Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Skillet glazed pork loin chops

My husband was giving me attitude about all the light meals. So I picked up some pork loin chops which aren't so bad if you cut the fat off. Seared them a really nice golden brown on both sides,

Then I poured in some of that Vidalia Cherry sauce I had made for salmon, let it boil away to glaze, and by then the meat was cooked through. I let them rest for about 10 minutes before serving so they would have the best texture. I don't seem to be able to figure out the proper settings on my camera. Sometimes the color is so off! The pictures I took in the pan with the glaze look creepy, or like a picture from a 1973 Bon Appetit- I'm not posting them.

Served with some plain baked sweet potatoes and a lot of broccoli rabe cooked with garlic and olive oil. The pic is 1/2 a chop: 3 oz = 150 calories. With the other stuff I estimated this plate was well under 300 calories (it's actually a salad plate- looks full, right? you would never guess you're still hungry- eye roll).

Monday, August 17, 2009

Tandoori Shrimp on Curry Vegetables

A theme emerges. Lean protein on a buttload of vegetables. I don't like eating this much animal but since I'm the only one here who will eat Tofu, and cheese is pretty much out of my life at the moment- oh well.

This was actually sort of a make ahead dish. First, I cleaned the shrimp and rubbed them with Penzey's Tandoori seasoning and a drop of vegetable oil. Then, I sauteed carrots, onion, and red pepper til they started to get soft in just the barest smudge of butter (Indian food traditionally uses ghee, which is butterfat without the water and milk solids found in European style butter). Then I added some Penzey's Maharajah curry powder, cauliflower, a cubed Yukon gold potato, a diced tomato, and some green beans, and cooked that just long enough for the curry to release its fragrance. I added some chikcen broth just to come about halfway up, covered, and simmered until the vegetables were tender. Then, I added a bit of flour/broth slurry to thicken, brought it back to the boil, and went to Zumba.

When I came home, all I had to do was reheat the vegetables and add a third of a can of "Lite" coconut milk, and salt and sautee the shrimp in my cast iron skillet.

Served with fresh cilantro and a squeeze of lime. It was good- my husband said it needed rice or something. I ate the leftover vegetables with chopped roasted peanuts on top for some crunch. This was unbelievably about as many calories as a can of soda. I think. I don't drink soda. It was about 200 for 5 large shrimp + the veg.

I guess the other theme is Penzey's! Anyone from Penzey's want to hire me as your spokesperson? Anyone? Will work for spices!

Fast chicken "fajitas"

Not as good as the real deal, but still pretty tasty and at only 150ish calories per, they hit the spot.

I started with 2 chicken breasts, butterflied them but cut all the way through (so they were the same size but thinner), then rubed them liberally with Penzey's Adobo seasoning and salt. While the chicken marinated, I made a little slaw out of cabbage and carrots with a cilantro lime dressing based on buttermilk and lowfat mayo. Then, I seared the chicken in my cast iron skillet. When it was cooked, I took it out and added sliced red peppers and onions. When they were cooked, I turned the heat off, added half a can of leftover black beans, and the sliced chicken:

I served the slaw on the chicken in the tortillas, as well as some salsa, and on the side I made an avocado and Heirloom tomato salad with lime juice and olive oil.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Ho Hum Chicken Noodle Stew

Kind of boring, but then again everyone liked it and it was fast and healthy.

In a touch of olive oil, I sauteed onion, celery, and lots of chunky carrots. When they were almost soft, I added some chicken tenders, cut crosswise into chunks. I stirred and cooked this mixture for a few minutes, seasoned it with salt and Penzeys poultry seasoning, then added probably 2 cups of chicken broth and brought to simmer. In went some leftover corn kernels, some fresh green beans, and some thick egg noodles (dried). Slapped a lid on and simmered for 15 minutes or so, 'til the noodles were cooked, and called it dinner.

Chicken tenders are like breast meat, they are from the breast, but they don't seem to me to get that awful texture if they are overcooked- so they're good in dishes like this one that need a little flexibility or are not going to be served right away. I didn't bother to figure out the calories in this- as long as you don't overdo the noodles, it's pretty low. Eat up.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

An awesome snack

Greek yogurt with homemade peach sauce and a sprinkle of toasted almonds.

If you've been eating any kind of "lite" yogurt you may want to give Fage Greek 2% a try. I love it topped with fresh fruit or homemade jam, fruit coulis or sauce, and then a touch of nuts or granola (or pulverized granola bar), for textural interest. The peach sauce I made because I had, sadly, about 5 extremely disappointing peaches in the bowl. I simply could not gag them down raw. I just peeled, sliced, and cooked them up with a very small amount of sugar (like 2T fro 5 peaches) and a bit of water to keep them from burning in the beginning.

Fage 2% yogurt has this creamy, lucious texture and light flavor. It's a lot thicker than most commercial yogurts, and any "lite" ones especially. When you put fruit on, it will have more calories than some nasty artificially flavored junk, but it tastes a hell of a lot better and is better for you. And fills you up, too. Get this: a 6 oz serving has 103 calories and about 14 g protein. That's twice the protein of Dannon All Natural Vanilla (kids choice around here). So with the fruit and stuff, like the photo, it's going to run about 175 cals. Ditch the nuts and you can knock it down to 150 (only 60 more than the type that's full of chemicals and leaves you unsatisfied).

Available at some Sendiks and Trader Joes.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Ma Po Tofu

I should probably preface this entry by admitting that I am the only one in the family that will eat this. I love it! It's on almost every Chinese Food menu, a comfort food dish of tofu simmered with a small amount of meat, seasonings, and broth.

I browned 2 oz of ground beef, breaking it up in the pan. Then added 1 shredded carrot, 3 sliced scallions, 2 cloves of minced garlic and the same amount of ginger. When the carrots were cooked through- just a few minutes- I added about 1T soy sauce, 1t oyster sauce, and 2 t black bean sauce, and half a can of chicken broth. After bringing it to a boil and thickening it with a cornstarch broth slurry, I added 12 oz extra firm tofu and maybe 2t sesame oil. Once it's hot it's done. This would serve 2 adults and 2 kids (if they would eat it!). I guess you have to like tofu.

Over a whole grain rice, rye, and barley pilaf with plain broccoli on the side, this plate was about 325 calories and very satisfying.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Two Veggie Pitas

Grilled eggplant....salad? and Hummus.

Eaten with sauteed zucchini, roasted peppers, tomato, lettuce, and whole wheat pitas.

I had previously grilled an eggplant, and I wanted to use it. You just throw the whole thing on a cooler area of the grill until it's collapsed, turning from time to time. Then, when it's cool, you slit it open and scrape the flesh away, leaving behind as much liquid and seeds as possible. It gives the eggplant a great smoky flavor. Often I do this with the plan to make baba ghannouj, but that has a bit too much fat for my current situation, so I improvised a sort of salad with diced tomato, scallions and garlic cooked in a touch of olive oil, lemon, cumin, cilantro and parsley. It was pretty good, if very austere tasting. I miss gratuitous fat! A couple tablespoons of olive oil and the salad would have been sublime.

The rest of the meal is old hat but I still love homemade hummus with vegetables in pita. The bread and hummus were the only things with any significant calories- two pita halves, one with the eggplant and the other with hummus and vegetables weighed in at 335 cals.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Very veggie turkey chili

Ingredients: Home ground turkey thigh, onions, carrot, celery, orange bell pepper, ground fresh tomatoes, Penzey's chili powder, garlic, chicken broth, black beans, corn, and a diced sweet potato. Calorie count: 300 for a big bowl. Oh, yeah, that's what I'm talking about!

I have a hard time with cutting out the refined carbs and still filling up myself and my active family. Starchy vegetables like corn and sweet potatoes do the trick. Sweet potatoes are actually a really good fit with southwestern flavors- try chipotle with them in your favorite recipe (unless it has marshmallows in it!). Plus beans are filling and protein rich. I topped my serving with a squeeze of lime and some diced avocado- the non dieters also had cheese and oyster crackers.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Day 2

Did anybody else see the adorable medium sized colored peppers for sale? Of course I had to have them, but then what? The perfect thing would be to stuff them with Bacalao or a rich goat cheese and sizzle them with a little garlic and olive oil. Mmmm. But, this is a family dinner, so...
Stuffed peppers again. I roasted and peeled the peppers first- I figure if we're going for a high pepper to filling ratio, the peppers had better be tasty. I used a NY strip steak with all the fat cut away, then ground it. I also ground the leftover chard and some grilled Vidalia onions in there from the other night, to up the veg content. Some cooked rice and seasonings, a little watery tomato sauce, and they were good to go.
This photo was raw- I was out of the house at dinnertime. Each pepper had about 100 calories- I ate 3. The peppers have a lot of pectin so they have an almost oily, unctuous mouthfeel that is pretty satisfying.

Time to get serious

I'm sick of always whining about that damn 10 lbs and never actually making the effort to shed it. I mean, I've been here before, I know what to do....so this blog is having a rebirth as my accountability. Day 1: grilled salmon, garlic sauteed rainbow chard, corn, grilled sweet potato (just slice it about 1/3 inch and cook them over indirect heat about 10 minutes). This meal was about 420 cals including the little vidalia- cherry coulis and the butter on the corn.

I like to cut salmon like this: into a thick slice of filet, then sliced down to the skin and folded back to make like a "mock steak" but without the bones.

I threw some extras on the grill, too. A large eggplant, just whole, some baby orange peppers, and some thick sliced Vidalia onion. It's always helpful to have some grilled veggies in the fridge, right?

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Chicken Marbella

For years when I was dreaming of becoming a chef, The Silver Palate cookbook was my bible.  I thought everything in it was so chic, so delicious...except this recipe for Chicken Marbella that the authors raved about.  It was for chicken pieces marinated and cooked with prunes, green olives, and garlic among other things.  Even though I like those flavors, the combination puzzled and repulsed me.

Then one day a respected chef- colleague of mine mentioned that Chicken Marbella was her go-to party dish, and I decided to give it a try.  Now it's a go to dish for me, too.  Not only is it sublime, but the prep is mostly done the night before- making it perfect for weeknights as well as parties.

I've made some changes and have not peeked at the actual recipe in years...here's my version:

Marinate the skinless chicken thighs overnight.  I always score the meat so the flavors can really penetrate.  The marinade is  a big clove of garlic (crushed), salt, about a quarter cup of brown sugar, 3T red wine vinegar (mild balsamic would be OK too), a bay leaf, a shake of oregano or Italian herb blend, half a cup of pitted green olives, half a cup of prunes, a big drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, and 1 T of capers in brine.  I put everything in a big Ziplock and turn it over a few times during the marinating time.

The next day, simply dump it all into a baking dish, pour a little white wine over, sprinkle with a touch more brown sugar, and bake for about 50 minutes at 375'- until the chicken is definitely cooked through, browned, and the juices have reduced to a slightly syrupy consistency. Baste occasionally.  The chicken will be very moist and flavorful.  I served it with buttermilk mashed yukon gold potatoes, and roasted broccoli with cherry tomatoes.

Friday, March 6, 2009

New York Pizza? NOT!

A new pizza delivery place opened up around here promising New York Style Pizza.  My husband was all excited as he loves NY (and only NY) pizza.  Well.  This pizza had as much cheese on it as 4 New York Pizzas.  I love cheese.  I mean. Please.  But, come on, Wisconsinites, learn a little subtlety with the cheese already! Show some restraint!  Less is more, and more is way too much.

Yuk!  Look at these pictures and weep for us.  The crust was pliable under the toppings, but it was still all wrong.  A New York Pizza has an outer rim of puffed crust that is shatteringly crisp on the outside, pillowy soft on the inside.  It bends but does not snap when you fold the slice to bring it to your lips.


Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Parmesan Peppercorn Dressing

Remember the '80s?  Parmesan peppercorn dressing was on all the menus.  I still like it- more importantly, the basic formula is a good one to be familiar with- for improvising slaws, drizzles, dips....

Parmesan Peppercorn Dressing
1 cup real mayo
1 cup buttermilk or- sour cream if you dare
pinch sugar
splash vinegar or lemon (especially if you use sour cream)
salt to taste
Whisk together.  This is your creamy dressing base.  from here, you can go...lots of places.  Chipotle lime?  Sesame ginger?  Mixed herb?  Blue cheese?  Blue cheese and Bacon???  

But for this one, you need grated Parmesan..about 2/3 cup
Fresh ground black pepper....a lot...to taste
A dash Worchestershire for a base note

Keeps a week or two.  Give it to the kids with their chicken nuggets.

I like to use creamy dressings on crisp, crunchy lettuces like romaine or iceberg.  For the main dish, I roasted up a turkey breast, served it with a stuffing I threw together from bread out of the freezer, and leftover cheesy cauliflower.  Now I also have fresh roasted turkey for sandwiches :)

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Meat and 3

Meat and Three is what you get at some old school family restaurants, particularly in the South.  You pick your main entree, the meat, and then get three choices from a list of sides.  My husband asked for steak for dinner, and I really am trying to eat healthy here, so I made three vegetable sides.  Only one was fattening- the cauliflower gratin.  I also made a baked sweet potato and some steamed haricots vert.

Usually "3 cheese" is such a gimmicky Olive Garden thing- but in some cases different cheeses can really improve the flavor of a dish.  This is often true in cheese sauce, where you want to use the minimum amount of cheese to get the best flavor. If you were to use a mild cheese and add enough of it to get a good cheese flavor, the sauce could be unpleasantly stringy and would be more prone to the fat seperating out when heated.  I made a basic white sauce (bechamel) with whole milk, then added super sharp cheddar, Gruyere, and Parmesan which are all strongly flavored.

Poured over steamed cauliflower, topped with some crushed croutons (what's on hand), and run under the broiler- delicious!  My kids loved this.

SO that's it.  Steaks well seasoned and cooked in the cast iron skillet- 

Oh, don't forget the wine!

Friday, February 27, 2009

Old Standby

Wednesday nights I have to make something for the rest of the family before I go out to Zumba, then I eat when I get home.  An old favorite fits the bill: homemade Hummus with sauteed zucchini and roasted red pepper, in whole wheat pitas.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Mardi Gras

I almost forgot it was Fat Tuesday!  I found myself planing the meal while I was at the grocery store.  We had New Orleans "BBQ" shrimp,

Blackened scallops, collard greens, and macque- choux, which is a Cajun corn dish.

I have had macque -choux, but when I googled a recipe I found such a huge variation in ingredients that I just winged it with this stuff:

A good trick for slicing corn  off the cob is to stand it in a large bowl.  That way the kernels don't fly off everywhere.

I browned half an Andouille sausage,

added scallions, red peppers, and celery and cooked briefly,

then added the corn, diced tomato, some thyme and a little broth.

When the corn was tender, I boiled off all the broth and added a little cream.  Macque -choux is supposed to be decadent.

New Orleans BBQ shrimp is not grilled or with BBQ sauce.  It's shell on shrimp cooked in butter with Cajun spices and Worcestershire sauce.  I added a little beer, too. The idea is the spicy seasoning gets all over your fingers as you peel the shrimp and you slurp it off...messy. 

The seasoned scallops blackening in butter in my smoking hot cast iron skillet.  Be sure to buy the "dry processed" scallops if you want to get them nice and brown.  Frozen or wet pack will never work for something like this.

Woo hoo.  That was our crazy Mardi Gras!  It seems like the big retail holidays get ever bigger and more prolonged while all the fun little ones get forgotten about.  I guess that's my job as a mom- to keep the traditions alive.  

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Oven crispy Ceasar chicken strips....with salad

Finally a good oven baked chicken that is not dripping in butter!  I've always been drawn to crispy oven baked chicken, but nothing compared to the flour>melted butter>Parmesan breadcrumb technique that I learned many years ago.  That is SO fatty though, and when done with boneless breasts it's lackluster anyway.
This does not qualify as diet food, but it's reasonable enough for everyday.  The grown ups had the chicken over a nice salad with slow roasted tomatoes, red peppers, and balsamic vinaigrette.  The kids had some raw cherry tomatoes and some fruit with theirs.  Everyone liked it.

For the "marinade" I mixed equal parts mayonnaise and grated Parmesan cheese with Dijon, garlic, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper.  The chicken breast strips sat in there for about an hour...

While I roasted the tomatoes and peppers at 325'  to concentrate their flavors.

Next, I mixed about 3 parts Panko bread crumbs with 1 part Parmesan, salt and pepper, and just enough olive oil to lightly coat the crumbs so they crisp up.  For this bowlful it was about a tablespoon.  Keeping a good thick coating of the marinade on, I rolled the strips in the crumbs and baked than at 425'  for about 15 minutes.

They got nicely browned, crunchy, and tender and juicy inside with good caesarey flavor.

While the chicken was cooking I made a balsamic vinaigrette with more Dijon, olive oil, and fresh parsley, tossed in the vegetables, and then when I was ready to serve dinner I just mixed the mesclun into that.