Friday, January 29, 2010

Week 21: Breakfast Burritos

Breakfast is a big deal around our house - especially on the weekend. I decided to switch things up from our normal scrambled eggs or chocolate pancakes or french toast to try this new recipe a few weekends ago. I'm sharing it with you to try this weekend.

Breakfast Burritos
Taken from Pioneer Woman Cooks Blog and Cookbook

Makes 6 burritos

Prep time: 35 minutes
Cook time: 60 minutes

2 or 3 large red potatoes, peeled and halved
1/2 large onion, diced roughly
1/2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 lb breakfast sausage
1 red bell pepper, seeded and roughly chopped
5 whole eggs
1/2 tsp season salt
1/8 C half-and-half
1 Tbsp chopped fresh chives
1 C Monterey Jack cheese
6 flour tortillas
Salsa, for serving

Place potatoes in a large pot and cover entirely with water. Bring to a boil and cook until potatoes are fork tender. When they are ready, place the potatoes on a cutting board and dice them into 1-inch pieces.

In a large skillet heat oil over medium-low heat. Put the onions in the skillet and sauté until they start to turn brown.

Next, throw in the diced potatoes. Stir well and then slightly press/pack then. Now you will cook them without stirring for several minutes. You want the pan to be hot enough to crisp the potatoes but not hot enough to char them. Cook for several minutes and then flip them with a spatula. Salt and Pepper them as they cook. Cook until desired brownness.

Set potatoes aside.

Brown 1/2 pound of your favorite kind of breakfast sausage. Drain off the fat.

Once your sausage is browned and drained add in the breakfast potatoes and chopped red bell papper and stir to combine over low heat. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Crack the eggs into a bowl. Add the seasoned salt, pepper, and half-and-half and whisk to beat the eggs lightly.

Add the chives and Monterey Jack to the egg mixture and stir to combine.

With the heat still on low, pour the egg mixture over the sausage / potato mixture. Stir very gently. Continue cooking over low heat until the eggs are set.

When fully cooked throw some into a nice warm tortilla, add some salsa, wrap it up, and enjoy.

We had this for a Saturday morning breakfast. It was pretty easy to make; however, it took much more time than I anticipated it would. Also, I wasn't crazy about the texture of the finished product. It tasted really mushy - there was no crunch in the onions or the pepper or the potatoes. I'm not sure how to fix that. I also think it would be interesting to substitute bacon for the sausage.

The verdict. . . we will make this again. I'm not sure I'd use the exact recipe, but I really like the concept.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Week 21: Spaghetti and Meatballs

Taken from Barefoot Contessa Family Style by Ina Garten (p. 103 - 104)
Serves 6

For the meatballs:
1/2 lb ground veal
1/2 lb ground pork
1 lb ground beef
1 C fresh white bread crumbs (4 slices, crusts removed)
1/4 C seasoned dry bread crumbs
2 tsp chopped dried flat-leaf parsley
1/2 C freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1 extra-large egg, beaten
Vegetable oil
Olive oil

For the sauce:
1 Tbsp good olive oil
1 C chopped yellow onion (1 onion)
1 1/2 tsp minced garlic
1/2 C good red wine, such as Chianti
1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes, chopped
1 tsp chopped dried flat-leaf parsley
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

For serving:
1 1/2 lb spaghetti, cooked according to package directions
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Place the ground meats, both bread crumbs, parsley, Parmesan, salt, pepper, nutmeg, egg, and 1/4 C warm water in a bowl. Combine very lightly with a fork. Using your hands, lightly form the mixture into 2-inch meatballs. You will have 14 to 16 meatballs.

Pour equal amounts of vegetable oil and olive oil into a large (12-inch) skillet to a depth of 1/4 inch. Heat the oil. Very carefully, in batches, place the meatballs in the oil and brown them well on all sides over medium-low heat, turning carefully with a spatula or fork. This should take about 10 minutes for each batch. Don't crowd the meatballs. Remove the meatballs to a plate covered with paper towels. Discard the oil but don't clean the pan.

For the sauce, heat the olive oil in the same pan. Add the onion and saute over medium heat until translucent, 5 to 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add the wine and cook on high heat, scraping up all the brown bits in the pan, until almost all the liquid evaporates, about 3 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, parsley, salt, and pepper.

Return the meatballs to the sauce, cover, and simmer on the lowest heat for 25 to 30 minutes, until the meatballs are cooked through. Serve hot on cooked spaghetti and pass the grated Parmesan cheese.

Remember this? I was thinking about my grandpa's kitchen and his spaghetti the entire time I was making this dinner. For nostalgic reasons, I really wanted to like it.

The truth, though? I didn't really like it. I used 1 pound of pork and 1 pound of beef because I couldn't find veal. The end result was a really pork-y tasting batch of meatballs. I didn't read the directions carefully, so I fried the meatballs until they were entirely cooked (which took forever). And, the recipe made enough meatballs for three meals but barely enough sauce for one meal.

My quest for the perfect meatballs continues.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Week 20: Spicy Caramel Popcorn

I am the proud owner of a Whirly Pop; it was a birthday gift. We've used it to make regular popcorn, but as soon as I saw this recipe on Smitten Kitchen I knew I needed to bust out the Whirly Pop for something a little more special.

Spicy Caramel Popcorn
Taken from Smitten Kitchen

Makes 4 quarts (16 cups)

Nonstick cooking spray or vegetable oil
3 Tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 C popcorn kernels
2 C salted peanuts (optional)
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
3 C sugar
3 Tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 Tbsp salt

Lightly coat two large, heatproof rubber spatulas, a very large mixing bowl and two large baking sheets with nonstick cooking spray or a thin slick of oil.

In a large saucepan or pot with a lid, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the popcorn kernels, cover and keep the saucepan moving until all of the kernels have popped, about 5 minutes. Transfer to the prepared bowl, removing any unpopped kernels. Toss with salted peanuts, if using.

In a small bowl, whisk together the baking soda and cayenne pepper.

Have the two large baking sheets ready. In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar, butter, salt and 1/2 cup water. Cook over high heat, without stirring, until the mixture becomes a light golden-yellow caramel, 10 to 14 minutes. Remove from the heat and carefully whisk in the baking-soda mixture (the mixture will bubble up).

Immediately pour the caramel mixture over the popcorn and don’t fuss if it doesn’t all come out of the pot — you’ll have plenty. Working quickly and carefully, use the prepared spatulas to toss the caramel and popcorn together, as if you were tossing a salad, until the popcorn is well coated.

Spread the popcorn onto the baking sheets and quickly separate them into small pieces while still warm. Cool to room temperature, about 15 minutes. Once cool, store in an airtight container for up to two weeks.

As the recipe is written, 1 cup serving of popcorn is 7 Weight Watchers points.

Changing the peanuts to 1 C, the vegetable oil to 2 Tbsp, and the serving size to 3/4 cup decreases the Weight Watchers points to 4.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Week 20: One-pot Chili

One-pot Chili
Taken from
Healthy Cooking, December / January 2010 (p. 35-36)

1 lb lean ground turkey
1 small onion, chopped
1/4 C chopped green pepper
1 tsp olive oil
2 C water
1 can (15 oz) pinto beans, rinsed and drained
1 can (14 1/2 oz) reduced-sodium beef broth
1 can (14 1/2 oz) diced tomatoes, with mild green chilies, undrained
1 can (8 oz) no-salt-added tomato sauce
2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp dried oregano
2 C uncooked multigrain penne pasta
Sour cream, for garnish
Grated Cheddar cheese, for garnish

In a large saucepan coated with cooking spray, cook the turkey, onion, and pepper in oil over medium heat until meat is no longer pink; drain.

Stir in the water, beans, broth, tomatoes, tomato sauce, chili powder, cumin, and oregano. Bring to a boil. Add pasta; cook for 15 - 20 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally.

Serve with sour cream; sprinkle with cheddar cheese.

Not at all a photogenic meal. . .

Nutrition information:

1-1/3 C with 2 tsp reduced fat sour cream
384 calories
10 g fat (2 g saturated fat)
8 g fiber

This was super easy and pretty quick (about 40 minutes) to make! We made it on a super cold and windy and snowy winter night - a great night for some warm and cozy food. Brad complained that there wasn't enough flavor and dumped on a bunch of Tabasco, but he said he'd eat it again. And, I was wishing we would have made cornbread or a salad or something to go with it. But, I'd still make it again.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Week 19: Linguini with Shrimp Scampi

I have a thing for shrimp scampi. I love it with pasta. I love it baked and buttery all by itself. But, I've never really made a shrimp scampi that I've really, really loved.

That's what led me to this recipe.

It is a shrimp scampi with pasta and without a lot of butter. The final product was light and lemony tasting. (I made it in the dead of winter, but it would be a great summer pasta dish.)

Linguine with Shrimp Scampi
Taken from Barefoot Contessa Family Style
by Ina Garten

Serves 6
Prep time: Super quick (less than 20 minutes)

Vegetable oil
Kosher salt
1 1/2 lb linguine
6 Tbsp unsalted butter
5 Tbsp olive oil
3 Tbsp minced garlic (9 cloves)
2 pounds large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
3/4 C chopped fresh parsley
Grated zest of 1 lemon
1/2 C freshly squeezed lemon juice (4 lemons)
1/2 lemon, thinly sliced in half-rounds
1/4 tsp hot red pepper flakes

Drizzle some oil in a large pot of boiling salted water, add 1 Tbsp salt and linguine. Cook according to package directions.

In a large, heavy-bottomed pan, melt the butter and olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the garlic. Saute for 1 minutes. Be careful, the garlic burns easily!

Add the shrimp, 1 Tbsp of salt, and the pepper and saute until the shrimp have just turned pink, about 5 minutes, stirring often.

Remove from the heat, add the parsley, lemon zest, lemon juice, lemon slices, and red pepper flakes. Toss to combine.

When the pasta is done, drain the cooked linguine and then put it back in the pot. Immediately add the shrimp and sauce, toss well, and serve.

I made half a batch of this - it was more than enough for dinner for two hungry adults and a good size lunch portion. My only real complaint is the parsley; there was too much parsley. We'll make this again, though. It was super quick and really tasty.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Week 19: Spaghetti with Sauteed Chicken and Grape Tomatoes

Spaghetti with Sauteed Chicken and Grape Tomatoes

From: Gina's Weight Watcher Recipes
Servings: 4 Serving Size: 1 1/2 cups Calories: 302 Points: 5.5 pts
  • 2 skinless chicken breast halves, diced in 1 inch cubes
  • cooking spray
  • 1/2 tsp each of dried oregano and dries basil
  • kosher salt and fresh pepper
  • 8 oz spaghetti (I used Walmart's Great Value Brand. It's really good!)
  • 2 cups grape tomatoes, halved
  • 6 cloves garlic, smashed and coarsely chopped
  • 4 tsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 tbsp chopped fresh basil
Bring a large pot of salted water to boil.

Season chicken generously with salt, pepper, oregano and basil. Heat a large skillet on high heat. When hot, spray with oil and add chicken. Cook about 3-4 minutes, until no longer pink. Remove chicken and set aside.

Add pasta and cook according to package directions. Reserve about 1/2 cup pasta water before draining.

While pasta cooks, add olive oil to skillet on high heat. Add garlic and sauté until golden brown (do not burn). Add tomatoes, salt and pepper and reduce heat to medium-low. Sauté about 4-5 minutes. When pasta is drained, add pasta to tomatoes and toss well. If pasta seems too dry, add some of the reserved pasta water. Add fresh basil and chicken and toss well. Serve and top with good grated cheese.

My Notes: I really liked this. It's a nice light, summery type dish, which works well with a salad and some crusty bread. My husband didn't think the sauce was hefty enough, but I think that's the idea. I will definitely make this again, preferably with some fresh basil and tomatoes from the farmers market next summer!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Week 19: Best Beef Stew

I made this as a "Sunday meal." Around my house, Sunday is a time for comfort food, food that takes a long time to cook, and food that will yield some lunch left-overs.

I had a craving for beef stew and have never really been happy with any recipe I've tried before. None of my favorite cookbooks yielded anything. An Internet search got me nowhere. Lucky for me, there happened to be a recipe in the latest Cook's Illustrated.

With no further ado, I bring you what really is "the best" beef stew.

Best Beef Stew

Taken from Cook's Illustrated, February 2010, p. 8 - 9

Serves 3 to 4
Total time: about 3 hours

2 medium garlic cloves, pressed (about 2 tsp)
2 tsp anchovy paste
1 Tbsp tomato paste
1 boneless chuck-eye roast (about 2 pounds)
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 large onion, cut in 1/8" thick slices (about 2 C)
4 medium carrots, peeled and cut in 1" pieces (about 2 C)
1/4 C flour
2 C red wine (I used Malbec)
2 C low-sodium chicken broth
2 bay leaves
4 spring fresh thyme
4 oz salt pork, rinsed of excess salt
1 lb Yukon gold potatoes, scrubbed and cut in 1" pieces
2 tsp (about 1 packet) unflavored powdered gelatin
1/2 C water
1 C frozen peas, thawed
Salt and Pepper, to taste

Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 300 degree.

Combine garlic and anchovy paste in small bowl; press with back of fork to form paste. Stir in tomato paste and set mixture aside.

Trim excess fat and silver skin. Cut meat into evenly sized 1 1/2" pieces. Pat meat dry. Do not season.

Heat 1 Tbsp oil in large heavy-bottomed Dutch oven over high heat until just starting to smoke. Add beef and cook until well browned on all sides, about 8 minutes total.

Reduce heat to medium. Add onion and carrots to Dutch oven and stir to combine with beef. Cook, scraping bottom of pan to loosen any browned bits, until onion is softened, 1 to 2 minutes.

Add garlic mixture and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Add flour and cook, stirring constantly, until no dry flour remains, about 30 seconds.

Slowly add wine, scraping bottom of pan to loosen any browned bits. Increase heat to high and allow wine to simmer until thickened and slightly reduced, about 2 minutes. This step will smell delicious. Put your nose close to the pot and just breath it all in.

Stir in broth, bay leaves, thyme, and salt pork. Bring to a simmer, cover, transfer to oven, and cook for 90 minutes.

Remove pot from oven; remove and discard bay leaves and salt pork. Stir in potatoes, cover, return to oven, and cook until potatoes are almost tender, about 45 minutes.

Cook over medium heat until potatoes are cooked and meat offers little resistance when poked with fork (meat should not be falling apart), about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, sprinkle gelatin over water in small bowl and allow to soften for 5 minutes.

Increase heat to high, stir in softened gelatin mixture and peas; simmer until gelatin is fully dissolved and stew is thickened, about 3 minutes.

Season with salt and pepper to taste; serve.

I made a few modifications from the original recipe. First, the original recipe called for 4 pounds of meat. I only used 2 pounds of meat. The ratio of sauce, potatoes, vegetables, and meat was still perfect; it would have served more people with more meat (obviously), but it also would have been too meaty for my tastes.

Also, the recipe included 1 1/2 C frozen pearl onions. They were added as soon as the stew was removed from the oven and cooked over medium heat for 15 minutes. We picked every single last pearl onion out of the stew. I have serious texture issues, but you can feel free to add them - as long as I'm not joining you for dinner.

There were some things about this recipe that freaked me out. One, the anchovy paste. Two, the salt pork. Three, the gelatin. The recipe raved about how the anchovy paste would add some serious savory-ness to the recipe. So, I used it. The recipe gave the same explanation for the salt pork. So, I dumped it in. The recipe also claimed that the gelatin would make the stew "glossy" and rich. I overcame my fears, added all the ingredients, and was delighted.

I'm going to make this recipe part of my permanent Sunday rotation. It's perfect for a Sunday because once it's in the oven it leaves plenty of time (90 minutes) for a nap. You'll wake up to a house that smells absolutely amazing! It is even something that I would make for some meat-loving dinner guests.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Week #18: Chicken with Olives and Artichokes

Hey, there! Remember me? I believe the last time I contributed to this blog the leaves were just beginning to change. And now, an obscene number of weeks later, we are covered in snow. I am trying to get back to blogging in the new year. I have kept up with the cooking part of our challenge but have fallen short on following through with sharing what I made.

So without further ado, here is my first recipe of the new year:

Chicken with Olives and Artichokes
Adapted from: Weight Watchers Now and Later page 60

(Note: the idea behind this cookbook is that you cook extra of one ingredient on the first night and then use the leftovers to make a different dish later in the week. For the purpose of this blog, I will share the recipes seperately as I try them. If you wanted to make one recipe without the second night meal you would just adjust the ingredients accordingly)

6 5oz boneless skinless chicken breasts
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
2 tsp olive oil
1 8.5oz can artichoke hearts drained and quartered
1/4 cup low sodium chicken broth (I upped this considerably to 3/4 cup more on that later)
Juice of 1/2 lemon (I used an entire lemon)
8 kalamata olives chopped (I subbed black olives to appease my husband who is anti-kalamata)
2 garlic cloves minced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil (oops. I just realized I forgot this)

1. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add chicken and cook until lightly browned 3 minutes on each side (okay, so this is where things started going off the rails. The chicken breasts I purchased were mutant sized and so I had to throw timing out the window and add more of the other ingredients to compensate)

2. Stir in the artichokes, broth, lemon juice, olives and garlic. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and cook until the flavors are blended and the chicken is cooked through, 5 minutes (or in my case 20 minutes because of the mutant chicken breasts)

(Optional: transfer 2 breasts to a container to be used in future recipe)

3. Remove skillet from heat and stir in basil (oops) Serve the chicken with the sauce. (Note: In part because I had to add more broth to compensate for the mutant chicken breasts, my sauce was really thin at this point so instead of serving right away, I removed the chicken and returned the sauce to the stove to cook down for a few minutes) We served the chicken and sauce over a bed of whole wheat egg noodles.

Review: This was okay. Much like any recipe made to be low fat and healthy, there were many ways I could think of to make it taste better but all of those methods would reduce the "low fat and healthy" aspect. I think feta would have been a nice touch here. Would add a little bit to the WW points total, but I think it would have worked well with the existing flavors.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Week 18: Stuffed Green Peppers and (bonus) Garlic Cheddar Biscuits

I made this because I got an awesome new casserole dish set from Stephanie, Karl, and AJ for Christmas. My search started by Googling "best casserole recipes." I didn't find much and tried Tasty Kitchen instead of Google. I decided I needed to be more specific and ended up with the stuffed green pepper casserole recipe. There were lots to choose from (did you know people put corn in their stuffed peppers?!!?), but I opted for a super easy one.

Stuffed Green Pepper Casserole

Adapted from: Robbie's Recipes

1 lb lean ground beef
1 medium chopped onion
1 chopped green pepper
1 C cooked rice
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp garlic powder
2 cans (8 oz each) tomato sauce
3 medium green peppers - sliced lengthwise
1/2 C shredded mozzarella cheese

Brown meat, onion, and chopped peppers in skillet, stirring occasionally. Drain off fat.

Stir in rice, salt, garlic salt, and 1 can of tomato sauce; heat through.

Spray a 9" X 9" X 3" baking pan with cooking spray and line with 1/2 the sliced peppers. Pour half of meat mixture over peppers. Layer remaining sliced peppers on top of meat mixture. Pour remaining meat mixture on top. Pour remaining tomato sauce over meat mixture.

Cover with foil and bake in a 350 degree oven for 45 minutes.

Uncover and bake an additional 10 minutes.

Sprinkle with cheese and bake an additional 5 minutes.

The verdict: Liked it and will make it again. It would be a great dish to make the night before and pop in the oven right after work. It would also be a great dish to make and deliver to a friend (for baking in the comfort of their own oven).

And, in case you were wondering. . . we ate the stuffed green pepper casserole with some yumm-o biscuits.

Cheddar Bay Biscuits
from my own recipe boz
Makes 12 biscuits

2 C biscuit / baking mix
1/2 C shredded cheddar cheese
2 garlic cloves, minced
2/3 C milk
4 Tbsp butter, melted
1/2 tsp garlic powder

Preheat oven to 450.

Combine biscuit mix, cheese, minced garlic, and milk. Stir with a fork until moistened.

Drop by tablespoon onto baking sheet.

Bake 9 - 11 minutes or until golden brown.

Melt butter and add garlic powder. Brush mixture over biscuits.

The verdict: These have been a long-time favorite in our kitchen. They taste just like Red Lobster. Brad always begs me to only make half a batch, though, because otherwise we eat all 12 of them (hanging head in shame)!