Saturday, January 31, 2009

Honey Mustard Pretzel Chicken and Roasted Asparagus with Mushroom Mustard Cream

While on the What's Cooking board on TheNest.com, one of the girls (Branni) posted a simple recipe to doll up an ordinary chicken breast. And the recipe for the asparagus cream sauce came from Book 8 of the WW new Momentum Plan, "Beyond Chicken." The original recipe called for shallots instead of mushrooms, but the grocery store was all out today.

Honey Mustard Pretzel Chicken
2 four to six oz. chicken breasts
3 Tbsp. dijon mustard
3 Tbsp. honey
2 oz. (or so) pretzel sticks, crushed

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine the mustard and honey in a small dish and microwave for 10-15 seconds to melt the honey. Stir and set aside.

Place the crushed pretzels in a shallow bowl. Slather apx. 1 Tbsp of the mixture on each of the two chicken breasts. One at a time, place them in the pretzels and press down to coat. Repeat on the other side and then on the other chicken breast.

Spray a baking dish with cooking spray. Bake uncovered for 20 minutes at 375 degrees, adjusting the time for larger/smaller chicken breasts.

Serve with the remaining sauce.

Roasted Asparagus with Mushroom Mustard Cream
1 bunch asparagus
1 tsp. vegetable oil
2 mushrooms, chopped
2 tsp. flour
1/4 c fat free evaporated milk
1/4 c fat free chicken broth
2 tsp. coarse-grain mustard

Heat oil in a small saucepan over low heat. Add the mushrooms and cook until soft, about 6 minutes. Stir in the flour.

Very gradually whisk in milk and broth. Bring to a simmer and let cook 1 minute. Whisk in mustard and season with salt, if desired. Cover and keep warm.

Steam asparagus until tender, about 3 to 4 minutes. Divide the asparagus and top each serving with approximately 5 Tbsp of suace.

WW Points per Serving (above recipe serves 2): 2 points


Thursday, January 29, 2009

Happy Seven Month Anniversary!

Well, Matt wouldn't call it an "anniversary," as those only happen once a year. But I always like a reason to celebrate. I was thinking the other day about how well things have gone since we got married on June 29. We rarely argue and enjoy each other's company as much as possible. I'm sure some folks would say we are still in the "honeymoon" stage, but having being told from his cousin that the first year is one of the hardest, I'd say we are coming along rather well.

We have started house hunting around East Lansing. It took a lot for me to give up my strong desire to move to Colorado, but with the economy the way it is and how well Matt is doing in his job, it seems like the right choice for us at this time. Last weekend while we were out to lunch, I told him that I was OK with staying in Michigan. I choked up just saying it and started crying right in the middle of lunch, but I realize that right now just isn't the time for us to move so far away from our families and our jobs, which I am thankful that we have!

I'm sure the next five months will fly by. I am just so happy to be sharing all of life's little moments with my best friend.



Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Hummus with Pita Chips

Hummus is one of our favorite snacks. It's certainly easy to pick up at any grocery store, but making your own is much cheaper AND you can control the amount of oil you incorporate into the recipe. I used a combination of this recipe and Katie's from Good Things Catered.

Hummus
1 (15.5-ounce) can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained but reserve the liquid
2 garlic cloves
2 tsp + tahini paste
juice of one lemon
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt

Drain water from the can of chick peas into a small bowl and reserve.

In a food processor (or blender), mix together the chick peas with the remaining rest of the ingredients, being careful to add second half of lemon juice and tahini slowly, stopping to taste.

Slowly add some of the reserved liquid from beans for correct consistency, until a smooth, slightly fluid paste is formed.

Refrigerate for at least 30 mins before serving. This changes the taste of the hummus by allowing the flavors to form.

WW Points Per Serving (2 Tbsp): 1 point

Pita Chips
Whole wheat pita(s)
Cooking spray
Garlic powder
Lawry's Seasoned Salt

Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees. Cut the pitas into 6 triangles and split down the middle, for a total of 12 pieces per pita.

Place on a baking sheet. Spray lightly with the cooking spray and sprinkle with the garlic powder and seasoned salt, to taste.

Bake for 7-10 minutes, or until the pitas begin to turn brown.

WW Points Per Serving (6 chips, or 1/2 pita): 1 point


Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Fun with Ozzy and Athena

Since we got Ozzy in late November, Athena has 'slowly' been warming up to him. I'm home sick from work today, and they provided the perfect entertainment. As a sidenote, I have absolutely no idea what was on TV... something on the E Channel.



video




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Candied Orange and Grapefruit Peels


Around Christmastime, Elly posted some candied orange peels (originally adapted from Good Things Catered) and I thought it was such a creative idea! Just so happens, our office received a huge box of citrus right after the holidays. After watching the oranges and grapefruit sit in the office kitchen, I finally took a few of each of them home. I used the guts of the grapefruit for my Grapefruit Pork Chop Casserole recipe. The orange juice is in the fridge and I plan to use it in some cupcakes for Valentine's Day.

The process of making these is time-consuming, but not difficult at all. I would recommend letting the peels cool for about 5 minutes before the final step of tossing them in granulated sugar. I found that tossing them "immediately" caused the granulated sugar to melt instead of sticking to the outside. The recipe below includes my slight modifications.

Candied Orange Peels
Peels of three navel oranges, cut into 1/4 inch strips
3 C sugar, divided

Place the sliced orange peels in a heavy saucepan with 3 cups of water. Bring the water to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Simmer for 10 minutes.

Drain in a colander and rinse the peels.

Return the peels to the saucepan with 3 cups of water and repeat the same process.

After draining a second time, return the peels to the same pan and add 2.25 cups of sugar, 3/4 cup of water and a cinnamon stick.

Bring to a boil, dissolving the sugar. Use a candy thermometer to monitor the temp. Once it’s over 225, drain the peels.

Let them sit for five minutes and then toss with 3/4 cup granulated sugar.

Put them on a wire rack over a cookie sheet or some foil and allow them to dry overnight.

Optional: Melt some milk or dark chocolate chips in a double boiler or the microwave and dip the peels in the chocolate. Place them on a sheet of parchment paper to dry.

Candied Grapfruit Peels
Peels of three medium-sized grapefruit, cut into 1/4 inch strips
4 C sugar, divided

The process for the grapefruit peels is the same as above. Because the peels are larger, increase the amount of water in the first two steps to 4-5 cups.

When you are ready to candy the peels with the sugar, water and cinnamon mixture, use 3 cups sugar and 1 1/4 cups water. Use the remaining sugar in the "tossing" stage.


Monday, January 26, 2009

Mediterranean Pot Roast with Broasted Potatoes

Matt's favorite dish at our favorite restaurant, Dusty's, had to be the Mediterranean Braised Beef. I tried to mimic Chef Kevin's recipe with a chuck roast, but I feel I came up a bit short. I think next time we are there, I will just bat my pretty eyes and ask him for the recipe. Anyway, this dish did turn out great, just not like Dusty's. Matt enjoyed it and I attempted to taste it through a stuffed up nose, with no luck.

Mediterranean Pot Roast
About 2 lbs. beef chuck roast, trimmed of extra fat
Handful of pitted green olives
Handful of pitted kalamata olives
2 Tbsp tahini paste
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp oregano
1/4 tsp marjoram
1/4 tsp fennel seeds
Combine all of the dry spices in a bowl and set aside.

Place the roast into a slow cooker and rub the top with the tahini paste. Sprinkle the seasoning mix over the roast. Cover with the olives. Cook on low for 5 hours. Be sure to adjust the cooking time if you use a larger roast.

When the roast is completely cooked, remove it from the slow cooker and set aside. Using a slotted spoon, remove all of the olives and set aside with the roast.

Transfer the liquid to a saucepan and heat on the stovetop over medium-low heat. Using a non-slotted spoon, skim the excess oil from the top of the drippings and dispose. In a separate bowl, combine 1 Tbsp cornstarch with 3 Tbsp cold water. When the liquid begins to boil, slowly add in the cornstarch mixture, stirring constantly. When the gravy reaches your desired thickness, add the olives back in. Cut the roast and serve with gravy.

Broasted Potatoes
4-5 smaller redskin potatoes
Olive oil
Garlic powder
Salt & pepper

Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees. Wash and quarter the potatoes. Place in glass baking dish. Toss with drizzle of olive oil, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil, toss the potatoes and bake for an additional 10 minutes.


Sunday, January 25, 2009

Butter Pecan Biscotti

I had a big bag of pecans leftover from Christmas baking. So I did some searching for biscotti recipes with pecans and came across this fabulous recipe, adapted from King Arthur Flour. I had to adjust mine just a smidge, in the absence of shortening. Below is the recipe I used. These turned out awesome and I will definitely make them again!

1 stick unsalted butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups All-Purpose Flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (4 ounces) pecan pieces, toasted*
1 cup (6 ounces) butterscotch chips

*Toast pecans by placing them in a single layer on an ungreased pan and baking them in a preheated 350°F oven for 7 to 9 minutes, or until they smell "toasty" and are beginning to brown.*

In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter, shortening and sugar, then add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down the bowl midway through. Beat in the vanilla, baking powder and salt. Mix in the flour, 1 cup at a time, till you have a cohesive, well-blended dough. Add the nuts and butterscotch chips, mixing till they're well-distributed throughout the dough.

Transfer the dough to a work surface. Divide it into three fairly equal pieces, and shape each piece into a rough 10-inch log. Transfer each log to a parchment-lined or lightly greased baking sheet, leaving about 3 inches between each log; you may need to use two baking sheets. Wet your fingers, and pat the logs into smooth-topped rectangles 10 inches long x 2 1/2 inches wide x 7/8 inch thick.

Bake the logs in a preheated 375°F oven for 20 to 25 minutes, or until they're beginning to brown around the edges. Remove them from the oven, and allow them to cool for 30 minutes.

Lower the oven temperature to 300°F.

Gently transfer the logs to a cutting surface, and use a serrated knife to cut them on the diagonal into 1/2-inch wide slices. Because of the nuts and the nature of the dough, the biscotti at this point are prone to crumbling; just be sure to use a slow, gentle sawing motion, and accept the fact that some bits and pieces will break off. (It's the privilege of the cook to eat these warm, tasty bits and pieces as they're created.) Carefully transfer the slices, cut sides up (and down) to a parchment-lined baking sheet. You can crowd them together, as they won't expand further; about 1/4-inch breathing space is all that's required.

Return the biscotti to the 300°F oven, and bake them for 20 minutes. Remove them from the oven, quickly turn them over, and bake for an additional 20 minutes, or until they're very dry and beginning to brown. Remove them from the oven and cool completely. You can drizzle them with a mixture of melted butterscotch chips and 1 tsp vegetable oil. I happened to use all of my butterscotch chips in the actual recipe, so I substituted white chocolate chips instead. Store in an airtight container.


Saturday, January 24, 2009

Kung Pao Chicken

Matt's little brother and his girlfriend came over for dinner last night before we headed out to catch our favorite Pink Floyd cover band. Trying to decide what to make for a diabetic who eats like a house was a bit challenging. But with all of the veggies I had in the fridge, a stir fry seemed like a great idea. This recipe is one of my favorites to make and it gave me a chance to use my wok. I received this recipe via email from hungry-girl.com.

Ingredients (I doubled it for 4 people):
2 tsp. sesame oil
8 oz. raw boneless skinless lean chicken breast, cubed
3/4 cup mushroom chunks
3/4 cup bell pepper chunks (red and/or green)
1/2 cup chopped broccoli
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup sliced & halved canned water chestnuts
2 tbsp. reduced-sodium/light soy sauce
1 1/2 tbsp. rice vinegar
2 tsp. Splenda No Calorie Sweetener, granulated
1/2 tbsp. cornstarch
1 tbsp. chopped dry-roasted unsalted peanuts
1 tsp. minced garlic
1 tsp. red chili sauce (add more for extra spice!)
salt, pepper and red pepper flakes; to taste

Begin by combining 2 tbsp. of cold water with soy sauce, vinegar, Splenda, cornstarch and chili sauce -- stir well until all ingredients have dissolved. Set sauce aside.

Add the sesame oil to the wok and bring to medium-high heat. Add chicken, mushrooms, bell peppers, broccoli, onion, garlic and 2 tbsp. of water. Stirring occasionally, cook for about 5 minutes. Once chicken is almost fully cooked but still tender, add peanuts and water chestnuts to the pan or wok.

Raise heat to high, give sauce a stir, and add it to the pan/wok as well. Mix entire dish until all ingredients are coated in sauce, and the sauce is hot and thick. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes.

Serve with brown jasmine rice.

WW Points per serving: 4.5 points (Without rice. 1 C brown rice adds 4 points.)


Thursday, January 22, 2009

Whole Wheat Pasta with Turkey Sausage, Spinach and Pine Nuts


Right before Christmas, WW was having a half-off sale on all of their cookbooks. I picked up a great cookbook, In No Time: Delicious Dishes in 20 Minutes or Less, for a whopping $3.50. The cover recipe is the pasta dish we made for dinner tonight. I split this 4-person recipe in half, but used the total amount of spinach that it called for.

Ingredients (Serves 4):
2 tsp. olive oil
1/2 lb. hot italian turkey sausage, cut into 1/4" thick rounds
2 Tbsp. pine nuts
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper
1 package (9 oz.) fresh fettucine - I substituted whole wheat spaghetti
1 bag (9 oz.) spinach

Bring 3 quarts water to boil in a large saucepan, over high heat.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and cook until lightly browned, about 4 minutes. Add the pine nuts, garlic and crushed red pepper. Cook, stirring frequently until the nuts are lightly browned and the sausage is dark brown, about 2 minutes.

Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook until al dente. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking liquid. Return the pasta to the saucepan. Add the sausage mixture, spinach and reserved liquid. Toss to coat.

WW Points per Serving (prepared as directed): 7 points


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Grapefruit Pork Chop Casserole with Red Skin Smashed Potatoes

Matt and I had his parents over for dinner tonight. I had three grapefruits that I received from work so I have been scouring the internet for a good recipe with grapefruit. Finally, I came across this simple, delicious casserole. The tartness of the grapefruit juice, paired with the mild flavor of the cabbage were a perfect match with the pork chops.

Grapefruit Pork Chop Casserole
(Serves 6)

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1 onion, chopped
6 loin pork chops, about 3/4" thick
1 1/2 cups fresh grapefruit juice
1 green cabbage, shredded (about 6 cups)
2 apples, cored, peeled, pared and diced
2 tsp caraway seeds

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Heat oil in skillet. Add onion and cook until tender.

Add the pork chops chops, salt and pepper them and brown on both sides. Do not cook them all the way through.

Place the pork chops and onions in a four-quart casserole dish.

Add cabbage. Sprinkle with caraway seeds, salt, sugar and juice. Top with apples; cover and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

Red Skin Smashed Potatoes
8-10 small red skin potatoes
3 Tbsp. lite butter (Brummel & Brown works well)
1/2 C lite sour cream
1/3 C skim milk

After boiling and draining the potatoes, add the butter, sour cream and milk and mash with a potato masher or large fork. Be sure to leave the skins and some chunks of potato!


Monday, January 19, 2009

Fish Tacos with Chili Lime Cream

First, I must say how much I LOVE my new lightbox that Matt and I made tonight. The fish tacos tasted amazing, but the lightbox makes them look even more incredible! OK, back to the fish tacos. This was just about the quickest dinner I have ever made. I was able to put it all together while Matt played with the lightbox as evidenced below.

Ingredients (serves 2):
1/2 pound tilapia filets
2 tsp. olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
4 fat free 6" flour tortillas
Shredded cabbage or package of cole slaw
Shredded pepperjack cheese (optional)

For the chili-lime cream (from BHG, February 2009):
1/4 C reduced fat sour cream
Juice from half a lime
1/4 tsp. chili powder
1/4 tsp. garlic powder

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Wrap the tortillas in tin foil and place in the oven until warmed through.

Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. When hot, add the tilapia filets and salt and pepper the side that's up. Sautee for 2-4 minutes per side, until fish is flaky.

Meanwhile, combine the ingredients for the chili-lime cream.

When the fish is fully cooked, flake with a fork. Assemble the tacos with the fish, cabbage, chili-lime cream and pepperjack cheese, if desired.

WW points per serving (two tacos, without cheese): 7 points

Back to the lightbox. Here are the two websites I used for help:
http://www.wikihow.com/Create-an-Inexpensive-Photography-Lightbox
http://freshfodder.wordpress.com/2007/01/03/diy-ebay-photo-studio-0/

Below is the finished product and, as mentioned above, Matt's professional photograph... ha! I couldn't have done it without his help, though!



Sunday, January 18, 2009

Shrimp and Roasted Vegetable Alfredo

An easy Sunday dinner. Serves 2.

Ingredients:
Vegetables - I used 1/2 bell pepper, 3 scallions and 6 mushrooms for this recipe
Olive oil
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 lb. peeled, de-veined raw shrimp
4-5 oz. whole wheat pasta
2 oz. lite cream cheese
2/3 cup skim milk
1/3 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

First, drizzle the veggies with some olive oil, salt and pepper and roast them for 20-3o minutes in a 350 degree oven.

Sautee 1 tsp. olive oil and the garlic over medium heat in a large skillet. Add the shrimp and roasted vegetables and sautee until the shrimp are no longer transluscent. Transfer the mixture to a bowl.

In the same saucepan, over low heat, add the cream cheese and milk. Whisk the milk and cheese together continuously. Once fully incorporated, add the freshly grated parmesan cheese. Add the shrimp and vegetable mixture back to the cheesy mixture and toss to coat.

Serve with the whole wheat pasta.


Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Weight Watchers

Tonight, at my weekly WW meeting, Barb (the meeting leader), was asking for "Five Behavior Changes." I mentioned my new blog and how it has really gotten me excited about cooking at home. She asked me to jot down my blog on the dry erase board for fellow WWs to view. So, I just want to say 'hello' to all the fellow Lansing-area Weight "Watchers" out there. While my blog is relatively new, I wanted to direct you all to a very inclusive WW blog...

Gina's Weight Watcher Recipes is an excellent resource with tons of WW-friendly recipes. She has A LOT of great links to other helpful websites, too. I will be updating my blog regularly with lots of (hopefully) point-conscious recipes and, inevitably, some less-than-low-point recipes as well.

Hey, portion control is EVERYTHING, right!?!?!


Chicken Picatta with Pine Nut & Cranberry Couscous


This is one of our staple recipes. Chicken Picatta is relatively easy to make and pretty low in points. Recipe is from Favorite Brand Names Low-Carb Recipes cookbook.

Chicken Picatta (serves 2)
Ingredients:
2 4 oz. pieces of boneless skinless chicken breast
2 Tbsp. flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
2 tsp. olive oil
1 tsp. butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 c. fat free, low sodium chicken broth
1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp. drained capers
2-3 button mushrooms, roughly chopped
1 Tbsp. corn starch

Combine flour, salt and pepper in a shallow pie plate.

Place chicken between two sheets of plastic wrap or wax paper and pound to 1/2 inch thickness. Dredge chicken in the flour mixture.

Heat oil and butter in nonstick skillet. Once melted, add chicken. Cook 4-5 minutes per side or until chicken is cooked through. Transfer to serving platter and set aside.

Combine corn starch with 2 Tbsp. COLD water and set aside.

Add garlic to same skillet. Cook and stir over medium heat for 1 minute. Add broth and lemon juice, stirring frequently. Add capers and mushrooms and continue simmering for 1-2 minutes. Add cornstarch mixture and stir constanly while sauce thickens. Spoon mixture over chicken and serve immediately.

WW Points per serving: 6 points

Pine Nut & Cranberry Cousous

Ingredients:
1/2 package of couscous, prepared with chicken stock
2 Tbsp. dried cranberries
2 Tbsp. pine nuts

Roast the pine nuts in a sautee pan, being careful not to burn them. Toss the roasted pine nuts and cranberries with prepared couscous.


Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Parmesan & Herb Meatballs with Semi-Homemade Marinara

I must say that these meatballs turned out AMAZING. Seriously, the best I've ever had And the SUPER EASY marinara was incredible, as well. As we were eating, I kept saying how I can't wait to make this again. The meatball recipe is from cooks.com and the marinara sauce is inspired by a recipe from all-recipes.com.
Parmesan & Herb Meatballs
Ingredients: (makes 20-25 meatballs, which are easily freezable)
1 c. bread crumbs, Italian flavored
2 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1 sm. onion, quartered
12 oz. ground beef (use lean beef) - I used 8 pz. ground sirloin and 4 oz. ground pork
2 eggs - used 1/2 c. egg beaters
1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese
2 tsp. dried parsley
2 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. dried basil
1/4 tsp. salt
Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Form into 1 1/2-2 inch meatballs. Spray a baking dish with NS cooking spray and spread the meatballs evening in the dish. Bake for 25 minutes.
Semi-Homemade Marinara Sauce
Ingredients:
28 oz. can Whole, peeled, Italian tomatoes
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped or crushed
1/2 onion, chopped
1 Tbsp. Italian seasoning
Dash of olive oil
Sautee the onion and garlic with the olive oil for 3-5 minutes, or until soft. Meanwhile, puree the whole can of tomatoes in a food processor. Note: a 3-cup food processor is a little too small and caused quite a mess in our kitchen. If using a 3-cup food processor, puree the tomatoes in two batches. Once pureed, add to the onion and garlic mixture. Add in the Italian seasoning. Simmer for 30 minutes.
And for fun, here's one of Ozzy, sleeping on the couch. He loved to curl up in my heated throw (best Christmas present EVER from mom and dad in 2007). However, he tends to overheat and starts panting in his sleep. He eventually gets so hot and pants so much that he wakes himself up and hops down for a drink of water.


Monday, January 12, 2009

Asiago and Dill Bread with Onions


Before I made this yesterday, I was a bread-making virgin. I don't know what the drive in me was to make bread, but I seriously needed something to go with yesterday's stew. Of course, I had sourdough baguette in the fridge, but I really wanted to try my hand at making bread.

For my first attempt, I really wanted to make the Parmesan Ciabatta from Amber's Delectable Delights, but didn't realize that it had a 12-20 hour wait period built in. I did some searching and found this recipe for Asiago Bread from That's My Home. My changes are noted in Italics.


Ingredients
1 Tbsp (.25 oz) dry active yeast (or one of the small packets)
5 - 6 C white unbleached flour - I used 5.5 cups of AP flour
1 Tbsp salt
1-1/2 C chopped red onion - 1/2 of a medium-sized red onion yielded AT LEAST a cup (without actually measuring) so that's how much I used.
2 cups lukewarm water, 95-100°F.
2 T. rosemary - I substituted 2 Tbsp. dried dill weed
1 1/2 C. Asiago cheese, grated - I chose to finely chop it instead. I used about 5 oz.

Dissolve 1 tbsp. dry active yeast in 2 cups of lukewarm water. Stir. Let sit 5 - 15 minutes.

In a separate bowl mix 5 - 6 cups flour with 1 Tbsp salt and the dill (or other herb).

Mix flour mixture with yeast water. Knead for 5 minutes. Add 1-1/2 cups chopped red onions. Knead for 5 minutes. Cover with a towel, let rise in warm spot for 1 hour, or until double in size. Pound down.

Add grated Asiago Cheese. Knead until mixed. Cut into 2 loaves. Dough can be put into loaf pan or shaped into loaves, round or oblong. Place on parchment paper (non-waxed) on or in a pan. Bake at 400°F. for 40 - 50 minutes.

I took mine out after 45 minutes. The outside was a bit crusty, but it worked out well when paired with the stew.

Overall, I was thoroughly impressed that I didn't screw up this bread! Being my first time, I had feelings that I would cut into the fresh bread and it would be totally uncooked. I can't wait to try more bread recipes, once I figure out the lingo. I have no idea what 'biga' is...





Sunday, January 11, 2009

Beef Stew with Root Vegetables

After Christmas dinner, my mom gave me the leftover prime rib, which I promptly threw in our freezer. I have been contemplating what kind of soup to make with it... beef with barley? Regular beef stew? I was perusing some blogs today and came across a few recipes from Simply Recipes that I modified a bit. I used the recipes Lamb Shank Stew with Root Vegetables and Irish Beef Stew as inspiration.

Ingredients:
4 cloves minced garlic
1 medium rutabaga, peeled and cut into 1" cubes
1 medium turnip, peeled and cut into 1" cubes
2 parsnips, peeled and cut
2 carrots, peeled and cut
1/2 white onion, cut into large pieces
4 cups beef stock
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup red wine
1/2 cup Guiness beer
4 oz. tomato paste (2/3 of the small can)
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 bay leaf
2 tsp/ dried thyme
Apx. 2 lbs. cubed, cooked prime rib. You can also substitute any kind of stewing beef.

Combine all ingredients, except for the beef, in a slow cooker. Cook on high for 4 hours. After 4 hours, add in the prime rib. It has to be added towards the end because it is so tender and will fall apart if you add it at the beginning. Cook on low for an additional hour. If you are using stewing beef, you will need to brown the meat at the beginning and then add to the stew when you add all of the other ingredients to the slow cooker.

This turned out savory and slightly sweet. The root vegetables softened nicely, but maintained their shape and texture. I served it with an Asiago and Dill bread that I will blog about later.


Saturday, January 10, 2009

Christmas Decorations

Before we take these down, I had to share pictures of some of our Christmas decorations. I hate to have to take them down for 11 months, until next Christmas. Enjoy!





Thursday, January 8, 2009

Veggie and Bean Quesadillas


This is one of our quick and easy staple recipes. It is also WW-friendly.

Ingredients (enough for 3 quesadillas; 1 for me, 2 for Matt)
6 six-inch fat free flour tortillas, preferably with a healthy amount of fiber
1 cup fat free refried beans
1/2 package of taco seasoning
1 cup 2% mexican cheese (or other 2% cheese variety)
1/2 of a zucchini, chopped
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped 1/3 onion, chopped
3-5 large mushrooms, chopped
Olive oil for sauteeing
2 Tbsp. reduced fat sour cream per quesadilla

Chop all of the veggies and sautee with a small amount of olive oil. Meanwhile, mix the refried beans and taco seasoning. Heat for about 1 minute in the microwave to soften the bean mixture.
Assemble by placing 1/3 of the bean mixture on one of the tortillas. Add 1/3 of the veggie mixture and 1/3 cup of the cheese. Top with the other tortilla. Heat a non-stick skillet to medium heat. Place the quesadilla on the skillet. No oil or spray is needed. When the bottom tortilla is golden brown, flip and brown the other side.

Serve with 2 Tbsp. reduced-fat sour cream.

I love the way the toasty tortilla tastes. It's hard to believe this is mostly guilt-free!

WW Points per quesadilla: 7 points.

TIP: You can also add in some ground turkey, seasoned with the taco seasoning. I suppose you could use soy crumbles, too, if you're into that sort of thing...


Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Asian Salmon with Parmesan & Roasted Veggie Couscous

We had this for dinner tonight. The marinade is from a Weight Watchers (WW) recipe. Serves 4.

Asian Salmon
Marinade:
2 Tbsp. rice wine vinegar
1 Tbsp. grated, peeled fresh ginger
1 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 Tbsp. honey (I substituted 1 Tbsp. orange marmalade)
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tsp. sesame oil
4 four-oz. pieces of skinless salmon (1 lb. total)

Roasted Veggie Couscous
Ingredients:
1 pkg. Middle East parmesan couscous (regular couscous will work just fine)
Roasted veggies, chopped (recipe follows)
Freshly-grated parmesan cheese

Prepare the couscous, following the directions on the box. When you put the couscous in and take it off the heat, add in the chopped roasted veggies.

Prepare the marinade by mixing all ingredients in a large bowl. Toss the salmon in the marinade to coat. Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the salmon and remaining marinade and cook until lightly browned on the outside and opaque in the center, about 2-3 minutes per side.

WW Points per serving: 8 points

We used almost a full pound for just the two of us and it was a little too much for either of us to finish. Pandora and Ozzy thoroughly enjoyed the leftovers...




GUILTY AS CHARGED!!!!

To roast the veggies, use whatever you have on hand. I used bell pepper, zucchini, onion and a few baby carrots. I also recommend scallions, yellow squash, mushrooms, egglant, etc. Set the oven to 400 degrees. Toss the veggies with olive oil, salt and pepper. Spread them out on a cookie sheet and bake for 20 minutes. Flip/toss the veggies one more time and roast for an additional 10 minutes, or until brown/black on the edges. Depending on the size of the chunks of veggies may vary the cooking time.



Monday, January 5, 2009

First Blog Post: Happy New Year!

My new year's resolution was to start a blog and so far, I have lived up to my resolution! Here's a little about me...
On June 29, 2008 I married my best friend, the man of my dreams. We live in East Lansing, near the campus of Michigan State University. I am an MSU Alum (Class of '04) and love my Spartans! We were married at the MSU Alumni Chapel.
In early September, we did a Trash the Dress session in Saugatuck. Here's a few of my favorite pictures from our TTD session with Amy Carroll.
We have many pets. Two cats, Athena and Pandora. Athena is *large*, to say the least.
Pandora is small and *elderly*
Ozzy is the newest edition. He is a three-year old miniature pinscher mix.

We also have two boa constrictors, Cora and Tholimu, and a leopard gecko, Chili Leopardo. Our cats and dog were adopted from the Capital Area Humane Society.
I hope to update this blog often with things that are going on in our life, recipes and craft ideas. These are three of my favorite things. Enjoy!!