Sunday, January 30, 2011

A Loaded Question

Now that I'm doing this menu planning thing, I have a whiteboard magnetized onto the fridge with a list of dishes we'll have in the upcoming week, assuming no one gets raptured up. You never know.

I came across this recipe while perusing the Eating Well website. Healthy this, tasty that, quick, etc. Having a total of 5 nieces & nephews, I took a look at the kids' section and jeez, what do people pack in lunch boxes these days??? Broccoli, ham, and pasta salad? Well, color me surprised if it doesn't end up in the trash can.

The kids' dinner recipes looked much more realistic, and I HAD to try to Loaded Baked Potatoes. I made them with sweet potatoes and they were fab. If I were making this on a weeknight I'd probably skip the ground meat and just throw in some diced sandwich ham.

Loaded Twice-Baked (Sweet) Potatoes
Eating Well

4 medium russet (baking, or "Idaho") potatoes - or sweet potatoes
8 ounces 90% lean ground beef (I used ground turkey breast)
1 cup broccoli florets, finely chopped
1 cup water (I used maybe 1/4 cup)
1 cup reduced-fat Cheddar cheese, divided
1/2 cup reduced-fat sour cream
3 scallions (green onions), sliced

Pierce potatoes all over with a fork. Cook in microwave on Medium for about 20 minutes (I was baking anyway and just wrapped my potatoes in foil and threw them in the oven). Or use the "potato" setting on your microwave and follow the manufacturer's direction.

Brown ground meat in a skillet over medium-high heat, stirring often. Transfer cooked meat to a small bowl and set heat on high. Add broccoli florets and water, then put the lid on the skillet - broccoli should steam in 4 minutes or so. Drain the broccoli and add to the meat.

Cut off the top 1/3 of the potatoes and reserve for another use. Scoop out the insides into a medium bowl, and put the potato shells in a baking dish. Add 1/2 cup of cheddar, sour cream, salt, and pepper to potato innards and mash. Add scallions and potato mixture to the broccoli and meat; stir to combine.

Fill potato shells with tasty mixture and top with cheese. Heat in microwave until the cheese melts.

Monday, January 17, 2011

This Army Runs On Her Stomach

This is my busy time of year professionally - well, one of them, anyway. Gotta bring the A-game every day. Gotta not get sick. Gotta think on my feet. Gotta not yell. Gotta gotta.

So what's a girl to do? The magic wand is always "out of stock", Superwoman capes don't match ANY of my suits (some fashionista get on that, please. Call me.), and I have yet to find a way to get professional credit for being a good doggie-mama. Oh, the challenges of the modern woman!

For a few months our better dinners will be on the weekends [actually, that's always true, but the disparity between Weeknight and Weekend is a little more pronounced]. I was cruising through some recipes I wanted to try and came across a sassy little Ellie Krieger number for Jerk Chicken with Cool Pineapple Salsa.

Never content to cook off the rack, I applied my own tailoring. Specifically I substituted tilapia for chicken and bottled jerk sauce for homemade. I had been an unsuspecting victim of a nap attack and, well, time and energy weren't my thing just then.

YAY for me, I had made the pineapple salsa the day before. That actually worked out better for the recipe, since it gave the flavors time to meld and the mint mellowed nicely. I had my doubts about the salsa initially, but the cooling off period worked great and we were able to have a healthy relationship. In fact, we may meet again (leftovers) with salmon tomorrow.

The pineapple salsa recipe is Ellie Krieger's; the rest of it is my daring improv.

3 or 4 tilapia filets (I used the frozen pack from Trader Joe's)
1/4 cup jerk sauce (Atlantans, mine was from DeKalb Farmer's Market)
2 TBSP oil, plus oil for the broiling rack

1. Move oven rack to the center of the oven. Neither fish nor sweetened sauces like to be too close to the heat.

2. Wipe down your broiler pan or rack with an oiled paper towel. This works better than cooking spray.

3. In a small bowl stir together oil and jerk sauce. Olive oil is going to give you an off flavor - vegetable, safflower, or canola oil is a better bet.

4. Place fish on broiler pan/rack and brush with oil and sauce mixture.

5. Broil for 4 minutes on each side.

1 TBSP honey
1 TBSP lime juice
1 cup finely diced pineapple
1/3 cup finely diced, seeded English cucumber (I used regular cucumber and seeds are fine with me)
1 TBSP chopped fresh mint leaves (yes, fresh - you can also add them to ice water for a terrific refresher)

Combine all. Store refrigerated.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

New Year Halo Effect

Let's see.... linen closet organized, healthful snacks, regular workouts. Yup, it's the New Year Halo Effect. And at 41, I'm too cynical to think I can bring this do-goodery and do-wellery back to life at regular intervals throughout the year. I'm totally going to try to keep my kick-ass linen closet in shape, though.

Atlanta had apocalyptic ice this past week. I suspect that our city's snow removal plan includes the phrase "...then the next day, it melts and life goes on." Which is true 95% of the time. HOWEVER. My neighborhood was unpassable - by car - for several days and I finally busted out on foot without busting anything. Yay, yoga balance drills! As my friends on Facebook know, I really did walk 2 1/2 miles in the snow and ice, uphill both ways. [pssst - totally overrated]

But before "cozy" became "claustrophobic" we had this simple, tasty entree one evening. It's not often that Sweetie gives an emphatic "YUM" on the first bite, but this one rated it. I grabbed some "fish in a bag" flounder at the local supermarket for just about $5. Obviously I'll be getting more.

This is SO easy to throw together on a weeknight and any vegetable(s) will make a good side dish.

Deceptively Easy Fish
2 TBSP lemon zest
1 TBSP olive oil
Salt & pepper to taste
2 cloves garlic, crushed
6 pieces flounder, tilapia, or similar (the FIB flounder pieces were small, so plan on 2 or 3 for each adult)

Combine lemon rind, olive oil, salt & pepper, and crushed garlic. Allow to sit for 15 minutes or longer for the oil to absorb the flavor.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Spray baking sheet with cooking spray (I just used baking parchment, it was fine). Put fish on sheet and brush with oil. Bake for 8 minutes or until fish flakes. Serve immediately.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Dressing Up

Tech Girl joined us for Christmas dinner a few weeks ago; we used the Emeril's Caribbean Chicken recipe for turkey and OH MY GOD. It was amazing, and the resulting turkey stock even more so.

Since we've been roasting chicken lately, I needed to dress up the side dishes a little. Plain roast chicken and plain steamed veggies - even if a nice glass of wine is also part of the deal - is just a little austere. Enter Clean Eating (Eating Clean?) magazine - not my usual purchase, because of their use of more ingredients (e.g. "teff flour") than I care to inventory in my kitchen. But they had this keeper of a veggie dish.

Sauteed Green Beans & Carrots with Dill and Horseradish

1 tsp olive oil
1 medium shallot, finely diced
3/4 lb green beans, trimmed (cut in half, if very long)
2 medium carrots, peeled and julienned
1 large orange, zested and juiced, divided
6 - 8 sprigs fresh dill, chopped - about 2 tbsp (I skipped this part)
1- to 2-inch piece horseradish root, peeled and freshly grated (nope - it was way pricey), or 2 TBSP all-natural prepared horseradish (that's more like it)
Salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste

Heat oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Add shallot, beans, and carrots and saute, stirring often, until tender (3 - 4 minutes).

Add orange juice to pan and stir once. Cover pan with lid and steam for about 2 minutes. Remove pan from heat, add orange zest, dill, and horseradish. Season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.