Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Ground Turkey Meatloaf

I shunned meatloaf for years – so old fashioned, so unhealthy. 

But I really like the idea of the cute, self-contained loaf that includes the goodness of protein and flavor. Plus, I have fond memories of my mother eating cold meatloaf sandwiches for lunch and I wanted to channel her with my own, updated version of the iconic American classic.  Enter the ground turkey meatloaf.

I use healthy, 99 percent fat-free ground turkey and moisten it with plenty of finely chopped mushrooms for a burst of umami flavor. Chopped jalapenos -- which you can now buy in a jar from the grocery aisle that includes pickles and hot dog relish – add another dimension for those who like heat. Substitute finely chopped broccoli if you prefer to eat lower on the scoville heat scale.

What I especially like about meatloaf is its forgiving nature. Precise measuring of ingredients is not necessary for success. One egg to one pound of meat is typical, but other binders, such as ½ cup of panko or stale bread crumbs are optional, as are chopped onions or garlic. Fewer crumbs result in a denser loaf, while more give the loaf a lighter texture. Anywhere from ¾ to 1 cup of finely chopped mushrooms add meaty flavor, and about ¼ cup of chopped jalapenos adds spiciness. Salt and pepper are essential, and any number of dried herbs work well with turkey. 

Traditionalists like a generous coat of ketchup over the top of the loaf before it goes into the oven, but as with other ingredients, this one is optional. I think that ketchup masks the savory, deep flavor of this meatloaf, but if you love the stuff, pour it on.

You can buy double-formed meatloaf pans with holes punched in the bottom of the first pan to allow the fat to drain while the loaf bakes. Or, make your own version of a double pan by placing the loaf in a disposable aluminum foil pan with holes punched in the bottom and set that pan inside another baking pan. I use one plain loaf pan since the ground turkey doesn't produce enough fat to bother with the double-pan system.

Here’s my current favorite version of the American treasure:

1 pound ground turkey
1 egg
½ cup panko bread crumbs
1 cup finely chopped mushrooms
1/4 cup finely chopped onions
1/4 cup chopped jalapenos
3 cloves minced garlic
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon unsalted Italian herb blend

1.       With clean hands or a wide-tined fork, mix all ingredients together in a large bowl.

2.       Press the ground meat mixture into a loaf pan and smooth the top.

3.       Bake the loaf in a 350 degree Fahrenheit oven for about 45 minutes or until a meat thermometer registers 170 degrees Fahrenheit.

4.       Let the loaf rest for 5 minutes, allowing it to set. Run a knife around the edges of the pan if it hasn't already pulled away from the edges, and invert the loaf onto a plate or platter to make cutting it easier.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Chicken and Apricot Enchiladas

They take a bit of time to prepare, but enchiladas give you warmth and comfort on a cool fall day. As always, I use refrigerator and pantry staples and leftover bits of vegetables. Here's a post on enchiladas from a few years ago, and I see that my comments about always using black beans is actually not true. 

For last night's enchildas, I used a chicken breast (poached and shredded), goat cheese, leftover cooked spinach and 3 dried apricots for each enchilada. You could of course substitute Mexican cheese or Monterey Jack for the goat cheese and add black, pinto or Great Northern beans in addition to the chicken. Sometimes I also add a tablespoon of chipolte chiles in adobo sauce for smoky heat.

My sauce consists of a roux with 3 tablespoons of flour and about 2 1/2 to 3 cups of chicken stock along with a canned of chopped green chilies and a few tablespoons of salsa. When I use flour tortillas, as I did last night, I don't bother to warm the tortillas or dip them in the sauce because they are plenty pliable as is.

Once I have all the ingredients on hand, I create a mini assembly line, placing the fillings on one side of the tortilla. Assembling the enchiladas all at the same time before rolling them up allows me to adjust the fillings so each tortilla contains the same amount. 

Before rolling up the enchiladas, spoon a few large tablespoons of sauce onto the bottom and sides of the baking dish to help keep the enchiladas from sticking to the pan. Begin rolling from the side containing the filling; When you get to the end of the tortilla, pull the remaining flap of tortilla up to the top of the roll so you can lift it easily and place it flap-side-down in the baking dish. The tortillas bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes -- covered for soft tops and uncovered about 1/2 way through for a more crispy top.

Last night, the enchiladas rested on a bed of chopped kale and spinach salad mix, topped with sour cream (low fat of course!) and guacamole with pomegranate seeds. Roasted sweet potatoes rounded out the meal.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Trout -- Quick, Easy and Clean!

Trout and hamburgers are my go-to choices when we eat out on road trips because I can always count on them to taste great. What's more, most trout in restaurants or in the grocery store are farmed rainbow trout, which the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch program says are always a "Best Choice" pick. And they're so easy to cook!

My grocery store sells whole trout and filets them for me in minutes. I find that one large trout serves 2 people (plus, 2 fillets fit perfectly in my 12-inch skillet).

You'll need a few pieces of equipment--one special and one probably improvised:

 --A pair of fish tweezers, which I've posted about before, come in handy to remove the few remaining bones that your fish guy will inevitably leave in. I find fish tweezers very cool!

--You'll need to find a cover for your large skillet. I use a round pizza pan, but you may have a large lid from a stock pot or spaghetti pot. Or, simply use a piece of foil. Covering the fish allows it to cook quickly and, maybe more importantly, keeps you from having to clean a bunch of greasiness from your stovetop.

Here's my fool-proof and quick method for cooking trout:

1. Pour a bit of oil in a pan heated to medium high and lay the trout in the pan skin-side-down.

2. Cover the pan and let the fish cook for about 4 minutes.

3. The trout is done when it flakes easily after you poke it with a fork or the tip of a knife and when the flesh is no longer shiny and glistening (cooking sites call this stage opaque--meaning that the flesh is not see-through)

4. Squeeze a bit of fresh lemon juice and add salt and pepper on each piece, and use a metal spatula to serve the fish onto each person's plate,

I don't eat the skin (of any fish actually) because I never cook it to the stage where it's crispy enough to be delectable and because for some fish, like salmon or halibut, I fear the mercury that resides in the fatty portions of the fish.  The topic of eating fish skin is debatable--scroll through this Serious Eats post for the pros and cons of eating fish skin!

With the trout, we had roasted potatoes with a bunch of chopped scallions tossed in after roasting (toss the potatoes in oil, salt and pepper and roast at 400 degrees for about 25 minutes, turning them once) and a salad with my typical melange of this-and-that, including leftover cooked mushrooms, 1/2 of a left-over avocado, slices of red onions, a bit of blue cheese and some toasted walnuts.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Pizza and a Salad -- A Perennial Favorite

The Pizza

I've posted about making pizza before but I have a few changes/improvements in my method--not earth-shattering new techniques, but things I need to remember to do that really improve the outcome:

1.  Drizzle olive oil directly on the pizza before putting it in the oven.

2. Always add salt and pepper in generous amounts.

3. Put the pizza pan on the lowest oven shelf to cook. This way, the pizza cooks with a perfectly crisp bottom in about 20 minutes at 425 degrees Fahrenheit. I stopped using my pizza stone and actually gave it away on one of my newest obsessions, the Buy Nothing Project website for my town. (Having to put the pizza stone in the oven way ahead of time to heat for 30 minutes was something I couldn't be bothered to do!)

The Salad

Sometimes I like a perfectly plain lettuce salad with pizza, dressed only with oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. But tonight I had some extra ingredients on hand and had a salad as interesting and varied as the pizza. If you look closely, you'll see fresh kaleRomaine lettuce, olives stuffed with garlic cloves (delish!!), roasted red pepper, red onion slices and toasted sunflower seeds.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Mushroom and Goat Cheese Omelet

An omelet -- my go-to dinner when we return from a road trip, when we need a quick meal or when I just can't think of anything else to cook.

Eggs, mushrooms and some sort of cheese (frequently goat cheese, as pictured here) are always on my twice-a month large shopping list, but I'll toss in any left-over vegetable (broccoli or spinach in particular work especially well), and if I'm ambitious, I'll roast a red pepper to add too. Chopped parsley, cilantro or chives give the omelet a fresh contrast with the creamy mushrooms and cheese. 

Don't forget salt and pepper!

Over the years, I've perfected my technique. Here's my plan for about 6 eggs to serve 2 people:

1. Cook the sliced mushrooms. About 4 to 5 large mushrooms work for a 2-person omelet.

2. Stir the eggs with a few tablespoons of milk (I use soy because I like its creaminess).

3. Pour the eggs in a large (12-inch) skillet, with a tablespoon or two of oil, preheated to medium.

4. Let the eggs slightly set for a minute or two, then start tilting and shaking the pan to spread out the egg mixture.

5. In a few more minutes, use a silicon spatula that is OK with high heat to lift the edges of the omelet all around the pan, one edge at a time, and tilt the pan so the runny mixture fills in the gap where you've lifted.

6. Once all the runny part of the mix is underneath continuing to cook, sprinkle your toppings on half of the omelet

7. I then use the spatula or a knife to cut through the untopped half of the omelet into 2 sections (one can be larger than the other to account for different appetites. This procedure allows me to fold over only half of the omelet at a time, helping to ensure that my folding goes smoothly.

8. Fold each piece of the untopped omelet over its topping, turn off the heat and let the omelet sit for a minute or two so the fillings warm up.

9. To serve the eggs from the pan, finish cutting through the omelet where your top cut was and serve each portion separately.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Eating Alone -- The Pleasures of Eggs

I'm lucky not to eat alone most nights, but when Don is off sailing or visiting his brother or some-such errand, I relish the opportunity . . . to have hard boiled eggs for dinner.

The eggs, cold toast (so the butter doesn't melt don't you know), and a hodge-podge of miscellaneous foods scrounged from the fridge or cupboard make the perfect dining alone meal. Sometimes the add-ons include a few carrot sticks or a salad. Dessert might be a handful of gorp made with chocolate chips and toasted nuts, a few dates stashed away in a cupboard, a bowl of Cheerios (with or without milk), a tortilla topped with peanut butter, or a bowl of popcorn; Or, if I'm feeling particularly hungry, I'll have an assortment consisting of all of the above.

I also love to have a glass of wine in a small juice glass instead of a wine glass -- it reminds me of eating at my Portuguese grandmother's house where we drank from little glasses with pictures of horses on them.

Ever since I came upon the recipe for hard boiled eggs from Cook's Illustrated, my eggs come out perfectly every single time. It works this way:

1. Put the eggs in a pot with cold water.
2. Once the water boils,remove the eggs from the heat, and set your timer for 12 minutes. 
3. Plunge the eggs in a bowl filled with water and ice cubes for a minutes or two. 

Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant: Confessions of Cooking for One and Dining Alone

There are some wonderful books about eating alone. Check out  "Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant: Confessions of Cooking for One and Dining Alone," by Jenni Ferrari-Adler and "What We Eat When We Eat Alone: Stories and 100 Recipes,"  by Deborah Madison and Patrick McFarlin.

Cauliflower Soup and Spinach Salad

Cauliflower soup transforms ordinary -- and let's admit, sometimes strong-tasting cauliflower -- into a silky delicious fall or winter soup. This soup gets it's luscious buttery color from a few carrots cooked along with the cauliflower and a dash or two of curry powder.

As you can see, I'm a fan of using an abundance of cilantro  as garnish.

I'm also a fan of adding virtually any left over fruit or vegetable into salads, and spaghetti squash works surprisingly well with spinach. Warm croissants or crusty bread of any sort round out the meal.

Cauliflower Soup for 2 people

Cook a small onion in a tablespoon of oil until it's soft.

Add 2 cups of chicken broth, half a head of cauliflower and a few carrots, cut into chunks.

Simmer the soup until the vegetables are soft. Let the mixture cool for a few minutes before adding it to a blender and pureeing it until it's completely smooth. Fill the blender only 2/3 of the way full and keep a tight grip on the lid with a dishtowel or pot holder so the hot liquid doesn't explode.

Pour  the mixture back to the pot, add 1 cup of soy milk (for creaminess) or whatever mix of milk and cream you prefer, and reheat the soup just until hot. Cream helps keep the soup with milk from curdling if you over heat it.

Don't forget salt and pepper and a dash of curry powder it you would like. Garnish with either chopped cilantro, parsley or a few fresh thyme leaves.

Spinach Salad With Spaghetti Squash

Perfect for fall, spaghetti squash has lots going for it. High in nutrition and low in calories, spaghetti squash isn't as heavy as other winter squashes, and it's just fun to scrape out the bright yellow flesh with a fork after the squash is cooked and cooled.

I had a bit of squash that hadn't fit in my pan when I recently cooked spaghetti squash hash, so I cooked the remaining piece (about 7 minutes in the microwave) and tossed it into the salad -- it tends to clump slightly, but that's OK.

I particularly like thin slices of red onion and toasted walnuts (whole or in large pieces) in spinach salads, as well as a bit of crumbled feta or goat cheese if I have it on hand.