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Sunday, January 30, 2011

Apple Cinnamon Breakfast Strata PLUS Whole Wheat Breadcrumbs

Today on Serious Eats: Cider-Poached Pears with Yogurt and Toasted Almonds. Elegant, light, fruity!

(Note to self: When trying to psyche self up to blog, do not listen to Radiohead's OK Computer right before beginning to write. It's a bit like watching the first ten minutes of Up before playing in the Super Bowl.)

(And yes, blogging is just like playing in the Super Bowl. Think of the carbs!)

Hey you guys! So, we're trying something new here at CHG, in which we de-emphasize calorie counts a little (as they're not the decisive measure of a food's healthiness) so as to better focus on the overall nutritional value of any given recipe.

(Did I just make that up just now, so this post would fit into our stated thematic parameters? Yes.)

(Does it have some merit to it? Yes.)

(Did I have a large glass of red wine before beginning this post? I think you know the answer to that.)

Anyway, you'll see that today's dish, Apple-Cinnamon Whole Grain Breakfast Strata from The Kitchn via Opera Girl Cooks, is a little higher in calories than our usual recipes. This is okay, though. Because A) it's warm and appley and delicious – like non-cloying French toast, B) the fiber and protein counts are super-high, and C) all the ingredients are dang wholesome. Combined, all that makes for a healthy breakfast.

(What also makes for a healthy breakfast: grapefruit, oatmeal, not Lucky Charms, not skipping breakfast, escaping a pack of roaming ninjas to successfully get to work on time.)

I changed very little from OCG/The Kitchn’s original recipe, and the alterations made were mostly for economic reasons. A regular supermarket loaf of bread substituted for a fancier loaf. Dark brown sugar was chosen over organic cane sugar. Honey went in for agave syrup.

(That last one's not just financially motivated. It's just - agave syrup tastes like really thick tequila to me. And if the words "really thick tequila" don't automatically make you a little nauseous, then you may never have had a tequila-induced hangover. In which case, I salute and envy you.)

There's a bonus to the strata, as well. Step #2 requires you to saw off all the crusts of a loaf of bread. At first, this seems wasteful. BUT WAIT! By toasting said crusts for a few minutes, then crushing them in your mighty grasp, you come up with 1 1/2 cups handy, dandy whole-wheat breadcrumbs! Imagine what you can do with those!

(Coat chicken!)

(Top casseroles!)

(Sprinkle on macaroni and cheese!)

(Use as confetti at a mouse's birthday party!)

And that's it.

(Really!)

~~~

If this looks good, you might also quite enjoy:
~~~

Apple & Cinnamon Whole Grain Breakfast Strata
Serves 6 to 8.
Adapted from The Kitchn.


For the strata:
1 (24-ounce) loaf good supermarket whole wheat or whole grain bread
3 medium baking apples, peeled, cored, and sliced into 1/4-inch wedges
8 large eggs
2 cups 1% milk
1/3 cup lightly packed dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

For the glaze:
3 ounces cream cheese
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons 1% milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1) Grease a 9x13 glass baking dish ever-so-lightly with butter

2) Unpack bread. Place ends aside. Cut crusts off each piece. Set crusts aside.

2.5) IF MAKING BREADCRUMBS : Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spread crusts out on baking sheet. Bake 10-15 minutes, until bread is completely toasty. Remove from oven and let cool. When totally cool, run through a food processor or beat senseless with rolling pin. Store crumbs in an airtight container. Should make 1 1/2 to 2 cups breadcrumbs.

3) Line bottom of baking dish with half the crustless bread. Layer apple slices on top of bread. Layer apples with remaining bread.

4) In a medium bowl, mix eggs, milk, brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Whisk thoroughly. Pour over bread. Cover and refrigerate a few hours, or overnight.

5) Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

6) Cover strata with tin foil. Bake for 35 minutes (45 minutes if coming straight from the fridge). Uncover. Bake for additional 15 minutes.

7) Mix cream cheese, honey, milk, and vanilla in a small pot. Heat over medium heat until cheese is melted and glaze is formed, stirring constantly. Pour over warmed strata. Spread glaze with back of a wooden spoon until pretty evenly distributed.

8) Let sit 10 minutes. Serve, with syrup if preferred.


Approximate Calories, Fat, Fiber, Protein, and Price Per Serving
Seven servings: 392 calories, 13.8 g fat, 10 g fiber, 16.9 g protein, $0.99

NOTE: Calculations are for Arnold 100% Whole Wheat Triple Health (I don’t know what that means, either) bread, which is what I used. Since there’s no real way to calculate nutrition for crustless bread, I subtracted 30% of the totals. It’s not scientific per se, but that’s why we write “approximate.”

Calculations
1 (24-ounce) supermarket loaf whole wheat or whole grain bread: 1050 calories, 21 g fat, 63 g fiber, 42 g protein, $2.50
3 medium baking apples, peeled, cored, sliced into 1/4-inch wedges: 184 calories, 0.4 g fat, 5 g fiber, 1 g protein, $1.36
8 large eggs: 588 calories, 39.6 g fat, 0 g fiber, 50.3 g protein, $1.00
2 cups + 2 tablespoons 1% milk: 224 calories, 5.2 g fat, 0 g fiber, 18.1 g protein, $0.66
1/3 cup lightly packed dark brown sugar: 229 calories, 0 g fat, 0 g fiber, 0 g protein, $0.22
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract: 30 calories, 0 g fat, 0 g fiber, 0 g protein, $0.20
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon: 9 calories, 0.1 g fat, 1.9 g fiber, 0.1 g protein, $0.06
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg: 6 calories, 0.4 g fat, 0.2 g fiber, 0.1 g protein, $0.03
3 ounces cream cheese: 297 calories, 29.7 g fat, 0 g fiber, 6.4 g protein, $0.56
2 tablespoons honey: 128 calories, 0 g fat, 0.1 g fiber, 0.1 g protein, $0.32
TOTAL: 2745 calories, 96.4 g fat, 70.2 g fiber, 118.1 g protein, $6.91
PER SERVING (TOTAL/7): 392 calories, 13.8 g fat, 10 g fiber, 16.9 g protein, $0.99

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Veggie Might: French-Style Lentil Soup with Spinach

Written by the fabulous Leigh, Veggie Might is a weekly Thursday column about all things Vegetarian.

A common misconception about vegetarians and vegans is that we only eat bland, boring lentil dishes that taste like paste/cardboard. Oh contraire! Lentils are freakin’ awesome, and you need not employ fancy tricks to make them delicious.

How apropos that, this week, I turn to Mark Bittman to illustrate this fact. (Mr. B, I’m going to miss The Minimalist ever so.)

Generally, my favorite way to eat lentils is all dal-ed up, Indian-style. But I’ll take them any way really: in a loaf, a patty, or in a soup with just a few simple flavors, like onions, salt, and pepper.

The thing is, as comfortable as I am around beans and lentils, wildly tossing together legumes with vegetables, grains, and spices, I’m fairly stymied by soup. I just can’t get a handle on the proportions and almost always turn to recipes. Sure enough, darling Mark Bittman and his stalwart How to Cook Everything Vegetarian saw into my heart and knew what it wanted before I did: the French variation of his Classic Lentil Soup.

It provided a use for the deep greenish-grey-colored French lentils (also known as lentils du Puy if they actually come from France) I’ve been hoarding, as well as a template for soup in general.

Even with the dicing, during which I relished using my newly sharpened knife, the soup came together in under an hour. Once the carrot and celery are diced, almost everything goes in the pot to start cooking; then the onion and garlic get their turn at the blade—a huge time saver. Plus, if you use frozen spinach, like I did, you save yourself additional washing and washing and chopping steps.

Because the recipe uses everyday ingredients—green or brown lentils can be easily subbed for Frenchies—it’s beyond cheap. At less than $3.50 for the whole pot, you get several meals for the cost of a cafe au lait—and it’s just as warm and comforting on a cold winter afternoon. The lentils, carrots, and celery stick to your ribs, while a hint of lemon juice gives a refreshing zing.

MB suggests spinach and lemon juice if sorrel is unavailable, which is the case here in the depths of Northeastern winter. Sorrel, if you’ve never tried it, is a delicate leafy green with a pungent, lemony flavor. Come spring, I’ll be giving that version a try for sure.

Now, let us lift high our spoons in praise of the lovely lentil and Mark Bittman’s deliciously simple soup. À votre santé!

~~~~

If you dig this recipe, point your [snow] shovel toward:
~~~

French-Style Lentil Soup with Spinach
Serves 4 to 6
Adapted from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman


1 cup French lentils
1 medium carrot, 1/2” dice
1 rib celery, 1/2” dice
1 bay leaf
6 cups vegetable stock
salt and pepper to taste
2 teaspoons nonhydrogenated vegan butter
1 medium onion, chopped
1 clove garlic , minced
1 1/2 cups spinach, frozen (or 1/4 pound spinach, fresh)
1 lemon, juiced

1) Combine lentils, bay leaf, carrot, celery, stock, and salt and pepper in a large sauce pan or medium stock pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes or until lentils are tender.

2) Chop onions and garlic. In a medium skillet, cook onions in vegan butter for 5 minutes or until soft. Add garlic and cook 1 minute more. If using fresh spinach, stir into onion and garlic mixture until wilted. Add to soup. If using frozen spinach, skip wilting step and add spinach to soup separately from onion and garlic mixture.

3) Remove soup from heat when lentils are tender and squeeze in lemon juice.

4) Serve with crusty bread and a green salad or a baked sweet potato for a light lunch. So simple, so delicious, so je ne sai pas...perfectly lentil.

Approximate Calories, Fat, Fiber, Protein, and Price per Serving
Four servings: 249.6 calories, 3g fat, 18.5g fiber, 10g protein, $.86
Six servings: 166.4 calories, 2g fat, 12.3g fiber, 15g protein, $.57

Calculations
1 cup French lentils: 678 calories, 2g fat, 59g fiber, 50g protein, $0.70
1 medium carrot: 25 calories, 0g fat, 2g fiber, 1g protein, $0.16
1 rib celery: 6 calories, 0g fat, 1g fiber, 0g protein, $0.08
1 bay leaf: negligible calories, fat, fiber, protein, $0.02
6 cups vegetable stock: 120 calories, 0.6g fat, 0g fiber, 0g protein, $1.14
salt: negligible calories, fat, fiber, protein, $0.02
pepper: negligible calories, fat, fiber, protein, $0.02
2 teaspoons nonhydrogenated vegan butter: 66 calories, 7.3g fat, 0g fiber, 0g protein, $0.08
1 onion: 20 calories, 0g fat, 0g fiber, 0g protein, $0.25
1 clove garlic: 4 calories, 0g fat, 0g fiber, 0g protein, $0.01
1 1/2 cups spinach, frozen: 67.5 calories, 1.5g fat, 7.5g fiber, 9g protein, $0.75
1 lemon, juiced: 12 calories, 0g fat, 0g fiber, 0g protein, $0.20
TOTALS: 998.5 calories, 11.4g fat, 74g fiber, 60g protein, $3.43
PER SERVING (TOTALS/4): 249.6 calories, 3g fat, 18.5g fiber, 10g protein, $.86
PER SERVING (TOTALS/6): 166.4 calories, 2g fat, 12.3g fiber, 15g protein, $.57

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Guest Post: Cranberry Pumpkin Muffins

Today's guest post comes from Ali, who lives in Vancou... you'll see.

Hi everyone.

My name is Ali, and I live in Vancouver, Canada with my boyfriend J. We are both graduate students, so we eat on the cheap, and we're both pretty active - I'm training up for a half marathon - so we're a couple of hungry buggers. The recipe below is a great way to use up pumpkin, if you've got it, and cranberries.

This muffin is one of our faves: It's cheap and healthy and good (what a coincidence!), and also portable, freezable, and toastable. CHGPFT! Also, let's compare this nutritional info with the info for a "Lowfat raspberry muffin" from a large international coffee chain that shall remain nameless. Their muffin (according to their online nutrition info): 340 calories, 6g fat, 2g fibre, 7g protein. This is their healthy muffin, people. And let's not even talk about the price...I'm not sure what they are charging for their muffins, but it sure as heck isn't $0.53. Yikes. So, save your money! Save your calories! Give the muffins below a try....you won't regret it. Promise.

A couple of notes:

1) The inspiration for this recipe comes from a fantastic cook book called Re:Bar, but we've made loads of adaptations to it so I'm not sure you could call it the same recipe. Nevertheless, the idea of putting millet and pumpkin together in muffin form comes from those guys and their yummy restaurant.

2) Did you know that there is as much protein is 1/2 cup millet as there is in 2 eggs (11g)? I didn't. And the millet is a third the price. So there's that.

3) For the pumpkin: we bought a huge (10 pound) pumpkin from a farmers' market, cooked the sucker, mashed up its insides, and froze the resulting mush in 2-cup ziplock bags. I admit I do not remember the exact price of the pumpkin, but it was cheap. So what you have here is my best guess for price. I'm guessing that the pumpkin cost about $10, and we got about 7 frozen cups of mush from it, plus a cup or two of pumpkin seeds.

~~~

If this looks good, you'll surely love:
~~~

Cranberry Pumpkin Muffins


1/2 cup millet (uncooked)
2 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1/8 cup vegetable oil
1.25 cups pumpkin puree (fresh or canned)
1 cup flour (all white, or 1/2 white 1/2 whole wheat)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoon fresh grated ginger
2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries

1) Preheat oven to 375 degress. Grease a muffin tray, or line with muffin papers.

2) Toast millet in a hot dry skillet until it's lightly browned and starts to smell toasty. Set aside.

3) Beat together eggs, sugar, and vanilla until well mixed. Then add in yogurt pumpkin, and vegetable oil. Mix.

4) In a different bowl, combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and millet.

5) Combine wet and dry, and stir in cranberries. Don't overmix, or muffins will be tough - use minimal stirrage.

6) Bake at 375 for 20-25 mins or until a knife comes out clean.

Approximate Calories, Fat, Fibre, Protein, and Price Per Serving
155 calories, 3.8g fat, 3.1g fibre, 4g protein, $0.53

NOTE: Calculations are in Canadian dollars. Just add about 10% to convert to USD.

Calculations
1/2 cup millet: 378 calories, 4.2g fat, 8.5 g fibre, 11g protein, $0.50
2 eggs (we used happy-organic-free-range-type, hence the price): 126 calories, 8.7g fat, 0g fibre, 11.1 g protein, $1.75
1/2 cup sugar: 387 calories, 0g fat, 0g fibre, 0g protein, $0.25
1 teaspoon vanilla: 12 calories, 0g fat, 0g fibre, 0g protein, $0.10
1/2 cup plain low-fat yogurt: 77 calories, 1.9g fat, 0g fibre, 6.4 g protein, $0.64
1/8 cup vegetable oil (we used grapeseed): 241 calories, 27 g fat, 0g fibre, 0g, protein, $0.20
1 1/4 cups pumpkin puree: 104 calories, 1g fat, 9g fibre, 3.4g protein, $0.75*
1/2 cup whole wheat flour: 203 calories, 1.1g fat, 7.3g fibre, 8.2g protein, $.0.18
1/2 cup white flour: 228 calories, .5 g fat, 1.7g fibre, 6.5g protein, $0.15
1 teaspoon baking soda: 0g everything, $0.05
1 teaspoon cinnamon: 6 calories, 0g fat, 1.2g fibre, 0g protein, $0.10
2 teaspoons fresh ginger: 12 calories, 0g fat, .5g fibre, .3g protein, $0.35
2 cups cranberries: 87 calories, 0g fat, 8.7g fibre, 0.7g protein, $1.35
TOTALS: 1862 calories, 45.5g fat, 36.6g fibre, 47.5g protein, $6.37
PER SERVING (Totals/12): 155 calories, 3.8g fat, 3.1g fibre, 4g protein, $0.53

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Green Kitchen: Roasted Leek and Mushroom Salad

Green Kitchen is a bi-weekly column about nutritious, inexpensive, and ethical food and cooking. It's penned by the lovely Jaime Green.

In the three-and-a-half months my kitchen has been without gas, I’ve gotten creative. I’ve learned the moods of an electric cooktop. I’ve almost set my toaster oven on fire with parchment paper. I’ve microwaved a lot of tea. It’s been an adventure but I can’t say it’s been good, or easy, or fun.

So when my boyfriend, working from home on Friday to let the utility guys into the apartment (and make sure the cat ever came out from under the bed), texted me that we had gas, I was EXCITED! All-caps EXCITED, here. Cookies! Cake! Roasted broccoli! I did not pass many waking hours this weekend without the oven running. (As the temperature’s been hovering around six degrees farenheit today, I don’t feel very bad about that.)

I’ve resigned myself to a nonlocal winter, weighing good Whole Foods produce against its price, against the kinda dodgy broccoli I can get from the supermarket near me. (After nearly four months without roasted broccoli, I’m a little obsessed right now.) But even though it’s, did I mention, six degrees farenheit out, my farmers market is year-round, and not entirely produce-free!

In a month or two it will really be just jam, bison jerky, and onions, but a last few vegetables are still hanging around. The leeks I brought home were maybe a little soft, but once they’re roasted and carmelized and golden, are you drooling yet?

This meal came together by a bit of kismet, and a bit of what-I-had-around. When I was in Whole Foods with my friend J, I think it was as I was bagging these mushrooms that I complained about winter meal planning – in the summer I buy whatever’s cheap and pretty and in-season and build my meals around that. The rest of the year, when seasonal eating shuts down and I hit the supermarket produce aisles, it’s almost like there’s too much choice – everything’s there, everything’s an option. I bought the greenmarket leeks because they’ll probably be gone soon; I bought supermarket mushrooms because, I dunno, because it’s cold? Whatever, it worked out.

I decided to roast the leeks and mushrooms together, and the oniony and rich carmelized flavors do go well together, but it was all a bit savory and heavy. I looked around my fridge and kitchen, brightened things up with some tangy goat cheese and a crisp apple, and voila! It all felt fancy and chic, despite the fact that I ate it from a chipped bowl, in pajamas, on the couch, in front of the TV.

~~~

If this looks tasty, you'll love:
~~~

Roasted Leek and Mushroom Salad
Serves 3-4


1 bunch leeks (5-6 large, 8-10 small)
1 package crimini/baby bella mushrooms
1 Tbs olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
2 oz goat cheese (herbed or plain)
1 medium apple (I like Gala or Empire, nothing mushy or too tart)

1) Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.

2) Trim ends and dark green bits from leeks. Cut into about 6” pieces, and then in half lengthwise. Soak in a bowl of cool water to remove any grit or sand. Pat dry.

3) Rinse mushrooms and trim ends. Cut any big ones in half.

4) Spread leeks and mushrooms on baking sheet (covered with aluminum foil, perhaps) in a single layer. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt (about ¼ tsp) and pepper (a few grinds or shakes). Toss to evenly coat, then make sure leeks are all cut side down.

5) Bake leeks and mushrooms for 20-30 minutes, until mushrooms are done and leeks are tender and caramelized. Toss once halfway through.

6) Core and quarter the apple, then cut into very thin slices. Use a mandoline if you like.

7) Plate leeks and mushrooms. Add crumbled goat cheese, then arrange apple slices on top. Pretend this is Iron Chef: Battle Leeks.

Approximate Calories, Fat, Fiber, Protein, and Price Per Serving
3 Servings: 278 calories, 11g fat, 5.1g fiber, 10.6g protein, $2.48
4 Servings: 208.3 calories, 8.3g fat, 3.9g fiber, 8g protein, $1.86

Calculations
1 bunch leeks: 271 calories, 1.3g fat, 8g fiber, 6.7g protein, $3.00
1 package crimini mushrooms: 135 calories, 0.5g fat, 3g fiber, 12.5g protein, $2.50
1 Tbs olive oil: 126 calories, 14g fat, 0g fiber, 0g protein, $0.12
¼ tsp salt: 0 calories, 0g fat, 0g fiber, 0g protein, $0.01
¼ tsp pepper: 0 calories, 0g fat, 0g fiber, 0g protein, $0.01
2 oz goat cheese: 206 calories, 16.9g fat, 0g fiber, 12.2g protein, $1.50
1 apple: 95 calories, 0.3g fat, 4.4g fiber, 0.5g protein, $0.30
TOTALS: 833 calories, 33.1g fat, 15.4g fiber, 31.9g protein, $7.44
PER SERVING (TOTALS/3): 278 calories, 11g fat, 5.1g fiber, 10.6g protein, $2.48
PER (smaller) SERVING (TOTALS/4): 208.3 calories, 8.3g fat, 3.9g fiber, 8g protein, $1.86

Ask the Internet: Upscale Slow Cooker Recipes?

Today's question comes from reader Marnie:

Q: I have sort of the opposite question from the one posted [last week]. I have several different size slow cookers and a couple of slow cooker recipe books from which I’ve mostly pulled relatively bland recipes. My husband and I are on a tight budget and we like to use fresh whole foods whenever possible. We don’t ever keep canned soups in the house nor jars of salsa or other short cut ingredients that are frequent staples in slow cooker recipes. We love flavor and are happy with meaty or meat free recipes as long as they are not bland and boring.

Any suggestions for great, flavorful and healthy recipes for the slow cooker that don’t use any short cuts?


A: Marnie, I've heard nothing but good things about Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker. The recipes are more complex and take a more international approach than your regular crockpot cookbook. Searching Saveur and Epicurious might also be helpful, since they're a tad more gourmet than say, All Recipe (Which I love! But not for everything.)

Readers?

Want to ask the interweb a question? Post one in the comment section, or write to Cheaphealthygood@gmail.com. Then, tune in next Tuesday for an answer/several answers from the good people of the World Wide Net.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Pasta e Fagioli, or: I Succesfully Rehydrate Dried Beans For the First Time, Ever

Up until last night, I've always used canned beans in recipes. I wish I could say it’s because they taste better. Or they’re cheaper. Or they come in prettier colors and sing me neat Pink Floyd songs as I go to sleep at night.

Alas, that ain’t the truth. The truth is more like this: I have never been able to rehydrate dried beans. Ever. Like, in recorded history. Even before I was born, I couldn’t do it. No matter how long I soaked, no matter how many hours I boiled, my dried legumes always stayed dried. Like tiny, grainy BB gun pellets.

Then, I stumbled over The Kitchn's One-Pot Pasta e Fagioli, which uses caramelized onions and a smattering of bacon to flavor a rich broth, in which dried cannellini beans, pasta, and spinach are then cooked to a soft, hearty stew. (Wow, that was a long sentence. Also, A Smattering of Bacon is potentially great title for your next novel about Existentialism.)

And just like that, I have been joined the ranks of the People Who Are Capable of Rehyrdating Beans, or PWACORB. Really, it's kind of a revelation, and not just because dried cannellinis are much creamier than canned. They're also way, way less expensive, use significantly less packaging, and are a comparative breeze to carry. Which? Is important when you're training for the Olympics. (Note: I am not training for the Olympics.)

Back to that recipe, though: I liked it, and it's a wonderful way to incorporate bacon into your diet in a healthy way. However, it did turn kind of mushy. Not unacceptably so. Just more than I would have liked. To remedy this, next time I will:

1) Try using a thicker pasta. I added elbow macaroni, and it softened pretty quickly. A whole-wheat pasta or sturdier mezze penne or orrechiette would have probably held up better.

2) Try adding the pasta last. That way, it won't have so much time to absorb extra water.

Besides that minor issue, we ate it, and have more than enough to last for a week o' office lunches. Not to mention, now I will rehydrate beans with impunity. IMPUNITY, I SAY!

~~~

If this looks tasty, you’ll surely enjoy:
~~~

One-Pot Pasta e Fagioli
Serves 8 to 10
Adapted from The Kitchn.


1 pound dried cannellini beans
5 strips bacon, chopped
2 medium yellow onions, sliced thin
3 medium celery stalks, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 (15-ounce) can chicken broth
1 bay leaf
1/2 pound small pasta (whole-wheat for extra healthiness)
5 thyme sprigs
3 teaspoons salt
10 ounces frozen spinach (fresh would also work)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Parmesan cheese, for serving (optional)

1) In a large mixing bowl, add beans and enough water to cover by an inch or two. Let sit overnight.

2) In a large pot or Dutch oven, cook bacon over medium heat until a little crispy. Remove bacon with a slotted spoon or a spider. Set aside. Get rid of all bacon fat in pot, except for one tablespoon. Add onions and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until caramelized. (This will take anywhere from 20 to 45 minutes, depending on how large you slice the onions and a few other factors.)

3) Preheat oven to 325 °F.

4) Add celery to onion mixture. Sauté 3 minutes. Add garlic. Sauté until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Scoop half of onion mixture into a bowl and set aside with bacon.

5) Deglaze pot with 1 cup chicken broth, making sure you scrape up all the tasty onion bits stuck to the bottom.

6) Drain beans. Add to pot along with bay leaf, remaining chicken broth, and “enough water to cover the beans and onions by 1 inch.” Cover. Stick in oven and braise for 1 hour. If the beans aren’t soft after 1 hour, cook an additional 15 to 20 minutes.

7) Remove pot from oven. Place on burner and turn it up to medium-high heat. Add reserved bacon, reserved onion mixture, thyme, remaining salt, and pasta. Cook until pasta is almost done. Stir occasionally, and don’t be afraid to add more water if things are getting a little dry.

8) Add block of frozen spinach. Cook, stirring often, until spinach is totally defrosted and spread out in stew. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve topped with parmesan cheese.

OTHER SERVING SUGGESTIONS: Try using a thicker, smaller pasta, or perhaps a whole-wheat pasta. If you’d like it to have more of a chew, add it in with the spinach and cook until al dente. The pasta will soften significantly and absorb water as the stew sits, so don't fear adding more H2O as time goes on.

Approximate Calories, Fat, Fiber, Protein, and Price Per Serving
Nine servings: 312 calories, 3.6 g fat, 6.3 g fiber, 17.8 g protein, $0.68

NOTE: Calculations are for Goya cannellini beans, also known as white kidney beans or alubias.

Calculations
1 pound dried cannellini beans: 1500 calories, 10 g fat, 40 g fiber, 100 g protein, $1.59
5 strips bacon, chopped: 230 calories, 17.8 g fat, 0 g fiber, 15.7 g protein, $0.83
2 medium yellow onions, sliced thin: 92 calories, 0.2 g fat, 3.1 g fiber, 2 g protein, $0.50
3 medium celery stalks, diced: 17 calories, 0.2 g fat, 1.9 g fiber, 0.8 g protein, $0.30
4 garlic cloves, minced: 17 calories, 0.1 g fat, 0.2 g fiber, 0.7 g protein, $0.32
1 (15-ounce) can chicken broth: 30 calories, 0 g fat, 0 g fiber, 5.8 g fiber, $0.66
1 bay leaf: negligible calories, fat, fiber, and protein, $0.02
1/2 pound small pasta: 840 calories, 4 g fat, 8 g fiber, 28 g protein, $0.33
5 thyme sprigs: negligible calories, fat, fiber, and protein, $0.50
3 teaspoons salt: negligible calories, fat, fiber, and protein, $0.02
10 ounces frozen spinach: 103 calories, 0 g fat, 3.4 g fiber, 6.8 g protein, $1.00
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper: negligible calories, fat, fiber, and protein, $0.02
TOTAL: 2812 calories, 32.3 g fat, 56.6 g fiber, 159.8 g protein, $6.09
PER SERVING (TOTAL/9): 312 calories, 3.6 g fat, 6.3 g fiber, 17.8 g protein, $0.68

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Saturday Throwback: Cheap Healthy Salad Dressings - 102 Recipes

Every Saturday, we post a piece from the CHG archives. This one came from April 2008. (See: The immediate Spring reference.)

Ah, Spring - the birds are singing, the trees are budding, the construction next door has resumed, the writers’ strike is over, and last but not least, salad season is finally upon us. So gather ‘round, my leafy green-lovin’ compatriots, and let’s talk dressing.

Much like marinades and mixes, making your own salad dressing is a frugal, delicious, and preservative-free exercise. The problem, alas, is the fat content, as homemade toppings generally contain a small tureen of olive oil. While the heart-healthy liquid can have enormous health benefits in moderation, let’s face it – sometimes you just want (need?) to pile the stuff on.

Subsequently, as a naked salad is a dinnertime tragedy, listed below are 102 recipes for lightened dressings of all colors, shapes, consistencies, and flavors. They come from a variety of sources, including Eating Well and Cooking Light, both of which have dozens more deep within their recipe pages. And for those of you wishing to branch out? Fatfree.com is another excellent resource, and includes a long inventory of options that haven't been added here. If anyone out there knows of other neato sites, please share! (The comment section is waiting for your call.)

Oh yeah - one more thing: many of the dressings have good-to-excellent ratings on their home sites, but I haven’t tried a single one myself. Thus, this a strictly try-at-your-own-risk adventure. (A saladventure?) Like an Indiana Jones movie, only with lettuce.

Now, go forth and eat salad!

Asian-inspired Dressings

Cooking Light: Ginger-Sesame Vinaigrette
Epicurious: Spicy Vietnamese Dressing
Mayo Clinic: Ginger-Miso Dressing
Recipe Zaar: Asian Ginger Dressing

Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressings
Cooking Light: Balsamic Vinaigrette
Maple Balsamic Vinaigrette
Serious Eats: Light Balsamic Vinaigrette

Blue Cheese Dressings
All Recipes/Taste of Home: Low-Fat Blue Cheese Dressing
Cooking Light: Blue Cheese Salad Dressing
Cooking Light: Blue Cheese-Buttermilk Dressing
Eating Well: Creamy Blue Cheese Dressing
Epicurious: Blue Cheese Dressing

Buttermilk Dressings
Epicurious: Buttermilk Dressing
Mayo Clinic: Buttermilk Dressing
Recipe Zaar: Cayenne Buttermilk Dressing

Caesar Dressings
Alton Brown: No Guilt Caesar Dressing
Cooking Light: Caesar Dressing
Cooking Light: Creamy Caesar Dressing
Eating Well: Caesar Salad Dressing

Curry Dressings
All Recipes/USA Weekend: Non-Fat Curry Dressing
Epicurious: Curry Dressing
King County: Curry Dressing

French Dressings
CD Kitchen: Low-Calorie French Dressing
Eating Well: French Dressing
Recipe Zaar: Makeover Creamy French Dressing

Fruit-based Dressings
All Recipes: Orange Vinaigrette
All Recipes: Raspberry Vinaigrette
Cooking Light: Citrus Vinaigrette
Cooking Light: Cranberry Vinaigrette
Cooking Light: Vanilla-Pear Vinaigrette
Dottie’s Weight Loss Zone: Ginger Orange Dressing
Dottie’s Weight Loss Zone: Raspberry Vinegar Dressing
Dottie’s Weight Loss Zone: Garlic-Lemon Dressing
Eating Well: Moroccan-Spiced Lemon Dressing
Eating Well: Orange-Oregano Dressing
Eating Well: Orange-Sesame Dressing
Ellie Krieger: Apple Cider Dressing
Epicurious: Creamy Lemon Dressing
Epicurious: Creamy Mango Dressing
Epicurious: Grapefruit-Ginger Dressing
Epicurious: Tangerine Dressing
Recipe Zaar: Honey Lime Dressing
Recipe Zaar: Lemon, Orange, and Dill Salad Dressing
Recipe Zaar: Lemon Yogurt Vinaigrette
Recipe Zaar: Orange Honey Vinaigrette
Recipe Zaar: Strawberry Vinaigrette

Green Goddess Dressings
Cooking Light: Green Goddess Dressing
Epicurious: Green Goddess Dressing
Recipe Zaar: Green Goddess Salad Dressing

Herb-based Dressings
Dottie’s Weight Loss Zone: Basil Vinaigrette
Dottie’s Weight Loss Zone: Creamy Herb Dressing
Eating Well: Creamy Tarragon Dressing
Epicurious: Creamy Basil Dressing
Epicurious: Mint Dressing
Recipe Zaar: Dijon Herb Dressing

Honey Mustard & Mustard Dressings
All Recipes: Mustard Salad Dressing
Alton Brown: Honey Mustard Dressing
Cooking Light: Creole Honey Mustard Dressing
Cooking Light: Dijon Vinaigrette
Cooking Light: Honeyed Lemon-Dijon Vinaigrette
Dottie’s Weight Loss Zone: Honey-Mustard Dressing
Epicurious: Honey-Mustard Dressing
Kathleen Daeleman: Mustard Vinaigrette
Recipe Zaar: Creamy Mustard Dressing

Italian Dressings
All Recipes: Italian Dressing Mix
Juan Carlos Cruz: Creamy Italian Dressing
Recipe Zaar: Creamy Italian Dressing
Recipe Zaar: Italian Dressing

Poppy Seed Dressings
Cooks Recipes: Honey Poppy Seed Dressing
Dottie’s Weight Loss Zone: Poppy Seed Dressing
Recipe Zaar: Lowfat Poppyseed Dressing

Russian Dressings
Eating Well: Russian Dressing
Geocities: Russian Dressing – Low-Fat
Geocities: Russian Dressing Lo-Cal

Ranch Dressings
All Recipe/Taste of Home: Low-Fat Ranch Dressing
Cooking Light: Ranch Dressing
Eating Well: Buttermilk Ranch Dressing
Eating Well: Creamy Dill Ranch Dressing
Ellie Krieger: Ranch Dressing
Epicurious: Low-Fat Herbed Ranch Dressing
Recipe Zaar: Creamy Ranch Dressing
Recipe Zaar: Healthy Homemade Ranch Dressing
Recipe Zaar: Ranch Dressing

Thousand Island Dressings
Cooking Light: Thousand Island Dressing
Epicurious: Low-Fat Thousand Island Dressing
Recipe Zaar: Extreme Low-Fat Thousand Island Dressing
Sara Moulton: Low Fat Thousand Island Dressing

Vegetable-based Dressings
Cooking Light: Roasted Shallot Vinaigrette
Cooking Light: Sun-Dried Tomato Vinaigrette
Dottie’s Weight Loss Zone: Creamy Garlic and Chive Dressing
Dottie’s Weight Loss Zone: Fresh Tomato Vinaigrette
Epicurious: Creamy Chive Dressing
Recipe Zaar: Creamy Cucumber Dressing
Recipe Zaar: Onion Garlic Low Cal Salad Dressing

Other Dressings
Cooking Light: Honey Vinaigrette
Dottie’s Weight Loss Zone: Basic Vinaigrette
Eating Well: Creamy Feta Dressing
Eating Well: Warm Maple Dressing
Ellie Krieger: Greek Dressing
Epicurious: Tamarind Dressing
Epicurious: Tasty Diet Dressing
Recipe Zaar: Golden Middle-East Dressing

(Photos courtesy of DNROnline.)

Friday, January 21, 2011

Guest Post: Chocolate Granola

Jerimi Ann Walker a math professor living in the Chicago area and founder of Math Bootcamps. When not doing math, she enjoys trying to put new and hopefully healthier spins on common recipes.

My husband and I love finding ways to satisfy our collective sweet tooth without eating food that's over-the-top sweet or too heavily processed. Last year, this lead us to experiment with recipes for different type of granola. Eventually, we decided that any old granola wouldn’t do. We had to find a recipe for chocolate granola. I mean, think about it - the best of all worlds!

After a couple of duds (okay - way more than a couple of duds), we finally found a recipe that has become a staple of our household. Just a few simple and easy-to-find ingredients makes an amazing sweet and salty mixture that always has our friends asking us when the next batch will be ready. Compared to granola from the store, which is expensive and often comes in small packages, this turns out to be a great deal. When we are being selfish and keeping it for ourselves, it can easily last a week.

Before I present the recipe, I do want to make two comments:

1) You really have to try it with the sea salt. I know it seems strange and even I was skeptical of the thought at first, but now I won't eat this granola without it. It will work with regular table salt as well, but the sea salt is a step up.

2) Don't expect granola bars. This will come out more like the granola in a cereal, with some large and some small pieces.

With that said, here's the recipe!

~~~

If this looks good, you'll love:
~~~

Chocolate Granola
Serves 4


2 1/4 cups of oats
3/4 cup sesame seeds
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon sea salt (optional)
5 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup CRUNCHY peanut butter (Note: I do not think natural peanut butter would work here.)
1/2 cup brown sugar
You will also need a 9x9 casserole dish, a large mixing bowl, and a pot for melting the butter.

1) Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and butter the casserole dish.

2) Mix the oats, sesame seeds, cocoa powder, and salt together in large mixing bowl.

3) Place the butter and peanut butter in a medium sized pot on the stove and melt both together over low heat. Once they have melted, remove from heat and mix in the brown sugar.

4) Pour the butter, peanut butter, and brown sugar mixture over the dry ingredients in the mixing bowl and mix thoroughly.

5) Take mixture and put into baking dish pressing it down and flat. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until browned on top. Once you remove it from the oven, allow it to cool COMPLETELY for the best results. In fact, we will often let it cool a bit then put in the freezer for about 15 minutes to really set it.

After it cools, it is ready to go, simply use a spoon to break it into pieces and eat by itself in a bowl, or even with milk or ice cream (I need to try this!). You will find that it is not only really good – but also VERY
filling for a snack!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Veggie Might: Baking and Cooking for the Sensitive and Cleansing

Penned by the effervescent Leigh, Veggie Might is a weekly Thursday column about the wide world of Vegetarianism.

Cooking is an act of giving as much as survival. We eat to live, and those of us who love to cook, cook to love.

Many people in my life have so-called restrictive diets—I say “so-called” because once you get used to a change in your eating habits, it doesn’t feel challenging anymore. As a 20-year vegetarian (in a few short months!), my diet is varied and imaginative. I ate a mostly meat and potatoes diet in my youth, and I’m a much more adventurous eater now. But I digress...

Factoring in other food-related disorders, sensitivities, intolerances, and allergies, life can look pretty bleak at first glance. Change is scary, and adjusting to life with a new diet is challenging.

Among my loved ones I count many vegetarians and vegans, a mother with sugar and gluten sensitivities, friends with Celiac disease, severe lactose intolerance, hypoglycemia, and people in my circle are forever doing cleanses. Whether the restrictions are born of preference or necessity, I try be understanding and creative. Try, Helen Reddy, I love it.

Getting creative in the kitchen it is what I live for. It’s way more fun, and often way more delicious, than making the same old boring recipes all the time. And usually healthier too.

Let’s take a general look at food sensitivities to begin. According to WebMD, a food allergy is a response of the immune system and a food intolerance is a response of the digestive system. For example, Celiac disease is an autoimmune reaction to the proteins in wheat gluten. The small intestine refuses to absorb nutrients from food, causing intestinal discomfort, malnutrition, and all manner of bad stuff. Lactose intolerance is a digestive rejection to lactose, milk sugar, and casein, the protein in dairy products, causing nausea, gas, and diarrhea. Symptoms of food allergies and intolerances can both trigger nausea, gas, bloating, and diarrhea; but allergic responses can also evoke respiratory distress, such as shortness of breath and anaphylaxis.

Food-related disorders, like diabetes and hypoglycemia, are linked to sugar, and more specifically carbohydrates. In Type 1 diabetes, formerly known as Juvenile diabetes, the body does not produce insulin, a hormone that converts sugar to energy. In Type 2 diabetes, also known as Adult-onset diabetes, the body doesn’t produce enough insulin to convert the sugar to energy. Too much sugar can enter the blood stream and havoc ensues: frequent urination, thirst, hunger, weight loss, blurred vision, fatigue, and irritability.

Hypoglycemia works in the opposite way. The pancreas releases to much insulin in reaction to the presence of sugar (glucose) in the blood, sending the blood sugar level down too far. Equal and opposite havoc: fatigue, insomnia, headaches, blurred vision, and heart palpitation.

But cutting back on added sugar and simple carbs, like white potatoes and white rice, help keep people with diabetes and hypoglycemia out of the fog. A common misconception about both sugar-related disorders is that sufferers can never have sugar. They can, in moderation, as part of a well regimented, low-carb, high-protein diet. It’s all about making choices that work for the person and his or her body.

Suggested Diets/Food Lists
Here are links to the “official” food recommendations for people with specific allergies, intolerances, or disorders, or folks who just want to take a break from the ordinary. When in doubt, speak to a health professional.

Celiac Disease Quick Start Guide from Celiac Foundation *If you think you have, but not been diagnosed with, Celiac disease, consult a physician before going on a gluten-free diet. Gluten must be present in your system to test properly for Celiac.

What Can I Eat? from American Diabetes Association

The Hypo Diet from the Hypoglycemia Support Foundation

Milk Allergy Facts from Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network

Egg Allergy Facts from Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network

Cooking and Baking for the Sensitive and Cleansing
So now that you know what your friends can and can’t eat, you’re dying to get down to recipe renovation, right? But where to start? The web is crawling with amazing food blogs, recipes, and tips for modifying and creating amazing meals and desserts.

For all your vegan, dairy-free, and egg-free baking needs, I can’t recommend enough the Post Punk Kitchen’s Guide to Vegan Baking. It’s my go-to every time I need to remember how much tofu equals an egg or if flax seeds are a good idea in a particular recipe.

Nondairy plant milk, like soy, almond, and rice, can be substituted 1:1 for cow’s milk in any recipe. If your recipe calls for buttermilk, add 1/4 tsp of vinegar for every 1/2 cup of nondairy milk and you’re good to go. For yogurt, sour cream, and cream cheese, you can find all manner of nondairy substitutes in the refrigerated section of your local natural foods market. Vegan cheese is still something I personally avoid, but apparently the folks at Daiya are doing weird and wonderful things with soy cheese these days. Butter is easily replaced with nonhydrogenated margarines, like Earth Balance, or coconut oil in moderation.

Dairy- and Egg-free Resources from Around the Web
Fat-free Vegan
Vegan Yum Yum
The Messy Cook
Post Punk Kitchen

Dairy- and Egg-free Recipes
Rice Pudding
Ginger Cookies
Pumpkin Pie
Tofu Scramble

My friend and former co-worker Erin was diagnosed with Celiac disease as a child, and has been a lifelong advocate for Celiac awareness and a shining example of how the right attitude (and fun sunglasses) can make up for a life without Eli’s Health Bread. Before her, I’d never heard of Celiac; but her stories started filling in some gaps for me. I thought of my mom, who stopped eating wheat several years before I met Erin.

Mom has a severe sensitivity to wheat, which exacerbates her rheumatoid arthritis, increasing the inflammation and discomfort. Whenever she has even a little bit of wheat, her arthritis flares up and she feels fatigued and achy for days. She has never been diagnosed with Celiac, though I suspect its because the tests are unreliable when you are on a low-gluten or gluten-free diet at the time of the test.

Diagnosis or no, she feels much better when she avoids gluten. So she eats other whole grains, like quinoa, millet, and lots and lots of rice. Just last week she called to tell me how much she loved the Mushroom Quinotto recipe I posted back in the summer. Even indirectly, I can feed my loved ones!

Gluten-free Resources Around the Web
Erin’s Gluten-Free Fun
Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef
Delectably Free
Julia and Julieta
Gluten-Free Goddess

Gluten-freen Recipes (also dairy- and egg-free)
Spaghetti Squash Puttanesca
Mushroom Quinotto
Carrot Cake
Snickerdoodles

Here’s where I have the least personal experience, at least as far as baking goes. You know I love to whip up a whole grain dish, heavy on the veg. But sweets without sugar... I don’t know where to begin. Here’s what the American Diabetes Association has to say about the matter: “For many people, having about 45 to 60 grams [of carbohydrates] at meals is about right. Serving sizes make a difference. To include sweets in your meal, you can cut back on the other carb-containing foods at the same meal.”

CB’s mom has hypoglycemia, and she can have about 100 grams of carbs per day, when the average woman takes in over 300. Otherwise, she gets terrible headaches and fatigue. So even though people with diabetes and hypoglycemia can have sugar on occasion, they have to be selective about it. Eating a diet that’s high in protein, vegetables, and complex carbohydrates keeps folks with sugar issues on track.

One obstacle to sugar-free baking is texture and bulk replacement. I tried to make a batch of stevia cookies for CB’s mom when we visited last weekend. While they tasted good, the texture was more like a biscuit than a cookie. Granulated sugar is what gives cookies their chewy texture, and it didn’t help that I replaced the bulk (1 1/2 tsp of stevia = 1 cup of sugar) with tofu.

I’ll be going back to Angel Food Laboratories for more sugar-free baking experiments, and when I’ve perfected the stevia cookie, you’ll be the first to hear about it.

Sugar-free Resources
The Sweet Stuff: A New Color in the Packet Rainbow
Diabetes.org Recipes
Gita’s Kitchen
Savvy Vegetarian: Sugar Free Desserts with Stevia

Sugar-free/Low-carb Recipes
Oatmeal Apple Muffins(also dairy- and egg-free)
Crustless Spinach Quiche
Lentil, Spinach, and Bulgur Stew

Gentle Readers, what are your favorite food-issue resources? Got any great tips for specialty cooking or baking? I’d love to hear from you in the comments. You are so wise and I have much to learn.

~~~~

If you dig this article, you may also dig:
Vegetarian Meal Planning for Meat Eaters
Serving Sizes and Portion Control: A Primer
Ewww...That’s Not Vegetarian 101

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Guest Post: Cheap Healthy Carnivore

Alexandra is a Certified Personal Trainer and dancer-with-a-day-job who blogs about health, fitness, and ballroom dancing at Ombailamos.

Once upon a time, cereal bowls and takeout menus were the most-used items in my kitchen. Then came a voluntary downsizing, followed by a layoff, followed by four months of unemployment. It is amazing how motivating a drastically-reduced income can be!

From Flickr's procsilas
Man, and woman, cannot live on bread alone. And for some of us, a pot of beans or lentils is not the protein we want to dish out after a hard day's work. There are some completely vegetarian dishes in rotation chez nous, but the go-to for me and my hardworking DH is a piece of meat, a side of vegetables, and a glass of wine.

Now: how to do that in the half-hour that is my self-imposed weeknight dinner prep time? Because let's face it, I don't want to spend more time than that in the kitchen after a full day's work plus commute.

When it became clear that our $1200/mo food expenditure needed to be more like $400, I got in the kitchen. I scorched a few things. I learned not to use "soup mix" in any preparation except dip. And over time, I gradually accrued some actual cooking skills and lost my fear of spices. Here are three of my big winners for the carnivore who needs some meat fast, healthy, good - and relatively cheap.

Pan-grilled Chicken Breast

Generally speaking, I consider chicken one small step up from tofu. I have never had the opportunity to try a heritage bird, so it's just not very exciting for me. However, it's a good source of lean protein and in my area, organic cuts are readily available, so it does come into the house occasionally.

Years ago I discovered a recipe that produced a tolerable breast. (It was from a magazine, I think, so apologies to whoever wrote it, but I just don't remember.) I ended up changing it anyway, because it was a baked recipe and it just took too long. My oven is 30+ years old and takes twenty minutes to heat; baking for another 40 on top of that was not working for me.

From Flickr's larryjh1234
So I decided to try and see if I could adapt the recipe to my trusty Calphalon grill pan. And lo, it worked. Here it is. Please note, in my home, life is too short to buy chicken breast bone-in. Your mileage may vary.

Ingredients: two boneless, skinless chicken breasts totaling about one pound (and about $7 max). Bread crumbs or panko. Olive oil. Spices.

Prep: Remove the chicken from packaging, rinse, and pat dry. Rinse off their styrofoam tray as well and dry it. (If the chicken did not come in a tray, just use a plate.) Put the chicken back on the tray, pour a little olive oil on top and rub it in; turn the breasts over and repeat the treatment. While doing this, preheat the pan to medium.

Cooking: right before adding the chicken to the pan, lightly coat both sides with bread crumbs and seasoning. I apply both straight from their containers, and my seasonings are typically garlic powder (not salt) and paprika. Then lay the breasts in the pan and cook for 7-8 minutes. (Use a paper towel to brush off your plate into the trash - crumbs and oil really shouldn't go down the drain.) Turn the breasts over, reduce the heat to medium-low, place a large lid loosely over the pan to hold some of the steam, and cook for another 7-8 minutes. Note: this is not about getting a crispy coating on the chicken, it's about getting moist chicken fast without using a gallon of oil!

After 15-16 minutes total cooking time, I usually cut the breasts lengthwise to check for doneness, as medium-rare chicken is not too appetizing, and my goal with weeknight food is to get it on the table expeditiously, not prepare a magazine photo. (Which explains why I have no photos.) Cook a little longer, under the lid, if necessary.

After the turn, prepare your side - in my case, nearly always a salad or a package of frozen veg. This preparation makes four servings.

The pairing: I like a bright red wine with chicken, like Sangiovese or Garnacha (Grenache). On the white side of the spectrum, this holds up well to chardonnay, verdejo, or pinot grigio.

Pineapple Pork Pot Roast

From Fresh Direct
"Pot Roast" is traditionally beef in the U.S., but a lower-fat, less-expensive alternative is pork. The secret is to not try to make it 100% non-fat. If you go for very lean cuts of meat in the slow cooker, you will sacrifice flavor and mouth feel on the altar of "nutrition." However, it's my firm belief, based on years of study, that a moderate amount of fat from animals is not only not going to kill you - it's good for you. This stuff metabolizes usefully: the body can really put it to work. Obviously, I'm not recommending sitting down to a tasty bowl of lard, but letting your meat cook with its fat is not necessarily a bad thing.

With that in mind, and with the memory of a rather dry pork loin haunting me, I went looking for a piece of nice fat pig. I took home a four-pound pork shoulder roast, with about a one-centimeter layer of fat on its base (we'll say, a strip about three inches by eight), at a cost of less than three dollars a pound. Pork shoulder does have the fat and it does have a chunk of bone in it. After slow cooking, the net serviceable result was about 2.5 lbs - easily enough to feed eight.

This preparation cooks during the day, and if you like "Hawaiian" pizza, you will Love. It. For quick and easy assembly, peel the onion and garlic the night before, wrap in a damp paper towel, and leave in the refrigerator till morning.

Ingredients: 1 c. crushed pineapple, in juice. 1 6-oz can of tomato paste. 1 large onion, peeled and cut in eighths. 8 to 10 cloves of garlic, peeled, smashed, and roughly chopped (or not. Chopped, they will dissolve entirely, so if you like a bite of garlic, use more and don't chop them). Spices to taste: I used red curry, paprika, nutmeg, and chipotle - about 1/2 teaspoon of the first two, and 1/4 tsp. of nutmeg and chipotle. Plus, of course, the pig.

From Flickr's norwichnuts
How to prepare: first, get out the slow cooker and turn it to High. Combine pineapple, tomato paste, garlic, and spices in the bottom. Place the pork shoulder in the cooker and slowly roll it around in the sauce mixture. Then add the chunks of onion, put on the lid, and go get ready for work. Right before you leave, turn the cooker down to Low.

When you get home, roll the pig around a little to make sure the onions get thoroughly mixed into the sauce. The pork will probably fall apart at this point. Pick out the bone and let the pot roast continue to cook, with the lid off, until you are ready to eat. I served this with absolutely nothing else, but rice or quinoa or even couscous can be easily (and more or less negligently) prepared while you are decompressing.

The pairing: any chilled rose or sparkling wine, gewurtztraminer, or riesling.

Broiled Beef Tri-Tip

Tri-tip is most often seen at barbecues and in a mushroom sauce at Sizzler. But it is also a great steak substitute. I picked up a pound of tri-tip roast at my grocery store, on a night when they had no acceptable tenderloin, for less than ten dollars with my loyalty card - the same price as a pair of wimpy ribeyes that weighed in at a mere .6 pounds. This particular cut was about two inches thick at its deepest point, which dictated the cooking time. Less thick = less time.

From Flickr's arnold | inuyaki
How to cook it: remove your pound of tri-tip from grocer's packaging and place it on your broiler pan. Give it a generous dose of your seasoning of choice, on both sides. (This seasoning should not include salt! Try a mix of black pepper, paprika, and garlic powder. If you want salt after you taste it, go ahead.) Heat broiler for five to ten minutes. Put the whole tri-tip under the broiler for ten minutes. Then turn it over, and give it another eight to ten minutes (for medium-rare. If you require your steak well-done, you shouldn't bother eating steak).

Now take a look at it. If the edges are slightly carbonized, the top is lightly browned, and the meat springs back under your finger (presuming a silicone glove, here), it's done. If it looks mostly gray and feels spongy, give it two or three more minutes. When it's done, place the hot broiler pan on your stovetop and let the meat rest for at least five minutes. Then move it to a board and carve it into centimeter-thick slices. Because a tri-tip roast doesn't contain much fat or any bones, this will provide four servings of just under four ounces each.

A note on the nutritional value of meat. The oft-recommended four-ounce serving contains between 28 and 32 grams of protein. It just so happens that 30 grams of protein is the maximum that the average person can metabolize at one sitting. Anything more than that is excreted, or converted to glycogen (carbohydrate) and stored in the muscles for future short-term energy demands. So this is really all the meat you need in a given meal.

But this is a small amount of food, so you will want some additional ... something ... on your plate. I recommend a separate bowl, actually, with a nice big green salad in it. Or you could put the slices of tri-tip right on top of that salad. Or throw a package of frozen veg in the microwave after turning the roast.

The pairing: your hearty red wine of choice. I am fond of blended reds under $8.

If you are cooking for two, these three low-salt preparations will see you through 6-7 days with cooking only necessary on three days, for a meat cost of less than $30. If you try 'em and like 'em, I'd love to hear about it!

~~~

If you like this post, you'll love:

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Guest Post: Sauteed Shrimp and Asparagus with Sesame Seeds

Carrie Murphy studies poetry in the MFA program at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, NM. She blogs about eating well in graduate school at Master of Fine Eats.

Being a strapped-for-time-and-energy graduate student, I am always looking for quick, easy and healthful dinner recipes I can make after a long day of class. Eating healthfully as often as possible is important to me, but so is relaxing (which, for the purposes of this post is defined as watching bad TV on Hulu and laying on my couch). So, how to eat well when I'm tired and don't feel like cooking?

I came up with this fast little saute after reading this recipe and wanting something a little bit more substantial (apologies to Martha). I had half a bag of frozen shrimp and some shriveling green onions in the fridge, so I threw this together one night a few weeks ago. The sesame seeds and green onions add a nice crunch and the lemony broth smells heavenly; it turned out flavorful and fresh-tasting without taking a lot of time or effort.

~~~

If this looks good, you're gonna love:
~~~

Sauteed Shrimp And Asparagus With Sesame Seeds
Serves 2
Total Time: 10-15 minutes
Hands-On Time: 10-15 minutes
NOTE: This recipe is designed to be eaten over your favorite grain. I served quinoa, but rice or couscous would work just as well.


1 tablespoons garlic
2 tablespoons olive oil

1 large bunch of asparagus chopped into 1 in pieces
20-30 small to medium shrimp (about 10-15 per person, depending on the size)
1/4 cup white wine
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste
Liberal sprinkling of sesame seeds
Liberal sprinkling of chopped green onions

1) Defrost your shrimp and chop your asparagus and green onions.

2) Put the olive oil and garlic in a deep skillet on medium high until heated through.

3) Add in asparagus, thoroughly coat with garlic and oil. Cook for about a minute.

4) Add in shrimp, stir well. Cook for another minute.

5) Add in the wine and lemon juice, stir. Let this cook down, about 5 minutes or so (liquid should be bubbling).

6) Sprinkle on sesame seeds, mix well.

7) Spoon asparagus and shrimp mixture with broth over your selected grain; top with chopped green onions.

Tip #1: I know asparagus and green onions aren't really in season now, but imagine how good this recipe will be when they are!

Tip #2: Substitute sesame oil for olive if you want more of an Asian flavor, or add in some soy sauce near the end. You could also easily omit the sesame seeds or green onions for a slightly simpler recipe.

Calories
Asparagus, 27 cals
Ten shrimp: 80 cals
Olive oil in 2 tbsps: approx 238 cals
White wine: approx 40 cals
Garlic: 4 cals
Lemon Juice: 8 cals
Sesame Seeds: 52 cals
Green Onions: 10

Total: 459 calories
Total per serving: 229.5
(not including whatever grain you choose to serve this with)

Ask the Internet: Easy Slow Cooker Recipes

Today's question comes from reader Tanya:

Q: I would like some slow cooker recipes where I can just dump canned or frozen foods into the slow cooker, turn it on, and walk out the door. No slicing, dicing or browning. I would like them to be healthy and mostly vegetarian. And, oh yeah, I am sick sick sick of chili!

I am looking for these to save me from going out to eat. I would rather pay a little bit more for the price of pre-chopped veggies than the price of dining out.


A: Tanya, I'm happy to introduce you to A Year of Slow Cooking, Stephanie O'Dea's extensive blog dedicated exclusively to simple crockpot recipes. She also has two cookbooks out, including More Make It Fast, Cook It Slow, which was just released in December.

Phyllis Pellman Good's crockpot series is also full of dump-and-walk recipes, but I find the dishes themselves can be hit-or-miss.

Readers, whaboutchoo?

Want to ask the interweb a question? Post one in the comment section, or write to Cheaphealthygood@gmail.com. Then, tune in next Tuesday for an answer/several answers from the good people of the World Wide Net.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Guest Post: BFF Squash Soup With an Added Bonus Lentil Soup

Michelle spends her days as a computer geek. In her copious spare time she throws all of her creative energies into cooking. She is the mother of two pre-school aged boys and is married to a wonderful man who does all of her dishes.

A funny thing happened while I was making French Onion Soup for the first time: I discovered that onions sautéed in butter made a wonderful base for a vegetable broth. I extended that thought by adding carrots, celery, mushrooms and thyme after the onions had browned a bit (10-15 minutes), cooked for a few more minutes, and then added water. From that point, I could make any number of soups and they would have been incredibly rich.

The first time I made it, I added two cups of lentils with about 12 cups of water and some more thyme. I brought it to a boil and then lowered to simmer for an hour. It was awesome! I have always loved lentil soup and still have fond memories of eating canned Progresso as a child. This soup beat the pants off Progresso.

This weekend I was charged with making butternut squash soup for my Best Friend’s 40th birthday dinner. The complicating factor was her wonderful new boyfriend, who is a vegetarian. I always used chicken broth in the past and had a batch of chicken broth itching to be used in my freezer. Fortunately, before I offended the guest of honor and her honored guest I remembered the Lentil Soup vegetable broth base. I also decided to roast the squash with sage and olive oil to add a layer of depth. Once the squash was nicely roasted, browned and mushy, I added it to the soup base. I used my handy dandy hand blender and voila - rich yummy, vegetarian, squash soup.

Just for fun, because I don’t have enough to do with my husband, two children under five, full-time job out of the house and three cats, I decided to make sage toasted croutons out of homemade bread. I used my new go-to no knead bread recipe and then tossed crouton-sized chunks with sage and olive oil and toasted in the oven at 350 degrees until crunchy. You could save some time by toasting the croutons while you roast the squash.

If 20 cups of soup seems like too much, both soups freeze well or make great party favors. We left some with our hosts and gave some to the guest of honor to take home.

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If these look good, you'll surely enjoy:
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Vegetable Stock Base


 4 TB salted butter
1 large onion (I used yellow)
3 large carrots diced (about two cups)
3 large celery sticks diced (about two cups)
1/2 pint mushrooms diced (about two cups)
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
1/4 tsp fresh ground pepper
2-3 sprigs of fresh thyme
1 tsp salt
12 cups water

1) Melt butter in large stock pot

2) Cook onions in butter on medium heat until they brown, about 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

3) Add carrots, celery, mushrooms, thyme leaves and pepper and cook for another 10 minutes stirring occasionally.

4) Add water, salt and thyme sprigs. Bring to a boil and then lower to simmer for a half hour.

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Squash Soup with Sage Croutons
Makes about 20 cups of soup


1 recipe vegetable stock base
1 large butternut squash peeled and cubed
30 fresh sage leaves chopped
1/2 loaf hearty bread cut into cubes
4 TB olive oil split
Salt and pepper to taste

1) Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees.

2) Toss squash with 2 TB of olive oil, 1/2 the sage leaves, salt and pepper.

3) Toss bread cubes with 2 TB of olive oil and the other 1/2 of the sage leaves.

4) Roast the squash on the bottom half of the over for 40 minutes stirring at 20 minutes.

5) Toast the bread cubes on the top half of the oven until you reach your preferred level of crunchiness. I like mine crunchy and it took about 20 minutes.

6) Add the squash to the vegetable stock base. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 10 minutes.

7) Puree soup with a stick hand blender if you have one. Alternately you can use a regular blender but be very careful!

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Bonus Lentil Soup
Makes about 20 cups of soup
1 recipe vegetable stock base
2 cups lentils
Salt and pepper to taste

1) Add two cups of lentils to vegetable stock base. Bring to a boil and then lower to simmer for an hour or until the lentils are soft.

2) Add salt and pepper to taste.

Approximate Calories, Fat, and Price per Serving
191 calories, 6.4 g fat, $0.63

Calculations
4 tablespoons butter: 400 calories, 44 g fat
1 large onion: 67 calories, 0.13 g fat
1 medium butternut squash: 410 calories, 1.0 g fat
3 carrots: 164 calories, 0.62 g fat
3 celery stalks: 18 calories, 0.21 g fat
½ pint mushrooms: 30 calories, 0.48 g fat
4 TB olive oil: 476 calories, 54 g fat
1 tsp thyme: negligible fat and calories
30 sage leaves: negligible fat and calories
Salt, freshly ground black pepper: negligible fat and calories
½ loaf whole wheat bread: 540 calories, 6.00 g fat
TOTAL: 1705 calories, 62.44 g fat
PER SERVING (TOTAL/20): 85.25 calories, 3.12 g fat