Saturday, January 29, 2011

Fruit with Flair!

As I try to include more fruit in my daily diet, I choose many fresh options, and I love them all.  Sometimes, something other than "fresh" fruit just sounds good.  With all the beautiful varieties of pears in the market lately, I knew I wanted to roast some.  I picked three large Bosc pears to work with.

Roasted pears are most often considered dessert.  After all, sugar is one of the ingredients, and sweet things are usually saved for dessert.  Mine ended up as a simple side dish as part of an Italian meal.  Then a few days later, I made them again with a fish dinner and they were once again the perfect accompaniment.

Roasted Pears

3 large Bosc pears, not too ripe
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
2 teaspoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup apple cider
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Core pears and cut into quarters but leave skin on.  Sprinkle cut sides with powdered sugar and set aside momentarily.

Melt butter in an oven-proof skillet over medium high heat.  Place pear pieces cut side down in one layer in skillet.  Cook until golden, about 10 minutes, moving the pieces around so all sides get to the heat.

Turn the pears so cut sides are up.  Pour apple cider over them and sprinkle evenly with cinnamon.  Put skillet in oven and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until pears are tender.  Remove pears to a serving dish and pour any syrupy juices remaining in skillet over them.  Serve warm or at room temperature.  Makes 4 servings.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Mmmm. . .something smells good

Sometimes people just feel like eating a bowl of healthy goodness.  What that means is probably different for each person.  For me, it means a substantial bowl of filling soup, enhanced with colorful vegetables, and containing enough heartiness to be a meal.  A little bread and maybe a salad adds variety to the meal but isn't even necessary.

Lentils, brown rice, assorted vegetables, all in a tasty broth, fit the bill the other night.  Thankfully, there was enough left over for lunch the next day.  I could hardly wait.

Hearty Lentil Soup

6 cups water
5 teaspoons "Better Than Bouillon" base, any flavor
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 cup dried lentils
1/2 cup uncooked brown rice
2 5.5-ounce cans tomato juice
1 teaspoon hot sauce, such as "Tapatio"
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 medium potato, peeled and cubed
1 medium tomato, chopped
1 medium carrot, sliced
1 celery rib, sliced

Combine first eight ingredients in a large saucepan.  Bring to a boil over high heat.  Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes.

Stir in last four ingredients.  Replace cover and simmer 30 minutes more, until rice and vegetables are tender.  Makes about 7 1/2 cups, or 4 scant 2-cup servings.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Oh yes, I do have a sweet tooth!

It dawned on me that I haven't shared a dessert recipe.  That's just not like me because, boy, do I love sweets.  So, after serving this taste treat to a group of friends, I decided I better share it with you.  It is light in calories and fat, and it is simple to make.

Tiramisu Parfaits
(idea from a Taste of Home recipe)

1 3/4 cups cold nonfat milk
1 1-ounce package sugar free instant vanilla pudding mix
4 ounces fat free cream cheese
3 ounces angel food cake, cut into small cubes
1/3 cup Amaretto liqueur
2 cups fat free whipped topping, such as Cool Whip Free
2 tablespoons miniature chocolate chips
1 teaspoon cocoa powder

In a medium bowl, whisk milk and pudding mix for 2 minutes.  In another medium bowl, beat cream cheese with electric beaters until smooth.  Slowly beat in pudding until smooth; set aside.

Place angel food cubes in a small bowl.  Add Amaretto and toss; let stand for 5 minutes.  Divide half of angel food cubes among 6 parfait glasses.  Top with half of pudding mixture, 1 cup whipped topping and 1 tablespoon chocolate chips.  Repeat layers.  Sprinkle with cocoa powder.

Cover parfaits with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least several hours.  Makes 6 servings.

Note:  If you prefer an alternative to alcohol, substitute strong coffee for the Amaretto.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Retro Weight Watchers

When blogger Mimi of 1972: WW THE RETRO WW EXPERIMENT put out a call for volunteers to make some vintage Weight Watcher recipes, I was in.  After all, I was a Weight Watcher member way back in elementary school when we were required to eat fish 5 times a week and liver once a week.  Heaven forbid!

Since my husband and I enjoy fish occasionally, I asked if I could make a fish recipe.  Mimi sent me an interesting dish called Hawaiian Beachcomber's Salad.  With my husband working from home today, it was the perfect lunch.

A pattern I've noticed with the "retro" Weight Watcher recipes is how unusual they sound and how delicious they taste.  Such was the case in my own experiment.  When I immediately heard, "Mmm, this is good," I knew we had a winner.

Hawaiian Beachcomber's Salad

8 ounces canned tuna
1/2 cup diced celery
2 tablespoons chopped gherkins
1 medium banana, sliced
2 small slices pineapple (canned in own juice), diced - plus 2 tablespoons juice
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 teaspoon dry mustard
2 cups shredded lettuce

Combine all ingredients except lettuce. Mix thoroughly, and divide evenly into 2 large bowls holding shredded lettuce. Makes 2 servings.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

What to do with cauliflower?

Doesn't the word gratin have a lovely ring to it?  Maybe because it's French, and all things French are so romantic.  Imagining what to do with the huge cauliflower from my Abundant Harvest box, the idea of a gratin popped into my head.

Now, do not be afraid of a fancy word.  All it takes for this gratin is a simple "cream" sauce and you have elevated cauliflower to a whole new level.  See what you think.

Cauliflower Gratin

3-pound head cauliflower, broken into florets
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons unbleached flour
1 cup nonfat milk
1/2 cup light sour cream
4 ounces sharp-tasting cheese, grated or crumbled (I used goat cheese)
1/4 cup chives or green onions, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon salt
Pinch cayenne pepper
Pinch freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Coat a 12-inch baking pan, preferably oval, with olive oil spray; set aside.

Steam cauliflower florets for 8 minutes, until just tender.  Drain and place in prepared pan.

Melt butter in a small saucepan and whisk in flour.  Continue whisking for one minute, then gradually whisk in milk until smooth.  Continue whisking until sauce thickens, then stir in all other ingredients.

Pour sauce evenly over cauliflower.  Bake for 35 minutes, or until bubbling and golden.  Makes 4 hearty or 6 smaller servings.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Italian Stuffed Cabbage

In years past, I have joined two different CSA's.  In case you haven't heard about them,  they are Community Supported Agriculture - farms that sell a share in the farm to members who then receive a box of produce every week.  The members do not have a say in what they get, but the beauty is that everything is in season, usually local, and usually organic.

A friend told me recently about a CSA called Abundant Harvest Organics that delivers organic produce to locations all over southern California, and better yet, five minutes from my home.  It didn't take long for me to sign on the dotted line!  I picked up my first box the other day.  When I saw the huge cabbage right on top, I knew just the meal I wanted to make.  The best part of CSA boxes is the creativity they inspire.  I hope to share many ideas spawned by the wonderful bounty I will receive in the weeks to come.

Italian Stuffed Cabbage

This recipe could easily be made with ground beef or turkey.  Trying to cut the saturated fat and cholesterol from my diet, I chose Yves Meatless Ground, a ground meat substitute that is easily found at Trader Joe's and large supermarkets.

1 head cabbage
1 12-ounce package Yves Meatless Ground
1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
1/3 cup white rice
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (omit if you don't like heat)
1 14-ounce jar pizza sauce (like Ragu)
2 ounces part-skim Mozzarella cheese, finely shredded

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Coat a 9x13 baking pan with olive oil spray; set aside.

Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil.  Gently place entire head of cabbage into the water.  Boil for about 4 minutes, or until the leaves begin to come off.  Remove the cabbage from the water and peel off 12 large leaves.  Cut the thick part of the stem out and leave the rest of each leaf intact.

In a mixing bowl, combine Meatless Ground, tomato sauce, rice, onion, garlic, salt, oregano and red pepper flakes.  Place 1/4 cup mixture in center of each cabbage leaf and fold up into a package.  Spread half the pizza sauce evenly over the bottom of the baking pan.  Place the cabbage rolls on top, then spread the remaining pizza sauce over the rolls.  Cover with foil and bake for 55 minutes.

Remove pan from oven and sprinkle rolls evenly with Mozzarella cheese.  Place back in the oven for 5 minutes, uncovered, until cheese is melted.  Makes 4 hearty servings, 3 rolls each.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Wrap it up!

The other night's dinner was something I really looked forward to - Taste of Home's "Spinach and Mushroom Smothered Chicken" -  spiced grilled chicken with melted cheese on top, covered in sauteed spinach, mushrooms, green onions and pecans (recipe here).

But the real treat was lunch today.  A wrap filled with the leftovers and avocado slices and cranberry sauce.  Delish!  Any other time of year, when cranberry sauce is a distant holiday memory, seedless raspberry jam would fill in beautifully.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Roasted Veggies

It may not sound thrilling, but let me tell you.   Almost any vegetable can be made delicious simply by roasting it in the oven.  I've been known to heat the oven even on a warm summer night to accompany my dinner with a pile of these veggies.  This night it was zucchini.

The method is simple:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  Line a large rimmed baking sheet with foil or parchment paper.  Or,  do what I finally did after spending a fortune on parchment, buy a Silpat liner to use over and over.  Spray the foil, if using, with olive oil spray.

Chop a pound or so of vegetables, in this case zucchini, in 1/2 to 1-inch pieces.  Dump them on the lined baking sheet and stir in 2 teaspoons olive oil and salt and pepper to taste.  Spread the vegetables out so they do not touch each other.

Roast for 15 to 30 minutes, depending on the vegetable you are using.  Stir once, about 10 minutes into the roasting, and spread the vegetables out again.  They are ready when caramelized and brown on the edges.

Try green beans, winter squash, bell peppers, onions, eggplant, or any veggie you fancy.  What an easy way to increase your intake of yummy, healthy foods.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Welcome to my kitchen!

Come in and spend some time with me.  Let me share with you my passion for food, cookbooks, and healthy cooking.  My kitchen is my escape from the craziness of life.  It is where I create the meals that satisfy and nourish our hungry bodies.  But more than that, it warms our hearts with the sounds and smells of loving food preparation.

My cooking is not complicated or extravagant.  I love the flavors of faraway places and of local traditions.  I linger over cookbooks and magazines and watch other cooks.  I take it all in and put my lighter spin on it.  No meal is ever the same, and many recipes are exciting experiments.

Through the daily process of getting food on the table, and with the help of Weight Watchers, I lost 30 pounds.  I now live the lifelong challenge of weight maintenance.  I make it fun, looking for recipes that meet my flavor and health expectations and then cooking and eating them!

I hope you will join me as I share from my kitchen.  Here's to health and good cooking!