Monday, January 30, 2012

Crockpot Flank Steak

I originally wanted to do a Cuban style flank steak in the crockpot, but I realized this morning my spice cabinet isn't what it should be right now, so I fell back to my basic Italian roots.

1.5 lb flank steak, cut crosswise into three pieces
1 large onion sliced
diced red, green and orange peppers
28 oz container diced tomatoes
salt, pepper, Italian seasoning

Start by searing off the meat in the frying pan. In the crockpot, pour in the tomatoes (I use the Pomi cartons, less sodium and better taste, it's worth a little extra) add the sliced onion and peppers. Salt, pepper and seasonings to taste and then place the meat on top. Cook on low for 10-12 or high for 4-6 hours until the meat is tender. Using 2 forks, shred the meat.

I served it over pearl cous cous (aka Israeli cous cous) and with roasted butternut squash that I tossed in a little olive oil and balsamic and hit with a bit of Italian seasoning to go with the flank.

Since this ends up being about 8 Pika servings at about 4 points plus a serving (the boys eat about 2 servings) add 3 more points for the cous cous and the squash is free - this ends up being a nice filling dinner.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Baked Ziti

What's an easy crowd pleaser? Baked ziti. Keep in mind that the cheese filling is what I use for lasagna as well - so this is a pretty versatile cheese mix. By using reduced/no fat cheese you don't lose any flavor and you can trim things a fair amount. This version makes 12 servings for 8 points plus a serving:

1 lb ziti: boiled to al dente and drained
2 lb container fat-free ricotta
1 1/2 cups shredded reduced fat parmesan
1 cup shredded fat-free mozarella
2 eggs
Italian seasoning to taste (I used about 3 Tbsp)
jar of marinara style sauce

Boil pasta until almost cooked through (al dente) and drain.

In a large bowl, mix the ricotta, parmesan and mozarella. Add eggs and Italian seasoning and mix thoroughly.

In a 13x9 pan, spray some cooking spray and pour just enough sauce to cover the bottom. Pour pasta over the sauce, cover the pasta with the cheese mix and top off with the rest of the marinara.

Cook for about 40 minutes at 375*F.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Yogurt Cheese

Back in the 70's, a cocktail party wasn't a cocktail party unless you had some Boursin style cheese to go with that bottle of wine. Then there was the classic "California Onion Dip" to go with those rippled potato chips for parties. Now with football play offs as the center of social events and many of us worried about our jeans getting tighter as the weather gets colder, I have a tasty solution for you: plain yogurt.

Yep, I said it, plain yogurt my friends.

I discovered how to make cheese from yogurt in the late 80's/early 90's when I went to work and weight began to creep on. I was still young and social but wanted to keep an eye on the amount of fat I was consuming. So I learned that it was simple to use plain yogurt to make a sour cream or cream cheese style base for things. Something I hadn't thought about in years until I stumbled across a note as I've been cleaning the kitchen over the past week.

So give this simple solution a try when you're thinking about your next party.

Start with a container of plain yogurt, a coffee filter, strainer and bowl. Line the strainer with the coffee filter and pour the yogurt into the filter and sit the strainer over a bowl in the fridge. If you want something the consistency of sour cream for a healthier dip, let it sit for a day, drain off the liquid in the bowl. For a cream cheese consistency, let it sit for two days. When it's at the consistency you like, discard the drained liquid and place the yogurt in a large bowl for mixing.

For a dip:

Mix the drained yogurt with either a dry mix (onion soup mix, veggie soup mix, etc.) or finely dice some onion and grab your favorite herb mix and mix them all together. Use with a veggie tray or chips.

For a Boursin cheese:

Thoroughly mix the drained and thickened yogurt with chopped garlic, chopped chives and parmesan cheese. Then add dried thyme, marjoram, sage, parsley and black pepper, mix thoroughly. Adjust the seasoning for your tastes. For example, if you're having lasagna or an Italian themed main course, you may want to use Italian seasoning rather than individual seasonings. Another option is using Herbs de Provence if you're going to a more wine and cheese party.

Make both of these things a day in advance and store them covered in the fridge for the flavors to really blend.

If the fat argument doesn't sway you, check the difference in cost for pre-made dips (and all that yummy sodium) and the cost of a container of plain yogurt (particularly that rich, fat-free Greek yogurt). and using things you probably all ready have in your pantry and kitchen. But be a little bold going into the New Year and give it a try.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Lunch Edition

I wanted something kind of fun for lunch today. Something a little different, so I decided to make myself a roast beef sushi sandwich bento. I rolled a piece of potato bread out as thin as I could, put on some mustard, dark lettuce and roast beef. I then rolled and sliced it like sushi and packed it in my new-ish bento box. I added a small mixed green salad and clementine. Yum!

Who says lunch has to be boring? Who says that it's not worth taking an extra couple of minutes to do something special for yourself?

So if you're resolved to eat better this year, then take it to the next level and eat more fun as well. After all, aren't you worth it?

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Vegetarian Broccoli Cheddar Soup

Yes, the happy kitty bowl was happy again tonight. :)

I love broccoli. I think I'm the only one in the house who does. When I was a kid, I used to have fantasies of riding my pet triceratops, Spike, through the world sharing broccoli and having adventures. So when I saw a big honking bag of broccoli for a buck on the "yesterday's produce" rack, I figured it was time to try to make some soup and have another go with the immersion blender. I don't understand why people use chicken stock to broccoli soup. So, I made a vegetarian version so that I could share it with my imaginary dinosaur pal.


4 cups uncooked Broccoli florets
1 cup sweet onion, diced
1 cup carrots, diced
½ mushrooms, sliced
2 ½ cups Veggie Broth
1 cup white wine
¼ cup milk/cream
½ cup cheddar (shredded)
2 tsp olive oil
salt & pepper to taste
Herbs de Provence to taste

In a stock pot, sauté the veggies in olive oil until they start to soften. Add the broth and wine, season with salt, pepper and herbs and bring to a boil until the veggies are soft. Stick an immersion blender in there and blend until smooth.

(If you aren't using an immersion blender: Transfer the veggies and half of the liquid into a blender of food processor and puree until smooth. Pour in the rest of liquid, continuing to blend until smooth.)

Pour the mix through a colander and return to pot. Stir in cream and cheese until cheese melts and serve.

I used heavy cream, so this was 7 points for a 1 cup serving. If you want to reduce the points value, then substitute lower fat milk for the heavy cream.

I know my happy kitty bowl was happy tonight and I imagine Spike would have been too.

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