Saturday, October 25, 2008

Sauerkraut Soup

Perfect for cold weather, this is an inexpensive-but-filling stoup (to borrow a Rachael Ray term). It's pretty thick, so feel free to add extra broth if you like.

Sauerkraut Soup

1 lb. smoked turkey sausage, cut in ½-in pieces
5 medium potatoes, peeled & cubed
2 medium onions, chopped
2 carrots, cut in ¼-in slices
3 cans (14 oz) chicken broth
1 can (32-oz) sauerkraut, rinsed & drained
1 can (6 oz) tomato paste

In large saucepan or Dutch oven, combine sausage, potatoes, onions, carrots and chicken broth; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 30 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Add sauerkraut and tomato paste; mix well. Return to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer 30 minutes longer. If a thinner soup is desired, add additional water or chicken broth.

Serves 8-10.

Taco Casserole

Here's another old favorite that I tweaked to make it lower in calories and fat. Of course, feel free to use regular Doritos, regular cheese, and regular soup, if that's your cup of tea. It will taste every bit as good.

Taco Casserole

¾ lb. ground beef
1 c. brown rice, cooked
3 100-calorie packs Doritos, crushed
1 can reduced-fat cream of chicken soup
1 can fiesta nacho cheese soup
½ c. water
1 can Ro-Tel
1 ½ c. reduced-fat grated cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 350. Brown hamburger. In a medium bowl, mix soups, Ro-Tel, and water. In a well-greased 2-qt casserole dish, layer hamburger, rice, cheese, chips, and soups. Bake 30 minutes.

Aimee's Mexican Chicken

This quick-n-easy skillet recipe came from my college roommate. It was perfect for us, because it isn't terribly expensive (you can use canned chicken if need be), it's idiot-proof, and it goes a long way. I've cooked it many times over the years. Occasionally I use brown rice instead of white, but other than that, I've made no changes - it's quite good as is.

Aimee’s Mexican Chicken

2 tbsp. butter
4 chicken breasts, diced
1 small onion, chopped
1 can (14-oz) chicken broth
1 can (14-oz) tomato sauce
1 small can corn
1 pkg. taco seasoning
2 c. instant rice, uncooked
1 green bell pepper, chopped
2 c. shredded Cheddar cheese

Melt butter in large nonstick skillet. Brown chicken and onion in butter, until chicken is cooked through. Add chicken broth, tomato sauce, corn and taco seasoning. Simmer until heated through. Add rice; cover and simmer 10 minutes, until rice is thoroughly cooked. Add pepper and cook 5 minutes on low heat. Sprinkle with cheese and serve with tortilla chips (optional)

Reuben Casserole

I really love a good Reuben. Sauerkraut, cheese, thousand island dressing, and corned beef doesn't sound like an especially good combination - but it's so yummy. This casserole is actually easier to assemble than a sandwich, and you can stick it in the fridge and eat from it for several days. Because there's no pre-cooking required, all you have to do is throw it in the dish and bake.

Word to the wise: get as much liquid from the sauerkraut as you possibly can so the dish doesn't become watery. Also, the stuff in the bag that's in the cooler section (usually by the hot dogs) is infinitely better than its canned counterpart. You can use low-fat 1000 Island dressing, but it doesn't taste as good. Reduced-fat Swiss is fine, if you can find it. I usually "butter" the bread with a low-cal butter spray instead of real butter.

Reuben Casserole

1 14-oz can sauerkrat, rinsed and drained
1 c. Thousand Island salad dressing
1 lb. thinly sliced deli corned beef, cut into strips
2 c. shredded Swiss cheese
4-6 slices rye bread, buttered

Preheat oven to 375. Combine sauerkraut and salad dressing; spread into a greased 9x13 dish. Top with corned beef and cheese. Place bread, buttered side up, over top. Bake, uncovered for 25-30 minutes or until heated through and bubbly.

Menu #1

Since I am doing a week's worth of cooking in one day, I thought it might be nice to post my menus. Granted, I am new at this, and my technique needs refining. But still - spending 2-3 hours in the kitchen in one afternoon beats spending 45 minutes every night.

This is what I made today:

Chicken Crouton Hot Dish
Sauerkraut Soup
Taco Casserole
Aimee's Mexican Chicken
Reuben Casserole

And here's what I did to put it all together:

1. Put 1 lb chicken breasts in water to boil
2. Brown hamburger meat
3. Cook 1 cup rice
4. Assemble Reuben Casserole & put in oven.
5. Cut cooked chicken & assemble Chicken Crouton Hot Dish. Put in oven with Reuben Casserole. 6. Assemble Taco Casserole
7. Remove Reuben Casserole from oven and put in Taco Casserole.
8. Cut vegetables & sausage for Sauerkraut Soup & allow to simmer
9. Remove Chicken Crouton Hot Dish from oven
10. Clean skillet & dice chicken for Aimee's Mexican Chicken. Cook according to directions.
11. Remove Taco Casserole from oven
12. Add sauerkraut & tomato paste to soup
13. By now the Reuben Casserole has cooled enough to refrigerate
14. Start cleanup
15. Once cooled, all dishes can go into the fridge

It helps that I have made each of these dishes multiple times, so I am familiar with the process. I spent about 3 hours from start to finish. Thankfully, the dishwasher took care of most of the cleanup!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Pork Chop & Rice Casserole

Mom first made this in my pre-teen years, and it's one of those rare recipes that I've never bothered to tweak. It's perfect as-is, and because it goes together easily and cooks in the oven for two hours, it's a good choice for company. You only need to add a salad and dinner rolls for a complete meal. We make it with pork chops or chicken - you can decide whichever you prefer. It will last a week in the refrigerator, and reheats beautifully. A word to the wise - make sure you grease the casserole dish very well, or the rice will be a sticky gooey mess that you won't enjoy cleaning up.

Pork Chop and Rice Casserole

2 c. uncooked long grain rice
1 pkg. dry onion soup mix
6 pork chops, thin loin
1 can cream mushroom soup
1 can chicken gumbo soup
Salt and pepper
3 c. water

Preheat oven to 350. Spread rice evenly in bottom of well-greased 9x13 dish. Sprinkle with ¼ soup mix. Place pork on rice. Sprinkle with remaining soup mix and salt and pepper. In a medium bowl, combine soups and water. Blend well and pour over pork chops. Cover with foil and bake two hours. Allow to rest 10 minutes before serving.

Amanda's Chili

There aren't too many recipes for which I claim total credit, but this is definitely one of them. I've experimented for several years, and developed a chili recipe that is Weight Watchers Core, very filling, and somewhat reminiscient of the flavor of Wendy's chili. For you vegetarian-types, this is a great recipe for TVP or soy crumbles.

I make it at least once a month during the winter, and it freezes quite well. Dip two cups into a quart-size ziploc bag, squeeze out all the air, and lay it flat on a cookie sheet. Once frozen, stand the the bag on its side in the freezer and it takes up almost no room.

Amanda's Chili

1 onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 lb extra lean ground beef
1 15-oz. can tomato sauce
1 15-oz. can diced tomatoes (fire-roasted is best)
1 15-oz. can pinto beans, undrained
1 15-oz. can dark red kidney beans, undrained
1 4-oz can chopped green chilies
Black pepper to taste
1 tbsp. chili powder
1 tsp. cumin to taste
1/8 tsp. cayenne

Spray a large skillet with cooking spray. Over medium heat, cook onion and garlic until transluscent. Transfer to large Dutch oven. Brown hamburger in skillet and add to onion. Stir in remaining ingredients. Bring to boil; reduce heat and simmer 30 minutes. Serve with sour cream and cheese.

Curried Turkey

I've been busy today, folks - and this week I stuck mostly with the tried-and-true, and only made one new recipe. This particular recipe is easily one of my favorites. It has almost zero fat, and the smell wafting from the kitchen is postively divine. I use leftover turkey around Thanksgiving, and turkey cutlets the rest of the year. Serve it up with brown rice, and you have a delish recipe that fits the Weight Watchers Core program, and is plenty "fancy" to serve up to guests.

Curried Turkey

1 lb. turkey breast, diced
1 tsp. olive oil
1 red onion, chopped
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
2 cans (15-oz) petite diced tomatoes
2 tsp. curry powder
½ tsp. thyme
Black pepper to taste
½ c. water

Brown turkey in oil. Remove using slotted spoon. Sauté onion, pepper and garlic in juices until tender. Add tomatoes, seasonings and water. Cook until heated through. Pour into 2 ½ qt. casserole dish sprayed with nonstick cooking spray. Cover and bake at 375 for 45-55 minutes. Serve with brown rice.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

White Punch

Perfect for a wedding, baby shower, or brunch, this punch is the easiest thing in the world to put together. Unlike other varieties, it doesn't stain clothing as easily, which makes it a good choice for events with small children running around. It's a light and refreshing punch, one that I could drink just about any day of the week. For you non-alcoholic types, it's a good choice for a "champange" toast at a wedding.

If you like, you can make an ice ring from fruit to decorate the punch bowl. Using a bundt or angel food cake pan, arrange fruit in a layer about two inches thick (choose the fruit to match your theme - anything goes). Gently pour enough water to just cover the fruit, and freeze overnight. In the morning, set the pan in hot water long enough to loosen the ice, and add it to the punch bowl.

White Punch

White grape juice
Ginger ale

Chill equal amounts of both liquids, and mix just before serving.

Iced Coffee

At the risk of insulting your intelligence, I'd like to share with you my formula for a tasty-as-Starbucks morning eye opener. Let me say this, though - please use good coffee. Folgers just doesn't count. I like to buy a whole-bean espresso roast. Great Value (Wal-Mart brand) makes one that is very good, but also affordable, and quite comparable to the Starbucks blends. Of course, if you have the moolah, splurge on the best coffee you can find.

Iced Coffee

At night, brew 4 cups of very strong coffee. Sweeten as desired (I use four packets of Splenda) and refrigerate overnight. In the morning, add 1 c. milk and 1 T. flavored coffee syrup. Add half a tray of ice cubes and stir. It fits quite nicely into a 52-oz Bubba Keg, if you don't want to share.

...A word about the coffee syrup: I use DaVinci brand, although there are several others out there. They have a ton of flavors, several in sugar-free versions. Caramel, Hazelnut, and Kahlua are some of my favorites. They also have watermelon and peanut butter, but I wouldn't recommend using those in your coffee unless you are more adventurous than I am!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Baked Spaghetti

I have been remiss in not sharing this with you. I found the recipe in a Light & Tasty magazine. It has all the comfort qualities of good old lasagna, without all the hassle. (I know how commercial-esque that sounded. Bear with me!) It makes up a ton, reheats very well, will easily last a week in the fridge, and if you use the right ingredients, is even Weight Watcher friendly at 7 points a serving. I have not tried freezing this one, but I suspect it would freeze as well as lasagna does.

Baked Spaghetti

1 lb. 96% lean ground beef
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 c. Ragu No Sugar Added Tomato & Basil Sauce
4 c. 1% low-fat cottage cheese
2 c.part-skim mozzarella cheese, divided
½ c. reduced-fat Parmesan topping, divided
12 oz. whole wheat angel hair pasta

Cook spaghetti according to package directions. Meanwhile, in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat, cook beef, onion, and garlic until meat is no longer pink; drain. Add the spaghetti sauce and heat through.

In a large bowl, combine cottage cheese, 1 ½ c. mozzarella and ¼ c. Parmesan.

Drain spaghetti.

Spread 1 cup of meat sauce in a 9x13 baking dish coated with cooking spray. Layer with half the spaghetti, half the cheese, and half the remaining meat sauce. Repeat layers. (Dish will be very full, and you may have to press it down with a spatula to make it all fit.)

Cover and bake at 350 for 45 minutes. Uncover; sprinkle with remaining mozzarella and Parmesan. Bake 5-10 minutes longer or until heated through and cheese is melted. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Serves 10, 7 WWP per serving.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Ranch Chicken & Rice

Here's an easy-peasy casserole that is kid-friendly. In fact, I almost feel like I'm cheating when I make it, because it goes together so quickly. It's one of Jeff's favorites.

Ranch Chicken & Rice

2 c uncooked instant rice
1 1/2 c milk
1 c water
1 1-oz pkg ranch salad dressing mix
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut in 1/2-in strips
1/4 c. butter or margarine, melted

Preheat oven to 350. Grease a shallow 2-qt with Crisco. Add rice to dish, spreading it out evenly. In a bowl, combine the milk, water, and salad dressing mix; set aside 1/4 cup. Pour remaining mixture over rice. Top with chicken strips. Drizzle with butter and reserved milk mixture. Cover and bake for 40-45 minutes, or until rice is tender and chicken juices run clear. Sprinkle with paprika.

Curried Coconut Chicken

These days, anything with coconut in it attracts my attention, and this recipe just sounded so intriguing to me. I will warn you - it's not for the faint of heart. The recipe instructs you to heat oil and curry powder in a skillet. Be careful, because oil will burn quickly. It's not advisable to use olive oil for this, because it burns more easily than other oils. Vegetable oil is your best bet.

Don't be scared, though - once you get past the beginning, it's easy as can be, and it has a wonderful flavor. You can serve it with rice, couscous, flat breads, or veggies. Enjoy!

Oh, and a word to the wise - make sure you buy coconut milk, not coconut cream or cream of cocnut. I always find it in the ethnic foods section.

Curried Coconut Couscous

2 lb. boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1/2-in chunks
1 1/2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tbsp curry powder
1/2 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 14-oz can coconut milk
1 14-oz can diced tomatoes (fire-roasted are best)
1 8-oz can tomato sauce
3 tbsp sugar (optional)

In a large skillet, heat oil and curry powder over medium heat for two minutes, stirring constantly. Stir in onions and garlic; cook for additional 5-7 minutes, or until onion is soft and turns clear. (Add more oil if necessary.) Add chicken, tossing to coat in oil and and cook for 7-10 minutes, or until juices run clear.

Add coconut milk, tomatoes, tomato sauce, and sugar (if desired) into pan, stirring to combine. Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Aromatic Couscous & Veggies

This is one of those rare recipes that I just keep coming back to. As much as I love to experiment, this one is a standby. Depending on the season, you can vary the vegetables used to make it more cost-effective. It's a vegetarian dish, but you don't miss the meat in the slightest. If you can find them, use fire-roasted diced tomatoes to really boost the flavor.

Aromatic Couscous & Veggies

3/4 c. orange juice
1/2 c. water
3/4 tsp. salt
1 c. whole-wheat couscous
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 med. zucchini, cut into 1/4-in pieces
1 med. yellow squash, cut into 1/4-in pieces
1 onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp. curry powder
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. cayenne
1 15-oz can chickpeas, rinsed & drained
1 14-oz can diced tomatoes

Bring the orange juice, water, and salt to boil in a small saucepan. Add couscous, cover, and remove from heat.

Meanwhile, heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add zucchini, squash, onion, pepper, garlic, curry powder, cinnamon, and cayenne. Cook, stirring frequently, until veggies begin to soften. Add chickpeas and tomatoes; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes.

Fluff couscous and stir into veggie mixture.

Serves 4.
366 cal, 7g fat, 11g fiber

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Penne with Peppers and Sausage

Mmm-mmm tasty! It smells wonderful cooking, it pretty easy to throw together, and reheats well. Plus it's good for you. If you can find them, use fire-roasted diced tomatoes. They add greatly to the flavor. Adapted from Weight Watchers online, here is:

Penne with Peppers and Sausage

1 green bell pepper, julienned
1 orange bell pepper, julienned
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 c. mushrooms, sliced
1 lb. turkey sausage, spicy-Italian flavor
1/8 tsp dried oregano
salt & pepper to taste
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
14.5-oz can diced tomatoes
3 c. cooked whole wheat penne

Coat a large skillet with cooking spray. Cook pepper, onion, garlic, and mushrooms until almost tender (7-8 minutes).

Remove turkey sausage from casings; add to skillet and brown until no longer pink. Break up with a spoon as it cooks. Add oregano, salt, pepper, and pepper flakes; stir in tomatoes. Simmer until heated through, about 5 minutes.

Gently stir in pasta. If desired, sprinkle with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

Serves 6