Archive | February, 2011

Fighting Childhood Obesity With Turkey Breast, Jambalaya and Quesadillas..i.e…HOMEMADE MEALS!

22 Feb

So, I was listening to my favorite radio program, NPR’S “Tell Me More” with Michel Martin. On this particular day they were discussing a study that showed that there was a link between working moms and overweight children. You can read the interview here: http://www.npr.org/2011/02/15/133777158/Study-Finds-Link-Between-Working-Moms-Overweight-Kids

My first thought was Ouch! Another shot at the working mom who, like most moms, is just trying to do what she feels necessary for her family. However, I could not help but also think about the children. Being the closeted nerd that I am, I have read articles and listened to countless radio and tv programs discussing study after study showing that our children are having higher rates of juvenile diabetes, cholesterol, and other obesity related diseases. So while I felt the sting of the working mom guilt, I knew that the most important thing is the well-being of our children. 

While I was thinking about this study I thought to myself that this just further proves that we (mothers and fathers) need to try hard at staying away from the fast food and cooking more at home. Now, I must say that I enjoy cooking and when I can really get into it, it is a source of relaxation for me. However, at 5:30pm after a long day of work, when I have just walked into the house and I have a 4.5 year old begging for a snack and a 1.5 year old clutched to my leg like a koala bear, I am as stressed as any mother out there. My husband doesn’t usually get home until a little after 6pm and it is my goal to have dinner on the table no later than 6:45pm. I must also admit that while I do prefer cooking, there are times when I decide to stop at Chick-fil-A.  As the saying goes, it is what it is and we do what we have to do.

However, there is also another saying that I love “Failure To Plan Is A Plan To Fail”. It is with this quote in mind that I try to plan out my meals. I think by taking the time to plan meals for our families, we can help prevent some of the potentials discussed in that study.

Now, I’m not saying that I have a calendar with all 5 days planned out. However, I do try to note in my head or on paper at least 3 meals that I will make during the week. I also try to pick meals that can be made in a larger quantity so we can leftovers the next day.  Finally, one of my secret weapons in the fight against the fast food drive in window is to make dishes (like meats or stews) the night before.  Meats taste better and are more tender if they are allowed to rest and the ingredients in stews (such as my jambalaya below) can better blend together and deliver a tastier dish.

So here are a few ideas for all you busy moms, dads and caregivers, that can help you during the busy work week.

Turkey, Turkey, Turkey!  Roasted turkey breast is one of the easiest items to make.  The recipe is to simply season it and put it in the oven at 400 degrees for 15 minutes and then reduce the heat to 350 degrees for about 45 minutes or until the internal temperature is 165 – 170 degrees.  I like to also use broth to baste the turkey as it keeps it moist.  There, that’s it!  One of my secrets is to make this the night before.  Now you have a turkey breast that you can carve for sandwiches, cube for salads or just eat with your favorite side dish.

 

Above is a shot of the turkey breast after it has been carved.  I also made a very light gravy using 2 cups of broth, a tablespoon of the turkey drippings (don’t tell my husband I use drippings, he despises the idea of drippings used in food.  But what does he know this is my kitchen, haha) and one tablespoon of cornstarch.  In a saucepan just whisk the cornstarch into the hot liquid and viola.  You can adjust the thickness and taste of the gravy by adding more drippings and cornstarch. 

Above is the same turkey, now it is cubed.  Along with some fresh veggies and we turn that into…(see below)

A Yummy Turkey Cobb Salad in a tostada bowl.  The recipe is simply all of the items (cubed turkey, cucumbers, tomatoes, avocado, cucumber, cheese) shown in the above picture and lettuce inside of a tostada bowl.  The dressing I used is a mixture of equal parks guacamole (or you could just mash some avocado) and parmesan ranch dressing. 

Now to the left is a shot of my famous Quesadillas.  Well, they are not really famous but they are a staple in my home.  Now the trick with good quesadillas is to find great tortilla wraps.  You want some that are pliable and not dry.  I find that Trader Joes has the best tortilla wraps.  Their handmade tortilla wraps are never dry and they fold easily.  Now for this recipe it is simply the tortillas and cheese on a hot pan.  Actually, I have stuffed the two closed quesadillas with tomatoes.  You can stuff it with veggies, meat or anything you desire.  I like to spray the pan with Pam and once it is hot put the tortilla on it.  Then I add cheese to half of it and once it starts to melt I fold it.  I then flip it so it is golden brown on both sides.

My final exhibit is below.  It is actually a version on Jambalaya.  It is simply shrimp, chicken & turkey sausage in a tomato & chicken broth sauce.  I also added onions and served it with rice and a few quesadilla wedges.  You can also add corn, peppers or any number of veggies.  Here is a link to a more detailed recipe for jambalaya  http://www.gottarubit.com/2010/12/gottarubit-jambalaya/ .  This freezes well and taste even better the next day. This is another great dish to make the night before.

So I hope these dishes will inspire people to cook more at home and fight the urge to visit the place where you hear “May I take your order please”.  LOL, Bon Appetit!

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A TABLE FOR TWO, WITH DINNER PREPARED BY YOU. HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY!

8 Feb

Valentine’s Day is one of the most popular date nights of the year. It’s the special day when couples can get dressed up in their latest appealing finery, sit across a table from each other and emote love for one another. Maybe there will be quick kisses or hand holding and even timid, shy glances, barely seen through the soft glow of the candlelight that flicker in the middle of the table. Or, maybe the date is spent at a play, dancehall or concert. The choices are endless for those wanting to celebrate their love with a night on the town.

However, maybe you are interested in staying home, making your own special dinner and checking out the latest video via Netflix. Personally, that’s what I like to do. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the idea of Valentine’s Day. And, I absolutely love going out to a nice restaurant and having a wonderful dinner. If you know me or even from reading my posts so far, you know that I take the art of “wine & dine” quite seriously. Good food, great ambiance and impeccable service are all things I enjoy immensely when dining out. Which, may be the reason I just prefer not to have a romantic dinner in a restaurant on the busiest day of the year. So, for the last few years I have made my own special meal.

THE MENU

So for this year I might try something different. I’m feeling inspired by a Hawaii themed restaurant I recently went to. Therefore, I’ve decided that the main course will be Mahi Mahi with a fruit salsa on a bed of garlic spinach. As a side dish I will add some of Wegmans Golden Jewel Blend (A blend of Israeli Couscous, Tri-Colored Orzo Pasta, Split Baby Garbanzo Beans & Red Quinoa). I’m thinking the colors will be quite pretty on a white plate. My hubby is not really into desserts. So instead of a dessert I’m going to serve this dinner with a special drink. You can’t have a special dinner without a special drink. So this year the drink will be ……French Martini. It’s sweet, it’s red and it has champagne in it. If that doesn’t say Valentine’s Day, then what does?

INGREDIENTS & RECIPE

1 bag of spinach
1/2 cup of chicken or vegetable broth

1/2 a package of Wegmans Golden Jewel Blend
1 cup of chicken or vegetable broth
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
1-2 Tablespoon Shredded Parmesan Cheese (Optional)

4 3-4oz pieces of fresh Mahi Mahi
Pan Searing Flour
Salt & Pepper
2 Tablespoon Olive Oil
1 Tablespoon Basting Oil

1/4 Cup Mango
1/4 Cup Granny Smith Apple
1/4 Cup Red Onion
1 Tablespoon Chopped Cilantro
1/2 Tablespoon Lime juice
1/2 Tablespoon Olive Oil
1-2 Tablespoon Orange Juice
1 Teaspoon combined salt & pepper

THE DRINK (French Martini)

2 Shots of Chambord
2 Shots of Vanilla Vodka
2 Shots of Pineapple Juice
A splash of chilled Champagne

DIRECTIONS

1st place fish in a large ziplock bag. Pour the Basting Oil over the fish and lightly season with salt & pepper. Be careful not to over season as the pan searing flour has seasoning already in it. Let fish marinate for 10-15 minutes.

Then chop all of your fruit and onions into small cubes. Add in chopped cilantro, lime juice, olive oil, orange juice and salt and pepper. Stir, making sure all ingredients are well blended. Cover and refrigerate.

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.

Take your fish and coat with the pan searing flour. In a non-stick pan heat the oil. Once oil is hot, place fish in pan and sear fish until it is a light golden brown on both sides (about 3 minutes on each side). Remove fish from skillet and place in another pan (or do what I do and use aluminum foil) and put into the oven. Let cook for about 10-15 minutes or until fish has an internal temperature of 140 degrees.

While fish is continuing to cook in the oven, you can start on the pasta. Bring 1cup of broth to boil. Add in the 1 tablespoon of oil and the Parmesan Cheese. Then add the Wegmans Golden Jewel Blend. Bring to a boil and then turn down to a simmer and cook for 10-12 minutes.

Since the spinach takes the least amount of time it is the last item you will work on. Pour the 1/2 cup of broth into the skillet and once it starts to simmer add spinach. Cook spinach until just wilted.

Now that dinner is pretty much almost done, don’t forget to make the special drink. (I won’t forget as it is my favorite part, haha)

Mix the Chambord, Vodka & Pineapple Juice in a shaker with about 1 cup of ice cubes. Pour the drink into two chilled martini glasses. Leave about a 1/4 inch of space for the Champagne. Then top off the drink with the chilled Champagne. (Note: I suggest you buy the mini bottle of Champagne so you are not wasting an entire bottle for this recipe).

Ok, so finally you are ready to plate everything up.  Take your steaming fish out of the oven and add the beautiful multicolored fruit salsa on top of it.  Add your a heaping serving of the superfood otherwise known as spinach and then add a serving of the pasta on the side.  Serve with a chilled glass of the French Martini and enjoy.

Now, to make this a really special event you can dress your table with pretty linens and even add some beautiful flowers. However, I must admit, I just scrubbed all of the remnants of my kids arts and crafts off of our kitchen table and said Bon Appetit to my hubby….and kids. Yes, the kids shared the special meal with us. Only their special drink was simply pineapple juice. Hey, Valentine’s Day is for the ones you love and just like my husband, my kiddies are certainly my loves! 

                                                                                         BON APPETIT & HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY

Yummy, Quick & Easy Seasoned Chicken Strips

4 Feb

Yummy, Quick & Easy Seasoned Chicken Strips

Who doesn’t love perfectly seasoned chicken that’s moist and full of flavor? Usually, crispy fried chicken is the perfect way to satisfy that craving. However, sometimes you want the flavor without all of the calories. So try this recipe and who knows, you may never want to go back to traditional fried chicken again!

 This is a great recipe to add to your collection because it is EASY & QUICK!  It is also quite versatile.  The strips are great inside of a hoagie roll with your favorite fixings, cut up as “nuggets” for your child’s lunch or on top of a salad.  Try adding a peanut sauce if you want more of a Thai flavor.  Or, make several batches of these for your next big party (mmm Superbowl anyone) and serve with several different sauces.  Either way, use your imagination to make a great dish that many will enjoy.

I like to use Chicken Tenderloins for this recipe because they are, as their name suggests, tender. However, Chicken Breast cut into 2 inch strips work just as well. I also use Pan Searing Flour because it is already seasoned and gives the chicken a bit of a crispy coating. I have only been able to buy it at  Wegmans. So if you do not have it at hand, you can just use regular flour. One other thing I prefer is Garlic Flavored Olive Oil. However, non flavored EVOO (Extra Virgin Olive Oil) works just as well.

Ingredients

1lb Chicken Tenders

2 Tablespoons Pan Searing Flour

1 Teaspoon Paprika

2 Teaspoons Seasonings

1 Tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon EVOO

1 Tablespoon fresh garlic

1 Tablespoon fresh or dried herbs

In a large bowl, lightly season the chicken with your favorite chicken Seasonings (Lemon-pepper, Seasoned Salt or Salt & Pepper) and the dried herbs. Also, add 1teaspoon of the EVOO. Mix everything so that the chicken is evenly coated in the oil & seasoning. Be careful not to over season the meat as the Pan Searing Flour already has seasoning in it. Let the chicken marinate for 15-20 minutes.  Place the strips on a large cutting board & lightly coat the chicken with the Pan Searing Flour.

In a large non-stick skillet, heat 1 tablespoon EVOO & add the garlic. Once the oil is hot, place the chicken strips in the skillet. Let the chicken cook for about 3-5 minutes on each side or until the internal temperature is 165 degrees.

Once done, remove the chicken from the skillet & place on a paper towel lined plated to absorb any excess oil. These strips are great by themselves, or served as the entrée (as shown below) along with your favorite side dishes for dinner.  Bon Appetit!