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Sunday
Feb092014

Fiesta Bean Salad with Quinoa (Ensalada Fiesta con Frijoles y Quínoa)

I'm getting ready to teach my first bilingual diabetes cooking class with Latino recipes. In the past six months I've counseled a growing number of Latino patients with newly diagnosed type 2 diabetes. The challenge is that beans and rice is such an important staple of their diets, often eaten 2-3 times a day. Some have made the change to using brown rice instead of white and adding less oil, but they admit it does not taste quite right. I understand this because growing up my family's meals always included a bowl of steamed white rice along with whatever else was served. There are certain dishes where you just can't substitute brown rice for soft fragrant white rice! So my strategy is to offer a different dish entirely but with familiar ingredients. I found this Fiesta Bean Salad recipe on skinnytaste.com, a fantastic blog for healthful and flavorful recipes. It contains beans, vegetables and cilantro, all rich in fiber and phytonutrients, along with the healthful fat of avocados and olive oil to improve absorption of some of the nutrients. There is no rice but I added a small amount of quinoa, a soft-textured whole grain rich in fiber and protein, to offer more nutrients and help mimic the idea of rice and beans.

This quick and easy recipe is perfect as is but I made a few minor changes. I added ~1 cup of cooked quinoa. For the dressing I increased the olive oil to 2 tablespoons to account for the additional grain and added a tablespoon of honey (or you could use Stevia) because the dressing was a tad tart for me. I also used 2 teaspoons of garlic powder instead of the fresh garlic that I forgot to buy. One serving (a little over one cup) provides about 3 1/2 carbohydrate servings, and the inclusion of fiber, protein and healthful fat slows digestion to keep one's blood sugars from spiking.

The result was an incredibly flavorful and yummy vegetarian dish that tastes fantastic warm or at room temperature. Even though it seems like a summer dish, I definitely plan on making this year-round. Hoping and praying that my diabetes class loves it, and that you do too!

Thursday
Jan302014

My Ugly Happy Healthy Wontons

Growing up, my mom would occasionally make wontons. It was rare probably because she didn't enjoy all the wrapping of them. When my brother and I were old enough, we became a little assembly line to help make them. One would wet the wrapper, another would insert the filling, and another would fold. We'd make dozens and it would take hours. Actually I'd forgotten all these details until I tried to make them by myself for the first time this week! I was inspired by a YouTube video with a woman's soothing accent and easy display of creating such beautiful and tasty dumplings. Even though wontons are already pretty healthy, I wanted to go further by using a whole wheat dough, ground turkey instead of pork, and kale as the vegetable.

Well, it sure isn't as easy as it looks and I'll share what I learned with you:

1. For my first try, as in the video, I made my own dough but used whole wheat flour. Mixing the dough was easy enough but rolling out the dough into little circles became tedious. Even more tedious was shaping each wonton. I liked that the fresh dough was pliable and didn't tear; you also didn't have to add water to make the edges stick but I couldn't roll out the dough thinly, so the end result was a too-thick wonton that looked more like Peking ravioli. It also needed more flavor as I didn't add enough salt (I don't like using too much salt but this filling definitely needed it!) and the video didn't suggest herbs or other seasonings.

 

 

 

 

 

 

2. My second attempt I bought ready-made wonton wrappers, which I could only find locally at Whole Foods. They were nice and thin but unfortunately that meant tearing. I wet all four sides of the wrapper with water to make it sticky, placed no more than a teaspoon of filling into the center, and tried to fold in half and then fold down to make a circle (this is shown in Part 2 of the YouTube video). But the wrapper kept tearing or the filling oozed out. So with my main goal now being to keep the filling in, I either made a simple rectangle or random pillow shapes...wondering if my parents would ever eat such ugly wontons!

 

For this filling, I halved the recipe from the video, using a half-pound of lean ground turkey, 5-6 ounces of pre-chopped baby kale (softened in gently boiling water for 7 minutes), a few tablespoons of broth, 1 tablespoon of olive oil, 1 tablespoon of Hoisin sauce, and 2 teaspoons each of onion powder, garlic powder, and red pepper flakes. I mixed and mixed with a spoon until well blended. After shaping the wontons, I slid them all at once into a pot of water boiling on medium-high heat for about 8 minutes.

Thankfully these tasted more like my mom's. The wonton wrappers were SO silky smooth. This texture is such a vital part of the dumpling that I felt a bit silly for attempting a whole wheat version. I noticed that the filling started to slide out of the rectangle wontons, whereas the filling in the uglier folded wontons stayed in place—and you really couldn't see how ugly they were after putting them in a bowl. So I'd encourage you to make a folded more secure shape even if they look terrible before cooking!

Here's a nice tip if you get tired of shaping wontons or have leftover filling: Add 1 egg and 1/4-1/2 cup breadcrumbs (depending on how much filling you have left) to the ground turkey mixture, and mix well. Use a small scoop or tablespoon to shape into meatballs on a baking sheet covered with foil. Heat oven to 400 F and bake for 20-25 minutes or until meat is no longer pink. Serve with rice or pasta. Tastes great!

Sunday
Jan192014

Testing the 1-Minute Microwave Cake

It not only seemed too good to be true but not technically possible. How could something that takes 45 minutes in a hot dry oven cook for 1 minute in a microwave? Those are the recipes I'd pinned, and that I finally wanted to put to rest...or add to my recipe collection, depending on the results! So I tested a 1-minute blueberry muffin and 1-minute cake recipe.

The cake version called for combining one boxed mix of angel food cake with one box of any flavor of regular cake mix you like. The mixes are combined in a sealed container and used as desired. You place 3 tablespoons of the cake mix into a mug and mix well with 2 tablespoons of water, then microwave for exactly 1 minute. The result is a single-serving 100-calorie cake that you can top with fruit, whipped topping, yogurt, etc.

Even my budding 7-year-old chef didn't believe it. He said, "That's silly! How can anything cook that short?" He stood on a chair and stared at the microwave the whole time. When it was done, we both peeked into the mug and were impressed that the batter had indeed turned into cake. It didn't look appetizing as you can see from the photo but at least it cooked through. I topped it with a heaping tablespoon of light Cool Whip and fresh berries. It was sweet and not dry. But it wasn't pleasingly savory and tender like regular cake. It needed the Cool Whip. I think this recipe is handy for people who don't want to keep cake in the house but get that occasional urge for something cake-like. The cake mix will store for a long time and you can garnish with items you likely already have, such as pudding, yogurt and fruit. I love the portion control but the downside is that, at least for me, it didn't satisfy. It offered a few fleeting sweet bites that left me wishing for a handful of cookies, which I did give in to and eat!

The blueberry muffin fared worse, a recipe by Cassey Ho, popular YouTube Pilates instructor. I guess I should have paid attention to a reader's comment left two months ago: "I tried to make this but it ended up very mushy and never browned." That's exactly the result I had—overall mushiness even though I microwaved it for an extra 30 seconds. Parts of the muffin held raw oats and egg. Still, I took a nibble and it tasted eggy and as uncooked as it looked.

Oh well. Guess I'll be returning to my overnight oats, which are just as easy but guaranteed to satisfy!

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