Monday, July 30, 2012

Eggs on salad...but not egg salad

I've discovered that leafy greens work just as well as bread for soaking up egg yolk. Thus, this is a favorite of mine to eat as a light lunch or brunch. Take a couple of eggs, poach or fry them, and serve atop a salad with crumbled bacon and a tasty vinaigrette. I like it better with poached eggs but I can cook them in a frying pan a little more rapidly and I was hungry, so the picture shows eggs that I cooked over-medium. Feel free to add any veggies you like; I like the sweetness and crunch of red bell pepper and I also added a cucumber that I had to use up.

Serves 1

  • Salad greens of choice (I used a 50/50 mixture of mixed field greens and baby spinach)
  • About a fourth of a red bell pepper, sliced
  • 2 eggs
  • 1-2 strips bacon, sliced into 1" pieces and cooked in a frying pan until crisp
  • Vinagrette dressing (I made my own by combining equal parts extra virgin olive oil and sherry vinegar plus a blob of Dijon mustard and some salt and pepper)
  • Any other salad veggies of choice (optional; I added some diced cucumber, thinly sliced sweet onion would work nicely, as would fresh herbs such as chives or dill)
  1. Poach the eggs or pan-fry them to desired doneness.
  2. Mound the salad greens and other veggies in the center of the plate. Sprinkle with bacon and top with the eggs. Drizzle with vinaigrette and serve.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Healthier chicken parmesan

Pretty much anything becomes magically delicious when you top it with tomato sauce and cheese. Chicken breasts are no exception.

I have a trick that I use to slash calories from any kind of breaded cutlet: I only bread one side and serve it breaded side up. Of course I use almond meal rather than conventional crumbs, which are low-carb but pretty calorically dense, so this helps quite a bit. I have used this trick for all kinds of cutlets and no one ever suspects a thing! It also means you need less cooking oil, since you don't need as much for the un-breaded side. I put olive oil in a spray bottle and spray the crumbs as well as the pan so it is nonstick, crispy, but still non-greasy. Some people just bake their cutlets but I think that almond meal becomes mushy when baked so I prefer this compromise.

I prefer to quickly broil my chicken parmesan and serve it right away rather than baking it as a casserole. I think that the breading becomes soggy if it sits under the tomato sauce for too long. If you prefer, you can nuke the tomato sauce for 30 seconds or so before spreading it on the chicken to be sure that it is heated through.

Serves about 4

  • 4 thin-sliced chicken breast cutlets, or 2 thick ones pounded thin and halved crosswise
  • 1/4 cup tomato sauce (I made my own)
  • 1 egg, beaten or 1/4 cup liquid egg whites (I actually prefer whites only, I think it gets a bit crispier)
  • 1/4 cup almond meal or almond flour
  • 1/4 tsp seasoned salt or regular salt
  • 1/4 tsp dried Italian herb mix or dried basil
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • About 1/2 cup (you might use less) shredded mozzarella cheese (full-fat or 2%)
  • 2 Tbs grated parmesan cheese
  • Olive oil for cooking
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Season the chicken breasts on both sides with salt and pepper.
  2. Combine the almond meal, 1/4 tsp salt, dried herbs, and garlic powder on a plate. Put the beaten egg or egg whites in a shallow bowl.
  3. Dip one side of the chicken breasts in the egg, then the almond meal, shaking off the excess each time. Almond meal likes to clump up so be sure to knock off excess so that you have a thin, even coating.
  4. Heat a layer of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until the oil is shimmering. Spray or brush the breaded side of the cutlets with a thin layer of oil as well. Cook breaded-side down until crisp and browned. Flip cutlets, adding more oil if necessary. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook until juices run clear and chicken is no longer pink. You can cover for part of the time if you would like, though if you do so you might have to re-sear the breaded side for a minute to crisp it back up.
  5. Heat the broiler. Meanwhile, arrange chicken breasts breaded side up on a lightly oiled baking sheet. Top each with a tablespoon of tomato sauce, a layer of mozzarella, and about 1/2 Tbs parmesan. Broil for about 2 minutes or until golden brown, keeping an eye on it to be sure they don't burn. Serve immediately, passing crushed red pepper flakes and extra parmesan on the side.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Loaded baked "potato" soup

If you've been reading this blog for a while and paying attention, you can probably figure out what I used in this soup instead of potatoes. If you guessed cauliflower, then you are correct! I love cauliflower mashed "fauxtatoes" so I figured that it would work just as well in another preparation that calls for pureed potatoes. I think that this would fool just about anyone, and even if it doesn't, it's still delicious in its own right.

I decided to roast the cauliflower to get more of a "baked" flavor, but if you want to streamline the process, you could certainly boil the florets in the soup broth or even use frozen cauliflower.

I used cream cheese for texture and flavor. It thickened the soup while adding a baked-potato-with-sour-cream sort of tang. It was much lower calorie than using heavy cream and it precluded the use of a starch thickener like a roux. If you prefer to use cultured dairy products (to make the lactose easier to digest), you can substitute labneh. I've seen a lot of vegan "cream cheese" recipes that use raw cashews, so if you want to experiment with a dairy-free version, I think you could try adding raw cashew butter and some lemon juice. For my version, I just used a plain ol' brick of cream cheese.

Serves 4-6

  • 1 lb cauliflower florets
  • 1 Tbs fat of choice (I used melted ghee, bacon fat or olive oil would work well too)
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup minced onion (I used frozen chopped onion)
  • 8 oz cream cheese (for dairy-free options, see recipe description)
  • 1/2 tsp salt (I used Penzeys 4/S but regular salt would be fine)
  • 1/4 tsp ground white pepper (black pepper would taste fine but will leave black flecks)
  • 1/8-1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (I used 1/4 tsp which gave it a nice kick. Use 1/8 tsp or leave it out if you are sensitive to spicy food.)
  • Baked potato fixins of choice, such as sour cream, shredded cheddar cheese, scallions, and/or crumbled bacon
  1. Adjust oven rack to bottom position and preheat oven to 475.
  2. Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper, brush or spray with half the butter or oil, spread cauliflower on top, and brush or spray with the remaining fat.
  3. Roast the cauliflower for 10 minutes, stir to turn over, and roast for another 10.
  4. Meanwhile, bring the onion and broth to a boil on the stove. Add the cauliflower, let boil again, then reduce heat to low and simmer for 3-5 minutes or until cauliflower is soft. You want it to be slightly overcooked, but not boiled to death.
  5. Add in the cream cheese, breaking it up with a wooden spoon. Stir until melted. Add the spices.
  6. Puree until completely smooth. I used a stick blender but if you don't have one you could transfer it to a regular blender or even try mashing it well with a potato masher. It will be a bit foamy; let it sit for a minute before serving so that the bubbles die down.
  7. Serve with fixins of choice.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Ridiculously easy salmon, and a bonus recipe for the leftovers

This salmon recipe is so easy, it's almost embarrassing. In fact, it's slightly verging on semi-homemade-with-Sandra-Lee territory, but it's healthy and yummy and even packs in lots of leafy greens. I made a spinach topping by combining a box of frozen spinach with storebought garlic-herb cheese. The most common brands I've seen are Boursin, Rondele, and Alouette. If you are watching calories, all three brands make a light version. Based on the available sizes, you can use half an 8 oz container of Rondele, a 4 oz container of Alouette, or a full ~5 oz container of Boursin. Alternately, you can use a copycat recipe such as this one and make it yourself; you will probably use the whole batch in the recipe. If your salmon filets are very thick you might cut a slit in the middle and use the spinach mixture as a stuffing rather than a topping. I finished this off under the broiler with a dusting of parmesan cheese.

Serves about 6, or 2-4 with leftovers

  • 24 oz salmon filets (about six 4 oz filets)
  • 1 10 oz box frozen chopped spinach
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion (I used frozen chopped onion)
  • 4-5 oz spreadable garlic-herb cheese (see recipe description above).
  • Grated parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper
  1. Adjust one oven rack to the center and the other rack on the upper-middle shelf of the oven. Preheat the oven to 400 F.
  2. Cook the spinach according to package directions and thoroughly squeeze out the water.
  3. Heat a bit of oil on medium-high heat in a skillet. Saute the onion until translucent. Add the spinach and garlic-herb cheese, reduce heat to low, and stir until the cheese is melted and thoroughly combine.
  4. Season salmon all over with salt and pepper. Top salmon filets with spinach mixture and bake in the center of the oven for 15-20 minutes (15 for thin filets, 20 for very thick, 17-18 minutes if they're in the middle).
  5. Remove from oven and switch from bake to broil. Sprinkle the tops of the salmon filets with parmesan cheese. Broil on the upper-middle rack for about 2 minutes or until golden brown.

Now, say you have leftovers. I think that fish tends to reheat poorly, especially if it was frozen, as the texture tends to get mushy. However, salmon cakes are a good solution because the flesh is already all flaked up. Plus, you're not repeating the exact same dinner multiple nights in a row. You can serve these the following night, or freeze them and serve another time. I love that these already have spinach worked in so you don't necessarily have to worry about serving with a veggie, though I think they'd pair very well with asparagus.

This recipe assumes 12 oz of leftover salmon, but feel free to scale the proportions if you have more or less.

Serves 2-4

  • 12 oz leftover spinach-topped salmon (or however much you have)
  • 2 Tbs dijon mustard
  • 1/2 tsp seasoning of choice (I used Old Bay, lemon pepper would also work well) or salt and pepper
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 Tbs almond flour (this just helps it hold together, gluten-free breadcrumbs would also work)
  1. Flake the salmon with a fork, being careful not to over-mash.
  2. Combine with the other ingredients.
  3. Form into patties. I got about six from the 12 oz of leftovers.
  4. When ready to serve, cook over medium-high in a bit of oil. You can add breading if you like such as more almond flour or breadcrumbs.
  5. If making ahead, freeze. Thaw overnight the day you want to cook them. Cook as in step 4.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Slow-Cooker Fire-Roasted Tomato Sauce

Is it just me, or has storebought tomato sauce gotten CRAZY expensive?? If I try to get a decent brand that is made with olive oil instead of soybean oil, doesn't have added corn syrup or sugar, and isn't loaded with salt, it's something like eight bucks for a jar. So, I decided to make my own.

Tomato sauce is long-simmered to break down the ingredients, so it seemed like a perfect candidate for a crock pot recipe. I wasn't quite sure how to go about it, but the America's Test Kitchen Slow-Cooker Revolution cookbook provided some guidance. According to the authors:
The biggest hurdle was choosing the right tomato products, as many of our tests produced sauces that were either too watery or too thick and overpowering. Our solution was a combination of four different tomato products (paste, crushed, diced, and sauce).
Armed with their base recipe, I made few changes to streamline the process and improve flavor. They use a lot of dried oregano which I don't particularly care for; I used a dried Italian herb mix instead. Anything labeled "Italian seasoning" that is just dried herbs without salt or sugar should work. If not I would substitute dried basil. I nixed the addition of fresh herbs because I prefer to use them freshly-chopped and scattered over the finished dish rather than cooked and mixed into the sauce. I also used frozen chopped onion for ease of preparation. The texture isn't as nice as fresh but that is not noticable for a long-simmered sauce. For the fire-roasted variation they added liquid smoke. I don't care for the flavor, so I used smoked salt instead. Of course you can just use regular salt, with or without the liquid smoke. Finally, I cut way back on the cooking time. They suggest 9-11 hours on low but after trying it I felt that I got a brighter flavor when I only simmered for 6.

This makes a lot of sauce, so you can freeze or can whatever you have left over and save it for another recipe.

Makes 9 cups

  • 1 Tbs extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 bag of frozen diced onions or 2 fresh onions, finely chopped
  • 8 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
  • 2 Tbs tomato paste
  • 2 tsp dried Italian herb mix or 2 tsp dried basil
  • 1 28-oz can fire-roasted (or regular) diced tomatoes, drained well
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 1 28-oz can fire-roasted (or regular) crushed tomatoes
  • 1 28-oz can tomato puree
  • Pinch red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp smoked salt (or use 1/4 tsp liquid smoke + 1/2 tsp regular salt, or just the salt)
  1. Heat oil in a skillet over medium-high. Saute the onion until translucent.
  2. Add the garlic, tomato paste, red pepper flakes, and dried herbs and cook for a minute or two or until the garlic is fragrant.
  3. Add the wine and bring to a boil, scraping the bottom of the pan. Simmer about 5 minutes or until thickened, then transfer the mixture to your slow cooker.
  4. Add the remaining ingredients. Simmer on low 5-7 hours.

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