Thursday, March 31, 2011

Black Bean Quinoa

Well, I went to the grocery store to get my ingredients for the lovely little dinner, helped myself to the salad bar at Whole Foods to make sure we had some greens, then for the second time this week, an item did not make it home with me after check out. The first time was with Mr. Max's anniversary card, girlfriend foul. Both items went with me to check out but for whatever reason, did not end up in the bag (and no, not in my car either) when I got home to unload. Insert a Cathy cartoon figure with squiggly lines emitting from her head.

I get home, decide I'm not heading back, and I needed to come up with something else to round out the meal. I looked around, turned to my tub of quinoa, grabbed a can of black beans from the pantry, opened my spice cabinet and got to work. I have to say, this is packed with protein and it was a great compliment to the chipotle-honey chicken and sweet potato dinner!

Grocery List:
  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 1 can black beans
  • 1/4 cup onions, minced
  • Olive oil
  • 2 tbsp. lemon juice
  • Chili powder
  • Cumin
  • Garlic powder
As we've discussed before, you cook 2 cups water to every 1 cup of quinoa. In a small pot combine the water and quinoa then bring to a boil. When it is bubbling, cover the pot and turn down the heat to medium-low. The quinoa will absorb the water and become nice and fluffy. At this point, I just started sprinkling my seasonings - cumin, chili powder, garlic powder. For the serving size that one cup uncooked quinoa fluffs up to, I have to guestimate that I used about 1 teaspoon of each - sprinkled some additional garlic powder at the end. Then I added nearly the whole can of black beans, draining the water from the can first.

I sauteed some onions with the chili powder and cumin for added flavor, then once translucent, added those in. I decided to toss the batch in some olive oil and add about 1 -2 tablespoons of lime juice.

Mixed this all together and ta-da, a bit of a pantry mix that turned out really well. The tastes blended with the main dish and as mentioned, this packed some serious protein, fiber and black beans are known for good source of iron too.

Chipotle-Honey Chicken with Sweet Potatoes

I was searching through some recipe options for tonight and came across this one from the Pink Parsley blog. Max Man and I were very pleasantly surprised with the outcome! While it was a little spicy, that spice was nicely counteracted by the honey, cinnamon, cider vinegar and the natural sweetness of the sweet potatoes. It was a perfect blend of sweet and spice - and everything nice.

While the nutritional facts were not available for this one, I find it very similar to many of the other 300 - 400 calorie recipes I've made. My nutritional intuition is saying, this one is good for you :-)

Grocery List:
  • 2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch "coins" 
  • 3 tbsp olive oil, divided
  • 2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, minced (this is the spicy part!)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 chicken cutlets
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Take the potatoes and cut each "coin" in half. Line an oven safe dish with aluminum foil and spray with vegetable oil cooking spray, then lay the sweet potatoes in the dish.

In a small bowl, mix together 1 tbsp of olive oil, chipotles, garlic, honey, vinegar, salt, cumin and cinnamon. Mix together the rest of the olive oil with 2 tsp. of the paste and brush that over the potatoes. Pop the potatoes in the oven and roast for 15 minutes.

I chose to cut the chicken cutlets in half, creating 4 petite pieces of chicken. Rub the chicken with the rest of the remaining paste.

After the potatoes roast, take them out and top them with the chicken.

Pop back into the oven and bake for another 15-20 minutes; I took mine out at 18 minutes and it was perfectly cooked, oh so tender! Scoop out onto a plate and dig in! Served with a black bean quinoa.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Throwback Thursday: New and Improved Chicken Florentine

Last June I took two recipes that I found in the America's Test Kitchen Light and Healthy 2010 magazine: Chicken Florentine and Mediterranean Chicken, creating Mediterranean Chicken Florentine. The final product was a little bland and a watery due to the moisture from the spinach as it cooked, it depleted the rest of the flavor of the dish. The former recipe used flour, cream, lemon juice and chicken stock to create a sauce - I decided to bypass the sauce and instead bulk up the taste of the spinach to get the "umph" I was looking for.

I came across a sauteed spinach recipe in America's Test Kitchen Light and Healthy 2011 magazine that I just picked up. This spinach recipe uses a little bit of olive oil, shallot, red wine vinegar, pecans and feta. I decided to make this spinach and bake it with the chicken for a revived Chicken Florentine. We loved this version, I only wish I had thought to make a rice with it. An angel hair pasta bed would have gone well too, but for me, not until after Easter!

The nutrition facts for this version of the spinach are 190 calories, 7g fat, 31g carbs, 5g protein, 8g fiber per serving.

Grocery List:
  • 2 chicken cutlets, cut in half for 4 small, thin chicken breasts
  • 2 bags of baby spinach
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 large shallot, minced (about 1/2 cup)
  • Garlic salt to taste
  • 2 teaspoons of red wine vinegar
  • 1/3 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/4 cup crumbled feta
  • Parmesan
  • 1/4 cup halved cherry tomatoes
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the spinach and water in a large microwavable bowl. Heat in the microwave on high for 4 minutes until the spinach is wilted and decreased by half. America's Test Kitchen says that the reason they microwave it in this version is because tender young baby spinach releases a lot of liquid when it hits a hot pan, so adding a large amount at one time leaves a waterlogged, mushy mess. It is better to microwave/steam it in batches then squeeze dry. 
 Fill the bowl...
Put it in the microwave and let it wilt by half

Empty that batch into a collander and drain, using paper towels to help soak up the extra moisture. Repeat this process at least twice more.

In a skillet, heat the olive oil on medium-high heat and add the minced shallot for 3-5 minutes until golden brown.

Once the spinach is all drained, add it to the skillet, drizzle with a little more olive oil and toss with the tongs.

Add the vinegar, walnuts and feta.
Season with garlic salt and add the tomatoes. 

Set the chicken in an oven safe dish and top with the sauteed spinach mixture, last sprinkle on a little Parmesan cheese.

Bake in the oven for 20 minutes, until chicken is cooked through. Remove from the oven and serve!

Make a Meal: Grilled Pork Tenderloin and Sweet Potato Hash

Since this pork tenderloin was so simple to make, I decided to just combine it with the sweet potato hash post for a meal bundle. Let me start by saying, this one was really awesome once it was done, but the process was a wee bit on the frustrating side. However, don't let that turn you off from the meal, it was largely because of my direct circumstances as I began the cooking process. I haven't done a personal diatribe in a while, so I think I will do that right now... scroll down to Grocery List if you just want the recipe.

After a week of skipping, I made it to my Tread class last night. It was a new one that I haven't tried before and it kicked my arse, bad. I love this place, I recommend it but yesterday I was not singing that same tune. So, in a weak and wobbly state, I had to go and hunt down a pork tenderloin because in our Sunday grocery run, Whole Foods didn't have any. Whole Foods is right next to Tread so I did look there again, but they were still out. It's like the braised short ribs all over again! Then I had to go to the Kroger in my neighborhood which is my personal version of hell. Nothing against Kroger in general, there is one across town that I absolutely love, problem being, it is across town and it was now 7 pm. I didn't have another choice so I went to this one that is a huge unorganized mess of aisles and food with employees everywhere, yet they don't know where anything is. Half of the store is under construction, meaning complete disarray and the parking is horrendous. It always baffles me that there is always a large crowd but no one working the registers. Last night was the same, they didn't have express lanes open, only 2 check outs and the rest self check out. Let me express to you that I loathe self check out. There is nothing easy about it, something malfunctions every time I see someone use it, the cashier by far does a faster job of ringing you up than the do-it-yourself pay station. So, me and my one item stand there on wobbling legs for 15 minutes before a check out is ready. As I approach it, THEY SHUT IT DOWN. Dude looks at me and says, "sorry ma'am you need to go to the next register, I'm on break." With a line that goes to the state line, you do not take a break sir, you just don't. Oh, but he did. So being the first one in that line, surrounded by the racks of sodas, gum and trash magazines, I am the last one to scurry out to a new line. In a perfect world, people would make sure that it was only fair for that first in line to get to a new line before the rest of the minions but no, this is survival of the fittest, dog eat dog. I had a Mean Girls moment where Lindsey Lohan is picturing the cafeteria as a jungle of teenage behavior. I envisioned myself scaling and hurdling over aforementioned racks of crap to beat them to the next line but alas, just a vision. I made my way into the other checkout lane and finally got through about another 15 minutes later.

The time is now 7:37 PM when I get into my car. I get home, start to get it all ready by laying all of my ingredients out on the counter. It is at this point that I realize that I will need to utilize both the Egrill and the griddle - so note to self, having both of these at your disposal is important, unless you want to just bake the tenderloin but I was determined to grill. Well, my shoebox onesie apartment has a tiny little balcony, however, I only use this balcony to put the grill on so that my apartment doesn't get to smokey.

My love seat couch blocks the door to the balcony and I have a curtain rod that sits perfectly along the double door and side window fixture, nicely concealing the fact that it is a patio door. This rod is not affixed to the walls because if it were, I wouldn't be able to open it. This means that it ends up falling down whenever I do open, yet I forget this every time. So I'm suck-it-in-shimmying my way between the couch and the door that is ajar trying to get this blasted grill outside to begin heating. Then I notice the plug is too short to reach inside. How the heck does Mr. Max make this happen? He is the grill guy, I don't play with this toy. As if it were kismet, I get a text saying he's leaving work - hallelujah, but he still has to stop by his place before coming over for dinner.

I couldn't mess with that grill anymore, I was about to toss it over my balcony if I spent another minute on it. Make the marinade for the pork, easy, done. Begin the chop work for the Sweet Potato Hash, 10 minutes later, done. Now, here's where I mess up. As you'll see in the ingredients below, this calls for sweet corn. I bypassed the ears of corn, not reading far enough into the recipe that the corn is grilled, so I got the bag of organic sweet corn to defrost. This just made it a little messy to dump out on the griddle along with the onion, sweet potato and poblano chunks. I was too concerned with the corn not burning due to its size compared to the other things, I was messing with it too often instead of just letting it cook. Ears of corn would have been better, then cut off the kernals later.

At 8:22, Max Man comes through the door and laughs at my face of frustration and my pointing grunt to the grill. Little do I know that he reallocates the use of the extension cord surge protector from my bedroom to the patio to help plug in the grill - and of course, I do not think of these things. Within 5 minutes the grill is ready, the sweet potato hash is ready, I grumble that the pork is marinating on the island, time to throw it on the grill. About 20 minutes later, we were seated, eating this delicious dish that was like taking little bites of springtime.

The sweet potato hash is a creative dish that would be great at a barbecue with friends! This recipe yields about 4 servings which you can easily double for more. What's even better is the nutritional facts below!

Chili Pork Tenderloin: 232 calories, g total fat, 100mg chol, 7g carb, 31g protein, 12 mg calcium per serving
Sweet Potato Hash: 190 cal, 6g total fat, 10mg chol, 31g carb, 5g protein, 112mg calcium per serving

Grocery List:
  • 1 lb pork tenderloin
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 tbsp chili powder
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 large sweet potato, peeled, cut into 1/2 inch chunks
  • Sweet corn (here's where I messed up, I used a bag of corn, defrosted when I should have gotten 2 ears of corn for better grilling)
  • 1 poblano chile
  • 1 red onion, ends removed, halved
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/2 cup shredded Monterrey Jack cheese
  • 1/4 cup fresh chopped chives
  • 1 tbsp. lime juice
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Unlike me, you are going to want to start by pre-heating your grill to medium high and brush the grate with oil. In a large bowl, combine the honey, chili powder, salt and lime then add the tenderloin. Let marinate for 10-15 minutes.

While your meat is marinating, chop all of your veggies.

Turn on your griddle to medium-high heat and coat in vegetable oil cooking spray. Coat the sweet potatoes, corn , poblano and onion with oil in a bowl, then throw it on the griddle.

Cook for about 15-20 minutes, until veggies are soft and there are some good looking grill marks going on. Move them back into a bowl and toss the vegetables with the cheese, chives, lime juice, salt and pepper.

Put your meat on the grill when ready and cook on both sides for 10 minutes each. Once the meat internal temperature has registered to 150 degrees, remove from the grill. Let cool for 5 minutes, then slice into 1 1/2-inch-thick pieces.

Scoop the sweet potato hash onto the plate and serve with the sliced pork tenderloin!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Breakfast for Dinner: Best Ever Eggs

In my meal planning last Friday, somewhere I had stumbled upon a recipe called "Healthy Scrambled Eggs". I was only looking through 3 recipe magazines, yet when I went back to make it, I couldn't find it anywhere. Growing seemingly more irritated, and hungry, I decided to drop the search and just go with it.

What I remembered about this recipe is that it used 4 egg whites and 3 regular eggs - well, I was flying solo for this dinner tonight so that wasn't going to work. My nutritionist had once told me not to buy into the "egg white vs. whole egg" thing, that you aren't getting all of the nutrients that the egg has with just the egg whites, so I made two regular eggs. I embrace the yolk. Their recipe also used basil. With spring in the air, my body wants greens so I said how bout spinach. Finally, they used feta and I wanted a meltier cheese so I used Monterrey Jack, saving the feta for Thursday night's Chicken Florentine. Thanks for the inspiration, which ever resource you came out of, I am still frustrated not to have found you as if you don't even exist.

This took all of 10 minutes to make, incredibly simple and delicious!

Grocery List:
  • 1 cup fresh spinach leaves
  • 2 farm fresh organic eggs
  • 1 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 1-2 pinches Monterrey Jack cheese
  • Tony's Creole Seasoning
Ok, I'll say it for you, this is one of the shortest ingredient lists I think I've ever had. Measure out about a cup of spinach leaves. I choose to chop them like I would julienne basil, so stack them about 5-8 high, gently roll them and chop.

Heat vegetable oil in a skillet over medium heat and add your spinach ribbons to cook. As we've discussed in other spinach posts, this is the magically wilting green, so add more to get to the amount of spinach you would like in your scramble.

While the spinach is doing its thing, take your eggs - crack and scramble.

Pour them right on in the skillet with the spinach, mixing well and often. Add 1-2 pinches of cheese and let it melt, as you scramble it in with the egg/spinach.

Last, add a shake of Tony's over top and you are ready to serve! I paired these eggs with some turkey bacon and my own rendition of honey wheat toast. I didn't really get around to photographing it. I placed a piece of wheat bread in the toaster, once it was done, I set a small square of butter in each corner and drizzled it with honey. Then I folded it over on top of itself and set it in the microwave for 15 seconds to allow the butter to melt and mix with the honey. Take it out and ta-da! It was similar to the Buzzbrew's version, but after comparing the two, I feel as though they use maple syprup along with or rather than the honey. Enjoy this breakfast for dinner dish, I most certainly did!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Red Snapper with Pineapple Relish and Quinoa

As mentioned in my meal planning post for this week, I went to the beach this weekend for a bachelorette party getaway. On Saturday night, we went to a fun dinner at a this nice seafood restaurant on the water. The bachelorette herself had this incredible red snapper dish and we traded bites, since I had never tried the red snapper and she had never had mahi-mahi (my dish). Low and behold, I have a new favorite! Therefore, I decided to modify this recipe from salmon to red snapper.

This was a great fish dish, Mr. Max and I are both new fans of red snapper. You can make it either way, I think you'll find that this is a filling, tasty, simple and quick meal to make!

Nutritional facts for the red snapper include 310 calories, 10g fat, 13g carbs, 34g protein per 6 oz fillet.

 Grocery List:
  • 1 cup fresh pineapple, diced 
  • 1 scallion, sliced thin
  • 1/2 poblano pepper, stemmed, seeded and minced (original recipe uses a jalepeno, if you would prefer)
  • Juice of 1 lime (about 4 teaspoons)
  • 1 teaspoon fresh cilantro, minced
  • 4 teaspoons honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon water
  • 1 teaspoon light brown sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • 2 skinless red snapper or salmon fillets
  • Vegetable oil spray
Start by heating your boiler. I bought my pineapple pre-cut into fresh chunks, but then chopped it down smaller to look like this.

Combine the pineapple, scallion, poblano pepper (or jalepeno), lime juice, and cilantro in a bowl then set aside.

Whisk the honey and water together in a bowl.

In another bowl, combine the brown sugar, coriander, ginger, garlic powder and allspice.

Pat the fillets dry with a paper towel and arrange them evenly, skinned side down, on a foil-lined baking sheet. Brush each fillet with the honey-water mixture, then evenly distribute the spices over the fish., then lightly spray the tops with vegetable oil spray. According to America's Test Kitchen, the reason they lightly spray with the vegetable oil was to ensure that no dry bits of powdery spices remained on the fish, allowing it to fully caramelize.

Pop them in the oven for about 9 minutes, until tops are golden brown. If you have a meat thermometer, the temperature should register at 125 degrees when ready. The recipe says for you to top the finished fillets with the pineapple relish and serve, but Mr. Max and I decided to roast the pineapple mix with the fish for the last 2 minutes. So set your timer for 7 minutes, take out and top with the pineapple then pop in for another 2 minutes.

For an easy side dish, I made a simple quinoa with 1 teaspoon of tamari.

Lay the quinoa and top with your fish fillet, adding any additional pineapple relish. Also served with fresh haricot verts.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Meal Planning

Happy Friday, my little foodies! Typically this is a Sunday afternoon post, but I did my meal planning a little earlier this time because I'm heading to the beach this morning and won't be back until late Sunday afternoon. It's another bachelorette party weekend, a slew of girl friends got a beach house in the gulf and we are heading down to celebrate! Therefore, I knew I would want to be prepared by Sunday because after spending three days in the sun for some fun, the brain power just won't be there. Battery, dead.

What excites me is that it looks like spring, it feels like spring..... it is spring time in Texas! That opens a door to new seasonal tastes for cooking. In the meal planning for this week, I created a quasi spring-like menu. Let's kick it off....

Sunday: Salmon with Pineapple/Mango Relish taken from America's Test Kitchen Light and Healthy 2011 (the cover shot!). I'll serve this with some fresh haricot verts and a little pineapple quinoa concoction. In my head, I'm thinking it will be like the butternut squash risotto except with pineapple chunks, delicious and nutritious quinoa and a little tamari.

Monday: I found a Hot and Sweet Pork Tenderloin with a Sweet Potato Hash. I love the spicy/sweet combination and this pork will bring that to the table - but intrigued with this sweet potato dish using some sweet corn, little poblano pepper, onion, chive, a little cheese.... It needs some green so I may throw some asparagus spears in, we'll see.

Tuesday: Event night, not cooking

Wednesday: Breakfast for dinner! Cuisine Light has a tasty looking rendition of what they call "Healthy Scrambled Eggs" so I'm going to try them, with a little shallot, fresh basil and feta. Then in the not-so-healthy realm of things, I will attempt to make Honey Wheat Toast in Buzzbrew's fashion, our favorite breakfast spot. This toast is to die for, honey/syrup just leaks from the pores of the bread when you take a bite, it's fantastic.

Throwback Thursday: This week I'm going to revive another dish that is picture-less, the Chicken Florentine from America's Test Kitchen's Light and Healthy 2010. The first time I made this was my first time to really work with spinach, I had also combined this recipe with another Mediterranean chicken dish. I found a sauteed spinach recipe in the Light and Healthy 2011 which I plan to incorporate in the spinach preparation to change it up, yet again. The first time taste was a little bland, so this time, let there be flavor.

I hope everyone has a wonderful weekend, I look forward to sharing these with you next week!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Throwback Thursday: Asparagus and Gouda Stuffed Chicken

I chose this dish as my first Throwback Thursday recipe because at the time I first conceived it into the blog world, I didn't have a camera at my disposal. I wanted to re-do it because while it was quite tasty, more importantly, now I can make it complete with my step-by-step as I like to do. You can go here for the initial post with ingredients.

This time, I used chicken cutlets, which are already much thinner pieces of chicken rather than pounding down a chicken breast. I prefer to use organic cutlets whenever I make chicken because it contains less meat so you don't over eat!

Start by pre-heating your oven to 400 degrees. Combine the mayo, dijon, lemon juice, lemon zest, tarragon, salt and pepper in a bowl.
Whisk well...
Using a pastry brush, lightly spread a little of your mayo concoction on one side of your chicken. Add slices of the cheese, followed by 4-6 spears of asparagus.
I did each chicken breast differently. The first one, I rolled tight and secured with toothpicks. This second one (Mr. Max's) I stuffed with more and folded the chicken cutlet over, securing with toothpicks.
Using you handy pastry brush again, slather that top with the mayo mixture. Get it good.
Sprinkle and press lightly to adhere the panko breadcrumbs on top.
Spray an oven-safe dish with cooking spray and add your stuffed chicken. Pop in the oven for 20 - 25 minutes, until cooked through. The breadcrumbs will be nice and browned.
Cheeeeeeesy, gooooooooey goodness.
Slice in half to see your pretty asparagus and Gouda chicken! Served with a mixed green salad and a roasted garlic pearl couscous (box version).

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