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...