Healthy


So we here at Kitchen Confit realize that we haven’t posted in a while.   A combination of vacation, school, family and life in general caught up with all of us. When that happens it is hard enough to remember to cook, let alone post.  But now we’re back and we’ll do better!  Besides it’s fall – that means there are wonderful new foods to cook.  As I’ve mentioned before, fall to me is apples.  Usually the first apple recipe I make in the fall is homemade applesauce – and this year was no exception.

When I was growing up, I don’t think I tasted store-bought applesauce until I went to school.  My mother made homemade applesauce all through the fall and froze it so that it lasted well into the winter.  The homemade stuff was rosy pink, tangy and sweet without being sugary.   Compared to Mom’s applesauce, the store-bought kind  is pasty and pale and way too sweet.  I find it amazing that so many people actually eat the store-bought kind – I always figure that when they realize how easy and good homemade applesauce is, they’ll never buy Motts again.

The only special equipment you need is a food mill.  I’ve made applesauce before with a potato ricer, and if you peel the apples you could even use a food processor to mash them up.  But really, you don’t want to peel the apples – it is too much work and the peels give the finished product this wonderful pink tint.  Just buy a food mill – they’re relatively cheap and it makes the whole applesauce thing as easy as turning a crank.

So you’ve got your food mill.  The rest of the recipe is simple.  Get a stock pot (I used an 8 quart aluminum one).  Get some apples (for this batch, I used a combination of three kinds – Cortlands, Romas, and Johnsons – but feel free to mix it up with different apple varieties appropriate for applesauce).  Cut the apples into quarters and core them.  Throw the apples into the pot; add a bit of water, cider, or liquid of your choice; cover and set over medium heat for 30 minutes.  Stir a few times, so that apples at the top go the bottom, but generally just let the apples become mushy.  After 30 minutes remove the pot from the heat and run the mushy apples through the food mill.  Voila – you have warm, yummy applesauce.

At this point, you could freeze some of the sauce; to defrost, just let it sit in the fridge over night.  I’m actually not sure how long it lasts in the fridge – we always eat it up long before it could go bad.  As for how to serve it,  well, my mom always served it straight up, but I like a little nutmeg and cinnamon.  If you like your applesauce on the sweet side you could also add a tablespoon or so of sugar.  Just be sure to do it while warm – that way the sugar will dissolve seamlessly into the sauce.  But really, as long as the apples are ripe and in season, you won’t need sugar.  And the end product is just so much better than anything you could ever buy, I can guarantee you’ll be making this every weekend come the fall.  Just like mom.

Mom’s Applesauce

Ingredients:

10-12 pounds of apples – or enough to fill up a large stock pot when quartered and cored.

1/2 c. to 1 c. of water

Directions:

Fill up a large stock pot with quartered and cored apples.  If the apples are firm and crisp you might want to cut them into smaller pieces.  Depending on how juicy the apples are add 1/2 cup to 1 cup of water to the pot.  Cover and cook over medium heat for approximately 30 minutes.   Stir several times so the apples evenly cook.  After the apples are mushy remove from the heat.  Run the mushy apple mixture through a food mill.  Store the finished applesauce in a covered container in the refrigerator.

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Greek Salad with Orzo and Black-Eyed Peas

Have I cooked dinner all week? No. Do I come home, eat pizza, and lie on the sofa watching Seinfeld? Yes, yes, and yes. I am a poor excuse for a girl who fancies herself as a foodie. It’s been a lazy week, but I have the perfect lazy, summertime recipe to share with you. This salad is a no-cook (except for the orzo) dish that completely blew my expectations out of the water. When I first saw it, I immediately wanted to try it, but I thought it was going to be your average pasta salad — tasty but nothing especially stellar. I was wrong.

Sliced English Cucumber

The salad has quickly become our new favorite dish. It makes for the perfect dinner on steamy summer nights. I don’t know about you but I’m not much in the mood to stand over a hot stove this time of the year. Plus it’s light and the perfect depository for all of those lovely vegetables you bring home from the farmers’ market wondering what to do with them.

It gets better.

The salad (minus the romaine) keeps beautifully overnight. What was a delicious dinner one night becomes the perfect lunch for the next day. The flavors mingle together to become one very tasty dish.

Chopped Heirloom Tomatoes

Given how easy this is to toss together, I have no excuse for my couch potato ways. And it’s done long before the pizza guy can deliver the goods.

Greek Salad with Orzo and Black-Eyed Peas
Adapted from Gourmet, August 2008

3/4 cup orzo
1 (15 oz) can black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed
1 large tomato, diced (1 cup)
2 Tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley
2 Tbsp red-wine vinegar
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 seedless cucumber, halved lengthwise, cored, and diced (1 cup)
1/2 cup pitted Kalamata olives, slivered
1/3 cup thinly sliced red onion
1 tsp grated lemon zest
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp finely chopped oregano
2 to 3 cups coarsely chopped romaine
1/2 lb feta, crumbled (1 cup)
4 to 8 peperoncini

1. Cook orzo according to package instructions. Drain in a sieve and rinse under cold water until cool. Drain well.
2. Toss all ingredients together except romaine, feta, and peperoncini. Marinate for approximately 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
3. Place mixture over romaine and top with feta and peperoncini.

I know. I have been on quite a seafood kick lately, but it is summer and I love grilled seafood, so bear with me. Beside all the delicious baking my fellow Kitchen Confit bloggers are doing, a little fish in the diet can’t hurt. Whenever I am in the store, I always drop by the fish counter to see what is fresh and what is affordable. Recently, I got a couple of really nice pieces of Sea Bass and had the miso leftover from my Chicken Soba Noodle Soup, so a Miso Glazed Sea Bass was on the menu for dinner.

H and I have been trying to cook enough at night to have leftovers to take for lunch in the morning. It has worked out well so far and it helps us control our portion sizes…well at least a little better than we used to. When I started to look for a recipe, I remember from an episode of Top Chef where the winner used Sea Bass a microwave cooking challenge, so I hoped it would work out well for me too.

Of course, as usual, I did not start to look for a recipe until I started to cook. Once I found one, I realized we did not have any sake in the house. So back to google to quickly look for a substitute for sake. A lot of the suggestions indicated rice vinegar would work, so I crossed my fingers and hoped for the best.

I was not sure how long to let it marinade, so I decided to let it sit while I washed and cooked some short grain white rice. It ended up being about 45 minutes. After letting the Sea Bass rest in the marinade for 45 minutes, it was ready for a quick trip under the broiler. I know I started out tempting you with thoughts of flame grilled fish, but of course, by the time JC was in bed, I found a recipe, realized I did not have sake, found a decent substitute, and started to cook, it was raining outside…so no grilled sea bass tonight. I placed the pieces into a small pan removing most of the marinade. While the fish broiled, I reduced the marinade in a saucepan until it was about half or so.

I served the sea bass with some green beans and rice. After a delicious dinner, there was plenty leftover for lunch. The next day after a minute in the microwave, it made a great lunch. H can’t wait for me to make it again.  The sea bass did in fact reheat in the microwave beautifully.

Miso Glazed Sea Bass

Adapted from Bon Appétit | January 2000 Makes 4 servings

1/3 cup Sake
1/3 cup Mirin
1/3 cup White Miso
1 tablespoon Brown Sugar
2 tablespoons Honey
2 tablespoons Soy Sauce
1 1/2 pounds Sea Bass Fillets

Mix together the Sake, Mirin, Miso, Brown Sugar, Honey, and Soy Sauce. It works best to use a whisk to make sure the miso is well mixed. Pour the glaze over the sea bass and let it rest for 45 minutes in the refrigerator.

Preheat broiler. Remove fish from marinade. Place fish on rimmed baking sheet. With broiler door slightly open, broil fish 6 inches from heat source until just opaque in center, about 6 minutes. Transfer to plates.

While the fish is under the broiler, pour the marinade into a sauce pan, and bring it to a boil. Reduce the marinade until reaches your desired consistency. Drizzle over the fish. Serve with rice and vegetables.

Chopped Spring Vegetables

I have this weird love of all things pickled. The addition of a vinegary bite to crisp vegetables makes them even better in my mind. And while I will buy pickles by the boatload at the store, I’ve never tried my hand at making them at home. I’ll be honest – it’s the fear that I will unleash toxic botulism into innocent cucumbers, which will inevitably lead to the headline “Home Cook killed by Pickles’ that keeps me from trying home pickling.

PepperCarrottsAsparagus

Until, that is, I ran across a recipe for Spring Giardiniera in a Cooking Light cookbook. I’ve been trying in vain to eat healthier and this recipe had vegetables out the ying yang. And not only vegetables, but pickled vegetables. Rather than scare me by requiring me to sterilize every inch of kitchen, the recipe only called for a brief (8 hours) pickling period in a big zip lock bag. So I shook loose my fear of botulism and bad press and gave in to the alluring appeal of pickling.

Garlic ClovesBay leafDill

If you merely read the first sentence of the recipe ‘combine first 8 ingredients in a large Dutch oven and bring to a boil’ it all seems pretty straightforward, but it does not begin to convey how the smell of boiling vinegar will permeate every corner of your home nor how the vapors will bring tears to your eyes. This should not dissuade you from trying this recipe; just perhaps save it for a day where the windows in your home can be thrown open and a nice breeze will usher fresh air through your kitchen.

Boiling hot pickling liquid

The rest of the recipe is easy. Put chopped veggies in a ziplock bag, pour in liquid, let sit in a the refrigerator for 8 hours. What comes out is perfectly pickled spring vegetables – a nice healthy snack without even a hint of botulism.

Spring Giardiniera

Spring Giardiniera

Recipe adapted from Cooking Light

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups cider vinegar
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon dried dill
2 bay leaves
2 cups small cauliflower florets
2 cups (3-inch) diagonally cut asparagus
1 1/2 cups green beans, trimmed (about 8 ounces)
1 cup (1/4-inch) diagonally cut carrot
1 cup red bell pepper strips
6 green onion bottoms, trimmed
4 garlic cloves, halved

Preparation
Combine first 8 ingredients in a large Dutch oven. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer 3 minutes. Arrange cauliflower and remaining ingredients in a large heavy-duty zip-top plastic bag. Carefully pour vinegar mixture over cauliflower mixture.Seal bag and refrigerate 8 hours or overnight, turning occasionally. Remove vegetables from bag with a slotted spoon. Discard bay leaves.

When H and I lived in New Orleans, I came across a recipe for grilled corn with herb butter. Growing up, I ate a lot of corn, but most of it was boiled in pot. Grilled corn is a whole other world. It is smokey and sweet all at the same time. Douse it with butter, and it is ready to be devoured.

Cooking on the Grill

Of course, we have found to works best to prep the corn a little before throwing the ears on the grill. We remove some of the outer husk and remove the inner silk. 

Prepped and ready for the grill

It is important to remember that the husks will burn. It is ok, but if you are nervous about it, keep a spray bottle of water near the grill. A couple sprays of water should get rid of any flames. I know some people wrap their corn in foil, but you might as well stick the corn in water and let it boil. It just isn’t the same. A caramelized bit of corn is heavenly and just does not compare to anything else.

Corn on the Grill

Once the corn is bright yellow, remove it from the grill and pull away all the husks and discard. A little butter are you are ready to eat. Of course, in JC’s case, he happily ate the corn without butter even insisting on more. It was a perfect accompaniment to our lamb burgers.

Lamb Burgers with Corn

Grilled Corn
Adapted from Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food July/August 2003 Serves 8
5 points with butter; 1 point without butter

8 ears corn
1/2 cup melted unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon salt

1. Heat grill. Remove outer layers of husks from 8 ears corn. Carefully peel back husks and remove silk. Grill corn, turning often, until kernels burst easily when pressed, 15 to 20 minutes (husks will be quite charred).
2. Melt butter and stir in salt.
3. Peel back husks from corn, brush with salted butter, and serve.

Note: Martha adds pepper or a mix of paprika and cayenne to her butter, but I love just plain butter and a little salt. You could also add fresh herbs or garlic, or really anything you can think of to the butter. Have fun!

Even in the dead of a hot, humid, southern summer, when I am sick, I will eat soup. Though not just any soup, but a miso based soup. Miso soup by itself is good, but sometimes you need a little more substance at dinner time. So what I wanted would be filling yet light. Of course, if it is quick to throw together then it might be almost perfect. I needed the soup that would fix everything…my icky cold and a hectic week at work.

CHicken Stock

Flu with 100 degree fever + Soup = Ready for a 10 mile bike ride
Bad Day at work + Soup = Not a care in the world

Soba Noodles

Like I said it is my never-fail cure-all, and I needed it now. So while looking for another new kitchen gadget and reading the latest Gastrokids article on the Williams-Sonoma website, I found a recipe for Chicken Soba Noodle Soup that I had to try.

Fresh Grated Ginger Scallions Spinach

I loved the broth. Lots of ginger! I was not able to find yellow miso, so I used white miso, which gave it a very light miso flavor. I did want something a little more pronounced, so next time I will not substitute. With the spinach, chicken, scallions, and soba noodles, the soups was filling, yet because of the broth it was still light and delicate. It was enough for H and I to have for dinner and still have some leftovers for lunch the next day.

If you happen to fall into the crowd that likes Udon, you could easily make that change. Personally, I prefer udon to soba, so next time we might switch the part of the soup. I added the slightest amount of soy sauce and of course my favorite, Japanese Red Pepper. I love the kick it adds to soups.

Chicken and Soba Noodle Soup - Final

Chicken and Soba Noodle Soup

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Collection Series, Soup , by Diane Rossen Worthington.
7 Points

Ingredients:
1/2 lb. dried soba noodles
4 cups chicken stock
2 cups water
1/4 cup yellow miso
1 tsp. peeled and grated fresh ginger
1 boneless, skinless whole chicken breast, about 1/2 lb., cut into small cubes
2 1/2 cups packed baby spinach leaves
2 green onions, white and light green portions, thinly sliced
soy sauce, to taste – I added 2 tsp.
Japanese Red Pepper Mix, to taste

Directions:
1. Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil over high heat. Add the noodles and cook until just tender, about 4 minutes. Drain and set aside.

2. In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, whisk together the stock, water, miso and ginger. Bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat to medium and simmer until the miso is completely dissolved, about 3 minutes.

3. Add the chicken pieces and cook until the chicken is just opaque throughout, about 2 minutes. Add the spinach and cook until slightly softened but still bright green, about 1 minute. Add the green onions and cook for 1 minute more. Add soy sauce. Taste and adjust the seasonings.

4. Using tongs, divide the noodles evenly among warmed bowls and then ladle in the soup. Sprinkle with Japanese Red Pepper to add a little kick. Serve immediately.

As you can tell from this blog, I really love food and so does my “friend,” aka the extra 20 pounds of baby weight that lingers around my middle section. I know, I still have it almost two years later and should call it what it really is, fat, but I gained it while pregnant, so that is what I am going to call it. I recently restarted Weight Watchers, which has always worked well for me in the past to get me into a healthy eating mindset. This time though, I successfully convinced H to join in the venture. So I am going to try to post at least once a week on something for dinner that is “points” friendly.

This week it’s Chicken Parmesan from the Cooks Illustrated Light Recipes Issue.  I was a little skeptical of a couple of things namely

a) Can something that is supposed to be fried taste as good baked?

b) (probably the most important of the two) Is there a way for it to include an adequate amount of cheese.

I should not be surprised, but the chefs at Cooks Illustrated managed to accomplish both.  The chicken was crisp and tender, but also cheesy without being slathered in a gratuitous amount of cheese.

The key was pre-toasting the Panko, the light as air Japanese style bread crumbs.  Brillant!  The chicken not only looked fried, it also had a nice crisp crust.  Because really soggy crust would just make you feel like you were missing out.  And let’s face it, I want to lose weight, but I refused to eat something that tastes anything like wet cardboard.

 

 The best part of this recipe was that the extra 4 pieces were still crisp when we ate lunch and dinner leftovers 2 and 4 days later.  Next time, I will try the reduced-fat mozarella recommended in the recipe and pound the chicken a little thinner and possibly cut them in half.  H loved it and JC tried a couple bites (without the sauce).

Lighter Chicken Parmesan  
Adapted from Cooks Illustrated Light Recipes Spring 2008      by Julia Collin Davison
6 servings           Approxmiately 7 points

Tomato Sauce
1 28 oz can of Diced Tomatoes
4 minced Garlic Cloves
1 Tbs Tomato Paste
1 tsp Olive Oil
1/4 teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes (I increased the amount because I wanted more of a kick)
1 Tbs minced Basil
Salt and Pepper to taste

Chicken
1 1/2 c Panko
1 Tbs Olive Oil
1 oz Grated Parmesan
1/2 c Flour
1 1/2 tsp Garlic Powder
Salt and Pepper
3 Large Egg Whites
1 Tbs Water
3 Large Boneless skinless Chicken Breasts, trimmed of excess fat and sliced into 6 servings
1 1/2 oz shredded Parmesan (we swapped for the 3 oz reduced-fat mozarella )
1 Tbs minced Basil

1. Cook garlic, tomato paste, oil and red pepper flakes in a medium saucepan over medium heat until the paste begins to brown. Pour in tomatoes and cook until thickened. Turn off heat and add the basil and salt and pepper.

2. Preheat the oven to 475 degrees.

3. Toast the breadcrumbs and oil in a a 12-inch skillet over medium heat until golden. Spread the bread crumbs in a shallow bowl and allow to cool, then stir in Parmesan.

4. In a second dish , combine flour, garlic powder, 1 Tbs salt, and 1/2 tsp of pepper.  In a third dish, whick together egg whites and water.

5. Line a baking sheet with foil and place a wire rack on top.  (The rack is imperative if you want the bottom of the chicken to be crispy.)  Pat chicken dry then season with salt and pepper.  Dredge the chicken the flour mixture (shaking off the excess), then egg whites, then coat with bread crumbs.  Lay chicken on the rack.  Repeat with each piece.

6. Quickly spray tops of the chicken with cooking spray, we used canola oil spray.  Bake until the meat is no longer pink and then center feels firm, about 15 minutes

7. Remove the tray from the oven.  Spoon 2 Tbs of the tomato sauce then a 1/4 oz of shredded parmesan to the top of the chicken and return to the oven until the cheese has melted, about 5 minutes.  Sprinkle with basil and serve.

Cheers!!