Thursday, September 27, 2012

Oven Roasted Chicken Thighs, Creamy Cucumber-Olive Salad and Herbed Polenta

Oven Roasted Chicken Thighs
Serve 4

8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup red onion, diced
3 garlic cloves

  1. Combine all ingredients in a Ziploc bag, seal and refrigerate for 2-4 hours, turning occasionally.
  2. Preheat oven to 400.
  3. Place chicken thighs in a shallow baking dish, uncovered, for 18-20 minutes, or until they begin to brown.
Nutritional Data:
Calories:        289
Fat:             18.3g
Sat fat:          4.2g
Chol:            99mg
Sodium:        93mg
Carbs:          2.6g
Fiber:           0.4g
Protein:      27.3g

Herbed Polenta
Serves 4

2 cups skim milk
2/3 cup dried polenta
1/4 cup feta cheese
1 teaspoon Italian or Greek herbs
  1. Prepare polenta according to label instructions.
  2. When it is finished cooking, stir in the feta and herb.
  3. Serve immediately, or spread it flat, 1/2 inch thick and let cool.  Then, pan-fry in a bit of olive oil, flipping it over when the edges begin to brown. 
Nutritional Data:
Calories:        158
Fat:               1.7g
Sat fat:          1.2g
Chol:            8.6mg
Sodium:       126mg
Carbs:          23.2g
Fiber:           2.1g
Protein:           6g

Creamy Cucumber-Olive Salad
Serves 4

2 cucumber, peeled and seeded, cut into 1/8 inch thick crescents.
9 Kalamata olives, sliced
4 banana peppers, cut into rings
3 ounces (by weight) Fage plain Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon fresh lemon zest

Nutritional Data:
Calories:       69
Fat:             2.7g
Sat fat:           0g
Chol:             0mg
Sodium:     206mg
Carbs:         8.2g
Fiber:          3.6g
Protein:       3.9g

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Simple Steak Dinner

I made this on the eve before our eldest returned to college. 
I asked what he wanted and he told me steak and my spinach salad. 
I like to make the foods that people specifically want.

Steak Dinner
Serves ? (Depends on how many steaks you make. I made four.)

4 boneless rib eye steaks, about 1 inch thick. 14-16 ounces each is great.
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large Vidalia onion, sliced 1/4 inch thick and then quartered
2-4 garlic cloves, smashed and minced
3 cups (8 ounces) sliced crimini (baby portabella) mushrooms
Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Preheat grill on high for 15 minutes.  Get it HOT.
  2. Heat a non-stick skillet over medium high heat.
  3. Add olive oil.
  4. Add onions and salt/pepper to taste. Saute until they begin to get translucent (3-5 minutes).
  5. Add mushrooms. Continue to saute until the mushrooms get soft (5-8 minutes).
  6. In the last minute, add garlic.
  7. Remove from heat, cover and keep warm.
When the mushrooms and onions are done, season the steaks with salt/pepper or any other seasonings. I use a pepper mill filled with black pepper, coriander, celery seed, mustard seed, and a bit of dried red pepper flakes. No salt.

Clean the grates with a brush. Using long tongs, dip a folded paper towel into cooking oil (any kind) and rub the grates with the oil. It may catch fire.  That is okay.  Just wipe a little more on the grate.

Place the steaks on the grill.

  Yeah, those are good steaks, each 14-16 ounces, and one inch thick

After 2 minutes, you can lift them and twist them about 90 degrees to form cross hashed grill marks. This is certainly not necessary, but it looks nice.

After a total of 6-7 minutes, turn the steaks over.  (A one inch steak will be rare in about 12 minutes total cooking time, medium rare in about 14 minutes.  Medium in about 16-18 minutes.  I don't know what will happen with longer times.  I never intentionally cook a steak beyond medium.)

See the grill marks?

When fully cooked, remove from the grill and set on a cooling rack. Cover and keep warm. Don't let them sit in their juices. (Instead, later add the juices to the mushrooms.)

In the photo above, I served the steak with a pat of butter on it, and a spinach-strawberry salad and sauteed mushrooms and onions.

Nutritional data will vary based on type of steak and size.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Chicken Breast and Mushrooms in a Vinegar-Cream Sauce

Chicken Breast and Mushrooms in a Vinegar-Cream Sauce
Serves 4

4 chicken breasts (I used 4 ounce breasts)
Your preferred herb blend (I used Penzey's Sunny Paris.)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium Vidalia onion, sliced and quartered
6 cloves garlic, smashed and minced
3 cups (8 ounces) crimini mushrooms, cut into quarters
8 ounces white wine
2 tablespoon white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons tomato paste
3 ounces (by weight) plain Greek yogurt

  1. Place chicken breasts in a Ziploc bag. With a mallet, pound them thin (1/4 - 1/2 inch). Season with your favorite seasoning.
  2. Preheat a large non-stick skillet. Spray with cooking spray.
  3. Pan fry breasts, on both sides, until fully cooked (8-12 minutes). Remove from the pan, cover to keep warm.
  4. Place olive oil in the skillet (do not wipe it clean of chicken residue.) Add mushrooms. Saute until beginning to get soft  (4-6 minutes over medium heat.)
  5. Add onion. Continue to saute until the onions are beginning to get translucent.
  6. Add garlic. Let cook for 1 minute.
  7. Remove and cover to keep warm.
  8. Again, without cleaning the skillet, carefully pour in the wine. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
  9. Add vinegar and tomato paste. Stir until mixed.
  10. Add yogurt, stir until mixed.
  11. Return chicken and mushrooms to the skillet. Toss to coat.
  12. Serve over rice, pasta, or other starch (if desired.)
The picture shows Summer Quinoa Salad and steamed broccoli.

Nutritional Data for one chicken breast and 1 portion of sauce:
Calories:       257
Fat:               6.2g
Sat fat:             1g
Chol:              65mg
Sodium:        207mg
Carbs:          14.2g
Fiber:            2.3g
Protein:          28g

Summer Quinoa Salad

Summer Quinoa Salad
Serves 8 (1/2 cup portions)

1 1/2 cups cooked quinoa
1/2 cup red onion, diced
1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes, minced
1 large bell pepper (any color) minced
1 cucumber, peeled and seeded, then diced
4 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  1. Prepare the quinoa according to directions.
  2. While the quinoa is cooking, prepare all vegetables. Ideally, all veggies should be cut to the same size, about 1/4 inch square bits.
  3. Mix the olive oil, vinegar and basil.
  4. When the quinoa is cooked, mix it with all other ingredients. 
  5. Can be served warm or chilled.
Nutritional Data:
Calories:    99
Fat:          4.4g
Sat fat:     0.5g
Chol:          0mg
Sodium:    75mg
Carbs:   11.6g
Fiber:        2g
Protein:  2.4g

You can use almost any vegetable in this (spring peas, tomatoes, green beans, etc).

Also, there are three types of quinoa, white, red and black. I don't think there is any nutritional difference. I buy the red because it tends to look better when in a dish.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Crimini, Onion and Bleu Cheese Pizza

Crimini, Onion and Bleu Cheese Ultra-Thin Pizza
Serves 2

1.  Preheat oven as directed on the package.
2.  Slice one-half Vidalia onion into 1/8 inch thick slices, and then quarter those.
3.  Clean and slice 8 ounces crimini mushrooms.
4.  Heat a 10" non-stick skillet over med-high heat. Spray with cooking spray, add onions.
5.  Saute onions until golden brown and caramelized (6-10 minutes.) In the last minute, add 2-4 cloves smashed and minced garlic.  Remove from heat, cover to keep warm.
6.  In the same pan, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add mushrooms. Toss frequently. Season with salt and black pepper to taste.  Saute until the mushrooms become soft and have released a lot of their water.
7.  While mushrooms cook, prepare the Golden Home Ultra Thin pizza crust. Evenly coat the surface with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Sprinkle evenly with 1/8 cup shredded mozzarella cheese.
8.  Layer the onions evenly over the cheese. Top with mushrooms.
9.  Evenly sprinkle 1/4 cup bleu cheese over mushrooms. (I was able to use sliced BleuJack cheese, the amounts are the same.)
10. Bake for 8-10 minutes, until the cheese is melted and the crust is brown.

Note: In my photo, I actually have two versions. The left half is made with mozzarella replacing the bleu for my wife. The right half is made according to the above recipe.

Nutritional Data (for the bleu cheese variety)--portion size is half the pizza:
Calories:     528
Fat:           28.6g
Sat fat:        9.9g
Chol:           41mg
Sodium:     339mg
Carbs:       51.9g
Fiber:         8.1g
Protein:    19.3g

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Old Fashioned Popcorn

Old Fashioned, Made-on-the-Stove Popcorn
Serves 2 (approximately 3 cup portions)

6 tablespoons popcorn (yellow, white, black or blue, it doesn't matter)
2 tablespoons coconut oil
Seasoning of your choice

You will need a large sauce pan/ stock pot, at least 4 quarts, with a lid. (Don't try this without a lid. Seriously.)

I use a 4 quart non-stick sauce pan.

You can use any oil you want. Coconut oil is more expensive than canola or even olive oil, but the flavor it gives to popcorn is incomparable.

1.  Heat 2 tablespoons coconut oil in the pan over medium-high heat. Place two kernels of corn in the oil. When they pop, you know that the oil is at popping temperature. (Is this really necessary? I don't know. But that's how my Mom made popcorn, and how I've always done it.)

Ah, the beauty of melting fat.

Doing what my Mom taught me.

The oil is ready!

2.  Add popcorn to oil. The corn should be an even single layer across the bottom.

A relatively even layer.

3.  Return lid to pan.
4.  When the popping starts, pay close attention and shake frequently. Once popping begins, it will be finished in about 1 minute.

It starting!

5.  Shake frequently while actively popping. Shaking helps the unpopped kernels drop to the bottom and pop, while moving the popped corn to the top to avoid burning.

It's done!

6.  Pour into a large bowl and season as desired. My wife prefers a combination of popcorn salt and "Nu-Salt", a sodium-free salt.

Delicious popcorn, fresh and hot.

 I prefer to use more savory flavors. This time I used Penzey's Sunny Spain,
which is a salt-free blend of black Telicherry pepper, onion, garlic and lemon peel powders, and citric acid.

Nutritional data (1 portion, about 3 cups)
Calories:        279
Fat:              18.9g
Sat fat:         14.2g
Chol:           10.2mg
Sodium:        0.5mg
Carbs:         24.8g
Fiber:            5.2g
Protein:         3.8g

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Eggs Over Chili

Eggs Over Chili
Serves 1

This is a nice way to use a little leftover chili and make a hearty breakfast.

1 cup chili (your preferred style)
2 eggs, prepare in your preferred style

Warm the chili and place on a plate. If desired top with cheese.
Cook eggs to the desired preparation, and placed on top of chili. Drizzle hot sauce if desired.

I can't provide nutritional data for your food because I don't know your chili. How are my chili is made with a lot of beans, ground beef, low sodium V-8 juice, onions and whole fresh tomatoes, as well as some spices and herbs. For being used kidney beans but I use dried beans and then rehydrate them in my pressure cooker. This avoids a lot of the sodium that you'll find in canned beans. If you eat a lot of beans and their concern about sodium, I would recommend investing in a pressure cooker.

My chili recipe:
1 pound ground beef, browned
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup diced onion
2 tablespoons tomato paste
Spices and herbs as desired (I used Penzey's Salt Free Regular Chili Powder.)
2 medium tomatoes, diced
32 ounces low sodium V8 juice (or tomato juice if you prefer)
2 cups cooked kidney beans (approximately 1 can)

  1. In a large kettle, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add onions, and cook until beginning to turn translucent (2-3 minutes.)
  2. Add tomato paste and spices. Stir together.
  3. Add tomatoes. Let cook for 2-4 minutes.
  4. Add V8, beans and meat. Cook until hot. This is best if prepared a day in advance, so that the flavors have a chance to meld together.
Note:  Penzey's also has Medium and Hot versions of their salt-free chili powder.

Nutritional data for this chili:
Calories:       178
Fat:               5.6g
Sat fat:          2.1g
Chol:          38.5mg
Sodium:         91mg
Carbs:         15.2g
Fiber:            3.8g
Protein:       16.2g

Friday, September 21, 2012

Do Something Good

This is not weight-related, but it is health-related.

We are all gifted. And while we focus on ourselves and our life-changing journey, we need to consider how to use our gifts. Are you gifted with resources? Share those with a worthy organization. Do you have the ability to manage your own schedule? Share your time. Are you able to write thoughts in a way that people seem to enjoy reading? Share those thoughts that will help others (and I hope that is what I am doing.)

But there is something else that many people can share:  blood.

If you are able, go to the local blood bank or Red Cross, and become a blood donor. Or a platelet donor. Or a plasma donor.

Giving blood and the Green Bay Packers. Two great things!

Don't do it because of the awesome snacks you will get or the comfortable chairs you get to sit/lay in. Do it because somewhere, probably somewhere close, is a person that is in desperate need of your donation. And this isn't like throwing some change in the Salvation Army kettles during the holiday season. This is a gift that could literally save someone's life. A real person, probably in your community. And your gift will help them today or tomorrow, not theoretically sometime in the future.

I donate platelets, about every two weeks. Platelets have a shelf life of five days and so hospitals only have a small stock on hand at any given time. It costs me nothing, except about two hours of my time. I get to leave with a bandage on each arm and the knowledge that I am doing something good.

Disclaimer: I have relatives that have used a lot of blood products, including platelets. I sort of feel obligated to provide the same help to others.

Note:  if you eat the snacks that are provided, make sure you log them. Donation of blood does not exempt you from logging food!  :-)

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Getting old is a Gradual Event (in other words ... did I age this much, too?)

It seems like no time ago, both my sons were in high school (Bennet, on the left, was a senior and and Ethan a freshman.) Here was the "First Day" picture, in the fall of 2009.

For comparison, here is a picture of both boys, from June, 2012.

This is on Ethan's last "First Day of High School" as he begins his senior year:

Just two of his senior portraits:

I hope I didn't age as much as the boys did!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Salmon Loaf with Grilled Beets and Broccoli

Salmon Loaf with Grilled Beets and Broccoli
Serves 4

1 can (15 ounce) can salmon, undrained
1 egg
1 cup panko bread crumbs
1/2 cup minced onion
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon dried parsley or chives
Pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients together. It is easiest to simply use your clean hands.
Spray a microwave safe dish with cooking spray and gently press the mixture into it. (I use a ring mold. Why? Because I always have. No other reason.)
Microwave until cooked through (9-12 minutes, depending on your microwave.)

Nutritional data:
Calories:         242
Fat:                10.2g
Sat fat:             2.2g
Chol:              123mg
Sodium:          540mg
Carb:             13.3g
Fiber:               1.3g
Protein:          24.5g

If you want a different flavors:
Add pickle relish
Replace the tomato paste with Dijon mustard
Add tiny shrimp or crab meat to the mixture
Add lemon zest

How to grill vegetables:

For especially dense vegetables (carrots, beets, winter squash) cut in half and microwave until hot and beginning to get soft. For all others, cut into workable sizes (as seen above.)

Place veggies in a bowl, add 1 tablespoon olive oil and toss.  (Most of this oil will cook off, it just helps prevent the veggies from sticking to the grates.) Add salt, pepper or other herbs.

Preheat grill on high for 5 minutes. Clean the grates and using tongs, wipe the grates with a paper towel dipped in cooking oil (I use canola.)

Place veggies on grill. Watch carefully, turning when the cooking surface begins to get brown and there are bits of char.

Nutritional data will vary based on what you are grilling, but they are a very healthy option for dinners. The heat tends to bring out the sweetness and reduce any bitterness normally found in some veggies.

Veggies that are routinely grilled at my place:
Corn on the Cob              
Onions (scallions, onion slices, and whole onions)          
Mushrooms (white button, crimini and portabella)
Peppers (bell, poblano, and jalapeno)
Squash (winter squash like acorn and butternut and summer squash like zucchini)
Garlic bulbs

Fruit that I grill include:

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Broccoli Cheddar Frittata

Broccoli Cheddar Frittata
Serves 4

1 bag frozen broccoli florets, thawed (about 4 cups)
1/4 cup onion
1 teaspoon olive oil
4 whole eggs
6 egg whites
Your preferred herb blend (I really like Penzey's Sunny Paris for ALL egg dishes.)
1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese

  1. Heat a 10 inch oven-safe non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add olive oil.
  2. Preheat your broiler on high, with the oven rack at the highest setting.
  3. When oil it hot (shimmery) add onions. Saute until they become translucent (3-4 minutes.)
  4. Add broccoli.  Continue to toss occasionally until everything is very warm.
  5. Meanwhile, separate the eggs, reserving the white. Scramble the whites with the whole eggs. Add your preferred seasoning.
  6. Turn the heat to medium and pour eggs over the vegetables. All the eggs to cook, undisturbed until the top is still runny but the edges are beginning to set.
  7. Sprinkle cheese evenly over the eggs, and place skillet under broiler until the eggs are cooked and the cheese melted and brown (2-3 minutes.)
  8. Let cool for 5 minutes, and cut into four pieces.

Nutritional data:
Calories:        165
Fat:                8.9g
Sat fat:           3.2g
Chol:             219mg
Sodium:         226mg
Carbs:            6.9g
Fiber:             2.4g
Protein:           16g

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Our Anniversary Dinner

Yesterday, we celebrated our 27th wedding anniversary. I made a nice meal of flank steak, balsamic-glazed Brussels sprouts, grilled carrots, and sauteed shallots.

I don't really have recipes for these foods, but I can tell you what I did.

Flank steak can be a tough cut of meat, so on each side, I scored it about every inch and about a 1/4 inch deep. The grain of a flank steak goes the long way of the meat, but I score at 45 degrees of the grain, first upper left to lower right, and then upper right to lower left. When done, you should have little squares cut into, but not through, the meat about 1 inch on the side.  (I guess the next time I make this, I will take pictures of the process.)

Then I take 4-6 cloves of garlic, crush them and mince them. I sprinkle a teaspoon of coarse salt on it, some black pepper and a tablespoon olive oil.  With the flat of a heavy knife, I grind this into a wonderfully aromatic paste.  I spread half on each side, cover it and let it rest for about an hour.

Meanwhile, I peeled the carrots and sliced them in half. I put them in the microwave and cooked them until hot and just getting soft.  I set those aside.

The Brussels sprouts are small. I spent a lot of time at the bulk bin in my grocery store, searching for as many small ones as I could find. I wanted cherry tomato sized sprouts. (They had many that were larger than hen's eggs.) I must have looked like a picky freak (which would have been accurate) but I wanted similar sizes so they would cook at the same rate. Don't be afraid to be picky when it comes to your food. When you go to good restaurants, the chefs will insist on only the best pieces. Why shouldn't you do the same for yourself and your loved ones? I cut the dried stems off, and pulled off any loose leaves. Then I put them in a colander and vigorously rinsed them under cold water.

(As often as I make this dish, and as much as I love them, I really think I need to visit Brussels, Belgium. That will make for some fun blog posts!)

Lastly, I peeled and thinly sliced the shallots. Then I turned my grill on high and let it preheat.

I put a large and a small non-stick skillet on the stove. Two teaspoons olive oil went in the large and one teaspoon in the small.  When hot, I carefully put the Brussels sprouts (they are wet, so they might splatter) in the large skillet and the shallots in the small. I ground a bit of fresh pepper and coarse salt on each and spent about five minutes tossing them every minute or so.  Then I turned the heat on the shallots down to medium-low (but I still tossed them occasionally because I wanted them soft and cooked, but not fully caramelized.) I poured four ounces of wine (use your favorite) into the Brussels sprouts and covered them, turning the heat down to medium. I let them steam for about five minutes (or until they start to get soft.) Then I removed the cover, turned the heat back to medium-high, and added four ounces of balsamic vinegar. I went back to frequent tossing to coat all the sprouts with the vinegar as it reduces and becomes more syrup-like. When done (you will know when you toss them and the vinegar is sticking to the sprouts) I turned the heat off and covered them.  I turned the heat of the shallots at the same time.  (The total cook time for the veggies is about 15 minutes.)

Finally, I went out to the grill, and using paper towel and tongs, I coated the grate with oil to help prevent sticking. I turned the fire to medium and laid the steak on one half of the grill, and the carrots on the other half.  The steak was about one inch thick, so six minutes per side will be rare to medium rare, seven per side will be medium rare.  Eight minutes per side will be more medium. I actually don't know what happens at nine minutes per side, because I don't cook steaks any more than medium.

The steak above is a 13 minute steak (seven on the first, six on the second) with a 10 minute rest before carving.

The carrots will be done right before the steak. Turn them from side to side until they begin to get dark and a tiny bit charred in spots. (They will be soooo sweet and flavorful!)

Carve the meat into 1/4 inch slices, across the grain. I topped the meat with a pile of shallot. No steak sauce or ketchup (catsup, depending on where you live) is ever served with my steaks. 

Pictured above is six ounces of steak, two whole carrots cut in half, about 15 Brussels sprouts, and two large shallots.