Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Divine Chicken Divan

There are dishes growing up that everyone has in their household that will forever be in your food memory bank. My mom always cooked growing up, so I happen to have quite a few. Its an on going joke with erin that I fully believe that my mom made up many of the recipes that she cooked for us. I would never had imagined her following a recipe. When it comes to making Shepard's pie, that's my mom's! Or strawberry shortcake with homemade biscuits...Betty Crocker who? So when my mom came to visit erin and I in New York I was sure that erin had never had Chicken Divan before. This was a chicken casserole dish that only mom could make. In this case erin actually hadn't heard of it...so it just fueled my theory. Her recipe is composed of chicken, cheeses, cream soups, mayo...all those delicious items that i have since broken free of (well for the most part). So imagine my surprise when I stumbled across Eatingwell.com's version of Chicken Divan.

I really didn't believe that there could be a way to duplicate the flavors in my mom's chicken divan in a healthy way. When I began my break up with certain items, erin had to lose them to, and sometimes that's not fair. So when I brought this recipe home she was more than willing to try it out. It was a hit! So last night when we were faced with what to do with another boring chicken breast...i quickly remembered this popular dish.

I poach the chicken while I prepped the rest of the ingredients, and pre-heated the oven at the same time. The recipe calls for one large leek, but I used two. I love those leeks. They really add a nice flavor without being over powering. My broccoli was frozen so I simply soaked them in some hot water so that they would be thawed by combination time. My one suggestion with this dish is to have all of your ingredients ready. The instructions tell you to constantly stir when combining things and it will make for a much smoother cooking process. The nice thing about this dish is that once assembled it has to cook in the oven for about twenty five mins, so this gave me time to cook some 10 minute brown rice!
The flavors in this are different than my mom's, but delicious and totally worth a try. The amount of calories and fat you save just enhance the dish that much more.

I must say this chicken is simply....divine.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Lovely Lentil Tacos with a Side of Spicy Swiss Chard

When I saw this recipe for Lentil Tacos on Runnersworld.com I could not wait to try it! I have been a huge fan of lentils for awhile and lived on lentil soup throughout the winter. It was so filling and creamy and a great substitute for someone like me who really lost their craving for alot of of meat dishes. Also if you recall I thoroughly enjoy Mexican food and love all the flavors that typically come with that cuisine. It did however take me a few weeks to convince erin of the joys of lentils. She had tasted my lentil soup and found it anything but Mexican. I convinced her that the spices and other ingredients would far surpass the typical blandness (which I happen to enjoy) in a lentil soup. She reluctantly agreed to try them...

Now the first step was getting her past a few ingredients. She isn't a huge fan of celery, she quickly pointed out, but I really didn't want to alter the recipe until I had attempted it once. I assured her that the celery would cook down with the rest of the items and just give more texture to the filling. Also she wasn't completely sold on the raisins but again she decided to give it a try. I started with oil spray instead of the oil called for and I opted to go with the vegetable broth to cook the lentils in. I must point out that I ended up DOUBLING the amount of liquid called for. I added the entire can of veggie broth and approx. 3/4 cup of warm water. As the lentils cooked down I continued to check the tenderness and they definitely required more liquid. All the spices and textured smelled and looked great! We served these up with corn tortillas and topped it with some low fat Mexican cheese and I used some chopped up cabbage as a lettuce substitute. The recipe says that it feeds four, but there were three of us eating (two tacos each)and we had PLENTY leftover. I think this would work great as a nacho topper as well!

As the lentil mix cooked I had found a side dish on eatingwell.com that had some Mexican flavors, but wasn't high in the calories or fat. Normally I would tend to have chips on the side when having tacos, but even the healthier ones (i am a HUGE fan of the guiltless gourmet brand) are no match for my chip craving and I knew I would go overboard given the option. Instead I decided to try Chipotle Cheddar Chard! I have never had swiss chard before but the recipe looked simple and I knew that chipotle was a good flavor to pair with tacos! Now I made a major mistake while cooking that I am going to point out to anyone else who attempts this dish. When you read the recipe it tells you to separate the stems and leaves of the chard. Naturally I just threw the stems away, upon reading the instructions however I saw that you were suppose to cook the onions and stem together and then add in the leaves at the very end. Instead I added the leaves in the beginning and it cooked WAY down and made alot less than expected. It was still really good, but I assume that having the stems in there would have given the dish a bit more substance and quantity! We all went back for 2nds though so it didn't seem to bother us! I doubled up on the chipotle after tasting it and added some salt and pepper. I would also note that the recipe claims to feed 6, but I would say it was more like a serving for 4 (could be that the stems make a big difference). I also think we could have added this right on top of the tacos if those darn tortillas weren't so small.
This turned out to be a really successful, healthy dinner. The tacos were tasty and satisfying, filling everyone up! The side dish, although a bit off on the instructions, was delicious and simple. Both dishes could be used to create one tasty burrito/taco or nachos.

I think that leftovers might be lentil nachos...

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Pork-Chop Cutlets Creation

Sometimes I think that cooking is a chore, I'm not gonna lie. For the most part I really enjoy trying new dishes, even after a long/tedious/boring work day. But some nights...the take out menus are calling my name. I say this because I was having just one of those moments last night. My love of cooking went out the window as my pajamas went on. However my wallet and defrosted pork chops did not take kindly to that whim. I am not a waster by any means and having defrosted meat out is by far the best way to ward off the terrible take out monster. I also have to admit that after my lapse of laziness subsided I realized that I had picked a pretty simple recipe and even simpler side dishes.

As I mentioned Erin had opted to take out pork chop cutlets this morning as we hastily decided what to have for dinner. I hadn't cooked in a few days so of course I thought I would be up for the job! I went online to search out some dishes and I must say most of the returns were mainly for pork tenderloins and cutlet creations were harder to find. Some of the menus that kept coming up were "rubs", which to me seemed pretty basic, but the one I chose also created a sauce which is always a plus in case the meats a bit dry :). I also had all the ingredients for this one and of course that is one of my number one rules when cooking on a budget!

These Pork-Chops with Maple-Mustard Sauce seemed to fit the bill where I was concerned. Although we had cutlets I saw that in the list of ingredients it called for "boneless pork-chops", perfect! I decided to serve brown basmati rice and steamed broccoli on the side. My one mistake came early as we were starving and brown basmati rice takes a good 40 mins. to cook. The pork-chops only took about 25 mins total, so I recommend starting the rice a good 15-20 mins. ahead of those. I spent alot of time "watching rice boil" which has a similar effect of watching a tea pot boil...even worse when you are hungry.

The recipe served two, and we had four pieces of pork so I doubled up! I used a combination of whole grain Dijon and creamy Dijon. I also didn't have any kosher salt on hand, so I opted for regular. No surprise I also did not use the oil, spraying the pan with Pam worked out fine. The mixtures of mustard's looked great together and the maple syrup was a nice addition in flavor. It was very savory and sweet at the same time, and I feel like there was almost a bit of spiciness without the heat (is that confusing enough?). There was plenty of sauce left to top the rice with and I will admit we couldn't wait the full 40 mins. for the rice to finish leaving it a bit al dente (just how I like it)!

Okay now erin gave this a 9! A NINE! But I then reminded her of previous ratings and I think that the food induced high has been compromising her ratings system. I am thinking that in the future I should ask her to rate dishes the next day, as well as provide her with previous ratings for comparative analysis...

Then again, its just pork-chops!