Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Cooking for the Week Ahead

As you can tell by the title of this blog, the Mr. and I see little of one another during the week with our opposite schedules. So, we love to spend the weekends not only spending time together, but also making things easier on ourselves for the week to come. We typically cook 2 or 3 meals to eat off from during the work week. The Crock Pot always comes in handy to cut down on the time we spend standing over the stove.

I saved this recipe from Cooking Light many months ago... but never got around to trying it out. This past weekend, while feeling the Asian Persuasion, I decided to pull it out and mix it up!
Not only does the Char Siu pork smell amazing while it's cooking, it comes out of the Crock Pot perfectly tender and easy to shred. We have used this meat in wraps, on top of brown rice and egg noodles. I think it would also be tasty in some Asian tacos!

Char Siu Pork (from Cooking Light magazine)
1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
1/4 cup hoisin sauce
3 tablespoons ketchup
3 tablespoons honey
2 teaspoons bottled minced garlic
2 teaspoons grated peeled fresh ginger
1 teaspoon dark sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon five-spice powder
2 pounds boneless Boston butt pork roast, trimmed
1/2 cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth

Combine first 8 ingredients in a small bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Place in a large zip-top plastic bag. Add pork to bag; seal. Marinate in refrigerator at least 2 hours, turning occasionally.
Place pork and marinade in an electric slow cooker. Cover and cook on low for 8 hours.
Remove pork from slow cooker using a slotted spoon; place on a cutting board or work surface. Cover with aluminum foil; keep warm.
Add broth to sauce in slow cooker. Cover and cook on low for 30 minutes or until sauce thickens. Shred pork with 2 forks; serve with sauce.
Calories: 227 (38% from fat)
Fat: 9.5g (sat 3.1g,mono 3.9g,poly 1.1g)
Protein: 21.6g
Carbohydrate: 12.7g
Fiber: 0.4g
Cholesterol: 73mg
Sodium: 561mg

Why Hello Ginger, Take Two!

So, you may remember that I first discovered the power of this little root last weekend when we made Ginger Scallops. Well the Mr. was such a fan, he wanted to make another recipe involving ginger and scallops, so off to my trusty recipe collection I went to search for an alternative.
I found this recipe, also from Sam the Cooking Guy, and I liked that it offered a little twist from the simple ginger, scallions and butter recipe of last week.

These bad boys turned a beautiful caramel color once seared and the extra marinade is added to the pan to create a tangy sauce to pour over the scallops. We paired this meal with some simple stir fry noodles and a salad with ginger vinaigrette.
Another fantastic night with my girl, Ginger!

Asiany Scallops (from Sam the Cooking guy)

1/2 cup soy sauce
Juice of 2 limes
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, finely chopped
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 lb large sea scallops
peanut oil (I used more sesame oil since we didn't have peanut)

-Place all ingredients except scallops in a glass or ceramic shallow bowl.
-Mix well and add scallops.
-Marinate 5 minutes each side at room temperature. If you marinate scallops too long, they'll get mushy. (I only marinated the scallops for about 5 minutes TOTAL, 2 minutes per side)
-Transfer scallops to a plate and reserve marinade.
-Heat 1/2 teaspoon oil in a large saute pan over high heat until hot and almost smoking.
-Add scallops (cook in batches if necessary to keep from being too crowded) and saute quickly until seared brown and just cooked through - about 2 minutes a side.
-Remove from pan.
-Add marinade to pan and boil until reduced to about 1/3 cup, about 2 minutes.
-Drizzle scallops with sauce.

Snow= Soup!

The Mr. and I have been enjoying the cold weather for only one reason... homemade soups! I love making my own MMM goodness instead of eating the preservative and sodium filled alternatives from a can.

I found this recipe by accident on AOL foods. The Mr. and I LOVE black beans and roasted red peppers, so it sounded like a great fit for us.

I made a few adaptations from the original recipe, but I think it turned out wonderfully. Savory, full of nutrients and protein, perfect for the 6 inches of snow falling outside our window right now! When the soup has cooled, we like to separate it into individual containers so it is easy to grab on the go for work or dinner.

Bean, Pasta and Roasted Pepper Soup (from AOL foods)
1 tbsp. olive oil
2 large carrots , diced
2 stalks celery , diced
1 large onion , chopped
1 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
3 cloves garlic , minced
1 can (49 1/2 oz.) Swanson® Chicken Broth (I used 8 cups, or 2 boxes of low sodium Chicken stock)
1 can (about 15 oz.) black beans , rinsed and drained
1 can (14 1/2 oz.) diced tomatoes
1/2 cup uncooked ditalini pasta (I omitted this... didn't want the extra carbs)
1/2 cup roasted sweet red pepper strips
1 tbsp. red wine vinegar

***I added 1/2 lb. of sweet Italian turkey sausage

HEAT oil in sauce pot. Add carrots, celery, onion, parsley and garlic and cook until tender. Add broth, beans, tomatoes and pasta. Heat to a boil. Cover and cook 15 min. or until pasta is done.
ADD peppers and vinegar. Heat through.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Banana Bread... Without the Guilt!

I looove baked goods. I mean, let's be honest... who doesn't enjoy something carbtastic right out of the oven and covered in butter? But as I enter my mid-to-late-twenties and my metabolism starts to scale back, I realize that I can no longer scarf up all the goodies I want without seeing my waistline change. Boo!
So, I have become a huge fan of Cooking Light recipes, from Cooking light Magazine. They take some of your favorite stand-bys and figure out ingredient swaps to cut down on excess fat, cholesterol, carbs, etc. It's a win-win for you and your body!
I made this Banana Bread recipe last weekend for the Mr. It was wonderful. Moist, dense, full of banana flavor and a hint of spice. Try it and compare with your full fate version... bet you can't tell the difference.

Classic Banana Bread (from cooking Light)
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter, softened
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups mashed ripe banana (about 3 bananas)
1/3 cup plain low-fat yogurt (I used applesauce and it turned out great)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Cooking spray
-Preheat oven to 350°.
-Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife.
-Combine the flour, baking soda, and salt, stirring with a whisk.
-Place sugar and butter in a large bowl, and beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended (about 1 minute).
-Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add banana, yogurt, and vanilla; beat until blended.
-Add flour mixture; beat at low speed just until moist.
-Spoon batter into an 8 1/2 x 4 1/2-inch loaf pan coated with cooking spray.
-Bake at 350° for 1 hour or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes in pan on a wire rack; remove from pan. Cool completely on wire rack.
Nutritional Information:
Calories: 187 (21% from fat)
Fat: 4.3g (sat 2.4g,mono 1.2g,poly 0.3g)
Protein: 3.3g
Carbohydrate: 34.4g
Fiber: 1.1g
Cholesterol: 40mg
Sodium: 198mg

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

A Crock Pot Catastrophe

Sigh. So early this fall I informed you of my shiny new tool, the hinged lid Rival Crock Pot... which I was so looking forward to using with regular frequency. I am here to tell you today that Crock Pot is no longer with us. Yep, after a short life span of maybe 6 dinners, the Crock Pot cracked under pressure. Literally!

I went to stir our fancy schmancy dinner of Salsa Chicken and CRACK! The awesome hinged lid broke into a hundred pieces... falling IN to my Salsa Chicken. WTH?!?!

Luckily for Macy's, I was able to return this sorry excuse for a slow cooker and received a full refund.

We now have a new member in the family. A slightly less glamorous, but undoubtedly more reliable 6 qt. stainless Crock pot... minus hinged lid.
Life as we know it in the M house is back on track.

A Can of Chickpeas and a Pound of Turkey

These two ingredients had been hanging out in our kitchen for the past three weeks with no real plan for the future. Don't worry... the ground turkey was chillin' in our freezer, not collecting e-coli in the pantry!
So I went on a google hunt for recipes involving these forgotten soldiers. Voila! I found a serious contender on one of my favorite cooking blogs, Oishii Food.
Spicy Turkey and Chickpea Burgers sounded intriguing and perfect, considering the afore mentioned ingredients.
I made a few substitutions based on what we already had on hand: Cilantro, some ripe avocado and fabulous Parmesan-Garlic rolls.
The result was a wonderful mix of flavors and textures that the Mr. and I loved! This recipe is definitely one to keep in rotation.


Spicy Turkey & Chickpea Burgers
(Adapted from Clean Eating)Serves 4 (or 2 with leftover patties)

1 (15 oz.) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
3 green onions, white and green parts, chopped1 clove garlic, chopped
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 tsp. chili powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
a handful of fresh parsley, chopped (We used fresh cilantro)
2 TBS. Worcestershire sauce
3/4 lb. ground turkey (We used a full pound)
2 TBS. olive oil

*In a food processor, combine the first 9 ingredients (through Worcestershire sauce). Pulse until smooth. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary.
*Transfer chickpea mixture to a large bowl and add the ground turkey. Mix together until well combined, then form patties (we made a total of 7 patties, about 3 inches wide and 1-1/2 inch thick).
*Add some olive oil to a frying pan (a few times around the pan). Heat over medium high heat. *When hot, fry the patties, about 4-6 minutes on each side depending on thickness of patties. You may have to cook them in 2 batches.
*While patties are cooking, toast your rolls.
*Assemble burgers on rolls with the spinach leaves, red onion, mayo and/or mustard. Add tomato if in season!

**Thank you Oishii Food for this great recipe!

Why, Hello Ginger! Nice to Meet You...

I've always enjoyed the taste of fresh ginger: the tangy spice mixed with the sugary sweetness is such a sensory experience. But I have never felt confident enough to try my hand at cooking with the root.
When I found this recipe for Ginger Scallops I thought it sounded easy enough for a first timer. So, I picked up my very first nugget of fresh ginger, hit our favorite local seafood haunt and headed home to dazzle the Mr. with my new found skillz.
What a hit! We paired the scallops with a side of organic, long grain brown rice with fresh green onions and some whole green beans. To die for. The scallops literally melted in my mouth and the butter-based sauce provided just enough moisture to create a creamy rice bed. Try this recipe today!


Ginger Scallops (from Just Cook This!)
1 pound large fresh scallops, about 12
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons ginger, finely chopped
2 tablespoons green onion, finely chopped
Olive oil
Kosher salt & Fresh ground pepper to taste

Mix butter, ginger and green onion in a small bowl.
Place saute pan on heat and add 1 tablespoon oil (I used sesame oil)
When almost smoking, add half of the scallops and sear on both sides until nicely browned, about 1-2 minutes a side (Our scallops were a bit large and cooked for 2-3 minutes)
When almost finished, put half the ginger butter in the pan and toss scallops until all coated.
Cook remaining scallops the same way. Serve immediately.

Ta Da!

So, after ahem months of neglecting my new venture in blogging, I decided that part of my neglect was based on a lack of subject matter. Not that I live a boring life... at least not all the time. But I doubt very much that my faithful readers really need a recounting of every weekend conversation with the Mr. and every detail of the goings on at my office. These topics do not a fun blog make.

So, I've decided to revamp this little jewel and focus on my other passion: Cooking! I have discovered a long buried urge to create masterpieces in my kitchen. Since I work nights, my only real opportunity to forage into culinary creativity is on the weekends. Hence the new name... The Weekend Chef.

I hope you will find useful recipes and the anecdotes of my own attempts to master them. I am always open to suggestions from YOU... and will take on any challenges you want to throw my way.