Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Beefy Black Bean Chili with Spicy Corn Muffins

Sad, rainy, grey day? Check!
Temperatures in the 60s on lower? Check!
Delicious hot bowl of chili with spicy corn muffins? CHECK!

There is nothing as simply satisfying as a comfort laden bowl of home-made chili. And I can't bear a rainy, sad day without a little comfort food. A Deb needs her comforting.

Now, as with any chili recipe, you can certainly feel free to make this one your own. Don't like beans? Leave 'em out. Vegetarian? Substitute kidney beans and a chopped red bell pepper for the beef, making a Dual Bean, meatless chili. Like it HOT? Crank up the spices! You can make this on the stove top (takes about 1 1/2 hour, including prep time) or toss everything in the crock pot that morning, at first sign of a thundery rumble!
Oh, and did I mention that 1 cup of this, topped with my delicious flavored cheesy crumble (below), is only 6 pts on WW? It comes in just under 300 calories, with 7 g. of fat and 6 grams of fiber, ya'll. This is comfort food that is good FOR you! So snuggle in for some Deb style goodness.

Debtastic Beefy Chili

You'll need:
Cook spray
1/4 lb. spicy chicken sausage (I used Buffalo style! But you can substitute sweet sausage in this if you don't like the heat)
2 C. chopped onion (this sounds like a lot, but it really adds tons of sweet flavor in the background!)
3 minced garlic cloves
1 lb. lean sirloin, cut into bite-sized pieces
2 T. tomato paste
2 C. chicken broth (use the low-sodium kind, it's better for you)
1 C. sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
1 C. water (You can also use beer, instead of the water, gives it a hearty, yeasty taste)
1 C. brown rice, prepared (optional -- if you add rice to any chili, it thickens it, ultimately. Play with your proportions to figure out how liquidy you like your chili; you can always add more water)
2 T. chili powder -- more or less to taste
1 T. hot peppers (omit if you don't like your chili to set your tongue a little on fire)
1/2 t. kosher salt
1/2 t. cumin
1 15 oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed (saltless, again, is better for you! Also, if you're not fond of beans, you can certainly substitute a chopped red bell pepper or another vegetable that you like!)

For Topping:
Cheesy Crumble (see below)
Fat Free sour cream
Crumbled Spicy Corn muffins (also below)

Remove any casings from your sausage. Heat a large sauce pan over medium high and coat with spray. Add in sausage, garlic and onion. Let the onion get soft, about 5 minutes. Add in your beef, cook until just browned, about another 5 minutes. Stir in paste, and cook 3 minutes, stirring. Add broth, tomatoes, water, rice, and seasonings. Bring to a boil, then cover, reduce heat, and simmer about an hour, until meat is tender and broth has reduced to preferred consistency. Stir in your beans (if using), cook until warmed through, maybe 5 more minutes. Top each serving with Cheesy Crumble, serve with corn muffins and plain, steamed green beans with just a little butter and salt.

This makes 4 servings, and you'll thank me next rainy day. It's particularly good with beer, if you have a favorite kind to pair with it. I like this with Sam Adams Cherry Wheat, but it might not be worth the extra calories to you! Besides, you definitely don't need alcohol to enjoy the meal.

Flavored Cheesy Crumble

1 oz. Cabot's 75% fat free white cheddar, shredded
2 T. shredded parmesan
1 cube Laughing Cow cheese wedges, diced -- pick any flavor you like! I used Garlic Herb
1/2 t. cajun seasoning
1/4 t. garlic salt

Mix together until crumbly! Use to top anything from soups to salads to chili -- melt this on an English muffin in the morning for breakfast, even. Or make a big batch and top some otherwise plain muffins with this, just before baking.

Spicy Corn Muffins

Preheat your oven to 350, and spray a muffin tin. These are 3 pts. each on WW.

1 C. flour
1 C. corn meal
2 t. baking powder
1 t. salt
1 T. Mrs. Dash, any flavor (I like the Italian medley)
1 T. Old Bay or Cajun seasoning (for mild or spicy flavor!)
1/2 T. garlic powder
dash of black pepper

Combine these dry ingredients in a medium bowl and create a well in the center. Then move on (using a new bowl) with the wet ingredients:

1/3 C. corn oil
3 T. honey
1 large beaten egg
1 C. 2% milk (I've also used half-and-half, we won't discuss why or how... It was fine, though!)
1 T. hot peppers (omit this if you want plain corn muffins)

Combine all and pour into the well. Mix into a dough, then stir in:

1/2 C. corn kernels, either fresh or frozen and thawed
2 T. chopped chives
Also, if you have any fresh parsley, oregano or basil from your garden, chop up a tablespoon or two and add in for extra flavor.

Using an ice-cream scoop, evenly fill your 12 muffin spots. The ice-cream scoop make your muffins perfectly measured, for one thing (nice to know your proportions for those os us counting our calories!), and also for a neatly domed top, for those of us with more severe OCD.

Bake until tops are golden brown, about 20 -- 25 minutes.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Yummy Spanish Paprika Chicken

Thank goodness that there will always be new things to do with chicken! This recipe was originally found, I believe, in Cooking Light or Redbook though it was called something nicer (aren't they always called something nicer in the magazines?).

This is an easy, quick recipe to spice up that pound of chicken you've got in the freezer. It's great for an evening when you just don't even feel like pre-heating the oven. Serve this with a little brown rice and some corn or another nice veggie, and you've got a really simple, hearty meal. The heat this dish gets from the paprika isn't spicy hot, but you can certainly heat things up by using extra seasonings! Otherwise, serve as is.

Spanish Paprika Chicken

You'll need:
1 t. paprika
black pepper (to taste); crushed red pepper (for spicy)
4 -- 5 bone/skinless chicken breasts, about 3 oz. each
2 t. extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 C. chopped green olives
14 oz. can of diced tomatoes and green chiles, undrained
3 slices proscuitto, finely chopped (about 1/4 C.)
2 T. fresh chopped parsley (I like this with the flat leaf kind)
2 T . grated parmesan

Heat a large skillet over medium high heat and add your proscuitto. Heat until just barely brown and crispy, then remove to a plate and add in the parsley and parmesan cheese. Keep warm. Meanwhile, keep your skillet over medium heat and add the 2 t. of oil.

Combine your paprika and pepper and sprinkle all over both sides of chicken. I usually sprinkle one side, toss it face-down in the pan and then do the other side. This seems to make better use of the spices. Add the seasoned chicken to your pan and cook about 4 minutes, flipping once. Add your garlic and cook another minute, flip your chicken again. Add olives and tomatoes, bringing the whole mixture to a boil. Reduce heat and then simmer for 6 -- 10 minutes, until chicken is completely cooked through.

Place a chicken breast on each plate, top with 1/2 C. of the sauce, then sprinkle with about 2 T. of the proscuitto/parsley/cheese mixture. Declicious! I usually cut mine up into my rice, and it feel like a ridiculous load of food, but so good! This makes about 4 servings, and you can easily adjust that by just including fewer or more chicken breasts and topping the breasts with a little more/less sauce as necessary. Each serving is 6 pts on WW, or about 310 calories.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

New Beefy Potato Casserole!

Well, ya'll, the temperatures here in Dixie just dropped below 50 this morning, so I know that Fall is good and here. I don't think I'm the only one that craves warm comfort casseroles and soups when the cold weather hits! This recipe is great for using up some stock items in your friedge, like that frozen pound of beef and those last few potatoes in the bag. It's just simple and homey, but really warm and filling on a cool fall evening. It's 8 pts on WW (370 calories, 14 g. of fat and 5 grams of fiber). I was inspired by the Greek moussaka casserole, but I toned it down and used ultra lean beef as my meat. Serve it with hot bread and some green beans and you've got a great meal.

Potato Beef Moussaka

Preheat your oven to 350 and coat a 13 x 9 pan with cook spray.

You'll need:
2 lbs baking potatoes, cut into 1/4 " slices (about 4 medium potatoes), peeled or not as preferred
1 medium onion, chopped
1 carrot, diced
2 garlic cloves
1 lb. lean ground beef
1 8 oz. jar diced pimentos, drained
8 oz. no-salt tomato sauce
1 t. salt, pepper to taste
1 t. cumin
1/2 t. cinnamon (this is what makes this recipe so good! It brings a wonderful heat and fall spiciness to your mouth with each bite)
1/2 C. finely chopped parsley (I like flat-leaf in this recipe)
1 C. 1% milk
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
garlic salt, to taste
2 oz. feta cheese

Heat a large skillet over medium and coat with cook spray. Add potato slices in batches of thirds until they've all been browned, about 4 -- 5 minutes per batch. Keep warm.

Recoat the skillet with spray and then add onion, carrot, garlic, and beef to your pan. Cook about 4 minutes until beef is browned, then add pimentos, sauce, seasonings and parsley. Cook until bubbly, about 10 minutes.

Arrange half the potatoes at the bottom of the pan, then cover with the meat sauce and about 1 oz. of the feta. Cover with the remaining potatoes, then the rest of the feta. Next, combine your eggs with the milk and garlic salt. When lightly mixed, pour over entire casserole evenly. Bake for 30 minutes until feta is lightly bronwed and filling has set. Let it settle about 10 minutes before serving.

This makes 6 servings and is great as leftovers for the rest of the week! If you have a lot leftover, you can freeze it for later.

Monday, September 29, 2008

The Deb Discovers Polenta!

Who knew what a delicious little snacky cake baked polenta makes?! Oh, I guess the rest of the world had figured this out. Ooops. My local store even had flavored polenta!

Also, this recipe takes all of 10 minutes to prepare, so don't give yourself a half-hour like I did. I was standing over the shrimp, glaring at them with my Deb-ray vision in an effort to keep them warm while waiting for my husband to get home.

Parmesan, Paprika and Polenta!

Go ahead and preheat your broiler.

You'll need:

1 T. olive oil
1 lb. peeled/deveined medium shrimp
1/4 white wine
1 T. chopped chives
1 T. lemon juice
1 T. papkrika
dash of garlic salt, Old Bay (to taste)
1 16 oz. tube polenta (I used the dun-dried tomato flavor, and boy was it good with this recipe!), cut into 8 even (about 1/2") slices
cook spray
8 spoonfuls of marinara sauce
8 spoonfuls of shredded parmesan cheese
1 T. chopped parsley

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add in your shrimp and cook max maybe 3 minutes until just done, pink and curled. Remove from heat, stir in wine, chives, lemon juice and seasonings, tossing to coat. Keep warm (with laser eyes if necessary).

Place polenta slices on sprayed cookie sheet and top each slice with one spoonful each of sauce and then cheese. Broil 3 or 4 minutes until the cheese is melty. Top each serving with your shrimp mixture and sprinkle all over with parsley!

This is perfect with just a salad or maybe a little rice. Polenta, you just made yourself a friend.

The recipe is only 230 calories, with 5 grams of fat, 2 grams fiber. That makes it only 6 pts on Weight Watchers, and the polenta is deliciously filling!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Pasta in Sun-dried Tomato Cheese Sauce

There is just nothing like a nice warm bowl of pasta, if I'm craving comfort food! In fact, when I was young, that was what I always wanted on days I stayed home sick from school, rather than chicken noodle soup. I didn't even need any sauce, just a little butter and parmesan cheese (from the green canister, no less! Blech!).

This recipe is so fresh tasting and good, yet you can throw it together in about 20 minutes. It's perfect for four modest servings, and I serve it with just some freshly baked bread. Each serving (a heaping cup) is 7 points on WW (around 330 calories, 8 g fat, 5 g fiber). So make yourself a big ol' bowl of pasta and snuggle in to enjoy the nice fall weather comin' up!

Pasta in Sun-dried Tomato Cheese Sauce

You'll need:

8 oz. Whole Wheat ziti (or similar -- I use whatever vaguely tubular pasta I have open, since this recipe only calls for 8 oz)

1/2 t. extra virgin olive oil

1 C. sun-dried tomatoes, thinly sliced in strips (I buy the dried variety and then reconstitute them with boiling water; they're less expensive than the ones packed in oil, which I always have to rinse thoroughly anyway, to save calories)

2 scallions, chopped

2 oz. canadian bacon, chopped (Optional -- you can let this stay a totally vegtarian meal, if you prefer, or substitute chicken or even shrimp, just be sure to use a small amount of the meat so that your calories don't jump too high)

pinch of salt, crushed red pepper -- to taste

1 minced garlic clove

6 T. fat-free half and half

3 0z. crumbled gorgonzola cheese (now, if this cheese is too strong or if you just don't like it, swap it out with fresh parmesan or romano)

1 C. fresh spinach, rinsed

Cook up your pasta and drain. Don't worry about keeping it warm -- it's going back into a skillet for a heat-up in the sauce later anyhow.

Heat your oil over medium heat in a large skillet, then add in your tomatoes, scallions, your bacon (if using), seasoning, and garlic. Cook just a minute, until fragrant. Stir in half and half and cheese, stirring constantly, letting the cheese melt and thicken the sauce. Stir in spinach and pasta and cook until spinach is wilted.

This is so good, and perfect for a busy work night when you crave something homey and good but don't have a lot of time.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Summery Chowder

This recipe is perfect in the summer-time, for all that it's a soup. It's perfect for a rainy summer day indoors, which was yesterday to a T. It's also a quick soup to make, and just bursting with fresh flavor. Make sure you get local, fresh corn and hunt for some whole wheat bread bowls -- they're worth it for the extra fiber and texture!

There are 4 servings, about 1 1/2 cups per serving, and each serving of chowder is 4 WW points, about 230 calories, while the bread bowl will vary.

Summery Chowder

You'll need:

2 smallish Yukon potatoes
cook spray
1/2 C. celery
1 large shallot, chopped
2 -- 3 pieces corn on the cob, kernels removed with knife
1 small jar diced pimentos
3 -- 4 sun-dried tomatoes, diced
4 oz. diced Canadian bacon
2 C. skim milk
salt, pepper to taste
Tabasco sauce, to taste

Bread bowls

Puncture your potatoes and put them on high in your microwave for about 8 minutes, rotating. Allow to cool, then you're going to peel and mash them in a little bowl.

Coat a large sauce pan with spray, then add celery, shallot, corn, pimentos and tomatoes. Saute over medium high for 5 minutes until all is tender. Stir in bacon and milk, then add mashed potatoes. Mix well, then season to taste; stir and combine. Cover and simmer, just under a boil, for at least 10 minutes. You can leave it on low heat until ready to serve, if needed.

Scoop into bread bowls, then top with sliced green onions and shredded low-fat cheddar. Serve with the removed tops of the bread bowls toasted to dunk with. Delicious and filling!

You can replace the veggies in this with any of your favorites. I think that broccoli would be great, as would fresh bell peppers.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Sirloin in Shallot Sauce with Fries

My poor husband has just gotten over some dental surgery, so he's been eating very squooshy food for a while! To celebrate his stitches coming out with "real" food (to my husband, this means BEEF), I made this slightly modified version of Cooking Light's more elegantly titled, "Steak Frites with Shallot Pan Reduction." It was delicious and, either because of its deliciousness or my husband's delirium at being served real food, he begged for it to become a staple in our house. Hey, this makes 4 servings, with 330 calories per serving, 7 g of fat, and 3 g of fiber -- 7 pts on WW.

Sirloin in Shallot Sauce with Fries (a much more humble title, thus one I'm more likely to attempt again when I see it in my recipe book!)

First, preheat your oven to 450 and spray two large bake sheets with spray. Make sure your oven racks are fully divided -- one on the top-most rack, one on the lowest.

You'll need:

2 large potatoes, sliced into 1/2 " sticks (I leave the skin on because you get a lot more fiber and nutrition that way, but feel free to peel the potatoes if you like!)
Cooking spray
3/4 t. kosher salt, divided
2 t. fresh chopped thyme, divided (I didn't realize that I had run out of fresh thyme, so I used dried and it was just fine!)
1/2 t. black pepper
cajun seasoning, to taste (optional)
1 lb. sirloin, trimmed, boneless
2 T. finely chopped shallots
2 T. brandy (I use cherry brandy when making a meat sauce; off-sets the taste unusually and nicely)
3/4 C. low-sodium beef broth
1 T. dijon mustard
1 T. Fat Free Butter spray

Arrange your potato sticks single-layer on the sheets, lightly spray with cook spray and then sprinkle with 1/4 t. kosher salt, and cajun seasoning, if you desire. Bake on 450 for about 15 minutes, then swap locations of your bake sheets in the oven. Bake another 15 -- 20 minutes until golden brown. Toss them with half the thyme when they come out and keep them warm.

Heat a big skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cook spray. Sprinkle steak 1/4 t. salt/pepper and then add to hot pan. Saute about 3 minutes per side for medium rare. Remove from pan and keep warm.

Add shallots to pan and saute for 2 minutes. Add brandy, bring to a boil, then add broth, mustard, and the remaining thyme; bring to a boil. Cook until reduced, about 3 minutes. Add remaining salt and pepper, then whisk in butter spray. Slice warm steak and fully heat in the sauce. Serve with sauce lightly drizzled over the fries.

Serve with an easy, quick vegetable, like steamed 'gus or green beans! Delicious!!