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)

Friday, March 23, 2007

Creamy Chicken Pasta

I used to be like, "Spinach? What am I, Popeye?" And then last year there was the whole E. Coli scare with Spinach, effectively proving all my internal suspicions about the leaf as real and well-founded. But the sad, sad truth is that spinach is super good for you. Tragically, we're not eating enough of it. So I tweaked up this old recipe to hide spinach in. You pump enough flavor into anything, it'll taste pretty good. (Notice I said "flavor" and not "fat"...) This dish tastes like comfort food, because of the pasta and creaminess, but it's only posessed of 230 calories per serving -- and the servings end up being enormous. For real. PLUS you can feel good about eating your spinach.

Creamy Chicken Pasta

First things first: the spinach. Gah. You can use fresh if you're a spinach conoisseur (read: freak of nature), but I like the frozen kind, thawed and then squeezed dry, that you can buy in a 10 oz. package for like a dollar at the Teet. But get that thawed and squoze before you start.

Also, cook up some small pasta (i.e. macaroni, mini-shells, penne, or ziti). I like to use whole-wheat because I use every opportunity to get in my fiber. But you can use regular and not affect the calories (230) above. Cook up enough for 4 C. to use later. Keep it warm.

1 tsp. olive oil (will someone explain to me why Rachel Ray is incapable of saying the words, "extra virgin?" That girl has some serious hangups.)
2 C. sliced mushrooms (depending on what's on sale at the Teet, I will use either fresh white shiitakes OR the jars of the pre-sliced portobellas in water. Delicious either way)
1 Chopped bunch of scallions
2 minced garlic cloves (2 t. from the jar)
1 T. regular flour
1 C. reduced-fat milk (skim milk, while technically better for you, makes me want to ook, with it's skimmy, transluscent ways. Milk should be opaque. I don't care what the health nuts say.)
1/2 C. chicken broth (I use lower-sodium because of my tendency towards high blood pressure and because I think there are less calories, just like with low-sodium soy sauce)

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Add the mushrooms, scallions and garlic, sauteing until softened and fragrant, about 5 minutes. This is when the kitchen starts to really smell good. I love the smell of any onion in a hot pan, and I've grown to really love the scent of warm, cooking mushrooms. My husband, like most normal men, loves coming home to a warm, good-smelling kitchen. The act of sauteing is code for love in our house. Anyway. Add the flour and get it well-mixed in (about 1 min) and then add the milk and broth in slowly, letting it boil up a little as you go. Cook, stirring, until the mixture thickens (about 2 --3 min.) and then stir in 2 C. of chicken (you can use chopped breast meat, canned or pre-packaged. Go nuts!), the spinach and some freshly ground pepper. Return to a boil and stir. Then reduce heat, simmer, and cover, letting the chicken cook through (about 8 min). When it's done, toss it with the pasta and sprinkle with a few T. of freshly grated parmesan cheese.

This mound of food technically makes 4 servings, but be aware that they are pretty hefty servings. So come hungry. I serve this just with a nice crusty bread or dinner rolls.

Songs to Spinach with:
(This is a mild, homey dish, but big. So you want BIG songs)

"Mr. Big Stuff" by Jean Knight
"Baby Got Back" by Sir Mixalot (HAH. Not for long, you don't, if you keep cooking like this!)
"Big Girls Don't Cry" by Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons (damn straight they don't cry. They get themselves into the kitchen and make themselves smokin' hot with their cooking of delicious chicken and spinach.)

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Sunday Supper: 10 Minute Magic -- Glazed Tuna Steaks with Just 'Gus and rice

I waffle on Sundays, either being filled with drive, vim and vigor, ready to face the next week OR indulging in complete, belligerent laziness, which pervades my very soul, FORCING me to lay on the couch with my feet up eating reduced-fat popcorn and watching old movies. It's a crap shoot, frankly. Take your chances, if you're anything like me, but definately ante up to this easy-peasy Sunday supper. It's healthy, filling, and tastes gourmet, so your roommate/significant other/free-loading relatives will be utterly impressed with your efforts. And to someone like me, who physically runs on the power of her vanity, the impress factor is critical.

Sunday morning, when you're padding around in pink fluffy slippers and drinking coffee, make this marinade and pop your steaks into it. You'll need:

4 (6 oz) Tuna Steaks*
3 T. reduced-sodium soy sauce (for optimum calorie-saving)
2 T. rice vinegar (You can totally use normal vinegar, but the taste is a little more strident. Just be aware. The vinegar is key, though. It really gives the meat a nice tang.)
1 T. honey
1 chopped scallion
splash of lemon juice, fresh
kosher salt, fresh ground pepper and Old Bay seasoning (or similar) to taste.

You'll also need 2 t. oil for later, as well as optional sesame seeds. But meanwhile, season the steaks sparingly with the salt, pepper and Old Bay. You don't need a lot, just a little sprinkle. Then place in a big, sealable plastic bag. Toss in that scallion. Whisk together the soy sauce, vinegar, honey, lemon juice and pour over steaks in bag. Give the bag a firm shake (show it who's boss) and then pop into the fridge for up to 8 hours. You can also do this marinade 5 minutes before cooking, so you decide when you want to spend your time in the kitchen. When you're ready to cook, pull the meat out and let it lose the fridge chill. Take the marinade from the bag and heat it in a small saucepan. Let it come to a boil and then simmer while you cook the steaks. This would also be a fine time to put on some 10-minute brown rice. None of us are getting enough fiber, you know.

Also, this is when I usually do my Just 'Gus**, while the steaks are coming up to room temp. Preheat the oven to 450 and get out a rimmed cookie sheet or jelly-roll pan. Spray it with Pam cook spray. Take a fresh bunch of asparagus, rinse it and trim the hard ends off. Place the 'gus in a single layer on the pan. Now, mix 1/4 C. olive oil with 1/4 C. red-wine vinegar and pour that over the 'gus evenly. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss it in the oven and cook for 10 minutes, shaking the pan once in the midst of the cook cycle to get an even bake.

While your rice and Just 'Gus is cooking, get started on your main course. Heat 2 tsp. of oil (I like to use that asian sesame oil, but any kind is fine) in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the room temp. steaks to the heat and cook until pink in the middle, about 3 -- 4 minutes per side. Serve with the sauce over it, and a sprinkle of sesame seeds.

The 'Gus is like 50 calories, the Tuna steaks are only 230 -- 250, and if you use brown rice, then a half cup is only 85.

Now get back to your Sunday indulging! Those pink fluffy slippers won't wear themselves, you know!

Tuna Tunes:
"Sunday Kind of Love" by Etta James (because you love yourself enough to treat yourself to a Sunday Supper!)
"Gus: The Theater Cat" (from Cats -- see note below)
"Ball and Chain" by Sublime (it will remind you how free we are of the traditional chains of cooking all day!)

* Tuna ain't always cheap -- I was lucky this week, it was a "fresh catch" at the Teet, and nearly half the normal price, but normally it can be a bit cost prohibitive for every day munching. You have options, though. You can always buy the frozen tuna steaks and simply defrost them under cool running water as you prepare the marinade. Or you can buy a different meat. Chicken breasts are good with this, so are pork chops and swordfish. See, this would be an excellent time to get to know your local grocery store personnel. Go to the Teet. They won't steer you wrong.)

** I call it "Just 'Gus" because whenever I used to make it, I always got this blasted song in my head from Cats -- Gus: The Theater Cat. Anyway, one of the lyrics is, "His name, as I ought to have told you before, is really 'Asparagus', but that's such a fuss, to pronounce, that we usually call him 'Just Gus'..." The recipe I originally got from Redbook, which has good recipes but is hit and miss regarding fat/calorie content.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Herb Rubbed London Broil

Sorry, vegans. Meat is delicious. It always has been and probably always will be. Furthermore, I didn't fight my way to the top of the food chain to eat carrots. But you go right ahead. Mmm. That tofu dog sure looks tempting. No, no. You keep it all to yourself...

My husband was actually the first person to introduce London Broil into our household. He's a handy sort of guy, real good with tools, though he'd never done much spectacular in the kitchen. His previous idea of "making dinner" involved pre-packaged mac n' cheese and frozen fishsticks. Yeah. It's better than it sounds, but still. Then again, I wasn't cooking yet (not really; my sporadic attempts were met with gratefulness, but I simply wasn't making the time to cook regularly). I was happily eating the mac n' cheese because it was the only option.

So he has a hankering for some good home cookin', looks up online somewhere a dummy's guide to making London Broil, and makes it. It was pretty good. Way better than the time he cooked up something that I swear to Sweet Fancy Moses came out of a bag labeled "Chicken Parts." Not, pieces. PARTS. There was a beak involved with that dinner. I digress. London Broil.

As we're eating the delicious meat, he sits across from me, takes my hand, and looks soulfully into my eyes. He says he's been having more and more cravings for real food recently, and that we should probably start cooking more often for each other.

Hint taken. And so, my journey in the kitchen began. It really is true -- if you can read, you can cook. Maybe you can't cook well, at first. But you get the hang of it eventually.

Here is my own recipe for London Broil. It is delicious, and you serve it with the veggies that it cooks with, so you're done when it comes out of the oven.

Preheat your broiler (500 degrees) and prepare your broiler pan -- for me, this involves foil (it makes for easy cleanup later if I place foil between the two parts, to catch all the juices) and cooking spray (spray the whole thing so that there is no sticking). Also, lay your meat out -- let it get to room temp.

1 C. chopped Italian parsley (it's more flavorful than reg. parsley)
1 T. rosemary (use dried or fresh -- you can use more if it's fresh)
1/4 C. chopped scallions
2 T. minced garlic (you know what to do... get yourself a jar!)
kosher salt and fresh ground pepper (to taste; don't go nuts, the flavor of the meat is really not in need of a lot of help)
2 T. dijon or spicy brown mustard (your call)

In a big bowl, mince all these together with a fork, adding the mustard and garlic last, and set aside.

1 London broil (about 2 lbs; it's also sometimes labelled as "flank steak")
2 lbs small red potatoes, washed and halved
2 onions, in 8ths
2 lb zucchini, in nice sized chunks (you can use squash, too, as a substitute or in addition)
1/2 a celery head, chopped with all the leaves for flavor

Rub 2 T. of the herb mixture onto the meat, covering it all over, top and sides, etc. Place the meat in the center of your prepared broiler pan. Then add 4 tsp. of olive oil to the rest of the herb mix and hand mix your veggies into it. Get them good and covered. Place about half the veggies around the meat, in a single layer. You'll probably have overflow unless you have some freakishly large broiler pan, so put all the other veggies into a regular bake pan in a single layer and roast them just below the meat in the oven.

Cook under the broiler (not on the top rack, the middle is best) for 15 minutes. London Broil is always served pretty rare, and that's how this should come out, if your oven is on 500 degrees -- medium rare to rare. If you don't like the rare so much, roast it a little longer, in 5 minute increments, only cutting into the meat in one place to check for done-ness. And be careful of those veggies -- they may get a little too brown if you leave them in too long, so you can take them out before the meat.

When your meat is done, place it on a cutting board and tent it with foil. Let it sit for about 10 minutes, letting it sort of settle into its own deliciousness. Now, when cutting London Broil, you always want to carve against the grain. This is important. If you don't cut against the grain, the meat will be stringy and weird.

Makes 8 servings. Serve with the veggies and maybe some nice, crusty rolls. I like the Take-and-Bake breads at Harris Teeter because then you get the nice, baked bread smell into the house with very little effort. Also, the french loafs usually are around only 100 -- 140 calories per serving.

Meat, how do I love thee? let me count the ways... 300 ways. Because that's the total calories in this meal: 300.

NEW feature from the Dainty Deb: Music to listen to while you prepare!
For this dish, you want some snappy little songs, because this is a quick recipe to make, but chopping all those veggies might make you bored. Here are my suggestions:

Old 97s "Big Brown Eyes" (because all eyes will be on your sweet meat treat)
The Four Tops "I Can't Help Myself" (you can help yourself to some more delicious meat!)
Ram Jam's "Black Betty" (the beat will get you chopping and cocking your hips in tandem)
Spencer Davis' "Gimme Some Lovin" (that's what he said)

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Ah, the 70s -- WW Recipe Cards

I have never actually attended a Weight Watchers meeting (I'm shy), but I like their extensive line of cookbooks. Well, I say that, but yet I've altered and mangled almost every one of the recipes which I've gleaned from those cookbooks, so they really serve more as inspirational guides.

Apparently, though, WW went thru a rough patch in the 70s. I came across this website and nearly died laughing. Who dies laughing at recipe cards? One might ask. One would clearly have not seen THESE recipe cards. Highlights include the Mexican Shrimp Orange Salad, the Chilled Celery Log, the sad, sad Slender Quenchers, a Jellied Tomatoe Refresher and the Mousse of Salmon (which is, incidentally, shaped like a salmon).

Start at the begining of the slide show and take your time. Really peruse these gems and then thank GOD that the 70s are behind us all.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Sesame Shrimp (sans deep-frying)

I have yet to discover how "Sesame"-anything on a Chinese restaurant's menu has become synonymous with "deep fried with a sprinkle of sesame seeds"... Maybe something gets lost in translation? I don't know, though. Those geisha are pretty svelte. (I know, I know... That's Japan... an entirely different country.)

Tonight I'm making a far more sensible sesame dish. And I'm not like those recipe books that will lie to you and say, "Oh, this is JUST like take-out." That's a lie. It's always a lie. Take-out is take-out precisely because it's like nothing else -- it's supposed to be a treat, though, not a way of life. Hence the delicate distinction between the Dainty Debutante and the former, Deb-normous one.

So I am pretty sure I lifted the bulk of this recipe from a cookbook, but I did so before I had an inkling about what hoisin sauce was (it's a sweet, sticky sauce a little like honey, usually sold with the other asian condiments in the "ethnic" aisle of the grocery store), or where to find water chestnuts, so I made some big changes in the begining, then went back and replaced some things, and by that point I'd adjusted even other things... so. Sorry, forgotten cookbook, wherever you are. No credit for you!

2 T. hoisin sauce (because of my general idiocy and initial fear of asking for help in a grocery store, I originally used honey and that's a fine substitute. Just know that you will be using 3 T. total. And, hoisin will just make it taste more... Asian.)
2 T. soy sauce (use reduced sodium -- it has fewer calories!)
2 T. Sherry (who in the world actually stocks sherry?! I ask you... I use dry white wine, so there.)
1 T. honey
2 t. cornstarch
1 T. sesame oil (also stranded in the "ethnic" section -- it's darker than most cooking oils, and as soon as it hits the pan, you'll smell the difference. It's what makes a Chinese restaurant smell like a Chinese restaurant.)
1 1/2 lb. Large, ready-to-cook shrimp (i.e. deveined, etc. OR you can cheat and buy a bag of them frozen and literally ready-to-cook -- just thaw them under some cold water for about 10 min. before proceeding)
1 T. ginger
1 t. red pepper flakes (for heat -- if spice makes you ooky, just omit)
1 garlic clove
2 large, chopped scallions (both green and white parts)
1/2 lb. trimmed green beans (this is admittedly the most ridiculous thing I enjoy. There is something wildly appealing to me about snapping beans. I could do it for hours.)
8 oz. can of baby corn, drained.
2 tsp sesame seeds

Why must you be so easy, Sesame shrimp?!

Combine hoisin, soy sauce, "sherry", honey and cornstarch and whisk together for good, thick consistency.

Heat 2 t. of the oil over med. high heat. Let the scent permeate the house -- this is how my husband knows he's getting Chinese for dinner!
Add the shrimp and stir-fry them until just pink, no more than 5 min. Move them to a plate and keep warm.
Add remaining oil to skillet, then ginger, garlic and scallions. Stir-fry for about a minute and then add beans and corn. Stirfry them until beans are bright green (about 3 min.) -- finally stir in that hoisin mix and the shrimp. Bring to a boil and cook, stirring, until thick, another min. or two. Remove from heat before stirring in seeds and serving.

Serves 4, makes about 5 cups total. About 280 calories per serving, and no more than 4 grams of fat. Ridiculous. Nothing like take-out, but delicious all the same!!

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Sunday Supper: Chicken Enchiladas w/ Mess of Corn and Rice

Call me old-fashioned, but I rather like the idea of there being one night of the weekend (and I'm flexible about this -- it doesn't have to be Sunday, it can be Friday or Saturday) where you really set out to make a nice, complete dinner, possibly with a theme. So, once a week check back here for a Sunday Supper type entry: a main dish and sides.

This week, in honor of Daylight Savings Time and in honor of chicken being on sale at the Teet, I made Chicken Enchiladas. The recipe is a mish-mash of a Mexican Chicken casserole I saw on Paula Dean, a recipe I downloaded three years ago on the Internet, and with a few helpful additions and subtractions inspired by a Weight Watcher's cookbook. The result is 8 tasty enchiladas in a yummy sauce, for 190 calories. Yeah. I know. I'm an amazing person.

Chicken Enchiladas

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

11 oz. salsa (to taste -- use mild to hot, whatever you like. You DO realize that salsa has no calories, right?)
1 C. Fat Free sour cream
1 small diced yellow squash (you can also use a zucchini... if you MUST)
8 medium tortillas (get whole-wheat or corn; they're the lowest in calories)
1 package of pre-cooked chicken chunks (you get it next to the tuna, in the no-drain packs)
1 C. reduced fat cheese (I like to buy the Vermont 75% Fat Free, usually in pepper jack flavor, and then shred it fresh, but you can certainly use the packages of Mexican-style that Kraft sells)
1 -- 3 T. Hot Peppers (greatest invention of all time: pre-mixed hot peppers in a jar. They're next to either the pickles or the tomatoes in your store. use as much as you like, spice-wise, or omit altogether if you don't like spicy. You can also substitute diced sun-dried tomatoes for flavor and color)
2 T. fresh minced parsley
1/2 tsp. cumin
Kosher salt, fresh ground pepper (to taste)

First, heat your tortillas so that they're easier to roll up. You do it in the microwave, 10 secs. per tortilla, with a napkin between each tortilla.

Next, spread some of that salsa on the bottom of a 9x13 baking pan, just enough to cover. Then, combine the chicken with 1/2 C. of the cheese, 1/2 C. sour cream, the squash and hot peppers in a bowl. Season with the cumin, salt and pepper to taste.

Now, spread 1/4 C. exactly of this mixture on each tortilla (it makes JUST enough). Roll up each tortilla and place, seam-side down, in the pan. Mix together the remaining salsa and sour cream and pour over the tortillas (if you got the right size, they should just exactly fit into the pan). Then, top with the remaining cheese.

Cover with foil and bake until the cheese melts (about 20 min) then I like to take the foil off and let it bake another 5 min. so that it gets all brown and bubbly on top. Trust me, it just looks better. Sprinkle with parsley and let sit for about 10 min. to settle before serving. Makes 4 servings (2 enchiladas per serving).

So awesome. You got your main course. And this is an easy dish to do anytime. But then I make a Mess of Corn, which I think I made up one night. I don't remember the source, anyway. And it looks like something I would do with leftover veggies. A Mess, for those of you NOT located below the Mason-Dixon line, is just a small serving. It usually applies to green beans. But this is my blog, and my corn, so here it is:

Mess of Corn

*while you're getting all this going, have some brown rice cooking, or some refried beans. They're easy, take about the same time as this Mess and will go great with the enchiladas! And both are low in calories and high in fiber.

1 T. of oil (canola or corn works best)
1 chopped bunch of scallions
1 minced clove of garlic (I cheat and buy the jars of garlic. I know, I know. But it's so much easier than banging on the stupid things with a knife. If you're like me and have the jar, use 1 T.)
1 T. of those delicious Hot Peppers as mentioned above (again, you can omit if spice is not your bag)
10 oz. package of thawed frozen corn, or 1 can of drained corn (I prefer the frozen, thawed)
1 med. chopped squash or zucchini (here I actually prefer the zucchini)
1 med. bell pepper, any color, chopped
Fresh chopped parsley, cumin, salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Heat the oil over medium high (a little higher if you have non-stick cookware). Add the scallions, garlic and peppers. Saute for a few minutes, let the garlic get fragrant but not brown. Add corn, zucchini, bell pepper and cumin. Saute for 8 minutes, letting the zucchini soften. Remove from heat and season with parsely, salt and pepper. Corn Mess, you're gonna rock my world. You're only 80 calories and you're delicious.

Sunday Supper: Spanish Style.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Chef Jim's Dilly Sauce

Have I mentioned how much I LOVE my local Harris Teeter? Oh, I heart my grocery store -- I affectionately call it "the Teet" for short, as in "I'm off to suckle at the Teet of grocery goodness." My family makes fun of me* because I'm on a first-name basis with a lot of the employees. This, by the way, is an excellent practice to get into. Ask your butcher his opinion or the fish girl's name -- it will mean a lot to them, and next time you need to be persnickity about a certain cut of meat, or want them to reserve a special piece of fish for you, you've already established yourself as someone they kinda know. Always be kind to grocery store employees. They are wonderful sources of information and are so helpful when you simply put forth the extra effort of a smile and a minute of your time to chat.

Case in point: Chef Jim. He's the sample guy at my local Teet -- always sauteing up something simple and tasty. But he's so much more than that. He knows tons about wine and fish and pairings. He's who I turn to when I can't locate fennel or need to know what a good brand of caviar is. And he shared with me his great Dilly Sauce recipe, which I know he won't mind me sharing with you all.

2 T. fresh lemon juice (I don't get people who don't use fresh lemon juice; lemons are like, what? 50 cents?)
1 T. fresh snipped dill (ok, so you CAN use 1 tsp. dry, but it does NOT taste as good and looks WAY less pretty. You can get a small bunch of fresh dill in the veggie section, usually, if you don't grow your own herbs like my mom does.)
2 T. mayo (and this is why I love this recipe -- it's versatile! You can use reduced fat mayo, miracle whip, or even sour cream and this sauce is still delicious!)
2 tsp. Dijon mustard (again, you can increase or decrease this ammount if you don't love mustard)
a little freshly ground pepper

Combine everything well in a dish, adding the dill last. Let the bowl sit, covered with a cloth, for about 30 minutes and then serve. This makes a perfect substitution for tartar sauce and has about half the calories.

* I mentioned that I didn't want my husband to wear a shirt to the Teet (it had a reference to pirate sex on it) because "I have friends there!" Now every time I mention a trip to the Teet, I have to endure hoots and howls. But whatever. You wait until it's 4 PM on a Sunday and you need someone to run into the back freezer for the very last roast. Then who's laughing?

Friday, March 9, 2007

Hunka-Hunka-Burnin' Cobbler

OR: The longest hour of my life

It was my parents' first visit up to NC to see my husband and me since we'd moved in. Little known fact about me: I like to have something baking when people come over. It makes the house smell good and lets them know you are, well, baking for them. So I decided to make my favorite cobbler recipe for Mom and Dad... Only one problem -- the 9 x 13 x 2" dish I normally used to create this concoction was busy (read: filthy dirty and I was too lazy to hand-wash it; ergo it stayed right in the dishwasher where I finally located it). So instead, defying all laws of physics and cullinary skill, I opted to substitute the 9 x 13" pan with a PIE PLATE. That's right... I was going to try and fit the same amount of cobblery goodness which normally requires the largest baking pan I own into a 9" pie plate. I think my faulty logic somehow was related to the number "9" -- I figured the plate could handle both 9" pie plate and 9 x 13" pan were utilizing the number "9" (I am NOT good at math. Or physics, clearly).

So I was dusting when I realized that the kitchen was filled with smoke. I turned on the oven light and noticed that the cobbler was angrily overflowing it's tiny vessel much like I was overflowing my size 6 bikini panties those days. The cobbler had turned into a gooey muffin-top, and the goo was dripping right onto the lower burner, which actually was sending up small burst of flames as the goo would land. Now, rather than remove the cobbler, for fear of the flame bursts, I decided to instead just leave it and hope for everything to work out for the best. Perhaps the cobbler would miraculously heal itself. So for 20 more minutes, I anxiously stared into the oven's window. The miracle never happened, and the smoke started to make my eyes water. Oh hell, I thought. Please note, at this point, my parents were about 20 minutes away and my house smelled like a big fat burning cobbler. So finally, I overcame my fear of those little flame bursts and opened the oven door. Smoke poured into my kitchen. I flung the pie plate into the sink and gushed water over it, causing even MORE smoke. My husband walked in and sighed. But he did very nicely offer to fan the smoke from the house as I ran to the Harris Teeter for another dessert. All ended well, though my parents and husband teased me mercilessly. What I was most upset about was, tragically, the fact that they didn't get to taste my really awesome cobbler.

But now you can. Just make sure you use a 9 x 13 x 2 " pan. NO EXCUSES. In fact, that's what I'm renaming this cobbler.

The 9x13x2 Cobbler.

Preheat your oven to 350 and then set out 2 C. of milk to let get to room temp.

1 stick butter, melted
3 1/2 C. fresh berries
16 oz. Frozen berries -- any variety, or a mix is nice. If using this frozen option, get the bag out when you set out the milk to let thaw a little bit.
2 C. room temp. milk
2 C. sugar
2 C. self-rising flour (OR regular flour with 1 tsp. salt and 3 tsp of baking powder mixed in to make it self-rising; You can do this any time, the standard is: for each Cup of flour, add 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder and 1/2 tsp salt)

Pour the melted butter into the bottom of a 9 x 13 x 2" pan. DO NOT SUBSTITUTE.

In a large bowl, combine the sugar and flour, then the room temp. milk. Mix will be liquidy and lumpy. Pour this mix on top of the butter, but don't let them get too combined. It will settle on it's own, just resist the urge to touch it. Then add your fruit. The more fruit you use, the less crust, and vice versa. And if you use the max or more amount of fruit, then a single serving is only 200 calories. So use your own discretion. And again, don't try to mix it all up in the pan. Just put it all in there and leave well enough alone.

Bake until golden brown on top and bubbly at the sides (about 1 hour). Sift powdered sugar on top for a pretty presentation, and always serve warm. This is super good with french vanilla or butter pecan ice cream.

It makes 10 -- 12 servings and refrigerates perfectly. JUST USE THE RIGHT PAN.

My Ridiculous NC Style Crock Pot BBQ

No, no. It's REALLY ridiculous. Only 250 calories per cup, if you use a lean pork loin. AND it will take you all of 4 minutes to make. This recipe is about to change your life. I love to make this if I have to take a main dish somewhere, and it's so good, it's become the family staple BBQ recipe. Please and thanks.

3 1/2 lb. Boneless, lean pork loin roast (you can ask your butcher at whatever grocery store you go to to just trim any visible fat -- they don't mind. It's their job. While they're at it, have them cut that bad boy in half. I always buy a couple of these and then freeze one so there is usually one on hand.)
1 C. Carolina Treet BBQ sauce (or your favorite BBQ sauce. But for it to be "Carolina" style BBQ, you will need to mix in some apple cider vinegar; that's the tangy deliciousness you taste in the Tarheel state's special BBQ)

Place the two pieces of pork side by side in your crock pot and pour the sauce over top. Cook that porker for 8 -- 9 hours on Low, or 4 -- 5 hours on High. When it's done, turn the pot off and carefully shred the meat with two big forks (careful, the delicious sauce is also now hot as fire). Serve on whole wheat rolls with coleslaw and hushpuppies (which are not low-calorie, but you have to treat yourself sometimes.)

You can make it 1 -- 2 days ahead of time and refrigerate, or this recipe also freezes well for up to one month.

The last time I made this, I took it to my reading club, whereupon the normally gracious, well-mannered guests ate every physical shred of the pork and then literally sopped up the saucy remnants with bits of bread crusts. Trust me -- it's good.

Introduction and Welcome

OR: Why I'm No Longer a Beast

I quit smoking three years ago and promtly ate my own body-weight in Chex Mix. Trust me, this is what you do when you are suddenly deprived of the sweet, sweet taste of burning tobacco leaves.

I left the weight on for a while because, frankly, I didn't have the time to lose it. I was busy eating other foods in body-weight quantities. I love to eat. It's something I'm good at.

But then I went to England this summer and for the first time learned to fear food. For the first time, the idea of dinner was met with an inner shiver of horror. So I dropped five pounds quick. (Thanks, UK. Sorry 'bout the tea...) Anyway. That was a good jumpstart.

And I love to cook. I list it as a hobby; my secret dream is to run a bed and breakfast; my dog and I watch the foodnetwork like it's our job; I fantasize about detroying Rachel Ray in a deadly knife fight. I actualy get pissed if I miss Paula Dean's intro. But instead of cooking with lard, I try to make food which is as dainty as I would like to be. And now I'm back down to my fighting-weight, and I really think it's because of how much I enjoy being in the kitchen.

So come here and check in for recipes and stories of kitchen woes. Like the time I nearly set our apt. on fire with a pot of oil. Or when I nearly killed my husband, Stephen, with a toothpick left in his rolled chicken cutlet.

I'm an fool, but first and foremost, I'm a COOKING fool.