Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Chicken tortilla soup - quick and easy

This soup is quick and easy to make, and provides a bunch of delicious veggies... which is great, because I feel like my diet has been kind of fruit-heavy lately. I also think it makes a nice "transitional" soup as we move towards warmer temperatures but still might crave a hearty veggie-laden soup that isn't has heavy as a wintery stew. You can increase the heat (which is basically nonexistent as written) by adding more cumin or some cayenne to suit your tastes.

When I make this (several times since April 2009) I never make the tortilla strips, so I start my recipe at step 2, or the "add broth" part. I also add onion--green, white, sweet; depends what I have available. This would be perfectly satisfying without the chicken, so feel free to vegetarianize it if you want. We served it with homemade salsa (not the TJ's peach shown below) and Trader Joe's spicy soy and flax tortilla chips. Normally I try to make a slow-cooker meal on Tuesdays, but since I did all the prep for this soup before we went running, all I had to do when we got home was throw it in the pot and let it simmer. Brilliant!

Chicken Tortilla Soup
serves 4
total time: 15 minutes

4 corn tortillas, halved, then cut into narrow strips (I omitted this part)
2 cans (14.5oz each) chicken broth
1 medium zucchini, cut into 3/4 - inch thick half-circles (I doubled this)
1/2 tsp each minced garlic and ground cumin (I used one large clove garlic and double the cumin)
1 cup corn (frozen is fine!)
1 can (16oz) red kidney beans, rinsed
1 1/2 cup shredded cooked chicken (I pressure cooked mine this afternoon)
1 large ripe tomato, diced (I used about 15oz diced tomatoes in juice, leftover from this recipe)
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro

1. Spray a large pot or Dutch oven with nonstick cooking spray; heat over medium heat. Add tortilla strips and cook 5 minutes, turning occasionally, until lightly toasted. Remove to cool on a paper towel or plate.

2. Add broth, zucchini, garlic, and cumin to pot; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer 3 minutes or until zucchini is crisp-tender and still bright green.

3. Stir in tortilla strips, corn and beans; continue to simmer 2 minutes until tortillas soften. Stir in chicken, tomatoes, and cilantro and heat through.

Here is my version (on the right) next to the recipe card from the magazine:

Nutrition information per serving:
Calories - 309
Protein - 26g
Carbs - 36g
Fiber - 8g
Fat - 6g (1g saturated fat)
Cholesterol - 47mg
Sodium - 730mg

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The best banana bread - gluten free!

Seriously. This is the best banana bread I've ever made--regular or gluten free--and that includes the 150 years I'd been making it before The H developed a wheat allergy. Everything came together just right to yield a loaf that was toasty golden brown, rising high above the edges of the loaf pan, moist in the center, sweet but not overwhelmingly so, and without that weird roof-of-the-mouth tingle that some people get from banana bread.

My secret? I think it was the ancient black bananas I pulled out of the freezer the night before. These were the ugliest things I've probably ever seen in my kitchen. I tossed them into the freezer on a lazy day, which means they were still in their peels. They thawed overnight in a glass measuring cup in the fridge, and by the time I got to make the bread last night, they were completely soft and floppy. Seriously nasty looking. When I smooshed them out of their peels, the fruit was limp and spotty. I wasn't holding out much hope.

But, using the recipe on the back of the gluten free all-purpose flour we use (and stock in mass quantity), I forged ahead since everything else was already in the bowl.

Banana Bread
adapted from Special Diet Solutions by Carol Fenster, Ph.D.
serves 10

1/3 cup canola oil
2/3 cup brown sugar, packed
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 3/4 cup gluten free all purpose baking flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp xanthan gum
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups ripe banana, mashed (I used three bananas and did not measure them)
1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
1/2 cup raisins

1. Preheat oven to 350* and grease a 9x5 loaf pan (I greased mine with a bit of walnut oil).

2. Cream together oil, sugar, eggs, and vanilla in a large bowl with electric mixer.

3. Add flour, xanthan gum, salt, baking powder, and cinnamon to egg mixture, alternating with bananas. Beat until smooth. Stir in nuts and raisins. Batter will be somewhat soft.

4. Spread into prepared loaf pan and bake for 1 hour in preheated oven.

Word to the wise: even though the recipe states that you should use an electric mixer, abandon that idea once the eggs, sugar, and oil are creamed together. The beaters got so gummed up from the downright rubbery batter that they wouldn't even turn anymore, and the sockets for the beaters were covered in brown goop that literally climbed up each beater as they tried to rotate. It was mildly alarming. Never fear--I grabbed a sturdy spatula and used good old fashioned elbow grease to incorporate the flour and bananas, and recommend you do the same.

When I've made this recipe in the past, I've always split it into two pans so we could freeze one for later, but this time I opted for a single loaf. I also substituted sucanat for the brown sugar to make it a little more clean, and would have used applesauce for the oil if I felt like digging through the fridge to find it--but canola oil is fine anyway, so it was not a big deal.

Even though these don't contain chocolate chips--which used to be a "must-have" for my banana bread--we didn't miss them. In fact, The H, who had two pieces last night, thought they were in there, even this morning when he and the little guy were having breakfast. Surprise! I hope you enjoy this as much as we have been.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Clean quinoa and cheesy quiche

Say that one three times fast! Both of these recipes are from Clean Eating Magazine, which I had perused just before making my meal plan and shopping list for the week. I chose them for several reasons:

1. They are both meatless, which I try to do on Mondays, yet contain satisfying amounts of protein
2. Both call for dried oregano, which I hoped meant they would complement each other
3. They are both based on things the little guy likes, so I was planning on him gobbling them up

They were enjoyable, and I can see myself making them again. I could eat the quiches at every meal and twice on Sundays, but The H liked the quinoa better. It would make an excellent side dish to balsamic-marinated, grilled chicken. I will add more peas next time. The little guy only wanted the cheese from the top of his quiche, and spit out any broccoli we tried to hide underneath. You can't win 'em all.

Quinoa Sopa Seca
from Clean Eating Magazine, March/April 2009, Vol. 2 Issue 2
serves 6

1 Tbsp olive oil
3 green onions, sliced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 tsp dried oregano
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup quinoa
Pinch of sea salt
1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed
1/2 cup tomatoes, seeded and chopped (I used 1/2 cup salt-free diced tomatoes in juice)

In a medium saucepan with a lid, warm the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions and bell pepper and cook, stirring, until soft, about 5 minutes. Add oregano and garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Stir in the quinoa (rinse it first if yours is not pre-rinsed, to remove the bitter saponin coating), then pour in 2 cups of water and the salt. Bring to a boil and reduce heat; cover and simmer until liquid is absorbed and the quinoa grains show opaque lines around their edges (this is the germ splitting apart), about 12 minutes. Turn off the heat and stir in the thawed peas and tomatoes. Cover pan again and let stand until heated through, about 5 minutes. Keep warm until ready to serve.

Nutrition information per 1/2 cup serving:
Calories - 150
Fat - 4g
Carbs - 23g
Fiber - 4g
Sugars - 2g
Protein - 5g
Sodium - 55mg
Cholesterol - 0mg

Crustless Broccoli & Cheese Mini Quiches
from Clean Eating Magazine, March/April 2009, Vol. 2 Issue 2
serves 5

Olive oil cooking spray
1 tsp olive oil
1 1/2 cups broccoli, chopped
2/3 cup low-fat shredded cheddar cheese, divided
1 cup low-fat Greek yogurt
2 Tbsp low-fat milk
1 whole large egg
1 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp sea salt
Fresh ground black pepper, to taste

1. Preheat oven to 350* and spray 10 cups of a muffin pan with cooking spray (don't try to stretch this recipe into 12 cups unless you increase the egg mixture by more than just one egg white).

2. Heat oil in a medium skillet. Add broccoli and saute for 5 minutes (or use frozen broccoli, thawed in the microwave, and skip this part altogether, eliminating the oil as well). Distribute broccoli evenly among the prepared muffin cups, then distribute half of the cheese on top.

3. In a medium bowl, whisk the yogurt, milk, egg, and seasonings. Distribute evenly over broccoli and cheese. Top with remaining cheese and bake 20-25 minutes, until quiches are set and lightly browned around the edges. Let cool 5 minutes and serve, or cool and refrigerate until ready to eat.

Nutrition information for 2 quiches:
Calories - 100
Fat - 3.5g
Carbs - 6g
Fiber - 2g
Sugars - 1g
Protein - 11g
Sodium - 240mg
Cholesterol - 40mg

Chicken stock and humble chicken soup

Have you ever looked in your vegetable crisper and noticed some things that were bit past their fresh-eating prime? Perhaps few limp stalks of celery and some skinny parsnips from the time you bought 4 pounds, overestimating just how many things you'd make with them? One of the things I ordered during the last co-op shopping cycle was a package of chicken parts so I could make fresh chicken stock and use up my stash of sad veggies. I also ordered some sweet winter-dug carrots, which I was excited to use in this recipe. The colors in my 2 lbs ranged from white with green, to orangey-purple and pale peach to brilliant orange. So cool!

Even though the weather is warming up around here, comfort food like chicken noodle soup never goes out of style.

I made homemade stock one other time in my life, and it made enough of an impression for me to make a note in my cookbook (The Eat-Clean Diet for Family & Kids) that it was worth the effort. So when I picked up my frozen chicken pieces mid-week, I put them right into the fridge to thaw so the stock could get made this weekend. If you decide to make this soup, allow yourself the weekend (or a similar stretch of time) because it is fairly labor-intensive, given the chopping, simmering, and cooling times involved.

Chicken Soup - Humble But Divine
from The Eat-Clean Diet for Family and Kids by Tosca Reno
Yield: 10 cups

Ingredients for stock:
1 5lb chicken carcass
Water to cover the chicken, about 10-12 cups
2 onions, peeled and cut into chunks
4 ribs celery, chopped (include leaves if you have them)
2 thick sweet carrots, cut into large chunks
2 parsnips, peeled and cut into large chunks
5 cloves garlic, whole
5 bay leaves
1 Tbsp sea salt

Preparation for stock:
1. Place all ingredients in a large stockpot or Dutch oven and bring to a boil.

Reduce heat. Place lid on pot, allowing steam to escape, and simmer 2-3 hours over low heat. Let cool.

Place pot in the fridge for a few hours to allow the fat to congeal on top of the liquid.

2. Remove the congealed fat, return the stock to stove and bring to a boil. Once the gelatin has liquiefied, strain the liquid through a fine mesh strainer and into another soup pot.

Discard cooked vegetables; remove meat from chicken bones to use in the soup.

Ingredients for soup:
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
3 ribs celery, cleaned and chopped
4 Brussels sprouts, chopped fine
1 cup orzo pasta
Handful fresh parsley, chopped fine
2 low-sodium chicken bouillon cubes

Preparation for soup:
1. Add chopped vegetables, orzo, and bouillon cubes to prepared stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cook for 20 minutes or until vegetables and pasta are tender.

2. Correct soup flavor with sea salt and black pepper. Serve hot.

I started the stock on Saturday afternoon, chilled it overnight, and made the soup for our dinner on Sunday evening. Like I said above--give yourself time to make this one!

Using rice noodles in place of orzo, egg noodles, or other pasta makes the soup safe for The H (and anyone else with a wheat allergy or gluten intolerance). Breaking them inside a zip-top bag keeps your kitchen free of sharp noodle shards, which your bare feet will appreciate... trust me. I cooked them separately and added to the soup about 2 minutes before it was done.

I do not know why the greens (shredded sprouts and parsley) float at first. Rest assured, it all comes together and looks like real soup eventually!

I added 1/4 teaspoon of poultry seasoning when I seasoned to-taste at the end. Even the little guy was into it. I added a scoop of precooked quinoa (from my lunch on Friday) to his bowl to help cool it down and give it a little protein boost. He loves quinoa!

He really did enjoy it--just preferred to eat it off his plate instead of from the bowl.

Nutritional information per 1 cup serving:
Calories - 119
Fat - 1g
Protein - 8.5g
Carbs - 20g
Fiber - 2g
Sodium - 500mg
Cholesterol - 10mg

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Weekly Meal Plan

Sunday lunch - leftovers (beef curry over brown rice for me, black bean lasagna for The H and the little guy) served with Greek yogurt and fresh fruit

Sunday dinner - Eat-Clean chicken noodle soup (recipe here), served with sliced cheese, apple, edamame, and NutThins crackers

Meatless Monday - Quinoa Sopa Seca (a Clean Eating Magazine recipe) with mini broccoli quiches

Tuesday - Chicken tortilla soup with homemade tortilla chips and sweet potato fries

Wednesday - Open (out or leftovers)

Thursday - Turkey lasagna roll-ups (a Clean Eating Magazine recipe)

Friday - Visiting family! Have a great weekend, everyone.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Quinoa with spinach and roasted garlic

Warm, simple, and delicious. Is there a better kind of meal for a suddenly-chilly day? Michigan's weather has once again played a trick on us and gone from sunny and spring-like to temps in the teens overnight. The little guy is at daycare today so I was on my own for lunch and looking for inspiration. Nothing too time-consuming (I am working, after all), something with protein (I went for a run first), and above all, something tasty.

Then I read about Mary Ellen's Quinoa with Roasted Garlic, Tomatoes, and Spinach, and I knew what lunch would be. Of course I slightly modified the original (as you have probably come to expect from me).

I set the rice cooker to cook the quinoa in vegetable broth while I ran, then after my shower quickly tossed the rest together. And it was quick, too--just about 20 minutes from swirling the olive oil in a skillet to sitting down at my desk to eat. In between those steps, here's what I did:

Sliced 1/4 Spanish onion into thin strips and sauteed until lightly browned, then added two handfuls of fresh baby spinach. While that wilted, I chopped a Roma tomato and got out my container of homemade roasted garlic paste from the fridge. I put a scoop (tablespoon-ish) of the garlic into the skillet and let it warm up, then added the tomato and stirred everything around. Salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper were added to taste, and the last step was to stir in about half the pot of cooked quinoa--maybe a cup. I let it all heat through while I put the rest of the quinoa in the fridge, then poured the contents of the skillet into my dish and trekked back to my desk for lunch. (And work. But mostly lunch.)

This would make a wonderful side dish to grilled or roasted chicken, and could even pass as a one-pot meal if you wanted to add cooked shrimp or chicken right to the skillet.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Homemade pecan turtles

Let me just state for the record that I am not a confectioner. The idea of stirring molten sugar until it reaches just the right temperature, then catching it at the precise moment before "soft ball" becomes "hard ball" makes my lips numb. So when I saw this recipe for homemade raw pecan turtles that didn't involve any extra putzing around the kitchen, I was sold. Alas. They did not turn as well as I had hoped.

Raw Vegan Chocolate Turtles
from Love Veggies and Yoga
makes 4 pieces - I doubled the recipe, but original quantities are listed below

1/3 cup pecans (or walnuts)
1/2 cup melted chocolate (or two Baker's Chocolate squares, or chocolate chips, or a cocoa/agave/coconut oil combination)
1/8 to 1/4 cup agave nectar + pinch of salt (freeze this to make your raw vegan caramel)

1. Melt half of the chocolate.
2. Divide the pecans into four equal piles on a wax paper-lined baking sheet.
3. Pour the melted chocolate over the nuts. Distribute as evenly as possible.

4. Pour the caramel sauce over the chocolate-drizzled nuts.

5. Melt the other half of the chocolate, and pour over the top of each pile.
6. Freeze or refrigerate to harden.

Looking at the photos now, I see that they don't actually look as terrible as I remember. I made these on the night The H and I were both struck with food poisoning (unrelated to this recipe!) so perhaps that is clouding my memory a bit.

My major upsets with this recipe:

-- The vegan "caramel" only ever tasted of salty agave syrup
-- Pouring cold "caramel" over warm chocolate and then MORE warm chocolate over the top led to the massive spread-out seen above (the photo following Step 4)
-- My turtles don't have any chocolate underneath
-- The one I taste-tested completely fell apart--perhaps due in part to the lack of a chocolate bottom

Once they hardened enough to remove from the wax paper and *not* crumble instantaneously, I threw them all into a plastic leftovers box and crammed it into the freezer. There they lie, mocking me every time I shuffle things around. Perhaps one day I will try them again. If I do, I will be sure to put the pecans onto circles of melted chocolate, then chill between each subsequent layering step to reduce the chance of spread.

Or I could just leave perfection to the masters, and order some Awesome Chocolates next time the co-op ordering window opens.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

My new favorite burger

Since last month's co-op pickup, I've had two one-pound packages of ground chicken breast sitting in the freezer, mocking me every time I'd go see what I had to create a meal plan around. The only thing I've ever made with ground chicken is chicken apple sausage patties. That's exactly what I had intended to do with them this time around, but I just wasn't feeling it.

Then I came across this recipe for chicken tequila burgers, another winner from Cara's Cravings. I modified it to exclude the tequila, as Jen the Beantown Baker did. I also made a version of Jen's Food Network-inspired drunken peppers to go on top. The beer we used was RedBridge, a gluten-free beer made by Anheuser-Busch.

Since the original recipe calls for 11oz of chicken breasts, and I had a full pound of ground chicken to use, I increased the quantities of the other ingredients a bit and ended up with five palm-sized patties instead of the original two servings. There would have been 6, but I made a pretty big one for The H and a small one for the little guy. See it there on the end?

The H and I both loved the combination of cilantro and lime with the ground chicken. Even the little guy ate about half of his, dipped in mustard. These are nice, summery-tasting burger that isn't heavy or greasy at all. The peppers and onions on top had great flavor that complemented the burgers really well. I look forward to making these quite a bit in the coming warmer months.

We served them with sweet potato fries, drizzled with olive oil and seasoned with kosher salt, cinnamon, ancho chili powder, and cayenne pepper, then baked at 400* and finished under the broiler while the burgers were cooking. I'm looking forward to the leftovers for lunch today... that's when you know it's good. :)

Chicken Burgers with Cilantro
adapted from Cara's Cravings and Beantown Baker
serves 6

1 lb ground chicken breast
2 large cloves garlic, minced fine
Two large handfuls fresh cilantro, minced (about 1/2 cup)
Zest from half of a lime
Splash of wheat-free tamari OR lite soy sauce
Sea salt and black pepper
1/2 cup plain dry oats
1/2 fresh lime, cut into wedges

1. Preheat broiler (to low, if you have a choice). Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray with nonstick cooking spray or olive oil.

2. In a medium bowl, combine chicken, garlic, cilantro, lime zest, tamari, salt and pepper, and oats. Using clean hands or a large spoon, portion the mixture into equal-sized mounds on the prepared baking sheet. Flatten and form into burger-shaped patties.

3. Place the burgers under the broiler for 10-12 minutes total, flipping halfway through cooking time. Serve on toasted buns (or gluten-free bread) with desired toppings and lime wedges for an extra flavor boost.

Drunken Peppers
serves 4

1 Tbsp olive oil
3 Poblano peppers, seeded and cut into strips (I used a large red pepper and a small orange pepper)
1/4 cup lager beer (we used the GF beer mentioned above)
1/2 medium onion, sliced
Sea salt and black pepper, to taste

1. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the pepper strips and onion; season with salt and pepper. Saute about 8 minutes, until veggies start to caramelize around the edges.

2. Add the beer and cover, cooking 5 minutes or until peppers are soft.

I do not have nutritional information for the burgers, since I modified them, but please check out the link to Cara's recipe above for the nutritional data from her original recipe.

Monday, March 22, 2010

I jumped on the bean-wagon

Similar to the Green Monster craze, there is a phenomenon sweeping across the interwebz (ok, at least some message boards I frequent) that involves hiding awesome vegetables in an unlikely recipe, one that ultimately masks the veggies' flavors (or lack thereof) and makes the eater incredulous that s/he could possibly be eating THAT, in THIS. Confused? I'm talking about black bean brownies, folks. Seriously. With avocado. Awww, yeah.

I first came across this recipe on branny's blog, but missed the fact that Cara was the mastermind behind this version until today. I think this is one of the very few recipes I made (almost) as written, with no ad-libbing apart from my sugar switch.

I used a bag of black beans that I'd frozen the last time I made a big batch in the slow cooker. If you want to prepare beans this way, 1 2/3 cup beans (no liquid) is equivalent to a 15.5 oz can. I rinsed and drained, as I would have with a can, once they were thawed.

Both bloggers list the weight of the avocado, which I found helpful since Branny's recipe calls for one small avocado, and Cara's recipe states "1/2 of a ripe avocado." Half of mine more than met the weight requirement, so I left it at that.

The one substitution I made was to use Sucanat in place of the white sugar called for--again, I went by weight, just as I did for the cocoa powder and avocado.

I love my food scale!

Here is the batter, ready to go in the oven. I am not very good at parchment-lining.

And, done!

I pulled these out of the pan and cut off the cracked edges for us to eat tonight, frosted with a little homemade (not clean) buttercream, and will save the rest for tomorrow. I hear these are even better the next day, if they last that long, and I would love to know just *how* that is going to be possible.

Small, but a rich and satisfying end to a midweek meal. The H tasted a piece before they were frosted, told me it was good, then asked where the other half of the avocado (he saw the pit-half sitting on the counter) had gone. I asked if he really wanted to know. His reply? "Is it in the brownies? You can tell me. I already said I liked them." I appreciated his enthusiasm and lack of shock.

Black Bean Brownies with Avocado
serves 12

1 can (15.5 oz) black beans, rinsed and drained
3/4 cup egg whites or egg substitute
1/4 cup agave nectar
1/2 of a ripe avocado (60gm)
6 Tbsp cocoa powder (30gm)
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 Tbsp white sugar (75gm) (I used Sucanat)
2 teaspoons instant espresso (omitted because I didn't have any)

1. Preheat oven to 350* and line an 8x8 pan with parchment paper.

2. Combine beans, egg whites, agave, and avocado in food processor and blend until completely smooth. Add remaining ingredients and continue blending. Scrape down the sides of the processor once or twice.

3. Spread batter into parchment-lined pan and bake in preheated oven 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Store leftovers in an airtight container.

Nutrition information:
Calories: 98
Total fat: 1.2g
Cholesterol: 0mg
Sodium: 134.6mg
Total carbs: 19.5g
Fiber: 2.7g
Protein: 4.2g

Meal Plan Monday

Sunday - Leftover chili with fruit and yogurt for lunch; pizza with sister and bro-in-law for dinner

Monday - Chicken burgers inspired by Cara with sweet potato fries and brownies from branny if the little guy takes a good nap so I have time to make them

Tuesday - (CrockPot) Burritos with shredded chicken breast tenders, avocado, black beans, and tomatoes in millet-flax wraps from the health food store, Trader Joe's soy-flax tortilla chips and salsa

Wednesday - Co-op pickup! And probably dinner at our favorite local place, the Cheetah

Thursday - Beef curry over brown rice and some sort of green vegetable, whatever looks good when I shop

Friday - Gluten-free pancakes and homemade chicken-apple-sausage patties, hardboiled eggs if I make them earlier in the week (to use up the older eggs before I add four dozen fresh ones to the fridge on Wednesday!)

Saturday - Open

Looks like a lot of food but I don't anticipate any given meal making much in the way of leftovers.

What are you eating this week?

Friday, March 19, 2010

Chicken and Rice

Whenever I ask The H what he wants to eat in any given week, his typical answer is, "Hmm, how about chicken and rice?" Like that doesn't have 80 million variations. It's been one of my personal missions to find new ways to serve "chicken and rice" since I *did* ask, after all, so I might as well make him what he wants. One of our favorites, chicken-salsa-rice, came out of this quest. Tonight's dinner, which came entirely from Clean Eating Magazine, also fits the bill, though it may not yet be considered a favorite.

And yes, I know it didn't photograph well... and I didn't have the time, energy, or daylight to attempt an improvement. Such is life with an overtired, hungry toddler. I had a few issues with these recipes and will explain at the end.

Sesame-Mango Chicken with Brown Rice
from Clean Eating Magazine, Vol. 1, Issue 4, Fall 2008
serves: 4
total time: 30min

2 1/2 cups water
2 tsp salsa
1 cup brown rice

2 Tbsp sesame seeds
1 tsp olive oil
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts or tenderloins
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1 mango, peeled and diced (approx. 1 cup)
3 medium tomatoes, diced
1 Tbsp fresh lime juice

1. In a medium-sized saucepan, bring water and salsa to a boil. Add rice and simmer over low heat for about 25 minutes or until rice is done.

2. Meanwhile, toast sesame seeds in a medium skillet over low heat for about 2 minutes or until golden brown. Pour onto a plate to cool.

3. Add olive oil to the skillet, swirl to coat the bottom, and add chicken. Sprinkle garlic, ginger, and pepper over the chicken and increase heat to medium. Cook about 4 minutes, then turn over, stirring to keep garlic from burning.

4. Add diced mango to pan; saute for 2 minutes. Add tomatoes and lime juice. Simmer 5 minutes or until tomatoes are hot and mango is juicy. Serve over rice.

Nutrition information for 1.5 cup serving: 391 calories, 6g fat, 1g saturated fat, 51g carbs, 4g fiber, 10g sugars, 32g protein, 112mg sodium, 66mg cholesterol.

Thai-Style Broccoli with Peanuts
from Clean Eating Magazine, Vol. 1, Issue 4, Fall 2008
serves: 4

1 bunch broccoli, cut into small florets (about 4 cups)
1 cup water, divided
1 Tbsp natural peanut butter
1 Tbsp fresh lime juice
1/8 tsp crushed red pepper
1/8 tsp sea salt
2 Tbsp dry roasted peanuts, coarsely crushed

1. Place broccoli florets and 1/2 cup of the water in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil. Immediately ocver and set a timer for 2 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare the peanut sauce.

2. In a small glass bowl, stir together peanut butter and 2 Tbsp water. Microwave for 15 seconds; remove and stir until cream. Stir in lime juice, red pepper, and salt.

3. When the broccoli is done, drain water and place broccoli on a serving plate. Top with peanut sauce. Sprinkle with crushed peanuts and serve.

Nutrition information per 1 cup serving: 69 calories, 4g fat, 0.5g saturated fat, 6g carbs, 3g fiber, 0g sugar, 4g protein, 82mg sodium, 0mg cholesterol.

Here are my thoughts about these recipes:

First, the chicken. It was good, but the rice needed salt. I always salt the water when I make rice, so I don't know why I didn't this time. Also, 2 teaspoons of salsa is NOTHING in 2 1/2 cups of water, so I increased to 2 tablespoons (of my beloved Trader Joe's Smoky Peach goodness). The water called for was about 1/2 cup too much in my opinion, and it took longer than 30 minutes to cook. The end consistency was more like a thick risotto than the fluffy rice shown on the magazine page.

But what about the sesame seeds? Where do these tiny shiny fellows get added back in? The recipe does not say. Thus, you see in the first two photos above that I simply scattered (ok, dumped) them on top before serving.

And now the broccoli. I loved it, but it would've been much tastier if it had been hot. Make this *just* before you serve it, because once you drain it, there is no good way to keep it warm without causing it to turn that weird yellow-green-gray shade of overcooked vegetation. Also, note how much water is called for: 1 cup. Yet in the recipe instructions, you simmer the broccoli in exactly half of that, then make the peanut sauce with a mere 2 tablespoons of the remaining half cup. What happens to the other 6 tablespoons? (FYI: there are 16 Tbsp in a cup.)

These aren't deal-breakers by any means; if anything, they make me want to try these recipes again to see if my fixes would improve them at all. The H liked both dishes, but didn't really appreciate them together. Too much "roasty" he said, with the combination of sesame seeds (which are a surprisingly brilliant source of calcium, did you know?) and roasted peanuts. The little guy ate a little bit of each dish before he put his feet up on the table and demanded to be let down to wash his hands. Next time I attempt these it won't be so close to bedtime. I would eventually like to try the peanut sauce over rice noodles, perhaps with some extra vegetables, and serve it as a main meal. Stay tuned. :)