Saturday, October 31, 2009

Yet, I never get around to carving one.

I love pumpkin. Love it. I have no real idea why, either. Maybe because I love fall, and that's the only time I get to have all the specialty pumpkin stuff.

Seriously, it's ridiculous. From October to December, I eat Trader Joe's Pumpkin Butter with my breakfast pretty much very morning (great on everything from waffles to cottage on both together), relish my Starbucks pumpkin spice latte, and actually get excited when I see things like Dreyer's new Pumpkin Double Churned ice cream (it will be mine).

But pumpkin doesn't have to be banished to breakfast/dessert. When I was in my pasta-eating heyday, I once ordered pumpkin ravioli at the Il Fornaio restaurant on Coronado Island. And. almost. died. Unbelievable. And because I recreate things, I went home and got to work.

I used to be a badass and make my own pasta for this, but it's a lot of work and mess, and unless you have all afternoon to spend on it, not really worth it (though you can also use wonton wrappers, and that speeds it up). So I switched to stuffing manicotti or jumbo shells awhile ago. The problem now, however, is that those are both really hard to find in gluten-free options, so it's been over 3 years since I've been able to make it.

Until now. The craving got the better of me the other night, and it was decided pumpkin pasta was happening for Halloween. And while the scavenger hunt wasn't bump-free, I finally found my plan C...gluten-free lasagna noodles, which become pasta rolls in a pinch. Lots of them, which makes it unfortunate the husband doesn't feel the same way about pumpkin that I do.

Oh, well...more for me and my mama, who is visiting this weekend and more than happy to help.

Happy Halloween!

Pumpkin Stuffed Shells
One box jumbo shells (or manicotti)
About a cup cooked pureed pumpkin*
1 large shallot, minced
olive oil
1 container low-fat ricotta
1 egg
salt and pepper (large pinch of each)
1/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese
large pinch sage
About 1/4 cup walnuts, roughly chopped
Container light alfredo sauce
1% milk, about a 1/4 cup
Chopped parley for garnish

*I used pumpkin pie-ready canned pumpkin. If you use regular pumpkin, add a large pinch of nutmeg to the recipe.

Cook the shells according to package directions for al dente (not quite completely cooked). Drain.

Saute the shallot in a splash of olive oil for about 3 minutes or until soft. Transfer to a large bowl and let cool.

Add pumpkin, ricotta, egg, parmesan, salt, pepper and sage to the shallots and mix well.

In large baking dish coated with cooking spray, pour about a half cup of alfredo sauce and spread it evenly across the bottom of the dish. Pour the rest of the sauce in a small bowl, and mix in milk and about half the chopped walnuts.

Fill the cooked shells with pumpkin mixture. It'll be messy, have fun with it. As you fill them, line them up in the baking dish to make them all fit as best you can. When you're done, cover the shells with the alfredo-walnut sauce. Sprinkle the rest of the chopped walnuts evenly across the top.

Bake at 400 for 30 minutes or until a little bubbly. Sprinkle with a bit of parsley before serving. Serves 8. De-licious.

As a Halloween treat, I'm not going to tell you how many calories are in these. Just enjoy.

(Ok, if you need to know, about 315 cals, 11g fat, 4g fiber, 11g protein, 42g carbs)

Friday, October 30, 2009

I hate to call it a sacrifice, but..

When you suddenly switch to gluten-free (or as close as a food-lover without a life-threatening allergy can), life can be hard. You go to your favorite restaurant and suddenly you have a quarter as many options as you used to. If that. Bread basket? Negative. Appetizer? How many are breaded? (I like to tell myself that deep-frying kills the gluten, but my body disagrees a few days later.)

Sandwiches, pasta, croutons on salad...even soy sauce has more gluten than I should eat. So I do my best. The hardest part has been giving up beer...I'm a beer girl. I should only drink sorghum based brews like Redbridge,'s just not the same. Coors Light and Amstel Light supposedly have the lowest barley counts and no wheat, so if I'm gonna cheat, those are what I stick by...when I can. Beer is definitely where I cheat most often. Good beer makes me happy.

Anyway, it's hard. So I really am grateful that manufacturers have finally started realizing there are a lot of us out there and are offering more options.

This afternoon, for example, as I was stocking up on Newman's Own gluten-free Fig 'Newmans' (omg, amazing), I stumbled across ready-to-bake Rustic Crust Napoli Herb pizza crust. So I grabbed one...since two come per package, I figured with the hubby gone I could do a test run before I served any to him (he's truly a good sport, but there is a limit).

Yum. I'm hesitant to give the recipe since it was a bit of a pantry meal, but I'll say that Eggplant-mushroom marinara from Fresh and Easy, shredded mozzarella, fresh basil, red onion, Parmesan and crushed red pepper make quite a pizza.

Not necessarily what I'd recommend to you normal eaters, but for girls and guys like me...well worth it. Like I said...yum. I'd show you the aftermath...but I'd rather you not ask what happened to it. Let's just say it's...gone. And in a much better place.

Bierbitzch man, I'm awaiting your grilled pizza recipe. P.S...K and I still want shirts. But a six-pack will so suffice... :)

Damn you, Disney

Five days removed from the Happiest Place on Earth and I'm having some unexpected withdrawal side effects.

I woke up an hour before my alarm this morning with Ariel singing Part of Your World full blast in my head. And not just the words, (which I know every one of thanks to my sister, who will to this day, at 24, break into that song at inappropriate times-if we're lucky, there's also choreography), but the accompanying 'music video' as well. I had visions of Ursula taking her voice and giving her legs (I apparently was focusing on the second reprise?), and whoosits and whatsits galore.

And then, just as I jumped in the shower, my brain switched over to Mary Poppins. Just like that. I went from asking what a fire is and how it burns to chim-chiminy chim-chiminy chim-chim-cherie (Though, really, that's an excellent segue).

I'm blaming that part on the chimney sweep I spoke to on the phone yesterday. Gotta love local advertising.

But seriously, just try and get this out of your head. I dare you.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

And the verdict is...

Delicious. Well, with a little salt (horseradish is good, too). Hubby recommends adding a pot roast spice packet. I think that means he thought it was a little bland...though he thinks everything needs as much spice/flavor as humanly possible. So do with that what you will.

Either way, having to sit and smell it for 3 hours while waiting for the hubby to get home was torturous. So I did yoga, drank wine, and watched girly tv to pass the time...rough night.

Yes, I made a salad, but all the actual work was done last night, and the most time consuming part was peeling the onions. Easiest way to do it, if the bag doesn't say, is to dump them in some boiling water for about 3 minutes. Drain, then cut off each end, and either peel the skin off or squeeze the onion out of the skin. It's kind of a pain in the ass, but I love pearl onions and use them so rarely it makes it worth it. If you want to cut prep time down, just use a red onion instead.

Pot Roast
1 bag pearl onions, peeled, or 1 red onion, halved then quartered
4 or 5 medium red potatoes, halved and quartered
A dozen or so whole cloves garlic, peeled
A bag of baby carrots (or a couple cups of regular peeled carrots, cut into 2 inch sections)
Bay leaves
Beef Pot Roast
2 cups beef broth
About 2 tbsp tomato paste
Salt and Pepper

Heat a bit of olive oil in large pan. Season the meat with salt and pepper and then brown it a couple minutes per side on medium high heat.

In cooking-sprayed crock pot, throw in the potato, carrots, garlic, bay leaves, and onion. Place meat on top. Combine broth and paste in a bowl, and pour over everything. Sprinkle with a big pinch salt and pepper. Either cover tightly and refrigerate til morning, or move right along.

Set to cook on low heat for 8-10 hours. Go to work/life. Come home. Eat.
Per 3oz serving of meat (plus a big scoop of veggies), about 300 calories, 10g fat, 3g fiber, 24g carbs, 29g protein.

Pine Nut Gorgonzola Salad
1 to 2 romaine heads, chopped
A little less than 1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted (in a small pan over medium for about 3 minutes, shaking often)
1/4 cup gorgonzola

Fruity Vinaigrette (Sandra Lee style)
About 3 tbsp Blush Vinaigrette dressing (I use Brianna's)
1 big spoonful apricot preserves (or whatever jam you have)
Big pinch fresh pepper

If it gets too sweet, add more dressing, or if you run out, like I did, add some red wine vinegar and more pepper. Toss it with salad. Serve into bowls and top with nuts and cheese.
For 2 fat kid servings, about 290 cals, 18g fat, 3g fiber, 26g carbs, 8g protein
For 4 child servings, about 145 cals, 9g fat, 1.5g fiber, 13g carbs, 4g protein
always eat the fat kid portion, if you don't know me well enough to know.

Soooo meaty.

I'm totally getting into this whole cold day, warm food thing. It's fabulous. And I'm trying to get my fill this week since the high for Sunday is projected at 81, which means I'll be back to trying my best to not overheat the kitchen this weekend. Where do I live??

But for now, it's in the mid 60s, which makes it a great time to break out the crock pot. It doesn't honestly get much use in my house...corned beef in March, chili a couple times a year, but other than that, its primary job is to take up a large amount of space in our bakeware cabinet.

Pot Roast, being a giant mass of beef, isn't usually something I go for, but once a year or so, especially when the weather's like this, it just sounds good. And what's easier than throwing one in a crock pot? The house smells awesome when you get home, and when you're ready to eat, you don't have to do much but cut it (pull it apart, actually, if it's done right). Make a salad, and you're done.

I like to make it all the night before, arrange it in the inner crock pot, cover it tightly with seran wrap, and stick it in the fridge. If you're more of a morning person than I am, you can do it all before work or whatever. I'm a fan of getting up 50 minutes before I have to be at my desk. Plugging the crock pot in is about all I can handle. Which explains why I can't even curl my hair most of the time.

I am so looking forward to tonight.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Fall food!

I don't know what it is about casseroles. I feel the same way about them as I feel about pizza and sandwiches...too many food groups going on all mixed together. It's weird. So I guess it comes as no surprise that I'm one of those that tends to eat one thing at a time...salad, then veggie, then main course. Even if they're all served at once-especially if all on one plate. I realize that's a bit OCD, but it'll all be mixed up soon enough, and I don't feel like I need to hurry that process any.

But. It finally feels like fall. The weather dropped 20 degrees between Monday and yesterday, so I decided to celebrate with warm, messy comfort food. My favorite of all comfort foods, to be exact, which just so happens to be one of the two casseroles in my repertoire.

Crunchy Chicken Casserole makes the casserole cut, frankly, cause it is full of awesomeness. I like things that crunch. As the creepy female judge on the original Japanese Iron Chef would say, I like the way it feels in my mouth. Water chestnuts, almonds, celery...awesome. I also never get to eat Pringles, and this is an excuse to eat them while I cook. Plus it reminds me of my mom, who made this when I was little, and whose version is likely a few more calories per serving than mine. Though I think mine tastes just as good.

Like my chicken enchilada casserole, this one is also generally a hit with the dudes. When I dropped a ready-to-bake crunchy casserole at a just-home-with-new-baby girlfriend's house, her husband called me less than an hour later to thank me and ask me to give his wife the recipe. (Here you go!) Not a text, not a facebook message...he called me. Sweet. I was beyond giddy about it.

At least, til my husband got home and gave me the guilt trip.

Husband: Oooooh, weren't you going to make the crunchy chicken thing?
Pammy: I did.
Husband: Where is it?
Pammy:...I told you I was making it for the new parents.
Husband:...but...I didn't think you were SERIOUS. (pout)

So, honey, I'm sorry to make you wait so long for a new just-for-us batch. And...sorry I scraped the casserole dish clean with my fork before you had to wash it. But it was gooood. I left you plenty of leftovers!

Crunchy Chicken Casserole
About 16oz chicken, cooked and cut into cubes
1/2 cup white rice, cooked (about 1.5c cooked)
1 can cream of mushroom soup (lower sodium works fine)
About 2/3 cups chicken broth
2-3 stalks celery, medium chop
3 hard boiled eggs, chopped (I get rid of two of the yolks before chopping)
1/4 onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1 can water chestnuts, chopped
squeeze of fresh lemon juice (about a tbsp)
Salt and pepper
1.5 serving low-fat plain pringles, crushed

Preheat over to 375.
Mix rice, chicken, soup and broth in large bowl. Add celery, eggs, onion, almonds, water chestnuts, lemon juice and salt and pepper (about 1/2 tsp each or to taste)

Coat large baking dish with cooking spray, and spread mixture into dish. Sprinkle chips evenly across the top.

Cook at 375 for 30 minutes or until golden brown and bubbly. Makes 6 servings.
About 310 calories, 10g fat, 3g fiber, 25g carbs, 12g protein

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

...And soopa easy.

Well, it's only taken me a full day to recover from Disneyland, so I know I'm officially old. Though getting home at 3am and working 6 hours later definitely didn't help. But that's ok. It was totally as much fun as I expected it to be. The Russian (Russian is faster to type than Ukrainian, ok??) and the other half don't mess around...we were ride champs. Even though we didn't get to go on Peter Pan...we tried, three times...a forty minute wait really doesn't sit well for a Fantasy Land ride. Even though you do go all the way to London.

At least work was entertaining yesterday. I love that my job keeps me on my toes. Got in and discovered I had to do a last minute photo shoot in a field of grapestock. In the dirt. While wearing black pants(and flats, thankfully). Which were a delightful dusty brown by the end of the afternoon.

But I got some good shots, which was especially fun cause you know how much I enjoy taking pics of my food...they'll be grapes one day. And wine, after that, so that's even better. It counts.

My favorite part of the day, however, was when I got back and my boss called me the Annie Leibovitz of grape leaves. Hilariously fantastic. Thank you, sir. I'll take it.

So not surprisingly, I wasn't in much of a mood to cook after 5 hours of sleep (I need 9. Seriously) and an afternoon of trekking through dirt. Which led to Fresh and Easy assisted meal #2 this week. And it was fantastic.

I wanted fajitas, and while I'd normally get their pre-packaged fajita combo, I went the long route and got their chicken asada and a package of pre-sliced bell peppers and onions instead. Sauteed those up, spooned them over romaine (for me, flour tortillas for the husband), topped them with fresh salsa, a sprinkle of cheese and non fat greek yogurt, served them with refried black beans and homemade spanish rice, and we were in fat-kid-but-this-is-actually-really-healthy heaven. The rice was the most labor intensive part, and really, all I had to do was chop half an onion and measure some spices. Totally do-able, and totally better than what I'd get from a box.

Spanish Rice
1 cup long-grain white rice
olive oil
2 cups chicken broth (water'll work if you're out)
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 can diced tomatoes and green chiles, undrained
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp chili powder
pinch cayenne pepper
2 bay leaves, if you have them
pinch pepper
1/2 tsp salt
cilantro for garnish

Heat a splash of olive oil (1/2 tbsp or so) over medium heat. Saute onion a couple minutes, add garlic. After a minute or two, add rice, stir well. Saute about 2 more minutes, then mix in cumin, chili powder, salt, pepper and cayenne. Add broth or water, bring to a boil. Add can of tomatoes and bay leaves, return to boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, then cover and cook about 15 minutes.

Fluff cooked rice with a fork, and add salt to taste. (You may not need any more if you use broth, it tends to help.) Sprinkle with cilantro...if I'm having a full plate of mexican food, I put it on everything. Pretty. Serves 4-6.
If five servings, about 175 calories, 3g fat, 1g fiber, 35g carbs, 5g protein.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

I get excited about more than just food.

I have reverted to childhood.

The husband, my gorgeous girlfriend (The Russian), her fabulous other half and I are going to Disneyland tomorrow and I am jump-up-and-down-squealing-little-kid-excited about it.

I grew up a little more than an hour away from the Happiest Place on Earth, and my parents took us quite a bit...I feel like we went nearly every year or two. My dad even won free entrance at the gate once for being the 100 millionth guest or something...I don't remember exactly, maybe it was their 45 year anniversary celebration, which would have been 1990...I was 9, who knows.

I know Disneyland isn't everyone's favorite, especially if you're over the age of 12 and/or childless. But OMG, it's mine. It's so nostalgic and warm and fuzzy...being in Peter Pan's boat flying over Neverland seriously brings me back to being an amazed little one. It's so clean, there's so much to see and remember, and nowadays, new things that they've incorporated to update the place a bit. Love. Seriously.

Anyway, after high school Grad Night in '99, I didn't go again until 2005, when the husband-then-boyfriend took me for my birthday. And we've(I've) been wanting an excuse to go back ever since. So when the Russian and I recently discovered our mutual fondness for Disneyland-after 9 years of friendship, how we didn't know this is beyond me-the wheels started turning and we're finally making it happen. And seriously, the Russian and the other half are always so entertaining no matter what we're doing..I can't wait.

I'm seriously not going to be able to sleep tonight.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Soopa Fresh.

I'm a big fan of Fresh and Easy. I know they're just a quasi-local thing (CA, AZ and NV, I think), so you may have no idea what I'm talking about, but Fresh and Easy is awesome. It's this chain of small corner-store-esque markets that seem to have popped up everywhere lately. And I do mean everywhere: This past year we've had three open within 10 miles of our house. (And another three are built but not opened yet. Overkill, much?)

They carry all the normal grocery store stuff, and a couple of awesome gluten-free options I can't find anywhere else, like the Glutino pretzels and Betty Crocker gluten-free brownie mix(both of which are so good I can't have them in the house). But for the majority of items, they offer only a handful of brands to choose from, which keeps the stores small and relatively inexpensive, especially since everything is also self-checkout. (I heart self checkout.) The downfall to less options, though, is that it's less ideal for full on grocery shopping if you're a brand-whore (waving hand) or want a lot of produce, since everything is pre-packaged.

It is great, however, for quick dinner options. They have a full fresh-cooked, re-heat and serve section (pastas, soups, etc.), a full raw meat section (beef, lamb, pork, chicken) and a prepped-but-you-cook-it section, from hamburger patties(which are amazing) to meat/veggie fajita combos, to stuffed chicken or fish patties. (This is the cream-cheese and mushroom stuffed chicken...yes, I bought something stuffed. Weird, I know.)

In other words, it's magical on days I'm not really in the mood to cook anything elaborate. Like last night. Thursday is a football night, so the husband doesn't get home til 8ish. So I'm a big fan of hitting up Fresh and Easy and grabbing something I can grill or just pop in the oven when he's on the way home.

This is totally self-serving, multi-faceted logic here...If I don't have to cook, I can A, be fantastically lazy while immersing myself in girly-tv (Tivo is so full right now it's erasing over itself), or B, happy-hour it with K for an hour or three. All while still ending the evening with a full-on, fresh cooked meal. Genius.

Last night my drinking buddy and I happy-houred. And since hubby wanted to go out with the boys after the game, I invited her over afterward and 'cooked' for her instead.

I'm not going to pretend like it was the best meal ever or anything, but I have to show some love to a home-cooked meal when all I have to do is boil water for the rice, preheat an oven, and microwave some pre-washed and trimmed veggies.

XO, Fresh and Easy. XO.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A little Asian persuasian.

I really should write recipes down. I'm terrible about it. Having this to write has honestly been the only time I've regularly recorded what I make. I really like trying new recipes...I try one or two new things a week, I'd say...but the way I like to cook my old standbys is a handful of this and a cup or so of that...a splash of this, a 1-2-3 count of that. And not surprisingly, you can tell, cause it's never the same twice.

Maybe that makes me an irresponsible cook. I'd like to think it makes me an exciting cook. You never quite know what you're gonna get (evil eyebrow lift).

I think the prime example of this is my Pad Thai. But since my Pad Thai made the list in the husband's-favorite-things-I-make bridal shower game, he doesn't seem to mind too much. (Although, I do think I know the version that's his favorite. It includes pre-made sauce that's hard to find. But I try my hardest to fake it.)

I'd say a large percentage of our meals have an Asian flair of some sort, from Thailand to India to the middle east. I think it's probably the spice factor. We love eating it out, and we love making it at home.

I love Thai food because it's spicy, flavorful, not meat heavy, and normally full of rice noodles, which I can eat. And it looks so colorful and yummy in my wok. So I keep searching for a great Pad Thai recipe, but I've discovered that while everyone has their idea of how it's best, the main ingredients tend to be roughly the same, so I stick with those.

If I could buy it at a street cart on the streets of Bangkok, I would. In a second. But until then, I have to make my version of it with a bit more Americanized ingredients. But keep in mind that fish sauce is a necessity. Don't think about what it is (fish soaked in brine, then pressed. Don't think about that.), think about the deliciousness it adds to pretty much any Thai dish. The ground shrimp is optional, but if you decide to use it, you can usually find it in the Hispanic spices section.

The ratios take some trial and error, you may like it a bit sweeter (more sugar), spicier (more sriracha), or a bit more sour (serve with lime slices, that tends to help), so play with the sauce til it's where you like it.

Eat it with chopsticks. It helps the experience, I promise. If you don't know how...learn. It's worth it.

Pad Thai
2 servings rice noodles
1 tbsp peanut, sunflower, or canola oil(small but healthy pour)
3 cloves garlic, minced
8oz chicken, cut in bite sized slices or pieces
(Or substitute/add raw peeled shrimp or sliced tofu)
1 egg
big handful sliced carrot (about a cup)
3 large handfuls bean sprouts
2 stalks green onion
2 tbsp or so chopped peanut
handful of cilantro
About 3 tbsp fish sauce
2 tbsp brown sugar
a big squirt of ketchup, maybe 1/4 cup or so
Sriracha, about a tablespoon (more or less depending on how spicy you want it)
juice of half a lime, more to taste
Big pinch ground shrimp (teaspoon or so)

Cook the rice noodles by putting them in a bowl and covering them with boiling water. Let them soak until soft, about 25 minutes. Prep everything else in the meantime, because once you start stir-frying, it all comes together really quickly.

Heat peanut oil in wok or large saute pan. stir fry chicken pieces about 5 minutes or until cooked. Add garlic, stir-fry another minute. Push everything to the side and crack egg into wok. Scramble it by cutting it in pieces and pushing it around, about 2 minutes or until cooked. Add carrot, stir-fry all another few minutes. Add 2 handfuls bean sprouts and drained cooked noodles, mix, then add sauce, and mix well. Remove from heat, and top with remaining sprouts, peanuts, cilantro and green onion. Serve with lime slices.

Serves four. (Or two big portions. But you have to do the math there.) About 340 calories, 13g fat, 44g carbs, 2g fiber, 19g protein

Monday, October 19, 2009

I really like my yoga pants.

As I was scrounging through our ridiculously bare pantry after yoga last night, the train of thought started...oh, crap, we have nothing to I have to go to the store? I don't want to change, I love my yoga pants...well, I guess I could wear them...but I'd have to change my shirt, anyway...damnit...why didn't I go earlier? What the hell do I even WANT...there has to be SOMETHING edible in this house...I really, really don't want to change...Why is all we have cheese???

The husband can confirm this sort of thought process continues indefinitely, so I'll spare you.

So as I'm throwing possible ingredients on the counter, I preempted the inevitable "whatcha making?" question with "Don't even ask what we're eating, I have no idea." And that's when the man I love looked at me and said the best three words an aspiring cook can hear: "I trust you."

"I trust you" means he knows what I'm going to make will be awesome at best and edible at worst. And even better, it means I don't have to go to the store, because he knows I'll do the best with what we have. Of course, my darling husband followed it with, "Woman, as long as you're making me dinner, I don't care what it is." But we'll ignore that part. He's sweet.

And as it turns out, he was right. We had all the ingredients for a quasi-fancy salad (romaine, green onion, celery, feta, blush wine vinaigrette, bacon pieces and candied walnuts), which ended up being a pretty little first course.

And, after enough digging, I realized we also had everything to make what the husband calls goulash. I call it installment two of the 'scrounging around' series. Which I ate while wearing my yoga pants. On the couch. Classy.

3 servings spiral pasta
olive oil
3 cloves garlic
1/2 red onion, chopped
1 package lean ground turkey
1/4 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried basil
dash crushed red pepper
dash all spice
1 can diced tomatoes (undrained)
1 cup frozen or canned corn
1/2 cup Parmesan (shaved is prettier)

Cook the pasta in salted water until al dente (not too soft). In a medium stock pot, heat a splash of olive oil. Saute garlic for about 30 seconds, then add onion. Cook a couple of minutes, until the onion begins getting soft.

Add ground turkey and cook, stirring frequently to break it up into little pieces til no longer pink anywhere. Add tomatoes and spices, including salt and pepper, and mix well. Let cook about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add corn and cooked pasta, and mix well. Cook until corn is heated through. Serve with parmesan on top. Serves six.
(About 300 calories, 6g fat, 34g carbs, 3g fiber, 29g protein)

And thus concludes the cheese tour...

So, I seriously love to entertain. I love dinner parties. I love to feed people, I love to make the house pretty, I love to drink and laugh and all that stuff that comes with having friends over. But when you live in a one bedroom loft like we do, with no dining room table, the best we can do is this. Which is nice, sure, but since we can't fit more than 5 people comfortably around the bar counter, we tend to have more 'dinner' and less 'party.'

But that's ok. Luckily I have friends that don't mind me taking over their kitchens. Much like I did this weekend at K's house. We were BBQing, and since I don't believe in buying food for potlucks, (shocking, I know) I brought all my stuff over there to make. The plan was originally to prep it all the night before, but dirty martinis happened instead. Oops.

Here are a few things I learned from making the following recipes, both of which I thought were awesome, the poppers in particular. The hubby only got to taste them cold as leftovers, but I was informed I can most definitely make them again. Soon.

One, if you are handling jalapenos, wear gloves. If you don't have any, don't touch your nose, mouth, or eyes for at least an hour afterward. And if you have a jewelry rash under your wedding ring/bitten cuticles/slice from a knife at the top of your thumb, it's going to hurt. A lot.

Two, when cutting aforementioned jalapenos, ventilate the area. You and everyone else in the house will be coughing up burned lungs for hours otherwise.

Three, ensure the correct testing audience. People that refer to basil as 'herby' or 'green stuff' may not be the the most appreciative of lemon-basil dip.

That said, enjoy!

Grilled Jalapeno Poppers
Half a block of light cream cheese, softened
One 4 oz container of goat cheese, softened
1/2 cup shredded parmesan
2 green onions, thinly sliced
salt and pepper (big pinch of each)
15 or 16 big jalapenos, halved lengthwise and seeded (I used a spoon to dig everything out)
Cilantro, chopped, for garnish

Heat grill on medium high heat.

Mix the three cheeses together til smooth. If you need to, microwave for 30 seconds, stirring every 10 seconds. Stir in green onion, salt and pepper.

Spoon cheese mixture into jalapeno halves one at a time. Don't overfill, and you should have just enough filling to fill all the halves.

Coat grill with cooking spray, and place poppers on it, cheese side up. Let them cook about 10 minutes, or until the bottoms are nice and roasted and the cheese starts turning brown. Sprinkle with cilantro before serving.
(Per popper, about 30 calories, 2g fat, 2g carbs, 2g protein)

Lemon-Basil Parm Dip
One 16oz container fat-free greek yogurt (sour cream will also work)
huge handful basil leaves
big squeeze of lemon half
salt and pepper, big pinch each
3 cloves garlic
1 cup shredded parmesan cheese

Throw everything in a big food processor or blender-or in batches if you only have a small processor-and blend til smooth. Chill. Serve with pita chips and cut veggies. About eight 4tbsp servings.
About 85 calories, 4g fat, 2g carbs, 10g protein

Friday, October 16, 2009

This is not Rachael Ray's pesto.

I love pesto. It's one of those bad foods that I don't get to eat...I mean, I can eat it, it's just not worth the calories. Ever watched Rachael Ray make it? The amount of olive oil (EVOO, I should say) she pours in is out of control. And in my opinion, totally unnecessary. Then again, I think everything she does is out of control. But that's a whole other topic.

So when I do cave and have pesto, I tend to make it at home rather than order it out. That way, I can control the amount of fat and my kitchen smells like basil and garlic all night. Yum. And since it fits perfectly in my cheese phase...done.

And pesto really is easy, even though it looks and sounds fancy. And since I may have made a LOT of brie stuffed chicken last night, I decided to pretty up the leftovers with something fresh for my girl's evening with K tonight.

Sun-dried tomato pesto pasta
Pasta (4 servings)
Sun-dried tomatoes, drained and rinsed. A little less than a cup's worth.
Decent sized handful of sliced almonds
Big handful of basil leaves
Two big pinches of shredded parmesan (about 2 tbsp.)
4 cloves garlic
Large pinch salt
Lots of fresh pepper
Feta cheese

Cook the pasta in salted water. Save about a cup of liquid when you drain the pasta. In a food processor or blender, blend tomatoes, almonds, basil, parmesan, garlic, salt and pepper until chopped well. Add the pasta water, and mix. Toss with pasta. Sprinkle feta on top before serving. Easy.
About 300 calories, 10g fat, 4g fiber, 42g carbs, 12g protein

Just sayin'...

Pork and Pinto Bean Nachos? Done. Thank you, Cooking Light. It's like you just knew.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Of course, I only like expensive cheese.

I've never considered myself a cheese whore. It's awesome, but also just kinda a staple. Like...chicken. Or wine. I don't feel like I buy/use more than the normal person. Then I opened my fridge and saw this.

Normal people don't have this much cheese at one time, do they? Seriously? If you can't see, that would be gorgonzola, goat, feta, parmesan—shredded and shaved—cheddar, mozzarella, brie, and cream cheese. You name it, I got it. Ri.diculous.

I guess it all makes sense. When I went to New York, the only thing I brought home was a huge block of romano. Fondue night was always my fave girls-night-out (I so miss my SD girls!) And we know about the nacho obsession (though, really, is that cheese?) I'm just still in a bit of cheese-shock. I guess it's a good thing my allergy isn't dairy.

So prepare yourselves for some cheese-based recipes the next few days. Starting with last night's deliciousness. I apparently love cheese, and I love to stuff things in chicken. So, ta-da, brie and onion stuffed chicken breasts. Throw in some asparagus with browned butter sauce and wild rice? Very fancy-schmancy. I even impress myself sometimes. It makes a lot...would be awesome for a dinner party, if that's your bag.

I got these both from Cooking Light, but adjusted them, per usual.

Onion-Brie Stuffed Chicken
Olive Oil
1/2 large onion, thinly sliced
1/4 large onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, minced
3/4 cup white wine, divided
Brie, about a 1/4 cup, chopped up
Sage (1 tbsp. fresh or 1 tsp. ground)
Dash of thyme
Salt and Pepper
1 cup chicken broth
3 large chicken breasts

Heat a splash of olive oil in large skillet or shallow sauce pan on medium heat. Add sliced onion, and move it around to separate. You're going to just let it cook slowly, stirring occasionally, until they are caramelized, about 20 minutes. It'll be done when it's brown and kind of a messy mass of soft onion. Add garlic slices, cook a couple of minutes until garlic is soft, stirring frequently. Add 1/4 cup white wine, and let cook until the liquid is absorbed. Transfer to a small bowl and let cool.

Once cool, add the cheese (the cheese will be a little melty, it's ok), salt (about 1/4 teaspoon) and pepper.

Take the large chicken breasts and cut in half. Make a slit in each cut side with a knife, as deep as you can without going through. With your hands (this is messy), take some of the brie mixture and stuff into the slit. Get as much in there as you can without it spilling out. If you have any left over filling, save it to sprinkle over the chicken at the end. Take some toothpicks and close each piece up to keep the filling from leaking out when it cooks.

In the same pan you used for the onion, heat a bit more oil. Saute the chicken for 6-8 minutes a side, depending on how thick the breast is. Remove chicken, put in serving dish and cover with aluminum foil.

Add minced onion and garlic to pan, and stir while cooking about 3 minutes. Add sage, thyme, broth, and 1/2 cup wine. Bring to a simmer and cook until about half of it has evaporated. Then return chicken to pan, and cook a couple minutes until it's hot again. Remove toothpicks. Serve with a bit of sauce on top.
Serves six. About 220 calories, 7g fat, 1g fiber, 7g carbs, 31g protein

Asparagus with Brown Butter Sauce
One bunch asparagus
Salt and Pepper
1 tbsp butter
1 tsp soy sauce
1.5 tsp balsamic vinegar
lemon zest
cooking spray

Clean and trim the asparagus (if you don't know how, just bend the stalk near the bottom. The 'dead end' should snap off.). Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray, then arrange asparagus in a row. Coat them lightly with cooking spray, and sprinkle well with sea or kosher salt and fresh pepper. Bake at 400 about 10 minutes.

When they are almost done, melt butter in small saucepan over medium. Shake the pan a little bit every 30 seconds or so, and it should be brown after about 3 minutes. Remove from heat, and add balsamic and soy sauce (it'll splatter, so be careful). Mix, and pour over asparagus. Toss them evenly, and sprinkle with grated lemon zest.

As shown, serves 2 big servings. You can always double or triple it, though, by adding another tablespoon of butter for each additional bunch of asparagus.
About 90 calories, 6g fat, 4g fiber, 8g carbs, 4g protein

Respect your mother.

I have a confession. I'm a terrible tree-hugger. I want to be one, I really do, but unless I'm on a beach somewhere, I'm just not that into the great outdoors. My idea of a great camping trip involves a bed and a hotel bar. And running water.

I'll do some outdoorsy stuff, like hiking (as long as it's not too steep or too hot), or fishing (someone else has to clean it and eat it. I won't eat my own fish.), or shopping at outdoor farmer's markets. And I'll even enjoy it. As long as I can go home and shower afterward.

As much as I may be an indoor girl, I still have nothing but respect for Mother Nature. And I see us destroying her everyday without a second thought. It's especially obvious where I live, cause every time I see the ever-present SUV and the oil refineries spouting clouds of who-knows-what into the air, I'm reminded that the Central Valley has the worst air quality in the nation.

And that's why I wanted to participate in Blog Action Day. I know I don't do enough for the planet. I recycle (which is no easy feat in this town, especially if you live in an apartment), I try to save water and energy, but I could do more. We could all do more. And that's the whole point of this project-to get people involved and thinking about what they can do to help. Climate change is happening, people. And much of it is our fault. So get on it. Before Sarah Palin gets her way and kills all the polar bears.

More tongue?

When I moved to Bakersfield 3 years ago, a lot of things took a lot of getting used to. One of the big things was the mid-west feel, from the politics to the small town mentality to the country music...but it's also introduced me to things I wouldn't have encountered otherwise. My Taylor Swift obsession, for example. Though really, how can I not be enamored with her? She's freaking adorable, tall like me, and her lyrics take me back to high school. Love.

But one of the most surprising things I discovered here is Basque food. The Basque people fascinate me. From what I understand (please don't reference me on Wiki), they are a community that live throughout the mountains between Spain and France, and therefore don't really claim a nationality. They like to herd sheep. They love wine. They eat a LOT of pickled tongue. And for some reason, they tend to take decorating advice from someone's 90 year old country grandma. I know all of this because the French Basque settled here many years ago, and have opened a handful of restaurants since.

Basque places are great for eating with a ton of people...the food is served family style, and it's course after course of food, intermixed with tons of red table wine.

I once asked the bartender at the most 'traditional' Basque place in town what their table wine was...he laughed and told me they just mix whatever Charles Shaw bottles they have around. Um, awesome.

So here's the normal rundown at pretty much any of the Basque places. You start with a 'set-up' of sides, which are brought out one or two at a time. And they'll bring you as much as you can eat.

First, you start with cabbage soup, beans, and salsa, which most people mix together and eat with crusty french bread (you can always tell when I've been to Basque food, cause I'm scratching myself for a week afterward. I can't help but cheat there. The bread is too good.) Then you get green salad, with an Italian-y dressing, followed by pickled tongue (the husband always has to order more, even though he eats my portion), marinated tomatoes or other veggie in the same dressing, french fries, and often some sort of pasta or warm veggie. The entree generally comes out somewhere between the fries and whatever else they decide to bring you that night.

I'd really be fine not ordering an entree at all, cause I'm always full by the time it comes out. Plus everything-from duck to shrimp to lamb- is usually served with butter and/or cream sauce, and that's not exactly what I need after a night of wine and french fries.

Which is of course why last night we ordered the calamari steaks with lemon caper butter cream sauce. We split it...if that helps.

I wanted to take pics, but Benji's (my fave of the Basque places, btw) is kinda dark, and we were with a big group of older people who gave me the distinct impression that the idea of a blog would need more explaining than I was in the mood to give. time, I promise.

Monday, October 12, 2009

There's a reason I don't bake.

I love when totally new recipes work out, especially cause I'm incapable of following directions. We like spice, and we like garlic. So one or both of those are almost always added/multiplied. Sometimes I substitute ingredients, sometimes I toss them completely. So I never quite know what something "should" taste like...I just know when I like it.

Tonight we tried a South African inspired sweet potato. So. good. The husband and I both love sweet potatoes, but we always seem to do them the same-either baked or as baked fries, with sea salt, fresh pepper, cumin, and chili powder. So this was a nice change while still staying on our end of the sweet potato spectrum. Keeping the rest of the meal simple was key, I think. We did grilled boneless pork chops and broccoli. We're well balanced like that.

Baked Sweet Potatoes with African Peanut Sauce
Sweet Potatoes, about 3 pounds (aim for 8oz per person)
canola oil
1/2 cup roughly chopped onion
3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 inch of ginger, roughly chopped
cumin, about 2 round teaspoons
red pepper flakes
3/4 cup water
1/2 cup tomato sauce
1/4 cup reduced fat peanut butter
1 tsp sugar
chopped cilantro

Cook potatoes at 400 for about an hour. Remove and let cool enough to handle.

With an immersion blender or food processor, chop up the onion, garlic and ginger til finely chopped (it's not cheating, I swear). Heat a splash of oil over medium, add onion mix. Saute a couple of minutes, and add cumin, red pepper, and a small handful of cilantro for another minute or so, then add water, tomato sauce, peanut butter, salt(1/4 teaspoon or so) and sugar. Simmer a few minutes til it thickens up a bit.

Take the potatoes and slice in half, then slice down the middle of each half to make a slit. Open it up a bit, and pour a scoop of sauce over the top. Sprinkle more cilantro on top. Should serve 6.
(About 230 calories, 6g fat, 6g fiber, 39g carbs, 6g Protein)

Shout out to Dirty Sue!

Big huge thank you to the awesome people at Dirty Sue! The owner read about my love for his martini mix last week, and promptly sent over a couple bottles and other goodies. Rock on, Dirty Sue. You just made my day. And since I sent my friend K home from work with a bottle (she loves a good dirty), I'm guessing you made her night, as well.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

I love productive Sundays.

But I hate PCs, and so this is a bittersweet day...Mac made an evil noise and shocked my thigh before going to a blank screen last night, so she needs a trip to the ER...but since I live in the middle of nowhere, the closest Mac store is in Santa Barbara or LA, both a good 2 hour trip away. Boooo. Anyway, I'm thankful we bought the hubby a new laptop last month...not thankful it wasn't a mac. Sigh.

But yes, it was a good day. Slept in, made a fantastic egg white, cheese, and turkey bacon omelette for breakfast (my new trick is a pinch of rosemary to the eggs before cooking). Also led to awesome quote of the day...
Pammy: The bacon seems so violent the way it pops like that.
Husband: It's angry.
Pammy: It DOES seem angry.
Husband: ...Angry it's not real bacon.

I don't buy real bacon. Kind of like how I don't buy real half and half. Or full fat fudgesicles. Sorry, honey. Just not worth it.

So I had my omelette, he had his turkey/bacon sandwich, we cleaned the house, and we got ready to go. I love when stuff is happening around town on days we're off together, and this weekend was Via Arte, which is an annual chalk drawing exhibition of sorts at the outdoor mall on this end of town.

The stuff is fantastic, and since chalk is close to charcoal, which is my favorite medium, it strikes close to home. I also love that the show is put on by the local museum of art, which, I am embarrassed to say, I've never visited. I tried once, but they were closed, and I never made it back. I worked at the San Diego Museum of Art for a couple years, and I'm spoiled. I'm afraid to go and be disappointed, so I don't go.

It's sort of my MO for anything here in Bakersfield, and, yes, I really need to get over it. Baby steps.

Anyway, we got there, grabbed some Starbucks (iced chai latte for him, skinny sugar-free London Fog latte for me-thanks for the gift cards, Mom!) and wandered around on an absolutely gorgeous day. High seventies, clear, just awesome. We sat and people watched, then decided a better thing to do would be to relocate to Elephant Bar for appetizers and a drink. Which turned into a giant appetizer plate and several rounds. Not that I should be surprised. We're troopers like that. Anyone with Stella and Sierra Nevada on tap can hold our attention for hours.

My favorite part was that the busser brought us 3 plates. Like it takes three people to eat this? Please.

Eventually we decided a trip to the grocery store would be cheaper than another round, so we packed it up and hit the market. Not the best idea after a couple beers during Halloween season. Talk about kids in a candy store. But seriously...they had Now and Laters. How long has it been since you had Now and Later??? Apple and banana are my favorite, and I'm really not looking forward to looking up the calorie count on them, cause that just seems mean right now.

So then, as we rooted for the Yankees to beat the Twins (I want a Yankee/Angels match up...that was the first major league game I ever went to, so both teams hold a special place in my heart...though really, I just want either of them to crush the Dodgers. Yeah, I said it.) we got ready for dinner, which was steak, stanky brussel sprouts, and fancy salad.

I haven't covered stanky fries yet, which is a recipe I recreated from Prime Cut, a local steakhouse, but it's roughly the same recipe as these brussel sprouts-just cook some frozen steak fries instead of the sprouts and the rest is the same. So good it's evil.

Stanky Brussels
At least 6 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped (some chopped, some sliced)
brussel sprouts, brown ends trimmed off (I used a 16oz bag from trader joes)
olive oil spray
1/4 cup gorgonzola cheese (or blue cheese)
1/4 cup parmesan cheese

Wash and halve the sprouts, spread in oven safe, oiled pan, and spray with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast at 400 for 15 minutes. In the meantime, spray small pan with oil, and lightly saute garlic for about a minute. Pull sprouts out, sprinkle evenly with garlic, gorgonzola, and parmesan, and return to oven for 5 minutes.

If you wanna be fat kids like us and split this in half, it's about 200 calories, 8g fat, 22g carbs, 8g fiber, 14g protein

Friday, October 9, 2009

When the tomato-hater is away...

So, big thumbs down to Trader Joe's today...I decided what I wanted for dinner was pasta, so I stopped by on the way home to pick up a bag of their brown rice penne. Apparently, however, the manufacturer thought the current batch was sub-par and took them all back (though it's hard to be mad about that, I suppose. I'm a fan of quality.) Anyway, it led to a change of plans.

Rice Sticks. Not the same. Great for Pad Thai and other random Asian dishes...not great for much else. So I figured I better go for flavor and match it with something good. And since the husband is off doing football, I had the chance to use one of my fave ingredients that he refuses to like...sun-dried tomatoes. I love them. Always an easy way to dress up pasta, chicken, and all kinds of stuff. Why he dislikes them I'm not entirely sure. I'm hoping he'll come around eventually. Maybe I should start sneaking them in...

So, anyway, that's what I did. I had already made enough tough decisions today. Netflix kindly delivered disc one of last season's Grey's Anatomy on the same day it delivered disc two of season one of Gossip Girl. It was a killer, but I finally went with the one a dirty martini would go best with. XOXO!

And since I've covered all my bases today with breakfast, lunch, and now dinner coverage, I'm skipping the dessert entry. Let's just say I recently discovered chocolate Chex, and leave it at that.

Also, as an house still smells like scallops. Not ok. Which is part of the reason I tried to cook with lots of garlic tonight. When you can't beat 'em...

Sun-dried tomato, artichoke & garlic pasta for one.
One serving pasta, cooked (not rice sticks!)
olive oil
3 cloves garlic, sliced (or more, I actually used 5)
about 5 dried tomatoes, sliced or chopped. (If oil packed, rinse them well first)
4 artichoke hearts, quartered (I used non-marinated, but marinated would work)
salt and pepper
parmesan or romano cheese

Saute the garlic in about a tablespoon olive oil for 2 minutes. Add sun-dried tomato and artichoke, saute until hot. Add pasta, mix well. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve with a healthy pinch of parmesan or romano cheese on top.
About 440 calories, 13g fat, 68g carbs, 7g fiber, 10g protein

Like a true local.

And onto lunch now...having one of those great Fridays when the boss is out of town. That's not what makes it great, to be clear, I have a fantastic boss, but I always feel guilty taking a long lunch when other people are here "working." Quotes cause it's Friday, and we all know how that goes.

The husband was craving Luigi's last night, so we decided to have our weekly Friday lunch date there today. How do I describe Luigi's...hmmm. Luigi's is THE place to have lunch in Bakersfield. Very much a see-and-be-seen kind of place that has been around forever. Plus they have a decent deli next door—olives, sauces, a great wine selection, meats,'s really the closest thing in town to a real Italian deli.

Decorated wall to wall with photos of local sports teams from the last, I don't know, hundred years, Luigi's is always stock full of people waiting both inside and outside for a table. Plus they have really limited hours, which doesn't help the crowding. (I took this pic during a commercial shoot we did there a few months back. That's the hubby. He's our favorite extra.)

The servers have all been here's all just very down-homey and local, if that makes sense. But the food is good. It's hard for me, though, since I want to eat everything and can have pretty much nothing. But I try my best to be good—my salad normally comes with a french roll from a local bakery, and as much as I wanted one, cause they are amazing, I declined. Our server thoughtfully asked if I still wanted all the side goodies. Um, yes please. Marinated carrot, salami and swiss rolled up, btw...yum. Better on a hard french roll, but I'm over it.

The husband, not surprisingly, ordered the side of 'tongue for one.' I've mentioned tongue is a huge Bakersfield fave, but I don't really get it. Maybe because, you know, it's a cow's tongue, and that doesn't really work for me. Though as often as I point this out, he doesn't seem to mind. People here l.o.v.e. it. If we recall, the husband has eaten it twice this week. (Keeps him strong, he says. Sure, babe.)

I meant to take pics of our entrees (New York steak and pasta for him, the Monica's antipasta salad for me) but we kind of tore into them immediately instead. Oops.

But had we ordered a pastrami sandwich, it would have looked like this. Again...from the photo shoot. I love my job.

Oh, Pumpkin I miss you nine months of the year.

I know I usually only talk about dinner, but let's discuss other meals today. Starting with breakfast, of course.

The most important meal of the day? Eh. I'm not a big fan. Maybe cause this is my average my desk, in front of the computer at 8:30am with a cup of coffee. Although I do have to show some love to the Van's gourmet wheat-free waffles. They are FANtastic. So. good. Throw some cottage cheese on top with some fresh raspberries and it's like eating cake. Sort of. Anyway, it's fab.

However. Fall is my favorite time of year. Why? It's not the trees changing colors...or the air getting brisk...hello, I live in Cali. We don't really have the whole season thing going for us. It's the beginning of October and I'm wearing a mini-skirt cause it's supposed to be 82 today.

Really, Fall is my fave cause Starbucks brings the Pumpkin Spice latte out of hiding and I can have that for breakfast. And it also means that the Gingerbread latte is right around the corner. Yay!!

Oh course, nothing is ponies and rainbows with me, so I do have one beef with these drinks...they have no skinny version. My normal drink, the grande skinny Cinnamon Dolce, is 130 cals. Pumpkin Spice...not so much. Without the sugar-free syrup option, the non-fat, no-whip grande is still 260 calories. Which is more than my waffle/yogurt or cottage cheese combo combined (205 cals). Not cool, Starbucks. Not cool.

I act like I'm not still gonna drink one once a week til they vanish. I don't really need to eat. Now if lunch would just hurry up and get here, already...

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Even the best laid plans...

By about 2pm, I generally know exactly what I'm making for dinner. And because I'm a planner, once I've decided, it's happening. If not, I'm totally thrown, completely. Tears sometimes. Yes, my therapist knows about this. We're working on it.

Anyway. I may be rigid about my plans, but I'm flexible on the execution. Last night, for example, my heart was set on seared scallops and lemon risotto. Got to the store, however, and they were out of sea scallops...which I had a sinking feeling might happen. Sea scallops are like crab legs...when they're on sale, I get them. Otherwise, it may not happen. (This would be an exception to my rule—steamed crab legs will always trump a planned meal.) They had bay scallops, though, so I settled on those instead.

Then, I got home and realized we were out of arborio rice. Damnit! Risotto is doable with regular white rice, but the texture is not nearly as good. But, again, I made do with what I had. Which means the lovely picture I had in my head didn't turn out quite as attractively as I would have hoped. But we still devoured it.

Note: When cooking scallops, open the windows. Our tiny loft apartment allows the smell to spread out nice and evenly enough to surprise you during 3am bathroom trips. Not the nicest thing to wake up to. I should have febreezed the house before I went to bed.

Sauteed Scallops with Lemon Risotto

About a pound of bay scallops
minced garlic (about 3 cloves, divided in half)
sea salt and fresh pepper
olive oil
1/4 to 1/2 yellow onion, chopped
1 cup rice (arborio, if you have it)
1 cup white wine
Low sodium chicken broth (about 2 and a half cups)
chives, chopped (about two handfuls)
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme (I like more rather than less)
Juice of half a lemon (or about two tbsp)

Saute the onion and garlic in a bit of olive oil (half a tablespoon or so) for a couple minutes at medium high, then add rice. Mix well, and stir frequently for a couple more minutes. Add the wine. Stir frequently until wine is almost absorbed, then add about a half cup of broth. Stir occasionally til it's mostly absorbed, then repeat with the rest of the broth or until the rice is tender with a tiny bit of bite to it. Use as much broth as you need. (This is why arborio is good...regular rice tends to get a bit mushier.) Once the rice is a good texture, stir til all liquid is absorbed, then turn off the heat and stir in the lemon juice, thyme, and chives. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serves four.
About 240 cals, 4g fat, 40g carbs, 1g fiber, 6g protein

Rinse, drain, then pat dry. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Saute half the garlic in about a half tbsp of olive oil, then add the scallops. Over medium high heat, saute until no longer pink, about 4 or 5 minutes. Don't overcook or they get kind of rubbery. Sprinkle a little bit of the chives over them.
Per four oz of scallops, about 115 cals, 5g fat, 3g carbs, 17g protein

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Pay attention, Mother Nature.

I'm not going to pretend nutritionists would approve of this, but I'm firmly of the mindset that you should drink while you cook. Which is why one of my favorite things to do is either pour a glass of wine or make a cocktail before I start prepping. I generally do this right after I work out, so it's like a congratulatory appetizer. Fabulous.

The cocktail of choice is generally a dirty martini. The way I like it is to combine a handful of ice cubes, vodka (I don't know, I pour til it covers the ice quite a bit), a splash of vermouth, and an ounce or so of dirty martini mix (like Dirty Sue) or green olive juice in a shaker. Shake well, and pour into a martini glass over a couple of hardcore olives. I like garlic stuffed or blue cheese stuffed. Best olives I've found are at Trader Joes-get the brine packed, not oil packed. No joke, they're amazing.

The husband's idea of a cocktail is a little easier-went the Stone Brewery route in this case. And if I could still drink beer, mine would be, too. But that's ok...shaking a martini makes me feel important and all 007'ish.

But that was just me getting started last night. I'm ready for cooler weather, so I'm trying to persuade Mother Nature to hurry things up by wearing fall clothes and making fall foods. As the high today is 80, I'm not sure she's paying attention, but I can always just crank up the a/c and pretend while I eat my stew.

My favorite stew is a Moroccan vegetarian recipe I got from Cooking Light. It's not necessarily the best choice for picky company, as we've learned, but we like spice, so we love it.

Everytime we eat it, though, one of us wonders whether it wouldn't be good with last night I tried it. Works great. Lamb would be good, too, I'm sure, but lamb is one of those ingredients I'm afraid of, so I use very sparingly.

If you want to keep it veggie, just ignore the beef part and use veggie stock instead. And make sure and give yourself plenty of time...this one's a prep cook's dream/nightmare. Though I totally cheated and bought pre-chopped onion. When I'm already dicing carrot and potato, some things are worth paying for.

Moroccan Stew
(adapted from a vegetarian Cooking Light recipe.)
Olive Oil
1 lb lean stew meat
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup yellow onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and diced
1 serrano chile, finely chopped (use gloves)
1 potato, peeled and diced
1 can garbanzo beans (chickpeas), drained, rinsed (or low-sodium)
1 can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 tbsp cumin
2 tsp turmeric
2 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp salt, plus some
1 tsp cinnamon
dash allspice
handful cilantro, chopped
non fat greek yogurt(or sour cream)
3 cups cooked rice

Sprinkle meat with salt and pepper. Heat about 1 tsp oil at high heat in a large stockpot and brown meat, a couple minutes each side. Add enough chicken broth to come about 2/3 up the beef. Bring to boil, then reduce to simmer, cover, and cook about 25 minutes.

Drain the meat into a medium bowl. Save the broth.

In the same pot, saute onion, carrot, garlic, and serrano in a splash of olive oil about 6 minutes. Add potato (tip, if you cut them far in advance, soak them in salty water. When you're ready to use them, drain first), spices, chickpeas, meat, and about a cup of the broth from the beef. Cover and simmer 10 minutes. Stir in tomato. Simmer another 10 minutes.

Serve 1 and a half cups over 1/2 cup rice. Sprinkle some cilantro, and add a dollop of yogurt on top. Should make 6 servings

About 375 calories, 8g fat, 50g carbs, 7g fiber, 25g protein