Mediterranean Couscous Salad

Mediterranean Couscous SaladI prepared this summer salad for a high school class reunion picnic. It was a bit of a challenge to quadruple-plus the recipe, but I think the end result was a success. It’s a an easy salad that can be prepared in less than an hour; unless you over toast the couscous, like I did, and have to meticulously remove the burnt pieces. Lesson learned!

I opted to use Israeli couscous because of it’s pearl-like shape and included a couple of containers that were colored. It made a nice contrast.

This recipe is courtesy of Giada De Laurentiis, one of my Italian favorites on the TV cooking network. I have provided the recipe for a serving of six. My upgraded recipe served 100 people; hence, the large disposable aluminum pan you see pictured.Cook the couscous as directed in the recipe.

INGREDIENTS NEEDED:

  • 3 TBLS, plus 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 pound box Israeli couscous
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 2 lemons, juiced
  • 1 zested lemon
  • 1/2 tsp. salt  & 1/2 tsp. pepper (season to taste)IMG_9005
  • 1 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh spearmint leaves
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries or cranraisins
  • 1/4 cup slivered almonds, toasted is optional

 

HOW TO:

IMG_9006

1)   In a medium saucepan, heat 3 TBLS olive oil over medium heat. Add couscous, cook for 5 minutes until lightly toasted. Stir often prevent scorching.

2)   Add chicken stock and juice of 1 lemon. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 8-10 minutes. You want the couscous tender, but still firm to the bite. Stir

IMG_9016

occasionally while cooking.

3)   Drain cooked couscous and place in a large bowl. Toss with 1/4 cup olive oil, lemon juice, lemon zest and seasonings. Cool couscous to room temperature. This is VERY important. You don’t want the fresh herbs to wilt when they are added to the couscous.


4)
   Once cooled, add fresh herbs, dried cranberries and almonds. Combine and toss to evenly distribute ingredients.

IMG_9025
Serves 6

TIP: If making larger quantities, toss all ingredients in an unused kitchen trash bag. Once mixed, empty contents of bag into the serving container.

Palm of Heart Artichoke Salad Plate



IMG_8702

This 150 calorie salad is not only healthy, but also very low in fat. It contains artichoke hearts marinated in oil, sliced hearts of palm (in water), low fat cottage cheese on a bed of lettuce and one halved tomato slice. Add freshly ground pepper to taste.

Costco has an incredible selection of hearts of palm and artichoke hearts that are ready to serve right out of the jar. This tasty salad contains a good portion of vitamin C, zero cholesterol and can be served in a matter of minutes.

Consider adding chopped white or green asparagus tips for additional color. These too are available at Costco in ready-to-serve jars.

This salad is a perfect addition to a main course of spaghetti or lasagna. Red leaf lettuce can also be substituted for the bib lettuce.

 

Easy Black Beans & Rice Enchiladas

IMG_4626

There are a few family members that are not fond of meat dishes. Whenever asked to bring a dish to family functions, I try to pick a dish that will fit the bill for both meat and meatless foodies.

These bean and rice enchiladas are always a hit. Best served hot out of the oven, but can be reheated in the microwave in short increments until heated through.

IMG_4604INGREDIENTS

  • Zatarain’s boxed red beans and rice (family size)
  • Cheddar or white cheese, 2 1/2 to cups
  • 1 can prepared enchilada sauce
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped onion
  • 2 medium tomatoes chopped
  • 1 1/2 cup finely chopped lettuce
  • 1 cup chunky salsa
  • 9-inch flour tortillas, 12 count

HOW TO

Prepare Zatarain’s red beans and rice according to package directions. Set aside.

Spread a thin layer of the red beans and rice in the bottom of an 9 x 12 baking dish. Fill each flour tortilla with approximately 1/2 cup of red beans and rice and 1 tablespoon of chunky salsa. Sprinkle with cheese and roll into tortilla shape.

IMG_4609

Once all enchiladas are rolled, sprinkle the tops with cheese, diced onion, tomatoes and drizzle with enchilada. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 27 minutes.

IMG_4615

 

Remove from oven and allow to cool. With a spatula, cut each enchilada in half. You will have 24 servings which pair well with a taco or two.

 

OK. Let’s talk calories. Each 1/2 section of the enchilada is in the neighborhood of 190 calories fully loaded. You can dump plenty of calories by foregoing the melted cheese and using low fat sour cream instead (about 52 calories).

 

Mexican Pizza that Rocks

IMG_4496

I am a sucker for Taco Bell’s Mexican Pizza. That is now history. MY MEXICAN PIZZA rocks and I’m booting Taco Bell out the door.

Not only is this an easy dish to make (and filling), it is rather low in calories. The biggest calorie binge is the cheese, but even that can be purchased low-fat. The other thing I love-love about this meal is the portion size. You can make it a meal or make it an appetizer.

Mexican PizzaIngredients

  • (2) nine-inch flour tortillas
  • 2 cups Mexican mixed low-fat shredded cheese
  • 1/3 cup chopped calamari olives
  • 1/2 cup refried beans in can
  • (1) medium tomato chopped
  • 1 cup heated crumbled Boco burger meat
  • 1/2 packet dried taco seasoning
  • 1 1/2 cup chunky salsa
  • 1/2 cup minced sweet onion (add to the Boco burger)
  • Salt & pepper to taste

IMG_4479

How To

Place two tortillas onto a cookie sheet that has been sprayed with a non-stick cooking spray. Spread each tortilla with a layer of refried beans, burger and salsa.

Place a second flour tortilla on top and bake in the oven for 10 minutes in a preheated oven at 350 degrees.

IMG_4482

Remove from oven and allow to cool for a few minutes. Then add a layer of salsa, cheese, green onion, black olives and tomatoes.

Return to oven and cook for another 8 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly before slicing into quarter sections.

IMG_4486

 

Summer Salad: Mixed Raw Veggies in Marinate

Mixed Veggie Cold Salad

If you are looking for a way to incorporate veggies into your meal plan, this mixed veggie salad might fit the bill. With so many summer garden veggies on the vine, I am always scouting out ways to use up the bounty.

Since the wine-guy (AKA, Honey-Man) is in the wine business, there is never a shortage of great olive oils from famous wine countries. Some of these olive oils can retail upwards of $60 a bottle. I happened to use one of those olive oils for this salad. Take note, I don’t pay that much for the olive oil. This bottle was a sample gift from one of the vineyards the wine guy represents.

Fresh Vegetables for SaladI used the veggies I had on hand which included:

                      • (1) small bunch of Broccoli, chopped
                      • (2) steamed corn on the cob, remove corn from the cob
                      • (2) medium, tomatoes deseeded
                      • (2) medium, cucumbers, deseeded
  • (1) bunch of scallions, chopped
  • (24) pit-free, calamari olives
  • (4) ounces fat-free Feta cheese, crumbled
  • (1) small zucchini, chopped
  • Fresh basil leaves to taste

IMG_4435

                    •  Salad Dressing
                    • 6 tablespoons olive oil
                    • 4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Mix the dressing and pour over salad ingredients just before serving. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Marinated Fresh Veggie Salad

This recipe will yield approximately (8) one cup servings. Serve over a bed of green scallions (use the green portion that you would normally discard) and add a few fresh basil sprigs.

Tip: A grilled chicken breast would compliment this salad along with a glass of Pinot Grigio wine.

Southern Style Chicken & Dumpling Dinner

Chicken & Dumplings

My grandma was a Southern born lady and cooking was her claim to that heritage. She made the meanest pan of cornbread and the tastiest chicken and dumplings this side of the Mason-Dixon line.

My ten-year old grandson, Carson, is a die-hard chicken and dumpling fan. He loves Cracker Barrel’s dumplings; I told him I could make a pot chicken dumplings just like that, maybe better. The challenge was on.

Making the dough for dumplingsDough Recipe:

  • 2 1/4 cups flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 3 tablespoons butter (you can also use a low-fat butter type)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

Combine the dry ingredients and then cut in the butter. Once the mix is crumbly, slowly add the milk until you can form the dough into a ball. If dough is still sticky, dust with a handful of flour and incorporate into the dough mixture.

Roll out dough and cut into strips

Liberally sprinkle flour onto a cutting surface. Roll out the dough to a 3/8″ thickness. Dust rolling pin and dough mixture with flour as needed.

Cut dough into strips using a pizza cutter, then cut in opposite direction to form small dumpling squares.

Cut rolled dough into dumpling squares

 

Add a handful of flour to a large platter. Using a spatula or edge of knife lift the squares from the cutting area and place layers of dumplings onto the platter. Coat each dumpling layer (both sides) with the flour. This will help to thicken the chicken broth to a gravy consistency.

Coat the dumpling with flour

Bring 8 cups of chicken broth to a boil; I made my broth from bouillon. Drop dumplings into the broth one at a time. You don’t want the dumplings clumping together. They will, if you put them all into the broth at the same time.

Add dumplings to brothCook the dumplings (uncovered) for 20 minutes over medium heat. While the dumplings are cooking, cut-up 18 ounces of cooked chicken breasts.

You can cut the chicken into strips, coarsely dice, or cube. I prefer cubed.

 

Cook the dumplings until they are no longer doughyOnce the dumplings are thoroughly cooked (no longer doughy), add the cut or chopped chicken meat to the broth.

Add grated carrots to the broth and/or 1 cup of frozen peas. My grandson loves peas, the wine guy does not. I opted for carrots only.

 

Cube, dice or slice the cooked chicken

If you want a creamier gravy, this is the time to thicken the broth with additional flour. To do that, add a handful of ice cubes to a measuring cup along with 1/4 cup water. Stir in 1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons flour. Mix well, gradually adding to the broth.

 

Add grated carrots to the dumpling broth

For the record…I won the challenge. My grandson said my chicken and dumplings were better than Cracker Barrel. Maybe he was just sucking up, but the fact that he ate four bowls in one sitting tells me he may have been truthful. Hope you enjoy!

This recipe makes approximately 10 cups of chicken and dumplings. You’re in the neighborhood of 399 calories per 1 cup serving. Trust me, one cup of the dumplings with a side salad is very filling. You can shave 20 calories per serving by using two tablespoons butter instead of three.

Bow Tie Pasta Salad

I love cold pasta salads in the summer. Yesterday I had a hankering for one and sought out fresh ingredients that needed to be used up. I found a cucumber, tomato, and asparagus tips that were screaming “Use me”. Onion, broccoli  and bow tie pasta made up the remaining ingredients.

Cut up broccoli, asparagus tips, cucumber and onion.

INGREDIENT LIST:

  • Medium size cucumber chopped, peeled and seeds removed
  • 1 cup chopped broccoli
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup asparagus tips
  • 3/4 cup chopped tomato
  • 1/3 cup hot wasabi peas
  • 1 cup bow tie pasta, cooked
  • 1/2 cup lite ranch dressing
  • 1/2 cup white vinegar and 1 cup water
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Bow Tie PastaHow To

Add broccoli, onion, asparagus tips and cucumber to the water/vinegar mixture. Allow to sit for 15 minutes; then drain.

Add remaining ingredients to the veggie mix. Stir well. Season to taste.

 

Make approximately six cups. A one cup serving (shown below) is in the neighborhood of 177 calories. It’s generous. If using as a side dish, you could reduce to 1/2 cup per serving.

Once cup serving of Bow Tie Pasta Salad

 

5 Minute, 200 Calorie Lunch

It’s been one of those weeks and it’s not over yet. It’s only Wednesday. If there was bad news to be delivered, it arrived on my doorstep. A software crash at work, $700 plus to fix it, one day of lost business data, customer shipping errors, my assistant is off sick and so on and so on. So cooking has been about the last thing I want to do.

But, since eating is necessary to sustain my get-up and go, I had to get up and go to the kitchen to make meals. Today’s lunch took 5 minutes to prepare and another 5 minutes to shovel into my mouth. All 200 calories of it.

A lightly toasted thin bagel slathered with honey mustard, three slices of ultra thin sliced deli ham (Hillshire brand, 99% fat-free) and a sprinkle of shredded cheddar cheese. I popped it in the microwave until the cheese melted, added mixed greens and I was good to go. Oh yah, let’s not forget the three large strawberries on the side.

For quick and easy, it was actually a pretty good sandwich that was filling and low in calories. Make this an open face sandwich and you will cut 65 calories. Add a tomato slice in place of the top layer of bread.

Roasted Red Pepper Soup and Chick Peas

I’ve had this recipe on my ‘to do’ list since last week but was missing the fire roasted tomatoes. The wine guy picked up a can of the tomaters so I’m back in the soup making business.

I would have preferred roasting the peppers on the grill. But, Michigan’s mid-thirties temp forced me to go with plan B. The oven. Roasting the peppers is easy. Removing the skin, pulp and seeds is the messy part. Thank you Wine Guy for doing that part for me.

Here’s what you need to make this kick-butt soup with just a hint of hot.

  • 2 Yukon gold potatoes, cubed
  • 4 cups vegetable broth  (no sodium)
  • 1 can crushed fires roasted tomatoes
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 or 2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic (I used the kind in a jar)
  • Salt & Pepper
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 teaspoon thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon parsley flakes
  • Chopped green onions and roasted chickpeas (for garnish)

Roast peppers in oven at a 450 degree setting. Cook until charred black. When peppers are cool enough to handle, remove the skin, pulp and seeds. Do this over a bowl so you can reserve all the yummy juices for the soup stock.

Don’t get in a tizzy if a few stray seeds are left on the peppers. They add additional flavor to the soup.

Prep the onion, potatoes, and green onion and set aside. Add oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt and yellow onion to a large soup pot. Cook onion over low heat until caramelized. (20 minutes, stirring often).

Add garlic, dried herbs, 1/2 teaspoon slat and pepper to the onion mixture. Stir until mixed, then add tomatoes, potatoes, vegetable stock and 1 medium size chipotle pepper. No need to dice the chipotle, it will be emulsified later. Simmer uncovered for 15 minutes.

Stirred peeled red peppers and juices into the soup stock and bring to a boil. Turn heat down until soap is simmering.

Remove soup from heat and blend the soup with an immersion blender until smooth. Return pot to heat and simmer for 15 more minutes, until thicken. Taste test. If needed, add additional salt or pepper.

If you want to kick up the level of hotness a notch or two, add a few red pepper flakes. I tend to like a more medium level of spiciness, but if you’re game, go for the heartburn!

Ladle hot soup into bowls and garnish with green onion and roasted chickpeas. I used pre-roasted chick peas, but you can roast your own (see recipe).

Here’s the down and dirty about this soup’s calories. They’re low, like 88 calories per cup low, and packed with a powerful punch of vitamin C. This soup is also a good source of iron, dietary fiber and vitamin A, not to mention low in unsaturated fat and cholesterol.
Freeze in portions and thaw as needed. This recipe will serve up to 8 people

Chicken & Dumpling Soup

Last week my grandson, Carson, expressed to me his love of Cracker Barrel’s chicken & dumplings. He asked if I could make them. I said, “Not only can I make them, I can make them even better!” This was last night’s dinner and it scored big points with him.

After five bowls of soup (yes, five!!) and a slice of buttered bread, Carson affirmed with great certainty that this was his new, MOST favorite dish. That put a big smile on my face as I thought it was pretty awesome tasting too.

I was going to use a biscuit mix to make the dumplings, but as usual, I had none. The alternative was to make my own from flour which is a messy task. In the end, I’m glad I did. They were bite-size and more noodle-like in texture and taste.

Prep time took about 30 minutes and cook time 15 minutes. The finished soup yielded a rich, creamy base with just the right amount of seasoning.

 

 

 

Ingredients

  • 1 pound diced chicken meat, pre-cooked (I bought a roasted chicken from the grocery deli)
  • 1 celery rib, diced
  • 1 carrot , diced
  • 1 small onion chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 medium potato, peeled and diced
  • 1 (10 3/4 ounce) low fat condensed cream of chicken soup
  • 2 tablespoons “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter”
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
  • 1 quart chicken stock (low-fat, low-sodium). I like the paper container from Swanson.
  • 3/4 cup frozen peas (optional)

Dumplings

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Ice water, about 3/4 cup

 How To

Heat a large soup pot over medium high heat, adding oil, butter, veggies and bay leaf. Cook 5 minutes, stirring often.

Add flour to veggies and cook for 2 more minutes. Gradually add the broth, stir and bring to a boil.Once broth comes to a boil, add the pre-cooked chicken to the pot and stir. Add the canned soup to the pot and whisk until well blended in the stock.

Prepare Dumplings:

Dust a generous amount of flour onto a clean work area. Mix flour and salt in a bowl. Gather into a mound and drizzle a tablespoon of ice water in the center of the mound. Using your fingers, knead the dough mixture up against the sides of the bowl. Gradually incorporate all of the ice water. Continue to knead dough and shape into a ball.

Roll out dough on flour work area until it is 1/8″ thick. Allow dough to set for a minute or so before cutting into dumplings.

Cut dough into one-inch wide strips. Tear off 1/2 inch pieces and drop into the simmering soup stock. Make sure the dumplings are totally submerged in the stock. Do not stir the stock. Use the tip of a spoon to push any rebellious dumpling down into the soup.

Reduce heat to medium low. Cover pot tightly and cook dumplings until they float and are no longer doughy (about 5-6 minutes).

Remove cover and add peas and remove pan from heat.Stir chicken and dumplings to thicken sauce and serve in warm shallow bowls with a side of hard-crusted bread for dipping.