Monday, June 30, 2008

New Recipe: Baked Beef Ziti

Torsten and I eat spaghetti a lot, and this recipe looked like a great way to add a twist to one of our regular meals. It called for quite a lot of pasta and not very much meat, though, so I wound up modifying the amounts a fair bit to achieve a bit more of a balance.

Baked Beef Ziti: Makes 8 servings; 5 WW points per serving


  • 12 oz uncooked ziti [I used 7 ounces of whole wheat rigatoni.]
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 2 medium garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/3 pound raw lean ground beef [I used one pound of ground beef at 7% fat.]
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp dried rosemary [I didn't have rosemary, so I used dried basil instead.]
  • 1/2 tsp table salt [I didn't put in salt but I did add onion powder and garlic powder, as well as a few red pepper flakes for some bite.]
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 28 oz canned crushed tomatoes
  • 1 cup part-skim mozzarella cheese, shredded [I stuck to this amount for WW reasons, but if you aren't particularly calorie-conscious, I'd recommend using more, just to add to the cheesy goodness.]
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Cook pasta according to package directions; drain and set aside.
  3. Meanwhile, heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat; add garlic and sauté 2 minutes.
  4. Add beef and cook until browned, breaking up meat with a spoon as it cooks, about 3 to 5 minutes; drain off any fat and set pan back over medium heat.
  5. Add oregano, thyme, rosemary, salt and pepper; stir to coat beef. Cook until herbs become fragrant, about 2 minutes.
  6. Add tomatoes and bring mixture to a boil; reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes.
  7. Spoon a small amount of beef-tomato mixture into bottom of a 4-quart casserole dish (just enough to cover surface) [I didn't have a four-quart casserole dish, so I used a flatter baking dish, which made the layers feel a bit sparse, but it was still delicious]; top with half of cooked ziti.
  8. Next, layer with half of remaining beef-tomato sauce and half of mozzarella cheese. Layer with remaining ziti and then top with remaining beef-tomato sauce; sprinkle with remaining mozzarella cheese.
  9. Bake until cheese is golden and bubbly, about 30 minutes.

The verdict: This was great, and also very simple to make. This version was definitely heavy on the beef, which I like personally, so I liked the proportions of beef and pasta; I think it worked a lot better than the initial amounts the recipe called for would have, and with the whole wheat pasta and very lean beef, the points work out to be about the same both ways. We will definitely be making this one again.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Old Favorite: Pork Lo Mein

The first time I made this recipe, we didn't like it that much. It was very bland, and neither of us is a big fan of pork. But I liked the concept, so I reworked it a little and it has since become one of our favorite dishes. We use ostrich instead of pork, but if you like pork, I imagine that's just as good, and definitely less expensive.

Pork Lo Mein: Makes 4 servings; 7 WW points per serving

  • 8 oz uncooked whole-wheat spaghetti, or buckwheat soba noodles [I use chuka soba chow mein noodles, which aren't quite as healthy but are well suited to the dish.]
  • Cooking spray
  • 2 medium garlic cloves, minced [I press garlic instead of mincing it because it's much easier.]
  • 1 Tbsp ginger root, fresh, minced [I use pre-minced ginger from a jar. Fresh ginger is a huge pain to work with.]
  • 1 pound lean pork tenderloin, cut into 1-inch cubes [I use ostrich fillets instead.]
  • 1/2 cup shredded carrots [I don't like carrots, so I skip these.]
  • 1/2 cup onions, diced [I just use one onion and don't measure exactly how much it is.]
  • 1 cup fat-free chicken broth
  • 2 Tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
  • [I also add a bit of Asian hot sauce, a bit of Thai fish oil, and a few other seasonings, such as onion powder, to spice this dish up a bit.]
  • 2 Tbsp scallions, chopped (for garnish) [I don't bother with this.]
  1. Cook noodles according to package directions; drain and set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, coat a large nonstick skillet with cooking spray and set pan over medium-high heat. Add garlic and ginger; cook 1 minute.
  3. Add pork [ostrich] and cook, stirring occasionally, until pork is golden brown on all sides, about 5 minutes. [When cooking with ostrich, the cooking time needs to be adjusted so that the meat doesn't wind up overcooked and chewy.]
  4. Add carrots and onion; cook until vegetables are soft, about 2 minutes. Add broth and soy sauce [this is when I add the other sauces and seasoning as well]; simmer until pork is cooked through, about 5 minutes more.
  5. Add noodles to pork mixture and cook 1 to 2 minutes to heat through. Garnish with freshly chopped scallions, if desired. Yields about 2 cups per serving.

The verdict: Obviously, like I said, we love this dish. The meal is light and yummy and very easy to make. When we're in a recipe rut we often wind up eating this dish at least once a week.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

New Recipe: Chicken, Scallion, and Artichoke Stir-Fry

So, when I came across this recipe I was eager to try it. I love artichokes and almost anything Asian, and the directions were very simple--there was little involved other than dumping a bunch of ingredients in a pan. It sounded perfect. Unfortunately, it wasn't. Although I think the recipe would be salvageable if it were done differently.

As usual, I've added the photos to my cooking set on Flickr.

Chicken, scallion, and artichoke stir-fry: Makes 6 servings; 6 WW points per serving

  • 1 pound uncooked boneless, skinless chicken breast, very thinly sliced
  • 1 pound scallions, cut into 1-inch pieces [I didn't have a full pound, so I just used one bunch.]
  • 27 1/2 oz canned artichoke hearts, without oil [I drained and rinsed them before cooking.]
  • 1/2 cup Asian stir-fry sauce
  • 4 cup cooked linguine [I used whole wheat linguine. Also, I think that there are about 2 ounces of uncooked pasta per one cup of cooked pasta. But I'm not sure.]
  • 4 medium radishes, thinly sliced [I skipped this.]
  • Cooking spray
  1. Warm a large, nonstick pan coated with cooking spray over high heat.
  2. Add chicken, scallions, and artichokes and stir-fry until chicken is firm and opaque, about 10 minutes. [It didn't take nearly ten minutes to cook the chicken over high heat.]
  3. Add sauce and cook until hot, about 2 minutes more. [Because the chicken cooked so much faster than the recipe said, I wound up adding the sauce and simmering it for more than two minutes.]
  4. Spoon chicken mixture over noodles and garnish with radishes. [As I said, I skipped the radishes.]

The verdict: One of the rare recipe disappointments we've had recently. The concept was really nice and the food looked and smelled great. But the dish was just way, way too salty. I think the culprit must have been the stir-fry sauce, which we hadn't tried before. I don't know if I used too much of it (though I followed the recipe exactly), or if I just picked the wrong sauce. But afterward, both of our tongues were totally coated with salt. If I were to make the dish again, I would choose a different sauce or make one myself. But considering how many other dishes we've had recently that we really enjoyed, I doubt we'll be trying this one again.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

New Recipe: Chicken Parmigiana

I had defrosted some chicken breasts to make Thai coconut chicken, one of our favorite dishes, on Friday night, but as I was sorting through my pile of recipes I came across a new one I hadn't tried yet, chicken parmigiana. It looked yummy and I had all the ingredients plus plenty of time, so I figured I'd try that one instead. It turned out to be a great idea. I even remembered to take photos. I've added them to my cooking set over on Flickr.

Chicken Parmigiana: Makes 4 servings; 5 WW points per serving

  • Olive oil cooking spray
  • 1 pound uncooked boneless, skinless chicken breast, thinly pounded (four 4-oz pieces) [I used thin-sliced chicken breasts instead of pounding them myself.]
  • 2 large egg whites, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup dried bread crumbs [I didn't measure--I just dumped a bunch in a bowl so that I'd have enough to coat the chicken.]
  • 1 Tbsp Italian seasoning [Instead of using pre-mixed Italian seasoning, I added basil, oregano, onion powder, garlic powder, and ground black pepper.]
  • 1/2 tsp table salt, or to taste [I skipped this.]
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cup canned tomato sauce [The baking pan I was using was bigger than the one the recipe called for, so I used 2 cups of tomato sauce to make sure the whole thing was coated.]
  • 1/2 cup part-skim mozzarella cheese, shredded [I used a bit more than this.]
  • 1 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
  • Preheat oven to 350ºF. Coat an 8-inch square pan with cooking spray. [I didn't have a square dish so I used a slightly larger rectangular one.]
  • Place egg whites in a shallow bowl. Combine bread crumbs with Italian seasoning and salt; pour into another shallow bowl. Dip chicken in egg whites; turn to coat. Dip chicken in bread crumb mixture; turn to thoroughly coat.
  • Coat a large skillet with cooking spray and add oil; heat over medium-high heat. When hot, add chicken and cook until lightly browned and no longer pink in center, about 4 minutes per side.
  • Pour 1/2 cup of sauce [I used about a cup] into prepared baking dish; place chicken in dish and pour remaining sauce evenly over chicken. Sprinkle with cheeses and bake until chicken is cooked through and cheese is bubbly, about 25 minutes.
I served the chicken over whole wheat linguine; if you use six ounces (uncooked), it adds 3 WW points per serving.

The verdict: When Torsten got home, looking forward to the coconut chicken, and I told him I'd made something else instead, he was disappointed. But once he tasted it, he changed his mind. The recipe turned out to be delicious, and also very simple to make. We will definitely be making this one again--I'd say soon, but we've been saying that a lot this week, and there aren't enough days "soon" to fit everything in.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

New Recipe: Baked Fish and Chips

Torsten used to live in London and has fond memories of fish and chips, so he was excited about this recipe. Plus we actually both prefer baked French fries to fried ones. The grocery store didn't have cod when we were there, so I used catfish instead, even though that has more points. Also, I forgot to take photos. Sorry! Maybe I'll take some photos the next time I make this recipe and then update this post.

Baked Fish and Chips: Makes 4 servings; 5 WW points per serving

  • 4 sprays olive oil cooking spray
  • 2 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into 8 wedges each [I didn't peel the potatoes because we both like skin-on fries, and also potato skins have a lot of nutrients. Also, there were more than eight wedges per potato.]
  • 1/4 tsp table salt, or more to taste (enough for potatoes and fish)
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper, or to more taste (enough for potatoes and fish)
  • 1/4 cup fat-free skim milk
  • 1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 cup seasoned bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 20 oz uncooked cod, four 5 oz fillets
  • 4 Tbsp red wine vinegar [This is for dipping, and we used ketchup instead.]


  1. Preheat oven to 400ºF. Coat 2 large baking sheets with cooking spray.
  2. Place potato wedges on one baking sheet and lightly coat with cooking spray; season to taste with salt and pepper. [I didn't use salt but I did use a few other spices, such as paprika and onion powder. In retrospect maybe I shouldn't have seasoned the fries with those things until they were already baked, because the spices got burnt in the oven and turned all black. But they were still tasty.] Bake until golden brown and tender, about 45 minutes.
  3. Whisk milk and mustard together in a shallow dish. Place bread crumbs in another shallow dish and put flour in a third shallow dish. [By the way, I didn't measure any of these ingredients exactly. I just put them in bowls for dredging the fish and added more when I ran out.]
  4. Season both sides of fish with salt and pepper. Place fish in flour and turn to coat. Place fish in milk mixture and turn to coat. Place fish in bread crumbs and turn to coat.
  5. Transfer fish to second prepared baking sheet and lightly coat with cooking spray. Bake fish until fork-tender, about 10 to 15 minutes.
  6. Serve fish and potato wedges with vinegar on the side.

This dish was so easy to make! It was super fast (I think that's part of why I forgot to take pictures) to prepare, too. The only tough part was waiting for it to bake because the fries took so long and we were very hungry. Also, I'm not good at telling when things are done being baked, and I took the fries out too soon, then had to put them back in. (Impatience might have been a factor in that decision, too.) And it was delicious. The fries were really yummy, and the breading on the fish was flavorful and crispy--it was hard to tell it hadn't actually been fried!

Verdict: The meal was well worth the wait! Another one for the "make again soon" pile.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

New recipes: Seared tuna and beggar's purses

So last night as I was cooking and photographing the process, I realized that this blog may have a fantastic but unintended side effect: it will force us to keep the kitchen clean. It's bad enough that the photo down below shows off our inability to take out old newspapers often enough, but if our kitchen were messy I simply would not be able to post pictures of it. So, here's motivation to clean it every single day, for REAL this time.

Anyway, last night I made two recipes: quick-seared tuna and mushroom and goat cheese beggar's purses. The two didn't really feel like they would go well together, but they were about the right amount of Weight Watchers points for a meal and we wanted to try both of them, so I figured we'd just make them anyway and ignore the fact that they didn't really fit. Except that bizarrely, they did wind up kind of fitting together.

So first, the beggar's purses, and keep in mind that this recipe as I'm publishing it makes two, but the way I cooked it I made three (one to bring to work for lunch tomorrow). Also, all links in the instructions go to Flickr photos of the step described. Or you can see the full set here.

Mushroom and Goat Cheese Beggar's Purses: Makes 2 servings; 6 WW points per serving

  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 medium onion, chopped [I used a whole onion.]
  • 1 cup mushrooms, any kind, chopped [I used a pre-sliced assortment of shiitake, baby bella, and oyster mushrooms.]
  • 1/3 cup arugula [I didn't have arugula so I just used mixed greens, and I didn't measure--I just grabbed a handful.]
  • 4 sheets phyllo dough, at room temperature [I wound up using twelve for my three purses, but I think they were smaller than the ones this recipe was talking about.]
  • 2 oz soft-type goat cheese, or brie, divided [I used goat cheese, not brie, and three ounces, one per purse.]


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F; spray a baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. In a large nonstick skillet, heat the oil. Sauté onion until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the mushrooms and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the arugula and cook until wilted, about 2 minutes.
  3. Place the sheets of phyllo on a work surface and cover them with a damp towel. Stack 2 sheets and spray with butter-flavored nonstick cooking spray. Stack the remaining 2 sheets directly on top and spray them. Cut the phyllo into two 12 x 8 1/2 inch rectangles. [I don't think my sheets of phyllo were the same size as the ones this recipe discusses. I didn't cut them. I just used four sheets per beggar's purse. Also, I didn't really understand the point of the damp towel. I just pulled sheets out of the package as I needed them.]
  4. Place goat cheese in the center of each phyllo; top with mushroom mixture. Pull up corners of phyllo and twist, forming packets that look like drawstring pouches; place on the baking sheet and spray the tops lightly with butter-flavored spray. [I used olive oil-flavored spray throughout this recipe, because it was all I had.]
  5. Bake until golden brown, about 15 minutes. [Ours were golden brown after ten, at least on top, which was the barometer I was using. But I think our stove and oven are off, temperature-wise, because nothing ever takes as long to cook as the recipe says it will.]

I thought I might have trouble making this, because the recipe sounded a little daunting, but actually it was really easy. Just saute a few things, put them on the phyllo dough, scrunch up the dough, bake, and you're done! And they came out totally delicious.

Verdict: We added this recipe to our "make again soon" pile, and Torsten is already asking me when I'm going to make it again.

Now, onto the steaks. Here I only used a pound of tuna instead of a pound and a half, in order to make three servings.

Quick Seared Tuna Steaks: Makes 4 servings; 5 WW points per serving


  • 1/4 cup dry sherry
  • 2 Tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp fresh lime juice [I used one lime. I didn't measure exactly how much juice there was.]
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 1/2 pounds raw tuna (four 6-oz steaks)
  • 1/4 tsp salt [I skipped the salt, which I usually do unless I'm baking.]
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper, coarsely ground


  1. Combine sherry, soy sauce, and lime juice in a small bowl, stirring well with a whisk. [I didn't notice it said this until just now. I stirred with a regular spoon.] Set aside.
  2. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle steaks with salt and pepper; add steaks to pan. Cook 4 minutes on each side until steaks are medium-rare or desired degree of doneness. Transfer steaks to a serving dish, and keep warm.
  3. Pour sherry mixture into pan. Cook 1 to 11⁄2 minutes or until reduced to 2 tablespoons, stirring to deglaze pan; pour over steaks.

This recipe was super, super easy. Just mix a few liquids, toss some fish in a pan, wait a few minutes, and you're done. And tuna is really healthy. Plus, the glaze has a nice flavor.

Verdict: We will definitely be making this dish again.

And lastly, the finished meal:

Monday, June 16, 2008

New Recipe: Asian Beef Salad

So, although this was to be expected after a year on Weight Watchers, Torsten and I have found ourselves in kind of a recipe rut recently. To fix this, we spent quite a bit of time searching for new recipes last week, and unearthed quite a few. Then we booked a Zipcar for a solid two hours, enough time for leisurely trips to both Whole Foods and Giant, and purchased a whole bunch of ingredients to make these new meals.

That trip, incidentally, reminded me of how good it is to finally have a nicely stocked kitchen. We had many, many of the staple ingredients required for the new recipes. A lot of what we had to buy was produce, or different types of meat, or ingredients for a new sauce. Things that we didn't already have around. But we didn't have to buy flour, or pasta, or spices, or oil. Things that I used to buy on an as-needed basis, resulting in daily trips to the grocery store and an excess amount of money going toward groceries, especially when I inadvertently bought something we already had. Which is why we now have three jars of bay leaves in our cabinet.

Anyway! On with the point of this post, the recipe. This is one of the first recipes that we tried, and although I was not on the ball enough to take pictures as I was doing it, it was totally worth posting about because it was delicious. I will print the recipe as I found it, with my own commentary and adjustments in italics.

Asian Beef Salad: Makes 4 servings; 8 WW points per serving

  • 3 medium garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar [Torsten doesn't like vinegar, so I didn't bother buying rice wine vinegar just for this. Instead I used some red wine vinegar we already had, and not nearly as much as the recipe called for.]
  • 1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp peanut oil [I couldn't find this at the store, so I substituted sesame oil we already had.]
  • 1 pound lean sirloin beef [I used three quarters of a pound because it was only for the two of us and it was a Friday night, meaning I couldn't bring the leftovers to work the next day for lunch.]
  • 8 cups mixed greens [I used as much as fit in the salad bowl I had, which was probably more like four cups.]
  • 1 cup canned unsweetened mandarin oranges, drained
  • 1 Tbsp hoisin sauce
  • 1/3 cup packaged chow mein noodles
  1. Combine garlic, vinegar, soy sauce, oil and hoisin sauce in a large bowl [I also added a splash of Asian hot sauce for a bit of extra bite.] Add steak. Allow to marinate in the refrigerator for 2 to 4 hours or overnight. Remove steak to plate; reserve marinade.
  2. Preheat grill or broiler. Grill or broil steak for 8 minutes on each side for medium or longer until desired doneness. Remove and slice steak into thin strips. [The piece of steak I had was very wide and thin, and I couldn't figure out how to get the whole thing into the liquid to marinate, so I chopped it ahead of time and reduced the amount of cooking time to make up for it. I broiled it for about six minutes without turning it and it came out very slightly overcooked.]
  3. Meanwhile, pour reserved marinade into a small saucepan. Bring to a boil; cook 1 minute more, stirring occasionally.
  4. To serve, place 2 cups greens on each of 4 plates. Top each with about 3 ounces of steak, 1/4 cup of oranges and 1 heaping tablespoon of noodles; drizzle each with about 1 1/2 tablespoons of cooked and cooled marinade. [I just mixed everything in the salad bowl ahead of time, except the chow mein noodles, which we each sprinkled individually on our own plates. Also, I like warm salad, and the beef was hot anyway, so I didn't bother waiting for the marinade to cool completely before I added it to the salad.]

And it came out delicious! The sauce was tangy and delicious and served as a great dressing, the beef was tender even though I probably should only have broiled it for five minutes, the oranges added a nice sweet aspect to the whole thing (and I'm not usually big on sweet/savory combinations), and the chow mein noodles were deliciously crunchy. Plus the whole thing was super easy and quick to make. It was a great meal for a summer evening; light, but also totally filling.

Verdict: This recipe has been added to the pile of recipes to use again. And we will likely do so soon.