Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Ham and Zucchini Carbonara

Back into the swing of menu planning this week as I am back on my weight loss journey now that the silly season is officially over with the end being marked by my birthday on Saturday and the fact that I am also armed with a new cookbook, Weight Watchers Cook Simple, I decided we had to try this pasta dish which looked delish just looking at the picture.

My kids both adore pasta carbonara so I was interested to see how they would like the change of ingredients with using ham and zucchini as the base flavours. I have to say that like with normal Carbonara this recipe was very easy to make and very quick to cook, with the whole dish on the table in under 30 minutes.

I didn't find it neither as cheesy or as eggy as a normal carbonara but saying this the dish itself did have a really nice flavour and I really enjoyed the hint of nutmeg. The serving sizes are large and very filling. Overall it is a weeknight winner in our house.

Ham and Zucchini Carbonara
(recipe sourced from WW Cook Simple)

Serves: 4
ProPoints per serve: 10

250 grams spaghetti
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 small brown onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 medium zucchini, coarsely grated
150 grams sliced lean leg ham, fat trimmed, cut into thin strips
1 teaspoon cornflour
1 tablespoon cold water
1 cup evaporated skim milk
1 egg
25 grams finely grated parmesan cheese
freshly ground black pepper
pinch of nutmeg

Cook pasta in a large saucepan of boiling salted water, following packet instructions, or until just tender. Drain and return to the pan.

Meanwhile, heat oil in a large non stick frying pan over medium heat. Cook onion, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes or until softenend. Add garlic and zucchini and cook, stirring, for 3 minutes or until zucchini is just tender. Add ham and stir to combine.

Combine cornflour and water in a small bowl. Whisk milk, egg and parmesan in a medium jug. Add egg mixture and cornflour mixture to pan and bring to the boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered, for 2 - 3 minutes or sauce slightly thickens.

Add zucchini mixture to pasta. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Toss to combine. Serve.

As I mentioned I recently had a birthday - infact it was my 40th birthday and I only wanted one thing as a gift and that was a Canon Digital Camera. I set up a donation envelope system with my invitations and once my party was over I counted the money to find that I had enough money to buy the camera of my dreams - only problem was that the camera of my dreams was sold out so I had to settle for the next model up.... damn shame that.

Needless to say that I am now the very happy owner of a Canon EOS 60D complete with twin lenses!!

Now I am praying that photos of my food dishes will look much better now than using my small point and shoot that I have owned for years. I am pretty sure they will - please let me know what you think.

(click here for a printable version of this recipe)

Hokkien Mee with Beef

You have probably all gathered by now that we really enjoy stir fry style meals. I guess I love the fact that they can be made crammed with vegetables and the sauce can be any flavour you are fancying. Not to mention that most stir fries are quick to cook once you have all the ingredients prepared and ready.

I was fancying a noodle dish and I am quite partial to the Hokkien Mee you can purchase in Noodle Bars here. Although I tend to get the chefs to spice it up and add more vegetables… but that’s me.

Here is my take on Hokkien Mee which I have made using beef strips that I marinated for a short while and I also used Wokka Fresh Noodles instead of dried noodles. I have to say that my whole family liked my version of this classic noodle dish.

Hokkein Mee with Beef

Serves: 6
ProPoints per serve: 11

700 grams lean beef strips
1 tablespoon brandy
1 tablespoon soy sauce
½ teaspoon crushed chilli or chilli paste
½ teaspoon sesame oil
cooking spray
880 grams Wokka Thin Hokkien Fresh Noodles
1 onion, sliced
2 carrots, sliced
¼ cup water
½ red capsicum, sliced
½ green capsicum, sliced
100 grams button mushrooms, sliced
½ cup hoisin sauce
¼ cup white wine
1 tablespoons sweet chilli sauce
2 teaspoons curry powder
1 tablespoon mango chutney
200 grams snow peas, trimmed and halved

Place brandy, soy sauce, chilli and sesame oil in a medium bowl and mix well. Add beef strips, stir to combine and allow to stand for 30 minutes or longer if time permits.

Meanwhile prepare noodles as per directions on packet.

Spray a large wok with cooking spray and heat over high heat. In batches add beef strips and marinade and toss quickly until beef is just sealed. Remove from heat. Repeat with remaining beef strips.

Respray wok and add onion, carrot and water, stirfry for 3 – 4 minutes or until vegetables are just tender. Add capsicums and mushrooms and stir fry for a further 3 – 4 minutes.

Mix together hoisin sauce, white wine, sweet chilli sauce, curry powder and mango chutney is a small jug. Mix well.

Drain noodles and add to the wok. Add combined sauces and stir to combine well. Return beef to the wok along with the snow peas. Stir through to heat through. Serve immediately.

(click here for a printable version of this recipe)

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Spiced Beans with Eggs

Today I really wanted something totally different for breakfast and considering the time was approaching brunch, I knew I needed to eat something that would satisfy me for both breakfast and lunch. I did however fancy eggs but wasn't excited by egg and bacon, nor by poached or scrambled eggs although I did entertain the idea of an omelette for a minute or so.

I remembered a recipe that I had read somewhere, although I don't recall precisely where. The more I thought about it I knew that I had read many versions of this recipe it had just never appealed to me to cook it previously. It was eggs that were poached in a tomato bean style casserole base - a one pot wonder. Thinking more about this dish I decided to recreate it based on not only what I remembered but what flavours I fancied.

The result was very enjoyable and must admit filling. We all enjoyed this different style of dish even mam. The tomato bean style casserole I filled with vegetables had a hint of spice and actually complimented the softly poaced eggs.

A fine way to start the day, in my books anyway.

Spiced Beans with Eggs
Serves: 6
ProPoints per serve: 7

2 teaspoons olive oil
1 brown onion, finely diced
1/2 red capsicum, finely diced
1/2 green capsicum, finely diced
100 grams button mushrooms, quartered
1 1/2 teaspoons paprika
1/2 teaspoon crushed garlic
440 gram tin diced tomatoes in juice
440 gram tin baked beans
1 teaspoon dried oregano
freshly ground black pepper
6 eggs
6 slice wholegrain/multigrain bread
1 spring onion, green section only, finely sliced

Heat oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the onions and capsicum, cook stirring for 3 - 4 minutes or until softened slightly. Add mushrooms and cook for a further 2 minutes. Mix through the paprika and garlic.

Add the tinned tomatoes and baked beans and cook for 5 minutes or until slightly thickened, stirring occasionally. Add oregano and season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Using a large spoon make a well in the bean mixture and crack in one egg. Continue with remaining eggs. Cover and cook for 4 - 6 minutes or until eggs are cooked to your liking.

Meanwhile toast the bread.

When eggs are cooked, remove from heat and sprinkle with spring onion. Serve immediately with toast.

(click here for printable version of recipe)

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Chicken, Sweet Potato and Spinach Lasagne

Firstly Happy New Year to you all - I hope yours was enjoyable, safe and celebrated just the way you planned. For us it was a quiet night at home with our family and my mam who is staying with us at the moment. Food was abundant as was the alcohol but it was a good night had by all!

Now we are facing a brand new year - one that will be filled with hope, dreams and aspirations. My year ahead already is filled with many challenges and planned good times. My major challenge is (and always has been) my weight and the battle that I have been facing. This year I have decided that enough is enough - no more pussy footing around the issue and no more sabotaging myself with bad food. I can cook and I can cook well but I need to focus more on healthy and good foods to fuel not only my body but my families. So with this in mind the recipes I post this year will be following along those lines and more importantly help me win the weight war!

Although the house is full of leftovers I decided to get straight back onto the ProPoints plan. I was very slack over the Christmas and New Year period but already warned the house that today I was getting back on my weight loss journey and back on the healthy eating programme. Tonight's dinner is our first healthy choice meal of the year and it was really enjoyable.

I grew up thinking lasagne was always made from minced beef, tomatoes and pasta sheets that was smothered in a thick bechemel sauce and lashings of cheese. I am loving that lasagne can really be made from any filling as long as you put it into layers of pasta - this Chicken, Sweet Potato and Spinach Lasagne was different, very tasteful and quite easy to make.

This is definitely a really different take on lasagne and as I am cooking for a crowd this time of year this dish is a crowd-pleaser not to mention very filling.

Chicken, Sweet Potato and Spinach Lasagne
(recipe adapted from WW Programme Cookbook 2011)

Serves: 10
ProPoints per serve: 10

900 grams orange sweet potato, peeled and cut into 2 cm pieces
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 small brown onions, finely chopped
2 small red capsicum, cut into 2 cm pieces
4 garlic cloves, crushed
500 grams lean chicken mince
1000 grams Five Brothers Garlic and Wine Pasta Sauce
2 1/2 cups skim milk
2 tablespoons cornflour
400 grams baby spinach leaves
8 x Latina Fresh Lasagne sheets
50 grams finely grated Parmesan Cheese

Preheat oven to 200 degrees Celsius.

Boil, steam or microwave sweet potato until just tender. Drain

Heat the oil in a large non-stick frying pan over medium high heat. Cook onion, red capsicum and garlic, stirring, for 3 - 4 minutes or until softened.

Add chicken mince and cook, stirring to break up any lumps, for 5 minutes or until lightly browned.

Add pasta sauce and bring to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes or until thickened slightly. Remove from heat and stir in sweet potato.

Meanwhile, combine 1/2 cup milk and cornflour in a small jug.

Place remaining milk in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Whisk in the cornflour mixture. Cook, stirring, for 2 minutes or until thickened. Remove from heat.

Lightly spray a large lasagne dish with cooking spray. Place 2 lasagne sheets over base. Top with a 1/3 of the chicken mixture and a 1/3 of the baby spinach. Repeat layering, finishing with lasagne sheets on the top.

Top with milk mixture and sprinkle with cheese. Bake for 45 minutes or until golden and tender.

Serve with point free salad.

(click here for a printable version of this recipe)