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.