Thursday, January 31, 2008

Beef Tortilla Soup

My last poll - "Which recipe from the Healthy Beef Cookbook should I feature next?" - resulted in a three-way tie between Beef Tortilla Soup, Bistro Beef Kabobs, and Pot Roast with Maple Sweet Potatoes and Cider Gravy. Poor Thai Noodles with Beef & Broccoli - it was left all alone with only one vote.

I've never had a poll result in a tie before, so I decided I will feature all three recipes. I chose Beef Tortilla Soup as the first, because soup sounded like a good antidote for today's snow storm. As mentioned above, this recipe is from the Healthy Beef Cookbook. If you love beef, have a freezer full of beef, eat beef occasionally, or even eat beef only rarely, you should buy this cookbook. I truly think everyone should own this book, even vegetarians. Because I think it might even make vegetarians want to eat beef (and no, I am not getting paid to say this . . . I think my seven readers are already beef eaters, and half of them have received the cookbook from me as a gift). But consider yourself warned, I'll probably continue to gush about this book throughout the next three features.

Without further adieu, here is the recipe:

Beef Tortilla Soup
1 pkg. refrigerated fully cooked boneless beef pot roast
1 tsp. olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
2 tsp. minced garlic
1 tbsp. ground cumin
1 can (15 oz.) black beans, rinsed and drained
1 can (14.5 oz.) petite diced tomatoes, undrained
1 can (14 oz.) beef broth
1 cup frozen corn
Optional: 1 tbsp. hot sauce
Optional: 2 tbsp. fresh chopped cilantro
Optional: 1/4 c. shredded reduced-fat cheddar cheese
Crunchy tortilla strips (recipe to follow)

1. Heat pot roast according to directions on package, but for half the amount of time suggested. Remove beef from package, discard gravy/juice. Shred beef with 2 forks. Set aside.

2. Heat oil in a large saucepan (or small stockpot) over medium heat. Add onion and garlic; cook 3-5 minutes or until onion is tender, stirring occasionally. Add cumin, cook and stir one minute. Stir in beef, beans, tomatoes, broth, corn (and hot sauce, if using); bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add salt and pepper to taste.

3. Meanwhile, make Crunchy Tortilla Strips: Cut corn tortillas into 1/4-inch-wide strips, place in a single layer on a baking sheet and lightly mist with nonstick cooking spray. Bake 6-8 minutes at 400 degrees or until crisp.

4. Ladle soup into bowls; top each serving with cheese and tortilla strips. Garnish with cilantro, if desired (or add avocado slices if you have an avocado you need to use!).

Makes 4 servings. Per serving: Calories 405; fat 11 g; cholesterol 85 mg; fiber 10.3 g. 8 points.
This soup is an excellent source of fiber, protein, vitamins B6 and B12, iron, selenium, and zinc and is a good source of niacin.

Possible substitutions:
1. Substitute 3 cups shredded, fully cooked traditional pot roast for the packaged pot roast.
2. Substitute 2 small jalapeno peppers, seeded and thinly sliced, for the hot sauce. Cook peppers with onions and garlic.

Note: Next time, I think I'll use an additional cup of liquid - maybe more beef broth or some tomato soup or juice, or maybe a combination. Or maybe not, because it was pretty good the way it was!

Shortcut ingredients . . .

Make this soup easier to prepare than to photograph =) . . .

Note: this recipe could easily be dairy free if you omit the cheese (and it does taste good without the cheese!)

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Day-old brioche = awesome French toast

This weekend, I had the opportunity to sample a few treats from My Koog, a new bakery in Quincy. My Koog has French and German breads and pastries; brioche is one of their specialties. I brought home two mini-loaves. Have you ever tried to eat a mini loaf of brioche on its own? Maybe it was just me, or maybe it was the fact that I left it out on the counter overnight . . . either way, I just couldn't eat it plain . . . but it made great French toast. Tender, but not in the least soggy.

The recipe (using the word recipe here might be a little bit of an exaggeration) is: 8 slices of mini-brioche, each 1/2 inch thick, dipped into a mixture of 2 eggs and 3-4 tbsp. milk. Cook over medium-low heat in skillet with butter or cooking spray. Add maple syrup and you have a nice quick Sunday morning breakfast for two. Imagine how good this would be with fresh fruit on top in the summer . . .

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Black Russian Cake

I had a request for this recipe today from someone whose husband was having a bad day. I've made this cake for them before, to commemorate good days. That's the thing about this cake, it's equally appropriate for times of sorrow or times of celebration. With a yellow cake mix as a base, it's also easy to prepare.

Black Russian Cake
1 box yellow cake mix
1/2 cup sugar
1 c. oil
4 eggs
1/4 c. vodka
1/4 c. Kahlua
3/4 c. water
1 (3-oz.) pkg. instant Jello chocolate pudding

Glaze: 1/2 c. powdered sugar and 1/4 c. Kahlua

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix all ingredients together on low speed for 1 minute, then beat at medium speed for 4 minutes. Pour batter into Bundt pan and bake at 350 for 60-70 minutes. Cool cake in pan for 10 minutes. Turn onto plate; poke holes in the top of cake. Mix together ingredients for glaze (above); spoon over top of cake.

If you can't wait to celebrate (or drown your sorrows) until the cake gets out of the oven, mix together a Black Russian drink with a vodka to Kahlua ratio of 2:1 and pour over ice.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

St Louis Food & Wine Experience

No, I'm not going. If I didn't already have plans I would definitely check out the St Louis Food & Wine Experience this weekend. My favorite healthy-cooking-celeb-foodie Ellie Krieger will be there, and she's having a book signing. Of course, you already know the story of me stalking her new book, The Food You Crave, so we won't get into that . . .

Monday, January 21, 2008

Peanut Blossom Cookies

In my last poll, you voted for the next recipe feature at Kenzie's Kitchen to be Peanut Blossom cookies. I haven't made Peanut Blossoms for ages, but I had an old Better Homes & Gardens recipe that (luckily) had nutritional information, so I was looking forward to baking them. Feeling extra ambitious, I also decided to make a lighter version of the cookies. I substituted light butter for the Crisco, Splenda sugar blend for baking for the sugar, and used Simply Jif instead of Jif (no difference in calories or fat, but fewer grams of sugar and sodium).

I spent my evening baking, calculating nutritional facts, and gathering the opinions of taste testers. In the end, the original cookies were crispier and had more flavor, especially peanut butter flavor. The light version was more moist and lighter in flavor. I thought the originals were a little better, but not a lot. But that was before I calculated the nutritional facts for the light version. After all that work, the lighter cookies (per piece) had 12 less calories and one less gram of fat. The points value did not change - 2 points per cookie for either recipe. The conclusion? Stick with the original recipe (and if you're counting points, I think you can find a more substantial treat for your two points - the angel cups in the "I can't wait to make these" post, or an individual serving of Weight Watchers ice cream, for example). Live and learn . . .

Original Peanut Blossoms
1/2 c. Crisco
1/2 c. peanut butter
1/2 c. granulated sugar
1/2 c. brown sugar, firmly packed
1 tsp. baking powder
1/8 tsp. baking soda
1 egg
2 tbsp. milk
1 tsp. vanilla
1 3/4 c. all-purpose flour
1/4 c. granulated sugar
Hershey's Kisses

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, beat Crisco and peanut butter together on medium speed for 30 seconds. Add 1/2 cup granulated sugar, the brown sugar, baking powder and baking soda; beat until combined. Beat in egg, milk and vanilla. Gradually add flour, mixing in by hand.
2. Shape dough into 1-inch balls (approx. 1/2 tbsp.). Roll each ball of dough in sugar. Place 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 10-12 minutes, or until edges are set and bottoms are lightly browned. Immediately press one Hershey's Kiss into the center of each cookie. Transfer to wire racks to let cool. Makes 54 (small) cookies.
Per cookie: 94 calories; 5 g fat; 0 g fiber; 2 points.

Light cookie on the left; regular cookie on the right.

Lighter Peanut Blossoms

1/2 c. light butter, softened but not melted
1/2 c. less-sugar peanut butter (I used Simply Jif)
1/4 c. Splenda sugar blend for baking
1/2 c. firmly packed brown sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1/8 tsp. baking soda
1 egg
1 tbsp. low-fat sour cream
2 tbsp. skim milk
1 tsp. vanilla
1 3/4 c. all-purpose flour
1/4 c. Splenda sugar blend for baking
Hershey's Kisses

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, beat butter and peanut butter together on medium speed for 30 seconds. Add 1/4 Splenda sugar blend, the brown sugar, baking powder and baking soda; beat until combined. Beat in egg, sour cream, milk and vanilla. Gradually add flour, mixing in by hand.
2. Shape dough into 1-inch balls (approx. 1/2 tbsp.). Roll each ball of dough in Splenda sugar blend. Place 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet (use parchment paper or a Silpat if available). Bake 10 minutes, or until edges are set and bottoms are lightly browned. Immediately press one Hershey's Kiss into the center of each cookie. Transfer to wire racks to let cool. Makes 54 cookies.
Per cookie: 81.7 calories; 4 g fat; 0 g fiber; 2 points.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Cookbook Feature: The Food You Crave

I have recently become a fan of Ellie Kreiger, whose show "Healthy Appetite" is on the Food Network. I used to watch Paula, Giadia, and Ina religiously; now it's Ellie. Her food always looks delicious, and her emphasis is on lightened recipes and health without sacrificing that deliciousness. As much as I've come to appreciate her Food Network show, it is not nearly as wonderful as her new cookbook - The Food You Crave.

I have been stalking this book. I bought it last night, two whole days after it was released (good self-restraint, don't you think?). When I got home, I promptly flagged all the recipes I can't wait to make, and calculated the points for each. Almost every recipe in the book sounds/looks good (except the fish/seafood, but that is only because I don't eat either); I actually ran out of page flags. The layout and pictures are good, the recipes seem easy to follow, and it includes lots of tips and useful information. Chapters include:
Nibbles & Noshes
Soups & Sandwiches
Main & Side Salads
Pasta, Pizza & Grains
The Main Course

I haven't decided what the first recipe I try will be, but here are some of the top contenders:
Pumpkin Pie Muffins
Grilled Zucchini Roll-Ups with Herbs & Cheese
Devilish Eggs
Beef & Mushroom Barley Soup
Savory Chinese Chicken Salad
Portobello Lasagna Rollups
Macaroni & Four Cheeses
Cowboy Steak with Coffee and Ancho Rub
Pork Medallions with Cherry Sauce
Parmesan Mashed Potatoes
Garlic Fries
Triple Chocolate Cookies

I think I better go to the grocery store and stock up. Looks like I'm going to be busy cooking this weekend!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Pork Fajitas with Apple-Avocado Salsa

I have to admit that when I posted my "which recipe should I feature next" poll last week, I secretly hoped the Pork Fajitas with Apple-Avocado Salsa would win. They sounded good; not wintry at all, which is what I need right now. I'm done with winter. Unfortunately mother nature is not.

I invited Amy and Amanda over a couple of nights ago for a little break from the monotony of mid-January. Amanda brought salsa and pepper jelly she made this summer. We opened a bag of chili-lime pistachios from Christmas, a bottle of wine, and started cooking. I really wasn't sure how the salsa would turn out; I couldn't find a few of the ingredients I needed, so I did without. But with good friends and a little wine, there were no worries. Good thing, too, because no worry was necessary. The fajitas turned out great - the salsa was fresh, crisp tasting, and summery. Just what we needed.

Pork Fajitas with Apple-Avocado Salsa
2 tbsp. water (1 cup water if using dried chiles, see below)
1 tsp. chili powder (original recipe called for 4 dried cascabel chiles)
3 tbsp. fresh lime juice
1/4 tsp. salt
3 large garlic cloves, peeled
1 (1-lb.) pork tenderloin
8 flour tortillas (7-inch)
2 cups Apple - Avocado Salsa (recipe follows)

1. Combine water and chili powder (or boil water and chiles; remove from heat; cover and let stand 15 min.; drain, reserving 2 tbsp. liquid).
2. Combine chili water (or chiles and reserved liquid), lime juice, salt, and garlic in food processor, blender, or Magic Bullet. Process until smooth.
3. Trim fat from pork loin; place loin in a shallow dish. Pour chili/chile mixture over loin; cover and refrigerate 1-2 hours.
4. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
5. Coat broiler pan with cooking spray; remove pork from dish and place on broiler pan. Brush excess marinade over pork. Bake at 425 for 20-30 minutes, or until meat thermometer reads 160 degrees in thickest part of loin. Let stand 10 minutes before slicing. (Make salsa while pork loin cooks)
6. Warm tortillas according to directions on package. Cut pork loin diagonally across the grain. Arrange 1/8 of pork slices and 2 tbsp. Apple-Avocado(A-A) Salsa. Fold tortilla over fillings. Top with 2 tbsp. A-A salsa (or you could just put all 4 tbsp. of salsa in the fajita, which is what we did).

Servings: 4
Serving size: 2 fajitas
Adapted from Cooking Light

Apple-Avocado Salsa
1 cup diced Granny Smith apple
1/4 c. diced red bell pepper
1/4 c. diced red onion
1/2 tsp. grated lime rind
1/4 tsp. salt
2 tbsp. fresh lime juice
1 garlic clove, minced (or 1 tsp. minced garlic from jar)
1/8 tsp. black pepper
optional: 1 tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro
optional: 1 1/2 tsp. minced jalapeno
1/2 c. diced peeled avocado

Combine all ingredients except avocado in a medium bowl. Gently stir in avocado.
(Make this salsa the same day you serve it; mine didn't keep all that well)

Per serving of 2 fajitas, each with 4 tbsp. A-A salsa:
Calories 462; fat 13.4 g; protein 32.2 g; carbs 52.5 g; cholesterol 79 mg; iron 4.4 mg; Points - 10*
* it would be easy to reduce points by reducing the amount of A-A salsa used per fajita, by leaving the avocado out of the salsa, or by eating only 1 fajita (with sides or appetizers, 1 is quite filling). If you're not counting points, add more avocado . . . yum!

We also made the angel cups from my previous post . . . they were good!

Monday, January 14, 2008

I can't wait to make these!

I don't have the ingredients on hand to make these, but I couldn't wait to share the recipe! If they taste as good as they look and as good as the recipe sounds, I'm pretty sure they'll become regulars around our house (and they're only 2 points/serving, for those of you who are counting!).

Strawberry Angel Cups

12 slices angel food cake, about 1/2 inch thick
1 cup chopped strawberries
2 tbsp. powdered sugar
1 tbsp. orange liqueur
3/4 cup frozen light whipped topping, thawed

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Press cake slices into bottom and sides of 12 greased muffin cups (make cup shape with cake slices). Bake for 15 minutes or until bottoms are golden brown. Remove to wire rack to cool. Cups become crisp as they cool.

2. Combine strawberries, powdered sugar, and orange liqueur in a small bowl. Stir well.

3. Spoon whipped topping into cake cups; top with strawberry mixture. Serve immediately.

12 servings. Per serving: Calories 99; fat 0.8 g; 21 g carbs; 0 g cholesterol; 2 g protein; 1 g fiber. 2 Points.

Recipe and picture courtesy of Healthy in a Hurry by Company's Coming.

Friday, January 11, 2008

National Beef Cook-Off on Food Network

If you're looking for beef cooking tips or recipe inspiration, look no further. The National Beef Cook-Off airs on the Food Network this Sunday at 7:00 p.m. (Central), and plays several times after that. The categories include: New Dynamic Beef Dishes; Nuevo Latino Beef Dishes; Small Plates, Big Taste; and Kids in the Kitchen.

Blog Problems

I had trouble with the RSS feed on Kenzie's Kitchen . . . and in trying to fix it, created a whole host of new problems. I had to remove several recent posts and pictures (apparently typing in Word and pasting into Blogger is a REALLY bad idea). I'm in the process of adding the posts and pictures back.

If you subscribe using RSS, you need to delete the old info and click on the "subscribe" logo in the top right to re-subscribe. Sorry for the inconvenience!

The silver lining to this little problem is this: while I was learning how to fix the RSS problem, I also (finally) learned how to change the colors and do some other fun things!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

An Exciting (Food) Day

Today was an exciting day, food-wise, at Kenzie's Kitchen. Last night, I bought Canyon Ranch Cooks, which I'll introduce you to in a separate post. I looked through it at lunch today, making notes about which recipes I plan to try first. After lunch, the FedEx guy rang the doorbell with our shipment from US Wellness Meats - pork chops, ham slices, bacon (without nitrates), chicken-apple sausage, beef tri-tip steaks, My House Salt, and raw honey. Although we (Ken, more than me) have known the founder of US Wellness Meats for a long time, this is the first time we've ordered from their website. We ordered more pork than anything else since we have our own beef in the freezer . . . but I did want to sample the tri-tips, a cut we don't have . . . and grass-fed beef has some unique health benefits (compared to grain-fed beef).

Finally, Piper and I are having a "girls night" tonight. I made her homemade dog treats (which I found at Kayte's Kitchen) and we're getting ready to watch Grey's Anatomy. (And yes. . . one of them is shaped like a crown . . . because she is a princess . . . but don't tell Ken!)

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Surprise Shepherd Pie + Banana Bread

I thought Mr. Meat & Potatoes would like Shepherd Pie. He likes beef, mushrooms, green beans, and potatoes - all primary components of Shepherd Pie. Makes sense, right? After taking the time to make Cooking Light's edition of the recipe, I dished it up and he said "I don't like stuff that's all mixed up."
Ugghh . . . I knew that . . . but I guess I . . . forgot?

Here's the surprise part: he ate it and he liked it! He actually said it exceeded his expectations and would give it 5 stars. That part really surprised me - 5 stars? I would have given it 3.5 or 4. It was good, but not great. It could have used a little more seasoning/salt and might be better with shredded beef (think pot roast) instead of ground beef. I'll work on the recipe and post it [someday] when I think it's worthy of the 5-star status Ken gave it!

Since I was on a comfort food kick, I also made banana bread. I found a recipe in an old Cooking Light cookbook; this version has 3 points per slice, compared to 5 points per average slice of banana bread. It definitely satisfied my craving for sweets/fruit/bread. This recipe yields a very dense loaf of bread. If you keep leftover slices in the fridge, let them warm up to room temperature or heat in the microwave before serving.

Banana Bread (adapted from Cooking Light)
1 c. granulated sugar
1/4 c. light butter, softened
3 medium bananas, very ripe and mashed
1/4 c. skim milk
1/4 c. low-fat sour cream
2 egg whites
2 c. flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt

1. Preheat oven to 350. Spray loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray.
2. Cream butter and sugar. Add banana, milk, sour cream and egg whites. Mix well.
3. Combine flour, baking soda, and salt. Mix well.
4. Gradually add flour mixture to sugar/banana mixture. Mix until well blended.
5. Pour batter into prepared loaf pan, bake at 350 for 1 hour, 10 minutes. Cool on wire rack. When completely cooled, slice into 16 servings and enjoy.

Per slice: calories 147; fat 2.2 g; fiber 1.1 g. Points: 3

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Beefy pasta and an awesome 1 point side

Things got a little tough at 6 p.m. My stomach was growling and I almost succumbed to a Snickers bar while I was shopping for points-friendly fare. Thankfully, both of the recipes I tried tonight - our first two points recipes - turned out to be keepers. Ken really liked both the Beef Pasta Skillet and the Asparagus with Prosciutto. Me? I LOVED the asparagus. I want to eat it every day. And as long as I can find (and afford) the prosciutto, I might just do that.

Here are the recipes, adapted from Weight Watchers 15 Minute cookbook/magazine:

Beef Pasta Skillet
6 oz. farfalle pasta (uncooked)
1 lb. ground sirloin (at least 90% lean)
2 c. tomato basil pasta sauce
1/4 tsp. black pepper (preferably freshly ground)
1/2 c. shredded part-skim mozzarella

1. Cook pasta as directed on package (unless package calls for fat - omit fat). Drain pasta (when it is time to add it to beef in step 3).
2. At the same time the pasta cooks, brown ground beef over medium-high heat in a large skillet. Drain and return beef to skillet.
3. Add sauce and pepper to skillet with beef; cook 2 minutes. Add pasta to skillet; cook 2 minutes. Sprinkle with cheese; cook one minute or until cheese melts.

Makes 5 servings. Serving size is one cup.
Per serving: 336 calories; 9.1 g fat; 27 g protein; 33.9 g carbs; 1.1 g fiber; 56 mg cholesterol; 3.9 mg iron. 7 points.

Asparagus roasted with prosciutto
1 lb. asparagus spears
butter flavored spray (Can't Believe It's Not Butter)
1/8 tsp. salt (preferably freshly ground sea salt)
1/8 tsp. black pepper
1 garlic clove, minced (or 1 tsp. minced garlic from a jar)
1/4 c. prosciutto, coarsely chopped
Optional: 1/2 tsp. lemon rind (great use for the Microplane in the shortcuts post)
Optional: 1/8 tsp. crushed red pepper

1. Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Line jelly roll pan with aluminum foil.
2. Rinse asparagus; snap off tough ends and place on foil. Spray with butter spray (be generous but do not soak). Sprinkle seasonings on asparagus, toss to distribute. Sprinkle with prosciutto.
3. Bake 8-10 minutes, or until asparagus is tender-crisp.

4 servings.
Per serving: 37 calories; 1.4 g fat; 3.4 g protein; 3 g carbs; 1.3 g fiber; 6 mg cholesterol; 1.4 mg iron. 1 point.

Notes: Both of these recipes would be great for people who aren't counting points, as well as those who are. Even people who don't think they like asparagus will probably like this recipe!
For easy and affordable freshly ground salt and pepper, try the McCormick grinders, found near the spices in the grocery store.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Me too

Yes, that's right . . . I'm joining millions of other people . . . my New Year's resolution is to lose weight. Counting points, Weight Watchers-style, is what I'm going to do. I didn't start today though. We had company I wanted to cook for, and leftovers from last night's Southern-themed dinner. However, I have started an important project to help us reach this goal - compiling recipes with nutritional values and calculating the points. Many of the recipes thus far have come from Cooking Light and Eating Well.

I have also calculated points values for some of the packaged foods we have around the house - Graham crackers, trail mix, Luna bars, rice, etc. Oh . . . and I have also moved all the dessert mix-type stuff out of the pantry cabinet. I haven't decided where to go with it yet, maybe to a storage container in the garage or extra bedroom. I know, it's kind of drastic . . . but at least when I'm contemplating what to make for dinner, I won't be choosing from a Barefoot Contessa brownie mix or Stonewall Kitchen lemon bundt cake mix. Or Heath toffee bits, butter toffee pecans, Tastefully Simple Ugly Cake mix . . . you get the point.
So wish me luck, and in exchange I'll post the recipes I cook, complete with points values.