30 September 2009

Roasted Pears to the Rescue

I was lucky enough to come by some pears from a friends tree, the one in front of the house on the boulevard just didn't produce this year. I braised for the first time last week and needed a quick dessert. Roasted pears to the rescue. You can dolly this up as much as you would like but the concept remains the same.

Roasted Pears

You will need:

4 pears, or enough for 1/2 pear per guest cored but not pealed

1/2 cup sugar blend consisting of 1/4 cup brown sugar Splenda and 1/4 cup Turbinado sugar or raw sugar

2 oz good quality butter cut into cubes (optional) or butter flavor cooking spray (if you must)

Balsamic vinegar or cinnamon

Parchment Paper

Preheat oven to 350

Dust cut side of pears with sugar mixture. If you are using cinnamon mix into the sugar before dusting the pears. Place pear atop butter cube on parchment lined baking sheet. If you are using spray, apply a light coat to the parchment before placing the pears. Roast for 15 to 20 minutes depending on ripeness. Pears are done when they yield to gentle pressure but are not squishy. Flip pears and cook for an additional 5 minutes. Top with balsamic at this time if you so choose.

Even with butter each serving packs a mere 127 calories, go fruit. It even works with baking apples, although baking time may need to be increased.   I served these to my guests with a small dollop (less than a teaspoon)  of Pistachio Gelato

28 September 2009

Weekly Update and Ode to the Tong

I know I have been yammering on about the cashew graham cracker. Initial tests yielded a product that tasted more of bran muffin than cracker. I will keep working on it and post a workable recipe shortly. I will leave you with a consolation prize at the bottom of today's post.

Fall has come to my little island, the rain and leaves fell along with the temperatures last night and I was faced with a dilemma. Last time it was this cold I was nearly 300 lbs and 10 sizes bigger than I am today. My coats fit like a tent and a none too flattering one at that. Luckily I bought a sweater on a whim when it was still warm and so I am snuggled up in a turtleneck on this cold and windy day in Minnesota. I am not looking forward to winter without that 100 lbs of extra insulation but that's what wool is made for and I will strap on as many sheep products as needed in lieu of gaining back the weight.

I digress. I have a confession to make. I am in love with my tongs. Oxo Good Grips locking tongs, you have my heart. A series of neighborhood get together left me momentarily tongless and I scurried out to replace them. They grab, they stir, they help me even at my height to get things I cannot reach. If you know me, I have most likely given you tongs and if I haven't yet, well I guess I just ruined Festivus for you. These, by the way are not the evil silicone tipped tongs that don't close and won't grab anything. No, these are the one thing that I swear everyone needs, along with a good knife and a 10 inch sauté pan. 
Now your consulation recipe; 
My beloved neighbor Peat has alot of city chickens, whom we feed scraps and get eggs in return.  So I give you the Frugal Gourmet's crustless quiche.  I grew up learning to cook from the Frug, may he rest in peace. 
Crustless Quiche
Adjust post WLS
5 eggs

1/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder (Rumsford)
1/8 teaspoon salt
16 ounce container large curd low fat cottage cheese (you could try fat free but I haven't tested it)
8 ounces low fat jack cheese, grated  or cheese of your choice, do not use fat free cheese it does not melt
1 T butter or olive oil (optional for sauteing the onion and optional veggies)  Cooking spray will do
1 medium onion, sliced into half rounds

Optional, you can add any protein or veg you would like, made sure to saute any veg before hand to cook off some of the liquid.  Gimme Lean is a great sausage substitute with tons of protein.  Make sure all of your proteins like lean ham or faux sausage are cooked before adding. 

Try using half eggs and half egg substitute, but I would not recommend egg white only. 
Preheat oven to 400º F

Sauté onion in until translucent, I prefer to go the extra step and caramelize mine.

Beat eggs in large bowl, add flour, baking powder, and salt. Stir in cottage cheese and 1/2 the amount of jack cheese. Gently stir in onions and any other vegetables (if desired). Sprinkle remaining jack cheese on top.

Pour into 9" x 13" (or similar size) greased baking dish. Bake for 15 minutes at 400º. Reduce heat to 350º and bake for another 30 minutes or until top is golden and puffy. Allow to rest for 10 minutes before cutting. 
Nutritional breakdown from caloriecount.about.com
1 six ounce serving has:
219 calories
77 from fat
24 grams of protein
If you mix egg substitute and whole eggs using substitute for 3 of the eggs:
216 calories
67 from fat
25 grams of protein
Using all egg substitute really only saves you 5 calories.  Enjoy the eggs. especially those with omega 3's, they are good for your heart and even your mood. 

22 September 2009

Chicken Because I Can

In my quest to both cater to Mr. Wilson's love for as well as the rest of the worlds desire for chicken, I give you today's recipe.  Prosciutto Wrapped Breast of Chicken with Fresh Pecorino.    Alright, it's not a title but maybe you can suggest a name for it in the comments.  I modified this from a YouTube video of Jamie Oliver, he called it Chicken Parmesan and fried the hell out of it.  This would not be that. Served with whole wheat pasta this dish serves 8 with everyone getting half a breast.  The cheese and prosciutto give the sense of decadence without a huge surge in calories. 

There are countless ways to modify this, by using a different protein like a pork chop, chicken thigh, a small loaf of ground turkey or lamb.  Change out the cheese and you change a major flavor component.  I like the pecorino which also comes in a peppercorn format, because of its sheep's milk origins but Parmesan or even cheddar would be nice.  The addition of pineapple was even suggested. Two slices of prosciutto add 80 calories to a standard chicken breast.  Below is the nutrition for an one breast, which in my world serves two.  An entire breast has 239 calories and 41 grams of protein.   Make sure to buy good quality  prosciutto or parma ham with just a small ring of fat around the outside, stay away from Boars Head or other mass made brands. The ingredients should list salt and pork nothing else.  If you are sodium sensitive, this isn't a recipe for you, as prosciutto by its nature is merely a pig's leg cured with salt and air dried. 

You will need:

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts *
1/2 lb very thinly sliced prosciutto or parma ham
3 oz fresh pecorino
salt and pepper to taste
parchment paper or cling wrap  

Preheat oven to 425

Shred cheese and set aside.  Using a piece of parchment paper,  lay out two pieces of prosciutto overlapping slightly.  Pepper your chicken breast, given the saltiness of the prosciutto I would leave out the salt.  Lay a tablespoon or two of cheese across the ham and place your breast on top.  Wrap the ham around the chicken and lay seam side down on a baking dish.  Repeat with the remaining breasts and top breasts with any remaining cheese.  Allow to set for 15 minutes if your chicken and ham were cold when you started.  Bake for 20 to 25 minutes and remove from the oven and allow to rest for 10 minutes more.  Photo notes are below

I have a convection oven so meat cooks faster.  The  most effective way to ensure your meat is cooked to your liking is to get a digital meat thermometer and place it in the breast when you place them in the oven.  

*A few technique notes: 
I mentioned this in a post last week but part of the reason chicken cooks unevenly is the size and shape of the breast

Pounding yer breast:
You can use a meat mallet for this or a heavy bottomed pan or pot.  It's a good stress reliever.  The photos illustrate the process, but you simply sandwich the breast between two layers of parchment paper and apply five or six good whacks to the breast with your bludgeon of choice. Try and concentrate on the thicker end of the breast and if necessary repeat until your breast is more uniform in thickness.  


Photo notes:


21 September 2009

Tasty Tasty Murder

My awsome friend Matt purchased this Tshirt for me a month or so ago.  Since I am lovingly known as the Queen of Meat I found this even more touching.  I got great feeback when I wore it Saturday. 

I looked at some earlier pictures of me and I have to say I am a little taken aback by how much I have changed.  I have a neck.  There is a picture below from the 10 week mark to illustrate.  I really miss my pink hair.  I did have some hair loss after WLS so bleaching the bajasus out of it seemed ill advised. 

I also went and saw the Julie and Julia movie, it warmed my heart not because of the whole setup of the movie but because Julia is in good part part of the reason I love to cook.  I will post a few old segments from her PBS show later this week.

20 September 2009

My Market and Me

I often talk about going to the farmers market, which for me is pretty much an every Saturday occurance.  I drag Mr. Wilson out of bed and we drive across the river to the Mill City Farmers Market.  Mill City hasn't always been my market, but now that she is near by, I have made her my own.
I understand that chances are good you don't live here in lovely Minneapolis, so if you don't go here or here to find a market to fall in love with.  So with that in mind, come along with me on a little photo tour of a few of my favorite places to stop at Mill City.

Sylvan Hills Farm produces some of the most beautiful certified organic produce.  Their carrots always amaze me.  A little factoid, orange carrots are a thing of fashion in the last 50 years.  Check out these heirloom variety's I snapped today.  Yes, those are all really carrots.

After we have oogled the veggies, Mr Wilson usually wants a snack, so we head over to see Neil Nguyen at Dim Sum Street.  He rocks out  bao and black sesame ice cream to name just a few things in a little tent on the plaza.   Today it was bbq pork bao and tiny spring rolls.  I met Neil years ago when he was my nail tech, all we would do was talk about food, where we had eaten and where we were going to eat.  I always admire his commitment to his food and his customers.

I have mentioned this next stop before but Sunrise Flour Mill does something special.  They grind the grain to make the flour so the flour you buy is fresh.  I finally got my graham flour from them along with another bag of whole wheat to experiment with.  They are working on mail order so keep an eye on their website.  They even carry the grain and the supplies so you can mill your own grain at home.

I will post more of the photo tour next week.  I hope you find a market to to feed your body and your soul.  Even after WLS I walk through the market and my mind is whirling. What can I do with this veg or that cheese that will be full of flavor, healthful and interesting.  After a trip to the market I come away nourished, a new bit of knowledge for my mind, a new food I hadn't thought about cooking.  The nourishment for my belly if often the tiny single egg "nomlet" that my island friends and neighbors who own Black Cat Natural foods make with only local in season ingredients like roasted peppers and local goat cheese. 

17 September 2009

Behold the Power of Hungry

The honeymoon was over nearly two months ago, after 4 months away from the land of hunger, I am now once again a visitor. Funny thing about taking an organ that holds nearly a gallon of material and making it the size of a golf ball, it doesn't know if it is coming or going, let alone if it needs to signal the brain that it needs filling and you are hungry.

This works wonderfully in the beginning because you and food have to work out a new relationship with each other, its time for the two of you to see other people and explore your options. Feeling hungry would be like food drunk dialing you at two in the morning, it only makes both of you feel weird.

Here is how I deal with hungry, first make sure its really hungry, not bored, a habit or most importantly thirsty.  Secondly, don't ignore it, letting it go can let things get out of hand.  Make sure you have your go to snack handy if you aren't in a place you can eat.  I know thou shalt not snack, I have broken my daily intake into my morning dairy, two snacks and two meals, do what works for you.  I always make sure I have a high protein cracker around and some cheese, could be a low fat brie or something as basic as one of those cheese sticks.  I love Dr Krackers or Kashi's line of crackers, the rosemary garlic is fantastic.  Dr. Krackers currently has a rockin coupon on their website.  My favorite the seeded spelt is a pretty substantial cracker and I usually break on in half but 1 25g cracker has 5 grams of protein, is organic and has a big dose of whole grains.

15 September 2009

Chicken, Why?

The modern chicken breast, it is touted as the harbinger of health for those who eat meat and are looking to stay healthy. "Oh I don't eat red meat, I will have the chicken breast" is a phrase uttered a gazillion times daily all over this land. Red meat has gotten a bad rap, but more on that later. I however am here to indict the chicken breast for perpetuating the crime of flavorless-ness.
We could launch into a discourse about the life of a meat chickens but lets leave that to other bloggers. I asked my local chicken guy, Peat who teaches classes on raising chickens in the city about why the modern meat chicken has little flavor. it appears that flavor increases in a bird as it ages, and given that meat chickens are harvested young, they really don't have time to build a lot of flavor.

So what is the modern cook to do? Well, here is my dilemma, I love a man and he loves chicken. Unless its braised, I normally don't have a lot of time for chicken. The breast I find to be as appealing as noshing on a foam pillow and dark meat while better in flavor is still unthrilling to me.
So dear reader I have two options for you, one starring our beloved chicken breast and one starring the cornish hen or occasionally known as the cornish game hen.

First the breast

The key is twofold, first cook the chicken with the bone in.  This actually saves you some money at the market and you can easily remove the bone after cooking if you are adverse to meat on the bone.  Second marinate that sucker.  You can use a commercial marinade or make your own.  The advantage to making your own is that you can control the sodium, take a look at that bottle of commercial marinade next time and you will be shocked at the amount of your daily sodium is in it.  I have also found that when marinating vaccume packing the meat while it marinates really allows the marinade to penetrate the meat.  You can do with a home machine or for those of us who don't have them, you can buy the Ziploc type vacuum bags at Target or large megamart. I have listed a basic marinade recipe at the bottom of the page.

Now for the cornish hen.  I came across a local poultry farmer who had a special on these birds a week before last and we feasted on them over Labor Day weekend.  The best way to cook these birds is to spatchcock them and either roast them in the oven or as I did on the grill.  I have included a video for how to spatchcock a bird below.  On the hens however you should be able to simply use a knife as the flesh is a little more yielding.  The Labor Day hen recipe follows as well.

The nutrition rundown on both of these types of poultry is surprisingly similar. 
1/2 a boneless skinless breast has 140 calories, 5 grams of fat and 26 grams of protein.  1/2 a bone in hen with the skin has 150 calories, 5 grams of fat and 26 grams of protein.  I did a comparison with a marinated breast and the hens and hands down the hens won.  They were more full flavored and offered the moisture and deeper flavor of dark meat.  So don't be afraid of trying something beyond the breast.

Basic Marinade for Chicken
This can be adjusted in an infinite number of ways.  You simply need 2 parts acid to 1 part oil and flavoring agents.

1/2 cup olive oil
1 cup red wine vinegar
3 T of brown mustard
1 t thyme
3 cloves of garlic crushed
2 t crushed black pepper
salt to taste

Combine ingredients in a blender and pour over chicken, a baggie works great for this or vacuum pack as I recommended.  Marinate for at least 3 hours or overnight. 

How to Spatchcock

Labor Day Hens
You will need 1/2 a hen per person or if you are feeding extremely hungry people 1 per person.

Spatchcock the hens and allow to rest at room temperature for 1 hour.  No this will not make you sick, it allows the meat to cook more evenly and will actually keep your meat from being undercooked in places and overcooked in others.

Using a charcoal grill place your coals to one side and when they are all white they are ready to use.  I soaked apple wood chips in wheat beer for 3 hours to impart a smoke flavor but this is optional.  Just before placing your hens on the grill add the wood chips on top of the coals.  The soaking keeps them from bursting into flames and allows them to smoke your meat. 

Salt and pepper the hens just before placing on the grill.  Begin the hens away from the coals skin side up. Place the lid on the grill and allow the hens to cook for 6 minutes.  Flip the hens skin side down and cook for an additional 6 minutes.  Continue to flip your hens every 4 minutes until the thighbone come easily out of the joint, which for my hens was around 18 minutes.  You can finish the hens by placing them directly over the coals for a few minutes to really crisp the skin.  Remove hens to a platter or bowl and allow to rest for 10 minutes before cutting.  Serve with corn on the cob and a fresh vinaigrette dressed slaw. 

Summer Slaw
2 cups red cabbage
1 large kohlrabi
1 small apple
salt and pepper to taste
enough of your favorite vinaigrette to coat

Shred the cabbage, kohlrabi and apple, toss with vinaigrette.