Saturday, December 14, 2013

Ham and Cheddar Pretzel Pockets with Cranberry Honey Mustard andSteamed Broccoli



Our weekly menu creation is something I always look forward to. It gives me the ability to use the new ideas that I have pinned, gawked, or just created in my mind. Sometimes, if I'm feeling nice, I'll even ask for Cal's input. Usually, he'll "Iron Chef" me and give me one ingredient to star all week. This week, more in a effort to save money this close to Christmas, he gave me ham. I started thinking... Cordon Bleu, Eggs Benedict, Ham and Potato Soup, Ham and Broccoli Alfredo.... And then I remembered the bacon and pretzel wrapped cheese dogs I had made a few months ago... And how we had discussed using other combinations. Ham and cheddar was a classic and my original idea was a calzone, but pretzel dough is just so much tastier!

Growing up in "Amish country" PA, pretzels were more like a food group than a snack. I once read that the average American eats a pound of pretzels a year. Sadly, I have to say, we used to go through a "pounder" bag of pretzels a week as a family of four. Thank you Snyders of Hanover and Auntie Anne's. Now that I have my own family, we still eat more than a pound a year, but definitely eat less than the pound a week. 

The good news is, pretzels really aren't that bad for you. So, wrapping my dinner in one didn't really phase me in the least. So, here goes...

This one makes 2 with leftover pretzel dough.

Ham and Cheddar Pretzel Pockets

3/4 cup water (110-115 degrees)
1/2 T sugar
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp active dry yeast
2 1/4 cups flour
2 T unsalted butter, melted
10 cups water
2/3 cup baking soda
Melted butter or egg wash 
Kosher salt for sprinkling

1/4 lb ham, julienned
1/2 cup cheddar, shredded


In the bowl of a stand mixer or medium sized bowl, add water, sugar and salt. Stir to dissolve. Sprinkle yeast on top and let rest 5 minutes or until foamy. While waiting, melt butter and let cool slightly. When yeast is ready, add butter. Mix with a dough hook or spatula, gradually adding flour until tight dough is formed. Let rise 1 hour or until doubled in size.

** if your house is generally cool, heat your oven to warm, turn it off, wait 10 minutes, then place the bowl in the oven for it to rise**

While waiting, julienne your ham. You can use sliced, deli ham if you have it available, but to me, fresh ham tastes so much better!

When your dough is ready, roll it out on a lightly floured surface. You can make them as small or as large as desired, but I like mine to be about the 1/3 of a size of a small calzone. I keep them about 1/4" thick. Just thick enough to hold everything in without being too thick to be a doughy bite. Cut out 2 pieces of dough (shape is not important) Place half the cheese in the center of one piece, top with half the ham. Using a bit of water, wet the outer edge of the dough, all the way around. Fold over, sealing tight. Cut off excess dough.

Bring 10 cups water to a boil. Add baking soda. Boil each pocket for 30 seconds. Place on greased cookie sheet. Brush with egg wash or butter (I prefer egg), sprinkle with salt and bake at 450 degrees for 12-15 minutes.

For the mustard, I combined 1/4 cup of yellow mustard, 2 T whole grain mustard, 1 T honey and 1/4 cup cranberry sauce. Let chill while cooking. 

These ring in around 370 calories per pocket. Mind you this will depend on the amount of dough used. 1 T mustard comes in at 21 calories. I served these with steamed broccoli on the side for a total right around 400 calories. 

Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Great Chinese Food at Home




I've lived in Pittsburgh for the past ten years, now, and I have yet to find anything I could even remotely call "good" Chinese food. There was one I found to be acceptable, but it is now under new ownership and the quality of food is suffering. There are plenty of places to try, often with glorious Yelp reviews, but I'm never impressed. I ate at the chain-ish Chinese establishments growing up, so why can't I find a good one out here? Perhaps it's because I was spoiled by the fabulous Tony Wang's Restaurant in Lancaster, PA. When Cal and I started dating, he took me to this little hole in the wall looking place that I had driven past millions of times throughout my childhood.
 It's run by Tony, a now elderly Chinese man, and his wife. The decor is greatly outdated, and the building looks, well, sad, but the food is A-M-A-Z-I-N-G. 
We try to stop in each time we visit our relatives in the area. It's that good. 

Anywho... The lack of good Chinese made me search for recipes for making it myself. I came across this recipe for Orange Chicken using Foodgawker, and, I have to say, it's better than any take out that I've recently purchased. 

One thing I've always noticed is that when you halve a recipe like this (which I often do), the amount of sauce never seems to measure up to the rest of the ingredients, so I have made it a habit to make a full batch of sauce while halving the the rest of the recipe. So far, I haven't been let down. 

Orange Chicken

2 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 egg, beaten
1 T oil
1/4 c cornstarch
1/4 tsp white pepper
1/4 cup flour
1 1/2 tsp salt

1 T minced garlic
1 T minced ginger
1/4 c green onion
1/2 tsp red pepper flake
1 c broccoli
1 T mirin or saki
1/2 tsp sesame oil
1/4 c water
1 T cornstarch
1 1/2 T soy sauce
1 1/2 T rice vinegar
1/4 c sugar
Zest of 1 orange


For the chicken: cut thighs into bite size pieces. Combine cornstarch, pepper, salt, flour. In a separate bowl, combine egg and oil. Add both to bowl of chicken, coating well.

Fill a deep skillet with 1" of oil. Fry chicken pieces until browned and cooked through (about 5 min per side). Keep warm.

For the sauce: combine soy sauce, vinegar, sugar and orange zest. Set aside.

Heat medium pan or wok over high heat. Add 1 T oil. Add garlic and ginger, stir 15 seconds. Add broccoli, stir another 15 seconds. Add green onion and pepper flake, stirring 15 seconds. Add sauce combo to the pan and bring to a boil. Add mirin/saki and sesame oil. Mix the water and cornstarch to a slurry, then add to pan. Stir constantly until sauce is thick and bubbling. Toss in chicken and coat well. 

I served it with plain ol' steamed rice and I do have to say it was scrumdidilyumptous! I will definitely be adding it to the recipe book. The beat part is, one serving (sans rice), comes in at a whopping 205 calories! Add one serving of instant white, long grain rice and you have a 305 calorie meal. No wonder Chinese food is always so filling at the time but you're hungry and hour later. 

Enjoy!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Cincinnati Chili With a Twist


Each morning starts the same... Get up, get Emily dressed, go for our walk, figure out what to make for dinner. It's kind of sad, now that I write it out. I had always dreaded the dinner part. Nobody really likes to decide on the evening meal when they've barely just eaten breakfast! While browsing Pinterest one day, I came across a photo that showed a week of meals planned out on a homemade white board (a picture frame and a white background). Perfect! So now, I plan my meals and then plan my grocery list around that week's plan. It actually saves me money because I'm not keeping us stocked on things we don't need.

Soooooo cool! 

So, I made this...

Please don't mind that it's empty. It's Thursday, which is planning day, so it's patiently awaiting to be filled in during nap time or after the little lady goes to bed.

Oddly enough, this recipe came about because I had hamburgers on the menu. We buy our ground beef in bulk and portion it into 10oz packages (4oz for each of us and 2oz for Emily). I had pulled a package to thaw with the intention of grilling burgers.

Then, Cal came home.

"Let's make chili," he says.
"Chili?" I respond, "We don't have enough beef thawed for me to make chili."

This resulted in a sad face, so I told him not to worry about it, I'd figure it out. I really wasn't in the mood for chili, but it's what he wanted... I really do give in more than I should, but this time, I'm glad I did!

And so, this recipe was born. I halved-ish my chili recipe to use 10oz of beef, threw it over some pasta, and, since I was now feeling creative, topped each plate with a poached egg, some cheese, and fresh jalapeƱo slices. I served it with a side of sour cream, but it wasn't really needed since I dulled the chili for Emily. Never the less... Yum!

Chili

10 oz ground beef
1/2 c white onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/8 tsp cinnamon 
1/2 can kidney beans, drained
4 oz tomato sauce
1/2 can diced tomatoes
3 T water
1/2 T chili powder (or more if you don't have a 1 year old)
salt and pepper to taste

Brown beef in a small soup pot. When cooked, push beef to one side and saute onion in beef fat until translucent (about 5 minutes).
Add garlic and cinnamon saute until fragrant (about 30 seconds)
Add kidney beans, tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, chili powdee and water. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 15 minutes.
Salt and pepper to taste. 

While chili is cooking, boil off a pasta of your choice. I used elbows because Emily can easily eat them.

Now, onto the poached egg. I have to admit, I had never poached an egg before. It always sounded like a very intimidating process, and, honestly, I was afraid of it. Now that I've done it, I can tell you there is nothing to be afraid of! It was sooooo simple. I waited until both the chili and pasta were done and sitting on low. 

Ready? Here it is...

Fill a medium, non stick saucepan with one inch of water. Add about a tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar. Bring that water to a boil. Crack an egg into a small bowl. When your water is ready, slowly dip the rim of the bowl into the water and let the egg slide out. Repeat with the second egg. At this point, cover the pan and remove from the heat (I simply turn off my burner). They don't need to cook long, only about 3 or 4 minutes. You want your yolk to be runny but your whites to be cooked. Remove them with a slotted spoon and place on top of your chili. Top with shredded cheddar and jalapeno slices.

Yum! 

I found that Alton Brown helped me a great deal. Here are his tips for success http://m.foodnetwork.com/recipes/14136

Overall, the recipe is not all that bad for you. It's chock fill of protein with the egg and beef. Using a half a serving of elbow macaroni it rings in around 400 calories and is ridiculously filling! 

Enjoy!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Orange Sriracha Glazed Chicken Kebabs



In this household, hot sauce is not an option. Well, at least on most things. Even Emily, at 18 months old, is a fan. So, when I find a recipe that calls for any type of hot sauce, it goes on the "must try" list.

I found an Orange and Sriracha Glazed Pork Chop recipe and decided to sub out some chicken breast chunks and make kebabs. The recipe calls for jarred (pickled) cherry peppers. I happen to be growing some in my garden this year, so I used those and added a little vinegar to make up for the pickled-ness of the store bought peppers. 

The recipe first calls to marinate your choice of protein in a garlic, cherry pepper, oil mixture. It's a quick 30 minute marinade, so nothing fancy. While your marinating your meat, make sure to soak your skewers too, if not using metal kebab skewers. You don't want them to burst into flame while grilling! You can also prepare your glaze while you wait. It consists of an orange juice, sriracha, soy sauce combo. Yum!

For my kebabs, I chose carrots, zucchini and some fresh cherry peppers. I chunked both the carrots and zucchini and removed the seeds from the peppers. I chose to par boil my carrots so that they would grill nicely but still be soft enough for Emily to easily eat. Boil them so they are still slightly crisp, but so a skewer will pass through with out any problems. Once they hit that point, be sure to shock them (drain the boiling water and immediately place them in ice water) to stop the cooking process. 

I lit my grill to hold a temperature around 300 degrees. I didn't want the chicken to dry out from cooking too quickly, but I still wanted it to get a nice 'grill marked' presentation. We use a charcoal grill. I, personally, find that it cooks and tastes better. If using a gas or electric grill, a medium heat will give you the desired result.

Ok, so onto the recipe!

Orange Sriracha Glazed Chicken Kebabs

Marinade:

1 clove garlic, minced
1 green onion, sliced
3 fresh cherry peppers, minced
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
3 T olive oil
1 tsp vinegar
1 8-10oz chicken breast

Combine all ingredients, marinade chicken for 30 minutes. *if you do not have fresh peppers, use jarred and do not add the vinegar.

Glaze:

1/4 c fresh squeezed orange juice
1 T Sriracha sauce
2 T honey
1 T butter, melted
1 tsp soy sauce
1 fresh cherry pepper, minced
1/4 tsp vinegar

Combine all ingredients. Let rest. *again, if using a jarred pepper, do not add vinegar

When ready to cook, place kebabs on the hot grill, let cook about 3 minutes. Flip, and baste with glaze. Cook another 3 minutes, glaze again. Then, simply cook until chicken is done (165 deg), basting occasionally. They won't take long... about 15 minutes depending on the size of the chicken chunks.

I served them over brown rice seasoned with salt, pepper and green onions.

Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Pan Fried Pork Chops with a Twist




Pork... Honestly, there are only so many ways you can cook it, and it can get old quick. It's not as versatile as chicken, not as delectable as steak, and can easily dry out with mere seconds of over cooking. It does, however, lend itself greatly to pan frying, especially with endless possibilities for breading flavors.

Tonight, while sitting in traffic on our way to pick up a cd changer and receiver (thank you, freecycle), we decided on pan fried pork chops for dinner. Mashed potatoes and gravy and some simple steamed  asparagus rounded out the meal. When we arrived home, I got to work. I contemplated cuisines... Did I want to go asian, or perhaps mexican or italian... As I pulled the parmesan from the fridge, I had a sudden thought... Let's throw some grated cheddar into the mix instead. And, it was so. Pork chops breaded with a breadcrumb, flour, cheddar mixture was now on the menu!

Pan Fried Pork Chops

2 boneless chops, about 1" thick
1 egg, beaten
2 T water
1/4 c flour
1/4 c bread crumbs
1/4 c grated cheddar
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp paprika
Oil for frying

In one bowl, combine egg and water. In another, combine flour, bread crumb, cheddar, salt, pepper and paprika. 

In large pan, add about 1" of oil. Bring to temp (around 375), over medium heat.

Pat pork chops dry, dip in egg, then coat in flour mixture. Fry about 5 minutes per side, or until breading has browned and pork reaches a minimum of 145 degrees.

Let rest 2 minutes before serving.


Mashed Potatoes and Gravy

2-3 idaho potatoes, peeled and cubed
2-3 T butter, at room temperature
1/4 c milk
Salt to taste

1/2 T butter
1/2 T flour
1/2 c chicken stock
1/4 tsp sage
Salt and pepper to taste.

In a medium pot, boil potatoes until soft (about 20 minutes). 

While boiling, melt 1/2 T butter in a small pot. Whisk in flour. Add stock and whisk well. Add sage, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then simmer to desired thickness.

When potatoes are done, drain well. Mash potatoes, add butter and mix until melted. Add milk and salt. 

You can reduce the amount of butter if desired. 1 T of butter per potato is more of a restaurant standard that I still tend to follow because it just tastes too damn good not to! 

The meal (with 1/4 c basic, steamed asparagus and a little salt) comes in around 400 calories! 

Enjoy! 


Sunday, June 30, 2013

Recreating Flavors for Summertime Meals



I'm always looking for new ways to cook or flavor ground beef. It's become a staple in our house when work is slow and paychecks are low. I recently found this awesome recipe for Mongolian Beef that I was dying to try, but it's been in the upper 80's for the past week and I was extremely reluctant to fire up the stove since it increases the temperature in the house at least 5 degrees when I do so. 

Instead, I decided to take the recipe and break it down into hamburgers and an aioli. That way, I could fire up the grill and keep the heat outside. I did wind up using the stove for the sides, but it's hard to make rice on the grill.

So we wound up with Mongolian Beef Burgers with an aioli, steamed cilantro ginger and lime rice and broccoli. Yum!

Mongolian Beef Burgers (this one will make 4 1/4lb burgers)


1 lb ground beef
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 T soy sauce
3/4 T sesame oil
1/2 tsp fresh grated ginger
1/4 tsp cayenne

Combine all ingredients and form into patties.

Aioli 

1 tsp white wine
1 tsp sherry
1 tsp rice vinegar
1/2 T brown sugar
1 tsp peanut butter
1/4 c mayonaisse
1 T scallions, sliced

Combine wine, sherry, vinegar, brown sugar and peanut butter. Whisk until well mixed and sugar is dissolved. Mix in mayo, fold in scallions.

Serve hamburger, grilled to preferred temp, with aioli.

I served mine on potato rolls because that's what I had on hand. I would suggest perhaps a pita or flatbread as well.

Cilantro Ginger and Lime Rice (serves 3)

1/2 c rice, uncooked
1 T lime juice
1 tsp fresh grated ginger
1 T cilantro, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

Cook rice per instructions, adding lime juice to the water. Stir in cilantro, salt and pepper. 




Overall, without the bun, this one checks in at 470 calories per serving meal.

Enjoy!


Thursday, June 20, 2013

Happy Father's Day!


I know Father's Day was a few days ago, but I'm finally catching up. This Father's Day, Cal actually got home from work early (as in by noon!), so we were able to actually hang out and he got to spend some time with Emily. He played with her while I prepped and cooked dinner. I had wanted to get down to the Double Wide Bar and Grill and get him a growler of some kind of special beer, but my bank account said no, so he never did get his Father's Day present.... but I did make him this delish dinner, so that has to count for something, right? He also got a new picture of Emily to put in his work truck to replace the on from last FD when she was 4 months old! 

Anyway, he's a big seafood lover, and, despite them being on sale, we couldn't afford the yummy looking fresh lobster at the grocery store, so I settled on a king crab cluster and cocktail shrimp. I loosely followed Chicken Chesapeake recipe by Tide and Thyme. I didn't have any thicker cut bacon, and I added some other seasoning and rolled it instead of stuffed it. It turned out to be amazing. Then again, you can't really beat chicken and crab topped with cheese and bacon! I served it with a side of lemon basil orzo and steamed broccoli. I even made him a cute shrimp cocktail for an appetizer. 

Chicken Chesapeake for Two!

1 8oz or 2 4oz chicken breasts,  pounded to almost double the size
1/2 tsp old bay seasoning (or to taste)
2 strips sliced bacon
1/2 oz shredded cheddar cheese

1 oz cream cheese, softened
1/2 T sour cream
dash Worcestershire Sauce
1 lemon wedge, juiced 
pinch salt
pinch of  pepper
1/2 tsp tabasco sauce (because everything needs a dash of hot sauce!)
4 oz crab meat

Preheat the oven to 375. Grease a glass baking dish and set aside. 

In a medium saute pan, cook off bacon until crisp. Set on paper towels to drain and cool. Keep the pan and bacon drippings, as you will use it to cook your chicken. Crumble bacon when cool. 

In a small bowl, combine cream cheese, sour cream, Worcestershire, lemon juice and salt. Mix well. Gently fold in crab meat.

Season chicken with old bay and place filling in the center of the breast. Fold sides up around the filling, securing with toothpicks if necessary. 

Sear chicken in bacon pan about 3 minutes per side. Place in baking dish and top with cheese and bacon.  Place in the oven until chicken is cooked through, about 15 minutes, and filling is hot. Let rest 5 minutes before slicing.

Lemon Basil Orzo

1/2 c orzo, uncooked
1/2 lemon, juiced
2-3 basil leaves, chiffonade
salt and pepper to taste

Cook the orzo according to package directions. Drain and add lemon, basil, salt and pepper. Let rest, covered, for about 5 minutes for flavors to meld.


The chicken comes in at 363 calories per serving. The orzo comes in around 65. Steamed broccoli with a little salt and pepper is 10 calories per half cup, making this a scrumptous 438 calorie meal! 

Enjoy!




Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Pork and Pineapple Skewers



Without looking at the weather for the week, I, naturally, planned a lot of grilled items for dinner. I'm not gonna lie, as soon as it reaches 60 degrees, we grill (or fire up the smoker) more than anything else. So, having made a few adjustments for the past few days due to mother nature's crazy tricks (50 degrees the day after it was 70 degrees... and then 60 today and 82 tomorrow.. come on now! I know mother nature is getting up there, but shouldn't she have gone through menopause by now. These hot and cold flashes need to stop!)  it's finally warm enough to get grilling again. So, I decided on pork and pineapple skewers. I found this scrumptous sounding marinade on iamahoneybee's blog that included pineapple juice, soy sauce, brown sugar and a hint of spice. Perfect for us since Emily isn't into the hardcore spices yet. She is only 15 months old, after all, but a little spice, she can surprisingly handle. I let the pork marinate for about 4 hours before skewering it all up. I used zucchini and peppers, omitting the mushrooms because I didn't have any. I also made a few other changes based on what I had on hand.
   




After marinating the pork, I made some rice to let it cool, and made some citrus fried rice to go along side. It was the perfect, light dinner!


Pork and Pineapple Skewers
Skewers:
2 1" thick boneless pork loin chops
1 cup pineapple, cut into 1" cubes
1 red pepper, cut into 1"x1" pieces
1 small zucchini, cut into 1/4" rounds

Marinade:
1/4 c soy sauce
1/4 c pineapple juice
2 cloves garlic, smashed
1 c diced pineapple
1 tsp sweet chili sauce
1 T brown sugar
1/2 tsp white pepper

I had bought only fresh pineapple, so I didn't have any juice on hand. My pineapple happened to be quite juicy, however, so before making the marinade, I used the back of a spoon to smash the diced pineapple up a bit, to release some of the juices. It didn't make 1/4 c, but it seemed to work well enough. Also, the recipe called for chili garlic sauce, but I opted for Frank's Sweet Chili  instead, for Emily's sake. I don't think her poor little system could handle more garlic or the spice a chili garlic sauce brings.

So, combine all the marinade ingredients together in a bowl or gallon bag. Cut your pork chops into 1" cubes and add to the bowl/bag. Stir/shake up to coat each piece and let marinate for at least an hour.  Meanwhile, soak some skewers in water for the hour as well, so they don't burn on the grill. When you're ready, set up a little station and skewer up the pork, pineapple and veggies.

Citrus Fried Rice

This is great if you have leftover plain rice, because you won't have to cook any the day of. If no leftover, boil rice ahead of time and let it cool/chill so it becomes hard. This way your fried rice doesn't become mushy!

1/2 T olive oil
1 c cooked rice
1 small carrot, finely grated
1 T orange juice
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp onion powder
2 green onions, chopped

Heat oil in pan. Add rice, stirring to break up any large chunks. Add oj, garlic, onion, carrot. Cook until all is hot, about 5 minutes. Stir in green onion before serving.

Had I thought about it ahead of time, I would have fine chopped some onion and celery and sauteed them off before adding the rice to the pan. Unfortunatley, this was an after thought. Next time!

Well, there you have it. A simple, light dinner. 2 skewers as pictured come in at 220 calories (110 per skewer) , and one 1/2 c serving of rice comes in at 132 for a dinner of 352 calories!

Enjoy!


Monday, May 13, 2013

Brie and Pepperoni Stuffed Chicken Breast with Brown Buttered Noodlesand Lima Beans





I have recently come to the conclusion that you really can't go wrong with Brie. It has a great flavor that is easily complemented, and when you melt it down, it becomes this creamy, smooth, yet gooey mouthful of bliss. Ok, that may be a little extreme, but come on, it really is delicious!

I had originally decided on just a simple brie stuffed chicken breast, but Cal threw me a curveball by recommending some pepperoni. So, I lightly pounded my chicken breast, laid down some dijon mustard, brie and pepperoni and rolled it on up. I sprinkled on some salt and pepper and tossed them into the oven. While they cooked, I whipped up some brown buttered egg noodles and lima beans. Cal  is a master when it comes to sauces, and proved it once again with a spicy aioli. 

The meal itself practically melted in my mouth. Another win in the kitchen for me. Especially since it comes in at only 365 calories!


Brie and Pepperoni Stuffed Chicken
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
6 slices pizza pepperoni OR 3 slices sandwich pepperoni
2 oz brie cheese, cut into 4 slices
2 tsp dijon mustard
Salt and pepper

Lightly pound out chicken so that it will be rollable. Paint one side of breast with mustard, then layer on pepperoni and brie. Roll and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Bake in a 400 degree oven for about 30 minutes or until your chicken reaches 165 degrees.

Spicy Aioli

1/4 c mayonaise
2 T hot sauce
1 tsp dijon mustard
1/2 tsp lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste.

Combine all ingredients, whisking until smooth. Serve with chicken.

Brown Buttered Noodles
1 cup egg noodles, dry
1/4 c salted butter

Cook noodles according to package directions. Melt butter in a pot, allowing it to brown. For those who may have not browned butter before, let it melt over medium high heat until it begins to foam. Continue to cook over medium heat until foaming stops and the butter shows brown specks. Pour over cooked noodles.

Lima Beans

1 c lima beans (I use frozen)
1 T butter
Salt and pepper

Boil beans in water and 1T butter. Drain, toss with salt and pepper.


Enjoy! 

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Chicken and Spinach Lasagna Rolls with Tomato Alfredo Sauce


I've been seeing these lasagna rolls everywhere lately, and decided it was about time for me to give them a try. I wanted to forego the traditional lasagna flavors and decided to kick it up a notch with some leftover Cornish game hen meat, red bell pepper and some spinach (shhh, don't tell Cal). So, I took some ricotta cheese, grated up a bit of Asiago that we had in our cheese drawer, chopped a handful of spinach, and threw in a bit of Italian seasoning. I boiled 4 lasagna noodles (yup, only 4) to almost al dente, shocked them in ice water and began to roll.

I laid out all 4 noodles and spooned equal amounts of the cheese mixture onto each one, spreading it evenly along the noodle. I topped each one with chopped game hen and rolled them up. I topped them with a tomato alfredo sauce before popping them in the oven just long enough to warm it all back up and finish cooking the noodles.

One roll was definitely enough for a meal when served up with some green beans and a slice of garlic bread for dipping in the extra sauce!

I didn't really create a recipe as I went for this one. It's more of a 'see what you have in the fridge and season accordingly' kind of meal. It turns into a form of Italian sushi :p

So, pop open the door to your fridge, rummage around for those leftovers you're dreading to find a use for and wrap them up in some pasta!

As for the tomato alfredo, I can give you a recipe for that :)

Tomato Alfredo    Yields 4 servings

1 T butter
1 T flour
1/2 c milk
1/4 c parmesan cheese
Salt/pepper to taste
1 T tomato paste

Melt butter in a small saucepan. Whisk in flour until a thick paste forms. Keeping heat low, add milk and bring heat up slightly to warm. Whisk in cheese and tomato paste. Salt/pepper to taste. Bring to a slight simmer until desired consistancy is reached.

Some people like a thinner sauce, some thicker. You can always add more milk or cheese to thin or thick your sauce if needed.

As written, it has 50 calories per serving

Enjoy!


Saturday, April 13, 2013

Coffee Marinated Pork Loin with Loaded Mashed Potatoes and Green Beans



Normally, I am NOT a coffee fan. I can't stand the smell or flavor of it, so, needless to say, I was skeptical about making this pork. But, Cal likes coffee, and I thought he would like it, so I threw it in the mix. I have to say, it brought more of a roasted, caramel-y flavor with a hint of that coffee bite, and I was pretty impressed with the outcome. Even Emily ate it!

For the sides, I had found a recipe for something someone created as a play on a Brown Betty. As I made it, I wasn't happy with the way it was turning out, so I simply added a few things and turned them into loaded mashed potatoes with cheese melted on top (since I already had the ramekins out and ready to go). Also, I chose simple buttered green beans with a little bit of salt and pepper.


Pork

1.5 lb pork loin (Mine was more around 1 lb, and it worked just fine)
1 T instant coffee
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp cayenne

That's it. Simply combine everything, rub it onto the pork and let it marinate for at least 2 hours. I would not recommend doing it overnight, but while you're at work, or something like that should be fine. I don't know if the coffee would penetrate too deeply the longer it sits. I did 3 hours. When you're ready to go, cook your pork at 350 degrees for about an hour, or until it reaches 150-160 degrees.

Potatoes

I took 2 medium and 1 small potato, peeled and chopped into 1" pieces. Boil them as you would mashed potatoes. The part that got me was... you drain them, return them to the pot, and cook them for a couple of minutes to get rid of the excess water... This is where it went wrong for me. They were just too dry for my liking. So, here's what I would do.. next time:

boil your potatoes as per mashed. Drain.
Add:

1 T butter
1 T sour cream
2-3 T milk
1 slice crumbled bacon or bacon bits
1/8 c shredded cheddar cheese

Place in ramekins and top each with some extra cheese. Place in the oven when you take your pork out. As you let the pork rest, let the cheese melt, and then everything is ready at the same time ;)

Green Beans

I simply boil my beans to desired tenderness. I have to cook ours a little softer so Emily can eat them. Then, toss in a small bit of butter, some salt and some pepper, and viola: simple side.

All in all, it was pretty scrumptious. The recipe is definitely going in the box for another day :D

Enjoy!

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Baked Chicken Kiev with Mashed Potatoes and Roasted Zucchini


Once again, I apologize for the picture. One day, I'll do some research on food photography, but right now, I'm more interested in the actual cooking. 

Today's meal comes with a few tips and tricks that I've picked up recently. My grandmother gave me this huge paper grocery bag (like the bags you get when you pick up a huge catering at Panera), full of Rachel Ray, Paula Deen, Family Circle and Better Homes and Gardens magazines. Literally, almost two years' worth. So, I've slowly been going through them and ripping out the pages with yummy sounding recipes on them. Along the way, I came across a couple of cool tips that I put to use in this recipe.

To begin. Chicken Kiev is usually fried. Since I'm on the "healthy eating" kick (mind you, we do still get our fryer out on a semi regular basis), today, we bake it. Honestly, with the butter that makes it "kiev," you really don't miss the friedness. I served it up with some mashed potatoes and roasted zucchini. Our local market had these huge zucchini (and by huge, I mean about 10" long and 4" thick) priced at 3 for $2. (I love mom and pop shops!), so I grabbed on the last time I was there. That was about a two weeks ago. I'm still finding ways to use it all up! Especially since I'm the only one who will eat it. 

Anyway. Chicken! 

The recipe as written by Thank Your Body calls for things like sprouted flour and other randomness that I just don't have, so I changed it up a bit to go as follows...

1 Chicken breast, halved lengthwise
1/4 c all purpose flour
1/4 c plain breadcrumbs
1 egg
1/4 c butter, room temperature
1/2 tsp grated lemon zest
1/4 tsp dried thyme
1 clove garlic, minced
pinch of black pepper

At least 2 hours before you plan on cooking, combine your butter, zest, thyme, garlic and pepper in a small bowl. You're making an infused butter, so it needs to sit to re-solidify and, well, infuse. Here's where Rachel Ray tip #1 comes in... if you are doing this when you get home from work, or forgot to take the butter out ahead of time, grab your box grater and large grate that butter! Fine grating will just make a big mess... definitely use the larger side of the grater. This will allow your butter to soften in a quarter of the time then leaving it a whole stick! After you combine the ingredients, press them into a ball, or oval or whatever shape you fancy, wrap it in plastic and pop that baby into the fridge. As I said, give it at least 2 hours before cooking for maximum flavor. You can even make it the day before, if you are up for dinner planning way ahead of time.

Tip #2: Also from Rachel.. don't know what to do with the rest of that lemon now that you've used up some of it's zest? Zest the rest of it and save it for next time. You can either dry it in a 200 deg oven for about an hour or pop it in a bag or small container and freeze it until you need it again. Instead of taking the time to zest mine, I simply peel it with a potato peeler (just the rind, don't get the white pith), dry it for about 2 hours and then pop it in my coffee grinder (which has been used for everything BUT coffee) and into a spice jar for safe keeping.

When you're ready to cook, prepare your dredge first. In 3 separate bowls, place your egg, bread crumbs and flour. Now, the original recipe says to add a little salt and pepper to your chicken and to your bread crumbs. I like to kick it up a notch, as you can easily lose the flavor of the breading that way. I season all three parts of the dredge, and I season them LIBERALLY. I put salt and pepper in all three. To the flour and breadcrumbs, I added some thyme (to tie into the butter flavor) and some paprika (mainly for color). If you ever wonder how some of the fried food you see gets that nice, brown color, it's paprika in the breading. Yes, it's red, but it helps color the flour during cooking.

Once your dredge is set up, take both halves of the breast and pound them out slightly until they are about 1/4" thick. Take out that butter and slice off about 2 tablespoons worth (I found that's all I could fit in my chicken. If you want to try to fit more, have at it). Anyway, cut about 4 slices, placing 2 in each breast half. Wrap the chicken around the butter. I tend to do mine burrito style so I'm sure all of the edges are sealed. Then, into the flour, into the egg, into the breadcrumbs and into a baking dish.

Bake them at 350 for about 30 minutes, or until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees(F).

Here's my little tip.. and tip #3.. When making your mashed potatoes, use the rest of the infused butter instead of plain butter. It flavor ties the potatoes to your chicken, and you don't have to wonder what on earth you're going to do with 2T of this garlic, lemon, thyme butter in the future.

My mashed potato recipe is pretty basic. One potato per person, 1T butter per potato (yes, restaurant style. That's what happens when you and your hubs has worked in a kitchen), milk to the desired creaminess and salt to taste. Viola.

My zucchini is also pretty basic. Tossed with a little olive oil, salt and pepper and roasted in the oven for about 20 minutes. I put it in 10 minutes after my chicken so everything was done at the same time.

Some of you may be wondering.. but what about the calories? All that butter.. ughhh.. My theory.. Yes, I'm counting calories, but I refuse to sacrifice taste..

To better calculate the calories, and since Emily was napping during dinner prep time, I remeasured my dredge post dredging to see just how much of it is actually used. I know that 1 egg is about 3T of liquid (1T yolk, 2T white). So, the dredge used about 1T of egg total. It used about 1T of the flour mixture and 2T of breadcrumbs. I used these numbers when considering the calories.

Overall, one piece of chicken comes out to 261 calories. One serving of mashed potatoes comes out to 222 calories and one serving of zucchini (about a 1/2c) comes out to 60 calories. Total dinner: 543 Calories.

Not too shabby.

Enjoy :D

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Margherita Pizza


Pizza: The age old stand by for those nights you don't feel like cooking. Normally, on these nights, we would wind up ordering some kind of greasy, gooey goodness along with some wings, mozzarella sticks and probably some other kind of deep fried appetizer. But, since I've become dedicated to losing the rest of this baby weight, and our budget is not allowing for take out of any kind, homemade pizza it is.

I had thrown this baby into the meal plan because I had the fresh mozzarella to use up from our mozzarella stuffed meatballs. I already had some homemade pizza dough in the freezer from the last time I made dough and some homemade pizza sauce in the fridge, so tonight's dinner took practically no time to prepare, which was nice because Emily decided to get up early and nap late and this momma is tired!

I've decided that since I'm doing all of this meal planning, I'm going to start posting full meals. Unfortunately, this first one is just pizza, but I'll give you the recipe for the dough, sauce and assembly. 

I finally found a pizza dough I like and that is fairly low in calories. It has a nice flavor and texture and is especially delish as a thin crust! 

Dough -- Yields 4 small dough balls for 12" pizzas

1/2 cup warm water (between 110 and 112 deg)
2 1/4 tsp yeast (or one package)
4 cups bread flour
1 tsp salt
1 1/4 cup room temperature water
2 T olive oil

In a mixer bowl with paddle attachment, combine your flour and salt. In a separate cup or bowl, combine the warm water and yeast. Let it sit for 5 minutes, or until you begin to see bubbles (meaning the yeast is activating). Add the room temperature water and stir slightly. With mixer on low, add the water to the flour and salt. Add the oil as well. Mix until dough begins to form, and then switch to the dough hook. Let the mixer work for about 5 minutes or until the dough forms a ball on the hook and is fully formed. Let the dough rise for an hour in an oiled, covered bowl. Cut the dough into 4 equal sections to freeze some for later!

While your dough is rising, you can make a quick pizza sauce. It's basically the same as a marinara without any chunky tomatoes. While I don't have an actual recipe for this, I do have a list of what goes in mine.

1 can of plain tomato sauce
basil
oregano
marjoram
garlic powder (not salt!)
onion powder
salt 
pepper
usually a pinch of red pepper flake, though I've been omitting it because of Emily
Parmesan cheese

All, obviously, to taste.

To prep for the pizza itself I sliced about 3 ounces of fresh mozzarella and  half of a beefsteak tomato about a quarter inch thick. Instead of leaving my basil leaves whole, as would be traditional, I decided to chiffonade mine, again, so Emily could eat it. 

So, I roll out the dough, nice and thin. Top it with the pizza sauce, then tomato slices, mozzarella and basil on top. I throw it onto my preheated pizza stone (500 degrees) and cook it for about 10 minutes. Let it rest a couple of minutes to cool and set and viola, pizza night!

The best part about it, there's only 218 calories in 2 slices! 

Enjoy!


Saturday, March 30, 2013

Ricotta Cakes with Berry Sauce


Cheese.. it's what for dessert!

So, I jumped on the new "plan your meals weekly" trend, and I have to say, so far, I love it! I spend so much less at the grocery store each week because I can plan around what we already have and just buy what we don't. For example, I wanted to make Mozzarella stuffed meatballs this week, so I planned in a Margherita pizza as well to use up the rest of the cheese. But, back to dessert... I had made stuffed shells last week, and had some ricotta leftover. I knew there wasn't enough for another meal, so I turned to dessert. I fired up my FoodGawker account and searched away. After sifting through a lot of cheesecake (not enough ricotta for those, either) recipes, I found one called Ricotta Cakes. Needless to say, I was intrigued. I read the recipe, and sure enough, I had just enough cheese to pump these babies out. Woo!

The original recipe serves 8, so I reduced it down to 2 servings, since that's really all we needed. The following recipe fit gorgeously in my 4oz ramekins and were just enough for an awesome, low calorie dessert! (I've also been on a calorie counting kick. I'm still trying to drop the baby weight, a year later!)

The recipe breaks down as follows:

125g (about 1/2c) Ricotta Cheese
1 egg white, lightly beaten
1/2 T honey
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
100g (just under 1/2c) mixed berries*

*you can use any berry you wish. I just happened to have frozen mixed berries on hand. They can be fresh or frozen as well.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees(F). Combine the cheese, egg, honey and vanilla in a small bowl. Lightly grease your ramekins (or whatever your cooking vessel may be). Pour mixture in evenly and bake for 20 minutes. While your cakes are baking, combine berries with a little bit of water in a small saucepan. Cook until soft. Cool slightly and then run through a blender until smooth. When cakes are finished, allow to cool and serve with sauce.

I have to say, I was a little worried upon putting them in the oven. They were very loose and more like a liquid than a cake batter. Mine took a little longer than 20 minutes (about 25), but they came out beautifully.  As you can see above, I removed mine from the ramekins and placed them in my super colorful bowls for serving. I also ignored the blender step and just took my potato masher to the berries. I figured the cakes were smooth enough, the dessert needed some texture. The original recipe did not mention if they should be served warm or cold, so I just let them cool to the point I could hold the ramekin to get them out and served them up. I'm sure they would taste just as great cold, and could be an awesome party dessert!

Overall, I was extremely pleased with these little babies, and this will be my go to dessert for any extra ricotta I may have in the future. The best part.. ok, well one of the best parts is they check in at a mere 169 Calories! What's not to love about that!

Enjoy!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Sweet Potato Tots


Tater Tots: One inch nuggets of potato-y goodness. I've eaten plenty in my day, but never had I ever thought of actually making them. Then, there I was on Pinterest (big surprise) and BAM ... there it was... Homemade Tater Tots. Naturally, I just had to make them. They really are better than french fries. There's no denying it. 

So, I copied down the most simplistic recipe I think I've ever seen. At least, one involving a potato... I didn't even bother copying it to the white board, it's that simple. And, I waited. I waited for Emily to take her nap. The recipe involves fine grating the potato, and I wasn't really up for that challenge with a one year old running around. While I waited, I tried to figure out what to make with the tots. Yes, I decided on my dinner side dish before my entree. It happens. A short text conversation with my sister later, we decided on burgers. Burgers and tater tots for dinner. Yum!

So, Emily finally took her nap, and I did my usual first. I spent 30 minutes on the treadmill, then up I came to grate some potatoes. Yes, I went right from working out to frying food.... don't judge me.

I had decided to go with sweet potatoes in an attempt to make them a little  healthier. The original recipe called for 3 medium sized potatoes to feed 5 people. So, I was going to halve it to serve our 2 and a half. So, I used one sweet potato (they're pretty big), fine grated it using my box grater, and laid it out on paper towels. Now, the recipe says to make sure they're dried well, so I squeezed as much water out of those taters as I could, and put them back into the bowl. I added 2 tablespoons of flour, some salt and pepper and gave them a mix. I shaped them into little once inch logs (I was able to get 15 out of one potato), and put them in the fridge to chill a bit while the oil heated. I pan fried them this time, to make sure the recipe held true and they didn't fall apart. The last thing I needed was little bits of potato all over my deep fryer. Next time, though, they're definitely going in the deep fryer! So I fried them off, and set them to cool. They'll be reheated in the oven come dinnertime. Naturally, I tasted one... and boy are they scrumptous! The next time I see a sale on potatoes, you can be sure I'll be picking some up and making a large batch of these beauties to pop in the freezer!

So, as the original recipe from Can You Stay For Dinner? says:

3 medium sized potatoes
1/4c flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/4c canola oil (for frying)...

Peel and fine grate your potatoes, drying well (the dryer the better). Add flour, salt and pepper and mix well. Form into 1" logs. Fry until golden brown on all sides. 

The best part about them... one serving (about 5 tots in my case) is only around 94 calories! (I calculated this based on the fact that they only really absorb about a tablespoon of the oil you're frying them in). So, they're really not all that bad for you, compared to white potatoes! Woot!

Alright, I'm off to prep some burgers (yay!) and fold some laundry (boo!).

Until next time...

Enjoy!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Chocolate and Veggies Together Again



Chocolate Zucchini Muffins are not a new concept. I've made them, I've loved them, I've devoured them. Who knew something so healthy could taste so scrumptious? I've been baking breakfast treats on a regular basis in attempts to give Emily something different each day, but you can only make so many muffins, breads and breakfast cakes with fruits and berries before even a one year old gets bored. Besides, I wanted to give her something extra healthy (is that possible?) as she is only one and shouldn't be relying on baked goods for breakfast. That's not all she's eating, by the way, before you start having heart attacks at your computers. She gets at least one fruit by itself every morning.

Anyway, the last time we stopped in at our local mom and pop store, they had a large selection of zucchini, and I thought to myself, why not introduce her to veggies in baked yummies! Immediately, Zucchini and Carrot muffins were put on the menu in my mind. And then, I forgot the carrots. Yup. You can't really have Z&C muffins without the carrots. As luck would have it, I was cleaning out my freezer and found... no, not carrots, but some roasted butternut squash. Could it work? I asked myself. I've baked with acorn and pumpkin, but never butternut. So, throwing caution to the wind, I defrosted that bag of squash, broke out the mixer and let my freak flag fly! *ok, maybe i'm getting a little carried away, but it's what I do*

So, after doing a little bit of research for recipes involving squash, I combined a few and added my own ideas and came up with this...

This is where all of my recipes begin. It makes it much easier to make adjustments while baking. So, with recipe in hand (well, on the board), I got started. The first thing I did was to microwave defrost my squash, because it was simply taking too long in the fridge. I then proceeded to mash it up a little bit with a spoon, but since you're going to throw it in the mixer, as long as it's fully roasted and thawed, that wasn't really necessary. It was more of an - are you completely defrosted - measure. I then grated my zucchini. I like to fine grate it when using it in baking. It gives a smoother texture to the finished product. 

It comes out looking a bit like this.

I know this looks like a lot more than one cup of zucchini, but we're not quite done with  it yet. Now, some people will let it sit in a strainer for a while to get rid of the excess water. Some will blot it with a paper towel. I, however, like the squeeze it. It could be because i'm impatient, or it could be from all those times I made coleslaw with my grandmother. Her recipe called to soak the cabbage in salt water and then squeeze out all the excess water before proceeding. No matter the reason, we shall squeeze. I squeeze it a little bit at a time, placing the finished product in a bowl. When it's finished, it looks like a lot less zucchini and will actually yield about one cup. 


Now, we can venture on to mixing everything together. I start with the sugars, honey, vanilla and eggs for a nice smooth base. Mix those well, so the sugars incorporate, then add your squash and zucchini. I let these mix for about 2 minutes on medium speed (4 on my kitchen aid) so it was well mixed, then lowered the bowl, scraped it and the paddle (the zucchini gets a little wrapped around), and continued on. I added the cocoa directly to the mixer, but combined the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, salt, and baking soda in a different bowl before gradually adding it to the wet mix, scraping down the bowl as I went. Finally, I folded in the chocolate chips by hand. I greased my 12 silicone muffin cups and filled each using my quarter cup measuring cup. 

I put them in the oven and set the time for 18 minutes because the batter was a little runnier than expected. Lo and behold, they needed another 10 minutes before the toothpick came out clean. Unfortunately, they came out pretty dense and tasted a little too much like squash for a muffin. I'm thinking next time I will add some cinnamon or allspice in hopes of covering up some of that squashy flavor. Now that I've tried once, I have to get it right!

We're going to eat them. They're not that bad, but I wouldn't recommend them for company.



Final Recipe:

1/3 c white sugar
2 1/2T brown sugar
2T honey
1 c squash, roasted
1 c zucchini, shredded
2 eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 1/4c flour minus 1 T
1T cornstarch
1/4c Cocoa
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp baking powder
1/2 c chocolate chips


Combine sugar, brown sugar, honey, eggs and vanilla in a mixing bowl. Add squash and zucchini. Mix well. Add cocoa. In a separate bowl, combine flour, cornstarch, salt, baking soda, baking powder. Gradually add to we mixture. Stir in chocolate chips.
Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes

Enjoy!