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Archive for May, 2009

Greek Inspired Stuffed Peppers

I grew up eating stuffed peppers, although we only had them on occasion since my mother and I were the only ones who enjoyed them. If you think about it, it’s a great way to get your vegetables, protein and starch all into one compact entrée. I also love this meal because it is very versatile; you can do just about anything to change it up. I guess stuffed peppers are kind of like a pizza.  You have your base and then you can add whatever your choice toppings, or in this case mix-ins, are until you are blue in the face.

Of course the stuffed peppers that I grew up on were the traditional ones; the standard pepper stuffed with ground beef, rice, diced onion and topped with tomato sauce. When I decided to make them for dinner the other night I wanted to spruce them up a bit. Not only did I want to make them a bit healthier, but I also wanted to make a few additions. So, I decided to go with a Greek inspired version. I also opted to use turkey burger and barley instead of the beef and rice. The addition of the spinach, Greek peppers and black olives gave a nice extra element of flavor. I am sure it would be great with kalamata olives too (which would be a bit more Greek); and feel free to add some feta cheese to the top as well.

Not only is this a great way to use up what’s in your refrigerator, but it also makes for great leftovers.

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Greek Inspired Stuffed Peppers

3 bell peppers (your choice of color), halved vertically
1 cup cooked barley
2 tsp. olive oil (or coat the bottom of the pan with olive oil spray)
½ cup onion, chopped
½ lb. ground turkey
2 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. garlic powder
½ of a 10-ounce package of frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
8 large black olives, sliced
4 Greek peppers, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup of your favorite tomato sauce (store bought or homemade)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Begin preparing barley on the stove top.
Place your six pepper halves, cut side up into a large casserole dish (9×13).

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium to medium-high heat. Add the diced onion to the pan and sauté; about 2 minutes. Add the ground turkey, oregano, garlic powder and salt & pepper to the pan and cook until onions are translucent and the meat is cooked through.

Place the meat mixture into a large bowl, combine with cooked barley, spinach, olives and chopped Greek peppers. Fill each pepper half with the mixture. Spoon tomato sauce over the top of each filled pepper.

Place in the oven and bake for about 30 minutes or until peppers are tender.

Yields: 3 servings

Nutrition Facts
Serving size: 2 pepper halves
Calories: 421.7
Total Fat: 13.6 g
Cholesterol: 81 mg
Sodium: 1,284.1 mg
Carbohydrates: 53.3 g
Dietary Fiber: 13.1 g
Protein: 30 g

*note that I used my olive oil sprayer, so the nutrition does not include the 2 tsp. of olive oil.

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Lightened Up Rice Pudding

It is absolutely no secret that I have a sweet tooth. Unfortunately you mix that with the fact that I gain 10 pounds by just looking at dessert and it doesn’t make for a great combination. At least my waistline doesn’t think so. With that said, I am always looking for sweet treats that I don’t have to feel guilty about.

When we lived in Clearwater we used to frequent a little Greek restaurant that we loved. A few times I indulged in their rice pudding and thought it was delicious. I never really thought to make some of my own until I recently saw a recipe for a lightened up version. I figured that it was nutritious and would tame my sweet tooth, so I couldn’t go wrong.

The recipe was very easy to make and it could feed quite a few people. I actually took some over to my grandmother and she really enjoyed it. It is light and slightly less sweet than your traditional rice pudding. It’s perfect for an evening treat when you are craving a little something sweet.

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Very Vanilla Rice Pudding

Courtesy of The Food You Crave by Ellie Krieger

2 cups water
1 cup Arborio rice
3 cups vanilla soy milk
¼ cup sugar
Pinch of salt
1 cinnamon stick
½ tsp. vanilla extract
¼ tsp. ground cinnamon, plus more for dusting
¼ tsp. ground nutmeg, plus more for dusting

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Bring the water to a boil in a medium, heavy, ovenproof saucepan. Add the rice, cover, reduce the heat to low, and simmer until the rice is nearly cooked, about 20 minutes.

In a large bowl, whisk together the soy milk, sugar, and salt. When the rice is cooked and still hot, add the soy milk mixture and cinnamon stick. Cover, place in the oven, and cook for 45 minutes.

Remove from the oven, uncover, and remove the cinnamon stick. Stir in vanilla, ground cinnamon, and nutmeg. The pudding will be slightly liquidy; the liquid will continue to absorb into the rice and thicken as the pudding cools. Distribute among 8 bowls. Dust with more cinnamon and nutmeg. Serve warm or at room temperature. The pudding will keep in the refrigerator in an airtight container for about 3 days.

Yields: 8 servings

Nutrition Facts (according to book)
Serving size: 2/3 cup
Calories: 154
Total Fat: 2 g
Cholesterol: 1.7 mg
Sodium: 59 mg
Carbohydrates: 36 g
Dietary Fiber: 0.7 g
Protein: 5 g
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Kicked Up Green Beans

I’ll be honest; I am not a huge fan of many vegetables. I mean I don’t mind them and I will eat most of them, enjoying some more than others, but if I were forced to not eat a good number of veggies I would have no problem with that. Greg on the other hand will eat almost any vegetable you put in front of him.

Knowing that it is a must for me to include lots of veggies in my diet, I take my so-so relationship with vegetables and try to find ways to spruce them up so I will enjoy them more. Green beans are a vegetable that I like for the most part and I love onions, so when I saw this recipe I figured it would be a great combination for my vegetable picky taste buds. It is a simple recipe but just gives that extra something. It is also a great side dish for gatherings; we have served it twice for family get-togethers and everyone loves it.

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Green Beans with Caramelized Onions

courtesy of Cooking Light

2 tbs. olive oil, divided
2 (16-ounce) packages frozen pearl onions, thawed
1 tbs. sugar
1 tsp. salt, divided
2 pounds green beans, trimmed

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Pat onions dry with paper towels; add to pan. Increase heat to medium-high; sauté onions 5 minutes. Add sugar and 1/2 teaspoon salt; sauté 15 minutes or until onions are tender and golden brown. Spoon into a bowl.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in pan over medium-high heat. Add beans; sauté 8 minutes or until crisp-tender. Add onions, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and pepper; cook 2 minutes or until mixture is thoroughly heated.

If you like a little heat, add crushed red pepper to taste towards the end.

Yields: 10 servings

Nutrition Facts
Serving size: 1 cup
Calories: 89
Total Fat: 2.9 g
Cholesterol: 0 mg
Sodium: 249 mg
Carbohydrates: 15.4 g
Dietary Fiber: 4.6 g
Protein: 2.5 g
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A little late, but worth it!

Passover has come and gone once again, but at least this year I was able to leave a lasting impression with dessert! I know this is a bit late, but better late then never….especially with this dessert! Passover desserts can be tricky and can become a bit redundant because there tends to be a few standbys that most people turn to. On top of that, no one really likes to bake in Greg’s family so I challenge myself to always make a wonderful dessert to bring, especially for Passover. The past couple of years I have just thrown together simple things last minute, but this year I really wanted to find a great recipe. All I can say is that Cooking Light has come through for me once again. I had been eying this beautiful lemon curd cake for a while and decided to finally make it sine it was Passover friendly.

This cake was AMAZING!! Everyone raved over it. Halfway through serving it Greg’s cousin started rationing the pieces and then horded the remaining bits for herself and practically licked the plate clean. It not only looked pretty but it was lemony and refreshing with a touch of cake. I will definitely make this recipe again and it will not be stored away for just Passover, as the matzo cake meal can easily be switched out with whole-wheat flour. It is perfect for any spring or summer gathering.

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Lemon-Almond Cake with Lemon Curd Filling

Courtesy of Cooking Light
Cooking spray
2 tsp. matzo cake meal (I ground up matzo meal)
4 large egg yolks
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup matzo cake meal
1 1/2 tsp. water
1/2 tsp. grated lemon rind
1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 cup blanched almonds, ground
4 large egg whites
1 cup Lemon Curd (recipe follows)
2 cups fresh raspberries (I garnished with fresh strawberries)

Preheat oven to 350°.

Coat a 9-inch spring-form pan with cooking spray. Dust pan with 2 teaspoons matzo cake meal.
Place the egg yolks in a large bowl, and beat with a mixer at high speed for 2 minutes. Gradually add 1 cup sugar, beating until thick and pale (about 1 minute). Add 1/4 cup matzo cake meal, 1 1/2 teaspoons water, 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon rind, fresh lemon juice, and 1/4 teaspoon salt; beat just until blended. Fold in the almonds.

Place egg whites in a large bowl. Using clean, dry beaters, beat egg whites with a mixer at high speed until stiff peaks form. Gently stir one-fourth of egg whites into egg yolk mixture; gently fold in remaining egg whites. Spoon batter into prepared pan.

Bake at 350° for 35 minutes or until golden brown and set. Cool for 10 minutes in pan on a wire rack. Run a knife around edge of cake. Remove cake from pan. Cool completely on a wire rack. (Cake will sink in center as it cools.) Spread 1 cup Lemon Curd in center of cake, and top with raspberries (or whatever berries you prefer). Cut cake into wedges using a serrated knife. Serve immediately.

Lemon Curd

1/2 cup sugar
3 large eggs
2 tablespoons grated lemon rind
3/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Place sugar and eggs in a medium bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until blended. Gradually beat in rind and juice. Spoon mixture into a heavy-duty saucepan over medium heat. Add butter to pan; cook 5 minutes or until thick, stirring constantly (do not boil). Spoon mixture into a bowl. Cover surface with plastic wrap. Chill thoroughly.

Yields: 8 servings

Nutrition Facts 
Serving size: 1/8 of cake
Calories: 238
Total Fat: 6.6 g
Cholesterol: 149 mg
Sodium: 123 mg
Carbohydrates: 41.4 g
Dietary Fiber: 2.7 g
Protein: 5.9 g
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Summery Soup

When it comes to dinner, sometimes I’m just not in the mood for meat, veggies and a starch; I want something different. So, while thumbing through my Ellie Krieger cookbook I came across a recipe for Summer Corn and Vegetable Soup and knew that would be a great change-up. It called for lots of my favorite vegetables and it was more of a chowder style so I knew it would be hearty.

I whipped a batch up one night and served it with a half of a sandwich. It was so filling! I couldn’t even finish my bowl. Greg was even satisfied by this “lighter” meal. It is jam packed with fresh and easy to find ingredients and is a cinch to make. What more could you ask for?

corn-chowder

Summer Corn and Vegetable Soup

Courtesy of The Food You Crave by Ellie Krieger

4 cups fresh corn kernels or two 10 oz. packages frozen corn, thawed
2 cups non-fat milk
1 tbs. olive oil
1 large onion, diced (about 2 cups)
1 medium red bell pepper, seeded and diced (about 1 cup)
1 small zucchini (about ½ lb.), diced
2 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
2 plum tomatoes, seeded and diced
¾ tsp. salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
½ cup fresh basil leaves, cut into ribbons

Put 2 cups of the corn and the milk into a blender or food processor and process until smooth. Set aside.

Heat the oil in a large soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion, bell pepper, and zucchini and cook, stirring, until the vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes. Add the remaining 2 cups corn and the broth and bring to a boil. Add the pureed corn and the tomatoes and cook until warmed through but not boiling. Add the salt and season with pepper. Serve garnished with the basil ribbons.

Yields: 6 servings

Nutrition Facts (according to book)
Serving size: 1 ½ cups
Calories: 180
Total Fat: 5 g
Cholesterol: 5 mg
Sodium: 365 mg
Carbohydrates: 32 g
Dietary Fiber: 4 g
Protein: 9.5 g

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