Sunday, January 30, 2011

Weight Watcher Challenge

At the beginning of the year I decided it was time to 'lighten up' my menus. This week I joined Weight Watchers at Work and purchased the new cookbook "Weight Watchers New Complete Cookbook" It is excellent and will use it exclusively for the next weeks. I plan to visit Hilton Head in June and would rather suffer from sunburn than from being harpooned?! Here is what's on this weeks table:

Pork Roast with Winter Vegetables
Peach Melba

Chinese Noodle Soup

Breakfast Tostada

The pork roast is small, about 2 pounds and rubbed with lemon zest, chopped rosemary, minced garlic and S&P. The very thin layer of fat on the roast virtually disappears while roasting. The rub is very fragrant. The vegetables are chopped into one inches pieces and spread around the meat; Butternut squash, parsnips, carrots and celery. I tossed the vegetables several times during roasting. The pork is flavorful and sliced to 1/4 inch slices.

A simple green salad with EVOO and vinegar dressing is served along side.

Two slices of the pork and 1 cup of the vegetables is 7 WW points.

Later in the afternoon I had the peach Melba. 1/2 cup fat free frozen vanilla yogurt with peaches and mashed blackberries. Just the right amount of sweetness for someone who is not a sweets person. 5 WW points

It turns out the chili I made last week in almost totally repeated in the cookbook. I will have leftovers along with Trader Joe's frozen brown rice this week for lunch. 9 WW points.

This week is Chinese New Year; the year of the rabbit? I didn't care to look for rabbit, but the Chinese Noodle Soup called for thin strips of cooked pork (leftover from dinner on Saturday) In chicken broth, scallions, minced fresh ginger, soy sauce, halved baby bok choy, matchstick carrots, baby spinach and cooked soba noodles are simmered with the cooked pork. A nice light soup. 3 WW points.

Since I was going to meet friends for dinner on Sunday, I made a Breakfast Toastada for brunch. A lightly toasted corn tortilla with a salsa of tomato, onion , jalapeno and lime juice, a poached egg, cilantro and low fat cheddar cheese. Also had orange segments. Filling and will keep me until I leave. 4 WW points.

I look forward to my menu next week. Seafood and Super Bowl salsas are on the menu. Have a great week and stay warm. Lots of snow in the forecast.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

And the Winner is.....

This week football playoffs were the center of Sunday television. I thought it would be fun to do a sandwich play off. One from Chicago, one from Wisconsin and an unknown. Here is what is on the table:

Chicago-Style Hot Dog
Wisconsin beer Brat
Beef Sticky Buns

Three Bean and Beef Chili

This was an interesting project. The Chicago hot dog is built on a poppy seed bun. I discovered there is an order to the how the toppings are added. Steam the bun and pile on the toppings, yellow mustard, sweet pickle relish (could not bring myself to buy the neon green relish),chopped onion, tomato wedges, the grilled hot dog, dill pickle spear, chopped jalapeno pepper and celery salt. Don't even think about using ketchup. Lots of good flavor, but it falls apart easily and I had use a fork.

The Wisconsin brat is simmered in butter, beer, onions, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, sauerkraut and brown sugar. The brat is placed on the bun and the simmering liquid is drained and the onion-sauerkraut mixture is spooned over the brat. Grated Swiss cheese is melted over all. I like brats, beer, sauerkraut and Swiss cheese....separately. Did not care for the sandwich. Rather bland looking.

The surprising winner of the day is the beef sticky bun. Ground chuck is browned with sage, garlic and onion powders, salt and red pepper flakes until it crumbles and is cooked through. Diced onions and sliced mushrooms are added. When they are softened, 3 cups of baby spinach are stirred in and cooked until complete wilted. Remove from the heat and cool completely. When cooled, stir in shredded sharp Cheddar cheese. Refrigerated pizza dough is rolled out to a rectangle. The meat mixture is spread over the dough leaving a half inch at one of the short ends. Roll up the dough and seal. Cut in 8 pieces and place on a greased baking sheet. Bake until golden. While they are warm drizzle with heated pepper jelly and cream cheese which has been thinned with a bit of milk. These are incredible. They look much like pecan rolls, but are savory. It expect they would be equally good with other ground meats, chicken or turkey. They reheat nicely.

The chili is a healthy one. Diced onion, red bell pepper and carrots are sauteed with cumin and extra lean ground beef. Crushed tomatoes and water are added along with a minced chipolte chile in adobo sauce. Oregano is added along with one can each drained and rinsed black beans, kidney beans and pinto beans. As is the case with most chili's, it gets better with each reheating.

Though the outcome of game was not as I had hoped, the table was great. We shall see what next week brings. Stay warm!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Football Playoffs, Worst Cooks, A 3 Day Weekend....Life is good!

Picking a menu and recipes for this week was a bit of a challenge given the events I wanted to watch and still get things done at home. However I think the selections were good ones. On the table:

Pan-Grilled Halibut with Chimichuri
Warm Lentil Salad with Roasted Beets and Goat Cheese

Moqueca (Moo-KAY-Ka)

Some great seafood at Whole Foods this week and I think the table shows them off. The halibut was a large piece so half is in the freezer for another time. The Chimichuri is made first so it can sit and the flavors can come together. It is a mixture of Cilantro (parsley is a good substitute) basil, shallots, horseradish, EVOO and lemon juice. The herbs and onion are chopped fine and mixed with the horseradish, oil and lemon juice. Set aside while the halibut is grilled. Spray a grill pan with EVOO and pre-heat. Season the fish and grill about 4 minutes each side. Serve with Chimichuri spooned over the top.

The salad could have been a meal in itself. Roast beets with EVOO wrapped in foil until done. Set aside to cool. Peel and cut in quarters. Prepare vinaigrette with sherry vinegar, Dijon mustard, chopped fresh thyme, EVOO, salt and pepper. Lentils are cooked in chicken broth with onion, celery, carrot, bay leaf and sprigs of fresh thyme. (Sorry Chris, the lentils are in the salad, not the soup, But you would not be disappointed with this.) Remove the vegetables and drain off any broth not absorbed. Set aside the lentils and keep warm. In a large skillet saute 1/4 pound diced Canadian bacon, garlic, and diced carrot. Stir in chopped fresh thyme leaves and some sherry vinegar. Add the lentils and combine. Toss some of the vinaigrette with mixed greens. Spoon warm lentil salad on top. Add the beets and bits of goat cheese and drizzle with more dressing. For those who don't care for thyme, any fragrant herb can be substituted.

Growing up, my Mom was mostly stay at home, so she did the majority of the cooking. However, my Dad had a couple of 'speciality' things he liked to prepare. One of them was fish chowder. He never recorded the recipe because each time it was a bit different from the last. When I came across the soup recipe, I thought about his fish chowder. Moqueca is a Brazilian Seafood Stew that goes back 300 years. Cod is cut in cubes and marinated in lime juice and garlic and chilled while the rest of the soup is constructed. Diced onions, red and yellow pepper and tomatoes are sauteed in oil with paprika and a pinch of red pepper flakes. Half a bunch of chopped cilantro is stirred in and cooked until the vegetables are softened. Half of the mixture is removed, the cod pieces and a pound of peeled, deveined shrimp are spread on top. The vegetables are then used to cover the fish. A can of coconut milk is poured over all. The soup is brought to a simmer, covered and cooked until the seafood is cooked through, about 15 minutes. Seasonings are adjusted and the soup is served over cooked brown rice. This is an incredible soup, however, coconut milk has a very high fat content and veers from my healthy eating challenge for the new year. When I prepare this again, I will find a suitable substitute for coconut milk.

I have not only been able to enjoy football (GO BEARS) and will be able to watch the new episode of Worst Cooks, I have great food. Tomorrow will be devoted to catching up with some other things. Tuesday it's back to school for spring semester!!

Have a great semester everyone!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Healthy Table Challenge

This week at Marilyn's Table is the beginning of healthier menus for the new year. I recently purchased a book 'Super foods; The Healthiest Foods on the Planet' 200 foods are profiled and it should be a challenge to use them in my cooking. I expect I will be using more organics as well. This week at the table:

Chicken Thighs with Roasted Apples and Garlic
Sweet Potatoes Smashed with Steamed Broccoli

Chicken Tortilla Soup

Apples and garlic seemed a strange combination, but I found them to be an excellent compliment to each other. Granny Smith apples are cut in chunks and mixed with minced garlic. The mixture is the base for the chicken thighs which are lightly seasoned. When the chicken is cooked, the apples are mashed with a fork and served with the thigh on top. One apple per thigh worked well. I did leave the skin on the thigh until they were cooked, but served them with the skin removed.

The potato broccoli mash is not new for me, but one of which I am very fond. Sweet potatoes and broccoli are high on the super food list. The potatoes are cut in cubes and simmered in light chicken broth. The broccoli is added and cooked until softened but still very green. The potato and broccoli mix is mashed and some of the broth is added to make the mixture smoother. This was a very colorful plate.

One of my favorite 'go to' foods is rotisserie chicken from Jewel. My soup this week is chicken tortilla with Swiss chard and butternut squash. The squash is cooked in chicken broth with garlic and minced onion. A can of diced tomatoes with green chilies are stirred in as is chopped Swiss chard. At the end 2 cups of chopped cooked chicken is added. The soup is served with corn tortillas which have been cut in strips, sprayed with olive oil spray and toasted in the oven. The soup is filling and has a lot of flavor without salt added.

All in all I am happy with this first 'healthy' meal and look forward to picking my menu for next week. Stay warm and Happy Cooking!!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

New Year...New Focus

We are 2 days into 2011 and my focus for the year will change. New Years' is a time for reflection and new goals. My goal for this table is to cook healthier with focus on fresh organic fruits, vegetables and wiser protein choices. That said, this weekends' table has some of the old and some of the new. On my table:

Braised Turkey Thigh with Mushrooms and Almonds
Greek Panzanella Salad
Hoppin John
Chickpea Chard and Couscous Soup

The turkey dish sounded and looked wonderful when I saw it prepared. Braising the turkey thigh went well. The thigh was removed while onions, mushrooms and seasonings are cooked in wine and broth. The thickener for the dish is ground almonds. As the sauce thickens, the thigh is returned and simmered until cooked through. I enjoyed the thigh, but the almond sauce left me flat. It is unlikely I will use ground almonds again in that capacity. I disposed of the remainder of the sauce.

The salad is a favorite. Cucumbers, red and yellow pepper, grape tomatoes, and red onion are tossed with feta and Calamata olives. A basic vinaigrette is tossed with the vegetables and toasted bread cubes. Lots of color and flavor made this meal not so bad after all.

There is a southern tradition of having black-eyed peas on New Years' Day to bring good luck for the year. Usually I make a 9 bean soup with a ham bone, but I did not have a bone, so I thought it was time to try something new. Hoppin John is a similar dish. I'm not a fan of ham hocks and replaced them with a diced ham slice. The black-eyed peas are simmered with onion, garlic, red pepper flakes, diced red bell pepper and the ham. Brown rice is added and cooked until tender. The dish is served with shredded cheddar cheese. A dash of hot sauce is optional, but I liked the bite it gave the dish. This is a winner and will be repeated often. Simple and satisfying. Leftover panzanella went will with the dish.

My plan for the new year is to eat more vegetarian meals. I started today with a pot of soup to take to work for lunches. Onion and garlic are sauteed and red pepper flakes and thyme leaves are added. A can of chickpeas is added along with couscous and chopped Swiss chard. All is simmered in vegetable broth. It is served with a crumble of feta cheese and a few cherry tomatoes. The sample I had was excellent and I look forward to having it this week with crackers and fruit.

Next week will bring another vegetarian soup and.... I have no idea. We shall see what the week brings. Happy New Year to you all!