January 30, 2008

Souper Suppers.....Fresh & Fit

I’ve been trying to make super healthy meals recently because bathing suit season for me starts waaaaaaay early this year—Valentine’s Day to be exact. The Husband and I are taking a romantic mini-vacation to Playa del Carmen, Mexico, and if I’m not going to be tan when I get there, I may as well try to be thin. :)

Now I’m not one to “ohhh” and “ahhh” over diet food but this soup and salad combo was so pretty and tasty that I didn’t miss the extra calories at all. Now lets just hope that I can keep up this healthy eating for 2 more weeks……Wish me luck!

Crab and Veggie Salad with Carrot-Ginger Vinaigrette

Carrot-Ginger Vinaigrette
½ pound carrots (3 medium), chopped
1/8 cup water
¼ cup seasoned rice vinegar
3 tablespoons peeled fresh ginger, minced
1 tablespoon low sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1 shallot, chopped
1 tablespoon sherry
¼ cup peanut oil

In a blender, combine the carrot, water, vinegar, ginger, soy sauce, sesame oil, shallot and sherry and puree. While the motor is running, drizzle in the oil until incorporated. Store in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Once the dressing is made, steam one bunch of King Grab Legs in a steamer basket fitted inside a large pot. Meanwhile prepare a salad by tossing romaine lettuce, halved cherry tomatoes, carrot ribbons (made with a vegetable peeler), sliced onions, currents and pine nuts together. Top the salads with crab meat and then dress the salad with a few tablespoons of the dressing.

Butternut Squash Soup

1 large butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks
1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 large clove garlic, diced
1 large onion, diced
½ granny smith apple, peeled and diced
Salt and freshly cracked pepper
6 cups chicken stock (divided)

In a large pot heat the olive oil. Add the onion and garlic and cook until slightly translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the squash, apple and enough stock to cover and then bring to a simmer and cook until squash is tender (about 25 minutes). Once the squash is tender, place the soup in a blender and puree (work in batches if necessary). Return to pot and reheat. Add extra stock to reach desired consistency. Stir and season with salt and pepper and garnish with a tablespoon of minced red bell peppers and a clove of roasted garlic.

January 29, 2008

Beans beans, They're Good for Your Heart...

Childhood jokes aside, these bean burritos are el mejor. They’re a staple at my house becasue they're easy and healthy. I always make sure to have a few in the freezer for those nights when I have zero inspiration or for when my yoga class runs over and I get home too late to start something. They’re so good and I like that they’re meat free--it’s nice to give the cows, pigs and chickens of the world a break once in a while.

Bean Burritos
(inspired by none other than Martha S.)

¾ cup brown rice
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 jalapeno pepper, diced (ribs and seeds removed, if desired)
1 teaspoon chili powder
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon paprika (I use smoked paprika)
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 small can tomato paste
3 15-oz cans beans (I used pinto beans this time but sometimes I use black beans or a mixture of black beans and pinto beans), drained and rinsed
1 15oz can of corn, drained
1 bunch of scallions, thinly sliced
8 burrito-size flour tortillas, 10 inches each (use whole wheat tortillas for added fiber)
2 cups (8 ounces) shredded Monterey Jack cheese
Salsa and sour cream, for serving

Cook the rice according to package instructions; set aside to cool slightly. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions, garlic, jalapeno, and spices. Cook, stirring occasionally, until golden, 10 to 12 minutes.

Add the tomato paste, and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Then add the beans and 1½ cups water. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat to medium, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened, 12 to 15 minutes.

Add the corn; cook to heat through, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in scallions.

When the bean mixture is slightly cooled, heat a tortilla in the microwave for 15 seconds.

Then mound ¼ cup rice, ¾ cup of the bean mixture, and ¼ cup of the cheese on one side of tortilla (towards the bottom).

To assemble, starting from filled end, fold and hold in sides and tightly roll into a bundle, tucking in any loose ends as necessary. Place on a baking sheet, seam side down, and repeat with the remaining 7 tortillas.

Serve immediately, with salsa and sour cream, or wrap them individually in plastic and aluminum foil and freeze for up to 3 months.

To heat from frozen, microwave the (unwrapped) frozen burritos for about 4-5 minutes and let them cool slightly before serving. If you want a crispy tortilla, you can microwave the (unwrapped) frozen burritos for 2 minutes and then bake them on a baking sheet at 375 for 10 minutes.

January 24, 2008

Chicken Piccata...Engagement Chicken a la Jackie

According to pop culture legend, there’s a roasted chicken recipe that will inspire your man to propose marriage. I never made the legendary "Engagement Chicken" recipe but I do think that my Chicken Piccata had something to do with my Husband popping the question. It was the first meal that I ever prepared for him back when we were dating. I made it all the time back then, and sure enough, not too long after I perfected the recipe, the ring was on my hand and we were walking down the aisle. It’s been almost 4 years of marriage, and this is still the only meal that the Husband asks me to make on a regular basis. Not only is Chicken Piccata a sentimental meal in our house, it's a good weeknight meal because the ingredient list is small and it takes less than 30 minutes to prepare. Double the recipe to have a nice lunch the next day.

Chicken Piccata

2 Chicken Breasts
Salt and Pepper
¼ Cup Dijon Mustard
1 egg, slightly beaten.
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
¼ cup dry white wine
¼ cup chicken stock
Juice of one half lemon (Slice the remaining lemon half into rings)
2 Tablespoons capers
1 Table spoon unsalted Butter (optional)
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Pat chicken breasts dry and season with salt and pepper. Mix the egg and Dijon mustard in a medium-sized bowl. Toss the seasoned chicken in the egg and Dijon mustard mixture and then remove chicken from mustard bowl and place it in a medium-sized bowl of breadcrumbs. Toss chicken in breadcrumbs until the breasts are thoroughly coated.

Heat the oil in a pan on medium-high heat until very hot. Add chicken and cook for about 4 minutes on each side, or until cooked through. Remove the cooked chicken and set aside. Add the white wine to the pan and deglaze, scraping up the brown bits at the bottom of the pan. Then add the chicken stock and lemon juice and capers and bring to a boil. Boil for about 2 minutes, or until slightly reduced. (If you’re not counting calories, swirl in the butter here.) Turn down the heat to medium, then add the chicken back to the pan along with the parsley and lemon slices and cook until the chicken is heated through again, about 2 minutes. Season with additional salt and pepper if desired.

Serve over a hearty pasts such as spatzel or over Linguine or Pappardelle tossed in olive oil and Parmesan cheese.

January 15, 2008

Lettuce Wraps: Part stir-fry, part salad...whole lot a’ goodness

I love PF Chang’s as much as the next girl, but I can’t get out of there without setting the scale back by at least 3 pounds (damn you, Kung Pao Scallops! Why must you contain nearly 1200 calories!?!). So in an effort to be healthy, instead of ordering out, I’ve ‘invented’ my own Lettuce Wraps recipe to suffice when I have a hankering for Chinese.

1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
½ of a medium onion, sliced
2 scallions, white and green parts sliced thinly
1 clove garlic, minced
5 baby carrots, julienned
¼ red bell pepper, thinly sliced
¼ green bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 large chicken breast, cut into bite-size pieces, seasoned with salt and pepper
1 serving whole wheat spaghetti noodles
¼-½ cup peanut dipping sauce (recipe follows)

Peanut Dipping Sauce (makes a little more than ¼ cup)
Scant ¼ cup chunky natural peanut butter
2 Tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
1 Tablespoon rice vinegar
1 teaspoon honey
one pinch each salt, pepper, garlic powder, ground ginger, crushed red pepper flakes
1 Tablespoon fresh cilantro, chopped
Stir all ingredients together.

Cook spaghetti according to package directions. While pasta is cooking, heat the sesame oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
Add the onions, scallions, garlic, carrots and peppers and stir-fry quickly for about 2 minutes. Add the chicken cubes. Stir frequently until no longer pink (about 7 minutes). While the chicken is cooking, prepare the peanut sauce. When chicken is cooked through, add it to a bowl with the drained spaghetti and the peanut sauce. Mix well until all the pasta is coated with sauce. Garnish with a generous serving of chopped cilantro and sliced scallions and serve with a head of romaine or iceberg lettuce for wrapping the chicken-pasta mixture. Serves 2.

Delhi Belly

I was fortunate enough to travel to the Indian subcontinent a few years ago but at the time I traveled there, I wasn’t a big fan of the food. However, now that I’m back, I can’t seem to get enough Indian food. Go figure, right? Since I won’t be traveling to India anytime soon, I attempted a classic Lamb Curry on my own.

This was a great meal to make on a Sunday afternoon after a long, cold winter weekend. Even though this is a low-fat meal, it has just enough spice and complex flavors that leave you with a satsified feeling. This Lamb Curry is a great meal for many reasons including the fact that it doesn’t require much attention past the initial set-up. It’s also nice for the Husband (my Assistant Cook and Chief Bottle Washer) because it is a one-dish meal.

2 pound lamb- chopped into 1 inch cubes
1 Tablespoon olive oil
2 medium onions, diced
3 cloves garlic, diced
1 Tablespoon grated ginger
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon turmeric
3 teaspoons garam masala
2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon caynene pepper
¾ of a 28oz can of peeled plum tomatoes, cut into chuncks (just use kitchen scissors while they’re in the can)
¼ cup plain, low fat yogurt

Heat oil on medium-high until very hot. Then, add the onions and stir gently until they’re soft and translucent. Then add in the garlic and ginger and keep stirring gently. Next, add the spices and keep stirring (the mixture should be somewhat dry). Stir for a few minutes until your house smells like [Insert Your Name Here]’s House of Curry. Next, add the chunks of lamb and stir gently for about 5 minutes or until the meat has fully browned. Add the tomatos and the plain yogurt. Adjust the heat to high to bring it to a boil.

Once boiling, cover the pot and turn down the heat to to the lowest setting. Leave for 30 minutes, then come back and stir once. Leave for another 30 minutes and then come back and stir once more. Repeat one more time (about 1 ½ hours totoal should have passed). Now you’re done!

Add additional salt or cayenne to suit your tastes and then garnish with a generous handful of fresh cilantro. Served with naan or basmati rice (or be a piggie like me and serve with both).