Sunday, July 31, 2011

Empanadas de carne (beef pockets)

I haven't had empanadas in so long because usually they are deep fried, and in the process of exercising and eating healthy, deep fried things have fallen out of rotation. Fortunately though, I've lost fear of using my oven, and decided to give baking these babies a shot.

An empanada is a dough pocket filled with anything you want. The most common (that I know of) are chicken, beef, and cheese. Today I went for beef because ground beef is pretty much my favorite thing ever. You can eat these as an appetizer, a snack, or a main meal if you have enough of them!

Empanadas de carne
Servings: 5 (2 empanadas each)

1 lb lean ground beef
1 green onion, finely minced
5 cilantro leaves, finely chopped
1 tbsp all purpose seasoning
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 large tomato, chopped
1/2 large green pepper, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 shallot, chopped (you can use onion too)
dash of salt and pepper
1 cup beef stock
1 tbsp olive oil
1 pack Goya discs (I found these at Wegmann's, you can probably find them in any store with a real hispanic food section or try to make your own dough!)
1 egg, slightly beaten

Combine the first 5 ingredients very well with your hands, so everything is mixed seamlessly and the ground beef is broken down. Heat a large pot over medium-high heat and add the oil. Toss the tomato, green pepper, garlic, shallot, salt and pepper and cook until the tomato juices start to run, about 3-4 minutes. Then toss the meat in there and cook until it is all a little brown. Finally add the beef stock and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and let it simmer uncovered for 20 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 F. When the meat is done, make sure your Goya discs are completely unfrozen. Roll one disc out a little bit with a rolling pin and place about 2 tbsp of the meat filling in the center. Fold it over, making sure you match up all the edges. Then take a fork and press down on the edges to merge them together. Carefully flip it over and do it again on the other side.

Brush a bit of the beaten egg on each side and place on a very well-greased cookie sheet. I put mine on top of a metal baking dish and they stuck like crazy, some of them even ripped open. So try a nonstick, very well greased cookie sheet.

Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes, then flip them over and bake for another 15-20 minutes. I've seen other recipes that only bake these 20 minutes without flipping them over, but that didn't work for me. Follow your gut, the dough should be completely cooked and they should look golden. When they're done, let them cool before you eat (or you'll burn your tongue, guaranteed!)

We took these to a picnic and they held very well. Just wrap them individually in aluminum foil and place them in a sealed container. That will keep the heat and you can eat them still a little warm - so delicious!

What does that smile tell us then?

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Soft sweet or salty crepes

Crepes are awesome because you can make them as delicious as you want by choosing your own fillings. This dish can be a dessert or breakfast, snack or dinner, it all depends on what you fill them with!

This morning I really wanted to have some mexican caramel (cajeta) crepes, and I threw in a couple of turkey breast and cream cheese ones for a sweet and salty balance.

Servings: 8-10 crepes

2 eggs
1 1/4 cup milk
1 cup flour
1 tbsp vanilla extract (optional)
dash of salt

Mix everything together very well and store in the fridge for at least 1 hour. It's best if you leave it overnight. Heat a large nonstick skillet to medium heat and spray with nonstick cooking spray. Pour about a 1/3 cup of the mixture (I used about 3/4 of a soup ladle) into the pan and swirl it, the idea is that you cover the whole skillet with a very thin layer of the mix.
Adjust how much you pour depending on how big your skillet is. Let it cook about 1 minute on each side, until barely golden. You can tell it is ready to be flipped over when the edges curl up, and you can grab it with your fingers and just flip it.

Make the whole batch and lay out all the filling options on the table (like the pizza!). The best way to fill them is by covering half of the crepe with your topping of choice, and folding it over. Then fold again into quarters. Eat with your hands or with a fork and knife, depending on how messy it gets ;)

Good filling choices are (thanks Food College, PA fans for your suggestions!):
- Strawberry jam and philadelphia cream cheese
- Cajeta or caramel
- Turkey breast and cheese (grated, sliced, cream, whichever)
- Nutella
- Nutella and cheese
- Marshmalow spread

Don't be afraid to use garnishes like nuts, chocolate sprinkles, fresh fruit, whipped cream, etc!

I woke Bruno up with this for breakfast this morning, what did he think?

8.7 / 10

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Grilled pick-your-own-toppings pizza with a garlic cherry tomato base

Easiest meal ever!!

I've been wanting a grilled pizza loaded with all sorts of veggies for a while. And when I say for a while I mean I've been planning my toppings carefully, when I shower, before I fall asleep, even during shavasana at yoga when we're not supposed to be thinking about anything (don't tell!).

Here are my dreams come true:

Pre- and post- arugula :)

So, you could go ahead and make your own dough (someday I will, I swear), or just buy it at the store. I love Pilsbury's thin crust, because I just love popping those cardboard cylinders open!

Grilled pizza with a garlic cherry tomato base
Servings: 2 (2 slices each)

1 cylinder Pilsbury Thin Pizza Crust
12 oz gourmet cherry tomatoes (gourmet just means different colors)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tbsp olive oil
dash of salt
1 tsp dried basil leaves

The rest of the ingredients are up to you! We used: artichoke hearts, corn, red and green peppers, zucchini, crispy prosciutto, feta cheese, mexican cheese blend (for Bruno), arugula tossed in lime and salt, sliced shallots, chopped black olives, mushrooms, lemon pepper seasoning, red pepper flakes and cream cheese.

Heat your grill to medium-high. Cut the pizza dough in four pieces and grill about 1-2 minutes on each side. Heat a pan with the olive oil to medium. Saute the garlic until you smell its delectable aroma, then toss the tomatoes in. Stir in the salt and basil and cook for about 3-4 minutes. Spread this tomato mix on the grilled dough, then proceed to add toppings as you wish. I added a bit of cream cheese before the tomatoes on mine.

I suggest placing everything on the table and asking your family or guests to assemble their own, this will make the meal a guaranteed success ;) When finished with the toppings, place in a preheated 375 F oven for 18-20 minutes. One suggestion, if you want arugula on yours, wait until it comes out of the oven.

Mine (left) and Bruno's (right)

So how was it? I quote: "The best homemade pizza I've ever had!"

8.6 / 10

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Curried coconut mussels and clams with red potatoes and corn on the cob

I've been wanting to make a shellfish dish for a while now, and I found this recipe in Cooking Light magazine. Then I remember once my good friend took me to one of those seafood restaurants where you eat off the table, and they paired the seafood with potatoes and corn on the cob. I thought it was brilliant, so here I am recreating that experience.

Curried coconut mussels and clams
Servings: 2

1/2 tbsp olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
1/2 tbsp finely chopped peeled fresh ginger
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 jalapeño pepper, chopped
1 tsp red curry paste
1/2 cup light coconut milk
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/2 tsp dark brown sugar
dash of salt
1 pound small mussels and clams, about 12 pieces of each
1 tbsp basil leaves
1 1/2 tbsp fresh lime juice
2 lime wedges

Heat a large pot with oil over medium-high heat. Add onion, ginger, garlic and jalapeño and saute for about 3 minutes. Stir in the curry paste, make sure you mix it up well for about 30 seconds. Add coconut milk, wine, sugar and salt and bring to a boil. Cook 2 minutes. Stir in the mussels and clams, cover and cook about 5 minutes until they all open. Discard any that do not open. Lastly stir in the basil and juice.

Potatoes and corn on the cob
Servings: 2

10-12 small red potatoes
2 frozen medium corn on the cob
1 tsp paprika
salt to taste
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 tbsp olive oil

Place the potatoes with water over high heat and bring to a boil. Once it boils reduce heat and cook until desired tenderness, about 8-10 minutes. Do the same with the corn, except it only takes about 5 minutes. Take them out of the water and drain. Heat a skillet to medium heat, add oil and garlic and saute for about 1 minute. Add potatoes and corn and stir. Toss in the salt and paprika and stir it in well.

Serve the mussels and clams on a deep plate and add a couple of tablespoons of the coconut curry sauce. Place the potatoes and corn on a serving dish at the center of the table. Dig in!

Now, the Brunometer is not a big fan of seafood (except for fried fish, which he loves), and he said he loved the clams and didn't like the mussels so much. However, for the entire ensemble and the really delicious red curry milk, I get:

Monday, July 25, 2011

Oven-fried chicken cordon bleu

We're kicking off our regular programming once again with a special request from Bruno. He was sitting on the couch last night and really wanted a cordon bleu (we don't have these often, I don't know where his craving came from...)

So I decided to please him (and the Brunometer *wink*) by throwing together some homemade chicken cordon bleus. Now, the thing that had me the most nervous was the hammering of the chicken, since I don't have a kitchen mallet, but I improvised :)

(The pictures kind of suck today, sorry, we were too hungry to have our usual foodoshoots).

Oven-fried chicken cordon bleu
Servings: 3 (or 2 for him and 1 for me)

3 boneless skinless chicken breasts
3 slices of ham (relatively thick)
3/4 cup shredded cheese (whichever kind you want, I used mexican blend)
3 strips of fat free philly cream cheese
1/2 cup flour
1 tbsp cajun seasoning
1 egg
1/2 cup unseasoned bread crumbs
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 375 F.

Place the chicken breast between two wax sheets, and hammer it down to about 1/8 inch thickness, or until you feel you could easily roll them. You can use a heavy cast iron pan, a kitchen hammer, a real hammer, whatever you got. I used my real hammer on its side covered with a ziplock bag.
When they are flat, season them with salt and pepper and place the ham slices on top (I had to cut mine in half) and both cheeses. Fold the chicken in 3 and secure with toothpicks. I had a tough time doing this, and I think maybe using a milanese chicken cut (very thin, wide and long) will be easier next time.
Mix the flour and cajun seasoning on a plate, whisk the egg on another plate, and the breadcrumbs on a third plate. Heat a skillet to medium-high with a bit of cooking spray. Carefully roll the cordon bleus in the flour, then the egg, and finally coat well with the breadcrumbs. Cook in the skillet for about 1 minute on each side, then place them in a baking pan and spray them generously with nonstick cooking spray. Place them in the oven for 20 minutes, then flip them over, spray them with the cooking spray again and cook for a final 10 minutes. This will make the breadcrumbs nice and golden.

Remove the toothpicks and serve with a light salad or steamed veggies, we thought rice would be too many carbs on a plate.

And the oh-so-missed Brunometer gives this dish a:

8.6 / 10

Not bad for my first meal after Diet Week, eh? ;)

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Grilled lemon-pepper catfish with a shaved squash prosciutto salad

Today is the final day of Diet Week! To end on a high note, we had lemon-pepper catfish fillets on a bed of prosciutto, with a shaved squash salad with prosciutto crisps and crumbled feta.

To be honest, I didn't love the salad, in fact I think Bruno liked it more than me. I just don't love the taste/consistency of raw squash. The catfish however was absolutely delicious, and would go excellent with rice!

Grilled lemon-pepper catfish fillet on prosciutto
Servings: 2

2 catfish fillets
2 slices of prosciutto
2 slices of lemon
lemon pepper seasoning
thyme (about 2 sprigs)

Season the fish fillets to taste with the last 5 ingredients. I honestly didn't measure anything, it's pretty hard to over season fish. Once you rubbed it all in there, heat the grill to medium-high. Cook each fillet for about 3 minutes on each side, placing a slice of lemon on top of each. Place the prosciutto slices on the grill with about 1 minute to go, and when you serve layer the fish on top of the prosciutto.

Shaved squash prosciutto salad
Servings: 2

1 small zucchini
1 medium yellow squash
1/8 tsp salt
2 tbsp thinly sliced fresh mint
1 tbsp olive oil
1/4 tsp grated lemon rind
1/2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 thin slices prosciutto, chopped
2 tbsp feta cheese

This recipe I got from Cooking Light magazine (again). Cut the zucchini and squash into quarters and discard the seeds. Shave the zucchini and squash into thin strips using a vegetable peeler. Toss them with salt in a bowl. Combine the mint, olive oil, lemon rind, juice and pepper and stir with a whisk. Pour over the zucchini and squash and toss. Heat a nonstick skillet over medium heat and add the prosciutto, saute until crisp. When you serve, sprinkle the prosciutto and feta on top of the squash mixture.

Overall, the meal was very light, minty and summery, leaves you feeling full but not stuffed. Next time I'll skip this salad and pair the catfish with some rice, though ;)

Weight: 153 lbs / 69.4 kg

Measurements: B: 91 cm, W: 72 cm, H: 93 cm
B: 35.8 in, W: 28.3 in, H: 36.6 in

Weight: -5 lbs / - 2.2 kg
Measurements: -3 cm / -1.2 in

Not 8 pounds, but 5 is not bad for a week!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Sweet 'n' salty grilled chicken salad

Day 4 of Diet Week brings a bright green salad with some protein for good measure.

The chicken was yogurt-marinated with a bunch of spices, the salad has grapes, pear, pistachios and feta cheese. Clearly nothing can go wrong with this combination!

Yogurt-marinated chicken breasts
Servings: 2

2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
1/2 cup greek yogurt
1/4 cup chopped cilantro stems and leaves
1/8 large onion, chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
1 garlic clove, chopped
1 tsp lime juice
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/2" piece fresh ginger, peeled and chopped

If you have a blender, blend everything except the chicken until smooth. If you don't (like me), just mash it up together really well. Place the mixture into a ziplock bag and throw your chicken breasts in there (if you haven't noticed yet, I love ziplocks). Shake it up well and leave it to marinate for at least 3 hours.

When you're ready to cook, heat the grill to medium-high. Spray a coating of nonstick cooking spray. Scrape the excess marinade off the chicken breasts and cook for 3-4 minutes on each side (as you can see from the pic, I had a fight with one of my chicken breasts). Let them rest for a couple of minutes.

Marinating the chicken in yogurt like this makes it really juicy and smooth, play with this method and all sorts of different spices!

Sweet 'n' salty salad
Servings: 2

1 tbsp sherry vinegar
2 tbsp olive oil
1 medium shallot, sliced thinly
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 tsp honey
1/2 tbsp sour cream
3/4 heart of romaine, chopped
1 cup arugula
1 1/2 tbsp chopped pistachios
1/8 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup red grapes, sliced in half
1 medium pear, in little cubes
1/4 cup feta cheese

To make the dressing, combine the first 6 ingredients. Toss everything else together and split into two plates. I'm a dressing on the side kind of gal, so I just put the dressing on the table, however, you can toss the veggies and fruits with the dressing if you wish.

I think I would have liked the dressing a bit sweeter, so if you like sweet dressings feel free to add some sugar or more honey.

To serve, slice the chicken into thick strips and place on the salad. I added a slice of toasted sourdough bread to make it a meal ;)

Today's data:
Weight: 156 lbs / 71 kg

Measurements: B: 91 cm, W: 73 cm, H: 93.5 cm
B: 35.8 in, W: 28.7 in, H: 36.8 in

Weight: -2 lbs / - 1 kg
Measurements: -1.5 cm / -0.6 in

We're losing inches but the weight is so stubborn!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Tzatziki tuna melts

Day 3 of Diet Week.

Today I decided to throw leftovers together, and didn't follow any recipe. These tasty tuna melts came out of my experimenting, and I'm not disappointed! Diet Week is turning out to be a good good thing.

Tzatziki tuna melts
Servings: 1

1 can white flaked tuna in water
1 green onion, chopped
1 tbsp grated parmesan cheese
1/4 tsp lemon pepper seasoning
2 tbsp tzatziki sauce
1/4 English cucumber, peeled and sliced
3 slices sourdough bread (from the narrow ends of the loaf)
1 inch cube queso fresco, grated

Heat the oven to 375F. Place the bread slices in there 4 minutes to toast. While the bread is in the oven, mix the tuna, onion, parmesan and lemon pepper seasoning together well in a bowl. While mixing try to separate the tuna so there's no big chunks. If this weren't diet week, I would have put some cream cheese or mayo in the mix too, feel free to do so!

Take the bread out of the oven and spread the tzatziki sauce on it, then layer the cucumbers and tuna mix, and sprinkle the queso fresco on top. Place them back in the oven for 4 minutes, then switch the oven to broil for another 2 minutes or until the cheese turns golden.

Serve with anything you like! A salad goes well, I had some leftover coleslaw from yesterday's dish so I used it as a side.

Now for the technical stuff.
Weight: 156 lbs / 71 kg

Measurements: B: 91 cm, W: 73.5 cm, H: 93.5 cm
B: 35.8 in, W: 28.9 in, H: 36.8 in

Weight: -2 lbs / - 1 kg
Measurements: -1 cm / -0.4 in

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Open-faced blackened catfish sandwich with garlic-basil popcorn

So, for day two of Diet Week we are borrowing yet another recipe from Cooking light magazine. I only tweaked it a little bit!

Everything about this recipe is simple, and I think I will be making it again tomorrow, it was that good! I know popcorn is a weird side, but I've been wanting to airpop popcorn for a while now, and it's my diet and I eat what I want to ;)

Catfish open-faced sandwich
Servings: 4 (Naturally, I divided everything by 4 for myself)

1 3/4 tsp paprika
1 tsp dried oregano (I used basil)
3/4 tsp ground red pepper (I used chili powder)
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 ground black pepper
4 (4-6oz) catfish fillets
2 tsp olive oil
1/3 cup plain fat-free Greek yogurt
3 tbsp fresh lime juice
1 tbsp honey
2 cups packaged cabbage-carrot coleslaw
1 cup chopped fresh cilantro
4 (1oz) slices sourdough bread, toasted (or grill it like me)

Combine the spices and rub them on both sides of the fillet. Heat a saute or cast-iron pan over high heat and coat it with the oil. Add the fish and cook about 4 minutes on each side.

Mix the yogurt, juice and honey and toss well with the cabbage and cilantro.

Top each bread slice with slaw and 1 fillet. Place the remaining slaw on top of the fillets.

If I could change anything, I would probably remove the crust from the bread, it was really hard to cut through!

Kettle-popped basil and garlic popcorn
Servings: 1

1 tbsp popcorn
1/2 tbsp canola oil
garlic powder to taste
dried basil to taste
salt to taste

Heat the oil in a deep pot over medium-high heat. Cover but leave a little slit. Throw a couple of popcorn kernels in there from the beginning, when they pop you know your oil is ready. When it is, take the pot away from the heat and throw the popcorn in. Count to 30 while swirling the pot a little to coat all the kernels. After you finish counting place the pot back on the heat. Pick it up every 20 seconds or so to swirl the pan back and forth for 10 counts. Listen for the pops and/or if your lid is transparent check to see if all the kernels are popped. When done, place the popcorn in a bowl and toss with the garlic, basil and salt.

And the nitty gritty:

Weight: 158lbs / 72kg

Measurements: B: 91 cm, W: 74 cm, H: 93.5 cm
B: 36 in, W: 29 in, H: 37 in

Progress: -0.5 cm / -0.2 in

Monday, July 18, 2011

Edamame salad with crisp steak bits

This week we are starting a little project called "Diet Week".

Since September 2010 I've lost 44 pounds without dieting. All I've done is start to cook more at home (all the recipes you see here), and exercise at least 1 hour a day. I started at 200 lbs and my goal weight is 150 lbs. The problem is these last 6-8 pounds have been incredibly stubborn, and I decided to diet for a week to see if I could break the plateau.

So the Brunometer is going on vacation for this week's recipes. Instead, I'm going to include the meal's nutritional information and my weight and measurements so we can all track my progress :)

The food I'll be cooking will have very little salt and oil and will be mostly salads, fish or chicken. I'll be having cereal for breakfast with skim milk, and veggie and fruit as snacks and dinner.

To kick off diet week, I decided to make a salad I found in Cooking Light magazine, because I had all the ingredients at home.

1 1/2 cups frozen shelled edamame
1 tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
1/2 tbsp minced peeled fresh ginger
1/2 tbsp light mayonnaise
1/2 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp rice wine vinegar
1/2 dark sesame oil (I didn't have this so I used extra virgin olive oil and added some sesame seeds)
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 chopped seeded English cucumber
2 green onions, chopped
nonstick cooking spray
4 oz flank steak, cut into small pieces
pinch of salt and pepper

Boil the edamame in water until they all gather at the top. Drain them, rinse with cold water and drain them again. Combine soy sauce, ginger, mayo, mustard, vinegar and oil in a bowl and whisk. Add the edamame, tomatoes, cucumber, onion and toss to coat.

Heat a medium cast-iron skillet over high heat (I used my griddle). Spray it with the nonstick cooking spray. Toss the steak pieces with the salt and pepper and cook until browned and crisp, stirring frequently.

Split the veggies mix into two plates and sprinkle the meat pieces on top.

I honestly was not expecting much from this but I was happily surprised. It was very satisfying, I had planned to eat a piece of Naan with it but it wasn't necessary. I felt very full and still do a couple of hours later! I'm trying to eat less fat though, so I'll definitely be sticking to fish or chicken for the rest of the week.

Weight: 72 kg / 158 lbs (I gained two pounds this past week, oops!)
Measurements: B: 91 cm, W: 74.5 cm, H: 93.5 cm / B: 36 in, W: 29 in, H: 37 in

8 pounds to go!

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