sausage and egg fried rice

One of my favorite things to order at our neighborhood Chinese restaurant is chicken fried rice.  Even better, wrap it up in a soft tortilla and call it a Chinese burrito.  Either way, it’s comfort food through and through.  But we all know the fried rice at your favorite carry-out is, while incredibly delicious, not exactly scoring high marks for health food.  Also, we don’t eat out that much – have you seen the portion sizes?  And, frankly, we get a healthier meal at home.  Which is why I’ve always been curious about making my own fried rice.

Last night was the perfect night.  My people had gone off to have dinner with relatives.  Earlier in the day, in anticipation of dinner-for-one, I cooked up some rice (halving the recipe below) and set it aside to cool.  Fried rice is a great way to use up leftover rice from a previous dinner, but since I’m apparently so good at portion control, I rarely have leftover rice on hand.  Note to selves:  If you’re ever just hanging out with an hour to spare, make some rice and tuck it away in the fridge for dinner later that week.

The original recipe called for diced ham, but I used an organic turkey sausage, instead, since it’s what I had on hand.  I think it’s a perfectly good substitute, lower in sodium and fat, while still adding a nice boost of protein.  Since it’s a recipe that loans itself to personal adaptation, pick your protein for what suits your lifestyle.

I wasn’t sure what to expect since I believed it would be nearly impossible to recreate the goodness of Chinese carry-out in my own kitchen.  But this recipe came pretty darn close.  I thought it was delicious…and much, much healthier.  The green beans added crunch and a pretty burst of color.  Onion and garlic gave it nice, heady flavor in combination with the soy sauce and sesame oil.  Prep first and it all goes together really fast, as a stir-fry should.  Can’t wait to try the leftovers after the flavors have a chance to mingle, a bit.  Definitely a keeper on the first run, though.  Enjoy!

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Sausage and Egg Fried Rice (recipe adapted from Cooking Light, September 2008)

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups cold cooked long-grain rice
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped onion
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 cup thinly horizontally sliced green beans
  • 3/4 cup diced turkey kielbasa (about 4 ounces)
  • 1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons dark sesame oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 cup (1-inch) slices green onions

Preparation:

  1. 1. Break up rice with hands to remove large clumps, if necessary.
  2. 2. Heat a 14-inch wok over high heat. Add canola oil to wok, swirling to coat. Add 1 1/2 cups onion and garlic to wok; stir-fry 1 minute or until onion begins to brown. Add beans and ham; stir-fry 2 minutes or until ham begins to brown.
  3. 3. Reduce heat to medium-high. Add cold rice to wok; stir-fry 2 minutes. Stir in soy sauce, sesame oil, and black pepper. Push rice mixture up sides of wok. Pour eggs in open space in center of wok; cook 30 seconds or until set, stirring to scramble. Gently stir scrambled eggs into rice mixture. Sprinkle with green onions.

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healthy pumpkin oatmeal chocolate chip muffins

I’m shaking my head at myself for even considering posting a recipe with pumpkin in it as the calendar pages sweep quickly into spring, but I had some canned pumpkin left in my pantry.  It was either bake with it now, or bake with it in November after its been sitting in my pantry for a year.  I chose now based on my admitted neuroses about expiration dates.  Also, it’s hardly spring in other places.  Winter weather is persistent and it’s possible there are readers out there who will still face a spring blizzard, or two.  In that case, you’ll be happy to have pumpkin muffins in March, I believe.
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Usually when I hear the word “muffin,” though, I run for the hills.  Muffins are not good for you.  Muffins are just a polite way to avoid admitting you had cake for breakfast.  Muffins go straight to your hips and, frankly, I work out too hard to un-do it by eating muffins.
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But these are not your ordinary muffins.  These are healthy muffins:  no butter or oil, minimal sugar, no egg yolks, no dairy.  All the decadence and guilt of eating a muffin is replaced with applesauce and unsweetened almond milk.  To be perfectly honest, even I was skeptical.  But there is some brown sugar, and the applesauce and almond milk keep them plenty moist.  I thought they had nice depth of flavor and were a satisfying snack after my morning gym workout.  There are even some mini chocolate chips for those of you who don’t mind eating cake for breakfast.
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If you’re working on modifying your diet, reducing processed sugar, adding more fiber, or lowering your cholesterol, this is a super recipe.  Tuck it away for next fall.  If you like cake for breakfast, you’ll probably react the way my husband did when I ticked off the list of ingredients:  “So you’re saying they’re dry and grainy?”  Not dry, but definitely grain-friendly.  And heart-friendly, too!  I think they should at least get bonus points for that.  Enjoy!
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Low-Fat Pumpkin Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Muffins (recipe courtesy Monique of Ambitious Kitchen)
Ingredients:
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup oatmeal
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup dark brown sugar
  • 2 egg whites, slightly beaten
  • 2/3 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened all-natural applesauce
  • 1/2 ripe banana, mashed
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips, plus 2 tablespoons
  • Extra oatmeal, for sprinkling on muffins
Directions:
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line 12 muffin cups with paper cups or spray with nonstick spray. If you use muffin cups, make sure to spray the inside of the cups.
  2. In a large bowl mix flour, oatmeal, pumpkin pie spice baking powder, baking soda, and salt together. In a separate bowl combine pumpkin, mashed banana, brown sugar, almond milk, egg whites and applesauce. Add the flour mixture into the pumpkin mixture and stir to combine. Gently fold in chocolate chips.
  3. Fill each muffin cup 3/4 full so that each is even. Sprinkle a tiny bit of oatmeal over each top of the muffins. Place into the oven and bake for 23-28 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into center of muffins comes out clean. Muffins are best served warm.

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Baker’s Notes:  Refrigerate whatever muffins aren’t eaten immediately.  You can always give them a quick re-heat in the microwave if you prefer to eat them warm.

couscous with carrots and golden raisins

Couscous is a blank canvas.  You can paint it with whatever flavor palate you choose:  savory, hot and spicy, warm and mellow, sweet, salty, or pretty much anything you can imagine.  This is one of the many ways I prepare couscous, and probably one of my favorites.  I love the combination of flavors: warm spices combine beautifully with the sweetness of the carrots and golden raisins.  It’s a super easy way to dress up couscous for entertaining or a holiday meal.  It’s also good cold the next day.  Enjoy!

Couscous with Carrots and Golden Raisins

Ingredients:

  • 3 medium carrots, peeled and thinly sliced about 1/4-inch thick (1 1/4 cups)
  • 1 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 2/3 cup golden raisins
  • 1 1/2 cups couscous

Directions:

Put the carrots olive oil, butter, salt, cinnamon, ginger, in a saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 8 minutes. Add the water and raisins to the carrots and bring to a boil. Stir in the couscous, pull the saucepan off the heat, cover, and set aside until the liquid is absorbed and the couscous is plump and tender (about 10 minutes).

Fluff couscous with a fork and serve.

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Cook’s Notes:  This makes a ton of couscous, so feed a crowd or count on leftovers if you don’t reduce the recipe.

mediterranean-style stuffed pork tenderloin

Let me start by saying I’m particularly challenged when it comes to stuffing food with other food: tortillas, burritos, lettuce wraps and, apparently, pork tenderloin.  While I’m incredibly diligent about portion sizes when I’m eating, I seem to lose all sense of proportion during preparation.  So, while it was clear to  me I had more than enough stuffing to fill my tenderloin adequately, I used all of it.  Every last morsel.  I hate to waste, you know, and if I didn’t use it I’d probably have just sloughed it  into the trash.  Senseless, I think.  Because when push comes to shove, I’ll just make it fit (as you’ll see in the photos below).  Hey, this isn’t a professional photo shoot, here.  I make it, I shoot it, we eat it.  I don’t have time to “style” my food.

Ignoring the obvious over-stuffing, this recipe is fantastic. super healthy, and brimming with an incredible array of flavors.  Since pork is a super lean meat, the dish comes by that flavor via lots of other good-for-you ingredients.  The red pepper, capers, pine nuts, and feta cheese play off each other perfectly and give the meal a truly Mediterranean flair.  It’s heart-healthy, low-fat, and high in protein.  I served it with a mixed grain rice and a small salad since the stuffing is full of veggies, anyway.  We love it.  Hope you try it and enjoy!

Mediterranean-style Stuffed Pork Tenderloin

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb pork tenderloin, butterflied and pounded flat
  • 1 red pepper, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 6 oz spinach
  • 1/4 c pine nuts, toasted
  • 1 to 2 Tbsp capers, depending on preference (you can also use pitted Kalamata olives)
  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 c low-fat Feta cheese, crumbled
  • kitchen twine
Preparation:
Heat olive oil in pan over medium heat. Add finely chopped red pepper and saute for several minutes.  Add garlic and saute until fragrant.  Be careful not to scorch the garlic.  Add spinach, cooking until wilted, then remove from heat.
Butterfly the pork tenderloin (cut vertically down the middle but not entirely through the pork), and use meat hammer to flatten, being careful not to break through the pork. Place hammered pork over three or four long strands of kitchen twine.  Add the spinach and red pepper mixture, spreading across the flattened meat.  Next, add nuts, capers, and Feta cheese.  Gently roll the pork together and secure with the kitchen twine.
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Rub the pork with olive oil and bake at 375° F for about 40-60 minutes (depending on the size of the pork roll).  I usually check with a meat thermometer and pull the meat from the oven when internal temp reaches 140.  Let rest for 5 minutes, slice, and serve.
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teriyaki salmon

I originally found this recipe while scouring some boards on Pinterest and decided it sounded so good I would actually end my boycott of cooking salmon at home.  For the most part, I like salmon…when it’s done perfectly by a 5 star chef or my good friend, Vicki, back home in Michigan.  Aside from that, I’ve always been really skeptical of my own abilities to do it well.  Generally, I consider myself a pretty good cook, but salmon has always intimidated me.  I don’t know if it’s because it’s a strongly flavored fish, or because it’s too expensive to risk screwing up.  Either way, I’ve always shied away from it – despite all proven health benefits of eating more salmon.

The teriyaki is what intrigued me about this recipe.  It seemed like a flavor that would stand up well to the strong salmon flavor I’ve always feared.  And it do so beautifully.  The finished product was as delicious as it was pretty!  You’ll see, though, I used steaks instead of the suggested fillets, which was my mistake.  The steaks were much thicker and required extra care in baking, and they also had a lot more bones.  Next time I’ll definitely use the fillets.  Enjoy!

Teriyaki Salmon
adapted from My Father’s Daughter, by Gwenyth Paltrow (via Milk & Mode)

  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons dry white wine
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon peeled and finely grated ginger
  • 2 sprigs fresh cilantro
  • squeeze of fresh lemon juice
  • 4 6-ounce salmon fillets
  • 1 tablespoon finely minced fresh chives, for serving

Combine the soy sauce, white wine, sugar, honey, water, ginger, lemon juice, and cilantro in a small saucepan over high heat. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat to low and simmer about 2 minutes. Remove the saucepan from the heat and allow the sauce to cool until it’s just warm to the touch. Pour into a plastic freezer bag and add the salmon. Turn the bag a few times to coat the salmon, and marinate in the fridge for at least an hour (can also be marinated overnight)

To cook the salmon, preheat the broiler. Line a baking sheet with foil, spray lightly with cooking spray, and arrange the salmon in a single layer with whatever sauce adheres to it. Broil 6-8 minutes, or until it flakes easily with a fork and is just cooked through. While it’s cooking, strain the extra sauce into a clean saucepan, bring to a boil, and reduce until thick and syrupy.

To serve, drizzle the cooked salmon with some of the extra sauce and a sprinkle of chives.

creamy italian white bean and spinach soup

I started this meal with something else in mind.  Originally, dinner was supposed to be Spinach and Leek White Bean Soup, since I’d purchased a couple of leeks previously to use in a recipe I never ended up putting together.  So I knew I needed to use them soon or they’d be inedible.  Much to my surprise, they already were inedible.  I’ll just call that a lesson learned in not buying local.

Of course, I discovered the leeks in their apparent state of decay only moments before I planned to slice them and saute them with a couple of cloves of garlic.  Brilliant cook and super-fast thinker that I am…I clicked on the next delicious looking link.  Problem solved!  (Don’t you just love the internet?).  Hence, Creamy Italian White Bean and Spinach Soup.  And, none of my ingredients looked like a 6th grade science experiment.

As for the results?  I sometimes rate the success of a recipe by how much I have left at the end of the meal (unless I’ve cooked for an army), and how long the leftovers sit in the refrigerator.  My second barometer is whether my 6-year-old turned her nose up at it sans any attempt to taste it,  if she  tried it and then turned her nose up, of if she ate.  And by “ate,” I mean, she didn’t just nibble with her front teeth, but actually got some on her real, actual taste buds.  Minus the spinach, she ate, and she said she liked it.  Maybe I was just being manipulated into a subsequent bowl of Dreyer’s Limited Edition Girl Scout Thin Mint ice cream, but….I actually believed her.

There were no leftovers, either, if that tells you anything, so I can’t say how this soup would age.  Based on our first and only eating, I found it flavorful and really delicious.  Given a couple of days to mellow in the refrigerator, I’m pretty sure it would have been spectacular.  Enjoy!

Creamy Italian White Bean and Spinach Soup (recipe courtesy Allrecipes.com)

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 (16 ounce) cans white kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 (14 ounce) can chicken broth
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 bunch fresh spinach, rinsed and thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice

Preparation:

  1. In a large saucepan, heat oil. Cook onion and celery in oil for 5 to 8 minutes, or until tender. Add garlic, and cook for 30 seconds, continually stirring. Stir in beans, chicken broth, pepper, thyme and 2 cups water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and then simmer for 15 minutes.
  2. With slotted spoon, remove 2 cups of the bean and vegetable mixture from soup and set aside.
  3. In blender at low-speed, blend remaining soup in small batches until smooth, (it helps to remove the center piece of the blender lid to allow steam to escape.) Once blended pour soup back into stock pot and stir in reserved beans.
  4. Bring to a boil, occasionally stirring. Stir in spinach and cook 1 minute or until spinach is wilted. Stir in lemon juice and remove from heat and serve with fresh grated Parmesan cheese on top.

Servings Per Recipe: 4

Nutrition Info per serving:

  • Calories: 245
  • Total Fat: 4.9g
  • Cholesterol2mg
  • Sodium1014mg
  • Total Carbs38.1g
  • Dietary Fiber11.2g
  • Protein12g

***Kitchen Notes:  The original recipe calls for removing some of the bean and veggie mixture and blending it to create the creamier texture.  I didn’t go that far.  Instead, I used my potato masher and gently mashed the beans and veggies in the pan.  That left some of the beans whole, while also creating a thicker, heartier soup.  No need to go overboard, just 10 or 12 times through the pot.  Also, I used fresh thyme.  If you do, remember to use about 4x as much fresh as you would if you’re using dried herbs.  Also, you could turn this into a vegetarian soup by simply swapping out the chicken stock for veggie stock.

creamy chicken pot pie

There is something truly comforting about chicken potpie.  It’s one of those dishes you have to linger over: slicing, whisking, sauteing.  There is dough to mix for the crust.  There is butter.  And heavy cream.  It’s the kind of dish that says, “I slaved over this all afternoon because I love you!”

But let’s face it.  Some days, despite how much I love my family, I don’t have the time to slave over anything.  It doesn’t mean I love them any less.  It’s just that, well, I have other things to do.

Not to mention, the kind of chicken potpie you slave over generally is not that healthy.  I saw a recipe recently where a serving contained 33 g of fat (18 of them saturated), almost 1,300 mg of sodium, and 146 mg cholesterol.  In one serving!!  Based on my caloric needs, 18 g of saturated fat is an entire days worth of saturated fat.  Seriously now, if I served that to  my family, not only would they think I didn’t love them, they might actually think I was trying to do them in.

This recipe is a much, much better version of chicken pot pie.  Not only is it healthier for you (lots less fat and cholesterol), it’s also really quick to put together.  Like I said earlier, sometimes my schedule doesn’t leave me a lot of time late in the day for chopping veggies doing a lot of time-consuming prep work.  This recipe uses a bag of frozen mixed veggies which is a God-send when you’re pressed for time.  The most time-consuming thing was cutting the chicken breasts into 1/2″ cubes.  I probably could have done it faster, but I’m completely grossed out by raw chicken which always adds a little extra prep time).

The phyllo dough crusts bake up beautifully – lovely color and nice, crunchy texture, so you won’t even miss that heavy biscuit/pie crust topper.  My husband gave these a two thumbs-up: low-fat, heart-healthy, and delicious.  Enjoy!

Creamy Chicken Pot Pie (Courtesy Eating Well Magazine)

Ingredients:

  • 4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast, trimmed, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 cup sliced shallots
  • 1 10- or 12-ounce bag frozen mixed veggies (2-2 1/2 cups), thawed
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth, divided
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup reduced-fat sour cream
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 6 sheets 9-by-14-inch phyllo dough, defrosted (follow package directions)
  • Cooking spray (olive oil or canola oil)

Preparation:

  1. Preheat oven to 425°F.
  2. Heat 2 teaspoons oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken; cook, stirring often, until it turns white, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove to a plate. Add the remaining 2 teaspoons oil and shallots, reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring, until slightly softened, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in vegetables and thyme; cook, stirring occasionally, until hot, 2 to 4 minutes. Pour in 1 3/4 cups broth and bring to a boil. Whisk the remaining 1/4 cup broth and cornstarch in a small bowl and add to the pan. Return to a boil and cook until thickened, about 1 minute. Off the heat, stir in the chicken, sour cream, salt and pepper. Divide the mixture among four 12-ounce ovenproof baking dishes.
  3. Make 2 stacks of 3 sheets of phyllo each, coating each sheet lightly with cooking spray before stacking. Cut the stacks in half crosswise. Drape one half over each baking dish. Tuck in any overhanging edges.
  4. Set the potpies on a baking sheet. Bake until the tops are golden and the filling bubbly, 18 to 20 minutes.

Kitchen Notes:

  • Make Ahead Tip: Prepare through Step 3, wrap airtight and freeze for up to 3 months. Do not thaw before baking; bake at 400°F for 50 minutes to 1 hour. Equipment: four 12-ounce ovenproof baking dishes

Nutrition

Per serving: 382 calories; 11 g fat ( 3 g sat , 6 g mono ); 69 mg cholesterol; 40 g carbohydrates; 0 g added sugars; 30 g protein; 4 g fiber; 660 mg sodium; 618 mg potassium.