Thursday, June 25, 2009

Burger and Fries, But Light

Eating these sweet potato fries makes me feel self-righteous as in, "Ha! Take that, you naturally thin people! I can eat fries, too!" These "fries" are baked, of course, but they taste so good that I don't really care how they were made.

One large sweet potato is more than enough for two people. Give it a good scrub and chop it into fairly thin slices. Toss the potato slices in 1 tbsp of olive oil, 1/2 tsp of garlic powder (or garlic salt if you prefer), and 1/4 tsp of salt. The recipe from our Cook Yourself Thin ladies recommends 1/2 tsp of chili powder, but I double that to get them nicely coated.

Spread the fries on a baking sheet and bake them for about 30 minutes in a 425 degree oven. Every ten minutes, take them out of the oven and toss them so they bake evenly. To add a little crisp, I put them under the broiler for about 3-5 minutes at the very end.

Voila! And, did I mention that these yum sticks are only 89 calories per serving? How fantastic is that? One sweet potato yields about two servings, by the way. Adjust the seasoning ratio if you add more potatoes.

I usually have the turkey burger patties ready to go and start them about the same time that I put the sweet potato fries in the oven. I cook the turkey burgers in a pan on the stovetop at a medium-low heat for a longer time so that they cook all the way through. Unlike a beef burger, pink in the middle is not desirable for poultry. In fact, I took a long break from this recipe because I made it once when the DH and I were dating and he bit into a raw-in-the-middle turkey burger and banned it from the repertoire for about a year. True story.

This recipe for Basil Turkey Burgers is from a Light and Luscious cookbook that I bought ten years ago for $3.95 from the clearance rack at the bookstore. It is light and luscious, indeed, at about 255 calories per burger (bun included!).

Combine 12 oz of ground turkey, 2 tbsp finely chopped onion, 1 tbsp dry bread crumbs, 1 tsbp snipped fresh basil or 1 tsp dried basil, 1/8 tsp salt, and 1/8 tsp pepper. Can you guess what I'm going to say here? I usually add more basil and some fresh cracked pepper to make it more flavorful. Then, form four burgers from the meat. To be quite honest, I usually use more than 12 oz of ground turkey because my preferred brand (Jennie-O) just doesn't come in a 12 oz package. It all works out pretty well, even with a little more turkey per burger.

Can you guess who gets the burger with the slice of cheese (and another 90 calories)? That's right, it's me! The DH gets the extra charred one. It isn't that I am a negligent cook, my husband likes things burned. He's a freak, but I love him, and I hope you love this delicious burger and fry combo. Remember that the real secret to enjoying a turkey burger is that knowing it will NOT taste like a regular hamburger. It is its own entity and must be appreciated as such.

Next up: Asparagus and Mushroom Frittata

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Skinny Stuffed Shells or Spiced Stuff Challenge?

If you ever watched Rocky and Bullwinkle, then you understand the voice in which you were intended to read today's blog title. If not, then your cartoon education is in need of some serious intervention.
I decided to wait and make the Stuffed Shells on a day when I knew we would be visiting some friends who had a baby recently so that I could take them some dinner. That turned out to be a very good decision indeed because this recipe makes A LOT.
This is the first time I have made this recipe and I followed the Cook Yourself Thin ladies pretty closely. Fair warning - this took me about two hours total to prepare and cook. That is way over my usual allotted time to make a meal, but what else is one to do on summer vacation?

First, cook a 12 oz box of large pasta shells. Reduce the cooking time by at least five minutes because you are going to bake them later and you don't want them to be like bricks. Lay them out on wax paper to cool while you make the sauce and stuffing.

For the sauce, pulse 42 ounces of peeled plum tomatoes in juice in a food processor. Saute 3/4 c. chopped red onion and 4 thinly sliced cloves of garlic in a pan, then add the tomatoes and juice, 2 sprigs of fresh basil, and a little salt and pepper. Bring it to a boil and let it simmer for about 20 minutes until it thickens. By the way, guess who added another clove or two of garlic? Love the stuff!
For the stuffing, you'll need to chop 2 medium zucchini, 2 scallions, and 1 slice of ham. Here's a view of the chopping block:

For the stuffing, you are going to saute 1 lb of fresh baby spinach with a 1/2 tsp. of salt until the spinach is wilted. I transferred the spinach to a colander to squeeze out as much excess water as possible. Don't skip that step or you'll have soupy stuffing. In the same skillet, saute the zucchini until it is pretty and brownish, then toss the scallions in for a minute or so. Add all that to the spinach in a medium bowl along with the ham, 2 c. of part-skim ricotta, 2tbsp. chopped parsley, 1/2 c. of shredded reduced-fat, part-skim mozzarella, and pepper. Now here's a little magic: grate some fresh nutmeg in the mixture. Fresh nutmeg is $16.99 a pound, but you only need one nut, so it will cost you about 12 cents.

I wish I would have modified the recipe at this point. In the end result, the ricotta in the stuffing took over the flavor. If I make this one again, I will add some fresh black pepper, oregano, italian seasong.... something!
Spread a thin layer of sauce on the bottom of a 9x13 baking dish. Stuff each shell and line the dish like so:

Spread the remainder of the sauce on top and sprinkle with 1/2 c. of mozzarella and 1/4 c. of parmesan. Cover with aluminum foil and bake in a 350 degree oven for 25-30 minutes.
Four shells is one serving and about 331 calories. What's the verdict? These shells with fill your time and your belly, but they need a little flavor-oomph to make it worth the effort. I shared with our friends and they did enjoy this recipe quite a bit, so don't let my so-so review scare you away.

Next time: Basil Turkey Burgers and Sweet Potato Fries

Thursday, June 18, 2009

A Little Spice is Nice

A purist would say that I am cheating. I would say that I am bending the rules of my own game because this is one of my favorite recipes and I had a hankering for some peppers, hence the Baked Chicken Chile Relleno featured for dinner last night.

This is one of my favorite low-cal, make-ahead recipes. At only 260 calories and 10 grams of fat, Betty Crocker got this one right. First, pound your chicken breasts between two pieces of wax paper until they are about 1/2 inch think. Then, you put a green chile, a small cubed stick of Monterey Jack cheese, cilantro at the top of the chicken breast, and sprinkle black pepper and cayenne on the inside. You can control the heat by using more or less green chile and more or less of the pepper. For the DH who isn't happy unless the food makes him sweat, a liberal coating of cayenne inside and out is a must. Roll up the chicken breast and tuck in the sides to make a chicken roll-up.

I usually multi-task and make this the night before while I'm waiting on something else to cook. I wrap the roll-ups in some foil, twist the ends, and refrigerate until the next night. This eliminates the need for toothpicks to hold your chicken together and reduces your prep time to almost nothing for the next night. The trick also works with about 4 hours of refrigerator time.

When you are ready to cook, dip each chicken roll-up in a mixture of one egg and a tablespoon of water and then dredge in 3 tbsp of cornmeal mixed with 1/3 cup of flour and more cayenne. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes.

We like to put some heated Herdez brand Salsa Verde over our chicken after it comes out of the oven. Again, this will make it a little spicier, but it also keeps the coated chicken from being too dry.

Sauce that chicken, cut in and enjoy the oozy cheese and pepper! It really is yummier than the over-exposed photo I have posted here. Next up, the cheese celebration continues with Skinny Stuffed Shells.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

15 Minute Fave - The Skinny BLT

My first foray into this summer's project was a light version of a BLT. I know you are wondering how anything with bacon could be considered light, so I am happy to enlighten you. (Along with my weakness for cheese is a weakness for puns - oh wait! there's another one)

Here's an evil fact: Slice for slice, turkey bacon is not substantially different from regular bacon in terms of calories or fat. I still used turkey bacon for the sandwiches because a) I baked it and that is automatically healthier than frying, and b) it doesn't cook down the way regular bacon does, so you can feel satisfied by eating fewer pieces.

Line your cookie sheet with parchment paper and pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees. Brush each slice of turkey bacon with maple syrup (lightly!) and then sprinkle them with black pepper and cayenne. This really turned up the flavor, but since I was a little overzealous with the cayenne it also turned up the heat. Bake the bacon for about 10 minutes.

This recipe is from Cook Yourself Thin, and they recommend a baguette for the bread. I have recently discovered Ezekiel bread and used that instead because I like the richness and it makes me feel fuller longer. Of course, I added the requisite tomato and lettuce, some low-fat mayo, and a slice of mild cheddar (90 calories and optional for freaks who don't love cheese). Since I am piggy and had three slice of bacon, the total sandwich was 370 calories. I would have been happy with two slices and would have saved 35 calories, but bacon is bacon, people!

All in all, a yummy start to the summer adventure. Next up: Chicken Chile Rellenos.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

2 books - 1 mission

I have read two books this spring that have made me want to get busy in the kitchen (bam-chicka-bow-bow) and explore my inner chef. Since I would also like to find my inner hottie, I'm going to spend this summer cooking light and healthy fare and expanding my usual work-week repertoire.

I'm in the education biz, so that means I have five weeks of vacation ahead. Plenty of time to master the art of skinny cooking, right? Let the adventure begin!