Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Mac and Cheese....

... when you've got to be good while being bad. This is my go-to, quick and easy, not TOO sinful but still mac and cheese recipe. It shows up every couple of weeks, and is always greated with a smile from all who taste. Is it gooey drippy cheesey goodness? No, its a Weight Watchers recipe. But it does use REAL (not reduced fat) cheddar cheese, which to me is a big part of its richer taste despite being a light recipe. And, it's pretty quick to throw together. Assemble bake and enjoy within an hour (45 minutes if you are particularly organized and speedy). Although, this batch came out a bit over-done. The texture on the left side of the picture is more typical.

Sometimes you've just got to have the macaroni and cheese!

Off to Florida for Thanksgiving - now it's finally gotten cool in New York City I'm off to warmer pastures. Figures. Nothing like keeping this topsy turvy weather going ...

Macaroni and Cheese
Weight Watchers Versatile Vegetarian Cookbook
Serves 4

(I usually leave out the basil and the tomato)

1 1/2 cups elbow macaroni
1 cup 1% low-fat milk
1/2 onion -- grated (I used a whole one)
2 tablespoons unbleached flour
2 garlic cloves -- crushed
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard (about 1 heaping tsp)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
pinch nutmeg
4 ounces sharp cheddar cheese
1 tomato -- diced (very large or 2)
1 tablespoon chopped basil (fresh about 1/2 cup)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cook the macaroni according to package directions. Drain and keep warm.

In a large saucepan bring the milk, onion, flour, garlic, mustard, salt, pepper, and nutmeg to a boil. Cook, stirring constantly, until thickened, 3-4 minutes. Stir in the cheese in batches until it's melted and the sauce is smooth; stir in the macaroni, tomato, and basil.

Transfer the mixture to a shallow 1-quart casserole. Bake until golden, 35-40 minutes; cool slightly before serving.

Per Serving (excluding unknown items): 247 Calories; 11g Fat (38.5% calories from fat); 13g Protein; 25g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 32mg Cholesterol; 478mg Sodium. Exchanges: 1 Grain(Starch); 1 Lean Meat; 1/2 Vegetable; 1/2 Non-Fat Milk; 1 1/2 Fat.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Cornichons Forever!

One of the perks of a childhood spent overseas is that you encounter new foods. At first the new foods are exciting, then they become familiar and soon they are incorporated into your repetoire and comforting as a result Except, I didn't discover cornichons as a child. Oh well.

When M. and I were in Switzerland for our honeymoon a few years back, we fell in love with fondue. To this day, fondue has become the "romantic meal" for us as a couple. Valentine's Day? Fondue. Dreary weather outside and we need a wintry boost? Fondue. And, one of our favorite things about discovering fondue in Switzerland were the cornichons or little French pickles served along the cheese. Yes, cheese and pickles. Tiny, tart, mouth puckeringly brisk pickles dipped into smooth and creamy cheese. Yum. So, cornichons have become a must-have for fondue night.

Last week on my way home from work, I had a craving for a sandwich. I could picture it in my mind - soy bologna, dijon mustard mixed with light mayo and chopped cornichons, and a little bit of cheddar cheese. Needless to say, I made it happen not only that night but the next night as well.

Mmmmm... so that's my random food concoction for the week. What are yours? What weird but delicious food combinations float your boat? Do share....

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Leek and Golden Potato Soup

Here is the soup recipe I mentioned yesterday. It was really quite good. As I've said before, Weight Watchers recipes are hit or miss. But this one was a big, low-fat hit. And the directions couldn't be easier. Really.

Leek and Golden Potato Soup
WW New Complete Cookbook
Makes 6 servings

WW Notes - When you substitute all-purpose potatoes with buttery-tasting Yukon Golds, there's no need to add butter or oil to get a wonderfully rich-tasting soup. Once considered a specialty ingredient, these light skinned potatoes can now be found at most supermarkets.

My notes - I added garlic. Can't have soup without garlic. And I carmelized the leeks in some cooking spray. Yes, the nutrition police will pick me up shortly for my rebellion I'm sure. My recipe modifications are in italics.

4 Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
4 large leeks (about 2.5 pounds) white and pale green parts only, cleaned and chopped
1 large oinion, chopped
5 cups fat-free chicken (I used veggie) broth
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1. Combine the potatoes, leeks, onion, broth and pepper in a large pot and bring to a boil. Spray pan with cooking spray. Add leeks and saute over medium high heat. Add onion. Saute until brown and flavorful. Add garlic as leeks and onions begin to look dry (about a minute before you are ready to add broth). Add 1 cup of broth, and deglaze pan with spatula/spoon. Add rest of broth, potatoes and pepper. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, until veggies are tender (20-25 minutes). Remove from heat and cool for 10 minutes.

2.Transfer mixture to a blender and puree, working in batches if necessary, to prevent overflow. Mix with hand blender in pot until desired texture.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Lazy lazy lazy....

... that would be me.

I did actually make a surprisingly delicious Potato Leek soup over the weekend. But it's kinda late, I'm kinda tired and hungry. So it'll have to keep for a day when I feel like typing a recipe since I just googled and couldn't find it online. Instead I'll show you my latest "throw it together and see what happens" meal.

I call it - Kitchen Sink Fajitas. Since everything short of the proverbial kitchen sink made its way into the dish.

Talk about lazy food photography - love the blob of sour cream! Food photographers of the world relax - I'm not quitting my day-job.

Kitchen Sink Fajitas

1 pack "chicken strips" (fake chicken)
1 pack "steak strips" (fake steak - I usually find both varieties in the refridgerated section of the grocery store)
1 onion - sliced into thin strips
1 pack sliced portabello mushrooms
1-2 green peppers depending on taste (I used three tiny purple ones from our CSA but whatever)
1 can of diced tomatoes with jalepenos
1/2 fajita spice
1/4 cup store bought salsa
1 can of kidney beans, rinsed and drained
3 cloves of garlic

Slice onion into rings, and saute in cooking spray/splash of oil. Once onions begin to brown, add fake meat strips, peppers, portabellos, fajita spice and stir. When pan begins to get too hot and ingredients begin to dry out, add diced tomatoes. Add beans and salsa and garlic, salt and pepper to taste.

I served this concoction with 7 grain/flax tortillas, roasted butternut squash, frozen mixed vegetables and mashed sweet potatoes. We have a multitude of sweet potatoes right now (about 6 pounds worth to be exact), and so I got rid of some over the weekend by making mashed sweet potatoes. This recipe yielded a lot - we got 6 servings out of the fajita filling alone. But topped with a little cheese and sour cream, M. and I scarfed up the fajita leftovers QUITE happily! :)

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Continuing the parade of favorite dishes...

... comes this oldie but goodie. This recipe, tantalizingly called Fettucine and Tofu with Finger-Licking Peanut Sauce, is quick to throw to together and easily modified to whatever ingredients are on hand. You'll notice the broccoli in my picture, and the absence of broccoli in the recipe. And I didn't have scallions - so no scallions were harmed in the making of my dish. I only had baby carrots, and so I roughly chopped them and skipped the grating step. When I've made this dish in the past, I've thrown in various vegetables from the vegetable drawer with little impact on the overall recipe. If you were putting in significantly more veggies then called for, you may want to consider doubling the sauce. But generally I find the proportion of sauce to noodles appropriate (and I like things SAUCY!). I also brown the tofu in a skillet before adding. That's my personal preference, but I don't think I personally would enjoy the dish as much if the tofu weren't browned and cooked. And I've used whole wheat fettucine, regular fettucine, spaghetti (whole wheat or regular) and various other incarnations of pasta. I don't think the dish would work with shapes like rigatoni or farfalle, but anything long and noodley would sub very well

This time, I served the noodles with vegetarian Thai dumplings and sauteed greens. And the entire dish went from prep to eat in about 40 minutes, which isn't too bad at all for a weeknight.

Fettuccine and Tofu with Finger-Licking Peanut Sauce
Cooking Light

1/2 cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup chunky peanut butter
1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 teaspoons grated peeled fresh ginger
2 teaspoons chile paste with garlic
4 garlic cloves, minced
8 ounces uncooked fettuccine
1 pound firm tofu, drained and cubed
1 cup (2-inch) sliced green onions
1 cup shredded carrot

Combine first 8 ingredients in a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat 5 minutes or until smooth, stirring frequently. Remove from heat.

Cook pasta in boiling water 8 minutes, omitting salt and fat. Add tofu, onions, and carrot; drain. Place pasta mixture in a large bowl. Add peanut butter mixture; toss gently.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Baked Oatmeal - Breakfast of Champions

This is yet another favorite recipe round here in the Veggie Kitchen. It's kind of a busy week, parent teacher conferences, and I'm falling back on all the favorites to get me through. This one is my go-to breakfast for busy weeks because I can slice it, nuke it for a minute, slap some yogurt on top and eat. Breakfast start to finish in about 1 minute and thirty seconds. Works for me.

This is also a very forgiving recipe. Don't like cinnamon? Leave it out. Crazy for nutmeg - throw it in! Don't do skim milk, well then do whatever you prefer instead. Got Craisins kicking around - fantastic. Leave out the raisins. You get the idea.

The last thing I like about this recipe is the yield. 8 servings = 4 days of breakfasts for M. and myself and that equals less to worry about. And that works for me.

Baked Oatmeal
Quaker Oats Recipe
Serves 8

2 1/4 cups Quick cooking oats, uncooked
or 2 3/4 cups Old Fashioned oats, uncooked
2/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
3/4 cup raisins or Craisins
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt -- optional
3 1/3 cups skim milk
4 egg whites -- lightly beaten
(or 1/2 cup egg substitute, or 2 eggs)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon vanilla
fat free milk or nonfat yogurt and fruit -- optional

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 8-inch glass baking dish with cooking spray.

In large bowl, combine oats, sugar, raisins, cinnamon and salt; mix well. In medium bowl, combine milk, egg whites, oil and vanilla; mix well. Add to dry ingredients; ix until well blended. Pour into baking dish.

Bake 55 to 60 minutes or until center is set and firm to the touch. Cool slightly.

Serve topped with milk or yogurt and fruit, if desired. Store leftover oatmeal tightly covered in refrigerator.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Creamy Broccoli Chowder

So I still have all this backlogged stuff that I made but never posted, however sifting through it just isn't seeming appealing. So... eh. I'll just move on.

Last night I made one of my favorite recipes. This soup usually pops up several times a winter, if not more. It is relatively quick to throw together, relatively healthy YET cheesey (an important distinction in my book) and filling to boot. The recipe originally came from Eating Well, just one of the many cooking magazines I subscribe to (and sometimes even read). And, I can't quite recall but I think it is from a couple years ago now. But, as I said already, this is an oldie but a goodie and never goes out of rotation in my house.

I've got a close-up shot of this soup - mostly because I was too lazy to take it out of the pan and serve it in a bowl to photograph.

Broccoli Chowder
Eating Well Magazine - Winter 200-?

1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion -- chopped (1 1/2 cups)
1 large carrot -- diced (1/2 cup)
2 stalks celery -- diced (1/2 cup)
1 large potato -- peeled and diced (1 1/2 cups)
2 cloves garlic -- minced
1 tbsp all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp dry mustard
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3 1/2 cups vegetable broth or reduced-sodium chicken broth (two 14-ounce cans)
1/2 pound broccoli crowns -- cut into 1-inch pieces, stems and florets separated
1 cup grated reduced fat cheddar cheese
1/2 cup reduced-fat sour cream
1/8 teaspoon salt -- or to taste

Heat oil in a dutch oven or large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion, carrot and celery; cook, stirring often, until onion and celery soften, 5 to 6 minutes. Add potato and garlic; cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Stir in flour, dry mustard and cayenne; cook, stirring often, for 2 minutes. Add broth and broccoli stems, bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to medium. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Stir in florets; simmer, covered, until broccoli is tender, about 10 minutes more.

Transfer 2 cups of the chowder to a bowl and mash; return to the pan. Stir in cheddar and sour cream; cook over medium heat, stirring, until the cheese is melted and the chowder is heated through. Season with salt.

Makes about 6 servings, 1 cup each.

Per serving: 179 calories; 8g total fat (3g sat, 3g mono); 15 mg cholesterol; 23g carbohydrate; 7g protein; 4g fiber; 351mg sodium

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Tale of a Happy Kitty

I was totally planning on catching up and posting some of the things I've made in the past week. But then I was at the pet store. And I bought kitty litter, and refills for Helios' Alpine Scratcher. And his glee and excitement and catnip-induced happiness was just too adorable to resist.

So, I bring you - the Tale of a Happy Kitty

It takes so little to make them so happy! A feel good ending to yet another day.