Sunday, November 27, 2011

Good Ol' Fashioned Tuna Noodle Casserole

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!  This recipe I'm about to post is about as far from turkey as you can get.  But we're all pretty sick of that stuff by now, right?  Hope you all got your fill of the good stuff this weekend.  Here's a good make-more-to-store weeknight dish, inspired by my cousin Kate's recent blog post which covered the tuna-noodle situation.  Can't go wrong!  I added leeks, mushrooms and nutmeg to give it a nice wintery feel.  And although you don't necessarily need to be as careful as I'm being, I cut back on fat by using skim milk and low-fat cream cheese.  Enjoy!

Tuna Noodle Casserole
Makes 8 servings (6 points each)

8 oz. whole wheat wide noodles
2 tsp. butter
2 leeks, halved lengthwise, cleaned, and sliced thin
1 lb. cremini mushrooms, cleaned, destemmed and chopped
2 medium carrots, diced
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
2 3/4 cups fat free milk
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/2 cup lowfat cream cheese
zest from one lemon
1 teaspoon grated nutmeg
2 5-oz. cans albacore tuna in water, drained and flaked
salt and white pepper to taste
1/2 cup breadcrumbs

Bring a large pot of water to boil.  Add salt and noodles and continue cooking, covered, according to package instructions.  Drain, toss with a bit of pasta water to prevent sticking, and set aside in a large bowl.

Preheat oven to 375F degrees and lightly grease a 2 quart baking dish.

In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat.  Add the leeks, mushrooms, and carrots and cook until slightly softened, about 5 minutes.  Stir in the flour and cook another 1 minute.  Stir in the milk, mustard, cream cheese, lemon zest, and nutmeg.  Stir and simmer 10-15 minutes, until the sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a metal spoon.

Add the sauce and the tuna to the pasta and combine.  Taste and season to your liking with salt and white pepper.  Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking dish and sprinkle the top with the bread crumbs.  Bake for 20-30 minutes, until the contents are bubbling and the top is golden.  Remove from oven and let sit 10 minutes before serving.  Will keep up to 5 days covered in the refrigerator.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Chicken Tortilla Stew

Before I jump into how to make this delicious stew, I wanted to share a new feature of my blog with you: I'll be including Weight Watchers Points values with each recipe.  Why?  Well, because I'm on Weight Watchers (wasn't that obvious?)  And maybe if I proclaim it to the world, I'll feel accountable to more than just myself for sticking to it.  I tried the diet once before, in high school, and it worked out pretty well, so when my dad decided to give it a shot a few weeks ago, I thought I might revisit the regime and shed some extra pounds I've been carrying around for too long.

Confession concluded, now on with the food!

Chicken Tortilla Stew
makes 8 servings (6 points each)

For steamed chicken:
1.5 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast (about 4)
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
2 dried red chilis (optional)
1 star anise (optional)
2 tablespoons water

For tortilla strips:
8 corn tortillas (preferably whole grain)
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt

For stew:
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, sliced thin
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 large carrot, chopped
2 fresh jalapeƱo peppers, minced
1/4 cup Chili Powder Blend (see recipe or use store-bought brand of choice)
One 26-ounce box Pomi chopped tomatoes (or a 28-ounce of canned tomatoes)
2 cups water
8 ounces frozen corn kernels, thawed
1.5 cups chopped fresh cilantro
juice from 2 limes
Salt to taste

Cook the chicken: Preheat oven to 350F degrees.  Combine the chicken and spices in a medium baking dish.  Sprinkle with salt, pour water around the chicken (not on top of it) and cover tightly.  Steam in preheated oven for 30 minutes, or until the chicken temperature registers 160F degrees with instant-read thermometer.  Remove to a plate, allow to cool, and shred by hand, discarding spices and any gristle.  Strain cooking juices from baking dish into a small bowl and set aside.

Make the tortilla strips: Slice the tortillas across into thin strips, about 1/4 inch thick.  Slice strips in half lengthwise, so they're about 2 inches long.  Toss with olive oil and salt and spread out on baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Bake until crispy and slightly golden, about 12 minutes.  Baking time will depend greatly on your oven - a good practice is to check after first 5 minutes, then after every couple of minutes, tossing each time to ensure even cooking.

In a large pot, heat the olive oil and add onions.  Cook over medium-high heat until lightly caramelized, about 15 minutes.  Add garlic, carrot, jalapeƱos, and chili powder and cook another 5 minutes, until vegetables have softened a bit.  Stir in the tomatoes, the reserved chicken cooking juices, and water.  Bring to a boil and lower to a simmer.  Cook with cover another 20 minutes or so.  Stir in the corn, cilantro, and lime juice and season to taste with salt.  Simmer another 5 minutes and serve with tortilla strips on top.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Adzuki Bean + Winter Squash Stew

Yesterday I visited the Cayuga Organics stand at the Union Square Farmer's Market.  You know, the one that sells beautifully crusted beer bread and has bins and bins of dried heritage beans and grains.  I am always tempted to run my hands through the beans, right up to my elbows.  But I practiced restraint.  It's so hard not to play with your food, isn't it?

I bought a bag of pretty little adzuki beans and cooked up a riff on this recipe, shared on Heidi Swanson's blog, created by chef Rebecca Stevens - who, it turns out, is a fellow Natural Gourmet Institute grad!  Small world.  It's a great stew, on its own, or served over brown rice.  Pretty economical, too!

Anyway, here's how it goes:

Adzuki Bean + Winter Squash Stew
serves 6 to 8

1 winter squash (i.e. kabocha, acorn, butternut) - about 1-1/2 lbs.
1/2 cup water

1 cup dried adzuki beans, rinsed and picked over for pebbles
5 coins ginger, 1/8-inch thick
1 whole star anise
8 cups cold water

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small yellow onion, chopped
1 shallot, chopped
1 fennel bulb, diced

red pepper (optional)

Preheat oven to 425F.  Cut squash in half, oil and salt it, and place cut side down in a baking dish with the 1/2 cup water.  Roast until tender, about 45 minutes.  When cool enough to handle, scoop out the cooked squash and set aside.

Meanwhile, place the beans, ginger, star anise, and water in a large soup pot.  Cover, bring to a boil, and simmer until tender, about 1 hour.  Add 1 teaspoon salt.

In a small saucepan, heat the 1 tablespoon olive oil and add the onion, shallot, and fennel, and more salt. Cook covered over low heat until softened, about 10 minutes.

Remove the star anise and ginger from the beans once tender, stir in the vegetables and squash flesh, and continue cooking for another 15 minutes.  Taste and adjust seasoning with more salt to taste.   At this point I also added some red Aleppo pepper (red pepper flakes, or even cayenne, would work here - just be careful!)

Today's Lunch: Steak Salad

Black-pepper crusted 4 oz. sirloin, roasted beets, avocado, mixed greens, pico de gallo, and white wine vinegar.  Delicioso!