Monday, February 21, 2011

Chicken with Balsamic Vinegar, Sweet Onions & Thyme

Chicken can get boring.  We've gotten in a rut of grilling chicken and just eating it on pita breads or salads.  And that gets a little boring.  Recently we just haven't been cooking much chicken, but it is low in points you can do quite a bit with it.  If you don't get boring!  I came across this Weight Watchers recipe last week and decided to try it out.  It wasn't a weeknight meal, by any means.  For us, weeknight meals need to be 30 minutes or less.  This took a bit longer, but ended up being a great weekend meal.

Oh, and bonus points - low WW points for a surprisingly flavorful meal.  And, it tasted great the second

Chicken with Balsamic Vinegar, Sweet Onions & Thyme from Weight Watchers
  • 3 T flour
  • salt & pepper
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1lb total)
  • 2 t olive oil
  • 1 small vidalia onion, sliced thin
  • 1 cup reduced sodium chicken broth
  • 2 T balsamic vinegar
  • 1 T fresh chopped Thyme or 1/2 t dried
  • 2 T butter
Combine the flour with salt and pepper in a shallow dish.  Dredge the chicken breasts in the flour.  Heat olive oil in a large pan over medium-high heat.  Cook the chicken, flipping once, until browned - about 7 minutes.

Remove the chicken, covering to keep warm. Add the onion to the pan and cook until lightly browned.  Stir in the broth, vinegar, thyme and salt & pepper.  Bring to a boil and simmer until the onions are tender.  Remove the skillet from the heat and add in the butter to melt.

WW PointsPlus: 5 points for 1 chicken breast and about 1/4 cup sauce

[Your favorite beer] Hamburger Buns

Since I finally tackled baking bread and was successful at it, I've branched out.  A little.  Let's not get carried away here!  My next project was to try Shawnda's hamburger buns.  I read the recipe and we had everything I needed at home...except the Shiner.  Normally Jason and I are fans of Shiner, but Sunday we were in the mood for something lighter.  It's starting to get warm again (I'm afraid winter has left us for good...) so we grabbed some Corona Light.  I figured, what the heck?  I think the darker beer would give this a richer taste, but they were still very much raved about.

[Your favorite beer] Hamburger Buns adapted from the Foodie Bride
  • 2 t yeast
  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • 2 T honey
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 bottle Corona Light (or your favorite beer), room temp and flat
  • 3 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 egg
  • Sesame seeds
Preheat the oven to 350.  Sprinkle the yeast over the warm water in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook.  Let that sit for about 10 minutes and add in the honey, oil and beer.  Add in the dry ingredients and turn the mixer to low.  Once the dough is mixed, increase the speed to medium and knead the dough for about 5-7 minutes.  You may need to add more flour, 2 T at a time.  Once the sides of the bowl are cleaned and the dough looks smooth, place it into a lightly oiled mixing bowl and over with plastic wrap.

Once the dough doubles in size, turn it out on to a floured surface and divide in half.  Create 6 buns from each half and place on a lined baking sheet, cover with oiled plastic wrap.  Let these rise for another 45 minutes or so.

Whisk the egg and brush over the buns before baking.  Sprinkle them with sesame seeds and bake for 15-20 minutes, until browned.  Let them cool on a baking rack before slicing.

WW PointsPlus: 6 points each, yields 12 buns

Fontina Mac & Cheese

I have a slight cheese obsession.  That turns into a cheese problem.  I constantly want to buy and try new cheese.  Then I remember I'm on a diet and really, cheese isn't the most diet friendly thing to eat.  So then it sits in the fridge.  This half-eaten block of "fancy" cheese.  Cooper gets some of it, but you can only give a kid so much cheese before you have problems.  Although he'd disagree - the boy loves cheese!
Every once in a while, I try to find a recipe that will help clean out the cheese drawer.  I've been trying to move past the fontina & havarti that have been in the fridge for a few weeks.  After doing my blog-hopping I came across a recipe for Fontina Mac & Cheese over at Annie's Eats.  I knew I didn't have the right amount of fontina, but I figured finishing it with just a little havarti would work.

Mac & cheese is usually something I'm a little afraid of because there is a fine line between it being creamy and dry.  I've screwed up plenty of batches, trust me!  This one, though, turned out to be pretty easy and tasted great.  I made a few changes to make it a little healthier, although I think that changing the cream to half & half will cause it to dry out a little bit.  It was pretty creamy the first night, but for leftovers I'm probably going to add in a little more half & half before baking in small ramekins.

Fontina Mac & Cheese adapted from Annie's Eats
  • 1 13.5oz box whole wheat pasta (I went with the shells)
  • 5 T unsalted butter, divided
  • 1 cup half and half
  • 5oz fontina, shredded
  • 3oz havarti, shredded
  • salt & pepper
  • pinch of ground nutmeg
  • 1/3 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 2 T grated parmesan cheese
Preheat the oven to 400.  Boil the pasta in salted water to just shy of al dente.  In a large bowl, dice 4 tablespoons of the unsalted butter.  Warm the half & half in the microwave or on the stove top and keep warm.  Drain the pasta and pour over the butter.  Stir in the half & half and the cheese until the cheese is melted.  Add in salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste.

Pour the pasta into a baking dish.  Melt the remaining tablespoon of butter and add in the panko.  Pour over the pasta and add shredded parmesan.  Bake for about 20 minutes, or until the top begins to brown.

WW PointsPlus: 8 pts for 10 servings

It's a doozie

I love reading blogs.  I'm curious by nature and, well, I love to read.  Add in a recipe and I'm in heaven.  Yes, I'm a big dork and I frequently curl up with a glass of wine and a cookbook to read.  It makes my heart happy, ok!  One of my favorite things about going to see Jason's parents is that his mom has a ton of cookbooks.  :-)  Most of them are cookbooks I don't have so it ends up being a double bonus!

Ok, back to this post.  Because I'm a huge dork, I like to peruse cooking blogs.  I'll read one for a few pages, click around to their "likes" and before you know it, voila!  I stumble across a recipe that I have to try.  A few weeks ago I sent Jason and email with one sentence and a link.  "I'm going to make these for your birthday."  Wouldn't you know it, I actually stuck to my words!  Here lately baking hasn't been on my list of things I have time to do, so actually baking these was a pretty big accomplishment for my weekend.

We rarely grab cookies from the cookie stand in the mall, but if we do Jason goes for the Double Doozies.  The cookies with frosting sandwiched in the middle.  So when I came across this recipe I didn't really have to think twice.  These cookies turned out so good.  A bit of a pain to make (for me, while also chasing a toddler) because you mix up cookie dough and frosting, but I'll be making them again.  Especially since I sent half to daycare for Cooper's teachers.  Grrrr...

Mini Chocolate Chip Sandwiches from Sing for your Supper
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 t baking soda
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 T vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips (I bought the mini ones)
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.  Sift the flour, baking soda and salt together; set aside.  In another bowl, cream together the melted butter and sugars until well blended.  Beat in the vanilla, egg, and egg yolk until light and creamy. (By the way, I read this 4 times to make sure I read a Tablespoon of vanilla and not a teaspoon...I've never used more than a teaspoon in a recipe!!) Mix in the sifted dry ingredients until just blended.  Stir in the chocolate chips.

Scoop the cookies out and roll into small 1-inch sized balls.  Bake for 7-8 minutes on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.  Cool slightly before moving to a wire rack and cooling completely.

For the frosting:
  • 1 stick butter, room temp
  • 3-4 cups powdered sugar
  • 2-3 T milk
  • 1 t vanilla extract
In a mixing bowl, cream the butter, 1 cup powdered sugar, 1 T milk and the vanilla.  Gradually add the additional powdered sugar and milk until the consistency is smooth and creamy, without being runny.  I think I ended up using all of the milk, but only about 3 cups of powdered sugar.  Stir in food coloring if you'd like at this point.

To assemble the cookie, I used my Wilton back and size 12 tip and piped the frosting on to one cookie, topping with another and rolling the edges in sprinkles.  They are best kept refrigerated and set out about 1/2 an hour before serving to soften.  If you're that patient.  We're not.

I also noticed that I probably over baked mine, since they ended up flatter than Amy's.  But I also refrigerated the dough after the first batch and once the dough was a little colder the cookies seemed to hold up a little better.  Since it is starting to get warm again in Texas, the house tends to heat up pretty quickly with an oven going and that means the dough gets softer.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

On top of spaghetti...

all covered with cheeeeeese!

I can't wait until Cooper giggles at the words for that song.

Sunday, Jason requested spaghetti & meatballs for his birthday dinner.  I realized that I've only made spaghetti & meatballs once before.  We've been together 10 years.  It was a take on this Williams-Sonoma recipe that turned out really good, but was also a huge pain in the butt to make.  This time I decided I'd kind of make it up.  And not stuff it with cheese, because really - that was the hardest (most time-consuming) part.

I did a little asking around, specifically about the cooking process since I wanted to go as low-fat as possible, and was pointed to Alton Brown's recipe.

Spaghetti & Meatballs adapted from Alton Brown
  • 1 lb lean ground beef
  • 1/2 pound sweet Italian turkey sausage links
  • 1/2 onion, chopped fine
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 t dried basil
  • 1 1/2 t dried parsley
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cup dried breadcrumbs, divided
Preheat the oven to 400.  In a large bowl, mix all of the ingredients except 1/2 cup of breadcrumbs.  Roll into 2" sized meatballs and roll in the remaining breadcrumbs.  Place a rack on top of a cookie sheet (or you can use a broiler pan).  Place the meatballs on top of the rack and into the oven.  Bake 20-25 minutes, or until done.

I ended up with right at 30 meatballs.  For that amount, I calculated them at 2 WW points each.  A serving for me was about 4 of them.

We served the meatballs with whole wheat spaghetti and Jason's version of marinara sauce.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Lesson: How to get your baby to eat his vegetables

Cooper likes most vegetables, but he can be pretty picky.  Like with green beans and broccoli...not going to happen.  He'll take one bite and spit it right back out.

He does, however, have a passion for cheese.  My child has eaten more varieties of cheese in his 14 months than I did the in the first 14 years of my life.  If he sees the package of cheese come out of the fridge, he starts reaching and grunting until I hand it over.

This weekend I bough some fresh broccoli and was looking for something different (but healthy) to do with it.  We usually roast it, tossing the broccoli in a little olive oil and balsamic vinegar first.  Or we just steam it topped with a little salt and pepper.  I like it steamed but I wanted something different.  Cue the cheese sauce below.  It is actually a Cooking Light recipe, so score!  I have a love/hate relationship with cheese sauces that start with "stir milk into flour over medium heat."  I usually end up with clumpy flour and non-melted cheese.  This time, though, was a success!  We loved the sauce and it was so easy.

But the best part - Cooper ate his broccoli!  We were hesitant to let him try it, but he was a fan.  Lesson learned.  If you want your baby to eat his vegetables, then cover them in cheese.

The only downside to this recipe is that it makes quite a bit and leftover broccoli isn't that great. 

Broccoli with Cheddar Sauce adapted from Cooking Light
  • 1/2 T flour
  • 1/2 cup skim milk (I ended up adding a little more than 1/2 a cup)
  • 1/4 cup fresh shredded 2% cheddar cheese
  • 2 T grated parmesan cheese
  • about 1/2 t Dijon mustard
  • salt & pepper
  • a pinch of ground thyme
  • steamed broccoli
Place flour into a sauce pan and gradually stir in milk.  Over medium-high heat, stir until milk is smooth and it begins to bubble and thicken.  Continue to heat for an additional minute, stirring constantly.  Remove from the head and stir in remaining ingredients.  Pour over steamed broccoli.

WW PointsPlus: 2 PP per serving

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

More dough...and pizza!

My current "wish list" includes a pasta roller, a single-cup coffee maker, an e-reader...and now a pizza peel.  I'm just not sure where I'm going to store it.

Last week, during the great Arctic Blast of 2011, I threw together a batch of Light Whole Wheat bread dough.  The recipe isn't very clear on how much one batch will yield, but I got about 5 grapefruit sized balls of dough.  I baked one and threw 4 in the freezer.  I pulled one out in the morning and by the time we got home from work it was completely thawed out.

Light Whole Wheat Bread from Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day
  • 3 cups lukewarm water
  • 1 1/2 T yeast
  • 1 1/2 T kosher salt
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 5 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
The directions are the same as this bread recipe.  I divided the recipe in 5 chunks and plugged it into WW, estimating 16pts for one chunk.  So if you're on WW, divide that down for the amount of servings you consume.

The pizza came from this blog.  I didn't follow the recipe exactly, but it turned out pretty good.  The catch is that the dough stuck to the pizza stone.  I'm pretty sure it is because the stone wasn't screaming hot (and the pizza dough wasn't slid onto the stone from a pizza peel or something of the like with flour underneath).  I preheated the oven to 550, as directed by the Artisan Bread cookbook.  I then spread the dough out onto the pizza stone using some flour to keep it from getting too sticky.

Southwestern Chicken Pizza adapted from Proceed with Caution
  • 1 recipe pizza dough
  • 5-6 grilled chicken tenders, chopped (I grill a package of these on Sunday to pack for lunch)
  • tomatillo salsa, about 1/4 cup (I used the jarred stuff, but check out the blog for what looks like a great recipe)
  • chopped cherry tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup black beans, rinsed and drained
  • chopped cilantro
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Spread the pizza dough onto the stone.  Top with salsa, chicken, tomatoes, beans and cilantro.  Bake 10-12 minutes, or until the dough begins to brown on the edges.

The pizza was great, with the exception of it sticking to the stone.  I'm adding it to our rotation - especially since we can throw it together at the last minute.