Sunday, July 29, 2012

A Quick Healthy Dinner

So the other night, I took the boys to Hardee's for dinner.  I didn't want to eat there, but I like to spoil them every once in a while with fast food - they love it.  Anyway, I was very hungry, and I wanted to make something healthy, quickly.

I came up with a "soup" that I created out of staples in my pantry.  I wanted a quick healthy dinner that was low in carbs, calories, and fat.  This is what I came up with.

Seafood Pasta "soup"
2 cups chicken stock
2 nests whole grain angel hair pasta nests
1 small can clams
1 small can crab meat
1-1 1/2 tsp Italian seasoning
Salt and freshly ground pepper
About 2 cups fresh spinach

Bring stock to boil; add pasta and cook till pasta is almost done.  Add seafood - not drained and warm through - this should only take a couple of minutes.  Add Italian seasoning and spinach.  When spinach is wilted, add salt and pepper to taste and serve.

The only carbs in this dish are from the pasta, and that is whole grain and full of fiber.  I chose angel hair as it cooks quickly, and the serving sizes are easy to figure out.  This dish is very flavorful - light, yet filing and really quite yummy. I have made it twice now, and am really impressed how easily this dinner comes together.  Try something like this next time you are hungry and wanting dinner very quickly!!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Buffalo Chicken in the Slow Cooker

About two years ago a friend and I got together and swapped recipes.  She gave me this recipe - Slow Cooker Buffalo Chicken.  I tried it soon after I got the recipe, but my slow cooker was anything but, and my chicken was so dry; very close to sawdust.

I haven't tried it again until now.  I have a new slow cooker that actually cooks slowly, so this recipe turned out really well.  The chicken was tender and a bit spicy, but not so much that one couldn't enjoy dinner.

My youngest saw what I was cooking and said, "Hey are we making Buffalo Chicken Pizza?"  I hadn't thought about that, but......sounded like a great idea to me.  We had some Boboli crusts; only problem with those is their high carb count.  Next time I will use a different type of crust.  We put the pizza directly on the grill and cooked them for about 10 minutes.  They were totally awesome.

My husband said that it was the best Buffalo Chicken Pizza he has ever eaten.  The boys scarfed them up, and there isn't anything left of them.  I love when food that is prepared in our house is eaten by everyone, and everyone loves it.  Below is the recipe.  I didn't use the hoagie rolls today, nor did I use the extra sauce.

Slow Cooker Buffalo Chicken - from the kitchen of one my cooking buddies.

4 frozen, skinless chicken breast halves
1 17.5 oz bottle buffalo wing sauce, divided
1/2 (1 oz) package dry ranch dressing mix
2 tbsp butter
6 hoagie rolls, split lengthwise

1.  Place frozen chicken into slow cooker and pour 3/4 bottle of the wing sauce and the ranch dressing mix.  Cover and cook on Low for 7 to 8 hours.

2.  Once the chicken has cooked, add the butter and shred the chicken finely with two forks.  Pile the meat onto the hoagie rolls and splash with the remaining wing sauce to serve.

I made one change to the recipe.  After I shredded the chicken, I put it back into the cooker with the sauce.

Either way, it is a great use of chicken.  For me and the way I eat, it was a winner.  The chicken and sauce is very low in carbs, and I can totally control how I serve it to make sure that I don't overdue the sugar.  For those watching salt, the buffalo sauce is somewhat high in sodium.

Buffalo Chicken Pizza

Buffalo chicken - see recipe above
Boboli pizza crust or crust of your choice
Cheese - I used cheddar

Place cheese on pizza crust.  On top of cheese, put some of the buffalo chicken.  If there isn't much sauce on the chicken, drizzle a little extra sauce over the chicken and cheese.  Top with cheese and chives.  Place on grill.  We had our grill low to medium for heat, about 400 or a little over.  Cook pizza for 10-12 minutes.  Remove from grill and enjoy!!  Don't forge the napkins!!

For another idea, I thought that a buffalo chicken salad might be tasty too......might have to work on that.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Peach and Blueberry Pinwheels

I bought peaches at Lakeside Orchard in Carlyle the other day - they were so sweet!  My oldest ate one before we even got home.  I decided to try and make a quick dessert with them today using ingredients that I had on hand.  This is what I came up with.

My healthy tip for this dessert is raw or turbinado sugar, which to me is much sweeter than refined sugar, allowing for less sugar to be added.  While I didn't add any sugar to my pinwheels, had my peaches been less sweet, I would have.  Turbinado sugar is made from sugar cane extract.  It looks more like brown sugar than refined white sugar, but the crystals are much larger.

Peach Blueberry Pinwheels

2 thawed puff pastry
3 peaches
1/2 pint fresh blueberries
1 scant tsp cinnamon
sugar - only if needed
vanilla scant tsp
1 egg
1 tbsp water

Pre heat oven to 400 degrees.  Roll out dough to smooth out.  Cut peaches into small pieces - I left skin on.  Roughly chop blueberries.  In a bowl combine peaches and blueberries with cinnamon and vanilla.

Combine egg and water in a separate bowl.  Brush onto rolled out dough using a pastry brush.  Add mixture to dough and roll up like a jelly roll.  Cut into 1/2 inch sections, place on greased cookie sheet.  Bake at 400 degrees for 10-15 minutes or until dough is browned.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

For next time, I thought lemon or fresh mint might be a nice addition.  My oldest really liked the pinwheels, and I think they turned out pretty well for making this recipe up on the fly using only what I had on hand.

Friday, July 6, 2012

July 4th Seafood Feast

We go to North Carolina in the summer and hang out on the beach in the Outer Banks.  We also eat tons of seafood every night - fabulous!!  My boys have been after me for days to buy some seafood to eat at home, so in honor of July 4, I decided to take them and get some fresh seafood.
We bought clams and mussels along with a couple of other items.  The boys were introduced to clams in North Carolina and have been wanting to try mussels.  Needless to say, we have added yet another seafood item to their "love" list.

We ordered clams quite a bit in North Carolina, but I was a little disappointed in the lack of dipping liquid with the clams, so when I cooked our clams and mussels, I made sure to have a tasty steaming liquid for the fish.  My youngest wanted melted butter as that is how they are served on the Outer Banks, so I made sure to add butter to my sauce.

When using clams or mussels, be sure to cook only those clams and mussels that are closed tightly - this means that they are alive.  You should also use clams and mussels the day they are purchased.  After they are cooked, discard any that didn't' open during the cooking process.  Be sure to remove the beards of the mussels and clean both the clams and mussels using cold water.

Steamed Clams and Mussels
Clams - I bought 30
Mussels - I bought 2 1/2 pounds
5 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 tsp anchovy paste
1 tbsp olive oil
3/4 to 1 cup white wine
1 cup chicken stock
1 handful chopped parsley
1/2 stick butter with no salt
1 lemon
pinch salt, if desired

Heat olive oil in large skillet with a tight fitting lid.  Add garlic and heat for 1-2 minutes until softened.  Add anchovy paste; stir to dissolve.

Deglaze pan with white wine and stock.  When at a low boil, add clams and mussels, reduce heat to a simmer, cover pot.  Cook until shellfish have opened.  Add butter.  When butter is melted, transfer to a large bowl.  Garnish with lemon and parsley.  Serve with crusty bread.

We had some leftovers, so I decided to make a broth soup the next day.

Seafood Soup - with leftovers

Leftover seafood and broth
1 can clams in juice
2 nests of angel hair pasta

Heat up seafood, broth and clams in a pan over low heat.  While that is heating up, cook the pasta.  When almost al dente, add to broth mixture, combine and serve.

This light leftover soup made for a nice meal after a day at Raging Rivers Water Park.

For nutritional value, 20 clams have about 280 calories and 10 carbs.  They are fat free and full of protein.  Mussels have 48 calories per ounce, 2 carbs, and 7 grams of protein.  They are also low in fat with only 1 gram of fat per ounce. Overall a good seafood choice

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Jakey In June

For the past few years, our community has hosted a BBQ contest called Jakey in June.  At the contest BBQ teams come from all over to not only try to win the BBQ contest, they also sell their food to eager people ready to eat.

This year there were about 27 teams competing in several categories.  Friday night there was the Anything But competition.  This is where teams make anything they want except what will be judged on Sunday morning; chicken, pork, ribs, and brisket.  Judges are given a wide array of food choices - anything from pork tenderloin to fresh seafood.  Having judged this category before, it is a great time and an awesome opportunity to try new and different foods prepared on grills and smokers.

The dessert competition was on Saturday night.  These judges are totally full at the end of their judging stint - full, but happy.  There were many wonderful desserts that I would have loved to try.  I did get to try a few, and wasn't disappointed at all.  The effort that the teams put into their food is amazing, and it impresses me every year.

Sunday morning was judging for chicken, pork, brisket, and ribs.  This event was one I judged.  Each year, I learn more and more about how BBQ judging works, and about how to smoke.  Judging is something I look forward to each year.

My boys entered the burger contest which was on Saturday afternoon.  This is judged as well, and both my boys have fun each year coming up with a recipe that reflects their taste and what they like.  This year the boxes and how they were decorated were judged as well so the boys decorated their burger boxes - that was quite fun for them.

My oldest made a Mexican burger, so we served them as tacos - it wasn't easy to find a taco shell that would still allow the box to close.  My youngest made an American burger, hence the flags as decorations.  The Mexican burger took third place, but all the burgers looked awesome.  We are already thinking up recipes for next years contest.

Mexican Burger

1 lb. ground meat
1 packet taco seasoning mix
1 tsp cumin
1 egg
1/2 cup cheddar cheese
salt and pepper
garlic butter*

Combine meat, taco seasoning, cumin, egg, and cheese.  Make 3-4 burgers.  Salt and pepper each side of burger - don't skimp on this step as it helps make a crust on the outside of the burger.  Put burgers on grill; cook for 4-5 minutes on first side, flip and brush garlic butter on cooked side.  Cook for 3-4 minutes on other side.  If done to your liking, flip and brush other side with garlic butter.

Remove from grill, cut in half and place in taco shell with your choice of condiments.  We used lettuce, tomato, cheese, and sour cream that was seasoned with lime and cilantro.

American Burger - based partially on recipe by James Beard

1 lb. ground meat
1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp tabasco
1 minced garlic clove
1 egg
garlic butter*
American cheese

Combine meat, cheddar cheese, Worcestershire sauce, tabasco, garlic, and egg.  Make 3-4 burgers.  Salt and pepper each side of burger - don't skimp on this step as it helps make a crust on the outside of the burger.  Put burgers on grill; cook for 4-5 minutes on first side, flip and brush with garlic butter on cooked side.  Cook for 3-4 minutes on the other side.  If done to your liking, flip and brush other side with garlic butter.  Remove from grill, add American cheese, and serve!

*For garlic butter, I combined granulated garlic with melted unsalted butter.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Pulled Pork Omelette

I am still trying to use up the rest of my pulled pork.  I am also trying new things with it too.  It is easy to just make pulled pork sandwiches; my family loves them, but I want sometimes to just try something a little different for them.  This morning I decided to make my husband a pulled pork omelette.

Looking in my fridge, I found mushrooms, pepper jack cheese, and chives.  Making the omelette is pretty easy.  I mixed up three eggs and put them in a greased skillet set on about medium to medium high heat.  As the eggs cooked, I used a spatula to move the cooked part towards the center, which allowed the uncooked part to hit the skillet.  After the eggs were about 60-70 percent cooked, I added my other ingredients,

Pulled Pork Omelet

3 eggs
1/2 3/4 cup chopped pulled pork
1 large mushroom, chopped
1 tbsp diced chives
salt and pepper to taste

Beat eggs with fork or whisk until fluffy
Add egg to a warmed pan with Pam and add salt and pepper .   As eggs cook bring edges of eggs towards center of pan so that the uncooked portion has a chance to cook.  When eggs are close to getting done, add meat, cheese and veggies.  Flip one half of egg over the other half and finish cooking.  Transfer to plate, top with scallions, season with salt and pepper, and enjoy!!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Pulled Pork Leftovers

Last week we smoked two pork butts and had some friends over for a swimming party.  I am always trying to think of different ways to use the leftover pulled pork - or any other meats that I cook.  I made BBQ spaghetti; see previous post, and sandwiches are always good, but I wanted to try something else today, so I made pulled pork quesadillas for lunch.  They were super easy, tasty, and the boys loved them.

What makes these something I can eat is that first, I can control how much meat I put on the quesadilla as well as the cheese.  The tortillas that I use are high fiber - whole grain tortillas, making them a good carb that won't raise my blood sugar, because the carbs are processed slowly.  Carbs that don't come from whole grains, or simple carbs, go through the system much more quickly and often cause blood sugar to go up.  The tortillas I used have 12 grams of fiber per tortilla - almost a half the fiber that is recommended for a day.

Pulled Pork Quesadillas

Pulled pork leftovers - or any meat that you might want to use
Chicken stock
Leftover rub
Cheese - I used sliced mozzarella and Colby Jack; it is what I had on hand
Olive oil

Heat up flat top or skillet with olive oil to medium high heat.  Meanwhile warm up pork in skillet, using chicken stock to moisten the meat. Add a little rub to enhance flavor of pork.

When pork and flat top are heated through, place a tortilla on the flat top.  Put cheese on tortilla, top with pork and another tortilla.  When tortilla is crisp on one side, and cheese is melted, flip over and heat on other side.  Remove from flat top, cut and serve - yummy!!!

There are many other additions that could be made to this recipe.  For quickness I used meat and cheese only.  It also made for an easy no fuss lunch for the boys, but I thought about adding tomatoes, peppers, onions, or anything else that would go with pork.  Just use your imagination!