Saturday, February 27, 2010

Chipotle Barbecue Pulled Pork

This recipe is BEYOND easy.  It's ridiculously easy.  Just throw everything in the crockpot in the morning.  Turn it on.  Dinner's done.  'Nuff said.  The meat is flavorful: barbecue sweetness with a kick of peppers to spice it up.  Delicious. 

This was a team effort between my mother and mother and me...whatever.  I overslept on the morning I was supposed to put this in the crockpot, so I asked her to do it instead.  The meat was straight out of the freezer.  Frozen hard as a rock.  By the end of the day, it was gorgeous. 

About the meat:  Pork tenderloin.  This is an incredibly versatile, low-fat cut of meat.  Therefore, you get more meat per point.  To me, more is more.  Not the opposite.  I usually get my tenderloins at Costco.  They come packaged in 2 lb packs, I think.  Don't quote me on the size.  Just wing it.  They freeze easily and can be cooked in a crockpot from the frozen state.  Beautiful.  Brings tears to my eyes. 

About the chipotles:  If you've never ventured into the Hispanic or Mexican foods aisle of your grocery store, please do.  Great and wonderful things await you there.  One of those gems is chipotles in adobo.  Basically they are roasted jalapeno peppers, packed in a vinegary tomato sauce called adobo. They are glorious, but very spicy.  A little goes a long way.  

Which brings about the question...once you've opened a can, what do you do with the leftovers?  If you're anything like me, they usually end up as one of the UFOs (Unidentified Fuzzy Objects) in the back of your refrigerator.  So here's the plan to be less wasteful.  I do the same thing for my tomato paste, as well: 

Once you open up a can of chipotles, use what you need, and then freeze the remainder in a freezer bag (labeled, of course, or it will just end up as another UFO:  Unidentified FROZEN Object!)  Then, when you need more chipotles pull the frozen block 'o chilies out of the freezer and cut off a chunk to use.  No need to defrost.  Just add the frozen hunk right into your pan.  The heat of your cooking vessel will defrost them.  It's a lovely plan.  Just lovely.  Brings order to the universe.  

Enough talk.  On with the meat!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Southwest Ranch Turkey Burgers

Both of my sisters have their own "original" takes on turkey burgers.  My sister Trish makes them Southwest-style.  She got the recipe from Rachael Ray.  Well...not literally, get what I'm saying.   I request them every time I visit her in Atlanta.  My sister Julz makes turkey burgers with a packet of ranch dressing or onion soup mix in them.  It's amazing how much flavor you get from one little packet of spices.  This recipe is my attempt at melding the two ideas together into one glorious burger.  The results were pretty darn good. 

NOTE:  If you are watching your points, be sure and check your package of turkey.  Not all ground turkey is created equal.  Make sure it is lean.  Turkey, just like beef, is often mixed with a little bit of fat or dark meat to add flavor.  I look for 93% lean ground turkey breast.  

ANOTHER NOTE:  Check the package to make sure you have 16 ounces of meat.  For some reason, it is pretty common for ground turkey to be packaged in sizes larger than a standard pound.  If you happen to get one of the larger sized packages, divide the meat into 5 burgers instead of 4.  You want your burgers to be 4 ounces each. 

Enough talk.  Now to the burgers!!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Busy Mom's Journal: Emotional Eating

The past few weeks have been very difficult for me regarding my quest for healthy eating.  I've had two tragic deaths in the family within one week.  For this reason, I've been reaching for comfort food. 

In my head I know that food will not fix grief.  But there's a primitive part of me that seems to take over and says that a trip to Burger King will certainly make the pain a little bit easier to take.  Like the way a good buzz from a few glasses of wine dulls the senses and deadens the painful stab in your heart.  At least for the moment.

After losing almost 40 pounds over the past year, I've wrestled with my tendency to turn to food during difficult times.  I've had to continually establish new boundaries around what is healthy for me regarding food and what is not.  I am more aware of when I am looking to food to fill a hole that it can't and I am more adept at finding new ways of filling those holes. 

Disclaimer:  I do not now, nor will I ever, subscribe to the school of thought that says you should eat to live, rather than live to eat.  I am and always will be a "foodie":  someone who loves all things related to food.  I love, love, love the Food Network.  It's my number one channel.  I read cookbooks before bedtime, just to get inspired.  I enjoy the sights, smells, and textures of planning, preparing, and eating a home-cooked meal.  These things will always be a large part of who I am as a person.

However, I am still learning to shape a more healthy relationship with food.  Getting lost in all of the above mentioned activities will not bring fulfillment to my life, or fix my problems.  It will not bring peace to my heart. And it certainly won't take away any pain.  When these activities move beyond the realm of hobby or interest and into the territory of something that I find myself clinging to for survival, then I've crossed the line into an unhealthy food relationship.    

The past few weeks have shown me that I'm still learning, one step at a time. 

Tell me about your relationship with food.  Healthy?  Not?  Or somewhere in between? Leave comments.  Discuss.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Mexican Chicken Lasagna

Before we start:  Please don't judge this book by it's cover.  This casserole may not win any casserole beauty pageants, but didn't your mother ever tell you that looks are deceiving? 

I'll admit it.  I was skeptical when I first saw this recipe.  A casserole cooked in the microwave?  Impossible!  Surely the finished product must come out mushy or hard as a rock.  Keep reading...

I recently went to a Pampered Chef cooking show and the consultant said that she regularly uses her stoneware in the microwave.  Now, having been a PC consultant myself at one time, I knew that stoneware is microwave safe, but I really only thought it applied to reheating things.  Not cooking from scratch.  Boy was I wrong!  I was pleasantly surprised with how this turned out, and after only 15 minutes of cooking in the microwave. 

My sister Julz was with me while I made this...she watched the kiddos while I assembled dinner.  Perfect partnership!  Here's what she had to say about the finished product:

I thought it was like getting a healthier version of restaurant style dish at home.  If we had a side of refried beans and fresh salsa, I would have been in heaven.  Mexican heaven.  Except Mexican Heaven has a quite a bit more gas!
Leave it to Julz to tell it like it is!  Anyway, I need to explain a bit about the cooking vessel:  it is the Pampered Chef Deep  Covered Baker.  See how pretty and shiny it is?

If you don't have one of these, try any microwave-safe stoneware baking dish.  (Perhaps an 8 x 8 or a 9 x 13.)  What? No stoneware? Don't worry!  Just use any 8 x 8 or 9 x 13 baking dish you have.  However, if you are making this in a regular pan, I would skip the microwave altogether.  To be on the safe side, I would just pop it in the oven at 350 until it is hot and bubbly all the way through.  But that's just my opinion.  Feel free to walk on the wild side, if you wish. 

Another thing:  since this is a lasagna, it takes a little time to prep and put together. It took me about 35 minutes from start to finish to chop everything and put it all together.  When I do it again, I will probably put it together on a Saturday or Sunday and keep it in the fridge until later in the week when I decide to bake it.  The prep is a tad bit too involved for me to put together for a weeknight meal.  But it's definitely worth doing ahead of time.  Note:  if you are going to refrigerate it, expect to add extra time to the cooking.  Or, better yet, pull it out of the fridge a few hours early to let it all come to room temp. 

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Basic Flatout Pizzas

This is my simple blueprint for low points pizza.  It makes a great go-to meal when I don't want to bother with dinner, but I still want something that tastes like I went to some trouble.   I frequently make these while my little one is eating his dinner.  In the amount of time it takes for the oven to preheat, I can have two or three of these constructed.  One pizza is plenty for me.  With the addition of a nice green salad, and it makes a great meal. 

Here's another secret about this's perfect when you need to make a small amount of protein stretch to feed two or three people.  In this instance, I had one chicken breast, and I wanted to make it stretch to feed two people.  Really, it could have stretched to feed three and no one would have felt protein-deprived.  It's a great way to fool people who feel they need large amounts of protein to be satisfied, i.e. men.  

First, a word about the "crust" of the pizza:  behold, the Flatout Wrap.  They come in variety of flavors, but I usually get a 3-pack of the Multi-Grain kind at Costco.  I store the extra 2 packs of wraps that I'm not using in the freezer.  Each wrap is 1 point.  When you pair them with big flavors, they are pretty darn good. However, I don't recommend you eat them all by their lonesomes.  You might be a bit disappointed. 

NOTE:  I also use these to make mock-quesedillas, since they are so low in points.  Perhaps I'll post that blueprint one day.  So many recipes to post, so little time. 

Friday, February 12, 2010

Chicken Parmigiana...Sort Of

I promised some chicken recipes, and this is the first.  I'm trying to expand my chicken repertoire.  Why? It's versatile.  It's low in points.  And frankly, it's not that hard to work with.  I tend to shy away from chicken, because I don't like the look of it raw, but really, there's nothing to it.  So for the sake of blogging diversity, I am forcing myself to move past my chicken issues and find more chicken recipes.  Consider it done. 

This is more of a blueprint or method than a specific recipe.  I used to make something like this all the time when I was in California.  It was super simple.  It can be done on the stovetop or in the oven.  Essentially, all you do is cover chicken breasts with marinara sauce and cook.  Once they are almost done, you sprinkle cheese on top, and you've got painless, healthy Chicken Parmigiana.  Now, no Italian in their right mind would say that this is anywhere near authentic.  But frankly, who gives a crap about authentic?  Especially when there's dinner to be put on the table, you're trying to watch your girlish figure, a mountain of laundry needs to be done, and your child's bathtime is just an hour or so away?  I sure don't! 

NOTE #1:  You can use frozen chicken breasts for this.  However, if you do, I would only do it in the oven.  It will cook the breasts a little more gently, and allow them time to thaw inside.  However, if you are using thawed breasts, feel free to do this on the stovetop or in the oven.  

NOTE #2:  As for serving, you can boil up some pasta, or just put this alongside some veggies steamed in the microwave.  Even some brown or white rice would be good.  Couscous too.  Whatever floats your boat.  Just be sure and count the points for the side dish. 

NOTE #3:  Finally, this recipe can be easily altered for the number of people you are serving.  Whether you are serving 1, 2, 4, or 6, this recipe is easy to change.  You'll see.  Keep reading. 

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Oatmeal Two Ways: Part Two

Growing up in my house, we had a special breakfast treat.  It was something that my Mom would whip up when we had overnight company or when my Dad got back from one of his long runs during his running days.  It was Baked Oatmeal:  thick and cakey oatmeal, with a hint of sweetness, baked in the oven until golden brown. 

I'm not sure who gave us the recipe, but it is something that my family cherishes.  The original recipe was written on a sheet of pink paper, and has the requisite cooking stains and marks of a well-worn, but much-loved recipe.  It's very simple to prepare, but delicious.  Just measure, mix, and pour.  No standing over a hot stove flipping pancakes, or wrangling out your waffle iron from the back of the cabinet. 

Serve it piping hot, spooned into bowls,  with a dollop of milk poured over it, and a steaming hot cup of coffee beside.  You don't need anything else in life.  Try this on Saturday.  You'll thank me.  And my mom.  And whoever gave my mom the recipe. 

NOTE:  This is not a low points recipe, and I don't apologize for that.  It's a comforting splurge for a day when you've saved up some points.  However, I may just play around with the recipe and post a lighter version at a later time.  I'll keep you posted. 

Monday, February 8, 2010

Oatmeal Two Ways: Part One

I have an issue.  Well, I have many.  But in particular, I have a breakfast issue.  I am always in search of a lasting, filling, low points breakfast.  Protein helps.  Carbs help.  But the thing that sticks to my ribs the most and seems to last the longest into the morning is oatmeal.  

Last year when I started Weight Watchers, I was inspired by the Tribute to Oatmeal on Kath Eats Real Food.  Kath takes oatmeal and raises it to glorious levels.  Seriously.  Just check it out.  You'll see.  

So I started making her essential oatmeal recipe, which she calls Whipped Banana Oatmeal.  It was good.  Really good.  Creamy, banana-y deliciousness.  But this year, I'm just too lazy in the mornings to stand by the stove, whipping up bananas in my oatmeal.  So I created a microwave alternative.  If you ask me, it's just as good, and it's done in a quarter of the time.  I also tweaked the recipe to take out a few extra points.  Water, instead of milk.  Less oatmeal.  You get the picture. 

Speaking of pictures, that cute tin with the sleepy teddy bears is the one that we have kept oatmeal in for as long as I can remember.  Don't laugh.  It's a family thing. 

Friday, February 5, 2010

Bubble Up Pizza Casserole

Well folks, Sunday is the Super Bowl.  I'm not even going to pretend that I'll be watching it.  I'll probably be channel surfing for a chick flick or a cooking show.  Or better yet, maybe I'll take a nap!  However, one thing that I WILL participate in are the food festivities.  Pizza is a normal football staple, but it can be pretty expensive on the points (and the money, for that matter).  So if you're looking for a lighter alternative that will feed a crowd, look no further...

I give you: BUBBLE UP PIZZA CASSEROLE.  It's a lovely casserole made with...wait for it...refrigerated biscuits in a can!  Yay for convenience items!  You stir pizza sauce and toppings together with the cut up biscuits and the mixture sort of bubbles up (hence, the name) into this lovely, pizza-like casserole.  It reminds me of my mom's homemade pizza dough she used to make when I was a kid.  Thick and doughy, with fun pizza toppings mixed all throughout.  It's definitely a keeper.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Tasty Chili Mac

I know, I know.  I already posted a chili recipe.  But trust me: getting a few chili recipes under your belt is essential to fight off the winter chill.  It's even more of a bonus if said recipe doesn't expand your waistline while it's warming you up! And besides, Punxsutawney Phill said there will be six more weeks of winter this year.  So trust me--you want to make this chili.  You need to make this chili.  'Nuff said. 

I usually don't follow a chili recipe, unless I'm trying something new. I usually just make it up as I go. However, this one caught my attention because it includes the "mac" part, for only 4 points. And between you and me, it's quite a large portion for only 4 points! Another good thing about this recipe is that it comes mostly from cans, so you can keep the ingredients on hand for an impromptu chili night. I usually double or triple the recipe and freeze leftovers. Note: If you don't want the "mac" part, just omit it, but then I would estimate that the points value would still be 4 points, but per 1 cup of chili (without mac).

Crockpot Sausage Chili

Three words in this recipe caught my eye: “Italian sausage,” and “crockpot.” I had to try it! Once I tasted it, I was surprised at how subtle the sausage flavor was. The extra seasoning in the sausage seems to add an extra depth to the chili. The fact that you let it cook in the crockpot all day is an added bonus.

One word of caution: I doubled the original recipe and it FILLED my crockpot to the top before cooking. However, the amount cooked down a little with cooking. I’m aware that crockpot enthusiasts and food safety folks say one should fill a crockpot no more than two-thirds full for optimal cooking. However, since I like to make BIG batches for freezing, and my crockpot is smaller than I would like, I choose to live on the wild side! If this sort of reckless crockpot-usage makes you uncomfortable, just reduce the ingredients by half. It will still be delicious.

I served this chili with standard toppings, such as chopped green onions, chopped cilantro, reduced fat cheddar cheese, and reduced fat sour cream.  Just be sure to count any additional points from your toppings.  I also served corn muffins along side.