Friday, January 30, 2009

Recipes for the Big Game

David and I are not the biggest football fans, but I don't need an excuse to cook up something fun to eat while we watch the Superbowl this weekend :-) However, I don't want to completely sabotage David's efforts to lose weight. I subscribe to just one food magazine Everyday Food because all of the recipes are simple, easy, and inexpensive to make. Plus, every January, they come out with a "light" issue that is great to refer to since we're coming off the holidays, and want to eat healthier for a while.

So...I've compiled a list of ideas for your Superbowl party if you're having one. And even if you're not, you can still make these recipes and not feel guilty about eating any of it. I went to the grocery store last night with plans to make:

And here's some more healthy recipe ideas I pulled from my archives if you need to make more food for a hungry crowd (or a hungry husband, his buddies, the kids, the know what I mean!)
These are not the healthiest recipes, but they're still great to eat while you're watching the game. If I wasn't cooking for David, I would definitely be making something from this list:
All-righty, you should be all set! Have fun watching the game on Sunday!
God Bless your table tonight!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Chicken Quesadillas

I had to post this because it was Rebecca's request for her birthday. Everyone loves them in our house too. You can use anything you want in the quesadillas, leftover beef, chicken, pork, shrimp; you can even make 'em vegetarian and use spinach and mushrooms if you want.

I've learned a couple of tips about making quesadillas from my BIL Peter. He is quite a good cook (for a guy), and we tease him all the time about the deals he finds at the grocery store. Peter uses real butter to grease the griddle (it doesn't take very much at all), and puts a spoonful of alfredo sauce inside the tortillas before anything any other filling ingredients. He says it adds moisture to the quesadilla; I've tried it, and I really like it. I do start with a dry alfredo sauce mix because it has far fewer calories and fat than a jarred sauce, especially if you make it with skim milk.

So, get out your favorite spatula and get ready to do a little flippin' :-)

Chicken Quesadillas

1 package flour tortillas (I used low-carb)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 chicken bullion cube or 2 cups chicken broth
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
3 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 package dry alfredo sauce mix or one jar alfredo sauce
Milk if using a dry alfredo sauce mix.

Let's start with the chicken. I didn't have any chicken broth on hand, so I brought 2 cups of water to a boil in a medium pot and then threw in the bullion cube (Or, you can bring 2 cups of canned/boxed chicken broth to a boil).
Don't forget what I said earlier, you can use any type of meat/seafood you want. I've bought a rotisserie chicken before, used some of it for a soup, and the rest for quesadillas.
Once the broth is boiling, add the chicken and poach at a simmer for about 8-10 minutes, or until the chicken is done.

Remove to a plate and let the chicken cool until you can handle it.

Chop into small pieces and set aside.

Now, for the alfredo sauce, you can make it from a package like I did (just follow the directions on the back), or you can use a jarred sauce. I didn't have a jarred sauce on hand, but I had the dry sauce mix. Making it this way means I can use skim milk and no butter; it will still taste great and work fine in the quesadillas. Either way, have it ready to go. I left mine in the pot and set it next to my griddle.

At this point, you will want to start heating up your griddle or a large, flat bottomed skillet over medium to medium-high heat. My griddle is actually my grill pan (flat on one side, and grated on the other). Get all your ingredients together and have them ready next to your griddle/pan.

I want to mention something about the ingredients. Usually, I will put some sauteed onions or mushrooms in with the chicken, maybe some cilantro or fresh spinach. Since this was Rebecca's birthday, she requested only chicken and cheese, but you can do it however you want to.

Lightly grease the griddle/pan with a little butter.

Lay one flour tortilla down over the melted butter. You should hear a bit of a sizzle. If not, turn up the heat a little.
Spread 1-2 tablespoons of alfredo sauce on one side of the tortilla.

Sprinkle some cheese over the alfredo sauce, then some chicken and then add a little more cheese. You will probably use about 2-3 tablespoons of chicken and 4 tablespoons of cheese. We're putting cheese on twice because it acts like a glue and will help the tortilla stay together once we flip it. And you don't have to use cheddar, you might want to try monterey jack, jalapeno jack, sharp cheddar, swiss, whatever floats your boat.

Using a wide spatula, flip over the bare side of the tortilla, like this:

Now you might understand why I don't cover the tortilla with ingredients, lay another one on top, and then flip the whole thing over. It is much harder to flip a whole tortilla; folding it in half isn't as scary and a heck of a lot easier :-).

Flip the quesadilla over so the other side has a chance to get a little brown and crispy (which is why we used butter instead of a cooking spray). Butter also adds flavor to the tortilla.

The cheese should be nice and melted now. Remove to a plate, cut in half, and serve immediately. I usually pop these in the oven to keep warm until I have them all ready. I was able to make 7 for dinner; it was enough for all of us, with one left over. I made my Black Bean Salad on the side, and we had birthday cake for dessert.

These are fun and easy to make, plus they can be customized to suit your family's taste.
God bless your table tonight!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Pioneer Woman's Monday Night Stir Fry

Okay, I saw this recipe and really wanted to give it a go. As you all know, I grew up eating Chinese food nearly every day, but my mother lacked the patience to really teach me how to cook it.

But I made a new year's resolution to at least try to cook more Chinese food. And I used green onions, snow peas, and cilantro from the garden. This is the first year David has tried growing snow peas. They're doing really well, and they're so pretty... I had to take a picture of 'em all by themselves.

I admit...Chinese food isn't hard to make, but it take a while to cut up and prepare all the fresh vegetables. By the time we sat down to eat, I was starving and praying it would taste good. It did. The chicken did not have the same flavor I am accustomed to (like my mom's), but I know why. My mom marinates her chicken for several hours in soy sauce, sesame oil, cornstarch, and sake (Japanese rice wine). I will have to go down to the local Asian market for the sake--and I intend to do just that this weekend! So when I make this again, I will replace some of the soy sauce with some sake. I also made brown rice instead of white, and used a sugar substitute instead of real sugar (for the hubby).

You do not need a wok for this recipe, but a heavy skillet is necessary, and it shouldn't be the non-stick, Teflon coated type. You want the pan to get screaming hot, and you're not supposed to heat a non-stick/Teflon pan beyond medium. I have a wok, and I seldom use it--something I hope to remedy this year if I stick to my resolution.

And it is fun to eat this with chopsticks--we all use them, even the kids. But using a fork or spoon is perfectly fine :-).

The Pioneer Woman's Monday Night Stir Fry

Here is the link to the recipe on Ree's site (since her posts are much prettier than mine).

Ree says you need to have all your ingredients at hand, and she is darn right. My mom always had everything ready BEFORE she started cooking. Stir-frying food goes really, really fast, and you need all your veggies, sauces, etc. prepped and right at your fingertips.

I only took one picture during the cooking process. Like I said, stir fry cooks very fast, and I didn't want to burn anything because my gas burner was cranked up on HIGH.

Here's the finished dish!

One more just for show...

I cooked some brown rice to go with our stir-fry (David requested it b/c it's fewer points).

If you've got chopsticks, it's time to break 'em out and try this dish!

God bless your table tonight!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Mustard Seared Salmon

This is probably my very favorite salmon recipe because it's just so ridiculously easily. I can have it on the table in less than 15 minutes and it has only 3 ingredients. I confess here and now that my kids had fish sticks instead of the salmon, but my philosophy is this: if they're not going to eat it, I'm not going to make it for them and have the fish go to waste. I am hoping as they get older they'll give it a try--every once in a while they do. But for right now...I'll just make the fish sticks so David & I can eat in peace :-).

The recipe is from Nigella Lawson's book Forever Summer. Since David is still counting points, I cut back on the amount of sugar used to coat the salmon. I also made sauteed an entire bag of spinach to have on the side--which was done in less than 5 minutes.

This is a perfect, quick meal to make for your hubby...and don't forget...Valentines Day is coming up soon!

Mustard Seared Salmon

Adapted from Nigella Lawson

1 salmon fillet, 8-10 ounces (skin on is fine--just be sure to scrap off any scales)
2 tablespoons ground mustard
1 1/2 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon olive oil

My salmon fillet came in one long piece. I cut it in half to make it easier to flip during the cooking process.

I highly recommend you do the same. (One time I didn't do it and I got a nasty grease burn on my hand from trying to turn over a large piece of fish.)
In a large, non-stick skillet, heat the olive oil over medium high heat. In a shallow bowl or plate, combine the ground mustard and sugar.

I have to say one time, I didn't have enough mustard powder and ended up using some curry powder; it was great and worked just fine.
When your pan is ready, dredge the salmon on both sides and immediately place it into the pan.

You don't want to let the coating sit, otherwise it gets too wet from the moist fish, and it won't have a nice sear when you cook it.
Cook the salmon for about 4-5 minutes (depending on the thickness of the fillet)...

gently turn it over, and cook on the other side for another 4-5 minutes. I just watch it carefully, and when I see that the flesh is opaque, I know it's done.

Remove to a plate and serve right away. Oh, the browned bits left in the pan and on the spatula are spicy and sweet (David and I fight over them); warm caramelized sugar and mustard together, mmm. Go ahead...try it!

I made a side of sauteed spinach to go with our fish. We'd gone out to lunch for Rebecca's birthday, and I wanted to make sure to cook a really healthy dinner.

Make sure to bookmark this recipe for Lent, and God bless your table tonight!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Balsamic Glazed Pork Chops with Wilted Kale and Polenta

David loves balsamic vinegar, and doesn't mind me using it in my cooking. I saw a recipe using balsamic vinegar as a glaze for veal chops and wanted to try it. Well, veal chops are really pricey, but pork chops are very affordable...especially when your hubby has a good eye and buys them on sale.

I already knew balsamic glaze gives a tangy and sweet flavor to dishes, even more so if you gently boil it down into a thin syrup. This makes it thicker as well, and easier to use.

About the polenta...I'm a Southern girl, and I love grits. Polenta is just like grits, only the grains are much finer. Now David does not like grits, period. But he tried polenta, and he told me he'll eat it, as long as I put some butter and cheese in it.

And I'll admit...I've never cooked kale until now. But kale is relatively cheap, easy to cook, and very nutritious. And cooking it is a breeze, so don't be afraid of it!

One final note...if you don't like the smell of vinegar, you may not like cooking this. The whole house smelled like vinegar afterwards (which I don't mind, but Joshua was complaining about it while he did his homework in the kitchen).

Balsamic Glazed Pork Chops with Wilted Kale and Polenta

1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
4 tablespoons lemon juice (fresh or bottled)
1 1/2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons honey
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
5 bone-in pork chops
Salt and black pepper
1 small bunch fresh kale, washed and patted dry
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons olive oil, divided
1 box instant polenta
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

To prep the kale, lay the leaves out on a cutting board and slice into 1 inch pieces (just as you might cut lettuce). The stems are very tough, so discard the bottom part (about 4-5 inches).

For the balsamic glaze, combine the vinegar, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, honey, and Dijon mustard in a small pot. Bring the mixture to a gentle boil.

Let the glaze cook for about 10 minutes, until it becomes a bit thick and syrupy; it should just coat the back of a spoon, and leave a clean path if you run your finger through it.

Now we'll cook the pork chops. Heat one teaspoon of olive oil in a large, non-stick skillet. (I like to trim all the visible fat from the chops. I always make sure to keep this darker pink piece--I'm sure Alton Brown could tell you exactly what muscle it is, since I haven't a clue. But this part cooks up more tender than the rest of the chop, and I save it for Gabriel.)

Season the pork chops on both sides with salt and pepper, and brush them with the balsamic glaze. When the pan is ready lay the pork chops in, and brush the exposed side with a little more of the balsamic glaze.

Cook the pork for about 5 minutes per side, and brush with the glaze one more time after you flip them.

Remove to a plate, cover with foil, and keep warm while you finish the rest of the dish.

Now if you were thinking ahead, and put some of the glaze in a separate bowl to use on the pork chops (to avoid contamination), you can skip this step. I wasn't thinking, so the brush I used on the raw pork chops went back into the pot...oops. So if you did what I did, pour the glaze into the same skillet you used to cook the chops. Bring it to a boil, and make sure to boil it for a full 5 minutes to kill any bacteria. Scrap up any browned bits from the bottom of the skillet.

This can be used as a sauce to serve with the pork. It's really full of flavor now!

For the polenta, just make it according to the directions on the box. I made 1/2 a box, since only David and I eat it. Just be sure to add the polenta to the boiling water a little at a time, and stir it continuously with a whisk, or it will lump on you (this is why I couldn't take any pics until it was done). After the polenta has absorbed all the water, season with some salt, the butter, and the parmesan cheese. Put the lid on the pot, and remove from the heat--it will stay hot for a good 15 minutes or so. If it's too stiff when you're ready to serve, just reheat it along with about 1/4 cup of water, and it should be nice and smooth again.

In another large-nonstick skillet, heat the remaining teaspoon of olive oil. Add the garlic and saute it for a couple of minutes. Be careful not to let it burn!

Add the kale and cook for about 8-10 minutes.

You will need to add a splash of water every couple of minutes so the kale will steam and wilt down. It will still remain quite crisp (David said he actually liked the crunch, more so than the sauteed spinach I make).

Season to taste with salt and pepper and remove from the heat.

To serve, spread a few spoonfuls of polenta in a circle on a plate. Top with a serving of kale, one pork chop, and a little of the balsamic vinegar sauce. Or you can just pile it up on the plate :-).

David LOVED this. He put a little more of the sauce on his plate (I told you he likes balsamic vinegar!), and was sad he couldn't take any leftovers to work the next day (he had a lunch meeting). So lucky me got the last pork chop--yum! The kids like it too, (they had carrot sticks instead of the kale), but even Joshua said it was okay--since he said the house still didn't smell good :-).

Let me know if you try cooking with kale...I'd love some more recipes using it.
God Bless your table tonight!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

5 Spice Turkey Burgers

I love, love love Asian food. I eat sushi, noodles, and squid, and nothing comes between me and a deep fried spring roll. Asian food is very healthy, as long as you don't use too much oil and watch the sodium. I grew up eating stir-fried meat with lots of veggies with sticky white rice nearly every day of my life.

I am trying to cook more Chinese/Asian food. I regret I really don't know too much about mother (bless her heart) wasn't patient enough to show me how she cooked, and all her recipes are in her head. I seriously doubt I will be able to get her to write any of them down for me.

So if you're willing to experiment with's a take on turkey burgers. I realize this isn't Chinese food, but it is Asian inspired. I found the recipe in a light cookbook, and tweaked it because I didn't have the spice they wanted, but 5-spice powder was an excellent substitute. And you can't pour on the peanut sauce--it has calories, so just use a little bit. Instead on one whole egg, I used 1/4 cup fat free egg substitute. I also am using sugar-free, whole wheat hamburger buns to cut back on the carbs and bump up the fiber.

So here's a burger you can eat (David actually ate 2) without feeling guilty.

5 Spice Turkey Burgers

1 pound ground turkey
1/4 cup fat free liquid eggs
1/4 dry bread crumbs
1 teaspoon 5-spice powder (in the spice or Asian section)
3/4 cup fresh basil leaves
2 tablespoons bottled peanut sauce
4 whole wheat hamburger buns, toasted if desired
2 scallions/green onions, thinly sliced

In a medium bowl, combine the turkey, liquid eggs, bread crumbs, and 5-spice powder. Get your hands in there and mix it well; this is no time to be afraid of raw meat!

Oops, wouldn't you know it...I forgot the bread crumbs.

And BTW, the mixture will feel pretty wet until the bread crumbs go it, then the meat will get rather pasty and sticky.

Now divide the meat into 4 equal parts like this. I know Rachel Ray does this...I've been doing it for years. Maybe she got the idea from me, lol--NOT! (Okay, that was bad).
Shape each portion into a nice thick patty. To see how I shape patties using plastic wrap and a peanut butter jar lid, chick here.

Since ground turkey is very low in fat, make sure you oil the grates on your outdoor grill, grill pan, or broiler pan. Our outdoor grill wasn't working right, so David ended up cooking our burgers under the broiler. He said to broil them for about 3-4 minutes per side, and not to cook them beyond medium, or you'll have a dry patty.

Place a few leaves of basil on the bottom bun. Lay a turkey burger on top of the basil, then a spoonful of peanut sauce, and a sprinkling of green onions. Cap the burger with the bun top and serve.

Believe it or not, the basil I bought at the store was fantastic; the leaves were so big,they covered the entire bottom bun!

I hope you enjoy "gobbling" this one down!
God Bless your table tonight!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Crunchy Oven-Baked Orange Chicken with Orange Dipping Sauce

My friend Susan said I needed to post a recipe where I burned something. Tonight's dinner wasn't burnt, but it was a flop.

I tried to use crushed, shredded wheat cereal as a coating for chicken (as suggested by a recipe on the back of the box of cereal). It didn't have any flavor at all. Frankly, it tasted like dry cereal without milk. I was hoping the orange dipping sauce I made to go along with the chicken would rescue it, but alas...the sauce didn't hardly any orange flavor, even with the addition of some Grand Marnier. At least the Roasted Broccoli with Pecorino Romano Cheese came out fine.

This is something I won't be making again. The kids ate it...after all, anything tastes decent with a lot of ketchup. But I was disappointed, and there was a nice big mess in the kitchen afterwards! Oh well.

I am posting pictures of the chicken to prove I do mess up from time to time. I'm not ashamed to admit it. I told y'all I really am a normal person. Susan, if you're reading this, I will try to burn something in the future--just for you.

Here's the crushed not attempt at's no good people!

And here's the sauce in the only held a hint of orange flavor and the promise of tasting chicken broth (which was one of the ingredients). doesn't look bad. I liked the fact you can see the bits of orange zest in it.

But the only thing good on this plate was the broccoli and the orange slice for the garnish (assuming you like roasted broccoli). Now we have to eat the leftovers tonight :-(

God Bless your table tonight!

Friday, January 9, 2009

BBQ Chicken Pizza

David brought home a few bottles of BBQ sauce a client gave him a couple weeks ago. There's an "original," "heavy garlic," and "jalapeno garlic." We have some baby back ribs in the freezer that I so want to make...sigh. But it's too many calories, and how can you eat BBQ ribs without some potato salad, baked beans with bacon, and white sandwich bread right? Unfortunately, that would stick in all the wrong places. :-(

Since my hubby is trying to lose some weight, I am making only healthy meals for the time being. So... I fiddled with a recipe for BBQ Chicken Pizza to make it as healthy as possible. There is only one change I wanted to make, but didn't really have the time--making some whole wheat pizza dough from scratch. Now that the holidays are over, we've all hit the ground running, and I am going from one thing to the next with barely enough time to pause and take a breath! So if you can, make the pizza crust yourself with some whole wheat flour, it will add some fiber, and make the pizza even better for you.

The original recipe called for salsa on the crust (instead of tomato sauce), because there are virtually no calories in salsa, but I didn't want to make a Mexican style pizza. So I am using just the bare minimum of BBQ sauce. The onions are cooked very slowly for a long time--this caramelizes them and adds great flavor to the pizza. Chicken tenderloins have even less fat that chicken breasts (they were leftover from making the Chicken Lettuce Wraps), and this was the perfect way to use them up.

Let's make pizza--and don't worry, this recipe does NOT require you to throw the dough in the air, only to see it land in your hair, on the cat, or on floor.

BBQ Chicken Pizza

12 ounces chicken breast tenderloins, patted dry
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon spicy/regular seasoned salt
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
1 jar roasted red peppers (you'll only need 1-2 peppers)
3 tablespoons BBQ sauce of choice
1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1/4 cup green onions/scallions, thinly sliced

Heat the olive oil in a non-stick skillet over medium high heat. Sprinkle the chicken on both sides with the seasoned salt, pepper, and paprika.

When the pan is hot, add the chicken, and cook for 2-3 minutes.

Turn the tenderloins over and cook for another 2-3 minutes. Remove to a plate and set aside.

To the same skillet, add the red onion, and turn the heat down to low. Continue to cook the onions, stirring frequently until the are a nice golden brown color. They may start to look shriveled and dry, so watch them carefully--you want nice caramelized onions, not burnt onion rings. This will take anywhere from 15-20 minutes, so don't leave them. Once they're done, remove from the heat and set aside.

While the onions are cooking, slice up your red peppers and scallions.

Now we're ready to put the pizza together. On a large rimmed non-stick baking sheet, sprinkle 2 generous tablespoons of cornmeal (use more if necessary to cover your sheet).

I don't like to use cooking spray to keep the pizza dough from makes the crust wet and greasy. If you use cornmeal, it keeps the dough from sticking and gives the crust a nice little crunch.
Open up the can of pizza dough, unroll it a few inches, and lay it down on the baking sheet, close to one end.

Unroll the rest of the dough slowly and gently--this keeps the cornmeal in place.

Stretch it out with your hands until it fits the pan. As the dough warms up, it will become easier to pat be patient and just work with it. If it doesn't go quite to the edges of the pan, don't worry about it. If you think it might be sticking while your patting it out, sprinkle some more cornmeal under the dough. This is one time you don't want to skimp on the cornmeal.

Spread the prepared dough with the BBQ sauce. We're using just a little--BBQ sauce has a lot of sugar in it. Sugar=calories. Darn...I love BBQ sauce; David could probably live off of it.

Anyway, slice the chicken into 1/4 inch pieces, add to the pizza along with the roasted red peppers.

Then scatter on the red onions...

and finally the cheese. Just 1/2 cup. I know...I want more too. Maybe next time.

Now pop this pretty baby into the oven at 425 degrees for about 12 minutes or until the cheese is melted and the crust is golden brown.

Remove from the oven, sprinkle with the green onion, and serve immediately.

I'll be honest, this was GOOD! David and I meant have only 2 slices each, but we had 3. Shh...don't tell anyone. We had a big bowls of salad too...see...we were good!

The kids scarfed down their cheese pizza. I made one the same size as ours, and there was only 1 slice left. When they get older, I'm gonna go broke feeding these guys.

Next time you're craving pizza, don't call for delivery, give this recipe a try!

God bless your table tonight!