Archive for the ‘Recipes’ Category

Swiss Chard au Gratin

February 16, 2009

It was a cookbook Christmas for me this year, and I’ve been working through some of the recipes.  I’ve been trying to eat a little healthier, and have found some surprisingly good recipes in my Weight Watchers cookbook, including this delicious, decedent, and only 1 POINT side: Swiss Chard au Gratin.

Swiss Chard is the showiest of the greens: bright red stalks that rib the leaves, and beautiful green leaves.  They have great nutritional benefits, and aren’t so scary that a spinach fan will balk at this colorful “green.”  When you buy them fresh (which I think is the only way to buy Swiss chard), the leaves are huge, so be prepared to do a little chopping. 

When I bought them from my local Whole Foods the first time, none of the tags actually said “Swiss chard.”  I think I may have bought red chard, but they’re all similar enough that you shouldn’t pass up one because it isn’t labeled “Swiss.”  Brian brought home a smaller-leaf variety when I made this dish for a dinner party, and it tasted just as delicious.

One large bunch is enough for a side dish of two large portions (Weight Watchers POINTS: 2).  Make sure you wash it well, rubbing the area in the grooves of the ribs.

While you’re preparing the chard, preheat the oven to 400 degrees, and set a large pot of salted water to boil.

First, cut the ribs out of the leaves so that you’re left with a pile of leafy parts and ribs:



Place the chard ribs into the boiling water and boil for about 5 minutes.  The water will turn red too, so don’t be creeped out. 


While the stalks are boiling, cut down the leaves to more manageable pieces. 


After the 5 minutes of stalk boiling are up, put the leaves into the same pot.  The chard will cook down fairly quickly, so you can add any overflow to the pot as room becomes available.


While the chard is cooking, shred 1/3 cup of reduced-fat Jarlsberg cheese.  Jarlsberg basically tastes like a mild Swiss cheese (ooh…Swiss cheese and Swiss chard!  That might be dee-swiss-ious).  If you’re not concerned about POINTS value, add a bit more cheese.

When the Swiss chard is done boiling, drain it over the sink, and press dry with paper towels.  Layer the ingredients Swiss chard (stalks and leaves), 1/2 the Jarlsberg, and 1/2 a tablespoon of grated Parmesan, and sprinkle with ground pepper.  Repeat the layers, ending with the cheese and pepper.  Bake on the top rack in the oven until the cheese is melted and bubbly – about 20 minutes.


This certainly doesn’t feel like diet food, is beautiful, and was a hit at a dinner party with a notoriously picky eater!


Nutritional content for 1/4 serving of casserole: 50 Calories, 2 grams fat, 1 gram saturated fat, 0 gram trans fat, 7 mg Cholesterol, 736 mg sodium, 3 grams Carbohydrate, 0 gram Fiber, 5 grams protein, 53 mg Calcium.


Roasted Veggies: Brussel Sprouts, Potatoes, and Broccoli

January 14, 2009
Especially when it’s cold (today: 27 outside), I think of roasted vegetables.  They’re  a staple side for me, and I’m always surprised when I tell people how to do it, and they tell me they didn’t know it was so easy!  (Lauren, I’m talking to you!)

There are 3 components for roasted vegetables in my world: a 400 degree oven, sea or kosher salt, and olive oil.  (Although these days I’m using olive oil cooking spray to save on calories – with mixed results detailed below.) 

The basic instructions are the same:

  • cut your veggies to 1-bite sized pieces
  • toss in just enough olive oil to coat lightly
  • sprinkle liberally with sea or kosher salt
  • spread on a cookie sheet in a single layer and cook for about 45 minutes to an hour, taking out halfway through to toss so that your veggies brown evenly.

Easy.  Simple.  Delicious.  Healthy.

Roasted Brussel Sprouts
I heart Brussel sprouts.  I would eat them 5 times a week.  Yes, they get a bad rap, but I think it’s mainly because they are a little stinky when you boil them.   My Aunt Liz (and sisters) make their Brussel sprouts sauteed in a pan with a little brown butter and pancetta/bacon, topped with Parmesan.  Yum-o!  I, however, take the easiest route and roast them: wash and cut in half length-wise, plop on a cookie sheet, spray with olive oil spray (works great on them!), sprinkle with salt, press Bake and Start.  (And that last direction, by the way, was the extent of my father’s cooking instruction to us: you press Bake and Start.  He’s an awesome cook.)


I cook mine for about 55 minutes because I like them pretty crispy.  You can check for doneness at about 40 minutes or so if you like them a little more green.


Incidentally, don’t overload your baking sheet so much that it buckles, causing all your sprouts to fall off and land on the floor of your 400 degree oven.  It’s not pretty, and the smell of burning olive oil and Brussel sprouts isn’t fun for anyone and does not make you look like a great cook in front of future in-laws. 

Roasted Potatoes
The great thing about roasted potatoes is that you can fool a 9-year-old into thinking they’re homemade french fries.  And said fooled 9-year-old can get in a serving of vegetables without knowing it.  Mix white potatoes (I like using red potatoes) with a sweet potato and you can even add beta carotene to your meal, putting you in the running for Mother of the Year.


These work just fine with the olive oil spray too!

Roasted Broccoli
I have a confession: I don’t like broccoli.  If you serve it to me steamed, it’s getting the one obligatory bite and then headed to the le garbage.  Boiled?  Blech.  But roasted?  Hmmm…I’ll have seconds!

For roasted broccoli you really need to toss it in olive oil, and not use the spray.  Put all of your little florets in a large plastic ziplock bag, use about 1 tablespoon of olive oil, salt, zip and shake!  (And I helped) 


Any of these are great and easy for a side dish – play with adding Old Bay or Tony Chachere’s to your potatoes, explore the world of Brussel sprouts as an adult, and go back for seconds on broccoli – who knew it was so easy?!

Herb and Parmesan Crusted Pork

January 7, 2009

Most of the time, I want food that is warm and filling: comfort food.  And sometimes it’s hard to find comfort food that doesn’t take all day to prepare (have you ever made fried chicken?  All. Day.) and is moderately healthy.  Enter the other white meat: pork.  When eaten as a chop (get the boneless chop, butterflied if you aren’t a big meat eater, and split it apart so it gives you 2 thin chops) and trimmed of the side of fat, it’s lean and delicious.

I saw Giada De Laurentiis make this on Everyday Italian (and may I just take a moment to say that I heart Giada…the woman who showed me that Italian food is not just pasta and red sauce) and it has become one of my “signature” dishes.  I like it because it’s easy but impressive for guests (I have a good friend who is a restaurant manager and asked me for the recipe because he liked it so much),  relatively cheap to make, and DELICIOUS!  What more could you want?

Herb and Parmesan Crusted Pork


  • Pork chops, boneless.  I trim the fat off the side to make it healthier and so you don’t get that wad of gristle.  Because, gross.
  • Grated Parmesan cheese.  You don’t have to get fancy – the stuff in the green plastic can will work best, actually.
  • Italian breadcrumbs.  Natch.
  • 1 egg, beaten.  My health and time trick?  Egg Beaters.  Use them, they’re awesome.
  • Olive oil and vegetable oil.  You’ll be combining these in the pan to cook the pork.  Olive oil alone will “burn off” faster, so the veggie oil offsets this and keeps the smoke alarm from going off.  I learned this the hard way.  You’ll need quite a bit of oil – if you’re trying to use your last tablespoon, it ain’t gonna cut it.

First things first: heat that pan!  Combine your 2 oils until its completely covering the bottom of the pan in a thick layer.  Heat the pan to medium-high.  When the oil starts to look really liquidy/glassy, it’s ready.

I like to get everything lined up assembly line style: pork on one plate, egg in a shallow bowl, and the Parmesan and breadcrumbs combined in a 1/3 Parm, 2/3 breadcrumb ratio mixture.  This isn’t an exact science, so you’ve got plenty of room to fudge and it’ll still taste great! 


Prepare your pork by dipping it first in the egg to coat, then into the breadcrumb and Parmesan mixture, turning to coat evenly.

herb-and-parm-pork-2  herb-and-parm-pork-3  herb-and-parm-pork-4

When the oil is hot, place the chops in the pan.  Be careful!  The oil is hot, and this sucker is going to splatter while it cooks.  Have tongs at the ready.  Cook on the first side about 5 minutes for a thick chop, about 3-4 minutes for half of a butterflied chop.  Carefully flip and cook for another 5 minutes or so.  You want the color to be a darkish brown – this isn’t going to brown up light and lovely.  I also will turn thicker chops on each side (the skinny side so it stands up like a book – you may have to hold it there with the tongs) to make sure the chop is cooked through.


You may need to add more oil to your pan as your cooking.  You’ll know if the oil gets too low because the pan will start smoking like nutso.  Keep your stove top fan on high the whole time you’re cooking this dish and just be ready for it.


Incidentally, I find that this is one of those great dishes to prepare with a glass of red wine in one hand while you’re watching the stove.  This is less than 30 minutes from start to finish, so just the right amount of time to enjoy a glass of vino.

I like to serve this with Brussel sprouts, roasted potatoes, wilted spinach, or a Parmesan cous cous.  Enjoy!

Classic Baked Macaroni and Cheese

September 24, 2008

My friend Megan brought this mac and cheese over for a football party.  She found it on Recipe Zaar and tweaked it by adding Gouda cheese, mustard powder, and garlic powder.  It was OMG good.  Just don’t look at the nutritional content…

Fannie Farmer’s Classic Baked Macaroni and Cheese
From the 1946 edition of “Fannie Farmer’s Boston Cooking School Cookbook”

Serves 4:
1 (8 ounce) package macaroni
4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons flour
1 cup milk
1 cup cream
1/2 teaspoon salt
Fresh ground black pepper, to taste
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup shredded Gouda
1/2 cup buttered breadcrumbs (we just used the Italian-style, although Megan and I agreed it would be AWESOME with panko breadcrumbs)

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. Cook and drain macaroni according to package directions; set aside.
  3. In a large saucepan melt butter.
  4. Add flour mixed with salt and pepper, and a generous pinch of garlic and mustard powders.  Using a whisk, stir until well blended.
  5. Pour milk and cream in gradually; stirring constantly. Bring to boiling point and boil 2 minutes (stirring constantly).
  6. Reduce heat and cook (stirring constantly) 10 minutes.
  7. Add shredded cheddar little by little and simmer an additional 5 minutes, or until cheese melts.
  8. Turn off the burner.  Add macaroni to the saucepan and toss to coat with the cheese sauce.
  9. Transfer macaroni to a buttered baking dish and sprinkle with breadcrumbs.
  10. Bake 20 minutes until the top is golden brown.

Stuffed Chicken Breasts with Tomato Salad

July 8, 2008

This is another Real Simple recipe that I tweaked…and it was great AND easy AND quick – the trifecta of my cooking technique!

Artichoke Stuffed Chicken Breasts with Tomato Mozzarella Salad

1 6.5-ounce jar artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan (I also fudged this a little – I just poured in what I thought looked right – probably closer to 3 tablespoons)
2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves (I omitted this because I was in a hurry and didn’t have thyme – Hardy Har)
4 6-ounce boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and Pepper

Grape, cherry, or beefsteak tomatoes, cut into bite-size pieces.  Really you can use any tomatoes – this is a summer standby for me and I particularly love it with heirloom cherry tomatoes, but that makes it one expensive side dish!
1 fresh mozzarella ball, cut into bite-size pieces

8 baguette slices, toasted (optional) (We served this on the side and buttered)

Mix the artichokes, Parmesan, and 1 tablespoon of the thyme in a small bowl.

Cut a 2-inch pocket in the thickest part of each chicken breast – I was able to stuff the mixture in the “pocket” created by  the natural separation of the chicken breast. Stuff a quarter of the artichoke mixture into each pocket. Rub the chicken breasts with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

Heat a grill or grill pan to medium. Grill the chicken, turning once, until cooked through, 6 to 7 minutes per side.  I put a lid on over the chicken because I’m paranoid about cooking chicken properly, and it actually turned out just slightly overdone – try covering the pan just half of the time per side to keep it hot and moist, but not overdoing it.  I used tongs AND a spatula when turning the chicken in order to keep the stuffing inside the chicken.

While the chicken is cooking, put the tomato and mozzarella in a large mixing bowl and give it a few turns of olive oil and a  healthy splash of salt.  Mix this together – it’s easiest to use your hands to turn the salad, but you’ll get olive oil all over them, so have a sink and soap nearby and working!  If the tomatoes were room temperature when you prepared them, put the salad in the fridge while your chicken finishes cooking just to make it a little cool – not cold!

I was actually surprised how good this chicken was.  It’s pretty healthy (actually listed as “heart healthy” in Real Simple, although they didn’t make their tomato salad with mozzarella…whatever, Dude.)  The flavor was awesome and it’s on the “favorites” list at home!

Crispy Shrimp with White Beans and Spinach

April 17, 2008

Day two of my seafood experiment was even easier than the sea scallops, and perfect for an evening watching reality TV. It was an incredible cheap and healthy meal – and the beans were a perfect leftover for a salmon cake lunch at work today.

This is another take on a Real Simple recipe – quick, easy, healthy. And it tastes pretty great too.

Crispy Shrimp with White Beans and Spinach:

I probably should have said in my last post that I cook with 4 ingredients: olive oil, butter, sea salt, and panko breadcrumbs. The crunch is awesome – I’m all about texture.

Preheat the oven to 400. Toss the shrimp (I had 10 medium sized shrimp, purchased at the seafood counter as a “small handful” of peeled and deviened previously frozen shrimp – it came to less than $2) in a decent pour of olive oil. Add enough panko to coat, plus a little extra. Salt and pepper, and toss it all together (be ready to get your hands dirty!) Spread on a cookie sheet and sprinkle whatever breadcrumbs are left over the top. Cook these for about 12 minutes until they are browned.

In the mean time, heat a can of cannellini beans and heat a separate skillet with a small drizzle of olive oil over medium-low heat. Put more baby spinach (I like Earthbound Farms organic) than you think you need in the heated skillet and as it starts wilting, move around in the pan with tongs. When it’s all wilted and dark green, sprinkle on a dab of – you guessed it – sea salt and remove from heat. This whole process takes about 5 minutes, so your beans should be heated through and your shrimp about ready.


Sea Scallops, Portobellos, and Asparagus

April 16, 2008

With Brian out of town, I’ve been cooking more at home (hence the recent lack of posts!) and am testing out some new recipes, sticking to the edges of the grocery store aisles for healthier eating. Plus, the wine is on the outside aisles…

This week is a seafood week, and I’m taking a cue from a recent Real Simple article giving a guide for which seafood to eat and how often. Last night I was surprised to see how easy cooking sea scallops was!

It’s important to note that I cook with three ingredients in every meal: olive oil, butter, and sea salt. You keep the flavor excellent and rich, and it makes eating healthy not TOO healthy. Cook in the order listed below and everything will come out ready at the same time – and only take 15 minutes!

Heat the oven to 375. Wash and snap your asparagus (hold the stalk near the middle and also at the end and bend until it snaps off at the bottom) and place in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and shake on some sea salt. Place in the over for 15 minutes while you finish the rest of the meal.
(I would just like to take this point to mention that Brian is one out of 60% of people who is unable to smell asparagus pee…I can smell it a mile away)

Portobello Mushrooms:
Heat a skillet to medium-low and add 2-3 cuts of butter. Turn the pan as the butter melts to coat, and add the mushrooms in a single layer. Let the mushrooms cook, adding a few small cuts of butter if the pans begins to dry. Add a splash or two of Worcestershire sauce as you like, and begin on the scallops.

Sea Scallops:
2 wild-caught sea scallops (only $3 or so! Don’t let the price per pound dissuade you!)
Using a heavy skillet (your small one is perfect if you’re just cooking two), begin heating the skillet with nothing in it over medium-high. About 1 minute into the heating process, add olive oil and 2-3 cuts of butter. This should be enough to more than coat the pan. When the butter is melted in the oil and bubbling, add the sea scallops and salt the top of the scallop. Turn on your vent fan because this sucker will start smoking about 3 minutes in (only way to avoid this is to put it in the oven – olive oil and butter have low smoke points, so when you’re cooking on high heat you can just expect smoking). After about 2-3 minutes, flip the scallop and cook another 2-3 minutes. The outside of the scallops will be browned perfectly – and you can turn another time or two to cook the scallop through.


Goat Cheese and Beet Salad

March 31, 2008

Alison made a fabulous – and simple – beet and goat cheese salad to start off a perfect Easter dinner. I’ve in turn made it for myself for a light-ish dinner, and it takes more than just rabbit food to fill me up.

1 can sliced beets (Use caution – beets stain like nothing else)
Goat cheese feta crumbles or, if that ain’t your bag baby, regular feta works
Extra Virgin Olive Oil (You have no idea how hard it was to not write the RR vomit-inducing E.V.O.O!)
Balsamic vinegar
Fresh baby spinach

Lightly combine the beet slices (cut them up a little smaller in a separate dish if you prefer) cheese, a splash of olive oil, walnuts, and salt and pepper. If the whole mixture turns into a pink mass, don’t worry – it still tastes great! Let this sit in its own juices for a while – overnight is best.

Lightly toss the spinach with a touch of olive oil and a touch of balsamic, and place the beet and goat cheese over the spinach – and enjoy!

Oink, Oink

March 25, 2008

As much as I love the D.C. food scene, there are some things you just can’t get up here like down south.  Blue Duck fills my void for grits and if I have a hankerin’ for that Atlanta favorite Chick-fil-A, I can always count on Tams to go with me to fill our cravings in the GW food court. BBQ, however, (and for this girl that means the pig variety) is something D.C. just hasn’t gotten quite right. 

There are two ways I’ve found around this predicament, and sadly, neither of them is so easy as picking up some Rockland’s or Red, Hot and Blue.  While they will do in a pinch, (and Rockland’s corn pudding and collards are not to be snubbed!) none of them quite cut it for a gal who loves BBQ so much she is willing to post a picture of herself on the web wearing a plastic bib, inhaling a Fedex-express-shipped-straight-from-Alabama  pork rib.  Unfortunately, neither solution I’ve found results in immediate gratification.  Good BBQ requires time, but I promise neither of these solutions will disappoint!

The first solution to the lack of good BBQ in DC is a wee bit labor intensive and can require a stroke of airport security luck.  On our most recent trip to Atlanta, our Dad made his famous hickory smoked pulled pork BBQ for a family gathering.  Ashley and I, dismayed at the lack of leftovers, persuaded him to cook us our very own Boston Butt to take with us back up to D.C.  Not trusting our treasure to checked luggage, we took a chance and froze the meat overnight, packed it all in Gladware, and hoped that the sauce on the meat would not violate the TSA liquid ban.  After a few tense moments we made it through with nary a protest from airport security, who merely raised an eyebrow or two.

My dad swears we should be able to make this ourselves fairly easily, although the lack of a charcoal grill has put a delay on our little experiment.  I’ve included his directions below:

dad-with-pork-butt.jpg DeFord’s Hickory Smoked Boston Butt:
Trim the fatback off of the Boston Butt

Let charcoal cook down until white and ashy, spread coals to each side so that the meat cooks indirectly.

Place Hickory Planks (this is key) on top of coals and let the meat smoke until the coals are dead and have stopped producing smoke (approximately 4  hours.)

Place pork in a pan roaster with a small amount of water in the bottom of roaster, bake in oven at 250 degrees ”until it is done” and the meat falls apart  (approximately another 4 hours.)

My Dad serves his pulled pork with a simple, vinegar based Carolina-style sauce.  This is an imprecise recipe (like most in the Smith family), all brought to simmer together over medium then low heat.  Ingredient amounts are highly relative.  My Dad recommends using them “in whatever proportion suits you.”  It will require a bit of trial and error taste testing to figure out just how you like it, but the ingredients are listed below:
Brown sugar
Texas Pete
Liquid smoke
Black pepper
The second solution for those in desperate need of a pork fix (sans fixin’s) comes in the form of the above mentioned fedexed product. Thanks to Jared’s parents, who must know just how dire the situation is up here, his parents sent several racks of Dreamland BBQ ribs up for a group of transplanted Southerners to feast on during the Super Bowl.  You’ll notice on their website that some packages come with not only Dreamland BBQ sauce, but also other necessary accompaniments including 1 loaf of Sunbeam Bread, bibs, wetnaps, and toothpicks. This stuff was seriously good- in fact, if I were Jared, I don’t know that I would’ve shared ‘em! Thank gawd the folks down at Dreamland are lookin’ out for us Dixie transplants Click here to order your own rack.

In addition, the Taylors graciously shared the family’s generations old BBQ sauce recipe. 
Taylor Family BBQ Sauce:
This is enough for 4-6 pieces of chicken, or 1 slab of ribs.  It can be multiplied, but if you do that, taste it after you’ve combined all the ingredients as you might need to adjust it with some of the ingredients.  You can also cut this recipe in half for 2-3 pieces of chicken:
6 TBS ketchup
4 TBS vinegar (red wine vinegar is good, but any will do)
2 TBS Worcestershire sauce
8 TBS water
4 TBS butter
6 TBS dark brown sugar (but regular brown sugar is ok, too)
2 tsp salt
2 tsp dry mustard
2 tsp chili powder
2 tsp paprika
1 tsp red pepper
5-6 dashes Tabasco (or any hot sauce)
The order of these ingredients is irrelevant.  Just put all together in a pot, put heat on low to medium, mixing well for several minutes with a whisk to make sure all ingredients are dissolved and mixed (you’ll still see spots of the chili powder or paprika, though).  Bring to a boil, continuing to stir, then put on low or simmer for about 5 minutes or so.
Thanks, Taylors, for a great meal and for sharing the family recipe with the masses!

Herb and Mustard-Crusted Salmon

March 14, 2008

I’ve been on a kick to find quick, delicious, non-poultry dinner recipes, especially low-fat ones that include Omega-3s.  I’ve never been much of a salmon gal, but recently I’ve started making it – usually roasted at 450 for 18 – 20 minutes dressed in nothing but salt, pepper, and a squeeze of lemon.  Gotta tell you – not half bad.

But then Brian and I had a Bone Issue with salmon one night, and it turned us off – neither one of us wants to fight our food.  It turns out the Fish Counter Guy at Whole Foods could save us – and pointed us to Alaskan Salmon…with no (or very few) bones.

(Incidentally, in making sure I had my facts right about Alaskan Salmon fillets coming in the boneless variety, I stumbled across my coolest internet food-find in a long time. Fisherman’s Express in Alaska has a LIVE agent who will chat with you about seafood. I spoke with Tyler in Anchorage, Alaska, who told me he likes Yukon King Salmon since its rich in omega-3 oils and it maintains the taste of the salmon. Very, very cool)

I made this recipe (I found while getting a pedicure in Blueprint magazine) and it was super easy and DELICIOUS: Herb and Dijon Mustard-Crusted Salmon. (They called it Herb-Crusted Salmon with Roasted Lemons, but the lemons were more charred and smokey and Brian burned himself, so I suggest leaving them out of the mix).

I’ve adjusted the recipe for how we liked it.  It should be noted I fudge amounts when I cook and like my toppings think and a little crunchy.  This is for two:

1/4 Cup (or so) Plain Panko Breadcrumbs (really important for the crunch factor)
Handful of chopped flat leaf parsley
“Splash” of dried dill (Jeanette’s favorite herb)
1/2 Tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon of olive oil
1 lbs Alaskan King Salmon (preferably Yukon King Salmon) fillet with skin
1/8 Cup (or so)  Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper (natch)
1/2 lemon, sliced into wedges

1. Preheat the oven to 475.  Toss the panko and herbs with the 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil.

2. Place the salmon skin-side down on a parchment-lined baking sheet.  Sprinkle salt and pepper (more than you think you should – fish begs for salt) , spread with mustard then herb/panko mixture.

3. Roast 18 – 20 minutes.  Use a spatula to separate the meat from the skin and serve with lemon slices to garnish!