Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Busting out the slow cooker

In a previous post I mentioned I am the new proud parent of a 6-quart Crock-Pot. The mother of all Crock-Pots, this thing has a digital timer, and can be programmed. It was my Easter gift from my mom this year. She knows me so well.

I've already made the Roasted Lemon Chicken that I posted about a week or so ago. My latest was a lentil soup. I made soup this week for lunch because I worked all weekend and didn't have time to make something fancy for lunch. I liked that I could chop a few things, toss it in the crock Sunday night and by lunchtime the next day the soup was ready to eat. Even the maintainance man (who came at 8:30 ish when I was in the shower!!) said it smelled good.

It's pretty good. Not the best lentil soup I've ever had, but it does the trick. If using the ham, I would definitely put it in only to warm it up. I put it in at the very beginning and it's like eating dried pellets of ham. Not that appetizing.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Swap outs gone wild

I "tried" to make a new dish last night. But, I'm not sure it came out how it was supposed to. I probably swapped too many ingredients. The recipe is actually Andouille Sausage and Shrimp with Creole Mustard Sauce. But that's not really what I made.

Instead of andouille, I used light smoked sausage and instead of creole mustard, I used whole grain mustard. Probably not an acceptable swap. But, I couldn't find creole mustard and I had the whole grain mustard on hand. Such is life. I also cut down on the oil just to make the points even lower, although by using light smoked sausage, it's not really a bad-for-you dish to begin with. Sometimes you can find fairly healthy recipes in Bon Appetit. Other times, not so much. Too bad it's the recipes that aren't so much healthy that I love the most.

It was fairly decent but WAY too salty for my tastes. Definitely use a salt-free creole seasoning and low sodium chicken broth (which I did use). The cornbread was really tasty, though. But it's hard to mess up Jiffy. :)

Monday, April 23, 2007

They can't all be winners

Most of the time, my food comes out pretty well. It's pretty darn delicious. But sometimes recipes fail. Maybe it's just not my taste, maybe I misinterpreted the directions, or maybe the recipe was just plain bad.

Last night I was craving comfort food, so I made the DBF and I some homemade stove top macaroni and cheese. I found a recipe for the lightened version in Cook's Illustrated's Best Light Recipe. It failed miserably. First of all, I burned the milk mixture, so it did taste a little charred (even though I strained out the burnt pieces). But I think it was more than that. I didn't care for the cheese I used, which was Cabot's 50 percent light. It was actually nasty. Even though it got such good reviews. Maybe the block I had was a bit old, or maybe I'm just so conditioned to like the fake yellow stuff that I wouldn't know good cheddar if I had it? Who knows. But the dinner stunk. I could barely finish it. Even DBF could barely choke it down, and he'll eat just about anything. Except beans and raisins. He really hates those, but have been known to eat both in my presence so as not to make me feel bad.

The macaroni looks good at least... (maybe?)

Macaroni and Cheese
3/8 pound elbow macaroni (about 2 cups)
1 (12-ounce) can 2 percent reduced-fat evaporated milk
2/3 cup low-fat milk (2 percent)
1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder or celery salt (optional)
Pinch cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons cornstarch
8 ounces 50 percent light cheddar cheese , grated (about 2 cups)

Bring 2 1/2 quarts water to a boil in a large saucepan. Stir in 2 teaspoons salt and the macaroni; cook until the pasta is completely cooked and tender, about 5 minutes. Drain the pasta and leave it in the colander; set aside.

Add the evaporated milk, 1/2 cup of the 2 percent milk, mustard, garlic powder (if using), cayenne, and 1/2 teaspoon salt to the now-empty saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Whisk the cornstarch and remaining 1/4 cup milk together, then whisk it into the simmering mixture. Continue to simmer, whisking constantly, until the sauce has thickened and is smooth, about 2 minutes.

Off the heat, gradually whisk in the cheddar until melted and smooth. Stir in the macaroni, and let the macaroni and cheese sit off the heat until the sauce has thickened slightly, 2 to 5 minutes, before serving.

PER SERVING: 360 calories; 10 grams fat; 1 gram fiber

The salad in the background was a version of Cooking Light's Caesar Salad with Bagel Croutons. That was delicious as always. I love making that salad.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Sickness sucks

The title might not be creative, but it is fitting — being sick sucks. I haven't cooked much this week, or followed any kind of healthy eating plan because I ran a fever between 99 and 100 for three days. Yesterday was my first day back to work. And I am so far behind, I could cry. Usually, I'm behind because I'm a lazy procrastinator. But at least this month I'm behind for legit reasons. I was sick enough to not even bother getting off the couch to warm a can of soup. Not that I buy canned soups. Instead, I ate an entire box of Saltines. Yum. Sometimes, I smeared peanut butter on them.

Last night I did make a marinara sauce with portabello mushrooms and made a mixed greens salad with a light vinaigrette. I call it my, 'quick eat everything in the fridge before it spoils' meal. It was depressing to see some of my vegetables had already bit the dust. I hate wasting good money like that. But, what can a gal do when the only food within reach of the couch was peanut butter, saltines, and a jug of Gatorade? Not a whole lot. I'm a big baby when I'm sick. I'm not afraid to admit that.

Before I came down with the 36-hour flu, I made a couple of meals.

Spicy scallops and rice with bacon and peas from the William's Sonoma healthy cooking cookbook.

Lemon roasted chicken in my brand new, 6-quart Crock-Pot, balsamic roasted asparagus, and yes, that's Uncle Ben's wild rice. I worked an 8 1/2 hour day on my feet, and I was coming down with the flu. Can't expect much. Sometimes, the stuff from the box isn't bad. I'm human. Take a look at the steam coming off the plate, though. Can't create that stuff on Photoshop.

Tomorrow I'll post the recipes for the chicken and the scallops.

Friday, April 13, 2007

I was thinking Arby's

Last night, while I was watching the commercials during CSI (although I had DVR'd it and could have avoided them) they played the sourdough melt 2 for $3 commercial a zillion and one times. And that's an exact number. I counted them.

I think it's subliminal advertising because this week, during my week o' stress, I decided to meet the boyfriend for lunch at the local Arby's for said sourdough cheddar melt. I typically despise fast food. And now I remember why. It wasn't very good. Not worth the calories. Except for the potato cakes, oh, the triangles of fried potato goodness.

So adding to my list of favorite things, it's now potato cakes, breakfast, polenta, and grain salads. Hmm.. that's a lot of carbs. Although breakfast, in theory, could be carb-free, I prefer the carb-o-licious items like pancakes, french toast, hash browns, bagels, english muffins... this list could go on forever. I heart carbs. I don't need veggies. I need carbs and lots of them.

So now when I see that Arby's commercial I can think "blech" and move on.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

I'll take that to go, please

I work two jobs. I have a day job, which I refer to as job #1. In my day job, or what I also call my "real" job, I am a professional writer/editor for a trade publication. I'm a stronger writer than I am an editor, that's for sure. I'm almost positive that my posts are grammatical messes, but I don't really care. I did, however, have one of my interview subjects make grammatical corrections to a story I sent to him for fact checking purposes. Awesome. Nothing like a sales manager correcting your grammar to make you feel good about your job performance.

In job #2, I am a sales associate for a department store. Right now it's really stressful and typically not all that enjoyable, but I'll thank myself later when I can afford my own home and get married credit card debt-free. In the mean time, I have to answer questions like, "Do you think these buttons will go through airport security?" Seriously. I'm not kidding. Someone actually asked me that. I think I told her that I have never worn that particular shirt to the airport, so I had no way of knowing.

All of that adds up to 60-75 hours per week on average. I tell job #2 I can't work more than 20 hours per week, but somehow it always ends up being more than that. Either I take a shift b/c I don't know how to say no to people, or they over schedule me because they are trying to kill me. I then have to remind them that if they kill me — I can't work. I'd be deceased.

That leaves very little time for cooking, or really, eating in general. Most of my meals are eaten out of Tupperware® knockoffs. Today's lunch was a fajita salad, and tonight's dinner is leftover chicken and broccoli stirfry with oyster sauce. The salad was lettuce, pinto beans, cheddar cheese, green pepper, red onion, tomato, and Cilantro-Lime Sauce as the dressing. If you need me to tell you what's in that stir-fry.. then you need more help than I can give you :)

Tomorrow, sadly, will probably be canned soup and a frozen meal. Boo.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Falling off the wagon so hard I think I broke something

Seriously. I have been way off track. I think downing five or six small double chocolate chew cookies on the way home from work last night (job #2) was what cinched my day as officially not being OP. I put the cookies in my trunk so I wouldn't eat them, but then ate them on the way home. Oh well. It's done.

Because of my eating escapades, I'm up to 140. An entire 10 pounds up from just before Christmas. I need to get things under better control.

Today I've recommitted because I think that's what it's going to take. I sat down with the trusty Plan Manager and logged out my day and my week. Even with a couple of beers on Saturday night, I should be good as gold. Yay!

No pictures today, but this is what I ate for breakfast. It's fairly good. The vanilla soymilk adds a good flavor. I wouldn't substitute plain or skim milk for it. I do use the light version though so I'm only using half a point. I eat this with a 1/4 cup of almonds or a couple of wasa crackers w/ some peanut butter.

Strawberry Breakfast Shake
1/2 cup skim milk
1/2 cup vanilla soymilk
1 cup fresh/frozen strawberries

Blend them all together and serve.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Another grain salad...

I think you can add grain salads to my growing list of obsessions. Right along side breakfast and polenta.. especially when it's polenta for breakfast. I like these for a variety of reasons. One, they are easy to make, which is important for my lunch. Second, they hold up well in the fridge.. and well, they are good cold or at room temperature. And add something like chicken or tuna, and you've got a meal that is surprisingly satisfying.

So newbies can stop referring to core as "like Atkins" b/c you certainly can't eat Vegetable Couscous on Atkins.

Monday, April 2, 2007

Faster than takeout

Tonight I made a Core +1 recipe. Honestly, it can easily be made into a completely Core recipe, and best yet, I had it all on the table in around 20 minutes.

Skillet Stuffed Peppers from Cooking Light really are "superfast." And that's even with making my own mashed potatoes because Simply Potatoes mashed potatoes aren't Core. The reason it's Core +1 is because I topped it with 2 tbsp of Tillamook sharp cheddar cheese rather than fat free or soy cheese. A couple of notes.. don't liberally salt the potatoes and use less sodium taco seasoning. You shouldn't need the whole packet. in my opinion. I used half and it was WAY too salty. I think the cheddar added to the salt. It almost tasted like I had dumped salt on it. Other than that it was a make-again recipe, especially considering it's so quick to make.

Don't believe it's fast? I even had time to make tomorrow's lunch...Vegetable Couscous Salad.