Sunday, February 27, 2011

A Menu to Keep Away the Vampires

It's been a gloomy weekend so going outside held little appeal. Spending time in the kitchen was at the top my list of activity. Garlic is the highlight of the recipes and has long been thought to keep away vampires, providing you believe in vampires. The menu for this week is guaranteed to do just that. I have spent some time in the Caribbean on a couple of cruise ships. The foods of the islands feature lots of fresh fruits and vegetables.

Caribbean-Style Pork Tenderloin with Fresh Pineapple
Oven Roasted Asparagus and Red Pepper

Vegetable-Barley Soup

Pork tenderloin is a very lean meat choice. I prefer to marinate it. This marinade is a mixture of the zest of one orange and lime. The juice of each is also added along with olive oil, lots of minced garlic, cumin, S&P and a pinch of cayenne. I marinated it overnight in a plastic bag. The meat is roasted with the marinade used as a basting liquid. It is cut into quarter inch slices and served with pineapple slices dusted with cinnamon and topped with chopped cilantro. The meat becomes very flavorful and the pineapple is a great accent. 3 slices is 4 points.

This isn't exactly asparagus season, but I did find a nice bunch so I was able to go ahead with this dish. I like to roast vegetables. The process is simple and brings out the flavors. Along with the asparagus a red pepper is sliced up and both are tossed with EVOO, lemon juice, red pepper flakes, salt and the zest of the lemon. The vegetables are roasted on a baking sheet which has been non-stick sprayed. They are turned a couple of times during the 15 minute roasting time. The vegetables bring a lot of color to the plate and are excellent. 2/3 cup of the vegetables is 1 point.

I love this soup recipe. The hardest part is the cutting up of all the vegetables. Mushrooms, carrots, zucchini, yellow squash, celery, onion, garlic, edemame, and barley are put in a large pot with vegetable broth, basil and S&P. Then it's BTBRTS (bring to boil reduce to simmer) How easy is that. A really nice chunky soup and the barley brings a different texture to the soup. 1 1/2 cups is 4 points

I tried a couple of techniques during the weekend. I seem to throw away a lot of cilantro or parsley so I took a large part of the cilantro and dried it in the microwave. The leaves are chopped and placed between two pieces of white paper towel and nuked for 15 - 30 seconds until they are dry and can be easily removed from the stems. I now have a jar of dried cilantro leaves to flavor other dishes.

I also am attempting to dry lemon slices to take to work and use in tea. The directions I was given were to slice the lemon thinly and placed on parchment covered cookie sheet. The tray is put in the oven (I have a gas stove so the inside of the oven is warm all the time) I am on day 2 of the process and they are finally beginning to dry out. I'm not sure I will do this again, but it has been an experience.

That's all for this week. I am looking forward to warmer weather, but I expect that for the next few weeks my menus will continue to be comfort food. Have a good week and stay warm.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

5 Star Weekend Menu

This is the fourth week of my Weight Watchers Challenge and it was by far the most successful. Every dish was remarkable. Some are a slight variation of the recipe in the cookbook. This is what's on "Marilyn's Table" this week:

Cedar Planked Salmon
Barley, Leek and Rosemary Gratin
Greek Island Salad

Turkey Mulligatawny Soup

This week I tackled new techniques and ingredients. The cedar planked salmon came about through one of the food blogs I follow, "October Farm". I had no idea cooking on a cedar plank could be done in the oven. When the author of this blog did it, I decided to give it a try. The cedar plank is soaked in water for several hours. The seasoning on the salmon is Potlatch; a Pacific Northwest seasoning used by the North American Indians to season salmon nailed to planks and cooked around a fire. There are several variations of the mixtures. I used salt, crushed red pepper, chili powder, oregano, basil and coriander. The result was amazing. The salmon is placed skin side down and cooked slightly rare in the middle. The seasoning and the cedar plank give the salmon an exceptional flavor. Will use the planks again for chicken and other seafood.
The 6 oz piece of salmon is 6 WW points

Barley is a grain I have not ever used, but if this dish is any indication, I will use it again....often. The barley is simmered in vegetable broth until most of the liquid is absorbed. Leeks are sauteed in a separate large skilled in a bit of EVOO and butter until softened. The cooked barley is added to the leeks along with chopped fresh rosemary, salt & pepper. It is poured into a casserole dish and grated Gruyere cheese is sprinkled over the top and baked until the cheese melts. A great dish with lots of flavor and....fiber. WW points 1/2 cup 4 points

Greek Island Salad is a variation of a Caesar salad. I grilled the romaine so my grill pan is sprayed with a bit of EVOO and heated. I cut a stalk of romaine in half lengthwise and grilled until slightly wilted and there are nice grill marks. The lettuce is cut in pieces and topped with a mixture of tomato, English cucumber, red bell pepper, red onion and chopped Calamata olives. A very light dressing of lemon juice, EVOO, garlic, dried oregano and black pepper. A bit of Feta Cheese is also sprinkled on top. A nice mixture of warm and cold crunch. 1 cup is 2 WW points.

The soup for this week is Turkey Mulligatawny. The name comes from the Tamil, a southern India people. It means 'pepper water'. The turkey is leftover from a roasted breast from last week from which I made sandwiches for work this week. Lots of vegetables; celery, carrot, onion, red pepper, tomato, and diced Granny Smith apple are cooked in chicken broth with seasonings. The main seasoning is curry. Not being a big fan, so I cut the quantity back and it was just fine. After the vegetables and seasonings are simmered, chopped turkey is added with salt, pepper and cayenne and heated through. A great soup which I will be happy with this week for lunch. 1 1/3 cups is 3 WW points.

All in all this was one of the most successful menus overall so far. Will be a tough act to follow. Tonight is the finale of 'Worst Cooks' on Food Network and I look forward to it after this fine meal. Have a great week. Strange weather in the Midwest. Hopefully spring is just around the corner.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

A Hint of Spring...

The forecast for the weekend sounded too good to be true. Both days have been sunny and warm enough to open windows. I took a walk this afternoon and the mountains of snow are beginning to melt. I do believe spring will come after all.

Since I knew it was supposed to be nice and I would have a chance to get out I planned my table accordingly. The crock pot came out of hibernation and became the center of my food preparation. Here is what is on the table this week:

Cheese Straws
Tuscan Chicken and Sausage Stew
Watermelon Peach Salad

Brunch on Sunday:
French Toast with Fresh Fruit and Yogurt

The cheese straws were very easy. The flour, butter, seasonings, and cheese all were in the processor until the dough formed a ball. The dough was rolled out and cut into long strips and baked. They were the crunch factor with the stew and the cayenne pepper gave them a bit of a kick. Will do them again. 2 points for 3 straws

The stew was a real winner. Cubed chicken (both white and dark meat) are browned as is chicken sausage cut in 2 inch pieces. The browned chicken is the bottom layer in the crock pot. The rest of the layers are sliced cremini mushrooms, chopped red onion, chopped garlic, and seasonings. A package of thawed artichoke hearts and a chopped red pepper are added. Chicken broth is poured over the top and the mixture is cooked on low for about 6 hours. Lots of flavor and the aroma is mouth watering. Should be a nice dinner with the rest of the cheese straws for most of the week. 1 1/2 cups of the stew is 9 points.

I'm not a fan of watermelon, or any melon for that matter. However the picture of the salad was so colorful I couldn't resist. The watermelon and peaches are cut in bite size cubes. An English cucumber is thinly sliced and added. I had some jicama left from last week, so I cut it in thin strips and tossed it in with the rest. Not much in the way of dressing, salt and champagne vinegar are added and left to marinate with the fruit and cucumber for about 15 minutes. At serving time thin slices of green onion are added and a bit of crumbled goat cheese. I may have changed my mind about least when it's mixed with other fruit. Refreshing and colorful. 1 cup is 4 points

With the stew as the centerpiece, I didn't feel the need for a soup. Instead I tried a simple French toast with fruit for brunch on Sunday. Since the toast is baked in custard cups in the oven, it is necessary to cut an 'X' in the center of the bread before dipping it in a mixture of beaten egg, a bit of water, cinnamon and nutmeg. The cups are sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. The bread is gently tucked into the cup. It is baked for about 15 minutes and cooled for a bit. Removed the cups to the serving dish and fill the center with your choice of berries. I used blueberries, blackberries and sliced strawberries. A spoon of non-fat Greek yogurt (my favorite is Fage) on the berries and just a tiny drizzle of maple syrup over the top. This recipe didn't come out of the Weight Watcher cookbook, but from Food Network. I estimate one serving is about 4 points. It's a very pretty dish and whatever fruit is in season would make it very versatile any time of year.

That's it for this week. Stay dry, since by Thursday the temperature might reach the upper 50's. Bye Bye snow, bring on the spring flowers.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Snow Storm and the Super Bowl

This week has been a challenge with the snow storm and now the Super Bowl. Just getting out to shop proved a slippery task. This is week 2 of my mission to use the new Weight Watcher cookbook. Here is what is on the table:

Beer Can Chicken
Sweet Potato Wedges with Chipotle Yogurt Dip
Radicchio, Broccoli, and Jicama Slaw

Toasted Coconut Custard

Superbowl Nacho's

Normally beer can chicken focuses on the rub on the skin during cooking. However the skin is to be removed after cooking, so the rub (garlic, brown sugar, paprika, poultry seasoning and salt and pepper) is put under the skin, with only a couple of tablespoons on the skin. The bird is perched on the beer can during roasting. I really liked the rub under the skin. A lot of flavor remains with the meat after the skin is removed. A very successful chicken. 3 slices of chicken are 5 points

I have read a lot about incorporating more color in your food for the best health benefits. I love sweet potatoes and cutting them in wedges and roasting them until crisp was really good. The dipping sauce was made with Greek yogurt mixed with a couple of table spoons of chipotle salsa. A bright flavorful combination. 8 wedges and 2 tablespoons of the dip are 3 points

The slaw provided a crunch to the meal. I used a bag of broccoli slaw mix, shredded radicchio, sliced celery and slivers of yellow pepper and jicama. The dressing is a light mixture of yogurt, pickle relish, lemon zest and salt and pepper. I have made slaw before, but this one is a repeater. I will use some on sandwiches this week with slices of the chicken and the chipotle sauce. 1 cup of the slaw is only 1 point.

The only disappointment of the week was the coconut custard. The flavor was excellent, but the texture was a bit rubbery. I will need to work on that because it should have been better than it was. 1 custard is 3 points

I had planned a soup as I usually do. However, I have a lot of leftover food to use the rest of the week. So some of the chicken is in the freezer and next week Chicken Mulligatawny will be on the menu.

I had trouble deciding on my game food. Wings and nachos are my favorites, but only needed to make one. It became a no brainer since the wing recipe required removing the skin before cooking. Have you ever skinned chicken wings? Not a good time. The nacho recipe is a good one with ground turkey, onion, kidney beans cooked together and spooned over reduced fat tortilla chips. Sliced black olives and pickled jalepenos are put on top and then shredded reduced fat sharp cheddar on top. They are put in the oven until the cheese melts. These are and very tasty. However when I make them again I will substitute a milder jalepeno. This one was spicier than I care for. The points are a bit hard to determine. The recipe says 1/12 of the recipe is 3 points. What the heck is 1/12???

This was a good week in spite of the mountain of snow. A walk today to see the new frosting of snow on the 20 inches we already had was a pleasure. The stillness that comes with a lot of snow is very relaxing. Lots of birds singing in the trees. Not sure what they have to sing about, but they sounded happy.. Have a good week; stay warm and drive carefully.