Tag Archives: whole

Butter vs Olive Oil – Penne with Shrimp, Fresh Herbs and Lemon

Photo by KathyHuntPhoto.com

There was a time when most any meal I set out to cook began with a big glob of butter melting in a hot pan. Whether it was sautéing onions for a casserole, browning chicken for a braise, or scrambling an egg; it all started with butter. Then as I began reading about nutrition and becoming more conscious of my health, slowly but surely I transitioned to olive oil. Quietly and gradually, somewhere over the last few years, olive oil became my butter.

Through most of my years of cooking, it was not unusual for me to use a pound of butter per week, or at least every couple of weeks. Nowadays it is a rare purchase indeed and though I still keep (un-salted) butter around for a special treat in a pan-sauce or on my Sunday morning toast…I can honestly say the transition is complete. And why not?

Butter is a saturated fat too much of which can contribute to the build-up of blood cholesterol – Olive oil actually contains anti-oxidants and monounsaturated fats that have been proven to help lower cholesterol. Olive oil also contains vitamins E, K, and A, powerful anti-inflammatory properties and a host of other health benefits.

So why eat butter at all? Well, aside from that wonderful flavor there are a few good things about butter. For one, it does not contain any trans-fat, it also contains beneficial vitamins and minerals, can be high in Omega 3, and can even help your body fight off cancer cells. There is a great article at getmybodyback.com that discusses the details.

To my thinking these days, a little butter goes a long way…It’s a good fit in my “everything in moderation” theory that I mention so often. Butter is not inherently evil but it can easily be too much of a good thing. If you balance it out with a good bit of olive oil though, I think you can find a happy medium that will help you live a longer and more enjoyable life.

Recipe notes: This recipe uses olive oil as the base for the “sauce”. It is surprising in that it is not dripping in fat or greasy tasting. The idea is to coat the pasta rather than drenching it in a heavy sauce. The recipe comes together very quickly so I recommend having all of your ingredients ready to go by the time the pasta is almost ready to drain.

Penne with Shrimp, Fresh Herbs and Lemon

1 Lb – Med fresh shrimp, peeled & deveined
1/3 Cup – Extra virgin olive oil
3 Tbsp – Fresh garlic, minced
2 Sprigs – Fresh thyme
½ Tsp – Dried red pepper flakes
8 Oz – Dried 100% whole wheat penne
Juice of ½ Lemon
1 to 2 Tbsp – Fresh basil chiffonade
Fresh Parmesan cheese
Kosher salt & fresh ground black pepper

Add a tablespoon of kosher salt to a large pot of water over medium-high heat. When the water comes to a boil gently stir in the pasta. Continue stirring occasionally and cook 8 to 10 minutes or until the pasta has softened to your desired doneness.

When the pasta is roughly two minutes from being done, heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium high heat. When the oil is hot, stir in the garlic, thyme, red pepper flakes and about ¼ teaspoon of fresh ground black pepper. Stir constantly for about 30 seconds then add the shrimp in a single layer. Shake the pan to “nestle” the ingredients.

Meanwhile, test the pasta for doneness, and drain into a colander reserving a little of the pasta water on the side.

After about 2 minutes, shake the pan again to loosen any shrimp that may be sticking and turn the shrimp over. Cook 2 minutes more on the second side then add the lemon juice and a couple of tablespoons of the pasta water. Cook another minute and remove the pan from the heat. To finish, stir in the pasta and the basil, gently tossing to combine.

Serve with fresh grated parmesan sprinkled over the pasta.

Enjoy!

Randy

Turkey Croquettes with Pan Gravy

Making the salmon cakes last week brought another old favorite to mind, Turkey Croquettes. The original recipe called for making the gravy with cream of celery soup and although I was tempted I opted for cleaning this one up a little bit and making it fresh. The recipe looks involved but I would honestly consider it intermediate to easy. That reminds me that I have been meaning to mention one of my favorite kitchen tips.

Kitchen Tips: To boost your confidence a little it is always a good idea to read a recipe through start to finish at least once if not twice before you begin preparing it.

Speaking of cleaning it up a friend mentioned possibly converting this recipe into an Atkins Diet version and I think it would be fairly easy to do. For a lower carb gravy you could 1) use almond flour instead of whole wheat flour or 2) eliminate the flour altogether and simply thicken the gravy by boiling it a little longer and allowing the broth time to reduce.

For the croquettes my first thought was simply to eliminate the bread crumbs but that might result in too dense of a croquette. One of the things I really like about this recipe is the lightness of the final product so I think I would prefer to use a cup pork rind crumbs instead of completely doing away with the filler. I know that may sound like an odd substitution but I have tried it in other (low carb) recipes and it works quite well for this type of diet.

Notes: The easiest way that I have found to form these croquettes is to use the lid from a Ball mason jar as a ring mold. To do this, simply set the removable “top” of the mason jar lid aside and lay a sheet of plastic wrap over the ring shaped threaded part of the lid. Now, with the lid sitting top-down on a flat surface use a wooden spoon to press in just enough of the turkey mixture to fill the lid completely, flatten and level off the top, then turn the lid over to gently pop out your formed patty.

Turkey Croquettes with Pan Gravy

For the patties…

1.25 Lbs – Lean ground Turkey
1 Cup – Soft Whole Wheat bread crumbs
1 – Small onion, diced small
1 – Large branch of celery, diced small
1 – Small carrot, grated
1 – Small clove of garlic, finely minced
1 Tbsp – Tomato paste
1 Splash – Worcestershire sauce
1 Cup – Chicken stock, divided into ½ cups
1 – Egg, lightly beaten
½ Tsp – Dried tarragon
½ Tsp – Rubbed sage
Kosher salt & fresh ground black pepper
Olive oil

For the gravy…

2 Tbsp – Whole Wheat flour
2 Cups – Chicken stock
1 Tbsp – Plain yogurt

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat until shimmering. Sauté the onion, celery, and carrot for two minutes then add the tarragon, sage, and 1/2 teaspoon each of kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper. Continue cooking stirring occasionally until the onions begin to turn translucent then stir in the tomato paste and Worcestershire sauce and cook 2 minutes more. Stir in ½ cup of chicken stock and allow the mixture to cook until most of the moisture has evaporated, about 5 minutes. Add the second ½ cup of chicken stock and the minced garlic, allow the mixture to come back to a boil then remove the pan from the heat and set aside to cool for at least 5 minutes.

In a large mixing bowl gently break apart the ground turkey then fold in the bread crumbs, egg, and the onion mixture. Gently fold the mixture until all the ingredients are incorporated but not over-mixed. Form the mixture into 10 to 12 equally sized patties and placing them on a foil or wax paper lined cookie sheet as you go. Place the cookie sheet in the freezer for at least 10 – 15 minutes to firm up the patties before browning.

In the same pan, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and warm over medium heat until the oil is shimmering hot. Swirl the pan to evenly distribute the oil then gently place half of the patties (do not crowd) in the pan. Shake the pan a little to prevent sticking and brown 3 to 4 minutes on each side. When the patties are browned remove them from the pan and place on a cooling rack or paper towel to hold. Wipe the pan and repeat this process until all of the patties are browned. Do not wipe the pan after the last batch saving the oil and browned bits for the gravy.

After the last batch of patties are browned and removed from the pan add two tablespoons of whole wheat flour to the pan and stir to create a roux. There should be just enough oil and flour to create a smooth, almost liquid, paste; add a little more olive oil if the roux seems too dry. Cook, stirring until the flour begins to take on some color, about 5 minutes, then whisk in 1 cup of the broth. When the first cup of broth is incorporated, whisk in the second cup of broth and continue whisking slowly until the gravy begins to boil. Lower the heat to a simmer and check the gravy for seasoning. Add kosher salt & fresh ground pepper if needed.

Return the croquettes to the pan coating each one with the gravy, then simmer 10 minutes more. Serve croquettes over rice, egg noodles, or toast points as desired.

Enjoy!

Randy

Chicken Milanese

How to stretch those dinner dollars – Part 2

Last week when I made the Chicken Casserole I set out to demonstrate a use for my homemade chicken stock. Tonight when I rustled up one of my favorite quick dinners I realized that I was using the second of three large chicken breasts that came in a package my wife bought. The thought occurred to me that it was a great way to demonstrate getting a real value for your food dollar.

Kat picked up a package of boneless chicken breasts at Aldi last week. There were 3 large breast halves in the package weighing in at 2.43 pounds (or about ¾ pounds each) for $6.05. If I could use each of the 3 breasts for the basis for 3 different dinners for two that’s just over a dollar per plate! Sure I use other ingredients in the preparation but the protein is often the most expensive element of a meal. When you’re on a budget and trying to stretch your dinner dollars…a buck a person is an awesome start!

So once again I find myself posting a less than glamorous recipe but hey it’s Monday night after a tough day at work, after the NFL playoffs yesterday. I didn’t feel like spending all night in the kitchen and yes, at the risk of sounding silly I’ll say it again; this too is a Recipe Randy Cooks. It also happens to be one of my favorite ways to use boneless, skinless, chicken breasts.

Because I was using an extra-large chicken breast half I was able to get 4 nice pieces out of one breast by first butterflying it, then dividing it into 4 equal pieces. Here is a video that shows how to butterfly a chicken breast: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ySB2jgO1ljU&feature=fvw . For this recipe the breasts should be pounded very thin, no thicker than ¼ inch at the very thickest part.

Note that I dump out the oil and wipe the pan after cooking each batch of chicken. This is my secret method of ensuring a perfectly and evenly browned cutlet every time. Oh, and lest I forget… Brianna’s Real French Vinaigrette is my favorite salad dressing and it’s a perfect choice in this dish. Traditionally the cutlet is buried under the salad but Kat and I both prefer it alongside so the chicken stays nice and crispy even after drizzling on a little fresh lemon juice.

Chicken Milanese

1 – Large Skinless Boneless Chicken Breast, butterflied and divided into 4 pieces, then pounded to ¼ thickness or less.
2 – Eggs, lightly beaten
2 Tbsp – Water
2 Cups – Panko Bread Crumbs
1 Cup – Whole Wheat or Unbleached Flour
Kosher Salt & Fresh Ground Black Pepper
Olive or Canola Oil

Salad of Green Leaf Lettuce with Grape Tomatoes and Celery slices.
Salad Dressing
Fresh Parmesan Cheese
Lemon Wedges

In one bowl, season the flour well with salt and pepper and stir to blend. In another bowl, gently beat the eggs and water to combine. Place the Panko Crumbs in a third bowl. One at a time dredge the chicken pieces first in the flour, shaking off any excess, then in the egg, then finally in the Panko Crumbs to coat evenly. Place the chicken in a single layer on a foil or parchment lined sheet pan to rest at room temperature for 20 minutes before cooking.

Warm two tablespoons of oil in a large non-stick pan over medium heat. When the oil is shimmering hot cook two pieces of the chicken, turning only once, until “light” golden brown on each side. Move the cooked chicken to a paper towel to wick away any excess oil and season lightly with salt and pepper. Discard any oil left in the pan and carefully wipe out the pan with a paper towel, then add 2 more tablespoons of oil and repeat the process, cooking the other two chicken pieces.

To serve, toss the salad, tomatoes, and celery with the dressing being careful to use only enough dressing to coat the greens. Place the chicken on the plate and cover partly (or not) with the salad. Top with shaved Parmesan and garnish with lemon slices to finish.

Enjoy,

Randy

Casserole of Chicken, Quinoa, & Brown Rice with Mushrooms

(or What to do with all that Chicken Stock – Part 1)

As a follow up to Singing The Praises Of Chicken Stock I wanted to post a series of recipes that use chicken stock (or broth) in various ways. At the risk of repeating myself, stock is a valuable ingredient in healthful cooking and a means of boosting the flavor in what otherwise might be a boring and uninteresting dish. My recipes will always call for stock because I like the flavor but you may certainly substitute broth if you like.

Second only to the chicken stock, the mushrooms create a lot of flavor in this recipe. To coax as much flavor as possible from them I start cooking the mushrooms in a hot, hot pan. Because of the high water content in mushrooms, they create a lot of liquid in the pan as they cook. With the pan very hot, this excess water cooks away quickly leaving the mushrooms to brown. On a lower temperature the mushroom would steam instead of browning…that’s not what I want in this recipe!

I know I have mentioned Seeds Of Change quinoa & whole grain brown rice in a previous post. I can’t recommend this product enough; if you come across it at Costco or otherwise please do give it a try. I use it here because it is convenient, healthy, and the spices blend perfectly with the other ingredients. Other starch suggestions for this recipe would be brown rice, couscous, or even orzo. Check for seasonings if you use a mix, I needed no additional salt with the quinoa.

This one is rich enough that the only side I served it with was a nice green salad and was plenty for two with leftovers.

Casserole of Chicken, Quinoa, & Brown Rice with Mushrooms

1 – Large Boneless Chicken Breast Half (about 12 oz.), halved lengthwise from the top and sliced very thin (as for a stir fry)
8 oz – Fresh Mushrooms, sliced
1 – Small Onion, chopped
2 – Celery branches, sliced (leaves add flavor…use them too!)
1 Clove – Garlic, minced
2 Sprigs – Fresh Thyme, left whole
2 Cups – Chicken Stock
2 Cups – Quinoa & Whole Grain Brown Rice, pre-cooked
2 Tbsp – Unbleached Flour
Olive Oil
Freshly Ground Black Pepper
About 1/4 Cup – Panko Breadcrumbs

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Add a tablespoon of olive oil to a large (12”) skillet over medium high heat. When the oil just begins to smoke, carefully add the mushrooms and cook them stirring constantly much as you would a stir fry. When the mushrooms begin to release their liquid slow down a little on the stirring but keep them spread out so the liquid will evaporate quickly.

As the mushrooms dry and begin to brown, stir in the onions, celery, garlic, thyme, and ½ teaspoon of fresh ground pepper. Lower the heat to medium and continue cooking and stirring until the onions soften. (Note: The mushrooms should be getting nice and brown by now. Don’t worry if some of the vegetables stick a little bit…they will loosen when you add the stock.)

When the onions become tender and translucent stir in the chicken, separating the slices and blending them carefully into the mixture. Continue cooking and stirring gently for another 5 minutes then Stir in one tablespoon of the flour until well mixed. Stir in the second tablespoon of flour and cook, stirring gently, for one minute more. Stir in one cup of stock and cook until some thickening begins. Stir in the other cup of stock and cook until bubbling and thickened.

Remove the thyme sprigs and discard, then stir in the quinoa and gently mix until thoroughly incorporated. Pour all into a 9X9 casserole, sprinkle just enough breadcrumbs to cover evenly on top. Bake 25 minutes, allow a few minutes to rest and enjoy!

Randy

Penne with Italian Sausage, Fresh Tomatoes, Feta, & Herbs

For a weeknight dinner that is super easy to prepare try this Penne with Fresh Tomatoes, Feta, and Herbs. Want to mix things up a bit? Replace the sausage with bite sized cubes of cooked chicken or turkey breast, use whole grape tomatoes instead of chopped, or add capers and chopped green & black olives for a real Mediterranean twist. This pasta is great served with salad and a hunk of crusty whole wheat baguette and makes more than enough for lunches the next day.

Penne with Italian Sausage, Fresh Tomatoes, Feta, & Herbs

2 pounds tomatoes, halved, seeded, chopped
1 16 ounce package Chicken or Turkey Sweet Italian Sausage, sliced diagonally, browned well, and drained
1 cup green onions, green and white parts diagonally sliced
1 cup feta cheese, crumbled
6 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
1 tablespoon, chopped fresh garlic
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 13.5 ounce box Whole Grain Penne pasta

Mix first 8 ingredients in a large pasta bowl. Set mixture aside.

Cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until just tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally. Drain. Add hot pasta to tomato mixture and gently toss to coat. Add Olive Oil, Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper and gently toss.

Frittata with Spinach and Tomato

Frittatas are another very versatile and fast way to whip up a great dinner. This one calls for Spinach and Tomato but, like pizza, the ingredient list is limited only by your imagination. Some of our favorite combinations include tuna & scallions, diced ham & fontina with scallions, and asparagus, artichoke hearts, tomato, & onion. Fresh grated Parmesan cheese is a constant for me and I even sprinkle some over the top for an added flavor boost. Though I used Soy Milk in this recipe you can use skim milk, whole milk, or even half & half in yours. Get creative and have a little fun!

Frittata with Spinach and Tomato

1 package pre-washed fresh spinach, about 12 oz
2 medium leeks, white and light green parts only, halved lengthwise, rinsed well, patted dry, and sliced
1 large tomato, peeled, seeded, and diced large *See my note below
1 large tomato, peeled and sliced into 7 equal slices
2-3 med red bliss potatoes, sliced 1/8 to 1/4 inch-thick
8 large eggs
1/2 cup unsweetened soy milk
1 tbs whole wheat flour
1/4 cup part skim ricotta
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus about a tablespoon reserved
1 pinch fresh grated nutmeg
kosher salt
fresh ground pepper
2 tbs extra-virgin olive oil

Heat 1 tbs of the olive oil in a 10 inch non-stick pan over medium heat. When the oil is beginning to shimmer, add the leeks and about 1/4 tsp fresh ground pepper. Cook, stirring often, 2 to 3 minutes until the leeks are just transparent. Remove them to a bowl to cool. Using the same pan, raise the heat to med high and bring 1/4 cup of water to a boil. Dissolve about 1 tbs of kosher salt, then carefully add the spinach. Cook 2 to 3 minutes until spinach is wilted then pour into a colander to drain and cool. When the spinach is cool enough to handle, in a dishtowel, gently squeeze out excess water. Hold the spinach in the same bowl with the leeks until ready to use.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl beat the eggs with the soy milk. Gently fold in the flour and the nutmeg, then the spinach, leeks, diced tomatoes, ricotta, and most of the Parmesan cheese, reserving about 1 tbs. Warm the same pan over med heat with 1 tbs of olive oil. Meanwhile carefully distribute the potato slices evenly around the pan trying not to overlap. When the potatoes begin to sizzle, pour the egg mixture into the pan. Use a spoon to make sure the ingredients are evenly distributed. Lower your heat to low, cover the pan and cook for about 10 minutes or until the eggs have begun to set and pull away from the side of the pan.

Remove the cover and evenly distribute the tomato slices around the top, sprinkle with the reserved Parmesan then carefully place the pan in the oven. Bake uncovered for about 20 minutes or until the eggs in the top center appear to be completely set. Remove the pan from the oven and using a thin spatula carefully loosen the frittata from the pan all the way around the edges. When the frittata is freed from the pan, gently slip it out of the pan and onto a cutting board to rest. Rest 10 minutes, then slice into pie shaped pieces to serve.

* Note: Tomatoes are easy to peel if you blanch them in a little hot water for a minute or two. For this recipe, slice about a 1/2 inch “X” in the bottom of your tomatoes (opposite the stem end). Gently drop them into a pan of water heated to near boiling and simmer for two minutes or so until the tomato skin at the “X” begins to pull away. Now removes the tomatoes and cover them in cold water to stop the cooking.

Once the tomatoes have cooled the skin will be very easy to peel; I use the edge of a knife to grab it and gently peel it away.

To remove the seeds, cut the tomato in half cross ways (midway between the stem and the bottom) and gently squeeze the tomato to force out the seeds  using the tip of your knife to remove any stragglers.

Italian Sausage Turkey Meatloaf

This recipe is an adaptation of Ina Garten’s Turkey Meatloaf recipe, which you will find at http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/turkey-meatloaf-recipe/index.html. Her recipe is one of my favorite turkey meatloaf recipes and makes enough for a crowd! The version below cuts down on the size by half and boosts the flavor by adding an Italian flair. Believe it or not I originally came up with this version because the turkey italian sausages at Publix were nearly $2.00 a pound cheaper than the packaged ground turkey.

In this recipe I can’t stress enough to “Coat the Meat Loaf very generously all over with kosher salt, ground black pepper, and Italian spices”! This really does boost the flavor and forms such a great crust that I am tempted to nibble all the way around the outside of my leftover meatloaf sandwiches just like when I was a kid.

Italian Sausage Turkey Meatloaf

1 large yellow onion, chopped fine
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. kosher salt
½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
3 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
6 Tbsp. low sodium chicken broth
1 tsp. tomato paste
1 package ground turkey (About 1.25 Lbs.)
1 package sweet Italian turkey sausage (About 1.25 Lbs.)
¾ cup whole wheat bread crumbs
1 large egg and 2 large egg whites, beaten
Kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper
Italian spices

½ cup ketchup
½ tsp. ground coriander
1 splash Louisiana hot pepper sauce
1 splash apple cider vinegar

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

In a sauté pan, over medium low heat, cook the onions, olive oil, salt, pepper, thyme and bay leaf until the onions are translucent (but not brown) approximately 15 minutes. Add the Worcestershire, broth, and tomato paste and stir until mixed well. Simmer until just heated through then remove from heat and allow the mixture to cool. Remove and discard the thyme sprigs and bay leaf.

Line a sheet pan with foil then set a foil wrapped cooling rack on the cookie sheet. Using a toothpick or a skewer poke drain holes in the foil on the cooling rack. These should be spaced roughly one drain hole every inch or so.

When the onion mixture has cooled somewhat, combine the ground turkey, Italian sausage (removed from casings), bread crumbs, eggs, and onion mixture in a large bowl. Gently fold the mixture until well mixed and shape into a loaf on the prepared cooling rack. Coat the Meat Loaf very generously all over with kosher salt, ground black pepper, and Italian spices (I used a store bought grinder with a mixture of Italian Spices including garlic, red pepper, and rosemary.)

Place the meat loaf in the oven and bake for one hour. (Note: If you place a pan of hot water on the shelf below the meat loaf this will keep your loaf from splitting.) Meanwhile, combine the ketchup, coriander, hot pepper sauce, and vinegar in a small sauce pan over medium low heat. Stir until well mixed and heated through. When meat loaf has cooked one hour, carefully remove it from the oven and coat evenly with the ketchup glaze. Return the meat loaf to the oven and bake 30 minutes more.

Allow the meat loaf to rest 15 minutes before slicing.