Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Beef and Veggie Casserole

Ah, beef. It's what's for dinner, you know.
And The Deb feels that so long as you're buying lean beef and not cooking it in, say, bacon fat or lard, it's not that bad for you. That being said, you should be careful about consuming it every day. I just heard on NPR that you should have about 3 servings a week, and you shouldn't grill it because the grilling process can lead to carcinogens (CANCER) in your burger. Gah. The Deb often wonders if it wasn't infinitely easier living in the 1950s where you could smoke, drink and eat red meat all you wanted because: Steaks = vitamins, booze = necessary social lubricant and smoking = dedication to a hobby.

Anyway. It's 2007 and here's a nice casserole dish for these chilly winter nights that will taste good and homey but not weigh you down.

Warm Beefy Delicousness

Preheat your oven to 500 degrees and spray a cookie sheet.
Cook your pasta, also.

You will need:
8 oz. whole wheat pasta, BARELY cooked (I only cook my ziti for about 6 -- 8 minutes because it will be in the oven); ziti, medium shells, or macaroni works fine with this. I've even used egg noodles.
2 bell peppers (any color), sliced
2 zucchini or squash, sliced
12 oz. lean ground beef
1 onion, chopped
2 minced garlic cloves
1 C. tomato sauce
2 C. fat free ricotta
2 T. parmesan cheese
1 large egg yolk
1 C. reduced fat cheese
salt, pepper, Mrs. Dash and chopped parsley, to taste

Roast veggies on cookie sheet for 10 -- 15 minutes. Reduce temp to 350.
Saute beef, onion and garlic until beef is browned. Stir in sauce and bring to a simmer. Combine with cooked pasta.
Spead beef/noodle mixture in bottom of a 9 x 13 pan and top with roasted veggies. Sprinkle with seasonings/parsley.
Whisk together ricotta, yolk, cheddar and more seasonings (to taste). Smooth over top of casserole with a spatula and top with parmesan. Bake uncovered for 25 minutes, then take the foil off and cook 10 more minutes to get the cheese all melty.
This is so good for around the holidays because it feeds 6 -- 8 people and it's really like comfort food, so you don't feel deprived on a cold winter night.
Serving six, it's got about 315 calories per serving, or 7 WW points.

Casserole Sing-A-Long
"Baby It's Cold Outside!"
"Yes We Can-Can-Can" from the Moulin Rouge soundtrack

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Tis the Season

Because your Deb has been considerably more busy this year than last, Deb has realized that she has not accomplished as much baking as she'd like for the Holiday season. So the Deb has made an executive decision -- if you're going to bring baked goods to the office, it's acceptable to use boxed items. SO LONG AS you also add in your own ingrediants and put some genuine love and care into the presentation. No flopping the cookies down on the communal snack table on a paper plate. It's untidy.

That being said, I realized that there are several "Quick Bread" options in the grocery store, and I've been using these to create Holiday Breads for my faculty lounge and for my husband's office. Here are some ideas for quick and delicious ways to look like a gourmet to your friends at work!

Holiday Bread

Preheat oven according to box's instructions.

1 box Cranberry Quick Bread (or similar -- I've been using Pillsbury because they've been on sale)
2 T. honey
1/4 C. dried cranberries
1/4 C. chocolate chips
1/2 C. chopped nuts (walnuts or pecans work best)
2 eggs, oil and water (again, follow the directions on the back for this part)

Combine all ingrediants and bake (usually around 35 -- 45 minutes). When bread is cooled, combine 4 TBS. of powdered sugar with 2 T. lemon juice. Whisk into a glaze and drizzle over finished bread. This is like a fruitcake except moist and edible.

Tonight I'm making a banana bread with real mashed bananas stirred in, topped with pecans and caramel frosting. I'll let you know how it turns out!

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Cuttin' Up with Cookies

For the first few years of my cooking life, I could not, for the Deb of me, figure out how to make decent Christmas Cut-Out cookies. And what's the point of a holiday without the sugary pleasure of biting off the head of a reindeer? At long last, though, and after many tragic attempts in the kitchen (once I made a dough that could easily have entered the Olympics... as a trampoline), I figured the following recipe out. Here's why it's awesome: it's really easy because you make the food proccessor do the work, and it's fool-proof. I am proof of that fool.

Cuttin' Up Cookies
You'll need plastic wrap and two hours to refrigerate the dough! THEN you can preheat to 350.

2 sticks softened butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
3 C. flour
1 1/4 tsp. baking powder

Cream the butter and sugar until fluffy in a food processor. I like pulsing my food processor in time to the commercials of whatever my husband is watching. Because that's real love.* Add in the egg and vanilla and pulse until just mixed. Gradually add in your flour and baking powder until a smooth dough forms. Divide the dough into two balls and squash into circular disks. Wrap in plastic wrap and stick in the fridge for 2 hours. Then it'll be a Grinch cinch to pull 'em out, roll em out and cut your decapitated-destined reindeer out from. They're really light and delicious, and I can never eat too many Christmas cookies after making 9 dozen of them, so I don't count the calories. They're a labor of love, and for me the fun part is honestly making them, rather than eating them... well, until I see those irresistably frosted antlers...

Classic Cookie Cantos

"Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindder" (though it fails to mention how delicious he is...) by Gene Autry
"Santa Baby" by Eartha Kitt
"It's Cool to Love Your Family" by Feist
"Ava Maria" by Andrea Bocelli

*Of course, my food processor dates back to 19-dickity-2. My mother bought it for "me" (that is, she bought herself a backup machine, myself not being born yet) in the 70s.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Melba Canapes

Because the Dainty Deb loves the Food Network, I watched it pretty incessently throughout the holidays. And cooks notoriously love Thanksgiving, since the focus is so much more on the food than the gift-giving. Well, I can't say that my Thanksgiving meal was too terribly dainty, but I have come up with a few nice ideas for hors d'ouerves thanks to Paula Deen's unflagging enthusiasm for all things buttery.

Melba Canapes

1 box (any flavor) melba toasts, each toast halved
1 large onion, sliced in rings
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. Sugar
8 oz fat free cream cheese
dash worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp. Old Bay

Heat a skillet over medium high and heat the oil up to good and hot. Add the sugar and onions and let them carmalize. Mmmm. When they're nice and brown and soft, remove from heat. Meanwhile, mix your cream cheese with the sauce and Old Bay. Spread about 1 Tbsp. per melba half onto the little toasts, then top with the warm onions. You can garnish these with green olives for a festive look. They're really delicious, and because of the seasonings, you can't even tell the cream cheese is fat free! So HAH, Paula Deen! I made something delicious AND will be remaining dainty for the coming season of parties and fetes!

PS Thanks for all the warm wishes in my absence. It's very good to be back. Thanks for missing me!!

Friday, October 5, 2007


The Dainty Deb is very sorry. She has been MIA for quite a while.

It's not that the Deb has not been cooking up healthy deliciousness -- she has! But she's had to make the very serious choice between taking the time to cook and taking the time to blog. And, beloved Dainty readers, one should always choose the actual act of cooking over writing about the process of cooking!

Anyway, never fear. The Deb is back and ready for the fires of the kitchen. She will have some particulary delicious and low-cal holiday recipes coming up, so stay tuned. Thanks for not giving up!

Monday, July 16, 2007


Lord do I love bacon. It was the absolutely worst part about my semester abroad in England -- I couldn't get good bacon. It was either unrecognizable or undercooked. Gah. First thing I did when I got back? Made me some bacon.

Here's a nice way to incorporate the smoky deliciousness of bacon even if you're watching your figure. I use Canadian-style bacon because I feel it imbues the sauce with more flavor, but I've also made this with pancetta and with regular bacon. They were also quite good, though I maintain that Canadian-style gives this sauce more oomph. Also, this recipe is cheap, easy and perfect with just a nice salad and maybe garlic bread. Great for the middle of the week when you want real food but aren't feeling like an hour in the kitchen. It's 257 calories per serving (it's 5 WW points), and this makes 4 nice sized servings.


You'll need:
8 oz. uncooked whole wheat spaghetti
1 t. olive oil
5 oz. Canadian-syle bacon, diced
1 onion, diced
1 tsp. minced garlic
14 1/2 oz can diced tomatoes
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
salt and pepper, to taste
freshly grated parmesan cheese, for garnish

Cook the spaghetti al dente and reserve 1/4 C. cooking water before draining and keeping warm.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat and add the bacon, cooking until browned. Add in the onion and garlic, also cooking until lightly browned. Finally, add the tomatoes and then red pepper flakes. Let simmer together for about 10 minutes.

Combine the sauce with the pasta, reserved pasta water, and salt and pepper to taste. Top each serving with a little parmesan cheese.

You can also always double or triple the sauce recipe and keep some in a jar in the fridge for a super quick meal in the future. It keeps forever... at least 3 months. But I'd try to use it within a month of making it.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Chicken Parmesan

I don't know many things better than fried meat baked under a layer of sauce and cheese. I make this dish with fewer calories than what you'd get at Olive Garden, but the key is using good, fresh ingredients (isn't it always?). Make sure you use freshly ground Italian seasoning, freshly sliced, good quality mozzarella and equally freshly grated, good parmesan cheese.

Chicken Parmesan
Preheat your oven and spray an 8" square bake pan with cooking spray.

You'll need:
1 lb. chicken breasts, boneless/skinless, pounded thin (about 4 4 oz. pieces)
2 large egg whites, lightly beaten
1/2 C. dry, seasoned breadcrumbs
2 T. Italian seasoning
1 t. olive oil
2 8 oz. cans tomato sauce (I use the garlic and basil flavored kind)
1/2 C. part-skim mozzarella, sliced into thin strips
2 T. freshly grated parmesan cheese

Combine the breadcrumbs and seasoning in a shallow dish. Also, heat a skillet over medium high heat and add your olive oil. Pour 1/2 a can of tomato sauce into the bottom of the bake pan.

Coat each chicken breast with egg whites and then thoroughly dredge through the breadcrumb mixture. Turn to get all sides of chicken coated. Add the chicken to your hot skillet, and cook until lightly browned, about 4 minutes on each side. When the chicken is no longer pink on the inside, remove to bake pan and cover with remaining tomato sauce -- it's sort of a matter of taste. (My husband likes lots of sauce, which he spoons over the whole wheat pasta.) Then top with cheeses. Bake until bubbly and cheese is browning, about 25 minutes. Serves 4.

I serve this over pasta with a nice big salad. It's 256 calories (5 WW points) and it is one of our favorites. It's also not particularly labor intensive. Once you've dredged the chicken in crumbs, the hard work is over. I usually buy more chicken breasts so that Stephen has leftovers for lunch. This is a super easy recipe to double -- you just use a 9 x 13" bake pan instead of the little one.

Chicken Cha Cha

"That's Amore" by Dean Martin (it certainly will be "amore" after you serve him breaded, lightly fried meat under gooey cheese and warm sauce)

"Time to Say Goodbye" by Andrea Bocelli (time to say goodbye to those extra pounds with style and satisfaction)

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Birthday! (More Non-Daintiness)

My husband had his birthday on Monday, which is rather lame, since it's not like you can take a boy out, get him shnockered and keep him up all hours with birthday lovin' when he's got to work in the morning. Well. I guess you CAN, but Debs tend to respect the sleep patterns of their bread winners. To do otherwise might disrupt any potential we have at becoming a trophy wife.

I did the next best thing -- I cooked him dinner. What did I make, you ask? Oh-ho. What DIDN'T I make.
1. Ceasar Salad
2. Roasted Squash
3. Blue Cheese and Portobello Stuffed Steaks
4. Tortellini in a browned butter sauce
5. Homemade Chocolate birthday cake with caramel frosting

The last three are the most impressive (especially considering that my ceasar dressing came out of a bottle), so those are the three I'll list here.

Blue Cheese/Portobello Stuffed Steaks

You'll need:
4 top sirloin fillets
5 oz. blue cheese
6 oz. drained jar of sliced portobello mushrooms
1 C. red wine (use a nice, drinkable wine)
2 T. Good Seasonings, divided
Freshly ground pepper, to taste

First things first, get your steaks marinating. Before they go into the bag, though, cut a 1/2" slit in the side of each steak, and use your knife to hollow out a nice space in the interior of the steak, like a little pocket. The bigger the pocket, the more cheese you can fit in later... but DON'T cut the initial slit any bigger than a 1/2" inch or you'll have a mess on your hands when it comes time to cook them. Trust me. I've spent hours scraping charred blue cheese off my Calphalon. Not a recommended activity for anyone's birthday. So. Once they've got their little holes/pockets, place them in a large zip-loc bag with the wine and 1 T. of the Good Seasons, using your pepper as desired. Make sure that you flip them once halfway thru the day so that both sides of the steaks get good and soaked.

Once they've marinated, then you want to pull them out before making your tortellini to let them get room temperature. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Once at room temp, you want to combine the cheese and mushrooms and last T. of Good Seasons in a small bowl, spooning this amply into each steak's pocket. Secure with a toothpick if necessary.

Then, let a skillet get good and hot. Add 1 -- 2 T. of olive oil and let this heat as well. Finally, add the stuffed, secured steaks to this hot pan. TURN YOUR FAN ON. It will be smooooky. Only let them sear on one side -- the crust side. About 4 minutes. Make sure the last of the oil cooks away (you don't want any left in the pan when you place it in the oven). Place the whole skillet into your heated oven and cook for about 10 minutes for medium. They should come out just perfect. Tent them with foil just prior to serving to let them settle and to keep them warm.

After placing the steaks in to marinate, I made the cake, because it has to chill for a few hours. The frosting is the same as for the Peanut Butter Cupcakes (see below), except I used caramels in the melting process, vs. chocolate chips.

Birthday Boy Cake

Preheat your oven to 350. Grease and flour a 9 x 13" bake pan.

You'll need:
2 C. sugar
1/2 t. salt
2 C. flour
1 stick butter
1/2 C. vegetable oil
1 C. water
1/4 C. cocoa
2 eggs
1 t. baking soda
1/2 C. buttermilk (You can also use 1/2 C. regular with either a 1/2 T. of vinegar OR lemon juice mixed into)
1 t. vanilla
14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
6 oz. jar caramel topping

Combine sugar, salt and flour in large bowl. In a saucepan, bring butter, oil, water and cocoa to a boil (this makes your house smell SOO good). Add to flour mixture. Beat eggs, baking soda, buttermilk and vanilla on medium, gradually adding in the dry ingredients. Pour into your bake pan when well blended, but not overmixed. Bake for 25 -- 30 minutes. When cake is out of the oven and still warm, pierce it all over with a toothpick, making sure you hit the bottom of the pan with each poke. Pour the sweet milk over top, letting it sink in and settle. Pour the caramel over top. Chill for about 3 hours before serving. Frost after chilling. I'm sure this is about a million calories, but he only has one birthday, after all, and I had only one tiny piece.

Next you can make your tortellini...

Tortellini (in brown butter sauce)

1 large refrigerated package of tortellini or tortelloni (I like the chicken and parmesan type with this recipe, thought three-cheese is a close second favorite)
1.5 sticks of butter
1 C. dried cranberries
1 C. chopped, toasted walnuts
1/4 C. fresh chopped parsley

Cook your torellini according to the package and keep warm. Don't drain it completely, it needs to be a bit damp to not stick. Then melt your butter in a large sauce pan over medium heat. Here it the trick -- you really have to watch the blasted butter. It's got to get nice and brown and smell nutty, but just as soon as it does (turns brown and smells nutty), yank it off the heat. You don't want it to burn because then it will be bitter, oily and just plain sad. Yank it off the heat and add in your nuts, berries and parsley, stirring rapidly to coat completely. Add in your warm, damp pasta and mix well. Again, about a million calories but DELICIOUS. I brought this to a reading club meeting once and there was a near bludgeoning over the last serving of it. Teeb (that's my husband, Stephen's, nickname) loves this almost more than the actual steak.

So they say it's your birthday -- it's my birthday too! At least, I'm going to eat like it is...

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Not So Dainty Cupcakes

Part of being a Dainty Deb is not simply the "dainty" part -- there is also a good deal of "Deb" involved. To me, being on top of one's life includes being kind to one's family. Particularly Debs are concerned with the well-being of their significant other. My husband's well-being, tragically for my daintiness, often requires Peanut Butter confections.

I'm leaving my poor husband to fend for himself for a week while I visit my brother in Manhattan. I thought it only a measure of good manners that I make him something delicious before I go... They're about 500 calories apiece, but they're pretty astonishingly delicious. They're like a cupcake version of a peanut butter cup.

Decidedly UnDainty Deliciousness (Peanut Butter Cupcakes)

Preheat your oven to 350 and line a 12 cup muffin tin with paper liners.

You'll need:

1 1/4 C. flour
1 1/2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
1 C. gently packed light brown sugar
6 T. butter, softened
1 t. vanilla extract
1/2 C. smooth peanut butter
2 lg. eggs, room temp.
1/2 C. milk (whole or soy is best), room temp.
12 oz. peanut butter morsels, divided in half
6 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 1/3 C. heavy cream
Mini-Reece's peanut butter cups, cut into fourths, for garnish

In a medium bowl, sift flour, baking powder and salt together. Set aside.

In a large bowl, beat sugar, butter and vanilla together on medium speed, beating until blended. Add in peanuty butter and beat until blended and fluffy. Add each egg individually, beating well after each addition. Add milk, beat well. Finally, stir in 6 oz. of those peanut butter morsels gently.

Fill each cup evenly, and bake 25 -- 30 min. until golden on top and when a toothpick comes out clean. Let them cool completely -- meanwhile, you can make your own icing (see below) or cheat a little (Debs know how to cheat, gracefully, with feminine allure and without getting caught) and use store-bought. Then top with the peanut butter cup fourths.

Easy-Peasy Chocolate/Peanut Butter Frosting

*Note: This makes about double what you really need to top the cuppers with, so either halve it or have a plastic container on hand to save the remaining amount in for later. It refrigerates beautifully for up to 3 months.

Melt the remaining peanut butter morsels, the chocolate chips and the heavy cream over low in a saucepan. Stir occasionally (usually takes me about 10 min) until totally 100 % smooth. Pop in the fridge for about an hour. You want it to be cool all through, though not hardened. The best way to test this is with a clean finger stirring -- although, then you're left with a deliciously coated finger... Anyway. Once it's done, about an hour in the fridge, then you want to beat it on medium to high speed for about 3 -- 5 minutes until creamy and fluffy.

As a variation, if you'd like to make these as breakfasty muffins, you can turn them into PB&J treats: Just as you're ladling the first dollop of batter into the paper muffin cup, top each of those dollops with a tablespoon full of your favorite jelly (I like scuppernong). Then cover entirely with another dollop of the batter before baking. You don't have to ice them when they're filled with jelly and they make very enviable breakfast or lunchtime treats at any office.

Dutiful Deb Ditties:

"Ain't No Other Man" by Christina Aguilera (See, you married him for a reason. Hopefully he didn't marry you sheerly for your cupcakes, but hey. They never hurt.)

"Me and Mr. Jones" by Amy Winehouse

"If You Wanna Be Happy" by Jimmy Soul (I like the part where he defends his wife, saying "she sure can cook, baby!")

"The Man I Love" by Etta James (The man I love loves peanut butter and has the rapid metabolism of a flying squirrel. sigh.)

Monday, June 18, 2007

Back and Better Than Ever! With Pastitsio!

We are NOT going to discuss all the terrible and delicious things I ate in Vegas, a veritable feast of fatness. My husband and I ate like it was our job. Buffets for breakfast, meals involving appetizers and cheese trays for dinner. I had one meal that consisted of literally nothing that was not deep fried and served with a sauce. Ye Gads. I can't believe we didn't have to be rolled home from the airport.

Like the Dainty Deb I am, though, I proudly hopped right back on the healthy-eating train as soon as we got home. Truth be told, I was feeling a bit sicky from all the grease and impending caloric reprecussions. So like the good girl I am, I waddled on down to the faithful old Teet and grocery shopped for the week, rather than giving in to the more sensible desire to order wings and lay imobile for several hours.

Because I was coming off a fat, fried and fabulous binge, though, I felt it would be in my best interest to make something fairly decadent. This recipe is for Pastitsio, and while it's creamy and gooey and delicious, it's also pretty tame: 300 calories per serving (6 WW points); 8 servings. As such, it's a nice bridge between the decadence of vacation and the good intentions to return to a sensible but tasty lifestyle of munching. Because it's lengthy, it will keep you occupied mentally and physically in the kitchen, rather than letting you (if you're anything like me) graze aimlessly and thoroughly through your kitchen cabinets. But it's not really hard, just requires a bit of concentration, which will be the best thing for a mind suddenly disgruntled by the rapid disappearance of dishes involving potato skins, fried meat and a cheese topping (an actual thing I ordered at The Peppermill).

Partway Home Pastitsio
Preheat your oven to 350 and spray a 9 x 13 bake pan. Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Take out 4 eggs and let them get room temp.

Meat Sauce
1 lb extra lean beef
1 medium chopped onion
8 oz. can tomato sauce
1/4 C. red wine
1 1/2 t. cinnamon (def. measure this -- you don't want to over or underdo the cinnamon)

Cook beef in heated skillet and add onion, browning, making sure the onion gets tender (about 10 min). Stir in sauce, wine and connamon, bring to a boil. Then reduce to medium low, cover, and simmer 30 min. Stir occasionally.

While that's simmering, make your pasta:
8 oz. dry whole wheat pasta, like bowtie or penne, cooked and drained and still hot
3/4 C. Fat Free evaporated milk
1 large, beaten egg
1 oz. part-skim mozarella cheese, in chunks

Toss all these together and set aside, covering the bowl with a towel to keep heat in.

Now, make the cream sauce (your meat sauce should still be simmering away):
Cream Sauce
1 T. butter
2 T. Flour
Salt, pepper, to taste
1 1/2 C. Fat Free Evaporated milk
1 large beaten egg, 2 large beaten egg WHITES
1/2 C. Parmesan cheese, in slices, divided

Melt butter in saucepan over medium heat; stir in flour, salt and pepper. Gradually add milk. Cook, stirring with a whisk, until thick and bubbly (about 6 -- 8 minutes). Remove from heat and then VERY GRADUALLY, add the eggs and egg whites into the hot mixture (Don't pour them in too fast, or they'll scramble).

Now you got all your pieces lines up, ready to go. Layer half the pasta into the bake pan, then spread with your meat sauce and 1/4 C. of the parmesan cheese slices. Top with the remaining pasta and then pour your cream sauce over the top. Sprinkle with the remaining cheese. Bake, covered in foil, 20 min. Uncover, bake 15 min. more. Do a clean-knife test to test doneness and let it settle for 15 min before slicing and serving.

This dish really is rich and tasty, and all the effort is worth it because it will help reset your inner Deb clock, reminding you to take your time with food and savor the results of a nice long spell in the kitchen. Whether coming back from vacation or just exhausted from day-to-day mayhem, our little clocks get maladjusted all the time. We owe it to ourselves to fix a nice meal that melts in your mouth.

Pastitsio Pastiche
Viva Las Vegas by The Dead Kennedys (this is the raucous, funnier version that plays at the end of Fear and Loathing)
The House Wins by Ok Go
Stagger Lee by Lloyd Price
Pretty Vegas by INXS

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Risotto with Salmon or Chicken

This recipe came from the Weight Watcher's website and I love it. It originally calls for salmon, but I really like it with chicken; also, I had to double the recipe because the original was only for 2 servings, and my husband always likes leftovers for his lunchy the next day. And I serve it with a crusty whole wheat loaf from the Teet that you can just gobble up the risotto with, like a spoon. It's seven points according to WW, so it's probably around 300 calories per serving. This version serves four, about 1 1/2 C. per serving. Also, it literally takes 20 minutes to make, from stop to finish, so it's great for nights when I barely feel up to the gym, much less the task of facing fire and sharp knives in the kitchen.

Creamy Havarti Risotto
You'll need:
2 boxes risotto mix (I use Parmesan flavor; I finally located the blasted things next to the rice, not in with the other pastas... This is because risotto is an arborio rice. Hey, I'm dainty. I never said I was bright.)
4 C. water
2 T. Fat free butter spray (I Can't Believe It's Not Butter or Parkay version)
4 T. fresh chopped dill
4 oz. smoked salmon, diced, OR 1 package of no-drain chicken, already in chunks for your convenience
2 oz. Havarti cheese, grated (if it's too soft to easily grate, stick it in the freezer for a few minutes until it hardens a bit)
1 tsp. freshly grated black pepper, or to taste

Combine risotto, "butter," water and the mix packet from the box in a big ol' sauce pan. Bring to a boil; cover and simmer for 15 -- 20 minutes, until mostly absorbed (not totally -- should still be a little gooey).

Stir in dill, meat, pepper and cheese. Cover and let sit for 5 minutes. Serve it up still hot.

Paired with just bread, this is a perfect midday meal. It's easy, light, and yet warm and filling. The risotto makes you full for hours afterwards without making you feel all bloated and heavy, like some pastas can do.

IN OTHER NEWS: The Dainty Deb is taking her show on the road! That's right -- The Deb will be in Vegas until the 17th, so alas... You shall be forced to vacation with her and eat your own body weight in shrimp cocktails... NO! No! No! I mean, The Deb will be on exceptionally good eating behavior in Vegas because she will be too busy gambling all her sainted husband's money at the craps table. In between gambling, drinking and cavorting, though, she will miss you all very much. Check back in after the 17th for more Dainties!!

Mac n' Cheese, Daint-eased

Mac n' cheese actually saved my husband and I from complete starvation on several occasions. It used to be his big kitchen contribution -- he'd make mac n' cheese with frozen fish sticks. The effort struck me as sweet, even if it lacked finesse. And it was back when I was slothfully not cooking for my man.

Anyway. Here's a whole wheat version that's only 280 calories per serving and a lot better for you, what with all the whole grains and real cheese, compared to the powdered stuff that comes in a certain blue box.

Dainty Mac n' Cheese
Preheat oven to 350 and spray a large bake pan or casserole dish (at least 4 qts) with Pam or similar.

You'll need:
3 C. (uncooked) whole what macaroni (about 3 C.), cooked without oil, drained and still hot
8 oz. Reduced fat cheese (I use the 75% Reduced Fat Cabot White Cheddar, which is really good)
3/4 C. fat free evaporated milk
1 8 0z. carton fat free sour cream
1 T. Dijon mustard
splash of Worcestershire sauce
1/8 t. nutmeg or cinnamon
2 T. freshly grated parmesan cheese
2 T. crushed fat free croutons

While macaroni is still freshly hot from being drained, stir in the cheese until it melts. Then add milk, sour cream, mustard, Worcestershire and nutmeg, stirring to combine. In a small dish, combine Parmesan and crumbs for topping. Sprinkle on top and back until top is golden and the whole thing bubbles, about 30 or 35 minutes. Makes 6 servings (about 1 1/2 C. = 1 serving). This simple fare is simple easy to make and nigh on guiltless.

Easy Cheesy Singing:
"Mac the Knife" by Bobby Darin
"What do the Simple Folk Do?" from Camelot

Beef Medallions

Nothing says dinner like a steak.

It's true. Ask Homer Simpson:

Marge: What would you like for dinner this week, Homer?
Homer [eyes brightening]: Steak!
Marge: Um, steak is too expensive right now, Homey. What else would you like?
Homer: Steak!
Marge [glancing away shiftily]: Suuuure... Ok. Steak...

Anyway. These medallions are just 4 oz each, but cooked in a really delicious sauce and with tasty little mushrooms on the side. A nice, elegant meal and super easy. I can even make this on my busiest nights. I am pretty sure this recipe originally came from Self magazine.

Beef Medallions

You'll need:
2 1/2 T. olive oil, divided
4 beef tenderloin pieces, about 4 oz. each, patted dry
salt and pepper, to taste
4 oz. stemmed mushrooms
1/4 C. brandy (I've used white wine in a pinch -- it's not as rich, but it's still pretty good)
2 chopped shallots
1 minced garlic clove
1/4 C. low sodium chicken broth
3 T. light sour cream (I usually use fat free, and it still tastes good!)
1 T. fresh parsley leaves, optional

Heat 1 T. of the oil in skillet over medium high heat. Season both sides of meat with salt and pepper and then cook in heated skillet, about 4 minutes on each side for medium rare. Remove from skillet to plate and cover in foil.

Heat the rest of the oil in skillet and then mushrooms. Cook about 4 minutes until mushrooms are nice and tender. Add shallots, garlic and a pinch of salt, cooking until translucent. Pull skillet off the heat and add brandy.* Return to heat and cook until liquid is reduced, about 2 minutes. Add broth and cook until saucy, another 3 minutes. Remove from heat a final time and add sour cream and parsley, season a bit with salt and pepper. Pour over meat and serve.

Only 314 calories per serving! And it's really good. Makes you feel like your dining room is a fairly snazzy dining experience out. Pair it with a nice baked potato or some brown rice. I serve mine with Just Gus.

Beefcake Bangings:

"Mr. Big Stuff" by Jean Knight (Who DO you think you are? Oh, you're THIN and GORGEOUS!)
"Stop the Wedding" by Etta James (Stop it to eat this delicious meat)

*This, I learned the hard way, is to prevent the brandy from exploding into flames. Just trust your beloved Deb and remove it from the heat before splashing alcohol around. Remember, no matter how dainty one is, no one looks good without eyebrows.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Peanut Ginger Beef Stir Fry

I genuinely like chopping things... now, anyway. Didn't used to. Didn't have any truck with hanging out with sharp, stabby knives. But I got used to it eventually, AND we got a decent set of knives for our wedding (it really makes a difference), and now, I'll chop up anything. I also have the freakish superpower of not crying over onions. I could rub those babies on like a pink-eye salve and not a tear would form.

Anyway. This recipe is fun if you have the extra chopping time. Or, you can do what I sometimes have to do and chop them up earlier in the day or week and then bust them out later for dinner. If you do that, make sure you loosely cover them in a damp paper towel so that they stay fresh. You can also substitute quite a bit on the veggies. Use whatever you like.

Peanut Ginger Beef Stir Fry
You'll need:
1 T. low-sodium soy sauce
1 T. creamy peanut butter
1/4 C. white wine (or water)
1/4 t. crushed red pepper flakes (optional; for those who don't like spice, omit)
3 t. asian sesame oil
3/4 lb. lean steak, sliced into thin strips
1 t. ginger
2 carrots, chopped into sticks
1 bunch scallions, cut in 1" pieces
1 red bell pepper, cut in strips
(You can easily substitute other veggies, like broccoli, water chestnuts, and those baby corn. Green beans are nice, too. I've used those in a pinch)
2 cloves minced garlic
2 T. roasted soy nuts or chopped peanuts, optional, for garnish

Get a large skillet scorching hot over high heat. While it's heating, combine: soy sauce, peanut butter, red pepper and wine/water. Set aside. When your skillet is ready, add in 2 of the 3 t. oil and let it get a little shimmery. Turn your oven fan on, unless you like the sound of your smoke alarm* and add the beef. Stir fry it quick, getting all the sides brown, so flipping constantly. When JUST browned, add the ginger and cook for about 1 more minute. Remove beef to a small dish and keep it warm.

Add into your pan (you can turn the heat down a little now) the remaining oil and then the carrots. Cook those for a minute before adding: the other veggies, the garlic. Stir fry until cooked through, then add 1 -- 2 T. of water to the skillet. Cover the veggies for two or three minutes, simmering. Then remove cover and add in your beef and peanut butter sauce. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly to coat beef and veggies.

Serve over hot brown rice with nuts on top. Crunchy and creamy and delicious. My husband inevitably ends up licking his plate when he thinks I'm not looking. It's also only 275 calories per serving (not counting rice), or 6 WW points! Makes 4 servings.

Stir-Fry Songs:
"Babylon Sisters" by Steely Dan
"Aja" by Steely Dan
(Hey, Steely Dan just goes good with Stir-fry!!)

* Boy oh boy do I have a long, complex relationship with the smoke detector. When we lived in a little duplex, that thing went off if you left your toast in the toaster a minute too long -- and, Dumplings, this was back when I was setting EVERYTHING ablaze. If it wasn't on fire, it wasn't dinner. Anyway, the detector possessed the ear-drum shattering qualities of a newborn with colic. I hated that thing. Luckily, because our duplex was fairly ghetto, the smoke alarm was not fully attached to the wall. It was hanging by one lazy plastic nail that easily came off. This was another problem -- ocassionally, UNprovoked by my cooking, the thing would just maliciously fall off the wall and start howling. I became gifted at the snatch and grab, where I'd bolt across the kitchen at the first siren call, leap into the air (it was considerately placed three feet above my head), snatch the thing with all my might, and then beat on it until it shut up.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Apples -- No wonder Eve was tempted

I love a good apple. In fact, biting into a planned lunchtime apple that is mealy will literally ruin my day. I become ornery. My husband likes apples, too.

So I was really pleased with the Granny Smith I picked up a quick trip to the Teet this afternoon. It was just crunchy and tart enough to make my little Deb heart sigh in muted satisfaction. I did two things with this ridiculously tasty apple:

1. Added thin slices of it to my grilled cheese sammich -- holy Jezebel. I'm not joking. The sweetness of the cheese cuts through the tarty apple taste and just makes you want to find religion. For real. I threw in some arugula for good measure, but really just because it was handy.

2. Paired it with a cup of Jello's new Sugar-free, 60 Calorie "dulce de leche" pudding. Sweet Rosemary's baby. Another nearly effortless experience in total deliciousness!! This particular flavor of pudding comes with a Splend-iferic caramel topping. I mean, for tiny calories, both these options made for a fairly decadent Sunday, ya'll, and it's only 2 PM. Lord only knows what the night will bring!

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Salmon in a Mustard Sage Crust

"I have a powerful craving for red salmon" -- Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, HS Thompson

Don't we all?

Ah, salmon. The flakiest of all the good-for-you fish. The last time I made salmon, however, I made little salmon croquettes, which were too darling. Tragically, however, I made them with wheat germ (I rolled them in it before sauteing for a nice crunchy exterior). My husband, who had never had wheat germ in his life, nearly killed us both with his toxic emissions. That night in bed, I actually woke up, the stench was that bad, and had to gently pat him down in an effort to determine whether or not he'd crapped his pants. He had not, but to this day, I refuse to cook with wheat germ.

Salmon is a different story, though. We love us some salmon. And this is an easy recipe -- I made it out of things that just popped into my mind as I peered into the refrigerator. It's really delicious. And only 242 calories (or 5 WW points)!

Salmon with Mustard Sage Crust
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees and get out a bake pan, spraying it with cook spray.

You'll need:
1 -- 1 1/2 lb salmon fillets (about 4, 5 -- 6 oz. pieces -- I like the Alaskan)
salt, freshly ground pepper and Old Bay, to taste
1/4 C. Dijon or spicy mustard
1 T. Fat Free Sour cream
1 T. Salsa
1 T. White wine (or water)
1 T. vinegar
1/4 t. mustard powder
1/4 t. garlic powder
2 t. fresh sage, chopped

Season the salmon on both sides with salt, pepper and old bay, and place in the pan. In a small bowl, whisk together all remaining ingredients. Brush the sauce over the fillets well, coating completely. There will be some left over -- reserve and save to serve on top.

Bake until fork-tender, about 15 -- 20 minutes. Serve the salmon with mustard sauce on side.

I made this and served it up with my corn on the cob and a nice crusty bread. It's also good paired with Just 'Gus and brown rice.

Salmon Serenade:
"Can't Find the Time to Tell You" by Hootie and the Salmon, er, Blowfish
"From Silver Lake" by Jackson Browne (Salmon love silver lakes)
"(I don't know why) But I Do" by Clarence 'Frogman' Henry (Salmon love frogs)

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Patty Pan Squash

First things first, I'm so sorry ya'll have had to wait so long for new foodies. I'm a bad, bad Deb. However, I was busy for good reason: I was graduating with my Master's! So now you may all refer to me as the "Master Dainty Deb".

What with graduation hoo-ha and all, I did quite a bit of cooking. I chose this recipe, however, because astonishingly, no one in my family seemed to be aware of the deliciousness of patty pan squash. THE cutest squash you can buy. It's true. I challenge you all to find a cuter squash, nay, even a cuter vegetable.

Patty Pan Squash
To fully enjoy this sweet little knocker, you will need: (first preheat your oven to 375)

6 patty pan squash (this recipe is my basic roasted veggie recipe, so you can really substitue any veggie, especially any squash), sliced fairly thin
olive oil
1 chopped onion (optional -- I normally don't use because my husband isn't wild about onion)
2 T. olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
Freshly grated parmesan cheese

Place squash (and onion, if using) in large bake pan and drizzle with oil, sprinkle with salt, pepper and cheese. Cook for about 20 minutes and then toss so that it cooks evenly. Cook another 20 minutes. Delicious and a nice altenative to the same old boring veggies. Only about 90 calories per serving (1 WW point)!

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Sunday Supper: Gumbo Over Rice with Corn on the Cob

Little known fact about me: I love sauces. Well, actually, that's probably pretty well known. I did read, though, that when you quit smoking, you're more prone to crave heavy sauces with your food because smoking (along with giving you lung cancer, heart disease and that delightful wheeze when you haul your cookies up even a small flight of stairs) goes bat-crap crazy on your olfactory senses -- the nose no longer knows, in other words. You bust up your sense of taste and smell so bad, even when you quit (as I did in January of 2005), you still need stronger, more flavorful foods to satisfy you because you're physically not smelling or tasting like you once could. No wonder I ate my own body weight in not only chex mix, but also in Alfredo sauce. Mmm. Sweet, sweet creamy sauces... but I digress.

So this gumbo* satisfies my basic craving for a richly flavored, textured sauce, but does not indulge in calorie-crazy ingredients. Because it's so rich and hearty, I like to serve this with a crusty bread, nice to sop up the extras with. And who doesn't prefer gumbo over rice? Crazy people, that's who. By using brown rice, a white-wheat sourdough loaf, and serving it with luscious fresh corn-on-the-cob, you get a huge meal for very little calories (Gumbo = 260 calories, or 6 WW points; 1/2 C. brown rice = 100 calories, or 2 WW points; corn on the cob, using calorie-free butter spray and just salt and pepper = 65 calories, or 1 WW point). The gumbo is so low cal and tasty, I think, because it uses only half fatty sausage, and half chicken. I plan on making this with 6 oz. of shrimp next time -- an excellent substitution with many Cajun dishes.

Sausage and Chicken Gumbo

First, get your rice going, so it's nice and cooked by the time the gumbo is ready to be served.

You'll need:
1 package of no-drain chicken breast chunks
6 oz. Cajun sausage (you can use sweet or spicy, however you like it), cut into 1" rounds
10 oz. frozen veggies, either gumbo style (corn, pepper, okra, onion) or summer style (squash, beans, carrots, tomatoes)
1 medium minced garlic clove
4 --5 chopped basil leaves**
Fresh chopped parsley (if on hand)
3 medium scallions, chopped, divided into "green parts" and "white parts"
1 T. flour
1/2 C. chicken stock
1/2 C. dry white wine
1 C. crushed canned tomatoes (not the whole can, usually, just a cup)
1 piece bay leaf
1/4 t. dry thyme
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste (here's also where, if you like spicy gumbo, you can turn up the heat and sprinkle in some Cajun seasoning, some cayenne and some red pepper flakes)

If you have a Dutch oven, use that. If not, this recipe works perfectly well in any large oven-proof casserole dish with a decent lid. Spray your vessel with cook spray, liberally. Set it over medium high heat and brown the meats, stirring, about 2 minutes. Then stir in the frozen veggies, the garlic, basil, parsley and white scallion parts, sauteing until thawed, about 5 minutes.

Sprinkle the mixture with flour and cook another minute or two. Slowly stir in broth and wine, scraping up any brown bits from the bottom. Stir in tomatoes, bay leaf, thyme, salt and pepper (any any spices you might want to use). Cover and bring to a boil. Then reduce to a simmer, still covered, and let simmer about 5 minutes. Remove bay leaf.

Sprinkle with green parts of scallions and pour over 1/2 C. brown rice. Makes 4 servings (about 1 1/4 C. gumbo per serving). Laissez les bon temps rouler!! [Let the Good Times Roll!]

Corn on the Cob

Here's the quick and easy way to do corn on the cob, albeit sans grill. Boil a big pot of salted water (I throw in a taste of Old Bay, also). Once it's boiling, you want to toss freshly cleaned, stripped ears of corn in. You want to strip the corn as soon to the boiling time as possible. Then boil them for no more than 5 minutes, at a nice rollicking boil. Remove with tongs, coat with calorie-free butter spray, salt, pepper and a little paprika, then either serve immediately or put into a shallow dish, covered with foil to keep the heat in.

My husband takes all the fun out of corn on the cob by slicing the kernels off with a knife instead of eating it typewriter fashion, like a normal person. Ah well. I guess no one is perfect.

Cajun Two-Stepping Towards Dinner:
"Jambalaya (On the Bayou)" by either Hank Williams (the original) or Dolly Parton (because I love her)
"Johnny Be Good" by Chuck Berry

* For once I have a source for you -- it comes from the Weight Watcher's online recipe box; I've added a few things, but mostly stayed faithful.

** I just watched the Barefoot Contessa cut up basil into those perfect little strips: you take the leaves, stacking them neatly one on top of the other, then roll them up like a cigarette (wistful sigh). Then you chop them, making those sweet little rings of peppery flavor. Mmm.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Moroccan Chicken with Couscous

Firstly, I am terribly sorry not to have posted in a while. I've been busy completing my Master's defense and thesis. That does not, however, mean I haven't been cooking. I just haven't been sharing.

Speaking of said Master's degree, while here at grad school I have formed a little reading club called The Renegados. We get together and read plays from the Renaissance which deal with, well, unsavory sorts of people. Especially pirates. We also all cook, treating each meeting like a potluck. One of the faculty in our little club brought in this really insanely delicious dish one time, with shredded chicken and apricots, and it was totally to die for. It was just such a delicious combination of tastes -- the savory chicken with the sweet fruit. So I took it home in my tastebuds and recreated it (with a little help from Google), using only 330 calories, or 7 weight watcher's points.*

You'll need:
1 prepared box of couscous (about 2 C.), any flavor (I like the chicken vegetable flavor with this)
1/2 bag of dried Mediterranean apricots (about 3.5 -- 4 oz)
1 C. low-sodium chicken broth
2 packages of chicken chunks
1 T. flour
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 t. cinnamon
Tiny pinch of cayenne (if desired)
1 T. honey (I use clover)
1/4 C. slivered almonds (you can also use roasted soy nuts or pecans)
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1. First make your couscous -- just follow the directions on the box. I love couscous. I especially love to say the word, "couscous." It's a cheap thrill. My husband likes it, but he's not as wild about it as me, so I have to cook with it sparingly, or he'll get grouchy. Also, turn a large burner on high heat for your chicken in step 3.

2. Next, bring the apricots and chicken broth to a boil and let simmer on low as you prepare your chicken.

3. Coat a large skillet with cooking spray and set over high heat. Let it get good and hot -- you want the chicken to have a nice browning all over. Toss your chicken with the flour and then into the skillet. Saute until golden, about 5 minutes, stirring vigilantly. Stir in the onion, and reduce the heat to medium, cooking until the onions are good and tender, about ten minutes. Just at the end, stir in the honey, cinnamon, cayenne, almonds, broth/apricots. Season with salt and pepper and serve over couscous.

This was so good. I was so pleased it turned out well. Also, it goes really nicely with either pita bread or a nice crusty loaf. Stephen literally sopped up every bit of his food last night with a roll. Always the mark of a successful dinner.

Tangine Tunes:
"Bring on the Boys" by Punjab MC (nothing like a belly dance in the kitchen to get your creative cooking juices flowing)
"Ai Du" by Ali Farka Toure (This is slow and sexy for your simmering)

*It's come to my attention that some of you like to do the WW thing, which is great, whatever works for you. I like their point system of counting calories simply because I'm too mathematically retarded to keep big numbers (i.e. in the hundreds) in my head all day. Anyway. I'm going to start listing the points value for your convenience. :) Because I care.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Chicken Pastries with Potatoes Au Gratin

This meal is one of my all-time favorites. One primary reason for this is because I can make it so neatly, all in one oven, at one temp. The recipe for "Chicken Squares" actually came from my mother's cookbook (when I say cookbook, what I'm actually referring to is this gi-normous rubbermaid box that she haphazardly shoves all her recipes in, some dating back to nineteen-dickety-two), and I think she used to make it for my dad back when they were all young and newlyweddy. So it makes me smile to make it now, as a newlywed myself.

First, preheat your oven to 350. This is the baking temp for both dishes. Move the racks so that you can have enough room lower-down for the potatoes in a casserole dish and for the chicken pastries on top (but not right under the broiler). Then spray a large casserole dish (2.5 qt) with Pam.

Potatoes Au Gratin
You'll need:
2 big fat baking potatoes, clean and thinly sliced, divided into 3 even portions.
1 -- 2 shallots, depending on how much you like onion in your taters, thinly sliced
3 T. flour, divided in half
2 T. minced fresh parsley
2 T. chopped chives
2 C. HOT light soy milk
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper (to taste)
1/2 C. 75% Fat Free White Cheddar Cheese (I like the Cabot brand)
2 T. freshly grated parmesan cheese

Arrange 1/3 of the potatoes and onions in bottom of dish, sprinkle with 1/2 the parsley, 1/2 the chives, 1/2 the flour, 1/2 the PARMESAN cheese (only). Repeat once more and then top with last 1/3 of the potatoes and onions. Sprinkle evenly with salt and pepper. Pour hot milk all over and sprinkle with white cheddar. Bake, uncovered, until tender and top is golden brown, 1 hour, 10 min.
You can also toss in some sliced mushrooms or diced pimentos if you like, add them to the middle layers.
This is so, so good. Serves 4. Now, once that's happily baking away, move onto your Chicken Pastries!

Chicken Pastries
You'll need:

3 oz. Fat Free Cream Cheese, room temp.
2 T. No-Calorie "butter" spray (i.e. Parkay or I-Can't-Believe-It's-Not-Butter)

Beat these two together until very blended.
2 C. cooked, cubed chicken (For this, you can totally use canned or from a package -- it's getting pretty mixed up with other things)
salt and pepper to taste
2 T. Reduced Fat milk
1 T. chopped chives (See! You can use the leftovers from the bunch you used in the potatoe recipe above!)

Once you have your delicious filling, divide it into 4 in the bowl.

8 oz. can of low-fat cresent rolls (I use Pilsbury)
2 1/4 C. fat-free croutons, preferably garlic-flavored, crushed nearly into powder (My favorite part -- I get out the mallet and beat them to death in a plastic bag)
More no-calorie butter spray, melted

Seperate the cresent dough into 4 rectangles and REALLY seal those perforations. It is nigh on tragic when you don't -- I know. I've had a pile of smoking, charring chicken goo welded to the bottom of a pan in my time. It ain't pretty. So seal 'em up! You should now have 4 roughly square-shaped sheets of dough. Spoon your filling evenly onto each square and pull the edges up all at once. Again, SEAL YOUR PERFORATIONS! When they're good and sealed, sort of twist the top bits together and press into the square. Brush each one with melted "butter" and top with a generous helping of the crouton crumbs (press them gently into the tops to make sure they stick).
Bake on an ungreased cookie sheet until golden brown, 20 -- 25 min. By this time, your stars should have aligned and you should be right on target, time-wise, with the potatoes.

Here's the kicker -- each meal (chicken pastry plus potatos) is only 500 calories. And this really is one of those low-cal recipes that you can serve to guests and they'll feel all gourmet with their bad selves.

Plus, maybe the magic is in the recipe -- all that gooey goodness with make you feel all gooey and newlywed again! Just to be on the safe side, you might want to carry your place settings into the bedroom. That's all I'm saying.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Grilled Cheese

The weather here in NC has been just ravenous. I mean, Beautiful with the capital B. Ergo, I've had my hungry little Deb mind on picnic foods. Now, I gotta tell you, there was once a point in my life when making a grilled cheese sandwich completely eluded me. The first time Stephen was sick, I bundled him onto the couch, made him call into work, and then offered to make him anything his little coughing lungs could desire. He smiled wanly and said all he wanted was a grilled cheese with chicken noodle soup.

Well, I can open a can with the best of them, so the soup was done. But then I was left to ponder the grilled cheese situation, gazing forlornly at the ingrediants on the counter while my beloved hacked and sniffled hungrily in the other room. Here was the problem: the word "grilled." I mean, was I supposed to bust out the propane tank or charcoal for this sandwich? Yikes -- NO ONE (and I mean this) wants to see me tackle real live fire. Surely not, then. Here I started to really panic. I was 18 years old and completely unable to make a sandwich. My blood pressure started to rise. I refused to be outsmarted by cooking "lingo" like "grilled"... I thought frantically of my mother -- surely she had made me a grilled cheese at some point; hadn't she?! Maybe not. Should I call her? Gads, no. That would be ghastly: whispering clarifying cooking instructions into the mouthpiece like a criminal in the kitchen. Then, as so many of my disasters have started with, I began to consider the physics of grilling. It surely wasn't that different from turning on a stove-top burner -- I could just place the cheese sandwich directly on the burner and "grill" it a little. HAH. Am physics genius, I thought smugly.

Until the smoke alarm alerted me to the fact that my sandwich was on fire. I let out an extremely vile and un-Deb-like stream of profanity, and poor Stephen stumbled up from the couch to investigate. Luckily, I'd just tossed the burning bread into the sink, so evidence was scanty. I quickly told him that the toaster was acting up and to go back to the couch. He did so, but with a few worried looks over his shoulder to inform me that he seriously had to question my ability to cook basic food.

In the end, I totally just microwaved the blasted thing. Then, my ego smarting soundly, I got up in the middle of the night and snuck online to read how to properly make a grilled cheese sandwich. Chagrined, I decided then that I should probably try cooking more.

Anyway. Here is my latest grilled cheese recipe. Only 160 calories, and it tastes really like comfort-food - perfect for picnicking (if you're lucky enough to also be in God's Country, aka North Carolina).

Grilled Cheese
You'll need:

2 slices WhiteWheat bread -- If you don't already buy it, you should totally start investing in WhiteWheat bread. It's only 50 calories per slice, and is loaded with dietary fiber (which we should all be getting 25 -- 35 grams of, according to this month's Self magazine), 5 grams per serving.
1 0z Reduced Fat Sharp Cheddar (or similar product, to taste. I usually use Cabot's Vermont brand, which has a 75% Fat Free type of cheddar that melts really well. Parmesan is also really delicious, but you have to like a sharp-tasting sandwich)
Parkay's Fat Free Butter Spray, 2 T. per each side of the sandwich
Slices of fresh tomato (if you like tomato on your grilled cheese. I actually don't -- I'm a purist that way)

Heat a burner to medium high heat (don't worry, you use a skillet), and heat a skillet, then add 2 T. of the butter spray. Let it get hot and bubbly. Meanwhile, make your sandwich. Place the sandwich onto the hot skillet and let cook for about 5 minutes, then scoop up and add the remaining 2 T. of spray to the pan. Cook another 5 minutes on opposite side, until as brown and golden as you like.

Mmmm. Ooey, gooey and WITHOUT the unwelcome sides of "fire", or "shame".

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Chicken Roulades

Read: Chicken roll-ups. Rolled up with deliciousness.

My mother snatched this recipe from one of her "Let's Eat!" classes -- a place in Orlando where you can go and put together pre-sorted meals, which are then freezable (so you'll have gourmet food all month for one day's worth of work). Well, to be more precise, she snatched a calorie-laden version of this recipe which originally called for dreaded turkey breasts (see link for real, only reason I changed from Turkey to chicken -- husband is, er, finicky). Anyway. I made it last night for the very first time, and it was spankin' good eatin'.

Chicken Roulades
Preheat oven to 350, make sure a rack is at the "top" position, and spray a casserole dish. OR you can do this ahead and freeze -- I only did them the night before and refrigerated them. Then I just popped them in last night in time for dinner!

You'll need:
6 Chicken breasts, pounded within an inch of their lives (actually, don't go too thin, you want them to be about 1/4 " thick. I put them under parchment or wax paper and happily bang away -- great stress reliever!)

1/2 C. Fat-free cream cheese
1 tsp. thyme
1/4 C. dried cranberries or cherries
1/2 C. coarsley chopped walnuts
1 T. heavy cream (turns out, 1 T. of this stuff ain't so bad divided by the 6 servings, so go ahead, live a little)
1 T. honey

Combine all these ingrediants and mix well. Divide into 6ths (about 6 Tablespoons) and place even amount onto each breast. Roll breasts up, careful to keep filling inside, and secure with a toothpick.

Next, make the spice rub:
1 tsp. each: garlic, basil, kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 T. fresh chopped parsley
1/4 t. fresh lemon zest
2 T. olive oil

Using the SAME bowl you just made the filling in, combine these items and mix very well. Rub evenly on each roll-up, and then place each, seam-side down, into the sprayed dish. Bake for 30 min. on the top rack, uncovered. Only 330 calories per serving. Because I am awesome, as you've probably suspected by now. They just melt in your mouth, they're so good. I served mine with brown rice and asparagus, but if you make them with turkey, they go great with other fall sides like butternut squash and corn pudding.

Rock and ROLLIN':
"Proud Mary" by Tina Turner (Rollin, Rollin... Rollin' on a river...)
"Rollin with the Homies" by Coolio
"Roll Over Beethoven" by Chuck Berry

Monday, April 16, 2007

Sunday Supper: Country-Style Steak with Garlic Mashed Potatoes and Cheese Muffins

I was seriously awaiting the appearance of the Four Horsemen yesterday, ya'll. I mean, it was cold and windy as anything, and just a wretched, wretched day. The dog nearly lost her poor tiny mind. I swear I saw my mother-in-law fly by on her bike outside...

So it was time for some comfort food. Here below the Mason-Dixon line, that is something of a redundant statement -- all food is related to comfort. But I take personal pride in figuring out how to still eat warm, homey meals that remind me of home and childhood while maintaining my daintiness. THAT dichotomy really is a Southern thing -- how else could belles with 15 " waists have invented pecan pie?! Which literally involves like 990 calories a slice. (Not that it isn't worth it...)

The Country-Style Steak is my mother's recipe, though I've revamped it only slightly -- I use low-sodium gravy mix (I'm just so excitable folks, that I have high blood pressure). The garlic mashed potatoes, I believe, came from an online source, like recipezaar.com or similar. And the cheese muffins are the combined efforts of myself and a Weight Watcher's cookbook from the 1980s. For real.

First the muffins -- I made them a day before, anyway. They save really well, just so long as they're in an airtight container in the fridge.

Cheese Muffins
Preheat your oven to 375 and spray a muffin tin with Pam or similar.

You'll need:
2 C. flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 t. table salt
1 t. paprika
1 t. Mrs. Dash

Sift these together into a large bowl and create a well in the middle.

2 T. melted, unsalted butter
1 large beaten egg
1 C. soy milk, light

Combine and pour into that little well.

1 t. basil, oregano, fresh chopped parsley
5 oz. feta or blue cheese (I like using one of the flavored fetas they have now, like the sun-dried tomato with herbs), divided into twelve portions

Once you've combined the dough (it will be lumpy), stir in the basil, oregano and parsley last. Fill each muffin hole with 1 T. of the batter, then topp with the cheese. Add another layer of batter to each muffin hole and top with any remaining crumbles of cheese. Bake for 25 min. until golden. 12 servings, at only 110 calories per muffin!

Country-Style Steak
Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat.

You'll need:
1 -- 1.5 lbs. beef cubed steak
flour, salt and pepper
2 packages low-sodium brown gravy mix, water

Season all sides of the meat and then dredge thru flour. Brown all pieces in skillet, then drain any grease. Meanwhile, prepare gravy according to package instructions (i.e. combine the mix with water and heat). Pour the gravy into the skillet with the meat and bring to a boil. Then lower heat and simmer on low, covered, for 45 min, shifting the pieces occasionally.

Serves 4 -- 6, depending on how much steak you buy. Each serving is just 200 calories, but watch your portions -- don't use much more than 1/4 C. of the gravy if you're watching you figure.

While your steak is simmering, get your potatoes going! I bake them first in the microwave, but you can go old-school and use the oven.

Garlic Mashed Potatoes

You'll need:
1.5 lbs (about 4 medium to large) baking potatoes, cooked and tender
5 --7 garlic cloves, minced (to taste)
2 T. butter
1/3 -- 1/2 C. light soy milk (depends on how milky you like your potatoes)
salt and fresh pepper, to taste
Fresh chopped parsley

Spoon all the meat from the potatoes into a medium bowl. In a small skillet, heat the garlic, milk and butter together until just bubbly and hot. Pour over potatoes and mash. Stir in salt, pepper and parsley -- plus any extra milk if you want them creamier. If you're using light soy, the calories are pretty low.

Serves 6, only 90 calories per serving! I save my 1/4 c. of the steak gravy to go over these bad boys. Mmmm. Just like when I was a kid (looong before I ever worried about my weight at all :)

Comfort Easy Listening:
Listen to any music that makes you nostalgic! This is different for eveyone -- I listen to Johnny Cash, Marty Robbins "El Paso" and other songs I recall from my childhood! Trust me -- it puts you in a better mood.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Mama's Favorite Scallops

My husband called me like 8 times yesterday afternoon, unbeknownst to me, since I was in class until 5:30 (I am one of those thoughtful people who never has the cell phone turned on). His frantic messaging availed him not. He finally got a-hold of me, and I was curious as to what the fuss was all about.
"We're going to the movies tonight, right?" He asked, fairly keyed-up. I mean, it's just the movies, in Winston-Salem, for the love of monkeys.
"Um, yes...?"
"What time?" He presses aggressively. Sheesh. Maybe the boy needs a popcorn fix, I thought.
"I don't know. Whenever." I reply flippantly.
"It's playing at 6:45 at The Grand." He prompts. I'm still baffled as to his movies-are-crack attitude about this whole thing, but whatever.
"Ok, fine."
"You can do dinner by then?!" He asks, rather incredulously.
"Why yes. Yes I can." I reply, now rather amused.
"Why don't we eat leftovers?" He suggests anxiously. Like my father, Stephen does not like top miss previews. I have no idea why. If you ask me, previews were created for the sole purpose of allowing me the time to get extra butter onto my popcorn.
"Because I will have dinner ready when you get home. I already have chopped the vegetables." I say, starting to be exhausted with this whole tahoobahoo over the movies.
"Well, all right. If we miss the 6:45, we can always catch a later show." He concedes, unwittingly implying that dinner will NOT, in fact, be on time.
Gauntlet down, I harumph my way back to the kitchen to finish preparing one of the fastest, easiest meals you'll ever make -- forcing your significant other or family/guests/friends to rue the day they doubted your swiftness in the kitchen.

Mama's Favorite Scallops (because they are, in fact, one of her favorites)
Preheat your broiler and get out a 10 x 6 glass baking pan.

You'll need:
2 bell peppers (I like to get two different colors as a pretty contrast, red working nicely), sliced into strips
1 bunch scallions, cut into 2" pieces
1/2 C. fresh chopped Parsley
1 T. olive oil
4 minced garlic cloves
1 lb. sea scallops, patted dry
fresh ground pepper
1/4 c. dry white wine
2 oz. crumbled feta cheese
1 T. Ouzo (this is a freaky Greek liquor -- it's what they do so many shots of in My Big Fat Greek Wedding; if you don't have any on hand, use some anise extract, the licorice flavor brings out the taste of the seafood and cheese)

Once your veggies are chopped, you're pretty much done. Heat the oil in a skillet and add the garlic, just until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Then add in the wine and peppers, and bring to a boil. Then let them saute together, letting the flavors blend, for about 10 minutes. Add in the fresh ground pepper and scallops and cook, turning only once, until opaque in the center, about 5 minutes. Stir in the scallions and parsley and cook all together for maybe 2 more minutes. Then pour the whole skillet into your bake pan and sprinkle on the ouzo followed by the feta cheese. Pop it uncovered under the broiler for two minutes, just letting the cheese get browned and bubbly.

Makes four servings, at all of 200 calories per serving, and goes great with brown rice or rolls. Between the cooking and the quick devouring of such a delicious meal, you'll be out the door and on your way to the movies in no time!!

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Happy Easter!

Hope you're all having a lovely day of hiding eggs, eating calories-be-damned ham and sharing the day with loved ones. Remember, calories and fat DO NOT COUNT on the holidays. It's true. Ask anyone.

Here is my Calories-Be-Damned Ham Glaze Recipe just for you all!

1/2 C. peanut butter

1 C. packed brown sugar

1/2 C. chicken stock/broth

1 can crushed pinapple

1/4 C. honey

1 minced garlic clove

1 chopped shallot

a few twists of black pepper

Toss all these in a blender or food processor and puree. You can use this as a marinade (I do), and then still have plenty left over to use as a glaze (I do) and then STILL more left over to serve as a sauce on the table (I totally do). When using as a glaze, boil it on the stovetop for 5 minutes (at a rolling boil) and then let it sit for a few minutes before glazing the ham with it.

Happy Bunny Day!!

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Fastest Shrimp In the South

Of course, the shrimp were clearly not so speedy as to avoid getting caught in the first place. But whatever. All the more reason to eat them. PLUS, shrimp are loaded with protein and Vitamins D and B12. Oh, and they're delicious.

Like most sane people, I love a good shrimp and pasta dish. So since I don't want to drown my newly svelte thighs in butter (as much as they would enjoy the sweet, sweet splash of hot cholesterol), and because I don't like having to wait for my shrimp, I made up this dish -- it's a shrimp marinara, and it takes like 12 minutes to make. It's great over whole-wheat pasta. I based it on a Shrimp "Boil" recipe I used to have in a Weight Watcher's book and a pasta sauce recipe from somewhere online.

Fastest Shrimp in the South

*First put your pasta on to boil -- this dish goes quick, so be ready to serve it as soon as the pasta hits the drainer!

You'll need:

2 12 oz. bags frozen large, ready-to-cook shrimp, thawed under cool water
4 tsp. olive oil
2 minced garlic cloves
1 15 oz can diced, seasoned tomatoes (garlic and oregano is nice)
2 T. tomato paste, saltless if on hand
1/4 t. kosher salt
1 spoonful of Hot Peppers (another MUST in a jar)
1 C. wine or chicken broth (I've made this with dry white wine and homemade chicken stock and both ways are really delicious. The wine version is a little kickier)
2 T. freshly minded parsley
1 T. fresh oregano, or 1/2 t. dry

Heat the oil in a large skillet and add the shrimp and garlic. Saute together until pink all over, not too long. Stir in the tomatoes, wine, parsley, paste and seasonings. Bring to a boil and cook, stirring, until sauce is thick and starts to turn bright orange, cook about 8 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and a little fresh parmesan cheese. Pour over pasta, rice, or steamed vegetables. Ridiculously good. And only 330 calories, counting 3/4 C. whole wheat pasta.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Cheeseburgers with Potato Wedges

Lord but did I need a cheeseburger yesterday. Possibly because my brother forwarded a site that effectively kept me procrastinating all day, www.icanhascheezburger.com

In any case, I am pretty sure that it's a good idea to consume a cheeseburger every once in a while. There is, for me, almost no better comfort food on the planet. It was like the Hamburger People said, "You know, this is really delicious. It just doesn't get any better than this!" And then the Cheese People came in wearing slinkly outfits and high heels and were like, "Oh, really...?"

I have figured out at long last how to a) make a healthy hamburger without using tofu or other crappy substitutions (yeesh -- don't even talk to me about the time I tried to use ground turkey and grated zucchini instead of beef...suffice to say that Stephen nearly throttled me for such trickery)and b) how to still serve my husband a "normal" cheeseburger, keeping him happy. I was inspired by a Weight Watchers recipe from their online site, and I've been making fries in this baked way for years -- they're so much better for you.

Cheeseburgers with Potato Wedges
First perheat your oven to 450 and spray a bake sheet with cook spray.

You'll need:
6 small potatoes
3/4 t. Mrs Dash, 1/2 t. cayenne (or regular black pepper), 1 1/2 t. Kosher salt

Cut the potatoes into fries or wedges, and then microwave them for 6 -- 9 minutes, letting them get tender. Place them on the bake sheet and sprinkle both sides of them with seasonings, then spray with cook spray again. Cook for 15 minutes and then flip them over. Cook another 15 minutes or until crisp and golden. Leave the oven on.

1 lb. X-tra Lean gound beef (like 96/4 if you can get it)
1/2 C. breadcrumbs (seasoned or regular, it doesn't matter)
3 minced garlic cloves
1/4 C. chopped Italian parsely (the flat leaf kind)
Several drops of Liquid Smoke (if on hand, if not, use a few splashes of Worcestershire sauce)
1 T. Good Seasons (I really do love these packets -- right next to salad dressing in the store)
3 egg whites, lightly beaten
1 small red onion, chopped very fine.
3 T. onion soup mix (I like the Lipton brand)
3 T. low-fat chedder (I usually mix with a little freshly grated parmesan), and slices of regular chedder cheese for any guests who aren't watching their waist-line.
6 WhiteWheat rolls (I love this brand -- they're low calorie and high in fiber, plus they taste like real white rolls)
Slices of lettuce, tomato, plus condiments

Combine: beef, parsley, liquid smoke, Good Seasons, crumbs and egg whites. Use your hands and get them really well mixed. This is where I divide the mix in half. In my half, I add in the red onions, and into Stephen's I add the soup mix.* Form each half into 3 patties (making 6 total). Cook the patties in a large skillet over medium heat, about 5 min. on each side, until cooked through. With cooking burgers, I live by two cardinal rules: 1. Never press on the burgers with a spatula or otherwise, this squeezes precious, delicious juices out of them. 2. Only turn them once, it helps them cook evenly and lessens your chance of losing juice or having the burger crumble apart on you. Now top your burgers with the respective cheeses. For the low-fat cheese, I like to grate it, rather than slice it, because then I can easily combine it with the parmesan cheese. Place all 6 topped burgers on a bake pan and stick back in your hot oven for about 5 minutes, until the cheese is all melty and bubbly. Serve on rolls with lettuce, tomato, condiments and the potatoes. They come out so juicy and delicious. And if you have access to a grill (read: your husband will allow you to play with fire outdoors) then so much the better. You can grill them instead of pan-cooking them.

Total calories for entire meal (cheeseburgers, fries, rolls, etc.): 450 -- not bad for a full meal. Serves 6.

Cheesy Listening:
"Cheeseburger in Paradise" by Jimmy Buffet (if you're into that sort of thing. Jimmy Buffet tends to grate on my nerves, but this song is rather an obvious choice)
"Walk this Way" by Run D MC (Walk this Way into my craving, Cheeseburger)
"At the Hop" by Danny and the Juniors (There is something about a cheeseburger that really puts me in mind of those great 50s and 60s soda-shop songs)

* He doesn't like hunks of onions in his food. Something to do with his mother traumatizing him with them by the bowlful as a child. Not like me -- I can eat them raw, just crunching into them like apples. I also have some kind of freakish disorder, because I can slice them for hours, days, years, and they don't make me cry.

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Hard Day at the Office, Dear?

Apple Wingding*

You'll Need:

1 Red Apple

1 paring knife

1 pair of high heels

Carefully peel apple, maintaining that one long strip, all the way around. Discard apple. Take off all your clothes. Place apple peel around your neck like a tie, and sit on the kitchen counter in a pair of high heels. Wait for husband to arrive home. Wingding should commence immediately after.

Mood Music:

Anything at all from the Pretty Woman soundtrack

"On the Couch" by Prince

"W-O-M-A-N" by Etta James

"Baby Done a Bad, Bad Thing" by Chris Isaak

* I swear to Moses, this recipe comes straight out of the otherwise modest cooking tome from a United Methodist's Women group.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Pasta Bake with Sausage

I simply cannot hide anything from my husband. He's too wily. So I can try to slip ground turkey into my recipes, but much like a finicky cat able to figure out you've just stuck the heartworm pill into the delicious slice of cheese, he can also manage to evade my healthy attempts when it comes to poultry. Ergo, I usually will use 3/4 of a required amount of the recipe-called-for turkey with extra lean beef. Just for him. HOWEVER. I actually LIKE turkey sausage. It's really satisfying. I especially like the spicy kind they sell at my Teet. And I thought, "Well, blimey. This is so tasty, I've finally figured out a way to trick Stephen into eating turkey. BRU-HAHAHAHAHAHA!" I really did. I think in that villain-laugh.

No dice. We sat down to dinner last night and I swear to Moses he had us watching a show on meat packing. And we were both enjoying it. I know, I know -- can you imagine our children's first day of kindergarten? Anyway. They were talking about the sanitary ways of preparing sausage professionally. Yes, we were eating the [turkey] sausage at this point, and I was feeling smug about tricking my man into healthy eating. Then he casually remarked on he show's sausage commentary: "Yeah, that's true. What you really want to stay away from is TURKEY sausage."

My eyes get all huge. "WHY?!" I sputter, trying to subtly sneak the napkin up to my mouth.

He looks at me innocently, "What? This isn't turkey sausage, is it?"

Guiltily, "No! Of course not!"

"I can TELL when you use turkey." Said my finicky Cat Husband, smugly. There was nothing wrong with turkey, he just wanted to irk me into a confession.

Sigh. Foiled again.

Whatever. This recipe is delicious.

Baked Pasta w/ Sausage

Preheat your oven to 350 and spray a 9 x 13 bake pan with fat free Pam.

You'll need:
3/4 lb. turkey sausage* (You can also use a 1/2 lb of regular ground beef, just get the ultra lean kind, like less than 10 % fat), casings removed.
1 med. onion, chopped
1 medium bell pepper, chopped
1 T. minced garlic
1 28 oz. can of seasoned diced tomatoes (I get the Del Monte kind pre seasoned with oregano and basil, for extra flavor)
10 oz. package of frozen peas, thawed
2 T. tomato paste
1 tsp EACH: oregano, basil, thyme, freshly ground pepper
12 oz whole wheat pasta (like ziti or penne), cooked and drained.
6 oz. part-skim mozarella, either shredded or sliced thin or chopped.
3 T. freshly grated parmesan cheese

Crumble your delicious sausage into a large skillet and set over medium heat to brown. I like to season it a little as I do this, just a small amount of salt, pepper and some old Bay for color. Drain off any grease and then add the onion and bell pepper. Cook, stirring often, until the onion is soft. Add the garlic and let get fragrant before adding in the tomatoes, peas, paste and spices. Bring all this to a simmer and then cook uncovered for 5 min. Finally, stir in your pasta and 3 oz. of the mozarella. Spread the mixture into the bake pan and top evenly with the remaining mozarella and parmesan. Bake until the cheese is melted and bubbling, about 20 min. Let it stand 20 minutes to set, and then serve with a nice big salad or some sun-dried tomato bread. Mmmmm. Only 350 calories per serving -- serves 8. Also, this freezes really well, so you can save some portions for a rainy day when you want something homemade and are too tired to get cookin'.

Turkey Tunes:

"Bird on a Wire" by Leonard Cohen (Your bird is all the more wired into taste when in sausage form)
"Maniac" by Michael Sembello (I sing this all the time in the kitchen, until my husband finally looked at me strangely one night and said, "Isn't that song about stripping?")
"What the World Needs Now" by Jackie DeShan (The world needs this delicious meal! So make it for us!!)

* If you buy the full pound of turkey sausage, you can use leftover links in a spoon bread I'm going to post here on Sunday!

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Sunday Supper: Pork Cordon Bleu Cutlets w/ a Mess of Green Beans

My father said it best when I remarked to him, "You like anything with cheese on it, doncha, Daddy?"
"No, baby. I love anything with HAM and cheese on it."
This made me astonishingly, tear-jerkingly proud that neither one of my parents is a vegetarian. Well, and, clearly, not Kosher.

As long as you're not kosher or vegestarian, like myself, keep in mind: every time I make this pork cutlet recipe, I always have to remind myself to make extra because my husband gets downright mournful if there aren't enough for leftovers. Few things in this world bother me more than a mournful husband.

You will need:
1 1/2 -- 2 lb Pork Tenderloin (depends on how many of these babies you want to make), sliced into 1/4" cutlets (You're also going to pound them even thinner)
2 T. flour
slices of low-sodium ham (again, my blood pressure AND the lower calories)in strips, and slices of reduced fat swiss cheese, also in strips.
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 tsp. olive oil
1/4 C. white wine, 1/4 C. chicken broth
Parsley or sage (optional), for garnish

Pound the pork slices between sheets of parchment or wax paper, whatever is handy. You want them pretty thin, because they are going to cook fast. Season both sides of the cutlets and then dredge them thru the flour, coating well, but not just chunked on there. They can sit for a minute while you heat the tsp of oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. While that's happening, boil a big pot of water for your mess of green beans.

Mess of Beans:
3 lbs green beans, trimmed and washed (I have used canned in moments of desperation and forgetfulness. Don't sweat it. None of your dinner guests are there to judge you. They are merely grateful to be fed. Remember that!)
1/4 C. low-fat butter substitute (I use Parkay!)
1 T. dijon mustard
2 T. of horseradish (Now, my mother cannot do the spicy on any level -- we weren't even sure what the pepper shaker was for as children, and any inquiries on the subject were quickly dismissed or hushed up. Seasonings were like the shooter on the grassy knoll in our house. SO. To substitue just for her, because I love her, I use 2 T. of lite sour cream with 1 tsp. of Good Seasons mixed in. Good Seasons are those nifty little packs of flavorings that you get to make your own salad dressings, usually above or near the croutons)

Boil up that water good, and then add the beans. If you like 'em with a little snap still in their step, yank them outta the heat after 3 min. and rinse under cool water to stop the cooking process. If not, give them a couple of extra minutes and then don't bother with the cool water. Just let them get soggy as all hell, if that's how you like your beans. Anyway. In the same pot you did the beans, melt the "butter." Whisking, add the mustard and horseradish/sour-cream. Get this good and creamy, and if you're feeling especially sassy, throw in a few slices of crisp cooked, chopped bacon. Or use bacon pieces, pre-packaged for just this moment! They should be right next to the Good Seasons! Then add the beans back, turn off the heat, and stir until coated, adding in a little salt and pepper. Cover and wait for the rest of dinner to come together...

So your oil (You DO remember the oil, right?) should be good and hot by now. Toss the cutlets in and let brown on the one side, about three minutes, and then turn. Top each cutlet with a strip of ham and an equal amount of cheese -- use just enough to cover the surface of the cutlet. You don't want a mess. Now add the wine and broth, bring to a boil an let the liquid reduce by half (about 3 minutes). Sprinkle with parsley and serve warm with the beans! It's so easy and so good. And only 300 calories. The beans are only 72. Awesome.

This meal is perfect as is, but you can always add a little rice or some crusty rolls. You want to leave room for the cutlets, though. They're pretty mind-blowing.

Rock Out with Your Non-Kosher Self:

"I Will Survive" by Gloria Gaynor (you will not only survive the sweet, sweet combination of cheese and two porks, you'll thrive!)
"Only the Lonely" by Roy Orbison (easily the most upbeat song about a depressing topic, this will remind you that you're never lonely when serving cordon bleu dishes. Suddenly the world is your dinner guest!)
"Always on My Mind" by The Pet Shop Boys (oh, this meal will be on your mind for a looong time)