Southwest Pumpkin Corn Chowder With Bacon

image

Sundays happen to be when I do most of my cooking, and it’s also the day I clean out the fridge to trash the last remaining bits of old meals or anything that I’ve (unfortunately) forgotten to cook that has passed its time of being edible.

Today I found a can of pumpkin I’d opened to make pumpkin oatmeal, and an open can of creamed corn that we’d mistakenly bought. The solution? A hearty soup.

Ingredients

1 can creamed corn
2 cups canned pumpkin
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup Newman’s Own light lime vinaigrette
1 teaspoon Adobo seasoning (or to taste)
1 tablespoon chili powder (or to taste)
1/2 cup water (or more for a thinner soup)
3 slices cooked bacon (I went with pork bacon, but you could also use turkey, beef, or soy bacon)

Place the first 7 ingredients in a saucepan; stir. Heat through over medium heat until boiling. Crumble the bacon and mix it into the soup.

Cooking music: Soul Power, by Curtis Harding. I decided that I’m going to share some of the good music that keeps me in a cooking mood after I saw Rantings of an Amateur Chef ask his readers a while back what they liked to listen to. I always have something playing and, if you’re like me, it never hurts to have good new music to listen to. Harding is a versatile artist, and this recent release runs the gamut from soul to blues and a touch of garage/punk.

Advertisements

Fun With Chia Seeds

ChiaSeedsI agree with this ABC news post that chia seeds have replaced kale as the “it food” this year. These tiny seeds, which most of us are more familiar with as giving Chia Pets their “hair” or “fur,” have gotten a lot of attention for being loaded with omega-3 fatty acids. They are also chock-full of protein and fiber, for few calories.

What’s the advantage of dumping some into your food? A nutrient boost, as well as fiber to help you feel fuller longer.

I decided to buy some on my last visit to Whole Foods, and then the experiment was on. My first stop: breakfast.

I added the chia seeds to fat-free Greek yogurt, along with honey, and I topped off this breakfast bowl with diced banana and strawberries. It was delicious, as you would expect honey and Greek yogurt to be, and the chia seeds added extra crunch. (Shout-out to ripe banana and strawberries as well.)

The interesting thing about chia seeds is that they become a bit gelatinous when exposed to moisture for a bit–which explains the paste you’ve seen slathered on Chia Pet heads in the past–so you could also consider them a thickener for whatever you ChiaYogurtwant to make. It is something to get used to, and I’d think that would be what would make this a love-it-or-hate-it superfood. I didn’t mind; my yogurt got a little thicker over the course of time, but was still enjoyable, partially because despite swelling to sport a gel-like coating, the crunch doesn’t go away from the seeds.

I purchased my bag of chia seeds on sale for about 6 bucks, but a bag can hover around the $10 mark, give or take a few bucks, from what I’ve seen from the other options at Whole Foods. (I’m still on my first bag after having made several meals with chia seeds now, though, so I think it’s worth the price when on the left side of $10.) I haven’t explored yet whether chia seeds have hit the regular grocery stores of if they’re still a specialty item to be found at health food stores, but I imagine they’ll make their way to a Pathmark, Ralph’s, or Publix near you soon. (Wheat germ is still on the shelves after making its debut in 1936, according to this New York Times article, so why not?)

Chia seeds seem like they’d be a little more shelf-stable than wheat germ and, from what I understand (without having tried them), flax seeds.

Interested in adding chia seeds to your meals? Let you know what you come up with! I’ll have more recipes to share here soon myself.

Leftover Veggies Pizza

image

My refrigerator is often like a jungle of commestibles, plastic and tin cans, a dense, Amazonian jumble of meals, future meal ingredients, and condiments, where no light gets through.

Sadly, from time to time, I lose something in this food jungle. I hate wasting food, but like everyone else, it does happen from time to time. I’ve been trying a little harder lately to avoid being wasteful, and the recipe I have for today is one of the things I’ve done recently toward that.

I found myself with roasted tomatoes, from this sophisticated BLT idea (though I adapted it a bit to make it more flavorful; see below). I also had extra sauteed kale (again, see below). I took these leftovers, placed then on a garlic pita, topped then with an ounce of mixed Italian cheese, and had a sublime vegetarian pizza.

Roasted Tomatoes Recipe

Four medium-to-large, or 8 small tomatoes, sliced. (The original recipe called for Roma tomatoes, but the regular ones I had on hand did just fine. I’d cut the Romas into thirds, and regular tomatoes into quarter-inch slices.

1T olive oil

Salt, garlic powder, oregano, and red pepper flakes to taste

Put the sliced tomatoes in a bowl. Top with the oil and spices and mix thoroughly.

Place the tomato slices on a cookie sheet in a single layer. Place in an oven heated to 250; roast for 2 to 3 hours until desired doneness. (Mine weren’t super-dry like sun-dried tomatoes; I left in a smidge of liquid.)

Sauteed Kale Recipe

1/2 bag washed kale (next time, I’d remove the thick stems)

1/2 large onion

1 or 2 garlic cloves

1 T olive oil

1 c fat-free chicken broth

Heat the olive oil, and add the garlic and onions; cook until the onions are translucent. Add the kale in handfuls at a time. When some has wilted, add the chicken broth. Simmer until desired tenderness. (I left mine a bit crunchy still.)

Notes: if you wanted, you could add a couple slices of center-cut bacon or grilled or roasted turkey or chicken. Turkey ham our pork loin would also work.

Roast Beef Chipotle Mini Pizza

image

After I completed the challenge of making as many things as I could off a turkey breast last week, I got the insane idea to get a turkey breast again this week. Needless to say, we’re getting tired of turkey.

So I backed away slowly from the turkey and the carving board. And put on my thinking cap. I did some grocery shopping list night, and I knew I would need something to make that night that would be easy to put together. So I went with deli roast beef, and I went with pizza. And I went with my adventurous taste buds and came up with this idea.

1 pita of your choice, wheat or white (I went with a flavored one: garlic pita)
1 to 1.5 oz deli roast beef (with the size of my slices, this meant about 1.5 slices; be sure to weigh yours!)
2T Taco Bell chipotle sauce (found with the Mexican/Southwest foods in the international aisle)
1 oz mozzarella or Italian cheese blend

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. On an oven-safe pan or cookie sheet, assemble your pizza: top the pita with the sauce, top three sauce with the cheese, and tear/shred the roast beef and put that in to of the cheese.

Put your pizza in the oven until the cheese is melted to your liking.

Notes: if I had time and the ingredients, I would’ve added some grilled onions and peppers to this, to add another dimension of flavor.

Not in the mood for pizza? Try this as a wrap sandwich in a tortilla. Add the peppers and onions and salad greens of your choice.

How to Make a Turkey Disappear: Salads, Etc.

I gushed last week about the turkey smell in my house that had me daydreaming about tasty meals. Well, that turkey is a distant memory. I have to say thank you to my family for helping me to gobble up the gobbler!

I made several salads with the turkey and had some other ideas that I didn’t get to execute, but will definitely do it next time. Here goes on where the six pounds of turkey went…

ImageCranberry Blue Cheese Turkey Salad

  • 2 oz turkey
  • Salad greens and veggies of your choice
  • 1T pecans, crushed
  • 2T dried cranberries
  • 2T light or fat-free blue cheese dressing

Mix, eat, and enjoy!

Fajita Turkey Salad

ImageGrill some peppers and sliced onions, or, while closely monitoring them, char them in the oven set to broil.

Add some to:

  • Salad greens of your choice
  • 2-3 oz. turkey
  • 2T guacamole
  • 2T fat-free Greek yogurt
  • (You could also add cheese; if you do, go with 2 oz of turkey.)

Satay Turkey Salad

Image

  • 2-3 oz turkey
  • Broccoli slaw
  • 1/4 c peanut sauce
  • 1T peanuts, crushed (measure 1T of peanuts and then crush them)

Mix the turkey, broccoli slaw, and peanut sauce. Top with the peanuts.

Turkey Club Salad

  • Salad greens and vegetables of your choice
  • 2 oz. turkey
  • 1/2 c whole wheat pasta (I went with rotini)
  • 2 slices bacon (center-cut pork bacon or turkey bacon), cooked
  • 2T light or fat-free ranch dressing

Mix all ingredients together and enjoy! (You could also add 1/2 oz. of cheese; I’m thinking a sharp cheddar.)

Buffalo Turkey Salad (I didn’t make this one, because I ran out of turkey, but here’s the idea I had!)

  • 2-3 oz turkey
  • 2T light or fat-free blue cheese dressing
  • Cholula garlic hot sauce to taste

Add your turkey and salad greens to your bowl/plate. Mix the dressing and hot sauce together; add on top of the salad. Top with 1T of sunflower seeds or a serving of garlic croutons. And/or add 1/2 to 1 oz of cheese–mozzarella or cheddar.

So, obviously a handful of salads doesn’t make a big ol’ turkey breast disappear. How else did my family help me make it disappear? These recipes offer light options and heavy options to accommodate all eaters in your household.

Turkey burritos, tacos and nachos:

  • Go heavy with a large flour tortilla, rice, turkey, cheese and a good hot sauce (I used Cholua lime hot sauce).
  • Go lighter with a smaller, fat-free flour tortilla, 2 oz. turkey and 1/4 c fat-free refried beans (or turkey and grilled peppers and onions), cheese and hot sauce.
  • 2-3 oz turkey, 1 oz. cheese, and salsa verde (all ingredients split between taco-sized corn tortillas).
  • 2 oz turkey over 1-1.5 oz baked tortilla chips, with 4 T salsa con queso. (2T fat-free Greek yogurt and 2T guacamole are optional.)

Turkey, steamed peas and polenta:Image

2 oz turkey, a serving of steamed peas (from a frozen steamer bag heated in the microwave); and polenta made to the instructions on my bag of corn meal, plus a little minced garlic

Turkey club sandwich: Go heavy with turkey, 2 slices of bacon (center-cut pork or turkey), light or heavy mayonnaise to taste, cheese slices (optional), and bread of your choice. Go light with 2 oz. turkey, 2 slices of bacon, 1T light mayonnaise (or 2T light ranch dressing), 1 slice of bread, or a fat-free flour tortilla.

And, of course, a Thanksgiving-worthy entree of turkey, a starch and vegetables!

Barbecue Chicken Pita Pizza

I’m not too proud to buy the reduced price items at the market. In fact, I’m a bit of a proud cheapskate. Why not take advantage of sales like that when they cross my path?

It’s a fun, exhilarating game to me, to scour the market and find amazing deals on things I actually buy. (I don’t coupon because coupons typically are not for things I’d buy. Someone call me if they ever start offering produce coupons, though!)

One thing I’ve been able to find on sale consistently is pita bread. A market that I frequent has had pita on sale the last couple of times I’ve been in the store. Four for a dollar! I bought a couple bags each time.

I had been using the pita for a vegetarian lunch, of pita, hummus, and a salad, but I’ve also made pizza with the pitas as well, like I used to when I started Weight Watchers. But recently I decided to mix things up, with a barbecue chicken pizza. Here’s how:

image

Your favorite barbecue sauce, 2T

1.5-2 oz. chicken breast, diced or shredded (leftover chicken works perfectly!)

1 pita–whole wheat, plain, or garlic

1 oz. part-skim mozzarella

Heat your oven to 350 degrees. Spread the barbecue sauce on the pita. Top with the cheese, and then the chicken. I then spritzed the pizza with a little cooking spray, to keep the chicken from drying out so much, but that’s optional.

Heat the pizza in the oven until the cheese is melted to your liking.

Notes: I first encountered barbecue chicken pizza at an Italian restaurant around my way, and they also put red onion on the pizza. That’s another option for you. In place of the barbecue sauce, you could go with light or fat-free ranch dressing–that’s another tomato sauce alternative I’ve seen for chicken pizza.

These Cooking Rules Are Made to Be Broken

Last night, I was preparing fish to bake. It was a 2-lb bag of tilapia fillets, and I planned on doing half with salt, pepper and garlic, and half with Cajun seasoning. While visions of dusting the fish fillets with their respective spices danced in my head, I noticed a warning on the plastic that wrapped each fish fillet. It said that you should remove the fish from the plastic before thawing.

Too late! I routinely thaw the fish individually wrapped, in the main packaging, in my freezer. And they taste just fine, whether I’m baking them or grilling them. No harm, no foul.

Just like my fish experiences, there are other times when you can break the rules that recipes scream at you. Here are 8:

  1. Use your favorite vegetables. When you’re making a casserole or slow cooker dish, go with the vegetables that you like (or the ones that you have on hand), as long as you time their cooking in a way that ensures they get cooked to appropriate doneness.
  2. Go with yogurt. Fat-free Greek yogurt can stand in for cream, or for sour cream. Try topping your nachos or baked potatoes with some, mixing some into your chicken pot pie stuffing, in soups–the possibilities are endless!
  3. Alternatives for desserts. Diet lemon-lime soda and liquid eggs in yellow and white cakes. Diet cola and liquid eggs in dark cakes and brownies. Pumpkin puree in spice cake. Fat-free Greek yogurt works here, too.
  4. Ditch the butter and oil. No, you won’t get the same flavor, but if you want to save on fat and calories, opt for cooking spray or water for sautéing (or nothing at all, if you don’t have your temperature super-high).
  5. Tweak the spices. Fresh or dried? Go with what you have, using more dried if the recipe calls for fresh. Leave out the salt if you have high blood pressure, or switch to a low-sodium salt, because if you’re cooking with certain items (like spaghetti sauce, cheese, or broth), you’re still getting sodium in the mix anyway. There’s a reason many bloggers (myself included) don’t give exact measurements for spices–part of the art of cooking is figuring out what works best for your taste. Experiment and go with the proportions that work for you.
  6. Switch up the meat. Rather than a pork shoulder, try pork loin. Instead of high-fat ground beef, try lean ground beef (93% lean) or learn ground turkey. Don’t be afraid to make a recipe vegetarian, either–for many dishes, you’ll be safe opting for beans or textured vegetable protein (TVP).
  7. Take shortcuts. As a rule, or in a pinch, you can buy rotisserie chicken or rotisserie turkey breast. Or, get the person at the seafood counter to steam the shrimp or crab for you, before tossing with grains, vegetables, or pasta. For vegetables? Buy pre-cut veggies from your produce section, or even frozen peppers and onions from the freezer section.
  8. Don’t braise meat for slow cooking. As with using butter or oil for sautéing, braising does add another dimension of flavor, but if you want to cut corners on time, you can get along fine without doing it.

Whether you’re starting to cook more healthy now as part of a resolution, or you’re plugging away at healthy eating as a long-term lifestyle, there are areas where it’s perfectly fine to bend or break the cooking rules to bring your food to the table faster, or more in line with your taste preferences. I wish you hours of happy rabble-rousing in your kitchen!

Question of the day: What rules do you break in the kitchen? What tips do you have for making your life as a cook easier?