Thursday, September 27, 2007

Brats and Sauerkraut

Brats and Sauerkraut

This meal is pretty self explanatory. It's bratwurst that I put in the Crockpot, covered in a giant can of sauerkraut, and then let sit on low for 8 hours. Then, I put it on a New England-style split top hot dog bun, added spicy brown mustard and enjoyed with a heaping pile o' mashed potatoes.

It's been a long, stressful week and this was *exactly* the kind of dinner I was looking forward to coming home to. And it took zero prep. Besides pinching my nose when dumping the kraut into the crock at 8 a.m., of course. It's a bit stinky to take in first thing in the morning.

Otherwise, it's one of my favorite zero fuss meals. Although brats aren't the healthiest proteins for you, at 200 calories, they aren't as high in points as you might expect, and if eaten only occasionally, won't kill you. :)

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Pumpkin Risotto

Risotto is the ultimate comfort food. Nothing is better than creamy rice cooked in chicken stock. But the Pumpkin Risotto probably isn't what you would expect. Most of the time pumpkin is used in recipes it's a sweet recipe. Cakes, breads, pancakes, etc. But in this dish, pumpkin shines in a savory role.

This recipe may be 9 pts per serving, but it's a generous serving of slightly more than a cup. Plus, with the fiberlicious pumpkin, it's a fairly filling meal. And on a rainy dreary evening like tonight, it was the perfect dish.

A few notes: The originally recipe calls for 2 tbsp of oil and a cup of cheese, both of which I cut significantly. It also calls for a 1/4 tsp of red pepper. If you like spicy food, put in the full amount. If you are a little spice shy, I would use no more than 1/8 tsp. It has quite a bit of heat as orginally written.

Pumpkin Risotto
1 3/4 cup uncooked arborio rice
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter
1 small onion, diced
1/2 cup Riesling or another sweet white wine
4 1/2 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 1/2 cup canned pumpkin (15 oz. can)
1 1/2 tsp fresh grated ginger
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Rinse the rice in a mesh strainer and drain.

In a large skillet, combine the oil, butter and onion. Saute over medium heat until the onion is soft, about 6 minutes.

Add the rice and stir until well-coated with oil and butter. Increase heat to medium-high and add the wine. Stir constantly until the wine has been absorbed.

Begin to add broth, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly and adding more liquid as it is absorbed. Once the rice has absorbed all the broth, reduce heat to medium-low. Taste to check the texture. The rice should be firm, but cooked through. If the rice is too hard or dry, add additional broth, 1/2 cup at a time.

When the rice reaches the desired texture, stir in the pumpkin, ginger and cayenne pepper. Cook, stirring constantly, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the cheese, then season to taste with salt and pepper.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Chicken and Green Beans in White Wine Sauce

Chicken an d Green Beans in White Wine Sauce

One thing I like about Cooking Light is that it always offers a section with full menus. The Chicken with Asparagus and White Wine Sauce was one of them in the October issue. But being budget conscious, I decided to change things a bit.

Although I love asparagus, it's pricey, so I swapped out green beans. And, I had yukon gold potatoes and needed an oil serving so I roasted the potatoes instead of mashing them.

The chicken was really good. I even liked the sauce. But the green beans weren't all that great. Even though the recipe said you could swap green beans for the asparagus, the green beans didn't get tender enough. Even after much longer than the recipe suggested. I will make the chicken part again, but I think I'll skip the green beans.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Pan-Roasted Fish with Burst Tomatoes and Chive Gnocchi

Pan-Roasted Fish with Burst Tomatoes and Chive Gnocchi

They say fish is good for you, so despite the cost I'm trying to eat more of it. And the recipe for Pan-Roasted Fish with Burst Tomatoes and Chive Gnocchi in Everyday with Rachael Ray looked good. I love roasted grape tomatoes and I've never had frozen gnocchi, but wanted to try it because I don't have the time or even a potato masher and I definitely don't have a food mill.

It was all pretty good. The tomatoes were the best part. Roasted in olive oil, garlic and shallots, you couldn't really go wrong there. The gnocchi was good, but homemade is most definitely better. But in a time crunch the frozen will do just fine. And if you don't like fish, this would work well with chicken, too.

Of course, I cut the butter and oil A LOT. Five tablespoons of oil is just not needed. I halved the recipe so I only used a 1/2 tbsp of oil for the tomatoes and 1 tsp of oil and olive oil spray to cook the fish. I cut the butter down to a tablespoon for two servings.

Overall it's pretty tasty. As much as foodies bitch and moan about Rachael Ray, I still like her recipes for the most part and this one in another I'll probably make some variation of some other time.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Little Italy Chicken Pitas with Sun Dried Tomato Vinaigrette

Little Italy Chicken Pitas with Sun Dried Tomato Vinaigrette

I'm not sure why these were so well rated on Cooking Light's Web site. The Little Italy Chicken Pitas were just OK. Nothing special. In fact, they were almost plain tasting.

The vinaigrette was really good, if not a little garlicky. But when you put it all together it just isn't that great. Oh well, they can't all be winners.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Zucchini, Ham, and Potato Soup

I'm not sure why I tried this soup. My last attempt at a Rachael Ray soup was not the best one out there. But I'm glad I did. This may not look like much (the picture in the magazine really isn't much more appealing!), but it's a homey, comforting soup perfect for the fall. And because you puree some of the veggies, it's creamy and filling. By my calculations it was 4 pts for a generous cup and a half or so of soup, which is, of course, even better.

The Zucchini, Ham and Potato Soup tastes something like a cross between a cream of potato soup and a ham and bean soup but without the cream and beans, of course. And the zucchini gets really tender and melds into the soup perfectly. I was so sure about having chunks of squash in my soup, but I was pleasantly surprised. And I'm not even a huge fan of dill, but I liked it here. There's just a hint.

Now, it's not what I'd call a super flavorful soup. It's almost on the bland side. But it's the good kind of bland. If there is such a thing. Maybe bland isn't the right word. Maybe it's *ordinary*. Good ordinary like a chicken noodle soup or a vegetable stew. Either way, it's probably a make again.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Classic Roast Chicken

classic roast chicken

Nothing is simpler than roast chicken. It's my standby for a busy week. If you've got a spare hour and a half, roast one up and you've got leftovers for the week. If you won't get through it, you can freeze it and use it later.

My favorite recipe so far is the Classic Roast Chicken from Cooking Light. I've noticed that some regular recipes only call for seasoning the skin. But this lightened recipe puts butter and dried herbs under the skin, thus seasoning the meat. For good measure, I rubbed some of the leftover butter/herb combo on the skin. My trick to juicey roasts every time is to use an oven bag, then let the meat rest, of course. Never fails.

Cooked chicken goes in a zillion things. You can make enchiladas, tacos, sandwiches or wraps, soups, or even stirfrys. You're only limited by your imagination. This week I'm working about 65 hours (they dropped a shift from my schedule at my begging) so I'm using it for chicken salad pitas.

Although sometimes I eat the chicken plain—right off the bird. Because it's just that good.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Pumpkin Pancakes

I love pancakes. There's just something about their fluffy deliciousness. And I haven't met a pancake that I didn't enjoy, even if it's just a little. I've made multi-grain, blueberry, plain, even ones made mostly of ricotta.

Ohio is in the middle of a cool snap right now. It's not cold enough to bust out the dutch oven and braise short ribs, but cold enough that I start craving fall foods. And my favorite fall food is pumpkin. I love pumpkin so much I have pumpkin scented candles, I stir pumpkin puree into my oatmeal, and I even make a really awesome pumpkin risotto. So why not combine my two loves and make Pumpkin Pancakes?

These pancakes were awesome. A little more dense than your average pancake, but really wonderful anyhow. Because they were more dense they really stick to your ribs. Perfect for brunch on a crisp afternoon like today. I topped the pancakes with toasted pecans and warm syrup.

Bottom line: I suggest you make these pancakes ASAP. But do the pancakes—and yourself—a favor and don't drown them in sugar free pancake syrup. Respect them enough to use only the real deal.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Sizzling Steak Fajitas

Flank steak is a tough meat to cook — and sometimes — a tough meat to chew. If it's not sliced diagonally across the grain or it's over cooked. Forget it. You'll need razor blades for teeth to get through that meal.

I've had mixed results with flank steak in the past. Take this spinach and steak mistake. The Flank Steak Fajitas with Garden Vegetables was good, but I guess this time I around I was looking for less veggies. I love vegetables, but I'm not sure squash had a place in my fajitas. Oh, and I overcooked the steak.

Luckily, I didn't need the teeth as sharp as daggers this time. The Sizzling Steak Fajitas weren't what I'd call sizzling, but they were closer to what I am looking for in a fajita. The flavor was bland when I tasted it as I was cooking. It needed a lot more salt for one. But once I added the green salsa and rolled it up in the whole wheat tortilla they were *much* better.

I'm going to try this again. Except next time I'll take a hint from a local, cheap Mexican food joint and add some spicy chorizo to the mix. They may be more than the 7 pts. they were tonight, but they'll be tasty. And if I get the cast iron pan I want so badly for my birthday — watch out. I'll be a fajita making fiend.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Shrimp Fattoush

This salad is a great way to get in your daily oils. The salad is fresh and quick and because the acid in the dressing lemon juice, it's really refreshing. It makes a satisfying lunch or light dinner. This is something I'll definitely make again.

A few notes, though. I left out the mint because I'm not the hugest fan. I also used whole wheat pitas instead of the more traditional white ones. I add fiber where I can. Lastly, I upped the amount of lettuce. The salad didn't seem too substantial without a little something more. But here's the recipe as written. It comes out to be about 8 pts per serving. It's from the Columbus Dispatch.

Shrimp Fattoush
2 pita breads
1 pound shrimp, peeled, deveined
Salt and pepper to taste
2 cups chopped romaine lettuce
1 cucumber, chopped
2 tomatoes, chopped
1/2 cup parsley leaves
1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh mint leaves
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
Salt and pepper to taste

To make salad: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Bake pita bread until toasted, about 5 to 7 minutes. Break into 1-inch pieces.

Meanwhile, heat oil in a heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add shrimp. Season with salt and pepper. Saute until pink and just cooked through, about 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to a bowl.

Combine lettuce, cucumber, tomatoes, parsley and mint in a large bowl.

To make dressing: Whisk lemon juice, olive oil andgarlic until well-blended. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add a couple of spoonfuls of dressing to shrimp. Toss to coat. Add remaining dressing to salad. Toss to coat. Add pita pieces and toss. Divide among 4 plates. Top with shrimp and serve.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Cheesy Zucchini and Red Onion Flatbread

Cheesy Zucchini and Red Onion Flatbread

Here's another example of a high-fat recipe that is easily modified and still tastes just about the way it does when it's made as directed. The Cheesy Zucchini and Red Onion Flatbread clocked in at 9 pts per 6 servings as written. Once I changed a few things, it was more like 8 pts for 4 servings (which trust me, isn't a huge piece).

First of all, I watched the amount of oil I used. Second, I bought the Alloutte Light Garlic and Herb cheese instead of the regular. Finally, I cut the amount of parmesan *drastically*. Parmesan is a stronger cheese that you can use less of of and still get the flavor. And last time I made it I don't recall tasting much of the parmesan through all of the garlic and herb anyhow. So you aren't missing much.

What I like most about this recipe is that it doesn't use many weird ingredients and, of course, with most of my weeknight cooking, it's done in about 30 minutes or less. Plus, its pizza-esque. And who doesn't like pizza?

Monday, September 10, 2007

Gorgonzola Topped Pork Tenderloin

Gorgonzola Topped Pork Tenderloin

This meal is a bang for your points buck if you ask me. At 4 points per serving (without the mashed potatoes or asparagus) you just can't beat the Gorgonzola Topped Pork Tenderloin. Red wine and blue cheese? YUM. This meal exemplifies my Weight Watchers point of view. You can eat indulgent foods (like pork covered in gorgonzola cheese and red wine) and still stay well within your points target.

It's easy enough for everyday cooking. The entire meal took less than 30 minutes to prepare. But it's fancy enough to serve if you're having company.

It's also good over polenta. I ate mine with creamy parmesan polenta (1/2 cup quick cooking polenta stirred into 3/4 cup chicken stock and 3/4 cup skim milk. Stir in 1/4 cup parmesan at the end). Overall, a delicious meal I will most certainly make again.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Herbed Basmati Rice

Herbed Basmati Rice

Sunday's dinner got off to a rough start. I came home from a long day at work and an hour-long weights session at the gym to find that my chicken in the crockpot wasn't holding at warm. It was cold. I immediately blamed DBF for not setting the timer right. But it turned out that we had a power outtage, which reset the entire thing. Turns out the chicken was cooked through, so we took our chances. I served it with Herbed Basmati Rice and Roasted Green Beans.

I apologize for the terrible photo. I really need to find a lighting solution because it's getting darker sooner in the evening. And natural light seems to be the best. The flash just ruins things. And it didn't help that the meal was kind of bland looking.

But it was good, I swear. I had DBF help make the rice and he over peppered it, but otherwise delish. It was a simple way to dress up plain rice and elevate it as a side dish. It's a little high in points at 4 pts per 2/3 cup, but I would say its worth it. Besides, the rice is cooked in stock, which is the best way to eat rice in my opinion.

The rest of the week is up in the air. Tomorrow will probably be meatball subs. Saturday I'll post the week ahead because I actually have a plan for next week. Lots of good food planned. And the Endamame Hummus made it back into the menu. Maybe I'll actually make it. Or maybe not.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Green Tea Ice Cream

Green Tea Ice Cream

I don't always eat perfectly OP. I try, I really do, but sometimes I'm scanning a cookbook or a food blog and I come across something and crave it for weeks on end. Real ice cream was one of those things. I occasionally read the food blog Chocolate & Zucchini. A few posts ago she made ice cream and mentioned The Perfect Scoop. I decided I had to check out the book and it didn't disappoint.

I decided to make the green tea ice cream and set DBF out on a matcha green tea finding mission. I found matcha green tea lattes and other liquid forms, but I needed the powder. Finally, about four stores later DBF stopped in an Asian market and after confusing the poor clerk by spelling matcha with a "t" (apparently she's only ever seen it spelled macha?) and after hearing her life's story, he found green tea powder.

Luckily, the ice cream was perfectly creamy and addicting. I don't even want to think about how much we consumed. And at 9 pts. per half a cup, you'd better have some serious WPA or AP for this. Or, as I figured last week when I made it... I don't really care.

My advice, if you choose to make full fat ice cream, is to pick a strong flavor that pairs well with a lower point dessert and have just a little teeny tiny bit. And then give the rest of it away before you get into it and eat it like a madwoman. The other suggestion, eat it when you're full. Beware of eating tasty high fat treats when hungry. Then end result isn't pretty.

I'm not posting the recipe b/c I didn't change it enough to feel comfortable posting it. E-mail me if you want to spend copious amounts of points you probably don't have. :)