Tofu Spicy Fries

May 24, 2010

Chef’s Notes: These crunchy, spicy tofu sticks are a great low-carb-high-protein alternative to potatoes. They don’t taste like potato, but they’re definitely not tofu-y either.

Nutritional comparison.
Arby’s Curly Fries (medium) – Calories: 397, Fat 24, Sodium: 928, Carbs: 46. Protein: 5.
Tofu spicy fries – Calories: 120, Fat: 7 (?), Sodium: 17, Carbs: 15, Protein: 26. (The fat might be higher; it was hard to calculate).

Tofu Spicy Fries

Tofu Spicy Fries
(serves 2)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Cover a baking sheet with canola oil – use enough so that there is about a 1/4-inch on the bottom.

Cut 8 ounces of extra firm tofu into sticks that look like French fries. (You should have about 20 sticks.) Next, place 1/4 C. cornmeal in plastic baggie, and add about a teaspoon of some combination of these spices:

    Paprika
    Mrs. Dash extra spicy seasoning blend
    Red pepper flakes
    Cayenne pepper
    Black pepper
    Chili powder
    Cumin
    Garlic powder
    Onion powder

(Use a mix of spices that combines some “base” ingredients like paprika or onion powder with some “spicy” ingredients. I mean, if you use 1/2 tsp. of cayenne pepper and 1/2 tsp. of red pepper flakes, I think they would be pretty much inedible! I use paprika, Mrs. Dash extra spicy, a curry blend (coriander, tumeric, cumin, fenugreek, and a bunch of other stuff) and black pepper.)

Add tofu sticks (about 4 or 6) at a time to the baggie with the cornmeal & spices. Shake gently to coat. Place coated sticks on baking sheet. Repeat with remaining sticks. (Make sure there’s some space between the sticks.)

Bake 15-20 minutes.

(I eat these dipped in ranch dressing.)

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Crunchy Tuna Salad (with no mayo)

May 23, 2010

Chef’s Notes: I was never a fan of tuna salad – I didn’t like the taste of the tuna, I hate biting into bits of raw onion, and all that fatty mayo made me want to gag. (I dare you to look up the nutrition info for mayo. Seriously.)

So, I tried albacore tuna, and it’s so much better. Then I played around with different mayo substitutes and veggie additions. Those experiments resulted in this recipe.

Crunchy Tuna Salad (No Mayo)
(Serves 3)

In a mixing bowl, toss together:
1 12-ounce can solid white albacore tuna in water (I use Chicken of the Sea)
1/4 C. diced carrots
1/4 C. diced celery
1/4 C. diced radish
1/4 C. fresh parsley, snipped
1/4 C. fresh dill, snipped

Then….

Place in food processor and pulse until smooth:
4 oz. firm tofu, squeeze to remove moisture and crumble
1/2 C. cottage cheese
1 T. fresh lemon juice
1 T. minced shallot
1 tsp. minced garlic
1 tsp. crushed brown mustard seed
Pinch of fresh ground black pepper

Spoon tofu/cottage cheese mixture over tuna mixture and stir to combine. Refrigerate for at least an hour to allow the flavors to blend.

Nutrition info – Calories: 166. Fat: 4. Carbs: 4. Protein: 32.
Calculated at Spark Recipes.

Serving idea: Place a mound of tuna salad on a lettuce leaf, sprinkle with pumpkin seeds, top with diced tomatoes or avocado, and roll it up burrito-style.


Homemade Turkey Sausage Patties

May 23, 2010

Chef’s Notes: This is so easy to make, and it’s cheaper and more nutritious than store-bought pork sausage.

For example, these are the ingredients in Jimmy Dean sausage: pork, water, salt, sodium lactate, spices, sugar, sodium phosphates, dextrose, monosodium glutamate, sodium diacetate, caramel color. (Basically, salt, sugar, and MSG! Yum.) And the nutrition (for 2 two-once patties) – Calories: 240, Fat: 23 grams, Sodium: 610 grams, Protein: 9 grams.

Compare that to this homemade sausage in which the only ingredients are fresh ground turkey and spices. Nutrition (for 2 two-ounce patties) – Calories: 240, Fat: 17 grams, Sodium:70 (from flavoring added to turkey before purchase), Protein: 20. That’s 1/10 of the sodium and double the protein! And the cost is about half of store-bought pork sausage.

Homemade Turkey Sausage Patties

Spice Mix:
2 T. rubbed sage (Don’t substitute ground sage – this is leafier)
1 to 2 tsp. Mrs. Dash extra spicy seasoning blend (or red pepper flakes)
1 tsp. marjoram or oregano (I use oregano)
1 tsp. thyme
1 tsp. Penzy’s Mural of Flavor (or equal amounts of onion and garlic powder to make almost a teaspoon, plus a smidge of orange zest)
1 tsp. sodium-free instant beef boullion
1/2 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. allspice
1/4 tsp. black pepper

This makes 1/4 cup, enough for 4 pounds of meat.

Directions:
Combine 1# ground fresh turkey (not the frozen stuff in a tube) with 1 tablespoon spice mix. (Or you can use half ground turkey and half ground pork.) For best flavor, refrigerate overnight to allow the flavors to mingle. Divide the turkey into 8 two-once patties. Freeze any patties you are not using immediately.

Heat a small amount of olive oil in skillet over medium-low heat. Add turkey patties to skillet and cook, about 5 minutes per side, or until completely cooked through. Cook the patties over a low enough heat that they will cook completely through without burning.


Inside-Out Stuffed Peppers

May 17, 2010

Chef’s Notes:This recipe includes the ingredients that you would find in a stuffed pepper, but instead of putting the meat in the pepper, you put the pepper in the meat.

Inside-Out Stuffed Peppers

Inside-Out Stuffed Peppers
(Makes 12 large or 16 small)

1# fresh ground turkey (not the frozen stuff) OR ground beef
1/4 C. instant brown rice (not cooked)
2 bell peppers, any color (I used red and Gypsy, both sweeter & milder than the traditional green)
1/2 C. diced celery
1/4 C. diced carrots
4-6 garlic cloves
1 onion
1 can tomato paste
1/4 C. water
2 T. Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. hot sauce
1/4 tsp. salt
Dash of pepper
1 tsp. paprika
1 T. fresh thyme
1 T. fresh dill
1 1/2 C. shredded cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray muffin tin with non-stick cooking spray.

Cut tops from bell peppers, remove membrane and seeds, and dice.

Peel onion and cut in half. Place on baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Cut the ends off each clove of garlic, drizzle with olive oil, wrap in foil, and place on baking sheet with the onion. Roast in oven for about 30 minutes, until tender. Remove the garlic from the foil, and pop it out of the skin. Place onions, garlic, tomato paste, water, Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, and salt and pepper in food processor; process until puréed.

In mixing bowl, place ground turkey, rice, bell peppers, celery, carrots, the purée, and the spices, and mix with hands until thoroughly combined.

Fill each muffin cup with the meat mixture (about half full for small, three-fourths full for large). Bake 30 – 40 minutes. Sprinkle cheese over meat mixture, and bake another 5 minutes, or until cheese is melted.

Nutrition (1/4 of recipe – 3 large or 4 small, made with ground turkey) – Calories: 400. Fat: 23. Carbs: 16. Protein: 35. Calculated at Spark Recipes.

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Chicken Salad with Walnuts and Tarragon

May 17, 2010

Chef’s Notes: This recipe is from a coffee shop I once worked at, and is my absolute favorite chicken salad. The only changes I made to the recipe was to add some celery for more crunch, and to toast the walnuts to intensify their flavor.

The flavor of this chicken salad is incredible…I love tarragon! Using Greek yogurt instead of all mayonnaise cuts back on the fat, adds some extra protein, and gives a little tangy zip to the flavor.

Chicken Salad with Walnuts and Tarragon
(4-6 servings)

3 bone-in chicken breasts
1 onion
Parsley and black pepper
1 C. chicken broth

1/2 C. walnut pieces
1/2 C. celery, diced
1/2 C. plain Greek yogurt
1/4 C. mayonnaise
2 T. tarragon

Place chicken breasts in roasting pan. Cut onion in half and add to pan. Pour in chicken broth. Sprinkle chicken with some parsley and pepper. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Cool completely, then remove chicken from bone. Cut into bite-sized cubes. (Or you can use 3 cups chicken that you have on hand.)

Toast the walnuts by placing in small cast iron skillet and heat over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Shake the pan frequently to prevent the walnuts from burning. Cool completely.

In a mixing bowl, combine cooked cubed chicken, toasted walnuts, celery, yogurt, mayonnaise, and tarragon. Stir to mix thoroughly. Chill for at least an hour before serving.

Nutrition info:
(when divided by 4 servings) Calories: 400. Fat: 22. Carbs: 4. Protein: 46.
(when divided by 6 servings) Calories: 267. Fat: 15. Carbs: 2.5. Protein: 30.5.
Calculated at Spark Recipes.


School lunches and nutrition

May 15, 2010

I recently discovered a blog titled Fed Up With Lunch. The anonymous author of this blog has been eating school lunches and sharing the menus and photos. I was horrified by these meals! Very little protein, a ton of carbs, very few healthy vegetables and fruits, and lots of processed foods.

Some examples:
Menu: chicken tenders, carrots, fruit jello, bread, milk
Protein: Processed and breaded chicken.
Vegetable: Raw carrots (good). A packet of ranch dressing to drown those carrots? (not so good).
Fruit: Fruit that is swimming in sugar-and-dye Jell-O.

Menu: cheese sandwich, tater tots, apple, pretzels, milk
Protein: Um? The processed cheese?
Vegetable: Tater tots (Seriously? Tater tots?)
(Bread, potatoes…and let’s throw more carbs on the menu with some pretzels.)
Fruit: Ok, an apple is great. But how many elementary students would only eat the apple if it was peeled and sliced for them? Probably most of those apples landed in the trash.

Menu: turkey, carrots, fruit cup, bread, milk
Protein: Processed (probably mechanically separated) turkey (with gravy and stuffing).
Vegetable: Cooked carrots. Not bad, but they’re a high carb veggie choice. And they were probably canned carrots, meaning all the nutrients were zapped out of them in processing and a ton of salt was added.
Fruit: Fruit cup = canned fruit swimming in sugar water.

Menu: cheeseburger, buns, baked beans, orange, milk
Protein: Cheeseburger. Not too bad.
Vegetable: Baked beans? High carb and loaded with sugar. Yeah, that’s a vegetable.
Fruit: Oranges are great, but what kid is going to peel an orange. Like the apple, I bet a bunch of these landed in the trash.

Menu: salisbury steak, bread, corn, apple, milk
Protein: Processed mystery meat that is more filler than protein. And that mystery meat is swimming in high-fat-high-sodium gravy.
Vegetable: Corn, which has so many carbs it’s more a starch than a vegetable.
Fruit: Again with those apples.

Menu: tex-mex (turkey meat over rice & corn), beans, tortilla chips, fruit jello, milk
Protein: Turkey “meat” with rice (carbs) & corn (carbs).
Vegetable: I guess it’s the refried beans? That’s not a vegetable, it’s carbs and fat.
Fruit: Once again, we have that fruit disguised in sugar-and-dye Jell-O

Menu: hamburger, buns, fruit bar, and tater tots
Protein: Hamburger. (Why didn’t the kids get the processed cheese this time?)
Vegetable: Again, those questionable tater tots.
Fruit: A popsicle. (Yes, that’s what “fruit bar” means.)

I think I’m starting to feel ill.

What’s crazy is that all these meals (supposedly) meet federal guidelines for school lunches. I honestly can’t believe these guidelines are considered healthy – very high carb, very low protein, and no recommendations to avoid processed foods. (For students in grades 7-12, the required amount of grains is 15 servings per week. That’s 3 a day…just at lunch! Good grief.) Of course, those guidelines allow some leniency: “Up to 1 grains/breads serving per day may be a dessert.” Wow.

    Children age 6 to 11 who are overweight: 18.8 percent
    Children age 12 to 19 who are overweight: 17.4 percent.

Childhood and teenage obesity increased by four times in the past 40 years.

Something has got to change. Chef Jamie Oliver has begun the Food Revolution, part of which is to change school lunches. You can read his ideas here. While you’re there, you can also sign the petition “to save cooking skills and improve school food.”


Chocolate Spiced Pork Chops

May 15, 2010

Chef’s Notes: When I found this Paula Dean recipe, I admit I thought it sounded really strange. But my food philosophy is chocolate makes anything better, so I decided to try it. It’s tasty, y’all!

First, Paula’s version:

Chocolate Spiced Pork Chops
(Serves 4)

2 tablespoons firmly packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
2 teaspoons onion powder
1 1/2 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
4 (1 1/2-inch-thick) bone-in pork chops
1 tablespoon vegetable oil

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large bowl, combine the brown sugar, Italian seasoning, onion powder, cocoa powder, garlic powder, paprika, red pepper, cumin, salt, and black pepper. Rub the mixture evenly over pork chops.

Add the oil to a large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add the pork chops and cook for 3 minutes per side. Put the skillet in oven and bake the pork chops until cooked through, about 3 minutes.

Remove the skillet from the oven, transfer the chops to a serving platter and serve.

And my changes:
I didn’t have all the spices Paula’s recipe called for. This is what I used for a spice rub for two pork chops.

1/2 T. brown sugar
1 tsp. cocoa power
1/4 tsp. Cajun spice blend (garlic, onion, paprika, red pepper, salt)
1/4 tsp. Mrs. Dash extra spicy seasoning blend
1/4 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. Italian seasoning

I fried the pork chops in a grill pan for 3 minutes per side, transferred them to a baking sheet, and baked at 350 degrees for 12 minutes.

I served these for brunch with Blueberry Chocolate Muffins and minneloas (a citrus fruit that is a cross between a grapefruit and a tangerine).

Minneloa