Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Grilled Portobello Mushrooms

Around our house lately we've been trying to increase our intake of veggies and fish, and reduce our intake of meat. I found this article from the NY Times really interesting and helpful in our pursuit of a healthier diet! By default we've been buying less meat with all the great summer produce and trying to eat only organic/cage-free/antibiotic-free meat (which is rarely on sale!).

This grilled portobello mushroom recipe was great for showcasing those tasty summer veggies. It had such a fresh taste...and surprise, surprise, we didn't even miss the meat!

Grilled Portobello Mushrooms with Artichoke Puree and Roasted Corn and Tomato Topping
(Source: Shape, July 2008)

For the Artichoke Puree:
3/4 cup artichoke hearts, drained and rinsed
2 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp bottled minced garlic
sea salt

For the Corn-Tomato Topping:
2 large tomatoes, seeded and diced (about 2 cups)
2 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp bottled minced garlic
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
2 ears corn, in their husks
sea salt and freshly ground pepper

For the Mushrooms:
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
4 large portobello mushrooms, stems and gills removed
sea salt (optional)

1. Place the artichoke hearts, oil, thyme, garlic, and a small pinch of salt in a blender and pulse until smooth. Add more salt to taste. Set aside.

2. Preheat the grill to medium heat. Meanwhile, place tomatoes in a bowl and drizzle with oil. Add garlic, basil, and parsley and toss gently to combine. Set aside.

3. When grill is hot, cook the corn, turning frequently, about 10 minutes, or until husks are charred and pulling away from cobs. Let stand until cool, then strip husks and remove silk by rubbing with a dish towel. Cut kernels off cob and toss them with tomato mixture; sprinkle with salt and pepper.

4. While the corn is cooling, grill the mushrooms. Pour oil into a small dish. Using a pastry brush, lightly coat both sides of each mushroom with oil. Place mushrooms on grill, gill side down, for about 8 minutes. Flip mushrooms and continue grilling for 6-8 minutes more, or until edges begin to brown. Lightly sprinkle with salt, if desired.

5. On a large serving platter, place mushrooms gill side up and spread artichoke puree over them. Top with corn-tomato topping and serve.

A mushroom, topped with 3 T of artichoke puree, and 3/4 cup of the tomato corn mixture is just 4 Weight Watcher points! Yum!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Home Baked Support

A while ago, my friend Kara joined an amazing group of women called Operation Baking Gals. These women have banded together to bake sweet treats to send to our troops overseas as a means of showing our support for their continued efforts and sacrifice. I couldn't wait to help out when I saw that Kara was a host for the group this month and had a lot of fun finding the "perfect" cookie recipe to send to her soldier friend, Colin.

I think I really found a winner. I was trying to find something that was comforting in the way that only home cooked sweets and meals can be. And I don't know about you, but when I think homecookin', I think Paula Deen. I stumbled across this recipe for her Three Chocolate Cookies and once I read the raving reviews, I just had to try them myself.

The reviewers did not lead me astray! These cookies are AMAZING. The combination of the semisweet, milk chocolate, and bittersweet chocolate along with toffee bits is enough for me right there....but the texture of these cookies is just perfect. In the past, I've made cookies that are soft right out of the oven but soon become a harder version of themselves. These cookies maintain that soft, chewy texture even after they have cooled and have been stored. I'm hoping they maintain that softness as they travel overseas too!

Paula's Three Chocolate Cookies

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened

1/2 cup vegetable shortening

3/4 cup sugar

1 3/4 cups firmly packed brown sugar

3 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 (12-ounce) package semisweet chocolate morsels

1 cup milk chocolate morsels

3 (1-ounce) squares bittersweet chocolate, chopped

1 cup almond brickle chips

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly grease baking sheets.

2. With an electric mixer, beat butter and shortening at medium speed until creamy; gradually add sugars, beating until fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla, beating well.

3. In a small bowl, combine flour, baking soda and salt; gradually add to butter mixture, beating until blended. Stir in chocolate morsels and almond brickle chips.

4. Drop cookies by 1/4 cupfuls about 3-inches apart onto prepared baking sheets. Bake for 11 to 12 minutes, or until lightly browned. Let cool for 2 minutes on baking sheets. Remove to wire racks to cool.

Since Paula's creations aren't always what you would call "figure-friendly," I definitely recommend these cookies for times when you know you can give them away and share them with friends. They are WAY too hard to resist if left lying around too long!

Hopefully this little token of appreciation will brighten the day of Colin and his friends!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Mediterranean Salmon

This recipe is one of my favorite ways to prepare salmon in a quick and easy way! I just love Mediterranean and Greek flavors...and the fact that this dish is healthy too! We almost always have all of these ingredients on hand, ready and waiting for a salmon sale.

I follow the recipe exactly as it appeared in Southern Living over a year ago...except I serve the salmon and beans over a bed of mixed greens and drizzle with a bit of balsamic vinegar.

(Source: Southern Living, February 2007)

1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 (15-oz.) can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup chopped pitted kalamata olives
1 cup halved grape tomatoes
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
4 (6-oz.) salmon fillets
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

1. Sauté onion in 1 Tbsp. hot oil in a saucepan over medium heat 2 minutes or until slightly softened. Add beans, olives, and tomatoes; cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, 2 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Remove from heat, and stir in basil.

2. Sprinkle salmon fillets evenly with salt and pepper. Cook salmon in a large nonstick skillet in remaining 1 Tbsp. hot oil over medium-high heat 3 minutes on each side or until fish flakes easily.

3. Spoon bean mixture evenly over mixed greens, top with salmon fillets, and drizzle with balsamic vinegar.

Yield: 4 servings

Nutritional Information: CALORIES 375(0.0% from fat); FAT 16.4g (sat 2.4g,mono 7.4g,poly 5.2g); IRON 3.4mg; CHOLESTEROL 94mg; CALCIUM 74mg; CARBOHYDRATE 17.3g; SODIUM 683mg; PROTEIN 37.8g; FIBER 4.8g

Friday, August 15, 2008

Baked Ziti with Turkey Sausage

It is hard to find good, ol' Italian comfort food when you're trying to watch what you eat because you're heading to the Keys in just 2 short weeks! :) So when I came across this recipe for baked ziti with turkey sausage, I was excited to try it out. While we did have to sacrifice a lot of cheese, the end result was definitely worth leaving a lot of fat grams and calories out!

Baked Ziti with Turkey Sausage

3/4 pound mild turkey sausage, casings removed
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium green bell pepper, cored, seeded and chopped
One 28-oz can diced tomatoes
2 Tbsp tomato paste
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
12 oz dried whole wheat ziti, cooked according to the package's instructions and drained
6 oz fat-free Mozzarella cheese, grated

1. Position the rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F.
2. Brown the sausage over medium heat until it crumbles.
3. Drain off any fat, then add the onion and bell pepper. Cook, stirring often, until softened, about 3 minutes.
4. Stir in the tomatoes, tomato paste, oregano, basil, thyme, fennel seeds, salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat and cook uncovered 5 minutes, stirring often.
5. Stir in the pasta and half the grated cheese. Spread evenly into a 9 x 13-inch baking pan. Top evenly with the remaining cheese.
6. Bake until the cheese has melted and the casserole is bubbling, about 20 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes at room temperature before serving.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

North Carolina Barbecue

Pretty much every weekend during college you could find a small group of us making the trip out to Lexington Barbecue. It was about 20 miles away from campus, and we would pass several decent barbecue places on the way...but the original Lexington Barbecue just couldn't be beat (and sure beat school cafeteria food!).

The chopped barbecue, sweet tea, coleslaw, and the hushpuppies were all unbelievably good (and don't forget the banana puddin')! But what really makes lexington barbecue is the sauce...a deliciously tangy combination of ketchup and vinegar.

When I saw this recipe that included a sauce based on ketchup and vinegar, I just had to try it out. While my expectations were unfairly high, this barbecue sauce was delicious! We're pretty picky about our barbecue and this recipe was deemed a definite keeper by both of us! Now that I have a good base to work from I think I just might be able to approximate the original sauce...stay tuned!

Pork Tenderloin with Mop Sauce

2 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar 1 tablespoon paprika
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
fresh ground pepper, to taste
1/3 cup ketchup
1/4 cup cider vinegar
2 tablespoons molasses (I only had sugar free maple syrup and it was a great substitute)
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 lbs pork tenderloins, trimmed of all visible fat

1. Spray the grill rack with nonstick spray; prepare the grill for indirect heating over medium high heat.

2. To prepare the spice rub, combine the brown sugar, paprika, chili powder, cumin, salt, cayenne,and pepper in bowl.

3. Rub half of the mixture all over the pork and let stand 15 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, to prepare the Mop Sauce, combine the ketchup, vinegar, molasses, and Worcestershire sauce in a bowl.

5. Rub the pork with the remaining spice rub. Place over the indirect heat section of the grill.

6. Grill 15 minutes. Turn the pork and grill until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of the meat registers 160 degrees F, 12-15 minutes longer.

7. Remove from the grill, cover loosely with foil, and let stand 10 minutes before slicing. Serve with the Mop Sauce.

A serving of 3 oz of pork and 2 T of sauce is just 4 points!

Lexington BBQ photos from here

Monday, August 11, 2008

Tilapia with Cherries and Almonds

Don't know if you saw this latest tilapia study to come out of my alma mater...but I wasn't too excited to read it since I love tilapia and frequently prepare it at home. The following statement was particularly discouraging: "Tilapia has higher levels of potentially detrimental long-chain omega-6 fatty acids than 80-percent-lean hamburger, doughnuts and even pork bacon." Soooo not good news. The main concern is for at-risk populations with certain pre-exiting conditions such as heart disease and asthma...but still, the news is disheartening (no pun intended).

I found this tilapia study after reading about the importance of selecting ocean friendly seafood in this month's Shape magazine. In addition to considering the mercury and PCB levels (and now long-chain omega-6 fatty acids!) in the fish you consume, it's worth considering farming and fishing practices that are being used. As more and more people increase the amount of fish and seafood in their healthy diets, it's important to pay attention to the resulting environmental impact. I thought this mini-guide put out by the Blue Ocean Institute was particularly's wallet size so you can take it with you the next time you go to the seafood counter!

I'm a firm believer in enjoying most things in here's a great tilapia recipe (though I'll probably be taking a break from tilapia for at least the near future until a rebuttal study is published...too many other good fish out there!). We thoroughly enjoyed this dish and thought the cherries and almonds and onions were a great complement for the mild fish!

Tilapia with Cherries and Almonds
(Adapted from here)

1 Tbsp almonds, sliced
1 pound raw tilapia, four 4 oz fillets
1/4 tsp table salt
1/4 tsp black pepper, freshly ground
3 tsp olive oil, extra-virgin, divided
1 small onion(s), chopped
1/2 cup cherries, sweet, pitted, halved
1/3 cup chicken broth, reduced-sodium, fat-free
1/2 tsp dried thyme

1. Toast the almonds in a large nonstick skillet set over medium-low heat until aromatic and golden, shaking the pan often, about 4 minutes. Transfer to a bowl.

2. Season fish with salt and pepper. Heat 2 teaspoons of oil in the skillet, then add the fish. Cook until firm and lightly browned, about 2 minutes, then flip and cook about 2 more minutes. Remove fish to serving plates.

3. Heat the remaining teaspoon of oil in the skillet, then add the onion. Cook until softened, about 2 minutes. Add the cherries, broth and thyme, scraping up any browned bits in the skillet. Heat until simmering; cook for 30 seconds to reduce slightly.

4. Divide the sauce and toasted almonds among the fish and enjoy!

Just 3 points per serving! Recipe makes 4 servings.

**Update: I'm submitting this recipe to Joelen's Chef Spotlight: Health Conscious Chefs this month! Check it out!

Friday, August 8, 2008

Football Season!

Are you ready for some football?!?! Deacon is (don't put too much stock in the expression on his face, trust me, he loves his new jersey)!!

It better start soon or he's not going to fit in his jersey anymore!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Say Cheese!

Remember that Friends episode where Joey says his favorite food is fried stuff with cheese? I couldn't agree more on the cheese part (well, and the fried stuff too if I'm honest, but I don't let myself eat that!).

I pulled this Marinated Mozzarella recipe from a Southern Living last year and found it again last week when I was trying to find picnic type foods to take along to go see Casablanca at Leu Gardens with some friends. This recipe does require some planning ahead since it has to sit for at least 8 hours but it really couldn't be simpler. And I found some adorable bright pink flamingo picks (so Floridian!) which made it even easier to eat!

Unfortunately, the weather didn't cooperate and allow us to see the movie....but we still enjoyed a great inside "carpet picnic" with friends!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

A New Favorite?

I'm one of those few people that doesn't like cheesecake. I guess I shouldn't say I don't like bite is fine but that's usually where I have to drawn the line. I don't know if it's the richness or the texture or what, but it's just not my favorite. Other important people in my life don't share my opinion of the sweet treat, so I tried these out this week. And I'm so glad I did!

The combination of caramel and chocolate and pecans was a great topping for the rich cheesecake. And the 2-bite portions were way more manageable than the obscenely large pieces of cheesecake you are usually offered when you eat out.

Caramel-Pecan Cheesecake Bars

1 cup pecan pieces, divided
1.5 cups crushed Nilla Wafers
1/4 cup butter, melted
4 8oz packages of cream cheese, softened
1 cup sugar
1 cup sour cream
3 T flour
1 T vanilla
4 eggs
24 caramels
1 T water
3 squares (or 3 oz) semi-sweet chocolate

1. Finely chop 1/2 cup of pecans and mix with wafer crumbs and melted butter. Press into bottom of foil lined 13x9x2 pan. Be sure the foil hangs over the sides of the pan (you'll use this to lift the cheesecake out later). Refrigerate.

2. Beat cream cheese and sugar until well blended (yay for stand mixers!). Then add sour cream, flour and vanilla and beat well. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing on low until just blended. Pour over prepared crust.

3. Bake at 325 for 45-50 minutes or until center is almost set. Cool completely.

4. Microwave unwrapped caramels and 1 T water on high for 1 minute or until caramels are completely melted when stirred. Pour over cheesecake.

5. Top caramel with remaining 1/2 cup pecan pieces. Melt chocolate and drizzle over cake. Refrigerate for 4 hours. Use foil handles to remove cake before slicing and serving.

**One tip, when slicing these bars, make sure you point the knife straight down. Dragging the knife through at an angle can take the topping off.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Most Important Meal of the Day

I just love breakfast. I think what I love most is that if I have time to make breakfast, it must be a Saturday or Sunday! I'm definitely a morning person and really enjoy having leisurely mornings...which only happens on the weekends (if at all) at our house!

This past weekend we enjoyed one of those mornings with a couple of friends and enjoyed this breakfast casserole. I put most of it together the evening before which made for a really relaxing morning and time to have a second cup of coffee while it baked! I substituted chicken sausage for the regular sausage and used yellow onion since I didn't have any shallots at home. The combination of sun dried tomatoes, mozzarella and Italian sausage was delicious! And served with a fresh fruit salad, it definitely was a great way to start the day (you'll need the rest of the day to work it off!!)!

Sausage and Egg Casserole with Sun Dried Tomatoes and Mozzarella
(Source: Bon Appetit, April 2002)

1 pound Italian sweet chicken sausage, casings removed
1/2 cup chopped yellow onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup chopped drained oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes
4 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
5 large eggs
3 large egg yolks
1 cup half and half
1 cup whipping cream
2 cups grated mozzarella cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt

1. Sauté sausage in nonstick skillet over medium heat until brown and cooked through, breaking into small pieces, about 10 minutes.

2. Add onions and garlic and sauté 3 minutes. Add sun-dried tomatoes and 2 tablespoons parsley; stir 1 minute.
3. Spread sausage mixture in buttered 13x9x2 dish. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)

4. Whisk eggs, egg yolks, half and half, whipping cream, 1 1/2 cups cheese, and salt in large bowl to blend well.

5. Pour egg mixture over sausage mixture in dish. Sprinkle remaining 1/2 cup cheese and 2 tablespoons parsley over.

6. Bake at 375 until top of casserole is golden brown and knife inserted into center comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.