have enough left for one more). Plus, it was ridiculously fast to throw together.

Four Forks


Going into this dinner, I didn’t have high hopes considering the Tuch told me the last time he ate Sloppy Joe’s (2 years ago) he got the stomach flu later that night… and I’m sure you can figure out where the story goes from there. However, the recipe looked super easy and I didn’t feel like putting much effort into dinner, so if he ended up puking again, it would’ve made a really awesome story (except, he didn’t… bummer). I followed the recipe pretty much exactly – I replaced the lean ground turkey with lean ground beef, though. (Ground turkey makes me want to vom.) I also thought I had brown sugar and Worcestershire sauce in the cupboard, but I was mistaken… so really, the recipe wasn’t “pretty much exact” but it was close enough, IMO.

Surprisingly, I enjoyed the meal, though I think it could’ve used a little more salt. And maybe more chili powder. And maybe would’ve been fun with some garlic. But regardless, I ate it, and I’m not the biggest Sloppy Joe’s fan. The Tuch, on the other hand, wasn’t into the meal (though he did have seconds). “How many forks can I give this?” “Four.” “I give it two.” Two forks because it wasn’t a dreadful meal, but he never wants me to make it again.  But, I really didn’t think it was that bad. Methinks it goes back to the night two years ago.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Cry Baby

I don't know what it is about these shallot things, but I was supposed to add three of them sliced to the meal tonight, and I could only make my way through one before the throat got all tingly and the tears welled up. Ugh - I don't like that feeling of potential sensitivity. It might lead people to think all sorts of incorrect thoughts about me.

JK - I'm the fool with that super tough exterior who cries at stupid shows like Wife Swap. And yes, remember - there's a Beatles song to fit pretty much every moment (of my life at least - or should I say "In My Life"? Haha - Beatles humor).

One of our components tonight included potatoes. I know, I know... the kid has issues with all things of the potato variety. But this looked good to me, and it was even the recommended accompaniment with the main fare.

So let's explore the delightful spud known as the russet. Low-sodium? Check. Source of fiber? Check. A fun skin with lots of good nutritionals? Check. Loaded with blood-pressure reducing potassium? Check check check. So why the bad rap? Potatoes are high in sugar and carbs. So - even though I love potatoes, we don't eat them all that often. Plus the kid would probably commit some sort of potato-related mutiny if I forced them down his throat more than a few times a month.

Mushroom-Herb Chicken
Source: Cooking Light Fresh Food Fast Weeknight Meals, Spring 2010

  • 4 (6-oz) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
  • 1/4 tsp salt (skip)
  • 1/4 tsp pepper (skip)
  • cooking spray
  • 3 large shallots, peeled (used one)
  • 1 (8-oz) package pre-sliced mushrooms
  • 1/3 c. dry sherry
  • 1 tsp dried marjoram or oregano (used oregano)
  • Place each chicken breast between 2 sheets of heavy-duty plastic wrap, pound to 1/3-inch thickness using meat mallet. Sprinkle chicken evenly with salt and 1/4 tsp pepper; coat with cooking spray. Heat a large nonstick skillet over med-high heat. Add chicken to pan, cook 5-6 mins on each side or until browned.
  • While chicken cooks, cut shallots vertically into thin slices (approx 1 cup). Remove chicken from pan. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add mushrooms and shallots to pan, coat veggies with spray. Cook 1 min, stirring constantly. Stir in sherry and oregano. Return chicken to pan, cover and cook 3 mis or until mushrooms are tender and chicken is done. Serve mushroom mixture over chicken.
Yield: 4 servings (1 chicken breast and 1/3 c. mushroom sauce)
Per serving: 226 cals; 3g fat (0.6g sat, 0.5g mono, 0.6g poly); 41.6g protein; 5g carbs; 1g fiber; 99mg chol; 262mg sodium

We also had:
Buttermilk-Parmesan Mashed Potatoes
Source: Cooking Light, November 2009

  • 2 lbs russet potatoes
  • 2/3 c. fat-free milk
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 c. buttermilk
  • 1/3 c. grated fresh parm-reggiano cheese
  • 1/2 tsp salt (skip)
  • 1/4 tsp pepper (skip)
  • Prick each potato several times with a fork. Cook in microwave for 16 mins, or until tender. Let stand 2 mins. Cut each potato in half lengthwise; scoop out flesh with large spoon and transfer to a bowl (I included some of that delish skin, btw).
  • Combine milk and butter in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave 2 mins or until butter melts. Add milk mixture to potatoes; mash with a potato masher to desired consistency. Stir in buttermilk and remaining ingredients.
Yield: 6 servings (3/4 c./serving)
Per serving: 240 cals; 7.9g fat (4.9g sat, 1.9g mono, 0.3g poly); 7.5g protein; 35.2g carbs; 3.5g fiber; 22mg chol; 366mg sodium

As expected, the kid was not a big fan of the mashed potatoes. I think he tasted exactly one fork-tine-full before making that "I told you I hate potatoes" face. He then proceeded to give me some tips on how to make McDonald's fries at home and healthier. Both the hubs and I liked the potatoes - kind of an interesting twist with the parm-reggiano and buttermilk.

The chicken was good - not great, not bad - just good. The most flavorful part was obvs the shallots.

Potatoes: Three Forks
Chicken: Two Forks

Chicken, taters and broccoli!

Monday, January 9, 2012

My Weakness

Sooo you know how much I love cookbooks. And how I have way too many. Yet I can't stop buying them. It's an addiction. If TLC or Bravo were ever to cast for "Confessions of a Cookbook Addict" I'd probs be in the running. And that would be fab b/c it would up my chances of meeting one Andy Cohen. LOVE HIM.

Anyway. With the turn of the year there are always so many exciting new cookbook options for me to select from. They all promise to help us lose weight in six minutes while eating every single thing ever. Who can resist?

Tonight's selection is from one of those new purchases. I almost skipped making dinner tonight because I don't feel awesome (the babe has passed on her germ-fest to both me and the hubs) and we have leftovers, but that would leave you without this super fun post, so I sacrificed my health and well-being on your behalf, dear readers.

Chilaquile Casserole
Source: Eat Well, Lose Weight (from Better Homes & Gardens), 2012

  • 1 tbsp veg oil (reduced to 1 tsp EVOO)
  • 1 c. chopped onion
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 12 6-inch tortillas, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 c. shredded, reduced fat Mexican cheese
  • 2 4-oz cans diced green chile peppers, undrained (used 1 can)
  • 4 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 c. low-fat buttermilk
  • 1/2 tsp salt (skip)
  • 1/4 tsp pepper (skip)
  • 1/8 tsp cumin (used 1/4)
  • 1/8 tsp oregano (used 1/4)
  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a large skillet, heat oil over med heat. Add onion and garlic, cook until onion is tender.
  • Grease a 2-quart baking dish. Spread half of tortillas pieces in the bottom of the prepared dish. Top with half of the cheese and one can of peppers. Sprinkle with onion/garlic mix. Top with remaining tortillas, cheese and peppers.
  • In a large bowl combine eggs, buttermilk, salt, pepper, cumin and oregano. Pour evenly over ingredients in baking dish.
  • Bake for 35-40 mins or until center is set and edges are lightly browned. Let stand for 15 mins before serving. Top with tomatoes if you want. (We used Newman's mild salsa)
Yield: 8 servings
Per serving: 255 calories; 12g total fat (5g sat); 126mg chol; 583mg sodium; 25g carb; 3g fiber; 15g protein

Upon first glance at dinner, the kid decided he had horrible stomach pains and went to bed. This came after he went to basketball practice, scrimmaged and was the team's leading scorer, then played on the playground. Then came home and watched SpongeBob studied. Great. The hubs and I plowed on. We both liked it - didn't love it - and it kind of is a bit of a waste considering there are a lot of leftovers and we're tossing them b/c I don't think it would keep that well. It would make a good brunch dish.

Two Forks
Does this give you insta-stomach pains?

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Newbie Dinner

Things that make me feel old:
  1. My 20-year high school reunion is this year.
  2. I'd rather stay home and sleep than go out most nights.
  3. I'm a little bit over MTV.
  4. I care about things like heart health.
  5. Most of my co-workers.
A word about those co-workers. I love to regale them with stories about how I didn't have a cell phone, email or the Internet not only in college, but at my first "real" job. I enjoy hearing that for some of them, the year I got married was the year they graduated high school. Or entered high school. Or were still in elementary school.

Part of being old is worrying that some of these youngins are here in the big NEO all by their lonesomes, wasting away in their apartments eating fast food and other unhealthy randomness. So, tonight I invited two of our latest newbies (plus one significant other) to dinner. Both are from out of town, and both graduated college in 2011. Oy. You may now call me Mama Old Fogey.

Included on tonight's menu:
Both newbies are regular readers of this blog, so hopefully they enjoyed themselves tonight and will also comment on tonight's meal. I thought the lasagna especially turned out very well. It was very rich and satisfying, even though it was "heart healthy." The Double Chocolate Brownie Bars were a bit too good, so they will most likely go to school with the hubs so I'm not tempted to eat the entire pan in one sitting.

A note about one newbie: About a week ago, I issued a "name this quote" challenge and he correctly Googled guessed the right source. So, here's your shout-out, DH! Now get back to work.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

The Pride of Southern Ohio

There's something that I haven't fully admitted to you. While I am a big sports fan, my leanings go towards Ohio State (everything) and Cleveland Indians baseball. I do not care that much about the NFL. It has nothing to do with the Browns less-than-stellar record, and more to do with I just don't find the NFL that interesting.

That makes just one of us in the house. The hubs, on the other hand, is a huge NFL fan. Fantasy football, blah blah blah. And he's a Bengals fan. Because he's from Cincinnati. This does not make us quite a house divided, although I do get a bit of amusement whenever they lose to the Browns, because he cares so very much.

For tonight, I decided to honor these southern Ohio roots and make the perfect football watching meal. And, because we are watching the game on delay as I type this, I have no clue what the outcome is. And while I don't really care, being the good wifey that I am, a teeny, tiny part of me does want the Bengals to win simply because it would make the hubs sooooo happy.

Cincinnati Turkey Chili
Source: Cooking Light, September 2009

  • 4oz spaghetti (skip)
  • Cooking spray
  • 8 oz lean ground turkey
  • 1.5 c. prechopped onion
  • 1 c. chopped green bell pepper (skip)
  • 1 tbsp bottled minced garlic
  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp allspice
  • 1/2 c. chicken broth (used no-salt)
  • 1 can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 can diced tomatoes, undrained (used no-salt)
  • 2.5 tbsp chopped semisweet chocolate
  • 1/4 tsp salt (skip)
  • cheese
  • Cook pasta according to directions. Drain, set aside.
  • Heat a dutch oven over med-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add turkey; cook 3 mins, stirring to crumble. Add 1 c. onion, bell pepper and garlic; saute 3 mins. Stir in chili powder and next 5 ingredients (through allspice). Cook 1 min.
  • Add broth, beans and tomatoes; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer 20 mins, stirring occasionally.
  • Remove from heat; stir in chocolate and salt.
  • Serve chili over spaghetti, top with onion and cheese.
Yield: 4 servings (1/2 c. spaghetti; 1.5c  chili; 2 tbsp onion; 3 tbsp cheese)
Per serving: 408 cals; 13.8g fat (6.6g sat, 4.3g mono, 1.7g poly); 24.5g protein; 47.4g carb; 79g fiber; 765mg sodium

I have made this chili a bunch of times before and it is one of my favorites, so I am pre-reviewing and ranking this while it cooks. I actually doubled this recipe to make sure we had plenty of leftovers. Plus, who doesn't love a recipe that includes pretty much all of my favorite things? Cheese, garlic, chocolate. Four forks.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Fried Feeding Frenzy

I'm tired and kind of uninspired (and a poet!), so let's get right to it.

Some facts about tonight's meal:
  1. I made Chicken Fried Rice.
  2. I dropped an egg on the floor.
  3. The recipe made a ton.
  4. The meal was easy and fast to prepare.
  5. In addition to the egg issue, I made a mess stirring this. Rice was kind of everywhere.
  6. The boys ate almost a ton - the kid went back for seconds and the hubs may or may not have picked some off of the kid's plate.
Chicken Fried Rice
Source: Weight Watchers Make it in Minutes, 2001

  • 2 tbsp canola
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 lb skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into thin strips (I chopped these into thirds)
  • 1 tbsp minced peeled fresh ginger (did not use fresh and used approx 1 tsp)
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 c. chopped scallions
  • 4 c. cooked long-grain white rice (used brown)
  • 1.5 c. frozen peas and carrots (used just peas)
  • 3 tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tsp dark sesame oil
  • Heat 2 tsp of canola in a large nonstick skillet over med-high heat. Add the eggs and cook, stirring, until firmly scrambled, about 2 mins. Transfer the eggs to a bowl. Add 1 tsp more of canola and chicken to the skillet. Cook, stirring occasionally, until chicken is cooked through, 6-7 mins. Transfer to the bowl with the eggs.
  • Add remaining 1 tbsp canola to skillet, along with the ginger, garlic and scallions. Cook 1 min. Add the rice and peas/carrots, cook 2 mins. Stir in eggs and chicken, soy sauce and sesame oil and cook until heated through, 3-5 mins.
Yield: 4 servings (I think it is approx. 1.5 c/serving)
Per serving: 488 cals; 12g fat (2g sat); 172mg chol; 560mg sodium; 54mg carbs; 3g fiber; 37g protein

See #5 above. This was a chicken fried love fest.

Four forks - mostly because the boys liked this so much and it was so simple to prepare.

Even better than the real thing? Probs not, but this passes the test

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Some Fishy Excuses

Although I said in a previous post that I do not make resolutions, I did resolve a while ago to keep on keepin' on with the fish attempts. My healthy/clean cookbooks have sooo many fish recipes that I feel like I need to keep trying it.

But, dear readers, I do have a couple of fish confessions. First, fish intimidates me. I am always super worried that I am going to undercook it and poison my family. Or that I'm not going to clean it/de-bone it/whatever and we'll all choke on mini fish bones. Second, although I spend a lot at the grocery store (and, um, elsewhere), I really do have some cheap tendencies, and often don't want to make the big fish purchase - esp if I am going to screw it up. Third, if I was to make more expensive fish purchases, I would prefer to buy fresh fish from a local monger the day-of preparation, and I never can get around to that kind of advance planning. Am I really alone in these fish-phobias?

So, that leaves me with buying either canned fish (tuna/salmon) or those convenient freezer packs of fish that pre-portion out the fillets. Maybe I should look into an intro to fish class? Meh - see point #2 about being cheap.

Tosca's Keep-It-Tight Tilapia
Source: The Eat-Clean Diet Favorites, 2011

  • 1/4 c. EVOO
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed (used minced)
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 1 tsp dried mustard
  • 1 tsp black pepper (skip)
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 pinch cayenne
  • 4 tilapia fillets, thawed
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • Combine olive oil, garlic and seasonings. Dip each fillet into seasoning and place on baking sheet.
  • Pour any remaining sauce over fish. Bake for 10 mins.
Yield: 4 servings (4 oz each)
Per serving: 183 cals; 23g protein; 3g carbs; total fat 9g; 1g fiber; 153mg sodium

This recipe is basically fool proof - esp because it involves oven-baking and not pan-searing (my nemesis). Thankfully the fish turned out very well - nice, mild flavor with a touch of seasoning. I ran out of the EVOO seasoning at the end and had to kind of scrape some off the side of the bowl, but otherwise no problemo with this one. The kid even ate most of his serving.

Three Forks

Wow - hello healthy!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

And We're Off!

Hello 2012!

I hope you had a glorious celebration! I started off the new year in a completely and totally unexpected way - I slept in until 9a! Many of you know that my typical wake-up time (sans alarm) is around 4/4:30a, so this was certainly a surprise to me. Of course, going to sleep around 2a might have a little something to do with that.

A word about resolutions: I don't make them. I used to - but to me, they are pointless. So you aren't going to read about any heady goals or resolutions on my blog. I am going to just keep on truckin' along, which means eating and cooking clean most of the time, working out at obscene hours, and trying to do my best as a mom, wife and PR hack.

Anyway - back to the point of this blog - the food. I decided to whip up a little breakfast for the fam before heading out and meeting an old bud for coffee. I also managed to throw together most of our dinner during this time. Hooray for the multi-task!

Monkey Bread Minis
Source: Rachael Ray Magazine, no clue date

I did not have time to try these fresh out of the oven because I was running a little bit late for my aforementioned coffee date. The boys did like them - the hubs popped about four in - and I tried a teeny piece several hours later. I will tell you that this was kind of a hassle to make, partly because I didn't have much time to focus.

Pushed 'N' Pulled Pork Sandwiches
Source: Prevention Guide Slow Cooker Recipes, Winter 2012

The pork ended up good - very tender and easy to pull with a fork. Taste-wise, it was really no different from most pulled pork/slow cooker recipes. IMO, the all kind of taste the same. It makes a ton (the recipe calls for 4lbs bone-in pork), so we have a lot of football-watching-sandwich-eating leftovers, which was kind of the intent. The boys both approved of this one.

Smoky Three-Bean Bake
Source: Cooking Light, July 2011

Yum! Best part of the meal for sure. The recipe was easy to throw together - the "toughest" part was cooking the bacon and onions. Otherwise, I just mixed up the rest of the ingredients and popped it into the oven for 60 mins. And you know I love my beans! The kid did not like this at all - but he is not beany, despite my best efforts to entice him with fun, bean-related songs. The hubs also thoroughly enjoyed the bake.