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:

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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

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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.

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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



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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.

 

Cucumber Tomato Marinated Salad

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Today’s lunch was this refreshing salad; prepped in under 15 minutes. Refrigerate for a few hours before serving. It’s refreshing, low calorie and filling. Don’t be shy about adding other veggies. Chopped broccoli, red cabbage, cauliflower and zucchini are just a few of my suggestions.

Ingredients:

2 medium cucumbers, peeled and sliced 1/4 inch thick
1 medium onion, sliced and separated into rings
2 medium tomatoes, cut into wedges
1/3 cup vinegar…
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup water
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon fresh coarse ground black pepper
1/4 cup oil

Combine ingredients in a large bowl and mix well. Refrigerate at least 2 hours before serving.

Apple & Red Cabbage Salad

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I love cabbage, but not when it is cooked. However, this red cabbage salad was an exception. I love the contrast of the plum color on a white dinner plate, not to mention the semi-sweetness of the apples. When served with BBQ pork or beef ribs, it’s outstanding; the flavors really compliment the meat.

IMG_8212INGREDIENTS:

  • 1/2 head of red cabbage, chopped
  • 1 large apple, grated
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 3/4 cup turkey bacon, cooked and diced
  • Fresh apple slices to garnish, optional

 HOW TO:

Place chopped cabbage, shredded apple, vinegar, sugar and cloves in crock pot. Cover and cook on high for 2 1/2 to 3 hours. Remove to serving dish, add diced turkey bacon and garnish with apple slices.

IMG_8238The tang and sweetness of this salad is a great replacement for traditional green salads.

This recipe will serve 6 people as a side dish. A half-cup serving with an apple slice garnish is in the neighborhood of 115 calories.

 

 

Creamy Butternut-Applesauce-Cheese Soup

Creamy Butternut-Applesauce-Cheese Soup

Nothing screams FALL more than squash and apples. The squash is falling off the vines and apples are dropping from the trees. In Michigan, we’ve had an overabundance this year and everyone is looking for ways to use up the excess. This recipe is a perfect fit.

This soup is ideal for soup sliders at tail-gating parties or when hosting sporting events. Keep it warm in a crock pot and serve up in small Dixie cups that you ‘slurp’ down like a Jell-O-shot.

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup diced onion
  • 5 T butter or margarine
  • 1 large potato, peeled and diced
  • 3 small apples, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 1/2 cup fresh butternut squash, peeled and cubed (Costco offers a tub that is user-ready)
  • 2 T white flour
  • 1/2 cup applesauce (I used fresh, homemade applesauce. Jar applesauce will also work.)
  • 32 ounces chicken broth, low sodium (I use the broth in a box)
  • 1 cup 2% milk
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried sage
  • Chopped chives for garnish (optional)
  • 2 cups cheddar cheese (1 cup sharp and 1 cup mild)
  • 2 ounces prosciutto, thinly sliced and diced

Creamy Butternut-Applesauce-Cheese Soup
How To

Melt 4 T butter in a large pot. Add onion, apples, potato and diced squash. Cook over medium-low heat for 8 minutes. Add seasonings, flour and applesauce. Stir until thickened.

 

Creamy Butternut-Applesauce-Cheese SoupAdd the broth and milk. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and cover. Continue to cook until the squash, apples and potatoes are soft (about 15 minutes).

While the soup is simmering, heat 1 T butter in a skillet. Over medium-high heat, cook the diced prosciutto until crisp (like bacon). Remove from  heat and set aside.

Creamy Butternut-Applesauce-Cheese Soup

Add the cheese to the soup mixture and heat until the cheese is thoroughly incorporated. Remove the soup from stovetop.

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Using a stick blender, mix the soup mixture until it is smooth and creamy. Taste to determine if any additional seasoning is needed.

 

 

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Garnish the soup with crispy prosciutto and chopped chives.

This recipe makes eight 1-cup servings. Calories are in the neighborhood of 265 calories per serving.

 

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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

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                    •  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.

Sauteed Kale & Garlic

In a pursuit to lower cholesterol, I’ve been forced to introduce food types into my diet I wouldn’t normally consider. Kale is one of them. I’ve used kale to make protein shakes and stuff pasta shells , but I’ve never tried it as a salad or side dish.

Everything I have read about kale gives it a thumbs-up. In fact, it’s being called the new beef because of its high protein and iron value.  One cup of kale has only 36 calories, 5 grams of fiber and 0 grams of fat. And it doesn’t end there. It helps to lower cholesterol, aids in digestions, filled with anti-oxidants and loaded with calcium. It packs a powerful punch in the nutritional arena.

Here is a quick and easy way to incorporate kale into a meal as a green side dish. Just be sure you are using fresh kale. Droopy, saggy leaves is an indicator the kale has seen better days.

The same is true of garlic gloves. If they feel and look rubbery, don’t buy them.

Vegetable broth is a great liquid to use when sauteing vegetables. It’s adds nutritional value with no calories or fat.

The ingredients for this side dish are simple and the total cook/prep time is 15 minutes. You will want to serve hot, though leftovers could be reheated on the stove top.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 pound kale leaves coarsely chopped (you can use the stems if you like, but I find them a little to bitter and fibrous for my liking. Save them for soups.)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed and diced
  • 1/2 cup vegetable broth
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • Balsamic vinegar to taste

Rinse kale, remove stems. With a knife, remove the stem portion the runs up the back side of the leaf. Coarsely chop the leaves and set aside. Crush the garlic cloves, remove skin and dice.

Heat olive oil in a deep skillet or large saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic and cook until tender, but not browned. Turn heat up to high, add the vegetable stock and kale and toss. Cover and cook for 5 minutes.

Remove cover from pan and continue to cook until all the liquid has evaporated, stirring often. Season and add vinegar. Plate and serve.

 

Crabby Crescent Appetizers

While my computer techs were upgrading software, I took advantage of the down time and prepared an appetizer for some guests my husband was hosting from work. As usual, I did a scavenger hunt of the pantry and fridge. The two cans of crab meat caught my eye. Many of my Blimpy Girl recipes are about the challenge of creating something from nothing while keeping caloric intake to a minimum. There are times of HURRAH along with many OOPSIES. This was a HURRAH with minimal prep time.

How many this serves will depend on how you plate it. Recipe easily makes 16 crescent balls with left-over filling (enough for at least 4 Crabby Patties).

As a first course, plate as shown in the above picture. If serving as an appetizer, display on a platter, drizzle with sauce and call it a finger food.

I prefer to serve this dish hot from the oven, but it does hold up to serving at room temperature. Letting the dish cool a minute or two before serving will bring out the full flavor of the crab. Don’t ask me why, it just does.

Prep time is around 15 minutes; bake time is 13-14 minutes. You can prepare ahead, cover and store in fridge, to pop in the oven just before guests arrive.

Here’s what you need to whip up a batch of these Crabby Crescent appetizers.

  • Two 6-ounce cans crab meat, drained (save and freeze the juice for a future dish)
  • 2/3 cup unseasoned bread crumbs (finely grated type)
  • 1 tablespoon dried parsley (if you have parsley, use 1/2 tablespoon)
  • 1 clove of garlic, peeled and finely diced
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • (2) wedges of Laughing Cow Swiss cheese wedges (consider this a wet ingredient)
  • 3 tablespoons fat-free liquid egg substitute
  • 1 tablespoon fat-free mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon fat-free cream cheese
  • 1/2 tablespoon Dijonnaise mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot sauce
  • 2 tablespoons each: finely shredded carrots, finely diced zucchini, finely chopped onion, finely chopped celery
  • 1 tablespoon reserved claim juice from the cans of drained clam meat
  • 1 can Pillsbury Crescent Rolls

Add all the dry ingredients into a medium size mixing bowl. In a smaller mixing bowl, blend the wet ingredients until nice smooth.

Pour the wet mixture into the dry ingredient bowl and fold until you have a paste.

Form the paste into small balls. You will need 16 balls and should have enough paste left-over for 8 small crabby patties. Open the can of crescent rolls and separate. Cut each triangle in half. You need 16 crescent triangles.

Gently fold the crescent triangle around the Crabby ball. Roll in you hand to seal all the edges. Place the balls on a cookie sheet sprayed with non-stick cooking oil. Form small Crabby Patties with the leftover paste.

Bake in 375 F degree oven for 13-14 minutes. You want  a light brown crust on the crescent dough.

Now for the sauce (the yummy part):

  • 2 heaping tablespoons of low-fat mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot sauce (more or less to your liking)

Whip the sauce until smooth and then spoon drizzle over base of plates and the rolls/patties.

Let’s talk calories. The mini Crabby Patty is in the neighborhood of (you’re not going to believe this!!) 20 calories each. The drizzled sauce adds 5 calories.

Each crescent covered crab balls is 75 calories. The dish pictured above with sauce (two rolls, one crab patty) is 175 calories.

You can forego the crescent wrapped balls and opt for three mini crab patties (with the awewome sauce) for a whooping 75 calories. LOVE< LOVE< LOVE!! This dish received the Wine Guy’s seal of approval. He had two helpings at dinner last night.

 

 

 

Edamame: A Snack with a Nutritional Punch

Edamame Soybeans

The holidays are over and it’s time to get back on track with the Blimpy Girl eating plan. No more snacking, cheating or avoiding the scale. The day of reckoning has arrived and, quite honestly, it’s not good news. I have eight pounds to lose.

I’ve been searching for snacks high in protein, low in cholesterol and filled with a nutritional punch. Edamame beans have been a long-time favorite of mine. I usually keep a big (frozen) bag of the pods on hand for snacking. With the holidays, I’ve been a slacker and opting for more favorably snacks like BBQ chips and Cheez-its. 

 Roasted Edamame BeansEdamame beans are great raw, but you can doctor them up to be more interesting and flavorful. Here is one of my favorites ways to turn these soybeans into a delicious snack.

If possible, purchase shelled edamame beans. You can generally find a 12 ounce package in the frozen section at a specialty food market.


Ingredients

  • 12 ounce frozen shelled edamame beans
  • Non-stick cooking spray (I use olive oil flavor)
  • 1/3 cup reduced-fat grated Parmesan cheese
  • Salt (coarse sea salt is best) and freshly ground pepper to taste

 How To

Kick up the oven to 400 degrees while thawing the edamame. The beans won’t take long to thaw if you place in cold water and drain in a colander. Just be sure to ‘pat dry’ the beans before baking. Tip: Defrosting beans the day before and letting them air dry for several hours will help beans stay crispy when baking. Removing extra moisture is key in producing crispy beans.

Generously spray a cookie sheet (9 x 13″) with non-stick cooking spray. Evenly distribute the edamame beans onto the pan. Give another generous spray of non-stick oil to the beans and toss gently. If calories are of no concern, use olive oil instead of non-stick cooking spray.

Sprinkle the beans with the cheese and season with salt and pepper.

Bake in oven for 15 minutes, until crispy.

 The Details

A 12-ounce bag of shelled beans yields five (140 calorie) servings. You reap generous amounts of protein, essential fatty acids and fiber with each portion.

If are unable to find shelled edamame beans, purchase the pod beans and shell them yourself.

Rice & Roasted Veggies w/ Gorgonzola

Rice with Roasted Vegetables

Blimpy Girl has been on sabbatical from food preparation due to my recent trip to Paris. As of yesterday, I hope to be back on track with my posts. This starts the busy season for my business, so I’m seeking out meals that are quick, easy and take little supervision while cooking.

This was last night’s dinner. The goodness of roasted veggies with a side of white rice. I coupled this dish with a endive-spinach-basil salad (the spinach helps offset the bitter of the endive) topped with shaved carrots and thin slices of zucchini. The salad was drizzled with balsamic vinegar and olive oil (and a handful of grated Parmesan Reggiano). In hindsight, the salad was an overkill. I could have made a meal out of just the salad and a piece of hard crusted bread.

The only thing missing from the salad were roasted walnuts. I should have thrown a handul onto the baking dish with the veggies. Walnuts are an excellent source of vitamin E and Omega 3.

There were enough roasted veggies to generously serve two. You will need the following:

  • (2) large onion slices
  • (1) large onion slice separated into rings
  • 1/2 eggplant (slice into 3/8 inch slices)
  • (2) large tomato slices
  • Chopped carrot
  • 1 small zucchini sliced
  • 1/2 red and 1/2 yellow bell peppers, cut into strips
  • Cooked rice (3/4 cups per person)
  • 1 teaspoon Balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons of Gorgonzola cheese
  • Salt & pepper to taste

 NOTE: You can substitute couscous for the rice. That was my first intention, but I didn’t have any in the pantry.

Arrange veggies in a single layer on baking sheet.

 

Lightly spray non-stick olive oil cooking spray on a baking sheet. Crank the oven up to 350 degrees and begin your chopping, dicing & cutting. Place veggies in a single layer on the baking pan (best you can). Spray with non-stick cooking spray and season.

 

Roast in oven for 25 minutes, remove from oven and place a dollop of Gorgonzola cheese on top of the tomato/onion slices. Return to oven and roast for another 5 minutes. Plate the rice using an ice cream scoop. Arrange roasted veggies on plate and drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. A sprinkle of cracked black pepper and you’re ready to devour a healthy dose of veggies.

Each serving (minus the salad) is in the neighborhood of 290 calories. If you swap out the rice for couscous, deduct 21 calories.The biggest calories are in the starch (rice/couscous) and the Gorgonzola cheese. Fore go the Gorgonzola and deduct another 50 calories. For me, the cheese splurge was worth it. It’s not often I have vein thickening, cholesterol building cheeses. But in small doses, it’s good for the soul.