Friday, August 22, 2008

Kick-Ass Cole Slaw

What's the deal with cole slaw? (said in my best Seinfeld impersonation)

Why isn't it called cabbage salad?

(insert a shove from Elaine.. GET OUT!)

OK.. so it's just another recipe... I get that.

However, I'm from the school of "any veggie is a good veggie," so I push veggie recipes.

From a nutritional standpoint (and you KNEW I'd have one,) Cabbage is a rich source of vitamin C, of fiber, of iron, calcium, potassium. The odor that it emits comes from the sulphur content of cabbage which helps the body to resist bacteria and protects the protoplasm of the cells. The odor that it emits from my husband comes from his ability to process ANYTHING into foul-smelling gas.

And... let's not forget the superstitious luck of the cabbage, and remember to indulge in its goodness on New Year's Day. It's all good. Seriously, I dare anyone to say a bad word about cabbage.

However, cabbage/cole slaw can take on the undesirable properties of extra fat and calories if care is not taken regarding the dressing. So... in lieu of mayonnaise, I've opted for a vinaigrette, with just a splash of fat free half and half. It's tart, it's tangy.. and it's got some kick!

Cole Slaw

1/2 head of cabbage, shredded (or a bag of the pre-shredded stuff)
1 tsp salt
1 carrot, shredded
1/2 small onion, minced
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
2 Tbsp vinegar
2 Tbsp splenda
2 Tbsp fat free half and half
2 tsp horseradish (optional)

Place cabbage into a bowl. Sprinkle salt over cabbage and toss. Let sit for 5 minutes. Add rest of veggies and toss again. Whisk together dressing ingredients and combine with veggies. Toss and serve.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Yellow Squash Muffins... and yes, another diet lecture

In my fifty years I've been on at least as many diets. From my very earliest memories, I was always on the heavy side, or as my mother would placatingly term, pleasantly plump. I ate similarly to everyone else in the family, but I just never shed the baby fat that would prove to haunt me all of my life. For anyone who's ever struggled with their weight, it's just that...a struggle. The ups and downs, the plateaus, the hunger pangs and depression associated with dieting prove to be the very symptoms that have made the weight loss industry the billion dollar business it is today.

For the most part, I've been fairly successful with whichever weight loss program I've tried. I'm stubborn (read will power) that way. I've lost the same 30-40 pounds at least five times. And what does that tell you? It clearly tells you that WILL power alone WILL NOT be enough to maintain weight loss. Until I found a way of eating that didn't demand will power from me, I most likely would have continued to yo-yo my way through life.

Enter the South Beach Diet. Before you decide that I've fallen prey to yet ANOTHER diet scheme, please know that I've been successful at maintaining my weight loss with this program for five whole years! That, in and of itself, tells me that I've finally found something that trumps my stubborn and eliminates me from the Duncan yo-yo competition (although I could still kick your collective asses "walking the dog" any day.)

When I first started this blog entry, I debated on whether or not to even mention the South Beach Diet, because when push comes to shove, its entire premise is merely healthy eating. There are no gimmicks here, just sound nutritional advise that turned on my yo-yo light bulb and helped light my way to permanent weight loss success. However, it wouldn't be fair to the South Beach program if I'd claimed to have found this information on my own.

A quick Google search will result in all the information one would need to understand the basic concepts of the South Beach program, so I won't go into detail here. However, it's important to know that our bodies metabolize and utilize all foods differently, and our bodies in return, respond to those foods differently. I've learned that by providing my body with the proper nutrients, I have not only managed to lose weight, I've managed to do it without all the associated diet-angst symptoms (see opening paragraph.)

In that light, you'll find that most (hey, I'm not perfect) of my recipes fall somewhere close to the South Beach guidelines. I'm a firm advocate of whole grains and heart-healthy fats, and very opposed to processed foods that contain added sugar and trans fats.

OK... so... you'd KNEW there'd be a recipe here somewhere, didn't you?

Yellow Squash Muffins

These are as moist and delicious as ..well... these could be food porn. Nuff said. Take note that while I used yellow summer squash in this recipe, you'd could just as easily use zucchini. And instead of the fat free yogurt, you could use fat free sour cream. See how easy this is?

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup Splenda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup Egg Beaters egg substitute
1/2 cup no-sugar-added applesauce
1/2 cup fat free plain yogurt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups yellow summer squash, peeled ,shredded
3 oz mini chocolate chips (see? I'm not perfect! I still demand CHOCOLATE)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Spray muffin pan with non-stick cooking spray.

Stir together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves in a large bowl. Make a well in the center of this mixture. In another bowl, beat egg whites until foamy (not too much- just foamy) To the egg whites, add applesauce, yogurt, and vanilla and stir, just to combine (do not over-stir) Blend in squash and chocolate chips to combine. Spoon into muffin cups and bake at 375 for 23 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool for five minutes before removing from pan.

These are excellent to freeze and individually thaw in one-muffin portions.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Wingless Buffalo Chicken Pizza

Pizza is one of those foods that is difficult for me to control. It's right up there with chocolate, crackers, and peanuts when it comes to my being unable to stop at a healthy portion. However, when I do make it, I really do try to make it as nutritious as possible and consider it a real diet splurge. This recipe was adapted from a Rachael Ray 30 Minute Meals episode. She makes her own crust, but I always take the lazy route and use a pre-made Boboli whole wheat pizza crust. I used some left over "beer butt chicken" we had over the weekend instead of using the whole boneless, skinless breasts she suggests, so I even beat her 30 minute clock this time by throwing this meal together in like 20 minutes.

Wingless Buffalo Chicken Pizza

3/4 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, seasoned and fried in a little oil, then cut/shredded into pieces
1 whole wheat pizza crust
1 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp Worchestershire sauce
1/2 cup tomato sauce
2-3 Tbsp hot sauce (or more... how hot do you like it?)
1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1/2 cup blue cheese crumbles
3 scallions, thinly sliced

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Combine butter, worchestershire sauce, tomato sauce, and hot sauce in a small pan and heat to combine. Stir in chicken pieces to coat in sauce. Spread sauce onto pizza crust. Top with cheeses and scallions. Bake for 16 minutes.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Sausage Cabbage Soup

I spent last weekend up north in Indiana's Amish country. The purpose of my trip was two-fold; I was visiting my best friend, and I was on a mission to purchase homegrown fruits and vegetables to fill my freezer for the winter. I found a true treasure there, scoring very reasonably priced bell peppers, banana peppers, tomatoes, eggplant, green beans, zucchini, yellow squash and tomatoes. I also came home with a very nice head of cabbage, complements of my friend's own garden. Since I'd just made a spicier, tomato based cabbage soup a few weeks back, I was hoping to change it up a bit with this creamier, milk based recipe. This is actually very similar to my milk noodle soup recipe, with cabbage now playing the role of the noodles.

Sausage Cabbage Soup

12 oz chicken or turkey sausage links, diced
2 Tbsp. olive oil
3 leeks, diced
1/2 bell pepper, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
3 Tbsp flour
6 cups chicken stock
1/2 medium head of cabbage, shredded
3 medium red potatoes, small cubed
1 tsp caraway seed
1 Tbsp dijon mustard
2 tsp. worchestershire sauce
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup fat free half and half
1/2 cup skim milk
2 Tbsp Italian parsley, chopped

In large pot heat olive oil and brown sausage pieces. Drain and remove from oil and place on paper towel. Add leeks, peppers, celery, garlic and red pepper flakes to oil, salt and pepper to season, then saute for a few minutes to soften the vegetables. Stir in flour and cook for a minute or two, then add broth. Bring to a boil then add cabbage, potatoes, caraway seed, mustard and worchestershire sauce. Reduce heat and simmer for about 30 minutes, or until potatoes and cabbage are tender. Remove from heat, season with salt, pepper and parsley. Stir in half and half, milk and parsley.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Mushroom Barley Soup

Perhaps you've noticed that I'm a barley freak. From a weight loss standpoint, it's my favorite grain. With 4 grams of protein and a whopping 7 grams of fiber per serving, it's the kind of food that sticks to your ribs, without also sticking to your derriere or your waistline. It's a great replacement for potatoes, rice, or noodles in soups and stews.... and it's cheap!

This recipe was largely based on a recipe from Bon Appetit Magazine, with just a few minor changes.

Mushroom Barley Soup

2 quarts chicken stock
1 cup pearl barley, rinsed
1/4 oz dried shitake mushrooms, soaked in 1 cup heated white wine, then drained and trimmed of stems and diced
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
12 oz button mushrooms, sliced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 carrot, diced
1 parsnip, diced
salt and pepper to taste

Combine stock and barley in large pot. Bring to boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until barley is tender, stirring occasionally, about 45 minutes. Meanwhile, soak dried mushrooms in wine.

Heat oil in heavy large skillet over high heat. Add onions and celery, and season with salt and pepper; sauté 5 minutes. Add fresh mushrooms; sauté until brown, about 5 minutes. Mix in garlic and saute for another minute or two. Add sautéed mushroom mixture, soaked/dried mushrooms, carrot and parsnip to soup. Simmer until carrots and parsnip are tender, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Turkey burgers you'll gobble up!

Get it? Turkey burger? Gobble up? Hey, a sense of humor in the kitchen is just as crucial as a Cuisinart; just don't be getting too slaphappy with the steak knives.

So, when was the last time you had a turkey burger that was really tasty? I think the majority of us consider it a punishment to have to eat ground turkey instead of ground beef, and I also think we try to compare the two unfairly. Comparing turkey burgers to beef burgers is like comparing zucchini fries to french fries.. or apples to oranges, in other words. Each can be delicious in their own right, but are not meant to be compared to, or become an exact substitution for the other. Once you accept that you've chosen to eat a turkey burger, you can then start to make comparisons between turkey burger recipes and find the one that has you going back for seconds. And I think I've finally found that recipe!

If you're electing to eat turkey because of its reduced fat and cholesterol, remember that all ground turkey is not created equally. If you're a label reader, you'll find that many varieties of ground turkey have nearly as much fat as ground beef. I used 97% lean ground turkey breast for this recipe. However, it is because of this leanness that healthy turkey burgers get a bad rap from most peoples' taste buds. With so little fat, they tend to be very dry. Therefore, it becomes important to add in something to produce moisture and flavor. This is accomplished by incorporating vegetables into the mix.

On the day that I made these burgers I was also oven-roasting some vegetables, so I threw an extra four cloves of garlic, 2 whole sweet jaleno peppers, a banana pepper, and a half an onion into the roasting pan. When they were nicely charred and soft, I then tossed these into the food processor, seeds and all, and pulsed them into a paste to add to my turkey mixture. I think it might just have been this extra step that put these turkey burgers over the top!

Turkey Burgers

1 lb ground turkey breast
oven roasted garlic, peppers, and onion, pulsed in food processor (see above)
2 slices whole wheat bread, crusts removed, and processed into crumbs in food processor (I used about 3/4 of these crumbs)
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 Tbsp worchestershire sauce
1 tsp soy sauce
a dash of liquid smoke
1/4 cup diced red bell pepper
1/4 cup diced onion
1-2 tsps Montreal steak seasoning
3/4 cup grated manchego cheese (Monterey jack would work well here too)

Place all of the above into a bowl and mix to combine. Shape into four patties, season with salt and pepper, and either grill or pan fry in a little olive oil.