Thursday, November 26, 2009

Update...

Hi Readers,
My laptop died last weekend :(.   So I no longer have a personal computer; I intend to replace it over the next 1-2 weeks but until then, no new posts.  This makes me sad, because I was very excited about sharing "Ropa Vieja in the Slow Cooker" and a super-simple salmon dish with you.  No matter, I will blog about them once I have replaced my laptop.

In the meanwhile, I hope that everyone is having a wonderful Thanksgiving!.  I just came from a Thanksgiving feast and I am ready to roll myself home!

See you again in a week or two...

Kim

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Chicken Quesadillas




On the whole, these quesadillas are not bad.  They are not my favorite, though.  There's not quite enough chicken and a little too much onion.   These quesadillas are finished in the oven and perhaps I let them go for too long in the oven, because I normally love a lot of onion.  However, the sugars in the onion caramelized during the oven cooking and so these quesadillas had a sweet-savory flavor.  As I've mentioned previously, I don't really like that taste mixture.

My Changes

1) I could not find 10" whole wheat tortillas, so I went with the 8" versions.  The original recipe calls for regular flour tortillas.  Whole wheat tortillas give a bit more fiber and they taste great, so I always buy them instead.

2) Perhaps the filling is supposed to be on the skimpy side as the original recipe calls for 10 tortillas.  There was no way I was going to be able to spread this filling out that far.  I barely made it to 7 tortillas. 

3) The original calls for a Cheddar-Monterey Jack cheese blend.  I already had shredded chedder in the freezer, so I used that instead.

4) The original recipe instructs you to cut the chicken into strips, cook it, then keep it in the pan as you cook the onions.  I was worried that the there wasn't going to be enough chicken breast (and I was right, see my note above); I was also worried that the chicken breast would turn out a bit dry.  So I poached the chicken over medium heat and then removed it from the pan and chopped it.  I then cooked the onions separately and added the chicken back into the pan once the onions were done.

 

4) The onion were supposed to be cooked until translucent; however, I wanted my onions a bit crunchy for some added texture.  So I cooked them until they were just wilted.


Of course, they ended up soft anyway, because the quesadillas spent ten minutes in the oven, to finish cooking.  Oh well!

The Recipe (from Allrecipes.com, with modifications)

Ingredients

  • 1 skinless, boneless chicken breast
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 onion, sliced into strips
  • 2 tablespoons salsa
  • 7 (8 inch) whole- wheat flour tortillas
  • 2 cups shredded Cheddar Cheese

Directions



  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Spray a cookie sheet with non-stick cooking spray.
  2. Pour about an inch of water into a large skillet.  Place the chicken breast in the water.  Heat the skillet and its contents over medium heat.  Cover and cook until the chicken is just done (about 5-10 minutes) Remove them from the pan and chop them.  
  3. Add the onions to the pan and fry (stirring constantly) until they are just wilted.  Add the salsa  and chopped chicken; mix well.  Turn off the heat. 
  4. Fill half of 1 tortilla with the chicken mixture and cheese, then fold the tortilla over the full half. Repeat with remaining tortillas and filling. Arrange the quesadillas on a cookie sheet.
  5. Bake the quesadillas in the preheated 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) oven until the cheese has melted (about 5-10 minutes). Cut the quesadillas into fours.  They are best when served immediately.  

 
Cost:

Mission 8" Tortillas: $3.29 for 10.

I already had the remaining ingredients in my kitchen.

Conclusion:

The color on these quesadillas are not so appealing.  I think that the next time I made them, I pan-fry them in a dry pan (i.e. a non-stick pan without oil).  That will give them a nice brown color.  It will also keep the onions from caramelizing and keep them crunchy.  I'm sure that these will be great with red bell pepper and garlic added in!

I noticed that my version has more a bit more sodium than I like (I try to keep it under 600mg per serving).  I think it's because I didn't stretch out the filling to 10 tortillas...

Nutrition Per Serving:

  Calories
326.3

  Total Fat
16.0 g

 
  Saturated Fat
8.1 g

 
  Polyunsaturated Fat
0.5 g

 
  Monounsaturated Fat
3.6 g

  Cholesterol
59.2 mg

  Sodium
675.4 mg

  Potassium
157.3 mg

  Total Carbohydrate
26.1 g

 
  Dietary Fiber
4.4 g

 
  Sugars
1.0 g

  Protein
21.4 g

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Slow Cooker: Macaroni and Cheese



I love macaroni and cheese.  I grew up on the blue box version, Kraft's Macaroni and Cheese.  I have had gourmet macaroni and cheese, with Gruyere, Parmesan, and at least two other cheeses in a cream sauce over macaroni.  In my recipe box, there are about 6 recipes for macaroni and cheese.  Imagine my delight when I discovered a healthy recipe for macaroni and cheese in my slow cooker cookbook, "Fix-It and Forget-It Lightly: Healthy, Low-Fat Recipes For Your Slow Cooker" by Phyllis Pellman Good.

The Ingredients:

1) 2 1/2 cups of fat-free or 2% milk



2) 1 egg, beaten




3) 1 tsp salt
4) dash of pepper
5) 3 cups of low-fat cheddar cheese,shredded




6) 8oz of macaroni, cooked al dente

Directions:

1) Combine all ingredients except macaroni in slow cooker.
2) Cook on high for 1 hour.
3) Add macaroni.  Cook on low 4 more hours.


The Cost:


Kroger Brand Elbow Noodles, 1 lb: $0.88.

I already had the milk, egg, salt, pepper, and cheese in my kitchen. 


Changes That I Made:

1) Obviously, I used vanilla soy milk instead of cow's milk.  I am lactose intolerant and therefore cannot drink cow's milk (or eat ice cream, it's tragic).  Fortunately, I have no problems with cheese.  I used to drink Lactose Free skim milk and thumb my nose at soy milk because it tastes funny.  My change of heart occurred when I went on a weekly food budget and noticed that soy milk is about $0.50 cents cheaper than the lactose free version.  Those pennies add up!  It took me two weeks to make the transition (mostly by mixing the two together) and now I love vanilla soymilk. As you can see, I buy the store brand.

2) This is not actually a change but more of a cook's note: the shredded cheddar looks a little weird because I forget to set it out to thaw before I prepped the ingredients.  "No matter," I thought, "it's going in to the slow cooker anyway.  It will melt." My assumption was correct, thankfully!

3) I would have used whole wheat macaroni pasta, but alas, the store did not have any that day.  It would have boosted the fiber content of the dish.  

4) I thought four more hours of cook time was extreme; after all, everything was already cooked by the time the macaroni was added.  In addition, I have had the previous experience of cooking pastas or rice too long in a slow cooker---it turns into mush.  Inedible, not to say disgusting.  I decided just another hour of cooking on high would do the trick and it was perfect.  The finished product is pictured above--don't you agree it looks great?  That extra hour really has nothing to do with cooking the already-cooked ingredients.  It lets the sauce thicken very nicely, almost showcasing the noodles, and inviting you to dig into it with a big spoon.  I couldn't resist the temptation--I had three spoonfuls right then.  Quality assurance, you understand.

Another Cook's Note

I've made macaroni and cheese on the stove-top and I noticed that there's no flour.  Instead, there's an egg.  I thought about it a bit and realized that the egg is used in place of flour as the binding and thickening agent.  When made on the stove-top, milk and butter are heated together.  When the butter is melted, you stir in the flour, and continue stirring constantly.  The gluten in the flour expands, absorbing the liquid, and  thickens the liquid, forming the base of the sauce, called a roux.  You can actually see the transformation occur; I always think it's neat.  Chemistry in action.  Being that this sauce is transformed in the slow-cooker (i.e. no stirring), mixing the egg into the liquid and the sloooow cooking process allows the egg proteins to solidify into a delicate web, catching the milk into thousands (perhaps millions?) of little pockets, thereby making the sauce.  I don't know if this hypothesis is correct but based on my memory of college chemistry, it sounds about right.

In Conclusion

This is good macaroni and cheese, on par with any basic home-made mac n' cheese and a step above the blue box.  I brought it to work for lunch and my co-workers would come into my office exclaiming, "What smells so good?!" The taste--well, I couldn't tell it was a healthy version.  For those who need a few more (healthy) calories, I ate this with raw cut up veggies on the side to help fill me up.

Enjoy!

Nutrition Per Serving (6 servings, about 1/2 cup each)
Calories: 170 (40 calories from fat)
Fat: 4.5 g
Sodium: 400mg
Carbohydrates: 15g
Protein: 17g

Sunday, November 1, 2009

The Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie




I am taking a brief diversion away from the "cheap, healthy" goals of this blog because I need to share these fantastic cookies with you. I first heard about them on the radio show, "The Splendid Table," on National Public Radio (NPR). These were purported to be even better than the ubiquitous and iconic Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookies; this cookie made the Toll House Inn famous. You know, the cookie recipe that's on the back of every package of Nestle chocolate chips. Would chocolate chips even exist if it weren't for the chocolate chip cookie?

This better-than-Tollhouse recipe was developed by David Leite, who also writes a food blog, Leite's Culinaria: Hot Food, Dry Wit. It is actually a combination of recipes from several professional, high-class bakers, none of whom are household names. I'll list them here for the sake of completeness: Hervé Poussot, Maury Rubin, Jacques Torres, Heather Sue Mercer, Shirley Corriher, and Dorie Greenspan. The cookie recipe used by Mr. Leite is inspired primarily by Mr. Torres, with bits and pieces added from the other bakers.

The Ingredients and a Discussion About Them

1) cake flour
2) bread flour
3) baking soda
4) baking powder
5) coarse salt
6) unsalted butter
7) light brown sugar
8) granulated sugar
9) eggs
10) natural vanilla extract
11) bittersweet chocolate disks or fèves, at least 60 percent cacao content
12) Sea salt

There are a few things about this ingredient list that surprised me. The first of which was that it called for two kinds of flour, rather than the regular all-purpose flour that other chocolate chip cookies use. It's an interesting combination of cake flour, which has a very low protein content (possibly the lowest protein content) in comparison to other flours, and bread flour, which has a fairly high protein content. Why does protein content matter, you ask? The protein in flours is also known as gluten. Gluten is a popular term right now because many people are following gluten-free diets for many different reasons, one of which is gluten-intolerance. This is a condition in which a person cannot digest the protein (the gluten) in wheat products (or barley, or rye). They are generally fine with things made with or from rice (like rice flour). Now, to be honest, I don't know the real reason why Mr. Leite chose to combine these two flours. There's nearly a 2:1 ratio of cake flour to the bread flour. My guess is that the cake flour provides a very fine crumb, i.e. "cake-like," while the bread flour provides a boost of just enough gluten to hold the cookie together. I was wondering about this, because I had to purchase both the cake flour and the bread flour. I will confess that I already have both unbleached all-purpose flour and whole-wheat flour in my kitchen. Was it worth it to purchase even more flour? Would using all-purpose flour instead of the bread flour somehow damage the cookies? I decided that since I was trying to make a more perfect chocolate chip cookie, it was worthwhile not to substitute any ingredients.

The second ingredient that I want to discuss is the use of coarse salt. This is quite different than regular table salt, other than the obvious fact that it's texture is much more coarse than table salt. First, lets talk about chemistry, then the differences between the two salts will make more sense. As we all learned in high school chemistry, salt is made up of sodium and chloride. Some salts have more sodium in them than others. Table salt is one of those. Coarse salt has much less sodium in it compared to table salt. Do Not use table salt instead of coarse salt in this recipe; the cookies will probably turn out far too salty.

"But wait", you ask, "there's also Sea Salt in this recipe. What about that??" The Sea salt is lightly sprinkled onto the cookies, right before baking. I forgot to buy Sea salt and so I just used some more coarse salt. Does the salt garnish affect the taste? It DOES. These are exceptionally rich cookies--and the touch of salt breaks it up in just the right way.

Last but not least, let me share with you the joy of 64% dark chocolate disks. I was not previously a fan of dark chocolate; what was the point? It wasn't sweet and it didn't taste altogether that chocolatey. Give me a Hershey's Kiss any day. And....these dark chocolate disks are really expensive: they are $8.99/ lb. (And that was actually the cheapest brand at Whole Foods. The most expensive was $12.99/lb). I needed 1 1/4 pounds. These could also be called The Most Expensive Chocolate Chip Cookies. These disks are about the size of a quarter. Out of curiosity, I popped one into my mouth after I bought the requisite amount. I expected the usual bittersweet coffee taste that I associate with dark chocolate. What I actually tasted was sweet, rich, pure, and wonderful chocolate. It was better than a Hershey's Kiss. I popped another three disks like I was eating popcorn. I had to make myself close the package and put it away--telling myself I had only purchased enough to make the cookies. They were calling to me--I had to hide them under the seat of the car, so I that I couldn't see them any more.

Changes That I Made:

I didn't make any changes. If I'm going to make The Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie, I should follow all of the rules. Actually, I did make one change, to the title. I added "perfect"; it was much more fitting.

Cost Breakdown:

Of the ingredients in the recipe, I had to purchase the two additional flours, butter, eggs, and the chocolate.

Swans Down Cake Flour: $2.99
Kroger brand unsalted butter: $2.29
Bread Flour : $2.49 (on sale, $0.20 savings)
Kroger brand eggs, 1/2 dozen, large: $0.79
Noel Royale 64% Chocolate Buttons: $20.05

Total expenditures for this recipe: $28.61.  That's more than my weekly grocery budget! ($25/week).

If I make these cookies again, this will actually be cheaper to make, because I now have most of the ingredients.  I would only have to purchase the chocolate; perhaps the butter and the eggs as well, if I don't have any available in the fridge.  It's still more expensive than your average chocolate cookie recipe, though!

Cost per cookie this time around: $1.59.  Compared to a "gourmet cookie" at a bakery, this is positively frugal!

Conclusion:

This is a very, very good cookie. I brought some to work yesterday and everyone agreed. The taste is complex, with layers of caramel and butter added to the chocolate. The dark chocolate disks melt beautifully, creating strata of chocolate within the cookie. These are big cookies--about 5 inches across. The edges are almost burnt and have a great crackling crunch when you bite into it. The center is soft, gooey and just this side of done. I discovered a great way to eat the cookie: break it in half and have a bit of the edge, then the center, and repeat. This is not Milk's Favorite Cookie. This is a cookie to savor with a glass of Port.

Enjoy!

The Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie
From The Splendid Table

Makes 1-1/2 dozen 5-inch cookies
Time: 45 minutes, plus at least 24 hours for chilling

* 2 cups minus 2 tablespoons (8-1/2 ounces) cake flour
* 1-2/3 cups (8-1/2 ounces) bread flour
* 1-1/4 teaspoons baking soda
* 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
* 1-1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
* 2-1/2 sticks (1-1/4 cups) unsalted butter
* 1-1/4 cups (10 ounces) light brown sugar
* 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (8 ounces) granulated sugar
* 2 large eggs
* 2 teaspoons natural vanilla extract
* 1-1/4 pounds bittersweet chocolate disks or fèves, at least 60 percent cacao content (see note)
* Sea salt

1. Sift flours, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Set aside.

2. Using a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugars together until very light, about 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Stir in the vanilla. Reduce speed to low, add dry ingredients and mix until just combined, 5 to 10 seconds.

3. Drop chocolate pieces in and incorporate them without breaking them. Press plastic wrap against dough and refrigerate for 24 to 36 hours. Dough may be used in batches, and can be refrigerated for up to 72 hours.

4. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat. Set aside.

5. Scoop 6 3-1/2-ounce mounds of dough (the size of generous golf balls) onto baking sheet, making sure to turn horizontally any chocolate pieces that are poking up; it will make for a more attractive cookie. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt and bake until golden brown but still soft, 18 to 20 minutes. Transfer sheet to a wire rack for 10 minutes, then slip cookies onto another rack to cool a bit more. Repeat with remaining dough, or reserve dough, refrigerated, for baking remaining batches the next day. Eat warm, with a big napkin.

Note: Dark chocolate disks are available at Whole Foods.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Garlic Chicken with Orzo Pasta

I love garlic. I love Parmesan cheese. And this dish makes me love spinach. Who knew that these three ingredients would go so well together? I was surprised by the extraordinary taste of this dish. It is delicious! All of the flavors and textures complement each other very well.

The Ingredients:

1) orzo pasta
2) olive oil
3) garlic
4) crushed red pepper
5) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves, cut into bite sized pieces
6) salt to taste
7) parsley
8) fresh spinach leaves
9) grated Parmesan cheese for topping

The Directions in a Nutshell:

You essentially cook the pasta, drain it, and set it aside. Then cook the chicken in small amount of olive oil; I always salt and pepper the meat to taste right before I put the meat into the pan. Then add the remaining ingredients, including the pasta. Cover the pan and cook for 5-10 minutes more, allowing the spinach to wilt a bit. Serve with Parmesan cheese.

The Changes I Made:

I made just two changes to the ingredients and both were based on what I had in my pantry.

1) I used a hot pepper sauce instead of the crushed red pepper. The particular brand is an Asian one, Sriracha, more commonly known as "the one with the chicken on it." Yes, I think it's pretty goofy to have a picture of a chicken on a bottle of hot sauce, but it's a common brand found in most grocery stores and it's certainly in every Asian grocery store. This is a very spicy hot sauce; I think it's spicier than Tobasco. A little bit of Sriracha goes a long way.

2) I used dried parsley instead of fresh. The rule of thumb for substituting dried herbs for fresh is to use 1/2 of the amount called for if using the dried herb.

Nutritional Information

Servings Per Recipe: 4
Amount Per Serving:
Calories: 351
Total Fat: 10.6g
Cholesterol: 38mg
Sodium: 164mg
Total Carbs: 40.4g
Dietary Fiber: 2.9g
Protein: 22.3g


One last thing...


I haven't had pictures on the blog for a while because my camera hasn't been working. It's a Casio Exilim Z75. At first I thought the camera was broken, which was very frustrating because the camera is less than 2 years old. And it was $350--for that amount of money it should last a lot longer than 2 years! However, after some "internet research," I learned that the particular battery on my camera is known to be defective; it completely loses it's charge if it hasn't been used for a while; so much so that the battery charger doesn't even recognize it. I was so relieved when I read this! Replacing the battery: $17 from Amazon.com. A much better prospect than buying a new camera!

So I have placed my order with Amazon.com and I am eagerly awaiting my new battery. Hopefully next week's blog post will have pictures once more!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Whole Wheat, Oatmeal, and Banana Pancakes

I felt very Martha Stewart-like as I made these pancakes. I made my own oat flour, as directed in the recipe. I didn't mean to do so and had I actually read the directions, I would have purchased freakin' oat flour. While it was truly frugal to make my very own oat flour, it wasn't worth the time it took to clean out the blender afterwards. The flour compacted into every nook and cranny of the blender--what a bear to clean.

These pancakes need some help with flavor. I added another teaspoon of vanilla but they still weren't quite right. They weren't quite sweet enough and they were a bit bland. Come to think of it, adding another banana would probably solve the problem entirely.

The shopping list for this recipe: one banana. Uber cheap. I love my well stocked kitchen.

I will probably try making these again, using the following recipe (inspired by the one at Allrecipes.com).

Whole Wheat, Oatmeal, and Banana Pancakes

Ingredients

1 cup oat flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup unbleached all purpose flour
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup sugar
2 tbsp dry milk powder
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 egg
2 cups soy milk
2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 bananas, mashed

Directions:

1. Sift together the oat flour, whole wheat flour, all purpose flour, brown sugar, and dry milk powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Mix together and set aside.

2. Whisk together the egg, milk, vegetable oil, and vanilla. Stir in the mashed banana. Pour the egg mixture into the flour mixture and stir until just moistened.

3. Heat a large, non-stick pan or griddle over medium heat. Lightly film the pan with oil, if needed. (I do this by dipping a tightly folded paper towel into a bit of oil, then wipe it over the pan.) Drop about 1/4-cup of batter onto the pan. Cook until the bubbles leave holes on the surface when they pop and the edges are dry, about 2 minutes. Flip, and cook until browned on the other side. Note: I find that I need to gradually lower the heat as I work my way through the batter, otherwise the pan gets too hot even over medium heat.

Keep the finished pancakes warm by setting them on a cookie sheet in an oven set to the lower temperature (This is 250 degrees in my oven.) Cover with aluminum foil to keep them from drying out in the oven.


Nutrition Facts

Amount Per Serving
Calories 363.3
Total Fat 8.6 g
Cholesterol 35.5 mg
Sodium 523.6 mg
Potassium 435.8 mg
Total Carbohydrate 75.1 g (Dietary Fiber 7.6 g, Sugars 13.6 g)
Protein 11.2 g

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Jumpin' Jimmy's Gumbo

Did you know that gumbo is traditionally served on Good Friday, the Friday before Easter? Since it is traditionally made with seafood, Catholics could eat it on Fridays during Lent. For those non-Catholics in the crowd, Lent is a 40-day period that ends with Easter. It is typically observed by abstinence from meat, except for seafood on Fridays. I was raised Catholic and during my childhood, I never thought of seafood as meat, since we could eat it during Lent. I had that weirdly literal childhood logic.

This gumbo swaps out the seafood for a small amount of chicken and sausage. It's just enough meat to give the stew a good flavor.

For this dish, I only had to the buy the onion, green bell pepper, celery, the turkey sausage, and the okra. Everything else was already in the fridge or pantry.

Here's the recipe, from the EatingWell.com website, along with my changes:

Jumpin' Jimmy's Gumbo

6 servings, generous 1 cup each

Ingredients:
1/3 cup of unbleached, all-purpose flour
1 cup of cooked chicken breast, chopped into 1-inch cubes
3 oz of smoked turkey sausage, thinly sliced
1 onion, chopped
1 large green bell pepper, chopped
1 stalk celery, sliced into 1/2-inch slices
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 cups reduced-sodium, reduced fat chicken broth
1 15 oz can of reduced sodium diced tomatoes
1 10 oz package of frozen, sliced okra, slightly thawed
Cajun seasoning or ground red pepper to taste
1 dried bay leaf
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/8 tsp salt
ground pepper, to taste
3 cups cooked white or brown rice.

Directions:
1. Heat a large pan or wide pot over medium heat. Add the flour and cook, stirring with a spoon, until it turns deep golden, about 7-10 minutes. You'll smell something like burnt toast as it browns. Turn the heat down if it is browning too quickly. Alternatively, you can toast the flour in a pie pan in a 400 degree oven for 20 minutes. Once the flour is toasted, transfer the flour to a plate to cool.

2. Mist the same pan with olive oil or canola oil. (I use an oil mister, it really cuts down on the amount of oil I use in cooking. You can also use a paper towel to film the pan with a small amount of oil.) Increase the heat to medium high. Add the onion, bell pepper, celery, and garlic; cook, stirring, until the onion starts to become translucent. Stir in the toasted flour. Gradually stir in the broth and bring to a simmer, stirring.

3. Add the tomatoes and their juice, the okra, the Cajun seasoning to taste, bay leaf, and thyme. Bring the stew to a simmer. Then reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes.

4. Add the reserved chicken and sausage and simmer for 5 minute more. Discard the bay leaf. Taste the gumbo and add salt, pepper, and red pepper as needed. Serve over rice.

Nutritional Content Per Serving:

Calories 138.1
Total Fat 1.7 g
Cholesterol 28.1 mg
Sodium 452.0 mg
Potassium 308.4 mg
Total Carbohydrate 17.0 g (Dietary Fiber 3.5 g, Sugars 4.2 g)
Protein 14.5 g

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Whole Wheat Sweet Potato Muffins

You would never know that these are "healthy muffins." They are sweet, moist, and yummy. I was sad when I ate the last muffin from the batch.

The ingredients:
1) 1 sweet potato
2) whole wheat flour
3) baking soda
4) salt
5) ground spices: cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and cloves
6) vegetable oil
7) 2 eggs
8) vanilla extract
9) honey
10) vanilla yogurt
11) topping: oatmeal, brown sugar, almonds, and cinnamon

Changes that I made:

1) I used canned, sweetened yams instead of cooking and mashing the sweet potato. I would have used un-sweetened canned yams if I could find them at the grocery store. Anyway, the canned yams were a time saver; who has time to cook one sweet potato for 40 minutes just to use it for a muffin recipe? On the other hand, I bet this would be a great use for left over sweet potato casserole! I did NOT cut back on the amount of sweetener (the honey)--I either have a super sweet tooth or the canned yams weren't that sweetened!

2) I used imitation vanilla extract instead of the real stuff. Sorry. The grocery store was out of the real stuff, so I bought this instead. There's a big difference...I ended up using about 1 tbsp (instead of 1 tsp).

The topping tastes like sawdust. There's also far too much for just 16 muffins. I think it's supposed to be a healthier streusel-type of topping. The muffin is good enough on its own; although I will probably use a brown sugar-cinnamon topping the next time I make it.

Enjoy!

Mexican Chicken Breast

Looking for something easy, quick, and tastes good? Okay, I know that's the point of this blog, but bear with me. How's about a recipe that uses just 4 ingredients and is ready to serve in 30 minutes? Try this one.

The Ingredients:
1) 1 pkg Taco Seasoning
2) boneless, skinless chicken breasts
3) salsa
4) reduced fat sour cream

I actually made this a couple of weeks ago. It's brilliant. Start by pre-heating the oven when you get home from work. Then do your "I-just-got-home-from-work" stuff: change, grab something to drink, turn on the TV, and pet the cat. Then start on this dish. The prep takes less than five minutes. Pop it into the oven. If you are a rice eater, cook the rice. Do something else for 30 minutes...you can get in a work-out in that amount of time. I'm just sayin'. Then come back to the heavenly smells in your kitchen, pull this dish out of the oven, and serve the chicken with rice. Voila, dinner.

My Changes:
I made this a bit healthier by using lower sodium taco seasoning; you can even make your own at home; try this spice mix: Taco Seasoning.

One last note, this tastes pretty good without the reduced fat sour cream. It's a garnish and I forgot to add it half of the time anyway!

Enjoy!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Linguine with Roasted Summer Vegetables

OMG, this is the most amazing vegetarian pasta dish. Ever. I first had this at my friend's house, about a month ago. There were about 5 of us together for a "West Wing" mini-marathon. Our hostess, Merrily, and her sister-in-law, Judy, put this together in about an hour. It was presented in a beautiful 10 x 13 inch pan; we loved it so much there was hardly anything left. We each went back for second and third helpings. And then I asked Merrily for the recipe.

The Ingredients:

1) reduced-sodium chicken broth
2) garlic
3) balsamic vinegar
4) cherry tomatoes
5) asparagus
6) zucchini
7) summer squash
8) red bell pepper
9) scallions
10) extra-virgin olive oil
11) Salt & freshly ground pepper, to taste
12) linguine


It is from the EatingWell.com website. I've made dishes from them before; they are generally good. I don't often make their stuff because the ingredients tend to be just a bit too pricey for my budget. For instance, this recipe calls for balsalmic vinegar. Now, the quality of balsamic vinegar varies from brand to brand and as this is such a simple recipe, the quality of the ingredients is very important. Merrily used a fantastic, top-of-the-line Balsamic from Williams-Sonoma, courtesy of Judy. Wow. It's amazing; the resulting linguine dish was out-of-this-world. I used the Pompeii Balsamic vinegar as I already had it in the pantry. It's a good balsamic vinegar, although certainly not as good as the one from Williams-Sonoma. The Pompeii brand was still very good in this recipe. So, anyway, the point is, buy the best balsamic you can afford, it's worth it for this dish. Even the Costco brand would work well here.

My Changes:
I did skimp a bit on the veggies; that is, the amounts I purchased vs. the amount specified in the recipe. That was mostly because the veggies were either pre-packaged (i.e. the cherry tomatoes and the asparagus) or the bulk produce just didn't weight in correctly. So I chose to buy a bit less whenever there was a difference. This is one of those cases in which too many veggies is better than not enough. I still mixed the cooked veggies with the 1 lb of pasta, and there was Too. Much. Pasta.

One last note. I made this with spagetti rather than linguine. It's better with the linguine; I don't know what, after all, they are both long, skinny pastas. But I liked it better with the linguine and so that's how I will make it from now on.

Enjoy!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Easy Slow Cooker Meatballs

This is a tale of two meatballs. I made two separate and very different meatballs last weekend. One was great; the other I tinkered with too much and it turned out to be edible, but not tasty.

The good meatballs are the ones I made in the slow cooker. It's your basic Italian-style meatball in a huge amount of tomato-based sauce. It's great for sopping up using a crusty garlic bread. My mouth is watering just remembering it.

The ingredients were:

1) ground beef
2) Italian seasoned bread crumbs
3) chopped fresh parsley
4) minced garlic
5) onion
6) egg
7) spaghetti sauce
8) crushed tomatoes
9) tomato puree

Changes That I Made:

I made a few minor changes, based on what I already had on hand. I used ground turkey that I had in the freezer, instead of buying ground beef. I had a 2 pound pack and the recipe only called for 1 lb, so I just eyeballed it. I probably used a bit less than that actually, because the meatballs had a very dry feel to them. The meat-to- bread crumb ratio was low. I actually liked it, because the meatball mixture didn't feel, well, as slimy as these things normally do. I bought regular bread crumbs and mixed in, oh, about 2 tbsp of dried Italian seasoning mix. I basically just kept adding the seasoning mix until it looked right. I also used dried parsley instead of the fresh. My last substitution was using diced canned tomatoes instead of the crushed tomatoes. I considered buying tomato paste instead of the puree, as the paste was cheaper, but decided against it since I've never used tomatoe puree before and I wasn't sure how the texture compared to tomatoe paste. As it turned out, the difference is negligible...puree was just thinner than the paste. Good to know for the future. I did add salt and pepper to the meatball mixture; I learned a long time ago that meat without salt is a horrible thing to eat.

I must say, I don't think I make my meatballs correctly or maybe there was too little meat in these meatballs because they just fell apart when they were done. I ended up with a chunky meat-sauce after I stirred up the cooked dish. I was a bit disappointed, initially, because forming those little balls took some time. But in the end, it was a great sauce that I thoroughly enjoyed.

Part II: The Bad Meatballs

The other meatballs I made last week were doomed by too much tweaking. They're called "Tantalizing Turkey and Blue Cheese Meatballs." After eating them for a whole week, I would agree that these are really good, if made according to the recipe!

Sigh. I had every intention of following the recipe at the outset but as the preparation of the meatball mixture progressed, I started to get worried about how wet the mixture was. I'm having some trouble conveying exactly how wet this mixture was. Rather than holding it's shape in a rough ball, it oozed. The instructions call for 3 egg whites, 3 tbsp of oil, and 1 1/2 tbsp of soy sauce. That's nearly a 1/2 cup of liquid there. All for just one pound of turkey. I held back on adding the full amount of oil (I think I only added 1 tbsp). I was also alarmed by the amount of blue cheese the recipe called for, 3 tbsp. I mixed in two tablespoons and stopped there; it looked like a lot!

I shaped the meatballs with some trouble as they did not keep their shape well. I baked them in the oven and did something else while they cooked. The smell was encouraging and I couldn't wait to taste them. Imagine my disappointment when they were Dry and Bland. Ugh. Not a total waste but they definitely needed more oil and more blue cheese. I ended up eating them over macaroni noodles and adding more soy sauce for flavor. I will definitely make these again, in a few months, and follow the recipe the next time!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Cream Corn Like No Other

I loved creamed corn when I was a kid. The canned kind, of course! I'm not sure if my Mom ever made creamed corned from scratch. She probably did, as she's a great cook. I just remember eating creamed corn practically straight from the can.

I was going through my freezer yesterday as I was figuring out my grocery list. I saw that I had a couple of ears of cooked corn in there, from Mom. I wanted to use them but I didn't just want a side of plain ol' corn. Off I went to search the Allrecipes.com website and came up with this recipe. Simple enough and I had most of the ingredients. I saw that it required heavy cream which would be a killer ,nutritionally, if this were a main dish. However, in smaller portions, like a side dish, it fit the bill. I went with it.

The ingredients are:
1) frozen corn, thawed
2) heavy cream
3) salt
4) sugar
5) black pepper
6) butter
7) whole milk
8) all-purpose flour
9) Parmesan cheese

The only thing I had to buy was the heavy cream. Yay! For the corn, I used a knife and ran it along the ears of corn to remove the kernels. Here's a YouTube video for demonstration: Cutting Corn Off the Cob for Smothered Chicken. No, that's not me in the video. I didn't have quite enough for the recipe but I used a purchased package of frozen corn kernels to make up the difference. I did a little taste test and even though both types of kernels had been frozen and thawed, I thought that my corn 'fresh from the cob" tasted better, even a bit sweeter. I was probably biased, though!

This dish is really easy to make and yummy as well! I have to remember to keep the portion sizes down, however, so I don't blow my calorie and fat intake for the day. That will be hard!

Szechwan Shrimp

Hi Gang:
The title of the post links to the recipe at the Allrecipes.com site. There's a pretty good picture of the shrimp there as well.

I found this a bit bland but I also just realized I forgot to add the green onions. I think that would actually make a big difference for this dish.

The ingredients called for are:

1) water
2) ketchup
3) soy sauce
4) cornstarch
5) honey
6) crushed red pepper
7) ground ginger
8) vegetable oil
9) green onions
10) minced garlic
11) cooked shrimp

My Changes:

1) As I read through the ingredients and the directions, I decided to use raw shrimp instead of cooked shrimp. I then made a marinade out of the remaining ingredients (sans oil) and let the shrimp marinade for about 5 minutes. I sauteed the shrimp in a touch of oil over medium heat until the shrimp were pink. If I can get shrimp cheap enough, I'll probably try this again. The shrimp for this dish were given to me by my Mom. Thanks, Mom!

2) I also added salt and pepper to taste; those two ingredients are not specified in the ingredients list.

Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Spaghetti Meatsauce w/ Ground Turkey

Hello again! Yes, it has been a long time. I moved from the coast of North Carolina to central NC; the "Triangle" if you are familiar with the state. I'm settled in and ready to blog once more. Unfortunately, my camera broke during the move. That stinks! So, no pictures for the foreseeable future.

I am discovering a love for ground turkey. I have to thank my friends, the Neill family, for introducing me to this "new" meat. I have broken bread with them many times over the past 5 years. They do not eat pork or beef, so they use ground turkey in many meals. And while I could tell the difference, the dish was still delicious. However, being a dedicated beef eater, I have never made the switch myself, until a few months ago.

Over the summer, I started using a budget. Twenty-five dollars was my new weekly limit for groceries. I went to a cash only system. I'll say this, using cash to pay for things really curtailed my grocery expenditures. That is when I started cooking with ground turkey. It is healthy and far more affordable than the equivalent weight in ground beef or pork. I have used it in egg rolls; you can see my previous post about Mom's Egg Rolls. I have made amazing turkey burgers with sauteed onions and mushrooms. It has also been the star of the show this week, in a spaghetti meatsauce.

I found the recipe a few years ago, in a book called "Cooking for Two, or Just You," by Frances Price. She is a registered dietician. I liked many of the recipes in her book and it is great for those singletons or couples who like a different meal every night of the week. Her recipe is actually called "Turkey in the Straw." The name is a bit confusing, as it is really a pasta sauce with meat. I have also made it before but it has been a while and I was once again struck by how good this sauce tastes! I have actually been eating it over rice, since I completely forgot to buy pasta!

I can not give the exact details of the recipe due to copyright laws; however, I think that substituting ground turkey in virtually any meat sauce would work out just fine. The basic components of most Italian-style sauces are as follows:

1 lbs of lean ground turkey or beef
salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp fennel seeds, optional but highly recommended
2-4 garlic cloves, minced. Use more or less according to your taste. I love garlic.
1 onion, chopped

Tomatoes: chopped fresh tomatoes (about 2 large), a can of diced tomatoes, a jar of marinara sauce, canned tomato sauce, take your pick. You can also used canned tomato paste in a pinch...thin it out with chicken broth or water to a "sauce-like" consistency.

Reduced fat, low sodium chicken broth, or water

Brown the meat over medium high heat. I like to rinse and drain the meat as well. Return the meat to the pan add the remaining ingredients. Cook over medium high heat, allowing the fresh tomatoes (if you are using those) to cook down and release their juices. The smell will be heavenly. Add some reduced fat, low sodium chicken broth to the sauce if it is too thick. You can also use water but of course, the sauce will be less flavorful. Serves 4.

Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Crazy Cupcakes!




Hi Gang:
This is moving week! Nothing new to report but I wanted to share a picture of cupcakes that I decorated while on vacation last week. They are inspired, possibly inspiring, and they look as fun as they were to make.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Penne Pasta with Spinach and Bacon

There's a picture of the past dish at the Allrecipes.com website. It's very appealing.

This post will actually be quick and dirty, I promise. I seem to like to write...on and on. Anyway, likes: quick, easy, cheap. I used some leftover turkey bacon instead of the real stuff. The dish was still very good. No dislikes. I did totally forget to add the diced tomatoes and used about a cup of cottage cheese to add some flavor, see my previous post about the hamburger helper, quick and easy, aka Skillet Lasagna.

Enjoy!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Hamburger Helper, Quick n' Healthy. Aka "Skillet Lasagna




Click here for the recipe.


There's going to be a lot of posts tonight; I'm trying to catch up on some of the recipes I've made this month...and to save the ones I really liked without having to pack them. I hear you going, "huh?". I keep printed copies of my favorites on a magnetic clip on my fridge, for easy reference. However, I was packing up my kitchen, saw the stack and thought "I should blog about these and that way, I will always have them handy...as long as Blogger stays active." So here they are.

I am not normally a fan of lasagna...I tend to pick out the meat and eat the noodles. Weird, yes. I have also never made lasagna because it seems like a lot of work to me....first boil the noodles, then preheat the oven, then get the meat sauce ready, then layer it all up, and then bake it. It's two hours before I'm eating anything. Then I saw this recipe.

I came across this one at SparkRecipes.com. I had bookmarked on one of my many "recipes collecting sprees" while bored and online. I'm sure I'm not the only that does this. Okay, maybe I am. I do have an actual "healthy hamburger helper" recipe (Called 'Hamburger Buddy', from the Food Network site.) While I like the Food Network recipe, I like this one better. It's really just a chunky meat sauce mixed in with noodles, and kind of bound together with an egg/cheese mixture. That cottage cheese makes a big difference. I liked it so much I ate one serving (about 1 1/2 cuos)...and kept sneaking spoonfuls from the pot. I probably ate two bowlfuls before I just Couldn't. Eat. Another. Spoonful.

It's that good. I hope that you enjoy it as well.

Spicy Taco Soup

Click here for the recipe.

No pic...I think I packed my camera already!

This post and the next three posts are going to be quick and dirty. I am still packing and moving and so time is tight, as well as room in my house, but that's irrelevant to this blog...

This recipe comes from the SparkRecipes.com site. It is really good. I was surpised...given I wasn't too sure about the spiciness of the taco seasoning (mild) and the taste of the ranch style dressing mix (good addition). This is a crazy easy recipe...there's next to no prep work. I was worried about the actual sodium content, given that that's like 4 cans of various veggies in there. I ran it through the recipe calculator at the SparkRecipes site...sure enough, the sodium content was less than 600mg per serving. It fit my requirements.

Changes that I made: 1) 1 lb of 93% lean ground turkey instead of the ground beef 2) Regular diced tomatoes instead of the one with chilies included. I don't tolerate spicy foods. 3) Leftover black beans from a dish made last week, it had sauteed green bell peppers, onions, and a variety of spices. This was instead of the canned black beans. 4) This is not a change but an endorsement of the serving suggestion made in the recipe...it is very good with cilantro and a bit of fat-free sour cream!

Next up...Healthy Hambuger Helper.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Mom's Eggrolls



     Okay, first off, these egg rolls are not healthy in any way. They are not cheap either...I spent about $18 on all of the ingredients.  But they are darn good. I'm not giving nutrition information because I just don't want to know...

      A friend of mine wanted to make egg rolls, so I agreed to teach her and give her my mom's recipe. We had a great Sunday afternoon getting our hands dirty and rolling about 40 eggrolls. We ate 2 each right away...and could have eaten much more! I gave her about half to take home and then I gave the rest to several co-workers just because I'm that nice. I'm modest, too :) They all loved them.

     There are many egg rolls recipes out there. This is the one I grew up on, straight from my Mom!

     You can use pre-shredded cabbage and carrots as directed below.  If I have the time, I'll "shred" the cabbage in my food processor, using my slicing disk.



     I'll do the same with the carrots, using the shredding disk. 


      Mincing the onion in the food processor is a snap!  Prepping the veggies using the food processor saves money and time! (I threw in some leftover red onion--resulting in the purple flecks you see below.)






     About the bean thread noodles.  These are really thin...about the diameter of a vermicelli pasta.  These noodles can be found in any Asian grocery store.  Larger mainstream grocery stores, like Lowe's Foods or Harris Teeter, also carry bean thread noodles.  They often come in packages of 8-10.  Each of the little bundles can be individually wrapped in plastic, like so:


      This is what the little noodles look like, before they are cooked:


     Cook the bean thread noodles in boiling water for about 3-5 minutes.  The package usually directs you to soften the noodles in hot water.  This never works.  Boil and drain the noodles.  Then snip the noodles into approximately 1" pieces, it's easy to do with a pair of scissors.  I used my food processor, once more.


     One last note.  If you have a stand mixer, dump everything in the bowl.  The meat-veggie mixture comes together in just a few minutes.  I love it!  (Sorry about the messy kitchen table!)


      Okay, now for the videos.  First, peeling apart the eggroll wrappers.  Eggroll wrappers are often labeled "spring roll wrappers."



     And now, rolling the eggrolls.


     Set the eggrolls on a cookie sheet as you make them:

     I use a Presto Deep Fryer to fry my eggrolls; you can use any medium-large pot.  The oil is hot enough when a bit of leftover cabbage or eggroll wrapper sizzles when it is dropped into the oil. 


     A splatter screen is a must...


     Set the cooked eggrolls on a cookie rack, placed over a cookie sheet.  This lets the excess oil drip off. 



     It is extremely tempting to eat them right away!  Be patient.  Let them rest and cool for about 10 minutes...then chow down!

Mom’s Egg rolls (Cha Gio)
Makes 20-25 egg rolls

Ingredients

1 (1.8 oz) package bean thread noodles, “vermicelli” size (very, very thin like vermicelli pasta)
1/2 head cabbage, shredded. You may also use 1 large package of ready to use coleslaw salad mix (NOT READY TO EAT COLESLAW—you just want a bag of shredded cabbage)
3 carrots, peeled and grated. About 2 cups total, if purchasing packaged, grated carrots.
½ medium sized onion, minced.
1 lb ground chicken
1lb ground pork or turkey. Or just use more chicken
2 tsp of coarse Kosher salt*
½ tsp pepper
2 eggs
2 tbsp of cornstarch and 1 cup cold water
20-25 frozen egg roll wrappers, thawed
8 cups of vegetable oil

Directions:

1. Bring a small pot of water to boil and drop the bean thread noodles into the boiling water. Allow to boil for a few minutes, 3-5 min, until the noodles are soft and pliant. Drain the noodles. Using scissors, cut the noodles into 1 inch lengths.

2. Put the cooked bean thread noodles, cabbage, carrots, onion, ground chicken, and ground turkey into a large mixing bowl and mix thoroughly.  Alternatively, put everything into the bowl of a stand mixer and let the machine do the hard work for you!

3. Add the coarse Kosher salt, pepper, and eggs.  Mix until everything is throroughly combined.

4. Peel apart the eggroll wrappers.  Cover with a kitchen towel and set aside.

5. Put 1 cup of water into small pot and mix in the cornstarch.  Bring to a boil, stirring constantly.  Take the pot off of the heat.  The cornstarch mixture will slowly cool and gel while you roll the eggrolls.  This is fine.

6.. Lay one egg roll wrapper diagonally across a dinner plate. Brush the cornstarch mixture onto the corner of the wrapper furthest away from you. Place 4 tbsp of meat mixture (I use an ice-cream scoop with a trigger handle) on one corner of the wrapper closest to you.  See the video above.  Form into a log. Wrap the sides of the wrapper over the filling, then the corner closest to you over the log.  Roll the filling in the wrapper, gently squeezing the wrapper around the filling to let most of the air out; ensure that the last corner seals the egg roll. Add more cornstarch mixture if needed. 

8. In a large pot or deep fryer, pre heat the vegetable oil to 325 degrees. DO NOT USE olive oil, the smoke point of olive oil is too low and you may get a grease fire.

9. Place 1-4 egg rolls into the hot oil, using a splatter shield if you have one. The egg rolls float once they are done, usually about 7 minutes per batch. Remove from the hot oil and let them drain on a few paper towels laid on top of a plate.

10. Use whatever dipping sauce you desire…hoisin sauce, peanut sauce, nuoc mam…

RE-HEATING INSTRUCTIONS: Preheat the oven or toaster oven to 325 degrees. Put the eggrolls on a baking sheet and put them into the oven for about 15-20 minutes. This will also re-crisp the eggroll.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Splendid Table Podcast/MP3 Download

Hi fellow foodies:
I am still packing...it's ghastly how packing makes my life complete chaos. All of a sudden my house is three times too small because all of the things that were neatly in closets or on shelves is now in boxes...and the boxes are slowly eating up the available floor space.

I wanted to keep up the blog during this time of transition and I have yet another blog (sort of ) to direct your attention to...The Splendid Table. This is a weekly show on NPR and it is aural stimulation for gastronemes. This particular episode highlights a book called "The Vegan Soul Kitchen"...quite appropriate for my blog, no? I had no idea that soul food could even be vegetarian, much less vegan. I don't own the book but it certainly sounds intriguing, especially as the author describes the recipes within.

Click on the link, listen to the show...and listen to other shows in the online archives if you're hooked :)

Enjoy!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Simply Vietnamese Blog

Hi Gang:
Sorry I haven't posted anything in a while. I am in the midst of planning a big move and it's a complete time-suck. I wanted to post something, however, and I thought of a blog that I've been meaning to highlight for awhile. It's called Simply Vietnamese and it's got plenty of great, authentic recipes from the mother country. I've never met the writer nor have I tried any of the recipes...but the ingredient lists are certainly wonderful and they match up with the ingredients that I use in similar recipes. She always includes great, mouthwatering photos with her recipes. She's clearly a better photographer than I am! The recipes are sometimes adjusted to meet the demands of a busy professional...but always staying true to the spirit of the dish. I hope that you all enjoy reading through her blog.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Great Granola Breakfast Bread




Click here for the recipe.


I have made some awesome yeast bread…without any kneading. I think that’s what makes it so wonderful. I actually forgot about the bread dough during the first rise and it still turned out very well. AWESOME. It was a freebie teaser recipe from Amazon.com, excerpted from the bread-making book, Kneadlessly Simple. So the concept of the book is to show one how to make a variety of yeast breads without any kneading whatsoever. It’s true. And the method is ridiculously easy and does not require any elbow grease. The key ingredient is time, a lot of it—15-18 hours at the least. No worries, most of that time the bread is sitting forgotten on the kitchen counter. In regular yeast bread recipes, kneading is the technique used to develop the gluten in the bread. The amount of yeast needed, about 1- 2 tsp (or about the size of a packet of yeast), is required to "assist" the kneading in order to develop the gluten content of the bread. In a knead-less bread, the amount of yeast use is drastically reduced, in this case only ¼ tsp. That is because gluten can also develop naturally, given enough time. And if you are familiar with sourdough breads and sourdough bread starters…well, that’s a similar idea. The first rise is done at room temperature over 12 hours.

The look of a knead-less bread dough is quite different from regular yeasted breads…it is a lot wetter. In fact, it looks more like a batter. This dough is stirred to mix it up…so no fancy equipment is required for the prep work either. Some would beg to differ that a regular yeasted bread requires no fancy equipment either…I use a food processor to mix and knead my regular bread doughs because a) I am a weakling and b) the food processor is just plain faster.

The second rise is much quicker…just 2-3 hours. Then preheat the oven and I had a very pretty and awesome-smelling loaf of bread about 1 ½ hours later. It tastes wonderful. I’ve been eating a plain slice for breakfast all week long and it’s filling. I bet it would also taste good with a bit of jam or butter, or both. I also think it would make great French toast.

Just about the only change I would make would be to use regular flour to dust the pan and NOT add the finely crushed granola to the top of the loaf. The granola on all sides of the loaf created a royal mess when I sliced the loaf…it was falling off with each cut. I am also wondering if I can get away with using regular rolled oats instead of the granola…and perhaps add a bit more sugar to compensate.

There’s actually another free recipe from the book, Easy Buttermilk Pot Bread, that I would’ve made but I don’t have a dutch oven. There are actually several free “kneadless” bread recipes available on the internet, but they all require an oven safe vessel and a lid that can withstand very hot temps (about 425 F). Unfortunately, I don’t own any oven safe lids. I am seriously considering picking one up at a yard sale/second hand store!

Here’s a list of the free knead-less bread recipes/videos I found:
New York Times: No Knead Bread
Breadtopia No Knead Breadmaking
Making No Knead Bread At Home
The Fresh Loaf

Friday, May 15, 2009

Sloppy Joes

Click here for the recipe.

There's no picture of this one, sorry,...forgot to snap one before I ate it all up.

Sloppy joes remind me of childhood cafeteria lunches…browned ground beef swimming in a sweet red sauce, the whole thing oozing out of a hamburger bun. I don’t know who thought it was a good idea to put what is essentially a sweetened spaghetti meat sauce into an edible container with no sides, but there it was. I never liked those school sloppy joes…they were too sweet for my taste. In fact, I don’t like many sweet or sweet/sour main dishes. I have a big fancy for savory meals.

I came across this recipe in my email, looking for a way to use some ground turkey that was hanging out in the freezer. Seeing this recipe made me want to revisit the whole sloppy joe idea. Or actually, try them again to see if I would like them. It had the advantage of being a fairly simple recipe, since I went out of the town last weekend and I didn’t have time for making anything involved. I only had to buy a green bell pepper and brown sugar. On a side note, I’ve always found it curious when a recipe calls for a ¼ of a bell pepper or 2 tsp of fresh herbs…what do people do with the rest of the produce? I don’t have a green thumb, despite multiple attempts at growing herbs at home and even one disastrous attempt at growing bell peppers at home. Probably has to do with the fact that I only remember to water plants about once a week. This week since I only used ¼ cup of the chopped fresh green bell pepper, which by the way, is about 5% of the bell pepper that I bought, I roughly chopped the rest and froze it. There will be some stew or casserole that would benefit from it. I also tossed 98% of a leftover cilantro bunch into the food processor, kind of pureed it, and then froze it in an ice cube tray. Again, some stew or soup will be able to use that cilantro puree eventually.

So the ingredient list, or rather, my grocery shopping list, was short and the directions are good and straight to the point. Winner on both counts. The prep time is fairly short…maybe 15 minutes to chop the pepper and onions. I actually diced the veggies instead of the “chop” as indicated in the directions. This would help the veggies blend into the ground meat. As it turns out, I didn’t have enough ketchup…only ½ cup. It was enough. I didn’t use the brown sugar at all…I forgot to add it to the sauce but I think it would have made the sauce too sweet if I did put it in there. My final change was to use superfine dried ground yellow mustard powder instead of the prepared yellow mustard. I used a bit less, maybe ¼-1/2 tsp, as I wasn’t sure what the conversion was for dried yellow mustard vs. prepared. I probably could have used the full teaspoon as I couldn’t detect any mustard when I tasted the sauce. Cook time is also blessedly short. And the meat sauce turned out well; it’s actually better the next day.

While this is a good recipe that I do recommend, I don’t think I’ll make it again. It’s my distaste for sweet-tasting meals. I love, LOVE desserts and sweets but just not in my main meals.

Next week I'm writing about a yeast bread that requires no kneading...it's very easy and I hope that it tastes as good as it looks. I'll tell you all about it in a week.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Spinach and Egg-White Breakfast Roll up




Does that win the prize for longest title…somewhere? I originally thought to call it a breakfast burrito, but given its simplicity, I thought that a burrito didn’t really fit. “Roll-up” sounded just right.

I got the idea from the Biggest Loser Family Cookbook. They have some great recipes in there for all three meals of the day, snacks, and even desserts. Most of the breakfast recipes rely on egg whites…this particular one calls for three egg whites per serving. The first time I made this roll-up, I separated a dozen eggs and saving the uncooked yolks for later use but that created a whole stash of egg yolks that were just hanging out in the fridge for…something. Most recipes that call for just egg yolks are none too healthy. I was craving a savory breakfast this week, saw this one and WANTED it. So I just bought a large carton of Egg Beaters. (Wal-mart unfortunately does not carry a store-brand on this…bummer.) The egg beaters were expensive…as I knew they would be. I did find some interesting recipes for egg substitutes, most of them use tofu that are chopped to resemble scrambled eggs. One recipe from Fat Free Vegan kitchen has you throw silken tofu into a blender to “liquefy” it. I’m curious enough to try it someday. The only problem with that vegan recipe is that it calls for stuff I don’t already have in my pantry…nutritional yeast, for one. I’ve heard of it but good gracious, I’m not sure where to get that in my small town. It doesn’t sound like regular yeast would be a good substitution, either. Also, tahini…I think it’s a perishable product and unfortunately, I’ve only ever seen it sold in pint-sized cans. I’ll have to do some research to see if it freezes well. The only other use for tahini that I know of is hummus…and I don’t make that very often. I actually make mine from a mix…I think it tastes better…my “scratch-made” hummus never comes out as smoothly as the restaurant-style.

The first time I made this, I cooked the spinach leaves together with the eggs and a bit of left over blue cheese in the interest of time. I also made my own home-made whole wheat flour tortillas, which was a fun experiment. Click here to see a picture of the tortillas. I made a huge batch of the scrambled egg mixture and attempted to eat it for breakfast the rest of the week. I think I made it two or three days…the rest of the week, I essentially skipped breakfast. The combination of the cooked spinach with the egg just wasn’t that good…I would take two bites and then just leave the rest. Of course, I was starving and cranky by the time lunch came around. This time, I left all of the ingredients separate and combined them as I was constructing the roll-up. MUCH BETTER. The crunch of the spinach contrasted nicely with the soft texture of the eggs. And the dash of the Parmesan cheese added a nice salty-savory counterpoint. And it was all packaged very neatly in the tortilla wrap. In all, it’s a nice, low cal, low fat, low cholesterol breakfast. There’s so much fiber and protein in the wrap that it was pretty filling. Even though it’s less than 200 calories as written in the cookbook, I was able to make it to lunchtime every day this past week without feeling like my stomach was going to leave my body and go foraging for food.

Kim's Spinach Egg White Breakfast Roll-up

Makes 5 roll-ups

3 3/4 cups egg whites (about 15 eggs)
salt and pepper to taste
5 whole wheat flour tortillas, about 95% fat free, and at least 7-8 inches across.
1 1/4 cups spinach leaves, stems removed. Washed and dried.
5-8 tsp of grated Parmesan cheese

Directions:

1. Heat a large non-stick pan over medium heat. Spray with olive oil to coat. Pour in the egg whites and season to taste with salt and pepper. Scramble the eggs. Cook to desired done-ness.

2. Place one tortilla on a plate. Put about 1/4 cup of the spinach leaves in a line down the center of the tortilla. Place about 3/4 cup of scrambled egg white on top of the spinach. Sprinkle about 1 tsp of grated Parmesan cheese as the final layer. Fold the tortilla burrito style and enjoy!

Note: Refrigerate the leftovers, except for the tortilla wraps. You can assemble the whole thing and microwave it for about 30 seconds to warm it up a bit. I found that microwaving for a full minute cooked and wilted the spinach too much for my taste..the wilted spinach detracted from the overall taste and yumminess of the roll-up.

Nutrition Facts

Amount Per Serving
Calories 219.5
Total Fat 4.3 g
Saturated Fat 1.2 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0.5 g
Monounsaturated Fat 2.0 g
Cholesterol 1.3 mg
Sodium 435.9 mg
Potassium 269.8 mg
Total Carbohydrate 28.2 g
Dietary Fiber 1.8 g
Sugars 0.0 g
Protein 20.2 g

Note: The above nutrition facts were calculated without the "salt and pepper to taste."

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Garlic Salmon

Click here to see the recipe at Allrecipes.com.

I was craving savory meals this week after a disastrous attempt to cook rice pilaf in the slow cooker earlier this week. It was a mushy, bland mess. I am happy to report that the Garlic Salmon was a success! It smells fantastic and tastes great. It was easy and I used canned salmon to make it more affordable.

Canned whole salmon is surprisingly tasty. I was first introduced to it last summer by a friend, when we were making a Vietnamese salmon soup for 8 people. It’s fairly low in sodium (about 11% total daily value per serving) and it is pre-cooked. You can even save the bones and eat them “raw” for some extra calcium. I like to remove the spine at least and as many of the little bones as I can…I never get all of them but that’s okay, since the bones are softened from the canning process anyway…there’s no painful crunch when I’ve accidentally bitten into a bone! The canned version worked very well in this dish, although it’s not as pretty as salmon fillets….but I think my version of the dish is still presentable for guests. Using the pre-cooked salmon also shortens the cook and prep time considerably. I’d say this dish took less than an hour to prepare from start to finish. A good asset for a weekday meal!

Changes that I made: 1) Canned salmon for the fresh salmon fillets, I removed the bones as above and kind of separated the salmon into large chunks so that they would cover the bottom of an 8x8 baking pan. I like eating fish skin so I kept that, some people like to remove it because it can look…unusual. 2) dried dill weed, about ¼-1/2 tsp, I just sprinkled the dried herb over the salmon until it looked like there was enough! And 3) I used an ungreased 8x8 baking pan and covered it with foil. I cooked it in the over for 15 minutes, just long enough for the herbs and lemon to heat through and release their aromatics.

I am still looking for my camera…hopefully it will turn up when I clean my house!

Grocery receipt for this week:

1) Egg whites, $3.50
2) Pink Salmon (canned salmon), $2 x 2
3) Store brand vanilla soymilk, $2.56
4) Cilantro, $0.58/bunch
5) Yellow onion, $0.48, ($0.88/lb)
6) Bagged Dole Spinach, $2.38
7) Bulk garlic, $0.28, ($2/lb)
8) Bagged green onion, $1.18
9) Bagged celery, $1.46
10) Cauliflower, $2.66
11) Broccoli crowns, $0.89, ($1.68/lb)
12) Limes, $0.25/each
13) Tortillas, whole wheat, 96% fat free, $2.52
14) DumDum lollipops, 1 lb bag, $2.50

Total: $26.20. Yes, I went a bit over this week because of the DumDums, but I used some extra money to pay for them...they're actually for work, so they don't really count towards the grocery bill.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Chicken Fried Rice

Hey Internet! My friend, KG, inspired my recipe choice this week…truly! KG was thinking about fried rice dishes and what she could do to make them both health-ful and do it frugally. As the dish implies, most of the ingredients are typically fried some way…so doing a healthy makeover on this ubiquitous meal is wonderful!

Here’s her email to me, edited to maintain her privacy:

“… so I was thinking about J’s fried rice dish she's bringing to [the] pot luck on Sunday. And eventually I started formulating recipes since that's what I day dream about and I thought of you and your blog! Your blog as lots of recipes for cheap and I came up with a fried rice one! I don't know if you have one or not, but this one is packed with protein and veggies. I prefer more ‘stuff’ than rice! My recipes don't include measurements (I'm a cook not a baker!), so taste as you go along. I'm trying it out tonight, so if it’s bad I'll email right away and tell you to tear it from your recipe book!

Using just enough sesame oil to coat the pan, stir fry [your] veggies of choice, garlic, ginger, touch of cumin, [and] white pepper. (When I need veggies I get them off the salad bar at the grocery. They're inexpensive, pretty fresh, and I don't waste anything.)
Add eggs and finely scramble (2-3 eggs)
Add Morning Star Meal Starter "ground beef"
Add cooked brown rice with soy sauce to heat through.

Dish out and enjoy. (Hopefully)

I just wanted to share because assuming the most expensive thing is the Morning Star, and assuming you have spices on hand, I think it’s about $3.50 per serving. And I’m excited that someone else is looking for cheap recipes!”

That was so awesome of her to think of me and my blog! I made the fried rice last night and it turned out great!

Changes that I made: 1) I used chicken instead of Morning Star because I already the cooked chicken on hand, see the previous post . 2) I forgot to add eggs. I even bought eggs to put into this recipe! Oops! I might add them in later, as I have method for making eggs for fried rice that I learned from my mom. There’s no secret recipe, but there is a way to get the “chiffonnade” of the eggs. It’s more time consuming than just scrambling them but I think it makes the eggs taste better…or maybe it’s because it reminds me of my mother! 3) I used frozen veggies (corn and peas), fresh carrots (a few “leftovers” from last week), and fresh whole mushrooms, quartered. I don’t think that there’s a salad bar at the Super Wal-Mart…if there was, I forgot to look for it… I will probably use Morning Star “ground beef” crumbles in a future edition of fried rice because they really do taste like ground beef…and that’s coming from a definite meat eater. 4) I forgot the sesame oil…I blame my shoddy memory once again. Sesame oil (or sesame seeds) would be an outstanding addition to this dish. 5) Not really a change but a note about the spices I used. I happen to have a large collection of dried spices which drives down the costs of this recipe considerably. Fried rice is the casserole of the Asian world...just use what you have.

I wanted to add some bean sprouts but there weren’t any at the grocery store…bummer. My mother also traditionally adds cooked Chinese Sausage…which tastes divine, but doing so also increases the fat content considerably. Sigh. Decided to leave it out.

I have somehow misplaced my camera…I will add a picture if I find it before I eat all of the fried rice!


Chicken Fried Rice

Makes 6 servings

Ingredients

3 carrots, peeled and cut into bite sized pieces
¼ cup water
¾ cup frozen peas
1 cup frozen corn
8oz whole mushroom, washed, and cut into quarters
2 chicken breasts, cooked and cut into bite sized pieces
½ tsp sea salt, or to taste
1/2 tsp ground cumin
½ tsp ground red pepper, or to taste
½ tsp dried basil
½ ground dried coriander
½ tsp oyster sauce. May also substitute plum sauce or hoisin sauce or even honey.
½ tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp dried onion (or 1/4 - 1/2 cup fresh chopped onion. I used dried because I forgot to chop the real onion that I had!)
2 garlic cloves, finely minced. Adjust amount to taste.
1 cup cooked white rice, preferably a day old
1 cup cooked brown rice, preferably a day old
Splash of apple cider vinegar. Rice wine vinegar would also work well…might even be better!
½ tsp soy sauce

Directions:
1) Heat a large, non-stick pan over medium heat. Add the carrots and the water. The water should sizzle slightly. Cook for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to medium low. Then add the frozen peas and corn. Stir to mix the veggies. Cook for another 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the mushrooms and stir to mix the vegetables together. Add another splash of water if needed so that the veggies on the bottom of the pan don’t stick. Cover the pan and cook until the mushrooms have reached a desired “done” consistency; about another 3-5 minutes.
2) Add the chicken and stir to mix everything. Mix in the sea salt, ground cumin, ground red pepper, dried basil, dried coriander, oyster sauce, ginger, and garlic cloves. Allow the chicken to warm through, 1-3 minutes more.
3) Mix in both the white rice and the brown rice. Add the splash of the vinegar, about ½- 1 tsp, then the soy sauce. Mix well and cover the pan, allowing everything to heat through. About another 3-5 minutes. Then dish out and enjoy!


Nutrition Facts

Amount Per Serving

Calories 217.3 Total Fat 1.8 g Saturated Fat 0.4 g Polyunsaturated Fat 0.5 g Monounsaturated Fat 0.5 g Cholesterol 45.6 mg Sodium 314.3 mg Potassium 502.9 mg Total Carbohydrate 28.1 g Dietary Fiber 3.4 g Sugars 3.8 g Protein 22.4 g