Thursday, July 31, 2008

Chicken and Sausage Kebabs

Shrimp and Sausage Kebabs

If my boyfriend loves chorizo. He had never had it until he met me, but now that he's had it, he orders it whenever we go out.

Chorizo, a type of smoked sausage of sorts comes in two forms, Mexican chorizo -- the uncooked variety that comes in long tubes, or Spanish chorizo -- a cooked sausage that usually comes in smaller links.

Unfortunately, near me, the only real place I can find the Spanish variety is at Whole Foods. I've found the Mexican at my normal grocery store and even at the discount food chain Aldi's. I didn't want to stop at Whole Foods, so I decided to try a smoked sausage instead.

And with results that were less than fantastic. First of all, sausage is a fatty choice. So if you're going to indulge in sausage, it should be the most flavorful you can find. That way, you can use less of it and not feel cheated in the slightest. So, chorizo, with it's extra spiciness, definitely would have been better.

That being said, I'm sure this dish is not the healthiest out there -- period. But you don't end up using all of the marinade, so I wouldn't even know how to count it. Maybe see how much marinade you made and measure what's left afterward?

When I made this recipe I made the marinade as directed, but used smaller shrimp and of course swapped smoked sausage (you could use a light or turkey sausage if you prefer). I also left the oil out of the couscous and upped the whole grains by using whole wheat couscous. I might also cut the couscous recipe in half for four people and add a steamed veggie on the side. And if using chorizo.. up the amount of shrimp and cut down the amount of chorizo used to keep the points value/calories in check.

Although the recipe doesn't look that healthy on the surface, with a few minor tweaks, you can make it a little more point-friendly if you want.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Pork Chops Marsala

Pork Chops Marsala

I'm constantly surfing the Web, reading food magazines and blogs, and flipping through cookbooks to get inspiration on what to eat. I love that many of the magazines are driving traffic to their websites by providing daily dinner ideas.

Recently, Cooking Light's Dinner Tonight featured Pork Chops Marsala. It was like the editors of the magazine had seen inside my fridge and thought, "Geez, I see a package of cremini's about to go, some leftover chicken stock in a box that's got a few days left, and those potatoes she bought last week and forgot about.. she should probably use those before they start sprouting."

Honestly. I had everything on hand except for the asparagus.

I can't say I really tasted the marsala bit of it -- possibly because that bottle of wine has been sitting in my fridge for 8 months I think. I would mostly describe this as pork chops with mushroom gravy.

I think I'd skip the flouring of the meat, though. I guess I don't understand the purpose of it in this instance. Flour goes into the gravy, so it's not necessarily used to thicken the sauce. And the flour "crust" just ends up peeling off in an unattractive glop. Plus, because you're only cooking the meat with cooking spray, it burned in the pan.

Overall, it was delicious. It would even be fantastic with chicken. In fact, if I make it again, I'll make it with chicken, sans the flour coating.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Tilapia Tacos with Peach Relish

tilapia tacos with peach relish

Peach season is almost in full swing here in Ohio, and there's nothing I love more in the summertime than fresh, local peaches. Hands down, they beat what's available in the grocery stores every time.

The peaches I find in the stores are almost always impossibly rock hard, and even though I put them in a paper bag for a couple of days, they never ripen up right. They just aren't as juicy.

No matter where you get the peaches, this peach relish from Cooking Light is a good use. In this recipe it was used as a topping for breaded tilapia, but it would work equally well on any kind of white fish or on grilled chicken.

The tacos themselves weren't anything special. I thought I had panko, but it turned out that I was out, so I used regular bread crumbs. The recipe also calls for corn tortillas, and while lower in calories and fat than flour tortillas, the boyfriend, thought the distinct flavor of the corn tortillas over powered the delicate tilapia. I thought the extra flavor was probably necessary.

The shining star, of course was the peach relish. I would even just dip chips in it. It's a perfect summer fruit salsa. Sometimes, if you don't like the idea of the recipe as a whole.. a part of it will stand out for another use.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Gnocchi with Pancetta, Tomatoes and Wilted Spinach

Gnocchi with pancetta, tomatoes and wilted spinach

Even though work and a new exercise routine has been keeping me busy, I've still managed to put a homemade dinner on the table each night. This gnocchi, taken from an Eating Well recipe is great for a busy night.

I'm fascinated with gnocchi. And if I could make my own, I probably would. Here, I used the storebought kind. I've tried frozen and the shelf-stable vaccum sealed. I find the vacuum seals to be a little less dense than the frozen ones, so I prefer those. Others will say the frozen is better. It's up to you which you prefer, or can even find in the grocery stores, I guess.

They cook up in 3 to 5 minutes, which is one reason I like them. The other reason, of course, is that they are potato dumpling. I haven't met a potato or version of one I didn't like.

The garlic and tomato also make this meal. The tomatoes really cook down to create a thick, garlicky sauce. If you didn't want to use the gnocchi a short pasta like a penne or rotini would probably also work -- though, if you can find them.. I'd definitely go for the gnocchi. I also swapped the watercress for spinach.. but a leafy green like swiss chard would probably also work... just as long as it wilts down.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Chicken and Basil Stir Fry

Thai Basil Stir Fry

This is not only Core, but it's simple and cheap to make. I always have a variety of bell peppers in my fridge. They're great to munch on raw and are perfect dipped in hummus or guacamole.

Here, they mingle with onion, basil and chicken in the Chicken and Basil Stir Fry from Everyday Food. The cornstarch in the recipe come out to 0 pts. per serving, and unless you're lacking in oils for the day, I would consider cutting back on the oil. I cut 2 tsp. from the recipe and it came through great. And the boyfriend loved it.

On the side, I made steamed potstickers from Trader Joe's. I have made my own potstickers in the past, but honestly, they're not worth the effort.. especially for a weeknight. These were very low in points and just as good as the ones I've made in the past.

I wouldn't say this is the best stir fry I've ever made, but it's simple, easy to make and a great weeknight staple.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Pepperoni Pizza

Pepperoni Pizza

Ok, so this is nothing all that special. It's just a pepperoni pizza. And it isn't Core, but I've been craving pizza and have been on Flex this week because my schedule is seriously insane. When I don't have control over what I'm eating or I'm not up to fussing much in the kitchen, flex is the way to go. But it'll be back to my regular Core postings next week.

I know this *looks* like an ordinary pepperoni pizza. But it really is homemade, crust and sauce. I stop short of making my own pepperoni.

And if you have a breadmaker it's even easier. It was mixing, kneading, and letting the dough rise while I exercised. Talk about zero effort. The sauce was also simple, mix the ingredients and let simmer away. The dough is the basic dough recipe from Cooking Light and the sauce recipe follows.

Tomato Sauce
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 (8-ounce) can no-salt-added tomato sauce
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley

Heat a small saucepan coated in cooking spray over medium heat. Add the minced garlic and saute 1 minute. Add the oregano, salt, crushed red pepper, and tomato sauce. Bring to a boil then turn down the heat and let simmer about 20 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in parsley.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Steak Quesadillas

Steak Quesadilla

It's not easy to photograph a quesadilla, just thought I'd say that. Anyhow, I opted for another non-Core dinner, tonight, but it's not to difficult to make it almost Core.

This week I'm cleaning out my fridge, freezer, and pantry. I found a top round steak trimmed of any visible fat, some whole wheat tortillas, and a red onion. I also had an extra can of black beans and some tomatoes that didn't get used from last week. So, this quesdilla recipe from Everyday Food was perfect.

As written, the recipe is about 14 points. Which is probably more than most people are willing to spend. To make this more points friendly, try 2% cheese, smaller tortillas, or less meat and more veggies. In the bean salad, use half or a quarter of the avocado instead of a whole avocado.

To make this closer to core, make sure you use ff sour cream and ff cheese or soy cheese.

If you can't find a ff/soy pepper jack you can probably use cheddar, although I might then add part of a fresh jalepeno to add some heat.

Either way, this was a quick, satisfying meal no matter how you choose to make it fit into your plan.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Blueberry Buttermilk Pancakes

Blueberry Buttermilk Pancakes

Every once and a while I like to treat myself on the weekend mornings. And because I had leftover blueberries from last week's snack, I made blueberry buttermilk pancakes.

These were from Simply Recipes, and althought they don't look quite as fantastic as hers, they were fantastic. They were fluffy, just like a pancake should be.

They're not really as points-friendly as some of the pancakes I've made in the past, but just fine for an occaisonal treat.

I think I found my favorite blueberry pancakes.

Nutritional Info: 442 calories, 15 grams fat, 3 grams fiber

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Pasta with Spicy Red Clam Sauce

Pasta with Spicy Red Clam Sauce

I continue my series on tomatoes today with a spicy red clam sauce.

I heard a discussion the other day about getting kids to eat better. On theory offered was the one bite rule. If I remember right, that was my mom's point of view -- mostly. And she wasn't a short order cook. We ate what was there, or we didn't eat at all.

On the other hand, I remember my mom forcing me to eat just one more bite of broccoli when I was maybe three or four. I gagged. And didn't eat broccoli for nearly 20 years. I've now learned to tolerate it, but if given a choice between broccoli and another green veggie.. I'll most likely skip on the broccoli.

I guess being asked to try new things is one reason I've become an adventerous eater. And this recipe is an example of how I'm willing to try anything once. I've actually never had clams. Ever.
I'm fairly sure canned clams aren't the best way to enjoy them. But they didn't taste like much, really.

If you're not as adventurous or know you don't like clams you could probably leave them out. Although maybe clams have some kind of antioxidant power that makes them worth including them. I haven't brushed up on my super foods lately, so I can't really say either way.

What I did taste were the fresh herbs, garlic and onion. You can't go wrong there. I might make this again. I like the basic idea of the sauce and can see myself adapting this in many different ways.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Grilled Chicken Thighs with Roasted Grape Tomatoes

Grilled Chicken Thighs with Roasted Tomatoes

I apparently love tomatoes. I was looking back at some of my posts the other day and I realize many if not most of them from the past few weeks have tomatoes as an ingredient -- including this one.

This particular recipe for chicken thighs called for grilled chicken. And although I don't have a grill, that hasn't stopped me. Instead, I used my cast iron skillet to get a nice crust on the chicken. It almost doesn't even look skinless.

Alongside the chicken was roasted grape tomatoes with capers. If you haven't roasted tomatoes, you should definitely give them a try. They're tangy and pair well with chicken, fish, and beef dishes.

Definitely a make again.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

American BBQ Tacos

American BBQ Tacos

These tacos were bizarre. That's really the only way to describe them. They were like a bbq sloppy joe with pickle relish on a soft taco shell.

Don't ask me why I decided to try them.. especially since I had to spend points on them. BBQ sauce isn't Core and neither were the shells, so I felt the need to count for the whole recipe.

The tacos came from Vegetarian Times orginially, but I used lean ground beef instead of crumbles because I don't really like fake meat crumbles. They don't taste all that great and last time I made them, it actually stunk while it cooked. I'm all about my food smelling good and the fake meat certainly didn't.

Overall, the combination wasn't awful, but I can think of better taco recipes out there worth spending points on.