28 September 2010

Not Your Mama's Tuna Noodle Casserole

I should preface this post by saying that as a child, I would never have eaten tuna noodle casserole. As an adult, I would most likely not bother to waste my calories on a tuna noodle casserole made from condensed soup - I really try to avoid the fat, sodium, and preservatives that compose this "pantry staple". I'd much rather make a simple bechamel in its place. Despite my reservations, when I came across this recipe about a year ago, I decided I had to try it. I've since made it a few times, much to our satisfaction.

Most recently, I recreated the recipe and calculated my own nutrition facts using the ingredients/measurements I was actually using. This recipe has just over 250 calories per serving, a nice savings over Eating Well's  already super healthy 406 calories. This is a great option in the "creamy comfort food" category that doesn't wreak havoc with your nutrition. If you're not watching fat or calories as closely as Andrew and I are, you can add more cheese and/or breadcrumbs to the top but honestly, it doesn't need it.

Not Your Mama's Tuna Noodle Casserole
adapted from Eating Well
makes 4 servings

6 oz. no-yolk egg noodles
2 tsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
4 oz. mushrooms, diced
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 c. dry white wine
3 tbsp. AP flour
1-1/2 c. skim milk
1 c. frozen peas
1 - 5 oz. can of tuna (white albacore packed in water), drained
1 wedge Laughing Cow Light cheese
1/4 c. shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese

Cook egg noodles according to package directions, drain, and set aside. Lightly spray an 8"x8" baking pan with non-stick spray and set aside.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onions and mushrooms to the pan, add salt, and saute until onions are translucent, about five minutes.

Add the wine and cook until it has evaporated. Sprinkle the flour over the veggies, then add the milk and bring to a simmer. Stir sauce as it thickens.

Add the peas, tuna, and Laughing Cow cheese to the sauce and stir until cheese has melted.

Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and top with the mozzarella cheese. Broil for five minutes or until cheese is melted, browned, and bubbly.

Cut into quarters and serve with a nice green salad.

It's easy to get your lean protein and veggies when they're wrapped up in such a cozy dish. This is the perfect hot meal for a cool autumn day - easy to put together, warm, and comforting.

27 September 2010

Mediterranean Stuffed Zucchini

I saw this recipe in Real Simple magazine and immediately wanted to try it. I'm not a huge fan of stuffed peppers, but the contents of this "stuffing" were right up my alley, so I figured I'd give it a try. One half was enough for me, but Andrew ate two. We repeated these numbers for lunch the next day, so three zucchini was the perfect amount for us. I omitted the sun-dried tomatoes called for in the original recipe because Andrew isn't a huge fan of them.

You could easily make up the "stuffing" the night before, then just halve, scoop, and stuff the zucchini for a super fast meal. Since the weather is turning cool here, I've got fall foods on my mind and I think this would be equally good with acorn squash.

Mediterranean Stuffed Zucchini
adapted from Real Simple - September 2010

3 medium zucchini
1/2 lb. Italian sausage, casings removed
1/4 c. grated Asiago cheese
2 tbsp. pignoli (pine nuts)
2 tbsp. chopped sun-dried tomatoes
2 chopped green onions

Halve the zucchini lengthwise. Use a spoon to scoop out the seeds and form the "bowl" for your stuffing. Place halves on a cookie sheet and set aside.

Brown the sausage in a large skillet. Drain grease and combine with remaining ingredients. I had reserved the scooped out zucchini and mixed it in at this point.

Roast at 400 degrees for 12-15 minutes or until zucchini is fork tender. Serve with additional asiago, if desired.

16 September 2010

Cuban Sandwiches

We had our neighbors over for dinner last weekend and I opted to make a giant pork tenderloin. This thing was so big I had to kink it to fit in my biggest roasting pan! 

While hanging out chatting at the dinner table, we got around to discussing what to do with all that leftover pork. Our neighbors are both originally from the Dominican Republic, and Nelson has worked as a chef, so I really enjoy talking food with him. Nelson's suggestion for the leftover pork? Cubans! I've served Cuban sandwiches before working in restaurants, but had never tried one (not being a huge fan of sandwiches) and Andrew had never even heard of them.

I guess Nelson was a pretty good salesman...we drove to the store the next morning so we could eat them for lunch.

Cuban Sandwiches
makes 4 sandwiches

4 ciabatta rolls
4 slices leftover pork tenderloin
8 slices honey-baked ham
8 slices Swiss cheese
8 slices dill pickles
Dijon mustard

Halve and toast the rolls in the toaster oven or under the broiler.

Place the bottom half of each roll on a cookie sheet. Top with one slice Swiss cheese, mustard, 2 pickles, 2 slices of ham, and one piece of pork. Add another slice of cheese to the top.

Return sandwiches to the broiler or toaster oven just long enough to melt the cheese. Add top half of bun to each sandwich. Serve with additional mustard and pickles. Handcut potato chips wouldn't hurt.

These sandwiches are easy, filling, and delicious. A nice weekend lunch or quick weeknight dinner, Cubans are a little something different from boring old turkey or chicken salad. Enjoy!

14 September 2010

Chocolate Strawberry Pavlova

If you're looking for an impressive dessert that's a little something different, look no further. I have made one of Nigella's dessert recipes before, but wasn't 100% pleased with the results. This time, I could not have been happier. This Chocolate Strawberry Pavlova was rich and sweet, yet light and fruity. An amazing treat that works for any occasion.

I made this for my in-laws' tenth wedding anniversary. There were seven of us and we ended up with one giant piece left over - this would easily serve ten if you cut it properly.

Chocolate Strawberry Pavlova
adapted from Nigella Lawson

For the Meringue

6 large egg whites
2 c. superfine sugar  (**see note**)
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

For the Topping

2 c. heavy whipping cream
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tbsp. superfine sugar
2 c. sliced strawberries 
1 oz. bittersweet chocolate

**Please note: I don't have superfine sugar in my pantry and I wasn't about to buy any. You don't need to either. Put regular old granulated sugar in your food processor or blender and whir for about 30 seconds (until it's super fine).

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment. Use a pencil to trace a 9-inch- cake tin on the paper. Flip the paper over so your meringue doesn't touch the pencil marks.

Beat the egg whites with a mixer until satiny peaks form, and then beat in the sugar a spoonful at a time until the meringue is stiff and shiny. 

Sift the cocoa into the bowl, then add the vinegar and chopped chocolate over the egg whites.

Gently fold everything with a rubber spatula until the cocoa is thoroughly mixed in.

Plop the meringue into the center of the parchment circle. Yummy!

Shape the meringue into a disc using a butterknife or offset spatula.

Lick the spatula clean. Mmmm hmmmm!

Place in the oven, and immediately turn the temperature down to 300 degrees and cook for 60-75 minutes.

When it's ready, it should look crisp and dry on top, but when you prod the center you should feel the promise of squidginess beneath your fingers.(This is word-for-word Nigella's direction - I love it!)

Open the oven door, turn off the oven, and let the meringue cool completely.

Move the meringue onto your serving plate.

Whip the cream and vanilla until soft peaks start to form. Add the sugar and whip to combine.

Spread the whipped cream on the meringue and top with the strawberries. My lovely sister-in-law Leah is allergic to strawberries, so I left a section of the pavlova free for her.

Use a vegetable peeler to shave curls of chocolate over the pavlova.

Happy Anniversary to two of my favorite people!

03 September 2010

Cold Curry-Peanut Noodles

It's Labor Day weekend here in the States, and for a lot of us, that means backyard barbeques, picnics, and camping. I thought I'd share a yummy side dish I made this summer. From the June 2010 issue of Food Network Magazine, Cold Curry-Peanut Noodles are a fantastic twist on tired old pasta salad. They're something different, yet not so out there that unadventurous eaters will be wary.

Cold Curry-Peanut Noodles
adapted from Food Network Magazine, June 2010
p. 104

12 oz. whole wheat spaghetti
2/3 c. crunchy peanut butter
1-2 tbsp. red curry paste
2 tsp. rice wine vinegar
juice of 1 lime
1/3 c. fresh parsley leaves
2 green onions, thinly sliced
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, cut into thin strips
1 large carrot, peeled and cut into thin strips

Cook spaghetti according to package directions. Reserve 1/2 cup of pasta water, drain pasta, rinse under cool water. Set aside.

In the bowl of a food processor, combine the peanut butter, curry paste, vinegar, lime juice, parsley, 1/2 cup water, and 1 tsp. salt. Puree until smooth.

Toss the spaghetti, vegetables, and peanut sauce in a large bowl until well combined. Season with salt (you'll need it) and stir in some of the reserved pasta water to loosen the sauce if necessary.

If serving immediately, transfer to serving bowl and top with red pepper flakes and fresh parsley. We brought this along with us as a camping side dish, so I packed it into an airtight container and into the cooler.

A lovely camping meal - cheeseburgers, chips, coleslaw, and this awesome pasta salad!

Those of you who know me are aware that I'm not much of a camper - I mostly do it to make my husband happy. I'm also not much of a fisherwoman, but every once in a while, I'll do that too, just to make Andrew happy. 

As you can see in the picture below, this city girl in borrowed waders does not appreciate the moment being recorded for posterity!
We're not in NYC anymore, Toto!

Have a Happy Labor Day weekend!