Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Best Oven Fries Ever!

That's someone else's opinion, not mine, but I'll run with it. Flavorful and crispy, but still almost fat-free, these oven fries take a little work, but not so much they can't be done on a weeknight. They are great with burgers, bratwurst, hot dogs, chicken - just about anything that can be cooked on a grill. I've even made them to go with sloppy joe's. Sure, there are lots of great seasoned frozen potatoes in stores today, but none of them get crispy in the oven! These are a satisfying substitute for "real" fries with a LOT less fat and no greasy feel.

  • 1 medium baking potato per person
  • Pam or other non-stick cooking spray - I use olive oil for these, but anyone will work
  • Paprika
  • Onion powder
  • Garlic powder
  • Sea Salt

This is so simple! Preheat the oven to 425. While the oven heats, scrub potatoes and dry with paper towels. Slice in half lengthwise. Lay each half, cut side down, on a cutting board, and slice thinly, less than 1/4 inch thick, keeping slices as uniform as possible.

Spray cooking sheets with Pam. I can't get more than two potatoes on a single 10x15 pan and cook the potatoes evenly; luckily my oven easily holds two pans. Spread potatoes onto greased baking sheets in an even layer. Spray with more Pam, and then sprinkle with paprika, garlic powder and onion powder. Toss to coat evenly - just use your hands. Redistribute potato slices evenly and sprinkle with salt.

Bake at 425 for about 20 minutes, shaking the pan every five minutes. If the potatoes have a lot of moisture and aren't crisping, I turn the broiler on to finish crisping them.

The above seasoning combination is the favorite in my house, but Cajun seasoning and any garlic salt blend work well too. Any dry seasoning will work - the key is to use baking potatoes, slice them thinly enough and uniformly and cook them at high heat. Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

McMuffin Makeover!

89 cent Sausage McMuffins are everywhere! I have a co-worker who eats at least one a day, and at that price, it's very tempting to toss a healthy breakfast out the window. Because, being a southern girl, I love sausage, I made my own version of the Sausage McMuffin that has less than half the 370 calories and far less than the 34 grams of fat that the original has. It won't cost just 89 cents to make, but who can afford, health-wise, to eat a Sausage McMuffin?

Makes 1.

Toast muffin and, while it toasts, microwave sausage patty for 45 seconds if using the turkey; 60-75 seconds for veggie because they are frozen. Blot with paper towels, top with cheese and nuke another 20 seconds. When muffin is toasted, spread with margarine or salsa if desired. Top with sausage and cheese and other muffin half. For a heartier version, use 2 sausage patties - still comes in at about 150 calories less than the original! If you don't like whole grain bread, even a regular white English muffin with the lighter sausage and cheese will be a big step up from the McDonald's sandwich.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Creamy Pasta with Spinach, Carrots and fresh Tomatoes

I made this on the fly to go with Pesto Provolone Chicken. It's really good - even my boyfriend's picky son liked it! I served this as a side, but I think with a handful of shrimp tossed in, it could be great on its own. The carrots, spinach and tomatoes are things I always have on hand. Half and half or light cream or even canned evaporated skim milk can sub for the heavy cream if you want.

  • 4 ounces angel hair pasta
  • 1/2 Knorr Chicken Bouillon cube
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, smashed and minced finely
  • 1 tablespoon butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon dried parsley or 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 cup matchstick or shredded carrots
  • handful fresh spinach, torn up
  • 1 medium tomato, seeded and diced

Cook pasta and carrots in boiling salted water about four minutes and drain. Before draining, scoop out 1/2 cup of the cooking water and dissolve the bouillon cube in it. After draining, put the pasta in a large bowl and add the butter. Toss gently to melt butter through the pasta.

While the water comes to a boil, heat the cream and garlic together over low heat. Simmer very gently to diffuse the garlic flavor through the cream. There should just barely be bubbles around the edges of the pan.

After the pasta is cooked, add the strong bouillon to the cream and raise heat to medium high. Add parsley and pepper. When cream and bouillon comes just to a boil, remove from heat and pour over pasta. Add spinach and tomatoes and toss gently to combine. The spinach should be just wilted and bright green and the tomatoes will not cook. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, toss again, and serve immediately.

To make this a main dish, double the amounts of everything and add some diced chicken or sauteed shrimp.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Pesto Provolone Chicken

Kraft Salad Dressings were buy one/get one at Publix a few weeks ago, and when I saw an Italian Pesto dressing and marinade I hadn't seen before, I grabbed one. It is very good as a salad dressing, but shines as a marinade, imparting pesto flavor to chicken without being overwhelming. Topped with Italian cheese and served with pasta and vegetables, it was a great dinner!

  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breast
  • 1/2 cup Kraft Italian Pesto Dressing & Marinade , plus 2 Tablespoons more dressing
  • 4 cloves garlic, smashed and chopped
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2-3 slices provolone cheese
  • 2-3 slices mozzarella cheese

Slice chicken into tenders if you are using whole breasts. Place in a large plastic bag or a shallow glass dish. Pour 1/2 cup dressing over chicken. Add garlic and pepper to taste. Shake or mix well. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours and up to 36.

Preheat the broiler on high. Spray a broiler pan with olive oil cooking spray. Drain marinade off chicken and discard. Arrange chicken on pan and broil 6-8 inches from the heat, turning over after 5 minutes. Check with a meat thermometer after 10 minutes cooking time; internal temperature should be at least 155 degrees.

After chicken has reached 155, spoon remaining dressing over the pieces. (I kind of crowded all the chicken to the middle of the pan for this to make it easier to do.) Tear the cheese slices and arrange over the chicken, making sure each piece has both kinds of cheese. Return to the broiler, and continue cooking until the cheese is browned and bubbly. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Summer Vegetable Saute

I know I haven't written in while, but I was inspired yesterday during a visit to Doris' Italian Market in Coral Springs. While there, I grabbed a couple of red bell peppers (for half the price I would have paid at Publix!), zucchini and a big tomato. Last night for dinner, I added some garlic, onions, shredded carrots (pre-done into matchsticks) and red bell pepper pesto from a jar for the most amazing vegetable stew/saute I've had in a long time. I love ratatouille, and this is similar but doesn't have eggplant or mushrooms in it, and is far more colorful. I made grilled chicken to go with it, and am hoping the leftovers will be even better for lunch today than they were last night!

One beauty of this, besides the fact that it is healthy and tastes good, is that none of the measurements are exact, and nothing has to be chopped perfectly. Great for the kitchen clutz - like me!
  • 1 small onion, chopped - I used a Vidalia but any kind will work
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 6-7 cloves garlic, smashed and chopped roughly
  • 1/2-3/4 cup matchstick or shredded carrots (or run a couple through the slicing disc of a food processor, just so they are small pieces that will cook in the small amount of liquid here)
  • 1 good sized zucchini, diced
  • 1 large tomato, chopped - remove the seeds if you want
  • generous pinch each of dried basil, sea salt and fresh ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoon red pepper pesto (or any other pesto you like)
  • Parmesan cheese for serving
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
Once all the veggies are washed and chopped, this comes together easily, but does require some cooking time.

Heat the oil in a medium sized frying pan over medium-high heat. When it shimmers, add the garlic and stir for a minute. Add the onions and peppers and let cook for five minutes, stirring frequently. Season with salt, pepper and basil. Add the zucchini, carrots and tomatoes and stir well. Reduce heat to medium and let cook, covered, for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the pesto and cook covered another 7-8 minutes. If the vegetables start to dry out, add a little water or broth, but no more than 1/4 cup. Taste for seasoning. Serve hot, with Parmesan cheese on the side. I can see this as a pasta dish too, tossed with some good penne or bow ties.

I didn't think to take a picture of this, but I will be making it again so I'll update it then!