Monthly Archives: May 2013

Roasted Garlic Hummus

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A lot of people consider food that is healthy and good for you to be “free,” meaning you can eat as much of it as you like.  One of those foods is hummus.  Next time you are in a grocery store, pick up a can of chickpeas (or any bean for that matter) and look at the calorie content.  Do the math for the whole can.  Your jaw will hit the floor at the number.  There are almost 300 calories in one cup of garbanzo beans.  Another ingredient in hummus is olive oil, which comes in at 120 calories per one tablespoon.  A lot of hummus recipes call for up to 1/4 cup  of olive oil equaling almost 500 calories.  A third ingredient commonly found in hummus is tahini paste which is basically a paste made from grinding sesame seeds. Tahini is about 100 calories per tablespoon.

Now, I am not saying that hummus is not good for you.  I love hummus.  I love garbanzo beans.  I love olive oil.  I love tahini paste.  I realize and respect that all of these foods carry great health benefits when you eat them. I am not recommending that you eliminate any of these foods from your diet.  I’m just here to warn you.  You have to be careful with beans and oil and nuts and seeds.  Yes, they are very good for you, but they also contain a lot of calories.  These foods are almost more dangerous than candy.  You know that candy is bad for you.  You know that candy is loaded with calories.  Hummus, however is good for you.  What are you going to dip into your hummus?  A triscuit? Triscuits are 20 calories each.  Say you dip on average about 1/2 tablespoon per triscuit…that’s 40 calories/dip. So, five triscuits with 1/2 tablespoon hummus on each = 200 calories.  That’s how much I allow myself for a snack.  This is why I had trouble losing weight.  I was eating healthy, but I was having 7 or 8 or 9 or 10 triscuits with hummus. I like this diet because I don’t really eliminate any food (maybe candy). I just keep track of how much I’m eating.

Most commercially made hummus brands come in at about 40 calories per tablespoon.  That equals around 160 per 1/4 cup.  That’s not too bad.  My recipe, however, cuts the oil way down and adds caramelized onions and roasted garlic for flavor and texture.  This method for roasting garlic uses very little oil and doesn’t take hours. My caramelized onion and roasted garlic hummus comes in at 77 calories per 1/4 cup.  That’s less than half the calories of commercial hummus.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut the onion in half.  Cut into half moons.

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Heat a dutch oven or heavy duty saucepan over medium high heat.  Spray pan quickly with olive oil pan spray.

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Cook the onions, stirring often, until they are a deep brown color. Transfer caramelized onions to a 13 x 9 inch baking pan. Peel seven garlic cloves.

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Add garlic to pan with the onions.

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Add 1/8 cup water.

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Add 1 Tblsp olive oil.

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Cover pan with foil, and place in the oven for 20 minutes.  Remove foil and continue cooking until most (but not all) of the water has evaporated and garlic is browned and soft, about 15 minutes more.

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Open one can of garbanzo beans and drain.  Place beans in food processor.

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Add caramelized onions and garlic, juice of half a lemon, salt, pepper, and cumin.

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Puree mixture until completely smooth.

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The recipe makes about 1 and 3/4 cup.  A great snack is to take 1/4 cup hummus (77 calories) and spread on a small tortilla (90 calories).

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I add about five pitted olives and a couple of pepperoncini (about 25 calories).

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I finish the wrap with a handful of fresh greens (I like arugula or Boston lettuce).  That adds up to just under 200 calories.  A sandwich wrap for a snack! This sort of thing makes me very happy.

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ROASTED GARLIC HUMMUS RECIPE

1 yellow onion, french cut

7 each whole garlic cloves, peeled

1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1/8 cup water

1 can garbanzo beans, drained

juice of half a lemon

1/2 tsp black pepper

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp Diamond Krystal kosher salt (use 1/2 tsp if using Morton’s kosher salt)

Procedure:

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Heat a dutch oven or heavy skilled over medium high heat.  Spray quickly with olive oil pan spray.  Add onions.

2.  Cook onions, stirring often, until they are a deep brown color.  Transfer onions to a 13 x 9 inch baking pan.

3.  Add garlic, water, and olive oil to pan.  Cover with foil and place in the preheated oven.

4.  Cook for about 20 minutes.  Remove foil and continue cooking until garlic is soft and golden browned, and most (but not all) of the water has evaporated.

5.  Place garbanzo beans, caramelized onions and roasted garlic, lemon juice, kosher salt, black pepper, and cumin in the bowl of a food processor.

6.  Puree mixture until very smooth.

Yield: about 1 and 3/4 cup

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Chocolate Pumpkin Seed Crunch

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In the midst of one of my grocery store “there’s a bunch of crap in everything – even the “healthy” stuff” rants, I proclaimed that I was no longer buying any processed foods.  I announced it to my family and friends, “No more processed foods whatsoever!”  After I cooled down a bit, I thought to myself, “Oh, crap.  What have I done? I’m going to have to get creative.”

I admit, I have eaten some of my words since then.  I soon realized that between my job, my two kids, and my other homemaker duties, that this was a bit of an unrealistic goal. I’m making a pretty good effort, however, only supplementing with the occasional loaf of bread, some bags of pretzels and booty, and some boxes of cereal (I’m still trying to figure out how to make my own Cheerios from scratch).

I stated before that I would not attach calorie counts to kid food, but this Chocolate Pumpkin Seed Crunch is a treat enjoyed by the whole family. Coming in at 245 calories/cup it’s a great topper for yogurt, a Saturday morning chocolate cereal treat, or simply a couple of handfuls as a quick sweet snack or an afternoon pick-up.

It’s a bit messy, but pretty simple and easy to make. Oh yeah, it’s also gluten-free.

I love this puffed rice. It’s a great for cereal.  Ingredients = Puffed Rice. Calories = 50/cup. I’ve recently found puffed kamut at whole foods.  I’ve been mixing it with the puffed rice in this recipe.  It adds a nice texture and reminds me of Sugar Smacks without the sugar.

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Measure the puffed rice and pumpkin seeds into a large bowl. Add the cinnamon and kosher salt, and mix well with your hands.

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In a small saucepan, combine maple syrup, coconut oil, vanilla, and chocolate chips.

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Slowly heat mixture over low heat, stirring constantly with a rubber spatula, until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth.

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Using a spatula, pour the chocolate mixture into the puffed rice mixture, scraping the pan clean.

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Stir the mixture with the spatula and your hand until all of the puffed rice is coated with the chocolate mixture.

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Spread mixture onto two parchment-lined sheet pans.

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Bake in a 300 degree oven for 10 minutes. Pull pans out of the oven and stir with a spatula.

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Return pans to oven on opposite racks.  Put the pan that was on the top rack on the bottom, and the one on the bottom rack onto the top rack. Cook mixture for 10-12 more minutes.  Remove from oven, and allow pans to cool.

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Store in an airtight container for up to one week.  245 calories/cup and gluten-free!

CHOCOLATE PUMPKIN SEED CRUNCH

8 cups puffed rice

1/2 cup pumpkin seeds

1 tsp Diamond Kyrstal kosher salt

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 cup maple syrup

2 Tblsps coconut oil

1 tsp vanilla

1 cup bittersweet chocolate

Procedure:

1.  Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Measure puffed rice and pumpkin seeds in large bowl.  Add cinnamon and kosher salt.  Mix well.

2.  Place maple syrup, coconut oil, chocolate chips, and vanilla in a small saucepan.

3.  Slowly, over low heat, melt chocolate mixture, stirring constantly with a rubber spatula.  Once chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth, remove from heat.  Cool slightly.

4. Add hot chocolate mixture to puffed rice mixture, scraping the sides of the saucepan clean.

5. Using hands, or two large kitchen spoons, toss until all of the puffed rice is coated with chocolate.

6. Spread onto two parchment lined sheet pans.

7. Place pans in oven, and cook 10 minutes.

8. Remove pans from oven and toss the chocolate crunch with a flat spatula.

9.  Place pans back in oven, placing the pan that was on the bottom rack onto the top rack, and the pan that was on the top rack onto the bottom rack.

10.  Cook 10 more minutes.  Remove pans from oven and allow to cool.

11.  Store in an airtight container for up to one week.

Iced Coffee at Home

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Following a low calorie, healthy diet can be hard. Even with the weekly cheat days, there are easy days and difficult days. When I get hungry and it’s not yet time to eat, I think of things I can drink.  Low and no calorie drinks get me through those hunger pangs.  My simple little daily treats are tea, seltzer, coconut water, and…iced coffee!  I love iced coffee. The problem with iced coffee is that it’s sooo good that I suck it down in a matter of seconds.  This can be a very expensive habit.  To ease my hunger pains and to ease the pains in my wallet, I’ve learned to make good iced coffee at home.  Sorry Starbucks!

The only way to make iced coffee is to cold brew.  It has to sit overnight, but it’s easy to make. The ratio I use is 4 parts water to 1 part coffee.   I like it strong, so I usually add a couple extra scoops of love. Start with clean, cold water.  Here, I used two quarts of water.

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There are four cups in a quart, right?  Eight cups of water, using the 4:1 ratio equals two cups of ground coffee.  Add the coffee to the water and stir to combine.  The coffee will sit on top.  Once the coffee and water are combined,  let it steep overnight.  You can leave it in the fridge, but I think I get a stronger brew if I leave it out at room temperature.

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The following day, strain the coffee mixture.  You’ll need a fine mesh strainer.

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Line the strainer with a large coffee filter.  A couple of paper towels will work too.

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I like to strain mine into a big pot.

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Pour the coffee mixture into the strainer.  Once the strainer is full, allow it to drain.  Repeat this step several times until all of the coffee mixture is strained.  20130518_130116

Pour the strained coffee into a pitcher.  Store in your fridge for up to five days. I like to add 1/4 cup unsweetened almond milk. (only 10 calories).  Sometimes, if I really need a treat, I’ll add a packet of stevia.  I try and avoid artificial sweeteners and diet drinks.  The jury is still out when it comes to stevia, however, so I’ll make an occasional exception.

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ICED COFFEE RECIPE:

2 cups plus a couple of heaping tablespoons ground coffee

2 quarts clean, cold water

Procedure:

Add coffee to water and stir to combine.  Let coffee mixture sit overnight.  Strain into a fine mesh strainer lined with a large coffee filter or paper towel. Pour strained coffee into a pitcher or other container.  Keep in the fridge for up to five days.

ALMOND MILK ICED LATTE

1 1/2 cups iced coffee

1/4 cup unsweetened almond milk

1 stevia packet

Fill a medium sized glass with ice.  Add iced coffee, almond milk, and stevia. Stir and enjoy. Only 10 calories!

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Baked Orzo with Red Sauce & Kale

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Kale is hip these days, but let’s face it, it’s not always awesome to eat.  I’ve heard it described as like eating a tree. Chef Kirk (my husband) is really good at eating his veggies, and he hates kale.  I think I’ve cracked the kale code, however. I can make kale pleasant to eat. This pasta dish is packed with veggies and delicious.  It feels like a real treat, because pasta makes few appearances on this diet.  Chef Kirk (the kale hater) loves it.

First, you have to make red sauce.  This is a scaled down version of Fiore’s Red Sauce. Cook the garlic, slowly in the oil and salt in a large sauce pan or dutch oven.

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Add the tomatoes and water.

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Simmer the sauce, reducing, until thick, about 35-40 minutes.

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Small dice your onions, carrots, and celery.

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Heat a large saucepan over medium to medium high heat.  Spray with olive oil pan spray. Place vegetables in pan, add 1 tsp kosher salt and 1 tsp pepper, and cook until translucent and starting to brown.

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While the vegetables are cooking, prep the kale.  Ah, yes, the tree. Be sure to wash the tree before you cook it.  It can be sandy.  One of the first things you learn in culinary school is how to  wash greens.  Fill up your sink or a large bowl with water.  You need a lot of water.  Place the greens in the water and swish them around a bit.  Let them sit in the water for about 5 minutes to let the sand settle to the bottom of your sink or bowl.  Remove greens from water and place on a clean kitchen towel to drain.

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Bring a large pot of water to the boil on the stove.  Add about 1/4 cup kosher salt.  Drop the kale into the boiling water.  I usually leave the stalks in tact, which makes it easier to get them in and out of the water. Cook kale in simmering water for about 4 minutes.

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Remove kale from the water with tongs and place it back on the kitchen towel to drain.  Keep the hot water going to cook the orzo later.

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Once it is cool enough to handle, remove the kale leaves from their stalks, and squeeze the excess water out.

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Rolling the kale into a tight ball, chop into small pieces.

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Now would be a good time to preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Add the kale to the saucepan with the vegetables.

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You might need to add a ladle or two of the hot water to free up the vegetables. Cook, stirring often for two or three minutes, until all of the water is evaporated.

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Now would be a good time to start cooking the orzo.

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When you cook pasta, be sure to use lots of water and plenty of salt.

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Add the vegetables to the pot with the red sauce. Stir well.

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Add the cooked pasta to the pot. Stir well.

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Add the cottage cheese and the rest of the salt. Stir well.

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Pour the pasta mix into a 13 x 9 baking pan. Top with the mozzarella.

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Bake pasta until hot and brown on top. Cut into eight portions and serve.

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Only 305 calories/portion!

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BAKED ORZO WITH RED SAUCE AND KALE RECIPE

1/8 cup chopped garlic

1 Tblsp extra virgin olive oil

6 tsps kosher salt

1 tsp black pepper

1 28-ounce can strained tomatoes

1 cup water

1 large yellow onion, small dice

3 stalks celery, small dice

4 small carrots, peeled and diced small

1 bunch kale, washed

1 pound whole wheat orzo

1 cup lowfat cottage cheese

1 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella

Procedure:

1. Bring a large pot of water to the boil.  Add about 1/4 cup kosher salt.

2. Make the sauce.  Heat a large dutch oven or saucepan over low heat.  Add the oil, then garlic and 2 tsps kosher salt.

3.  Cook the garlic, very slowly, stirring often, about 8 minutes. Do not brown.

4.  Add tomatoes and water.  Stir and bring to a simmer.

5.  Simmer the sauce and reduce until thickened, about 35-40 minutes. Set Aside.

6. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Heat a large skillet over medium heat.  Spray with olive oil pan spray.  Add onion, carrot, celery, 1 tsp kosher salt, and 1 tsp black pepper.

7.  Cook vegetables, stirring often, until translucent and beginning to brown. While the vegetables are cooking, prep the kale.

8. Place kale in boiling water for about 4 minutes.  Remove with tongs and place on a clean kitchen towel to drain. Keep the boiling water for cooking the orzo. Once kale is cool enough to handle, remove leaves from stalks, and squeeze out excess water.

9. Gather cooked kale leaves in a tight ball and chop fine.  Add kale to the skillet with the vegetables.  Add a ladle of the pasta water and stir well. Cook until water is evaporated.

10.  Add vegetable mixture to the pot containing the red sauce. Stir well.

11. Cook orzo until al dente, 10-12 minutes. Drain.

12.  Add pasta to the pot with the sauce and vegetables.

13. Add the cottage cheese and the rest of the kosher salt. Stir well.

14. Pour pasta mixture into a 13 x 9 baking pan.  Top with mozzarella.

15. Bake until hot and browned on top, about 15-20 minutes.

16. Cut into eight portions.  305 calories/portion.

Avocado Toast

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Another great snack!  This one’s a healthy one.  My mom has been buying Ezekiel Sprouted Grain Bread for as long as I can remember.  My sister and I used to fondly call it “Jesus bread” because there is a bible verse printed on the package.

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Whatever you want to call it, it’s really good for you.  It’s all organic, a complete protein, and only 80 calories/slice.  It’s perfect for a making a quick snack. Here, I’ve topped mine with avocado, lemon, pickled jalapenos, and  broccoli sprouts.  Now that’s a snack that will keep you going for a few hours, and it’s delicious! Only 147 calories!

AVOCADO TOAST

1 slice Ezekiel bread

1/4 avocado

fresh lemon wedge

7 each slices pickled jalapeno peppers

1/2 cup fresh  broccoli or other kind of sprouts

Procedure:

Toast bread in your toaster or broiler to your desired level of toasty.  Spread with avocado.  Squeeze lemon over avocado.  Top with jalapenos and then sprouts.  Enjoy!

Dark Chocolate Oatmeal Raisin Pecan Cookies

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Few things make me happier than making cookies.  I love the little cracks on ginger snaps when you bake them.  I’m always thinking of what new color of french macaroon I’m going to try, and what flavor will compliment the color.  It’s near impossible to top dipping homemade biscotti into a hot cup of strong coffee. I like making all different kinds and freezing them, so on cheat day, I can set up a cookie buffet.  I’d like to think that these oatmeal cookies are somewhat good for you…dark chocolate has antioxidants, right?  Oats are full of fiber, and pecans have those good fats – but who cares!! It’s cheat day and these cookies are the bomb! This is an indulgence recipe so no calorie counts. Enjoy!

First, measure your flour, baking soda, and baking powder in a bowl.

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Stir with a whisk to evenly distribute ingredients.

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In another bowl, measure oats, dark chocolate, pecans, and raisins.

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Chef tip: Crack your eggs into a bowl.  This is less messy than cracking them into the mixer, and you can fish out any pieces of eggshell, so they don’t end up in your cookies.

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Place butter and sugars in the bowl of an electric mixer.20130508_164054

Beat, using the paddle attachment until light and fluffy.

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Scrape down the sides of the bowl.  Add the eggs one at a time, beating until incorporated, and scraping down the bowl between additions.

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Once the eggs are incorporated, beat in the extracts.

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Beat in flour mixture.  Add half of the mixture and incorporate, and then the other half.

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Lastly, add the oat and chocolate mixture.  Beat to incorporate.

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Scoop batter onto a parchment-lined sheet pan.

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Place cookies two inches apart.   You should get 12 to a pan.

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Bake 20-25 minutes in middle rack of oven.  Rotate the pan halfway through the cooking process. Bake until golden.

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Enjoy!

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DARK CHOCOLATE OATMEAL RAISIN PECAN COOKIES

1/2 lb (two sticks) unsalted butter, softened

1 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 cup granulated sugar

2 large eggs

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

1 tsp almond extract

1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1 1/2 tsps baking powder

1/2 tsp baking sods

1/2 tsp kosher salt

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp ginger

1/8 tsp nutmeg

2 cups rolled oats

1 cup dark chocolate chips

1 cup chopped pecans

3/4 cup raisins

Procedure:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2.  Measure flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices, and salt into a bowl. Stir with a whisk to combine.  Set aside.

3.  In another bowl, measure oats, raisins, dark chocolate chips, and chopped pecans. Set aside.

4.  Place butter and sugars in bowl of an electric mixer.  Beat butter and sugar using the paddle attachment until light and fluffy.

5.  Add eggs one at a time, mixing each one until incorporated.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula between each addition.

6.  Beat in vanilla and almond extract.

6.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl.  Add half of the flour mixture.  Turn mixer on low, and beat until flour is incorporated.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl again.  Add the remainder of the flour mixture, and beat gently until incorporated.

7. While the mixer is running on low, slowly add the oat mixture, and mix until incorporated.

8.  Scoop batter in 1 1/2  inch diameter balls, onto a parchment lined sheet tray. Place dough balls about two inches apart.  You should be able to put 12 on a sheet tray.

9.  Bake for 20-25 minutes, on the center rack, rotating the tray halfway through the cooking time.  Bake until golden brown.

Yield:  About 32 cookies

Jambalaya

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This is not your mama’s jambalaya. I love cajun and creole cooking.  I love the depth of flavors, the spiciness, the history…it is true soul food.  Such soulful cuisine has deep roots.  Deep roots are attached to strong feelings.  There are thousands of cajun and creole descendants that have specific “rules” for specific dishes.  The way their granny made gumbo is the only way to make gumbo. Dark roux versus nut brown roux, five hours cooking time versus twelve hours cooking time – these are fighting words.  I am not cajun or creole. I don’t want to hurt anyone’s pride or get the “cajun police” on my tail.  I am, however, a damn fine cook who can really appreciate the history, the cooking style, the flavor profile and culinary foundation of a unique and celebrated culture.  Perhaps I should have called this dish “Low Calorie, Gluten-Free, Chicken, Sausage, and Vegetable Stew with Cajun Flavors.”  Whatever you want to call it, it’s quite tasty and  very healthy.

Okay,  this is a recipe that calls for making your own chicken sausage.  Don’t be intimidated.  It’s simple and easy.  We’ll do it in the food processor.  You can do it! If you are still intimidated after this encouragement, you can purchase some chicken sausage.

I like to cook my rice separately for soups and stews. Sometimes I feel like 1/2 a cup of rice, sometimes I feel like a whole cup of rice.  Grains also have a lot of calories. I find that I usually don’t need any more than a 1/2 cup of rice (120 calories/half cup!), especially at dinner time. Keeping the rice separate, gives you more control over the calorie count.  Take it easy cajun police.

Heat a heavy bottomed pot or dutch oven over medium heat. Add the olive oil and onions.

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Next, add the chopped celery and peppers.

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The cajun police isn’t going to like it that I used yellow and red peppers.  Just be sure to use at least one green pepper.

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The key to this recipe is cooking the vegetables with the spices and garlic for a long time. Make sure your pan is hot enough that you hear the vegetables sizzle when they hit the pan.  You want the vegetables to release all of their liquid and cook down, stirring often, without burning.

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Add the garlic, celery seed, kosher salt, black pepper, and Tony’s creole seasoning, and cook baby cook.

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In the mean time, prep your chicken.  Start with about 1 and 1/3 pounds boneless, skinless, chicken thighs (about 4 each).  Trim off the excess fat with a knife or kitchen scissors.

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Heat a skillet over medium heat.  Lightly season half of the chicken thighs (2) with Tony’s cajun seasoning.

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If you don’t like Tony’s, you can use a different brand of cajun or creole seasoning.  Tony’s is good stuff, but use it lightly, it’s strong.

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Spray the skillet quickly with olive oil pan spray. Sear the chicken thighs on both sides.

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Add the seared chicken to the pot of cooking vegetables. Set aside the skillet for cooking your chicken sausage later.

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Add the tomatoes and chicken stock to the pot.  Stir and bring to a simmer.

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Make the chicken sausage:  Add the garlic cloves to your food processor.

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Pulse until chopped.

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Using a knife or kitchen scissors, take the remaining half of the chicken thighs and cut into large dice.  Add to the food processor.

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Add the garlic and onion powder, chili powder, black pepper, and kosher salt and pulse 5-8 times until the meat is finely chopped.  Stop pulsing before it becomes a paste.

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Reheat the skillet  over medium heat. Spray with a bit of olive oil pan spray and add your chicken sausage.

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Cook, stirring often and cutting into smaller pieces as it cooks.

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Add the chicken sausage to the pot.  Stir and bring to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes.

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Using tongs, pull the cooked chicken thighs out of the stew and place on a plate.  Allow to cool.

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Shred the chicken thighs once they are cool enough to handle.

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Add to the pot and stir.

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Add the fresh thyme, chopped parsley, and lemon, bring to a simmer, and continue cooking for about 20 minutes. The stew makes about eight cups.  To serve.  Add half a cup of cooked brown rice to each bowl.

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Top with two cups of the Jambalaya chicken stew. Stir to combine and serve.

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344 calories/serving, and it’s gluten free!

CHICKEN JAMBALAYA RECIPE

1 Tblsp olive oil3 medium yellow onions, small dice

7 each celery stalks, washed and chopped into small dice

3 each bell peppers (use at least one green), small dice

4 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced thin, lengthwise

1/2 tsp celery seed

2 tsps Diamond Krystal kosher salt (if using Morton’s, use 1 1/2 tsps)

1 tsp black pepper

1 tsp Tony’s creole seasoning, plus more for seasoning chicken thighs

10.5 ounces boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about 2 each)

homemade chicken sausage (see recipe below), or 10 ounces prepared chicken sausage

1-14 ounce can chopped tomatoes

2 cups chicken stock

2 Tblsp chopped fresh thyme

1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

juice of 1/2 a lemon

2 cups cooked short grain brown rice

CHICKEN SAUSAGE

2 each (about 10.5 ounces) boneless, skinless chicken thighs

2 cloves garlic, peeled

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1/2 tsp onion powder

1/2 tsp chili powder

1/2 tsp black pepper

1 tsp Diamond Krystal kosher salt (if using Morton’s, use 1/2 tsp)

Proceedure:

1.  Heat a heavy bottomed pot or dutch oven over medium heat.

2. Once pan is hot, add olive oil, onion, celery, and peppers.  Stir well.

3.  Add garlic, celery seed, kosher salt, black pepper, and Tony’s creole seasoning. Stirring often, cook vegetables well.  Cook until vegetables have released all of their liquid and almost starting to brown.

4.  While the vegetables are cooking, prep the chicken.  Heat a skillet over medium heat.  Lightly sprinkle chicken thighs with Tony’s or other creole seasoning on all sides.

5. Quickly spray pan with olive oil pan spray and sear chicken thighs on both sides.  Add chicken thighs to the pot of vegetables. Reserve skillet to cook the chicken sausage later.

6. Add tomatoes and chicken stock to pot, stir well, and bring to a simmer.

7. Make chicken sausage.  Add the garlic cloves to a food processor.  Pulse until garlic is chopped.

8. Using a knife or scissors, cut the chicken thighs into large chunks, and add to the food processor.

9.  Add garlic and onion powder, chili powder, kosher salt and black pepper.

10. Pulse chicken and spices until chopped fine, but not a paste.

11.  Heat skillet over medium heat.  Quickly spray with olive oil pan spray.

12.  Add chicken sausage to skillet, and cook, stirring and cutting into smaller pieces as it cooks.

13.  Add sausage to jambalaya pot, bring to a simmer, and cook for 30 minutes.

14.  Using tongs, pull cooked chicken thighs from the pot, and place on a plate to cool.

15.  Once chicken is cool enough to handle, shred chicken into pieces and return to pot.

16.  Add thyme, parsley, and lemon juice. Stir well.  Bring to a simmer, and cook 20 minutes.

17.  To serve: place 1/2 cup a rice in each bowl.  Top with two cups jambalaya and stir to combine.

Serves 4

344 calories per serving and it’s gluten free!

Stew can be kept in the fridge for 5 days, or freezer for two months.

Shockingly Good Dark Chocolate Banana Pops

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I buy bananas every week.  I should probably stop buying them because we never eat them in time.  I was told to stop putting bananas in Will and Lidia’s lunch boxes because they were “getting ripe all over the other food.”  I also have a ubiquitous stash of brown bananas wrapped in the freezer that are in a “wanna be in a smoothie someday” state of purgatory.  Our recent move has landed us into a temporary apartment, and my blender is in a “somewhere in a box in the storage unit” state of purgatory. Needless to say, I haven’t been making smoothies, and my frozen brown banana stash keeps growing. I was ready to add a new crop of brown bananas to the inventory when I thought that I needed to do something else.

I had seen the frozen banana pops as a preschool snack some years back.  In that version, however, they had rolled the ripe bananas in a granola topping before freezing them.  My version had to include dark chocolate.  I’m a bit obsessed with good dark chocolate, and chocolate is a classic pairing with bananas. I added some toasted almonds for more flavor and the very important crunch factor.  The process was easier than I thought it would be, and I must say, the end result was shockingly good.  I mean, I knew it was going to be good, but they were really good.  The kids thought they were eating an ice cream bar.  So, set your frozen brown bananas free today!  Liberate them from “wanna be in a smoothie some day” to  “shockingly good dark chocolate banana pops!”

First, cut your bananas in half.

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Peel them and stick a popsicle stick in each one. Place on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Place pan in the freezer for at least one hour.

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In the meantime, you can toast some nuts.  I used slivered almonds, but you could use any kind of nut you want: peanut, hazelnut, pecan, pine nut (which is also the name of a town). I like to toast my nuts in a 350 degree oven for 10 to 12 minutes, until they get nice and golden brown.

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Once your bananas are good and frozen, melt your chocolate.  You can do this very easily in the microwave, or in a saucepan. Next, dip each banana in the melted chocolate.

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Then, roll one side of the banana in the toasted nuts.

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Place the banana back on the sheet pan, and you’re done!  Easy, right? Only approximately 167 calories/each.  Oh yeah – and they’re gluten free!

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SHOCKINGLY GOOD DARK CHOCOLATE BANANA POP RECIPE:

4 each – very ripe bananas

1 cup – 60% dark chocolate chips

1/2 cup – slivered almonds

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut bananas in half.

2.  Peel and place on a parchment lined sheet tray.

3.  Insert a popsicle stick in each one.

4.  Place the sheet tray in the freezer for at least one hour.

5.  Place almonds (or other nuts) on a different sheet tray and toast in the oven 10-12 minutes, until golden brown.

6.  Once the bananas are good and frozen, melt the chocolate.

      In the microwave: place half of the chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl. Cook  for        1 minute on power level six.  Stir chocolate.  Stir in remaining chocolate chips.  Cook             for  30 seconds on power level 5. Stir well.

      On the stovetop: Place 2/3 of the chocolate chips in a saucepan.  Over low heat, melt       the chocolate, stirring constantly with a rubber spatula. Remove the pan from the heat,  and stir in remaining chocolate.  Stir well until all the chocolate is melted and smooth.

7.  Dip each banana in the chocolate until mostly covered.

8.  Roll the chocolate banana in the toasted almonds on one side and place back on the pan.  The chocolate should harden after a minute or so.

Make Your Own Chicken Sausage

There are so many advantages to making your own sausage.  Store bought brands are loaded with preservatives.  I’ve been able to find nice locally processed brands that use locally raised meats, but they are quite expensive.  I like to save that sort of splurge for my indulgence meals. If you make your own, you can choose your meat (pork, chicken, turkey, beef), you can choose your seasonings (Asian, Mexican, Italian), and you can control the spice level.  Perhaps the best advantage is that you control the processing (in your own, clean kitchen), and you control the ingredients with no chemical preservatives.

First, choose your meat.  I chose chicken.

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I think dark meat works best.  It has more flavor, and a nicer fat ratio, which is important.  I like to trim off about half the fat.  In the professional kitchen, we have nice cutting boards that are color coded for meat, vegetables, and fish.  We also have very hot water for washing, as well as sanitizing chemicals.  In my home kitchen, I like to cut up my meat on a glass plate, if possible.  It’s  much easier to clean than a plastic or wooden cutting board.  I also have a special pair of scissors that I use for cutting and trimming fat off of meat. I will certainly use a sharp knife if I’m cutting expensive steaks. For sausage production, however, the scissors are easy to clean, and eliminate raw meat on a cutting board.

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I trim the meat into medium to large dice.  I then add any spices I like.  In this particular batch, I made Asian flavored chicken sausage meatballs which I put into a rice noodle soup.  My seasonings consisted of fresh garlic, soy sauce, salt, pepper, chopped jalapeno, and chinese five spice powder.

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After mixing the seasonings in with the meat, I let the mixture sit at room temperature for about 15 minutes. I have this cool, handy, meat grinding attachment that fits on to my Kitchen Aid mixer. It cost me a bit less than $100, and I think it was well worth the investment.  If you don’t have a Kitchen Aid, or you don’t want to invest in the meat grinding attachment, you can grind your meat by pulsing it in your food processor.

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I feed the meat mixture through twice.

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At this point, you can wrap and freeze the sausage for future use.  You can spread the sausage on a sheet pan, and cook it in the oven.  You can brown it in a skillet on the stove.

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You can wrap it tightly in plastic wrap, forming it into a cylinder and drop it in poaching water. You can form meatballs and drop them right into a pot of simmering soup or stew.

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Asian Sausage:                                Spicy Chipotle Sausage:                           Italian Sausage:

1 lb meat                                               1 lb meat                                                      1 lb  meat

2 tsps five spice powder                     1  Tblsp chipotle powder                        2 tsps fennel seed

3 cloves garlic, chopped                     2 tsps ground cumin                               1 tsp chili flakes

1 jalapeno, chopped                             1 Tblsp kosher salt                                1 Tblsp kosher salt

1 Tblsp soy sauce                                  1 tsp black pepper                                  1 tsp black pepper

1 tsp kosher salt

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The sky’s the limit!  Make your own combination today!