Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Tortilla Española with Spicy Brava Sauce

This one's for anyone on the East Coast currently facing an almost bare pantry in the wake of Sandy. If you've got eggs, onions and potatoes you've got a meal. I tend to make this recipe when I've got a bunch of eggs that are about to expire.

Tortilla Española is one of my favorite traditional Spanish dishes, and I add a little spicy brava sauce on the side to give it a little extra kick.

For the tortilla española, you'll need:
- 6 eggs
- 1 yellow/vidalia onion
- 1 lb yukon gold potatoes
- 1/2 cup olive oil

For the brava sauce, you'll need:
- 1 tbs olive oil
- 1/2 yellow/vidalia onion
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon cayenne/red pepper
- 3 cloves of garlic
- 1 14.5 ounce can diced or whole tomatoes (you'll be pureeing it, so it all ends up the same)
- 1/8 teaspoon sugar
- 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
- 1-2 tbs hot sauce, your choice

Yes, this takes 1/2 cup of olive oil but fear not, you'll end up straining about 1/4 cup off so don't feel too guilty about it! Overall you're only looking at...

Calories: 165 for 1/8 of the omelette, 10 calories per tablespoon for the brava sauce

Potatoes, onions and olive oil = GOOD

To Make the Tortilla Española

1. Quarter and thinly slice the onion and potatoes. The more uniformly everything is sliced the more evenly cooked your overall dish will be. Place into a large non-stick skillet with the olive oil and turn the burner to medium heat. Cook for 20-30 minutes or until potatoes are soft. Note that you can really use whatever potatoes and onions you'd like or have on hand, but I like the sweetness in the yellow onions and yukon golds, plus the yellow potatoes tend to cook more easily.

2. In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the eggs and add salt and pepper to taste.

3. Once the time is up on the potatoes and onions, pour from the pan to a colander over the sink. Shake it to remove excess oil, then pour the potato and onion mixture into the eggs. Stir mixture so that all the potatoes are evenly coated with the eggs.

4. Return the mixture to the pan over medium heat. Cook for 5 minutes, and I mean 5 MINUTES. Time that and watch is like a hawk. No comes the hard part...

5. You're going to need to place a plate over the top of the pan and in one quick, steady movement flip the mixture onto the plate. This takes guts, and you've got to just trust yourself and do it quickly. If you try to flip it slowly, you'll get egg everywhere.

6. Now gently slide the half cooked egg mixture back into the pan with the uncooked side down. Cook for another 5 minutes, almost exactly. Remove and set on a plate or cutting board and let it cool for at least 10 minutes. Traditionally this dish is served at at least room temperature, and I personally like it a bit chilled.

Ta da! You've got a Spanish dish!

To Make the Brava Sauce:

1. Dice the onions and saute them with the olive oil over medium heat for about 5 minutes or until they are softened.

2. Add the garlic, diced, along with the paprika and red pepper. Stir so the seasonings evenly coat the onions. Cook for another minute or so.

3. Pour in the canned tomatoes and 1/4 cup of water. As mentioned it doesn't really matter if you have whole or diced or crushed tomatoes, because everything will be pureed later on. Stir in the sugar, add a little salt, and cook over medium heat for about 20 minutes. The liquid should almost entirely evaporate.

Tomatoes before.

Tomatoes after being cooked down.

4. Pour the tomato mixture into a blender or food processor. Add the vinegar and hot sauce. The recipe I stole this from calls for "a few dashes" of hot sauce, which was laughable to me. I add about a tablespoon of Sriracha and a tablespoon of Frank's Red Hot. Puree the mixture until smooth. Serve on the side of the tortilla española or with fried potatoes as a side for another night. This is ketchup's fancy, kick ass, older cousin. The cousin that buys you booze over Thanksgiving break and gives you their old driver's license before you head to college even though you look nothing alike.

The finished product - a bright, spicy brava sauce.

So next time you're about to throw away a bunch of eggs, spend $4 on potatoes and onions and make this super delicious, good at any time dish.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Protein Packed Egg Muffins For Less Than 70 Calories Each

I've seen a lot of egg muffins pop up in my apparently low carb obsessed Pinterest stream, so I finally decided to make my own and get breakfast for the week done and done. This recipe from Kalyn's Kitchen seems to come up the most, but I significantly reduced the calories and upped the taste with some shallots, so I win.

I present to you, your breakfast for a week at 70 calories a muffin!

You'll need:
- 3 eggs
- 1 cup egg whites
- 7 strips of center cut bacon
- 1 shallot
- 1 tsp Spike seasoning
- 4 oz steamed broccoli, chopped
- 1/2 cup 2% milk/low fat sharp cheddar

Calories: less than 70 each

Recipe makes 1 dozen "muffins."

Before baking

First, dice the shallot. Any onion will really do, but I had shallot around for another recipe so I used it and it really added more than your average white or yellow onion, but if you already have that or green onions lying around, use what ya got. Don't cook the green onion, please.

Cook the bacon in a frying pan to your desired crispness and add the diced shallots. When they're done, blot the lot with paper towels and crumble/dice the bacon.

While the bacon is cooking, steam and chop the broccoli. Pull out your muffin tin and either use silicon liners or skip the liners all together, but lightly spray either with olive oil or Pam spray. I think paper liners would end in a disaster with this, so let's avoid that all together.

Divide the broccoli evenly into each muffin cup. Sprinkle the cheese on top of the broccoli, then add the bacon and onion mixture on top of that.

In a large bowl whisk together the eggs, egg whites and Spike seasoning. If you don't have Spike I would just add some garlic powder and dry mustard, but Spike really is worth the investment.

Pour the egg mixture over the meat, cheese and veggies already in the cups. Put in just enough that the top is moist.

Bake at 375 for about 15 minutes. Let cool for at least 5 minutes before eating.

You can alter this recipe with whatever meat, cheese and veggie combo you'd like. Spinach and feta? Why not! Canadian bacon and green peppers? Sure! These are good for about a week in the fridge, so you can grab one and microwave it in in no time every morning while still eating a nice, healthy home cooked breakfast backed with protein.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Lazy Slow Cooker Spaghetti and Meatballs For Two

This recipe is not going to blow your mind. This recipe is not going to change the way you think about spaghetti and meatballs. This recipe WILL, however, get you through a lazy Sunday or that end of the week burnout when you don't want to cook but you know you really ought to feed yourself something that's not Jimmy Johns or a frozen pizza.

I have yet to find a good frozen, pre-made meatball. It takes about 20 minutes to assemble these guys and they are infinitely better than anything in the frozen section. Well worth the minimal effort.

You'll need: 
- 3/4 lb any ground meat (chicken, turkey, or lean ground beef)
-  1.5 tbs olive oil
- 1 onion
- 1 rib celery
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 1/4 cup panko crumbs
- 1 egg
- 1 jar spaghetti sauce

Calories will vary based on the meat you use, but unless you go full fat ground beef these are lean and healthy!

1) Rough chop the onion and celery, then toss them in a food processor with the garlic cloves and pulse until they're finely chopped.

2) Cook the onion, celery and garlic mixture in a large skillet coated with the olive oil until all are softened.

3) In a large bowl, crack the egg and whisk it. Add in the ground meat, panko and vegetable mixture. Mix thoroughly.

4) Pour about 1/3 to 1/2 of the spaghetti sauce in the bottom of a slow cooker. Form the meatballs into 1 1/2 inch meatballs and place in the slow cooker. Pour the remaining spaghetti sauce on top. Cook on low heat for about 6 hours.

5) Serve over cooked pasta. Whole grain if you want to be a good kid. Last time I made this I added my mock Olive Garden Italian salad and all was right with the world.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Parmesan Crusted Tilapia

Here's a quick way to perfectly and easily bake frozen white fish like tilapia. Remember kids, always thaw your fish in cold water and pat it dry before following any of these steps. If you thaw it in warm or hot water, your fish will start to cook and it's not recommended by food safety professionals who are just trying to keep you from using your sick days for real sick days. 

You'll need: 

- 4 tilapia filets (any white fish like cod or catfish will do, about 4-6 oz each)
- 1/4 cup olive oil based mayo
- 1/2 cup panko
- 1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon onion powder

Calories: approx 200 calories per filet, depending on the size

Notes: if you use regular mayo instead of olive oil based you might taste the mayo too much. Use Miracle Whip and you're screwed. If you're knew to panko, you can usually find it in the Asian section of your grocery store if it's not with the rest of the bread crumbs. I use panko because it's lower in calories per cup than traditional bread crumbs, but you could use unseasoned bread crumbs or crushed unseasoned crackers of any kind in a pinch. 

And for this dish especially, please don't use green can "parmesan." You'll make Julia Child's ghost cry and I do that enough on my own for the both of us. Don't worry, we have a glass of red wine afterward and laugh about my misdeeds together. (This doesn't really happen. I am not really friends with Julia Child or her ghost. But a girl can dream.) 

1) Set the oven to 400 degrees. Grease a 8 x 8 square casserole dish with olive oil spray. 

2) In a small bowl, stir together the panko, parmesan cheese, garlic powder and onion powder. Add salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste. Place on a large plate so you can dip the fish into it. 

3) Preferably using a pastry brush, coat the fish filets with the mayo. I know this sounds odd, but trust me. It will make the most moist, flakey fish you've ever baked and it doesn't taste like a 50's housewife made nightmare. Promise!

4)  Dip the fish into the panko mixture on the plate, flipping to get each side evenly coated. Place in the greased casserole dish and if you have any leftover mixture, pour it over the top of the whole dish. 

5) Bake for 8 to 10 minutes. Keep an eye because you don't want to overcook the fish. If you over cook fish...

And enjoy! The mayo trick is my new favorite way to cook fish because it really keeps it from drying out, even if it's frozen instead of fresh.

As you can see above I served this with Ina Garten's Garlc Roasted Potatoes (the secret is a crapton of good olive oil) and this AMAHZING pesto twice baked spaghetti squash

No, really. Both those sides are AMAHZING.
Sorry I'm not sorry I use the word amahzing at an in-sehn frequency.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Something to Come Home To: Slow Cooker Whole Chicken

Heads up, fellow cheapskates! (Or fellow people who spend their money on shoes, vacations and concert tickets). Aldi has 5lb frozen chickens for about $4. I was tired of shelling out $8 for a small rotisserie from the grocery store that I had no control over the ingredients or extra fat going into it. If you've got a big enough crock pot, you can slow cook an entire chicken into a moist, fall off the bone feast.

Frozen chickens are usually cheaper and (bonus!) you don't have to worry about it spoiling when you need to put off cooking for late nights at work or last minute happy hours. However, it will take abut 48 hours for it to thaw in the fridge, so you'll have to plan ahead. I like to make these overnight on Sundays or during the day on Mondays. Then I've got great, no fat added chicken meat for soups, casseroles, salads and sandwiches all week.

You'll need:

- 4-5 lb chicken
- 1 large onion
- 4 carrots
- 4 celery stalks
- 4 cloves garlic
- 4 potatoes
- 1 lemon

For the dry rub:
- 8 tsp salt
- 4 tsp paprika
- 2 tsp cayenne pepper
- 2 tsp onion powder
- 2 tsp thyme
- 2 tsp white peper
- 1 tbs garlic powder
- 1 tbs cracked black pepper

It looks messy, but trust. Just trust.

Dry rub and most of the recipe blatantly stolen from The Little Kitchen.

1) Rough chop the potatoes, onion, carrots, and celery and line the bottom of the cooker with these veggies. No need to peel or rinse, they'll cook just fine over the day. The potatoes are optional as they don't add to the flavor of the chicken, but they DO absorb the chicken fat and you'll regret not throwing a couple potatoes in once you smell the roast at the end of the day.

2) Remove the giblets bag and the neck from the chicken if yours came with these. Pat the chicken dry with paper towels and place on a large cutting board.

3) Slice the lemon in half, removing the seeds and some of the juice. Then stick that sucker up the chicken's butt.

4) Smash the garlic cloves and rub over the skin of the chicken. Stick the leftover garlic stubs in the butt, too. Yes, I'm going to talk about stuffing stuff up chicken butts as many times as I possibly can. Spin off blog? Maybe.

5) Mix the seasonings together in a bowl to create the dry rub. Rub all over both sides of the chicken and evenly coat the skin. I have tried making my own rubs (italian style, rosemary and thyme, etc.) and they're not as good as the dry rub above. Trust. If I'm saying don't stray from the recipe, you know I mean it. I did double it though. Much like Miley Cyrus, I can't be tamed.

6) Put the chicken in the slow cooker on top of the veggies and close that lid up. Place on low for about 6-8 hours. This is best to set just before you go to bed or just before you leave the house for work.

When you get home your house is going to smell something incredible and you'll be so glad you can eat it RIGHT THEN. As you can see in the picture above, the meat falls off the bone so easily that it's hard to get a pretty, intact picture of the bird. So no, this isn't a thing of beauty to serve guests, but it's a great staple to take you away from mystery grocery store birds and the nitrates in lunch meat.


You're going to have a lot of meat. A lot. And you might not be able to eat it all in the four to five days it's good in the fridge. But no worries! You can freeze the cooked meat and it's great in chilis, soups and casseroles. (In fact, I thawed some from an earlier roast for my Creamy Chicken, Mushroom and Leak Soup.) Not so great in non-liquid based dishes as the thawed chicken can get dry.

You're also going to have a lot of leftover liquids. I haven't tried it yet, but apparently you can use the leftover liquid and bones to make your own stock in the same crock pot. I'm lazy, so I just froze the delicious liquids into single serving ice cube trays (extra ice cube trays are the best $2 I've ever spent at the dollar store). I've used them to flavor sauces and as an added punch to boxed/canned chicken stock and broth.

And last but not least, this is super people and animal pleasing. Photographic evidence:

Introducing Ollie! Ollie has a sister, Franny. They're both insane, adorable and at least slightly obese.
This shot was taken after I made him get off the counter, hence the indignant and jealous stare. 
He wanted that bird, bad.
He got some meat as a treat later.
I'm not a perfect woman, okay?

Monday, October 8, 2012

Creamy Chicken, Leek and Mushroom Soup

So first of all, I'm back! Sorry kids, I started a new job and have been out of town and so many other excuses, but I am trying to get back on track. I've been cooking all along, so I've got a good back log and many new recipes I'm dying to try that you'll see soon.

Second of all, it's getting cold in Chicago. I love fall and winter so instead of getting sad when it starts getting darker at night, I enjoy that the weather encourages the wearing of leggings, fuzzy boots and big sweaters and the eating of comfort foods and, if you're trying to comfort with fewer calories, great soups. 

This flavorful, creamy soup won't set you back like the casseroles and cookies that the holidays will be throwing your way before we know it, but it's a warm hug for your insides with a huge depth of flavor.

What You'll Need:

  • 1 lb pulled rotisserie chicken meat, no skin or about 2  large chicken breasts, poached and pulled
  • 4 cups chicken broth (2 cans or 1 big box)
  • 3 tbs butter
  • 3/4 lbs frozen chopped leeks, thawed or 2 fresh leeks
  • 2 ribs of celery, finely chopped
  • 1 peeled carrot, thinly sliced
  • 8 oz mushrooms
  • 1/3 cup + 2 tbs heavy cream
  • 1 oz brandy or sherry (red or white wine will work in a pinch)
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 tbs dried thyme
  • 1/2 tbs dried oregano
  • 1/2 tbs dried parsley
Calories: 275 calories for 1/4 of this HUGE recipe, or about 1.5 cups of soup

A note about leeks... I love leeks. They're flavorful, low calorie and great for your digestive system. However, they are a pain in the ass to clean and I always end up with gritty leeks no matter how much I rinse them. Trader Joe's and Whole Foods usually carry frozen leeks pre-cleaned and diced. These are a God send. Microwave them for 1.5 minutes and strain the excess water and you'll be good to go without the grit in 1/4 of the prep time.

In a large pot, melt the butter over medium high heat. Throw in the carrots, leeks, and celery. Cook until softened, about 7-10 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook for about 5 minutes until they're sauteed. Throw in the chicken broth, heavy cream, apple cider vinegar and brandy/sherry/wine. Stir in the dried herbs and add salt and pepper to taste. Reduce to medium and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally to keep the heavy cream from separating from the broth. Add the rotisserie chicken and simmer for 5 more minutes. And in the time it took you to clean the back log of dishes in your sink, you're done! If you're super starving, throw a hunk of baguette on the side to mop up the delicious broth at the bottom of your bowl. 

If you don't want to do a store bought rotisserie chicken, I've got a super easy slow cooker rotisserie chicken recipe coming soon. Keep an eye out!