Monday, November 1, 2010

Fall Comfort Food: Grilled Ham and cheese and Cream of Pimiento Soup

I had a sweet friend ask me this week why I had stopped blogging--well, Halloween costumes got in the way. So, now that that is over, I have time to cook and blog again! Here is another family favorite. This recipe came from a Southern Living Holiday magazine from 2002. I have to make it when the weather starts to get a little cool. This is one of Nathan's favorites.

Cream of Pimiento Soup

I know this sounds a little strange, but trust me, this is so delicious that I want to drink it!

  • 1 (7 0z) jar diced pimientos, drained
  • 1/4 cup butter (half stick, but you can get by with half this amount depending on how good or bad you want to be!)
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 can chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 3 oz softened cream cheese ( I always use the weight watchers brand or neufchatel cheese with 1/3 less fat, but not the fat free)
  • 1 (4 oz) jar diced pimiento, drained
  • 2 green onions chopped finely
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon red pepper
Process the 7 oz jar of pimientos in a blender until smooth, stopping to scrape down the sides.

Melt butter in sauce pan. Add flour, whisk in cooking for 1 minute. Then add the milk and broth. Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly until thick and bubbly. Then add the cream cheese and pureed pimientos and stir until smooth.

Then add the 4 oz jar of pimientos, the green onions, salt and red pepper and cook over medium low heat until heated through.

Grilled Ham-and-Cheese Sandwiches

  • 2 cups shredded Cheddar Monterrey Jack cheese blend
  • 3 oz softened cream cheese
  • 1/4 cup mayonaise (I use Miracle Whip and I just use a large spoonful)
  • 2 green onions diced
Stir together these ingredients and spread 1/4 of mixture on 4 slices of bread. Top each slice with 2 slices of ham and another piece of bread to make a sandwich. Then spread softened butter on the sandwiches and grill on both sides until brown.

Serve the sandwiches with the soup for the perfect dinner on a cool night. This is not exactly low fat, but use skim milk and wheat bread and low fat cream cheese and you won't feel too bad about it! Yum!

    Sunday, September 5, 2010

    Spaghetti squash and sausage meatballs

    Another version of spaghetti and meatballs--because, really, can you ever get enough spaghetti and meatballs? This is definitely a lighter version using spaghetti squash instead of pasta --it is so good. The squash has the consistency of rice noodles. Mild taste, but makes me think of ratatouille with the spaghetti sauce on it. Of course, turkey sausage used for the meatballs keeps it light.

    Italian sausage meatballs
    • 1# Turkey Italian sausage
    • 4 cloves garlic--finely chopped
    • 1/4 - 1/2 cup grated parmesan
    • 1/4 cup Italian flavored breadcrumbs
    • Drizzle of olive oil
    • salt and pepper
    Mix ingredients together in a bowl. Form into quarter-size balls--makes about 16 meatballs. Place on a baking sheet. Bake at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes.

    Light Tomato Basil Sauce
    • Medium yellow onion--chopped
    • 4 cloves garlic--chopped
    • 2 Tbsp olive oil
    • 1/4-1/2 cup white wine (a few glugs)
    • 28 oz can diced tomatoes
    • 8 oz tomato sauce
    • 20-25 fresh basil leaves--chopped
    Heat olive oil in deep skillet. Then cook onions and garlic until soft. Add wine and cook down for a minute or two. Add tomatoes and sauce. Simmer. Add fresh basil a minute or two before serving and allow to wilt.

    Spaghetti squash

    Stab whole squash several times with a fork or knife. Cook in the microwave for 10 minutes. Allow to sit in the microwave for 5 or more minutes. Carefully remove from the microwave with hot pads. Slice lengthwise--scoop out seeds from the middle and discard. Then scoop out the rest of the flesh--it looks like thin noodles. Add a little bit of salt.

    Serve squash "noodles" with sauce and meatballs. Good with a little parmesan on top. Yum! My boys eat this pretty well, but I often cook some regular spaghetti noodles or "Wacky Mac" for them.

    Saturday, September 4, 2010

    Mushroom and swiss turkey burgers

    This is actually a new recipe I found looking through my Rachel Ray cookbook. This was really tasty and the mushrooms and swiss cheese made it taste more decadent. Her recipe called for ground chicken but I had turkey in the freezer so here is my version.

    • 1-1.5 pounds ground turkey breast
    • 10 oz. frozen spinach (thawed in microwave and wrung out in paper towels)
    • 1 shallot--finely chopped
    • 2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
    • 2 Tbsp parsley -- finely chopped
    • 8 basil leaves -- chopped

    Mix the ingredients together in a bowl. Draw an X in the bowl with your spoon to separate into 4 more or less equal portions. Form into patties and cook in hot skillet or grill pan sprayed with olive oil. Cook about 6 minutes on each side.

    • 20 white mushrooms sliced
    • 3-4 clove of garlic chopped
    • olive oil
    • white wine (may substitute chicken broth for wine, if desired--but, seriously, don't do it because the wine adds such a good taste to the mushrooms and all the alcohol cooks out so you don't have to feel bad about it!)

    While patties are cooking, cook mushrooms and garlic in olive oil until brown (about 5 minutes). Then salt and pepper and add a little white wine (1/4 to 1/2 cup) and continue to cook until most of the liquid is gone.

    • Swiss cheese slices
    • Thin sandwich buns (see Greek turkey burger blog for more information)
    • Dijon mustard
    • lettuce
    • tomato

    When the patties are done turn off the heat and spoon mushrooms on top of each patty and cover with swiss cheese (low fat swiss cheese tastes great, too, and will lower the calories and fat without sacrificing the flavor). Spread Dijon mustard on thin sandwich buns. Place turkey burger with melted swiss cheese on the bun and top with lettuce and tomato. This is a really good burger. The spinach helps keep the turkey meat moist and the shallots ad such a good flavor to the meat.

    What about the kids? Fortunately, Ethan loves mushrooms and Seth is coming around. I cut up one of the burger patties into bite size pieces and divided between them. They both got a small serving of the mushrooms and a slice of Swiss cheese. I always let them dip meat into ketchup if they want. They ate this really well. Oh yeah, Ethan added a pickle to his meal and Seth added a carrot. We have convinced them that spinach (and vegetables, in general) really do make them strong, and Ethan loves spinach (again, Seth is coming around!) Sometimes, I let them arm wrestle me to see if they have eaten enough of their dinner to make them strong--they know they have eaten enough when they can beat me. This method is getting a little harder now. I wonder how long it will work--Ethan especially is getting bigger and stronger and it is not as easy as it used to be to beat him! Fortunately, my boys enjoy the game even though I am sure they know that it is just a game.

    Friday, August 13, 2010

    Grilled flank steak with chimichurri

    What the heck is chimichurri? First of all, it is so good you may never eat ketchup or steak sauce on your steak again. It is a sauce made from garlic, herbs, olive oil and vinegar common from Argentina all the way north to Nicaragua. Lots of variations, as you can imagine, but this versions comes from Rachel Ray--minus about half the olive oil. You won't miss it.

    Flank steak with chimichurri
    • Handful of parsley
    • Leaves from 4 stems fresh oregano
    • Leaves from 5 sprigs of sage
    • Leaves from 6 stems fresh thyme
    • 2 garlic cloves, minced or crushed
    • 1/2 purple onion, finely chopped
    • 2-3 Tablespoons of red wine vinegar
    • 2-3 Tablespoons of olive oil
    Chop the herbs finely with a big, sharp knife (see Greek turkey burgers post). Just keep piling the herbs up and chopping them and again until they are all mixed up and chopped and too small to tell which herb is what. Mix the herbs with the onions and garlic and add vinegar and olive oil. You can make it ahead of time, but it doesn't require much time for the flavors to blend. You really don't have to measure the oil and vinegar--just pour a little in there until it looks right. Do not get out a measuring spoon for this!
    • 1-1.5 pound flank steak -- you can use almost any boneless cut of steak, but flank steak is really lean without being dry. Skirt steak is more traditional but has a lot more fat.
    Season as you like, but Rachel Ray recommends Montreal steak seasoning and it works. Drizzle with just a little olive oil and rub it in to the meat; then sprinkle on your seasoning. Cook on the grill or I use the grill pan on my range. Don't overcook it--you have to figure out how long to cook on each side depending on how hot your grill is. You can also use a meat thermometer to get to 160 degrees for medium. If you cook it more than this, it will be tough and taste like cardboard. After the steak is cooked, let it rest--that means let it sit on the cutting board for a few minutes before slicing against the grain. Serve the steak with the chimichurri.

    Nathan made sweet potato fries to go with our steak, but that is his recipe. Maybe I will post that sometime, but I will have to find out how he makes them--so good and my boys eat them up. We also had fresh corn on the cob. Mmmmm...sounds yummy, right? Well, don't just sit there drooling, get up and cook something!

    Monday, August 9, 2010

    Pan-seared talapia with asparagus

    This was so good--I have made this before and I thought of it this afternoon. It is really tasty and very healthy, but it tastes fairly decadent.

    • Talapia--Fresh fish is the best, but if you live in East Texas or any other land-locked area of the US, I give you permission to use frozen fish (gasp!) There are some very decent frozen talapia filets that are individually wrapped. These filets are just the right size (3-5 oz) for a healthy serving of fish.
    • Half lemon
    • Olive oil
    Spray olive oil in large, hot skillet. Salt and pepper the fillets and sear in the olive oil--don't overcook! Squeeze the lemon half over the fish while it is cooking. You only need to cook for 2-3 minutes per side. When done, place fillets on a real plate (not a paper one) and cover with foil or another plate to keep warm.

    • 1 medium shallot--thinly sliced
    • 3-4 cloves garlic--thinly sliced or minced
    • 1 pat butter
    • 1/4 cup chicken broth
    • 1/4 cup white wine
    • 1 tsp thyme
    Spray the pan with olive oil again and add just a pat of butter. Saute the shallots and garlic together until soft. Then pour about 1/4 cup of chicken broth and 1/4 cup of white wine in to deglaze the pan. (Deglaze--don't you just love that word--sounds so fancy! Actually Add the thyme. You really don't have to measure any of this. Just put a few glugs of chicken broth and a few glugs of wine, then add just sprinkle in some dried thyme or, better yet, the leaves from several sprigs of fresh thyme. Let it simmer for 5-10 minutes to thicken slightly. Pour the sauce over the fish and sprinkle with the slivered almonds.

    • Fresh
    • Half lemon
    Salt and pepper the asparagus and spray with olive oil spray. I like to cook them on a grill pan on the stove top, but you could also use a wok or another large skillet. Salt and pepper the asparagus and squeeze the lemon over when almost done cooking. Cook 10 - 12 minutes turning with tongs every few minutes.

    What about the kids? My boys actually love the fish with just a little sauce--just no shallots on the plate! I have to make them eat an asparagus, but I usually make some broccoli along for them as well. Sending the kids camping with Grammy and Papi also solves the problem!

    Thursday, August 5, 2010

    Steamed chile relleno

    A healthy chile relleno? Seriously? That is not really the point of chile rellenos! But this is actually one of our favorite dinners. Nathan loves this. This is not a Tex-Mex relleno, but more traditional. The first time I had this kind of chile relleno was in Guadalajara with my dad and sister. Also similar to the chile rellenos at Z-Tejas in Austin (mmmmm....Z-Tejas!)

    Sorry...I'm back. I had to stop and daydream about Z-Tejas for a minute.

    So actually, before you stop reading, I will tell you that this is NOT the healthiest dish that I make. But much healthier than the typical so here it goes.

    Sunni's Chile Rellenos
    • Poblano peppers -- you have to soften these to stuff them. Either blanch or roast them. More fun to roast them--just stick a fork in the stem end and hold them directly over the flame on a gas stove or gas grill. (Maybe why my pyromaniac husband loves this recipe --one way to get him to help with dinner!) If you are making more than 2 you may just want to throw them in a pot of boiling water for a few minutes to soften them. Then while they are hot put them in a glass baking dish (just big enough to hold all your peppers) and put a glass lid or saran wrap over them. Set aside to let cool
    • Chicken breast--season chicken with season salt, pepper and garlic powder and cook wih a little onion in a skillet with a little olive oil or use leftover grilled or rotisserie chicken. Cut into small bite-sized pieces
    • Cheese --cheddar, monterrey jack or blend
    • Dried fruit-- apricots, raisins, dried cranberries (some or all)
    • Nuts--pecans, walnuts, pine nuts (some or all)

    Mix chicken, cheese, fruit and nuts together in a bowl (Hint: don't worry about mixing just the right amount. Make a little more than you need and freeze your mixture in a freezer baggie. Then next time you want chile rellenos you can just grab the mix out of the freezer to stuff your peppers and it saves a lot of time)

    After peppers have cooled slightly and steamed a little in the dish, you can cut the stem out with a sharp knife--then just reach in a take out any seeds that are left--you can also rinse them inside and out to help get out all the seeds--then scoop in your meat and cheese mixture (OK, I know the nut and fruit thing sounds a little weird, but it tastes SO GOOD all mixed up with the cheese--oh, I cannot even tell you! I suppose you could just leave out the fruit and nuts, but I do not know why you would!) Also I have used fat free cheese, and it is not bad.

    After your chiles are stuffed, put them back in the baking dish and and cover with the lid or the saran wrap. Then just pop them in the microwave for 4-5 minutes. Steamed, not fried., and really yummy!
    • Sauce--our favorite sauce is just canned verde sauce (Herdez brand--from the Mexican section at the store) mixed with light sour cream or, better yet, Greek yogurt. Just mix them together to the desired consistency and warm it up slightly in the microwave and serve it over the relleno.
    You can eat this with beans and rice or just by itself.

    What am I going to feed the kids? Probably not this. Tonight, my kids ate cheese quesadillas--they are not big fans of peppers. But they can also eat some of the grilled chicken and they like to dip their chicken and quesadillas in light sour cream. This recipe has a little spice, but not really spicy. Nevertheless, Seth told me tonight that he would never try chile rellenos--oh well, more for me!

    Tuesday, July 27, 2010

    Black beans and rice with sausage

    This is a super-easy go-to dinner for busy evenings--(we got home from the park at 7:30 after running and boys riding bikes through mud puddles) This is a perfect quick dinner and not bad in the calorie department.

    • Turkey smoked sausage--I use whatever brand I can find--tonight it was Hillshire Farms
    • Packaged rice and beans--my favorite is VIGO brand Black Beans and Rice, but I have also used Mahatma brand Red Beans and Rice and Zataran brand
    I cut up the turkey sausage into small pieces and brown it in a large skillet. In the meantime, boil water according to package directions. Add sausage to the rice and beans when done browning and cook for as long as recommended.

    While rice and beans finish cooking, cut up tomatoes and onion (purple, if available)--salt and pepper and a little red wine vinegar to make an easy pico de gallo salad. Serve salad over rice and beans with a dollop of light sour cream or Greek yogurt--stir it all together and YUM!

    (or just top it with a large spoonful of chunky salsa with the Greek yogurt--because some nights it is just too much trouble to make the simplest salad in the world--yes, I was tired and lazy tonight!)

    This is easy and tasty--my boys like the sausage and tolerate the rice and beans--sometimes I let them dip their sausage in ketchup--tonight I just gave them some light sour cream for"dip." They gobbled it up--helped that they rode a mile or so on their little tiny bikes. Hungry boys always eat better! And there is a reason rice and beans are a staple food for half the world. Filling and nutritious--low fat, with some protein. Carbs in the rice, but I ran tonight, so there!

    By the way, about 250 calories for a serving of rice and beans with sausage and only a little more for Greek yogurt and salsa!