Monday, May 23, 2011

Winning Is Everything

When cooking, why would we ever want to lose?  Winning is definitely the goal in mind!  The other options just don't seem to be quite as satisfying!  Now that's not to say that sometimes things don't turn out quite as planned and you end up with a whole different and new creation - those times are awesome.  I'm speaking merely of disasters...  inedibles...  black where black doesn't belong!  In those cases, winning is everything!

Last night I won!

Whenever I've attempted to make Chinese food it's always been referred to as Stir Fry.  Why?  We don't order Stir Fry from the Chinese shop menu do we?  Is it even an item on the menu?  Where did the term come from?  Maybe I should look that up before I post this?  Make it an educational post too!  Anyway, last night I didn't make stir fry, I made Chinese Food!  I finally got the taste AND texture of my favorite dish, I won!

Cashew Chicken
6 tbsp soy sauce, divided
2 tbsp sherry (or chicken stock)
1/2 tsp sesame oil
2 lb chicken breasts, cubed
3 tbsp cornstarch, divided
2/3 cup chicken broth, fat free
2 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tbsp teriyaki sauce
1 tsp fresh ginger root, minced
1 tsp salt
2 tsp canola oil, divided
2 cups fresh snow peas
2 celery stalks, sliced
3 medium carrots, julienned
8 oz. can sliced water chestnuts
2/3 cup cashews
1 cup rice
2 cups chicken broth, fat free

~  In a large resealable plastic bag, combine 4 tbsp soy sauce, sherry, sesame oil and 1 tbsp cornstarch; add chicken.  Toss chicken to coat with the marinade.  Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
~  Cook rice as directed on the package, or rice cooker, using the chicken broth for the liquid.
~ In a small bowl, combine 2 tbsp cornstarch and 2/3 cup broth until smooth.  Stir in the sugar, vinegar, teriyaki sauce, ginger, salt and remaining soy sauce; set aside.
~ Drain the chicken, discarding the marinade.  Rinse the chicken lightly with cold water to remove excess cornstarch.  (The cornstarch is what gives the chicken the "Chinese Food" texture - ancient Chinese secret!)
~ In a large non-stick wok or skillet, stir fry the chicken in 1 tsp of oil until it is no longer pink.  Remove from pan and add the peas and carrots.  Fry until crisp tender, then add the water chestnuts.
~ Return the chicken to the pan and add the cashews.  Stir the sauce mixture and then add it to the chicken and vegetables.  Bring it to a boil and cook, stirring constantly, until it is thickened. Serve over rice.

Notice I snuck the secret in there!?  I learned that secret a long time ago and I can't believe what it does to the chicken!  You'll have to try it with thin sliced beef for Beef and Broccoli and let me know how it is!

So there you have it - my winning dish!  With 1/2 cup of rice and plenty of the chicken it's only 9 points plus!  That even leaves room for a little extra chicken without the rice - and trust me, you're going to want just a few extra bites!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Birthday Cake

Does everybody celebrate their birthday with cake? Is it okay to say you don't want cake?

I'm sure glad my friend told me no to the cake! Her birthday wish was that I cook dinner for her and make her a dessert "something like flan", she hinted. Well, it just so happened that my mom had told me the last time she had my flan that she would never order it in a restaurant again! So with my friend's wish and mom's praise dessert was going to be a breeze!

Yep, you guessed it, too easy! My challenge was going to be making it a little less calorie laden (I won't say healthy here). I always have fat free half and half on hand so I decided to use that and hope for the best! It worked beautifully!! Mom never guessed and after her third serving my friend hadn't a clue either - I was happy! Then, I got up this morning and while drinking my coffee decided to try again... even lower!

Upside Down Creme Brulee (Flan)
1/4 cup sugar (plus 2 tsp for caramelizing)
1 cup half and half, fat free
1/2 cup Egg Beaters
3/4 tsp vanilla
Pinch of salt

Sprinkle 1/2 tsp of sugar in the bottom of 4 ramekins. With a torch, moving the flame in slow spirals, caramelize the sugar in each ramekin until amber or dark amber beads form over the entire bottom surface. Set them aside to cool. Preheat the oven to 300F. In a small saucepan, combine 1/4 cup of sugar and the half and half. Stir while heating over medium-high heat until almost to the boiling point. Set aside to cool. In another bowl, briskly stir the egg beaters, vanilla and salt. Continue stirring while adding the cream mixture in a slow thin stream. Strain the mixture through a fine sieve and fill the ramekins, pouring gently. Place ramekins in a baking dish and then fill the baking dish with hot water until 1/2 way up the ramekins. Bake for 40 minutes (more or less depending on the depth of the ramekins) until the centers are softly set. They should jiggle slightly. Remove them from the oven and let them cool in the water for about 10 minutes. Remove them from the baking dish and cover with plastic wrap before placing in the refrigerator. (They are also great room temperature!) To unmold them, hold the bottom half of the ramekin in a bowl of hot tap water for a count of 20. Then, with a small paring knife, go around the edge of each custard. Turn the ramekin over in the center of a dessert plate. If the custard does not fall out, gently lift one edge of the custard with the paring knife to release the vacuum.

Wow, that's a lot of directions! Hopefully I got everything and they turn out perfectly like mine did!

This amazing tasting dessert is only 3 points plus per serving! Only 3!
Would that be considered healthy?

Happy Birthday!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Healthy Stuff

I was looking through my cookbook and then browsing my blog when I realized that it doesn't quite fully represent our new way of healthy eating. Although most of the family doesn't realize it, we've gotten to the point where there's very little fat, if any, in our meals. They just enjoy all the amazing flavors and beautiful plates they're getting.

They also don't realize they're getting a lot more seafood in their diet! For a family that doesn't care for seafood (one will go to McDonald's instead of Anthony's) I've been managing to "sneak" it into the menu once or twice a week! Today I realized there's none on my blog! How will I ever remember all the successful sneaks if I don't document?!

Besides fish tacos, here's one of the favorites:

Herb Crusted Cod
2 lbs cod fillets

3 tbsp butter, melted
1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
1/2 lemon, juiced
1 tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped
1 tsp dried basil
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 tsp salt and pepper
16 crackers, fat free, crushed

Preheat the oven to 375F. Line a large baking pan with parchment paper. Lay cod fillets on parchment with a small amount of spacing just so they don't stick together. In a medium bowl whisk together the melted butter, mustard, lemon juice, parsley, basil, garlic, salt and pepper. Add the cracker crumbs and combine. If the mixture seems to dry, spray lightly with cooking spray and mix well. Divide the crumbs between the fish and use your fingers to pat it evenly over the top. Bake for 15 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fillets. When fish is cooked through turn oven to broil. Check every 20-30 seconds and remove when tops of crust are a light golden brown. Serve with additional lemon if desired.

This recipe is so simple! And yet everybody will have seconds without realizing I just snuck more seafood into their diet! Will I ever get them to give up the red meat? That makes me chuckle just thinking about it...

During my chuckle I almost forgot to mention, this is only 6 points plus per serving leaving plenty of room for some Parslied Potatoes (coming soon)!

Sunday, May 15, 2011


Everybody needs a little recognition don't they? Those of us that love being in the kitchen and putting forth beautiful plates and bowls of food love that recognition - at least I do! I'm so excited to get that through my blog for the first time! A friend of mine read my last blog about my Mother's Day brunch and asked for one of the recipes I included in the list of menu items! Somebody besides my husband read my blog!! How exciting!

So here it is, the requested recipe!

Lemon Panini French Toast
12 slices of French Bread
1/2 cup egg beaters
1/4 cup evaporated milk, fat free
1/2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups of mixed berries (fresh or frozen)
3 tbsp sugar
Squeeze of fresh lemon

Lemon Curd
1 oz butter
1/2 cup lemon juice (2 lemons)
Zest of 2 lemons
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup egg beaters

Lemon Curd (can be made ahead of time): in a microwave safe bowl, combine the butter, sugar, lemon juice and lemon zest. Cook on high about 2 minutes, stirring halfway through. The butter should be melted and the sugar dissolved. Whisk in the egg beaters and microwave 30 seconds. The curd should be thickened, if not, microwave an additional 15 seconds. (There will be leftover lemon curd for another use).

Preheat the oven to 200F. Place a baking sheet in the oven. Mix the cream cheese and 1/2 cup of the lemon curd. Divide between half of the slices of bread and spread to the edges. Top with the remaining slices of bread. Whisk the egg beaters, evaporated milk, sugar and vanilla extract. Coat the bottom and top of the panini grill with cooking spray. Working in batches, dip each sandwich in the egg mixture to coat both sides. Cook until golden brown. Do not press down on the grill! Transfer the grilled French toast to the warmed backing sheet and keep warm in the low oven. In a small saucepan, combine the berries, sugar and lemon juice. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to simmer and cook for about 10 minutes until thickened. Serve over French toast.

Although they may appear sweet, these are light and not nearly as sweet as we expected. I guess that's what made them so perfect! The cream cheese combined with the lemon curd is the perfect texture and combines well with the fruit topping. Put the syrup away - you definitely won't need any!

As for Weight Watchers and counting my points, well, what can I say except that it was Mother's Day!! I did calculate though and each full French Toast with the fruit topping was 8 points plus. That's not too bad if that's all I ate for breakfast!

Thank you for reading my blog, it makes me smile!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Doing What We Love

I love Mother's Day! Not only do I get to celebrate my mother, and celebrate with her, I get to be celebrated as well! For many, this means you don't have to go anywhere near your kitchen! For me, it means I get the opportunity to STAY in my kitchen, undisturbed, creating, playing and doing exactly what I love to do!

This year I was able to share some extraordinary delights with my mother and family, including my very dear friend Jackie! I created a brunch that had a little bit of everything for everybody and the menu went something like this....

Lemon Curd French Toast Panini ~ Sausage Gravy ~ Potato Roast ~ Tuscan Baked Eggs
Strawberry Strata ~ Son-In-Law Eggs ~ Crescent Rolls

For this post, I'm going to highlight the strangest and newest creation because it gave me the greatest pleasure to create and sample. A popular street fare in Thailand is now a treat at home!

Son-In-Law Eggs
1 can coconut milk
1 tbsp Thai red curry paste
1 tsp chopped lemon grass
1 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 lime, juiced
6 eggs, soft boiled
2 tbsp peanuts, chopped
1 green onion, sliced

In a small saucepan over medium high heat, reduce half of the can of coconut milk until it splits into oil. Add the curry paste and the lemongrass to the oil and cook for about 1 minute. Reduce the heat and add the rest of the coconut milk, fish sauce, brown sugar and lime juice. Continue cooking, stirring frequently, until the sauce is a creamy consistency. Keep sauce warm.
Heat a couple of inches of oil in a small saucepan over high heat. Once heated carefully add two eggs at a time to the oil and fry until the outer white turns golden brown and expands int a crisp honeycomb texture. Placed fried eggs on a paper towel prior to placing in a small serving dish. Spoon on prepared sauce, sprinkle with chopped peanuts and green onion.

I tell people about these eggs and they look at me like I was crazy for deep frying the egg - I thought I was too! Who ever heard of such a thing? Not to mention deep frying anything is pretty much never mentioned in this house!

It being Mother's Day and all - yes, I used every extra point I had and probably points leftover from last week and the week before! This one tasty, delightful morsel alone is 8 points plus per warm, comfortable egg!

Note: This is a bit spicy! Okay, it's a lot spicy! Use less curry paste to tone down the heat but I wouldn't omit it completely.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Taking A Chance

There have been times that I've prepared a meal for guests, family and potlucks without trying it first. If my memory serves me right, it's been an epic failure every time! I'm not sure how I can cook meal after meal for the six of us every night and have the majority turn out tasty but then pick something to try for a potluck and have it be dry and tasteless? With every failure, I vow that I will prepare something tried and true, that I will no longer experiment on innocent bystanders!

Then here I went again!

Last night it was my turn to cook dinner for our groups monthly meeting. There's anywhere from 10-20 people that attend and 90% of them are men. Since it was only me providing the entire meal I tried to make something that would appeal to everybody, something well known, easy to recognize and with minimal unique ingredients. Perfect time to refrain from trying something new!

Nope, not me! Refrain? Not usually! And boy am I glad I took the chance!
Check this out...
It's amazingly wonderful...

Creamy Chicken Spaghetti
2 cups chicken breast, cooked and cubed
1/2 cup butter
16 oz fresh mushrooms
1/4 cup white wine
Salt and pepper
1/4 cup flour
2 cups chicken broth, fat free
1 1/2 cups milk, 2%
1/4 cup (additional) white wine
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1 cup black olives, chopped
1 pound thin spaghetti

Bring the broth to a boil. Break the spaghetti into thirds and add to the boiling broth. Boil for 5-8 minutes until tender. Drain spaghetti, reserving the liquid. Melt 2 tbsp of the butter in a large skillet. Add the mushrooms, 1/4 cup of wine and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook over medium heat for about 8 to 10 minutes, or until the liquid has completely evaporated, stirring occasionally. Remove the mushrooms and set aside. Lower heat of skillet to medium low and add 6 tbsp of butter. Sprinkle the flour over the melted butter, whisk to combine and cook for 1-2 minutes. Add 2 cups of broth (from the spaghetti pot) and whisk to combine. Pour in the milk, and the additional 1/4 cup of wine. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, tasting after each sprinkle. Continue simmering until thick. Turn off the heat and stir in the Parmesan. Add the mushrooms, chicken and olives and stir to combine. Check the seasoning level again and add salt and pepper as needed. Turn into a 9x13 casserole pan and bake at 350 for 20-30 minutes.

And that my friends is a comfort food dish you will want to make over and over!

The way it's written above it will feed about 8 people and is only 11 points plus per serving. Next time I'm going to try and use less butter, or light butter, and see if that works. I've also seen low fat Parmesan that would help lower it even further. Oh, and not to forget, I bought a pasta extruder that will make thin spaghetti! It's much easier to control the fat and calories when you know exactly what's going in it! I'll post the difference when and if I try the changes - after all, 11 points isn't bad for dinner!

Sometimes you just gotta take that chance!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Cooking For One

No, not me! Everybody knows I cook for a minimum of 6 every night - adding to that, the requirement for two leftover lunches and everything I do is for 8!

Wait a minute... breakfast and lunch! I cook for one twice a day!

Couple of things going on today that made me title this the way I did... the realization that I've lost 32 pounds is starting to sink in and the conversation I had with a friend last night. Both of those made me realize how important cooking is in my life. My friend was telling me about the horrible frozen lasagna she had (I witnessed her purchasing it at the grocery store) and the fact that she had chicken nuggets for dinner on Cinco de Mayo... both devastating tragedies! Her excuse was that it was too hard cooking for one. I'm here to prove her wrong!

Breakfast Tostada

1 corn tortilla
3 tbsp re-fried beans, fat free
2 tbsp cheddar cheese, shredded, low fat
1 egg
1 tsp sour cream, fat free
Salsa or tomato slice

Spray a small non-stick skillet with cooking spray. Heat the skillet to medium and add the corn tortilla. Spray the exposed side of the tortilla lightly with cooking spray. In order to get a perfect texture and color, turn the tortilla frequently, over and over. Also, press down on the tortilla with a spatula as the tortilla will rise up in the middle. When the tortilla is golden and crispy remove to a paper towel. In the same skillet, fry the egg to your liking. While the egg is frying, heat the re-fried beans in the microwave for 30-45 seconds and spread on the tortilla. Sprinkle the beans with 1 tbsp of the cheese. Place the fried egg on top of the cheese, sprinkle with remaining cheese and top with tomato and sour cream.

A delicious breakfast cooked for one in about 5 minutes! Add to that the fact that it's only 4 points plus and the understanding of the weight loss comes into full focus. Cooking for one is actually pretty easy... just takes imagination, food in the pantry and plenty of plastic containers to save the portions of food not used!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Mandatory Posting

I was thinking today, being Cinco de Mayo, that I should probably post something to commemorate the delicious meal we had this evening! I went all out and made chicken enchiladas, shrimp tacos and beef taquitos to have a multitude of flavors, it was quite the feast. It was all low fat and yet just as wonderful as if it were full of calories and unnecessary fat. So I should post it right?

Nope! I'm going to post another great recipe that deserves to be posted on a special day!

Mexican Braised Beef

2 lbs beef chuck roast, trimmed
4 poblano peppers
1 serrano chili
2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped rough
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup red wine
1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes
1 tbsp dried oregano
8 small potatoes, baked

Roast the peppers in the broiler (or over an open flame) until the skin is charred. Place them in a bowl and cover with a towel to allow to steam and cool. When cooled, scrape/peel off the blackened skin. Cut off the stem, open the chili and remove the seeds and ribs. Rough chop the peppers and set aside. Season the beef generously with salt and pepper. Heat a large skillet over high heat, add the oil and then add the beef. Sear for about 2 minutes on each side and then set aside. Reduce the heat and add the onions. Cook them until they are slightly carmelized, about 4-5 minutes. Add the chopped chilies and garlic and cook for an additional 2 minutes. Add the wine and scrape the bottom of the skillet. Cook until it is reduced by half then add the tomatoes and bring it to a boil. Pour this mixture into a crock pot/slow cooker and place the seered beef on top. Cook on low for 6-8 hours until the meat is tender and falling apart. Shred beef, in pot, with forks and mix well with sauce and vegetables. Serve over baked potatoes that have been split in half and raked with a fork.

Although there is substantial prep time with roasting the peppers and reducing the sauce, it is well worth it. Plus, you get it done in the morning and don't have to do another thing until it's on the table!

Depending on the actual size of your roast this meal will serve a minimum of 8 people with plenty of left overs. I take about 1/4 cup of the leftovers and wrap it up in a flour tortilla for lunch the next day - I call it lunch perfection! Dinner is only a mere 9 points plus per serving (including the potato) and the lunch burrito with a carb balance tortilla is only 4 points plus.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Taking Advantage

Tuesday nights have become a late dinner night because of a meeting that runs until 6:30 so we're eating at 7:00 instead of 5:30. Of course this makes everybody (mainly Barry) think they are starving to death! In order to stave off his hunger, I agreed to make some sort of appetizer or soup that could be served at 5:00. This seemed to make him and the rest of the family happy!

So on this Tuesday afternoon I decided to try my hand at flatbread! I envisioned these wonderful little panini appetizers with spinach, mango chutney and goat cheese. As the ripe mangoes sat before me I kneaded and rolled, rolled and kneaded. Then I baked and watched as these beautiful square flatbreads became golden and picture perfect! They came out of the oven smelling... like flatbread! They broke like crackers!! "Aha" I said, crackers and mango salsa!! So I threw together some salsa (mango, pineapple, red pepper, onion, cilantro and lime juice) and let that sit while I searched for something else to do with my final ripe mango.

And here's where taking advantage of the late dinner opportunity and a ripe mango rocked our world with flavor!

Curried Shrimp & Mango Stew
1 tsp olive oil
1 small onion, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
2 gloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp curry powder
1/8 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp dried thyme leaves
1/2 Serrano chili, minced
2 cups chicken broth, fat free
1/3 cup white rice
7 oz. evaporated milk, fat free
1 ripe mango, diced
1/2 lb raw shrimp, peeled and diced
4 green onions, thinly sliced
Salt and pepper to taste

In a medium saucepan, cook the onions in the oil over medium high heat for about 2 minutes, until softened. Add in the celery and garlic and cook another minute. Stir in the curry powder, allspice and diced chili and cook another minute. Add the chicken broth and rice and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a slow simmer and cover the saucepan. Cook for about 20 minutes until the rice is tender. Add in all remaining ingredients and cook about 5 minutes until the shrimp is opaque.

This stew can definitely be a meal, not just a snack or appetizer! The recipe makes six 1/2 cup servings at only 3 points plus per serving - you'd need to double it to actually make a meal of 1 cup servings. It has a nice warmth to it but not too much so even those that don't like spicy foods can completely enjoy it.

Let's see how the Curried Chicken & Vegetables turns out for dinner...