Monday, April 19, 2010

These ain't your momma's Potato Pancakes!

These Potato Pancakes are so good, I'm going to get straight to the point! They're warm and soft, quick and easy, filling AND healthy. As in, REALLY healthy. With a perfect combination of protein, carbohydrates and fat, this recipe is great for a pre-workout breakfast! Not to mention they'll keep you full all morning. Want to mix this recipe up a bit? Try adding fresh basil, roasted red peppers, chives, or whatever leftover vegetables you have from last night's dinner! I like to use fresh herbs in this recipe, but dried works just as well! So get cooking, and enjoy!
Nutrition: Calories: 225 Fat: 7g Carbs: 21g Protein: 21g
Perfect Potato Pancakes
Serves 1 (about 5 small pancakes)
1 medium potato (about 5 1/2 oz)
1 egg
2 egg whites
1 slice turkey bacon
3 tablespoons chopped onion (If you like onion, you can use up to 1/3 cup!)
1 garlic clove, medium, minced
light sour cream (optional)
olive oil
1. In a small skillet, over medium heat, cook the turkey bacon until crispy. Remove from heat and drain on a paper towel. Chop into several pieces and set aside.
2. Lightly grease the same skillet with olive oil, and saute the chopped onion and garlic until barely translucent. Remove from heat and set aside.

3. Use a box grater or mandolin, and grate the potato onto a piece of cheese cloth or a tea towel.

Gather the corners of the cloth and wring out all the liquid from the potato.
4. In a medium sized bowl, combine the chopped bacon, onion and garlic, and grated potato.

5. Next, add the egg whites and egg. Add about 1/4 teaspoon each of Rosemary and Thyme. (More or less to taste.) Season well with salt and pepper. Stir well.
6. Heat a griddle over medium low heat, and lightly grease with olive oil. Use a 1/4 cup measuring cup to pour batter onto the griddle.

7. Cook each pancake for about 2 minutes on each side, or until golden brown, and cooked thoroughly.
8. Top with a dollop of light sour cream and fresh cracked black pepper. Enjoy!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Hearty and Healthy Chicken Pot Pie

When I was a 'pre-teen' I was very active. Dancing up to 5 days a week, riding bikes, playing in the yard, typical kid stuff. I had a metabolism like a 7 year old boy. I could and WOULD eat anything in sight, and never got bigger. Not that a child should worry about weight in the first place, but I can recall eating cookies for all three meals, more than a few times. After I quit dancing, and growing up got in the way of 'playtime,' I realized I couldn't eat what I used to.
I often look back at some of the things I used to eat, and ask myself, 'Did I really eat THAT?!'
One food, in particular: Microwavable Beef Pot Pies. You know, the frozen ones by Banquet? I used to eat those like they were going out of style, sometimes eating two in one sitting.

A few days ago I was standing in the frozen-dinner section of the grocery store, and saw my greatly-missed pot pies sitting on the shelf. Hoping that I could fit one into my daily calorie range without too much guilt, I picked one up and looked at the nutritional information on the back. I stood there dumbfounded- Each potpie, which is no bigger than a small pancake- was nearly 500 calories. And to think that I would eat two! I knew then and there that I had to make a healthy version of the classic comfort food. And here it is.

Many times when I develop a recipe, I have to test it and tweak it more than a few times, but this dish came out the way I wanted it to the very first time. The top was crispy and flaky, the sauce was thick and creamy, and the vegetables were cooked just enough. And this potpie is nearly twice the size of the store bought variety. If only I could still eat two...
Note: For the pie crust, I used Pillsbury pre made pie crust. I weighed out a serving (1/8 of a crust), and rolled it to size. Also, I recommend fresh herbs, but dried will work just as well. This dish has 67g carbs- a scary number for low-carb dieters. However, there are also 8 grams of dietary fiber- Nearly 1/3 of your recommended daily intake! Nutrition info is at the bottom of the page.
Healthy and Hearty Chicken Pot Pie
One serving
1 medium potato (about 4 oz)
1 medium Parsnip (about 2.5 oz)
1 medium carrot (about 2 oz)
1/3 cup frozen peas
1 garlic clove, minced
1 boneless, skinless chicken breast (about 3 oz)
1 Serving ready-to-bake pie crust (27 grams- about 1 oz)
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons skim milk
2 tablespoons water
2 teaspoons cornstarch
Chicken Bullion
Olive oil

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Peel potatoes, parsnips and carrots, and cut into uniform cubes, about 1/2 inch.

2. Very lightly coat the cubed vegetables with olive oil, and season well with rosemary, thyme, salt and pepper. Toss to coat. Place on a foil-lined baking sheet, and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the vegetables are just tender. Set oven to 350 degrees.

3. Season the chicken breast with salt and pepper and a pinch of oregano. Heat a small skillet with a light coating of olive oil, and heat over medium heat. Sear both sides of the chicken and then cook until the internal temperature has reached 165 degrees, or about 5-8 minutes. Remove from heat, let cool and cut into 1/2 inch cubes.

4. Using the same pan as the chicken was cooked, heat the milk over low heat. Add minced garlic, a pinch (about 1/8 teaspoon) chicken bullion, and rosemary, salt and pepper to taste. Slowly add the cornstarch to thicken, using a small whisk to combine. Add enough cornstarch until sauce has thickened to desired consistency- if you like a thicker sauce, add more cornstarch, if you like a thinner sauce, add less cornstarch. If it becomes too thick, slowly whisk in the water to thin the sauce. (Note: The sauce will thicken as it cooks. Add each ingredient slowly, and whisk in between each addition, then add more water or cornstarch accordingly.)

5. In a bowl, combine the cooked potatoes, parsnips, carrots, frozen peas, and chicken pieces. Add the sauce, and stir to coat. Spoon the mixture into a soup bowl or a large ramekin.

6. Roll out the pie crust to the same width as the bowl or ramekin, and place over top of the pot pie mixture. Lightly coat the top with olive oil, and bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes, or until the crust is light brown.

7. Let cool for 5 minutes, and enjoy!

Nutrition Info: Calories: 450 Carbs: 67g Fat: 9g Protein: 29g Fiber: 8g

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

10 Ways To Go Green In The Kitchen

Hi everyone. It's been quite a while since my last post. Thanks to my regular readers who have still been checking the page for new posts. Life has been crazy (as it has a tendency to be!), and I've finally found some much-needed R&R, so here I am.

Lately, I've found myself very eco-friendly, especially in the kitchen. I spend so much time cooking, and I have realized how many things go to waste. Plastic, paper, and water, to name a few. Making just one change from this list can make a huge difference!

10 Ways To Go Green In The Kitchen

1. Compost, Compost, Compost!
When cooking with fruits and vegetables, there is often unusable portions which we discard: Peels and skins from potatoes, cucumbers, squash, oranges, grapefruits, and bananas all wind up in the trash. Instead of tossing them in the waste bucket, use them in a compost. Drill holes in the sides of a outdoor garbage can, and fill 1/2 way with rich soil, grass clippings, leaves and twigs. Keep a bucket or bowl next to the kitchen sink, and fill with your fruit and veggie scraps. Empty your food scraps into your compost bucket each night and put the top on. 'Stir up' the compost once a week by rolling the can a few times, and keep it moist by lightly watering with a hose once or twice a week. When the compost is ready, use in your garden or flower bed. No need for store-bought fertilizer ever again!

2. Bringing back the Sponge
To most home cooks, the paper towel is the greatest invention since sliced bread. Got a mess? Wipe it up, and throw it away. How easy is that? But have you ever counted how many paper towels you actually use throughout the day? Drying the salad greens, cleaning the kitchen table, wiping up stove-top splatters. That's at least three paper towels right there. Each paper towel we use is one more piece of trash in a landfill.
A simple solution? Bring back the sponge. Many people avoid sponges like the plague: They have a tendency to be drippy, soggy, and crawling with bacteria. Luckily, they don't have to be. Assign a separate sponge for each specific job. One for the stove, one for the counter and tables, and one for food messes and spills. Different colors work well here. Keep 'em clean by disinfecting them in the microwave for 30 seconds each. By using sponges instead of paper towels, you'll cut down on waste and save money.

3. Smart Marinating
Tonight when you're marinating that steak, ditch the zip-top bag and use a reusable container. Zip-top bags are great for marinating- They seal well and help coat all sides of the protein with the marinade. But the truth is, the plastic bag is used for a few hours tops, and then thrown in the trash. What a waste of money and resources! Instead, try reusable containers with lids such as plastic take-out tubs. When you're done, toss it in the dishwasher and reuse over and over. Plastic containers also eliminate messy fridge-spills from the leaky zip-top bags.

4. Freeze Leftovers
Instead of tossing out that extra chicken breast or those last few spoonfuls of veggies, freeze them. You can add chicken and other meats to soups and stews, and the vegetables will jazz up that brown rice. Another tip: Freeze bones from chicken, beef and pork. You can use them to flavor broths and stocks.

5. Mindful Washing
Tonight, wash the dishes by hand. Fill up one side of the sink 1/2 way with warm, soapy water. Fill the other side with cool, clean water. Fill the soaped up side with the dishes, scrub with a sponge, and then dip in the clean water to rinse. By washing the dishes by hand, you're using less water than what would be used by the dish washer- not to mention energy. This tip is not do-able by everyone, every night. But swapping one night a week with hand-washing can make a BIG difference. It's also a great way to get the kids involved, and burn a few extra calories!

6. Buy Organic
Buying organic foods is one of the best things you can do for the environment. Organically grown foods are grown without chemicals or pesticides, which means no chemicals are released into the air or water, as opposed to non-organic farming methods. Not only is organic food better for the environment, but it's healthier for us as well. Eating organically means you are eating food free of harmful chemicals. Another plus? Organic farming methods use less water than traditional farming.

7. Buy Local
In addition to buying organic, become more eco-friendly by buying locally. And no, they are not the same thing. Just because something is organic does not mean it was grown locally. And just because something was grown locally, does not mean it is organic. Buying locally grown foods helps the environment in two ways: First, it cuts down on packaging. If you've ever been to a farmer's market, you know that fruits and vegetables are rarely packaged. Watermelons aren't plastic-wrapped as they are at the store, and oranges aren't in plastic bags.
Buying organically also means less travel-time. Which means, less fuel. You know that Texas Grapefruit you bought from the supermarket? It didn't get to your store by itself. Large produce trucks travel thousands of miles through the country delivering fruits and vegetables to various supermarkets. Thousands of miles, means thousands of gallons of gasoline, and harmful exhaust fumes. Buying locally? The farmer had a much shorter trip from his farm to the farmers market.

8. Make it homemade
Many store bought products can be made at home, which reduces not only packaging, but cost as well. Instead of store-bought foods, go back to basics and make them yourself. Pancakes, waffles, muffins, cupcakes, and bread are easy and fun to make at home, and you'll reduce the plastic and cardboard in which they are normally packaged. Take it even further and make your own bagels, donuts, and ice cream.

9. Reusable Napkins
This one goes hand-in-hand with #2. Instead of using paper napkins at meal time, swap them with reusable cloth napkins. You won't have to throw them away after one use, and save money in the long run. Besides, cloth napkins make you look instantly classy!

10. Preheating Precautions
Most people are unaware that preheating the oven is usually not needed. Preheating uses unnecessary energy. Most recipes which are baked call for a preheated oven. However, you can start the baking as soon as you turn on the oven. Most dishes will be cooked thoroughly by the called baking time, or you can extend the baking time by a few minutes more.

Going Green is a process. If you can take one step toward a more eco-friendly kitchen, you can make a BIG difference.