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.