chicken kung pao zoodles

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This recipe makes enough for two people with leftovers. It’s got a tangy bite to it but I would ramp up the flavor with some Sriracha (pronounced SEE-rah-chah in Thai).
Ingredients:
2 medium unpeeled zucchini, about 8 oz each, ends trimmed
1 teaspoon rice bran oil (substitute: canola or grapeseed oil)
6 oz skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
Salt and white pepper, to taste
1/2 red bell pepper, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 teaspoon sesame oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, minced
2 tablespoons crushed dry roasted peanuts
2 tablespoons thinly sliced scallions along diagonal
Sauce:
1 1/2 tablespoon soy sauce (Substitute: reduced salt soy sauce or tamari)
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
2-3 teaspoons hoisin sauce
2 1/2 tablespoons water
1/2-1 tablespoon red chili paste with garlic (Substitute: Sambal Oelek) more or less to taste
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch (optional;  if a thickened sauce is desired)
1-2 teaspoons Sriracha sauce (optional) or to taste

Directions:
Shred the zucchini. The yield will be about 6-8 cups.

In a small bowl, whisk together soy sauce, balsamic vinegar, hoisin sauce, water, red chili paste, sugar and cornstarch, if using; set aside.

Season chicken with salt and pepper, to taste. Heat oil in a large, deep nonstick pan or wok over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and cook until just cooked through, about 4 to 5 minutes. Set aside.

Reduce heat to medium, add sesame oil, garlic and ginger to the skillet and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the bell pepper, stir in soy sauce mixture and bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer until thickened and bubbling, about 1-2 minutes. Stir in zucchini noodles and cook, mixing for about one minute until just tender and mixed with the sauce. The zucchini will spring water which helps create a sauce. Once cooked, mix in chicken and divide between 2 bowls (about 2 cups each) and top with 1 tablespoon each peanuts and scallions.

italian egg strata with turkey sausage and vegetables

 

Italian Egg Strata with Turkey Sausage and Vegetables (adapted from Dash)
It’s so nice not to have to rush to get dinner on the table. How I love the weekends! The nice thing about this dish is that it can be prepared ahead of time, stored in the refrigerator, then baked for a weeknight dinner. For a Sunday night dinner, it is the best. According to the original recipe, each serving is 380 calories, but since I made substitutions like nonfat milk instead of 2% and whole wheat bread instead of white, that lessens the calorie count. To reduce calories further, substitute part-skim mozzarella cheese for the Monterey Jack cheese.

Servings: 8
Prep Time: 20 minutes plus  20 minutes resting time
Cook Time: 1 hour
TOTAL TIME: 1 hr 40 min (includes resting time)

Ingredients:
1⁄2 cup sliced scallion
1 large red bell pepper, diced
1 zucchini, chopped
4 cups fresh baby spinach
1 lb sweet turkey sausage, casings removed, broken into bite-size chunks
7 eggs
3 cups nonfat milk
1⁄2 cup grated Parmesan-Romano cheese
1⁄4 tsp black pepper
1 half loaf whole wheat baguette (about 5 cups), cut into large chunks
1 cup grated reduced-fat Monterey Jack cheese
Salt and pepper
Crushed red pepper flakes, optional

Preparation:
1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat a 13-by-9-inch baking dish and a large skillet with cooking spray. If using a glass dish or a pan with a dark nonstick finish, reduce heat to 325˚F and bake for 55 minutes.

2. Sauté scallion, red pepper, and zucchini in the skillet for 4 minutes. Add sausage and continue cooking until sausage is browned. When the meat is almost cooked through, add the spinach. Cook until the spinach is wilted. Turn off the heat. The meat and vegetable mixture will spring water, so drain it well and set aside.

3. In a large bowl, whisk eggs. Add milk, Parmesan-Romano, and black pepper.

4. In the prepared baking dish, layer half the bread, half the egg mixture, and half the drained sausage-vegetable mixture.  Repeat layers.

5. Press down the top to make sure the bread is completely submerged. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and if desired, with crushed red pepper flakes too.  Let the strata rest for 20 minutes. At this point, you can prepare the strata up to a day ahead and store, covered, in the refrigerator.

6. Just before baking, sprinkle with Monterey Jack cheese. Bake for 1 hour or until golden brown and puffy.

Italian meatball soup with orzo, spinach, and carrots

I went the extra mile for this recipe I adapted from dashrecipes.com!  I had the time this afternoon so I made a vegetable soup stock from scratch, using leeks, celery, garlic, and carrots, seasoned with bay leaf, fresh tarragon, and thyme. For additional flavor, I added a teaspoon of organic Better Than Bouillon Vegetable Base. If not for that detour, this recipe would be quick and easy. Of course, to save time, I used the carrots from the stock in the meatball soup, and saved the rest of the vegetables for puréeing later. I will add the purée to the remaining stock for flavor.  I recommend serving this soup with a simple salad or hot crusty bread for a light supper.

Italian Meatball Soup with Orzo, Spinach and Carrots
INGREDIENTS:

1⁄2 lb ground sirloin
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 Tablespoons whole wheat Panko breadcrumbs
1 Tablespoon grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, plus more for serving
3/4 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
5 1/2 cups light chicken broth (reduced-sodium, fat-free)
2 cups fresh spinach (no stems)
3⁄4 cup uncooked orzo pasta
1/2 cup chopped carrot
Salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

1. In small bowl, combine ground sirloin, egg, Panko, cheese, basil, and onion powder. Using a teaspoon, shape into 1-inch balls.

2. In a large saucepan, bring broth to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add meatballs and cook 10 minutes on simmer. Stir in the orzo and carrot. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer for another 10 minutes or until the meatballs are done. About a minute before the meatballs are done, add the spinach. Serve topped with additional Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.

southwestern cheese panini

I adapted this recipe from Eating Well. It takes about 25 minutes to prepare and cook. According to the website, one panini sandwich serving contains 330 calories. I imagine that if you use cooking spray instead of oil, the calories may be even less–how much, I don’t know, but hey, every little bit counts! What I also liked about it was that it was flavorful without having to use additional salt. I recommend serving it with a salad, such as strawberries, baby spinach, dried cranberries, and almonds.

Southwestern Cheese Panini
Makes 4 servings

Ingredients

4 ounces shredded sharp Cheddar cheese or Pepper Jack cheese
1 cup shredded zucchini
1/2 cup shredded carrot
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion (or a combination of onion, scallion, and chopped cilantro)
1/4-1/2 cup prepared salsa, drained of excess liquid, if chunky salsa
1 tablespoon chopped pickled jalapeño pepper, (optional)
8 slices whole-wheat bread or multi-grain bread
2 teaspoons canola oil or cooking spray

Preparation

  1. Have four 15-ounce cans and a medium skillet (not nonstick) ready by the stove.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine cheese, zucchini, carrot, onion, salsa, jalapeño (if using). Put one slice of bread on the work surface. Scoop about 1/2 cup of the zucchini mixture on the bread. Top with another slice of bread. Cook’s Note: I used Pepper Jack cheese and multi-grain bread which I think add more flavor and texture to the panini.
  3. Heat 1 teaspoon oil, if using, or spray a large non-stick skillet with cooking spray, over medium heat.  Place the panini in the non-stick skillet. Weigh it down with the medium skillet with the 4 cans. Cook until golden, about 2 minutes. Remove the top skillet with the cans. Reduce the heat to medium low and flip the panini. Replace the top skillet. Cook until the second side is golden, 1-3 minutes more. Repeat with another teaspoon oil, if using, and another panini.

florentine tortellini

Still continuing my quest for quick and easy meals that are healthy and low cal/low carb. This one met all my requirements, but I think I would have preferred the ravioli instead of the tortellini. I used Cheese Tortellini from Trader Joe’s, and it wasn’t bad. But it wasn’t that good either. No flavor. I liked the spinach bed–I used fresh instead of frozen–it was flavorful because of the red pepper. Next time I would add some lemon juice to it. And caramelized onions.

Florentine Tortellini (adapted from Eating Well)

Ingredients
1 20-ounce package frozen cheese ravioli, or tortellini (4 cups)
6 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8-1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
2 bunches fresh whole-leaf baby spinach, washed, drained,stems trimmed
1/2 cup water, optional
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Preparation
1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook the ravioli or tortellini according to the package directions.
2. While the ravioli/tortellini is cooking, heat 2 teaspoons of oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic, salt, and crushed red pepper. Cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the spinach and cook until wilted, about 5 to 7 minutes. If the spinach is too dry, add a tablespoon of water up to 1/2 cup.
3. Divide among 4 bowls, top with the pasta and drizzle 1 teaspoon of the remaining oil over each portion. Serve immediately with a sprinkle of Parmesan.

Nutrition Per serving : 263 Calories; 13 g Fat; 4 g Sat; 6 g Mono; 28 mg Cholesterol; 28 g Carbohydrates; 13 g Protein; 5g Fiber; 660 mg Sodium; 730 mg Potassium

five-spice tilapia

This really was quick and easy! I blanched the broccoli and sugar snap peas for 2 minutes each. Then rinsed and drained them to set the color. I seasoned stir-fried the broccoli in a little oil and seasoned it with sea salt. Then I stir-fried the peppers in oil with a little garlic–two cloves to be exact–then added the sugar snap peas to heat through. Afterwards, I sprinkled the peas and peppers with Trader Joe’s Everyday Seasoning. It’s becoming my favorite! The fish dish has just 3 main ingredients: soy sauce, brown sugar, and five-spice powder. Five spice powder is available from Asian markets. It contains star anise, Sichuan pepper, cinnamon, fennel seed, and cloves all ground up together in a delectable powder.

Five Spice Tilapia (from Eating Well)

Makes 4 servings | Active Time: 15 minutes | Total Time: 15 minutes Ingredients

1 pound tilapia fillets (about 4 fillets)
1 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder (this is so hard to be precise; just sprinkle it on both sides of the fish!)
1/4 cup soy sauce
3 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 tablespoon canola oil
3 scallions, thinly sliced diagonally

Preparation
1. Pat the fish fillets dry. Sprinkle both sides of each fillet with five-spice powder and set aside. In a small bowl, combine the soy sauce and the sugar. Stir and set aside.
2. Heat the oil in a large 12 inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add the tilapia and cook until the outer edges of the fillets turn opaque, about 2 minutes. Reduce heat to medium and flip the fillets. Stir the soy sauce mixture and pour it into the pan. Bring the sauce to a oil and cook until the fish is cooked through and the sauce has thickened slightly, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and sprinkle with scallion. Serve at once.

Nutrition Per serving : 180 Calories; 6 g Fat; 1 g Sat; 3 g Mono; 57 mg Cholesterol; 9 g Carbohydrates; 24 g Protein; 0 g Fiber

chicken sausage with kale and white beans

My cousin Karen sent me this recipe. With my busy schedule, is it ever quick and easy to put together! Dinner was ready in less than half an hour.

Ingredients
4-5 links of chicken sausage (I used Trade Joe’s red and green pepper chicken sausage)
2 cups canned Cannellini or white beans (can be dried and cooked instead of canned), rinsed and drained
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 bunch of kale, washed, dried and chopped (enough to fill one colander)
1/2 teaspoon chili flakes
1 cup cherry tomatoes (halved) or 1 1/2 cups grape tomatoes, halved
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon fresh chopped basil

Directions

1. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over high heat; add the chicken sausage.
2. Cook for two to three minutes per side and remove from pan; slice each link one-inch thick. Reduce heat to medium high and add the chicken sausage back to the pan with the remaining olive oil and kale. Cook for two to three minutes to wilt the kale.
3. Add garlic, chili flakes, white beans and tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper.
4. Cook two to three minutes until chicken sausage is cooked through and flavors incorporate.
5. Toss with fresh basil and serve.

Nutrition
Calories: 282 Protein: 24 g Carbohydrates: 15 g Total fat: 15 g Saturated fat: 4 g

beef broccoli with sichuan pepper and japanese zucchini stir fry

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Sichuan pepper is actually not a pepper at all nor is it related to black pepper. If it smells and tastes familiar that’s because it is a common ingredient in Asian cooking, particularly  in Five-Spice Powder. To me it has a sweet smell, almost like cinnamon, and like cinnamon, it is somewhat bitter. Use it in small quantities because although it does not have the heat of the more familiar peppers, it does have a numbing effect on the tongue. To me, water tastes salty after eating too much Sichuan peppercorns!

Beef Broccoli with Sichuan Pepper

This is a variation on the popular dish in Chinese restaurant menus. The beef is tender and the broccoli is crisp tender, with a hint of sesame. In Chinese cooking, sesame oil is used to flavor food after it is cooked. It is too delicate to stand up to heat in cooking. A little bit, like a teaspoon, is  enough. I serve this beef broccoli with Sichuan pepper with brown-white rice mix because AJ thinks brown rice alone is too dry. The ratio is 2:1 brown rice to white rice.

3/4 pound lean boneless beef steak, sliced across the grain into thin strips
1/8 – 1/4 teaspoon red Sichuan peppercorns, coarsely ground
3 tablespoons soy sauce or soy-ginger sauce
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 teaspoons canola or vegetable oil
2 teaspoons ginger, peeled and minced
2 teaspoons garlic, peeled and minced
3 cups broccoli florets
1 teaspoon sesame oil

Blanch broccoli florets in a pot of boiling water until bright green, 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat, drain, and place under cold running water to stop the cooking process. Drain and set aside.

In a small bowl, put the beef strips, peppercorns, soy sauce or soy-ginger sauce, add cornstarch. Mix well and set aside.

Put canola oil in a large wok or skillet, and turn up the heat to medium-high. Add the ginger and garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the beef and stir-fry until it begins to brown, about 30 seconds. Add the broccoli and toss to heat through. The beef should have pink streaks. Remove the pan from the heat and add the sesame oil. Taste and adjust seasoning; adding a little soy sauce, if desired. Serve immediately with steamed brown rice and Japanese Zucchini Stir Fry.

Japanese Zucchini Stir Fry

I found this recipe in Real Food Real Easy (2010) by George Stella. The recipes in this book use just a few ingredients (not more than nine) and the method is simple and straightforward. I really needed this cookbook since I started a new job this week, and I haven’t had much time for anything complicated. So this marks a return to my roots–simple stir fries with fresh ingredients.

2 medium zucchini
1 yellow onion, peeled and quartered
1 tablespoon canola or vegetable oil
2 teaspoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon sesame seeds, toasted

  1. To toast sesame seeds, put them in a skillet over medium-high heat until lightly browned. Remove from heat and set aside. Slice ends off zucchini and discard. Cut each zucchini in half crosswise then split each half vertically in two. Slice each quarter into thick sticks. Cut quartered onion into 1/4 inch thick strips
  2. Heat oil in a large work or skillet over medium-high heat until sizzling. Add zucchini and onions and cook without stirring 2-4 minutes or until browned on the undersides. Stir once and continue cooking 2-3 minutes to continue browning.
  3. Add soy sauce and black pepper, tossing to combine. Remove from heat and stir in sesame oil and sesame seeds.

the 500-calorie dinner: hoppin’ john, summer squash soup, and watermelon yogurt ice

Tired of dieting but must eat! These recipes came from Eating Well’s dinner menus which offer a main dish, a side, and a dessert, all for 500 calories. What a bargain! Now I’m starting the sequence with dessert, a cool delicious ice, because dessert takes the longest time to make, in fact! The second recipe is a light soup. The third one is a variation on the southern dish Hoppin’ John, and it is made with lean pork chops rather than with bacon or salt pork.

Watermelon-Yogurt Ice
This is so refreshing! Especially on a warm night in the Teeny Tiny Apartment.

Ingredients
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
4 cups diced seedless watermelon, (about 3 pounds with the rind)
1 cup low-fat vanilla yogurt
1 tablespoon lime juice

Preparation
1. Combine water and sugar in a small saucepan.Cook,stirring,over high heat until the sugar is dissolved. Transfer to a glass measuring cup and let cool slightly.
2. Puree watermelon in a food processor or blender,in 2 batches,pulsing until smooth.Transfer to a large bowl. Whisk in the cooled sugar syrup, yogurt and lime juice until combined. Pour the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into another large bowl, whisking to release all juice. Discard pulp.
3. Pour the extracted juices into an ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturerʼs directions. As an alternative, pour into a shallow metal pan and freeze until solid, about 6 hours or overnight. Remove from freezer to defrost slightly, 5 minutes. Break into small chunks and process in a food processor, in batches, until smooth and creamy. Serve immediately or transfer to a storage container and freeze for up to 2 hours.

For one 1/2 cup serving: 74 Calories; 1 g Fat; 0 g Sat; 0 g Mono; 2 mg Cholesterol; 16 g Carbohydrates; 2 g Protein; 0 g Fiber; 21 mg Sodium; 155 mg Potassium

Golden Summer Squash and Corn Soup
This soup reminds me of the classic Chinese corn soup. It was rather bland so I suggest adding salt and pepper to taste. And a dash or two of hot sauce like Sriracha! Makes 4 servings.

Ingredients
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium shallot, chopped
2 medium summer squash, (about 1 pound), diced
3 teaspoons chopped fresh herbs, such as thyme or oregano, divided
1 14-ounce can reduced-sodium chicken broth or vegetable broth
1 cup fresh corn kernels, (tinned is okay)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste
Dash or two of hot chili sauce, optional but recommended
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese or goat cheese

Preparation
1. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add shallot and cook,stirring,1 minute.Add squash and 1 teaspoon herbs and cook, stirring occasionally, until the squash starts to soften, 3 to 5 minutes.
2. Add broth; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook until the squash is soft and mostly translucent, about 5 minutes more. Transfer to a blender and puree until smooth. (Use caution when pureeing hot liquids.)If you have an immersion or wand blender, then puree the soup in the pot.
3. Return the soup to the pan and stir in corn. Bring to a simmer over medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until the corn is tender, 3 to 5 minutes more. Remove from the heat; stir in lemon juice. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add hot sauce, if using. Serve garnished with the remaining 2 teaspoons herbs and feta or goat cheese.

For a scant 1 cup serving: 111 Calories; 6 g Fat; 2 g Sat; 3 g Mono; 6 mg Cholesterol; 13 g Carbohydrates; 5 g Protein; 2 g Fiber; 462 mg Sodium; 497 mg Potassium

Blackeyed Peas with Pork and Greens
This one was quite tasty. I added 2 extra cloves of garlic; you can never have too much garlic. Remember not to overcook the pork or it will get tough.

Ingredients
1 pound boneless pork chops, trimmed, cut into 1/2-inch pieces 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup instant brown rice
8 cups roughly chopped kale leaves, (about 1 small bunch), tough stems removed
4-6 cloves garlic, minced
1 14-ounce can reduced-sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons cider vinegar, or sherry vinegar
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika, preferably hot
1 15-ounce can black-eyed peas, rinsed and drained

Preparation
1. Toss pork with salt and pepper.Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat.Add the pork and cook, stirring, until just cooked through, 3-5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl with a slotted spoon.
2. Add onion,tomato paste and rice to the pan and cook until the onion softens,about 4 minutes. Add kale and garlic and cook until the kale begins to wilt, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in broth, vinegar, paprika. Bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer until the rice is done, 15 to 20 minutes. Stir in the reserved pork and black-eyed peas and heat for 1 minute.

For one serving (1 1/3 cups): 281 Calories; 8 g Fat; 2 g Sat; 3 g Mono; 45 mg Cholesterol; 32 g Carbohydrates; 22 g Protein; 5 g Fiber; 405 mg Sodium; 740 mg Potassium