Monthly Archives: November 2012

Souped Up Potato Soup

When time permits on the weekend, I fill my oven one or twice with roasting veggies.
Potatoes, carrots, parsnips, cauliflower, fennel, tomatoes, garlic, onions, squash; nothing is off limits.
Though I have tried broccoli and didn’t care much for it crispy.
When done, I stick them all in the fridge and pull them out during the week for dinner or lunches. Who ever said you have to cook veggies immediately before eating? It’s great having all those choices ready to go.

This soup went together in a snap because I had everything cooked and ready to use. As you know, I’m always looking for a way to extend foods by sneaking in some veggies and this was no exception.

Roasted Potato and Cauliflower Soup

1 1/2 C cubed roasted potatoes (use Yukon Gold or Red potatoes and leave the peel on)
1 1/2 C roasted cauliflower (I promise, the kids won’t even know it’s in there)
1/2 a large Vidalia or Mayan onion, chopped
4 cloves roasted garlic
3 C chicken broth or stock
1 to 2 C low fat milk (go ahead and use something richer if you can afford the calories)

Sweat the onions in a bit of olive oil and add the garlic, cook til onions are translucent.

Add the potatoes and cauliflower, then the chicken broth.
Simmer until veggies are quite tender.

Now give it a whizz it with an immersion blender. Add as much milk or cream as you like for desired thickness, blend until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste.

This gave me a quart of rich, filling, warm yumminess to have for lunches this week and another to put in the freezer for later this winter. Weight Watchers folks can have a cup for 4 points!


Risotto with Roasted Garlic and Tomatoes

I had, if not the best tasting, the most creative presentation of risotto in Siena, Italy last month.
We had ordered our meal and finished the antipasti. Time for the pasta course! A lovely young girl placed a plate of carbonara in front of my guy as another wheeled a cart up to the table. On the cart was a large wheel or parmesan.
What the heck, I wonder.
The wheel was cut horizontally, about 1/3 of the way down; like a round box with a lid. She lifted the lid, and, much to my delight, inside was my steaming risotto! She stirred and scraped for a couple minutes to incorporate the cheese into the risotto, then plated it and topped it with a few hard scrapes from the top of the cheese as a garnish. Fabulous! Hot and creamy, cheesy and perfectly textured. A little bowl of heaven. Which I can recreate at home. Well, I’m trying.

Risotto. Stir it or don’t. Add liquid a cup at a time… or all at once. Toast the rice… or not. Heat the liquid before adding to the rice, or keep it at room temp. Does it take 45 minutes or 18? So many questions, so many variables. I’m still on the quest for the perfect risotto, but I do learn something new each time I make it. Let’s get on with the ingredients and then talk about technique:

1 1/2 C arborio rice
1 C dry white wine
4 1/2 C chicken broth or stock
1/2 large sweet onion (Vidalia or Mayan), minced
5 cloves roasted garlic, chopped
1/3 C roasted tomatoes (I got mine at the deli counter, packed in garlic and oil
3/4 C freshly grated parmesan cheese

Sweat the minced onion in a bit of olive oil until it becomes translucent, then add the roasted garlic.

Add the rice and cook until it starts to get translucent, stirring all the while. You don’t want it to brown.

Add the white wine and start to gently stir until the liquid is almost all absorbed. Add the broth, a cup or ladle at a time, stirring all the while, only adding more when the liquid is just about absorbed.

Test the rice for doneness after about 17 minutes. Depending on the cooking temp (and who knows what other factors) it can be nearly done, or still need another ten or so minutes. It should be soft, but still al dente. You do not want mushy risotto.

Right at the end, stir in the roasted tomatoes.
Remove from heat and quickly stir in the parmesan.


Now, on to what worked and what I will change.

  • Risotto is all about the starch. Using a short grained rice is imperative. Arborio is good, I hear Vialone Nano is better, but not available for me locally. I do plan on ordering some on line, just to give it a go.
  • Some cooks say that constant stirring breaks down the starch and gives the risotto its creaminess. Others say the starch is all on the outside of the grain and a few stirs will release it. I’ve seen people swear by toasting the rice and others who say it messes with the starch and the risotto won’t be as creamy, though it does add a nice color to the dish.

My next test will be to wash the rice in the broth I’ll be using, strain it, toast the rice, then, as I add the broth, the starchiness will be added back in, therefore giving me both color and creaminess. Worth a try, right?

  • I’ve had really nice risotto where all the liquid was added at once and it was left alone until the last 5 minutes, then stirred until done. I don’t know that it really makes a difference. Liquid is absorbed as quickly as it can be; no more and no less. Does it matter how much is swimming around the grain? I think the thing is the process. I rather enjoy fussing over the pot, watching it all come together. Just know that if you have other things you need to prepare, you really can step away from the stove for a few minutes without ruining your risotto.
  • I cooked this batch at a higher temp than usual; I generally go with a slow simmer, but bumped it up to medium heat. It was done in 18 minutes, give or take, rather than 45. I like this.

I served this risotto with spicy Italian sausage and roasted fennel, and we finished things off with a simple salad.

Era deliziosa!

Coconut Curry Chicken

Heat 2 T olive oil in a deep saute pan.
Add 3 T of your favorite curry powder and cook for a minute or two.

Meanwhile, chop a half of a large, sweet onion, 2 to 3 T ginger root and 2 plump cloves of garlic.
Add them to the pan and cook for another couple minutes.
Have on hand 1 can of diced tomatoes, 1 can of light coconut milk, about 2 cups of fresh green beans, and some tomato paste.

Add 6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, or a combo of breasts and thighs. My man prefers the white meat, so I mixed it up. I like using the dark meat because it adds more depth of flavor.

Brown the chicken on both sides, then add a 15 oz can of diced tomatoes and half a can (6 or 7 oz) of light coconut milk and 2 T tomato paste.

Let it simmer for 20 minutes, or until nearly reduced to your satisfaction. add 1 sliced red bell pepper and 2 cups of fresh green beans. Continue cooking until the veggies are soft enough for you.

Serve over a cup of brown jasmine rice.

You can get 4 servings out of this at 6 Weight Watchers points per serving (plus rice)

Now the trick will be to get the kitchen cleared up of curry aroma.

Quite yummy.


Roasted Delicata Squash

I picked up a delicata squash last shopping trip just because I had never had one and I do like to expand our food repertoire regularly. I get bored easily.

Delicata is like butternut, but better. First off, you don’t need a machete to cut it in half for roasting. I felt far less likely to lose a digit getting through the skin and flesh. The skin is actually edible. so wash it well before putting it in the oven. The flavor is milder, a little sweeter, and quite, well, delicate.

Here’s all you need to do; it could hardly be easier. Slice the squash in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Slice each half horizontally in half inch slices and place them on a baking sheet. Brush or spray with olive oil, flip them over and do the other side. Sprinkle with a little salt and roast at 425 degrees for about 10 minutes, when they start to caramelize and brown, flip them over and continue cooking until the slices are nicely browned and fork-tender.

We ate the whole thing, just the two of us. When my SE goes back for squash seconds, I know something miraculous has happened in my kitchen

Lightened-Up Twice Baked Potatoes

I love a potato. I love, love, love a potato. While they are quite nutritious, they do pack the carbs and rack up the WW points. So, I think to myself, how can I have more than a half a potato without blowing the total intake for the day? While I was thinking, I was roasting vegetables and tossed in a couple Idaho bakers to have with the veggie-and-meat-loaf I was making for dinner. I put them right beside the cauliflower.
Roasted cauliflower has a terrific popcorn-like flavor; roasting really mellows it out. So much so that it would work really well with a potato!
I let both roast in a 375 degree oven until the cauliflower started to brown and the potatoes were just fork-tender.
I sliced off the top third of the potatoes, scooped them out, and put the innards in the food processor along with an equal amount of cauliflower, about 5 tablespoons of Greek yogurt (use sour cream if you like, but the Greek yogurt is packed with protein and has zero fat). Add salt and pepper, a few splashes of milk to get the consistency you like, whirr until smooth and refill the potato skins. Pop them back in the oven until the tops start to brown a bit.
Twice as much potato for the same amount of points.
I didn’t tell my dinner partner about this until after he had devoured his. Mostly because I was doing the same and my mouth was never empty long enough to form a complete sentence.
He had no suspicion. And he is not a cauliflower fan.
I’ll be doing this as standard practice from now on.

Confetti Salsa

This is the veggie side dish I made with our steak and shrimp a couple nights ago. We ate it at room temp, but it would be great colder as a salad-type thing as well.
I tossed a half cup into a pan yesterday morning to soften things a bit, then made an omelet out of it. Also delish.

Confetti Salsa

1 can black beans , rinsed and drained
1 can diced tomatoes, drained
1 green pepper, diced
1 red/orange/yellow bell pepper, diced
1 medium onion, red or white, diced
1 C frozen kernel corn, thawed
1/2 t cumin
1/2 t ground coriander
1 T lime juice
salt and pepper to taste
sprinkle in some cayenne pepper if you like it spicy.

Mix everything together and let sit for 30 minutes or so to blend flavors.

Chicken Divine

The inspiration:

I’m back to Skinnytaste for the second time today, this time it’s the Chicken Divan.

There are only two of us for dinner, so I’m going to small this up a bit, and I don’t have all the exact ingredients, so there will be a substitution or two. Oh, and because I’m always trying to sneak more veggies in to bulk things up, I’ll add some, um, red bell peppers, yeah. They will add a pop of color against the broccoli too. And I’ll change the name to protect the integrity of Chicken Divan.

So here’s what I’m working with:

Chicken Divine

1 1/2 lb. broccoli
1 red bell pepper
2 6 oz chicken breasts
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small onion, chopped
3T flour
1 1/2 T each oil and butter
3/4 C chicken broth
1/2 C low fat milk
4 oz low fat shredded cheddar
1/4 C breadcrumbs

Cube the chicken and saute in a bit of olive oil until just done.
Steam the broccoli and red pepper in the microwave until they are crisp-tender.
Put them all together in an 8×8 glass baking dish.
Saute the onion and garlic in the oil and butter and add the flour to make a roux.

Let it get as dark as you like, add the broth, milk and a splash of sherry or white wine if you have it (when do I never have wine ? I used some sweet vermouth) and half the cheese. Stir on low until cheese is melted and things are thickened up. Give it a taste and add some salt and pepper as you see fit. I added 1/2 t dry mustard. just because my mother always did when making a cheese sauce, and 1/2 t of hot Hungarian paprika.
Pour over the chicken and veggies, top with the remaining cheese and breadcrumbs.
Pop it in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes. Serves 4 at 6 points per serving!

I’m serving this along side steamed bulgar wheat tonight.

We really enjoyed this one. It was worthy of a “yes, make it again. very delish!”. Next time, I will try adding the dry bulgar and its appropriate amount of liquid to the casserole dish and letting it all cook together until it sets up. Like a real casserole. Men love a casserole.