Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Tandoori Spiced Grilled Game Hens

I have been experimenting with different flavor profiles recently....Some Indian, Middle Eastern and Moroccan mostly.  So last night I made this tagine of Chicken with a tomato, saffron and honey sauce. I got the recipe out of my new book called "The new book of Middle Eastern Food, by Claudia Roden.  The dish sounded interesting and I had all the stuff to put it together, so why not?  When I started making it, the recipe called out for 2 teaspoons of CINNAMON and few other spices (odd for Moroccan). I realized   that 2 teaspoons was SO MUCH - definitely an "issue", so I cut the cinnamon to 1 teaspoon.  But even then, it was horribly overpowering.  My husbands first reaction when he walked in the house?  "what the hell stinks like cinnamon?"   Yeah.  Not good.  The meal was awful and I wasted a lot of food.  But hey, that's how you know this flavor profile is not for you, right?  His last statement about the dinner?  "if you ever put Cinnamon in my dinner again, I am leaving you..."   HAHAHA!  Funny, but I actually think he meant it!

Needless to say, I WONT be posting ANYTHING about that recipe.  OH well.  On with today's recipe....

Ya know how sometimes you just WANT a certain food, but don't want to go to too much trouble?  Lots of food is like that for me...but Indian and Moroccan are the two that seem to require quite a few ingredients and more than a bit of time. 

If I have the time and if I am really in the mood, I like to "pretend" I'm an Indian restaurant - you know, the appetizer, AT LEAST two distinctly different dishes and/or a vegetable.  With, of course, Basmati Rice and Naan. Yeah - SUPER fun to make, but it's a lot of work and in the summer, spending 4 hours in my kitchen sweating to death just doesn't sound good.

But what if your craving that "taste"?  Try a quick spatchcocked Tandoori Cornish Hen!  It was delicious and it didn't require lots of time or attention in the kitchen, Plus it fits in with outdoor summer grilling perfectly.  A EXTRA BONUS - Nobody will have unwanted cinnamon in their meal!

Tandoori Spiced Grilled Game Hens

I just counted the points for the hens with skin and only one serving of oil....most of it gets cooked off.

2 Cornish game hens, prepared in a spatchcock fashion
3-4 tablespoons tandoori spice mix
1/4 cup Vegetable oil

Mix the oil and the seasoning together with a whisk and set aside.  Depending on the brand it will be
Bright red or a deep rust color.

The Term Spatchcock is an actual cooking technique.  It means "poultry or game that is prepared for roasting or grilling by removing the backbone and sternum of the bird and flattening it out before cooking"  This explanation comes from Wikipedia and if you go to the sight and drill down, you will see the "how to" pictures in case you are interested in more detail.

Because these are little birds and easily pliable, I remove the backbone and "crack the sternum, But I don't remove the sternum.  So technically this isn't a COMPLETELY spatchcocked hen. 

First remove any parts or bags of "stuff" in the cavity.  Wash/clean the hens.  Pat them dry, inside and out.  Turn the bird breast side down.

 Then with kitchen shears or a VERY sharp knife cut out the back bone.  I used shears only, but do what is comfortable.

I was by myself and I couldn't continue to work and take pictures with my chicken smeared hands...so I have to explain the rest.

Open the bird and put your index fingers under the breast bone with your thumb on top of the breast bone and push with your thumbs until it sort of cracks.  The hen will now lay flat. 

Repeat with the other hen:

Smear the spice oil all over the game hens -especially on the underside of the bird.  Add some salt and pepper.

Cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate for about an hour or more.

Put on a very hot BBQ grill, underside down first, and then turn.  Cook until the inner temp is 170 degrees or the juices run clear and the legs is easily movable. (I prefer a thermometer)  Remove from the grill to a plate and let sit for about 5 minutes. 

Serve with your desired side dishes.  I made basmati rice, Indian veggies and naan from a frozen package.

The result?  A nicely crisp hen that is tender and delicious.  Very Indian tasting without too much work, giving us that familiar Tandoori spice we all love.  This was a winner.  It's a recipe I will make often this summer PLUS I know the Hubster will not leave me over this dish!  Yours wont either.

From my home to yours, ENJOY!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Creamy Thai Chicken Salad

I love it when my husband helps me out.   That's really a dumb statement.  He helps me ALL THE TIME with LOTS of stuff.  BUT I love it when he helps me come up with a recipe.  I don't often ask for that kind of help, but he has a great palette and he really thinks out of the box.

Left over rotisserie chicken was sitting in the fridge just BEGGING to be made into the next spunky new chicken salad!!!  (yes, it did speak to me...what of it???).  I was in the mood for Indian / middle eastern or Asian flavors.  Tom helped me to decide on Asian -  Thai Chicken Salad it would be! 

The sauce was a culmination of my basic knowledge of some of the Thai flavors and Tom's "extras".  He was a great taste tester, he added lots of flavor with  his additions, he wrote down everything I was throwing in the salad and he snapped the photos. AHHH!  SO NICE and MUCH quicker!!

The flavor of this salad is spicy, snappy, bright and creamy all at the same time.  We put it in a tortilla (cause that's all I had) but you can use Lavash bread, pita's, regular bread, fresh spring roll wrappers, or top a green salad!!   Any way you eat it you will find it filling and it will satisfy that need to the favor of Thai when you get a craving!

Thai Chicken Salad

1 Cup Chopped Chicken (I used one breast and one thigh)
1 carrot, grated
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
2 tablespoons green onions, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon cilantro, chopped (or more to taste)
1/2 teaspoon Thai basil (OPTIONAL - you wont find this anywhere but the Asian market - leave it out if you don't have it)

1/4 cup Best foods LOW FAT (the green one) mayo
jucie of 1/2 lime and it's zest
1 teaspoon peanut butter (I used low fat)
1 teaspoon chili garlic paste
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon mined ginger
1 teaspoon fresh lemon grass (thinly sliced and finely minced)
  • NOTE ** If you cant find Fresh. use the lemon grass in the tube OR you can find it in jars - fresh is inexpensive and available just about everywhere.  Freeze it and use it whenever you need it - its easier to chop and slice when frozen.
Make the sauce....combine all ingredients and whisk very well until combined - set aside.

In a large bowl add the chicken, carrot, bell pepper, cilantro, green onion and the Thai basil, if using.

Mix in the sauce

You are so totally DONE!  Use this how you wish - Wrap it, top it, eat it plain or sandwich it!!   We put it into Tortillas, but use your imagination....be creative....but comment and let others know what you did with it, or better yet, send a picture!!

The Result?  A Cool, bright, spicy and very Thai tasting twist to chicken salad, perfect for when you need a meal with the zap of cool, refreshing, flavor!

From my home to yours, Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Grilled Fruit with Maple Lemon Reduction.

Sunday morning is my Weight Watcher weigh in day....and yes, LIKE ALWAYS, I stayed the same.  BUT, on Saturday I went with Steph to pick up her Wedding dress...SO MUCH FUN and it's SOOOO GORGEOUS and she looked AMAZING!  Surprisingly I found a stunning dress (navy chiffon) and ordered it.  OH...and did I mention ITS 3 SIZES SMALLER than what I was wearing in January?  WOOO HOOO!  I am finally seeing my hard work and efforts finally paying off .  TAKE THAT YOU STINKIN PLATEAU!!   

At the meeting they were talking about this SUPER healthy breakfast "Pancake".  The accolades for this "pancake" were pretty high.  The words "GOOD and possibly DELICIOUS" were used.  The recipe is 1/2 cup quick oats, 3 egg whites, 1/2 mashed banana, and cinnamon.  Now I thought...hmmm, how could this be good, let alone delicious?? I thought, I gotta try this.  OMG!  It was SOOOO FRIGGEN BAD (should have stuck to my initial instincts because I am  literally damaged for LIFE now!)  The texture was very off putting, it tasted like soggy oatmeal (only EGG flavored) and even though I used a literally BLACK banana, the flavor didn't come through because the egg flavor overpowered it.  It was probably the single most disgusting thing I have ever made!  Two bites and it went in the trash (I know...what an idiot! Why two bites - Why didn't I stop at ONE??) I couldn't get the taste out of my mouth for what seemed like hours.   I don't care how "filling" it is or how low in points.....its just HIDEOUS!
This blog is about healthy eating, but without giving up taste and texture.  WHY do people feel that eating healthy means leaving out all of the emotional pleasantness that is the very essence of how we enjoy food?  I wish there wasn't an emotional connection but there is.  Denying the connection exists, is just a recipe for disaster. Our brains decide when and what we want to eat and how satisfied we will be when we eat it.  Therefore it's imperative we eat good, emotional pleasing food that makes us feel satisfied and happy with our healthy choices.

Enough said.

The recipe I am offering today was a hit at our Fathers day BBQ.  I wanted to serve fruit...but I am just a bit bored with sliced melons all the time.  I have two peach trees that are perfectly ripe right now and I had an idea from the WW weekly regarding grilling them.

I was however, slightly disappointed I couldn't make the Johnson family baked beans this year.  Just too many calories. We love them, they are tradition and BBQ's just don't feel the same without them.  Sweet and thick with Molasses and bacon....but I abstained and my back side is better off for it, I am sure!!   But I still wanted a light, sweet component to dinner that was emotionally satisfying.  So I picked some peaches and grabbed the two mango's I had on the counter and thought Hmmm...the maple reduction with Lemon (from a Thanksgiving sweet potato recipe) would be the PERFECT drizzle sauce for the fruit.....and I am pleased to say, IT WAS!

You can leave the peels on and grill the peach halves and mango halves cut side down and then drizzle. But I decided to peel and slice the fruit, grill it and then drizzle.  Either way this was a good AND delicious AND emotionally satisfying dish you are sure to enjoy!

Grilled Fruit with Maple Lemon Reduction Sauce
1 tablespoons of sauce is 2 points - the recipe should make 12 servings or so depending on the amount of reducing you do - Fruit is free

1 cup 100 percent REAL maple syrup
Zest of one lemon
Juice of one lemon

Peaches, Nectarines, Mangoes, Pineapple, apples, etc.....
(I used about 6 small peaches and two mangoes peeled and sliced thick - served 4-6)

For the maple reduction:
( Sorry, I didnt get a lot of pics of making the sauce )

In a heavy pan (minimum size - 2 quart pan required) over medium to low heat add the maple syrup.  You will want to bring the syrup to a boil.  WATCH IT CLOSE.  If the fire is too hot, the syrup will bubble up and over the pan, best to keep the heat on the lower side.  Boil until syrup is reduced by 1/3 or 1/2.  Remove from heat.

Using a wire whisk, stir in the lemon juice and Zest and whisk until combined and most bubbles are removed. ** Be careful.  It might bubble up when you add the lemon juice, just keep whisking.

Taste (carefully, it's HOT) and see if it's sweet yet very tangy.  Set aside to cool in a dish you will serve in.  Its yummy - be careful you don't DRINK it all!  I always want to. You can make this a day or two before and store in the fridge for ease of entertaining...just microwave to take the chill out when ready to use.

Preheat the grill and get it hot.  Prepare the fruit for grilling, either by halving it, or peel it and slice it thickly.

Preheat a grilling pan on your BBQ.  Add fruit and grill until there is some char marks.

Remove to serving plate and top with sauce and serve OR divide into serving dishes and top each one with a measured amount of sauce.

The result?  An easy,  delicious, and elegant side dish that meets all of our criteria; healthy, emotionally satisfying, visually attractive.  The taste is a bit "sweet with a tang" but wonderful and refreshing! In the end, I didnt miss the baked beans.  I felt great knowing I didnt "cave" and make them after all!!
BTW- You WILL have left over sauce.  Use it to top baked sweet potatoes, use over grapefruit, or saute with bananas or pineapples for a quick "dessert".

From my home to yours, ENJOY!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Spicy Sichuan Noodles

I have increased my exercise so much, I have been too exhausted to cook. Imagine that.....it almost seems unbelievable. (I am NOT however too tired to eat..LOL)  Combine that with the fact that I STILL cannot get over my "cooking performance anxiety" from last week, and what do we have?  A serious LACK OF CREATIVITY.

About my exercise.  I am trying to run 4 (you heard me) 5K's on my treadmill each week with weight training, fitness ball work and cycling.  This week I ran BACK TO BACK 5K's (my first time since I set this goal) !!  I did it, but almost  DIED the second day. But I do  feel like I am FINALLY scratching  and clawing my way out of that depressed, out of shape blob I have been over the last few years.

Because of this increase in exercise, I am HUNGRY all the time.  So lunch time (2 hours before the run) needs to be light and healthy, but have enough protein and carbs to see me through the exercise.  I NEED a balanced, low fat, and healthy lunch but I WANTED a tasty, filling, flavorful and satisfying lunch at the same time.

A couple of days ago, I was on a VERY LONG conference call and I WAS HUNGRY.  All I had to do was listen and not say much so I muted my phone, went into the kitchen and made this recipe.  I did it so fast, I rushed the pictures, but Cest la Vie.  Can you picture me?   Head set on...listening, all the while furiously making this dish AND taking pictures!  And once and a while I would take the mute off and say "ah huh" - put the mute back on and continue. 

NOW THAT'S MULTI-TASKING right there ladies and gentleman! 

I ate half for lunch that day and half the next .  I can tell you it was good both days with no real benefit to letting it sit the second day, other than it was super cold...which was refreshing!

Spicy Sichuan Noodles
2 servings, each serving 8 points

1 6oz can chicken
3 Tablespoon Sichuan, Spicy Noodle Sauce ( I used Lee Kum Kee brand)
3 tablespoons water
1-1/2 cup chopped spinach, fresh (or other veggies like chard, bok choy, cabbage, kale, other greens)
3 OZ  uncooked whole wheat spaghetti or Asian pasta (I used regular instead of whole wheat...that's what I had)
1/2 regular cucumber (remove seeds and skin or use 1whole Persian or snacking cucumber so you don't have to) - DICED
1/2  red bell pepper, DICED
A  tablespoon or so of Sliced green onions, optional
A bit of fresh chopped cilantro (optional)
Soy sauce, Sesame oil, salt and pepper – all to taste

Gather all ingredients

Measure 3 oz of pasta

boil until desired doneness.  Drain and  cool with cold water…..set aside

Meanwhile, put spinach into a microwave safe bowl and sprinkle with a bit of water – microwave for 30 seconds until wilted.  Set aside

Drain Chicken and add to bowl with wilted spinach.  Mix up to break up the chicken. 

Add pasta, cucumbers, red peppers and other optional items.  Mix the Sichuan sauce and water together and add to the pasta dish.  Toss to coat.

TASTE!  If you like the taste, enjoy.

I found it needed a TAD bit of soy sauce, Sesame oil and salt and pepper.

The result?  A FAST, EASY lunch, dinner or anytime, that will give you a good balance of veggies, carbs and protein.  Since it's a dish meant to serve cold, it's perfect for our hot summers!  I'[ll be making this (and variations of it) a lot!

From my home to yours, ENJOY!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Kale Chips....SERIOUSLY???

This week has been amazingly busy and I have to aplogize.  I really do mean to post at LEAST 4 times a week, if not everyday.  Sometimes family responsibilities and work get in the way....Last week I was sick and this week busy....but I should be on track now.

Before I get into the recipe, I have to say I had the WORST cooking experience ever!!  I couldn't cook ANYTHING properly.  My Mother was visiting and I wanted to make a really nice dinner.  So I made a Beef tenderloin with a port/plum sauce.  Now let me explain, I have made this SEVERAL times to perfection.  Really I have.  BUT this time I ruined the meat...yep, me. First it was severely undercooked and then, I tried to get it cooked and then the tenderloin was ruined.  UN-FRIGGEN- BELIEVABLE!!!!!
Let's just chalk it up to "performance Anxiety" and leave it at that.  AND NO!!!  There doesn't  appear to be a little blue pill that can help me.     So I am PERMANENTLY damaged from the experience and probably need months of therapy!!

But I digress.

I keep hearing people talk on blogs about Kale Chips.  SERIOUSLY???  Who the heck wants a KALE CHIP?  But the Weight Watcher community loves them because they are crispy, they are free, they are tasty and they are full of vitamins, minerals and fiber.

I am pretty sure most of you are not running out to purchase and cook kale for meal times on a daily or semi-normal basis - I for one only purchased kale to add beauty to a platter in order to show off other food!  I have a perfect record of NOT EATING KALE, and really I never thought about it at all.  But so much is coming out about the healthful properties of Kale and why, as part of healthy living, we should put Kale into our diets....Kale is high in vitamin K, vitamin A, vitamin C, manganese and fiber!  The medical community says 3 servings of broccoli, cabbage or Kale a week can reduce the risk of breast cancer by up to 73%!   Not bad!! 

Kale comes from the same family of green vegetables as cabbage, and is jam packed with so  many cancer fighting, eye healing, organ protecting, detoxifying, immune supporting, cell building properties that it's silly NOT to add it to you diets.  But how?  It's kind of tough, super fibrous and a little "odd" tasting right?

Well, leave it to people to find a way to make things appetizing.  ALL OVER THE INTERNET you will find Kale Chip recipes.  Crispy little delicate morsels that really do taste good and are a bit addicting.  The best part?  You are putting something really healthy into your body. 

These satisfy the craving for snacking on something crispy and salty. 

Even though you will feel crazy, please try them....for your health!

WW PP - O  (nice huh?)

2 bunches, Kale
Pam or some other spray oil
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

If you are going to rinse the Kale...do so, but then it has be dried completely before you work with it. 

To prepare the Kale, cut the leaves off that horrible stem...(very tough and very fibrous).....the stems should be disposed of.  Cut or tear leaves into 3" pieces or so.  I try to make the sizes as uniform as possible...but it really doesn't matter.

Line a baking sheet with foil and lay the kale in a single layer.  Do not stack Kale.  If you  have too much for your pan, use another pan or wait till the first batch is done.

Spray the Kale with Pam or other oil mist/spray until coated (be careful not to over do the spray) add salt and pepper to the kale - not too much and pop it in the oven.

 I bake them in 3 minute intervals.  Bake Three minutes and check them with your fingers.  The first three minutes they will feel kind of just soft.  The second three the edges will start to crisp.  If the smaller pieces are crisped, take them out and keep baking the balance:

After 6 minutes, I start watching them every minute and remove those that are done until the whole try is crisped.  They will crisp fast at the end so watch carefully.  Lots of people say they taste bitter when browned, but I find I like the browned ones!  LOL

When done you have a nice bowl of crisped greens!

The result?  Healthy, crispy, beautiful little "chips" that you should be encouraged to pop in your mouth as quick as you can!!  When you are done "binging" on the kale chips., take pride in knowing you just did something really good for your body! 

From my home to yours, ENJOY!!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Sesame Crusted Ahi Tuna

Here is some advise.  DON'T GET SICK.  It's just that simple.  I came down with a cold on Tuesday...which really meant that my taste buds were off, I didn't feel like eating or cooking (I KNOW!  can you believe that?) so consequently I decided to be selfish for a few days.....Sorry about not writing, but I had to recover.

When I felt a bit better and was hungry again.....I wanted AHI TUNA in the worst way.  You may not like raw fish or AHI for that matter ( although I cant imagine) So if you don't like AHI or are politically against AHI, you can used Tilapia (see posting for Sesame Crusted Tilapia) or try Shark, Halibut, swordfish, or any other nice meaty fish.  But really, the cool experience is from the AHI.  That absolutely GORGEOUS pink or should we say rather raw center, is such a beautiful color and it perfectly tender...LOVE IT!    UMMM...drizzle it with some wasabi sauce and you are good to go.

 Beautiful, delicious, elegant, fast and HEALTHY.

The recipe title says SESAME CRUSTED.  But don't stick yourself in a box.  Use your imagination!  Try sesame seed with dried ginger and red pepper flakes together.  Use White and black seeds.  Add sun dried tomato bits with your sesame seeds. You can use finely chop almonds, hazelnuts or pumpkin seeds for an alternative and equally delicious coating. It depends on your fish, but adding Parmesan cheese  is not out of the spectrum!  (on tilapia - that would be great!)

Me?  I just love the fish lightly salted and peppered and dipped in a sesame seed mixture.  This time I used a pre-mix of Sesame seeds, dried ginger, black and red peppers. OMG!  What a great mix - I promise you will not be disappointed.

Now lets talk AHI.  I did an experiment,  I purchased individually frozen sashimi grade Ahi fillets at Sprouts...wild caught and GREAT PRICE....about $4-5 per sashimi grade AHI fillet.  I made the seared tuna and it was DELICIOUS - REALLY, REALLY good and you would NEVER have believed it was ever frozen.  But how much more delicious would it be if I spent a billion dollars at Whole foods for fresh, wild caught fillets?  So the NEXT day, I bought gorgeous fillets at about 26.00 per pound....(I know...i winced also!)  So instead of 8-10 dollars, I spent a bit more than 26.00 bucks!  BUT THEY HAVE GOT TO BE BETTER, RIGHT???  For Cryin out loud.....I watch TOP CHEF after all!!!

But alas, they were equally, if not a teensy bit inferior to the Frozen AHI!!!  Yep that's right.  It was good (gorgeous in fact) but really at more than twice the price, It wasn't BETTER and believe me, I would have known.  To spend that kind of money I expected the fish to be A LOT better.....why would you spend that kind of money consistently if it wasn't?   The moral of the story my friends, don't be afraid of the individually frozen fillets.  Just make sure it's SASHIMI grade.

**  NOTE The secret with frozen fish is to defrost in some luke warm water, take them out of the individual packs and blot the fish dry with paper towels.  BLOTTING the fish is the most important step.  You would be surprised at how much moisture is in there!  If you don't, the fish can be a bit mushy and instead of a nice sear, the fish will steam and your coating wont have that crisp texture.

Sesame Crusted Ahi
WW calls this 8 points.....for a 6 oz fillet
Serves 2  (obviously you can make how ever many you want!)

2 Sashimi grade Ahi Tune Fillets (or other fish of choice)
3 tablespoons of toasted sesame seeds, white and black is pretty.(mixed with a bit of red pepper flake, dried ginger (optional), black pepper)
olive oil (for searing)
salt and pepper

If your sesame seeds are NOT toasted, toast them now.....you know the drill - hot dry pan over high heat, put in the seeds, shake a bit and toast to your liking. Remove immediately and let cool.

This is the time to BLOT your AHI (or other fish) - put the fish on paper towels and lightly press.  I like to turn it over and do it again. (and maybe again....if is has a lot of water) the fish should feel fairly dry.

While you are crusting the fish.  It's a good idea to PREHEAT your pan.  Take the pan you will sear the fillets in and Heat it on high...make sure the pan is DRY - do not add oil

Now it's time to "crust" the fish.  Salt and pepper your fillets.  Just put your sesame seeds (or whatever you are using) on a flat plate. (can you see the white, black sesame and the red pepper flakes?)

 Put in one fillet  press and turn it over and coat the other side.  Repeat with the other fillet.  If you need to scoop up the coating and lightly press it into the fish. - this takes just a minute and VOILA! Crusted fillets!!

This is one recipe where HIGH HEAT should NOT scare you.  Don't be afraid to preheat that pan....it's essential.  to a "cooked" or seared outer edge and a gorgeous raw center.  If you are doing other fish, you still preheat, you still sear but you do it for longer so your fish is cooked.

Add your oil....about 2 teaspoons.  You can save some calories by using spray....but the olive oil gives such good flavor....it's worth it.

Your oil will likely "shimmer" immediately as the pan will be very hot.  IT WILL NOT SPLATTER - since you were heating a dry pan. 

Add your fillets:

I wish the pictures could show you how HOT that pan was.

NOW BE CAREFUL.....they only need a couple of minutes on each side - REALLY.  Don't over cook your fillets......you will be sad.  If you are cooking other fish cook longer on each side. 

This is a close up of what it looked like when I flipped it.  See the pink (raw) line in the center?  This signals it's time to get them of the pan.

****During the searing time you may want  to quickly throw together the wasabi sauce....I squeeze wasabi in a little dish...(a teaspoon? less if you are sensitive to wasabi), add a couple tablespoons rice vinegar and some soy to taste.  Set aside.

Remove the fillets to a plate:

I served this delicious fish with my super easy fresh cucumber salad (I think I posted about it - check archives) steamed white rice and a bit of melon.

The result?  A gorgeous, seared, but very rare (ok...it was raw in the center), AHI fillet.  FAST, FAST, FAST to make. So easy and so delicious.  You wont need to go to a restaurant and drop big bucks to have this dish, but you will want to make it often.

From my home to yours, ENJOY!