Saturday, March 31, 2007

Salmon with Grapefruit Beurre Blanc

We were at our lake house for a few days and I had the opportunity to break out the charcoal grill for the first time this year. The whole cooking-with-charcoal process is messy and annoying (I can never seem to get the temperature regulated so I am satisfied with how the food is cooking) and I realize that I hate the cooking grid that is used, but oh, the taste of the food that is cooked on it is so wonderful! There is a depth of smokiness not found in food that is prepared on our propane grill at the farm which I enjoy very much.

Bill (“Old Bay”) posted a recipe for Wild Salmon with Grapefruit Beurre Blanc from Bon Appetit on the Cuisine at Home website. I couldn’t wait to try it since I’ve never grilled grapefruit and I’m always looking for salmon recipes. Of course, the sauce had to be lightened (my Fear of Fat; or, rather, the wrong types of fat!). I cut out a third of the butter but, most importantly, was able to use lowfat half & half in place of the whipping cream. When cooking the sauce, the lowfat half & half separated a bit, as both it and the fat-free version has a tendency to do, but once the butter was whisked in the separation was not at all noticeable.

I didn’t add the anchovy filet because that is one ingredient that I never can find a use for. I bought a can for a bagna cauda dip last year and the remaining anchovies hung around in the refrigerator for months. I never have shallots on hand, either, so I used a lesser amount of sweet onion. And I used farm-raised salmon since I didn’t want to take out a mortgage to buy the wild salmon at the grocery store (which, actually, wasn’t even available now although last time I checked, it was running about $18/pound).

Wow, was this great! First, grilling the salmon and grapefruit slices over the charcoal added a nice, smoky taste. But combined with the fruity, creamy beurre blanc, this was one exquisite salmon recipe that will be repeated often in the warmer (“grilling”) months. My mouth waters just thinking about it!

The salmon and grapefruit were served with green beans & almonds and grilled flatbreads.

Note: I really do not like this photo and will replace it the next time I make this salmon. Fresh produce prices are nuts at this time of year, so I’ve been forcing myself to use frozen produce (fresh green beans were $3/ pound this week). The picture really doesn’t show the salmon to its best advantage, either. Oh, well. Something to improve upon! ;)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Grilled Salmon with Grapefruit Beurre Blanc

Serving Size : 2

Amount Measure Ingredient -- Preparation Method

---------- ---------- --------------------------------

1 large ruby red grapefruit

1 teaspoon olive oil

2 1/2 tablespoons finely minced onion

1/4 teaspoon finely minced garlic

1/4 cup dry white wine

3 ounces lowfat half & half

8 ounces salmon fillet -- 2 4-ounce filets

1 teaspoon olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

2 teaspoons butter -- in three pieces

1 dash Worcestershire sauce -- (about 1/16 teaspoon, measured)

1/8 teaspoon hot pepper sauce

salt and pepper to taste

Cut two 2" thick slices from the center of the grapefruit and set aside. Squeeze enough juice from one (or both) of the ends to measure 5 tablespoons. Set juice aside and, if unused, wrap the remaining grapefruit end and refrigerate for another use.

Turn on grill to medium-high and allow to preheat while completing the recipe.

Heat 1 teaspoon of olive oil in a small nonstick skillet over medium heat and add onion. Stir constantly for a minute, then add garlic and stir for another minute. Neither should brown, but should be soft. Add wine and 4 tablespoons of the grapefruit juice, turn heat down a bit, and allow to reduce to 1/4 cup (about 4 minutes). Turn off heat and remove pan from stove for a minute to cool down a little. Slowly stir in the half & half (it may separate a bit, which is common with nonfat and lowfat half & half, but will now affect the finished sauce). Keep stirring to bring to barely a simmer, then turn down heat a little more and allow to simmer for 8 minutes, stirring often.

While sauce is simmering, brush salmon with 1/2 teaspoon of olive oil apiece, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and grill for about 7-8 minutes, turning once, until done. Spray grapefruit slices with cooking spray, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and grill, turning once, for the last 4 minutes that the fish is cooking. Remove salmon and grapefruit from grill, cover with foil to keep warm, and finish sauce.

Whisk in butter, one piece at a time, until incorporated; then add Worcestershire sauce and hot pepper sauce. Remove from heat, then stir in remaining 1 tablespoon of grapefruit juice.

Serve salmon with sauce, and a grapefruit slice alongside.


"adapted from Bon Appetit"

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Per serving: 302 Calories (kcal); 14g Total Fat (5g saturated); (46% calories from fat); 25g Protein; 12g Carbohydrate; 76mg Cholesterol; 149mg Sodium

Food Exchanges: 0 Grain(Starch); 3 Lean Meat; 0 Vegetable; 1/2 Fruit; 1 1/2 Fat; 0 Other Carbohydrates

NOTES : This is a lightened version of a burre blanc sauce and, having the grapefruit juice adding tang, is absolutely delicious with the salmon.

The grilled grapefruit tastes wonderful when each bite is eaten with a bite of salmon and sauce. It is a little messy, however, as the fruit squirts when cut. Not quite certain that there is a better way to do this, though!

Now, for comparison:

* Exported from MasterCook *

Ingredients Only: BA Wild Salmon with Grapefruit Beurre Blanc

Serving Size : 4

Amount Measure Ingredient -- Preparation Method

---------- ---------- --------------------------------

3 Tablespoons olive oil -- divided

1/3 cup finely chopped shallot

1 whole anchovy fillet -- chopped

1/2 tsp chopped garlic

1/2 cup dry white wine

7 Tablespoons fresh ruby-red grapefruit juice -- divided

3/4 cup whipping cream

24 ounces salmon fillets (4 fillets)

1 large ruby red grapefruit

2 tablespoons butter

1/8 tsp Worcestershire sauce

1/4 tsp hot pepper sauce

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Per serving: 544 Calories (kcal); 38g Total Fat (16g saturated); (65% calories from fat); 36g Protein; 9g Carbohydrate; 166mg Cholesterol; 238mg Sodium

Food Exchanges: 0 Grain(Starch); 5 Lean Meat; 1/2 Vegetable; 1/2 Fruit; 6 1/2 Fat; 0 Other Carbohydrates

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Too busy outside...

to cook anything "post-able"! We've had some unusually warm temperatures for the past few days and I am taking full advantage of being outdoors since I've been stuck indoors for so many weeks. Dinner these past few nights have been less than inspired since I usually lose track of time and don't even think about what to make until after 6pm.

Soooo I will show some photos I took today (between weeding, pruning, and cleaning out the goldfish pond)

I planted these crocus bulbs at least 15 years ago and am always surprised when they come up year after year...

Jack bought me a planter filled with these mini daffodils a few years ago, and I planted them outside the back door where they've brightened our early spring days ever since

I'll be back with food posts soon! :)

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Five-Grain Bread and Chicken Paprikash

Jack and I eat about a loaf of bread each week and for the past couple of years I have been using this recipe almost exclusively for sandwich-and-toast bread (the no-knead bread is our favorite for accompanying soup and for French toast). This is a bit of an odd recipe—the dough for the first rising is quite soft and is just mixed. After allowing this to rise until doubled the remaining flour is added, then the dough is kneaded, and divided, and placed into loaf pans for the final rise of about a half hour. It makes a very good, firm sandwich bread with 3g fiber per slice. The only drawback is time—it takes about 3 hours from the time the cereal begins to soak until the dough is ready to be placed in the oven. But I usually make this on Sunday, and plan the loaves to go in the oven before our weekly Sunday pizza.

* Exported from MasterCook *

Five-Grain Bread

Recipe By : Vicci

Servings : 28 Preparation Time :3:30

Amount Measure Ingredient -- Preparation Method

---------- ---------- --------------------------------

6 ounces five-grain cereal

2 cups water

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/3 cup dark molasses

3/4 cup skim milk

1 teaspoon sugar

4 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast -- (2 packets)

3 tablespoons vital wheat gluten

3 cups whole wheat flour -- divided (white whole wheat flour preferred)

1 teaspoon salt

2 1/2 cups bread flour -- divided (may need up to one cup additional, see *)

Place the cereal in a large bowl. Bring the water, olive oil, and molasses to a boil. Pour this mixture over the cereal and allow the mixture to cool to 100-105F. (This may take 45 minutes to an hour)

Heat the milk and dark brown sugar to 105-110F. Pour into the mixer bowl and stir in the yeast. Allow to proof, about 10-15 minutes.

Mix the cooled grain mixture into the yeast mixture. Add 1 cup of the whole wheat flour, the gluten, 1-1/2 cups of the bread flour, and salt and mix at "speed 2", using the flat paddle attachment. Beat in the remaining 2 cups of whole wheat flour for 2 minutes. The dough will be very soft. Scrape the dough into a large bowl that has been sprayed with cooking spray, spray the top of the dough, and cover with plastic wrap. Clean the mixer bowl and flat paddle. Let rise until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.

With a lightly greased spatula, scrape the dough down the sides of the bowl and then scrape back to the mixer bowl. Attach the dough hook. Add as much additional bread flour as needed to make a soft dough* and knead on "speed 2" for about 8 minutes. Transfer dough to a lightly floured board and knead by hand for a minute.

Spray 2 9x5" loaf pans with cooking spray. Divide the dough in half, form into loaf shapes, and place into prepared pans. Spray the tops with cooking spray, cover with plastic, and allow rise until almost doubled (25- 30 minutes)

Preheat oven to 350F. Wash tops of loaves with an egg white-and-water mix if desired, and bake for 25 - 35 minutes or until the loaves are deep golden brown. Remove from pans and allow to cool thoroughly on wire racks.

*- Depending on the accuracy of liquid measurements, humidity, etc., this may be anywhere from one to 1 ½ cups of additional bread flour


"2 loaves"

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Per serving: 132 Calories (kcal); 2g Total Fat; (10% calories from fat); 5g Protein; 26g Carbohydrate; trace Cholesterol; 83mg Sodium

Food Exchanges: 1 Grain(Starch); 0 Lean Meat; 0 Vegetable; 0 Fruit; 0 Fat; 0 Other Carbohydrates

NOTES : These mixing and kneading directions are for using Kitchen Aid mixer. This process can also be done manually (for the less lazy!).

The flour measurements are, like with all bread recipes, a semi-accurate indication of how much will be needed depending on type of flour and the humidity of the kitchen.

I have been subscribing to Eating Well magazine for a couple of years now and I find it indispensable for the interesting, timely nutrition articles. Although it isn’t my top magazine for recipes, I find a nice selection in each issue and their food photography (especially the cover) is gorgeous. The April issue arrived on the third week of February and I wasn’t mentally prepared for spring (!!!) so I set it aside, just opening it yesterday. I opted to make the Sofia’s Chicken Paprikash as my first from this issue.

The ingredient list wasn't too exciting, but this really turned out to be a good, quick weeknight recipe. The chunks of chicken are simmered with bell peppers and onion in a paprika-infused tomato sauce, with sour cream stirred in at the end of the cooking time to smooth it all out and provide a nice sauce. I served over whole wheat noodles, and with a mix of steamed broccoli and cauliflower.

I used half Hungarian Smoked Paprika instead of all "regular" paprika and a half teaspoon cayenne pepper as well.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

If it's warm out, we just gotta GRILL!

And what better to grill than salmon fillets? I couldn't decide what to grill, so I put together my tried-and-true Orange-Bourbon marinade. The brown sugar in the marinade reacts with the heat of the grill in giving the fillets a nice glaze, and the orange and bourbon taste is a bit sweet. It's really a great all-around marinade for a strong-flavored fish such as salmon.

By the way, this first grilling of the year turned out predictable in one way. I always need a few tries to learn how to adjust the heat. I should have turned the salmon after 4 minutes instead of 5, and turned down the heat a notch...

Served with grilled peppers and onions, and wild/ jasmine rice pilaf.

* Exported from MasterCook *

Orange Bourbon Salmon

Recipe By : Vicci
Serving Size : 2

Amount Measure Ingredient -- Preparation Method
-------- ------------ --------------------------------
1 tablespoon frozen orange juice concentrate -- thawed
2 tablespoons bourbon
2 teaspoons light brown sugar
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 medium garlic cloves -- minced
12 ounces salmon fillet

Mix first 5 ingredients in a plastic container (big enough to hold the salmon). Add the salmon and turn to coat. Refrigerate for an hour, spooning marinade over fish often.

Heat grill to medium-high. Spray fillets with cooking spray and grill until opaque.

While the fish is grilling, transfer remaining marinade to a microwave-safe glass cup or small bowl. Add 2 teaspoons water to the marinade and microwave at high for about one minute, or until it comes to a boil and boils for about 15 seconds.

After the fish is finished cooking, transfer to serving plates and drizzle with cooked marinade.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Per serving: 322 Calories (kcal); 13g Total Fat; (40% calories from fat); 34g Protein; 7g Carbohydrate; 88mg Cholesterol; 116mg Sodium
Food Exchanges: 0 Grain(Starch); 5 Lean Meat; 0 Vegetable; 0 Fruit; 1 1/2 Fat; 0 Other Carbohydrates

Monday, March 19, 2007

Chicken Tagine with Almonds and Cranberries

These cold, rainy days bring the desire for hearty, aromatic, simmered dinners. Jenni sent me a recipe for chicken tagine a few weeks ago and I made it over to fit our tastes (and what was in the pantry). The taste of exotic spices are paired beautifully with the sweet tang of dried cranberries and honey in the sauce, and couscous is perfect for soaking up the flavors of this dish.

* Exported from MasterCook *

Chicken Tagine with Almonds and Cranberries

Recipe By : Vicci
Serving Size : 4

Amount Measure Ingredient -- Preparation Method
-------- ------------ --------------------------------
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon salt -- divided
1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts -- cut into 1-1/2" cubes
1 medium onion -- halved, then sliced 1/4" thick
2 large carrots -- quartered lengthwise, then chopped into 1-1/2" lengths
2 large garlic cloves -- minced
1/2 teaspoon minced ginger
1 1/2 cups water -- divided
2 tablespoons mild honey
1 cinnamon stick -- (3-inch)
1 tablespoon fresh flat-leaf parsley -- minced
1/2 cup Craisins -- (sweetened dried cranberries)
1 tablespoon minced cilantro
1/4 cup whole blanched almonds -- toasted and cut in half
1 cup whole wheat couscous -- prepared as directed

Stir together first 6 ingredients (cinnamon through olive oil) and 3/4 teaspoon of the salt in a large bowl. Add chicken cubes and toss well to coat. Heat a large, heavy nonstick skillet over a medium flame. Add the chicken cubes and cook, stirring often, until lightly browned. Remove to a shallow bowl and set aside.

Add onion and remaining 1/4 teaspoon of salt to the skillet, lower heat to medium-low, and cook, stirring often, until the onion is softened. Add garlic and ginger and continue to cook for another minute. Add one cup of the water to the skillet, bring to a boil, and stir in the chicken and any of its juices which may have accumulated on bottom of the bowl. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes.

While chicken cooks, bring honey, remaining 1/2 cup water, cinnamon stick, and dried cranberries to a boil in a small saucepan, then reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until cranberries are very tender (add more water if necessary), about 10 minutes. Remove cinnnamon stick and discard.

Stir in the carrots and the honey mixture into the chicken mixture, cover, and simmer for 5-6 minutes or until carrots are cooked but not mushy. Check occasionally and add water if needed to maintain a bit of a sauce in the pan.

Sprinkle with cilantro, stir in, then serve over couscous, and sprinkle with almonds

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Per serving: 247 Calories (kcal); 5g Total Fat; (18% calories from fat); 27g Protein; 23g Carbohydrate; 66mg Cholesterol; 625mg Sodium
Food Exchanges: 1/2 Grain(Starch); 3 1/2 Lean Meat; 1 Vegetable; 1 Fruit; 1/2 Fat; 0 Other Carbohydrates

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Makin' macaroons!

My Dad’s birthday is later this week and, while talking with Mom a couple of nights ago lamenting about my total and complete lack of ideas for his birthday gift, she suggested that I send a batch of almond macaroons. I had mailed some for Valentine’s Day, along with other goodies, and apparently Dad had “allowed” Mom one, and then proceeded to hoard the remainder for himself. Sounded like a good idea. The way to a man’s heart... well, you know.

I played around with the original recipe, mostly making the procedure easier, and came up with some darn yummy coconut-almond-chocolate cookies. And I only kept two for myself before packaging them and taking to the post office. Really, sometimes my self-control exceeds my expectations. Although not often.

* Exported from MasterCook *

Macaroons from Heaven

Servings : 30

Amount Measure Ingredient -- Preparation Method

---------- ------------ --------------------------------------------

3 1/2 ounces almond paste

3/4 cup fat-free sweetened condensed milk

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

3/4 teaspoon almond extract

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon orange zest -- freshly grated is preferred

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

14 ounces sweetened coconut flakes

1/4 cup miniature chocolate chips

1 large egg white -- room temperature

2 ounces dark chocolate -- chips will melt more evenly

2 ounces milk chocolate chips

1 teaspoon vegetable shortening

Preheat oven to 325°F.

In a small food processor or blender, chop the almond paste. Add the milk and puree until well blended. Add the extracts, salt, and orange zest and blend until combined. Transfer to a large bowl. Whisk in the flour, then stir in the coconut and mini chips. Set aside.

In a small bowl, beat the egg white at high speed of an electric mixer until stiff peaks form. Dollop the egg whites onto the surface of the coconut mixture and fold in gently until the egg is incorporated into the dough.

Line baking sheets with parchment. Drop dough by tablespoonfuls onto the baking sheets (I use a 1-tablespoon cookie scoop, coating the interior of the surface with cooking spray after every three cookies or so, then packing the coconut mixture firmly into the scoop to form nicely rounded mounds of dough).

Bake for 12-14 minutes, or until the bottoms are a dark golden color. Remove carefully to a cooling rack and cool completely.

In a small bowl, melt the dark and milk chocolate and the shortening in the microwave until almost melted. Stir until all chocolate melts and mixture is smooth. Pour into a small plastic sandwich bag and snip off a teeny, tiny part of the corner (or use a pastry bag with a #3 round tip). Drizzle the macaroons with chocolate. Allow to stand at a rather cool room temperature until chocolate firms up.

Store in a tightly covered container (also can be refrigerated).

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Per serving: 225 Calories (kcal); 14g Total Fat; (52% calories from fat); 2g Protein; 25g Carbohydrate; trace Cholesterol; 117mg Sodium

Food Exchanges: 0 Grain(Starch); 0 Lean Meat; 0 Vegetable; 1 Fruit; 2 1/2 Fat; 1/2 Other Carbohydrates

These are extraordinarily good. Intensely coconut-ey with just a hint of orange, and a very satisfying almond flavor. Nice and chewy. Bits of chocolate in every bite. Why on earth did I only keep two, for pete's sake???

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

A nutty biscotti and confessions about my microplane and me...

The cupboards were a bit bare today... the Cookie Cupboards!!! :) So I made a biscotti recipe that I developed last week, tweaking an ingredient or two in the quest of perfection. Although not perfect (really, what ever is?), this turned out to be an excellent biscotti.

Though certainly not a "health food", this biscotti contains wheat germ, dried cranberries, and nuts to make a very satisfying snack. There is an undertone of orange from the fresh orange peeo, and bits of chocolate give it additional richness.

* Exported from MasterCook *

"Kitchen Sink" Biscotti
(because it contains so many good things!)

Recipe By :Vicci
Serving Size : 24
Categories : cookies

Amount Measure Ingredient -- Preparation Method
-------- ------------ --------------------------------
1 2/3 cups Eagle Mills All-Purpose Unbleached "Ultragrain Blend" Flour -- or 1 cup all-purpose and 2/3 cup white whole wheat
2/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup toasted wheat germ
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1 large egg white
1 tablespoon canola oil
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon grated fresh orange peel (this has been changed from 1/2 tsp. since my original post)
1/3 cup blanched almonds -- toasted, chopped
1/3 cup walnuts -- toasted, chopped
1/2 cup dried cranberries -- chopped w/ 1 tablespoon flour
1/2 cup miniature chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 325F

In a large bowl, stir together the flour through salt.

In a small bowl, beat the eggs until well combined then stir in the canola oil, water, and orange peel.

Using a heavy wooden spoon, mix the wet ingredients into the flour until almost combined. The dough will initially be rather dry. Stir in the nuts, cranberries, and chips. If necessary, coat your hands with flour to finish mixing completely. The dough will be sticky.

Line a large baking sheet with parchment. Pleace a small bowl of flour nearby-- you will want to flour your hands often to keep them from sticking to the logs.. Shape half of the dough into a flattened 3" x 10" log on the parchment. Shape the other half into a log beside the first log, leaving no less than 3" between them.

Bake for about 28 minutes or until logs are firm to the touch and bottoms are golden. Carefully remove from the parchment and cool on a rack for at least 30 minutes. Set the parchment-lined baking sheet aside. Keep the oven at 325F.

When the logs have cooled, cut diagonally (using an electric knife is easites, otherwise use a serrated knife) into 1/2" slices. Arrange slices, bottoms on parchment, on the baking sheet. Return to the oven and bake for 15 minutes. Remove to a cooling rack and cool completely. Store in a container with a realtively loose lid (for crispy cookies) or a tight lid (for softer cookies) for up to 2 weeks. Freeze for longer storage.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Per serving: 137 Calories (kcal); 4g Total Fat; (27% calories from fat); 4g Protein; 21g Carbohydrate; 8mg Cholesterol; 60mg Sodium
Food Exchanges: 0 Grain(Starch); 0 Lean Meat; 0 Vegetable; 0 Fruit; 1/2 Fat; 1/2 Other Carbohydrates

NOTES : Chopping the cranberries makes for easier slicing of the biscotti logs. Use a food processor and sprinkle the cranberries with a tablespoon of flour to keep them from sticking to the blade. It will take about 45 seconds, at a continuous speed, to chop the cranberries.

Toasting a quantity of a variety of nuts at once, and keeping them in heavy plastic bags in the freezer, will save a lot of prep time.

I admit it, I LOVE my microplane. Never have I used a kitchen tool that does its job so quickly and effectively. I use a lot of shredded peels (orange, lime, lemon) and grated ginger and garlic, and the microplane absolutely rocks! This orange, completely zested in less than one minute:

Because I only needed a half teaspoon for the biscotti, and 1/2 teaspoon for some macaroons that I also made today, I froze the rest of the orange zest for future use.

Friday, March 9, 2007

Spicy Asian Shrimp with Vegetables

Dinner tonight was inspired by a plate which I bought today. I met my friend Jenni for lunch and, after we left the restaurant, we did a little shopping. I saw a square, black plate with white Oriental characters and it called my name...

* Exported from MasterCook *

Spicy Asian Shrimp with Vegetables

Recipe By : Vicci
Serving Size : 2

Amount Measure Ingredient -- Preparation Method
-------- ------------ --------------------------------
2 teaspoons dry sherry
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1/4 teaspoon minced ginger
8 ounces medium shrimp -- peeled and deveined
1/4 cup low sodium chicken broth
1 tablespoon water
3 tablespoons oyster sauce
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon garlic/ chili paste
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 clove garlic -- crushed
1 tablespoon canola oil
4 ounces bell peppers -- 1/4" wide strips (about 1 1/2 cups sliced); colored peppers
1 1/2 ounces onion -- sliced (about 1 cup)
3 ounces snow peas -- about 1 1/4 cups; halve if large
2 1/2 ounces water chestnuts -- chopped; half of an 8 ounce can

In a small bowl, combine the sherry through the ginger; add shrimp, stir, refrigerate for 30 minutes.

In a cup, mix the chicken broth through garlic and set aside.

Heat a wok over medium-high heat. Drain excess marinade from the shrimp. Drizzle 2 teaspoons of canola oil in. Stir-fry shrimp for 1-1/2 to 2 minutes or until opaque. Remove from wok to a small plate and set aside.

Drizzle remaining teaspoon of oil into wok. Add bell peppers and stir for 2 minutes. Add onion and snow peas and stir for 1-1/2 minutes. Add water chestnuts and stir for 1 minute. Give the chicken broth mixture a quick stir and pour into the wok, stirring constantly until sauce has thickened and coats the shrimp and vegetables.

Serve immediately over hot rice.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Per serving: 257 Calories (kcal); 10g Total Fat; (36% calories from fat); 26g Protein; 13g Carbohydrate; 172mg Cholesterol; 572mg Sodium
Food Exchanges: 0 Grain(Starch); 3 1/2 Lean Meat; 1 1/2 Vegetable; 0 Fruit; 1 1/2 Fat; 0 Other Carbohydrates

And it is every bit as good as it is pretty !!!

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Pastitsio- a favorite recipe lightened

About 20 years ago I was leafing through a cookbook and came across a recipe for something I had never heard of before, pastitsio. This dish is Greek in origin and is, basically, macaroni layered with a cheesy béchamel sauce and ground meat simmered in red wine and spices. Really, what’s not to like?! I made the pastitsio and it became a favorite. Because it is a bit labor-intensive I only made it a couple of times a year, in the winter months, because it’s a great warm-you-up kind of dish.

Several years ago, as healthy eating became more of a priority, I dropped pastitsio from our dinner rotation. With whole milk, butter, cheese, red meat, and “white” macaroni, it simply didn’t fit into our diet any longer.

Recently, Jack requested it again. He said that he was really craving pastitsio, and perhaps I could lighten it up a bit. I looked up the original recipe, took pencil to paper, and devised a very good, lighter recipe. It still has the same flavor that we remember from the base recipe. Although not quite as creamy as it used to be, this version of pastitsio is still delicious and quite deserving of the preparation effort at least a couple of times a year. The meat and also the béchamel sauce can be made ahead of time, and, after it is all assembled, the pastitsio can be refrigerated for a couple of days until ready to bake or, baked then wrapped tightly in foil and frozen.

Like lasagna this is a great dish for a crowd or a buffet, and all it needs alongside is a green vegetable and/ or a crisp green salad and a glass of fruity red wine.

* Exported from MasterCook *


whole-wheat elbow macaroni sandwiches a savory filling of ground turkey simmered in a cinnamon-spiked tomato-red wine sauce, blanketed with a cheesy béchamel-type sauce.

Recipe By: Vicci

Servings: 8

Preparation Time: long

Amount Measure Ingredient -- Preparation Method

-------- ------------ --------------------------------

1 large onion -- finely chopped

2 cloves garlic -- finely chopped

1 teaspoon olive oil

12 ounces ground turkey

1/4 cup tomato paste

1 1/4 cups dry red wine

3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

3/4 teaspoon ground allspice

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

8 ounces Morningstar Farms veggie crumbles -- or any crumbled meat substitute

2 teaspoons butter

1 quart nonfat milk

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 large egg yolk

3/4 cup grated fresh Parmesan cheese -- divided

1 pound whole wheat elbow macaroni

1 teaspoon olive oil

3 large egg whites

3/4 cup fine dry breadcrumbs -- divided

In a large nonstick skillet, drizzle olive oil, then add onions and garlic and sauté over medium-low heat until the onions are just beginning to soften. Turn up the heat to medium and crumble ground turkey into the pan. Cook, stirring often, until meat begins to brown. Stir in the tomato paste, wine, spices and veggie crumbles. Bring to a low simmer and cook, covered, for 15 minutes. Remove the cover and continue to cook until all of the liquid has been absorbed (an additional 20 minutes or so). Remove the pan from the heat and set aside to cool.

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter. Turn off the heat, add about a third of the milk to the butter and, using a whisk, stir in the flour until smooth. Add the remaining milk, mix until smooth, and turn the heat on to medium. Bring to a boil, stirring often. When the sauce comes to a boil, turn the heat to medium-low and, stirring constantly, cook for three minutes. Remove from heat and add in the salt and pepper.

In a small bowl, lightly beat the egg yolk. Add about a half cup of the hot milk mixture to this, dribbling the milk in slowly at first, stirring constantly to prevent curdling. Pour this egg mixture back into the saucepan, stirring it into the milk mixture. Whisk in 1/2 cup of the parmesan cheese. Set aside to cool slightly.

Cook macaroni according to package directions, drain, and toss with 1 teaspoon of the olive oil. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Beat the three egg whites in a small bowl. Add to the meat mixture (it should be at least room temperature), stirring well. Mix in 1/4 cup parmesan and 1/4 cup breadcrumbs.

Coat a 15"x10" baking pan with cooking spray. Sprinkle about 2 tablespoons of breadcrumbs on the bottom. Spread half of the macaroni on the bottom of the pan. Place large spoonfuls of the meat filling over the surface of the macaroni and spread until even. Pour about half of the cream sauce over, then another layer of macaroni. Pour the remaining sauce over the macaroni and sprinkle the top with the remaining breadcrumbs. Sprinkle with a little nutmeg. Spray cooking spray over the entire surface.

Bake at 350F for about an hour, or until the casserole is set and the top is golden brown. Let stand for at least 10 minutes before serving.

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Per serving: 512 Calories (kcal); 12g Total Fat; 4g Saturated Fat (20.8% calories from fat); 32g Protein; 71g Carbohydrate; 71mg Cholesterol; 712mg Sodium; 7g Fiber

Food Exchanges: 3 1/2 Grain (Starch); 1 1/2 Lean Meat; 1/2 Vegetable; 0 Fruit; 1 Fat; 0 Other Carbohydrates

Serving Ideas: Serve with steamed broccoli (squeeze a lemon wedge over top) or roasted plum tomatoes and a tossed green salad.

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Per serving: 1017 Calories (kcal); 61g Total Fat; 31g Saturated Fat(55% calories from fat); 48g Protein; 62g Carbohydrate; 309mg Cholesterol; 1049mg Sodium; 3g Fiber

Food Exchanges: 3 1/2 Grain(Starch); 5 Lean Meat; 1 Vegetable; 0 Fruit; 9 Fat; 0 Other Carbohydrates

When I ran the ingredients of the original pastitsio recipe through MasterCook, I was shocked. Now even when I wasn’t as dedicated to healthy cooking, I probably made some changes while preparing it such as cutting down on the amount of butter and a little of the cheese, and replacing 2% milk for the whole milk. But the difference in nutritional values between the original version and my final version is amazing. Even more so, Jack said that he remembers the original tasting very close to what I made this week. Holy Cow! 1017 calories, 61 grams total fat (31 saturated!) versus 512 calories, 12g total fat (4g saturated).

Now, what we have all been waiting for—another installment in:

A Step Out of the Door, a Snap of the Camera…

Spooky found a relatively dry rock on the southern side of the house a perfect spot to sit and to absorb some sunbeams. And watch birds at the feeder. The snow is melting (again) and there are hopes of highs up into the 50’s by Saturday. Of course, it could very well be snowing and cold again by the beginning of next week. Ahhhh, spring!

Monday, March 5, 2007

It’s Just Another Muffin Monday!

Muffins are our usual Monday breakfast fare, and when I found this recipe of Farmgirl Fare last week, it went to the top of the “to try” file.

These muffins were very good. I made a few modifications to Susan’s recipe (given in her February 21 post) to lower the fat content and to tailor the final product to Jack’s and my taste preferences (more orange flavor and some chopped nuts). Of course, I used the pureed pears to replace half of the oil. The muffins are just the littlest bit sweet, with a hearty, yet soft crumb. You know you’ve been eating healthy when you have one of these! I enjoy the taste, grain-y without the feeling that you’re chewing on pencil shavings, and we both proclaimed the recipe a keeper. The 5g fiber per muffin is a nice bonus, too.

* Exported from MasterCook *

Orange Bran Muffins

Servings: 24

Categories: Breads; Breakfast/Brunch

Amount Measure Ingredient -- Preparation Method

------------- -------------- --------------------------------------------------

3 cups wheat bran

1 1/2 cups oat bran

1 3/4 cups whole wheat flour

3 teaspoons baking soda

2 teaspoons baking powder

3/4 teaspoon salt

1 large egg

3 large egg whites

3/4 cup frozen orange juice concentrate -- thawed

3 tablespoons milk

3 tablespoons canola oil

1/4 tablespoon pureed pears

1 cup fat-free yogurt -- plain or vanilla

1/2 cup molasses

1/2 cup honey

3/4 teaspoon orange extract

2/3 cup pecans -- toasted, chopped

Preheat oven to 350F. Coat 24 muffin cups with cooking spray and set aside.

Combine first 6 ingredients (wheat bran through salt) in a large bowl; set aside.

Combine the next 10 ingredients (eggs through orange extract) in a medium bowl and mix well.

Pour wet ingredients into dry and mix lightly until just combined. Fold in pecans.

Fill muffin cups a little less than 3/4 full with batter. Spray across tops lightly with cooking spray*. Bake for 18-22 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to sit in pan for 2 minutes, then remove to a cooling rack and allow to cool for 10 minutes before eating.

*- this allows some cooking spray to cover the outside of the muffin cups to facilitate easier removal if the muffin crown should spread.


adapted from “Susan's Basic Bran Muffins”

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Per serving: 161 Calories (kcal); 5g Total Fat (1g Saturated Fat); (24% calories from fat); 5g Protein; 30g Carbohydrate; 8mg Cholesterol; 286mg Sodium; 5g Fiber

Food Exchanges: 1 Grain(Starch); 0 Lean Meat; 0 Vegetable; 0 Fruit; 1/2 Fat; 1/2 Other Carbohydrates

NOTES : Add 1 cup dried cranberries, or 1 cup chopped dried apple slices (sub vanilla for orange extract and walnuts for pecans)

Okay, it's March 5th. TIME FOR THE SNOW AND COLD TO STOP!!!
I am just so tired of this weather. I want to plant the garden. And flowers. Lots of flowers!

For dinner tonight, I pulled out a recipe from Cooking Light, African Chicken in Spicy Red Sauce. Warning-- start out with less than half of the ground red pepper called for in the recipe! The sauce is thick, flavored with red wine, garlic, tomato, and spices. It was perfect for this evening, served over whole wheat couscous and paired with plain steamed broccoli and sweet potatoes glazed with a little butter and brown sugar and a squeeze of lemon. Nice and warming, with a glass of shiraz. Wish I had a lemon to slice as a garnish... ;)

Sunday, March 4, 2007

A Spicy Chinese Dinner and a Healthy Pilaf Lunch

A few days ago, Jack and I traveled to The Strip District in Pittsburgh. No, it’s not what it sounds like! It is a strip of land bordering the Allegheny River where warehouses receive produce and other merchandise from ships and trucks and then distribute. Actually, not a lot of ships are involved with this any longer, but trucks certainly are (judging from the traffic mess we encountered). Back (oh, way, way back!) in the early-80’s when I lived in the city, this area, which I was already familiar with from Saturday-morning trips to buy fresh produce at the retail stores, began a transformation. More retail shops, not only produce and specialty food, but other merchandise such as furniture, decorative items, etc., started to appear. Then the few restaurants (mostly there to feed hungry truckers in the wee hours) multiplied. Nightclubs followed, street vendors arrived, and now the place is busy all week long, day and night, with offerings no longer meant just for the wholesale or truck-driver trade. Saturday mornings is a zoo best left to those with incredible patience. And it seems as though Friday afternoons draw the office worker crowd from nearby downtown for lunch (as best I can figure by the plethora of suits-and-ties on men sitting at outdoor tables, in mild weather, eating huge fried fish sandwiches). In my experience, The Strip is best enjoyed on a Monday-to-Thursday basis, but not within 2 weeks of Thanksgiving, Christmas, or Easter! It’s a real experience.

My favorite places are Penzey’s, Pennsylvania Macaroni Company (huge selection of Italian products), and Wholeys ( the best selection of seafood anywhere, in my opinion). I wander through Balcony Cookware and dream of an all- Le Crueset kitchen. For a treat (that I don’t have to make myself!), I buy a cherry-almond biscotti from Enrico Biscotti Company. For lunch, you cannot beat Kaya, a Caribbean-theme restaurant with an always delicious, very adventurous, upbeat menu.

One of the bargains I found on this latest trip was snow peas. In the grocery store for $3.99/ pound, at an open-air stall in The Strip I found them for $1.59/pound. So when I was deciding what to serve for dinner last evening I decided that I needed to use these snow peas. And how better to enjoy them than in Chinese food? I bought a bag of blanched almonds at PA Mac (mostly for Easter baking), so I decided to incorporate some of these into the recipe as well. The result was Almond Chicken with Vegetables.

I like to make Chinese stir-frys because it is so easy to reduce toe amount of meat to a minimum and increase the vegetables. The only deterrent is the high sodium content. So I use low sodium soy sauce, and as little as possible. Oil, too. The meals we eat in Chinese restaurants usually have puddles of sauce, topped with a layer of cooking oil. So I use as little oil as I can get away with, and keep a small cup of water at the stove as I am cooking so I can drizzle some in if the ingredients in the wok begin to stick.

This is a lower sodium, lower fat recipe with an abundance of vegetables and just enough chicken to have a piece every bite or two. Jack says that it’s one of his favorite meals. Unfortunately, with all the recipes I have access to daily and place in my “to try” file, it’s difficult to remember to make this! Until I have snow peas to “remind” me…

* Exported from MasterCook *

Almond Chicken with Vegetables

Recipe By: Vicci

Servings: 2

Preparation Time: 0:40

Amount Measure Ingredient -- Preparation Method

-------- --------- -----------------------------------

1/2 cup low sodium chicken broth

1 tablespoon hoi sin sauce

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 teaspoon chili garlic sauce

1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes -- optional

1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch

1 tablespoon canola oil

2 tablespoons whole almonds -- blanched

2 teaspoons gingerroot -- minced

1 large garlic clove -- minced

8 ounces boneless skinless chicken breast -- 1/2" cubes

6 ounces broccoli florets

1/2 large red bell pepper -- 3/4" pieces

1 medium onion -- halved horizontally, each half cut into 4 wedges

4 ounces snow peas

1 teaspoon sesame oil

Mix first 6 ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.

Fold a paper towel in half and place on a small plate. Heat a wok over medium-high heat. Drizzle 1 teaspoon canola oil around the bottom of the wok. Add almonds and stir continuously until browned on both sides. Remove from wok and place on the paper-towel lined plate. Set aside.

Drizzle another teaspoon of oil into the hot wok and add gingerroot and garlic. S

tir once and a

dd chicken cubes. Stir continuously for 3-4 minutes or until chicken is cooked through. Remove from wok onto a small plate and set aside.

Drizzle the final teaspoon of oil into the wok and add the broccoli, red pepper, and onion. Stir for one minute, and add 2 tablespoons of water. Immediately cover, and turn down heat to medium-low. Allow to steam for two minutes. Remove cover, turn heat up to high, and add snow peas. Stir for another minute. Turn heat back to medium. Give the sauce a stir (the cornstarch may have settled on the bottom of the bowl) and pour into the wok. Stir, glazing the chicken and vegetables with sauce, until thickened (about 30 seconds). Stir in almonds. Drizzle with sesame oil. Serve over steamed rice.

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Per serving: 414 Calories (kcal); 19g Total Fat (2g Saturated); (40% calories from fat); 38g Protein; 25g Carbohydrate; 66mg Cholesterol; 876mg Sodium

Food Exchanges: 1/2 Grain (Starch); 4 1/2 Lean Meat; 3 Vegetable; 0 Fruit; 3 Fat; 0 Other Carbohydrates

On our way back home from The Strip, we stopped in at my favorite grocery store, the East End Food CoOp. Yes, there’s a Whole Foods and a Trader Joe’s nearby, both less than a 10-minute drive, but the CoOp was my first “healthy grocery store”. They have

an excellent café, but my main focus on that day was the bulk foods section. I stocked up on bulgur wheat, steel-cut oats, barley, brown rice, whole wheat couscous, wheat bran, oat bran, and dried beans and peas. These are the items that cost a fortune packaged in small packages at the grocery store, but since I have a freezer to store everything in (especially in the summer when those nasty pantry moths invade) I can buy in quantity.

Since, being Sunday, we slept in and had a late breakfast, we decided to skip lunch and not eat until dinner. Around 2pm, however, I became a little hungry. Wanting to use one of the grains which I had bought the other day, I looked through a cookbook that I don’t use often enough, The Mayo Clinic Williams-Sonoma Cookbook, and found a recipe f

or a barley pilaf which appealed. It took about 40 minutes to put together, and satisfied our appetites enough to get through to dinner (which, since it is Sunday night, will be pizza). I followed the recipe exactly as directed except that I substituted red bell pepper for half of the green bell pepper. It was very good-- hearty, chewy, flavorful, and brimming with soluble fiber (7g per side dish serving). The only addition I might make next time is a little thyme and a pinch of cayenne.

* Exported from MasterCook *

Barley, Bell Pepper, and Almond Pilaf

Recipe By: John Phillip Carroll

Servings: 6

Preparation Time :40:00

Amount Measure Ingredient -- Preparation Method

-------- --------- -----------------------------------

2 teaspoons olive oil

1 small onion -- chopped

2/3 cup red bell pepper -- chopped

2/3 cup green bell pepper -- chopped

1 cup pearl barley

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 cup low sodium vegetable broth

2 cups water

2 tablespoons almonds -- toasted, chopped

In a large frying pan over medium heat, heat the olive oil. Add the onion and bell pepper and sauté until vegetables are wilted, about 4 minutes.

Add the barley and ground pepper and sauté for 3 minutes.

Stir in the broth and water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer until the barley is tender and the liquid is absorbed, about 25 minutes. Stir frequently and even more often toward the end of the cooking time when the liquid begins to evaporate.

Divide among plates and garnish with almonds.


"The Mayo Clinic Williams-Sonoma Cookbook"



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Per serving: 172 Calories (kcal); 4g Total Fat (Trace Saturated Fat); (17% calories from fat); 6g Protein; 31g Carbohydrate; 0mg Cholesterol; 93mg Sodium; 7g Fiber

Food Exchanges: 2 Grain (Starch); 1/2 Lean Meat; 1/2 Vegetable; 0 Fruit; 1/2 Fat; 0 Other Carbohydrates

NOTES: This makes 6 side dish servings or 2 generous main-dish servings

Tonights Pizza du Sunday:

Garlic infused olive oil, light mozzarella, spinach, tomatoes, red bell peppers, mushrooms, Parmesan, herbs on a whole-wheat crust. We ate the whole thing!!!