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!

2014-01-26

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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white bean dip with rosemary and sage

Well, hello there,  2014!!!  By my calculations, I’m only about two weeks late to the party, but, hey…life has a way of being lived sometimes and I have to admit there’s been little time for cooking AND photographing.  Just cooking, lately, and Brownie meetings to supervise, and piano lessons to patiently sit through, and puppy obedience classes to attend.  Also, believe it or not, it gets dark really early this time of year in the desert.  By 5:30, if I haven’t cooked, plated, and photographed, there’s just not enough natural light.

Ahhh, excuses, excuses, excuses.  Enough of that, on to the bean dip.

I made this for the first time on New Year’s Eve 2012.  It was a huge hit with our guests and, even though it was just going to be the three of us this year (one of whom wouldn’t touch the stuff with a ten foot pole), I decided to do it again for our New Year’s Day feast.  We already had too much food, but this dip is so good (and gets better with each passing day), I was happy to have the leftovers for some post-celebration snacking.  It’s low in fat, high in flavor (lots of garlic goodness), and a good source of protein and fiber from the beans.  It’s also really fast and easy to assemble.  Put it together the day before you plan to serve it for maximum flavor mingling!  (I hear there’s a big football game in the not-too-distant future).  Serve with the crackers or crudités of your choice.  Enjoy!!

White Bean Dip with Rosemary and Sage (recipe courtesy Cooking Light, Aug 2007)

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh sage
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 (19-ounce) can cannellini beans or other white beans, rinsed and drained
  • Fresh sage sprig (optional)

Directions:

  1. Combine first 7 ingredients in a food processor; process until smooth. Serve with pita wedges crackers, fresh veggies. Garnish with sage sprig, if desired.

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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 chicken salad

I made a salad the other night that was, well….how can I say this? It was damn near inedible. Actually, that’s probably too strong a word. It was not good! Thankfully, it was a side dish so the bulk of the meal redeemed my cooking cred.  But I ended up throwing away pretty much ALL of it (which is pathetic and shameful considering we packed meals at our local Feed My Starving Children site today and were reminded that 18,000 kids die every day from hunger related complications).  So, when I even remotely considered using leftover chicken for this salad, I had two thoughts:

1.  My husband will refuse to eat another salad (this time posing as the entree), based on our negative experience only a few days before and I’ll end up wasting more food; and,

2.  My husband will refuse to eat yet another “meal” wrapped in lettuce!

It’s not the manliest of dinners.  It’s got grains and veggies and poultry and fruit.  And it’s not even really wrapped in lettuce (decidedly unmanly Bibb lettuce, of all things), it’s served ON the lettuce; the likes of which you might enjoy at a baby shower or at lunch with your best girlfriend.

The one thing this recipe had going for it, though, was the fact my mom had given it to me.  My mom was a great cook.  She could readily recognize a sub-par recipe by simply scanning the ingredient list.  She always showed up at my house with her carry-on bag stuffed with recipe clippings she’d culled from various newspapers and magazines.  I knew my mom wouldn’t let me down!

This recipe is good.  Really good.  It’s light, delicious, and full of great textures and a huge variety of flavors; tart, crunchy, earthy, tangy, just plain good.   Yes, it’s perfect for a summer lunch with friends, but when you live in the desert, light and delicious salads are just part of the rotation.  My husband did not refuse to eat it.  He ate, gave me a two-thumbs-up, and then he ate some more.  At less than 300 calories per serving, that’s ok.  Dig in and enjoy!!

Couscous Chicken Salad

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/4 C low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 C tri-color pearl couscous
  • I Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1/2 C extra-virgin olive oil
  • juice of one lemon
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp coriander
  • 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • fresh ground pepper, to taste
  • 1 C cooked, diced chicken
  • 4 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 large, Granny Smith apple, cored and diced
  • 1 large rib celery, diced
  • Bibb lettuce leaves

Directions:

In saucepan, bring stock to a boil.  Add couscous and butter.  Bring to a boil again, then simmer per package directions (8 to 10 minutes).  Remove from heat, fluff with fork and set aside to cool.

Combine olive oil, lemon juice, salt, coriander, mustard, garlic and pepper.  Wisk until well mixed.  In large bowl, combine cooled couscous, chicken, onions, apple and celery.  Add olive oil mixture and toss to coat.  Serve over Bibb lettuce leaves.

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.


artichoke-parmesan stuffed tilapia

I promise this will be the last tilapia recipe for a while, but tilapia is a blank canvas and we eat it more than any other fish.  This probably has a lot to do with the fact my door-to-door meat guy; the guy who sells me the most amazing shrimp and beef fillets, also shows up on occasion with a case of tilapia – cheap!  They’re always beautiful and fresh tasting, so I can’t resist.  If he showed up with delicious halibut steaks, well, you’d be reading about halibut!

My mom actually came for a visit recently with this recipe tucked in her carry-on bag.  I can’t recall the original source, but any recipe with the word “artichoke” in it is true love, in my book.  I’ve made it a couple of times and both times thought the flavor was really nice, but the texture of the “stuffing” is too dry.  That can probably be chalked up to my own choice of whole grain bread and my unswaying belief grainier is better.  This theory might not be true for this recipe.  I’d suggest going with a whole grain bread that’s a little less hearty and doesn’t stand up nearly so well to the moisture from the artichokes and the cheese.

The finished product (with a little tweaking on the stuffing) is delicious and a great, healthy meal.  Nutritional info on this recipe reported 241 calories, 40 grams of protein, and only 7 grams of fat.  Enjoy!


Artichoke-Parmesan Stuffed Tilapia
Ingredients:
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 thin (5-ounce) tilapia fillets
  • 1 (6-ounce) jar water-packed marinated artichokes, drained and chopped
  • 1 slice whole-grain bread, cubed
  • 1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 4 teaspoons chopped fresh parsley
Preparation:
  • Preheat oven to 375°.
  • Sprinkle salt and pepper over both sides of tilapia fillets; set aside.
  • Combine artichokes, bread cubes, Parmesan cheese, and oregano in a medium bowl; mix well.
  • Brush each fillet with 1/2 teaspoon olive oil; top with 1/4 of the artichoke mixture.
  • Bake until fish pulls apart easily with a fork (about 15 minutes).
  • Sprinkle each serving with 1 teaspoon chopped fresh parsley just before serving.