Thursday, February 26, 2015

Beef and Pasta Soup

It's the final night of our Trifecta* and I'm looking forward to another winning ticket. Nothing beats soup on a cold, wintry night and we've been having plenty of those lately.

*this recipe uses leftover Merlot Pot Roast (recipe here)

Yield:  about 8 cups

1 cup chopped onion
1 tbs canola oil
1 cup chopped carrots
1 (8 oz) package sliced mushrooms
2 cups chopped Merlot pot roast
1 cup vegetable mixture from Merlot pot roast sauce
1/2 cup uncooked acini di pepe (or other small pasta)
32 oz beef broth (this is what the recipe called for; I used strained leftover gravy from night 1 and enough beef broth to make the 32 oz and I highly recommend this as the flavor is so much better)

Saute onion in hot oil in a Dutch oven over medium high heat  (about 5 minutes). Add carrots and mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, 8 - 10 minutes longer, until mushrooms are tender.
Add remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium, and simmer, stirring occasionally, 5-6 minutes or until acini di pepi is al dente and soup is thoroughly heated.

Served with a homemade seasoned croutons.
I loved the pot roast. I loved the shepherd's pie pot pies. BUT, this soup got first place in my book. It was so rich and flavorful because I strained the leftover gravy and used that with beef broth to equal 32 ounces instead of just using beef broth. It had fresh vegetables as well as vegetables that had cooked along with the roast. It had pasta and that wonderful shredded beef. It reminded me of that elusive beef soup my mom used to make and which I've tried many times to replicate. I do think she may have used boneless chuck. I will make all 3 of these dishes again, but this soup will always be the clear winner.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Shepherd's Pot Roast Pies

It's Night 2 of our Trifecta*, time to turn that delectable pot roast into an entirely new meal. This meal will take less than 20 minutes to get into the oven. I added some sauce to the original recipe, though you can omit it or serve some sauce on the side.

*this recipe uses leftover Merlot pot roast (recipe here)

Serves 6 (bake both and freeze one for another night)

1 (14.1 oz) package refrigerated piecrusts
2 cups prepared mashed potatoes (you can make your own or buy them already made)
2 cups chopped Merlot pot roast
1/2 cup cooked carrots (I saved some of my glazed carrots from the night before)
1 cup frozen baby peas, thawed
1/2 - 3/4 cup sauce from the Merlot pot roast
1 large egg

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Unroll the first piecrust onto a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Spread 1 cup potatoes over half the crust, leaving a one inch border all around.

Toss together the pot roast, carrots, peas, and sauce. Spoon half the mixture over the potatoes.

Whisk together the egg and 1 tsp water and brush a small amount of the egg mixture around the edge of the piecrust. Fold dough over filling, pressing and folding edges to seal.

Repeat with remaining crust and mixture.

Brush tops of pies with remaining egg mixture. Cut small slits in top of each pie for steam to escape.

Bake at 400 degrees for 25 - 30 minutes or until crusts are golden brown and crisp.
Easy peasy and delicious! There was the perfect ratio of crust to filling and the addition of the sauce was a good one. I had hoped to freeze the second pie, but tried to move it before it had cooled and it broke in half. It made a yummy lunch the next day.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Trifecta of Slow Cooker Dinners

I may be a diehard New Yorker, but I have a soft spot for the South. I've probably seen Gone with the Wind a few dozen times. Flannery O'Connor is one of my favorite authors. And, I've never met a plate of fried chicken I didn't like. It isn't surprising, then, that one of my favorite magazines is Southern Living.

I recently bought one of their special collection magazine cookbooks:  Slow Cooker Suppers. There are many dishes waiting to be made, but what caught my eye was the Merlot pot roast which is then repurposed as Shepherd's pot roast pies and, finally, as beef and orzo soup. I love the idea of a master recipe that can be repurposed easily. Most recipes for 2 servings are rather pedestrian, yet I don't enjoy eating the same meal 3 nights in a row. The little bit of effort expended for the master recipe was time well spent as all 3 dinners were encore worthy.

I'm going to post the master recipe here and will follow up in the next 2 days with the leftover meals. I've made a few small changes based on my experience with this preparation that will streamline it and improve it.

Merlot Pot Roast

1 (3.5 - 4.5 lb) boneless chuck roast
4 tbs olive oil, divided
2 tbs smoked paprika
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 tsp Kosher salt
4 carrots, minced*
1 cup celery (3-4 stalks), minced*
1 medium onion, minced*
4 garlic cloves, minced*
2 cups Merlot (or your favorite red wine)
4 sprigs fresh oregano
4 sprigs fresh rosemary
1 (28 oz) can diced tomatoes, undrained

A mince is finer than a chop. Minced vegetables are added to flavor the sauce, not to be a principal ingredient in a dish. I suggest judicious use of the food processor to save time. Just be sure not to pulverize the veggies.

Coat the roast with 1 tbs olive oil. Combine paprika, salt, pepper, and rub mixture all over roast. Let stand for 10 minutes.

Heat 1 tbs olive oil in a large Dutch oven. Add the roast and cook 5-7 minutes over medium heat, turning it to brown on all sides. Place the roast in the slow cooker.

Heat remaining 3 tbs olive oil in Dutch oven. Add onion, carrots, celery, and garlic and saute for 10 minutes until tender. Remove from Dutch oven with slotted spoon and place on top of roast.

Wrap the sprigs of oregano and rosemary in cheesecloth and tie. I added this step because they will cook apart and will be impossible to remove from your sauce.

Add wine and your wrapped sprigs of herbs to the Dutch oven and bring to a boil. Cook 10 minutes to reduce the wine by half. Be sure to stir the bottom of the pot to loosen browned bits from bottom of the pan. Stir in tomatoes; pour mixture over roast.

Cover and cook on low for 7 hours or until tender.

Remove roast to a cutting board and discard the herb sack. Pour the juices into a 2 quart bowl. Let stand 10 minutes, then skim fat from top. Slice 1/3 roast. Pour juices and vegetables over the roast when you serve it. Serve with creamy polenta or mashed potatoes. If I didn't watch my weight, I'd have had a loaf of buttered Italian bread to soak up the incredible sauce.

Shred the remainder of the roast. You will need 2 cups of the beef to make the pot pies and 2 cups to make the soup. If there is more left over, it makes great sandwiches, particularly with some BBQ sauce. Be sure to save the leftover gravy with vegetables for the soup.
The preparation for this master recipe takes between 30 and 40 minutes, but is well worth it. The house smelled incredible while the beef cooked and the beef literally fell apart. The sauce is so flavorful, I wish there were another use for all that will be left over (you will use some for the soup). I served the pot roast with creamy polenta and glazed carrots. It was sublime!

Monday, February 16, 2015

Classic Scalloped Potatoes

Who doesn't love scalloped potatoes, a comfort food if ever there was one. Many people give up after trying to make them and having them come out uncooked. The secret to perfect scalloped potatoes lies in using a mandoline to slice the potatoes paper thin. No matter how good your knife skills, you just can't slice them thinly enough without this simple kitchen tool.

This recipe lightens up the dish by eliminating any fat in the roux (substituting fat free chicken broth for butter) and using nonfat (or, if you choose, 1%) milk in place of cream. No taste is sacrificed by making these substitutions.

Serves 8  ( 5 PP per serving)

2 lbs Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and sliced on a mandoline
1/2 cup fat free, low sodium chicken broth
1 tbs all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
2 cups nonfat milk
1 cup shredded Gruyere cheese
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Spray a 2 quart baking dish or shallow casserole with nonstick spray.

Whisk together broth and flour in medium saucepan over low heat until smooth. Add milk, salt, pepper, and nutmeg and raise heat to medium-high. Bring sauce to a boil, whisking constantly until slightly thickened. Remove sauce from heat.

Arrange half the potatoes in prepared baking dish, slightly overlapping slices. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and half the Gruyere. Arrange remaining potato slices on top. Pour white sauce evenly over potatoes. Set aside the rest of the cheese.

Bake uncovered for 25  minutes. Press down on potatoes with a spatula to completely submerge potatoes in sauce. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup of cheese. Bake until potatoes are tender and top is browned, about 25 minutes longer.

Let stand for 20 minutes before serving.

NOTE:  These potatoes can be baked up to 2 hours ahead. Cover with foil and set aside until about 30 minutes before serving time. Bake the gratin at 350 until heated through, about 25 minutes.
Because  scalloped potatoes are so rich, a mere 1/8 of the dish is a perfect portion size. Gruyere cheese is pricey, but you can freeze leftovers (wrapped well) or eat it out of hand. It has a wonderfully nutty flavor that really can't be achieved with any substitution. I served these with pork chops and glazed carrots tonight and they'll make an encore appearance with meatloaf tomorrow night. They would probably be wonderful topped with a fried egg, too.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Chocolate Chess Pie (Fudge Pie)

Just in time for Valentine's Day, this classic southern dessert has all the ingredients of chess pie with the addition of chocolate. It's a cinch to whip this up, particularly if you use ready made pie crust rolls (I won't tell, if you don't ).


9 inch pie crust (homemade or ready made)

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3 T Dutch processed cocoa powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 large eggs plus 3 large egg yolks, beaten
1 tsp vanilla
4 tbs unsalted butter, melted

whipped cream for serving
OPTIONAL: chocolate shavings


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place pie crust (ready made sheets work fine) into 9 inch glass pie plate, pressing into bottom and sides. Crimp crust, then bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and make filling.

In the bowl of an electric mixer place sugar, cocoa powder, salt, beaten eggs, vanilla, and butter. Use the paddle attachment to blend until creamy and smooth.

Pour into baked shell and bake for 45 minutes or until filling is set around the edges and still a little "jiggly" in the middle. Remove from the oven and place on a rack to cool.

Top with whipped cream and garnish with chocolate shavings before serving.
Rich, decadent, creamy, chocolate--this pie has everything I need in a dessert plus whipped cream. It was absolutely delicious, but I know it would be even better with homemade pie crust because I find the ready made ones a bit skimpy. However, I needed a dessert to bring to dinner and this fit the bill quite nicely. Oh, and if you read or saw the movie version of The Help, this is the basis of Minnie's infamous pie. Nuff said.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Old-fashioned Tamale Pie (slow cooker recipe)

While many recipes for the slow cooker can be categorized as the "dump it and leave it" variety, with a small investment of time, you can make meals whose flavors are really developed and that taste as though they took much more preparation. This old-fashioned tamale pie is a case in point.

You can streamline the preparation time by using a rotisserie chicken, or, you can take advantage of a sale on boneless, skinless chicken breasts and prepare your own. For years I poached chicken in water or chicken broth. While it's a perfectly good way to prepare chicken for a recipe that calls for cooked chicken, a few years ago I began roasting it as suggested in one of Ina Garten's cookbooks. I've now replaced that methods with a combination approach of dry heat and moist heat cooking that yields the most flavorful chicken (see method below).

Serves 6 to 8 (13 PP for 6 servings; 10 PP for 8 servings)

2 1/4 cups water
3/4 cup instant polenta
salt and pepper
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (I use 2%)
1 tbs unsalted butter
1 medium onion, minced
1 tbs vegetable oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbs chili powder
2 tsp cumin
4 cups shredded, cooked chicken
1 (15 oz) canned black beans, rinsed and drained
1 (15 oz) can creamed corn
1 (10 oz) can red enchilada sauce
2 tbs Minute tapioca

Combine the water and the instant polenta and 1 tsp salt in a microwave safe bowl. Cover and microwave until most of the water is absorbed, 6-8 minutes. Stir polenta thoroughly, then continue to microwave, uncovered, for another 2 minutes. Stir in cheddar and butter, season with salt and pepper to taste, and cover to keep warm.

Microwave the onion, garlic, chili powder, and cumin in a microwave safe bowl, stirring occasionally, until onion is softened, about 5 minutes. Transfer to slow cooker.

Stir chicken, beans, corn, enchilada sauce, and tapioca into slow cooker. Spoon cooked polenta over the filling, smoothing into an even layer with a spatula.

Cover and cook on low for 4 hours, until casserole is heated through. Let casserole cool for 15-20 minutes, then serve.

Easy Poached Chicken

Pat 2 lbs of boneless, skinless chicken breasts dry with paper towels. Season with salt and pepper on both sides. Heat 1 tbs vegetable oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking. Carefully lay breasts in skillet and cook until well-browned on the first side, 6-8 minutes. Flip breasts, add 1/2 cup water, and cover. Reduce heat to medium-low and continue to cook until thickest part of breasts registers 165 on an instant-read thermometer, about 5-7 minutes longer. Transfer chicken to a cutting board, let cool slightly, then use the tines of two forks to shred into bite-sized pieces.
I've been making a lot of Mexican food lately and I've been very happy with the results. If you like Mexican food and eat it out, you might have noticed that many dishes contain the same ingredients and tend to have very similar flavor profiles. I haven't run into that same issue with the dishes I've been making at home. Yes, chicken is my go-to protein and enchilada sauce and black beans are frequent guest stars. Despite the repetition of key ingredients, I've found the dishes to be unique and don't feel as though I'm eating the same thing. This casserole has bright flavors, a good variety of textures, and can be seasoned more aggressively, if that's your fancy. I could also see this recipe working well with shredded beef. I'm looking forward to the leftovers. I have to confess--I wish I'd doubled the polenta!

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Silver Palate Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

One of the first serious cookbooks I ever bought was The Silver Palate Cookbook. I still have it and occasionally pull it out to make an old favorite. So I was happy to find a new "thick and rough" oatmeal by The Silver Palate in Shoprite a few weeks ago. While it won't replace Irish oatmeal as my favorite, these cookies, a bit thinner and chewier than the ones I usually bake, are definitely worthy of an encore.

Makes 4 dozen cookies (I've made a few minor tweaks)

1 cup unsalted butter
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 1/4 cups brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
2 cups uncooked Silver Palate Thick and Rough Oatmeal
1 cup raisins

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl (or the bowl of a stand mixer), beat the butter on medium to high speed for 30 seconds.  In a smaller bowl, stir together 1 cup flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.

Add mixture to the butter, then add brown sugar, white sugar, eggs, and vanilla to mix. Blend 1 - 2 minutes, or until all ingredients are thoroughly mixed.

Stir in the oats and the remaining flour. Fold in the raisins.

Drop by rounded teaspoons 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. I use silicone mats on my cookie sheets and highly recommend them. Bake for 10 - 12 minutes or until the edges are lightly browned.

Cool on a wire rack.
WARNING:  These cookies are highly addictive. I do think I overbeat the cookies because they spread more than they should have. Despite that, they were so good, chewy and rich with the taste of cinnamon and brown sugar.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Lightened-up Turkey Pot Pie

When I was growing up, having a pot pie was a special treat. I remember having to wheedle my mother into buying things like pot pies or Swanson's fried chicken TV dinner or, my favorite of all, Chef Boyardee ravioli in the can. Yes, I confess, these were foods I loved; sadly, I didn't get to eat them too often. I've made my own potpies from scratch before, but they aren't usually Weight Watcher friendly. Not until now.

I perused potpie recipes in my cookbook collection as well as online and putting together an idea from here and there, this is what I came up with.

Servings:  6 (6 PP per serving)
§                1 small onion, finely chopped
§                10 oz mushrooms, chopped
§                2 stalks celery, chopped
§                1 bag frozen mixed vegetables (I like the ones with green beans, corn, peas, carrots)
§                8 oz leftover turkey (or chicken), diced
§                2 tbsp  flour
§                1 tbsp light butter
§                1 cup fat free chicken broth
§                1/2 cup fat free evaporated milk
§                1 tsp salt
§                1/4 tsp black pepper
§                1 tsp dried thyme
§                1 can reduced fat crescent roll dough


1.             Preheat oven to 375 and spray a 10” pie plate with cooking spray (butter flavored is best).
2.             In a medium sized pot, melt butter over medium high heat. Add in onions and celery and cook     until tender, about 5 minutes. Add in mushrooms and cook for another 5 minutes. Stir in broth, chicken, vegetables, thyme and salt and pepper. Cover and simmer on medium for about 15 minutes.
3.             In a small bowl, whisk together the evaporated milk and flour. Pour into chicken and vegetable mixture and continue to cook on medium heat, stirring constantly until the sauce is thickened, about 5 minutes.
4.             Pour mixture into prepared pie plate, and arrange crescent roll slices around the outside edge, leaving the pie open in the center. Do this by lining up the long side of each roll with the edge of the pie plate. Place the first 4 triangles down, then fill in the spaces with the other 4.
5.             Place into oven and bake until the crust is golden brown, and the center of the pot pie is bubbly, about 15 minutes.
6.             Let cool 10 minutes before serving.

It's hard to believe that something made with so little fat could taste so good. The ratio of turkey to veggie was balanced as was the ratio of sauce to crust. My only issue with this dish is it's very difficult dividing it into servings. I'm going to buy some individual mini aluminum pie plates next time and make them up that way. They'll be easier to serve and I can pop a few into the freezer for another night.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Holiday Ham Loaf

I've been a fan of Penny's Lake Lure Cottage Kitchen since I started blogging 6 years ago. I've tried other recipes she's blogged about and found them to be reliable, not to mention delicious. When I saw her post about her mother's holiday ham loaf, I knew I'd have to make it. My mother never made a ham loaf, but she and I both loved ham salad. In fact, her mother introduced it to me. There was a little luncheonette across the street from the children's store where my grandmother worked part time. I loved visiting her so we could go to Doughty's and split a ham salad sandwich. I got my own chocolate egg cream. In retrospect, the combination doesn't sound too harmonious, but to the 5 year old palate, it was heaven. Years later, my mother and I rediscovered ham salad in the Amish country in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. So you can understand why I had to make this ham loaf in honor of Penny's mom and my own.
1 pound ham steak, ground
1 pound ground round or lean ground beef
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup whole milk
2 cups saltine crackers, crushed (about 1 sleeve)
2 teaspoons mustard
1/2 cup cider vinegar
2/3 cup brown sugar
Combine the first 5 ingredients in a large bowl.   Form into a loaf and place in a 9″x 13″ baking dish.  Score the top diagonally in both directions with a knife (about 1/4-inch deep).   Bake the ham loaf in a 325 degree oven for one hour. 
Meanwhile, mix together the mustard, vinegar and brown sugar in a small bowl and set aside.  
Pour sauce over meat and bake an additional one hour, basting frequently, especially during the last 1/2 hour.  Place on platter, slice and serve.
I loved the smell of the glaze during the second hour of cooking. I should have scored my ham loaf more deeply, then run it under the broiler for a little browning (next time). I really liked the taste of the ham loaf and wished there were even more glaze to pour over. I sliced the loaf, which is large, into 12 generous slices. Since there are just two of us, I froze half the loaf for another meal and will use the other slices for sandwiches tomorrow. With a large tossed salad and some baked yams, this meal was a hit. Thank you, Penny!

Friday, January 16, 2015

Beef, Green Bean, Scallion, and Water Chestnut Stir Fry

A review of my index of recipes will reveal that I'm no stranger to the stir fry. It's a quick and easy meal once the mis en place is done. It's also generally a healthy choice--far more so than Chinese take-out. That said, I have to say this particular stir fry gets high marks for flavor and will probably replace my old standby beef with broccoli. I found the basic recipe in one of those America's Test Kitchen publications that I frequently purchase. This one, "30-Minute Suppers," has been put to good use in the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas. As is generally the case, I made a few changes to reflect my taste. The recipe yields 4 generous servings and is excellent served over plain white rice.

1/4 cup oyster sauce
1/2 cup low sodium chicken broth
2 tbs low sodium soy sauce
1 tbs rice vinegar
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tbs plus 2 tsp vegetable oil (divided)
1 lb green beans, trimmed and cut into 2 inch pieces (buy the bagged ones to save time)
1 lb flank steak, halved lengthwise and sliced thinly
8 scallions, cut into 2 inch pieces
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbs grated fresh ginger (don't even think of using powdered!)
1 can chopped water chestnuts, drained

Whisk the oyster sauce, broth, soy sauce, rice vinegar, and pepper flakes in a small bowl.

Heat 1 tbs vegetable oil in a 12 inch nonstick skillet over high heat; heat until just smoking. Add the beans and cook, stirring every 30-45 seconds, until spotty brown. Transfer to a large bowl.

Heat an additional 1 tsp oil and cook the steak until browned, about 3 minutes. Transfer to the bowl with the green beans.

Heat the final 1 tsp oil and add the scallions to the skillet, cooking until browned in spots, about 2 minutes. Add the garlic and ginger and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the water chestnuts and cook about 30 seconds more. Return steak and beans with any accumulated juices to the pan. Add the oyster sauce mixture and cook until thickened, about 1 minute. Serve over white rice, if desired.
One of the reasons I buy the America's Test Kitchen publications is that they are teaching vehicles. I always learn something new about cooking or baking, despite the many ears I've been engaged in these pursuits. I've had an electric stove for many years (too many) and a ceramic topped one for at least 20+ years. These stove tops are not wok friendly. What I learned in this publication, however, is that using a large skillet is a better option anyway. A skillet's flat bottom design allows more of its surface to come in direct contact with the flat burner, delivering more heat over more of the skillet than a wok and enabling it to stay hot even after food is added. Also, while it's a temptation while stir-frying (as the name implies) to stir constantly, it's better to wait 30 - 45 seconds between each round of stirring so the pan can retain its heat. Something I normally do is to put the meat to be slice into the freezer for 15-30 minutes so it firms up and is easier to slice uniformly.

The flavor of this dish surprised me. There aren't a lot of ingredients; there is no thickener necessary. The key is having all the preparation done and the ingredients lined up in order. Adding oil a bit at a time and stir frying until a bit of brown appears brings out the most flavor in the ingredients used. This was a far better dish than any I've eaten from a Chinese take-out place.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Chicken Enchilada Casserole Revisited

I love ooey, gooey chicken enchiladas. In fact, there aren't many cheese-covered dishes that I don't like, especially Mexican ones. I've made enchiladas at home, even making my own sauce. The truth is, I'd rather eat them out than stuff and roll at home when I could be working in my studio or reading. Enter the casserole. I recently saw this casserole on Skinny Kitchen and could tell, based on the ingredients, that it would be a winner. I pretty much made it as directed except for bumping up the seasoning a bit and cooking it longer.

2 Tbs honey
1/3 cup lemon juice
2 tsp chili powder
1/2 - 1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups cooked chicken, diced or shredded
3/4 cup fat free cottage cheese (or ricotta); I used Axelrod whipped cottage cheese, a bit higher in calories
1/2 cup corn (fresh or frozen and defrosted)
9 small corn tortillas
1 cup shredded 2% cheddar cheese
1 (10-12 oz) can red enchilada sauce
3 scallions, sliced
OPTIONAL:  6 tbs light sour cream  for garnish

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk the honey, lemon juice, chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, and salt. Add the chicken, cottage cheese (or ricotta), and corn and refrigerate for 15 minutes or more.

Spray a 9 X 9 inch baking dish or pan with nonstick spray. Cut corn tortillas in half and use 3 per layer. Cutting them helps you to fit them into the square dish.

Spread 1/4 cup enchilada sauce in the baking dish and cover with 3 cut up tortillas. Spread on half the chicken mixture. Sprinkle with 1/3 the shredded cheese. Add the second layer of cut up tortillas and spread with another 1/4 cup enchilada sauce before topping with the other half of chicken mixture and sprinkling with another 1/3 shredded cheese. Add the last layer of cut up tortillas. Spread on 1/2 cup enchilada sauce and top with chopped scallions and the remaining 1/3 cup shredded cheese.

Cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven, uncover, and return to the oven for 10 more minutes. Remove from the oven and let sit, tented with foil,  for about 5 minutes to make it easier to slice.

Cut into 6 servings and top each with 1 tbs sour cream.
7 WW points per serving
I had only one complaint about this dish; the serving wasn't big enough. That was my "bad" because I inadvertently cut the casserole into 9 pieces instead of 6. Once I'd rectified that by having a bit more, I was sold.

I knew when I saw the cottage cheese in the recipe that this casserole would not be dry. I used whipped cottage cheese which made it indiscernible. If you use regular curd, you may want to put it through a sieve. The flavors were just wonderful and the extra time in the oven ensured that it was hot enough. I will be making this again and again because I really enjoyed it. Served with some black beans and a salad, it was definitely comfort food on a raw and rainy night.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Cincinnati Turkey Chili

Being new to this chili thing, I had never heard of Cincinnati-style chili. I looked it up and learned that it's a regional style of chili characterized by the use of such spices as cinnamon, allspice, or cloves as well as chocolate and is typically served over spaghetti. It can also be made with a thin, sauce-like consistency to be used as a topping on hot dogs (sounds like the Michigan dogs I made, recipe here). Apparently, great quantities of it is consumed in Cincinnati--some 2,000,000 pounds topped by some 850,000 pounds of  shredded cheddar cheese. I decided to give it a try.

Serves 4 - 1/2 cup pasta; 1 1/2 cups chili; 3 tbs cheese; 2 tbs onion
(N.I.  fat 13.8 g; prot 24.5g; carb47.4 g; fiber 7.9g)

4 oz uncooked spaghetti
cooking spray (olive oil)
1 lb lean ground turkey
1 1/2 cups of chopped onion, divided
1 cup chopped green pepper (1 small pepper)
1 tbs minced garlic
1 tbs chili powder
2 tbs tomato paste
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground allspice
3/4 cup lower sodium chicken broth
1 (15 oz) can red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 (14.5 oz) can fire roasted diced tomatoes
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup sharp shredded cheddar cheese

Cook pasta according to package instructions; Drain.

Heat a Dutch oven over medium high heat and coat pan with cooking spray. Add turkey and cook 3-5 minutes, stirring to crumble. Add 1 cup onion, green pepper, and garlic; saute 3 minutes. Add chili powder, tomato paste, cumin, oregano, cinnamon, and allspice and cook 1 minute. Add broth, beans, and tomatoes and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat, add salt and stir well. Serve over pasta; top with onion and cheese.
I have become a convert. I enjoy chili, at least the chili I make at home. This one had a good balance of heat and sweetness. I wasn't sure I'd enjoy it over spaghetti, but I did. One of the advantages of using lean ground turkey is there's no oily residue floating on top of your chili. Given the short cooking time, the flavors had really melded together. Along with a kale Caesar salad--my latest craze--this was a substantial dinner, yet there are leftovers, a win-win.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Turkey Sausage, Escarole, and White Bean Stew

Want something on the table in under 30 minutes that's heathy, delicious, and tastes like it simmered for hours? I've got just the thing.

Serves 4
1 lb sweet (or hot) Italian turkey sausage
1 bunch escarole (about 1 lb), washed and cut into 1-inch thick pieces
1 (14 1/2 oz) can seasoned chicken broth with roasted vegetables and herbs
1 (15 1/2 oz) can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
2 cups water
1/2 cup chopped basil
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
Optional:  freshly grated cheese (I used Asiago)

Spray a large Dutch oven with nonstick olive oil spray and set over medium-low heat. Add the sausage and cook, turning occasionally, until browned and cooked through (about 12 minutes). Transfer to a cutting board; slice when cool enough to handle.

Return sausage to the same Dutch oven; add the escarole, broth, beans, and water. Bring the stew to a boil, then lower heat and simmer about 10 minutes, until escarole is tender. Stir in the basil and pepper. Serve at once with grated cheese, if desired. Looking forward to leftovers!

Per serving (1 1/2 cups):  234 cal; 10 g fat; 3 g sat fat; 16 g carb; 6 g fiber; 19 g prot (6 PP)
While "stew" may be a misnomer, the heartiness of this dish made it particularly welcome on a blustery day. If I hadn't had to sample some cookies I'd baked that morning, I'd have served it with some garlic bread. It was, however, a points-friendly dinner with great flavor.

Monday, December 22, 2014


Taking an ecumenical approach to the holidays, I've often included rugelach in my Christmas baking. I thought I needed some balance to this year's Christmas dessert tray, so I made some apricot rugelach and some raspberry.

Yield:  4 dozen

8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 lb unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup plus 9 tbs granulated sugar
1/4 tsp Kosher salt
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 cups all purpose flour (plus more for rolling out)
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
3 tsp Saigon cinnamon
3/4 cup raisins
1 cup hazelnuts, finely chopped
1/4 cup apricot preserves, at room temperature
1/4 cup raspberry preserves, at room temperature
1 egg beaten with 1 tbs milk, for egg wash

Cream the cheese and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until light. Add 1/4 cup granulated sugar, the salt, and vanilla. With the mixer on low, add the flour, mixing just until combined. Dump the dough onto a well-floured board and pat it into a ball. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for one hour.

Combine 6 tbs of granulated sugar, the brown sugar, 2 tsp cinnamon, the raisins, and the hazelnuts.

To make the rugelach:

On a well-floured board, roll each ball of dough into a 9 inch circle. Spread the dough with 2 tbs of preserves, then sprinkle with 1/2 cup of the filling, pressing the filling lightly into the dough. Cut the circle into 12 equal wedges (first cut into quarters, then divide each quarter into 3 equal parts).Starting at the wide end, carefully roll up each wedge.

Place the rugelach, points tucked under, on baking sheets lined with silicone mats. CHILL FOR 30 MINUTES. Do not omit this step.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Brush each cookie with the egg wash. Combine 3 tbs granulated sugar and 1 tsp cinnamon and sprinkle over the cookies. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until lightly browned (they'll firm up more as they cool). Remove to a wire rack to cool.
The hardest part of making the rugelach is waiting for the dough to chill before assembling and again before baking. Well, maybe that's the second hardest part--the first is not eating them in one sitting. These are the perfect bite. The pastry dough nicely balances the sweetness of the filling and the cinnamon adds just a touch of spice. I think the rugelach, the espresso bites, the cannoli "chip and dip," and the peanut butter-oatmeal cookies will be just enough dessert to counteract Christmas dinner.