Sunday, July 18, 2010

anniversary dinner = steak & mushroom omelettes for breakfast

Our wedding anniversary is tomorrow and, since that happens to be a Monday, we went out for our anniversary dinner last night. It seems to be that going to a high-end steakhouse is becoming our anniversary tradition since this is also what we did last year. This year, we went to Fleming's (hubby's favorite steakhouse here). I think they have many locations, so if you are interested in a REALLY good dinner with REALLY big portions, check it out: I promise, if you like steak, you will not be disappointed!

Anyhow, as usual, my eyes were bigger than my stomach. This combined with the fact that (1) I was unaware that the portions were so large and (2) our very nice waiter, Gabe, comped us the mushrooms - so a 3rd side got added to our already humongous portion of food and left me very, very, very full before I even got halfway done with anything (except my salad - I always finish my salad). Of course, the fact that we couldn't finish dinner also meant that there was a small slice of space in our tummies for dessert - Gabe came early to ask about dessert in case we wanted the chocolate lava cake since it takes 20 mins to prepare. I can't tell you what else is on the dessert menu because we didn't get any further than this. We ordered it. I was glad it took so long to prepare since it gave us time to get over dinner before diving into the supremely divine chocolate lava cake (which, by the way, came with a side of vanilla bean ice cream and chantilly cream to top the cake - a whole bowl of chantilly cream!) The one smart thing we did was to split the salad and the dessert. Even the half portions were a good size. So as I was sitting there wishing they could take me to the car in a wheelbarrow, I was already planning today's breakfast.

I love steak & eggs, so anytime we go out for steak I am happy to have some left. I knew that some combination of steak & eggs would be on the menu for this morning. As I sat there, I looked at the steak (it only came in a 16oz portion - I think I only ate 4 of them) and the mushrooms, I started thinking omlettes. Hubby LOVES his fries and was looking forward to ordering some. The only way you can get fries at Fleming's is thin-cut (kind of like Steak & Shake fries) and as part of a combo with onion rings. So there were a lot of fries left. I pondered on what to do for breakfast and how I could use the fries too. This is what I came up with:

I had already decided to make a steak & mushroom omelette but we were torn on which cheese to use (and, since I think cheese should be its own food group, there is always an assortment in our house). I briefly considered shredded cheddar but quickly decided this wasn't a good enough match for the rest of the ingredients. I then moved on to feta, but hubby didn't think it would be a good match. So we settled on parmigano-reggiano. I think this was definitely the right choice since the sharpness and saltiness of the cheese matched well with the fact that both the steak and the mushrooms had been prepared with garlic butter. Plus, it gave me the chance to play with my cheese grater.

It wasn't until I was slicing the mushrooms that I decided what to do with the fries. I had initially started trying to figure out some way to turn the fries into hashbrowns (or something like hashbrowns). As I sliced the mushrooms, and the pile grew, I knew exactly what to do. I heated all the mushrooms up and the set some aside to go in the omelettes. The rest, I left in the pan and added the fries. I covered the dish, hoping that it would soften the fries a little so they would be more hashbrown-like but this didn't work quite as I had hoped. There were still delicious though.

Since I didn't even eat half my steak, I heated it up and we were able to share it. I just heated it on low in the same pan the potatoes & mushrooms had been heated up in (after I took the potatoes & mushrooms out).

Anyhow, it turned out as spectacularly as I had hoped. The only problem is that we have now finished all the steak, so I am sad...but hubby's birthday is right around the corner, so I know that there is another yummy dinner coming our way very soon! :-)

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Chicken in Garlic-Vinegar Sauce

I can't take any credit at all for this dish. I didn't even alter anything in the recipe - other than that I think next time (and there WILL be a next time for this dish), I might make more sauce and mix it in with some rice for a side dish. And I might start checking it at 40 mins instead of going the whole 50 mins so that the chicken has at least a little chance of staying on the bone long enough to plate the dish (this will be especially true if I make it for company). Oh yeah, and I used fat free sour cream instead of reduced fat.

There isn't much to write about this one other than it is supremely, awesomely delicious. It looks and tastes decadent but it really isn't. And it looks like it might be a difficult dish so people you serve it to will (most likely) be impressed. But the most time consuming part is skinning the chicken, peeling the garlic and dicing the shallot. Other than that, this is pretty much a set it and forget it kind of meal (except for the 1st & last steps - but those are fast). Anyhow, all I can say about this one is YUM!

I served it with our favorite couscous salad and steamed asparagus drizzled with EVOO & balsamic vinegar. I love the taste of the vinegar & asparagus. I think I need to get a balsamic reduction to drizzle next time so that it sticks to the asparagus better. I will buy it rather than make it since it is entirely too time consuming to make a balsamic reduction (believe me, I have tried).

Here's the link so that I don't have to retype the whole recipe:

Pomegranate Margaritas and Black & white pasta

I know that you are never supposed to go grocery shopping hungry, but I never thought about not going other kinds of shopping hungry. I will add to the grocery shopping part, never, ever, ever go anywhere that might possibly sell any kind of gourmet foods hungry. Unfortunately for me, HomeGoods is such a place.

Truth be told, I wasn't really famished; but, thanks to my workouts, I do have the appetite of a 13 year old boy most of the time. Anyhow, I went in for a serving bowl and came out with that AND a whole bunch of other stuff.

The first definitely-not-on-the-list purchase was sugar-free pomegranate syrup. I saw this and immediately thought "I bet this would make an awesome margarita" prompting me to have to go out and buy margarita mix and tequila. But I was right, it did make an awesome margarita. Of course the sugar and calories in the margarita mix kind of negated the whole "sugar-free" of the syrup, but oh well. And now, a friend of mine mentioned using limeade instead of margarita mix, so I might have to try this. I wonder if lemonade would work as well...because I DO have some crystal light mix...and that would return my margarita to being pretty much sugar-free. I don't have any pics of the margaritas, but I am sure that everyone probably knows what a margarita looks like. If not, there is always google...or a menu at TGIFriday's...

The second thing on the list was something that I normally wouldn't buy anyways - white pasta, but this was too cool to pass up. Black & white farfalle. I just couldn't pass it up. So I bought it. Then, of course, I had to figure out what to serve it with and how to top it. Something this pretty really can't just be covered up in a plain old tomato sauce. I thought about a pesto, but I thought that might cover it up too much as well. So I settled on oil and freshly grated parmesano-reggiano. But I thought that might be too boring so I decided that it needed asparagus, mushrooms and artichoke hearts. Looking back, I think this might have been overkill. So I am back to square one on how to top this awesome looking pasta. I am open to suggestions... Anyhow, we had it with out favorite baked pollock with smashed tomato sauce. Mainly because I thought the fish was a lighter option than the shake & bake chicken & pork we had earlier in the week; but also because I got several packages of pollock last week at the grocery (coupons + good price = carol buying a lot of it).

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Baked Pollock with Smashed Tomato Sauce

By "smashed" I mean squished with my potato masher, not drunk...although hubby did suggest using white wine in the sauce next time, so maybe then they really will be drunk tomatoes.

This is one of the recipes I am most proud of because I came up with it all on my own. It was inspired by something Rachael Ray did, but by the time I got around to making it, I didn't remember anything except the tomatoes in a pan and smashing them. The rest is all me.

The tomato sauce started with one of those days where I look in the fridge and look to see what I have on hand that might be going bad soon and need to do something with. On that fateful day, there was half a container of grape tomatoes looking lonely. I recollected Rachael Ray doing something with tomatoes, but I didn't quite remember what it was. I threw the tomatoes in a pan with a little olive oil, chicken broth, basil & oregano. I covered the pan and let the tomatoes cook til they burst, then I uncovered the pan, smashed the tomatoes with my handy potato masher and then cooked it down a little longer til it thickened up. This was served over some pollock that was baked in the oven with oregano.

This time around was the 3rd time I made the tomato sauce and the 2nd time I served it with pollock. Both parts of the dish have evolved. This time, when I made the sauce, I added garlic. I heated a little olive oil in the pan then added some garlic I pressed through the garlic smasher and heated it til it started getting a little brown. Then I added all the rest of the ingredients. The other change I made is that I used cornstarch to thicken the sauce. I mixed some cornstach & water and once I smashed the tomatoes, I put this in and let it cook til it thickened. I think I like this way better - less juice to make my fish all soggy.

The other new thing is that I breaded the chicken this time. I mixed some breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese in a bowl. Then I seasoned the fish (I prefer Pampered Chef Greek Rub - if you don't have a PC connection, I have a friend I can refer you to), breaded it (no fancy dipping anywhere, just put the fish on a plate, sprinkle the breadcrumbs on, press them into the fish, flip and repeat) and then sprinkled a 2nd layer of the seasoning on the fish. Bake for 10 mins @ 425 and there you go. When it is done, plate it, top with the tomato sauce and dinner is ready. You will have to use your imagination of what breaded fish looks like since it is pretty buried under the tomato sauce.

The salad that night was also pretty good. I stopped at the store on my way home that evening to get tomatoes and I got a nice surprise. Not only were there red tomatoes, but also orange and yellow (there were also heirloom tomatoes, but I figured the 3 colors I got were enough - maybe I will get some heirlooms tomorrow). I just like the colors in my salad. Actually, I pretty much like a colorful plate. And this meal definitely tasted as good as it looked.

Vegetarian Tangerine Beef

Yes, I know it sounds like an oxymoron, but read on and you will see what I mean.

One of my downfalls is chinese take-out food. I love me some orange chicken and crab rangoons. What I don't love about them is the fat and sugar content. If I am feeling particularly industrious, I will make crab rangoons with fat free cream cheese and baked in the oven. But that takes A LOT of work so I don't do it too often. Actually, I think I have only done it once. But there is always a next time...

Perusing my favorite weight watchers cookbook (those of you who read this blog know which one and where to find it but if you don't, check out my post on stuffed french toast), I found a recipe for Tangerine Beef. Well, it was close enough to orange chicken to pique my interest, so I decided to check it out and see what I could do to totally bastardize an otherwise fine recipe.

The first thing I did was get rid of the beef. Not that we don't love beef, we just try to be healthy and not eat red meat so often. I substituted GimmeLean Smart Strips - al the taste of beef with none of the fat or cholesterol. Plus, with all the global warming, a lot of people say that if everyone substitutes just 1 meal with a veggie meal a week, we can greatly reduce the methane that gets into the environment from the smelly, farty cows.

The second change I made was not one of choice. The recipe (obviously) calls for tangerines. I could only find oranges at my local grocery store, so "Tangerine Beef" quickly became "Orange Vegetarian 'Beef"" Oh well, I liked it and that's all that really matters. It was even good cold for lunch at work a couple of days later.

I was still very pleased with the results. It tasted like I ordered from the Chinese place up the street but didn't come with the side of clogged arteries, bigger butt and guilt. The only thing missing was crab rangoons...

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Stuffed French Toast

One thing I have learned about myself over the last 3 years is that the only way I can stay on track with my somewhat healthy eating is that I must trick brain into thinking I am having something totally and completely sinful while, in fact, it is something healthy and good for me. In addition to the whole healthy body thing, the guilt-free eating helps the healthy mind thing. No more guilty conscience for eating things such as sausage and cheese omelets or bacon & egg sandwiches (thanks to those loverly folks at Morningstar Farms who have graced us with their "bacon" and "sausage" that, at this point, tastes better than the real stuff to me).

Today's breakfast fits fully into this category of "feels and tastes sinful but is actually fairly guilt-free." Stuffed French Toast with sausage on the side. In all fairness, I cannot take any credit for this recipe - it is simply my adaptation on a weight watchers recipe. If you are interested in the recipe, it can be found in my favorite weight watchers cookbook: Weight Watchers in 20 Minutes" If you are looking for a cookbook that is packed with awesome recipes sure to be winners with those you cook for, this is one to get. If you want to buy it, here is the link for amazon: If you want to check it out first, I got my copy at Borders, so you could drive on over to your local store and take a gander. If you didn't want to buy it at all, I am sure you could maybe find a friend who has it to loan it to you, see if your local library has one you can check out or hope that your photographic memory will serve you well while you read it at Borders (although I wouldn't recommend this move since 1) it is a little unethical and 2) there are so many yummy recipes, it would probably send your brain into overload). The recipe on the cover (the salmon) is a favorite in our house - we actually had it for dinner last night. But I digress. Back to the stuffed french toast...

The basic recipe is a fruit preserves and cream cheese sandwich soaked in an egg-milk-cinnamon-vanilla-nutmeg mixture and toasted. Below are the ingredients I made substitutions for:
Original / Substitution
Whole wheat bread / Tapioca Rice Bread
reduced fat cream cheese / Low fat cream cheese
fruit preserves / sugar free fruit preserves

This both reduces the fat AND the gluten (for those who are trying to have a low-g or g-free diet). It also called for slicing strawberries to top the french toast with, but I just went with a dollop of the preserves - mainly because I was lazy and didn't want to wash and cut strawberries.

I was a little worried since this was my 1st try with the tapioca bread, but it came recommended by my good friend Cindy. And being the good friend that she is, the recommendation came with the warning labels of what not to do (lessons she learned the hard way), so I was fairly confident that the french toast would be a success. And it was. I would definitely do this again. especially if I was cooking for someone I wanted to impress with my cooking people who knew me way back when I lived on puffy cheetos, frozen pizza and dr. pepper.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Salmon Cakes

A few weeks ago, I picked up a package of Chicken of the Sea Salmon. I love salmon and we eat a lot in this house and I thought, "what could be better than salmon I don't have to cook?" Ha ha! That will teach me to think. I made the mistake of turning the package over and seeing that there was a recipe for salmon cakes on the back...with a picture. Nothing is harder to resist than a yummy sounding recipe that is accompanied with an even yummier looking photo. Ok, not many things...

Anyhow, 2 packages of this salmon have been in my pantry for a few weeks now and I am really trying to be better about using things I have on hand more often, so I decided to make the salmon cakes. The recipe called for some things that I just didn't feel like buying (like green onions) and some things that I find kind of yukky (like red peppers) so I altered the recipe to use just what I had on hand and they turned out surprisingly good. Seriously, they are so yummy that I am thinking about having an appetizer party, just so that I can make them again. If I make them smaller (think bite sized, maybe 2 bites) they would make an awesome appetizer. And if I substitute some lump crabmeat for the salmon, I have a whole other flavor.

The recipe called for a mango salsa, but since I am not so much of a fan of meat and fruit, I opted to not make the salsa and chose a mayo instead. Walking through the grocery store today, I noticed that Kraft has some new, flavored mayos. Once of them is a chipotle mayo. It sounded really really yummy. The only problem is that we use fat-free mayo, or at least the olive oil mayo, in our house and these were definitely NOT either of those. I decided that I could get some chipotle powder and make my own. I was just lucky that 1) chipotle powder exists and 2) they carry it at my local grocery store.

I was a little concerned about the combination of the flavors, and originally thought about making an herbed mayo instead. But when I got home and looked at the recipe, I noticed that it called for garlic powder and cayenne pepper. This meant that chipotle mayo WAS the right choice. Once again, I need to learn to not second guess myself. The recipe for the chipotle mayo is pretty easy: put some mayo in a bowl, sprinkle in chipotle powder and mix. Taste. Repeat step 2 as often as needed until it tastes right. Stop adding the chipotle powder right before it tastes exactly right - it will gain a little more heat as it sits (another lesson learned the hard way). If it does end up being a little on the spicy side for you, just mix in more mayo. Sorry I can't be more specific, this is pretty much how I cook. Actually, usually step 3 is take mixture in to husband, ask him to taste and tell you what he thinks it needs more of.

This has proven to be one of those looks decadent and time consuming but is secretly really really quick and easy recipes...albeit one that is a little messy when it comes to forming the cakes and getting them in the pan.

Salmon Cakes

  • 2 pkgs Chicken of the Sea Salmon
  • 1/2 c mayo
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • dried chives (1 palmful or however much you want)
  • 1 tbsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground cayenne pepper (or to taste)
  • 1 cup bread crumbs, divided in half
  • Olive oil cooking spray
  • Mix 1st 6 ingredients and 1/2 cup of bread crumbs in a bowl
  • spread remaining 1/2 c. of bread crumbs on a plate
  • form patties with mixture (size of patty will be determined by purpose - appetizer, form into 2" patties; dinner size, form into larger patties - approx. 3 or 4" across)
  • roll patties in bread crumbs
  • heat frying pan over medium heat. once heated, spray with cooking spray
  • cook salmon cakes over medium heat until golden brown on both sides
  • Serve with chipotle mayo (or sauce/topping of your choice)