Thursday, December 30, 2010

Stewed Cauliflower - 2 points

If you want to come up with a new name for this dish, that would be great. I can't think of anything at the moment and something this good should not have such an unappetizing moniker.

Stewed Cauliflower
1 large cauliflower
2 cans stewed tomatoes with onions, celery, and green peppers
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp olive oil
4 tbsp white vinegar
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup fresh rosemary
salt and pepper to taste

1. Clean the cauliflower and separate the florets.  Soak florets in salted water for twenty minutes. Drain and rinse. Place cauliflower in a microwave safe steamer with 1/4 cup of water; microwave on high for three minutes. (This just decreases the cooking time of the overall dish and is not a necessary step if you are not in a hurry to serve dinner to a hungry nephew.) Drain water and set aside.
2. Heat oil in a heavy saucepan over medium heat; add garlic and saute until it begins to brown.
3. Add tomatoes, vinegar, bay leaf, rosemary, salt, and pepper to saucepan. Heat to boiling.
4. Add cauliflower; simmer until sauce has thickened.
5. This recipe makes four, 2 point servings.

I use my handy-dandy Pampered Chef steamer to steam vegetables in the microwave. I love Pampered Chef because it makes my life easier! This steamer is one of my favorite products.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Shrimp Ragout - 6 points

I am one of the prime enemies of the cow. I love a big juicy hamburger, the kind that drips grease and tomato juice and mayonnaise when you take a bite. I love a medium-rare porter house steak with a thick crust of pepper. I fantasize about succulent pot roast slow cooked with golden potatoes and white onions. None of those things, as you can imagine, is on the Weight Watcher's list of acceptable foods.

Seafood is normally a rare dish in my house, but it is low on points and I am very hungry. So, I made a trip to the store and got to know the man being the seafood counter. I came home with shrimp, scallops, orange roughy, mahi-mahi, and swordfish. I started out with the shrimp. I had an open bottle of a favorite wine, which inspired me to try a shrimp ragout. It was delicious! I was amazing! It was so good I had to close my eyes and curl my toes when I took my first bite.

Shrimp Ragout
1 pounds of shrimp, cleaned
2 cups chopped tomatoes
1 cup white wine
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, roughly chopped
1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion
1/2 cup thinly sliced red bell pepper
1 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Saute onions and peppers in oil until tender. Add tomatoes and heat to boiling. Turn down the heat to medium low; add wine, parsley, salt, and pepper. Heat until parsley beings to wilt. Add shrimp. Cook for 15 minutes over medium low heat to allow sauce to thicken.  Makes four, six point servings of YUM.

A note about cooking with wine: bad wine = bad food. I have a friend who is a chef. She swears that it doesn't matter what wine you use when you cook and recommends that you go as cheap as possible to lower costs. I think that she is generally a rational person, but that in this particular department she is full of crap.  Generally when you cook with wine you are making a sauce. You will cook the sauce down after adding the wine, which will concentrate the flavor. Cook down a good wine, and you will be left with a sauce that deeply resonates  every lovely note of your chosen vintage. Cook down a bad wine, and all you will taste is the bitterness of skunky brew. 

For this ragout, I actually used one of my favorite blush wines - Mad Housewife White Zinfandel. The labels are as amusing as the wine is delicious.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Southwestern Breakfast Sandwhich - 6 Points

Two days on Weight Watchers and my body is in detox mode. No matter how many vegetables and fruits I eat, I keep craving Butterfinger Blizzards and buffalo chicken strips and open faced roast beef sandwiches and peanut butter fudge. A month of eating whatever I want has taught my body to expect high energy food, and it is not liking the high fiber, low fat, sugar free diet I have suddenly imposed on it.

This morning I woke up ravenous. I wanted a giant breakfast sandwich with eggs, sausage and cheese on a super sized bagel. And that would cost me...twenty Weight Watcher's points. Almost all of my points for the entire day! I decided to try and concoct my own breakfast sandwich. Granted, it does not hold a candle to the French toast bagel sandwich I was craving, but for six points this taste very good and it filled me up.

Southwestern Breakfast Sandwich
3 egg whites
2 Tbs fat free salsa
1 slice Kraft 2% milk cheddar cheese
1 English muffin

1. Place the egg whites in a microwave safe custard cup. Stir in the salsa until just mixed (do not beat). Microwave the egg whites on medium power for 3 minutes. Check the egg whites to ensure they have cooked through. If not, microwave at 15 second intervals until the eggs are completely done.
2. Toast the English muffin until  it begins to brown.
3. To layer your sandwich, place the egg white mixture on one half of the English muffin, followed by the cheese, and top with the remaining muffin half. Let the sandwich sit until the cheese has begun to melt.


Sunday, December 26, 2010

Weight Watchers

It is December 26th, which means that my focus must turn from high calorie decadence to reigning in my waistline. I gained five pounds during my month of debauchery, which means that I am 9 pounds overweight. I've been wanting to get a few pounds off anyway, so I decided that this is the perfect time to try getting a little bit of help.

One of my friends has been nagging me to try Weight Watchers ever since I confided in her that I am starting to feel a little pear shaped. She has been on the program since February and has lost over forty pounds. She swears that it is SO easy and that it will fit in easily with the relatively healthy lifestyle I try to live. Since it has obviously worked for her, I decided to sign up for the online program and see if it will work as well for me.

So, today is my first day counting points. So far, it seems to be going fairly well - of course, after only eight hours, I would assume most things would. The program really encourages fruits and vegetables, which I love! In honor of the new diet, I decided to restock my fridge. I braved the ice-encrusted roads today to make a trip to my grocery store to pick up some fresh produce.

New fruits both intrigue and intimidate me, and I decided Weight Watchers is a good excuse to try that ridiculously large looking fruit called pomelo. If you are not familiar with pomelo, it is a citrus fruit roughly the size of an average adult's head.  When I got the thing home, I started to panic about what exactly I was supposed to do with it! Thank God for YouTube. I watched this very helpful video, followed the directions, and came away with a giant plate of beautiful pink fruit.

I would describe the flavor of a pomelo as similar to a grapefruit. However, instead of leaving an acidic flavor in your mouth, the pomelo leaves you with a very nice strawberry taste on your tongue. I loved it! I will definitely be buying one again - especially since Weight Watchers says that it costs me no points whatsoever!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merridee's Sticky Buns

In the continued spirit of Christmas overindulgence, it is my feeling that Christmas breakfast should involve a pastry so saturated with delicious glaze that one must use a fork.  My Grandma used to get up at four in the morning to make sticky buns for us on Christmas morning. The whole time we were ripping into our presents, we could smell the unmistakable aroma of yeast dough rising. As we played with our toys (or were forced to clean up the wrapping paper), we could hear Grandma in the kitchen putting the rolls in the oven.

When the rolls were finally ready, displayed on Grandma’s best Christmas “China”, our eyes would fairly pop out of our heads at the sight of caramelized sugar dripping off of coarsely chopped pecans. Not much was said at those breakfasts; we were far too busy savoring each heavenly morsel.

We don’t go to Grandma’s for Christmas anymore; she has since passed on.  No one has yet volunteered to get up at 4 AM to start cooking. So, we do the next best thing. We plan ahead and get our sticky buns from Merridee’s Breadbasket on Christmas Eve.

If you don’t live in the Nashville area, you should drive here – right now –and go to Merridee’s. I have to eat there at least once every six weeks or something goes awry with the universe.  Every magazine that has covered it or TV show that has featured it has mentioned that Merridee’s makes some of the best desserts you can get. We’re talking mint fudge brownies, chocolate chess pecan pie, Italian cream cake, key lime bars, bear claws, and peanut butter fudge. We’re talking melt in your mouth, so good you’ll slap your mama kind of cooking.

I could keep writing, but a picture is, after all, worth a thousand words.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Bon-Bons

People are always complaining about how much food there is during the holidays. Everyday I hear someone moaning about the fact that she isn't going to fit into her jeans after New Year's or suggesting that we have "healthy treats", perhaps a "no food" gift exchange. People keep eating cookies and cake and turkey anyway - they just make themselves feel guilty while they are doing it.

Here is my take on holiday food - bring it on. I eat healthy, lean, raw, organic all through the year. This is my window - from Thanksgiving until Christmas - to raise gastronomic hell. I want all the cookies, all the gravy, all the pineapple drenched ham you can throw at me. I will be very penitent and extremely good on the 26th. Until then, let debauchery reign!

In addition to eating, I love to cook. I am in my kitchen almost every day during the holiday season, cooking up something sinful. One of my favorite Christmas confections is the red velvet bonbon. Years ago, a friend introduced me to these amazing little things. When she told me how they were made, I thought she was pulling my leg. Nothing that tastes this good should be so easy.  Here is how they work:

1. Prepare a box of red velvet cake mix according to the package directions.
2. After the cake has cooled, crumble the whole thing up with your hands. Mix in with a can of cream cheese frosting. Form the mixture into balls. Place the balls in a freezer safe container, stacking them with wax paper between layers.
3. Once the balls are frozen (after night works for me) dip them in melted almond bark and set them on waxed paper to dry. You can sprinkle them with colored sugar if you want to be extra fancy.

You will love them - your friends will be impressed. Just don't be like my friend and give away how easy they are - pretend they were ridiculously laborious and you were in the kitchen forever. Say they were from a French cookbook or that your Grandmother learned how to make them from a famous chocolatier. People will believe you.

Now, if you will excuse me, in the spirit of Christmas Eve - I am going to go play a little Vince Guaraldi and eat some bonbons.