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"A gourmet who thinks of calories is like a tart who looks at her watch." - James Beard


Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Pork with Sweet Potatoes and Caramelized Onions

Continuing our time of healthy eating, this recipe was inspired by Clean Eating magazine, but the recipe is not online.  This is one of the least successful healthy meals I've made recently. It was ok, but I wouldn't make it again. I do love the colours though!

I used a pork sirloin chop, large red onion, chili pepper, orange, apple, sweet potatoes and broccoli.  Also, soy sauce, which didn't show up for the picture.

Thinly slice the onion.

And saute it in oil for about 30 minutes until caramelized.

Meanwhile, peel and chop the sweet potatoes and boil them until tender.

While all that is cooking, chop the chilis...

... and zest the orange.  This microplane is a lifesaver for zesting.

Here the onions have cooked down for a while and are getting nice and brown.

Slide the onions to one side of the pan and raise the heat, then add the pork.

Once the pork is browned, add the broccoli, apples and sweet potatoes, the orange zest and juice and lots of soy sauce.  

I served this over basmati rice.  It was ok but something was missing. The sweet potatoes were a little dry and the dish lacked contrast. I can't put my finger on what the problem was, and we certainly ate it all, but we didn't love it.

Oh well, they can't all be winners.  

Monday, January 30, 2012

Chicken with Squash & Kale

Aside from a few slip-ups we're still eating healthy and enjoying it. Unfortunately it hasn't given me energy to post more often, but many of our meals have been really enjoyable.

Kale is one of the healthiest things you can put in your body. It is rich in vitamins, fibre and even protein.  I based this meal on this recipe from Real Simple but made a few changes - not all of them on purpose.

Here's the lineup:

I sprinkled the chicken with cinnamon, coriander and ground ginger but wanted a little more flavour so I added garlic, paprika, cayenne and some olive oil and let it marinate over night. 

Normally we grill drumsticks but I used a rack to bake them in the oven and was pleased with how crispy and nice they turned out.

Kind of a gross subject (raw chicken) but I like this photo.

I also love the colour of this squash.  I sliced acorn squash and roasted it in a 400 degree oven with the chicken for about 20 minutes. 

Now, this recipe called for prunes and I intended to buy prunes but I guess I was so concerned with not buying figs that I grabbed dates instead. I liked them and they tasted good in the dish, but they were very dry. I'll try it with prunes next time.

I chopped the dates in half and saute them with garlic and the kale.  

Once the squash is nice and brown pull it out of the oven and mix it in with the kale and dates.

Pull the nice, crispy chicken out of the oven when it is cooked through.

The chicken was flavourful and juicy and the sweet dates and squash tasted delicious with the healthy kale.

This dish is very healthy and delicious and a great indoor winter meal.  

Cooking lessons learned:
  • Dates and prunes are not the same thing but can sort of be substituted with interesting results
  • Kale tastes great with something sweet to balance it out
Photography lessons learned:
  • Chicken drumsticks are surprisingly photogenic
  • Not as surprising, but the colour contrast of acorn squash is pretty too
  • Dates, however, look like huge bugs when chopped in half 

Monday, January 23, 2012

Chicken Lettuce Wraps - Healthy & Delicious!

If any Americans read this blog, you'd probably be surprised to discover that my husband and I had never been to PF Chang's until this year. I realize for many Americans this chain is not that interesting, but we went for happy hour on a recent vacation and fell in love with the appetizers and cocktails - especially at half price! (Happy Hour is another thing we don't have in Canada.)  We made a meal of various dumplings and their famous chicken lettuce wraps, which I had heard about but never tasted. 

So for our cleanse, I decided to to try to recreate the lettuce wraps at home since they are practically gluten-free. The hoisin sauce contains sweeteners, but I decided to try to ignore that fact.  The filling could be seasoned with other condiments if these ones don't fit a strict diet.

You'll need ground chicken, ginger, garlic, hot pepper, green onions, carrots, broccoli, snow peas (or other green veggies as desired), water chestnuts...

And for the sauce, sesame oil, soy sauce, rice vinegar, hoisin sauce, hot sauce and black pepper.

Plus, to serve, carrots, bean thread noodles and lettuce.

Mince the ginger and garlic and finely dice the hot pepper and white parts of the green onions.  

Add them to a large pan with the ground chicken and saute until the chicken is mostly cooked.  

Ground chicken can look quite unappetizing, but we're going to add some stuff to make it look and taste delicious.

Finely dice the carrots, broccoli, snow peas and green parts of the green onions.  Getting these chopped up nice an small is key to making the filling crunchy and delicious.

The other key is water chestnuts.  No matter how out of focus, these little guys will give an amazing crisp crunch to the filling. 

Add the diced veggies to the chicken and toss together for a short time to slightly cook the vegetables but leave them very crisp. 

Now for the sauce.  You could combine all these into a sauce and pour over the meat if you like extra dishes to clean. I just started adding them to the pan. Lots of hoisin and soy sauce and a little sesame oil, rice vinegar and hot sauce. Then you can adjust the taste as required.

While the meat and veggies are cooking, pour boiling water over the bean thread noodles to soften them up.

Drain the noodles and use a peeler to make some raw carrot strips to top the wraps. It is recommended to use Boston bibb lettuce leaves to wrap these up because the're nice and sturdy. I couldn't find bibb and had to substitute leaf lettuce. It didn't hold the filling as well, but still tasted delicious. 

Lay some noodles on the lettuce leaf as well as some carrots, then add the filling. Wrap it up and enjoy!

I chopped up the leftover noodles and added them to the leftover filling for lunch the next day, although the lettuce leaves caused a bit of a mess, it was still delicious.  This will be a regular meal at our place even when we're not "cleansing".

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Short & Sweet Sunday - The Cleanse!

For the new year we decided to take some time to eat healthier.  We decided on a two-week cleanse.  

Here's what we can't eat:
  • Sugar
  • Alcohol
  • Caffeine
  • Gluten
  • Potatoes
  • Dairy
  • Processed foods
I'm actually surprised how easy it has been so far.  We've had some very nice meals that I plan to show you this week, and both of us are feeling great.

However, we are both starting to crave bread and junk food and plan to have a little pizza binge once this is over.  

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Lentil Beet Salad

There are lots of healthy foods that I love. Broccoli, oatmeal, fruit, spinach... but there are a few very healthy things I just don't like so I try to sneak them into my diet with snazzy recipes now and then.  

This one is from Clean Eating magazine which doesn't seem to have the recipe online.  It includes beets, which I love, and lentils which I barely tolerate. I decided to serve it with fish for a real challenge, although not the salmon mentioned in the recipe - I can bear to eat some preparations of white fish but I can't stand salmon. So I pan seared some cod fillets which were not bad. 

For the salad you need only a few ingredients: field greens, beets and lentils. For the dressing, raspberries, mustard, olive oil, red wine vinegar and salt & pepper.

I roasted some beets the other day and saved some for this salad, cutting over an hour from the prep for this recipe - as you can see from this non-terrific photo:

This is actually a huge bag of bean and lentil mix I got at Costco that is not bad at all.

While the lentils cooked, I combined the dressing ingredients in the blender and then strained the raspberry seeds to make this hot pink concoction.  

Field greens on the plate, topped with the cooked lentils and chopped beets, then drizzled with pink raspberry dressing.

This turned out delicious. I was worried about it being too tart or sour with all that vinegar and raspberries and no sugar, but it was just lovely. And very healthy!

Food lessons learned:

  • While peeling beets, don't let one slip out of your hands and skid across the counter unless you really like to clean
  • Lentils are delicious with raspberry vinaigrette.  Who knew?
Photography lessons learned:
  • I don't know if anyone can make cooked beets in foil look good on camera, but now we all know I can't
  • I'm having trouble with timing. I generally do things a la minute when cooking, but when I have to take pictures too I need to be more prepared ahead of time. Tonight the fish almost burned so I need to be more careful

Monday, January 16, 2012

French Onion Pastina - Cheap & Delicious

There's nothing better than when a few inexpensive pantry ingredients turn into one of the easiest and most delicious meals around.  

I am unfortunately biased against pantry meals.  I keep  a well-stocked pantry with canned tomatoes, pasta, vinegars, and beans on hand at all times, but I generally only really enjoy and feel good about a meal that has some fresh green vegetables in it or on the side.  

I should just get over it though.  Life is so much simpler when you can whip up a delicious, hearty and warm pasta meal without going out in the cold for fresh supplies.

This recipe comes from Serious Eats and I've made it so many times I almost have it memorized.  The only hardship is carmelizing the onions, which always takes longer than I expect.  Chopping the onions by hand is also no fun, but ever since I wised up and started slicing them in the food processor, it is easy as pie!

You'll need about a pound of onions (I used extra to account for the peels), olive oil, beef broth, thyme (fresh or dried), parmesan, salt and pepper.  That's it!

Oh, except for this. Pastina or acini di pepe or peperini or any tiny little pasta ball. I got this brand at an Italian specialty store, but you'll generally be able to find it at the regular grocery store.

First the onions...

Peel the onions and slice them in half to feed into the food processor.  If slicing by hand, try to make the slices as evenly sized as possible. The food processor will help with this and with the inevitable tears.

Feed the onions through the slicing blade of the food processor until you end up with what seems like an insane amount of sliced onions.

Heat olive oil in a large pan. I like to use a high-sided pan so everything fits nicely.  

Add all the onions to the pan and prepare for the slowest magic trick in history.

All these onions will cook down to a tiny amount of beautiful carmelized onions.  

This is about half way to done. You can see some brown edges, but the onions still have moisture to give up.

Once the onions have cooked down for 30 to 40 minutes, remove about 1/4 of them from the pan and sprinkle a bit of flour over the rest.  

Next, add the stock and thyme and bring to a boil. Then add the pasta.

Let this simmer together for about 8 or 9 minutes until the pasta is tender and has absorbed much of the liquid.  

When it is cooked, mix in grated parmesan.  Season to taste with salt and pepper. 

Top with additional parmesan and the reserved onions.  

I like to serve this with leftover roast beef and/or a side salad.  It is a delicious and easy treat that is great for a cold winter night.