Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto with Feta Cheese

Good morning all! I have some exciting news! I have been accepted as a Foodbuzz featured publisher! This is very exciting for me because I constantly read other food blogs through Foodbuzz's emails and their top 9 on the site...and to possibly be included in those posts is awesome for me :) Woohoo! Annnd in a completely unrelated announcement, I won free shoes yesterday! It was DSW Free Shuesday and I was one of the first 20 to e-mail the correct answer. I was ecstatic. I still am a little bit, since I'm telling everyone I speak to. :)

Now onto what you really come here for...the food! :)

Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto with Feta Cheese
from Cooking Light
Serves 3-4
  • 8 oz whole wheat linguine pasta
  • 3/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes, packed (drained if oil-packed, re-hydrated if not)
  • 1/4 cup basil leaves, packed
  • 2 Tb. slivered, blanched almonds (about 1 oz)
  • 2 Tb. Parmesan cheese
  • 1 Tb. garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 2 oz feta cheese

Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt. Drain cooked pasta and reserve 1 cup pasta water.

I did not have blanched, slivered almonds. And I wasn't going to buy them when I had plain almonds in the cupboard. So I blanched them myself. Cover almonds in a small bowl with boiling water. Let sit for 3 minutes. Remove almonds and rub the skin off. Sounds easy, right? Well, it was a little more difficult than just rubbing the skin off but it was easy to get a hang of it after the third or fourth almond. Chop in the food processor before adding ingredients so they are not whole.

My tomatoes were not packed in oil. So I re-hydrated them according to their package directions and added a tsp of olive oil for flavor. 

While pasta cooks, place tomatoes and next 6 ingredients (through black pepper) in a food processor; process until finely chopped.

We've discovered this before. I'm not good at reading through directions unless it's baking. So I just did my own thing here. And their way would have been much easier. So look at the pictures because they're pretty but follow the written directions :)

Combine tomato mixture and the reserved 1 cup cooking liquid, stirring with a whisk. Add to pasta; toss well to coat. Sprinkle with feta.

Nutritional Information (for 1/3): 406 calories, 8.6 g fat (1.7 g sat), 6.2 g fiber, 18.5 g protein

Nutritional Information (for 1/4): 305 calories, 6.5 g fat (1.3 g sat), 4.7 g fiber, 13.9 g protein

I put 3-4 servings because it depends on how much pasta you want or whether or not you have something else to serve with it. I only had a small salad on the side so I split it into thirds. My favorite thing about this dish? Easy gourmet. Especially if you have all the ingredients as specified. I think the feta really made it shine. I was nervous at first; thought it was a bit weird to top it with feta but it's not. It tastes fabulous.

I think this is a record for me. Shortest post ever. But I think it's because each post lately has had some major ending with a life-changing discovery. Not today. I have homework to do. So just enjoy this absolutely hilarious parody video that I discovered on Monday. It's definitely worth all 6 minutes. 

Until next time...♥

Monday, October 25, 2010

Colorful Fettucine Alfredo with Perfect Tofu

It's a rainy, stormy Monday here in I thought I'd brighten things up with a COLORFUL dinner! :) I hope everyone had a great weekend!

There are several parts to this dish. I had all four burners going, making four parts of the dish simultaneously. I felt like an Iron chef! But, the timing of each step fell nicely into the others so it wasn't nearly as hard as it sounds. 

I got this colorful baby on clearance :) Use your favorite fettucine pasta and put a giant pot of salted water on a back burner to bring to a boil. I boiled 4 oz, 2 oz each (follow package directions). and then moved onto the perfect tofu.

The Perfect Tofu
Serves 2
  • 1/2 block firm or extra firmTofu
  • 1 tsp olive oil (or cooking spray)
  • salt & pepper

I always use Organic tofu to avoid GMOs and I prefer extra firm but that's a personal preference. Simply cut slits in the top of the container around the edges and drain out all of the liquid.

Cut the block in half. Place the other half in a container and cover with water. This will last in the fridge up to 7 days, replacing the water every 2-3 days. Another option is to freeze it...but we had bad results with that one so I won't be doing that again.

Cut the remaining half in half. Cut each half in half. You should have four long sections. 

Arrange the slabs on a towel for pressing. 

Fold over the leftover sections of the towel to cover. Place a large, heavy book on top. Press for 15-20 minutes. I used this time to get out the ingredients for the Alfredo sauce and chop the veggies.

After tofu has been pressed and most liquid has been removed, lay slabs on top of each other for slicing. (I normally do two at a time.) Slice once vertically down the middle. Slice down the middle horizontally. Slice the halves again down the middle horizontally. Each slab should yield 8 cubes of tofu. 

Heat oil in nonstick pan (or cover pan with cooking spray) over medium heat . Salt and pepper each side of the tofu and arrange in the pan, piece by piece. 

After 5-6 minutes (check one periodically so they don't burn!), flip each piece of tofu individually. I know, I know, such a pain....but the results, each piece of tofu perfectly browned, are worth it. I have found the easiest way to do this is with a mini cookie spatula and just kinda tap the top of the edge and it flips. :)

Another 4-6 minutes on the other side and viola! The perfect tofu. This is great for using in just about anything. Stir fries, pasta dishes and especially for casseroles, so it doesn't get soggy while baking.

Fettucine Alfredo
adapted from Weight Watcher's New Complete Cookbook
Serves 2
  • 1/2 Tb. butter
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 Tb. flour (I used whole wheat)
  • 1/2 cup 1% milk
  • 2 Tb. fat-free cream cheese
  • 2 Tb. grated Parmesan cheese
  • Assorted veggies 

Steam the veggies. The recipe calls for 1/2 cup broccoli florets, 1/2 red bell pepper & 1 carrot, which I tried last time...this time I used 1 cup fresh green beans and 1 red bell pepper and like it much better! Now, this is a very AB moment for me...I don't have a vegetable steamer. I have one attached to my rice cooker but it takes longer than it should and I feel like it's a waste sometimes. So, I fashioned my own! Not a perfect replica because there were placed for the steam to escape but good enough to replicate the results needed :) I put two inches of water in the saucepan and brought it to a boil. Put the veggies in a mesh strainer and then put the strainer on top of the pan and place the lid in the strainer. Steam for about 6-8 minutes, until tender-crisp.

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter. Add the garlic and saute. 

Whisk in the flour.

Gradually whisk in the milk; cook, constantly stirring, until slightly thickened, 2-3 minutes. Whisk in the cream cheese and Parmesan and cook 1-2 minutes longer. Remove from the heat and keep warm. 

Nothing like 50 things at once to make you feel like a chef....unwarranted or not ;) haha

Drain pasta. 

In a large bowl, place drained pasta and top with the vegetables. Add half of the sauce and toss to coat.

Add tofu and the rest of the sauce and toss until fully coated. Divide into two bowls and serve.

Nutritional Information (for half): 427 calories, 10.3 g fat (3.7 g sat), 8.6 g fiber, 26 g protein

This is an example of how healthy food does not have to taste bad or that you don't have to give up on indulgent tasting foods to eat healthfully. This is a wonderful dish that is relatively easy to prepare despite all the steps. This may be higher than most foods you see for "dieters" but that's because I don't believing in dieting. Sure, when I'm trying to lose weight, I cut some calories, but about 100-200 a day with an increase in exercise. It's slow but it sticks

Until next time...♥

Friday, October 22, 2010

A Vegetable Stew Throwdown (plus a winner!)

I have a great post for y'all today. I was honored to be chosen for the Aetna Healthy Food Fight as a finalist! Sadly, I wasn't able to attend the event and participate...but it was awesome enough to have my recipe chosen by the Culinary Institute of America!! The finals of this "food fight" was going to be judged by Bobby Flay. This had my competitive juices flowing and I've decided to do a throwdown!...with myself. Bobby wouldn't email me back. ;)

But first, I want to announce the winner of my Ghirardelli giveaway! And the winner is.....
"LambAround said....I'm all about the pumpkin pie (although, pumpkin cookies certainly sound good too!)"
Comment #10! Congratulations, LambAround! You're gonna love this chocolate :) E-mail me with your mailing address so I can forward it to Ghirardelli and get your chocolate in the mail!

On to the throwdown! These are two very different stews using on the same vegetables. One is creamy, one is brothy...both are rich. One is the ultimate comfort food while the other tastes like an indulgence. Who will win?! 

Vegetable Dumpling Stew
based on Vegetarian Time Low-Fat & Fast cookbook
Serves 2
  • 1/2 Tb. olive oil
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 small onion, cut into wedges
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
  • 4 oz baby carrots, cut in half
  • 1 cup fresh green beans, stemmed and snapped in half
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup cold water
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 3/4 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp dried Italian seasoning
  • 1/3 cup low-fat milk
  • 1 egg white, slightly beaten
  • 1/2 Tb. oil
(Forgive the pictures! My camera died right before beginning this stew! So these are all taken with my cell phone!)

For the stew, heat oil in a 2-qt saucepan over medium heat. Cook the celery and onion, stirring until tender-crisp, about 3 minutes. 

Stir in broth, carrots and green beans, bay leaf, thyme, and salt. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the dumplings. In a medium mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt, and seasoning. Add milk, egg white, and oil; mix well. Set aside.

In a measuring cup and small bowl, combine 1/3 cup flour and cold water; whisk until smooth. Gradually stir flour mixture into stew. Bring to a boil over high heat. 

Drop dumpling batter by heaping tablespoons into stew. Reduce heat to medium-low; cover. 

Simmer until dumplings are no longer doughy, about 10 minutes. 

Nutritional Information (for half of stew): 378 calories, 9 g fat, 5 g fiber, 13 g protein

This was an extremely easy stew. I had never made dumplings before and this was a great way to get me addicted. Very yummy.

Beefless Vegetable Stew
Serves 2
  • 1/2 package Gardein beefless tips
  • 1 Tb. oil
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 medium red onion, chopped
  • 3 stalks celery, chopped
  • 2 oz baby carrots, cut in half
  • 1 large potato (about 9 oz), quartered
  • 1 1/2 Tb. flour
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine (I used Merlot)

These babies are the featured ingredient in this stew. I like trying new meatless products because it can add variety to my options. These weren't so good in stroganoff we had with them but perfect for this. Plus, they are a GMO-free source of protein (more on my new GMO-free obsession in a later post).

Heat oil in a large saucepan or stockpot over medium-high heat. Add beefless tips and brown on all sides. Remove from saucepan and place in a container. Cover and refrigerate until needed later.

Add garlic, onion and celery to pot and cook for 3 minutes. 

Add carrots, potatoes and thyme and continue to cook for 3 more minutes.

Need a good, inexpensive wine? This one was fabulous. I got for $5 on sale and thought it was awesome. It was perfect for the stew and I enjoyed a few glasses by themselves as well ;)

Sprinkle on flour and slowly add wine and broth while stirring. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes. (Does it look super purple to you?! I'm thinkin I may have had a heavier hand with the wine bottle ;) haha)

Add beefless tips back in and cook for 5 more minutes. Season with salt and pepper and serve.

Nutritional Information (for half of stew): 377 calories, 8.6 g fat (1.2 g sat), 6.9 g fiber, 15.6 g protein

I am finding that stews in general are easy to make! This one was just as easy as the first one. And soo indulgent. The wine broth was ahhhmazing. I could've just drunk it straight. 

So which one wins?! I have no clue. They were both SO GOOD ...YOU can try them both and let me know which one YOU think. Tip the scales a bit. ;)

Sorry for all the blog layout changes; every week it seems I change something else. I'm working on a whole new look and I'm almost satisfied. There will be a few more changes over the next couple weeks and then it'll be complete. Anyone have crazy fun fall plans for the weekend? Until next time... ♥

Monday, October 18, 2010

Spinach, Tomato & Cheese Frittata

Hello all. I hope everyone had a wonderful weekend! I spent mine cleaning, finishing up school projects and burning my hand to hell. But more on that later.

First, I give you my first frittata. Not my first attempt at a frittata but my first successful one. I have to say, it's all in the pan. I followed the recipe to the T and shouldn't have either. I should have put more trust in my lovely pan and not used so much oil; a mistake I will never make again. Maybe that's why it burned me. The pan could sense that I didn't trust it to release the beautiful frittata at the end.... uhhh, yeah. Maybe. :)

Spinach, Tomato & Cheese Frittata
from Self magazine
Serves 2
  • 3 tsp olive oil, divided (this is what the recipe calls for...however, if you have a good nonstick, oven safe pan, I would scale this down to 1 tsp total)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced (I was out so I used 1/2 tsp powder instead)
  • 2 cups baby spinach
  • 1 cup diced tomatoes (I used one can petite diced tomatoes...drained, rinsed, and thoroughly dried)
  • 2 large eggs plus 6 egg whites
  • 3/4 cup low-fat cheddar cheese
  • Salt & pepper, to taste
Preheat oven to 375°F and adjust top rack so that it is 8 inches from the broiler. 

Heat 1 tsp (nice pans: 1/2 tsp) oil in a large skillet. Sauté garlic for 1 minute, then add spinach and tomato. Continue sautéing for about 3 minutes. 

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together 2 eggs and 6 egg whites (if using liquid egg whites like Egg Beaters, 1 cup + 2 Tb.) and season with some salt and pepper.

Add cheese and spinach mixture to the bowl. Mix well.

Heat 2 tsp oil in pan (nice pans: 1/2 tsp, if any). Pour in egg mixture (see all that oil?! craziness.) and bake in oven for 10-12 minutes. Switch oven to broil and leave frittata under the broiler until lightly browned & crispy.

I didn't broil mine. My beautiful pan can only take oven temperatures up to 400°F. So I thought I'd deal without the browned crust. I even cooked mine at 350°F instead just to be safe, it took about 15 minutes. 

Nutritional Information (for half): 326 calories, 18.3 g fat (7 g sat), 2 g fiber, 31 g protein

After patting off the excess oil, this was very tasty! And so healthy! And so filling! There were a ton of pluses to this meal. I paired mine with roasted potatoes because they are just so yummy! I am very excited to try this frittata again, with much less oil. Obviously, the nutritional information would change with less oil so here's the info for the (nice pan) directions. :)

Nutritional Information with less oil (for half): 287 calories, 14 g fat (6 g sat), 2 g fiber, 31 g protein

Apparently our oven is uneven and, being so used to my favorite pan, I grabbed the handle of the pan, fresh out of the 350° oven, to jostle it a bit. OUCH.

You can't see it very well but even after 5 minutes under cold water, the bottom part of my hand was RED and the pain was intense. It hurt for a couple hours and I was just hoping that the burn wasn't severe.

Luckily, it wasn't. When I unwrapped it the next morning, I was greeted with this. Barely a scratch

However, I feel obligated to use this opportunity to advocate the use of hot pads. No matter how silly this seems, I'm serious. It could have been a lot worse. Mistakes happen but try to be careful in the kitchen, and know the procedures on burn treatment . :)

Yesterday, I watched Food, Inc. I had wanted to watch it for quite a while but had heard that it was very graphic concerning the treatment of animals. Finally, I took the plunge. A lot of the stuff I already knew, but mainly because I am constantly reading on health and food issues. The research to become a vegetarian actually included a lot of the material covered. But it was still astounding to see video and pictures of those poor animals. 

It also helped to affirm my decision for health reasons. People often ask me if I find myself craving meat. And my answer has actually been, not yet. In the beginning of the film, however, they showed a hamburger and french fries. A real hamburger, not something from McDonald's. And I actually found myself remembering how great they tasted. But then, after hearing that 70% of the United States' beef is "cleansed" with ammonia before being packaged, I quickly lost that desire. I urge everyone to watch this movie and stop turning a blind eye to what you're putting in your body. They are other, less extreme, options than vegetarianism. Buying locally raised, humanly produced meats is one, supporting food reform in Washington is another. 

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