Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Chinese Chicken Lettuce Wraps

Chinese Chicken Lettuce Wraps (also called Asian Lettuce Wraps)

Fold these lettuce wraps up and eat them like tacos--only a more healthy, equally tasty version!  With less than 150 calories for each wrap, they fill you up with nutrition, not guilt.

Ingredients:  1 lb. ground chicken
                     half to one whole 8 oz. can of water chestnuts, depending on your taste,
                          drained and either sliced or chopped (again, depending on your preference)
                     1/2  to 3/4 cup shredded carrots
                     1/2 to 2/4 cup frozen edamame beans (soybeans)
                     2 tsp. reduced-sodium soy sauce
                     1 tsp. reduced-sodium teriyaki sauce
                     1/2 tsp. rice vinegar
                     1/2 can of 14.5 ounce reduced-sodium chicken broth
                     1-2 tablespoons hoison sauce
                     12 leaves of Bibb or Boston butter lettuce
                     Optional:  1/2 tsp. Chinese hot mustard, 1 tbsp. chopped onion

Directions:  1.  This recipe can be cooked at least two different ways, depending on what utensils
                    you may have in your kitchen.  You can either use a skillet and then transfer to a
                    crockpot for 2 1/2 hours or you can do it all on the stove in a very large "sauce" pot
                    (as I call it--from the Italian side of our family--the huge pot that you make your own
                    sauce in which is very different from a small sauce pan).  Anyhow, either coat the bottom
                    of the skillet or the bottom of the sauce pot with cooking spray.  Heat the ground chicken
                    over medium-high heat, breaking it up occasionally into smaller pieces, until it is no
                    longer pink. 
                   2.  If you are adding onion to your chicken mixture (my kids won't eat it, so we don't)
                   then add it to the skillet or pan now.  Cook for a minute or two on medium-high
                   heat to let the flavors of chicken and onion mix. 
                   3.  If you are using a skillet, now transfer the chicken (or chicken and onion mixture)
                   to the crockpot.  If you are using a big sauce pot on the stove, turn down the heat to
                  4.  To the chicken, add the water chestnuts, carrots, frozen edamame, soy sauce, teriyaki
                  sauce, vinegar and, if you are using the Chinese hot mustard, add that as well. 
                  5.  Pour the half can of chicken broth into the chicken-vegetable mixture.  Cover and cook
                  on low for 4-5 hours or, if using the crockpot, can also cook for 4-5 hours on low or
                  2 1/2 hours on high setting. 
                  6.  Strain the mixture and discard the liquid.  Add the 1 tsp. of hoison sauce and stir. 
                  7.  Spoon a large portion of the chicken mixture into the hollowed out portions of the
                  lettuce leaves.  May serve with reduced-sodium soy sauce, if desired. 

                  Per lettuce wrap, approximately:  125 cal., 2g. fat, 44 mg. cholesterol, 220mg. sodium,
                      7.5 g. carb., 1.5 g. fiber, 20g. protein. 

Thank you to the 2012 Better Homes and Gardens Special Interest Publication's Skinny Slow Cooker book for the basic recipe--that we then changed a ton, including deciding NOT to use the slow cooker at all...but anyhow--and made into our own version.  It was a wonderful inspiration for this recipe.  We hope that you will be able to use this, change this recipe into something that appeals to your family's tastes, and enjoy healthy eating! 


Thursday, December 1, 2011

Pignoli Cookies ("Pine Nut Cookies")

Pignoli Cookies (Italian for "Pine Nut Cookies") have a lot of meaning in my family for two reasons:  my Italian mother-in-law makes an incredible pignoli cookie as a Christmas tradition AND they are my 97-year-old grandmother's favorite (my mother's mother--see what bringing two families together can do!).  As my mother-in-law has a more difficult time cooking now, I tend to make more of the family recipes (not all, just more often).  However, as she makes her food without recipes, this is a recipe that I had to find (after watching her bake) and create into my own.  I am still "tweaking" this recipe, but this is what I have been able to "recreate" so far:

Needed:  To make these cookies, you will need a food processor (easiest) or a mixer (still works well).  You will also need parchment paper (which doesn't tend to work well for me, but it might work well for you), a sharp-edged spatula (or the edge of a butter knife might work well), and for some reason, these cookies work best for me when the cookie sheet is newer rather than older (which is why I only make them once a year). 

Ingredients (for 20-24 cookies):

        1  8 oz. can almond paste (made without liquid glucose or syrup)
        1  cup of white granulated sugar
        1/2 cup flour OR powdered sugar
        2 egg whites
       1/4 cup pine nuts (pignoli)

Directions:  1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a cookie sheet with parchement paper (do NOT use foil) or use a newer ungreased cookie sheet. 
                 2.  Break the almond paste into small pieces and either put it into a food processor (if using that) or in a large bowl (if using a hand mixer). 

                               For food processor:  Cover and blend the almost pieces until smooth, then add white
                               sugar gradually.  Add egg whites, process until smooth.  Add flour or powdered sugar
                               gradually until it thickens up the dough a bit. 

                          For hand mixer:  Add egg whites to the bowl of broken up almond paste pieces.  Beat
                          with electric mixer until smooth.  Gradually add sugar, and then either the flour or powdered
                         sugar until combined into a soft dough.

              3.  Although most recipes do not say this, I find that if you let the dough sit for about 15 to 30 minutes, most likely in the refrigerator due to the raw egg whites, the cookies "set up" better. 

               4.  Drop dough by slightly rounded spoonfuls onto the cookie sheet.  Press a few pine nuts into each cookie.  Bake in 350 degree oven for about 15 minutes or until the edges are firm and the bottom edges are slightly browned.  You don't want these cookies to turn too brown on top.  Take them out when they are a little soft still; they will continue to harden up as they cool. 

               5.  Cool on the cookie sheet for a few minutes, then use sharp metal spatula (if they stick on parchment paper, dip spatula in hot water first) to slide under the cookies and remove them to another plate to further cool and harden up.  (They have a tendency to fall apart when you first are taking them off of the cookie sheet.)

These cookies are best on the day they are made and can only be out in the open for one day.  You can chill them in the refrigerator for three days or freeze them in layers of wax paper for up to 3 months. 

Monday, November 7, 2011

Grilled Pizza

For grilled pizza, we took the easy way out by getting pizza dough from the grocery store and, after letting it rise all day in a glass bowl with a warm, wet towel overtop, we divided the dough into individual portions.  Some grocery stores are now making wheat or multigrain pizza dough as well.  Look for it in the refrigerated area near the cheese or in the freezer area. 

After spreading it out onto a flat surface and stretching it into an approximately 9-10 inch diameter flat circle, brush 1-2 teaspoons of olive oil over the surface. 

Add garlic powder to taste (optional) and your toppings.  We make our own tomato sauce and used this as one of our toppings, along with meatballs, but jarred sauce at the grocery store would work just as fine.  Toppings that we also placed in bowls for the kids to add:  mozzarella cheese, fresh tomatoes, basil, pepperoni, broccoli. 

Place pizza on fired-up grill, watching very carefully for burning of crust.  Each individual pizza will cook in approximately five minutes, yes, that's it--only five minutes--"for that wood-fired taste that everyone loves" says my son!  The best part about individual grilled pizzas?  The kids make them on their own!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Stroganoff with Cheesy Bacon Meatballs

Another dish all the kids will eat!  This is adapted from a recipe from Food Network Online.  All onions, many spices, and salt/pepper have been taken out and some family favorite additions have been added as well to make it our own recipe. Please feel free to add spices, salt, etc. as your family likes.  This is a great comfort-food recipe to eat after an afternoon of carving pumpkins!  Enjoy!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Italian Style Spaghetti Squash (Vegetables with Love Italian-Style!)

A huge thank you to The South Beach Diet for this spaghetti squash dish that my kids will actually eat!  Here is the recipe:
                                                        Italian-Style Spaghetti Squash

                1 pound spaghetti squash, halved lengthwise and seeded (I find the seeding is
                easier after cooking in the microwave)
                1 tablespoon of olive oil (or more as needed...)
                1/2 medium red onion, thinly sliced (we don't use this but you might)
                1/2 medium zucchini (we use a whole one or even one and a half), cut into
                       1/2 inch dice
                1 cup to 1 1/2 cup of cherry/grape tomatoes halved
                1/8 teaspoon salt (we don't use as it doesn't seem to need it, but you might want...)
                1/8 teaspoon pepper (again, we don't use this)
                1/4 cup reduced-fat grated parmesan cheese (per serving...)
                1/2 small lemon, sliced (or sprinkled on lemon juice to taste)
                We add one small clove garlic, chopped, to this recipe.