Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas 2012



Though the menu varies from year to year, some favorites are always on hand to help celebrate Christmas. It just wouldn't be Christmas without an antipasto, a pasta of some kind, a ham or roast, and a variety of sweets. Whatever is on your table this year, I hope you're enjoying it in the company of family and friends.
Buon Natale,
Arlene

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Cinnamon Bun Cake

Cinnamon Bun Cake

This easy-to-make cake doesn't just taste like cinnamon buns, it tastes better. It should be reserved for very special people in your life because it is love on a plate.

If you aren't already familiar with the blog Mennonite Girls Can Cook, don't let another day pass without visiting it. I can honestly say that every single recipe I've tried from MGCC has been delicious (and I confess to being partial to their baked goods). Betty R scored a home run with this one. The only negative is you may end up eating the whole thing!




Ingredients:

  • Cake:
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • Topping:
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 3 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup butter, softened
  • Glaze:
  • 1 3/4 cups icing sugar
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • 1 teaspoon maple extract
Method:
  1. For the cake:
  2. Cream butter and sugar, add eggs, vanilla, and milk.
  3. Add dry ingredients and mix well.
  4. Pour into a 9 x 13" greased pan.
  5. Topping:
  6. Stir together topping ingredients until creamy
  7. Drop evenly over batter by tablespoons and swirl through the batter with a knife.
  8. Bake at 350ยบ for 45 minutes.
  9. Glaze:
  10. Whisk glaze ingredients till smooth.
  11. Drizzle over warm cake.
  12. Best served warm..although it tastes great even after it has cooled!
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TASTE NOTES
I wish there were an audio component to blogging because I would simply let you listen to the sounds that spring to your lips while eating a slice of this warm, gooey, delicious cake. This is going to be Christmas Day breakfast (any leftovers may make it to the dessert table later, but I'm not making any promises).

Monday, December 10, 2012

Christmas Cookies







There was a time when Christmas baking began the day after Thanksgiving. It would take the 4 weeks between that holiday and Christmas for the stollen to mellow and for me to bake all my favorites (and there are many). Cookies were wrapped and frozen until just before Christmas when I would make up trays and platters to give away as gifts. Of course, it was always necessary to sample the wares and that is one of the reasons I no longer do that kind of baking.

Needing to make up about 15 small bags of cookies to give away to local seniors served by a volunteer group I work with, I turned to a simple recipe that goes together quickly and produces a stiff dough that rolls out easily and bakes up in 12 minutes. The recipe yielded 12 dozen cookies. These are butter cookies, not too sweet, and, for some reason, they've been labeled Italian Christmas cookies. My mother always made them in twists, but I opted to use small to medium-sized cookie cutters.

Cookies
12 cups flour
12 large eggs
1 lb unsalted butter
4 cups sugar
3 Tbs baking powder
2 Tbs vanilla
2 Tbs almond extract

Glaze
2 cups confectioners' sugar
milk
dash extract (almond or vanilla or anise or peppermint)

Cream butter and sugar. Beat in eggs, baking powder, extracts, and 3 cups of the flour. Add remaining flour until a stiff dough forms. At this point, you can divide the dough and color it, if you wish. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1-2 hours. Work with 1/4 of the dough at a time. Roll out on a floured surface to 1/4 inch thickness and cut out desired shapes.If dough gets warm, place it back in the refrigerator until it chills. You must keep your surface well-floured. Place cookies on silicone mats and bake 10-12 minutes in a 375 degree oven. Cool completely, then glaze and decorate with sprinkles, colored sugar, etc.

To make glaze:  add dash of extract then small amount of milk; add just enough milk to make the glaze like a thick Alfredo sauce.
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TASTE NOTES
A simple, not-too-sweet butter cookie, these cookies are perfect for baking with children or for when you need a large quantity of cookies in a short amount of time. The dough puffs up nicely when they bake and they keep well in an airtight tin.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Chicken Yakitori Rice Bowl

My photography skills haven't improved, but I have finally managed to load my camera's software program on my laptop, so I thought I'd share an incredibly easy (15 minutes, honest!) and delicious stir fry that I tried tonight. I've been getting Cooking Light magazine for quite a number of years and am almost always pleased with the recipes I try. I even decided to go with the flow and use the boil-in-bag basmati rice, which just made getting dinner on the table that much easier.

2 (3.5 oz) bags boil-in-bag basmati rice
1/4 cup lower sodium soy sauce
1/4 cup mirin (sweet rice wine available in most supermarkets)
3 tbs sugar (note: I will reduce this to 1 1/2 tbs next time)
1 tbs rice vinegar
2 tbs fat free, lower sodium chicken broth
3 tsp peanut oil, divided
1 lb skinless, boneless chicken thighs
8 oz snow peas, halved lengthwise diagonally
1 bunch green onions, cut into 1 inch pieces

Cook rice according to package directions, omitting salt and fat.

Combine soy sauce and next 4 ingredients (through broth) in a small saucepan; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 3 minutes. Remove from heat.

Heat a large nonstick skillet or wok over medium high heat. Add 2 teaspoons oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add chicken thighs to pan and cook about 3 minutes on each side, or until browned. Transfer to a cutting board, cool slightly, then cut into 1 inch strips.

Return pan to medium high heat; add remaining 1 tsp peanut oil. Add snow peas and scallions and saute 2 minutes. Add soy sauce mixture and chicken to pan; cook 2 minutes or until liquid is syrupy and chicken is thoroughly heated, stirring frequently.

Place 1 cup rice in each of 4 shallow bowls and top each serving with 1 cup of chicken mixture.

N.I. - cal 441; fat 8g; prot 29.4 g; carb 59.9 g; fiber 2.6 g;  (11 points plus)
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TASTE NOTES
As I noted in the recipe above, I will definitely cut the sugar in half next time. That said, this was a delicious and simple stir fry. I liked that it was sweet, but it was overly sweet to my taste. I love scallions, particularly when they are stir fried and might add even more next time. Try this one soon; with a bag of snow peas, it is so simple.


Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving


It's been a long time since I've posted, but I couldn't let such a fabulous foodie holiday pass without wishing my favorite bloggers and readers a Happy Thanksgiving. For those of you who are cooking today and will, undoubtedly, have lots of leftovers, here are some favorites of mine guaranteed to clean out your refrigerator.

TURKEY EMPANADAS

http://arlene-thefoodoflove.blogspot.com/search/label/Turkey%20Empanadas

VEGETABLE SOUP WITH STUFFING DUMPLINGS
http://arlene-thefoodoflove.blogspot.com/search/label/Turkey%20Vegetable%20Soup%20with%20Stuffing%20Dumplings

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Lemon-and-herb Stuffed Pork Chops




It's been a while since I last posted. One excuse is that lately there have been more compelling things to do than cook. On the plus side, it's given me a chance to make some old favorites as well as to indulge my passion for sandwiches. I consider a bacon, avocado, and chicken salad sandwich a 3 course meal. Another reason I've been absent from the blogosphere is technology has failed me. When the lens on my digital camera broke, I bought a new one, albeit one I have not fully learned to use. Nevertheless, I knew enough to upload my simple photos. Now my PC is in the final throes of dying on me. I know that I will have to buy a new one or become proficient in uploading photos to my laptop. Given that I just bought a new sewing machine (a Cadillac of a machine), I'm trying to put off this unexpected purchase.

In any event, I'm not ready to give up The Food of Love quite yet, so despite being unable to upload the photo of this dish, tonight was a good time to see what a healthy make-over on stuffed pork chops would taste like.

Serves 2 - 4
from Best Darn Food Ever

1 small celery stalk, finely chopped
1/2 small onion, finely chopped
1 large egg white, lightly beaten
3 tbs panko bread crumbs
1 tbs fresh parsley, chopped
grated zest of 1/2 lemon
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp dried rosemary
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
4 (1/4 lb) boneless pork loin chops, trimmed

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. To make the stuffing, mix together all the ingredients except the pork chops.

Make a pocket in each chop by inserting a small, sharp knife into side of chop and cutting back and forth until pocket is formed. Fill each pocket with about 2 tbs of filling.

Spray large, nonstick ovenproof skillet with nonstick spray and set over medium heat. Add pork chops and cook until golden brown, about 2 minutes on each side. Cover skillet and transfer to the oven. Roast until pork is cooked through, about 4 minutes. Uncover and roast 4 minutes more.
(N.I. 174 cal, 6 g fat, 5g carb, 1 g fiber, 23 g prot; 4 PP)
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TASTE NOTES
While these will never replace a cornbread-stuffed or sausage-stuffed chop (yes, nothing succeeds like pork-stuffed pork), they were very flavorful and made a satisfying dinner with spinach sauteed in garlic and olive oil and a potato side dish. I think I might add very thinly sliced apples or sweet potatoes next time I make these.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Going Crazy under the Sea

This piece, which measures 41" X 31," was conceived about a year and a half ago. Last July I sketched out the design and began piecing the blocks by machine. The fabrics are a combination of silks, velvets, brocades, tulle, and man-made "fancy" fabrics. There is extensive hand beading, including 9 beaded motifs that I designed and that took between 3 and 6 hours each to complete. All seams are hand embroidered using a wide variety of threads. The silk sea anemone in block 10 was also my own design. When I began the piece, I knew perhaps a dozen embroidery stitches. By the time it was finished in April (2012), I had learned several dozen more.

I learned how to finish a crazy quilt thanks to Allie Aller's book and blog. The quilt has a false back which is hand basted through several layers, a task that requires you to look after each stitch to make sure the stitch doesn't show on the front. I then put a fancy back on it and, using a number of tutorials from the web, I attached a facing instead of a binding. (Having used a ribbon binding on my first piece, Going Crazy in the Garden, and receiving not-so-good reviews from a quilt show judge, I determined to learn how to face the quilt.)I intend to use facings on all future wall hangings.

Going Crazy under the Sea is hanging in my sewing room at present because I intend to place it in a show in September. After that, however, it is headed to Longboat Key, Florida where I have a special place reserved for it. This was truly a labor of love with a steep learning curve. I'm currently ruminating on the next piece in my "Going Crazy" series.
 Here are some close up's of individual blocks.










Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Blue Plate Meat Loaf with Mushroom Gravy



I like to try out new recipes for meatloaf, so I was intrigued by the "Blue Plate Meat Loaf with Mushroom Gravy" in WW's Best Darn Food Ever cookbook.

Serves 6 (7 PP per serving)
2 tsp olive oil
3/4 lb sliced mushrooms (I prefer plain old white mushrooms)
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 lbs lean ground beef
1/2 cup plain dried whole wheat bread crumbs
1/4 cup ketchup
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 tbs Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/4 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
2 tsp all purpose flour
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray jelly-roll pan with nonstick spray.

Heat oil in medium nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms, onion, and garlic; cook, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms release their liquid and is evaporated, about 10 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and let cool slightly.

Transfer half of mushroom mixture to large bowl. Add beef, bread crumbs, ketchup, egg, mustard, and salt to bowl; stir until blended but not overmixed.**

Transfer meat loaf mixture to prepared baking pan and shape into a 4 X 8 inch loaf. Bake until instant-read thermometer inserted in center of loaf registers 160 degrees for well done, about 1 hour, 10 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, whisk together broth, flour, and Worcestershire sauce in cup until smooth. Add to remaining mushroom mixture in skillet. Bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring, until sauce bubbles and thickens, about 3 minutes. Cut meat into 12 slices and serve with sauce (2 slices meat loaf and 1/4 cup sauce per serving).

**I would pack the meat more next time since the meatloaf did not hold together well when sliced
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TASTE NOTES
The meatloaf and gravy had excellent flavor, though as noted it was crumbly and slices didn't hold their shape well. We enjoyed leftovers without the gravy on toasted rolls with a slice of cheese. I will definitely make this again. I am not a big fan of gravies and sauces, but this one was delicious over a half cup of mashed potatoes.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Cauliflower and Artichoke Gratin

I used to think "brown" or "beige" food didn't belong on my blog, but I've since realized that while it may not be photogenic, if it tastes wonderful, it belongs. This side dish was simple to put together and with a little tweaking (like adding some ooey, gooey cheese) could have served as a main course.

Serves 6 (2 PP per serving)
2 tsp olive oil
1 large onion, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp plain dried bread crumbs
2 tbs chopped fresh parsley
1 tsp chopped fresh thyme
2 cups cauliflower florets
2 (9oz) pkgs frozen artichoke hearts, thawed
2 tbs grated parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray 7 X 11 inch baking dish with nonstick spray. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion,, garlic, and salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is tender, about 8 minutes. Stir in bread crumbs, parsley, and thyme. Meanwhile, bring medium saucepan of water to boil. Add cauliflower and cook until just tender, about 5 minutes. Drain. Place artichokes and cauliflower in prepared baking dish. Top with onion mixture; sprinkle with parmesan cheese. Bake until hot and topping is lightly browned, about 30 minutes.
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TASTE NOTES
I really loved the combination of cauliflower and artichokes and the onion and bread crumb topping created both a wonderful texture as well as a sweet note. I ate the leftovers just warmed through (instead of hot) and liked it even more. Next time, I am going to try adding some shredded fontina and running it under the broiler to brown.


Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Mac n' Cheese

Who says you can't eat mac n' cheese and lose weight? This version adapted from WW Best Darn Food Ever! yielded four good-sized portions, each the centerpiece of a delicious meal.

8 oz elbow macaroni (I just can't abide whole wheat, but love Dreamfields)
1 tbs unsalted butter
1 small onion, chopped
1 tbs flour
1 1/2 cups fat free milk
1 cup shredded reduced fat Cheddar cheese (I prefer Cabot's)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp mustard powder
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 cup panko bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray a 9 inch square baking dish with nonstick spray**

Cook macaroni according to package directions and drain

Melt butter in same pot you cooked macaroni in; add onion and cook, stirring, until softened, about 5 minutes; add flour and cook, stirring constantly, 1 minute more. Gradually whisk in milk until smooth. Cook, stirring constantly, until sauce bubbles and thickens, about 4 minutes. Stir in cheese, salt, mustard powder, and pepper. Cook, stirring, until cheese is melted, about 1 minute.

Remove pot from heat and stir in macaroni. Spoon into prepared dish(es). Sprinkle bread crumbs evenly over macaroni mixture and coat with nonstick spray. Bake until casserole is bubbly and top is golden brown, 30 minutes for the 9-inch casserole or 20 minutes for the four individual dishes.

**you can bake the mac n' cheese in four (4) small, individual dishes
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TASTE NOTES
I am going to be completely honest and say that this mac n' cheese, while delicious and satisfying, is much drier than my regular version. Of course, my butt will stay in the same zip code if I eat this version instead of my usual Martha Stewart version. That said, we enjoyed it immensely and I still lost weight on weigh in day--how can you beat that?

Friday, May 18, 2012

Oven-fried Chicken

Who doesn't love the crunch of southern fried chicken, but there's the fat in the skin and the fat that it's fried in just waiting to creep around your middle. Don't worry, you can have your crispy chicken and lose weight/stay healthy by using your oven to produce delicious, moist chicken with a satisfying crunch. The original recipe called for bone-in, skinless chicken breasts, but I substituted bone-in, skinless chicken thighs. I much prefer bone-in chicken as it retains the juices far better.

Serves 4 (7 PP)
3/4 cup low-fat buttermilk (I make my own by adding 1 tbs vinegar to skim milk and letting it stand)
1 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp salt
4 bone-in, skinless chicken thighs (about 5 oz each)
1 cup panko bread crumbs
2 tbs grated parmesan cheese
1 tsp dried rosemary
1 tsp dried sage

Combine buttermilk, salt, and pepper in large zip-lock bag and add chicken. Squeeze air out of the bag and seal. Turn to coat chicken and refrigerate 20 minutes to 3 hours, turning occasionally.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line baking sheet with foil sprayed with nonstick spray.

Mix together bread crumbs and cheese. Remove chicken from buttermilk mixture and discard mixture. Coat chicken, one piece at a time, in panko mix. Place chicken pieces on prepared baking sheet and bake 30 minutes. Remove from oven and lightly spray chicken with nonstick spray. Return to oven and bake until cooked through, about 15 minutes longer.
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TASTE NOTES
The recipe above is adapted from WW Best Darn Food Ever cookbook. The first time I used the exact recipe, but we didn't enjoy the spice mixture. The second time, I revised it and it turned out perfect: moist inside, crispy outside, and very flavorful. Leftovers--if there are any--are delicious cold or at room temperature. With corn and potato salad, this is a picnic. With mashed potatoes and greens, it's a southern-style meal that will have you singing Dixie.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Creamy Tomato Basil Soup


I love tomato basil soup and have made a few versions, all of which I've enjoyed. The difference with this version is that it is creamy and I used only fresh tomatoes. With some cheese quesadillas, it made a great light dinner.

Serves 4 (4 PP per serving; 161 cal; 5 g fat; 19 g carb; 4 g fiber; 9 g prot)
Adapted from Points Plus cookbook
2 tsp olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
4 large ripe tomatoes, peeled and chopped*
1 cup reduced sodium vegetable broth (or chicken broth, which I prefer)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp ground black pepper
3 cups 1% milk (I prefer fat free)
1/4 cup tomato paste
2 tbs thinly sliced fresh basil

*It is so easy to peel fresh tomatoes. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Gently drop the tomatoes in and leave for 2 minutes. Take out and plunge into cold water. The skin will slip off easily.

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium high heat. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally until softened, 5 minutes.

Stir in tomatoes, broth, garlic, salt, and pepper: bring to boiling. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, until vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes. Let mixture cool 5 minutes.

Puree in batches (or use immersion blender). Return to saucepan. Whisk together milk and tomato paste in medium bowl; add to soup. Stir in basil. Cook over medium heat just until heated through, about 3 minutes (do not boil).
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TASTE NOTES
This was my favorite tomato basil soup so far and I'm sure it's because there were no tomato skins in it. A serving is a generous 1 1/4 cups and leftovers heat up easily--just remember not to let the soup come to a boil or the milk will curdle. You'll never want canned tomato soup again!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Snickerdoodle Bread



It just isn't Christmas without snickerdoodles, those wonderfully fragrant cinnamon-laced cookies that I grew up with. So when I saw a recipe for Snickerdoodle loaves over at Cathy's Wives with Knives, I knew what I was baking for my next quilt guild meeting. Be sure to check out this wonderful blog which always has something delicious to try.


Snickerdoodle Bread


Author: Barbara Bakes
Ingredients
  • 2-1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla (I used the seeds from 1 vanilla bean instead)
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1-1/2 cups cinnamon chips
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • TOPPING:
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cinnamon
Instructions
  1. Combine 2-1/2 cups flour and baking powder in a bowl. In a separate bowl, cream butter and 2 cups sugar, salt and cinnamon until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add eggs one at a time mixing well after each addition. Add vanilla and sour cream and mix to combined. Add flour mixture, stirring until just combines. Coast the cinnamon chips with2 tablespoons flour and stir into the batter.
  2. Spoon batter into 4 or 5 floured and greased mini loaf pans (5-3/4 x 3-1/4 x 2-1/4 inches) or 2 9 x 5 inch loaf pans. Don’t fill more than 2/3 full. Combine 2 tablespoons sugar and 2 teaspoons cinnamon and sprinkle over the top of batter in the pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes until a toothpick inserted into a crack in the center of the loaf pan comes out clean. Remove from the oven and let cool 5 minutes before removing from the pan.
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TASTE NOTES
I could tell while the loaves were still in the oven that this was going to be a very special treat. The fragrance of cinnamon and sugar perfumed the whole house. One bite of this wonderful "bread" and I was hooked. Tasting more like a rich coffeecake, I knew from the first bite that this was a keeper. I'll definitely be making this one again.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

New Blogger Dashboard/Interface

Am I the only one who hates the new Blogger interface? I used to love going onto the dashboard to catch up on all my favorite blogs. Creating or editing posts was a snap. Since I was forced to switch over to this new interface, I find myself spending far less time on Blogger. Am I a relic? Is it my imagination that the old interface was so much more user friendly? 

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Cheese-stuffed Turkey Meatballs with Pasta



It's hard to believe that I wasn't a big fan of  "macaroni" when I was growing up. What I wouldn't give to be able to eat pasta more frequently now! Lately I've been making it on Sundays, looking for new and more healthy ways to prepare it. Since Larry is a big spaghetti and meatball fan, I decided to try this take on the classic Italian-American favorite. We were both glad that I did.






(Adapted from Points Plus cookbook)
Serves 4
8 oz ground turkey
1/2 c grated cheese, divided (I prefer Pecorino Romano)
1/4 c bread crumbs
1/4 c chopped fresh parsley
1/4 c fat free milk
1 large egg white
1 garlic clove, minced
pinch cayenne
1 (1 oz) piece part skim mozzarella cut into 16 pieces (I know, right? I used a piece of string cheese)
2 cups fat free marinara sauce (I prefer the Barilla fire roasted sauce)
1/2 cup water
8 oz spaghetti
2 c thinly sliced escarole

Stir together turkey, 1/4 c cheese, bread crumbs, parsley, milk, egg white, garlic, and cayenne in a large bowl. Shape turkey mixture around cheese cube to form 16 meatballs.

Bring marinara sauce and water to a simmer in a large skillet. Add meatballs, cover, and simmer, stirring gently a few times, until meatballs are cooked through, 10-15 minutes.

Meanwhile cook pasta according to package directions, adding escarole during the last 1 minute of cooking. Drain.

Divide pasta mixture among 4 bowls; top evenly with meatballs and sauce; sprinkle evenly with remaining cheese.
(N.I.: 415 cal; 6 g fat; 61 g carb; 11 g fiber; 30 g prot; 10 points plus)
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TASTE NOTES
When I first noted that the escarole was added to the pasta, I was skeptical. I adore 'scarole, but generally eat it sauteed with garlic and olive oil. I decided to give it a try and was pleasantly surprised that I loved the escarole with the marinara sauce. For such a simple recipe, this was very flavorful. In fact, I intend to make the meatballs again to use in sandwiches. They are very soft, but hold their shape well. Another filling, healthy dinner that you can feel good about serving.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Asiago, Bacon, and Potato Gratin

This recipe has been all over Pinterest and with good reason. It's so easy and it is cheesy and delicious. The bacon may seem like overkill to those who don't worship at that shrine (I can't envision a food that can't be made better with bacon). I did find, however, that the cooking time was way off and I believe the dish can be made simpler still by using a mandolin to slice the potatoes very thinly and omitting the parboiling, which I intend to do next time. Therefore, I'm editing the instructions to reflect this. Otherwise, you want to try this dish very soon.

The original recipe was printed in Cooking Light in 2004.

  • 1 1/2 pounds peeled Yukon gold potatoes, cut into very thin slices (1/16 inch)
  • 1 teaspoon salt, divided 
  • Cooking spray 
  • 2 tablespoons minced shallots
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups 1% low-fat milk, divided 
  • 3/4 cup (3 ounces) grated Asiago cheese 
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh chives
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 
  • bacon slices, cooked and crumbled 
  • 1/4 cup (1 ounce) grated fresh Parmesan cheese 



  1. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. Use a mandolin to slice the potatoes paper thin; sprinkle generously with salt.
  3. Heat a medium saucepan coated with cooking spray over medium heat. Add shallots; cook 2 minutes or until tender, stirring frequently. Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Sprinkle flour over shallots. Gradually add 1/2 cup milk, stirring with a whisk until well blended. Gradually add remaining 1 1/2 cups milk, stirring with a whisk. Cook over medium heat 9 minutes or until thick, stirring frequently. Remove from heat; stir in 3/4 teaspoon salt, Asiago, chives, pepper, and bacon.
  4. Arrange half of potato slices in an 8-inch square baking dish coated with cooking spray. Pour half of cheese sauce over potato slices. Top with remaining potato slices and cheese sauce; sprinkle with Parmesan. Bake at 350° for 35 minutes or until cheese is bubbly and lightly browned.


TASTE NOTES
I liked this take on potatoes au gratin. They were lacking none of the creaminess and cheesiness, but they weren't over-the-top in terms of calories and fat. This is definitely a keeper recipe when you want something special to go with a ham or a roast.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Texas Cheese Fries





I confess that when I first heard about these cheese fries, all I could picture was a nasty plate of fried potatoes covered in Velveta-like orange cheese. I have never been a fan of cheese or gravy on my fries. The fact that I eat very few fries in the first place made me just dismiss this recipe. Then I read a few "reviews" on the Weight Watcher message boards and decided to check out the recipe. I do make oven-baked sweet potato fries or Italian-seasoned fries on occasion, so I decided to give these a try.



Texas Cheese Fries 
from Skinnytaste.com 
Servings: 
2 • Serving Size: 1/2 • Old Points: 6 pt • Points+: 7 pt
Calories: 
259 • Fat: 12.3 g • Protein: 10.1 g • Carb: 29 g • Fiber: 2.9 g • Sugar: 1.4 g
Sodium: 
590.5 mg (without salt) 


Ingredients:

  • 2 medium potatoes (2/3 lb total), yukon gold or russet, washed and dried (skin on)
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/4 tsp chili powder
  • 1/4 tsp onion powder
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/8 tsp cumin
  • coarse salt and fresh cracked pepper
  • 1 slice center cut bacon, cooked & finely chopped
  • 1/3 cup sharp shredded cheddar cheese (I used reduced fat Mexican blend)
  • 2 tbsp diced scallions
  • 1 tbsp sliced pickled Jalapeno (I omitted these)

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400°. Line baking sheet with foil for easy clean-up. Lightly coat with cooking spray.

Cut each potato lengthwise into 1/4 inch thin slices; then cut each slice into 1/4 inch fries.
In a large bowl, combine cut potatoes and oil; toss well. Add seasoning (paprika to salt and pepper). Toss to coat. Spread in a single layer on baking sheet. Bake 15 minutes, turn over, and bake another 15-25 minutes. Remove from oven, place fries into two small oven safe dishes (or one large dish for sharing), top with cheese, scallions and bacon bits and return to oven for  about 2 minutes, or until the cheese melts.
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TASTE NOTES
While I normally don't "spend" 7 points on a side dish, by carefully planning what I eat with them, I am able to minimize the damage somewhat (e.g. a turkey burger without the bun, steamed seafood). These "fries" are very tasty and the portion size will leave you feeling satisfied, but not stuffed. There is not a lot of cheese on these, so maybe next time I will use regular cheese (since that's what the points are calculated on).I've already made these twice, so I am really recommending them.  In the future, I would serve these as an appetizer at a BBQ, the taste is that good. So go ahead and indulge!

Friday, April 27, 2012

At Last...............



Those of you who've been following The Food of Love for a while might recall my ardent quest for a recipe that would produce a creamy rice pudding. I've dumped a fair share of  trials over the bank, but finally I have a recipe that produces a very creamy, rich rice pudding that will leave you feeling like the cat that lapped up the cream. I have my friend and hairdresser Donna to thank for the recipe, which came to her by way of her sister. So here's a big shout out to Donna's sister:  thank you for the perfect recipe for rice pudding.

I've made rice pudding on top of the stove, in the oven--with or without a bain Marie, in a crockpot. I've used short grain rice, long grain rice, instant rice, brown rice, and Arborio rice. I've used whole milk, condensed milk, half and half, and cream. So what separates this rice pudding from all the rest? I believe it is the cooking method, which is a long simmer in a double boiler. The recipe I received didn't give any "time," so I checked the rice for doneness every 15 minutes and it took 1 1/2 hours. First I brought the water in the bottom half of the double boiler to a boil. Then I added the insert with the mixture in it to the double boiler and I cooked the mixture on medium high until it was hot. Finally, I lowered the heat to a simmer. Following this method, the rice was cooked perfectly and the custard was thick. I repeat these directions below because it was on the second try that I achieved "Nirvana."

1/2 cup long grain rice (I used Carolina)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 pint whole milk
1 pint heavy cream
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
Optional:  cinnamon

Bring the water in the bottom half of a double boiler to a rolling boil. Place the rice, sugar, salt, milk, and cream in the top of a double boiler and check periodically until it becomes hot. When it does, turn the heat to low so that the water is simmering. It's important to leave the heat on high until the mixture is hot so that it will thicken (my first batch I didn't do this and the mixture was a bit thin). Stir every 15-20 minutes, cooking until the rice is done, about 1 1/2 hours.   Beat the egg, then add a little of the hot liquid and mix together. Slowly pour this egg mixture into the pudding, stirring constantly until mixture thickens. Add 1 tsp vanilla. Sprinkle with cinnamon. Chill.
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TASTE NOTES
I've made this twice now and it is just incredibly delicious. I've never seen another recipe for rice pudding that calls for a double boiler, but I'm convinced that this cooking method accounts for the absolutely perfect consistency. I defy you to eat this without making "yummy noises."

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Raspberry-chocolate Shortbread Bars



It's a fact that I eat more dessert when I am on program (Weight Watcher' talk for following a sensible eating plan). That might seem counter-intuitive, but the fact is when I know I can have an indulgence without wrecking my eating plan, it makes the plan more of a lifestyle than a diet. This slimmed down version of a bakery treat is not low calorie by any means. One small bar has 171 calories (5g fat, 29 g carb, 1 g fiber, 3 g prot); but that small bar is so satisfying, you won't feel deprived or driven to overindulge. This recipe makes 30 bars; enjoy some now and freeze the rest.

2 c lowfat buttermilk baking mix
1/3 c packed brown sugar
2 tbs unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 tbs fat free milk
1 (14 oz) can fat free sweetened condensed milk
1 1/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
3 tbs chopped pecans
1/3 c seedless raspberry preserves

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9X13 inch baking pan with foil and spray with nonstick spray.

Whisk baking mix, brown sugar, and butter in a large bowl. Remove 1/4 cup of this mixture to use for topping. To the rest of the mixture, drizzle in the milk and stir until evenly moistened. Pat this mixture into the prepared pan, pressing evenly to cover the bottom of the pan. Bake until edges are browned, 15 minutes.

For filling, microwave condensed milk and 1 cup of the chips in a large, microwaveable bowl on high for 1 - 1 1/2 minutes. Stir until chips are melted. Spread evenly over hot crust. Stir pecans into reserved 1/4 cup of topping and sprinkle over chocolate mixture. Add preserves by 1/2 teaspoonful over topping, spacing 2 inches apart. Srpinkle remaining 1/4 cup of chips on top. Bake until filling is set, 25 minutes. Cool.

Lift from pan using the foil. Cool completely before cutting into 30 bars. (5 PP per bar)
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TASTE NOTES
As soon as I saw this recipe in WW Magazine, I had visions of a grown up version of the magic cookie bars we used to bake at Christmas. I had all the ingredients on hand and it took less than 20 minutes to get these in the oven. One bite of the crumbly shortbread cookie topped with rich, sweet chocolate tempered with tart flavor of raspberry jam and I was in heaven. With a glass of cold milk, I remembered why milk and cookies remain such a fond childhood memory.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

TAST Week 16: French Knots

There was a time when I despaired of ever being able to produce a French knot, much less produce many of uniform size and shape. But, as with most things, practice makes perfect--or at least much better. In the photo above, I used a double strand of floss to produce clusters of grapes. In the photo below, I used several strands of a metallic floss to produce the large knots in between the feather stitch and the starfish.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Chicken with Broccoli Rabe and White Beans



I started eating broccoli rabe a few years ago and it's now one of my favorite vegetables. I don't find it as bitter as some describe it and enjoy the stalks far more than those on regular broccoli. Pairing broccoli rabe with cannellini beans is always the start of something good to eat, so when I saw this recipe at a weekly Weight Watcher meeting, I decided to make it to serve over pasta.




Adapted from WW Weekly, March 11-17, 2012
Servings 4 (6 PP)
1 1/2 tbs all purpose flour
1/2 tsp Kosher salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
12 oz uncooked boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut in large chunks
2 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup fat free, reduced sodium chicken broth
1 tbs minced garlic
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
8 oz uncooked broccoli rabe or broccoli, coarsely chopped (about 6 cups)
15 oz canned cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1 tbs fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp grated lemon zest
1/8 tsp salt

On a plate, combine flour, salt, and pepper; add chicken and turn to coat. Heat oil in large nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Add chicken and cook, turning as needed, until browned (about 6 minutes). Remove to plate. Add broth, garlic, and red pepper flakes to same skillet and bring to a boil over high heat, scraping up browned bits with a wooden spoon. Add broccoli rabe, cover, and cook over medium high heat until crisp tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in beans; cover, and cook about 2 minutes more. Uncover and mash some beans to thicken sauce slightly. Stir in chicken and cook until heated through. Season with lemon juice, zest, and salt. Yields 4 one-cup servings.
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TASTE NOTES
This would be a fine dinner just as described above, but I served it over a cup of pasta and it was Sunday dinner worthy. Don't leave out the lemon because it really makes the broccoli rabe pop. Leaving the chicken in large chunks ensures that it won't dry out. My only misstep was that I determined to try whole wheat pasta (again) for health reasons. I've tried just about all that are on the market and the verdict is always the same: yuck! I'd rather eat half a cup of regular pasta than a pound of whole wheat.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Spring Vegetables

I'm sorry that there's no photo of this dish--my camera was sick--which is a shame since it was so colorful.

Pork tenderloins are not only economical, they are delicious and virtually fat free. It's one of the staples that I am rarely without. This preparation is from WW's Points Plus Cookbook, but you don't have to tell anyone that it's part of a healthy approach to eating.

Serves 4
nonstick spray
1 lb pork tenderloin, trimmed
1 tbs chopped fresh chives
3/4 tsp salt
1 (9 oz) pkg frozen artichoke hearts, thawed
1 lb small red potatoes, cut into quarters
1/2 lb asparagus, trimmed
1 cup baby carrots
2 tsp olive oil
1/4 tsp black pepper

Preheat oven to 475 degrees. Spray a large, shallow roasting pan with nonstick spray. Press chives into both sides of pork. Spray large skillet with nonstick spray and set over medium high heat. Add pork and cook until browned on both sides.

Transfer pork to roasting pan. Combine artichokes, potatoes, asparagus, carrots, oil, salt, and pepper. Toss to coat, then spread around the pork. Roast 25 minutes (until pork is cooked to 160 degrees). Let pork stand 5 minutes before slicing it into 12 portions. Serve with vegetables.

N.I. per serving:  293 cal, 6g fat, 31 g carb, 7 g fiber, 28 g protein; 7 points plus
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TASTE NOTES
This was a delicious and filling dinner with relatively low points. I've never used frozen artichoke hearts before and they were wonderful! I used the entire bunch of asparagus and the combination of  roasted vegetables with the potatoes and pork was quite satisfying. Even "Mr. Gravy" didn't seem to mind that there was no sauce. The pork was moist and flavorful--loved the chives--and I look forward to making this again soon.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Individual Chocolate Souffles



I didn't grow up in a house where dessert was served after dinner. That is not to say that cookies and milk or some other sweet wasn't available for evening snacking. Of course, as we age, we are wise to rethink what we eat, particularly in the evening hours, but I do look forward to a cup of tea or a glass of fat free milk and a small snack each evening. While a Fiber One brownie often fills the bill--they actually taste pretty good--nothing beats something homemade. These individual chocolate souffles fit very nicely into a balanced eating plan and are very easy to whip up just before you eat them. The recipe can be doubled or tripled to serve guests and they make a lovely presentation.


Servings - 2 (3PP)
(from WW Weekly, March 4-10, 2012)
2 sprays cooking spray
1 tbs unsweetened cocoa
1 tbs all purpose flour
3 tbs granulated sugar, divided
3 tbs low-fat chocolate milk
1 large egg white
1/2 tsp powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat two 6 oz ramekins with cooking spray.  In a small saucepan, whisk together the cocoa, flour, and 2 tbs granulated sugar. Set over medium heat and add chocolate milk, stirring constantly until smooth (about 2 minutes). Remove from heat and cool 5 minutes. In a medium bowl, whisk the egg white until soft peaks start to form. Slowly add remaining tablespoon of granulated sugar and continue beating until soft peaks are formed. Fold cooled chocolate mixture into egg whites a little at a time until no white streaks appear. Pour batter into prepared ramekins and bake until set and top looks slightly dry, 14-16 minutes. Do NOT open oven until souffles are done or the cold air will cause them to sink. Dust with powdered sugar and serve warm.
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TASTE NOTES
I've made souffles before, some of which have fallen after I took them out of the oven. Not so with these. They were quite impressive for being so quick and easy and very chocolatey and satisfying. I wished I had some raspberries as I would have made a quick puree to serve alongside. I will be keeping this recipe on "speed dial."

Thursday, April 12, 2012

TAST Week 15: Stem Stitch

I'm the first to admit that my spacial relations are horrendous. I'm used to doing things differently as an ambidextrous lefty, but embroidery really tests my mettle. I've used stem stitch before, but have never felt confident about the results. I revisited Sharon's explanation, consulted Montano's stitch tool, which has special directions for lefties, but still was not pleased with the results. I then turned to my copy of Yvette Stanton's The Left-handed Embroiderer's Companion and realized I had not looked at her directions before. Instead of the slanted stitch that most instructions call for, Stanton has you bring the needle out on the line, then insert the needle a short distance to the left and pull it through except for a little "loop" sitting above the line. She then directs you to bring the needle out on the line below this "loop" and halfway along the space. Finally, you pull the needle through and tighten the thread and voila! I finally produced a very good looking stem stitch.  I used a very thick cotton yarn, added some detached chain leaves, then used a 7 mm silk ribbon to make a 5-petaled flower. Stanton even has directions for how to turn a corner with this method. Now I have to practice my curved line stem stitch. 

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Mini Cherry Cheesecakes

When I saw these in the weekly WW flyer, I made a note to try them after I'd been back on program a few weeks. I bought the ingredients and promptly forgot about them with the result that the reduced fat cream cheese I'd bought went bad. I'm mentioning this because I substituted all fat free cream cheese which resulted in a different texture (note  the somewhat messy cheesecake in the forefront). Nevertheless, this was a successful recipe and one that I will make again with the correct ingredients.

12 servings (3 points plus each)
3/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
2 tbs light butter, melted
2/3 cup lowfat cream cheese (12 tbs)
6 tbs fat free cream cheese
2 egg whites
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup sugar
3 tbs fresh lemon juice
3/4 cup Comstack lite cherry pie filling

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place 12 cupcake liners in pan.
Melt butter, then mix with graham cracker crumbs. Spoon 1 tbs of mixture into each liner and press down with back of spoon. Use an electric mixer to beat the cream cheeses, egg whites, vanilla, lemon juice and sugar until completely smooth. Pour evenly into 12 liners (the mixture will be thin) and bake for 15 minutes. Cool completely, then divide cherry pie filling evenly over the mini cheesecakes. Refrigerate.
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TASTE NOTES
Despite my substitution, these were really good. Be forewarned that the texture will not be the same as regular cheesecake (nor will your hips grow as they would with regular cheesecake). I enjoyed one of these treats with a glass of milk or a cup of tea (DSO enjoyed them two at a time) and, as I noted, I will be making them again.