Saturday, February 28, 2009

Cinnamon Raisin French Toast

Cinnamon Raisin French Toast

I know I've mentioned many, many times how much I love breakfast. And though my weekday breakfasts are pretty boring (oats made with milk and topped with dried or fresh fruit and walnuts), my weekend breakfasts always vary.

I went to Costco on Wednesday to show my mom around, and while I was there I picked up some blueberries. Instead of making blueberry pancakes like I usually do, I opted to use them for a topping on Cinnamon Raisin French Toast.

It's nothing fancy. Just regular French toast made with cinnamon raisin bread. But it's really good, I swear. It has a lot of flavor and sweetness in the French toast, so you only need a little bit of syrup, which makes it healthier than some recipes, I suppose.

Cinnamon Raisin French Toast
Serves 4 (6 points per serving)

2 large eggs
1 cup of milk
a dash or two of cinnamon (to taste)
8 slices of cinnamon raisin bread
butter or neutral oil (like canola) for the pan (I used 1 tbsp)

Beat the eggs, milk, and cinnamon together in 9x13 inch baking dish. Add the bread and let the bread soak 3 to 5 minutes; flip over. Soak the bread 3 to 5 minutes more.

Meanwhile, melt some butter or oil in the pan over medium-low heat.

When the bread is ready, cook until browned on both side, turning once after 3 to 5 minutes.

Serve immediately or keep warm in a 200° oven for up to 30 minutes.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Cavatappi with Roasted Broccoli and Walnuts

Cavatappi with Roasted Broccoli and Walnuts

I don't usually make meals like this. For one, I rarely use white pasta — and I have the triglycerides to prove it. The other part I don't normally do: use all the oil and butter a recipe calls for. It clocks in at 643 calories per serving, which is a little high for me, but I figured it couldn't do much harm considering I pretty much slept through breakfast on Saturday and Sunday.

I love lazy weekends.

And the Cavatappi with Roasted Broccoli and Walnuts is a rare recipe where I think cutting back on the oil and butter could be a mistake flavor-wise. I'm so glad I went ahead and made it as written for a change. Without the butter the noodles would have tasteless. I suppose, though, you could cut down on the oil used to roast the broccoli as long as you make sure it doesn't get charred to a crisp while roasting.

For as simple as it was, I really liked it. Maybe I'm butter-deprived or maybe roasted broccoli really has turned a former broccoli hater into a broccoli lover. Either way, it was the perfect choice for a weekend where I really wasn't up for much other than lounging.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Seared Mahimahi with Edamame Succotash

Seared Mahimahi with Edamame Succotash

I first tried mahimahi when I was maybe 10 years old at a now long-gone seafood restaurant on Sanibel Island, Florida, while on vacation with my family.

My mom's aunt and uncle had time-shares on two condos and my grandparents vacationed there with them two weeks every October. This time, my grandparents invited us all along. It was only the second time I’d ever been to the beach.

Every night we'd go out to dinner around 4:30, you know, so we could get a good deal on the early-bird specials. (My grandparents and great aunt and uncle were not only old, they were frugal.) I’m pretty sure the only fish I had ever eaten up to this point were fish sticks, but I bravely tried a different kind seafood every night.

For some reason or another I got it into my head that I’d try the mahimahi from the list of specials. It wasn't until I ordered it that I thought to ask what it was.

"It's dolphin," my mom tells me.

"So I'm eating Flipper?" I asked.

No one corrected me or explained to me it’s a dolphin fish — not the kind of dolphin I was thinking of. Even if they tried to tell me, I probably wouldn’t have listened. I was convinced I was eating Flipper's cousin. I hardly took a bite.

I must have been scarred by that event because I haven't eaten it since then — until now. A few weeks ago I took the leap and made Seared Mahimahi with Edamame Succotash. And it wasn’t bad.

In my opinion mahimahi is a fishy-tasting fish, which might just be a little too much for me, personally. But the succotash that went on top was pretty good. I think next time I’ll use it with some other type of fish. Maybe a roasted salmon or a pan-seared tilapia.

Might also be good to grill the fish and use fresh summer corn rather than frozen. Maybe I’ll try that, too, if it ever warms up and the skunky clothes are off my balcony.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Sweet and Sour Pork Stir Fry

Sweet and Sour Pork

I was excited to see the January/February issue of Everyday Food since it's usually an entirely light issue with most everything coming in under 400 calories. But, I’ve been disappointed with a few of the recipes.

For one, the Sweet-and-Sour Pork Stir Fry. I had such high hopes for it. Many of the Everyday Food stir fries are really good. But this one fell short.

The sauce wasn't that flavorful, and it could use more pineapple. Plus, I've found I just really hate frozen broccoli. In all its forms. The pork was good, the peppers were good, but that was about it.

I didn't like this when I made it for dinner and the leftovers were worse. I should have read the comments people made on the recipe. I agree with all of them.. minus the first one that says it's very tasty.

Tasty is not a word I would use to describe this meal. Especially the "very" part.

At least it looked good. It's odd because I’ve been making some good-looking stuff that's gross, but some awful looking stuff that’s to die for.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Golden Winter Soup

Golden Winter Soup

I've been such a slacker on the blogging front. Things have been crazy – that's for sure.

Last week I had to house-sit and take care of their dog while my parents were out of town. Then, my younger sister was in town to try on wedding dressing (she's getting married in the fall) and look at places for the reception.

Meanwhile, a skunk crawls under my parents' deck and sprays all over the place. The smell is so awful you can’t even live in the house. Although they have been at a hotel, they've still been dropping by to do laundry, air stuff out on my balcony, etc. So I've been taking the extra time in the evenings to clean up around the apartment.

Not that I'm a slob – just that my bathroom sink is cluttered with my makeup, hair brushes etc. and when I’m in a hurry I may leave the canister of oatmeal on the counter or let bills stack up for the weekend when I pay them. And by the time I’m done making dinner and cleaning up the apartment – I’m wiped.

But I've been doing fairly well with eating and exercising. I’ve been working out downstairs at my office’s gym and have been photographing the few meals I’ve cooked.

So here's a new dish – Golden Winter Soup. . And it's now pretty much the only way I’ll eat butternut squash – except in lasagna with lots of gooey cheese and b├ęchamel. The great thing about the soup is I can't even taste the squash. It's more like a potato soup.

The soup was fantastic. My only complaint is that it's not all that filling for the calories. It's definitely better as a starter than a main dish. But it's certainly delicious!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Potato with Broccoli and Cheddar Sauce


Today I made the mistake of trying to get up an hour early. I guess I didn't try — I succeeded. Problem is, it's 8:30 p.m. and I'm wiped. I didn't even get a workout in. I'll have to take my gym bag with me tomorrow and not procrastinate.

I've avoided the gym this month, in part, to avoid the New Year's crowd. It's hard enough to find an open machine on a normal week, but throw in a bunch of extra people, and it's just wall to wall people. Going to the gym takes up enough of my time as it is. I don't need to add time to my workout by waiting around for someone to finish up their workout. Especially now that there's no sign-up sheet or time limit for the machines. I get what I pay for, I suppose. I go with the budget-choice, and I have to deal with fighting people for machines.

Budgets are no fun. Having money in the bank is fun, but doing the hard work to get there is awful. Pork tenderloin was on sale this week and I really wanted to make one, but I needed some new CFL bulbs to replace the burnt out conventional light bulbs. The one bulb I needed was $10. And unfortunately, household items are rolled into my food budget. When about 15% of your weekly budget is a light bulb, you have to weigh your options for your meals that week. Plus, I was nearly out of coffee. And that's another $4 and I was out of filters which ran me about $2. Nearly a third of my money was already spent before I even planned my meals. So it's another meatless week at my house for the most part.

But that's OK, because I was actually craving those frozen meals with the potatoes, broccoli and cheddar cheese sauce. I normally hate frozen meals, but sometimes one of those really hit the spot. And as I was looking through the Moosewood Cookbook for some meatless ideas I came across the Zippy Cheese Sauce. Plus, russet potatoes were on sale. Why not skip the frozen dinner and make it from scratch? It's probably cheaper, not to mention healthier.

I made the sauce as written, but used 1 percent milk. I think next time I'll use a fattier milk (like 2 percent). It was a little runny and not that cheesy tasting. If I go with 1 percent again I'll probably use a super sharp cheddar. Another strategy would be to double the cheese and use a low fat version. But please, for the love of God, don't try using the fat free kind. It doesn't melt and you wouldn't want to shortchange the start ingredient. It's a CHEESE sauce, afterall.

Also, next time, I'll take the time to bake the potato rather than boiling it. I should have planned ahead, but I didn't, and I was starving. Desperate times call for desperate measures.

Overall, pretty tasty. Just as good as the frozen dinner at least.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Sausage and Peppers with Polenta

Sausage and Peppers

In the past, I haven't been such a fan of Real Simple's recipes, but lately, I've had a couple of decent ones. Tonight I made Sausage and Peppers with Crispy Polenta and it wasn't bad. It was really easy to make and it came together in about half and hour. It didn't even require much attending to, so I was free to chop at my leisure and sip a glass of wine along the way.

Now, that's my kind of dinner prep. I like my evenings to be relaxing.

The onions were the best part. Maybe they're supposed to caramelize, or maybe it's the magic of my cast iron skillet (which is perfect for a dish like this, by the way), but they were brown and soft and delicious.

Overall, I wouldn't say this is much different than your average sausage and peppers. The only difference is really the addition of

white wine and thyme and, of course, serving it over polenta rounds.
To make this healthier I used half the oil and used turkey sausage links rather than regular sausage. The nutritional info is on the recipe as written, and with my tweaks it came out to 7 points per serving, which makes it probably somewhere in the 250-300 something calorie range.

If you have a favorite sausage and peppers recipe I won't try to sway you. I'm sure this version isn't necessarily better. But if you're like me and have never really made Sausage and peppers, well then, this one is a good start.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Spicy Stir-Fried Tofu with Peanut Butter


I love stir fries. Mostly because it's a great way to use up leftover veggies. I didn't actually make it to the grocery store until almost 3 p.m. on Saturday, which meant much of the produce department was slim pickings. Especially for items they don't regularly refill, like the basket of fresh snow peas they usually have out.

So I didn't exactly stick to the recipe I used, but close enough. I ended up using a green pepper instead of snow peas and regular onion rather than green onion. It would have probably been even better as written, but I think it worked just fine. You could also use white mushrooms or even cremini if you don't want to shell out the money for shitakes and broccoli would be a good veggie to add or even carrots. And, if you don't like tofu you could always use beef, chicken or even shrimp.

I would make sure to use the ginger and the garlic, and keep the sauce — that's what makes this recipe unique. I can't say I've had a peanut butter sauce before, but it was really good. Probably something I'll use more often with various different kinds of vegetables. I served this over brown rice, but I think noodles would also be good.

See, when it comes to stir fry, you're only limited by your imagination.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Shrimp Florentine

Shrimp Florentine

When I made the soup earlier last week I only used half a 10 oz. box of frozen spinach. But I didn't want the other half to go to waste. So, I made Shrimp Florentine from Cooking Light.

I ended up really liking it overall, but it's another recipe where I think fresh spinach is preferable to frozen. And it's not like fresh spinach would go to waste. If I didn't use it all between the two dishes, it will always be good in salads or sauteed with garlic and olive oil for a quick side dish.

I actually did make two swaps here, though. I didn't have half and half so I used half heavy cream and half skim milk, which is basically what half and half is, afterall. And I totally messed up the garlic. Either I did it wrong or the recipe is written poorly. It burned to a crisp. I ended up mincing garlic and cooking it with the shrimp. Worked fine in the end.

What I really liked about this dish, though, was that it tasted like it was much more fattening than it really was. And I'm all for that!