Monday, February 24, 2014

More Making Pizza at Home

I've often written about the fun and ease of making pizza at home (See here ). It really is easy and so much cheaper and better for you, because you can limit the oil you use, and pile on the vegetables that you love. After reading through my blogs about pizza, I realize that I've never included a recipe for homemade pizza sauce. It's so easy, and quick, that I guess I thought that everyone would know how to do it. Just in case you don't, here's my super quick, homemade pizza sauce. Of course, you could pour it over pasta or use it for a meatless lasagna if you wanted to!  Find my recipe here for perfect, low-fat pizza crust. Hooray for homemade pizza! This pizza was topped with pepperoni, onion, black olives, banana peppers, roasted red peppers, mushrooms and part skim mozzarella cheese. It sliced into 6 big pieces, but easily could have made 8. I cooked it at 410 degrees for 15 minutes, turned down the oven to 375 and cooked it 5 more minutes to make sure the crust was done in the middle.

Quick Pizza Sauce

Makes enough for 2 large pizzas

2 tsp. olive oil
2 tsp. minced garlic
1 15 oz. can tomato sauce
1/4 c. dry red wine
1/2 tsp. dried basil OR oregano (not both)
a pinch of kosher salt
a pinch of fresh ground black pepper
a pinch of sugar
In the bottom of small saucepan, heat the garlic in the olive oil over lowest heat until it becomes fragrant and is soft. Add the rest of the ingredients and bring the sauce to a boil. Turn down the heat to low and cook, uncovered, for about 20 minutes. The sauce should simmer gently so that all the flavors combine. Use about 1/2 c. of the sauce to top your favorite pizza. 

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Cajun Pasta --Quick, Light and Delicious

Cajun Pasta, oh so good! 
I began my exploration of creating this dish by browsing a new cookbook, "Eat More of What You Love" by Marlene Koch. (Find it here) I like to read cook books like I read novels, front to back, re-reading parts that I love over and over again. So far, I am finding this book to be a great starting place for new recipes. Her philosophy, I LOVE. She believes, as do I, that you can eat whatever you want but you've got to be smart about it, in order to manage your health. I've written before about my struggle with my weight, and I am always searching out ways to make my struggle easier. I love to cook, I love to eat and I love to entertain my friends by cooking for them. For a middle aged, height challenged lady, with grown sons who love to eat, that is a lethal combination. Fortunately, I don't have any heath issues (so far, Praise God!) but I need to shed a few pounds. SO, I purchased this cookbook to get myself inspired to cut back, cut WAY back.

This is only the second recipe that I've adapted from the book, and I knew from the first one that they need some tweaking to suit our palates. I have not added any additional carbs, sugar or fat, but I have added in more flavor, with herbs, veggies and spices. I eliminated the butter she recommended using, but since I amped up the flavors, we didn't miss it. Her recipes are also extremely low sodium, so I did add just a pinch of kosher salt. I hope you like my recipe and my alterations. I think you will! While it looks like a lot of pasta in the picture, it's only 6 ounces, divided 4 ways. We ate it for dinner and again for lunch. Perfect.

This pasta dish is packed with flavor, vegetables, lean protein and is low in fat. While there is a little bit of chopping, it's worth the effort. I put this together in only 30 minutes, start to finish. The flavor is spicy, but not overwhelming. If you like things only mildly spicy, don't add the hot sauce and cut the cajun seasoning back by a teaspoon. We loved this and can't wait to eat it again! I would absolutely serve this to company as well as using it as a quick, healthy family dinner on a weeknight.

Cajun Pasta 
Serves 4
6 oz linguine
8 oz. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed
1 T.  + 2 tsp. McCormick Cajun Seasoning (divided use)
2 T, Texas Pete Hot Sauce (optional) 
2 tsp. olive oil
1 medium red pepper, cut in strips
1 medium green pepper, cut in strips
1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
1/2 c. thinly sliced celery 
8 oz. peeled, raw shrimp
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 14.5 can organic diced tomatoes, with juice
1/4 c. low sodium chicken broth
2 T. seafood stock
a pinch of kosher salt
Start the water for your pasta in a large pot. Preheat a large, non-stick skillet and add 2 tsp. olive oil. Toss the chicken cubes with 1 T. cajun seasoning and add to the oil. Stir fry that for 2 minutes and then add the garlic and onions. Stir well to combine and let cook for 2 minutes. Add the peppers and celery, and continue to cook until the peppers start to soften. Add the tomatoes, chicken broth, a pinch of kosher salt, the additional cajun seasoning and hot sauce (optional if you like things very mildly spicy). Cover. Bring the mixture to a full boil, turn it down and let it cook.  Cook pasta according to package directions until just al dente. Drain well. While the pasta is draining, add the shrimp to the skillet and set the timer for 5 minutes. When the timer goes off, combine the pasta and the sauce together in one of the pans. Cover and let steam for 5 more minutes, over lowest heat. Serve in a bowl. 
Approx 325 cal for 1 1/2 c. 

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Slow Cooker Tex-Mex Chicken 7 Ways

Taco Salad Made with Slow Cooker Tex-Mex Chicken

OK, here's the thing about this dish: I don't really know what to call it. It's hardly a recipe, because you don't need to chop anything and all you do is to dump a bunch of stuff into your slow cooker. It's not only a soup, but can also be made into a delicious variety of dishes, which I've listed at the bottom of the post. Don't you LOVE options? If you can think of a good name for this, let me know in the comments below, please! In the meantime, don't worry too much about what it's called and just make it. You'll get a good dinner and lots of delish leftovers. AND you won't get bored with the leftovers because it's so versatile. I got the original recipe from someone at work, but of course, had to fix it up a bit! I just can't help myself...
My husband loves this and it was so easy! He's already taken it to work 2X this week, after eating it on Saturday night. It was also fairly inexpensive. I buy my chicken breasts frozen in the bags from the big box store, and they aren't too big, so I used 4. Score one for weeknight cooking! Let me also say that while this was very tasty, it was not what I would call SPICY. It has a little heat, but nothing that will burn you up or make kids reject it. Of course, if you like it spicy, add more hot sauce! I added the amount I put in the recipe.
We love Jack's Salsa! 

Keep Rotel on hand! 
Dark Red Hanover Kidney Bean

 Here are the pantry ready ingredients that you'll need to make this dish. You'll also need 1 lb. of thawed, boneless skinless chicken breasts, some cheese and some spices.

Slow Cooker Mexican Chicken
Makes at least 6 Servings, various ways
~1 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts
(3 to 4 breasts, depending on size)
2 cans Bush's Black Beans, undrained
1 can Hanover Dark Red Kidney Beans
1 cup Jack's Medium Salsa (or your fave)
1 14 oz. can Hunts Tomato Sauce
1 4 oz. can chopped green chilies
2 cans Original Rotel Tomatoes and Green Chilies
1.5 tsp. ground cumin
1 T. Texas Pete Hot Sauce (optional)
1 c. shredded Pepper Jack Cheese or plain Monterey Jack cheese if you want it very mild

Place the (thawed) chicken in the bottom of your slow cooker. Top with the un-drained black beans, the drained kidney beans, salsa, tomato sauce, green chilies, Rotel Tomatoes, cumin and hot sauce. Give the mixture a good stir to combine the ingredients. Cook on low heat for at least 6 hours. 
Carefully remove your chicken and shred it, if it has not already fallen apart. Put it back into the slow cooker and add the shredded Jack cheese. Cook for an additional 30 minutes or until the cheese melts completely.  (PS You could totally add frozen or canned corn to this, but I was trying to keep the carbs a little on the lower side and we aren't in love with corn in chili type dishes.)

1. Ladle into bowls and top with crushed corn chips and a dollop of sour cream. 
2. Or put the chips on the bottom for a softer texture. Very much like chicken tortilla soup. 
3. OR chop a variety of lettuces, peppers and tomatoes and top with the Tex-Mex Chicken. Add a little shredded cheese (sharp or jack), some crushed tortilla chips and a dollop of sour cream for a taco salad. 
4. OR use a slotted spoon to drain off some of the liquid and roll into soft flour tortillas. Top with cheese, a little sour cream and salsa. Very kid friendly. Use whatever you like in your tacos! 
5. OR spray a corn tortilla with cooking spray on both sides and heat in oven until crispy. (You could fry it if you like) Top with the Tex-Mex chicken, shredded cheese, chopped lettuce and sour cream for a tasty tostada. Squeeze a lime over the top. 
6. OR make a Spanish Omelet: Heat a non-skillet over medium heat while you beat 3 eggs with 2 tsp. milk. Melt 1 tsp. of butter in the pan and then pour the eggs into the skillet. Sprinkle with a little salt. As the eggs begin to set, use a wooden spoon or a plastic spatula to gently pull the edges to the center, swirling the pan to fill in the gaps with the uncooked egg mixture. Be patient. Sprinkle the eggs with a scant 1/4 c. finely shredded cheddar cheese. When the omelet looks like it's almost dry and set, fold it over carefully and slide onto a plate. Top with the Tex-Mex Chicken. Could serve 2 for a lunch or a hearty dinner for 1. If the omelet doesn't work out, call it Mexican Scrambled Eggs...
7. Last but not least, make some nachos, chips, chicken, cheese, baked until bubbly. YUM!