Friday, March 23, 2012

Baked Artichoke Wontons, Julia Meet Julia, and Move It

I'm cooking for three parties this weekend...  two of which are within 6 hours of each other on Saturday.  All of them are quite small events, probably 15 or so people.  ((It's funny of how my idea of small has changed--  a couple of years ago the idea of cooking for 15 would have scared me.  Now 75 doesn't even give me pause.))  The first of the three was yesterday and for the appetizer, we had Baked Artichoke Wontons.

Appetizers are notorious for being fat-bombs...  It seems everything that is typically available is either fried, dripping with cheese, or fried and dripping with cheese.  The default alternative is usually a veggie tray that gets completely ignored.  These are a good alternative and they look like you really did something, when actually they are pretty easy.

What you need:

EVOO  ((That's extra virgin olive oil to you))
24 round wonton wrappers ((you can find these in the produce section of the grocery store typically))
1 14 oz can of artichoke hearts in water, drained and coarsely chopped
1/2 medium red bell pepper, diced
2 oz mozzarella cheese, grated  ((like a handful))
1 oz Parmesan cheese, grated  ((like half a handful))
1 lemon  ((for zest... don't be scared, hang on))
2 tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped
1/4 cup fat-free mayo
1 garlic clove, pressed

Do it:

Preheat the oven to 350.

Take the wonton wrappers and brush them lightly with olive oil using a basting brush on one side.  Place the wrapper into a mini muffin tip, pressing it down into the cup part evenly with the oiled side up.  Bake for 6 minutes or just until edges turn a light golden brown.  Remove to a rack.

In a large-ish bowl, combine the artichoke hearts, red pepper, mozzarella, Parmesan, parsley, mayo, and garlic.  Zest a little bit of lemon over the top, maybe 1/4 of a teaspoon is all you need.  ((TIP:  I've done this.  I've seen other people do it.  To zest a lemon, just take a very fine grater or microplaner and run it LIGHTLY over the outside of the lemon.  You want the yellow stuff, NOT the white stuff.  The white stuff is bitter and will make whatever you are scraping it on taste horrible.  Use a light touch and a little goes a long way.))  Combine well.  ((I made this concoction ahead of time and refrigerated it for about two hours.  I think it turned out better than the time I did it immediately before, but I have a bias that I think everything is better after it sits for a while so there you have it.))

Using a spoon, add a small scoop to each of the wonton wrappers.  Sprinkle with a little more Parmesan.

Bake for 8 minutes or until edges are golden brown and the cheese is starting to melt. Remove from pan and serve immediately.

Not the greatest picture, but I was in a hurry.  Sorry.
I adapted this recipe very slightly from my pals at Pampered Chef.

Nutritional Info:  Win!  1 cup contains approximately 60 calories and 3 grams of fat.  Just don't eat the whole pan and you're good.


Look at the great gift my friend Amy, aka the host of the party, got me!

I wonder if she ever went by Jules?
I can't wait to dig into both of these.  But not today...

Today is Operation Move Deb and Not Kill My Back or Anyone Else.  Moving is so fracking stressful, especially for someone with an obsessive-compulsive-clean-freak bent.  Add in that the movers will be there sometime after they finish their other job and no, they don't know when that is and hopefully they can get it all done today.  Argh.  I can already sense this is going to be a bit of a long day, especially because both Deb and I are morning people who would much rather get things going basically right NOW.  ((It's 5 am and I've been up for an hour.  This is not unusual.))  So anyway, wish me luck and post bail if necessary!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Chicken Bok Choy Stir Fry, Produce Rotation, and My Pal Mac

Note to self:  If I get through this post without throwing the computer in the pool, I can throw myself a coronation as the Queen of Awesome Everything.  ((My buddy Mac the Mac Book is driving me insane with freezing up.  What?  You don't name inanimate objects?  You should start.  Yes, I know I'm weird.  It's part of my "charm."))


Now that we are all on a clean living streak and totally over and beyond all the boozy desserts, let's play a game of Clean Out the Crisper!  Because I am on continual produce overload around here, I have worked out some ways to prevent having to throw things away.  It works fairly well...  Basically, I have my refrigerator set up into a rotation system.  The stuff that I have had the longest and that needs to be used first is on the top-most shelf of the fridge, to the left.  I then place the newer stuff to the right.  ((There are studies somewhere that show that if produce is visible at eye level, it is much more likely to be used but I don't have a source to cite other than common sense.))  I keep stuff that really doesn't go bad in the vegetable crisper... stuff like onions, garlic, ginger, etc.  If I were being responsible I would tell you that when you bring everything home, you should douse it in a vinegar wash prior to putting it away, but no one is really going to take the time to do that.  I don't.

Produce stays best in the "green bags" that you can find at the dollar store.  They are recyclable, blah blah Al Gore blah.  Hefty also makes a special vegetable baggie now.  Those work quite well and I usually buy those.  The other tip would be to put a dry paper towel in the bag.  It will absorb any moisture and keep stuff fresher for longer.  Just replace it whenever you dip into the bag.  

No, I'm not showing you a picture of my refrigerator.  If I open the door, stuff is going to fall out.  


Anyway!  Let's make something healthy so that we don't feel bad about those two glasses of wine that we have later with the excuse of red wine is heart-healthy because Dr. Oz told me to.  Let's do a stir fry which is always a good way to get rid of stuff that needs to be used.

Chicken Stir Fry

What you need for two servings:

2 chicken breasts
1 clove minced garlic
3 green onions, chopped
2 cups of broccoli, made into little trees
2 carrots, sliced quite thinly
1 small bunch of bok choy, chopped
3 slices of pineapple, diced
soy sauce
salt and pepper
chicken broth  

Okay, cook something:

Start by heating your large skillet over medium heat.  Spray it with cooking spray and throw in your green onions ((the white part with the stringy roots cut off)), the garlic, and your chicken breasts.  Cover and let it cook for about 2-3 minutes per side, depending on how thick they are. 

Chicken with garlic and green onions
Remove the chicken to a plate and throw in the "hardest" vegetables, meaning the stuff  that takes the longest to cook.  From the list above, that would be the carrots.  Throw that in, splash in a little bit of chicken broth ((like maybe 1/8 cup)) and let them steam for a couple of minutes.  Add in the broccoli, add more broth ((or just water)) if necessary, recover, and allow to steam for another couple of minutes.  

((We aren't trying to turn things into a goopy mess like you see at restaurants...  We want them to still resemble what they used to be.  This means they are retaining more nutrients and they taste a lot better too.  That's why we aren't cooking the living shit out of these.))

Add in the bok choy and another sprinkle of broth or water if necessary and allow to steam together for about 2 minutes.  ((What looks like a lot of bok choy cooks down to not that much...))

While all this is working, cut up the chicken into bite sized pieces.  Add them back into the pan with the pineapple.  Crack some salt and pepper over the top and add about 4 tablespoons or so of soy sauce.

((Do NOT do what I did which is to forget that you have a new bottle of soy sauce that doesn't have a slow-moving spout.  If you do that, quickly tilt the pan to the side and baste some off or soak it up with a paper towel while swearing a lot.))  Let everything get good and hot ((maybe two minutes again)) and then serve over rice.  I also garnished it with some of the tops of the green onions because I thought I was fancy there for a minute.  It turns out that I am not.  

Nutritional Info ((minus the rice)):  Your trainer is happy!  325 calories, 3 grams of fat assuming a 4 oz serving of chicken.  


I'm off to the gym...  Happy stir frying!  


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Tomatillo Salsa, Upside Down Verde Tacos, and Go Fail at Something

Did you know I contribute to a fitness website?  Neither did I, but apparently, I do!  ((I'll link to it once I manuever myself into a position where I can add more content to the site.))  I found out about it, oddly enough, when I got asked if I could "clean up" some of the recipes, add a "healthy living" tab, or at least offer healthier substitution suggestions so that her readers don't get led astray.

Luckily, I was one step ahead.  It's now officially Spring, whether it feels like it or not where you are, that means it is time to quit eating our feelings and suck it up, Buttercup.  Given the pepperpalooza from Sunday, I thought tomatillo salsa would be a good addition.

Tomatillos are basically kind of like little green tomatoes that come in a husk.  Don't be scared.

Here's what you need:

12 tomatillos, shucked ((I have no idea if it is called "shucking" them like corn, but as previously noted, it's my blog and I'll write what I want to))
1/2 medium onion, chopped into big chunks
3 green onions, the white part ((save the green parts))
3 cloves of garlic, peeled, but whole
1 jalapeno, somewhat deseeded to reduce heat, and split in 4
1 handful of cilantro
1 lime for juice
Sea salt

Get after it:

Heat a large skillet over high heat.  You want it good and hot.  Spray it with cooking spray ((you could use a little bit of oil, but we have turned over a new leaf)) and throw in the tomatillos, onion, green onions, garlic, and jalapeno.  We are not trying to "cook" them, but we want to get the onions softened up, some black gunk on the sides of everything, and to bring out the flavors.  See?

About halfway there
Pull it off the stove and let it cool off for a while or until you get too impatient.  Pull out a few of the onions and set them aside.  Put the rest into a food processor ((I have a Ninja that I love because I like saying "Ninja")) or a blender.  Add in the cilantro and give it a few pulses to get everything pretty finely diced.  Pour it out into a glass dish, add several cracks of sea salt and squeeze a lime into it.  Stir it around, stick your finger in it, and sample.  If it needs more *something,* add some more *something.*  ((I usually find that a little more salt or another lime is the trick.))  It's not going to be the most beautiful looking thing you ever made, but here it is:

Very Verde

You can use it for chips, on tacos, on a salad, or whatever!   This probably makes about 24 servings, but I really am not sure.

Nutritional Info:  FREE!  This has under 10 calories and no fat in about 4 tablespoons.

This didn't come from any particular recipe other than the pile of nonsense in my own head.


I decided to take this and some of the peppers from the other day and make something up for lunch.  I honestly had no clue what I was even setting out to make when I started and it turned into what shall now be known as Upside Down Verde Tacos because I can't come up with anything better for a name.

What you need (for two servings):

4 corn tortillas (although flour would totally work; I used the really small corn ones)
16 small, cooked shrimp
8 tablespoons sweet peppers, chopped
8 tablespooons *cooked* onion, chopped  ((I warned you to save this from the tomatillo salsa making process!))
Green onion tops
1/4 cup of Mexican shredded cheese
Dollop of sour cream

What I did that I'm not sure you should necessarily repeat although this was really yummy:

Preheat the oven to 350.  In a small glass baking dish, after spraying it with cooking spray, put 4 corn tortillas in, attempting to get them to stand up somewhat.  Add in about two tablespoons EACH of both the cooked onion and the sweet peppers.  Add a little bit of cheese and your fancy, new green salsa.  Put the shrimp on top and roll them into thirds as best you can.  Flip them around and put the seam side down.  ((They will probably not be cooperating the best, but things don't always have to be perfect.  Relax.))  Over the former bottom which is now the top, drizzle a little bit more of your salsa and another sprinkle of the cheese.

Bake, uncovered for about 15-20 minutes.  ((Because I used cooked shrimp, I was just trying to get the cheese melted and everything heated through.))

Remove to a plate and garnish with cilantro, the chopped green onion tops, a squeeze of lime, and maybe a dollop of sour cream.

I just put some of the sweet peppers on the side as a little salad...  You could do a side of pinto or black or refried beans, corn on the cob, Mexican rice, or a regular lettuce salad for the side.

There you have it!  Nutritional Info:  For two tacos, about 350 calories, BUT 260 of that is from the corn tortillas, so if you replace them with flour tortillas or the low-carb multigrain onces, you can shave off 120 calories.   I also went very easy with the cheese and didn't add sour cream.


Yesterday, a friend who I hadn't seem in quite some time came up and said, "I would totally pay you to teach me to make some things.  I can barely boil water and I love your food.  Do you do that?"  Ummmmmmm, I do now!  I couldn't think of much that would be more enjoyable than to have a friend over for two hours, she brings the ingredients from a list I give her and a bottle of wine, and I show her how to make it!  We'll then take pictures for this corner of the internet, and I make a few bucks!  I can't believe people will pay me money just to have fun.  It's crazy.

In other news, our application is in and it looks totally, completely, and utterly amazing amazing amazing.  We worked really hard on it and it shows.  As I have said, even if nothing comes of it, we tried, we had a blast doing it, and it is super fun to dream about it.  So many people are afraid to try things and afraid to "fail."  EFF THAT.  If you haven't tried, you have failed.

With that, go do something that scares you.  I am.   Basically constantly.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Roasting Peppers, Chicken Chili Stuff, and Cleaning Up Our Acts

I spent the morning roasting a crapload of peppers.  When I first started playing with peppers, I was scared.  Like everything else I do, I had googled how to prepare them and immediately discovered, "Oh my God, this is too hard and I'm probably going to die from pepper poisoning."  There are a lot of websites that I think are trying to maintain their corner on the market by convincing you that peppers are too dangerous to handle, so you should just buy their exorbitantly priced ones.  Eff. That.  Like anything else, it just isn't that hard.  Not at all.  However, let me say this.  People get REAL uptight about peppers and they have specific ways they do it and rituals they follow and they will be oh so glad to tell you all about how you are doing it wrong.  I'm not an expert and I don't pretend to be, but this is how I've done it and it's turned out really good so if you want to send me a bitchy email about how dumb I am, save your energy.  #endofrant.

Okay, moving on.  Get a bunch of peppers.

Something for everyone.
Turn your grill on and get it really hot.  Throw as many of the peppers on as you can cram in.  Put the lid down and chill for a minute.  In about 4 minutes, let curiosity get the best of you and go take a peek.  Using a tong-y thing, start flipping them around.  You want them to be black, blistered, and looking like total shit on ALL SIDES.  ((Yup, I am in fact telling you to make your lovely peppers look like hell.  Aren't you glad you are reading this?!))  Flip them around to get the virgin side on the fire and walk away for a couple of minutes again.  Keep doing this until they are black and bubbly everywhere.  You might have to do some pepper gymnastics to get some of the sides, but you can do it.  I have faith in you.

Once all sides are blistered and blackened, pull them off and put them into a glass pan.  The smaller, skinnier ones will be done first...  That should be obvious, but whatever.  Don't be concerned about the cracking and popping you are hearing.  That's all going to make whatever to put on the grill next extra awesome with no added effort.  Win!

I actually could have burnt the hell out of these some more.

Once all the peppers are done, cover the pan with a clean dishtowel and walk away.  After about 20 minutes, pull the towel and carefully touch one to see if it is still scalding hot.  They should be pretty well cooled off at this point but better safe than sorry.

((Speaking of better safe than sorry, right now, theoretically, I should tell you to wear gloves for this next part, but gloves are for wimps.  But, you should really wear gloves even though I refuse to because I'm not a wimp.))

Working over a plastic grocery bag or a garbage pan, start peeling off the outer burnt part.  Some of it will come off easily and in sheets and you will feel like a superhero.  Some of them are a little more stubborn and you might get pretty frustrated.  That's okay.  The vast majority will be pretty easy if you burnt the shit out of them enough.  ((Yes, I do have a way with words, don't I?))

Once you have them peeled, you can cut them up however you want.  They will keep in a tightly sealed container in the fridge for at least two weeks.  I hear you can freeze them in ziplock bags but I haven't personally tried that.

A poorly lit picture of the green chiles, peeled and diced.

Sweet peppers

So.  Since we have all these peppers, we should make something with some of them, right?

Let's make a black bean chicken chili sort of thing in the slow cooker.

What you need:

1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
4 chicken breasts
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
6 tomatoes, diced
4 tablespoons roasted green chiles, chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
4 green onions, chopped
1 1/2 teaspoon of cumin
*Some* salt and pepper
Mexican cheese, shredded
Sour cream
Avocados, diced

What to do:

Chop up everything.  Spray your slow cooker with cooking spray.  Throw everything in above the line in the ingredient in.  Set it to high for 4 hours or low for 8 hours and go live your life, make a living, watch a lot of Breaking Bad.  When time is up, you can either take a spoon and bang on the chicken to get it to fall into chunks or use two forks to shred it.

((If you don't feel like doing the tomatoes and green chiles, you can use Rotel.  If you must.))

Serve topped with fresh cilantro ((my favorite)), a squeeze of lime juice, some shredded cheese, a dollop of sour cream, and/or some diced avocados.  ((Because I am on a mission, there is not going to be any cheese, sour cream, or avocado on mine.  Sad face.))  Makes four servings.

Anti-gravity chicken chili!  ((It looks like it is hanging at an angle because I'm probably too dumb to have the camera right side up.  Oopsie-doodle!))
That's a little better.
Nutritional Info:  Excellent!  Right around 300 calories and 3 grams of fat per serving without cheese, sour cream, or avocado.


Okay, after a couple of weeks of boozy desserts, Mexican feasts, and other random calorie bombs, it is time to get healthy and not starve to death in the process.  We will be doing healthy, whole food type meals this week that you will never realize are healthy because they are still super delicious.  It's the middle of March and in Arizona, that means pool time is rapidly approaching. Time to clean up our acts.