Saturday, February 26, 2011

Valentine's Day was two weeks ago, but...

I don't know why February seems to have flown by at the speed of light, so I missed posting what I made for Valentine's Day! The real reason for this retrospective post is because I found both a new chef and a new recipe that I have become enamored with (which was appropriate for Valentine's if I do say so myself). Lorraine Pascale, whose show "Baking Made Easy" is featured on BBC (which I don't get as I live in the US however I have been watching clips of her on youtube), focuses on baking made easy. Baking can take a lot of time, so I love baking recipes that can fit into my busy life. For the people in my office, I decided to make some of her Cookies and Cream brownies. I was attracted to this recipe because, besides the huge amount of cookies being added, it almost was like a flour-less chocolate cake in brownie form (there is a touch of flour, however). The method was so unique I was curious as to the type of brownie it would make. She described them as dense and fudgy, and after tasting them I would have to agree. Because I followed the recipe exactly, I'm not going to re-post the recipe. You can find the recipe here as well as watch Lorraine make these decadent brownies on these youtube videos (which I watched while I was making these). They aren't health food, but one little square was a nice treat.
I had to add the Valentine sprinkles...

On a comical note to this review, I had stowed the baking dish of brownies along with a little spatula in the office so the brownies could be eaten over several days. Well, oddly enough the dish "walked off." I'm not going to go so far as to say someone stole my dish. Rather, I'd like to think someone loved the brownies so much they wanted to take the pan home with them. As much as I want my pan back, I hope whomever took it enjoyed the brownies. The spatula is another story, because it was a part of my cheese knife set....oh well.

Potato-Cheddar Croquettes

 One of my favorite websites is, which has great quick (and intense) workouts and healthy recipes. I have been very busy lately and I enjoy doing their quick workouts because I can (attempt to do) them in a short amount of time and get on with the rest of my day.  I have made time to make a derivation of one of the recipes on, and it turned out to be delicious and easy. Their potato cakes, which I decided to stud with cheese instead of just top with cheese, made a really good meal. I actually only made as many as I could eat at one time, then put the rest of the uncooked patties in the refrigerator. They became firm as they sat in the refrigerator and I was able to easily cook them as needed eat them over the course of several meals. I think mini versions of these would be perfect for a party and are great as a side dish or a main course. These remind me of the insides of a twice-baked potato but with a lot less hassle because you don't have to bother with stuffing the potato filling back into the potato skins. You just simply cook these up in a skillet and you're done.

Potato-Cheddar Croquettes
Printable Recipe

3 medium potatoes (each about 2-2 1/2" diameter)
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 scallions, sliced
2 tbsp old-fashioned oats
2 oz cheddar cheese, finely diced
salt and pepper, to taste
non-stick cooking spray

1. After washing each potato, poke holes into the flesh and place them into a microwave. Use the "baked potato" setting on the microwave to cook the potatoes until soft, which should take 7-10 minutes on high.
2. When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, peel off the skin and discard. Place the potato flesh into a bowl and mash with a fork. Add the egg, scallion, oats, cheese, and salt and pepper to the potatoes and mash all the ingredients together with the fork.
3. Using your hands, form the mixture into 6 patties (it helps to spray your hands with non-stick spray) and in a medium skillet pre-heated over medium heat and sprayed with non-stick cooking spray, cook the patties. Allow each patty to brown on both sides. Once the cheese melts, they are finished.

  • Servings per recipe: 6
  • Per serving:
  • Calories: 130
  • Fat: 4.1 g
  • Saturated fat: 2.3 g
  • Cholesterol: 41 mg
  • Sodium: 76 mg
  • Carbohydrates: 18.4 g
  • Fiber: 1.5 g
  • Sugar: 1.5 g
  • Protein: 5.4 g

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Chicken, Carrot, and Kale Stir-fry with Sweet Chili-Garlic Sauce

I don't know if it's the cold weather or ease of readiness, but lately I have been eating soup at least once a day (either lunch of dinner). Don't get me wrong, I love soup. However, on a recent shopping trip to get a microwave and new mop, of course I also ended up perusing the produce section and of course I left the store with not just the microwave and mop but also strawberries, a pineapple, some purple nail polish, and the most beautiful kale I've seen all year (all of which were necessary purchases, especially the nail polish). My love affair with kale is probably abnormal, but it's very nearly become my favorite vegetable (green beans, as average as they may be, have not been de-throned as my favorite, as yet). With this bouquet-like kale, I shook up my meals by making not only one of my favorite side dishes, kale cooked with garlic, soy sauce, and my favorite Thai sweet chili sauce, but I also expanded on the side dish to make a stir-fry. Though it wasn't soup, it was indeed just as warming (though it could have been the chilis that really warmed me up more so the temperature of the prepared dish!). This post is a two-for-one with the side and the main course. If you don't like spicy food (not that the sweet chili sauce is too spicy) you can substitute sweet and sour sauce or duck sauce. This recipe can easily be transformed to a different flavor profile by using oyster sauce or hoisin sauce instead of the chili sauce.

Sweet Chili and Garlic Kale
Printable Recipe

6-8 stems kale
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
2 tbsp Thai sweet chili sauce
non-stick cooking spray

sesame seeds, for garnish

1. De-stem the kale and cut the leaves into coarse shreds. Submerge the leaves into a bowl of water and swish around to remove any trapped grit and dirt; set aside.
2. Heat a medium skillet over medium heat. Spray with cooking spray and add the garlic; saute about 30 seconds, or until fragrant.
3. Add the kale to the skillet including whatever water is clinging to it. Stir-fry 1-2 minutes or until it begins to deepen in color; add the soy sauce and chili sauce. Toss the kale in the sauces until the leaves are coated with the sauce, which should thicken slightly. Cook until your desired tenderness. Serve sprinkled with a little bit of sesame seeds.
  • Servings per recipe: 2
  • Per serving:
  • Calories: 106
  • Fat: 1 g
  • Saturated fat: 0 g
  • Cholesterol: 0 mg
  • Sodium: 1043 mg
  • Carbohydrates: 22.4 g
  • Fiber: 2.7 g
  • Sugar: 7 g
  • Protein: 5.6 g

Chicken, Carrot, and Kale Stir-fry with Sweet Chili-Garlic Sauce
Printable Recipe

6-8 stems of kale
8 oz boneless, skinless chicken breast, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 small carrots, thinly sliced
1 small onion, sliced
2 tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
2 tbsp Thai sweet chili sauce
non-stick cooking spray
sesame seeds, for garnish

1. De-stem the kale and cut the leaves into coarse shreds. Submerge the leaves into a bowl of water and swish around to remove any trapped grit and dirt; set aside.
2. Heat a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Spray with cooking spray and add the chicken breast; stir-fry until it is nearly cooked through, then add the garlic and carrots and onions and stir-fry a few minutes to soften the carrots and allow the garlic to become fragrant. You may need to sprinkle a couple of tablespoons of water in to keep in the ingredients from sticking and to create steam.
3. Add the kale along with whatever water is clinging to the leaves and saute it until the leaves deepen in color slightly; the chicken should be cooked by now.
4. Season with the soy sauce and chili sauce. Taste the kale to see if it's cooked to your liking. The sauce should thicken and cling to all the ingredients. Serve with rice, if desired.

  • Servings per recipe: 2
  • Per serving:
  • Calories: 281
  • Fat: 4.2 g
  • Saturated fat: 1 g
  • Cholesterol: 72 mg
  • Sodium: 1142 mg
  • Carbohydrates: 30.5 g
  • Fiber: 4.7 g
  • Sugar: 10.9 g
  • Protein: 32.8 g

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Beef Vegetable Soup

For a borderline adventure this past weekend, I tried a new local branch of grocery stores instead of the usual Wal-Mart. I definitely prefer local markets to Wal-Mart because they usually have interesting sales going on. The grocery store, United, seems local to the Texas area because I never heard of the place in Indiana or Georgia. The main reason I went was because they had a sale where if you bought at least 2 lbs of beef stew meat you got a 5-lb bag of potatoes, a 1-lb bag of carrots, and the stew seasoning for free. Pretty good deal if I do say so myself. I also had a whole bunch of coupons because my latest obsession has been coupon clipping to save a little cash. I had a coupon for V8 juice, so I figured I would use half my stew meat to make some vegetable soup with beef and freeze the other half for stew later. I prefer beef vegetable soup make with vegetable juice as opposed to plain tomato juice because vegetable juice has so much more flavor. Canned organic vegetables were also on sale, so I stocked up and used some in this soup. I'm really glad I made a whole bunch of soup because the weather took a major down-turn here. The high was 64 degrees F on Monday but dropped to a high of 17 degrees F on Tuesday. Talk about erratic! Though classes were delayed until 11 am yesterday, it still didn't stop me from being chilled to the bone after my long walk from the bus stop. I was so happy to have a big steaming bowl of this soup, which is so filling thanks to the hearty vegetables and meat. The good thing about this soup is that you can customize it to your taste, substituting your favorite vegetables for the ones I have here. This soup was made in the crockpot so it has that long-simmered taste. I didn't skimp on flavor development, though, because I browned the meat separately and de-glazed the pan with broth. I feel that if you just put meat into the crockpot you lose the opportunity to add browned flavor. Pre-browning the meat is a great way to avoid that.

The chopped vegetables
Beef Vegetable Soup
Printable Recipe

non-stick cooking spray
1 lb lean beef stew meat, cubed
1 large onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 stalk celery, diced
1 carrot,diced
1 large russet potato, peeled and cubed
1 cup frozen or canned green beans
1 cup frozen or canned corn
1 15-oz can petite diced tomatoes
3 cups beef broth
Looks good even before cooking!
1 1/2 cups vegetable juice
2 tbsp tomato paste
1/2 tsp dried sage
1 tbsp dried parsley
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper, to taste

1. Season the meat with salt and pepper. Heat a skillet over medium-high heat, spray with cooking spray, then add the meat. Brown the meat on all sides. Once the meat is browned, remove it and pour about half a cup of the beef broth in, scraping the browned bits off the bottom of the pan. Add the meat and the de-glazing liquid to the crock of your slow cooker.
2. Place the crock into the slow cooker and add all the remaining ingredients; stir thoroughly. Cook the soup on high for about 6 hours or low for about 8 hours or until the meat and potatoes are very tender.
  • Servings per recipe: 6
  • Per serving:
  • Calories: 280
  • Fat: 6 g
  • Saturated fat: 2.1 g
  • Cholesterol: 67 mg
  • Sodium: 623 mg
  • Carbohydrates: 27.6 g
  • Fiber: 5 g
  • Sugar: 8 g
  • Protein: 29.5 g
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