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Before making this dish, I had never cooked or eaten polenta. Honestly, I had no desire – I thought it was a boring vegetarian food, high in calories in carbs. It is vegetarian, and it is high in carbs… but it’s not as high in calories as I previously thought, and it doesn’t have to be boring! It’s one of those wonderful foods with endless possibilities – it can take on multiple flavors, and even textures! Immediately after cooking, it has a mashed potato-like consistency. But place it in a baking dish in your refrigerator for a few hours and you’ll get something resembling yellow brownies.

If you’ve never tried polenta – you need to! I loved this dish and polenta has become a new pantry staple for me.

And for those of you wondering, “WTF is polenta?”… it’s just cornmeal!

(You’ll need to plan ahead and prepare the polenta either in the morning or the day before)

Polenta Wedges with Asparagus and Mushrooms
adapted from Everyday Food, January/February 2010

1 cup instant polenta
4 cups water
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 pound white mushrooms, sliced
coarse salt and ground black pepper
3/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons whole milk
1 pound asparagus, trimmed

To make the polenta:

Bring 4 cups of salted water to a boil. Gradually pour in 1 cup instant polenta, stirring continuously for about 3 minutes. Pour into an 8-inch square baking dish coated with cooking spray. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for several hours, or overnight – you can even do it days in advance. (To boost the flavor of your polenta, you may use milk or chicken broth – or both – instead of salted water. The original recipe used a combination – try 1 cup skim milk + 3 cups chicken broth)

prepared polenta

Once the polenta is ready:

1. Heat broiler and position the rack 5 inches from the heat. In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add broth and cook until reduced by half, about 4 minutes. Stir in milk and cook 2 minutes. Remove from heat.

starting to cook the mushrooms

2. Place a rimmed baking sheet in oven to heat. Slice polenta into wedges; pat dry with a paper towel and spray with cooking spray. Spray asparagus with cooking spray.

preparing the polenta and asparagus

3. Carefully remove hot baking sheet from oven. Place asparagus on one half and place polenta on the other. Season  both with salt and pepper.

before going into the oven

4. Broil until polenta is golden brown and asparagus is crisp-tender, about 6 minutes, rotating sheet and tossing asparagus about halfway through.

5. Serve polenta wedges with asparagus and mushrooms.

finished dish

Serves 4

1 serving = 4 Weight Watchers points

calories:224
fat: 4.5g (0.9g sat)
carbs: 39.1g
fiber: 4.5g
sugar: 4.8g
protein: 9.5g

That was way too vegetarian and low-calorie for Stas, so I didn’t make him eat it. Instead, I took a portion of the prepared polenta and pan-fried it in vegetable oil. I served it with sliced flank steak:

fried polenta

They look like Twinkies, don’t they?!

fried polenta and steak

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zucchini-bread-cut

The first time I made zucchini bread was in high school, in my Food & Nutrition class. When the teacher gave us the recipe, I remember thinking that it was going to be the most disgusting bread ever. I mean, how could anyone possibly incorporate zucchini into a sweet and tasty bread?!

One taste of the finished product and I was convinced; I loved it! But I never made it again…. until last week…

This time, Stas was the skeptical one (and I don’t blame him… he doesn’t even like zucchini much). But he liked it too – and even took some to work. (or maybe I made him take some to work :))

The zucchini doesn’t add any strong taste to the bread. I think it serves mostly for moisture and a nice, chewy texture. Whatever purpose it serves, it does it well!

the finished loaf

the finished loaf

Zucchini Bread
from Cooking Light

2 cups coarsely shredded zucchini
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 3/4 cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 cup applesauce
1/2 cup egg substitute
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
cooking spray

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Place shredded zucchini on several layers of paper towels, and cover with additional paper towel. Let stand 5 minutes, pressing down occasionally. Set aside.

3. Combine flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and baking powder in a large bowl and stir well; make a well in center of mixture. Combine zucchini, applesauce, egg substitute, oil, and vanilla; add to dry ingredients, stirring just until dry ingredients are moistened.

4. Divide batter evenly between 1 large 9 inch loaf pan (or 2 smaller 7 1/2 x 3-inch loaf pans) coated with cooking spray.

before going into the oven

before going into the oven

4. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Let cool in pan(s) for 10 minutes on a wire rack; remove from pan(s), and let cool completely on wire rack.

straight from the oven

straight from the oven

Serves 28

1 serving = 3 Weight Watchers points

I used 1 large loaf pan for my bread. I think this way, the center of the bread stays more moist- and you get that yummy section of almost-but-not-quite-fully-cooked part… the part that’s extra moist and chewy… the best part!

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baked-zucchini-sticks-5

As soon as I laid eyes on that massive zucchini, I started Gooling zucchini recipes. This was one of the first ones I found, and I knew right away that I’d love it. This is a great healthy alternative to mozarella sticks. I didn’t have any marinara sauce on hand to dip them in, but I plan on buying some and making these again!

I loved these – but Stas hated them… I ended up eating all of mine, PLUS his.

But in all fairness, he doesn’t care much for zucchini to begin with.

Baked Zucchini Sticks

  • equivalent of 3 medium zucchini, sliced into 3″ x 1/2″ sticks
  • 1 large egg white
  • 1/3 cup seasoned bread crumbs
  • 2 tbsp grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (or whatever cheese you have on hand)
  • cooking spray (or parchment paper)
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • salt
  • fresh pepper

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

2. In a small bowl, beat egg whites and season with salt and pepper. In a ziplock bag, place breadcrumbs, garlic powder, and cheese; shake well. Cove cookie sheet with parchment paper (or spray cookie sheet with cooking spray) and set aside.

baked-zucchini-sticks-2

zucchini slices

baked-zucchini-sticks-1

breadcrumbs and egg white

3. Dip zucchini sticks into eggs then into bread crumb and cheese mixture, a few at a time and shake to coat. Place the breaded zucchini in a single layer on parchment paper (optional: spray cooking spray on top).

zucchini sticks pre-baking

zucchini sticks pre-baking

4. Bake at 425 degrees F for about 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown. Serve warm.

baked-zucchini-sticks-6

baked zucchini sticks, plated

Serves 3

Here is the breakdown of Weight Watchers points:
zucchini = 0
1 egg white = 0
1/3 cup bread crumbs = 2
2 tbsp Parmesan cheese = 2

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