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!!