July 30, 2008
Keeping a well-stocked freezer is key for weeks like this. Some people may wonder why I take the time to cook up batches of marinara sauce thorughout the winter months. The main reason is so that when I want to do a quick meal of spaghetti and meatballs I don't have to use a sauce from a jar - I know exactly what's in the sauce I use. I always keep some Trader Joe's Party Size Meatballs on hand becuase the boys love them and they are the perfect size for them to eat easily. I hope to make up my own meatballs this winter so that I can have a stash in the freezer.
My posting may be a bit sporadic over the next few weeks between social commitments and trips to the shore. So, stick with me and I'll post whenever I can. I do appreciate everyone who stops by just to vist, and will do my best to respond to all comments over the next few weeks.
July 21, 2008
I have no idea where this cookbook came from, but on my bookshelf I found the Nestle Best Loved Cookies cookbook. As I paged through I saw quite a few possibilities but just couldn't settle on one that fit my mood. Once I got to the "lighter delights" chapter I knew I found the right place for me! Those of you who have been visiting regularly may have noticed a trend lately - I've been REALLY, REALLY, REALLY trying to make more healthy and low-calorie recipes. Of course, I can't do that all the time because I don't believe in deprivation - I love food way too much for that. But, when I found this cookie cookbook had a lighter version of several of the recipes I was definitely interested to see if they would satisfy my never ending sweet tooth.
I decided to make the Good-for-You-Choc-Oat-Chip Cookies. I don't know why, but I have been wanting to find a really yummy oatmeal based cookie. I could make the one on the container of oatmeal, which is good, but I didn't want raisins and finding something that is lower in calories means I might be able to indulge in 2 cookies instead of just one. I also left out the nuts in the recipe, which means the calories are even lower than stated in the recipe. Of course with only 120 calories and 5 grams of fat per cookie, you can indulge even if you do add the nuts.
This recipe also gave me the chance to use another Penzey's spice that I had purchased, Chinese Cassia Cinnamin. Just opening the jar puts this incredible sweet and pungent scent in the air. The cinnamin in the recipe is not the star, but I must tell you that if you have a really good cinnamin it is worth using in this recipe. The extra punch of flavor added to the cookie is key to the overall taste. These lightened cookies are so delicious! I baked them so that they would stay soft and chewy rather than crispy. The texture with the oatmeal and chocolate chips is just like a perfect oatmeal cookie.
Source: Nestle Best Loved Cookies
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 1/4 cups packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) margarine
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 egg whites
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups quick or old-fashioned oats
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional)
Combine flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon in a small bowl. Beat together brown sugar, granulated sugar, margarine and applesauce in a large mixer bowl. Beat in egg whites and vanilla. Gradually beat in the flour mixture. Stir in the oats, chocolate and nuts. Drop by tablespoonful onto greased baking sheets.
Bake in a pre-heated oven at 375 degrees for 9-10 minutes if you want a chewy cookie - 12-13 minutes for crispy cookies. Let stand on the cookie sheet after baking for 2 minutes, then remove to wire racks to completely cool.
Makes about 4 dozen cookies.
Here are some more healthy treats to try:
Low-Fat Mini Cheesecake Tarts @ Stephanie's Kitchen
Double Chocolate Cookies @ Enlightened Cooking
Smoothies and Popsicles @ Prudence Pennywise
July 19, 2008
July 17, 2008
So, this new cookbook of Rachael's is geared to kid-friendly food and getting them into the kitchen with you. It's also supposed to be somewhat healthy, I say that because there are some recipes that I didn't feel were all that healthy - a bit too much sugar or oil here and there. At any rate, there are some cute lunchbox ideas in it and a few main dish meals that I thought might go over well with my family.
For our first try at this cookbook, I decided to make the Paprika Pork Chops with Swiss Chard Egg Noodles. Swiss Chard is something I've never tasted before, so it was definitely a new one for us. It looks quite a lot like fresh spinach, but it's flavor is SIGNIFICANTLY different. I cooked it according to the instructions, but if it's supposed to taste bitter - let's just say we won't be having that again. We tried it, so at least we can say we gave it a shot before knocking a perfectly good vegetable off of our shopping list.
Since this was a new veggie for us, I am sharing this with Toontz at Okara Mountain who hosts the monthly blogging event Triple Dog Dare. This month the dare is to cook with a vegetable you've never cooked with before... I think this fits since it's a first for cooking with it AND with eating it! Even though we didn't care for it, I imagine others do - just like broccoli rabe... not a big fan of that one either. Guess I'm not a fan of bitter vegetables.
The second part of the recipe was the Paprika Pork Chops. For the paprika, I dug into my stash of Penzey's spices and used the Half Sharp Hungarian Paprika. I love the smokiness of this paprika, so much more interesting and flavorful than the McCormick paprika at the grocery store. This was a quick and easy way to prepare pork chops, just enough oil in this recipe to create a nice crisp crust on them. Everyone enjoyed them, and My Oldest said I should make them alot since he had 3 servings (keep in mind that he's 6 and 3 servings equates to one whole 4 ounce pork chop!).
At this point, I don't think I need to own this particular cookbook as there are maybe 2-3 recipes that sound like something we'd enjoy. So, now I have to go back to the library and see what else I can pick and take for a "test drive"!
Source: Rachael Ray, Yum-O!
4 (6-ounce) boneless pork loin chops
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup plain bread crumbs
1/4 cup canola or vegetable oil
2 tablespoons butter
1 bunch Swiss chard, deveined and chopped
1/2 pound extra wide egg noodles
freshly grated or ground nutmeg
4 lemon wedges
Place a large pot of water on to boil the egg noodles.
Place the chops between wax paper or plastic wrap and pound out no more tha 1/4-inch thick. season the pork cutlets with salt and pepper (I forgot to do this!). Combine the flour and paprika on a plate. Beat the eggs in a shallow dish. Place the bread crumbs on a second plate. coat the chops in flour, shake off the excess, then coat them in egg and bread crumbs.
Heat about 3 tablespoons of the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add the cutlets and cook until golden - about 4 minutes on each side.
Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil and the butter in a deep skillet over medium heat. When the butter melts into the oil, add the chard and cook for 6-7 minutes. Drop the egg noodles into the pot of boiling water after a minute or two. When the noodles are al dente, drain and add to the chard, toos and season wit salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste.
If you this recipe sounds like something your family might enjoy, you might want to check these out:
Homemade Crispy Chicken Strips at Sweetnicks
Orecchiette with Broccoli, Bacon & Lemon @ Enlightened CookingChicken and Spinach Quesadillas @ Annie's Eats
July 15, 2008
Over the weekend I realized I had some rather sad looking over-ripe bananas so I went searching for a different banana bread to try out on my family. The Orange Banana-Nut Bread looked really good and since I had all the ingredients on hand, I went to work. The only changes I made to the recipe was to leave out the nuts since I'm not a big fan of them in breads and I used Penzey's Orange Peel instead of fresh since I didn't have any oranges on hand. I only used about a half tablespoon of the orange peel since it was dried and the recommendation was to use 1/3 of what the recipe calls for when substituting.
As I was making the bread, the addition of the orange peel and the orange juice had me intrigued because the scent was rather strong. Not that the scent was a bad thing at all, I just wasn't sure if the orange flavor would overpower the natural goodness of banana bread as we typically enjoy it. It baked up beautifully in about 50 minutes. It was difficult allowing it to cool before cutting into it, but we managed to wait a little while. My oldest came wandering in saying that something smelled so good it was making him hungry. We all sampled the bread and found it to be nice and moist with just the faintest hint of orange to it. It was still moist and delicious for breakfast the next morning, I am sure it would freeze well as other quickbreads do so, you could make a double batch and save one for later. I think I'll be making this version again since it was lighter which means I can enjoy it without feeling like I am over-indulging.
I am anxious to try more recipes from this new cookbook. I know I can trust Cooking Light to provide some fantastic light and healthy recipes that my family will enjoy.
Since this bread has delicious bananas as well as orange juice in it, I'm going to share it with Sweetnick's ARF 5-a-day round-up of recipes using fruits and vegetables. Every Tuesday the round-up includes fantastic recipes from the blogging world. Be sure to go and check them out!
Orange Banana-Nut bread
Source: Cooking Light, Five Star Recipes (2008)
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter, softened
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups mashed ripe banana (about 3 bananas)
1 1/2 tablespoons grated orange rind (I substituted 1/2 tablespoon of Penzey's Orange Peel)
3 tablespoons fresh orange juice
1/3 cup chopped walnuts (I omitted the nuts as a personal preference)
Preheat oven to 350º.
Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups, and level with a knife. Combine the flour, baking soda, and salt, stirring with a whisk.
Place sugar and butter in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended (about 1 minute). Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add banana, rind, and juice; beat until blended. Add flour mixture; beat at low speed just until moist. Stir in walnuts; spoon batter into an 8 1/2 x 4 1/2-inch loaf pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350° for 1 hour and 5 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes in pan on a wire rack; remove from pan. Cool completely on wire rack.
If you enjoy quickbreads and muffins, you may want to take a look at these recipes:
Lemony Muffins from Stephanie's Kitchen
Mini Banana Crumb Muffins from Genesis of a Cook
Chocolate Chip Banana Bread from Joy the Baker
July 14, 2008
I can't even take full credit for the recipe that they selected since it was my friend, Anya, who made it! The Grilled Zucchini Roll-ups with Goat Cheese was a recipe she found on-line at Health Magazine. They truly are wonderful and the creaminess of the cheese with the basil and grilled summer zucchini are a match made in appetizer heaven!
I'll be posting a new banana bread recipe soon, and I have a few other things "cooking" in the kitchen this week.
July 12, 2008
After the show, we walked over to Ruby Foo's. Now, we've been there several times and at that time of night we've always gotten seated quickly. Last night was no different. The service was very good. My main complaint is that we ordered a couple of maki rolls that had either shrimp tempura in it or a crispy element - they were NOT crispy! They tasted fine, but if I'm going to splurge on tempura I REALLY want that crispy texture in there. Oh well, some times you hit it on an off night.
Back to our regularly scheduled programming...
Our theme for Bunko this month was Red, White and Blue. Coming up with something that is not a dessert that fits this theme was next time impossible! A few people did manage, but it was mostly desserts. We are going to have to come up with a theme that has more "real" food next month! Anyway, I opted to fill the red and white part of the theme by making a Lemon Cream Pie with Strawberries. Trying to use ingredients I had on hand, I think I came up with a really tasty summer treat! I didn't have my usual low-fat versions of some things on hand, but this could very easily be lightened. One ingredient I had been wanting to use was Lemon Curd. I picked up the jar at Trader Joe's awhile ago because I had been reading about it on various cooking sites and wanted to taste it. It is a VERY tart and creamy condiment that can be used to spread on toast or bagels - and frequently as part of a dessert. I liked the tartness, which was offset a little bit by the pudding and the cream cheese so it was not completely overpowering.
Lemon Cream Pie w/Strawberries
8 ounces Cream Cheese
1 box instant lemon pudding (vanilla would work nicely as well)
1/2 cup prepared lemon curd
1 cup milk
4 ounces whipped cream
1 graham cracker crust
freshly halved strawberries for garnish
Combine cream cheese through milk in a bowl and mix thoroughly with a handmixer. Once fully blended, fold in the whipped cream. Pour into prepared graham cracker crust and refrigerate over night (or for at least 6-8 hours). Garnish with stawberries or other fresh fruit of your choice.
If you are looking for more summery desserts, you may want to check these out:
Marionberry Galette @ Culinary Concoctions by Peabody
Ice Cream Cupcakes @ Joy the Baker
Blueberry Hand Pies @ Genesis of a Cook
Enjoy the rest of the weekend!
July 9, 2008
Here are some more recipes using fresh vegetables and pasta from around the blogging world. Go check out these blogs as they are all fantastic and worth reading!
July 8, 2008
Everyone enjoyed it and I even had some leftover to bring in to work today. I must say that the Parmesan cheese really added the extra flavor needed to this dish. If you happen to have some leftover chicken hanging around this is a great way to use it up. Just dig in to your pantry and fridge and see what you have and start tossing things together!
This is a perfect pasta dish to share with Presto Pasta Night Round-up for this Friday which is being hosted by Gay @ A Scientist in the Kitchen.
Penne with Roasted Chicken and Capers
2 cups sliced chicken (you could use the roasted chicken from Costco or your local grocery store)
2 tablespoons EVOO
2-3 teaspoons chopped garlic (depends on how much your family likes, we LOVE garlic at our house)
2 teaspoons capers
1/2 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley (you could also use fresh basil if you have it on hand)
1/2 pound cooked penne pasta (if you use whole wheat pasta, you increase the fiber and health benefits of this dish)
1-2 tablespoons chicken broth
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Start the pasta cooking according to the package directions.
Heat the EVOO in a large skillet then add the garlic and saute for 1-2 minutes - just until it starts to become fragrant. Next add the capers and the sliced chicken. Saute all together for about 5 minutes to ensure the chicken has been heated through.
When pasta has finished cooking, drain and add to the skillet and toss to coat with the EVOO, garlic and capers. Add in the chopped parsley and toss. If the pasta seems a bit dry, add in 1 to 2 tablespoons of chicken broth to loosen things up a bit.
Serve with a nice big salad of leafy greens and you have a complete meal.
I often come across fantastic ideas for simple dishes while reading some favorite blogs. So, I am going to try to share those great finds whenever I can. Check out these recipes:
Lemon Chicken Spaghetti Toss by Kristen @ Dine and Dish
Spinach Artichoke Fettucini Fini with Sausage by Jenny @ Picky Palate
Linguine with Zucchini, Browned Butter and Garlic by Stepanie @ Stephanie's Kitchen
Each of these recipes can go together rather quickly for a weeknight meal. I think I even have all the ingredients in my kitchen as we speak! I better get cooking so I can sample these fantastic dishes for myself!
July 7, 2008
In spite of my chicken looking a bit un-appetizing, it really did taste good. I do think that next time we'll opt for mesquite since I think the hickory flavor was a bit mild.
We got our smoker last summer and used it ONE time. Mainly because the first time we smoked a chicken, it came out absolutely beautiful, nice and golden and just a sight to see. Only problem was after 6 hours it still was not done! That frustrated us, mainly because we couldn't keep the temperature regulated. This time we watched it very closely and had to open and close the damper frequently to maintain a proper temperature.
There really is no recipe for what we did to make our purple smoked chicken... perhaps that's a good thing? I am intriqued by the whole idea of smoking various types of meats and fish, but I'll tell you the amount of time spent watching over it will make me think twice. You have to really want to hang out at home for hours and watch the temperature. I am going to send My Husband to find mesquite logs or something like that as I think they might burn more evenly, and might allow us a little freedom to do some other things around the house for more than a few minutes.
Anyone out there smoked chicken, fish or beef with great success? Please do share your tips as I want to master this cooking technique since we have the oversized thing in our backyard!
July 6, 2008
Pesto is actually a combination of basil, pine nuts, parmesan cheese and olive oil. I wanted to make it from scratch since it is really a very simple combination of ingredients. I went searching for a lower calorie version since I wanted to have another side dish option that wouldn't make me feel guilty at the barbeque we went to on Saturday. I found a lighter version at Cooking Light. The only change I ended up making to their version was to add one more tablespoon of EVOO. It just seemed like it was a bit too dry and that it wouldn't coat the tortellini that I wanted to take.
The flavor was very good, and I used walnuts instead of pine nuts since My Husband doesn't care for the flavor of pine nuts. I only used a couple of tablespoons to coat the tortellini, so the rest will be used to add to a soup (at the end of cooking) that I have planned for this week and possibly as an accompaniment to some grilled chicken as well. I love how versatile pesto is, and if you have too much it can be frozen for use later.
July 5, 2008
- 1/2 head iceberg lettuce, shredded
- 1 green bell pepper, diced
- 3-4plum tomatoes, diced
- 4 kirby cucumbers, diced
- 1-2 bunches scallions, thinly sliced
- 2 cups low-fat mayonnaise
- 1 cup reduced fat sour cream
- 1 one ounce package Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing mix
- 8 ounces reduced fat shredded cheddar cheese
- In a trifle dish, layer the lettuce, green bell pepper, tomatoes, cucumbers and scallions.
- Combine the mayo through dressing mix. Make sure to mix thoroughly. Then pour over the top of the vegetables, making sure to seal the edges.
- Sprinkle the cheddar cheese over the top. Cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 4 hours prior to serving.
July 4, 2008
- 1 cup low-fat vanilla yogurt
- 1/2 cup low-fat milk
- 1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
- 1 ripe banana
- about 1-2 teaspoons chocolate syrup
- 2 cupsice cubes
- Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. If you like a thicker consistency, add more ice.
July 3, 2008
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 3 tablespoons lemon juice
- 6 medium cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 4 (5-6 inch diameter) portobello mushrooms, stems removed and discarded, caps wiped clean
- Combine oil through salt in a large zip-lock plastic bag. Add mushrooms; seal bag and gently shake to coat mushrooms with marinade. Let stand at room temperature until seasoned, about 1 hour.
- Meanwhile, cut 4 12-inch square pieces of foil (I used one large piece of foil that all mushrooms could fit inside).
- Remove mushrooms from marinade. Place foil square on work surface and set mushroom(s) on top, gill side up. Fold foil edges over to enclose the mushroom and seal the edges.
- Cook over high heat on gas grill for 7-9 minutes. Then, using tongs unseal the foil and remove mushrooms to grill top. Place gill side up so that the top will get grill marks. Cook for about 1 minute.
July 2, 2008
July 1, 2008
Once I had these beautifully cut pieces of zucchini, I heated about 1 tablespoon EVOO in a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Then I tossed in the zucchini and did a quick turn of it all to make sure it got a quick coating of the EVOO. Then, I sprinkled about 2-3 teaspoons of Penzey's Fox Point Seasoning over it and did a quick stir. I sauteed the whole thing about 5-7 minutes until they were cooked, but still just slightly crisp. Oh my, this was good! The addition of the Fox Point Seasoning was so yummy - it has dried shallots, chives and scallions and it added just enough to brighten the flavor of the zucchini. This seasoning can also be used for scrambled eggs (can't wait to try that!), fish, baked chicken or in dips. It's very versatile and I can see I'll need to keep a stash of this on hand for that very reason.
The zucchini was a hit with everyone at my dinner table, which is a bonus for me since it was so simple to put together - thanks to my new mandoline! We did have some left over and I plan to nibble on that for lunch tomorrow. Yummy!