Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Wedding Diet Lentil Soup

It's been a while friends, it's a whole new year! Updates: C & I got engaged in October (!), wedding is in September (!!), and so now we're on a diet :(   Figure if we're going to get it together for once in our lives, wedding photos are as good an excuse as any.  I also changed jobs; I'll tell ya: day-to-day happiness is hugely underrated.  

Anyway, so we're eating healthy.  If you miss C's mac & cheese as much as I do (ok so I may or may not still eat it on occasion..tonight..), the next several months might be somewhat boring for you.  I'll do my best to ensure that taste-wise you'll never know the difference.

Lentil soup is a winter-time staple in our house: one-pot meal, fiber-protein-veggies, cozy & comforting.  Just usually we use pork sausage, bacon, and serve alongside a crusty loaf of bread.  I've changed things up a bit...

Verdict: You won't miss the fattier ingredients

Wedding Diet Lentil Soup
1 pkg. (5) Jennie-O Turkey Sausages*
1 small brown onion, diced
3 carrots, peeled & diced
2 zucchinis, diced
2 cans low sodium beef stock
1 bunch of kale, cut from stalks and into 2-inch pieces
1 pkg. green lentils
6-8 c water
2 t chili powder
1 t garlic powder
1 t onion powder
1 t red pepper flakes
salt & pepper 
Squeeze of lime / lime juice
1 T olive oil

  • Heat olive oil in a large pot over high heat; remove sausage casings and add meat to pot once oil is hot
  • Cook on high until some of the meat is browned, then add carrots, onions, some salt & pepper, and turn heat to medium-low
  • Once meat is cooked through, toss in zucchini, stir then add beef stock, water, lentils and seasonings; turn heat and bring to a boil
  • Stir in kale, cook for 30-45 minutes depending on how you like your lentils, and on the long end if you prefer thicker soup
  • Squeeze in lime, season to taste
*My favorite is using a combination of Jennie-O Spicy Italian and Sweet Italian sausages (you can freeze extras for a future batch!)

Enjoy: comforting, delish, and you'll have leftovers for lunch...which means two guaranteed on-diet meals!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Snickerdoodles for a Stubborn BSC

Folks, I have a big announcement to make: I think I have a new, favorite cookie.  I know, crazy talk, right?  

CK has been bugging me to make Snickerdoodles for a while, and after several months of nonsensical brush-off, I finally acquiesced.  Good.  Thing.  I.  Did.  These puppies are delicious.  

I adapted my recipe from good ol' Betty Crocker, and (since I've made two batches in two days) find that the result is a consistent and sinful combination of chewy and crisp.  Enjoy!

Snickerdoodles for a Stubborn BSC
1-1/2 c sugar
1/2 c butter, softened*
1/2 c shortening**
2 eggs
1 t vanilla
1/2 t ground cinnamon
2-3/4 c flour
2 t cream of tartar
1 t baking soda
3/4 t salt
1/2 c sugar
4 t ground cinnamon

  • In a large bowl, combine sugar, butter, shortening, eggs, vanilla & cinnamon; use a hand mixer or mix very well by hand so that batter is light and well combined
  • In a medium bowl, sift together dry ingredients, then add to wet ingredients, half at a time
  • Cover and refrigerate for 30+ minutes (overnight will work too!)
  • Before baking, preheat oven to 400
  • Line a baking sheet with foil; combine remaining sugar & cinnamon so well mixed
  • Roll cookies to form approximate 1-1/2-inch balls; roll each cookie in cinnamon-sugar mixture so well coated (I use a spoon to assist in the covering-with-cinnamon-sugar process)
  • Place cookie on baking sheet - 12-15 cookies spaced evenly apart should fit comfortably each tray
  • Bake for 8-10 minutes (literally, 9 was my magic number), until edges are golden-brown and top of each cookie is dry

*I've said it once and I'll say it again: the key to good cookies is butter at room-temperature, not melted, but softened all the way through
**Yuck, I know, but you need it

Sunday, May 6, 2012

PB&J Stuffed French Toast: Breakfast of Champions

CK and I share a love of amazing brunches - home-cooked, high-end, or hole-in-the-wall, as long as the food is good (and not too greasy), I'm happy.  This weekend we were inclined to stay in, and after the full-fledged: eggs, bacon, taters, french toast smorgasbord we enjoyed Saturday morning, we wanted to get a little creative on Sunday.  

Here's our brand new creation and immediate obsession:

PB&J Stuffed French Toast: Breakfast of Champions
4 pieces french bread, thickly (1") sliced
4 T peanut butter (I use natural crunchy, but your fav is fine)
4 T jelly/jam (I use "triple berry" but anything goes)
1 egg + 1 egg white
1/4 c milk (I use nonfat, but anything is fine)
1 t vanilla
1/2 t cinnamon
1/2 t nutmeg
1/8 t salt

  • Make pb&js, dividing jelly between two slices and peanut butter between the other two slices of bread...I can't imagine this requires any more explanation ;-)
  • Whisk together eggs, milk, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg & salt; melt butter (approx 1 tsp) over medium heat in a large skillet
  • Dredge both sides of each sandwich in egg wash, letting each side soak for a couple of seconds to absorb the liquid
  • Toast sandwiches in butter until golden brown - approximately 5-7 minutes for the first side and 3-4 for the second
  • Serve immediately...with butter...syrup..powdered sugar..or just pick it right up and chow down plain 
I've definitely discovered a new favorite, and love that it's quick and painless to whip up.  Plus, for any fan of the ol' pb&j - you'll be surprised how satisfying that beloved combo can be in the morning!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Grilled Cheese Grown-Up

I spent the weekend in a time warp when I returned to my alma mater, Washington University in St. Louis for my five year reunion (ahh!).  It was a perfect weekend across the board, filled with wonderful people and way too many drinks...though I tell you, I don't remember it being so hard to recuperate from standard weekend activities the last time I was there!

Now I'm in need of a serious detox to remind my liver that I still love her.  However, the first rule to any detox/diet is to make yourself a little treat before you start (teehee), so in honor of this glorious weekend, I made a grown-up version of an old, indulgent favorite to nurse my little body back to life before getting back on the wagon tomorrow.

I was first inspired to make this recipe a few weeks ago when I met Elizabeth Pizzinato, the brilliant author of Roast Duck and a Big Gooey Cake blog and I saw this recipe.  I geared it more toward my own cravings and materials on hand, but oooohh-wee did this creation hit the spot!

Grilled Cheese Grown-Up
4-6 slices bacon*
4 slices Challah bread, 1/2-3/4" pieces
2 T pesto sauce**
1-1.5 c grated Gruyere cheese
1/2 brown onion, thinly sliced
2 T Parmesan (+ extra for soup if you're serving!)
1 T butter, room temp
salt + pepper

  • Pan-fry bacon to your liking*** then drain on paper towels and set aside
  • Sautee onions in baking drippings over medium heat; season with salt and pepper and cook until tender
  • While onions are cooking, butter one-side of each piece of bread, then spread 1 T of pesto sauce on the reverse side of two of the pieces
  • Preheat a large sautee pan over medium heat; place bread without the pesto butter-side down, top with Gruyere (depending on the level of cheesiness you want!), then bacon, onions, Parmesan and finally the pesto-side of the other piece of bread
  • Turn heat down slightly, you want the sandwich to cook slowly so that the cheese will melt, but careful not to burn the bottom crust - cover with a lid if you need insulation to help (I did!)
  • Once Gruyere looks mostly melted (~10 mins, depending on thickness of bread), flip sandwich and cook until other side is crisp & golden (~3 mins)
  • Remove from heat, slice in half, and serve immediately (optional to do so alongside tomato soup! yum!)

* Depending on how much you like bacon!
** I owe you a reeeeaaallly good recipe for this, but store-bought is fine too!
*** My preference is thickly sliced bacon cooked low & slow so it's crispy, yet still has some chew!

Class of 2007, thank you for a wonderful weekend; it was great to see so many people and long-overdue catch up - I am proud to know all of you!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Chocolate Crack: GU's Most Evil Manipulation

I've recently welcomed a very important friend back into my life after a bit of a hiatus.  The olive branch was completely unexpected - and it's so cool - I've the opportunity to experience the most amazing transition, reconnection and forgiveness in the friendship.  (Maybe I'm turning into a mature adult after all?)  Even better?  Sub $200 flights brought her out to LA and allowed for in-person catch-up time over lemon drop martinis and carnitas (heck yes we make them often).  And famous last words: you've GOT to try Chocolate Crack!

GU is the reason for some big-time dangerous addictions of my past: 7s, tanning, chocolate chip cookie name only a few, and I can already tell that it will be for this one that I will never forgive her: Chocolate Crack* is ridiculous, and will be, mark my words, my downfall.  GU, love you.

Chocolate Crack: GU's Most Evil Manipulation
51 saltine crackers (approx)
1 c unsalted butter
1 c dark brown sugar
1 t vanilla extract
2-3 t coarse, ground sea salt 
12 oz high quality dark chocolate (~70%)

  • Preheat oven to 350
  • Line a large baking pan with foil; place saltine crackers salt side up and side-by-side in the pan so the edges touch but crackers are not overlapping (use cracker pieces to fill in gaps on the edges)
  • Chop chocolate into small pieces (choc chip sized) and set aside
  • In a medium saucepan melt butter over medium heat, stirring frequently with a spatula; once melted, add brown sugar, vanilla and ~1/2-1 t salt to combine and cook for approx 5 minutes, until mixture is an even dark brown color and just begins to bubble
  • Remove from heat and immediately pour over saltines; use spatula to spread sauce evenly over crackers
  • Bake crackers for 5 mins, or until caramel begins to bubble; remove from oven and sprinkle with chocolate pieces, allowing the heat of the gooey crackers to melt the chocolate
  • Once softened, use spatula to spread the chocolate evenly to cover all crackers; sprinkle lightly, evenly with more salt (to taste)
  • Set aside to let cool; refrigerate to set; freeze for AWESOME :) (break it apart into little into 2-inch pieces and put into zip-locs for the freezer!)
  • Repeat (a.k.a. addiction)

*Recipe is adapted from this one on - thanks for all of the inspiration from your fab collection!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Slow-Cooker Carnitas for a Lazy (Hungover) Sunday

At my ripe old age of 26 I have come to realize the reality that most social outings are cooler than my status quo.  In fact, sometimes I'm invited to go to events so freaking awesome that I'm literally nervous in anticipation.  For example, we spent Saturday on a party bus, in flashback (or, in CK's pathetic case ;-), "attempt") attire, blasting 80s music, touring South Bay in celebration of our friend CF's 30th birthday with a 1982-themed extravaganza.  

Present day, Sunday, BSC is hungover.  Also, my friend OE is in town for a quick stay to catch the UCLA gymnastics meet and I had already promised a satisfying dinner.  What is low-effort, cozy-in-the-tummy and mind-blowingly delicious?  Our new obsession slow-cooker carnitas, courtesy of my very first go at Pinterest.  

Seriously, CK and I put it out there that these are the best carnitas in. the. WORLD. and truly challenge any other interpretation.  Plus, it wouldn't suck to taste test that competition.  Make tacos with seasoned rice, black beans, guacamole and jack cheese.  Be sure to make a big enough shoulder/butt to last a while because you're going to want to have leftovers over rice for the rest of the week!

Slow-Cooker Carnitas for a Lazy (Hungover) Sunday
pork shoulder blade roast, lean, trimmed* - 3-5 lbs.
6 cloves garlic, minced
dry adobo seasoning (I couldn't find it so I made my own**)
garlic powder
3/4 c 99% fat free chicken broth (then more if desired)
3-4 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce*** (to taste)
2 bay leaves
olive oil

  • Season pork liberally with salt and pepper.  Heat olive oil in a large sautee pan over medium-high heat; brown pork on all sides (~2 mins/side; ~10 mins/total).  Remove from heat and allow to cool.
  • Season very generously with cumin, adobo and garlic powder all over
  • Pour chicken broth in the crockpot, add bay leaves, and chipotle peppers; place pork in broth  (skin side up, if using) and scatter garlic over pork and in broth; cook on low, though our favorite combination kicks the heat up to high for the second hour then returns to low to finish, for 7 hours in total - I like to pour more chicken broth over the pork intermittently too!
  • After 7 hours, remove chipotle peppers and bay leaves, then shred using two forks, combining the meat well with the juices.  Adjust seasonings if needed - this frequently means more cumin and/or salt
  • Cover and let cook for 15-30 minutes then serve.  Refrigerate leftovers and serve again.  Repeat.  Again.  They're that good.
*You really want to do a good job trimming the meat -- it does not need much fat at all.  If the cut comes with some nice skin, or a healthy layer of fat, feel free to keep it on for the cooking (leave this side facing up), then remove as best you can before shredding.

**You can find several versions of dry adobo seasonings on the internet, mine was essentially a combination of: salt, onion powder, garlic powder, chili powder, cumin, black pepper and oregano.  I encourage you embrace the confidence to style this to your own taste :)

***You'll find Chipotle Peppers in Adobo Sauce in the Hispanc or International sections of your local grocery store.  Our local Ralph's sells them in a small can on the second-to-bottom shelf.  These add an amazingly delish, authentic flavor, but be careful about going overboard: each little pepper packs a big-time spice punch.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Fran's "I-can't-believe-it's-super-duper-healthy" Watercress Soup

I didn't grow up celebrating Christmas, so I feel like a bit of an excitable kid when CK and I spend the holiday with his family in DC.  The trip is highly anticipated by both of us and provides such warmth and sanctuary just at the time of year when you really crave it.  

This year, FK started Christmas Eve dinner with an amazingly delicious (and ridiculously addictive) green soup.  (Note: I'm kind of particular about soups, and generally discriminating towards them...)  The soup blew my mind.   It's simple, light, flavorful and comforting - all at the same time.  It's amazing!  AND, there are so few calories.  Win-win-win-win-win in my book. (And easy to make.  Win.)

Fran's "I-can't-believe-it's-super-duper-healthy" Watercress Soup
1-1/2 lbs. Zucchini, peeled & diced
3 leeks, white & light green parts only, chopped
1/2 bunch watercress, stems removed
1 T Butter
4 c chicken low sodium chicken stock
1/4 c nonfat milk
1/4 t cayenne pepper
salt & pepper

  • In a large pot, combine leeks and butter over very low heat; season with salt and pepper, then cover and let leeks get soft, not brown (5-7 minutes)
  • Add zucchini and broth to the leeks, season again with salt and pepper; increase heat to high and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium and simmer until zucchini is soft (about 25 minutes)
  • Add watercress and simmer for 25 more minutes; carefully transfer soup to a blender or food processor and... Blend!
  • Once soup is pureed, return to soup pot, turn heat to low, add milk and stir to reduce; season to taste with cayenne, salt and pepper
  • Serve on it's own, (or like we did recently, as a savory sauce over grilled catfish and rice.  Yum!)

I mean, only one tablespoon for the whole batch?  No problem.  You're going to get more than a full serving of veggies in each bowl, and it tastes like a dream.  I even made a believer out of CK's friend FG with this one, and if you him, you know what a miracle it is to get him to eat anything of nutritional value.  

Especially as we get back on the saddle with the routine, the grind and the good behavior, this soup is going to be a winter favorite in our house!