Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Carnitas-style Shredded Pork



Marlene Koch's latest cookbook, EAT WHAT YOU LOVE RESTAURANT FAVORITES is quickly becoming my go-to, healthy eating bible. This recipe, though good as written, needed some flavor boosts and some changes in the cooking time. Following is my "new and improved" version. It yields 8 small or 4 regular-size servings. I served it with black beans, yellow rice, and street taco slider-sized soft tortillas. With avocado slices, light sour cream, and salsa, it had everything you need to satisfy a variety of tastes.

2 - 2 1/2 lb boneless pork loin roast
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp dried oregano
1 1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp black pepper
6 smashed garlic cloves
3 bay leaves,
8 oz light orange juice
1 tsp garlic salt

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Slice the roast vertically and horizontally to make 4 even pieces.
Spray a large, ovenproof pot (I used my LeCreuset Dutch oven) with cooking spray and place over high heat. Sear pork on all sides until brown. Remove from pot and set aside. Reduce heat to medium and add 1/2 cup water to deglaze the pot.

Combine the cumin, oregano, onion powder, and black pepper in a small bowl. Coat the pork with the spice mixture, rub in,  and let sit for 15 minutes.

Return the roast to the pot and add the garlic, bay leaf, orange juice, and 1/2 cup water. Cover the pot and place in the oven. Cook 70 minutes (until pork shreds easily with a fork).


Transfer the pork to a cutting board, discard bay leaf, and using 2 forks, shred the meat and spread it on a baking sheet. Simmer and reduce the liquid in the pot until it coats the back of a spoon. Pour 1/2 cup of the liquid over the meat to moisten it, and toss.

Just before serving, turn on the broiler, sprinkle meat with garlic salt, and broil 3-4 minutes until the edges of the meat are browned and slightly crisped.

1/2 cup serving is 2 SP
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TASTE NOTES

The first time I made this dish, I knew it was a keeper; but, I also knew it needed some tweaking. Pork loin is a lean meat, so overcooking it can be problematic. The 1 1/2 hour cook time that Koch noted was too long. I reduced that to 70 minutes and it was perfect (don't forget you put it under the broiler, too, so you want it moist to begin). Also, the original recipe called for less spice mix and the juice of half an orange. I've used light OJ in other recipes and substituting a full cup in place of some of the water was a good addition. This is a dish I've made with a fattier cut of pork. Truthfully, I don't mind using the loin at all since the flavor is excellent and the health benefits of reducing the fat are huge.



Monday, July 8, 2019

Orange Chicken (Quicker Than Takeout)


Because I use this blog as a place to store my favorite recipes, I don't speak in superlatives unless a dish is really, really worthy. This quicker-than-takeout orange chicken from Marlene Koch's EAT WHAT YOU LOVE RESTAURANT FAVORITES was the very best Chinese food I've ever cooked (and I've been making Chinese food since I bought my first ethnic cookbook in the early '70's).

If you've eaten orange chicken in a Chinese restaurant, you might be thinking greasy, deep fried, battered chicken swimming in a cornstarch-rich orange sauce. That is NOT what this is. I had to rein it in or I'd have eaten a second portion. While the list of ingredients may seem long, this isn't a difficult recipe. It does require you to prepare the components in a timely fashion, but with a bit of mis en place, you CAN have dinner on the table faster--and far better--than if you got takeout.

FOR THE SAUCE
1/3 cup light orange juice
3 tbs rice vinegar
3 tbs lemon juice
2 tbs reduced sodium soy sauce
4 packets Stevia (or your favorite no calorie sweetner OR sugar, adjust accordingly)
2 tbs brown sugar
1 1/2 tbs cornstarch
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp red pepper flakes (don't omit; it adds just a bit of heat)
1/2 cup water

In a medium saucepan whisk together the sauce ingredient. Place over medium high heat and bring to a low boil. Cook for 1 minute, then keep warm while you finish the dish.

FOR THE CHICKEN
1 1/4 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 3/4 inch pieces
1 large egg, beaten
1/4 cup all purpose flour (add more, if needed)
2 tbs canola oil, divided
1 small red, bell pepper, cut into 3/4 inch squares
1 small onion, cut into 3/4 inch squares

Coat cut up chicken breasts with beaten egg and toss with flour to coat. Heat 1 tbs of oil in a large, nonstick skillet over medium high heat Add half the chicken and cook 4-5 minutes or until well browned on all sides. Transfer to a bowl and repeat with remaining 1 tbs oil and the rest of the chicken.

Add the red pepper and onio to the skillet and cook 4-6 minutes or until slightly softened. Add the chicken back to the skillet and pour the orange sauce over, tossing to coat. Serve immediately.
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TASTE NOTES

I served this with white rice and spicy green beans and it far surpassed my expectations. The recipe serves 4 and is low fat and low calorie (5 SP, if you follow WW). I can't wait for the leftovers.



Thursday, March 28, 2019

Chicken and Spinach Rollatine

Chicken and Spinach Rollatine (8 SP each roll)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 4 thin chicken cutlets, 4 oz each
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese, divided
  • 6 tablespoons egg whites or egg beaters
  • 5 oz frozen spinach, squeezed dry of any liquid
  • 6 tbsp part skim ricotta cheese
  • 6 oz part skim shredded mozzarella 
  • olive oil non-stick spray
  • 1 cup tomato sauce 
  • salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat oven to 450°. Lightly spray a baking dish with non-stick spray.

  1. Wash and dry cutlets, season with salt and pepper.

  2. Combine breadcrumbs and 2 tbsp grated cheese in one bowl and 1/4 cup egg beaters or egg whites in another.

  3. Combine 1.5 oz shredded mozzarella with remaining grated cheese, spinach (make sure you squeeze it dry), 2 tbsp egg beaters, and ricotta cheese.

  4. Lay chicken cutlets down on a working surface and spread 1/4 of spinach-cheese mixture on each cutlet.

  5.  Loosely roll each one and keep seam side down.

  6. Dip chicken in egg mixture, then in breadcrumbs and place seam side down in a baking dish (no toothpicks needed).

  7. Repeat with the remaining chicken. When finished, lightly spray with olive oil. Bake 25 minutes.

  8. Remove from oven, top with sauce then cheese and 
  9. bake until cheese is melted and bubbling, about 3 more minutes.
  10. *************************************
  11. TASTE NOTES
  12. I adapted this recipe to provide for a reasonable portion size. I could have decreased the mozzarella, but decided the extra points were worth it. This was a delicious dish that goes equally well with a side of pasta or a side of sauteed broccoli rabe or escarole. One roll is a perfect serving and the only thing that could make it better would be to use homemade tomato sauce.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Stuffing Crusted Turkey Sheet Pan Supper



Love the tastes and smells of Thanksgiving? Have 20 minutes to prepare a week night supper? Then this is the recipe for you.

Makes 4 servings (10 SP per serving)

Ingredients

1 box Stove Top stuffing mix
1 tbs I Can't Believe It's Not Butter Light
3 tbs low sugar raspberry jam or preserves
2 tbs Dijon mustard
4 turkey cutlets (1 lb total; 1/4 lb each cutlet)

Directions

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil. Spray foil with nonstick spray.

In a large bowl, combine the stuffing mix and butter. Boil 1 2/3 cups of water, pour it over the stuffing mix, and stir lightly to combine. Let sit for 5 minutes.

In a small bowl, combine jam and mustard.

Place the 4 cutlets on the prepared baking sheet. Spread each piece with 1/4 of the jam mixture. Mound 1/4 of the stuffing on each cutlet. Spray top of each with nonstick spray.

Bake for 17 minutes.

Serve with roasted brussells sprouts and carrots for a filling dinner.
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TASTE NOTES

Every time I make this, I marvel at how something so simple can taste so good! I adapted this recipe from Marlene Koch's Eat What You Love:  Quick and Easy, my favorite healthy-eating cookbook.


Monday, January 14, 2019

(The Best Ever) Chicken and Dumplings



Could there be a more perfect comfort food, particularly for these cold weather days, than chicken and dumplings? It's not something I make often since I try to limit carbs and fats. If I do make it, I tend to use a lightened recipe. This time, though, I was looking for the "full Monty" and this recipe, with some slight modifications, delivered.

 I had bought the November issue of Martha Stewart Living magazine and tore this recipe out. I will say I was surprised that it was a poorly written recipe, missing steps and without the usual fine detail of a Martha Stewart recipe. A staff member's name was on it. Below is my version, edited a bit for clarity, but without much change to the ingredients. (OK, I used just a tad less fat and added the parsnips.) I recommend reading through the recipe first so you can do all the chopping at once.

INGREDIENTS

2 1/2 - 3 lbs bone in, chicken thighs
4 cups water
2 tsp Kosher salt

For the broth:
3 tbs butter
1 medium diced onion
3 large carrots, peeled and diced
1 celery stalk, diced
2 parsnips, peeled and diced
8 oz red potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch dice
1 1/4 tsp dried thyme
1/4 cup flour
1 cup frozen sweet peas
3 tbs chopped parsley
salt and pepper to taste


For the dumplings:
1 2/3 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
3 tbs chopped parsley
2 tsp baking powder
4 tbs cold butter
3/4 cup milk


MAKE THE BROTH AND COOK THE CHICKEN

Combine the chicken thighs, the water, and the Kosher salt in a large Dutch oven. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to medium low and simmer, partially covered, until chicken is cooked--20-30 minutes. Transfer chicken to a plate, let cool, then discard skin and bones and shred the meat into bite-sized pieces. Strain the broth. You should have 4 cups; if not, add more water.

MAKE THE ROUX

Melt 4 tbs of butter in the Dutch oven over medium high heat. Add the onion, carrots, celery, parsnips, potatoes, and thyme. Cook, stirring, until onion is translucent, 5-6 minutes. Sprinkle with the 1/4 cup of flour and cook about 1 minutes, stirring constantly. Gradually stir in the reserved 4 cups of strained broth. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium and simmer until veggies are tender, about 10 minutes. Stir in chicken, peas, parsley, and season with salt and pepper.

MAKE THE DUMPLINGS

While the veggies simmer, whisk together the flour, salt, pepper, baking powder, and parsley. Cut in 4 tbs cold butter. Stir in the milk until the dough holds together. Drop 8 heaping spoonsful of dough on top of the chicken and veggies mixture. Cover and simmer until dumplings are cooked through, 12-15 minutes.
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TASTE NOTES

It's a good thing there's a bit of prep involved in this dish, or I'd be making it much more often. At 15-18 Smart Points a srving (that's Weight Watcher talk), it's very close to my daily allocation. But, oh, my, was it ever worth it! The carrots and parsnips rendered a sweet, flavorful broth. The dumpling was swoon worthy. Somewhere between a stew and a soup, this chicken and dumplings is love in a bowl. The entire dish was like being wrapped in a big, fluffy blanket. It was well worth the bit of effort.





Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Broccoli and Cauliflower Cakes



On a recent episode of The Kitchen, actor Teri Hatcher shared her recipe for broccoli-cauliflower cakes. They sounded good, so I decided to make them as a side dish with center cut pork chops.

Ingredients - Makes 12 small (2") cakes

1 cup grated broccoli florets
1 cup grated cauliflower florets
1/4 cup grated cheese
1/2 cup seasoned breadcrumbs
2 eggs, beaten
salt and pepper to taste
OPTIONAL:  2 tbs capers

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Spray a baking sheet with nonstick spray.

Use a box grater or a food processor (I used the latter), to grate the broccoli and the cauliflower, making sure to get 1 cup of each.

Beat the 2 eggs.

Combine the grated broccoli and cauliflower, grated cheese, breadcrumbs, beaten eggs, and salt and pepper with your hands until it is moist.

Divide the mixture into 12 parts and shape 12 patties, about 2 inches across each.

Place the cakes on the cookie sheet. Bake 15 minutes, turn, and bake 15 minutes more on the other side.

Serve as a side dish. I combined several tablespoons of light sour cream with sirracha sauce and put a dab on each cake.

1 SP per cake.

TASTE NOTES

I liked the texture and taste of these cakes. The inside was reminiscent of the inside of a potato pancake. The outside achieved a small degree of crispness (I'll try these in the air fryer next time). I enjoyed 3 with my pork chop for a satisfying meal.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

(Middle of the) Cinnamon Roll Muffins



Do you swoon when you get within 100 yards of a Cinnabon? Does the combination of butter and cinnamon loosen your inhibitions? Well, then have I got a muffin for you. These "middle of the cinnamon roll muffins" are easily as good as that yeasty confection that we find so addicting. That they require no yeast or rising just means you can start eating them faster. This recipe is originally from Framed Cooks and was posted on the blog Fantastical Sharing of Recipes.

Makes 12 muffins

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place paper liners in each cup of a 12 cup muffin tin.

For the cinnamon topping:


1/4 cup brown sugar
4 tbs finely chopped pecans
1 heaping tsp of cinnamon

Mix all ingredients together in a small bowl and set aside.

For the muffins:


1/3 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2/3 cup milk

In a stand mixer, beat the butter for 30 seconds on high until fluffy.

  • Lower speed to medium and add sugar. Beat for 2 minutes, scraping down sides as needed.
  • Add egg and beat until combined.
  • Add vanilla and beat until just combined.
In a medium bow whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt.
  • Alternate adding flour mixture and milk on low speed (1/3 flour, 1/2 milk; 1/3 flour, 1/2 milk; 1/3 flour
Spoon 1 tbs batter into each cup of a 12-muffin pan lined with paper liners.

  • Top each cup with a heaping tsp of the cinnamon topping.
  • Divide remaining batter among cups.
  • Sprinkle with remaining cinnamon topping.
Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean.


For the glaze:


1 cup confectioner's sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
3 tbs milk

Mix together glaze ingredients in a small bowl.
Cool muffins in the muffin pan for 12 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to finish cooling.
Drizzle warm muffins with the glaze.

Try not to gobble these all up at one sitting.
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TASTE NOTES

I was skeptical about the claim that these muffins tasted like the middle of my beloved cinnamon buns. Let me tell you:  they do! The ease of preparation is, of course, one reason I love these. But it's the taste that will inspire me to make them again and again.




Thursday, November 15, 2018

Spicy and Sweet Pecans (AKA "Crack Nuts")




SPICY AND SWEET PECANS

Servings: Makes 2 cups
Prep Time: 5 Minutes
Cook Time: 10 Minutes
Total Time: 15 Minutes

INGREDIENTS

1/2 cup Confectioners sugar
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 cups pecans

INSTRUCTIONS

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the confectioners sugar, kosher salt, cayenne pepper and 4 teaspoons of water.

Add the pecans to the sugar mixture and stir until the nuts are evenly coated.

Transfer the pecans to the prepared baking sheet and arrange in a single layer. Do your best to make sure the nuts are evenly spread out (if they are clumped together, they won't cook evenly). Scrape out every last bit of glaze from the bowl and drizzle over the nuts.

Bake for 10-12 minutes, until the pecans are crusty on top and caramelized and golden on the bottom.

 Immediately slide the parchment off of the hot baking sheet and allow the pecans to cool completely on the countertop.

Once cool, remove the pecans from the parchment, breaking apart any clusters if necessary, and store in an airtight container.

NOTE: : Make sure you're using parchment paper and not wax paper (wax paper is not nonstick). If the nuts are sticky after cooling, that means they are a bit undercooked. Pop them back in the oven for a few minutes and let cool again.
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TASTE NOTES
I've made candied nuts before and enjoyed them, but these nuts are for grown ups. You might want to make 2 batches, one to eat yourself and one to serve. They aren't nicknamed "crack nuts" for nothing.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Taco Casserole



Just because I no longer work doesn't mean I want to spend hours in the kitchen during the week.  I saw this recipe in the magazine section of a local newspaper and decided I could work with it since it featured the Mexican flavor profile we both love.


Quick Fix Taco Casserole
6 serving (9SP per serving)

2 cups cooked brown rice (I used a packet of Sazon in preparing this)
1- 15 oz can fat free refried beans
1 cup salsa
1 1/4 lbs lean ground beef
1 pkg low sodium taco seasoning
3/4 cup reduced fat shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 oz corn chips, crumbled
1 (2.25 oz) can sliced, black olives
3-4 sliced scallions
OPTIONAL: serve with sliced avocado and sour cream (adds additional calories/SP's)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In an 8-inch square baking dish, layer 2 cups of cooked rice. In a nonstick skillet, brown the ground beef. Add the taco seasoning and 3 tbs water and combine well.  In a large, microwavable bowl, combine the beans and salsa. Heat, stir, and pour over the rice. Sprinkle the cheese over the beef, scatter the crumbled corn chips over the cheese, then scatter the drained olives on top of the cheese.

Bake about 20 minutes (until piping hot). Top with the sliced scallions and, if desired, sliced avocado and a dollop of sour cream.
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TASTE NOTES
While each serving contains 9 Smart Points (more if you top with avocado and sour cream), the serving is so filling and contains protein, carbs, and veggies, so little more than a side salad is required to round out the meal. My younger self used to turn up her nose at casseroles, but this dish, though not photogenic, was delicious. I'm looking forward to leftovers and have added it to this blog, which these days is a repository for my favorite meals.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Cheesy Bacon Chicken with Honey Mustard Drizzle (a la Alice Springs Chicken)


I've never eaten the Alice Springs chicken entree at Outback, but I've seen it plenty of times and, if it's half as good as this low fat version, I would order it in a heartbeat. This recipe is taken from Marlene Koch's EAT WHAT YOU LOVE: QUICK AND EASY cookbook. It's about the 10th recipe I've tried from this book, and the winning streak continues. Dinner was on the table in about 20 minutes and it was hard not to eat a second portion.

Serves 4, 5 SP per serving

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1 lb)
1 tbs Dijon mustard
1 tbs light mayonnaise
1 tbs honey
2 tsp vinegar
2 tsp butter
1 (8 oz) package sliced mushrooms
3/4 cup shredded, reduced fat sharp cheddar cheese
8 tsp real bacon bits
3 scallions, sliced

Cover the chicken breasts with plastic wrap and gently pound to a 1/4 inch thickness.

Prepare the honey mustard drizzle by whisking together the mustard, mayonnaise, honey, and vinegar. Set aside.

Melt the butter in a large, nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Add the mushrooms and cook until tender and browned (8-10 minutes). Remove from the pan and set aside.

Coat the same skillet with nonstick cooking spray and return the heat to medium high. Add the chicken and cook for about 3 minutes or until the underside is brown. Turn chicken over and remove pan from the heat while you top each piece with 3 tbs. cheese and 2 tsp. of bacon bits. Return pan to heat, add 2 tbs water and immediately cover pan. Cook for 2 minutes or until cheese is melted and chicken cooked through.

To serve, top each breast with scallions and drizzle with a tablespoon of the honey mustard sauce.
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TASTE NOTES
This dish was amazingly good for the scant amount of fat. The chicken was juicy and the honey drizzle is my new favorite thing. I will increase the amount of mushrooms next time and serve it over some sauteed spinach.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Frosted Pumpkin Bars



With the temperature hovering below 60 degrees today,  I'm beginning to think fall is really on the way. While I'm not a pumpkin spice fanatic--not for coffee or ice cream in any event-I do like spice cake and pumpkin pie. I found this recipe on Marlene Koch's website and thought a 2 Smart Point dessert (75 calories) sounded like a good deal.

COOKIE BAR INGREDIENTS - 24 servings
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
11/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon mace
6 tablespoons margarine, softened
1  2 1/2-ounce container baby food prunes (or prunes and apples blend)
1  15-ounce can 100 % pure packed pumpkin (like Libby’s)
2/3 cup no-calorie granulated sweetener*
2  tablespoons molasses
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1  egg
¼ cup raisins, finely chopped

FROSTING INGREDIENTS

4   ounces tub-style light cream cheese
6   ounces nonfat cream cheese
¼ cup no-calorie granulated sweetener*
2   tablespoons orange juice

Instructions

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray a 9 x 13-inch pan with nonstick baking spray.

2. Mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and spices, set aside. In a large bowl, with an electric mixer, cream the margarine and prunes together. Add pumpkin purée, sweetener, molasses, vanilla, and egg. Beat well. Stir in flour mixture. Stir in raisins.

3. Spoon into prepared pan and smooth. Bake for 20 minutes, or until cake springs back when lightly touched in the center. Cool on rack.

4. In a small bowl, with an electric mixer, beat all frosting ingredients until smooth and fluffy. Spread frosting onto cool bars. Refrigerate.

*To use a baking blend, like all-natural Truvia for Baking, use 1/2 the listed measurement.



Nutrition Information Per Serving: (1 bar)   Calories 75 | Carbohydrate 8g (Sugars 3 g)  |  Total Fat 3.5g (Sat Fat 1g)  |  Protein 3g  |  Fiber .5g  |  Cholesterol mg  |  Sodium 120mg  |  Food Exchanges:  1/2 Carbohydrate, 1 Fat |  Carbohydrate Choices: 1/2 |  Weight Watcher Plus Point Comparison:  2 Smart Points: 2
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TASTE NOTES
These cake-like bars hit the spot, but the cream cheese frosting is the real star of the show. These are just the thing with a cup of tea and can be frozen individually to spread out the delight.

Macaroni and Cheese Muffins



I'm all about finding ways to lighten up favorite foods, as long as it doesn't involve using zucchini, Greek yogurt, or Fiber One cereal. I want my food to taste like the "real thing," so these replacements just don't do it for me.

On the other hand, Marlene Koch is a magician in the kitchen. Her ability to slash sugar, fat, and calories from everyone's favorites while retaining the tastes we love,  puts her at the top of my list for "go to" recipes. I'm anxiously awaiting the arrival of her cookbook, Eat What You Love, but in the meantime I've been visiting her website, www.marlenekoch.com, for this week's meal plan.

These macaroni and cheese muffins come in at 127 calories or 3 WW Smart Points each.



INGREDIENTS - 12 servings

8 ounces small elbow macaroni (about 2½ cups)
2 cups reduced-fat sharp cheddar cheese
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 cup low-fat milk
1 large egg
½ teaspoon garlic salt
½ cup panko breadcrumbs
2 teaspoons melted butter

Instructions

1. Preheat the oven to 400ºF. Place foil or paper liners in a 12-cup muffin tin and spray lightly with non-stick baking spray

2. Cook the macaroni according to the package directions. Drain and immediately return to the pot. Add the cheese and stir until it is nearly melted.

3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the cornstarch and milk. Add the egg and whisk until smooth. Pour the milk mixture over the macaroni and mix well.

4. In a small bowl combine the butter, garlic salt, and breadcrumbs. Scoop the macaroni mixture evenly into the prepared muffin tins (it will be wet and milky, but don’t worry, it will bake up fine). Sprinkle 2 teaspoons crumbs on each and bake for 20 minutes.


NUTRITION INFORMATION PER SERVING (1 muffin): Calories 127 | Carbohydrate 18g (Sugars 1.5g) | Total Fat 3g (Sat Fat 1g) | Protein 9g | Fiber 3g | Cholesterol 20mg | Sodium 210mg | Food Exchanges: 1 Starch, 1 Lean Meat | Carbohydrate Choices: 1 | Weight Watcher Plus Point Comparison: 3 Smart Point Comparison = 3

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TASTE NOTES
There are no false notes--or tastes-- in these quick fix mac and cheese muffins. They have the same delicious flavors of the macaroni and cheese you crave and reheat perfectly in a microwave at 50% power. Either served as a side dish with a grilled flank steak  and green beans for dinner, or with a big tossed salad for lunch, this is real food that satisfies at a fraction on the caloric cost. Marlene is a nutritionist who is also an excellent cook.


Sunday, April 29, 2018

Meat Sauce, Down and Dirty


This isn't Bolognese sauce; let me be upfront about that. A good Bolognese takes hours to develop that wonderful, rich melding of flavors that makes lasagna the special occasion dish it is. But if you crave pasta with meat sauce and have about 30 minutes, this sauce will fit the bill and leave you enough to freeze for another meal.

Yield:  12 (1/2 cup) servings (4 SP, if you're counting)

INGREDIENTS
2 lbs  ground beef, 90%
2 slices bread, torn into small pieces (I used Nature's Own whole wheat)
1/4 c milk (I used fat free)
1 large onion, chopped finely
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp olive oil
1 (28 oz) can of crushed San Marzano tomatoes
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 tsp oregano
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper

DIRECTIONS
Tear 2 slices of bread into small pieces; add milk and mash together. Add to meat and use your hands to knead the panade into the meat until it is evenly distributed. Set aside.

Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium high heat. Add onion and saute for 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook 1 minute more. 
 
Add meat to onion and garlic mixture  and season with salt and pepper; saute 5-10 minutes until no pink remains, stirring to break up meat. 

Add crushed tomatoes, oregano, and red pepper. Stir well. Simmer for 10 minutes. Serve over your favorite pasta (radiatore and rigatoni are made for this kind of sauce). There's enough for 2 lbs of pasta, so divide accordingly. This freezes well.
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TASTE NOTES
I love a good Bolognese sauce, whether combined with bechamel in a lasagna or served over a dish of potato gnocchi. That said, I just don't make it for two of us. Craving a dish of pasta with meat sauce, I made this down and dirty version of meat sauce and it was sublime. The best part is I made it Sunday morning in less than a half hour, reheated half of it that night, and have 3 more cups in the freezer to use when the next craving hits.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Pasta e Fagioli Soup, Carmine's Way



There are probably as many versions of pasta e fagioli as there are chicken noodle soup. I have a favorite recipe that I've made for years, but as I was leafing through my copy of Carmine's Family-style Cookbook, I saw a new version and decided to make it (with minimal revisions).

Servings:  7 (1 cup servings) at 3 SP each

1 cup dried cannellini beans
2 tbs olive oil
3 cloves garlic, sliced thinly
4 slices Oscar Meyer center cut bacon, chopped
1 small onion, diced
1 carrot, diced
1 celery rib, diced
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried rosemary
1/2 tsp Italian seasoning
8 cups lower sodium chicken broth
1 small smoked pork neck bone
5 canned San Marzano plum tomatoes, drained
2 ounces dried ditalini pasta
1/4 cup grated pecorino romano cheese (OPT:  more for serving)

Directions:

Place the beans in a large pot and cover with 1 to 2 inches of cold water. Let the beans soak 6-12 hours, changing the water several times.

In a Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the bacon and cook the mixture slowly until browned. Add the onion, carrot, and celery and cook for another 3-5 minutes. Add the bay leaves, oregano, rosemary, and Italian seasoning and saute for another few minutes. Add the stock and neckbone.

Drain the beans and add to the stock. Bring up to a boil and boil for about 10 minutes. Use your hands to crush the plum tomatoes into the pot. Reduce the heat and simmer the soup briskly for 1 - 1 1/2 hours, until the beans are tender but not mushy.

Increase the heat, add the pasta, and boil the soup, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes until the pasta is done and the soup has thickened. Remove the neckbone, add the cheese, and serve.
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TASTE NOTES
I made this soup to serve later in the week since I know the flavors will continue to develop. That plan may or may not work because one taste has revealed that this is my new go-to pasta e fagioli. The soup is thick, rich, and deeply flavorful. It is still more of a bean soup than a tomato soup, which I love. Next time, I'll use fresh herbs, but this is a definite keeper.