Friday, October 28, 2011

Roasted Red Bell Peppers... and Soup!

Roasted red bell peppers...  I love the look of them, the texture of them, and their luscious flavor.  The very thought of them gets my saliva flowing!

Yes, you can purchase them, in glass jars in your local grocery store.  But they are not nearly as flavorful as the ones you can easily make yourself.  You just have to be prepared to get your hands a little messy.

It's an easy process:
  1. Wash the peppers.
  2. Set your top oven rack about 8 inches away from the broiler element and turn the oven to BROIL.
  3. Place the peppers on a baking sheet covered with foil (for ease of cleanup) and then place them in the oven for about 4 to 6 minutes
  4. The side of the pepper that has been closest to the broiler should be charred somewhat but not too black.
  5. Remove the baking sheet, rotate each pepper to expose an uncooked side and replace under broiler for another 4 to 6 minutes.
  6. Repeat step 5 until the peppers are completely roasted on all sides, top, and bottom.  They will be partially blackened and likely oozing juice.
  7. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and turn off the heat.
  8. Leave the peppers on the sheet till they are cool enough to handle.
  9. Slide the skins off of the cooked peppers with your fingers, and remove the seeds, stems, and any pulpy bits from the centre. 

What you will have left is several pieces of roasted pepper and some juice.  I save the juice and pour it over the peppers in the storage container.  Keep it all in the refrigerator for up to a week.

I like to cut up the peppers and use in sandwiches, salads,  pizzas, pastas, and in soups.  You can also puree it and mix into hummus... Mmmm!

I put this soup together a couple of years ago and it has become one of my favorite soups based on red bell peppers.  I hope you will like it too.

Roasted Red Bell Pepper Soup
Makes 4 servings
  • 1 tsp canola or olive oil
  • 4 roasted red bell peppers
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup chopped onions
  • 1 chicken and tomato flavor cube
  • 2 cups water
  • basil for garnish
  1. Roast the red peppers according to above method and then cut them in chunks.
  2. In a medium-large saucepan, heat the oil on MEDIUM-LOW and saute the garlic and onion till tranluscent being careful not to brown them.
  3. Add the flavor cube and the water.
  4. Stir until the cube is dissolved and then add the peppers.
  5. Cook for about 10 minutes until heated through.
  6. Remove and let cool for about 15 minutes and then puree till smooth with immersion or regular blender.
  7. Reheat to serve, season to taste with salt and pepper, and garnish with basil.

Per serving.
Weight Watchers P+ = 2.
Calories 69; Protein 2g; Carbohydrate 13g; Fat 2g; Fibre 4g.

Saute onions and garlic in oil until translucent.

Add chunks of red pepper to broth and heat through.

Blend till smooth.

If you don't care for basil, garnish with some parmesan shreds...

or how about both?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Lemon Chicken and Rice with Artichokes

This is an old favorite that we first enjoyed about 8 years ago.  I tore the recipe out of a magazine... still have it... and I suspect it was an issue of Cooking Light.

It is made with instant rice and at various times I have tried to substitute a 10-minute rice and also a regular par-boiled rice.  Neither were successful.  So, I gave up making this as I decided that instant rice was just not worthy... cannot for the life of me recall why now.

I recently resurrected it and cooked it for dinner.  We thoroughly enjoyed it, saving half for leftovers to be reheated in the mike the next evening.  Delicious.

If you like, you can use 1-3/4 cups of chicken broth instead of the water and chicken-flavored bullion cube I use, and you can certainly use cooked chicken breast instead of the convenient Kirkland canned chunk chicken that I love.  Use more or less onion and bell pepper, as your own tastes dictate.  I have tried green pepper and don't care for it in this dish, but orange or yellow would be fine.  And don't forget that instant rice now comes in a whole grain variety if you prefer that.

Don't leave out the lemon slices though... they really add a punch of tart flavor and it is wonderful!

Lemon Chicken and Rice with Artichokes
Makes 4 servings, approximately 2 cups each
  • 1/2 medium onion, sliced vertically
  • 1 large red bell pepper, coarsely chopped
  • 2 cups instant (5-minute) rice
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1-3/4 cups water
  • 1 chicken-flavored bullion cube
  • 1 can artichoke hearts, drained and quartered
  • 1 can Kirkland chunk chicken breast, drained (or 8 ounces chicken breast, cooked and cut into 1 inch chunks)
  • 4 - 6 slices fresh lemon
  • Dashes of salt and pepper
  • 4 Tbs shredded parmesan cheese
  1. Coat a large frypan with non-stick spray and set over medium heat.
  2. Put onion slices and chopped red bell pepper into pan.  Saute till softened about 5 minutes.
  3. Add rice, lemon juice, water and bullion cube.  Stir and cover.  Cook approximately 10 minutes till rice absorbs all liquid and is cooked through.
  4. Remove lid and stir in artichoke hearts, cooked chicken chunks and lemon slices.  Stir and replace lid.  Cook  about 4 minutes more till artichokes and chicken are heated.
  5. Remove from heat and divide amongst 4 plates. 
  6. Season with salt and pepper and garnish with 1 Tbs parmesan shreds.

Per serving.
Weight Watchers P+ = 7.
Calories 284; Protein 20g; Carbohydrate 48g; Fat 3g; Fibre 6g.

UPDATE December 5, 2016:

I have recalculated this recipe to use the current Weight Watchers Smart Points formula.

Per serving.
Weight Watchers SP = 8.
Calories 284
Saturated Fat 1g
Sugar 5g
Protein 20g

Saute onions and peppers for a few minutes till soft.

Add rice, lemon juice, water, bullion cube and cover.

Stir in artichokes, chicken and lemon slices.  Replace lid.

Season and garnish with parmesan shreds before serving.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Scrumptious Sugar-Crusted Ginger Cookies

Refrigerator cookies are so handy and convenient.  The dough can be made ahead of time, and then just sliced and baked when you need freshly-made homemade cookies... for after school treats, for luncheons, or for when dear friends drop by for cofee.

These are quite different from the average icebox cookie. They have lots of flavor and the bits of candied/crystallized ginger are a nice surprise.  And they are a nice twist to the average ginger cookie too... no molasses... the flavor comes from the butterscotch pudding (I am using a sugar-and-fat-free variety) and the candied or crystallized ginger.  A very nice gingery cookie for those who really don't care for molasses.

The basis for this recipe came from the Kraft Canada Fall 2011 isue of What's Cooking.  I made only a few minor changes, using half white and half whole wheat flour, and also a bit less candied ginger.

Don't be tempted to substitute applesauce for some of the butter.  You will not get the correct texture for icebox dough.

Sugar-Crusted Ginger Cookies
Makes 40 cookies
  • 3/4 cup butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 pkg  (4-serving size) sugar-and-fat-free butterscotch instant pudding
  • 1 egg
  • 1 ounce finely chopped candied or crystallized ginger
  • 1 cup white flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 Tbs ground ginger
  • 1-1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  1. Preheat your oven to 350°F.
  2. Beat first 5 ingredients in a large bowl with mixer until well-blended.
  3. Mix remaining ingredients, except white sugar in a different bowl and gradually add to the pudding mixture, beating just until blended.
  4. Divide the dough in half. 
  5. Roll each half into a 10-inch long log.
  6. Encase in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least one hour, until firm.
  7. When firm, unwrap the logs and roll them in the white sugar.
  8. Cut the dough into 1/2-inch slices and place them 1 inch apart on cookie sheet that has been coated with non-stick spray.
  9. Bake 11 to 13 minutes, until lightly browned.
  10. Cool 5 minutes before removing to wire rack. 

Per serving of 2 cookies.
Weight Watchers P+ = 4.
Calories 144; Protein 2g; Carbohydrate 19g; Fat7g; Fibre 1g.

Wrap the cookie dough logs in plastic wrap and then refrigerate.

To sugar-coat the log, unwrap it and then sprinkle the sugar over the plastic wrap.  Then roll the log in it... easy cleanup.

You can see a few bits of candied ginger in the dough.

Fresh from the oven.

Store baked cookies in an air-tight container for a few days, or freeze.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Incredible Edible Egg!

Eggs have been called Nature’s Perfect Food.

We use eggs extensively in our galley and love to have them at any meal of the day...  for breakfast, at lunchtime and at dinner.  They can be fried, poached, boiled, coddled, baked and have a wide variety of uses... they can be used to bind ingredients together to make patties and burgers, and are used to fluff cookies, cakes and muffins.

We are never caught without fresh eggs.  I have been searching for a good, dried egg product, to keep in the boat lockers to use while out cruising, but have yet to find a good one.

Nutritionally, eggs are a powerhouse of protein, vitamins and minerals.

Per large egg.
Weight Watchers P+ = 2.

Eggs can be kept fresh in the refrigerator for about 5 weeks. Yes, there are methods you can use to store them unrefrigerated but I have not tried any of them myself.

Egg whites are comprised of mostly protein. 

 Per serving of 3 egg whites.
Weight Watchers P + = 1.

There is no fat in the white of an egg, no carbohydrate, and no fibre. Where a recipe calls for a while egg, I may sub two egg whites if I am try to keep the Points Plus values and fat content down. This can work in baked goods, cookies, and also where the egg is being used as a binder, such as in the salmon patties or tuna burgers.

And eggs can take centre stage and be the star of your meal.

Hardboiled eggs are very versatile. I think they stay fresher in the fridge if you don’t remove the shell them until you are going to use them. Then gently tap the egg on the counter until the shell breaks, and peel it away. Rinse the egg under cold running water, and then dry it with a paper towel before using.

Hardboiled eggs can be eaten plain, with a dash of salt and pepper.

Or sliced and used to garnish salads and soups. 
You can mash them with a bit of mayonnaise and relish to make a sandwich filling. 
And who doesn’t love Devilled Eggs?

For a fun and different twist to breakfast, try serving your fried egg in the toast, instead of on it!

Egg in a Nest
Makes 1 serving 
  • 1 whole fresh egg
  • 1 slice whole grain bread
  • 1 tsp butter
  1. Use a 3-inch cookie cutter or a glass to cut a shape out of the piece of bread.
  2. Coat a frying pan with non-stick spray and place over medium heat.
  3. Melt the butter in the pan.
  4. Place the bread in the pan and fry it lightly on one side (you can also fry the cutout shape).
  5. Flip the bread over and then reduce the heat to low.
  6. Carefully crack the the egg into the cut-out hole in the middle of the bread.
  7. Cover the pan and cook for 2-3 minutes or until the egg has set in the bread "nest." 
Per serving.
Weight Watchers P+ = 5.
Calories 192; Protein 9g; Carbohydrate 16g; Fat 10g; Fibre 1g.

Melt a bit of butter and then lay the prepared bread in the pan.

After flipping the bread, gently crack the egg into the 'nest'.

With a bit of fruit, a nutritious and filling breakfast.  I like a few real bacon bits sprinkled on top.

Some recipes I have featured that use eggs as one of the main ingredients:


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Buttercup Squash and Spinach Salad

At this time of year there are so many wonderful and different varieties of winter squashes at the local markets, sometimes I have trouble deciding which ones to bring home!

I do have my favorites... butternut, ambercup, red kuri, delicata, spaghetti... but it is fun to try out new ones and create recipes with them.

Today I was wanting to make something for my dinner with a smallish buttercup squash that I brought home a few days ago.  Buttercup squash, also known as kobacha, is similar in color and flavor to butternut squash.  I happen to love it!

If I had had more time, I would have roasted the squash in the oven.  I think that is the nicest way to enhance the earthy flavor of the winter squashes... but, because I was a bit pressed for time, I decided to cook it in the microwave oven.  Then I left it to cool before cutting it up and tossing it with my other salad ingredients.

It was delicious!  Next time I might add a handful of dried cranberries or a chopped apple to the mix for a bit of sweetness.

Buttercup Squash and Spinach Salad
Makes 1 serving
  • 1 medium-small buttercup squash
  • 2 cups baby spinach leaves
  • 1 Tbs slivered almonds
  • 1 wedge Laughing Cow cheese 
  • 1 tsp EVOO
  • 2 tsp white balsamic vinegar
  • 1 packet Splenda
  • dash of cinnamon
  1. Wash and dry the squash.  Cut it in half and scoop out the seeds and soft flesh from the cavity.
  2. Place on microwave safe plate, cut sides down and cook on HIGH for 7 or 8 minutes, till flesh is cooked and soft.
  3. Set aside to cool.
  4. When cool, scoop the cooked flesh from the shell and cut into square chunks.
  5. Tear or cut spinach leaves and place in serving bowl along with squash chunks and almonds.
  6. Cut cheese wedge into several pieces and add to bowl.
  7. Toss all ingredients well and set aside.
  8. Mix dressing ingredients together in a small bowl and pour over salad in bowl.
  9. Toss and serve.
Per serving with dressing.
Weight Watchers P+ = 5.
Calories 193; Protein 5g; Carbohydrate 21g; Fat 11g; Fibre 5g.

Washed, cut, seeds scooped out, and ready to pop into the mike for 8 minutes.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Crazy For Coconut Oil!

There is a new staple in my pantry.... it is coconut oil.

I have been reading about it for several months now.... about how tasty it is, and how easy it is to use.  And I have seen a lot of blog posts and articles about the health benefits and how it enhances weight loss. 

Well, I am a convert.

I received a 32 oz jar of Tropical Traditions Gold Label Virgin Coconut Oil a couple of weeks ago.  And I have been using it in a variety of ways ever since.

Upon first opening the jar, I was surprised to see that the oil was solid... coconut 'butter' in effect.  I read the label and found that the oil solidifies at temperatures below 76°F... approximately 24°C.  To reliquify it, it needs to be gently heated. 


It does have a buttery texture and it feels silky and creamy to the touch.  It tastes mildly of coconut and it smells wonderful.  I was intrigued.  And very pleased that it doesn't need to be refrigerated.

I looked at the free recipes on the Tropical Traditions site and found that this oil is used in all kinds of ways... in candy, baked goods, soups, entrees and even smoothies.  It seems that it may be used in place of canola or other vegetable oils in many, many applications.

I did find several recipes that I want to try... but I thought I would come up with something of my own, to test the oil, for the first time.

The weather this past week was gloomy and rainy, so we have been craving comfort food.  I cooked up some oats for our breakfast one morning, using both the Tropical Traditions Gold Label Virgin Coconut Oil and the Tropical Traditions Organic Raw Canadian Honey (that I was lucky enough to win on a giveaway hosted by A Healthy Passion) along with some of our favorite ingredients, and came up with a couple of bowls full of luscious, creamy oats.  They not only taste delicious, but the aroma while they cooked was wonderful!

Creamy Fall Oats
Makes 2 servings
  • 1/3 cup rolled oats
  • 1-2/3 cup water
  • 1/4 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 Tbs coconut oil
  • 1 Tbs honey
  • 1 apple
  • Dash of cinnamon
  1. Mix the oats and water in a medium saucepan over high heat. Cover.
  2. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer and cook oats for 5 or 6 minutes.
  3. Remove from heat and let sit for another 3 or 4 minutes.
  4. Remove lid and stir in pumpkin, coconut oil, and honey.
  5. Spoon oats into serving bowls.
  6. Cut apple into small chunks and divide between 2 bowls of oats and then sprinkle each with cinnamon.
Per serving.
Weight Watchers P+ = 7.
Calories 256; Protein 4g; Carbohydrate 42g; Fat 9g; Fibre 7g.

Stir pumpkin puree, coconut oil, and honey into cooked oats.

Place apple chunks on top of oats and sprinkle with cinnamon.

Mix it all up and enjoy!

The Captain kept raving about how good these oats tasted and how creamy they were.  I finally had to give in and tell him about adding the spoonful of coconut oil to them.  And we were both very pleasantly surprised that we were satisfied till lunch time... quite often if we have oats for breakfast, we are looking for a snack mid-morning.

Then I decided to try subbing the coconut oil for canola oil in my Johnny Cake recipe.  Quite often I don't bother with oil at all, but had a hunch that adding coconut oil to the mix would improve the texture.  And I was not disappointed!

Right out of the oven, golden in color and firm to the touch.

1 serving removed, the texture is lovely - not too crumby.

Topped with an egg and some crumbled bacon... and yes, I used a bit of coconut oil to fry the eggs as well.

I decided to try making something sweet.  I came up with a recipe for 'bark' that both really like... I used coconut oil and cocoa powder with a bit of sugar, instead of bakers chocolate.... and I also added slivered almonds and raisins.

I made just a small amount so that we wouldn't have too much of this delcious treat around, tempting us, but you can easily double these ingredients.

Chocolate Bark With Almonds and Raisins
Makes 6 servings.
  • 2 Tbs coconut oil
  • 2 tsp cocoa powder
  • 1 Tbs slivered almonds
  • 2 Tbs raisins
  • 1 tsp sugar
  1. Prepare a metal cake pan by lining it with foil or waxed paper, and then cooling it in the fridge or freezer for 10 or 15 minutes.
  2. Gently liquefy the coconut oil over low heat, then stir in cocoa powder and sugar.
  3. Add the almonds and raising and stir.
  4. Pour mixture into chilled pan and spread to an even thickness.
  5. Place it in refrigerator and let chill for 15 to 20 minutes. 
  6. When hardened, peel it from the foil or paper, and snap into 6 piceces.
  7. It will soften at room temperature so store in fridge. 
Per serving.
Weight Watchers P+ = 2.
Calories 49; Protein 1g; Carbohydrate 4g; Fat 5g; Fibre 0g.

    Gently liquefy coconut oil and blend with cocoa powder and sugar.

    Mix in raisins and almonds before pouring into cold pan to harden.

So, what does the N.I. for the coconut oil look like?  It is very simillar to other oils.

Per 1 tsp serving.
Weight Watchers P+ = 1.
Calories 39; Protein 0g; Carbohydrate 0g; Fat 5g; Fibre 0g.

A new and permanent staple in my pantry and I urge you to give it a try, if you haven't already!

If you are interested in learning more about Tropical Traditions Gold Label Virgin Coconut Oil, have a look at this video entitled: “How We Discovered Virgin Coconut Oil - An Interview with Brian Shilhavy, CEO Tropical Traditions”

Disclaimer: Tropical Traditions provided me with a free sample of this product to review, and I was under no obligation to review it if I so chose.  Nor was I under any obligation to write a positive review in return for the free product.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Can't Do Without Canned Fish!

In light of the positive health benefits associated with fish, I am always looking for creative and tasty ways to use it in our meals.

The American Heart Association recommends eating fish at least twice a week because it's a good source of protein and low in saturated fat. Fatty fish including trout, sardines, tuna, and salmon are also high in omega-3 fatty acids, which may reduce the risk of heart disease. Salmon is high in calcium, too, especially when the bones are mashed into the meat.

Sometimes it is not convenient to have fresh or frozen fish on hand.  Particularly when we are cruising and relying mainly on our food lockers to supply the ingredients for our meals.  I like to keep an assortment of canned fish on hand.  And lately I have been purchasing it in foil pouches, too.  These items are readily available for tasty and nutritious meals.  My favorites are tuna, salmon and sardines... and occasionally I will buy baby clams, mussels, smokey oysters, crab and smoked herring.

You can make a nice layered dip for crackers with a can of baby clams, some chili sauce and a container of whipped light cream cheese.  Just put the cheese in a bowl and spread it a bit, then cover with chili sauce and the drained clams.  Very tasty.

Smoked oysters and mussels make nice canapes if you put them on crackers with a bit of ketchup or seafood sauce.  And who can resist a hot crab dip made with artichoke hearts, mayonnaise and parmesan cheese.... Mmm.

Tuna can be found in tins and also in foil pouches. It comes packed in water, oil or in many flavourful sauces, and in a choice of styles… fillets, chunks, flakes. And there are different kinds of tuna as well. My favorite is the white albacore, but it is more expensive. Chunk light tuna packed in water is the one I normally buy for every day use.  I have also had smoked tuna in cans and it is delicious.

Tuna, 1/2 cup or 4 oz., canned in water.
Weight Watchers P+ = 3.

Salmon is usually found in many different sizes of cans, also water or oil packed, There are different kinds of salmon and the can will be labelled with the species name. I prefer sockeye or pink. I have also been lucky enough to have home-canned salmon and it is lovely, too.  Smoked salmon is a lovely treat mixed with cream cheese and used as a dip or spread.

Salmon, 1/2 cup or 4 oz. canned in water.
Weight Watchers P+ = 4.

Sardines come in flat tins that have a pull tab opening on the top. They are packed in water, oil, and many different sauces. I like the mustard sauce best.  Sardines packed in Spring water is my second choice.

Sardines, 1 tin (approx 3.5 oz), canned in water.
Weight Watchers P+ = 2.

You can used the drained tuna or salmon in green salads, for a quick meal. Or mix tuna, salmon, or sardines with some mayonnaise or yogurt, and a few chopped veggies, some capers or relish, and you have a tasty sandwich filling.

But there are so many other ways to use these tasty fishes. Here are a few recipes I have featured :