Sunday, February 3, 2008

Creamy Bacon and Butternut Squash Pasta

This recipe takes a little while longer than my typical recipe, but its a hearty meal that sounds more decadent than it is.

2-3 Slices of Bacon ((I used reduced fat bacon w/ only 3 grams of fat/serving)
1-1.5 cups of chopped butternut squash
1-1.5 cups of chopped swiss chard
1/4 cup of chopped onions
2-3 cloves of garlic, cut in half
olive oil or olive oil spray
1/2 cup of low sodium chicken broth
1 tablespoon of heavy cream
1 serving of short pasta (whatever you think a seving is. I used whole grain fusilli, but penne would work well too)
parmesan or other hard cheese for grating

chopped fresh parsley
lemon juice

1. Toss the garlic and squash with a little olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast the squash in a 350 degree oven for 25-40 minutes (cook squash untill browned and soft) in roasting pan or oven safe skillet. You'll want to start the squash for about 10-15 minutes before the bacon goes in the pan. Turn as necessary every 10-15 minutes.
2. Chop bacon into bite-sized pieces. Cook over medium low heat until it reaches your desired crispiness then drain on a paper towel. Reserve the oil in the pan.
3. Bring water to a boil for the pasta.
4. Lower the heat on the skillet to low. Sautee the onions in the reserved oil from the bacon. Once the onions are soft discard any remaining oil (you can leave about a teaspoon, just dump out the extra)
5. Add the chicken broth and turn up the heat so the stock starts to reduce, but not too far
6. At this point the pasta water should be boiling. Cook pasta according to the directions. When there is about 4 minutes remaining to cook the pasta, add the chopped chard to the chicken broth onion mixture. Remove the squash from the oven and discard the garlic.
7. When the chard is wilted, but not quite finished, add the tablespoon of cream, season to taste and lower the heat as necessary to reserve enough liquid for the pasta. The sauce should be thick at this point, but the pan shouldn't be dry, you want about 1/4 cup of liquid remaining.
8. Add some cheese to the sauce (maybe a tablespoon or so. Add the sqush to the mixture as well.
9. Drain the pasta, reserving about 1/2 cup of the cooking water. Add the pasta to the sauce/chard/squash mixture and toss with the sauce. Add a tiny bit of the pasta water and turn up the heat to let the pasta absorb the sauce, and the sauce to finish reducing. Add a bit more cheese to taste. Add the Parsley and bacon now. Heat for another minute or so and plate. Sprinkle with parsley or cheese or fresh ground pepper to taste.

The trick: chopping the bacon into little pieces gives you bacon in every bite, without actually adding that many calories to the dish. The touch of cream adds richness, but the small amount won't push you over the top since the sauce is mostly chicken broth. I do recommend the Wellshire Farms reduced fat bacon, I can't tell the difference, it tastes great and is only 60 calories per serving. Down right reasonable. You can also add some cannelini beans to bulk up the protein or add more vegetables and reduce the amount of pasta.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Quick Chicken Curry

I love chicken curry. This is a speedy version. I'll also add a longer one later. This is a bit lighter, and has more vegtables than the one I grew up with. This is somewhere between the thai and indian yellow curries.

Total time: 30 minutes or so
Servings: 2 or so
Chicken breast, chopped into bite-sized pieces (2 serving, maybe 4-6 tenders or so)
Oil for sautéing (any is fine I use olive or canola typically)
Curry Powder
1/3 can of diced tomatoes
1/4 onion
1 clove of garlic
chicken broth
2 cups of chopped vegetables: good options include zucchini, bell peppers, carrots, cooked butternut squash or pumpkin

Optional Ingredients
Chopped cilantro
coconut milk
cayenne pepper or crushed red pepper

1. Heat a saucepan over medium heat. Add oil or cooking spray to coat the pan. Brown the chicken on both sides, remove from the pan and set aside.
2. Turn down the heat and saute the onions until soft, add more oil or broth to saute if necessary. Once the onions are soft, saute the garlic until fragrant. Add about 2 teaspoons of curry powder (add the chile here as well) to the onion mixture, and heat for about 2 minutes.
3. Add the tomatoes to the pan and sautee for about 1 minute. Then add chicken broth. You'll need about 1/2 cup. Raise the heat and bring the mixture to a simmer. Add a little bit of coconut milk here if you like. Add the chicken, beans, and vegetables and cook for about 5 more minutes (if you use zucchini or peppers, add at the last 2 minutes so they remain crisp, squash or carrots can stay in longer). The sauce should thicken, and it should be saucy. Season to taste.
4. Serve with rice or couscous. Top with chopped cilantro if you like. Freeze the leftovers.

Parsley Caper Sauce

Great chimichurri-esque sauce for meat, salad dressing or vegetables.
Total Time: 10 minutes or so
1/2 bunch or parsley
Peppery or grassy olive oil
2 large garlic cloves
3 teaspoons of capers (mostly drained, but no need to rinse)
1 lemon
salt and pepper to taste

1. Get out your mini-chopper or food processor
2. Wash parsley and remove the stems, drop it in the processor.
3. Add the garlic cloves (you can lightly chop them to save time) and the capers to the processor.
4. Pulse the items in the food processor till chopped
5. Add the juice of 1/2 lemon
6. Add olive oil (maybe a quarter cup, but you can add more)
7. Process till smooth and chunky, add more water or oil if the mixture isn't coming together
8. Taste for salt and pepper, store in the fridge

Use this sauce on meat, poultry, seafood, or pasta salad,

Pasta from the Pantry

Here is a quick and easy recipe, all ingredients from the pantry. This is hearty and light at the same time. The sauce comes together as the water boils, and requires minimal prep and chopping. To top it off, it is full of fiber!

Total Time: about 25 minutes
Dry Pasta (penne, rotini, bowties -- essentially any non-long pasta shape)
1 clove of garlic
6-8 sundried tomato halves (oil packed take a little less time, but the dried ones are better here)
1 roasted pepper, any color
1/2 cup or artichoke hearts (I use frozen, but water packed canned work fine as well)
1/3 cup of chickpeas (from canned of course)
1 Teaspoon of tomato paste
Chicken Broth (I like the carton version, easy to open and save in the fridge for quick flavor
Dried Basil to taste
Salt and Pepper
Olive Oil for cooking (even spray oil works to save fat)
1 teaspoon of Olive Oil for finishing (optional)
  1. Boil water for the pasta
  2. Heat a medium sauce pan over low heat
  3. Slice the garlic clove thinly into a few circles, sauté in oil in the sauce pan (or with cooking spray). The garlic will soften and become fragrant. Keep the heat low, we just want to create a
  4. subtle base flavor
  5. While the garlic sautes, chop the roasted pepper into strips. Chop the artichoke hearts into bit-sized pieces. Chop (or use kitchen shears) the sun dried tomatoes into small pieces.
  6. Add 1/4-1/2 c of chicken broth to the sauce pan and add the sun dried tomatoes to reconstitute and hydrate. Turn the heat up to a low simmer (medium heat). Add the tomato paste and stir into the chicken broth. Let this simmer till the tomatoes hydrate, maybe 5 minutes or so.
  7. The pasta water should be boiling at this point, salt the water add the pasta (how hungry are you? Add about 1 handful of pasta if you are trying to cut back your carbs and 2 if you are pretty hungry) and cook according to the directions on the package. You want to undercook the pasta just a bit, taking it out 2-3 minutes before it is al dente (it'll finish cooking in the sauce)
  8. Take out the garlic pieces now (optional). Add the roasted peppers, chickpeas, dried basil and season to taste with salt and pepper. If the pan looks dry add more broth. Once the pasta is 2-3 minutes before being removed, add the artichoke hearts (so they don't cook too long and get too mushy).
  9. Take out the pasta, and drop it in the saucepan. No need to use a strainer here, the extra water will thicken the sauce. Turn up the heat to increase the simmer. Mix the noodles around with the sauce until everything is hot, and most of the liquid is evaporated. You can also add you olive oil for finishing at this point. Check the seasoning and plate. Optional add-ons: crumbled bacon, cheese or chopped parsley.

Depending on your choice pasta, you'll end up with about 12 grams of fiber with standard pasta and 20 grams with whole wheat pasta. You'll also have 3-4 servings of veggies in this meal. Not bad for 30 minutes of work.

How to use up the chickpeas. Here are a few quick and easy ideas.
  1. Sauté the beans with onions and garlic. Finish with a squirt of lemon juice and a teaspoon of nicer olive oil. Serve as a side with fish or chicken. Or mix it with some couscous for a side dish with pork chops.
  2. Make some high fiber chicken curry.
  3. Make hummus
  4. Toss with Chimichurri sauce, cooked chicken, cherry tomatoes and steamed or sauteed swiss chard for a quick lunch -- you can do this in the microwave too, add chicken a bit of chicken broth, chopped swiss chard and the beans. Microwave about 2 minutes, till food is hot and chard is soft. Or leave out the chard, and add fresh spinach or arugula to the hot chicken and beans so it wilts slightly. Then add the tomatoes and chimichurri.
  5. Toss with shrimp and a parsley caper sauce.

Well Stocked Pantry

Here are a few go to ingredients, frozen and pantry. I'll add to this list as time goes on.

Diced Tomatoes (mix of plain, Italian flavored and Latin flavored)
Tomato Paste
Canned Beans (low sodium)
Chicken Broth (low sodium or regular)
Sundried tomatoes (oil packed or not)
Roasted Peppers (not oil packed)
Whole Wheat Pasta, a variety of shapes long and short
White Rice, long grain, basmati, jasmine, short grain and medium grain
Long Grain Brown Rice
Whole Wheat couscous
Olive Oil (bulk extra virgin, citrus flavored, grassy premium oil, buttery premium oil)
Canola Oil
Grapeseed Oil
Balsamic Vinegar (plain, fig)
Onions (typically white or yellow for the pantry)
Garlic (I buy peeled cloves to save time)
Dried Chiles

Artichoke hearts
Bell Peppers
Green Beans
Grilled Chicken Strips
Salmon Fillets
Uncooked Chicken Tenders
Frozen Berries
Sweet Corn

Italian Seasoning
Crushed Red Peppers
Cayenne Peppers
Curry Powder
Cloves (whole)
Cumin (whole and ground)
Coriander (whole)
Mustard Seeds (whole)
Smoked Paprika

Intro and Purpose

I live by myself. So this means that I make plenty of meals for one during the week. I thought I'd share a few quick and easy recipes with you, and some tips and tricks to reuse the leftovers. A little about me? I tend to bring my lunch to work. I also freeze the time consuming entrees for later, and use them to bring to lunch.

In terms of my eating habits: I like most cuisines, and won't stick to a particular style. Think California cuisine. Some weeks (or periods) I skew towards Medditereanean flavors, but also incorporate other themes. Most recipes will take around 30 minutes, and may utilize canned or prepared items for efficiency. I am also trying to add more beans, veggies and whole grains, so you may see these turn up. Measurements are optional, most recvipes aren't vary exact, since that is my cooking style so edit as you see fit to suit your preferences, likes or lifestlye choices. I hope you enjoy these recipes!