Monday, December 26, 2011

Cauliflower and Cheddar Cheese Casserole

I often forget to include cauliflower in my diet, but when I make this decadent, cheesy side dish I'm as happy as a gal can be. According to my Food Benefits Chart, cauliflower helps to combat breast and prostate cancer, strengthen bones, banish bruises and guard against heart disease. Great credentials for a bland looking veggie that dresses up beautifully and stars in this casserole.

Cauliflower and Cheddar Casserole

1 head of cauliflower separated into florettes, cooked and cooled (I microwave for 3-4 minutes on high)

1 can cream of celery soup (I use low fat, low sodium)

1 cup reduced fat cheddar cheese shredded

1/2 cup light mayonnaise

1 T chopped onion (I use the frozen that comes in a bag)

2 large eggs beaten

1 tsp kosher salt

1/2 tsp ground black pepper

1 T hot sauce

1 cup Panko bread crumbs

1 T butter (optional)

Pre heat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare baking pan with cooking spray. I like to bake this in a soufflet dish, but an 8x8 square pan would work fine. Combine all ingredients (from cooked cauliflower to hot sauce) in a bowl. Pour mixture into prepared baking dish and top with Panko. If you're feeling decadent, break apart a tablespoon of butter and add to the top of the bread crumbs.

Bake uncovered for 45 minutes. You'll have a creamy, delicious side dish that goes well with any protein you decide to serve it with. I enjoyed mine with a mushroom, onion and pepper meat loaf with store bought, low-cal mushroom gravy. I highly recommend this simple casserole. I promise you'll eat it up! And it re-heats like a dream.

Friday, December 23, 2011

White Chocolate Peppermint Bark

Here's a quick, inexpensive, last-minute holiday food gift that's a crowd pleaser and a snap to make (2 ingredients!!). A gal at work brought some in today that were store-bought and delish. However, after one bite I knew I could duplicate these minty bites of heaven or even make them better.

White Chocolate Peppermint Bark

24 oz white chocolate (I used Nestle chips)
1 cup peppermint candy crushed (I used Peppermint Starlights but I think good old candy canes would do the trick)

In top of double boiler add the white chocolate chips and melt. Make sure the water beneath is at a gentle simmer and the water does not touch the top pan. Stir until chips are melted. This takes about 2-4 minutes.

Add the crushed peppermint candies and stir to combine.

Pour the warm chocolate mixture on a sheet pan covered with parchment paper. Spread out to the full width of the sheet pan (you don't want your bark to be too thick). Set aside and let cool for 45-60 minutes. Break up into pieces and serve.

Or do what I'm going to do- run out first thing tomorrow and buy some decorative cookie bags, tie them with ribbons and pass them around to friends and acquaintances I might have forgotten.

Happy Holidays to all!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Crispy Taters

I'm always a fan of baking instead of frying, so tonight I made some mouth-watering, creamy on the inside, crunchy on the outside baked potato wedges that are as delicious (if not better) than their cousins that are deep fried. These are a must try.

Tastes-Like-Fried Potato Wedges
Serves two

cooking spray
1 large Russet potato
1/4 cup light mayonnaise
1/2 tsp hot sauce
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 cup French's Fried Onions crushed
1/4 cup Panko bread crumbs

Pre heat oven to 375 degrees. Line baking pan with aluminum foil and coat with cooking spray. Set aside. Cut potato into six wedges.

Mix mayonnaise with hot sauce and spices, then coat potato wedges with mixture.

In separate plate combine Panko with Onion crisps. Lightly coat potatoes with this mixture and place on prepared cookie sheet.

Bake 45 minutes. Serve with salsa, sour cream, ranch dressing or any saucy accompaniment you desire. This recipe is simply too good to not try.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

'Tis the Season to be Nibblin'

I don't go to many cocktail parties these days, but if you're a reader of this blog you know I love little bites and appetizers more than a big, sit-down meal. Here's a recipe I treated myself to last night that is perfect when friends come over for cocktails or as an accompaniment to a nicely dressed green salad or a simple butternut squash soup (recipe for soup to follow). I can't decide if this nibble is a bread or an egg dish, but I can tell you it's yummy and certainly not on my diet.

Turkey Bacon, Egg and Cheese Nibbles

1 stick unsalted butter
4 eggs
1 cup egg substitute
1/3 cup AP flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp kosher salt
8 slices turkey bacon cooked and chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
6 oz shredded reduced fat Mexican cheese blend (I like Sargento)

Pre heat oven to 400 degrees. Melt butter and cool. Pour cooled butter into a large bowl, add eggs and egg substitute and beat well. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix until combined. Pour into 8 x 8 inch pan prepared with cooking spray. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes, then lower heat to 350 and bake 30 minutes more. Let cool ten minutes and slice into 16 servings. Serve warm or at room temperature. Doesn't this look tasty?

It's always nice when your friends are gardeners and you're a willing candidate to accept any produce they give you. Earlier in the week I confronted 2 baby butternut squash on my countertop and decided the time was right to make a soup. I perused the internet and found about 10 different recipes that looked enticing, but I ended up using my instincts and came up with a tasty soup that can be prepared in under 30 minutes.

Quick Butternut Squash Soup

2 baby butternut squash, peeled and seeded
2 T butter
1 medium onion diced
1/4 tsp kosher salt
2 cans (14.5 each) low sodium, fat free chicken stock
Pinch of ground nutmeg
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Cut squash into 1 inch chunks and set aside. In large pot melt butter, add onions and cook on low until translucent (8 minutes). Add squash and stock. Bring to a simmer and cook until squash is tender (15-20 minutes). Add nutmeg, salt and pepper. Remove from heat, take a potato masher and squash the squash. You can also put the mixture in a blender to puree. Serve hot with Bacon, Egg and Cheese Nibbles.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Tangy Broccoli Pasta Salad

I'm back from California, had the day off from work, and am sitting here nibbling on this fabulous salad I just made, that I can't believe I've never posted. If you like sweet and tart combinations, this is a salad you should try. It's a party for your tastebuds. It's vitamin packed, easy to put together and will keep in your fridge for 3-4 days.

Tangy Broccoli Pasta Salad

8 slices turkey bacon cooked
12 oz broccoli florets cooked, cut into bite size pieces
1-1/2 cups uncooked penne pasta (I use Dreamfields low carb)
1/2 cup scallions cut 1/2 inch
1/2 cup Kalamata olives pitted and halved
1/3 cup raisins
2 roasted red peppers cut into 1 inch slices (I use Pastene in a jar)
4 oz goat cheese crumbled (optional)

1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/2 cup light mayonnaise
2 T sugar
1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
1/4 tsp salt

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and rinse with cold water to cool. In large bowl combine salad ingredients (from bacon to red peppers). Set aside. To prepare dressing, whisk all ingredients in medium size bowl. Pour dressing over broccoli mixture, toss and top with goat cheese if desired. Refrigerate and serve.

This salad is a great side with burgers, fish and chicken. It's also a crowd pleaser at pot luck dinners (I can't tell you how many times I've been asked for the recipe) and it works for me anytime as a lunch, dinner or snack.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Whole Wheat Banana Bread

Some of the best recipes happen by accident. I had three over-ripe bananas that I'd been saving to make my favorite banana bread. And when I went to put my ingredients together tonight I realized I had no AP flour. But I did have whole wheat flour stashed away in the freezer and thought maybe I could do something with that. I grabbed one of my go-to cookbooks and found exactly what I was looking for. King Arthur Flour has a book that is quite fabulous. It's called Whole Grain Baking and has many recipes that are simple, tasty and the end results don't taste dry or grainy. Their banana bread is one of those. This bread is moist, tender and decadent. Only you'll know it's made with whole wheat flour.

Banana Chocolate Chip Bread
Adapted from Whole Grain Baking

The original bread was called Easy Banana Walnut Bread- I omitted the walnuts and added semi sweet chocolate chips . Use a 9x5 inch loaf pan.

1 stick unsalted butter softened
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 ripe bananas mashed
1/4 cup honey
2 large eggs, beaten
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup of semi sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9x5 inch pan. I used PAM.

With hand mixer, beat together the butter, sugar, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla in a large bowl until smooth. Add the mashed bananas, honey and eggs, mixing until incorporated. King Arthur says to beat until smooth, but I like my bananas a bit chunky so this is when I put my mixer away and use a wooden spoon or spatula, and try to keep my bananas in chunks. Now stir/fold in the flour and chocolate chips. Combine and don't over mix.

Bake the bread for 50 minutes. Lay a piece of foil over the top of bread and bake another 10-15 minutes. Remove from the oven, let cool in the pan 10 minutes and then remove from baking pan to finish cooling on wire rack. Doesn't that loaf look gorgeous?

This bread is delicious on its own, but even better with cream cheese or peanut butter. I think you know which direction I took.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Super Fast and Fresh

Cooking Light has a series called Super Fast 20 Minute Cooking and I recently re-mixed their Spinach, Pasta and Pea Soup recipe from the October '11 issue. This soup is indeed quick. And I love the lemon, the small hint of oregano (a spice I rarely use), and the massive amounts of garlic and scallions I added. Plus the addition of a shredded rotisserie chicken breast made this the perfect, quick fix that got me through the first day of a miserable cold.

Spinach, Pasta, Bean and Chicken Soup
Inspired by Cooking Light

1 T extra virgin olive oil
4 garlic cloves chopped
4 thinly sliced scallions
4 cups fat free, lower sodium chicken broth
2 cups water
3/4 cup broken pasta- I used linguini, Cooking Light used orzo
1 lemon zested- Cooking Light called for 1 T of zest and I just didn't have another lemon
Juice of 1 lemon -Cooking Light called for 1 T of juice, and that didn't seem enought for me so I used the whole lemon
1 15 oz can cannellini beans rinsed and drained -Cooking Light used chick peas
1/2 tsp dried oregano -Cooking Light used 1 T fresh oregano
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
1/4 tsp lemon pepper- my contribution
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes- my contribution
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 6 oz package fresh baby spinach
Parmesan cheese for garnish
Breast meat from a rotisserie chicken shredded- my contribution

Heat a large saucepan over medium low heat. Add olive oil to pan and swirl to coat. Add garlic and scallions and cook for a minute or two. Lower heat or remove pan from heat if garlic begins to burn. Back on the heat, add chicken broth and 2 cups of water and bring to a boil. Add pasta, lemon rind, oregano, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes and cannelini beans. Cover and cook 10 minutes. Lower or turn off heat. Add chicken, lemon juice and spinach. Cover and serve when spinach is wilted. Top each serving with a few tablespoons of cheese. And if you're really ailing, I think a dash or two of hot sauce in your bowl might be a good thing.

Here's to a healthy winter season with lots of recipes and remedies that will get us through the sniffles and actual illnesses. And a very happy Thanksgiving to all. I'm looking forward to spending my time eating and enjoying life with Lori next week.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Broccoli Casserole

If you're a casserole lover like me, like broccoli and don't turn your nose up at Campbell's condensed soup recipes, this is a dish you should put in your repertoire. I began making this recipe about 40 years ago when my ex mother-in-law Marion, who is a fabulous cook shared it with me. She originally called the dish broccoli souffle. And if you leave out the penne pasta that I've added, I would still call it a souffle even though you don't have to separate any eggs. It puffs up like the real thing. How impressive is that?

I wanted to add some depth to the dish because I live alone and don't always want to make something that accompanies a main course. Sometimes I don't want a main course and the sides are all I need. Anyway, the pasta seems to do the trick.

Broccoli Casserole with Penne Pasta
Inspired by Marion MacGregor

3 cups cooked broccoli florets

1 can Campbell's Cream of Celery Soup (98% fat free)

2/3 cup of shredded cheddar cheese (I've been using Fontina-best melting cheese ever, but very rich and not so figure friendly)

1/2 cup lite mayonnaise- I think you could even use no-fat mayo here

2 T chopped onion or scallion

2 beaten eggs

1/2 cup uncooked penne pasta (I use Dreamfields low carb)

1 T hot sauce (my addition)

black pepper to taste

1 cup homemade garlic croutons or toasted bread crumbs

Pre heat oven to 350 degrees. Cook pasta according to package directions, drain and cool. In large bowl combine all ingredients except croutons or bread crumbs. Pour pasta/broccoli mixture in prepared dish (glass 9" x 12" would work fine or a soufflet dish misted with cooking spray) and add toasted croutons or bread crumbs to the top. Sometimes I mix a few of the croutons or crumbs into the casserole and it adds an extra crunch. Your choice. Bake 45 minutes uncovered. Let cool a bit and serve. Yummy dish and microwaves like a dream the next day.

Re-Mix: I've made this with the addition of chopped turkey bacon slices and even cooked chicken, and then it really becomes a meal. I haven't added any other veggies because the broccoli is really the star. If you don't have cream of celery soup, use cream of mushroom. I've done that and it's perfectly acceptable. I have not yet tried it with cream of chicken, but I bet that would be pretty good too.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Sometimes you feel like a nut

I normally wouldn't post a re-mix of my simple chocolate chip cookie recipe but I'm absolutely nuts about this revision. It's loaded with macademia nuts, has lots of oatmeal and is simply delicious. The cookies are rich. And chewy. And crunchy. And decadent. I suggest you try them if you're a nut like me.

Macademia Nut Cookies

2 sticks unsalted butter softened
1 cup brown sugar (I used 1/2 cup Splenda Brown Sugar Blend)
1 cup granulated sugar (I used Splenda no calorie)
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup AP flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1-1/2 cups old fashioned oats
1 cup macademia nuts chopped
1 cup white chocolate and/or semi sweet chocolate chips-optional
Sea salt

Pre heat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

In large bowl combine the butter and sugars with hand mixer. Mix about 2 minutes. Beat in eggs and vanilla extract and set aside.

In medium size bowl add flour, salt, baking powder and soda. Mix with a whisk to incorporate. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and beat until combined. Stir in the oats, nuts and chips (if using). Spoon tablespoons of the dough onto the baking sheets, sprinkle with sea salt and bake until lightly browned on the edges. My oven takes about 10 minutes, but check the cookies after 8 minutes to be sure you don't over cook them. Let cookies cool a minute or two before transferring to wire rack or paper towels. Repeat with any remaing dough. This recipe makes about 45 cookies.

I've made this recipe with and without the chocolate chips. Either way they are delightful. If you decide to omit the chips, you can add an additional 1/2 cup of macademia nuts.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Apple Crisp

I hate saying goodbye to summer, but what makes the goodbye somewhat bearable is the abundance of fall fruits and vegetables available in the market. That's why I went to my local farm stand yesterday and picked up three pounds of Cortland apples to make an apple crisp. This recipe is simple and not over-the-top in calories. Plus it's hearty and satisfying and a great way to welcome the season.

Apple Crisp

3 pounds tart apples (I used Cortland)
1/4 cup sugar (I used Splenda no calorie)
Juice of one lemon
2 T AP flour
1/2 tsp cinnamon

1 cup AP flour
1-1/4 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup brown sugar (I used 1/4 cup Splenda Brown Sugar Blend)
1 tsp cinnamon
Pinch of salt
8 T (1 stick) unsalted butter cut into small pieces

Pre heat oven to 350 degrees.

To make the filling, peel, core and slice apples into 1/4 inch slices. Toss with sugar, lemon, flour and cinnamon. Place in prepared baking dish misted with cooking spray. I used a souffle pan but a 9 x 12 glass baking dish would be great too.

To prepare topping, mix all ingredients and sprinkle over apples. Bake 45 minutes to 1 hour. Let cool slightly and serve with ice cream. I didn't have any ice cream in the house so I poured some fat free half and half around the perimeter of the dish and it was delicious. And by the way, it was fabulous for breakfast the next morning.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Avocado Salad Dressing and Dip

Avocados are on sale this week so I took advantage and came up with a creamy, ever-so-light (in texture) avocado dressing that works beautifully in a tossed salad or maybe even better as a dip for chips or raw vegetables. If you're an avocado lover, this is a must try. Tonight I topped a spinach, romaine, chopped egg and turkey bacon salad with it and it was simply delish.

Avocado Dressing

1 scallion chopped

1 garlic clove chopped

6 oz plain fat free Greek yogurt (I think sour cream would work well too)

1/2 cup light mayonnaise

2 tsp Worcestershire sauce

Juice of 1 lemon

1/2 tsp tabasco sauce

1/2 tsp kosher salt

black pepper

2 avocados peeled and chopped

Combine all ingredients in blender except the avocadoes. When mixture is smooth, add the first avocado and blend. Your dressing is basically done. Remove from blender and carefully stir in the second avocado. You now have a chunky, decadent dressing with good size chunks of this heavenly fruit that will make every bite of your salad or dip more exciting.

Spinach and Romaine Salad

2 cups chopped Romaine lettuce
1 cup chopped baby spinach
4 strips turkey bacon cooked and chopped
2 eggs hard boiled and chopped
3/4 cup croutons (I love home made-Ann Burrell's recipe)

Combine all salad ingredients, toss with dressing and dig in. You won't be disappointed. This salad should serve two. You will have some left over dressing so get creative and slather it on sandwiches, bring out the pita chips, or mix it with some rotisserie chicken, celery and carrots for a very tasty chicken salad. Use it up though, since I don't think it will last more than a day or two.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

After the Storm

The day after I got my electricity back I went to the market to replace some of the food I had thrown away. I didn't buy too much since the threat of another storm seems imminent. You might think I picked up a steak or something decadent, but I bought some turkey bacon and fresh vegetables. I was in the mood for comfort food and decided on Turkey Bacon and Cannelini Bean and Vegetable Soup, my adaptation of a recipe I discovered in Southern Cooking. This is a quick fix, no fuss recipe for whatever has gotten you down. The beans are creamy, the broth is flavorful, the bacon is smokey and the vegetables and simple spices make this a go-to recipe when you've had a tough week.

Turkey Bacon and Cannelini Bean and Vegetable Soup

8 strips turkey bacon cooked and chopped, one inch pieces
1-1/2 cups chopped onion -I used frozen
1 large carrot diced
2 small celery stalks diced
5 cloves garlic minced- this sounds like a lot, but it's really very mellow
2 T canola oil and any leftover bacon fat
lemon pepper
3 dried bay leaves
2 cans (14.5 oz each) low sodium, fat free chicken broth
2 cans (15.5 oz each) cannelini beans rinsed and drained
2 T hot sauce
3 oz baby spinach chiffonade
Shredded Parmesan cheese for garnish (optional)
Croutons for garnish (optional)

Cook bacon and set aside. In large pot, add oil and bacon fat and warm over medium/low heat. Add carrots, celery and onion and stir. Cook about five minutes, add garlic and 1/2 tsp salt and lemon pepper. Cover pot and sweat vegetables another 5 or 7 minutes. Add turkey bacon.

Cook another minute or two and add bay leaves, broth and beans. Cook 20 minutes covered. Add spinach and hot sauce and cook until spinach is wilted, about 2 minutes. Taste and re-season if necessary.

I wanted to jazz this dish up a bit so while the soup was simmering I made Anne Burrell's croutons, shredded some Parmesan cheese and made this a very special meal. This recipe will serve four people, but it's so good that I ate two portions in one sitting. I'll double it next time.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Cookies Before the Storm

Last Saturday night I had a craving for cookies. I perused my freezer for whatever little bits of chocolate chips or nuts I had stored away, and decided on white chocolate and semi sweet chocolate chip cookies with a hint of sea salt. Little did I know that I'd lose power the next day and have no electricity for the next 4 days (due to Irene) and these would be my go-to snack when the going got tough. These are simple cookies, and rather sweet, but the sea salt gives them an identity that goes beyond your regular chocolate chip cookie. This is a very simple recipe, takes about 10-15 minutes to put together and 8 to 10 minutes to bake. And you'll get about 36 cookies, plenty to get through a 4 day power outage. Quite delicious with a steaming cup of coffee or a big glass of milk, non of which I could access in my home, but luckily Starbucks was open a a few blocks away.

White and Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies with Sea Salt

Makes 36 cookies

2 sticks butter softened

1 cup granulated sugar (I used Splenda no calorie sugar substitute)

1 cup light brown sugar (I used 1/2 cup Splenda Brown Sugar Blend)

2 large eggs (room temp if possible)

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

1-1/2 cups AP flour

1 tsp salt

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1 cup rolled oats

2-1/2 cups assortment of chocolate chips (I used white, semi-sweet and mini semi sweet)

Sea Salt for sprinkling on top

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Place butter and sugars in a large bowl. With hand mixer combine sugar and butter until creamy. Add eggs and vanilla extract and incorporate. Set aside.

With a whisk or fork, combine flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda in a medium bowl. Add the flour mixture (in two batches) and incorporate the wet ingredients with the dry. Now stir in the rolled oats and the chips.

Spoon tablespoons of the dough (about 2 inches apart) onto the parchment lined cookie sheets. Gingerly sprinkle sea salt on top of the cookies (don't go crazy with the salt- you'll be disappointed) and bake 9 minutes or until cookies become lightly browned. Undercook these a bit and don't look for too many crispy edges. The cookies will continue cooking while cooling on a wire rack. I sometimes just let them cool on the rack for a minute or two and transfer them to a clean roll of paper towels and let them sit until they're cooled enough for me to start tasting.

Re-mix: I also had dry roasted peanuts, crushed walnuts, coconut, butterscotch and peanut butter chips in the freezer last Saturday. If you're not a lover of chocolate like I am, try shredded sweetened coconut and butterscotch chips (I warn you- it's a sweet combo). Or try peanuts, raisins and a small amount of white chocolate chips. You'll get the crunch of the nuts, and the tang of the raisins and sweetness of the chocolate. But I must advise, in all of these cookie combinations, don't leave off the small amout of sea salt. It's a breath of fresh air that enhances everything sweet.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Unstuffed cabbage

I've been in the mood for stuffed cabbage lately and decided I would give this time-consuming, flavorful dish from my youth a try. I've never made stuffed cabbage, never watched my mom make it and was at a total loss and in panic mode when I got home with the ingredients. So I did what any well respected re-mixer would do- I came up with a quick, no fuss recipe that tastes as good as the original, but takes half the time and is SIMPLE. Of course I can't call it stuffed cabbage, so I've opted for Unstuffed Cabbage and Meatballs. Try this oven-baked casserole when you're in the mood for a lower east side deli flashback.

Baked Unstuffed Cabbage and Meatballs

1 pound ground beef
1/2 large onion grated
2 cloves garlic minced
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 cup cooked brown rice
1 egg beaten

Sauce-Inspired by Rae Fox
2 T canola oil
1 medium onion chopped, 1 inch dice
2 cups cabbage chopped and divided- I used the plain green cabbage
Juice of 2 lemons
1/4 tsp vinegar- I used rice vinegar
1/2 cup brown sugar- I used 1/4 cup Splenda Brown
1 15 oz can tomato sauce
1 15 oz can water

To make the meatballs, combine all ingredients except the beef. Add the beef and gently mix with your fingertips. The less you play with the meat, the more tender the meatballs will be. Form into 8 large meatballs and set aside in the refrigerator while you make the sauce.

To make the sauce, heat oil in large pot and add diced onion and 1 cup of chopped cabbage. Cook over medium/low heat until both vegetables are tender, but not brown. Add lemon juice, vinegar, brown sugar, tomato sauce and water. Bring to a boil, stir to combine, lower heat and simmer 5 minutes. Pre heat oven to 350 degrees.

To assemble the meal, spoon a small amount of the sauce on the bottom of a casserole dish. Arrange meatballs in casserole and cover with remaining sauce and reserved uncooked chopped cabbage. Cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake 2 hours. Serve with cooked rice.

I will admit this does not make the beautiful presentation of pillows of meat-stuffed cabbage my mom used to serve, but I promise you, the flavor is all there. And just like the original, it's even better the second day.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Spicy Asian Noodle Soup

I've been reading and sampling recipes from Cooking Light for as long as I can remember. More often than not I'm thrilled with what they have to offer, but occasionaly their dishes seem to fall flat. This weekend I made their Spicy Asian Chicken and Noodle Soup (September 2011 issue) and was almost satisfied with the recipe. I omitted the rotisserie chicken and carrots, have done some tweaking and think you'll be happy to try this spicy, low cal, low fat variation. It's a perfect appetizer, or with the addition of one of my many Asian meatball recipes, a hearty main course that comes together in a snap. All ingredients are available in your local supermarket.

Spicy Asian Noodle Soup
adapted from Cooking Light

4-1/2 cups fat free low sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup thinly sliced snow peas
1 can (7 oz) corn
2 tsp Sriracha sauce (I use Huy Fong)
2 tsp lower sodium soy sauce
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1-1/2 tsp Thai red curry paste (I use Thai Kitchen)
1 (2 inch) piece of peeled fresh ginger
Juice of one lime

4 oz dry linguini (I use Dreamfields-low carb)
1/3 cup sliced scallions

Bring first 9 ingredients to a simmer in a medium saucepan (chicken broth through ginger) and keep warm on low heat. Cook linguini according to package directions, drain and rinse. Discard ginger chunk from soup pot, add lime juice and stir. In each of 4 bowls, add equal amounts of linguini and ladle broth and vegetables over each serving. Top with chopped scallions.

If you want to make this a complete meal, try adding these chicken meatballs. They really round out the dish. I guess the pun's intended.

Chicken Meatballs
1 pound ground chicken
1/2 tsp sambal olek
2 tsp grated ginger
2 tsp minced garlic
1 slice of white or wheat bread ground in food processor or spice mill
1 large egg, beaten
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
2 T minced cilantro (I use Gourmet Garden Cilantro Herb Blend)

Pre heat oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and mist it with cooking spray. Set aside. In medium size bowl combine all ingredients except chicken. When all ingredients are incorporated, add chicken and mix gently with fingertips. You're now ready to make the meat balls. I made sixteen 1-1/2 to 1-1/4 inch meatballs out of this mixture. Place meatballs on baking sheet and bake 25 minutes. Add to your Spicy Asian Noodle Soup and enjoy.

Re-Mix: The possibilities are endless when it comes to switching out the veggies in this soup. I think I'd like to try it with bok choy or cabbage in place of the snow peas. Some straw mushrooms, baby corn and bean sprouts would also be nice. And if you want to replace the meatballs with another protein, a sliced hard boiled egg would certainly do the trick. Other garnishes? How about chopped peanuts or a sprinkling of fried won tons.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Back to Earth

After my last post I went into a food coma and decided some sensible eating was in order. So last night I made Roasted Shrimp with Lemon Sauce. Ina Garten has been roasting shrimp for ages and claims that roasting adds flavor to the shrimp that the boiling method takes away. I followed her recipe to the letter. But I wanted to add a little something, something to the mix so I zested a lemon, squeezed the juice, tossed the shrimp in the mixture and made a great little meal/appetizer.

Baked Shrimp Cocktail with Lemon Sauce
Inspired by Ina Garten

1 pound shrimp (16-20 count) peeled and de-veined, I left the tails on
2 tsp olive oil
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
Zest of one lemon
Juice of one lemon

Pre heat oven to 400 degrees. Combine shrimp with olive oil, salt and pepper and place in a 9 x 13 inch baking pan. Roast 8 minutes. While shrimp are cooking, zest and squeeze the juice from your lemon. When shrimp are done, toss with lemon juice and zest. Let cool and refrigerate.

The best part of this dish (for me) are the dipping sauces. My favorite so far is Sambal Olek right out of the jar.

A close second is good ol' Russian dressing, with a dash or two of horseradish. It goes well with the bite of lemon and is so easy to make. Mix equal parts of ketchup and light mayo, add as much (or as little) horseradish as you like, and sweet relish is optional.

Alternative Sauces: Sweet Thai chili sauce is good too, right out of the bottle. And if you like Asian flavors, mix a little soy sauce with rice vinegar, scallions and sesame seeds.

I agree with Ina- there's no reason to boil shrimp ever again.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Over the Top

I can't get enough caramelized onions into my diet lately, so I just made what now ranks as my favorite appetizer or side dish- Ciabatta Garlic Bread with Parmesan and Caramelized Onions. I simply added caramelized onions to my cheesy garlic bread recipe and the result is simply over the top- salty, sweet, cheesy and downright decadent.

Ciabatta Garlic Bread with Parmesan and Caramelized Onions

Pre heat oven to 350 degrees. Take one loaf of ciabatta bread and slice it horizontally almost all the way through, then open it like a book. Slather one side of the loaf with 2T softened butter and top with cooled caramelized onions. On the other side of the bread place semi-cooked garlic and olive oil (see original recipe) and top with 3T shredded Parmesan cheese.

Close bread and wrap in aluminum foil. Bake 15 minutes. Remove foil from top of bread and bake another 8 minutes. Let cool slightly before cutting and serving. Simply delicious!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Green Goddess Dressing

Have you noticed a major change in the dairy aisle of your supermarket? I sure have. It seems that my market has been slowly replacing good old Dannon and Yoplait with the pricier, richer "Greek Style" yogurt. I hadn't tried this newcomer because I'm stubborn and also very brand loyal. But then I saw that the recipes in the cooking magazines I read were featuring Greek yogurt in so many dishes that I just had to give it a shot. I have a standard Green Goddess salad dressing recipe that I make with lite sour cream and decided to swap plain, no fat Greek yogurt in place of the sour cream. The flavor of the dressing didn't change much, but the richness is definately over the top. Maybe a bit rich for me, but I'll let you be the judge.

Greek Yogurt Green Goddess Dressing

6 oz plain fat free Greek yogurt
1/2 cup light mayonnaise
1 small scallion chopped
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 T fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp Tabasco sauce
1/2 tsp anchovy paste
1 garlic clove minced
1 T Italian parsley chopped (or 1 T Gourmet Garden Parsley Blend)

Place all ingredients except parsley in a blender or food processor and process until smooth. Add parsley and whirl until combined and the mixture becomes a light green color. Serve on your favorite salad. I used Bibb lettuce, cucumbers, grape tomatoes, crumbled blue cheese, scallions, homemade croutons and a hard boiled egg. A little bacon would have been nice. All in all, very tasty. And very rich.