Monday, December 22, 2008

Chicken Piccadillo Wraps

Wow! I'm so sorry I've been MIA so far in December. Things have gotten very busy here in Upstate NY! We've spent a weekend in NYC, had two Christmas parties and are attempting to get ready for a 12 day trip Down South! It'll be great to get away from thigh-high snow for almost 2 weeks! I also haven't been posting because my digital camera has been acting up. I haven't gotten many good photos of our dinners. I may start posting some recipes without pictures soon!

The recipe I'm posting today is decidedly NOT Christmas-y! I like to gear up for a week of ham and turkey with some spicey foods that I might not get for awhile while taking care of leftovers! I originally heard of piccadillo from my best friend Megan. She has a Master's degree in Spanish, and loves Latin America. She said that piccadillo is the Latin equivalent of hamburger helper. Then, back in May, Scott and I had another couple over, and I needed something quick and delicious. I stumbled upon this chicken piccadillo recipe in Cooking Light, and it was a huge hit!

The original recipe calls for raisins. Raisins are actually pretty high in sugar. If you're watching your glycemic index and sugars, just omit the raisins. Those in your family who aren't carb-conscious can use tortillas to wrap up their piccadillo filling. However, I really enjoyed mine wrapped up in a crispy butter lettuce. Enjoy!

Chicken Piccadillo
  • 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup salsa
  • 1/3 cup golden raisins
  • 1/4 cup slivered almonds, toasted
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1. Place chicken in a food processor, pulse until ground.
2. Heat oil in a large, non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook 3 minutes, stirring occassionally.
3. Add chicken, cumin, salt, cinnamon, and garlic. Cook for 3 minutes, or until chicken is done, stirring frequently.
4. Stir in salsa & raisins (if using). Cover, reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes or until thoroughly heated.
5. Stir in almonds and cilantro.
6. Serve with tortillas or butter lettuce to wrap.

Carb options
I typically serve this with a chilled black bean and corn salad which is delicious. However, up until last Friday, I could have neither black beans no corn! Depending on your specific needs, this salad can be a healthy and delicious side dish for any Latin inspired dish!

Black Bean & Corn Salad
  • 1 can (about 16 oz) low-sodium black beans, drained and rinsed
  • frozen corn kernals
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
  • about 2 Tbsp canola or other light oil (I don't really recommend olive oil for this--it has too much of a distinct taste)
  • cumin, chili powder, cayenne pepper, salt all to taste (1-2 tsp each)
  • juice of 1/2 lime
1. Place drained and rinsed black beans in a serving bowl. Add the equivalent amount of frozen corn kernals (do not thaw before adding!). Add chopped red bell pepper.
2. Add oil, spices and lime juice. Stir well.
3. Leave out on counter while you prepare the rest of the meal. The corn will begin to thaw and will chill the other ingredients. Will be ready to serve in 20-30 minutes (depending on your room temperature!)

As I said before, I will be out of town until January 4th 2009! I will be sure to post more in the new year! I hope you all have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! Happy cooking!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Citrus Rosemary Pork Chops & Green Beans with garlic and onions

I've been making this recipe for years, and it is consistently one of the best meals EVER. It is always a husband pleaser, not to mention parents and friends! I got the recipe from Rachel Ray, so you know it's quick, too.

The pork chops are marinated in a mixture with molasses. You may be concerned about this, since it is made from sugar cane. 2 tsp of molasses as about 5 grams of sugars, and 8 grams of carbs. Molasses is used in the marinade and some of it will stay on the pork while you grill it. So if you're concerned about the sugars, you will want to find another recipe! The molasses makes it!!

The green bean side dish is super simple, and can go with most anything in a jiffy.

Citrus Rosemary Pork Chops
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 3 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 3 sprigs of rosemary, coarsely chopped
  • 1 navel orange, zested (you only need the zest)
  • 4 pork chops
  • Montreal steak seasoning
1. Combine first 5 ingredients in a bowl (molasses, vinegar, oil, rosemary, zest).
2. Pat chops dry with a paper towel and rub with Montreal steak seasoning
3. Turn chops in marinade to coat and let sit for 15 minutes. Occasionally rotate chops so each gets coated with marinade.
4. Sprinkle with a little more Montreal steak seasoning.
5. Grill on medium heat until done (about 7-8 minutes per side for a 1 1/2 inch thick chop)

Green beans with garlic and onions
  • frozen green beans
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 small onion, sliced
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
1. Heat oil over medium heat in skillet.
2. Add garlic and onions. Saute about 3 minutes.
3. Add green beans. Stir to cover with oil.
4. Saute until heated through.

Carb options
This menu is made perfection with the addition of a baked sweet potato. Spare your loved ones the calories, and only offer butter and cinnamon as toppers (no one needs the brown sugar or marshmallows!!). Sweet potatoes are simple to make in the microwave. Wash them really well, and then stick them on a plate. Zap them for 5 minutes, and then increase in 2 minute increments until they're softened to your liking.

Crescent rolls are always yummy, too.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Italian Chicken Soup

Since Thanksgiving feasts are just a couple days away, I wanted to fix something for dinner that was much lighter. Plus, it's really cold here in upstate New York, and a slow-cooked, warm soup seemed perfect!

I found the base recipe for my soup at The Crepes of Wrath blog. It didn't take too many changes to make her recipe for Crockpot Chicken Cacciatore carb-free and a little more soupy. First, I substituted chicken breast for fatty chicken thighs. I omitted the flouring and browning of the chicken before adding it to the crockpot. Since I wasn't going for a true cacciatore, I didn't need the crispy skin/breading. For the broth, I first left out the wine (which contains fruit sugars that are incompatible with a strict carb-free diet), and then added more chicken stock and a little water. It makes an incredibly easy and delicious soup that can be thrown into a crock pot in the morning and savored in the evening!

Italian Chicken Soup
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1/2 lb of mushrooms (I used about 3/4 of a pre-sliced package)
  • 1 green pepper, sliced (I left this out because I am currently not a fan of green peppers)
  • 1 yellow onion, sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced (can increase if you like a stronger garlic flavor)
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and sliced (I really like carrot in this, and I needed to get rid of an old bag of carrots, so I used 4 small carrots)
  • 1 15oz can of diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flake
  • 2 Tbsp fresh basil leaves
  • 2 Tbsp fresh parsley
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup water
  • salt and pepper to taste

1. Layer in the bottom of a 5 quart crockpot with vegetables on bottom (carrot, onion, garlic, peppers, and mushrooms). Then add the can of tomatoes and seasonings (red pepper flake, basil, parsley, salt & pepper). Top with the chicken and then the broth and water.
2. Cover, then cook on low for 8 hours or high for 4-6 hours.
3. Shred chicken with forks before serving.

Carb options
This soup would not only go great with traditional crackers (multigrain Clubs by Keebler-- yum), but tonight for dinner, I made a single serving of polenta and put it in the bottom of the hubby's soup bowl. This gave the soup a creamy texture and the added deliciousness of polenta!

Final Note
We are leaving tomorrow to visit my husband's family for the Thanksgiving holiday, so I won't be able to post again until the beginning of next week. I hope everyone has a wonderful time of friends and family, laughter, joy and love! Enjoy the feasts!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Herbed Roast Pork and Roasted Asparagus with Gruyere

This Herbed Roast Pork recipe came from Cooking Light Magazine (October 2008). They did a wonderful article and recipe collection on the Shakers, and I have found this to be one of the most simple and delicious ways to make a pork tenderloin. I did make one small change to the recipe. The original Shaker recipe calls for 1 1/2 Tablespoons (Tbsp) of butter for the herb "paste" that is rubbed onto the tenderloin. In order to lower the fat, I have replaced the butter with olive oil. Contrary to popular belief, this roast pork can be a quick dinner! This entire dinner plan can be on your table in about 30 minutes.

The Roasted Asparagus with Gruyere is my own creation. Gruyere is a hard, yellow cow cheese from Switzerland. It has a pretty strong, nutty flavor which I think goes perfectly with crisp roasted asparagus. The asparagus recipe is directly following the pork. Place your jelly pan of asparagus in the oven just after removing the pork and roast while the pork rests.

Herbed Roast Pork
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp dried sage
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/4 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 1lbs. pork tenderloins, trimmed (just cut off any excess fat on the outside of the tenderloins if necessary)
  • cooking spray
1. Preheat oven to 475°. Combine first 5 ingredients in a small bowl.
2. Rub oil mixture evenly over pork tenderloins. Place pork on a broiler or roasting pan coated with cooking spray.
3. Bake in oven for 17 minutes, or until a thermometer registers 155° (slightly pink).
4. Let stand 5 minutes; thinly slice.
Yields: 8 servings of about 3 oz each.

Roasted Asparagus with Gruyere
  • one bunch fresh asparagus, trimmed (bend at the bottom until asparagus "pops". You can do this with each asparagus, or you can pop a few stalks and then cut all others at roughly the same point)
  • olive oil
  • kosher salt
  • fresh ground black pepper
  • gruyere cheese
1. Arrange trimmed asparagus in one layer on a jelly roll or other shallow baking pan.
2. Drizzle with olive oil lightly. Toss with hands to evenly coat all stalks.
3. Sprinkle with kosher salt and pepper. Toss with hands again.
4. Place into oven (still heated at 475° from the pork!) and roast about 10 minutes, shaking the pan about halfway through to loosen the asparagus. Asparagus roasting times can vary, so watch carefully. You want the asparagus to maintain a bright green color, and be a little wrinkled.
5. Using a cheese slicer, or vegetable peeler, shave thin slices of gruyere on top of the asparagus.

Carb options for others
Not everyone is on a low-carb diet. My husband enjoys his breads, and does not need to worry about weight loss, so I like to provide him with the well rounded meal including carbs. When I made this meal, I simply made some crescent rolls (from a can, I know... gasp) in the toaster oven for him.

I hope you enjoy this first recipe! Again, if you have any suggestions for recipes or another section to include (like wine pairings or alternative side dishes?) let me know!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Let's get cooking

I love to cook. I've always enjoyed helping in the kitchen, and making good meals. Then, in March 2008, I married a wonderful man, and have been able to be a part-time housewife to him. Since then, I've really been breaking out of my cooking comfort zone for meals and other food. I've been baking, grilling, sauteing, chopping and boiling for months now, and I'm REALLY enjoying the process and the product.

However, about six weeks ago, I was given the charge to lose weight by my doctor. I am not morbidly obese, but I could definitely stand to lose 50 or so pounds; and I am facing a diagnosis of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome which is best managed by weight loss and maintenance. My doctor gave me a diet plan to follow, which is a low-carb and low-fat way of eating. I began to look online to find various recipes to support my food addiction that fit into the diet. It was incredibly hard! I would find recipes that look good on the surface, but then had some hidden flour or sugar or something that wasn't conducive to my new life style.

Therefore, I began to get more creative. I would take base recipes, and then change them to fit my dietary restrictions. I've now decided to share those. Not only do I plan to share a few recipes (and photos!) a week, but I hope to include posts to encourage anyone else out there looking to make a change in their life. I want to discuss the spiritual and emotional side of food and eating, along with the physical. I am constantly open for discussions and questions, and especially suggestions! If there is a dish or something you'd like for me to de-carb or lessen fat in, please let me know (but also please be reasonable-- there's no chance for a carb-free cake, friends)!

Meet you in the kitchen soon, y'all!