Monday, October 22, 2012

To The Cloud!

I really was going to make the scones last night, but it was past 10pm by the time I got home from the zombie walk (yes, you did read that correctly), so I did these in the morning instead ... eventually.  It's not that they were difficult, it's just that it took me a while to wobble into motion.  In fact, this recipe is very straightforward.  Again, I found using the food processor to cut in the butter was the easiest method.  Since there's a lot less butter, it takes less time than it would for regular scones.  Probably the hardest part was cutting all the way through the scones.  They appear to fuse back up during baking, but still break apart easily.

Point of order:  I used (sort of by accident) semi-sweet chocolate chips here.  I like my chocolate a little darker, so I was quite satisfied.  Your mileage may vary.

Final verdict (scones):  These, to me, were not quite as scone-like as the previous batch, perhaps the whole wheat flour.  However, they're still very satisfying with a lot of chocolate chip for the portion.

Next, I started on the biscuits.  As an aside, I was unable to find Heart Smart Bisquick at the story, so I used Heart Healthy Krusteaz Buttermilk instead.  I had to eyeball the amount of parmesan because the battery in my scale is out.  The recipe warns not to overmix the milk; by contrast, I would offer the warning to make sure that the ingredients are fully wet / combined.  Heaping tablespoons produces exactly the right number of biscuits, and there is a perfect amount of the topping to go along with it.

Final verdict (biscuits):  And, just to top it off - they're good!  Cheesy without being overwhelming and with the wonderful tang of rosemary.  I used unsalted butter and noticed no problem with the taste on the topping; I think it was only written that way to confirm that you can use the sort of butter most normal people have on hand.  (Do I need to elaborate?)

Next up, I did mise en place for the pasta fagioli and the stuffed peppers.  By now, my wary relationship with onions is known fact, so it should come as no surprise that I cut down on the amount in both recipes.  All told, there should have been an onion and a half; I chopped a single onion and ended up throwing a small part of it away.  This is actually less onion reduce than usual, because I didn't want to mess with the intended bulk too much.

The pasta fagioli does not specify whether the parsley is supposed to be dried or fresh, but given the quantity, the position in the ingredient list - alongside basil and oregano, both of which are definitely dried - and the fact that I'd used cilantro for the other recipe, I decided to go with dried.  This is a lot of dried herbs.  In fact, it ends up in a thick film on the top of the pot, which I found rather alarming, but it all worked out in the cooking.  Again, I had to eyeball the ditalini.

The peppers truly could not be easier, though I found that the liquid didn't reduce significantly, even after ten full minutes of simmering-near-to-boil.  Still, the mixture was reduced enough to fill the peppers.  1/3rd of a cup is very close to the amount one needs for each pepper half - I chose red.  However, I found that five peppers didn't fit in a 13x9 baking dish, so I ended up having to use two pans to bake.

Final verdict (fagioli):  I thought this would be too watery, but it turned out just right - very flavorful, with a bit of texture from the dried herbs without being unpleasant.  There's just enough mouth-feel with this to be filling.

Final verdict (stuffed peppers): I loved these, thought the filling was tasty and the peppers a good vessel - but I wished the peppers had perhaps cooked a trifle more, and I could have used more cheese.  Also, the liquid of the mixture made for messy eating.

After Once Upon A Time and The Walking Dead (now we know what I do with my Sunday evening), I started on the chocolate chip clouds.  I found measuring tablespoons of egg whites to be nigh impossible:  the whites clumped together, and every time I scooped, they'd slide out of the tablespoon.  I can only assume I got about the right about, as all the quantities seemed to turn out, though I ended up with 21 cookies instead of 30 while attempting to do a tablespoon size.  I think I had "heaping tablespoons."  These were done for at about 30 mins - might have been slightly underdone, but I decided I'd rather have them a bit under than a bit over.

(Recipe note - equal parts milk and semi-sweet chocolate chips used.)

Final verdict (clouds):  These are crazy-good - light, chocolatey and addictive.  I haven't had a cooled one yet because I couldn't stop eating the blasted things when they were still warm, but I'm pretty sure of them.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Menu Plan: 10/20 - 10/26

This will be my last full week on diet menus, still courtesy of Skinnytaste.  I've enjoyed most of the dishes I've made from here - easy, flavorful and satisfying.  So that's my plug for now ... on to this week, in anticipated order of prep.

Breakfast:

Skinny Chocolate Chip Buttermilk Scones

Is it wrong that I like the smell of buttermilk?

Dessert:

Chocolate Chip Clouds

Dinner:

Easy Rosemary Garlic Parmesan Biscuits 
Chicken and White Bean Stuffed Peppers
Pasta Fagioli

I haven't quite figured how I'm going to work the dinner portions around each other, but this should make four meals, all told.  Possibly bake off the biscuits first and then move on to everything else ...

Monday, October 15, 2012

Indian Breakfast Update

My Indian variant on the quinoa tasted fine, but it was a bit odd for breakfast - mental disconnect.  Probably won't make it this way again.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

A Watched Pot

Made the black bean brownies first today, in my grand tradition of making dessert first.  Really not much to tell:  it's about as simple as making brownies from a mix.  The only thing I have to say is, don't use a small Oskar to puree the beans.  It is not big enough.  The liquid will leak.  This may have been why I ended up with thinner brownies than I would have liked.  It's also a bit difficult to tell when they're done.

Final verdict (brownies):  These are about as satisfying as the mix with butter and oil, with an added touch of darkness.  Why not?

Does anyone know how to boil milk?  As I started the chicken pot pie soup, I found it was impossible to get the pot to boil at a "low" temperature - and when I finally cleaned up, there was an unpleasant crust of (apparently) burnt milk on the bottom.  Besides that, the soup cooked up in a very seamless fashion.  The potatoes took a little longer than stated, but I also used larger pieces.  As a note, substituted a leek for the mushrooms and used an extra two ounces of frozen vegetables - assumed the calorie count would come out about the same.

Final verdict (soup):  This is a hearty chicken soup, almost a stew for the thickness.  It doesn't necessarily bring chicken pot pie to mind for me, but I found it filling and a good "bargain" for the quantity.

At the same time, I prepped the baked mozarella sticks.  Warning:  either I didn't coat my sticks nearly enough, or the mixture as advertised leaves a lot more waste than you would think.

Also - do not use a stoneware cookie sheet.  My theory is that the longer cooking time on the insulated sheet melted the cheese sticks instead of "frying" the outside as intended.  After turning them, I had to take them out when I felt the coating was slightly underdone, because they had started to ooze.  Further tip:  immediately remove the aluminum foil from the cookie sheet, or they'll keep melting.

Final verdict (mozzarella sticks):  These are decent, though I don't feel they transform the string cheese enough - I thought of string cheese when eating them.  Still, they're so easy that I'd like to try them again.

Meanwhile, I'm finishing up my Indian-flavored quinoa.  Update tomorrow ...

Friday, October 12, 2012

Menu Plan: 10/14 - 10/19

I'm continuing my plan of cooking meals from SkinnyTaste for during the week, while breaking my diet only a single day.  In this case, I have a wedding Saturday that renders me unable to cook.  So here's the plan:

Dessert:

Black Bean Brownies

Snacks:

Skinny Mozzarella Sticks
 

Dinner:

Chicken Pot Pie Soup

For breakfast, I'm going to try making breakfast quinoa again, but I'm going to substitute ginger and garam masala for some of the cinnamon, omit apples and try pistachios.  This Indian twist on the whole thing will either be excellent or terrible.  Stay tuned.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Chili Chili Bang Bang

Made Skinnytaste's 3 Bean Turkey Chili today, a slow cooker meal that I started before my morning student arrived.  Discovered I had whole canned chiles rather than chopped ones, but it was the work of a moment to fix that issue.  I used my ten-inch skillet to brown the meat and onions, but wished I had used the twelve-inch - more room to move everything around.  This recipe uses a lot - a LOT - of chili powder.  I was stunned at the quantity.

I cooked the chili for about three hours on Low, then switched it to High for the remaining time.  Since the red onion and cilantro are a garnish, I chopped only as much as I needed for one portion.

Verdict (chili):  This had far more tomatoes in it than I expected, but it turned out flavorful and hearty.  To be honest, the turkey wasn't much to speak of - I could have done without it - but the assortment of beans was very satisfying.  Would make again.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Quick Verdict

Breakfast quinoa?  Very good.  It's a bit like oatmeal, but less mushy, and the apples and pecans are the perfect quantity to provide mouth-feel and crunch.  So - thumbs up on that.  It's a very recent recipe, if you're checking the front of Skinnytaste ...

Saturday, October 6, 2012

New Plan - Engaged!

Today I made four of my five recipes and tried all but one.  (Well, two, if you count the one I haven't made yet.  Time traveling cookery!)  The remaining won't be consumed until Monday morning, so I can provide no intel on it as of yet.

I started with the lemon cranberry scones.  This is a very easy recipe, but I was honestly a bit dubious seeing how little butter there was in it.  I used a food processor to cut in the butter, as other scone recipes have indicated.  My one gaffe was not flouring my hands ahead of time - I had to peel it off my palms to get it on the cookie sheet.

It's deceptive how much glaze three tablespoons makes - it absolutely saturates the top of the scone round and, in fact, makes it a trifle difficult to tell when the scones are fully cooked because the top remains a bit gooey.

Final verdict (scones):  These are quite good, and they taste exactly like regular, full-fat scones.  There's just enough lemon to add interest.  Recommended.

Next, I started on the pumpkin hazelnut flaugnarde.  Again, a very simple recipe:  the nuts go in the bottom of the pie plate and float up as soon as the blended mixture is added.  I chose to use additional vanilla extract rather than a vanilla bean here, as vanilla beans are rather precious.

I did find it baked a bit faster than advertised, and the mixture is right up to the brim of the pie plate - exercise caution when sliding into the oven.  How I didn't end up with some on the floor of the oven, I still don't know.

Final verdict (flaugnarde):  This has a nice, subtly sweet flavor and a good pudding texture to it, but I'm not tremendously impressed.  I think it may just be that I'm not in the mood for pumpkin, after all, but there's too many good recipes to keep this one.

Next, dinner prep for the southwestern medley, which primarily involved a lot of chopping and measuring.  The dry / whole ingredients went in one bowl, the wet ingredients / spices whisked in another and then poured on top.  The major hurdle I ran into is that it's almost impossible to prepare a one cup cooked serving of quinoa.  I needed a much smaller saucepan - and I was using my small one.  It ended up burning a bit and not properly plumping up.  So not quite sure what to suggest here - get a really tiny saucepan?  Prepare quinoa for something else at the same time?

Even with that withstanding, however ...

Final verdict (medley):  This is amazingly good for something so simple - dashes of acid, a hint of sweet from the mango, and some spicy kick.  Honestly, a bit too much spice ... I'd wonder about the jalapeno, but if I'd used a smaller one, the individual bits would have just been more spicy.  (They do get hotter the smaller they are.)

After dinner, I prepared the breakfast quinoa, which came out looking a lot like oatmeal.  I felt the urge to stir, because there was a lot of cinnamon in it, and it chose to creep up the sides of the saucepan.  I added the raisins and applesauce, but kept the pecans and apples in reserve to add with each individual serving.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Menu Plan: 10/6 - 10/11

So this week/end, I've decided to try something a little different.  I need to stay on-diet, but I'm craving cookery, so I delved into this site:

Gina's Skinny Recipes 

My goal was to find one meal I could make for tomorrow, a slow cooker that would provide multiple portions during the week, a dessert, and a breakfast that didn't involve store-bought pastries.  I found an embarrassment of riches, and finally decided to make two breakfasts, with the idea of substituting some for lunch.

Dinners:

Southwestern Black Bean, Quinoa and Mango Medley
Crockpot 3 Bean Turkey Chili

Breakfast / Lunch:

Apple and Cinnamon Breakfast Quinoa
Lemon Cranberry Scones

Dessert:

Pumpkin Hazelnut Flaugnarde

All recipes available on the above website.