Sunday, April 30, 2006

Classic Pork Loin Roast with Root Vegetables and Gravy

On Saturday, a good friend of mine made a fabulous corned beef roast (not that he's updated about it), using, of all things, a pressure cooker. Now, I'm like a lot of other people (said friend included) and am terrified of pressure cookers, which is mainly because of my lack of knowledge. I guess I should quit being a sissy and just buy one - yeah, that's gonna happen.

I didn't take the time to tally the calories on this, but this total meal is not over my 500 calories if you eat about 2 cups of vegetables and don't over-indulge on the gravy.. good luck.

Classic Pork Loin Roast with Root Vegetables and Gravy

1 2-lb pork roast
2 TB. olive oil
5-6 sprigs fresh thyme
1/2 tsp. dried rosemary
salt and pepper

Season the pork roast with salt, pepper, and rosemary. Lay the thyme on the meat, top and bottom, and truss so that the meat keeps it's shape. Brown the meat on all sides in the olive oil, then place the pan in a 350 degree oven for approximately 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

Cut up some potatoes, sweet potatoes, parsnips, carrots and onions, place in a large stock pot with about 2 cups of vegetable broth and several sprigs of thyme; salt and pepper liberally. Bring to a simmer over medium heat and cover. Cook until the vegetables are almost tender. About a half hour before the roast is done, add the vegetables (make sure to reserve the liquid for the gravy) to the pan with the roast and let roast until the meat is finished.

*I don't know exact amounts of what I used, but it was, roughly:
2 med. sweet potatoes
4 lg. red-skinned potatoes
1 huge onion
2 med. parsnips
1 2-lb. bag mini carrots

Remove the meat from the pan, let rest for 15 minutes. Remove the vegetables and reserve any liquid. Add 2 tablespoons butter to the pan drippings, and add about 3 tablespoons flour to make a roux. Pour in the reserved liquid and add as much chicken/pork/vegetable broth as you need to get your gravy to the proper consistency.

Serves 6.

I'll post a couple of my grandma's recipes tomorrow - both are indulgent and definitely not written for calorie counters.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Egg Noodles with Arugula, Peppers, Peas and Herbs

I have a big love for simple dishes, any kind of pasta with vegetables works for me. Tonight, after a loooooong week, I decided to throw another simple pasta dish together. I love using loads of fresh herbs, so I threw in thyme, parsley and chives from my grandma's backyard - the chives were overpowered by the flavor of the peppers, but other than that, this was a deliciously simple dish.

Egg Noodles with Arugula, Peppers, Peas and Herbs
1/2 med. onion, chopped, about 145g. (61)
3 lg. cloves garlic, sliced (9)
1 1/2 tsp. ground cumin (12)
1 TB. olive oil (120)
1/2 recipe Marinated Bell Peppers (this batch was roasted and the skin removed)(120)
1 c. frozen or fresh peas peas, about 110 g.(85)
6 oz. egg noodles, prepared and set aside in a large bowl (630)
1 tsp. fresh chopped thyme (1)
1 handful parsley, about 10g.(4)
2 TB. butter (200)
zest of 1 lemon
juice of 1/4 lemon (3)
salt and pepper to taste
1 handful chives, roughly chopped, about 9g. (3)

Saute the onion, cumin, thyme and garlic in the olive oil, add salt and pepper to taste. When the onions are translucent, add the marinated peppers and peas; heat through, then toss in the arugula. Remove the vegetables and toss them with the pasta; throw the butter into the same pan to melt. Remove from head and stir in the parsley, then pour over the noodles and toss with the lemon juice, lemon zest, chives, salt and pepper. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Makes 4 servings, 312 calories per serving.

This weekend, I intend on getting my herb garden started. There's also the Japan Festival in SLC, so I think we'll try to go for that, too. Man, I love Spring.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Well hello there!

Yeahhhh, so, I've been totally missing in action over the past few weeks. Life has been chaotic, and, with the loss of my grandmother on the 13th, food blogging has been the least of my worries. Her death came as a surprise, really, we thought we would have so much more time with her, but I guess we always do. She was a lovely woman who loved to cook.

The day after my grandma's funeral, I was given a book/binder that belonged to my grandma. It is filled with magazine and newspaper recipe cut-outs, as well as many, many handwritten recipes. I feel very fortunate to have roughly 75 years of recipes, some written in her own grandmother's hand, and many coming from our German heritage. We've decided to put together a cookbook, with all of the recipes typed up, as well as pictures and scans of the handwritten copies. The plan is to have them hard-bound and send them out to all of my grandma's children and grandchildren for Christmas. The hardest part is that we don't have a lot of her recipes written down - she really didn't use a recipe for her most common and most loved dishes, so now I'm in experiment mode. Luckily, over the past years, my parents were been able to get a few of the most cherished recipes out of my grandma, even though she was not big on sharing recipes, lol.

If you're wondering, yes, I'm still eating low-calorie. It has been harder because we have not been home, much, but it is very important to me, and I'm learning to make better choices when eating out - I'm down about 30 pounds, so far, which feels great. I made a big grocery store produce haul today, so the updates should be frequent and I should be getting right back on track.

I did make Kalyn's Brown and Wild Rice
with Pine Nuts and Thyme
the other day, and it was lovely. You wouldn't think that macadamia nut oil would make such a difference, but it really does!

Alrighty, I'm off to nurse the finger I sliced while making Grandma's German Potato Salad. I hope you are all well, I will have to get caught up on everyone over the next few days/weeks.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Erin Cheats: Vanilla Bean Cheesecake with Strawberry Peach Coulis

Happy Birthday Matt!

Today was my little brother's birthday, he turned 23 (sigh, 23 seems so long ago...). I haven't had a lot of time, lately, to go shopping for his regular(ish) gift, which is generally a shirt or jacket, or something, so I decided to do the next best thing - make him his favorite dessert. Matt has always been a cheesecake lover, and my intent was to make him a classic cheesecake with a classic strawberries-in-sauce topping, but I flubbed the topping and had to come up with something else. Luckily, I had saved some cake rounds and cake boxes from a few years back, when I made everyone cheesecakes instead of buying presents for Christmas... ahhh... the good old (money tight) days.

Vanilla Bean Cheesecake

Cheesecake Filling:
2 8-oz blocks cream cheese (1600)
3 XL eggs (255)
1/2 c sugar (387)
1/4 c splenda (24)
zest of 1 large, or two small lemons
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 vanilla beans, seeded

Graham Cracker Crust:
1 1/2 c. graham cracker crumbs, 1/2 cup blended into powder, the rest coarsly crushed, about 120g (533.5)
4 TB butter, melted (400)
*You can add 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon, but I don't.

Preheat your oven to 325° F.

For the crust:
Spray the inside of a 9" silicone (or springform) pan. Pour in your graham cracker powder and turn the pan on it's side, rotating to cover the walls of the pan with the graham crackers. In a medium bowl, pour out the excess graham cracker powder into the cracker crumbs, and pour in the butter, making sure to mix until the crumbs are well-coated. Sprinkle the crackers evenly over the surface of the prepared pan and press them down (I use the flat bottom of a wine glass) to form a compact crust. The crust will be fairly thin, so if you have to use a few extra crumbs to fill in any gaps, go ahead. Place your crust in the freezer while you prepare the filling.

*If you're someone who loves crust, I'd add another 1/2 cup of crumbs to the mix.

For the filling:
In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese with a hand mixer until it's smooth. Pour in the eggs, one at a time, and beat again until the mixture is smooth. Add the sugar and, once again, mix until completely smooth. Add the rest of the ingredients and give the mixture one last whirl to combine everything.

Bake in a water bath for about 1 hour (if you're using a springform pan, make sure to use a large, heavy-duty piece of aluminum foil to ensure that the water doesn't get inside your cheesecake), or until the top is slightly golden. Turn off the stove and open the oven door to let the heat out. Let the cheesecake rest for 4-5 hours in the oven, then chill in the fridge for 2-3 hours before serving.

Serves 8, about 400 calories per serving.

This cheesecake is not... tall. It's only about an inch tall, so if you want your cheesecake to have more height, use an 8" pan instead of a 9", or double the recipe.

Strawberry Peach Coulis
1 pint strawberries, hulled and sliced (114)
1 quart peaches in syrup, not drained (776)
2 TB Splenda (12)
1/2 c. sugar (386)
2 TB honey (128)
1/4 c. vanilla vodka (or 1 TB vanilla extract)
1 vanilla bean, seeded
1/2 lemon, juice and zest (10)
4 TB cornstarch mixed with 4 TB water (122)

In a medium saucepan, combine the strawberries (reserve 1 strawberry for the top of the cheesecake), vanilla vodka and lemon juice and zest; bring to a boil and simmer until the strawberries turn light-pink and get mushy (this was my big flub, I cooked them too long, so I had to fix it, I also added juice from half a GIANORMOUS lemon, so it was far too sour). Add the peaches (making sure to reserve 8 slices for the top of the cheesecake) and syrup, splenda, sugar, honey and vanilla seeds, simmer for another 2 minutes. Remove from heat and sieve the fruit over a medium bowl.

Add the fruit pulp to a blender and blend until smooth. Return the pureed mixture to the sieve and stir until most of the liquid is gone, discard the small amount of pulp and ground seeds that are left over. Add the reserved juice and the pureed mixture back to the pan and stir in the cornstarch slurry. Bring to a simmer, stirring constantly, until the mixture is thick and free of lumps. If you get lumps, return to the (clean) sieve, making sure to strain the mixture and throw out the lumps.

*I made this pretty thick to ensure that it wouldn't run during the drive to deliver the cheesecake, it would taste the same with half the cornstarch.

Pour the mixture in a large bowl and cool over an ice bath.

Makes about 16 1/4-cup servings, 98 calories per serving.

Yeah, so, with the topping, 1 slice is 498 calories, ouch. I took a pic of a slice with my husband's craptastic camera, I didn't get a decent pic because I was being rushed, heh, so here's the best of the bad pics: A SLICE. Good thing Matty's birthday isn't more than once a year. I guess the most important thing is that my brother loved it and had some leftover for tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Penne with Ham, Squash and Green Beans

I cook for fairly picky eaters. My husband hates things like olives, asparagus, artichoke, whole grains, rice, peppers, celery, eggplant and especially squash. My mom and sister, the other people I cook for, also dislike squash, along with various other strange things (like onions and rice, how do you not like onions or rice??).

As far back as I can remember, my gramma has grown yellow squash and zucchini in her garden. She and I are the only ones that love squash, so, even as a younger kid, I was slicing up the squash and cooking them (usually boiled with butter) all for myself. I really have tried to get others to like the stuff, but I'm currently 0-4, so I've given up. I'll keep the squash for myself and I will enjoy every last bite.

Penne with Ham, Squash and Green Beans

1 medium onion, about 180g, chopped (75.5)
2 med. cloves garlic, chopped (5)
3 small zucchini, about 400g., 1/4 inch slices (64.5)
1 med. yellow squash, about 200g (33)
3/4 c. (150g) frozen carrot slices (an experimental buy, fresh is preferred) (61)
2 handfulls fresh french green beans, about 236g (73)
6 ham slices, cut into squares (240)
5 oz. pasta, about l40g., prepared (525)
1 TB plus 2 1/2 tsp. olive oil (220)
1 tsp. fresh thyme, chopped (1)
zest of 1 lemon
salt and pepper

In a nonstick pan, saute the onion, in 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon of olive oil, making sure to season with salt and pepper. After about 5 minutes, add the garlic and thyme and cook for about 1 minute - just to take the edge off the garlic; stir in the lemon zest and add the onion mixture to the cooked, drained pasta, combining well.

In the same pan, brown the ham and then add to the pasta. Still using the same pan, saute all of the vegetables (I sauteed them individually, each veg in 1/2 tsp. oil) until tender, and add them to the pasta. With the carrots and green beans, I place them in a zip baggie and microwave the carrots for about 7 minutes, and the green beans for about 4 minutes, then saute. Make sure to salt and pepper each layer as you go. Combine all ingredients, taste for salt, and serve warm or at room temperature.

1298 total calories, 5 2-cup servings, 259.6 calories per serving.

I've been tagged by Kalyn, so I'll work on that and post it a bit later.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

White Chocolate and Blackberry Tartletes

Tonight, after having had a simple dinner of Hot and Sour soup, we were jonesing for something sweet, so I threw this together. I was going to add pine nuts and a kiwi fruit coulis, but I decided to just keep it simple.

White Chocolate & Blackberry Tartletes

1 package phyllo cups, 15 cups (600)
7/8 pieces of a 4oz. bar of white chocolate (the first piece mysteriously disappeared...) (503)
2 pkgs. fresh blackberries (about 1 1/3 c.) (108.5)
1 TB Splenda
2 TB water
1 1/2 tsp. cornstarch mixed with 1 tsp. vodka (slurry) (25)
2 TB Vanilla Extract

Heat the chocolate over a double boiler just until melted; drizzle a spoonful of the melted chocolate in each phyllo cup, and pour out the excess, leaving enough to coat the entire surface of the inside of the cup; chill in freezer until the chocolate sets up.

*This step is important because it ensures that the phyllo doesn't get soggy from the berries.

Set aside the 15 prettiest blackberries, these will be used fresh in the dessert. In a small saucepan, combine the rest of the blackberries, the splenda, the water and the vanilla; bring to a simmer and continue to simmer until the blackberries break down and liquify. Pour the cooked berries through a sieve into a small bowl and use a spatula to press the liquid through the sieve, pressing until all that is left is the seeds, which you can discard, and return the reserved blackberry juice to the pan. Stir the cornstarch and water mixture into the blackberry juice. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly, until thickened (about 30 seconds). Remove from heat.

Remove the phyllo cups from the freezer and place about a half-teaspoon of the thickened blackberry juice into each cup, or halfway up the side of the cup. Place a fresh blackberry in the center of each cup. If you have leftover white chocolate, you can drizzle a little over each berry. Refrigerate until ready to eat.

These are great because they can be made well in advance and won't get soggy.

Makes 15 tartlets, 82 calories each.

Chinese Hot and Sour Soup

One of our favorite foods is Chinese Hot and Sour Soup. I've tried making it a few times, but have never been able to get the right combination of flavors. Tonight, I decided to try this recipe, which had great reviews. The soup turned out pretty good, though there was still something important missing, and it wasn't the tofu that I replaced the chicken with. I tried to perk up the flavor with extra soy sauce and a splash of white vinegar (I like it more sour than hot), but it still didn't do the trick.

Does anyone have a killer, authentic Hot and Sour Soup recipe? I'd give my first born for something I could easily make at home.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Simple Salad Lunch

After having had a lovely dinner at Kalyn's, I decided I'm in love with the mini-peppers she tossed in the arugula salad and I went to Costco to find the ones she'd used, but I couldn't find them, so I settled on regular-sized bell peppers, and then posted about marinating them a few days ago. I've been eating them with just about everything, but yesterday's simple salad was the best, yet. I just chopped the peppers and tossed them (along with a bit of the marinade) with some fresh baby arugula, inspired by Kalyn's Arugula Salad, of course. I buttered up a toasted english muffin and voilĂ ! Lunch was ready in about 4 minutes. I have a feeling this salad will be something I crave often, and when pepper season comes, I'll be picking peppers and marinating them all summer long.

1 c. arugula
1/4 recipe Marinated Bell Peppers
2 TB Marinated Bell Peppers marinade


Serve with 1 toasted english muffin slathered in 1 tablespoon yummy, salty butter.

300 calories, total.

*It's not that I'm uninspired to create new dishes, lately, it's just that it's been a rough few weeks for my family, so doing simple, somewhat classic recipes is a lot easier on my brain and on my time.

Happy April Fools Day, heh.