I am so tired of serving rice as a side dish to virtually everything I make. It's really worn out it's welcome on my table, but at the same time I can't seem to find a viable carbo-rific substitute that everyone (read: Scott) likes. I've tried couscous, polenta, rice noodles, egg noodles - and I've also tried leaving the starch off the plate which is met by gasps of incredulity and a rush to the cereal box before nine o'clock. I have accepted that my husband is a protein-and-starch kind of guy - and more meat-and-potatoes than salmon-and-quinoa, at that.
So I thought about potstickers. They have a starchy, side-dish kinda vibe going on, at least in my head, and I thought it would be an interesting way to hide some vegetables on his plate. The idea was sparked by a beautiful head of local purple cabbage in the produce section, and I used my new trusty iPhone to call up an Alton Brown recipe RIGHT THERE IN THE STORE and I'll be damned if I didn't bump into like eight people but I actually GOT ALL THE INGREDIENTS. Which is worth the dirty looks.
Someone online posted this recipe for Sriracha-Glazed Chicken Thighs the other day, and since all it takes is a mention of sriracha or chili-garlic sauce to set my mouth watering, I knew I had to make it. Disclaimer: it IS spicy. Too spicy for the husbland, who chose to have his thighs coated with Sweet Baby Ray's Honey BBQ sauce instead. His CHICKEN thighs, people! Get the heads out of that gutter (unless it's my gutter and you're in the process of cleaning it out. In which case, proceed with all due haste).
Sriracha Glazed Chicken Thighs
2/3 cup mango jam (I used peach preserves)
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh chives
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons Sriracha
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 (12-ounce) bone-in skinless chicken leg-thigh quarters
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1. Heat grill, leaving one burner off.
2. Combine preserves, chives, vinegar, and Sriracha, stirring until smooth. Reserve 1/4 cup mango/peach mixture; set aside.
3. Brush oil evenly over chicken. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper.
4. Place chicken on grill rack over unheated part. Brush chicken with about 2 tablespoons remaining sriracha glaze.
5. Plate chicken, and top with a few spoonfuls of the glaze.
Now for the veggie potstickers. Alton's recipe called for cubes of tofu, which I really didn't feel like wrangling with. Tofu is one of those things that I'll eat outside the house (especially if it's tempura-battered and crispy), but I'm not all for making it at home. So I left it out. I also left out the hoisin sauce, as we all know how I feel about that product.
Vegetarian Steamed Dumplings
1/2 pound firm tofu
1/2 cup coarsely grated carrots
1/2 cup shredded Napa cabbage
2 tablespoons finely chopped red pepper
2 tablespoons finely chopped scallions
2 teaspoons finely minced fresh ginger
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro leaves
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Bowl of water, plus additional water for steamer
35 to 40 small wonton wrappers
Non-stick vegetable spray, for the steamer
1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees F.
2. Cut the tofu in half horizontally and lay between layers of paper towels. Place on a plate, top with another plate, and place a weight on top (a 14-ounce can of vegetables works well). Let stand 20 minutes.
3. After 20 minutes, cut the tofu into 1/4-inch cubes and place in a large mixing bowl. Add the carrots, cabbage, red pepper, scallions, ginger, cilantro, soy sauce, hoisin, sesame oil, egg, salt, and pepper. Lightly stir to combine.
4. To form the dumplings, remove 1 wonton wrapper from the package, covering the others with a damp cloth. Brush the edges of the wrapper lightly with water. Place 1/2 rounded teaspoon of the tofu mixture in the center of the wrapper. Shape as desired. Set on a sheet pan and cover with a damp cloth. Repeat procedure until all of the filling is gone.
5. Using a steaming apparatus of your choice, bring 1/4 to 1/2-inch of water to a simmer over medium heat. Spray the steamer's surface lightly with the non-stick vegetable spray to prevent sticking. Place as many dumplings as will fit into a steamer, without touching each other. Cover and steam for 10 to 12 minutes over medium heat. Remove the dumplings from the steamer to a heatproof platter and place in oven to keep warm. Repeat until all dumplings are cooked.
So yeah, this recipe was kind of a pain in the you-know-what. The dumplings turned out okay, but even halving the filling recipe I had a ton leftover and I really only wanted to make a few dumplings. They were yummy, especially dipped in a soy and scallion dipping sauce, but I don't know that I'll attempt them again - unless of course they are filled with ground pork and fried, in which case, SIGN ME UP.
I have been (slooooowly) trying to incorporate more fish into our weekly repertoire. Scott is, to put it mildly, not a huge fan of fish, although his horizons have been gradually expanding to include things beyond shrimp and scallops. He's a huge fan of lobster and crab, and after being served lots of freshly-caught, grilled mahi-mahi in Costa Rica, he developed a bit of a liking for that fish as well.
(It would be better for us all here to not mention our Turkish fish experience, which included lots of bones and a couple of eyeballs - on my plate. Scott managed to get away with a nice fillet of bonito - tuna - which he seemed to actually enjoy! I still don't know what kind of fish I had, but I bet you anything he was swimming about three hours before I ate him)
So Wegman's has recently (I think) begun selling these great two-packs of different fish fillets - they have mahi-mahi, Alaskan halibut, sockeye salmon, Chilean sea bass and orange roughy, which is fantastic because they are not only manageable portions but they are Frozen At Sea (FAS), which is a designation that you should always look for when purchasing frozen fish. I like buying fish like this because we don't have a real fishmonger (oh, I love that word) in our town and this lets me keep it on ice until we're bold enough to use it.
Oh, and BONUS! This recipe is easy peasy. And the whole thing (with the salsa) is approx. 5 Points.
Mahi Mahi Kebabs with Tropical Salsa
For the salsa:
2 cups diced mango
1 cup diced pineapple
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 to 1 jalapeño, seeded and minced
1/2 cup chopped red onion
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
For the fish:
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 pounds mahi mahi steaks, cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes
1. Combine all salsa ingredients in a bowl; cover and chill.
2. Stir together soy sauce, honey and ginger in a shallow bowl. Add mahi mahi chunks; cover and chill at least 30 minutes.
3. Thread fish on soaked bamboo skewers. Grill, covered with lid, over medium-high heat (350° to 400°) 5 minutes on each side or until done. Serve with salsa mixture.
I served this with some super-thin rice noodles that I mixed with sweet Thai chili sauce. But for some reason, the noodles were a soggy mass of goo that wasn't appetizing at all. Maybe I'll cook them for less time on the next go-round? And the green beans weren't working for me either. That's what you get for rushing dinner to try and get to poker night, only to get a flat tire on the way there. (Bonus - I tied for first and won $70!)
I highly recommend making this salsa and serving it with just about anything - it's sweet, but the jalapeno and the lime give it enough of a kick that the sweetness doesn't overwhelm. Fish, chicken, tacos, even just some tortilla chips - hell, I was eating it with a fork out of the container. I bought pre-cut mango chunks from the grocery store and then put the salsa back in that container, which worked out wonderfully because a) it stayed fresh for quite a while, and b) it gave me dreams about packaging and selling "Kate's Famous Mango Salsa".
Oh, and I cut this recipe in half and cut the salsa mix in something like a quarter, and it was fine. Just eyeball it and taste along the way.
Sometimes we just get busy and life takes over, and one of the first things to go out the window is dinner. So I'm going to throw out a few suggestions for simple dinners that can be made even when you don't have much of anything in the house and just do not have the time or energy to hit up the grocery store.
One of my favorites is risotto. And I know what you're thinking. Um, risotto? An easy, I-don't-want-to-cook meal? Well, truth is it might take a little longer than tossing a Lean Cuisine into the microwave, but it can usually be made with things you have in the pantry and it's certainly comfort food. Risotto, to me, is like the dinner equivalent of Cream of Wheat cereal. Filling, stick-to-your-ribs, and just really freaking good.
Ever since I've stopped being so anal about my risotto, it's tasted better! I read in Everyday Food that, contrary to popular belief, you DON'T have to stir the damn thing until your arm falls off, and that miraculously enough, the addition of your salty tears to the thickening rice is not a required ingredient. Who knew?
Simple Weeknight Risotto for Two
1 cup Arborio rice (don't try this with Uncle Ben's Steam-in-Bag. It won't work. I promise you.)
1 carton chicken stock (You'll want at least 3-4 cups, although you may not use it all.)
1/2 a medium yellow onion, chopped
1/4 cup white wine
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
Salt and Pepper
1. Coat the bottom of a medium saucepan with olive oil, and saute the chopped onion until tender. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, heat your chicken stock.
2. Add the rice to the onion and oil, stirring until rice begins to look translucent, about 2 minutes.
3. Add the wine to the rice and onion mixture, and stir until wine is absorbed (if you don't have wine, just use a little stock).
3. Add roughly 1 cup of warmed chicken stock. Stir into rice over medium-low heat, and then let sit until most of the liquid is absorbed. Stir occasionally.
4. When the first cup of liquid is absorbed, add another and repeat Step 3. Continue doing this until rice is at desired consistency - it should be soft and tender, but still retain it's shape and a bit of a bite.
5. Stir in most of the parmesan cheese and about a tablespoon of butter.
At this point, you can pretty much throw in whatever you like. I like to caramelize some zucchini, add some baby peas, and then stir that all in at the end. For some protein, add chopped cooked chicken or some sliced prosciutto. Or, toss in a few different types of mushroom (I like maitake). It takes a little bit of time, but it's a simple recipe and it's so worth the effort.
I made this Monday, and simply heated some frozen baby peas to add to the mixture. Simple, easy, and filling. Also, a terrible picture, but you get the idea.
Another favorite, and a go-to lunch meal for me, is Healthy Buffalo Chicken Salad. I know, I know, this sounds like an oxymoron. And if you've ever been the lucky recipient of a Buffalo Chicken Salad (which, irritatingly and incomprehensibly, is often labeled on menus as a "Buffalo Chix Salad"), you've no doubt been confronted by strips of crunchy, deep-fried chicken, in a salad heaped with shredded cheese, creamy and chunky blue cheese dressing, and enough fat grams to even make Paula Deen surrender in agony.
My version, friends, is much much better. And I find it to be a good cure for the "I want chicken wings!" blues. These strike me frequently. MUCH too frequently.
Healthy Buffalo Chicken Salad for Two
8 oz. raw chicken strips, cut into 1-inch chunks
1 oz. block Maytag blue cheese
2-3 cups greenleaf romaine lettuce
1/4 of a red onion, sliced thinly
1/4 cup carrot matchsticks (which I buy precut, 'cause I'm lazy, but you can feel free to chop up a carrot or two yourself. Overacheiver.)
Frank's RedHot Buffalo Wing Sauce
1. Coat a small saute pan with olive oil or cooking spray and saute the chicken over medium-high heat. When chicken is almost cooked through, add about 2 tbsp of Wing Sauce and toss to coat. Let chicken cook in sauce until cooked through.
2. Meanwhile, chop your romaine into bite-size pieces. Place in bowl with carrot matchsticks and sliced onion.
3. Drizzle wing sauce over the veggies as your dressing.
4. Crumble the blue cheese and scatter liberally over the salad. Top with cooked chicken.
Because you're not using "dressing", this salad wins lots of points for healthfulness. And because you've got the creamy hunks of Maytag blue, you won't miss it at all. If you must, add a little bit of olive oil or red wine vinegar to make the salad feel less naked, but I confess to being the biggest dressing freak in the world and I don't think you need it. I just don't!
This salad clocks in at 4 Weight Watchers Points, meaning you can enjoy it with a nice hunk of bread, some soup, or even a glass of wine. Why not?
So as I've mentioned before, Wednesday night is Bowling Night for us, and I like to have something easy and ready to go, something that doesn't take a whole lot of time to prepare in the evenings. Slow-cooker meals are perfect for this, because you toss some stuff in the pot in the morning, forget about it for like 6 hours, and then voila! You have dinner!
I was craving some comfort food, but I also wanted to keep it figure-friendly. I stumbled across this recipe on a WeightWatchers message board, and everyone was raving about how much they loved it, and almost as importantly, how much their non-dieting husbands loved it. So I decided to give it a go.
Wow, were they right on the money. This tasted like the incredible filling of a chicken pot pie, without the pie. And you could easily serve it over some biscuits and get the full pot pie effect. I know, it's not the best picture, but I promise, it was great.
Smothered Buttermilk Chicken (5 points)
1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts or thighs, cut into halves
3 medium carrots -- sliced (I used a half-cup of baby carrots and chopped them)
1/3 cup onion -- chopped
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 bay leaf
1 package roasted chicken gravy mix, like McCormick's.
1/3 cup buttermilk
2 teaspoons flour
1 cup frozen peas
1. In a 4 to 6 quart crock pot, combine chicken, carrots, onion, water, butter, salt, pepper and bay leaf; mix well.
2. Cover; cook on low setting for 6 to 8 hours or on high setting for 3 to 4 hours.
3. About 20 minutes before serving, stir gravy mix into crock pot. Remove and discard bay leaf.
4. In a measuring cup, blend buttermilk and flour until smooth. Stir flour mixture and peas into chicken; mix well.
5. Cover, increase heat to high; cover and cook an additional 25-20 minutes or until peas are cooked.
6. Serve with rice or biscuits (don't forget to add the points!).
I used a wooden spoon to pull the chicken apart and shred it a little bit before serving, which I thought worked out wonderfully and made it like a chicken stew. I did add a little bit of water at the end to thin it out a little bit, because it was really thick. This is some stick-to-your-ribs comfort food.
I had a few ears of corn left over from yesterday, so I made the corn and shallot dish again - see yesterday's post for the recipe.
This is a recipe I found on the Martha Stewart website while trolling for more things to grill. I had been toying with the idea of grilling up a pork tenderloin, maybe with some pineapple, when I found this menu, which also featured pork and fruit and sounded really yummy.
I have to say, it was just okay. I'm not sure if it was the sweetness of the sauce that I wasn't crazy about, or maybe the consistency, but it reminded me of peach baby food. There wasn't enough bite or acidity to it, and I think if I make this again, I'll try to tweak the sauce recipe a bit. I also decided to baste the pork in the sauce while it was grilling, which made a mess of my beautiful grill grates. Mistake!
Grilled Pork Chops with Peach-Tomato Barbecue Sauce (6 points)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 one-inch piece ginger, peeled and grated
1 1/2 cups canned tomato sauce
1/2 cup peach jam, preferably homemade (hahahaha, gotta love that Martha! homemade!)
2 ripe peaches, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch chunks
1 tablespoons to 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
Salt and freshly ground pepper
4 pork chops, 6 to 8 ounces each, trimmed of excess fat
(Note: I halved this recipe and it turned out just fine.)
1. Heat olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the chopped onion, and cook until translucent, about 2 minutes. Add the minced garlic and the ginger; cook about 2 minutes more.
2. Stir in tomato sauce, peach jam, and peaches. Reduce heat to low; simmer until sauce thickens, about 30 minutes. Stir in vinegar to taste. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Remove from heat; let cool.
3. Pour half the barbecue sauce into a shallow baking dish; add the pork chops, turning to coat both sides. Reserve remaining sauce.
4. Grill pork chops on a medium-hot grill or grill pan until chops are well marked and cooked through, at least 5 minutes per side. Baste chops with barbecue sauce; rotate during cooking. Remove from grill. Let stand about 10 minutes before serving. Serve with remaining sauce.
Fresh Corn with Shallots (2 points)
I decided to tweak Martha's recipe for Summer Rice and Corn Pilaf, and just do the corn part. It turned out fantastic, which is probably owing in part to the fact that the corn, sweet white local corn, was fantastic. So, uh, I guess results may vary?
2 ears corn, kernels shaved off
1 shallot, thinly sliced
1/2 tsp sea salt
Pinch of sugar
1 Tbsp butter
1. Melt butter in a large saute pan.
2. Add corn kernels and shallots, along with salt and sugar. Add freshly ground pepper to taste.
3. Saute about five minutes on medium-high heat until corn is cooked and slightly softened, but with a bit of a bite.
What are haricot vert? They are simply a very thin type of green bean that happens to have a fancy French name. So instead of chefs having to put the humble "garlicky green beans" on their menu, they can say "haricot vert with whole garlic cloves roasted with olive oil and sea salt". Voila! Instant marketing.
I simply made a little pouch out of heavy-duty tinfoil, and tossed about 30 beans with a few whole garlic cloves, some olive oil and some sea salt, sealed the packet and put it on the grill for about 15 minutes. The beans were overcooked - they had lost their pretty bright green color - but tasted phenomenal. This would be great with squeeze of lemon.