Posts Tagged 'Cooking Light'

Barbecue Chicken and Grape Salad

I have two dilemmas on the grocery front this week.  One, I have so many beers in my refrigerator right now (party leftovers!) that I barely have room for anything else. Two, I have significant quantities of strawberries and grapes that I need to use.  I was able to respect the space issue and make use of some of the grapes with today’s recipe: Barbecue Chicken and Grape Salad from the June 2002 issue of Cooking Light.  Luckily, I had both green and red grapes left over from the party, and I had all of the other ingredients on hand except for the chicken breast (minimal fridge space needed) and the red onion (pantry storage).

Here’s the recipe:

Barbecue Chicken and Grape Salad
Serves 4 (approximately 1 1/4 cups per serving)

Ingredients:
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon ancho chili powder
3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
1 teaspoon olive oil
3/4 cup seedless green grapes, halved
3/4 cup seedless red grapes, halved
2/3 cup coarsely chopped celery
1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion
1/4 cup low-fat mayonnaise
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh orange juice
1/4 cup coarsely chopped walnuts, toasted

Method:
Preheat oven to 350°.

Combine onion powder, paprika, chili powder, and 1/2 teaspoon salt; sprinkle over chicken.

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken, and sauté 2 minutes on each side or until browned. Wrap handle of skillet in foil; bake at 350° for 10 minutes or until done. Remove from pan; refrigerate until chilled. Chop into bite-sized pieces.

Combine 1/4 teaspoon salt, green grapes, and next 6 ingredients (green grapes through orange juice) in a large bowl. Add chopped chicken, and toss to coat. Sprinkle salad with walnuts.

Source: Cooking Light, June 2002

Barbecue Chicken and Grape Salad

This salad is soooooo good.  So good!  It’s super fresh tasting (the grapes), kicky (the red onion, paprika, and chili powder), and bright (the orange juice and vinegar).  The crunch of the toasted walnuts and the celery is fantastic as well.  I was initially a bit nervous about my chicken because my spices ended up blackening on the stove instead of browning, but the end result was flavorful, juicy meat.

Not that I advocate trickery, but I think this is one of those salads you could get away with serving to people who claim to hate mayonnaise.  There’s such a small quantity of it and it’s so diluted by the orange juice and the vinegar that you can’t even tell it’s in there.  Evil, I know.  What isn’t so evil is the nutritional value of the salad: only 7 Weight Watchers PointsPlus points per serving!

Anyway, I acknowledge that I made this today because I already had most of the ingredients, but I would absolutely go out of my way to get the ingredients in order to make this again.  It’s definitely going into the book club/casual lunch/barbecue buffet recipe cache.

Recipe link: Barbecue Chicken and Grape Salad

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North Woods Bean Soup

I’ve been so busy lately that I haven’t been cooking much.  I felt like I had to break the takeout cycle for at least the beginning of this week, though, since we’re about to have an indulgent weekend in honor of Dr. O’s birthday.  When I went back into the kitchen on Monday night, I had several recipe requirements: easy, tasty, fast, preferably healthy.  It certainly hasn’t been soup weather in Denver lately (it was 74° on Monday!), but I had a soup recipe that fit the bill perfectly: North Woods Bean Soup from the January 2002 issue of Cooking Light.  I first made it last winter, and the fact that I could easily recall how delicious it was made it worthy of a repeat.  Here’s the recipe:

North Woods Bean Soup
Makes five 1 1/2-cup servings

Ingredients:
Cooking spray
1 cup baby carrots, halved
1 cup chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
7 ounces turkey kielbasa, halved lengthwise and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
4 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 (15.8-ounce) cans Great Northern beans, drained and rinsed
1 (6-ounce) bag fresh baby spinach leaves

Method:
Heat a large saucepan coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat. Add carrots, onion, garlic, and kielbasa; sauté 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to medium; cook 5 minutes. Add the broth, Italian seasoning, pepper, and beans. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer 5 minutes.

Place 2 cups of the soup in a food processor or blender, and process until smooth. Return the puréed mixture to pan. Simmer an additional 5 minutes. Remove soup from heat. Add the spinach, stirring until spinach wilts.

North Woods Bean Soup

This soup is so good.  It has so many of my favorite ingredients – turkey kielbasa, carrots, fresh spinach – and puréeing part of the soup makes it seem rich and hearty (instead of super healthy).  This is another recipe where I need to go several rounds with the salt and pepper to get the taste I want (Cooking Light recipes are never salty enough for me!), but the extra effort is worth it.  I’m not asking for cooler weather, but if it comes, I’ll just use it as an excuse to make another batch of this soup.

TIPS: This probably has more to do with the size of my carrot pieces than it has to do with the lower boiling temperature of water at high altitude, but I had to extend my initial simmering time (immediately after the broth was added) to 8 minutes instead of 5 minutes to adequately cook the carrots.  I figured they wouldn’t purée very well if they were too firm.

Recipe link: North Woods Bean Soup

Cranberry Swirl Cheesecake

Does anyone else still have cranberries left over from Thanksgiving?  Since they keep in the refrigerator for up to two weeks and also freeze beautifully, I’ve been steadily working my way through the half-full jumbo bag my mom sent home with us last month.  Today’s recipe – Cranberry Swirl Cheesecake from the December 2010 issue of Cooking Light – was a special request from my darling husband.  The dessert looked so good on the cover of the magazine that we just had to try it.

Since the process was a bit long, I’ll spare you the play-by-play today.  I did have several issues and modifications, though.

  • When I bake cheesecakes in a water bath, I always use the 18-inch-wide heavy-duty Reynolds foil because it allows me to wrap the entire 9-inch springform pan with one piece.  When I would overlap two pieces of the 12-inch foil in the past, I would consistently get leakage and a soggy crust.  I bring the foil all the way up the sides and then roll any excess at the top into a “lip” so the foil doesn’t extend down into the pan.  Works like a charm!
  • The only chocolate graham crackers my grocery store had were chocolate Teddy Grahams, so that’s what I bought.  Once they’re ground up, they’re pretty much all the same, right?
  • There was no way I was going to put oil in my cheesecake crust, so I substituted 3 tablespoons of melted butter for the 3 tablespoons of canola oil.
  • I didn’t have any Chambord and I didn’t want to buy a whole bottle for the recipe, so I bought two mini bottles at the liquor store for $5.  (I have half of one bottle left.)
  • I don’t know if it was the saucepan I used (a hard anodized Calphalon) or the fact that water evaporates more quickly at high altitude, but my cranberry topping was initially more like candied cranberries than sauce (and that was even after I shaved a minute off of the cooking time).  I ended up adding 5 tablespoons of water to the sauce in the food processor step to thin it out.
  • I don’t ever use fat-free cream cheese (it’s like plastic!), so I used all reduced-fat cream cheese instead of using both types.
  • I used Fage 0% for the Greek yogurt.
  • My whole eggs were room temperature; my egg whites were pretty cold. (Eggs separate best when they’re fresh from the refrigerator.)
  • Many of the recipe reviewers complained that a 9-inch springform pan won’t fit inside a 9 x 13-inch metal pan for the water bath, and it’s true.  Luckily, I have a large lasagna pan (11 x 16) that worked well.
  • I boiled my water in a tea kettle before pouring it around the foil-wrapped cheesecake.
  • The recipe indicated that the cheesecake should barely move in the center after 50 minutes of baking time at 325°F.  Several reviewers said they had to add baking time, whether it was 5 minutes, 20 minutes, or more.  I ended up giving my cheesecake 65 minutes at 325°F before turning off the oven and giving it 30 minutes of in-oven cooling time.

Cranberry Swirl Cheesecake

This recipe isn’t going to knock my all-time favorite cheesecake (Margarita Cheesecake!) off its throne, but it was pretty fantastic (and far more seasonally appropriate).  This recipe produced a light, fluffy, creamy texture and I loved the play between the slightly tart cranberry topping and the sweetness of the cheesecake.  One of the recipe reviewers on the Cooking Light site said that she didn’t like the chocolate crust because it created “too many flavors” in the final result; I think chocolate and cranberry go together beautifully, though, so I loved it. It was a bit challenging to get the crust out when I cut the first piece (the first piece is always the hardest!), but subsequent pieces came out easily.

I’ve made quite a few cheesecakes and have a pretty sensitive palate, so I could tell this was a lower-fat cheesecake.  I don’t think your average dinner guest would have an inkling, though.  Since this cheesecake is gorgeous, delicious, and able to be made ahead, I’m definitely putting it in my holiday recipe arsenal.

Recipe link: Cranberry Swirl Cheesecake

Mushroom and Sausage Ragù with Polenta

Despite the fact that it really doesn’t feel like fall has arrived here in Denver just yet (and I’m not complaining – this time last year, we’d already had a significant snow storm!), I could no longer resist the urge to start cooking fall comfort food.  I love grilling and all the amazing produce summer has to offer, but I think fall – with its braised meats, soups, stews, squash, and all other kinds of warm, delicious things – might be my favorite cooking season.

I found the recipe for my first comfort dish of the season – Mushroom and Sausage Ragù with Polenta – from Cooking Light, which I suppose makes this a nice transition from summer to fall; the dish tastes incredibly rich and comforting, but it actually isn’t all that bad on a nutritional scale.  A dish with (turkey) sausage, butter, and (light) cream cheese?  Yes, please.  Here’s the recipe:

Mushroom and Sausage Ragù with Polenta
Serves 4 (Serving size is 1 cup ragù and 1 cup polenta)

Ingredients:
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
8 ounces hot turkey Italian sausage
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 pound cremini mushrooms, sliced
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
1 (14.5-ounce) can no-salt-added diced tomatoes, undrained
2 1/2 cups fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth
1 1/2 cups water
1 cup uncooked polenta
4 ounces 1/3-less-fat cream cheese
1 tablespoon butter

Method:
Heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 1/2 teaspoons oil to pan; swirl to coat. Remove sausage from casings. Add sausage to pan; sauté 3 minutes or until browned, stirring to crumble. Remove sausage from pan.

Add 1 tablespoon oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add onion; sauté 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add mushrooms; sauté 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add garlic; sauté 1 minute, stirring constantly. Stir in sausage, 1/8 teaspoon salt, and tomatoes; bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium; simmer gently for 15 minutes.

Bring broth and 1 1/2 cups water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add polenta, stirring well. Reduce heat to medium, and simmer 20 minutes or until thick, stirring occasionally. Stir in remaining 1/8 teaspoon salt, cheese, and butter. Serve with sausage mixture.

My deviations:

  • My grocery store was out of hot turkey Italian sausage, so I used sweet.
  • I find that Cooking Light recipes rarely have enough salt for my taste, so I used 1/4 teaspoon of salt (1/2 teaspoon total) each time the recipe called for 1/8 teaspoon.  On this same note, I just bought a regular old can of diced tomatoes (not no-salt-added diced tomatoes).  I did buy fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth as the recipe instructed.
  • I used Bob’s Red Mill polenta.  The recipe said to cook it for 20 minutes and the package suggested 30; I was happy with the consistency (for this particular meal, at least) at the 15 – 16 minute mark.

Mushroom and Sausage Ragu with Polenta

Good heavens, this was delicious.  I don’t know how the people at Jennie-O do it, but I never would have guessed that the sausage was made from turkey (as opposed to beef or pork) if I hadn’t cooked it myself.  The spiced meat combined with the earthy mushrooms and the sweet tomatoes made a perfect sauce.  And the polenta that soaked up that sauce?  Holy cow.  I’ve made polenta with butter and Parmesan many times before but never with cream cheese; the cream cheese really took it to the next level.  I also appreciated that there was enough butter in the polenta so we could taste it, but not so much that it created a nutritional disaster. Each serving clocks in at nine Weight Watchers points so it isn’t exactly a lean meal, but it certainly tastes far more indulgent than it is.  If I hadn’t told Dr. O this was a healthy recipe, he would have thought I was fattening him up for winter.

TIPS:  Cook the polenta while the ragù simmers so everything will be done at the same time.

Printable recipe link: Mushroom and Sausage Ragù with Polenta

Greek-Style Pork Chops

Let the grilling begin!  Labor Day weekend is upon us, and cooking up some delicious grilled food and enjoying it outdoors is practically mandatory.  Today’s recipe – Greek-Style Pork Chops from the July 2010 issue of Cooking Light – caters both to those who have outdoor grills and those who don’t; the recipe is actually written for a grill pan but can be prepared either way.  Plus, it’s a super healthy option to work into what is typically (for us, anyway!) a pretty indulgent weekend. More room for cupcakes, right?

To make the dish, I started by marinating the pork chops.  In a large zip-top bag, I combined 1 tablespoon of red wine vinegar, 1 teaspoon of dried oregano, 1 teaspoon of olive oil, and 2 minced garlic cloves.  I added 4 boneless center-cut pork loin chops (mine were about 5 ounces each) and sealed the bag.  I marinated the pork at room temperature for 20 minutes, turning them after 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, I whisked together 1 tablespoon of red wine vinegar, 1 teaspoon of olive oil, 3/4 cup of plain fat-free Greek-style yogurt (I used Fage 0%), 1 tablespoon of chopped fresh dill, and 1/8 teaspoon of coarse salt to make a sauce for the pork.  I covered the sauce and stashed it in the refrigerator.  I also diced plum tomatoes (1 1/2 cups), cucumber (1 cup), and red onion (1/2 cup) and combined the ingredients to make a salad.  The recipe said to season the salad with 1/8 teaspoon of coarse salt, but I definitely thought it needed more.  I’d recommend starting with 1/4 teaspoon and seasoning to taste from there.

Once I had the sauce and the salad prepared, the chops were ready for the grill.  I heated my grill pan over medium-high heat and sprayed it with my olive oil mister. (The recipe suggests cooking spray.)  I removed the pork from the bag, set the chops on my designated meat cutting board, and discarded the marinade.  I sprinkled both sides of the pork chops with 1/4 teaspoon of coarse salt and added the pork to the preheated pan.  I cooked the chops for 4 minutes on each side, removed them from the pan, and then let them rest for 2 minutes before serving.  I served the pork chops on top of the tomato mixture, topped with the yogurt mixture.

Greek-Style Pork Chops

This dish has so many fantastic qualities.  It was fast, easy, inexpensive, and (most of all) delicious.  The juicy pork chops and super fresh salad just taste like summer. The creamy yogurt sauce is such a treat, too; it really takes the dish to the next level.  I look forward to making this one again and again.

Whether you’re grilling, traveling, or just doing some much-deserved relaxing at home, have a wonderful and safe Labor Day weekend!

TIPS:  To prepare pork chops on the grill, I would recommend grilling them for 3 – 4 minutes per side over medium-high heat.  Don’t forget to oil the grill grates before throwing the chops on!  (I forget at least one out of every four times, guaranteed.)

Recipe link: Greek-Style Pork Chops

Tabbouleh Salad

Whether I’m having company or not, there’s just something in me that wants to do as much meal work as possible ahead of time.  If the work is done and the mess is already cleaned up, there’s little to do besides eat and relax when dinnertime rolls around, right?  That’s one of the reason I love tabbouleh as a dinner side…  It actually tastes better the longer it sits in the refrigerator (to a certain extent, of course!).  Plus, the cooking part is almost non-existant.  If you can chop vegetables and boil water, you have all the skills you need to throw this one together.

The original recipe makes 8 cups (!), which is way too much tabbouleh for just Dr. O and me, so I cut the recipe in half.

To start, I combined 3/4 cup of uncooked bulgur and 3/4 cup of boiling water in a large bowl.  I covered it tightly with plastic wrap and let it stand for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, I diced 3/4 cup of English cucumber and 1/2 cup of tomato and chopped 1/2 cup of fresh parsley and 2 tablespoons of scallions.  In a small bowl, I combined 2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice, 1/2 tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil, 1/4 teaspoon of coarse salt, 1/4 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper, and 4 minced garlic cloves (from the jar, yes, I’m lazy).

When the bulgur’s 30 minutes were up, I stirred in the vegetables and lemon-oil mixture, covered the salad, and stashed it in the refrigerator.  I chilled mine for about 8 hours before serving it; make sure you give it at least an hour in the refrigerator to allow the flavors to blend.

Tabbouleh Salad

I can’t say this is my absolute favorite tabbouleh salad recipe (that would be Ina Garten’s, at least at this point) but this recipe has two things on hers: lots of garlic (love it!) and a much lower calorie count.  This recipe is originally from the October 2005 issue of Cooking Light, so I’m sure it’s meant to be a lighter alternative to traditional tabbouleh.  It’s definitely fresh, which makes it perfect for spring and summer; I just love the cucumber and tomato.  The slightly chewy, nutty bulgur adds a hearty element too.  In terms of flavor, I would make two small changes: I would increase the lemon juice (probably by 1 tablespoon for the half recipe) and I would increase the salt (by just a pinch).  As always, taste and adjust your seasonings before serving!

TIPS: I used Bob’s Red Mill bulgur to make the salad.  I was initially concerned about only letting the bulgur stand for 30 minutes because the package said 60 minutes. However, the package didn’t say anything about covering the bulgur while it stood. I think the act of covering it trapped that heat and moisture and sped up the process.

Recipe link: Tabbouleh Salad

Pork Medallions with Pomegranate-Cherry Sauce

Let me start by saying that I am so excited about sharing today’s recipe with you.  Why?  Because it’s been far, far too long since I’ve been absolutely floored by the flavor of a quick, easy, any-day-of-the-week recipe.

Today’s recipe is Pork Medallions with Pomegranate-Cherry Sauce from the November 2009 issue of Cooking Light.  I actually made it for the first time last week, but Dr. O was home late and I didn’t feel like having a photography session before we could sit down to eat.  It was so good that I almost thought about posting it without a photo, but what fun is that?  Needing that photo was the perfect excuse for making the dish again last night.

I like to have most of my ingredients lined up and ready to go before I start cooking, so I started by combining the sauce ingredients (1/2 cup of pomegranate juice, 1/3 cup dried sweet cherries, 1/4 cup dry red wine, and 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar) in a medium bowl.  In a tiny bowl, I stirred together 1 teaspoon of cornstarch and 1 teaspoon of water.  I also set aside 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter.

With my prep out of the way, I trimmed a 1-pound pork tenderloin and cut it into 12 equally-thick pieces.  I sprinkled both sides with coarse salt and freshly ground pepper.  In a large nonstick skillet, I heated 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium-high heat and added the pork.  (All of the medallions fit in my 12-inch skillet.)  I cooked the medallions for 4 minutes on each side, transferred them to a plate, and covered them with foil to keep them warm.

Keeping the skillet over medium-high heat, I added the juice, cherries, wine, and vinegar to the pan.  I brought the mixture to a boil, reduced the heat to medium, and cooked it for 2 minutes.  Next, I added the cornstarch and water (stir it before adding if the ingredients have separated) and brought the mixture back up to a boil.  I cooked the sauce for 1 minute, stirring constantly, and then removed the pan from the heat.  I added the butter, stirred the sauce until the butter melted, returned the pork to the pan, and tossed to coat.  I served the pork over couscous with garlicky peas and mushrooms on the side.

Pork Medallions with Pomegranate-Cherry Sauce

From start to finish, this meal takes 15 or 20 minutes, and the results are seriously good (and good-looking) enough that you could serve this at a dinner party.  The pork ends up so tender and juicy, and the sauce is just to die for.  I love the play between the tartness of the pomegranate juice, the sweetness of the cherries, the acidity of the vinegar, and the richness of the wine.  (Side note: I used Merlot the first time I made the sauce and Cabernet Franc the second time; both worked very well.)   This is one of those meals where you exclaim how delicious it is on the first bite, but you’re still raving when your plate is clean.  Mmmmmm.  It’s quick and easy for sure, but it will make any night of the week feel special.  Give it a try!

TIPS:  With a couple of microwave tricks, you can get your sides done while the pork cooks.  When you first put the pork in the pan, heat the couscous broth in a small ceramic baking dish in the microwave.  (The broth will need 2 – 3 minutes on high to come to a boil; your liquid amount should be the same as the amount of couscous you intend to cook.  For example, if you’re going to make 1 cup of couscous, microwave 1 cup of chicken or vegetable broth.)  When the broth reaches a boil, remove the dish from the microwave, and stir in the couscous.  Cover the dish and let it stand for 5 minutes.  Just after you cover the couscous, flip the pork, and then put a bag of Steamfresh veggies in the microwave for 5 minutes (or whatever the recommended cooking time is).  Once you finish the pork sauce, fluff the couscous, season the veggies (if they aren’t already) and serve your gorgeous meal!

Recipe link: Pork Medallions with Pomegranate-Cherry Sauce




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