Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Pork with Soft Tacos

I love Mexican food and we have a fabulous Mexican restaurant we both love. Sadly, going out for Mexican food can be the kiss of death if you're trying to lose or maintain your weight. Rather than settling for the occasional treat at our favorite restaurant, I like to prepare more healthful versions of our go-to Mexican meals at home. This recipe, from WW's Dining for Two cookbook, was a real winner with a few small changes. The bonus is it took so little time to prepare and there were no leftovers.

1 tsp olive oil
1 (8 oz) pkg mushooms, sliced or diced
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 small red pepper, seeded and chopped
1/2 lb pork tenderloin, chopped
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 - 1 tsp cumin
1/2 cup your favorite salsa
3 (6 inch) low-fat flour tortillas
1/4 cup shredded pepperjack or Monterey Jack cheese

Heat the oil in a large, nonstick skillet over high heat. Add the mushrooms, onions, and red pepper and cook until tender, about 6 minutes. Transfer to a bowl.

Sprinkle the pork with salt and cumin and cook over high heat, stirring until the pork is browned, about 3 minutes. Stir in the salsa and the mushroom mixture and cook until heated through, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and wipe the skillet clean with a paper towel.

Spray the skillet with nonstick spray and set over medium heat. Cook tortillas, one at a time, just until golden on the bottom, about 1 1/2 minutes.

Place the tortillas, toasted side up, on a work surface. Spread the pork mixture over half of each tortilla and sprinkle each with one-third the cheese. Fold the unfilled tortilla over the filled half.

Spray the skillet with nonstick spray and set over medium heat. Add the tacos to the skillet and cook, turning once with a large spatula, until golden, about 1 minute on each side.

Per serving (1 1/2 tacos): 399 cal, 14g fat, 32g carb, 37g prot
I served these with fat free refried beans and homemade guacamole and had to suppress a few "ole's" during dinner. These were seriously good, filling and flavorful. I'm sure you could substitute chicken, shrimp, or even tofu for the pork and have an equally delicious treat. Next time, a Skinny Girl margarita will be my garnish.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Crazy Quilted Jewelry Box

I decided to put together all the stitches I've been practicing during the TAST challenge and to find a practical use for my crazy quilting. At the same time, I played with a split complement color scheme using colors that aren't typically "me."

Friday, February 24, 2012

TAST Week 8: Chain Stitch

Chain stitch was the first stitch I ever learned as a young girl. There are so many variations (e.g. zig zag chain, Russian chain, magic chain), but what I'm learning is that it can also be used as a filler stitch or to add texture. Here are some photos of chain in a few of my current projects.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Chuck Roast in Foil

Apparently, recipes like this swept the country in the 1950's. Most often a chuck roast would be rubbed with dehydrated onion soup mix. wrapped tightly in foil, then cooked until tender. Chuck roast is a relatively inexpensive cut of meat that benefits from low, slow cooking. The folks at America's Test Kitchen gave this simple formula a try, but found it yielded a dry, greyish-looking meat, so they set about remedying that. After reading about their experiments, I decided to give their "new and improved" recipe a try. My only change was that I used a 3 pound roast (there are only 2 of us and we didn't want to eat this all week) and cut the cooking time by almost an hour.

Serves 6-8
3 tbs cornstarch
4 tsp onion powder
2 tsp light brown sugar
2 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp instant espresso powder
1 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp celery seed

2 onions, quartered
1 lb small red potatoes, quartered
4 carrots, peeled and cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces
2 bay leaves
2 tbs soy sauce
1 (4 lb) boneless beef chuck-eye roast, pulled into 2 pieces at seams, trimmed, each piece tied at 1-inch intervals*

*as I noted, I used a 3 lb  boneless beef chuck roast; I trimmed it, but didn't need to tie it

Adjust oven rack to lower middle position and heat oven to 300 degrees. Combine rub ingredients in bowl.

Fit two 30X18 inch sheets of heavy duty aluminum foil, perpendicular to each other, inside large roasting pan. Place onions, potatoes, carrots, and bay leaves in center; drizzle with soy sauce. Set roasts on top of vegetables. Rub roast all over with the rub. Fold opposite corners of foil toward each other; crimp edges tightly to seal. Transfer pan to oven; cook until meat is completely tender, about 4 1/2 hours.

Remove roasts from foil and place on carving board. Tent loosely with foil and let rest for 20 minutes. Discard  bay leaves and onions (I ate the onions and they were splendid!). Using slotted spoon, place carrots, potatoes, and onions, if you choose, on serving platter. Strain contents of roasting pan through fine-mesh strainer into fat separator. Let liquid settle for 5 minutes, the pour defatted pan juices into serving bowl.

Remove twine from roasts and slice meats thinly against grain. Transfer meat to platter with vegetables. Pour 1/2 cup pan juices over meat. Serve, passing remaining pan juices separately.
Over the course of a few days we ate every last bit of this delicious roast. If you've never eaten chuck roast, you should know that while it may be a bit "chewier" than higher-priced cuts, it has a truly beefy flavor and this preparation made it sing even louder. I would plead with you not to throw those onions away. DSO told me I should have doubled the amount. They were incredibly sweet. After 2 dinners and 1 lunch I still had some beef left, so I made DSO a quick beef fried rice, adding in the last of the pan juices. He loved it! I would definitely make this again.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

TAST Week 7: Detached Chain Stitch

Detached chain stitch is one of my go-to stitches as the photo above and those below reveal. I like combining it with other stitches as well as beading the stitch. This has been a busy week, so I haven't added this stitch to my current sampler yet. However, I'm posting some photos of a work in progress that has many examples of detached chain, or daisy stitch.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Pork Scaloppine with Lemon Caper Sauce

I love any scaloppine. What's not to love about something crunchy outside and moist and delicious inside? The reason I don't make them more is that I don't eat much fried food. That's why this recipe from Cuisine Lite magazine was perfect--these scaloppine are broiled, not fried, and yet they have that same wonderful crunchy breaded topping.

For the pork, pound:
1 lb pork tenderloin, trimmed, sliced into 12 pieces

1 1/2 cups panko bread crumbs
1/2 cup parmesan cheese

1 egg white
1 tbs water

For the sauce, melt:
1 tbs unsalted butter
1 tbs all purpose flour
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
2 tbs capers
1 tbs each lemon zest and fresh lemon juice
1 tbs chopped fresh sage

Preheat broiler to high with rack 6 inches from the element and broiler pan inside.

Pound the pork into 1/4 inch cutlets by placing between sheets of waxed paper. Combine the panko and cheese in a shallow dish. Whisk together egg white and water in a separate dish. Dip cutlets in egg white, then in panko mixture. Transfer cutlets to broiler pan, coat each with nonstick spray on both sides, and broil 3 minutes, flip, and broil 3 minutes more. Remove cutlets from oven.

For the sauce, melt butter in a saucepan over medium high heat. Whisk in flour and cook 1-2 minutes. Whisk in broth, then add capers, zest, lemon juice, and sage and cook sauce until smooth and thickened, about 6-10 minutes.
This dish was a big hit with both DSO and me. I prefer to make my own pork cutlets since using the tenderloin always results in tender, quick-cooking cutlets. The lemon caper sauce was really delicious (we even spooned some over the spaghetti squash I served with the pork). Since pork tenderloins generally come 2 to a package, I made another pound of cutlets and froze them for another night. When I shopped yesterday and saw them as a buy one, get one, I stocked up, so you can be sure we'll be enjoying this meal regularly. At 272 calories per serving, it's a great weeknight meal.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

TAST Week 6: Chevron Stitch

I'm late posting this week's TAST stitch because it took me the better part of the week to master the chevron. I realize now why I've never been able to produce this stitch successfully--the directions weren't clear for my left hand. I usually swear by Montano's Stitch Tool, but in this case a better articulation of the steps for a left hander were produced by Stanton. When I realized what I was doing wrong, it became simple. However, because I've been doing it wrong for a while now, it will take some doing to get it to become automatic. You wouldn't believe how many stitches I tore out and how often I had to correct where the thread was (over or under). Nevertheless, I think I might now use this stitch on a more regular basis. Once again, thanks to Sharon Boggons of Pin Tangle for this great challenge. Be sure to check out all the other stitchers from around the world who are participating.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Turkey Meatball and Escarole Soup

Italian wedding soup is a perennial favorite and this spin on that classic makes a delicious and satisfying weeknight meal served with a salad and some crusty bread. I chose to make the meatballs with ground turkey, but you could certainly use ground chicken or beef..

Serves 4
3 tbs plain, fresh breadcrumbs
1/4 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus more for serving
2 tbs chopped, fresh flat-leaf parsley
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 lb ground turkey
1 large egg
1 tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 small yellow onion, cut into small dice
1 small carrot, cut into small dice
1 celery stalk, cut into small dice
1 quart lower-sodium chicken broth
1 sprig fresh rosemary
1/2 head thinly sliced escarole

Put the breadcrumbs in a medium bowl and moisten with 1/2 tbs water. Mix in the cheese, parsley, 3/4 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper. Add the ground turkey and eggs and mix until just combined. Scoop out 1 tbs of the mixture and, with damp hands, roll into a 3/4 inch meatballs. Heat the oil in a 5 quart pot over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot, celery, and 1 tsp salt; cook until tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the chicken broth, rosemary, and 2 cups water; bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Gently add the meatballs; reduce the heat to medium-low to maintain a gentle simmer, and cook for 10 minutes. Add the escarole and continue to simmer until the meatballs are cooked through and the escarole is wilted, about 5 minutes. Discard the rosemary and season to taste salt and pepper. Serve with cheese.
I love escarole, particularly in soup. This is such an easy preparation that you can have it on the table in no time at all. I sometimes add a cup of cooked pasta, like acine di pepe or stellini.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

TAST Week 5: Herringbone Stitch

This week over at Sharon Boggons' Pin Tangle, the challenge was to learn the herringbone stitch. I don't mind admitting that this stitch has given me fits in the past. I don't know why, but I had to constantly look at the directions for left-handers while I stitched and it took many, many tries before I was able to just stitch without consulting those directions. I think I finally have the basic stitch down. I did try to do some more advanced work, but it's still not in my comfort area. I'm going to continue practicing until I can produce the stitch that reminds me of chicken wire. Meanwhile, I found one of the blocks  I'd prepared for a beading class I took with Nancy Eha this summer and hadn't used. So now I have that as my second practice cloth before moving on to my miniature CQ.