Sunday, June 13, 2010

Menu- Week of June 14, 2010

Well, some of last week's recipes got not so hot reviews from R, but one was outstanding. He really liked the Sirloin Tips with Mushrooms, and requested a repeat performance this week. That's fine by me, because it was really easy to make.

Another realization I have made is that R doesn't like leftovers, and won't bring his lunch, or come home to eat. I have tried rationalizing that it saves us money and is more nutritious, but we end up wasting money every week on food that goes bad because he won't eat it. This week, I will make only enough for me to have lunch for 4 days, and then our dinners for Sunday-Thursday.

We leave for a weekend trip to Florida to see R's parents on Friday, so the menu is really short this week. I will probably end up posting next week's menu on next Monday, and it will be a rushed week anyway. I'm not looking forward to that.

Without further delay, here is this week's menu:

Sunday- Sirloin Tips with Mushrooms (using the crock pot method, since I need my skillet for other things)
Monday- Chicken and Spinach Lasagna (my lunch menu for the week)
Tuesday- Stuffed Portabellas
Wednesday- Grilled Chicken with Mamaliga and Beans
Thursday-  Leftover lasagna and grilled chicken, and any veggies we have left in the fridge

I have been told that I need to post pictures of these recipes, so I will post them as I make the recipes. Last week I found the camera battery and charger, so it should be all ready for this week. Enjoy!

Mamaliga and Beans

Mamaliga is the Romanian equivalent of Polenta, which is the Italian equivalent to thecorn meal mush my dad and Mema used to make me as a kid. It is used as a starch, an alternative to rice or bread. R's mom showed me how to make it quickly in the microwave, but I prefer my version on the stovetop.

Adapted from Better Homes and Gardens "Polenta and Beans"
Yeild 4 servings

2 cups water
1 cup milk
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1 cup water
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 garlic cloves, pressed
1 tsp butter
1 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 cup bottled salsa with cilantro or other salsa
3/4 cup shredded Mexican cheese blend (3 ounces)

1.For mamaliga, in a large saucepan bring the 2 cups of water and 1 cup milk to boiling. In a medium bowl combine cornmeal, the 1 cup water, and salt. Stir cornmeal mixture slowly into the boiling water. Add garlic and butter. Cook and stir until mixture comes to boiling. Reduce heat to low. Cook for 5 to 10 minutes or until mixture is thick, stirring occasionally. If you can spin your spoon around in the middle, take it out,  and see the bottom of the pot for about 5 seconds, its thick enough.

2.Meanwhile, in a large skillet combine the beans, undrained tomatoes, and salsa. Bring mixture to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir 1/2 cup of the cheese into the polenta. Divide mamaliga among four shallow bowls. Top with the bean mixture and sprinkle with the remaining cheese.

I like to serve with a grilled chicken breast, but this can also be a vegetarian entree.

Stuffed Portabellas

Adapted from

Yeild: 2 main dish or 4 side dish servings

4 Portabella Mushroom caps (stems and gills removed with a spoon)
1 large diced shallot
1/4 c. red bell pepper, diced
1/4 c. yellow bell pepper, diced
1/2 c. zucchini, diced (with peel on)
4 c. baby spinach (bagged, or remove stems from bunches)
1 garlic clove, smashed
4 Tbsp flax seed meal
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 roma tomato, sliced thin
2 oz mozzarella cheese
4 Tbsp shredded parmesan cheese

1- Preheat oven to 450

2- Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium flame. Add shallot, bell peppers, and zucchini and saute for 1 minute.

3- Add. the spinach and cook until tender, about 2-3 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat and set aside

4- Spray the bottom of each mushroom with non-stick spray, or brush with olive oil, and place on a cookie sheet. Heat the mushrooms in the oven 1-2 minutes, until they are just warm.

5- Rub the inside of each mushroom with the smashed garlic clove, and sprinkle on the flax seed meal.

6- Divide the veggie mixture and fill the mushrooms. Top with tomato slices and cheese.

7- Bake about 6 minutes, or until the cheeese is melted and bubbly.

8- Drizzle vinegar over the mushrooms before serving.

Chicken & Spinach Lasagna

Adapted from Cooking Light March 2006 "Creamy Spinach Lasagna"
Yield: 8 servings (serving size: 1 piece)


1 tablespoon olive oil
2 1/4 cups chopped onion (about 2 medium)
2 garlic cloves, pressed or minced
1 lb ground chicken breast
1 (16-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed, drained, and squeezed dry
1/3 cup all-purpose flour (about 1 1/2 ounces)
3 cups 2% reduced-fat milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
1 (26-ounce) jar marinara sauce, divided
Cooking spray
18 cooked whole wheat lasagna noodles, divided
2 cups (8 ounces) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese, divided
Parsley sprigs (optional)

1- Preheat oven to 375°.

2- Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion; cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add ground chicken breast and cook or until onion is browned and chicken is cooked.  Stir in garlic and spinach. Reduce heat, cover, and cook 3 minutes or until spinach is tender. Set aside.

3- Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine flour, milk, salt, black pepper, and red pepper in a small saucepan, stirring with a whisk. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring frequently. Reduce heat and simmer 1 minute, stirring frequently.

4- Add 2 cups milk mixture to spinach mixture. Cover remaining milk mixture, and set aside.

5- Spread 1/2 cup marinara sauce in bottom of a 13 x 9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray.

Layer as follows:
3 noodles- 1/3 spinach & chicken- 3 noodles- 3/4 c marinara- 3/4 c cheese
3 noodles- 1/3 spinach & chicken- 3 noodles- 3/4 c marinara- 3/4 c cheese
3 noodles- 1/3 spinach & chicken- 3 noodles- remaining marinara- remaining milk mixture- remaining cheese.

6- Bake at 375° for 50 minutes or until lasagna is browned on top. Garnish with parsley sprigs, if desired.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Chicken Pot Pie

Note: after making this, I realized that it needs more flavor and some salt in the crust. Next time I'll try something different. If you come up with anything, please post a comment and let me know!

Adapted from Pampered Chef  "It's Good For You" cookbook
Yield: 6 servings

2 cups boneless skinless chicken breasts or tenders, cut into 1 in. pieces
1 tbsp olive oil, divided in 2
1 cup thin sliced carrots
1/2 cup chopped sweet onion
2 cups broccoli florets (frozen baby spinach works well)
2 tbsp water
1 can low fat and sodium cream of chicken soup
1/4 cup low sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup low fat milk
1 garlic clove, pressed or diced
1/4 tsp. dried thyme
1/8 tsp. ground black pepper
Tony Chachere's to taste

1 1/3 cups Heart Healthy Bisquick
1/2 cup low fat milk
a pinch of salt
1 egg white

1- Preheat oven to 400

2- Heat a skillet over medium heat, with a little olive oil in the bottom (about 1/2 tbsp). Add the chicken and cook until it is just pink. Remove the chicken from the pan and add another 1/2 tbsp of olive oil.

2- Add onions to the skillet and sweat them down (do not caramelize= no browning) until they are translucent. Add the garlic, then crank up the heat to medium-high and add the carrots, broccoli, and water . Cover and cook up to 5 minutes, until the water disappears. This should cook the carrots and broccoli until they are just tender-crisp.

3- In a bowl, whisk together the soup, broth, milk, thyme and black pepper. Stir in chicken and vegetables and pour into a casserole pan of some sort. I have found that they type doesn't really matter, as long as the entire mixture and topping fit in it.

4- Make the biscuit topping by combining the Bisquick, milk, and egg white until just moistened. Either roll out on a floured surface or use a spoon to scoop out the dough. Lay the rolled dough on top of the wet stuff in the casserole pan and cut a few slits to let the steam escape, or plop the scoops of dough out onto the top of the casserole, like a drop biscuit.

5- Bake 30-35 minutes until the topping is brown and the filling is bubbling. to protect your oven from bubbling filling, put the casserole pan on a cookie sheet lined with foil (easy clean up).

Beef Tamale Bake

Adapted from Pampered Chef  "It's Good For You Cookbook"
Yields 8 servings

1 1/2 cups yellow cornmeal
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup hot tap water
2 egg whites
3 tbsp. melted butter (always the real thing, unsalted)

1lb. extra lean ground beef
3 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. cumin
1 garlic clove, pressed or minced
1 jar thick and chunky salsa (we like Ana's from the produce section)
1 large (more than 15.5 oz) can of beans (black, pinto, kidney, whatever you have)
1/2 cup shredded reduced fat Mexican blend cheese

1- Preheat oven to 400. Spray or butter a 9x13 pan.

2- Combine corn meal, flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. Add the egg whites, water and butter and mix well. Spread the batter evenly in to the pan.

3- In a large skillet over medium high heat, brown the ground beef with the cumin, chili powder, and garlic until it is no longer pink. Add the salsa and beans and bring to a boil.

4- Spread the beef mixture over the cornmeal mixture and bake 30-35 minutes, until the crust begins to brown. Place a cookie sheet on the rack below the pan if you are worried about it bubbling over and getting the bottom of your oven all grody.

5- Remove from oven, top with cheese, and let stand 5 minutes before cutting into 8 pieces.

Amount Per Serving
Calories 365.2
Total Fat 17.0 g
Saturated Fat 7.4 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 1.0 g
Monounsaturated Fat 5.7 g
Cholesterol 55.8 mg
Sodium 722.1 mg
Potassium 375.9 mg
Total Carbohydrate 36.8 g
Dietary Fiber 6.9 g
Sugars 0.7 g
Protein 20.2 g

Grilled Smorgasboard

This is a go with the flow type of preparation. Notice that we don't use a lot of salt. R is a salt fiend, but we really don't need it here. Go ahead and heat up your grill. Veggies go first, as they can be served room temperature. If you have a larger grill, then you can do it all at once.

Slice lengthwise into thin slices. Sprinkle with your favorite seasoning blend, which should be Tony Chachere's of course, and brush with olive oil. Grill until you get grill marks and the zucchini is limp.

Rinse the asparagus and then cut or snap off the woody part of the stem, leaving only the tender good parts. Brush with olive oil. Grill until they have grill marks and are tender cooked (not too limp). Once you remove them from the grill, sprinkle them with a little kosher salt and squeeze a lemon over the whole lot.

Green Onions
Yes, we grill green onions (scallions), and they are sweet and delicious! Rinse your green onions and pat them dry. Cut off the really thin parts at the top (save them for another recipe. They freeze well) and just roots at the bottom. You want to end up with a 5-6" portion of the onion, including all the white part. Brush them with olive oil and grill until the white parts have grill marks and are tender.

Portabella Mushrooms
I had to edit the post to add these. I forgot I had them in the fridge, so I figured I'd throw them on the grill before they went bad. I just brished them with olive oil and laid them on the grill, flat side down. They cooked at the same time as the zucchini. When they were tender, I added some parmesan cheese to the top. That's all.

Grilled Tri-Tip

There are so many ways to do it, but basically I marinate or rub with spices and olive oil, and then just throw it on a hot grill.

Here is an example:
Start with 1 lb or so of Tri Tip

Sprinkle on Pampered Chef Chipotle Rub (or a mixture of chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, and oregano) and a little Kosher Salt

Massage in the rub with olive oil (not extra virgin, as the smoke point on EVOO is really low)

Let the meat sit in the fridge for 30 minutes, and on the counter for about 15 while you heat up the grill.

Depending on the thickness and your desired level of doneness, 3-5 minutes per side should be sufficient.

Remove from the grill let it sit (try not to puncture it) for at least 5 minutes before serving.

Always cut meat against the grain so it tastes as tender as you tried to make it. Even a perfectly cooked steak will be hard to chew if you cut it wrong.

Avocado Quinoa Salad

Adapted from
Yield 4 servings (or 2 if you are like us and love the veggies)

1/4 cup quinoa
1 cup chicken broth
1 large avocado
juice of 1 lemon
2 Roma tomatoes, diced
1/2 English cucumber, diced (with skin on)
salt and pepper to taste

Cook quinoa according to package directions. If you got yours in the bulk section, then get the broth boiling on the stove, in a pot that has a lid. Add the quinoa, put the lid on, and simmer on low for 15 minutes. Remove it from the heat and leave it covered for 3 minutes, or until all the liquid is absorbed. Allow to cool and fluff with a fork.

Cut the avocado in chunks and add to a bowl with the lemon juice. Toss gently, then add the tomato, cucumber, quinoa, and salt and pepper.

The recipe said to allow it to sit, but I ate it right away and it was delicious. I paired it with some simple grilled chicken breast (olive oil and a pampered chef rub), and it was a great meal!

Sirloin Tips with Mushrooms

Adapted from
I increased the ratio of mushrooms to meat to make it a bit healthier.
Yield 4 servings

.75 to 1 lb tri tip sirloin, cut into 1 inch cubes
2 cloves of garlic, pressed
2 tbsp olive oil
10oz bag of pre-sliced baby bellas (cremini mushrooms)
3/4 c red wine
8oz can of tomato sauce
1/4 c water
1 tsp Hungarian paprika
1 bay leaf
a pinch of dried thyme
1 beef bullion cube (try low sodium)
2 cups cooked brown rice

1- Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat until glossy, but not smoking. Add the beef and garlic and cook until the beef is brown on all sides.

2- Add the mushrooms and saute for 1-2 minutes.

3- Add in the red wine and use it to help scrape up all the good bits from the bottom of the pan.

4- Add the remaining ingredients (except the rice of course). Cover and simmer on low 45 minutes. The longer you cook it, the more tender the beef will be, but 45 minutes is generally a good length of time. Add more water if the sauce gets too thick.
* If you want the beef to be even more tender, get all of the ingredients up to a boil and dump them in a crock pot. Set on high for 2-4 hours, depending on how much time you have and how tender the beef gets.
5- Serve over rice.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Menu- Week of June 6, 2010

I decided that this week, we'd go for some fiber and healthy fat (AVOCADOS!!!)

Monday- Grilled Chicken with Avocado Quinoa Salad

Tuesday- Sirloin Tips with Mushrooms, served over brown rice

Wednesday- Grilled Chicken with Black Bean, Corn and Avocado Salad

Thursday- Black Bean Chicken

Friday- Leftovers!

Last week we ended up with way too much food, and I ended up having to throw some out, so this week I'm scaling back the recipes so we don't waste. All of these are new recipes to me except the Black Bean Chicken, so we'll have to see how these new recipes work out.