grilled ginger-lime beef

Not usually a fan of beef, I find it tough rather than tender. This is another recipe from the Cooking Light Eat Smart Guide: 200-Calorie cookbook that I reviewed last week.  I changed the method from stir fry to grill  because the steaks were so thin I was afraid of overcooking them. I only seared them 30 seconds in the George Foreman grill. And because I was afraid they’d cool and toughen, I served them right away on a bed of rice vermicelli. As a stir-fry, this dish would have been 197 calories for a 2/3 cup serving of beef.

1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon grated peeled fresh ginger
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice (1 lime)
1 ½ teaspoons lower-sodium soy sauce
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 tablespoon canola oil
12 ounces boneless sirloin steak, cut into thin strips
½ cup diagonally cut green onions, optional
4 lime wedges, optional
Cellophane noodles or vermicelli

1. Combine sugar, ginger, lime juice, soy sauce, pepper, and oil in a small bowl. Stir well with a whisk.
2. Heat half a small saucepan with water. When it is boiling turn off the heat and put in two bundles of vermicelli. Let stand 10 minutes or until soft and transparent. Drain well and set aside.
3. Heat the grill. Add steak; cook 30 seconds or until browned. Remove from heat. Slice and drizzle evenly with ginger-lime mixture. Garnish with green onions and lime wedges, if desired. Serve on a bed of drained cooked cellophane noodles or vermicelli.

spice-rubbed pork tenderloin

A spicy pork tenderloin is paired with caramelized carrots. It is moist and tender. This is the entrée for a cold winter night. Or a summer picnic. I adapted this recipe from Bon Appetit, which advises cooks to use either baby carrots or carrots cut to baby carrot length. The amounts given in the recipe were for two pounds of carrots and two pork tenderloins. I used one pound of carrots and 1 pork tenderloin and did not halve the seasonings. I’m glad I didn’t. The result was just right and full of flavor. My recommendation is to double the recipe for two pork tenderloins and two pounds of carrots. This is the second recipe  (chicken and fennel meatballs was the first) I’ve recommended a salsa verde and I didn’t make it!

Yield: Makes 6 servings

1 pound baby carrots, peeled, trimmed
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon butter, diced
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 small jalapeño (preferably red), seeded, if desired, and coarsely chopped (I used a frozen Thai chili pepper)
1 teaspoon honey (I used sugar free maple-flavored syrup)
1/2 teaspoon ancho chile powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon coarse kosher salt

1 (1-to 1 1/4-pound) pork tenderloin, trimmed of fat and silver
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ancho chile powder
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

Salsa Verde
1 can tomatillos
2-3 serrano chilies, seeded and chopped
1 bunch cilantro, leaves only
salt to taste
olive oil to drizzle

 For carrots:
Arrange carrots on large rimmed baking sheet. Whisk 2 tablespoons water and all remaining ingredients in small bowl; pour over carrots and toss to coat. Cover tightly with heavy-duty foil. DO AHEAD: Can be made 2 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature. Toss to coat before continuing.

For pork:

  • Preheat oven to 400°F. Roast carrot mixture covered until just tender, about 30 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, arrange pork tenderloin on another rimmed baking sheet. Stir oregano, cumin, chile powder, smoked paprika, and 1 teaspoon coarse salt in small bowl; rub mixture all over tenderloin.
  • Heat oil in heavy large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add pork to skillet and cook until browned on all sides, about 5 minutes.
  • Return to rimmed baking sheet. Remove foil from carrots. Nestle pork among carrots on baking sheet, arranging carrots in single layer around pork.
  • Roast uncovered until instant-read thermometer inserted into center of pork registers 145°F,stirring carrots occasionally if beginning to caramelize, about 15-18 minutes.
  • Let rest 5 to 10 minutes. Transfer pork to work surface. Cut crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Arrange carrots on platter. Top with pork slices, drizzling any pan juices over the pork and carrots. Serve with a salsa verde, either home made or if you have no time to make one, store-bought.

almond-crusted tilapia

I call the plate Cookies and Cream

We had a good dinner tonight. Magical things are happening in the Three-Dimensional Kitchen! I felt inspired by the Sunflower Seed Crusted Orange Roughy recipe in the Cooking Light Eat Smart Guide: 200-Calorie cookbook to create this one. If you have qualms about using Orange Roughy, then by all means, use another white fish.

As I said before, I like to use whatever is on hand in my kitchen: almonds, tilapia, panko breadcrumbs, and Mrs. Dash Salt-Free Italian Medley Seasoning Blend. My philosophy is to be generous with the seasonings. If 1/2 teaspoon is too little, then add more. And do add more herbs and seasoning to taste, yours. I suggest basil, parsley, rosemary, thyme…

This fish came out of the oven flaky with a crunchy topping. And it had no salt. Except what you might want to add at the table

2 large egg whites (6 tablespoons packaged egg whites)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper ( I used 1 teaspoon lemon pepper and omitted the grated lemon rind)
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon rind
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
3 tablespoons unsalted almonds, crushed (originally sunflower seeds)
1 teaspoon Mrs. Dash Salt-Free Italian Medley
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon granulated onion
4-6 (6 oz) white fish fillets, e.g. orange roughy, tilapia
Cooking spray
Lemon slices, optional

1. Preheat oven 475˚F. Place a rimmed baking sheet in the oven while preheating.
2. Combine egg whites, (lemon) pepper, and lemon rind (if using) in a medium bowl. Stir with a whisk until foamy. Combine panko and almonds in a shallow dish like a pie plate. Season panko-almond mixture. Mix with a fork. Dip fillets in egg white mixture, dredge in panko mixture. Place fillets on a wire rack to rest 10 minutes.
3. Remove baking sheet from oven with oven mitts and coat pan with cooking spray. Coat top of  fillets with cooking spray. Place fillets on pan. Bake 10 minutes or until fillet flakes easily with a fork. Serve with lemon slices, if using.

decadent dessert on a diet: lemon pudding cake

This was not a bad recipe! In texture it is a cross between a soufflé and a cake.  In taste, it was tangy and not too sweet but I could have done without the frustration during the baking. The directions were terse at best. didn’t say whether or not to grease the pan, nor how long and on what speed to beat the egg yolks. I had a lot of trouble getting the butter to blend with the batter so I recommend melting it first. I also recommend adding a pinch of cream of tartar to the egg whites.

Have at room temperature
4 eggs, separated when cold
1 teaspoon lemon zest (about half of one small lemon)
1/3 cup lemon juice (juice of two small lemons)
1 tablespoon butter or margarine, melted and cooled slightly
1 1/2 cups white sugar
1/2 cup sifted all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups milk
pinch of cream of tartar


1. Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Grease an 8 inch square baking dish.

The Cake Baker’s Note: I used an ungreased non-stick 8 inch pan.

In a large bowl on medium-high speed, beat together egg yolks, lemon juice, lemon zest, and butter or margarine until combined. Beat on high speed until thick and lemon colored, about 5 minutes. In another large bowl, combine sugar, flour, and salt. Add flour-sugar mixture alternately with milk to the yolk mixture, beating well after each addition, starting and ending with the flour-sugar mixture.

The Cake Baker’s Note: Add one-third of the flour mixture  followed by half of the milk. Continue alternating flour and milk until well combined.

2. Add a pinch of cream of tartar to the egg whites. Using a whisk or whisk attachment, beat egg whites until stiff peaks form. Fold egg whites into batter. To do this, first lighten the batter. This means to add a cup of whipped whites to the batter and whisk vigorously until blended. Then add the remaining whites all at once. Fold gently using a cut, through, turn motion. Continue folding until streaks of egg white remain. Pour into prepared baking dish.

The Cake Baker’s Note: For a demonstration of folding egg whites into batter, see the link below to a YouTube video.

3. Place a pan of hot water in the oven, and set the baking dish into the pan. Bake for 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and carefully take the baking dish out of the water. Cool in the pan on a wire rack about 10-20 minutes. After 10 minutes I found that the cooling cake had started to pull away from the sides of the non-stick pan. So an ungreased non-stick pan is the pan of choice for me! Slice with a thin blade into 12 pieces.

The Cake Baker’s Note: This cake is best served warm. It will have a pudding on the bottom. I recommend serving the cake with fresh berries and low-fat low sugar whipped topping for a delicious low calorie treat. Without the berries and cream 1/12 of the cake is approximately 165 calories.

cookbook review: Cooking Light, Eat Smart Guide: 200-Calorie

I borrowed this book from the NYPL (2011, Oxmoor House) to try the low fat-low carb recipes. All of the recipes have nutrition information and all of them are 200 calories or below per serving. What I liked about it was how simple and uncomplicated the recipes were so that the cook need never feel that eating healthy is too much of a pain. Recipes that are quick and easy are helpfully marked. Don’t just look at the calories; also check the portion size, especially if the calories seem too good to be true! For example, one dulce de leche tartlet is 180 calories–it’s a tiny, tiny thing made from a mini phyllo shell. Can you seriously eat just one and not do irreparable damage to your diet?

The table of contents is quirky, with the soups coming just before the desserts.

Appetizers, Snacks & Beverages

In any case, I like to adjust recipes to taste so I seldom follow them exactly. I call it, getting inspiration!  And since I like to go low salt as well, I prefer to substitute my own homemade broths and stocks for canned. The chicken-vegetable-barley soup I made last week was inspired by this cookbook. I am also inspired to bake a lemon pudding cake. But that’s for another posting!

Berghoff lentil soup

A friend in Chicago gave me a copy of the cookbook from this famous Chicago German restaurant, now closed. This recipe is from that book. I went straight to the soups.  I like lentils because unlike other dried beans, they don’t need to be soaked before cooking and they cook up fairly quickly. I halved the recipe because I am not feeding a crew of eight and I did want leftovers; just not that much. I used low fat turkey ham instead.

I also made my own chicken stock in a 3 quart saucepan using the bones from two chicken breasts, a two-inch piece of ginger, two chopped scallions, and 3 whole cloves of garlic. I cooked it for 1 1/2 hours on low heat, then strained the broth, discarding the solids. Then I set the pot aside. All this is prelude to

Berghoff lentil soup
2 teaspoons canola oil
¾ cup diced onion
2-4 teaspoons minced garlic
¾ cup diced celery
¾ cup diced carrots
4 cups chicken stock
¾-1 cup dried lentils, rinsed and picked over
1 large bay leaf
pinch of red pepper flakes
1 cup diced ham (use turkey ham)
1 cup canned diced tomatoes in juice
3 cups chopped fresh baby spinach
salt and pepper
grated Parmesan cheese for garnish (optional)

In a 3 or 4-quart saucepan, heat the oil. Add the onion and sauté for 1 minute. Stir in the garlic and continue cooking for 1 minute. Add the celery and carrots and continue to sauté for 1 minute. [Cook’s tip: since I am already using the saucepan for the stock, I used a large skillet, like my 12 inch Calphalon Everyday skillet to sauté the vegetables]

Add the stock, lentils, bay leaves, and red pepper. Bring to a boil. Decrease the heat and simmer 1 ½ to 2 hours or until the lentils are tender. [Cook’s tip: Instead of adding the stock to the skillet, I added the vegetables to the stock in the saucepan]

Stir in the ham and tomato and continue to cook for 5 minutes. Add the spinach and adjust the seasonings; simmer for 5 more minutes. Remove from the heat and serve with grated Parmesan cheese for garnish, if desired.

butter-fried butter cake slices with berries

I know this sounds crazy…but don’t knock it till you’ve tried it! Butter cake slices that are buttered and fried till crisp around the edges and eaten with fresh berries and fresh-squeezed tangerine juice. I sweetened the berries with a packet of Truvia. Then I ate it. I ate the whole thing. for. breakfast. All of it. Confess. What are your own guilty pleasures?

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white fish with rice wine sauce

Originally styled “Halibut in Rice Wine” on, I think any white fish will do for this recipe. Perhaps even a good thick salmon steak. I made this dish by baking instead of grilling the fish and using basa instead of halibut. I’m a great believer in using whatever fish is available at the supermarket. The sauce, you could also say, isn’t even the expected color for a rice wine based sauce. That’s because there is black bean and soy sauce in it. It came out rather sweetish because of the mirin. I think if you prefer it more tart, then add more rice vinegar.

1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1 shallot, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon black bean sauce
1/2 cup mirin (Japanese sweet wine)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
6 (4 ounce) fillets halibut, skin removed
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

1. Heat oil in a 10 inch non-stick saucepan over medium heat. Cook shallots and garlic gently until fragrant, but not brown. Stir in black bean sauce, rice wine, and soy sauce. Bring to a boil and cook until reduced by half. Remove from heat, and stir in vinegar; taste and adjust seasonings. Set aside.

2. Pat fish dry. Brush with sesame oil and sprinkle with pepper. Preheat an outdoor grill for high heat, and lightly oil grate.

3. Grill fish for about 5 minutes per side, or just until cooked through.  Cook’s note: I baked the fish in a 350˚F oven for 10-15 minutes. Watch carefully so that they don’t get overdone. Thinner fillets like basa cook up faster than thicker fillets. The rule is that the fish is done when it flakes easily with a fork.

4. To serve, spoon sauce on a fillet and sprinkle with cilantro.

chicken-vegetable-barley soup

AJ and I splurged on diner-food for lunch so I thought we should make supper light.  This is a light soup that goes best with fresh baked bread or a salad with a vinaigrette dressing. I prefer to make soup with a home-made chicken broth as the base because home-made is lower in sodium. I used a broth that I had made earlier in the week from three chicken wings, 1  quart water, an onion, celery stalk with leaves, and a carrot. Bring the stock almost to a boil (when you see bubbles forming around the edges) then simmer for 2 hours. If you want a clear broth, it’s important not to boil the stock because impurities and foam will cloud the soup.  However, if it does happen, you can strain the soup. I bought a fine mesh skimmer in Chinatown just for this purpose. It looks like a tiny soup ladle with a mesh strainer instead of a bowl.

Chicken-Vegetable-Barley Soup

5 cups chicken broth
1/4 cup pearl barley
2 small carrots, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1/2 yellow squash
1/2 gray squash or zucchini
1 cup baby lima beans, frozen
1 cup corn niblets, frozen
1/4 of a red onion, sliced thinly
1/2 cup green beans,  chopped in 1” lengths
1 chicken breast, sliced into 1″ bits
Salt and pepper to taste
Dried herbs, e.g. thyme, parsley

In a large pot, heat the broth. Add the pearl barley and bring to a boil. Simmer 10 minutes. Add the carrots and celery; continue simmering for 5 more minutes. Add the remaining vegetables and continue simmering for 5 minutes. Drop the chicken into the soup one at a time and watch it change from pink to white. Add seasoning and herbs to taste. Serve at once.

Mama’s butter cake

Jennifer from G.I Crockpot and I began a short exchange recently, and  she commented on my blog’s header photograph. So I suggested a recipe swap. I said I would share the recipe for the cakes in the header. She offered to share her mom’s pie recipe. I’m looking forward to trying your mom’s recipe, Jennifer!

This is a very special recipe. My mother-in-law had years of cooking and baking for her family so that when I finally got her recipe, it was very terse–more like a set of reminders to herself. So I’ve filled in the gaps.  For instance, there was no mention of cake pan sizes or how to prepare the pans. I have also added a few tips, especially for folding the batter–that always means to fold by hand–which is a key step to the success of the butter cake. The resulting cakes domed and cracked on top which is typical of butter cakes. If you are going to frost them, trim the domes with a large serrated knife–but don’t throw away the scraps! Eating the leftovers is a true guilty pleasure.

Ingredients :
8   oz.  shortening or butter
1  teaspoon vanilla extract
2  1/4  cups  all purpose flour
5 large eggs [original recipe 6 small eggs]
1  1/2  cup castor or superfine sugar
2   teaspoons baking powder

Preparation :

  1. Preheat oven 325˚F. Grease and flour one 9×3 inch round cake pan. Line the bottom of the pan with a parchment or wax paper circle. In the photograph above, I used three 6×3 inch cake pans.
  2. Beat butter or shortening and  vanilla in a large mixing bowl, gradually adding sugar and eggs one by one. Cake Baker’s Tip: The texture should be smooth; rub a bit of batter  between your fingers. If you feel grit from the sugar, mix it again until smooth.
  3. In another large bowl, combine flour and baking powder. Gently mix flour mixture into butter mixture by folding carefully. Cake Baker’s Tip: To fold batter, use a flat rubber spatula and cut down the center of the batter. Scrape along the bottom of the bowl, bringing the batter towards the side then flip the spatula over. Turn the bowl one quarter turn. Repeat until the flour is blended into the butter mixture. Don’t over mix.
  4. Scrape batter into prepared pan. Tap the pan a few times on the counter top to eliminate air bubbles. Bake for 35 minutes. For the smaller pans, I baked them for 25-30 minutes. Cake Baker’s Tip: Test for doneness after the shortest length of time by examining the crack in the top. If it looks wet, it’s not ready, so give it 5 more minutes. If it looks dry, poke it with a toothpick. The toothpick should come out dry.
  5. Cool 10 minutes on a wire rack then unmold. To unmold, turn the pan upside down and shake gently. Remove the parchment or waxed paper circle. Turn the cake upright to cool completely before frosting. Frost if desired or simply sprinkle with powdered sugar.