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.
**************************************************
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.
***************************************
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.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Chicken Roll-ups, Cubano Style



I've tried a number of Skinnytaste recipes with mixed results, but this evening's dinner was a "winner, winner, chicken dinner." I adore Cuban sandwiches and this entree, though it doesn't contain the salami (a favorite of mine and one I don't indulge in often), is definitely reminiscent of that dish. I made very few changes to the original recipe.

Serves 2-4, 4 SP per serving

4 (1 lb total) thin, boneless chicken cutlets
1 1/4 cups pickle juice (or enough to cover cutlets)
4 tsp stone ground Dijon mustard
2 oz thinly sliced, lower sodium ham
4 slices Sargento's Ultra thin Swiss cheese
9 hamburger dill slices
olive oil spray

For the breading:
1 large egg, beaten
1/3 cup seasoned breadcrumbs
1/3 cup panko

Directions:
Place chicken in a gallon freezer bag and cover with the pickle juice. Marinate 5-8 hours in the refrigerator. Drain and dry the chicken completely on paper towels. Discard marinade.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees and spray a baking sheet with the olive oil cooking spray.

Spread 1 tsp mustard over each chicken cutlet.

Layer the ham, then the cheese, then 3 pickle slices on each chicken cutlet. Roll up and secure with 2 or 3 toothpicks.

Beat egg in a shallow bowl; combine bread crumbs and panko in another shallow bowl.

Dip each roll in the egg, then coat with the crumbs.

Transfer rolls to baking sheet. Spray the rolls generously with the olive oil cooking spray. Bake 25 minutes.
*****************************************
TASTE NOTES
Aside from the need to plan for the marinating of the chicken cutlets, this is an entree that goes together in about 10 minutes. I served it this night with a 4 bean salad because after baking Christmas cookies all day, I was too tired to make any other sides. In the future, I might make some saffron rice and black beans. This is going to be a frequent meal with its ease of preparation and low points.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Nacho Stuffed Shells





Weight Watchers has changed their Smart Points program, expanding the list of 0 point foods. Looking for new recipes to take advantage of this change, I happened on a recipe for nacho stuffed shells. I made some minor changes (eliminating chilies and adding scallions) and served this dish with a shrimp cocktail appetizer and a green salad.

Serves 6 (3 shells per serving; 5 SP per serving)

Ingredients

20 uncooked jumbo shells
15 oz can tom1at free salsa
1/2 tsp garlic powder
2 tbs reduced sodium taco seasoning
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup reduced fat whipped cream cheese spread
4 chopped scallions
1/3 cup reduced fat shredded cheddar
16 oz can fat free refried beans
2 tbs chopped cilantro
1/2 lb uncooked ground turkey (99% fat free)

  • Directions

  • In large bowl, stir together tomato puree, salsa and garlic powder. Spread 3/4 cup sauce mixture in bottom of a 13 x 9 x 2-inch baking pan. Reserve remaining sauce.
  • Cook pasta according to package directions until al dente. Rinse with cold water and drain.
  • Cook turkey in a large skillet sprayed with cooking spray, over medium heat, breaking pieces up until turkey is no longer pink. Stir in taco seasoning, water and cream cheese, stirring until cream cheese is melted; simmer until thickened. Stir in refried beans and scallions.
  • Fill shells with bean mixture, using 2 tablespoons filling per shell. Place filled shells in prepared baking dish, top with remaining sauce.
  • Cover with foil and bake 30 minutes. Uncover, sprinkle with cheese and cilantro and bake 5 to 10 more minutes.
  • ******************************
  • TASTE NOTES
  • These shells were filling and delicious. I might add sour cream and avocado in the future, but they were perfect as is.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Ramen Noodle Bowls


Maybe it's my age, but I had never before eaten ramen noodles--not those little packages loaded with sodium, or the real thing from a noodle shop. Because I have come to trust the recipes at Cook's Country magazine, as soon as I saw the recipe for ramen noodle bowls, I knew I had to try it.

I made the recipe (almost) exactly as written, but will add a few ingredients and streamline the instruction next time. Oh, yes! There will be a next time.

Ingredients
2 tbs hoisin sauce (I reduced the amount from their 1/4 cup)
3 tbs soy sauce (I use low sodium)
2 tsp cornstarch
1 (12 oz) pork tenderloin, trimmed halved lengthwise, and sliced crosswise into 1/4" slices
2 1/4 cups chicken broth (I use fat free, low sodium)
2 tbs vegetable oil
4 oz white mushrooms, trimmed and sliced thinly
1 tbs grated fresh ginger
2 garlic cloves, grated
3 (3 oz) pkg ramen noodles (save the seasoning packets for another use; or, discard)
12 oz broccoli florets, cut into 1-inch pieces
3 scallions, sliced thinly on the bias

Instructions
Whisk 1 tbs hoisin, 1 tbs soy sauce, and cornstarch together in a medium bowl. Add sliced pork and toss to coat. Set aside.

Whisk broth, remaining 1 tbs hoisin, and remaining 2 tbs soy sauce together in a large measuring cup and set aside.

Heat 1 tbs oil in large, nonstick skillet or wok over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add mushrooms and cook until browned, about 5 minutes. Add ginger and garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.


Add broth mixture and bring to a boil. Arrange the noodles in skillet in a single layer; cover, reduce heat to medium.  Cook about 3 minutes. Noodles will be soft on bottom, but still dry on top.


Uncover skillet and use tongs to flip noodles and stir to separate. Spread noodles in an even layer and scatter broccoli over the top of them. Cover and cook until noodles and broccoli are tender, about 3 more minutes, tossing halfway through.

Divide mixture evenly among 4 individual bowls and tent with foil.*

*The purpose of doing this is to make this a one-skillet dish. In the future, I will use a second skillet and cook the pork at the same time.

Wipe out the skillet with a paper towel. Add the other tbs oil and heat over medium-high heat. Add the pork in a single layer and cook until browned on one side (1-2 minutes). Flip each slice and brown the other side, then stir to make sure pork is cooked through. Divide among the 4 bowls and top with the scallions.

***************************************
TASTE NOTES
Let's just say, this was love at first bite. OMG! I couldn't believe how unbelievably delicious (and low in points) this dish was. Yes, there is a bit of preparation involved. In the future, I'll do all the chopping well in advance. It wasn't a difficult dish to make and it will go more smoothly the next time using a nonstick wok AND a nonstick skillet. My decision to decrease the amount of hoisin was a good one; I think it would have been cloying with more. I will probably add some shredded carrot, some chopped water chestnuts, and some shitake mushrooms in the future. I might even add some nuts.  However, this dinner was enjoyed with lots of yummy noises just as it was.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Cinnamon Chip Scones (Panera Copycat Recipe)


I love all things cinnamon, so when cinnamon chips burst upon the baking scene, I made Snickerdoodle cookies, breads, and cupcakes. One day, I tasted DSO's cinnamon chip scone at Panera's and it was love at first bite. An internet search brought up many recipes and I tinkered a bit and this was what I came up with.

INGREDIENTS
3 1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/3 cup
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup cold, unsalted butter, cubed
1 cup reduced fat buttermilk
1 pkg (10 oz) cinnamon baking chips
2 tbs melted butter and 3 tbs sugar (for brushing tops of scones)

DIRECTIONS
In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Cut in the butter until the mixture looks like coarse crumbs. Stir in buttermilk until just moistened. Fold in the chips.

Turn onto a lightly floured surface and knead gently, 12-15 times, until dough is no longer sticky. Divide in half.

Gently pat each portion into a 7 inch circle. Brush with melted butter and sprinkle with sugar. Then, cut each circle into 8 even wedges.

Separate the wedges and place on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake* at 425 degrees F for 10-15 minutes, or until lightly browed. Serve warm.

*I prepared these a day ahead and refrigerated them right on the baking sheet. I baked them in a 425 degree F oven, but it took 28 minutes for them to be done. I also drizzled half of them with a simple glaze made of confectioners sugar, 2 tbs brewed espresso, and enough milk to make the mixture drizzle easily.
***************************************************
TASTE NOTES
I made these scones for my quilt guild's business meeting and they were met with great enjoyment. The one I sampled was absolutely perfect--a great crumb and the icing was just enough. In fact, I thought they were better than Panera's--not as dry.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Lemon Chicken over Rigatoni



Yes, there are other recipes for this dish on The Food of Love, but I'm always striving to improve old favorites, both in terms of their flavor and of their healthfulness. This recipe for lemon chicken--which begs to be served over pasta--addresses both issues with the added benefit of being simple enough to be a weeknight dinner.

Serves 4

INGREDIENTS
6  boneless, skinless four ounce chicken breasts
all purpose flour for dusting (about 1/2 cup plus 1 1/2 tbs)
2 eggs, beaten
2 tbs olive oil
3 tbs unsalted butter
1/4 cup chopped parsley
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup white wine
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
juice of 1 large lemon

DIRECTIONS
*Cook the pasta as you complete the steps below.
Season each chicken breast with salt and pepper, then dust with flour.
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium high heat.
Dip each breast in the egg, then slip into the skillet and saute for a few minutes per side.
Remove chicken from skillet and cover loosely.
Add the butter to the pan, then the 1 1/2 tbs flour. Stir as the butter melts.
Add the wine and the parsley and cook for a minute.
Add the lemon juice and chicken broth, stirring to combine.
Return the chicken pieces to the pan.
Reduce heat to a simmer and cook until sauce is thickened and chicken is cooked through.
Serve over pasta.
**********************
TASTE NOTES
Each time I make this dish, I marvel anew at how flavorful and satisfying such an easy meal can be! The chicken can be cut with a fork and the delicate flavor of the sauce is perfect over a tubular-shaped pasta like rigatoni.



Tuesday, July 4, 2017

S'mores Pie

Image may contain: food and indoor

I have a confession to make. I don't like s'mores. I like graham crackers and marshmallows and I love chocolate, but the sandwich-type s'mores are impossible to eat and really don't do it for me. I've made s'mores cupcakes and found them much more to my liking, so I thought a s'mores pie would be a perfect dessert for a Fourth of July barbecue.

My search for a recipe produced any number of versions, but the one that most appealed was on a blog called Gimme Some Oven. While the baking time in the original recipe was way off, the flavors didn't disappoint. This is a very simple recipe. I do think there could be more crust, but it was still delicious.

INGREDIENTS

CRUST INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted

FILLING INGREDIENTS:

  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 10 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 eggs, whisked
  • 10 -20 large marshmallows cut in half OR mini marshmallows

DIRECTIONS:

TO MAKE CRUST:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (160 degrees C).
In a medium mixing bowl, stir together the graham cracker crumbs and melted butter until evenly coated. Press mixture into a greased 9-inch pie plate. Bake for 8-10 minutes.

TO MAKE PIE:

In a medium saucepan, whisk together cream and milk. Warm over medium-low heat. Add in chocolate and stir until chocolate has completely melted and is smooth. Slowly add in vanilla and whisked eggs, and whisk until smooth.
Pour chocolate filling into baked pie crust. Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until chocolate filling is set and does not jiggle when pie is lightly shaken. Remove from oven.
Using a kitchen shears or a knife, cut marshmallows in half. Place halves in concentric circles over the top of the pie until covered.
Lower oven rack to the middle position, and set oven to the lowest broil setting. Place pie on the rack and lightly toast the marshmallows. (I recommend pulling them out the second you see them beginning to turn slightly golden.) You can also use a kitchen torch to toast the marshmallows instead.
Chill pie in the refrigerator to set for 2-3 hours. 
TASTE NOTES
This was an easy, delicious dessert. The pie took 40 minutes to cook to the stage where it looked dry on top and had just a slight jiggle. The taste was phenomenal and just a small slice satisfies.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Broccoli, Cheddar and Potato Soup



Cold winter days are made for soup--the heartier, the better. This chowder-like soup is stick-to-your-ribs good, but easily fits into a healthy lifestyle. Thanks to Skinnytaste for the base recipe.

INGREDIENTS
1 small onion, chopped
1 medium carrot, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp butter
2 tbsp flour 
2 1/2 cups less sodium chicken broth 
1 cup fat free milk
2 medium potatoes, peeled and diced small
1/4 tsp kosher salt and fresh pepper
cups (about 2 heads) broccoli florets, chopped into small pieces
1-1/2 cups reduced fat shredded sharp cheddar
2 slices 2% American cheese
1 tbsp parmesan cheese
DIRECTIONS

Chop onion, carrot, celery,and garlic .

In a large pot, melt butter.  Add chopped vegetables and sauté on low heat until soft, about 10 minutes.

Add flour, salt and pepper to the pot and stir until smooth.

Add chicken broth, milk and potatoes and set heat to high until it comes to a boil, then cover and cook on low until potatoes are soft, about 10-15 minutes.

Add broccoli florets, parmesan cheese, and stir well. Adjust salt and pepper to taste.

 Cook uncovered until broccoli is cooked, about 15 minutes.

Add cheddar and American cheese, stir well and remove from heat.

Use an immersion blender to achieve desired consistency.
******************************************
TASTE NOTES
At 7 SP per 1 1/3 cup serving, this soup is a real winner.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

The Best Brownies Ever


I love brownies! I don't make them often because...I love brownies. I do make them at least once a year for DSO's hunting camp Opening Day dinner. This year I decided to try a new recipe and found this one on the King Arthur website.

I had to sample half of one to make sure they were good. Oh, my, were they ever! I know this will be my go-to brownie recipe from now on. I can imagine one with Godiva chocolate syrup and vanilla bean ice cream on top. 

Monday, November 7, 2016

Hasselback Apples Lite


Hasselback potatoes are a fun side dish that I've enjoyed, so when I saw a recipe for Hasselback apples, I thought, "Why not?" The original recipe called for an oatmeal crumble, making the dish something like an apple crisp. While I'm sure that recipe would be delicious, it wouldn't be something that I could indulge in on a regular basis. I decided to eliminate that topping and just kick these baked apples up a notch.

  • 3 large apples, peeled and cored
  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  1. Pre-heat oven to 375°.
  2. Starting at the outer edge, make thin slices at 1/8"-1/4" intervals cutting most (but not all) of the way through each apple half.
  3. Place apple halves, cut side down, in an 8-inch square pan sprayed with cooking spray.
  4. Combine butter, sugar and cinnamon and brush evenly over each apple piece.
  5. Cover with foil and bake for 25 minutes.
  6. Uncover and bake for an additional 10 minutes
**********************************
TASTE NOTES
These apples were delicious and with just a bit of butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon on them, they were very figure-friendly. I may add a lightened oatmeal crumble next time.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Blueberry Buckle Coffeecake



If you've never been on the King Arthur Flour blog, please put it on your list of things to do. This blueberry buckle coffeecake is a straightforward recipe that doesn't disappoint. Use fresh blueberries whenever possible or substitute frozen when you must.

I ran this recipe through the Weight Watcher recipe builder and it comes in at 7 SP per serving, based on cutting the cake into 16 servings. It's an indulgence for me, but well worth it.

The recipe is here.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Chicken Enchilada Casserole



I love Mexican flavors and when I can have that taste without a lot of fat and carbs, it's a win-win situation. I've made a number of versions of this layered chicken enchilada casserole, but what separates this version (based on one I saw on the blog Skinny Chicken) is the sweetness from the honey which contrasts nicely with the acidity of the lemon juice.  Here is my take on the SK recipe.


6 servings - 9 SP per serving
Ingredients
2 tablespoons honey
⅓ cup lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder, separated
1 teaspoon cumin, separated
1  teaspoon garlic powder, separated
1 teaspoon salt
6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
¾ cup fat-free cottage cheese
½ cup fresh corn (off the cob) or frozen and defrosted
12-thin corn tortillas, cut in half
1 cup light cheddar cheese, shredded
2 tablespoons scallions, sliced or chopped
1 (10-12 oz)  can red enchilada sauce 
OPTIONAL: light sour cream 

Instructions
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place chicken in a 9 X 13 baking pan and using half the amount of spices listed above, season the chicken thighs on both sides. Roast for 20 minutes, turn chicken, then roast for an additional 20 minutes or until thighs are cooked through. Set aside to cool.
2. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together honey, lemon juice, chili powder, cumin, garlic powder and salt. Shred the chicken and add it along with the cottage cheese and  corn, mixing well. Let it marinate in the fridge for at least 15 minutes or longer.
3.. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Coat a 9 x 9 inch baking pan with cooking spray.
4. Coat the bottom of the pan with ¼ cup enchilada sauce. Spread around.Cover bottom of pan with tortilla slices  Spoon ⅔ cup of the marinated chicken with some of the juice over the top. Add 4 corn tortillas to cover bottom. They will overlap a bit. Spread ⅔ cup more chicken mixture evenly over tortillas, top with ½ cup shredded cheese. Add another layer of tortillas.  Spread with ½ of remaining sauce, add remaining chicken and add a final layer of tortillas. Spread remaining sauce all over top. Sprinkle with ½ cup shredded cheese and scallions. Cover casserole with foil. Bake for 30 minutes.
5. Cool a bit and cut into 6 slices.
6. Serve each with 1 tablespoon of sour cream or yogurt dolloped over the top.
Makes 6 servings
******************************************
TASTE NOTES
This casserole is a winner. Easy to put together, a mere 30 minutes in the oven, and a generous serving for a light entree--what's not to like? Next time I'll up the protein by including some black beans.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Lemon Chicken Pasta




I have definitely been on a chicken Francese kick, so when I saw this lightened dish from Taste of Home, I decided to give it a try.

Serves 4-6
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (6 oz each)
salt and pepper
1/2 cup all purpose flour
8 oz angel hair pasta
3 tbs olive oil, divided
1/4 cup peeled and thinly sliced garlic cloves (10-12 cloves)
1 cup white wine (or chicken broth)
2 tbs freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1/3 cup fresh parsley, minced

Pound chicken breasts to 1/4 inch thickness. Sprinkle both sides with salt and pepper. Dredge in flour, shaking off excess.

Cook pasta according to package directions. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat 2 tbs olive oil over medium high heat. Add chicken and cook 2 -3 minutes on each side (until lightly browned). Remove and keep warm.

In same pan, heat remaining 1 tbs oil. Add garlic and cook, stirring, for about 1 minute, until lightly browned. Add wine to pan and increase heat to high. Cook, stirring to loosen browned bits, until reduced by half. Stir in lemon juice.

Drain pasta, reserving 1/2 cup of pasta water. Place pasta in large bowl. Add cheese, parsley and toss to combine. Add reserved pasta water as needed to moisten pasta.

Serve chicken over pasta.
N.I. per serving:  403 cal; 12g fat (3g sat); 35g carb; 2g fiber; 31g prot
*****************************************************************
TASTE NOTES
Moist chicken over a garlicky-lemon pasta was a nice alternative to a heavily-sauced, buttery chicken Francese. It was certainly a reasonable weeknight alternative. My only complaint is that dividing 4 breasts into 6 servings seems ridiculous. Next time I'll get 6 four-ounce breasts instead.