Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Fat Fat Fat?

So for the past few weeks I have been tracking my calories on the Daily Plate website.  The great thing about this site (for me) is it allows me to enter in a recipe and find out the nutritional information for the meals I cook.  This has been pretty eye opening and have since been trying my best to cut the fat (both literally and figuratively).  You would be surprised how much difference casual application of olive oil and parmesan can make to a meal.  That said, I strongly feel that a little fat can sometimes be a good thing in one's diet, especially if it comes in the form of vegetable or fish fat (omega fatty acid, yo!).  I have, in the past 2-3 weeks entered in about 20 or so recipes (some of which I have already posted to this blog), so I thought I would post a few of them starting off with a recipe for a lower fat lasagna.  Using low fat ricotta and nonfat cottage cheese you can really reduce the fat content in this meal.  Using whole wheat lasagna noodles and spinach this lasagna ends up being really high in protein and fiber.  Its a zone dieter's dream at 40% carbs 34% protein and 21% fat.  See below the recipe for complete nutritional data:

Lower Fat Spinach Lasagna
makes 8 generous servings

Wine Sauce

1 tbsp olive oil

  • 1 cup onions, diced
  • 3 clove garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine 

    • 2 tsp dried basil
    • 1 tsp dried oregano
    • 1 tsp fennel seed
  • 2 1/2 cup canned crushed tomatoes
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • salt to taste

Cheese and Spinach Filling

1 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 cup onion, diced
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 2 tsp dried basil
  • 1 tsp dried marjoram
  • 4 cup washed baby spinach
  • 2 1/2 cup reduced fat mozerella
  • 1 3/4 cup low-fat ricotta cheese
  • 1 1/2 cup nonfat cottage cheese

  • 16 oz whole wheat lasagna noodles

  • In a deep saucepan heat oil and cook onions over low heat for 5-7 minutes. Add oregano, basil, fennel and cook 2 more minutes.  Add tomatoes, wine, and peppers and gently simmer for 20 minutes or so.  Add sugar and salt and pepper to taste. Cook the noodles according to directions on box (al dente). Lay out on waz paper to avoid them sticking to each other.

  • Heat olive oil in deep saucepan. Cook onions and garlic over medium head. Add wine, basil and cook for a few more minutes until half of the wine has cooked off. Add spinach and cook until spinach is wilted. In a blender or food processor blend ricotta, cottage cheese, and 1/2 cup mozerrella. Combine cheese mixture with spinach and salt and pepper to taste.

  • Layering the lasagna is really a personal art but as long as you start with marinara and a layer of noodles and end with a layer of noodles and marinara on top you will be doing well.  Just make sure to use all the ingredients.  This will fit nicely into on 9"x12" tray or two 8"x8" trays. Once you have everything layerd sprinkle remaining mozeralla on top, cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.  Remove foil and cook for an additional 10 minutes.  If desired the last 5 minutes of cooking can be under the broiler.  Let sit for at least 10 minutes before serving.

Nutrition Facts

Serving Size: 1 servings

Amount per Serving

Calories 524
Calories from Fat 114.6

% Daily Value *

Total Fat 12.73g
Saturated Fat 6.44g
Cholesterol 38.13mg
Sodium 826.68mg
Total Carbohydrate 52.27g
Dietary Fiber 10.17g
Sugars 7.96g

Protein 44.92g

Est. Percent of Calories from:

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calories needs.

Monday, March 1, 2010


I was not raised religiously, though for a great deal of my life lived in a place where 60% of my peers were church-going of some sort or another. Most of my friends growing up were either evangelical christian or Mormon and as a result I was constantly in the process of being saved.  Unfortunately (for me) I turned out to be (in their eyes) unsaveable. Despite tens of trips to church services, church camps, and church youth groups I remain unsure about the nature of my relationship with God and/or Jesus (as well as my and my families impending afterlife). Thankfully, my churchless parents understood the importance of a few traditions, namely the importance of eating together.  Thus, leave it to a Hill to form a "service" revolving entirely around food, in this case a weekly gathering celebrating my Grandmother BettieJean's waffle recipe. To be fair, church service involved one other (perhaps more key) element, the teaching of that great prophet, Jackson Browne.  Every Sunday morning (or at least many Sunday mornings) I was awoken by Lives in the Balance or The Pretender blaring on the stereo (which at the time was annoying to my sleep loving body and Debbie Gibson listening ears).  All was made better by the sweet smell of waffles in the iron. Hence was born The Church of Sunday Morning Waffles and Jackson Browne Music.
This tradition has actually survived the longest of any of our family traditions. If ever we are home on a Sunday we hold services; my sister-in-law, Laura actually made my father a defacto "pope" hat. They (my brother Josh and Laura) held regular services when they lived in San Luis Obispo, while Jay and I have formed a splinter cell up here in Seattle: The Church of Sunday Morning Frittata and Jackson Browne Music (we don't own a waffle iron, I am ashamed to admit).
Well yesterday morning we held services and true to form listened to JB's acoustic album while I prepared my most basic frittata.  You can pretty much add any vegetable you like in this recipe, most often I add spinach. Just add the spinach right before you add the egg.  If you are using a heartier vegetable simply add it earlier:

Basic Frittata
makes 8 slices

2 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1 large white potato, thinly sliced
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp salt
6 medium eggs
1 cup lowfat milk
1/2 cup shredded parmesan reggiano

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Heat oil in a 9" cast iron skillet over medium heat. Cook onions, potatoes, oregano, and red pepper flakes until onions are just starting to brown. Salt and pepper to taste. Combine milk and eggs and whisk thoroughly. Pour egg mixture into skillet and cook for one minute. Transfer to the over and cook for 20 minutes until the frittata is cooked through. Sprinkle cheese over the top and move to the broiler. Broil until cheese is bubbling. Let cool for 5 minutes and cut into 8 slices.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

More is sometimes less

So today I started keeping a food diary to see not only my daily caloric intake, but to figure out if I am getting enough protein and dietary fiber (the answers are maybe and no, by the way). To make sure I looked good on my first day I made a recipe for stuffed peppers I had been eyeing for a while in my old fav Moosewood Low Fat Cookbook. It turned out really well, but what amazed me what the sheer quantity of food you get in so few calories. It was spicy and sweet and when served on a bed of mixed greens and rice is shockingly low in calories. I had one half of a bell pepper served over 1/2 cup of brown rice and a handful of mixed greens, and topped with a very simple tomato sauce and the end balance was a mere 296 calories with 5.5 g of fat, 10.5 g of protein and 5.75 g of dietary fiber.  Jay doubled his (which is the suggested serving size, fyi) and still the meal was only 594 calories. The recipe uses frozen tofu (that has been thawed) to imitate meat.  This worked well but if you are a meat eater you could easily substitute cooked lean ground turkey for about the same calories. My only other recommendation would be to add pine nuts to the mix. I didn't do this, but think it really would have made the dish better and would only add 30 calories per serving (one whole bell pepper).

Tofu-Stuffed Peppers

Serves 6 

2 tsp canola oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion, diced
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 1/2 cup carrots, diced
dash of salt
1 cup diced tomatoes
12 oz tofu, frozen then thawed and grated or crumbled (substitute cooked lean ground turkey)
3 tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp dried dill
2 tsp lemon juice
1/2 cup couscous
1/4 cup hot water
1/4 cup currant or raisins (I used dried cranberries)
6 medium bell peppers
1 cup red wine

In a saute pan heat oil over medium heat and cook onions, garlic, cinnamon and red pepper flakes for 3 minutes until just soft.  Add carrots and a dash of salt and cover.  Cook for 3 more minutes.  Add tomatoes and heat through. Stir in tofu (or ground turkey), soy sauce, dill, lemon juice, couscous and water and cook on medium low for 2 minutes or so.  Take off the heat and cover and allow to sit 5 minutes.  Add dried fruit and salt and pepper to taste. Set aside
Preheat your over to 375 degrees. Cut the peppers in half making sure to cut through the stem. Remove the seeds but leave the stems (they will keep your peppers together. Fill each half with 1/2 cup of the filling and place in a baking dish. Pour wine in the bottom of the baking dish and cover with aluminum foil. Bake for 45 minutes or until the peppers are soft but not falling apart.  Serve alone or topped with tomato sauce.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Brings me back

I love peanut butter. Maybe a little too much. Jay often catches me sneaking a spoonful around 9 pm when most people are seeking out ice cream or cookies. This is pretty much a way to have your spoonful of peanut butter at 9 pm in a more socially acceptable way. It is a recipe from my childhood from some stained and worn unnamed cookbook. They are remarkably simple to prepare, don't require any cooking, and freeze very well. You can find many similar recipes out there - some of which add some sort of cereal product for crunch. You can add pretty much whatever you like to the recipe: dried fruit, rice krispies, chocolate chips - but below is the purists' recipe, adjust as you like:

Peanut Butter "Fudge"

1 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup nonfat dry milk (more may be required to achieve proper consistency)
turbinado sugar or coconut

Combine peanut butter, honey and dry milk in a bowl and mix thoroughly. Dough should be dense and not at all sticky. Roll into balls, roll into sugar (or coconut if you prefer) and place on wax paper. Freeze until hard. Store in a sealed container in the freezer. Thaw for 10-20 minutes prior to eating.

Meat on a stick

Food on a stick is generally a good thing. I actually struggle to think of something served on a stick that I don't like. Perhaps the best example is satay. Whether its pork, beef, or chicken, meat on a stick is a pretty easy to prepare and a great vehicle for good sauce. I made this recipe last night to bring to a party and spent quite a bit of time finding a recipe for peanut sauce. I actually made one version of it on Friday and was very disappointed by the results. I threw it out on Saturday morning and started over. The second time I decided to adjust a recipe I had made before from The Enchanted Broccoli Forest that is used for a Broccoli and Tofu Stir Fry (I highly recommend - both the cookbook and the recipe) to suit a dipping sauce. It worked beautifully.

Chicken Satay with Thai Peanut Dipping Sauce

4 - 1/2 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 in fresh ginger, peeled and sliced
1/2 cup water
2 tbsp honey
16 bamboo skewers, soaked in water for at least 30 minutes

In a bowl combine soy sauce, ginger, honey and water. Slice chicken breasts into 4 slices each. Place in a sealable Tupperware and add marinade. Cover and let sit, refrigerated, for 1 hour up to a day. Brush a roasting pan with oil and preheat broiler. Skewer chicken strips, moving the skewer front and back to assure that chicken stays attached. Lay on the roasting pan and broil about 2-3 minutes each side or until the chicken is cooked through.

Thai Peanut Dipping Sauce

3/4 cup peanut butter
2 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp molasses
6 tbsp rice or cider vinegar
3 tbsp soy sauce
1-2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/8 - 1/4 cup light coconut milk (adjust for consistency)

Blend all the ingredients using a food processor or blender. Let sit in the refrigerator for about an hour before serving to allow flavors to meld.

The Last (soup) Supper

A few months ago, after I had been laid off, my friend Margaret brought by an unemployment "care package". This basically consisted of a few snacks, a couple of bottles of wine, and two packets of Top Ramen. I don't actually think I can remember the last time I had Ramen and I thought it would be a brilliant way to end my 31 days without having to actually cook anything. Jay more or less refused to eat it, but I heated up a bowl for myself (Jay got himself some leftovers) and we sat down with a side salad for our last soup supper. As we ate I reviewed the ingredients of the Ramen and it occurred to me how simple it would be to to prepare without need of msg and corn protien and pondered if it would be better or not (lets face it, Ramen is good, it just feels wrong to eat 910 mg of sodium in one meal). I popped up mid meal to take on the challenge and quickly threw together a competing soup. Jay and I both thought it was much better and just as easy:

Blue Ribbon Ramen

1 serving

2 cups chicken broth
1 tsp dark soy sauce
4 oz somen noodles
5 frozen broccoli florets
salt to taste

Boil broth and soy sauce over high heat. Add noodles and broccoli and cook for 3 minutes until noodles are soft. Salt to taste.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Lets be honest, its cheese soup...

We are getting really close to the end of my 31 days of soup now and I knew before I reached the end I HAD to pay homage to that fancy restaurant staple, Soupe a l'Oignon au Fromage. I have to admit, I am not a huge fan of French Onion Soup. Don't get me wrong, I like onions and love cheese, but somehow I think I never could get that satisfied by such a simple yet rich soup. Something about the emptiness of the calories tends to make me sick to the stomach before I get full which is really never a good combination. That said I didn't try to alter the recipe to make it lighter or to make it more satisfying. I have never made it before and it's such a classic I felt like I didn't have adequate knowledge to start messing with a (generally acknowledged) good thing. I do have to admit that I made one (rather large) substitution. Classic French Onion soup is really simple: butter, onions, garlic, beef stock, salt, pepper. However given that Jay hasn't eaten beef in 10 years I didn't think it was a good idea to introduce it to his digestive system - too big of a risk to my night's sleep. Substituting chicken stock for beef stock REALLY alters the flavor but it had to be done. If you are a beef eater and want to make this recipe, I suggest using it. Otherwise I tried to use a selection of onions which I think made the soup sweeter. If that sounds good to you, go for it:

French Onion Soup

1/4 cup butter
3 large onions, sliced
2 large shallots, sliced
6 garlic cloves, sliced
1/2 cup white wine
6 cups chicken broth (or beef broth if you have the enzymes)
1 tsp Dijon mustard

12 slices french bread, toasted
1 1/2 cup Gruyere cheese, sliced

Melt butter in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add onions, shallots and garlic and and saute until very tender and brown, about 45 minutes. Add wine and simmer 3-4 minutes. Add chicken broth and mustard and simmer for 20 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste.

Preheat broiler. Ladle soup into ovenproof bowls. Top each with toast and cheese. Broil until cheese melts and bubbles.