Monday, September 26, 2011

Meatless Monday

Although I eat meatless many days a week, it's not often on Monday. But tonight it worked out that I could celebrate my meatless-ness. This cosmic turn of events happened because 1.) my carnivore husband is out at a meeting, 2.) my son had a large lunch and didn't want dinner, and 3.) my daughter will eat anything I make.

I had some tofu in the fridge and decided to sear it and then glaze it with my friend Mary Beth's Peach-Habanero Jam. Wise decision. Alongside, a quick saute of zucchini and carrot ribbons, topped with walnuts and blue cheese was just perfect.

On days like this, I DO like Mondays.

Seared Tofu with Peach-Habanero Glaze
Serves 2

1 package firm tofu, pressed
seasoning of choice: salt, pepper, Cajun, Creole, Italian...
a few tablespoons of a fruity-spicy jam
a few tablespoons of citrus juice (lemon, lime or orange)

Slice tofu into 4 thin slabs. Season one side with whatever seasoning you feel like.

Heat a nonstick skillet over high heat. Add oil or nonstick spray to the skillet. Place the tofu, seasoned side down, in the skillet. Let cook for about 5 minutes, undisturbed, or until there's a nice brown crust on the underside. Season the naked side, flip it over and sear for 4 more minutes. Combine the jam and the juice. Remove the skillet from the heat and pour the jam/juice over the tofu. Let the sauce reduce in the hot pan for about a minute, spooning some over the tofu occasionally. Dinner's done.

Zucchini and Carrot Ribbons

Serves 2

1 tablespoon good olive oil
1/2 small shallot, chopped
2 small zucchini, washed, ends trimmed, and peeled down to core
2 carrots, washed, ends trimmed, peeled down to core
salt and pepper
1 tablespoon or so of chopped walnuts
1 tablespoon or so of crumbled blue cheese

Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet. Saute the shallot over low heat until soft, about 5 minutes. Turn the heat up a bit and add the zucchini and carrot ribbons. Saute for about 2 minutes, or until softened. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat and place on serving dish. Scatter walnuts and blue cheese on top and serve.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Tuna Cup Salad

I always have Chicken of the Sea Tuna Cups around. They're the perfect size for making tuna salad for one, which is ideal because I'm the only family member who enjoys tuna. They're also transportable and easy to open, and with just 80 calories and 18 grams of protein per cup, I think they're a nutrition bargain.

Today I decided to use equal parts tuna and vegetables to make a super-healthy tuna salad.

After opening and draining the tuna, I put it in a mixing bowl. Then I filled the empty tuna cup with an assortment of chopped and shredded vegetables - whatever I could find, which included celery, carrots and scallions. Any raw or slightly cooked vegetables would work - use what you've got.

I tossed those in with the tuna and mixed with a fork. All that was needed was a binder or flavoring. Salad dressing, mayonnaise, oil and lemon juice, and salsa came to mind. I decided on a little squeeze of low-fat ranch dressing and a dab of Hellman's with Olive Oil (my favorite). I seasoned the salad with pepper and was about to dig in when I noticed some leftover cooked rotini in the fridge. So I threw a few pasta twists into the salad.

This great little lunch weighs in at around 250 calories, is low in fat and carbs and high in protein and fiber, and won't weigh you down.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Baked Spaghetti AND Roasted Broccoli

Cooler weather has arrived, and I was ready with this dish of hearty Baked Spaghetti tonight. The kids and I ate it up - my husband's en route from St. Louis, but I predict he will eat whatever's left for breakfast tomorrow. He's good like that.

My favorite part of the meal was the Roasted Broccoli, which was surprising because up to this point in my 40+ years, I have detested any roasted broccoli I've ever eaten. Mr. Alton Brown and his roasting method have converted me. Maybe he (and I) will convert you, too.

There are two recipes here - so pay attention!

Baked Spaghetti
Serves 4

8 ounces spaghetti, broken up a bit
1 egg
1/2 cup milk
salt and pepper
Parmesan cheese
3/4 pound ground beef (I use 90% lean hormone-free ground beef - use whatever kind your family likes)
1/2 small onion, chopped
optional - other chopped vegetables such as peppers or mushrooms
1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
more salt and pepper
1 - 1 1/2 cups jarred pasta sauce
4 ounces (1/2 can) tomato sauce
1 - 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Cook spaghetti in boiling salted water for 8 minutes, or as long as the box says. Drain and rinse with cool water.

2. In a large bowl, beat the egg, milk, salt and pepper. Toss with the slightly cooled spaghetti (if the pasta's too hot, it will scramble the egg). Sprinkle with a little bit of Parmesan cheese and pour the pasta into a greased 9x9 pan or a greased deep-dish pie dish.

3. While the spaghetti's cooking, cook the ground beef and vegetables in nonstick skillet. Sprinkle with the Italian seasoning, salt and pepper and cook until the beef is no longer pink. Drain the fat. Stir the pasta sauce and tomato sauce into the meat mixture. Pour this over the pasta in the baking dish.

4. Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Top with the mozzarella cheese and bake 5 minutes longer, or until the cheese has melted. Let stand a few minutes before cutting and serving.

Roasted Broccoli
Serves 4
Technique courtesy of Alton Brown

1 head of broccoli, rinsed and cut into bite-sized pieces
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 - 2 cloves of garlic, minced
salt and pepper
1/3 cup panko breadcrumbs

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

2. In a large bowl, toss broccoli with oil, garlic, salt and pepper.

3. Place panko in a 9x13 metal baking dish. Place in the preheated oven and bake for 2 minutes. Panko should be lightly toasted. (Confession: I had to feed the cat during this step and I burned the first batch of breadcrumbs. Don't stray too far!)

4. Remove the panko from the oven and pour over the broccoli. Pour the whole thing back into the metal baking pan and put back in the 425 oven for 8 minutes, or until the broccoli is tender.

5. Alton says to toss the finished dish with 1/4 cup of grated sharp cheddar or Parmesan - I did not because I thought tonight's dinner was cheesy enough. He also says leftovers are excellent. I will see if he's right tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Late Summer Dinner Salad

Today was the quintessential summer day - 80+ degrees with clear blue skies and low humidity - which felt kind of weird since school's back in session and my white shorts have been put away for over a week now. But I decided to capitalize on today's feeling of summer by grilling our dinner and using some of our last warm-weather local produce.

This salad can serve as inspiration for you, depending upon where you live and which vegetables are at their peak. Today I used local tomatoes and corn and headed in a Greek direction with my flavors; I could have gone Tex-Mex with the addition of avocado and jalapeno in the salad and different seasoning on the shrimp, or even Italian by roasting the tomatoes with garlic and adding some shaved Parmesan cheese.

Late Summer Dinner Salad
Serves 4

1 1/3 pounds large shrimp, peeled and deveined
marinade for shrimp (I used olive oil and Penzey's Greek Seasoning)

2 large ears local corn, husked and marinated (I used dried oregano, olive oil, white vinegar, salt and pepper)

lettuce of some sort - I used arugula

other vegetables and such - I used cherry tomatoes and kalamata olives

1. Place shrimp in a bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and seasonings. Set aside.

2. Place corn in a large ziplock bag or shallow glass baking dish. Pour marinade over the corn and let sit.

3. Go out and light the grill.

4. While the grill is heating up, make a salad. I made mine with baby arugula, cherry tomatoes and kalamata olives. I also cut up a lemon because I had one one hand, but I never ended up using it.

5. Thread the shrimp on skewers. It doesn't matter how many shrimp are on the skewer; you will remove it before serving.

6. Grill the shrimp and corn over medium heat. The shrimp will take just a couple of minutes per side. Remove and set aside. The corn will take 8 - 10 minutes to get a good char.

7. If you have picky children in the house, put some hot dogs or hamburgers on the grill now to avoid any dinnertime meltdowns.

8. To compose the salad, place 4 or 5 grilled shrimp on top of the salad greens. Add the kernels from 1/2 an ear of grilled corn. Taste. You might want to drizzle with some oil or squirt with a squeeze of lemon, but it might be just perfect as is. Add some cheese if you must. Serve.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Pepperoni Calzones

When I'm planning dinners for the week, I take into account that on Friday nights, we'll most likely have some under-age visitors at our dinner table. Tonight's plan was Pepperoni Calzones (and a few without 'roni, in case there were any vegetarians in the house). These are easy to make (my daughter helped) and totally crowd-pleasing. I serve them with extra marinara sauce for dipping and a salad or fruit on the side.

Pepperoni Calzones

Makes 4 (serving size is 1 calzone, unless you're a very hungry person, in which case you might eat 2 so plan accordingly - the recipe can be doubled)

1 tube Pillsbury French Loaf dough (unbaked)
1 jar of your favorite marinara sauce
1 cup of mozzarella cheese
40 slices turkey pepperoni*
1 egg white, lightly beaten
sesame seeds or Parmesan cheese

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place foil or parchment paper on a large baking sheet and spray with nonstick spray.

2. Unroll the loaf on the cookie sheet. Cut it into 4 rectangles.

3. Spread 2 Tablespoons of marinara sauce on the bottom half of each rectangle. Leave a little border of dough on the bottom and sides so you'll have room to seal all the goodness inside.

4. Place a heaping 1/4 cup of mozzarella cheese on top of the sauce. Layer 10 pepperoni slices on top of the cheese.

5. Fold the top of the dough over the filling on the bottom half, pressing the edges to seal. Seal the edges again with a fork. If stuff is leaking out, it's OK.

6. Cut three slits in each calzone, to let the steam escape. Brush the tops with the beaten egg white and sprinkle with sesame seeds or Parmesan cheese.

7. Bake for 15 - 18 minutes, or until golden brown. Let cool at least 5 minutes before serving with the additional (warm) marinara sauce for dipping.

*when I was experimenting with this recipe, I made a few calzones with regular (pork) pepperoni and some with turkey pepperoni. My family unanimously chose the turkey pepperoni because the calzones were much less greasy than those made with the regular pepperoni. That's why I strongly recommend the turkey 'roni. We like Hormel brand.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Post-Hurricane Stir Fry

Hurricane Irene hit my town hard. We lost power for 38 hours, and I lost the contents of my refrigerator and freezer. With hurricane season still upon us, I refuse to restock the fridge with anything but the bare necessities.

Last night's stir-fry used chicken and vegetables I picked up at Whole Foods earlier in the week. It is very hard for me to walk through Whole Foods and not stock up, but I resisted. The memory of melted ice cubes, soggy bags of Alexia frozen potatoes and thawed seafood in my freezer was still very fresh in my mind.

The stir-fry combined any and all vegetables I had in the fridge, freezer and pantry (carrots, sugar snap peas, onion, garlic and edamame), along with a make-shift sauce dictated by my daughter, who was standing nearby. I served it alongside some brown rice. I've written the recipe as a guideline - use any protein, vegetables and sauces you like.

Post-Hurricane Stir Fry
Serves 4

2 - 4 T. canola or peanut oil for stir-frying
1 pound of any protein, thinly sliced if applicable (chicken, steak, tofu, seafood)
salt and pepper
3 cups of vegetables, sliced or chopped uniformly
1 large clove of garlic, minced
(fresh ginger would be good here - I didn't have any)
about 1/4 cup sauce of your choice (soy, teriyaki, hoisin, barbecue...)
1 teaspoon cornstarch mixed with 1 tablespoon water
sesame seeds to garnish, if you have them

1. Heat a very large nonstick skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Add a drizzle of oil to coat the pan. Season the protein with salt and pepper. Add the protein to the skillet in batches, being careful not to crowd the pan. Stir fry for 1 - 2 minutes, or until cooked through. Remove the cooked meat and place on a clean plate. Continue stir frying, in batches if necessary, until all the protein is cooked. Set aside.

2. Add a bit more oil to the skillet and add the hardest, crunchiest vegetables. Stir fry for 2 - 3 minutes, until they brighten in color and are getting a tiny bit softer. Add the more delicate vegetables now and stir fry another minute or two. Finally, add the garlic and stir-fry for 30 seconds.

3. Pour your cooked protein, and any juices that have accumulated, back into the skillet with the vegetables. Toss to combine. Turn the heat down a little so you don't overcook the protein.

4. Drizzle the sauce over the contents of the skillet and toss again. We used a drizzle of hoisin sauce, a drizzle of barbecue sauce and a splash of soy sauce. Finally, add the cornstarch mixture and toss everything together. The cornstarch mixture isn't essential, but it will help thicken the sauce and add a little gloss to the dish.

5. Serve over rice or noodles, sprinkled with sesame seeds if you have them.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Herb-Roasted Turkey Breast

Why wait until November to enjoy a turkey dinner? That's what my Thursday clients must have been thinking when they requested a roasted turkey breast, stuffing and cranberry sauce as one of their four meals this week.

I recently made a vow to make dinnertime less stressful at my house*, so I decided to roast a second turkey breast while I was at my client's, to serve my family this evening. When 6:15 pm rolled around, I felt like I had my own Personal Chef - all I had to do was heat and serve, which made everyone happy, most especially me (the chief dish washer was pretty pleased, too).

I adapted my recipe from this one. We're not a gravy-loving family, which is fine because this breast is so moist, it really doesn't need a sauce.

*this is kind of a funny story, involving Hurricane Irene, our 38-hour power shortage, and my very honest child - let me know if you want to hear the rest

Herb-Roasted Turkey Breast
Serves 8 (two breasts)

1 very small onion (or 1/2 large onion) -- peeled and coarsely chopped
1/2 lemon, zested
6 fresh sage leaves
1 large handful fresh flat leaf parsley
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper
2 bay leaves
6 tablespoons butter
two 2 lb. - 2 1/2-lb. turkey breast -- skin on, boneless or bone-in
(you can prepare one breast; this recipe makes enough herb rub for 2 breasts)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a roasting pan with foil. Place a rack in it. Spray with nonstick spray.

Put the onion and lemon zest into the bowl of mini food processor; process until fine. Add the sage, parsley and olive oil and a pinch of salt. Pulse until it forms a coarse paste (my paste comes out a little different every time - it's OK).

Put bay leaves and butter in microwave-safe bowl. Nuke 1 minute to melt butter. Remove from heat and set aside.

Put turkey breast(s) on a work surface. Carefully run your fingers between the skin and the flesh from one end, being careful not to pull it completely off, creating a pocket. Season the turkey breasts generously with salt and pepper and spread the herb paste under the skin of breasts. Transfer the breasts to the roasting pan. Baste the breasts with half of the bay butter. Place turkey into the oven. After 30 minutes, baste the turkey with remaining butter and roast for an additional 30 minutes. At this point, take the temperature of the breast. It will probably be around 110 degrees. Cover with foil if the skin is getting really dark and roast about 20 minutes more, or until the internal temperature of the turkey is 165 degrees.

Remove the pan from oven, transfer the breasts to a platter, cover, and let rest at least for 10 minutes before slicing. (Can also be prepared hours ahead, cooled, placed in fridge and heated in a covered pan at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Uncover and heat 5 - 10 more minutes, or until skin crisps up and turkey is heated through.)