Sunday, June 24, 2012

Meal Planning

This is the first week in a long time that we will be able to cook each night this week! Today as I browsed through recipe inspiration outlets, I tried to focus on same-ingredient meals to help with the grocery budget. I used my Monday meal as the basis, having already planned to take this dish to friends of ours with a new baby, then pieced the rest of the days together surrounding that dish. I looked for other recipes that would use bell peppers, tomato sauce, onions, zucchini, fresh herbs, and corn. Here's what will be cooking in my kitchen this week!

Sunday: Summer Veggie Casserole and Grilled Salmon
Monday: Black Bean Veggie Enchiladas with Mexi-Texi Salad
Tuesday: Braised Chicken
Wednesday: Blue Cheese and Pear Stuffed Pork Tenderloin (this is the one dish that breaks the stipulation of the rest)
Thursday: Shrimp Cobb Salad

Most of these recipes will be adapted from the Cooking Light, Best Low-Fat Main Dishes magazine, all under 500 calories per meal, with low grams of fat and carbs. Hope you have had a wonderful weekend foodie friends, I'm off to the grocery store with Mr. Max and our list. This is one of our favorite parts of Sunday!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Asian BBQ Pork Medallions

I recently took a trip to visit my best friend Paige who now lives in New Jersey. She moved up there in the Fall of 2010 and while she's been able to come visit around various holidays, weddings and other special occasions, I sure have missed having her around. After Mr. Max and I got engaged, we decided to pick a time that I could go to visit her and see her new world. I don't know how much more quality time you can have after a 4 day road trip across the Northeast!

We had such a blast as we drove from Philadelphia, to Moorestown, to Atlantic City, to New York City, then back to Moorestown and Haddenfield. It was such a great time to catch up, goof off, laugh, talk about all thing past, present and future. We got to celebrate Max and my engagement, celebrate her new home almost finished becoming a first time home owner and just spend time with a best friend.

Paige did an incredible job picking dining establishments for our trip! Our second night in Atlantic City, she made reservations for us at Buddakan, a Asian-fusion restaurant within the Caesar's Palace Shops along the Boardwalk. The menu was full of small plates and not so small plates, all meant for sharing. We decided to pick two of the "small" plates, a crab fried rice and a beef lo mein. For our shared entree, we were torn between a pork tenderloin with Asian BBQ sauce or a chicken in ponzu sauce. We opted for the chicken and were definitely not disappointed! It was a half breast with a velvety browned butter sauce, with ponzu sauce stirred in and slightly thickened as it cooked. While incredibly satisfied with our choice, I still pined for the chance to try the pork dish so I decided to see what Mr. Max and I could do in the kitchen by creating our own!

This dish took under 30 minutes to prepare, great for a weeknight meal. Pork is so much more time efficient when you cook in medallion form, allowing a more even finish throughout each piece of meat and a faster cook time. 

Nutritional facts can be found here, calculated at; 1 serving is equivalent to 3 medallions of pork and 1/4 cup of sauce, totals 6 WW points.

Grocery List:
Recipe yields 4 servings
  • 1 lb. pork tenderloin
  • 1/4 cup Tamari (low-sodium, organic soy sauce)
  • 3 tbsp. Hoisin sauce  
  • 2 tbsp. tomato paste
  • 1 tbsp. rice vinegar
  • 1 tbsp. Sriracha (add more if you want the heat!)
  • 1 tbsp. honey
  • 1 tsp. ginger, minced
  • Green onions, optional for garnish
To begin,  grab a medium sized bowl and mix the tamari, hoisin, tomato paste, rice vinegar, sriracha, honey and ginger. Whisk together until well combined. Reserve and set aside about 3 tbsp. of the sauce for dipping.

In a large skillet, on medium-high heat, flash sear the pork for about 2 minutes on each side. By doing this, we are locking in the natural tenderness and moisture of the pork.

Take the seared pork and cut into half inch to one inch thick medallions, then dip in the BBQ sauce, coating both sides.

Set back in the pan, turning heat down to medium and cover, let cook for about 5 minutes.

Flip the medallions and let cook for another 3 minutes before performing the Rule of Thumb to test the level of doneness. 

When done, remove from plate and set atop a bed of veggies or rice. Top with reserved sauce, garnish with green onions and enjoy!
Served with a simple asparagus and bell pepper saute

Tastefully yours, 

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Parmesan-Pesto Crusted Halibut


Oh my, it is a whiny Wednesday! Do you ever have those days where you know you are just in a mood? To quote my dear, sweet, little mother, sometimes you just feel the need to "beech, beech, beeeeech, beech, beeech," - if not obvious, please infer that as the phonetic version of another word. First time she said this, mom made a cute little face, and in a high pitched voice that oddly sounds like an Italian accent, she squealed that little phrase to me and it stuck. Now we like to use it when we feel the need to "beeech" about things. So....

It is a stormy night and Mr. Max is stuck in OKC due to the weather. It took me over an hour to get home from work tonight. My camera battery is dead and a charge cord is no where to be found. I've had a sharp pain at the base of my neck for two weeks that really escalated today and I can't turn my head without sending sharp pains up and over. My left eye won't stop twitching from editing documents, working on lists and spreadsheets this week. I lost a favorite earring today.

Whooo. Done! Got anything you need to beeeech about? Go ahead, let it out! The rain and neck pain deterred me from going to yoga tonight where all this beeeeeching would have become much more subdued, so I'm going to partake in my other de-stress hobby and take it all out in the kitchen. Nothing a little glass of red wine, a Motown playlist and a cutting board can't cure.

Let's talk about tonight's delicious dish, shall we? You take a fish fillet and roast it until it's crispy and flaky, that's "mmm-mmm good" right there. You top it with some fresh basil pesto then dust with breadcrumbs and Parmesan, that is "quit your beeeeching" good. There aren't many times you can pair cheese with fish, but in this case, the Parmesan mirrors the breadcrumbs and helps to create a crispy, great tasting topping. To really take this dish and your taste buds to the next level, I like to saute some cherry tomato halves in just a smidge of balsamic vinegar and garlic. Allow them  to pucker from the heat and soak in the tang, creating a tomato-relish to serve over top. This recipe also works beautifully with chicken breast, which is how I originally started making it after a restaurant experience.

This is an easy under 30 minute meal. Click here to get the nutritional facts calculated at; 1 serving of halibut is equivalent to 8 WW points.

Grocery List:
  • 1/4 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 3 tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tsp. lemon zest (especially with the fish, adds another flavor dimension that really complements natural flavors)
  • 2 tbsp. fresh basil pesto, divided
  • 2 halibut fillets (4-6 oz. each)
  • 1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
So mentioned above, I have no battery power in my camera and can't find the charger. I'm going to leave tonight's step by steps to Instagram pics which I have little to no experience with. To start, preheat your oven to 450 degrees and coat a baking dish with nonstick spray. In a small bowl, combine the panko, Parm, and the lemon zest in a bowl, mixing up with your hands.

With the pesto, evenly spread 1 tbsp. atop each fillet and set in the baking dish.

Lightly sprinkle the panko mixture onto the pesto and gently press down to help adhere to the top of the fillet. A little trick to assist in the browned breadcrumb top look is to lightly spray a bit of the cooking spray over the top. This is why I buy fat free spray :-) The lemon zest really stands out in this pic - it doesn't in real life.

Stick the fillets in the oven and let roast for about 10 minutes, or until the tops look slightly browned. While the fish is cooking, it's time to fix the topping. In a small skillet, begin to cook the minced garlic on medium heat in the olive oil until fragrant - about 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and balsamic and cook until tomatoes pucker. Turn the heat down if needed to prevent the garlic from burning.

When the timer goes off, check the fish. If it flakes at the touch of a fork, it's ready! Remove from the oven and top with your tomato relish, serve and enjoy!

Tastefully yours, 



Saturday, June 2, 2012

Twice Baked Spaghetti Squash

The beginning of June means it's Mr. Max's CFA time again. I'm so proud of him for all the hard work and dedication he puts into studying and preparing for this exam, it's truly beyond what I would be able to do. As I sit her recapping last night's dinner, he has just started the 6 hour test - wow. This year, he requested chicken parm again for his "last supper" - our affectionate term for his dinner the night before this test - but I decided to revamp just a bit. While I still made him some chicken parm, this featured recipe was the star of the night.

I started to think this up a few weeks ago when we did a very simple turkey meatball dish with spaghetti squash. We typically grab a spaghetti squash each grocery run to make once a week on the busiest night in our schedule. However, this time we made it on a Sunday and I had time on my hands so I had decided to roast it in the oven rather than nuke it. This takes quadruple the amount of time, but the result was worth it. Like spinach, spaghetti squash will emit liquids as it heats and cooks. This can sometimes make for a watery dish when combined with sauce, but when I roasted it, I did not seem to have this problem as much. I already knew that roasting will seal in and lock the nutrients of any vegetable, but the watery consistency was greatly decreased with this method as well. After scraping the spaghetti strands from each half, I looked at the hollowed out shells and I thought about twice baked potatoes. I had other plans for that dinner, so I decided to remake this again in the near future, creating a tasty filling with the strands, then re-baking in the shells.

That brings us to this recipe! I wanted to make the red sauce a little creamy and add thickness, just to help with some of the natural moisture that is inevitable with the spaghetti squash. I had some Neuftchatel cheese in the fridge and used it to help make a thicker, creamier consistency without adding in too many additional calories or grams of fat (like using a cream or cream cheese would do). To give some green and more veggie value, I added in some chopped broccoli, then topped the final product with just a little mozzarella and Parm Reggiano. In the end, we both agreed this was our favorite spaghetti squash dish to date!

This dish takes about 45 minutes from start to finish, largely due to the roasting time, not the prep time. Click here for the nutritional facts calculated at; this meal is a total of 7 WW points per serving.

Grocery List:
Recipe yields 2 servings
  • 1 small-medium spaghetti squash, cut into 2 halves
  • 2 cups tomato sauce (I used a roasted garlic sauce)
  • 2 oz. Neufchatel cheese
  • 1.5 cup broccoli florets, chopped very small 
  • 1/4 cup part-skim mozzarella cheese
  • 2 pinches of Parm Reggiano 
  • Roasted red pepper seasoning (optional)
To begin, pre-heat your oven to 450 degrees. Lightly spray a piece of aluminum foil and set on a baking sheet. Set the 2 halves of the spaghetti squash face up on the foil and place in the oven for 35 minutes.

In a sauce pan, begin to melt the Neufchatel chunk on low heat. This will assist when combining with the sauce. Add the sauce and continue to stir until well combined.

To help pre-cook your broccoli just a bit, add the florets into the sauce on medium-low heat and let simmer for about 8 minutes. 

Remove the squash from the oven and you can do one of two things. You can let it cool for about 10 minutes so that won't hurt yourself trying to manage the squash - or, you can be too eager and impatient like me. I did not hurt myself, but I did make it more cumbersome by trying to maneuver with 2 cooking mitts on my hands. It worked, but I should have just listened to Mr. Max's advice to me: "patience darlin, patience." He's been telling me that for at least 3 years now, I think he is patient that one day I will listen :-) When you have the seeds removed, now you can start combing the fork through from top side to bottom side to create the strands, then place them in a bowl and repeat with the second squash half.

Set the hollowed shells to the side for now.

 Add the sauce to the bowl of spaghetti squash strands and mix well.

Now, scoop the strand/sauce/broccoli filling into each hollowed shell until full.

Top with the cheeses and place in the oven to bake for another 10 minutes, or until cheese is slightly browned, bubbling.

Remove from oven and place in bowls or dishes that will easily hold the squash bowl.

 For a little kick, top with crushed red pepper flakes. Enjoy!

Tastefully yours, 
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