Sunday, January 15, 2012

Chicken and Brown Rice Soup

Recipe #90:
Well, one could say that both recipes today are chicken-heavy, but I opted to make this one with mushrooms replacing the chicken, to give my GI tract some more vegetables. Since it's the cold-and-flu, back-to-school, bloody-hell-cold time of year out here in Calgary, I thought it wise to have some healthy soup on hand to keep my busy body going strong.
I guess you could say my version is semi-vegetarian. As stated before, I used mushrooms (about 7 large ones) in lieu of the chicken. I used up the beef stock (25% less sodium version for all of my stocks) in the fridge which came to 1.5 cups of the 8 total. I used chicken stock for the remaining 6.5 cups. We didn't have any brown rice on hand so I used jasmine rice. The kale was an interesting project to chop and chop and chop.....
In terms of cooking notes, I ended up heating 1 cup of stock at the beginning after the 1/2 cup called for did not seem to be enough. Part of that could have been my warped aluminum camping pot that I used... I still haven't found the bay leaf in the pot to remove it as directed. I'll get to that when I find it. The rest of the cooking went quite smoothly. My end product is hot, nutritious and delicious! The kale is a wee bit crunchy-ish, but wilted and tender at the same time. I look forward to this soup for lunch tomorrow when the expected temperature is due to peak at -22C with a windchill of -32C...

French Bistro Chicken & Potato Salad

I meant to make this recipe about a week ago, but I kept balking because I didn't know how long to cook the potatoes for. Strange, but true. I googled it eventually and made this recipe today. My whole point was to use up some of the potatoes I've got on hand since we don't eat them very often.
I made a few modifications to this recipe. I only had regular Miracle-Whip on hand. My potatoes are the regular brown ones, not fancy baby red ones. I weighed them out to the same 1 lb. called for which was 3 of mine. I weighed out 1/4 lb. of frozen, french-cut green beans, then ran them under hot water in a colander to thaw them. I had to squeeze out the excess water by hand so that the end product wouldn't be too watery. I omitted the onions because I hate raw ones. My parsely and thyme were dried because I accidently killed my thyme plant and I'm out of squeeze tube parsely. I thought I had the proper salad dressing, but when I discovered I didn't, I used nearly 1 tbsp. of balsamic vinegar that I found in the cupboard.
The most PITA part of the recipe was chopping & cooking the chicken and potatoes. The rest was easy! My end product was tasty - I enjoyed it in a warmed pita as a sandwich. While it was -16C out today (before wind chill), I thought of summer while I ate my potato salad.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Buds Beef and Mushroom Meatloaf

Recipe #88:
Not to be gross on a food blog, but I've been coding a LOT of colonoscopy charts lately so fibre has been on my mind. It seems that the standard recommendation by gastroenterologists for those of us who are ageing is to increase your fibre (aim for 30g daily) and water intake. That being said, this recipe may help you for the fibre goal.
I really can't quite remember how I stumbled across the All-Bran recipe section of their website since I normally don't even eat their products, but it does have some excellent ideas for increasing your fibre with great-tasting results. However, unless you are REALLY good at cooking while you're on the phone, try not to combine the two like I did...
As far as ingredient substitutions, mine were pretty minimal. I had the squeeze-tube parsely on had so I used that up (came to 1/4 cup total). I thought I'd bought the All-Bran Buds cereal, but it turned out that I had the regular kind (not Flakes) so I used that. I don't really see what difference it makes once it becomes soggy with the beef stock. Speaking of beef stock, mine was the 25% less sodium version, and I did not add salt to the recipe. I actually forgot to add pepper because I was on the phone with a friend in crisis while cooking. I'm not entirely sure if all of the beef I found in the freezer was extra-lean, but it probably was because that's what we usually buy. My egg happened to have expired a while ago.....
My biggest mistake with this recipe was misreading "cook the mushrooms" for "cook the meat". Thus, I started to cook the meat with the oil when suddenly I realized I was not supposed to be doing that. This is why I should not cook while on the phone. In the end, because I cooked some of the meat at the beginning, my "loaf" is a bit more 'fluid' than it should be. It still tastes fine, but the texture isn't quite what a person expects from "meatloaf". Consider yourself warned.
For those who fear the fibre factor, it's really not an issue from what I can tell. The Meatatarian ate it and said it was tasty although I think he's a little confused as to why I'm forcing fibre on him. Ah, the joys of being the victim of a cook-in-training... I didn't really notice the cereal so it's not as if your meatloaf will be crunchy or something. I think it adds good bind and bulk, actually. I'm glad I didn't add even more parsely - I'm not sure it really needs to be there in the first place because it lends a rather green cast to the finished product which might offend some. It does add flavour, but I might try something different next time. Regardless, I'm glad it is no longer lingering in the fridge.
Time for leftovers!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Fiesta Chicken Enchiladas Made Over

Recipe #87:
Yep, another "healthier version" Kraft recipe. What can I say? I'm on a roll. And in the mood for simplicity, quite frankly.
I altered a few things in my version:
-I left out the red and green peppers because I don't like peppers, the Meatatarian doesn't really like them either, and I plum forgot about them at the grocery store.
-I only had regular cream cheese on hand.
-No fancy Tex-Mex cheese here - just some old cheddar I grated after carefully checking for mold first. Oops, inside voice...
-Our salsa happened to be of the mild variety, in case that matters to anyone.
This recipe was pretty easy to make. I did use cooking spray (PC Olive - ooh la la!) on both the chicken saucepan and the baking dish. I'm learning! The tortillas were slightly messy to roll, but I managed without any real drama. Their suggestion of 1/3 cup per tortilla is pretty much bang on.
My version was probably a little blander than the Kraft pepper version, but I happen to like it. It still has good flavour. A hungry friend who stopped by also said it was good, so I'm 2 for 2 in tasting so far. I don't eat a lot of enchiladas - am I supposed to use cutlery? We just used our fingers and slurped a lot. The ends are crunchy, but the middle is soft. I hope they're just as good when I reheat the leftovers tomorrow.

Unfried French Fries

Recipe #86:
Happy New Year! Sorry about the recent lack of updates. It was one hell of a fall semester, then I went home for the holidays. Now I'm back in Calgary and my mom is no longer making dinner each night. Sad face.
I chose this recipe for a couple of reasons:
1) I'm trying to keep eating better this year and this is one of Kraft's "makeover" recipes in which they provide a healthier way to eat the same foods.
2) We have a lot of potatoes at home (ignoring the fact that I had to go buy baking potatoes since none of our are that kind...)
About the only alternation I made with this recipe was that my parmesan cheese was the regular kind, not the lighter kind. We have an awful lot of it so I wasn't about to go buy more. Wait...that sounds a bit like the potatoes.... I digress.
I used Kraft's suggestion for cutting the potatoes (see bottom of the link above), but when they say 1/4" width, they really mean it. Some of mine were thicker than that, and they were the ones that were still crunchy after cooking. Take note. Also, I don't know if it was just the baking sheet I used (the only clean one I could find), but I wasn't able to get them all on it in a single layer so I had some overlap. That also contributed to some crunching, I'm sure. I used aluminum foil instead of cooking spray since I thought it would wreck the non-stick pan, but you really do need to use cooking spray both below and on top of the potatoes. Otherwise, you'll be eating aluminum foil, too. Take my word for it.
Overall, crunchiness notwithstanding, these were tasty. They were a bit more similar to potato wedges rather than fries, but they had a nice flavour and were filling. I had mine with a salad and cup-o-soup.