What’s for dinner?

I had lunch at a diner on W. 34th Street and Eighth Avenue today and ate half a Salisbury Steak which tasted of nasty filler. I’m sure whatever was in that filler wasn’t on the South Beach Diet. Nevertheless, I was okay until the afternoon munchies hit me. Instead of celery and cheese, a snack of dried apple rings and mango tasted so much better. Today I bought a bathroom scale to keep me on track. I suspect what I really need is more self-control. We tend to spend money to lose weight rather than choose the cheaper alternative. Or so I console myself at dinner. It isn’t easy finding inspiration for dinner when one is on the South Beach Diet, Phase One. Something low in fats, carbs, sugars and tastes good. I think I found it!

  • Homestyle Meatloaf with Mushrooms and White Beans
  • Pan-roasted Vegetables
  • Baked Ricotta Custard

First, make the dessert (’cause it needs to chill!): Baked Ricotta Custard

Baked ricotta custard

Recipe (from South Beach Diet Supercharged)

3/4 cup reduced fat ricotta cheese
1/2 cup reduced fat cream cheese from a tub
1/4 cup sugar substitute
1 large egg
1 large egg white
1/4 cup non fat milk (half and half in the original recipe)
1/4 teaspoon vanilla

Cinnamon for sprinkling

Preheat oven 250˚F.

In a large bowl, blend the cheeses at medium speed. Add the sugar, egg, egg white, milk or half and half, if using, and vanilla. Pour into four ramekins (I used a large glass bowl) and set bowl(s) in a baking pan filled with an inch of hot water. Bake until set about 45 minutes. Cool to room temperature or chill if desired. Sprinkle with cinnamon.

Cake Baker’s Notes: Now I had problems with this. Either the oven temp was too low or the baking pan was too small or the custard bowl was too big. After 45 minutes, most of the center was still liquid and far from the custard it was supposed to be. I nuked it for 1.30 seconds. The top wasn’t pretty because it had boiled, but, it was cooked solid. Sprinkled with cinnamon, it tasted fine, like rice pudding. AJ and I ate it at room temperature but I’ll bet it’d taste delicious chilled 2-4 hours or overnight. With orange segments on top it would be a Phase 2 or 3 dessert.

While the ricotta custard cools, start preparing the main course: Homestyle Meatloaf with Mushrooms and White Beans, and Pan-Roasted Vegetables

Pan-roasted vegetables and homestyle meatloaf with mushrooms and white beans

Recipe  (adapted from South Beach Diet Supercharged)

2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups chopped fresh mushrooms
4 large cloves garlic, minced
1 (15 oz) can Great Northern beans (can substitute any white bean such as cannellini)
1 1/4 lb lean ground meat (turkey in original recipe; I used lean ground sirloin)
2 large eggs
1/2 cup chopped parsley (I used cilantro)
4 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce, divided
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard, plus more for serving

Get ready to bake. Preheat oven to 375˚F. Spray a glass or metal loaf pan (8x4x2 1/2) with cooking spray. Set aside.

Mix seasoning and spices. In a large skillet, heat the oil. Brown the onion, thyme, cayenne pepper, paprika, salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, for 5 minutes. Note: when adding herbs and spices from the jar, first pour them into the palm of your hand and add the desired amount. Never directly add to the food from the jar–you might add too much, as I did with the salt! Add the mushrooms and garlic and cook, stirring for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and scrape onion mixture into a large bowl. Let cool about 5 minutes. To the cooled mixture, add the drained beans and the raw ground meat, the eggs, parsley or cilantro, and 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce.

Bake the meatloaf. Using wet hands, mix all ingredients and shape into a loaf. Place loaf in prepared pan and bake 50 minutes. Meanwhile, mix Dijon mustard with remaining Worcestershire sauce. Spoon the mustard mixture on top of the meatloaf and continue baking for another 10-15 minutes or until the meat reaches an internal temperature of 170˚F.

Serve. Let the meatloaf stand at room temperature for 15 minutes before cutting. Cut thick slices and serve with a dollop of mustard and pan-roasted vegetables.

Pan Roasted Vegetables (for two)

1/2 bunch thick asparagus stalks, trimmed
1/2 large red pepper
1 small sweet onion
2-4 large cloves of garlic
Olive oil, salt, and pepper

To trim asparagus, pick up a stalk and hold the tip and the end of the stalk  in your hands. Gently bend the end of the stalk until it snaps. Cut all asparagus stalks to the same length. Discard the cut ends. Put trimmed stalks in a large bowl with chunks of red pepper and onion and garlic cloves. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss to coat.

Heat a skillet on high heat. Add the vegetables and reduce heat to medium high. Roast the peppers, onions, and garlic until they blacken and the asparagus stalks turn bright green with brown spots on one side.

Notes: Substitute and/or add squash, zucchini, broccoli, cauliflower–just about any vegetable you’re inspired to roast!

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