Sunday, October 9, 2016

Chicken Parm with Zoodles

Chicken Parmesan with Zoodles
Have you tried zoodles yet? Zoodles are "noodles" made from zucchini. Since they are made totally from a vegetable, there are no carbs and virtually no calories, so are totally diet friendly. I've been using them in combination with Dreamfields pasta to cut calories and still enjoy a full portion size of "pasta". I received a spiralizer from my son and his fiancee' for my birthday in September and that's made this process oh, so easy! Mine is super easy to use and it came from Amazon and looks like this:

Find it HERE
This is easy to assemble and to clean -- it's top rack dishwasher safe. So far I've done zucchini and cucumbers, but I am sure there are more veggie noodles in my future.

The most recent occasion to use this little gem was to make a lightened up version of Chicken Parmesan. I found the recipe on the Cooking Light website, but as I always do, I changed it up just a little bit, to make it all my own. This recipe is a little trouble to make, but nothing you wouldn't want to tackle on a lazy Sunday afternoon when you feel like puttering a little in the kitchen. The key part to the calorie cutting is that the chicken is not fried, it is baked on a rack in the oven with a crispy Panko bread crumb crust. The trick of mixing the parmesan cheese with yogurt makes it creamy with out extra fat. So, next time you want some classic Italian comfort food, without the frying and pesky calories, try my Chicken Parm with Zoodles. (PS if you are following Weight Watchers, this comes in at 9 points.)

Chicken Parmesan with Zoodles
serves 4

1 T. plus 1 tsp. Olive Oil
1 tsp. minced fresh thyme
6 garlic cloves, divided use
1 small yellow onion, chopped
1 large can Cento San Marzano whole tomatoes (1 lb. 12 oz.)
1/3 c. dry white wine (I used Kendall Jackson Chardonnay)
1 tsp. Kosher Salt
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
3 T. non-fat Greek Yogurt
1/4 cup Parmigiano Reggiano grated cheese
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast cutlets, lightly pounded to an even thickness
1/2 cup Panko breadcrumbs
1 tsp. garlic powder
cooking spray
3 medium to large zucchini
2 oz. fresh, water packed mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, torn
3 oz. Dreamfields Spaghetti

Heat 1 T. olive oil in a large sauce pan over medium heat and add the chopped onion. Saute' that for a few minutes, until it begins to soften. and add in all but 1 tsp. of the minced garlic. Cook for a few more minutes --- don't let the garlic start to brown-- and then add the tomatoes, breaking them up with a spoon or your hands as they go into the pot. Pour in the wine, salt and pepper and turn the heat up until the mixture begins to boil. Turn the pot down to simmer and let the sauce cook, uncovered about 30 minutes, allowing the liquid  to reduce and thicken. Turn off the heat, and add the fresh basil. Stir it into the hot sauce. Cover the pot to keep it warm.

In the meantime, preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Place a cooking rack over a cookie sheet and spray it with cooking spray. Pound the cutlets with the smooth side of a meat mallet (or something else heavy and smooth, like a rolling pin) between 2 sheets of parchment paper so that they are of a uniform thickness, about 1/2"thick. In one small bowl, mix together the yogurt and the parmesan cheese. In a pie plate, mix together the garlic powder and the Panko breadcrumbs. Spread one side of each chicken breast with about a spoonful of the yogurt mixture and place the coated side down into the breadcrumbs. While they are sitting in the pie plate, spread the other side of the cutlets with the rest of the yogurt mixture and carefully turn them over, to coat the other side with the Panko mixture. Place them on the prepared oven rack, like this:

Bake cutlets in the preheated oven for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and proceed with the recipe. While the cutlets are cooking is a good time to make your zoodles. Follow the directions on your spiralizer or peel the zucchini thinly with a vegetable slicer. Place the zoodles on a double thickness of paper towels to draw the moisture out of the zucchini. Meantime, also bring a pot of water to a boil and get ready to cook the spaghetti noodles.

After the cutlets have baked, put about 1 T. of the warm sauce  you made earlier carefully on top of each cutlet, spreading it almost to the edges. You don't want to put on so much that it drips over the edges and spills all over the bottom of the pan. Drop the spaghetti into the boiling water and cook according to the package directions.

Top each cutlet with 1/2 oz. fresh mozzarella cheese. Oven ready, your dish should look like this:

Preheat your oven to broil and position a rack close to the element as suggested by your manufacturer's instructions. Heat a large, non-stick skillet over medium high heat and add the remaining 1 tsp. of olive oil and garlic. Cook a minute or two and add the zucchini noodles to the skillet. Stir them around, coating them with the oil. Add a pinch of salt and pepper to them. When they begin to wilt, cover the pan and turn off the heat.
Zucchini Noodles in a non-stick skillet
 Drain the spaghetti in a colander, do not rinse with water! Place the chicken cutlets under the broiler and broil until the mozzarella is melted but not browned, about 5 minutes in my oven. Mix the spaghetti with the zucchini noodles in the skillet and divide among four plates. Top each mound of pasta with  a bit more of the red sauce and one cutlet. 

Enjoy with a glass of nice, dry chianti and pretend you are in Italy. Say things like Pronto and Buon Appetito! Have fun! Mangia! 

Monday, September 12, 2016

Easiest Dessert EVER!

This has got to be one of the easiest desserts EVER! It's not only yummy, but pretty diet friendly and healthy too! I bought an Angel Food Bar Cake from the grocery store, sliced it thinly and sprayed it with cooking spray.  I'd also bought a cored fresh pineapple and sliced it thickly, dried it a little and sprayed that with cooking spray. After we'd cooked our dinner, I wiped up a spot on the grill, turned the grill up to high and put the pineapple on the lower element of the grill. Once some nice grill marks appeared, I turned it over. I then put the angel food cake on the grill and let it start to brown. That goes pretty quickly, so watch it carefully. I turned both the cake and the pineapple over and made sure the fruit was tender by sticking it with a fork. I removed everything from the grill, turned it off, and layered the cake, pineapple, a scoop of low fat vanilla ice cream and dropped on a few blueberries. YUMMY! Quick, easy, healthy and DELISH!

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Baja Fish Tacos

Baja Fish Tacos, made with Tilapia and a heavenly sauce! 
We love fish tacos! I've made them before, but this is a new recipe that adds a little crunch to the crust of the fish without adding significant fat or calories. (See my other recipe HERE )  I found a recipe on the Weight Watchers website, but as I tend to do, I changed it up a little bit. I added cilantro -- which you can certainly leave out if you hate it, as some folks do -- and altered their suggested salad addition to more of a slaw. I also used tilapia since the store was out of Red Snapper when we did our shopping. Substituting the Tilapia for the Red Snapper also brought the price down quite a bit. The sauce that goes with this meal is really, really good! It would be great on its own as a dip! The sauce recipe came pretty  much verbatim from the website except I used fat free Greek yogurt because that is what I keep at home, instead of the low fat the original recipe used.

This meal was a WINNER! Give it a try when you want some authentic street food flavor without all those pesky calories! I halved the recipe since there were only 2 of us at home. We served it with black beans and brown rice. It was muy delicioso!

Baja Fish Tacos
serves 4
7 Smart Points as written, per 2 corn tortillas and 1/4 lb. of fish

Corn or Soft Flour Tortillas for Serving. We prefer corn. 2 Tortillas per person.

For the fish:
1 lb. Tilapia filets
1/2 c. Masa (corn flour)
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp. chili powder
Cooking Spray such as Pam

For the slaw:
2 - 3 cups shredded red cabbage
1/3 c. chopped cilantro
2 - 3 scallions, thinly sliced, white and green parts
4 radishes, thinly sliced and cut into match sticks

For the Sauce;
2 c. plain fat free Greek Yogurt                                                        

3 T. fresh lime juice
2 pieces Chipotle en Adobo chilies, with a tsp. of juice

First, make the sauce. Puree all the ingredients in a blender until smooth. If you like "less spicy" only use one of the peppers. Set aside.

Make the slaw next. In a large bowl, combine all the vegetables, tossing to combine evenly. Add 1/2 cup of the Sauce and toss until well combined and sauce is evenly distributed. Chill the slaw and the sauce until ready to serve.

For the fish:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cut the filets into pieces like this:

Lay the filets out on a plate lined with a paper towel to drain any excess moisture.

In a large ziplock plastic bag, add masa and all the spices. Toss in the fish and shake to coat fish evenly. Place a rack over a cookie sheet and spray with cooking spray. Lay the fish on the rack, shaking before placing to get rid of any excess breading.

Spray the fish, turn them over and spray them again with the cooking spray. Turn the oven setting to broil and place an oven rack about 2 inches below the broiler element. Broil the fish for about 5 minutes, remove pan from oven and turn the fish over. Broil another few minutes to crisp up the other side, about 3 - 4 minutes. Remove from oven and build your tacos. Layer the fish, about 2 pieces per tortillas, the slaw and a little more of the sauce, especially if you like some heat! Enjoy!

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Gingery Beef Lettuce Wraps

Gingery Beef Lettuce Wraps
Here's another Asian style recipe, quickly adapted from a Weight Watchers recipe that I made for dinner last night. Believe me when I say that eating this feels NOTHING like dieting -- these lettuce wraps are full of flavor, texture and have the elusive "umami" we all hear so much about. I changed the recipe slightly, adding ingredients that upped the flavor. I keep most of these things on hand, because I love cooking this way! (See some more takes on lettuce wraps HERE and also HERE)

Once you've purchased the needed spices and condiments, you can create so many healthy meals. This is not difficult cooking so please don't be intimidated by the  number of ingredients. They are mostly inexpensive and easy to find in a regular grocery store! So here we go -- the only ingredient I added that will add Smart Points to your total -- if you are "counting" -- is the Hoisin Sauce, which adds 1 point to the 3 specified by Weight Watchers. The Hoisin Sauce adds a richness and slight sweetness which interacts nicely with the salty soy sauce and the rice wine vinegar, which I added as well. I've also added Sriracha Hot Sauce, because we like things a little spicy, but leave it out if you don't. Use low sodium selections if you are sensitive to salt or have high blood pressure.

Gingery Beef Lettuce Wraps
4 servings

1 lb. 93% lean ground beef
1 cup thinly sliced yellow onion
2 Tablespoons peeled and minced fresh ginger
1 Tablespoon minced fresh garlic
2 cups Bok Choy, thinly sliced
2 cups shiitake or white button mushrooms, cleaned and sliced, stems chopped
1 medium red pepper, thinly sliced
3 Tablespoons soy sauce
2 Tablespoons Hoisin Sauce
1 Tablespoon Rice Wine Vinegar
Sriracha Sauce (may be omitted if you don't like spicy)
Lime wedges, iceberg or butter lettuce, cucumber pieces and fresh cilantro for serving

Wash 6 - 8 large lettuce leaves and chill in the refrigerator. Dice half a cucumber and cut up a little cilantro to top lettuce wraps. If you don't care for cilantro, use either fresh basil or mint. You  only need a little, the fresh herbs add some extra special flavor on the wraps!

Spray a large non-stick skillet with cooking spray and add the beef over medium high heat. Using a wooden spoon, break the beef apart and crumble it. When it begins to brown add the onion and ginger. Sprinkle over 1 T. of the soy sauce. Cook a 4 - 5 minutes and add the garlic. Saute' briefly to incorporate garlic, then add the red pepper, mushrooms and bok choy. Cook the mixture until the bok choy begins to wilt.  Stir in the remaining soy sauce, Hoisin sauce and rice wine vinegar. Squeeze Sriracha sauce over the top, if using, about 1 - 2 T. Cover the pan, turn down the heat and let cook for 5 minutes.

Gingery beef stir fry mixture
Put a lettuce leaf or two on a plate and top with 1/3 - 1/2 cup of beef mixture. Top with cucumber, herbs and a squeeze of lime. Squeeze on extra Sriracha if you really like spicy -- my husband did! Enjoy!

Monday, July 25, 2016

Summertime Means Gazpacho!

Gazpacho, chilled and full of vegetables!
I am a lucky woman. I have a neighbor who gives me fresh vegetables from his garden. It seems like everything comes at once, especially tomatoes. I was the recipient of a huge bag full of tomatoes and green peppers just yesterday. I ate a big plate of sliced tomatoes with my dinner last night and today I made gazpacho. I've made gazpacho for years, it's super healthy and low calorie as well as very tasty.  I make mine like a salad -- lots of chopped veggies, a little vinegar and oil, and some salt and pepper. Try it topped with cold, cooked shrimp or sliced avocado. I like a few sliced green olives on mine, but you eat it the way you want to. Some folks like crispy croutons on top. For dinner tonite I made a little "gremolata" of diced olives, celery, green pepper and a few cherry tomatoes, and that's what's in the picture above.

As hot as it here in central VA it's great to make something that doesn't involve turning on the stove OR oven! Cold soup on a hot humid summer evening? Yes, please!

Gazpacho Vegetable Mix
Makes about 6 cups

2 - 2 1/2 lb. vine ripe tomatoes, peeled
1 medium cucumber, peeled with seeds removed
1 small yellow onion, quartered
1/2 medium green pepper, cut into chunks**
2 cloves garlic, about 1 heaping tsp.
1 rib celery, sliced
1 small carrot or 3 baby carrots, scrubbed and sliced
1 1/2 cups V8 or tomato juice (I prefer V8)
1 T. olive oil
1 T. balsamic vinegar
1 tsp. salt
a pinch of black pepper

Peel the tomatoes by cutting an X in the bottom and dropping them in boiling water for 10 seconds. Remove to your cutting board and let cool a minute or 2. The skin will slide off easily. Core them to remove any tough parts.
Peel the cucumber and halve it lengthwise. Score the middle with a paring knife and push the seeds out with a spoon or your finger. Chop it roughly to fit into your food processor or blender.
Put all the veggies into your chopper bowl or half into your blender. Blend until the mixture starts to get smooth but still has some texture. Remove to a large bowl and add tomato juice or V8, salt, pepper, vinegar and oil. Whisk to combine. Chill at least 2 hours.

Serve cold, topped with anything you like or just plain. Keeps for about 4 days in the refrigerator.

**Cooks note: If you want your gazpacho to be spicy, add a small to medium jalapeno pepper to your vegetable mixture. If you remove the seeds and membranes, it will tone it down a little. Leave them in for more heat.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Lemon Drop Martini

I have been craving one of these babies for several weeks now! The Limoncello I had in Florence almost satisfied it, but it wasn't quite the same! Here how to make it, in all it's chilled, lemony goodness!

Lemon Drop Martini
makes 2

1.5 ounces Smirnoffs Vodka
1 ounce Stoli Citron Vodka
1/2 oz. triple sec
3/4  ounce lemon juice
1 ounce simple syrup**

Lemon Twist 
Sugar for rimming the glass

Place 2 martini glasses in the freezer for at least 15 minutes. In a cocktail shaker, add Smirnoffs, Stoli, triple sec, lemon juice and simple syrup. Add 5 - 6 ice cubes. Shake well for at least 2 minutes. Rub rims of martini glasses with the lemon twists and dip them into a little sugar to make a rim. Strain martinis into the cold rimmed glasses. Add the lemon twists. Enjoy!

Lemon Drop Martini
** To make simple syrup, add 2 ounces of water and 2 tablespoons of white sugar to a microwave measuring cup. Microwave on high for one minute. Stir until sugar is completely dissolved. Cool.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Ginger-Garlic Shrimp and Chicken

I've continued working on my Asian cooking skills this week with another Weight Watchers recipe that I only tinkered with slightly. The original recipe called for chicken, but since I made it on a Saturday night I used shrimp, which made it seem a bit more special, or "date-night" worthy! (Is it still a date night if you've been married over 30 years? hhmmmm....) AND since I had some leftover grilled chicken, already conveniently cut into cubes, I threw in a few of those for the last minute of cooking. That upped the point total from 6 to 7, if you are a Weight Watchers member, but it was worth the extra point, believe me!

This dinner came together quickly and really was delicious. I subbed sriracha sauce for the sambal oelek chili paste that the original recipe called for, because that's what I had in the pantry. I also used slightly less teriyaki sauce, because I didn't have the lower sodium kind. I added some soy sauce, because I like it, but you can leave that out if salt is a problem for you. My choice for the sliced green onions in the original recipe was to use a plain yellow onion. I scattered a few pieces of green onion over the dish when I plated it. Served over brown rice, it was healthy and good -- good for you and good to eat! Like most stir fry dishes, the key is to get everything prepped and ready to cook. Once you begin to cook, things move really fast. I start my rice about an hour before I am ready to cook the stir fry.  I like to cook brown rice in some of the same low sodium, fat free chicken broth that I use in the stir fry. It's always a 2  to 1 ratio: 2 cups liquid to 1 cup rice. Bring the liquid to a boil, add the rice, cover and turn down to low. Leave it on low heat for about 30 minutes, turn it off and let sit until you are ready to eat.

Ginger-Garlic Shrimp and Chicken
4 servings
1/2 lb. shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/4 lb. cooked, cubed white breast meat chicken
2 T. Teriyaki sauce
1 T. soy sauce
2 tsp. canola or vegetable oil
2 cups small broccoli florets
1 red or green pepper, quartered and thinly sliced
1 large carrot, cut into matchsticks
1 cup water chestnuts, drained and roughly chopped
1/2 medium yellow onion, diced
4 scallions, green part only, thinly sliced, for garnish.
1/2 cup low sodium, fat free chicken broth
1 T. finely chopped fresh ginger root
1 T. minced garlic
1 T. Sriracha sauce (optional, or use less if you don't like spicy)
2 c. cooked brown rice

Place the shrimp, teriyaki sauce and soy sauce in a small bowl, stir to combine. In a large, non-stick frying pan, heat 1 tsp. of the oil. Add the shrimp, which you've fished out of the marinade. Cook them over high heat for about 3 minutes.
Searing shrimp.

Remove the shrimp to a clean bowl and add the other tsp. of oil. Add the green pepper, broccoli and carrots to the hot pan. Stir fry for one minute.

Stir frying the vegetables

Add the onions and stir in. Pour the remaining marinade over the vegetables. Stir for a minute, put a top on the pan and let steam for about 2 minutes, until the veggies are just crisp tender. Add the garlic, ginger and sriracha sauce to the mixture and stir them in. Lastly, add the water chestnuts, chicken broth, reserved shrimp and cubed chicken. Cover to heat through, about 2-3 minutes. Serve over rice, scatter a few green onions over the top. Makes 4 servings, 1/2 cup rice per serving.

Ready to put over the rice. Doesn't that look good?