Monday, September 29, 2008

The Deb Discovers Polenta!

Who knew what a delicious little snacky cake baked polenta makes?! Oh, I guess the rest of the world had figured this out. Ooops. My local store even had flavored polenta!

Also, this recipe takes all of 10 minutes to prepare, so don't give yourself a half-hour like I did. I was standing over the shrimp, glaring at them with my Deb-ray vision in an effort to keep them warm while waiting for my husband to get home.

Parmesan, Paprika and Polenta!

Go ahead and preheat your broiler.

You'll need:

1 T. olive oil
1 lb. peeled/deveined medium shrimp
1/4 white wine
1 T. chopped chives
1 T. lemon juice
1 T. papkrika
dash of garlic salt, Old Bay (to taste)
1 16 oz. tube polenta (I used the dun-dried tomato flavor, and boy was it good with this recipe!), cut into 8 even (about 1/2") slices
cook spray
8 spoonfuls of marinara sauce
8 spoonfuls of shredded parmesan cheese
1 T. chopped parsley

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add in your shrimp and cook max maybe 3 minutes until just done, pink and curled. Remove from heat, stir in wine, chives, lemon juice and seasonings, tossing to coat. Keep warm (with laser eyes if necessary).

Place polenta slices on sprayed cookie sheet and top each slice with one spoonful each of sauce and then cheese. Broil 3 or 4 minutes until the cheese is melty. Top each serving with your shrimp mixture and sprinkle all over with parsley!

This is perfect with just a salad or maybe a little rice. Polenta, you just made yourself a friend.

The recipe is only 230 calories, with 5 grams of fat, 2 grams fiber. That makes it only 6 pts on Weight Watchers, and the polenta is deliciously filling!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Pasta in Sun-dried Tomato Cheese Sauce

There is just nothing like a nice warm bowl of pasta, if I'm craving comfort food! In fact, when I was young, that was what I always wanted on days I stayed home sick from school, rather than chicken noodle soup. I didn't even need any sauce, just a little butter and parmesan cheese (from the green canister, no less! Blech!).

This recipe is so fresh tasting and good, yet you can throw it together in about 20 minutes. It's perfect for four modest servings, and I serve it with just some freshly baked bread. Each serving (a heaping cup) is 7 points on WW (around 330 calories, 8 g fat, 5 g fiber). So make yourself a big ol' bowl of pasta and snuggle in to enjoy the nice fall weather comin' up!

Pasta in Sun-dried Tomato Cheese Sauce

You'll need:

8 oz. Whole Wheat ziti (or similar -- I use whatever vaguely tubular pasta I have open, since this recipe only calls for 8 oz)

1/2 t. extra virgin olive oil

1 C. sun-dried tomatoes, thinly sliced in strips (I buy the dried variety and then reconstitute them with boiling water; they're less expensive than the ones packed in oil, which I always have to rinse thoroughly anyway, to save calories)

2 scallions, chopped

2 oz. canadian bacon, chopped (Optional -- you can let this stay a totally vegtarian meal, if you prefer, or substitute chicken or even shrimp, just be sure to use a small amount of the meat so that your calories don't jump too high)

pinch of salt, crushed red pepper -- to taste

1 minced garlic clove

6 T. fat-free half and half

3 0z. crumbled gorgonzola cheese (now, if this cheese is too strong or if you just don't like it, swap it out with fresh parmesan or romano)

1 C. fresh spinach, rinsed

Cook up your pasta and drain. Don't worry about keeping it warm -- it's going back into a skillet for a heat-up in the sauce later anyhow.

Heat your oil over medium heat in a large skillet, then add in your tomatoes, scallions, your bacon (if using), seasoning, and garlic. Cook just a minute, until fragrant. Stir in half and half and cheese, stirring constantly, letting the cheese melt and thicken the sauce. Stir in spinach and pasta and cook until spinach is wilted.

This is so good, and perfect for a busy work night when you crave something homey and good but don't have a lot of time.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Summery Chowder

This recipe is perfect in the summer-time, for all that it's a soup. It's perfect for a rainy summer day indoors, which was yesterday to a T. It's also a quick soup to make, and just bursting with fresh flavor. Make sure you get local, fresh corn and hunt for some whole wheat bread bowls -- they're worth it for the extra fiber and texture!

There are 4 servings, about 1 1/2 cups per serving, and each serving of chowder is 4 WW points, about 230 calories, while the bread bowl will vary.

Summery Chowder

You'll need:

2 smallish Yukon potatoes
cook spray
1/2 C. celery
1 large shallot, chopped
2 -- 3 pieces corn on the cob, kernels removed with knife
1 small jar diced pimentos
3 -- 4 sun-dried tomatoes, diced
4 oz. diced Canadian bacon
2 C. skim milk
salt, pepper to taste
Tabasco sauce, to taste

Bread bowls

Puncture your potatoes and put them on high in your microwave for about 8 minutes, rotating. Allow to cool, then you're going to peel and mash them in a little bowl.

Coat a large sauce pan with spray, then add celery, shallot, corn, pimentos and tomatoes. Saute over medium high for 5 minutes until all is tender. Stir in bacon and milk, then add mashed potatoes. Mix well, then season to taste; stir and combine. Cover and simmer, just under a boil, for at least 10 minutes. You can leave it on low heat until ready to serve, if needed.

Scoop into bread bowls, then top with sliced green onions and shredded low-fat cheddar. Serve with the removed tops of the bread bowls toasted to dunk with. Delicious and filling!

You can replace the veggies in this with any of your favorites. I think that broccoli would be great, as would fresh bell peppers.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Sirloin in Shallot Sauce with Fries

My poor husband has just gotten over some dental surgery, so he's been eating very squooshy food for a while! To celebrate his stitches coming out with "real" food (to my husband, this means BEEF), I made this slightly modified version of Cooking Light's more elegantly titled, "Steak Frites with Shallot Pan Reduction." It was delicious and, either because of its deliciousness or my husband's delirium at being served real food, he begged for it to become a staple in our house. Hey, this makes 4 servings, with 330 calories per serving, 7 g of fat, and 3 g of fiber -- 7 pts on WW.

Sirloin in Shallot Sauce with Fries (a much more humble title, thus one I'm more likely to attempt again when I see it in my recipe book!)

First, preheat your oven to 450 and spray two large bake sheets with spray. Make sure your oven racks are fully divided -- one on the top-most rack, one on the lowest.

You'll need:

2 large potatoes, sliced into 1/2 " sticks (I leave the skin on because you get a lot more fiber and nutrition that way, but feel free to peel the potatoes if you like!)
Cooking spray
3/4 t. kosher salt, divided
2 t. fresh chopped thyme, divided (I didn't realize that I had run out of fresh thyme, so I used dried and it was just fine!)
1/2 t. black pepper
cajun seasoning, to taste (optional)
1 lb. sirloin, trimmed, boneless
2 T. finely chopped shallots
2 T. brandy (I use cherry brandy when making a meat sauce; off-sets the taste unusually and nicely)
3/4 C. low-sodium beef broth
1 T. dijon mustard
1 T. Fat Free Butter spray

Arrange your potato sticks single-layer on the sheets, lightly spray with cook spray and then sprinkle with 1/4 t. kosher salt, and cajun seasoning, if you desire. Bake on 450 for about 15 minutes, then swap locations of your bake sheets in the oven. Bake another 15 -- 20 minutes until golden brown. Toss them with half the thyme when they come out and keep them warm.

Heat a big skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cook spray. Sprinkle steak 1/4 t. salt/pepper and then add to hot pan. Saute about 3 minutes per side for medium rare. Remove from pan and keep warm.

Add shallots to pan and saute for 2 minutes. Add brandy, bring to a boil, then add broth, mustard, and the remaining thyme; bring to a boil. Cook until reduced, about 3 minutes. Add remaining salt and pepper, then whisk in butter spray. Slice warm steak and fully heat in the sauce. Serve with sauce lightly drizzled over the fries.

Serve with an easy, quick vegetable, like steamed 'gus or green beans! Delicious!!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Breakfast Ideas

The Deb has a serious weakness for women's magazines. There are few things as enjoyable as popping some low-calorie popcorn and lolling on the couch with a frivolous magazine. Now, while I don't condone the overall message of these magazines (You're Fat! You should pleasure your husband more often!* No One Likes You Unless You Weigh 4 lbs! Why Can't You Buy More $500 Pairs of Shoes?!), I have noticed that they all have one thing in common when talking about weight loss -- they all tell you to have breakfast.

When your Deb was in high school, she remembers that the wrestling coach actually told his boys to SKIP breakfast... when they were trying to GAIN weight! So surely between old Coach Hunt and every women's magazine on the planet, they're on to something.

And I don't know about you, but I despise when a recipe book extols a breakfast idea s "quick!" when it involves Bisquick. Quick = the time it takes to toast something, not the time it takes to preheat an oven, prepare a recipe and then bake it. And the Deb is a busy girl, as she images ya'll to be. She is busy putting her face on in the morning -- she saves her suave supper skills for, well, supper time.

Therefore, the Deb recommends that you do, certainly eat breakfast. And you should probably skip those weird sugary breakfast bars. Instead, I find it infinitely more satisfying to toast something -- it makes you feel like you're cooking, but doesn't take much time, and smells like real food. I'm partial to the Thomas English Muffins. They have 100 calorie ones, and, my favorite, the light multi-grain. These have lots of fiber and are still as crumbly and delicious as anything. Plus, only around that same 100 calorie mark. So toast yourself a nice English muffin OR two slices of white-wheat bread -- both options are only 1 pt. on WW, around 100 calories (for two slices of the bread). Spray it with some fat free butter spray before toasting, and then top with one of the following for a complete, easy breakfast that will make itself while you're busy making important wardrobe decisions:

Savories -- each topping only an addition point on WW or around 100 calories:

2 tsp. Reduced Fat Peanut Butter -- tons of protein, delicious and filling

1/4 ripe avocado, mashed with a little lemon juice and garlic salt -- high in the "good" fat, and incredibly filling, very savory

1 1 oz. slice of Canadian bacon, topped with a teeny bit of shredded Parmesan cheese -- if you have a toaster oven, just toss the slice in there while you're toasting your English muffin and it'll cook to just the right warm temp. Then you've got a nice little sandwich for breakfast!

1 oz. Reduced Fat cheddar cheese, melted onto the toasted bread (either in the microwave or with a toaster oven), with a little pepper on top -- so savory and good. Like the cheese toast of your childhood without the guilt!

Sweeties -- also only an additional point on WW (on top of your bread choice)

1/2 banana, sprinkled with a pinch of cinnamon and sugar -- sweet but good for you! Loads of potassium!

1 T. any sugar-free jam or jelly -- nice and sweet, great for days on the run. Also, did you know it's better for your metabolism if you eat your sweets earlier in the day? The sugar has an easier time of processing within your system if you've got all day to do it.

1/4 C. fresh raspberries, strawberries, or blackberries, squeeze of lemon juice, sprinkled with a pinch of powdered sugar -- again, sweet and delicious without the calories of french toast. Plus you get a nice amount of antioxidants from the darker berries and a fruit serving! You can totally use frozen, too. Just defrost a handful the night before in your fridge.

3 slices apple, drizzled with low-fat maple syrup -- Apples have more goodness in them than we really know what to do with. This is a perfect start for what's bound to be a hectic day!

So happy Breakfasting, lovelies! It's an important meal and eating early will help you not over-indulge from starvation later on. Don't just chug that coffee; enjoy one of these genuinely easy little morning treats!

* MORE often?! Please. That poor boy would explode.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Corn! Glorious CORN!

Maybe's it's my glorious Southern heritage, but as soon as summer peaks his head in, the Deb is wild for sweet delicious corn. My local Teet carries local produce whenever they can, and frequently I am able to get farmer's market quality, fresh, wonderful corn at the grocery store! Ask your local produce person what the store policy is on local produce, or find yourself a local farmer's market. Fresh summer corn is not to be missed, ya'll.

While the Deb has been known to make high calorie deliciousness with her corn (her daddy's favorite corn pudding comes to mind, or fried corn cakes), truthfully there is very little that needs to be done to corn to make it delicious, and this is great news for those of us watching our waistlines! Here's my no-fail recipe for easy corn to use as a side for BBQs and down-home suppers all summer -- quick! Fall will be here before we know it!

Simply Steamed Corn

You'll need:

a veggie steamer (the Deb got hers in a give-away from that same local grocery store!)
1 -- 2 inches water, plus splash of milk
4 ears of white or yellow sweet corn, unpeeled
Fat free butter spray (Parkay or I Can't Believe it's Not Butter! You can also use margarine)
garlic salt and pepper, to taste

Ok. Fill your steamer pan with water, just an inch or two, and then add a splash of milk. This will plump your corn kernels. Next, place the steamer basket on top, cover and heat to boiling/steaming. And important thing to remember with corn is what my great Aunt Lynn taught me: you never shuck corn until the second you're going to cook with it. I don't know why this works, but it's absolutely true. Corn is more sweet, plump and delicious when you hold off shuckin' those ears "nekkid" (do you know any southerners who actually know how to pronounce the word, "naked?") until the last minute. So. Right before you add the corn to your steamer, shuck them, cut off the rough ends, and spray all sides with butter spray and then add all ears to the steamer. Steam only about 5 -- 7 minutes, until bright colored and with sweaty beads on the kernels. Sprinkle with seasonings while still warm.

I put out extra butter and salt for my husband, who can eat a hot air balloon full of cookies and not gain an ounce, but I like mine just as it is when it comes out fresh from the steamer. Because of the light topping and seasonings, a whole ear is only 2 points on WW or about 150 calories. And an ear is a lot of corn, guys. You can totally get away with half an ear and feel totally full.

Also, if you have any leftover corn, slice it off the cob immediately and freeze. It'll be an amazing addition to fall dishes and even winter soups down the line!