Thursday, February 28, 2013

Seafood & Citrus

I've eaten a lot of chicken and turkey this week, so I felt like seafood tonight. I've also been craving citrus like crazy (I am eating too many oranges to keep track, and adding lemon juice to anything and everything). So I decided to make salmon with a lemon-maple-mustard glaze. I've made this recipe before and it's always a sure thing!  For dessert, I tried making orange peel coconut muffins, but it was a fail. I'll show a couple photos anyways.
Let's begin with the success.

Ingredients for maple/lemon/mustard glazed salmon (serves 2):
-2 salmon fillets (6 oz each)
-1 lemon
-1 tbsp whole grain mustard
-1 clove garlic
-2 tbsp pure maple syrup
-Salt & pepper, to taste
I pre-heated my oven to 375 degrees. Then I put aluminum foil on a baking sheet and placed the fillets on top. I seasoned the fillets with salt and pepper and put them in the oven for 15 minutes.
While they baked, I juiced my lemon into a measuring cup and mixed it with the maple syrup and mustard. Then I minced my garlic clove and added it in.
After 15 minutes in the oven, my fillets looked like this. I pulled them out and folded the foil edges around them to make a little wall (this is so I could pour my mixed sauce in without it escaping onto the baking sheet).
Then I poured in the sauce, making sure a good amount was actually on top of the fish. See how the tin foil walls hold in the sauce around my fillets so they can soak it all up?  This is key to making sure they retain lots of great citrus flavor!
After 10 more minutes in the oven at 375, the salmon was baked all the way through (if you like it more raw, you may want to remove it from the oven sooner).  I plated it with seasoned barley and steamed broccoli.  I love the flavor on this salmon because you get spicy seasoning from the mustard/garlic, sweet seasoning from the syrup, and (of course!) citrus seasoning from the lemon.
And here's my dessert fail. These were still edible, but didn't taste great. Tonight I learned that coconut flour should only be used to make scones and butternut squash pasta bake.  I've tried to use it for muffins and pancakes, and the darn stuff just does not rise at all!
This is how the muffins looked before they went into the oven. Compare them to the previous image and notice that the height remains exactly the same! Darn you, coconut flour!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Buffalo (turkey) meatballs

I surveyed my fridge tonight and realized I needed to use up (1) lean ground turkey, (2) celery & carrots, and (3) yogurt dip. Justin also received a giant basket full of various hot sauces/buffalo sauces for his birthday last fall and I've been wanting to break out the Frank's Red Hot for quite some time now!  Solution: buffalo turkey meatballs!
I found this Martha Stewart recipe and went on to healthify it (no butter)!

My Red-hot meatball ingredient arsenal:
-Approx 0.7 lb leftover lean ground Jennie-O turkey (about half a normal package)
-2 tbsp Frank's Red Hot
-1 large carrot, chopped
-1 celery stick, chopped
-1/4 cup parsley leaves
-1/4 cup breadcrumbs
-1 tbsp egg beaters

(I stuffed pita pockets with the balls and lettuce and topped with the last of my yogurt sauce. I baked my usual sweet potato fries on the side. So you may want these ingredients too!)
First I pulsed carrots, celery and parsley in the food processor (I didn't puree them so they remained a little chunky).  

Then I combined the veggie/parsley mix with the ground turkey, breadcrumbs, egg, and 1 tbsp of Frank's Red Hot.
Rolled the mix into cute little balls...
And put them in a sautee pan over medium heat for about 10 minutes, to brown the edges up just a little (but they weren't cooked all the way through- still a little pink in the middle). I have a non-stick pan so I didn't use any oil at all.
Then I put the balls on a baking sheet (again, no oil on the non-stick pan) and I poured another tbsp of Frank's Red Hot over them.  If you like spicy, then you may want to add more than a tablespoon here.. I wished I'd added a little more before baking, but I just added more Frank's to my meatballs after the baking so all was well.
Give them time in the oven at 350 degrees. I think I left them in for about 15 minutes, until they were cooked all the way through (no pink in the middle)!
Place in pita/sandwich with any toppings you like (after taking this photo, I added more Frank's plus lots of yogurt sauce), and enjoy!

Pie in the pot (or casserole dish)

My mom used to stock up on frozen chicken pot pies to have on hand for emergency dinners on nights when she didn't have time to cook, so I don't think I've actually had a pot pie since pre-college days.  But I recently found this recipe and was inspired to cook this fresh (and of course low-cal) take on typical pot pie!  I made just a couple of tweaks, slightly reducing the spices, using all sweet potato, and subbing broccoli in for the peas since my sig-o has a pea aversion.
Ingredients (adapted from meals and moves!):
-3 cups chicken broth
-1 large yam, peeled and chopped into small pieces
-1 cup carrots, chopped into small pieces
-1 cup celery, chopped into small pieces
-2 cups frozen cipollini onions
-2 cups frozen broccoli
-2 large chicken breasts, chopped into small pieces
-1.5 tsp poultry seasoning (or another seasoning blend you like)
-1 tsp salt
-1 tsp dried thyme
-1 tsp dried basil
-1.5 cups milk
-1/3 cup wheat flour
-3/4 cup quinoa (3/4c dry to make approx 1.5 cups cooked)
-2 tbsp cornstarch
-phyllo dough for topping
To start, I microwaved my frozen onions and broccoli for about 1.5 minutes, just enough so that I could drain out some excess water.  Then I brought the 3 cups chicken broth to a boil in a large pot, and I tossed in all the veggies (onions, broccoli, celery, carrots, sweet potato).  I kept the pot on high heat covered for about 8 minutes to tenderize the veggies and get them to soak up the broth. I watched the pot while it was on high heat to keep it from bubbling over!  If you like to multi-task, you can also grill up your chicken breasts while your pot is boiling.
Next I added the chicken and the spices to the pot (yes, that's Mickey Mouse poultry seasoning I used). Note that I put a tsp of black pepper in my dish and actually wished I would have left it out because my poultry seasoning already had a bit of pepper. If you really love pepper, you may still want to sprinkle a little in even though it's not on the ingredient list at top.
Then I whisked together the milk, wheat flour, and cornstarch. After it was well-blended, I drained all the chicken broth liquid from the pot (using the lid to keep the veggies and chicken in the pot), and I poured the drained broth directly into the mixing bowl with the milk/flour/cornstarch. After blending the broth in with the milk mix, I poured all the liquid back in the pot with the meat/veggies, and it really thickened up (thanks to the cornstarch)!
Finally, I added the quinoa to the mix (I'd gone the quick route and cooked the 3/4 cup of dry quinoa with water in the microwave- the micro can cook it up in 6 minutes time!). I drained excess water from the quinoa, then poured it into the pot with everything else.
Then I poured the entire pot (which was very full at this point!) into my 13x9" casserole dish. I topped it with a few layers of phyllo dough (it's so thin that you need a few layers to get a nice flakey crust!) and I popped the whole thing in the oven at 400 degrees for 15 minutes.
 And it cooked up like so:
 Light, flavorful, and delicious with so many ingredients to love!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Baby cheesecakes

I feel like a hypocrite writing about cheesecake when I've told you I dislike cheese.. But truth be told, I really don't mind cheese when the flavor is masked by sugar (because I have an insane sweet tooth), so I do love cheesecake.  That said, the last time I was at the Cheesecake Factory I looked at the calorie/fat counts they now include with the menu, and those made me dislike this dessert!  So I decided to mess with a normal cheesecake recipe to make it low-cal, and I was pleased with the results.
Ingredients (makes 10 baby cheesecakes):
-About 5 small biscotti cookies (for crust)
-Approx 1 tbsp almond milk (for crust)
-3 oz non-fat vanilla greek yogurt
-3 oz low-fat ricotta cheese
-4 oz light cream cheese
-1/2 tsp vanilla extract
-1.5 tbsp granulated sugar (I used baking Splenda)
-1 tbsp flour
-1 tsp applesauce
-1 tsp cornstarch
-1 egg plus 2 egg whites
I started with the crust. I would have used graham crackers, but I didn't have any in the pantry and I figured almond biscotti cookies would work too (and they did)!
I think I put about 5 biscotti in the food processor to get the mix looking like this, and I dribbled almond milk into the machine as the cookies gelled up to get a mix with the texture above. You want enough mix to cover the bottoms of cupcake tins like this:
Next time I make this recipe, I've decided that I'll cut a couple of the tins (to make 10 instead of 12) because I felt like my crust-to-cake ratio was a little off this time (they were still good, but it was about 1/3 crust, 2/3 cake and I was hoping for 1/4 crust, 3/4 cake). Once my cupcake tray looked like the above image, I put it in a 300 degree oven for 10 minutes to bake the crusts a bit.
While my crusts baked, I made the cheesecake filling.  I cleaned the crust crumbs from the food processor, then used it to blend the cream cheese, ricotta, and yogurt together.  Once these were well mixed, I added in all the other ingredients and blended one more time.

I spooned the filling into the crusts and put the tray back in the oven for 30 minutes at 300 degrees. And the baby cakes puffed up like this!
Finally, the obligatory taste test (with light whipped cream on top to offset my less-than-ideal filling-to-crust ratio). All in all, very good- I wouldn't change any of the filling ingredients! I'll just make a little less crust next time and do 10 cakes instead of 12 so each crust gets a little more filling on top!

Monday, February 25, 2013

Turkey chili

I think this turkey chili is the easiest weeknight meal. (Or maybe I've just cooked it so many times that I could make it in my sleep). Either way, it's a good go-to meal when you want some low-cal comfort food with minimal effort in the kitchen.
You might think it's complicated when you look at all the ingredients (and consider that some didn't even fit in my shot), but this is mainly because mix my own spices. Lawry's, McCormick's, and all the other spice brands make pre-packaged chili mix which can make this an even easier recipe. I used to use the Lawry's mix until I realized it was just a blend of all the other ingredients I already have in my pantry, so there's no reason for me to waste $$ on it. That said, if you want to simplify things for yourself, you can just buy the Lawry's chili spice packet and call it a day. Up to you.
Turkey chili ingredients:
-1 package Jennie-O extra lean ground turkey
-1/4 onion, diced (you can also add a clove of minced garlic if you feel like it)
-1 can black beans, drained
-1 can diced tomatoes with juice
-1 can corn with juice
-1.5 tsp chili powder
-1 tsp cumin
-1 tsp paprika
-1 tsp salt
-1/2 tsp garlic powder
-1/2 tsp onion powder
-1/2 tsp oregano
-1 tbsp flour
-1 tsp granulated sugar
-1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (if you like spicy)
-1 package Jiffy cornbread mix plus 1/4 cup eggbeaters and 1/3 cup milk for the cornbread.
Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees for cornbread, then get the turkey browning on a large sautee pan with the diced onion.  On another burner, heat up a large pot with the black beans (juice drained) plus tomatoes (with juice) and corn (with juice). Add about 1 cup additional water which you'll reduce down with the spices (you can always start less and then thin out the mix later depending on how chunky you like your chili).
Next mix together all your spices with the 1 tbsp flour (it helps thicken the stew) and 1 tsp sugar.  Stir them up well and pour them in the bean/corn/tomato pot. Add in the turkey after it's browned, and bring everything to a boil on high for a few minutes.
It should thicken like the above when it boils.  After a few minutes, reduce heat to low and cover it while you bake cornbread.
Follow Jiffy's simple instructions (mixing with milk and egg), put it in a 9x9" pan, and throw it in the oven for about 15 minutes.  (Note that I have more interesting cornbread recipes that I'll share in another post.. this is just my go-to for super quick cornbread).
Now you've got nice golden cornbread and a heaping pot of hearty chili. And unless you're totally ravenous, you should be set for a few good meals!

Vanilla bakeshop

 Yesterday I had the pleasure of tasting 5 varieties of cake at Vanilla bakeshop!
I was tempted to go after those cookie jars on the counter before the cake samples came, but I'm glad I resisted because there was a lot of cake to be eaten.
The 5 flavors I tried were fleur de sel, raspberry black & white, lemon vanilla berry, triple berry cream, and dulce de leche.
 The fleur de sel "takes the cake" for most unique.  Look at all that caramel ooze!
But my favorite was the lemon vanilla berry. I like it when frosting has a good amount of sweetness to balance out the rich buttercream flavor, and I thought the frosting on this cake had perfect balance. The lemon portion of the frosting also had some zest blended in which gave the cake a great dose of citrus. And I love that it had berries on top so I felt like I was getting something healthy in there.  The cake itself was perfect- light and fluffy with mouth watering vanilla bean taste.  Now I know why they call it Vanilla Bakeshop.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

The Farm of Beverly Hills

Yes folks, there's a farm in the middle of Beverly Hills.  Right down the street from this gaudy store that makes me laugh hysterically every time I pass by it. 
This guy is just too funny- like Dr. Evil with diamonds! But really, there are no words...Now to the food.  I love that The Farm gives you cornbread to start.. yum! 
It's definitely more buttery than the cornbread that I bake at home, but I'm happy to eat it :)
Even though we got cornbread on the house, we still ordered an appetizer because the soft pretzels seemed too good to pass up.
They were the perfect salty treat, with spicy whole-grain mustard and honey on the side. Spicy + salty + sweet all rolled into one = heaven for Jen.
For my entree, I got the spaghetti squash with veggie meatballs and marinara. I'm normally pretty good at figuring out what veggie meatballs/patties are made of, but I was stumped with these. My best guess is some mixture of beans, soy, mushrooms, maybe even a grain of some sort. They were pretty good, but not out-of-this-world amazing. Next time we visit the farm, I want to try the whitefish with pumpkin gnocchi, carrots & beets (I was debating this menu item for my entree).  As far as tonight's dinner goes, I'd say the soft pretzels stole the show.