Being Mrs. Pierce

Life as a wife, hiker, wanna-be chef, book-lover, traveler, and now, mom

Crustless Swiss Chard Pie March 22, 2015

Filed under: Cooking — skpierce12 @ 1:54 PM
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The focus of my March cooking challenge is vegetarian dishes, so while on spring break earlier this month I cooked up the Crustless Swiss Chard Pie from The Skinnytaste Cookbook. I have grown to love Swiss chard, and it is now my go-to leafy green. Typically I sauté the chard in a little olive oil (and unsalted butter, if I’m feeling indulgent) with minced garlic, salt, and pepper, so I was curious to try this alternate way of preparing the vegetable.

I found the pie slightly tedious to prepare. There were vegetables to chop, two cheeses to grate, and eggs to beat. The onion and chard had to be sautéed on the stove before being added to the pie filling. While none of this was difficult, it did take time and dirtied up a lot of dishes. And then when the pie was all assembled, it still had to bake for half an hour before being eaten.

I served the pie for lunch alongside some leftover French onion soup. It was tasty, no doubt, but not so delicious that I found the effort of its preparation truly worthwhile. Skinnytaste author Gina Homolka admits that this pie is her way of getting picky eaters in her family to eat Swiss chard. Since both John and I happily eat sautéed Swiss chard, I will likely stick with that in the future. The pie did hold up well as leftovers, however, and we rated the recipe at a very respectable 3.5 stars.

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Crustless Swiss Chard Pie

Cooking spray
1 small bunch Swiss chard, washed well (I used red Swiss chard)
1 TB unsalted butter
1 large white onion, cut into thin half moons
salt
black pepper
1/2 cup grated light Swiss cheese (2.5 oz)
2 TB grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup white whole-wheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
2/3 cup fat-free milk
1 tsp olive oil
2 large eggs, beaten

1. Preheat oven to 400°. Lightly spray a 9-inch pie plate with oil.

2. Separate the stems from the leaves of the chard. Finely chop the stems; roll up the leaves and slice them into thin ribbons.

3. In a large skillet, melt 1/2 TB of the butter over low heat. Add the onion and a pinch each of salt and black pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, 8 to 10 minutes. Increase the heat to medium and cook until the onions caramelize, 8 to 10 more minutes. Transfer to a large bowl.

4. Increase the heat to medium-high, add the remaining 1/2 TB butter and the chard stems. Cook, stirring, until tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the chard leaves and cook until wilted, 2 to 3 minutes. Season with 1/4 tsp salt and black pepper to taste and add them to the bowl of onions. Add the cheeses and toss well.

5. Sift the flour and baking powder into a medium bowl. Whisk in the milk, olive oil, eggs, and 1/4 tsp salt. Pour into the bowl of Swiss chard and mix well. Pour the mixture into the prepared pie plate.

6. Bake until a knife inserted in the center of the pie comes out clean, 27 to 30 minutes. Let it stand at least 5 minutes before serving. Slice into 6 wedges.

Yield: 6 servings. Per serving, 4 PointsPlus.

 

Dark Chocolate Brownies March 24, 2014

Filed under: Cooking — skpierce12 @ 8:29 PM
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For Valentine’s Day, I surprised my husband with the Winning Hearts and Minds Cake from Molly Wizenberg‘s A Homemade Life. When Wizenberg married, she served about 20 of these cakes (that she made herself and kept frozen until the wedding day) to her guests in lieu of a traditional tiered wedding cake. After just one bite of the cake, I could see why. John and I literally moaned with each forkful. For me, this was no big surprise (I do love my sweets, after all), but chocolate is usually not at the top of my husband’s favorite foods list. Between the two of us, we gobbled up the entire cake in just a few days. Ever since then, I’ve practically been dreaming about chocolate. While it is incredibly tempting to bake up another Winning Hearts and Minds Cake, my more rational self knows it would be an unwise move, health-wise. So when I felt the baking urge last weekend, I decided to try out Ellie Krieger’s Dark Chocolate Brownies instead. Chocolate would still be involved, but it would be in a recipe that had received the Krieger treatment: less fat, less sugar, less guilt.

 

For the chocolate, I used two 4-ounce Ghirardelli 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate Baking Bars, and for the flour I used Bob’s Red Mill Whole Wheat Pastry Flour. Ellie lists chopped walnuts as an optional ingredient, but knowing my husband would be eating these, there was no optional.  I sprinkled pecans instead of walnuts on top of the brownie batter.

 

I baked the brownies for 15 minutes, but they were not yet done. I kept them in the oven for an additional five minutes, at which point they were definitely cooked all the way through. In fact, I wish I had checked the pan a minute or two earlier.

 

The brownies were definitely chocolatey, but they were not as dense or rich as a typical brownie. In fact, they puffed up in the pan like a cake, and their texture was more akin to that of a cake than a brownie. John and I still granted the recipe 3.5 stars, for it did produce a decent chocolate dessert. No, it was no Winning Hearts and Minds Cake (which, oddly enough, is more like a brownie than a cake), but it did satisfy my sweet tooth–especially when served warm with light vanilla ice cream on top.

 

Comfort Food Fix recipes made: 19
Comfort Food Fix recipes still to make: 134

 

Dark Chocolate Brownies

Nonstick cooking spray
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup whole-grain pastry flour or whole-wheat flour
¼ cup unsweetened natural cocoa powder
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon baking soda
4 large eggs
1 cup packed light brown sugar
½ cup plain low-fat yogurt
¼ cup canola oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
¾ cup chopped walnuts, optional

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Coat a 9 x 13-inch baking pan with cooking spray.

2. Melt the chocolate and butter in a double broiler or heatproof bowl set over a pot of barely simmering water, stirring occasionally.

3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs and sugar until smooth. Add the yogurt, oil, and vanilla and whisk to combine. Add the chocolate-butter mixture and whisk until blended. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, mixing just enough to moisten.

4. Transfer the mixture to the prepared pan and sprinkle with nuts, if desired. Bake until the wooden toothpick inserted into the center comes out with a few moist crumbs, 20 to 25 minutes. Allow to cool completely in the pan on a wire rack before cutting into 24 pieces.

Yield: 24 servings. Per serving, 4 PointsPlus

 

Peanut Butter Cookies February 16, 2014

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The last chapter of Comfort Food Fix by Ellie Krieger is titled, “Desserts.” It is, unsurprisingly, my favorite chapter. Ellie includes quite a few cookie recipes in this portion of the cookbook, and I selected the Peanut Butter Cookies (p. 260) to be the first ones to try this year.

 

When I noticed that the recipe calls for smooth natural peanut butter, I immediately was inspired to make up a batch of homemade peanut butter to use in the recipe. Last year I read Jennifer Reese’s Make the Bread, Buy the Butter and ever since then I have been itching to try grinding up my own PB. Reese claims that the homemade version is miles beyond store-bought, and she is right. Homemade peanut butter is nuttier, creamier, better.

 

As much as I love peanut butter, PB cookies typically are neither my nor my husband’s favorites, so I made these primarily for John’s UIL students. The recipe states that one batch of dough yields 42 cookies, but I did not get quite that many. Luckily John does not have 42 UILers, so we had plenty leftover after John and I had two cookies each. The Peanut Butter Cookies turned out exactly like the picture in the cookbook – small and crinkly on the edges with a fun crisscross pattern across the top. They were fairly dense and not overly sweet, and they had a nice peanut butter flavor to them. We both agreed that they were 3.5 star cookies.

 

Comfort Food Fix recipes made: 12
Comfort Food Fix recipes still to make: 141

 

Colorful Coleslaw January 8, 2014

Filed under: Cooking — skpierce12 @ 8:56 PM
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Last year, my cooking and blog focused on trying and documenting at least 100 new (and mostly diet-friendly) recipes. As 2013 approached its final days, I began to consider my cooking goal for 2014. I liked the idea of working my way through an entire cookbook (rather than picking and choosing recipes from a variety of sources as I did in 2013), and I initially thought that I would attempt one of the classic cookbooks. As I researched those cookbooks, however, I discovered that they were often massive in size and rarely included nutritional information for the individual recipes. It seemed that it would take me years to cook my way through one of them, and if I did, my waistline would not remain where I would like it to be. My 2014 cooking plan was at a standstill.

 

While menu planning one weekend, however, I realized that the answer to my quandary was right before me: Ellie Krieger. I have almost universally loved the recipes of hers that I have made, and all of her cookbooks have detailed nutritional information for their recipes. I already owned her first three cookbooks (and have since added her latest, Weeknight Wonders, to my collection). The only question that remained: Which of her cookbooks to pick?

 

 

I dedicated a large block of time over my winter break to looking over each of Ellie Krieger’s cookbooks. Initially I thought that I would select her first cookbook, The Food You Crave, which was part of my early attempts to cook in a tasty, fresh, and healthy way. I have rather a special attachment to this cookbook, as it opened my eyes to cooking with actual food rather than canned-this and boxed-that. Yet in the end, I chose her Comfort Food Fix because of the number of recipes in it that I found especially appealing and because most of those recipes called for tried-and-true ingredients. I am not opposed to stepping outside of the culinary box on occasion, but I remain enough of a novice to want to be assured of taste success.

 

With the cookbook and 2014 cooking plan decided upon, it was time to begin cooking. Last weekend I made up a batch of BBQ pulled pork in my slow cooker, so it seemed the perfect time to try Ellie’s Colorful Coleslaw (Comfort Food Fix, p. 244) as a vegetable side.

 

Right away, this recipe took me into new food territory: fennel. I am not a fan of licorice, so I have studiously avoided recipes calling for fennel. Yet my goal involves cooking each of the Comfort Food Fix recipes as is (at least the first time; I reserve the right to amend and tweak according to my tastes and preferences if I decide a recipe is worth a second attempt), so off I went in search of a fennel bulb. Never having bought fennel before, I was not sure what I was looking for at the store at first. (A quick online image search before leaving on my shopping trip would have been wise.) Fennel could not be found at the first store I tried, but I was rewarded for making a second stop by discovering fennel (labeled as anise) in the organic produce section.

 

With all of the slicing, shredding, and chopping, the coleslaw took me nearly an hour to assemble. I made it late in the afternoon, so it had only an hour or so to chill in the refrigerator before dinnertime. The Colorful Coleslaw, which is decidedly not a creamy, mayonnaise-y slaw, was rather tart that first night. It mellowed with time, however, as the initial strong vinegar taste subsided in the days that followed. I drained off the excess liquid each night, and the slaw stayed tasty and fresh for several days afterward. This was good because the recipe made a huge batch. According to the recipe, it should have yielded 6 cups, but my version resulted in much more. I did not measure my cabbage before mixing it in, so that may have been the culprit for the supersized slaw. John and I ran out of pulled pork before we ran out of coleslaw! Despite its bulk, I enjoyed the fresh, crispy taste and texture of the recipe — especially once the vinegar taste lessened. As for the fennel, I could not discern a licorice flavor once the sliced fennel was mixed in with the other vegetables and the dressing. Perhaps I can cook with fennel after all! I gave Colorful Coleslaw 3.5 out of 5 stars.

 

Comfort Food Fix recipes made: 1
Comfort Food Fix recipes still to make: 152

 

Colorful Coleslaw

3 TB grainy mustard
2 TB honey
2 TB fresh lime juice, plus more to taste
2 TB cider vinegar
2 TB extra-virgin olive oil
½ tsp salt, plus more to taste
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
¼ large head red cabbage, cored and thinly sliced (about 4 cups)
2 large carrots, shredded
1 medium fennel bulb, halved, cored and thinly sliced (1½ cups)
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
½ cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1 TB poppy seeds

1. In a large serving bowl, whisk together the mustard, honey, 2 TB lime juice, cider vinegar, oil, ½ tsp salt, and ¼ tsp black pepper.

2. Add the cabbage, carrots, fennel, onion, cilantro, and poppy seeds and toss well to combine. Season with more lime juice, salt, and black pepper, if desired.

Yield: 6 servings (serving size: 1 cup). Per serving, 3 PointsPlus.

 

Simple Roast Chicken (New Recipe #102) December 15, 2013

Filed under: Cooking — skpierce12 @ 10:51 AM
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If you have ever sat down in the teacher’s lounge with me at lunchtime, you know there is a 98% chance that I will be eating a turkey sandwich. During my first year of teaching, I found that I could buy a pound of deli turkey and a loaf of bread and have an easily-put-together lunch for every day of the work week. I am now in my fourth year of teaching, and I continue to follow the same pattern. Of course, I do tire of having the exact same lunch all of the time, but I also like not having to think about what I’m going to take to work the following day, especially considering that my brain, overtaxed from making a thousand decisions at work each day, is barely functioning by the end of the evening.

 

Yet all of these loaves of store-bought bread and pounds of deli turkey meat have been rather pricey. On a typical week, I spend about $14-20 on bread and turkey alone. Ouch! I also am ingesting lots of added sodium and who knows what else (I’m usually too scared to read ingredient labels). I’ve become determined to find a more economical and healthier way of having sandwiches for work. For the bread, I’ve already learned how to bake delicious Honey Wheat Bread that puts the light bread I’ve been buying this past year to utter shame. For the meat, I decided to try roasting and slicing a whole chicken. It might not be my usual turkey, but chicken is close enough.

 

I used Mark Bittman’s Simple Roast Chicken recipe from How to Cook Everything. My husband once made the Herbed Butter Roast Chicken (also from How to Cook Everything) for me, which was amazing, but for my sandwiches, I was looking for a lighter option.

 

I bought my chicken the afternoon before DFW shut down due to ice, so I did not have a wide variety of choice. Even in the early evening, the shelves and bins were starting to look a little empty. All that was left of the fresh whole chickens were larger, 6 pound birds (the recipe calls for a 3- to 4-pounder). Priced at 98 cents a pound, however, I felt that I was getting a bargain.

 

When preparing the chicken for the roasting pan, I admit that I had to give myself a pep talk before sticking my hand into its nether region to remove the innards. After all, I am the same girl who used to have to leave the kitchen when it came time for my mom to prepare the turkey for our holiday dinners. I couldn’t even stand watching her reach inside the bird. So there I was, poised to plunge my hand into the dark, cold, wet unknown. I took a deep breath and went for it. I would love to say that it wasn’t that bad, but I can’t. It was gross. John stood next to me, helpfully identifying each part for me as I pulled it out. That’s the neck. There’s the liver. If I hadn’t been so focused on not losing my lunch, I would have thrown the gizzard at him.

 

Finally I had the chicken in the roasting pan, ready for the oven. The size of the bird meant that each step took longer; the total roasting time was at least 90 minutes. I used an instant-read thermometer to ensure that the chicken was fully cooked. Basting the skin with olive oil had caused it to brown up beautifully, and I felt a small sense of joy as I set it upon the platter to be carved.

 

Not having cut up a bird before, I set Mark Bittman’s illustrated carving instructions next to the platter on the table. Reading through the directions once more, I felt confident that I could follow the “easy” steps. Five minutes later, huffing in frustration, I put down the knife and called in my husband. I was hungry, I was tired, and the chicken was not carving up like it was supposed to. I turned the carving chore over to John, who at least managed to get the major pieces of meat cut and plated so that we could eat. The chicken didn’t look pretty in the end, but at least John got the job done.

 

Despite the difficulty we experienced in carving the chicken, it tasted delicious. The breast meat was incredibly moist, and I enjoyed every bite. I granted the recipe 3.5 stars, although John, who missed the butter, gave it 3. That same evening, I used the carcass to make homemade chicken stock (from which I made a turkey chowder and a lentil soup), also a first for me. And John and I both thoroughly enjoyed eating the leftover roast chicken on the homemade honey wheat bread for the next several days. My first attempt at whole roast chicken may not have been entirely smooth and effortless, but I am sold on the taste and cost benefits from the effort. So next time you run in to me in the lunchroom, I likely will still be holding a sandwich, but it will be a better one all around.

 

(By the way, if anyone has any tips for how to neatly carve a whole cooked chicken, please share!)

 

Simple Roast Chicken

1 whole (3- to 4-pound) chicken, trimmed of excess fat, then rinsed and patted dry with paper towels
3 TB olive oil
2 tsp chopped fresh thyme, oregano, rosemary, marjoram, or sage leaves, or 1 tsp dried
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Chopped fresh herbs for garnish

1. Preheat oven to 500°F.

2. Place the chicken, breast side down, on a rack in a roasting pan. Begin roasting. Mix together the olive oil, herb, salt, and pepper.

3. After the chicken has roasted for about 20 minutes, spoon some of the olive oil mixture over it, then turn the bird breast side up. Baste again, then again after 7 or 8 minutes; at this point the breast should be beginning to brown (if it hasn’t, roast a few more minutes). Turn the heat down to 325°F, baste again, and roast until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh reads 160 to 165°F. Total roasting time will be under an hour.

4. Before removing the chicken from the pan, tip the pan to let the juices from the bird’s cavity flow into the pan (if they are red, cook another 5 minutes). Remove the bird to a platter and let it rest for about 5 minutes. While it is resting, pour the pan juices into a clear measuring cup, and pour or spoon off as much of the fat as you can. Reheat the juice, carve the bird, garnish, and serve with the pan juices.

Yield: 4 servings.

 

Southwest Meatloaf Minis (New Recipe #99) December 7, 2013

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Last weekend I was in the mood for some comfort food, so I selected the Hungry Girl’s Southwest Meatloaf Minis for our Sunday night dinner. These meatloaves are a variation on the Hungry Girl’s Turkey and Veggie Meatloaf Minis, which we endearingly call “meat cupcakes” at our house. The southwest version nixes the broccoli slaw but adds black beans, corn, cheese, and a good deal of heat courtesy of the jalapeño peppers and cayenne.

 

I very much enjoyed the southwest meatloaf minis, but not quite as much as the original meat cupcakes. John and I gave the southwest version 3.5 stars. The meatloaves are good leftover, too. The recipe yielded 10 cupcakes, which was the perfect amount for 2 people for 2 dinners, as each night I ate 2 and John ate 3.  We did not add any of the listed optional toppings, although John did eat his meat cupcakes with a little extra ketchup.

 

Southwest Meatloaf Minis

½ cup diced red bell pepper
½ cup diced onion
1¼ lbs raw lean ground turkey (7% fat or less)
¾ cup canned crushed tomatoes
1/3 cup seeded and finely chopped jalapeño peppers
¼ cup quick-cooking oats
¼ cup fat-free liquid egg substitute
¼ cup frozen sweet corn kernels, thawed
¼ cup canned black beans, drained and rinsed
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp black pepper
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
3 TB ketchup
¼ cup shredded reduced-fat Mexican-blend cheese
Optional toppings: salsa, fat-free or light sour cream, hot sauce

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 10 cups of a 12-cup muffin pan with foil baking cups, or spray them with nonstick spray.

2. Bring a skillet sprayed with nonstick spray to medium heat. Cook and stir bell pepper and onion until softened and lightly browned, 5 – 7 minutes.

3. Transfer cooked veggies to a large bowl. Add all remaining ingredients except ketchup and cheese. Mix thoroughly.

4. Evenly distribute mixture among the 10 lined or sprayed cups of the muffin pan. Evenly top with ketchup, about 1 tsp. each. Bake until firm and cooked through with lightly browned edges, about 35 minutes.

5. Sprinkle meatloaves with cheese. Bake until cheese has melted, about 2 minutes.

Yield: 5 servings (serving size: 2 meatloaf minis). Per serving, 6 PointsPlus.

 

Downside-Up Peanut Butter Dream Pie (New Recipe #93) November 30, 2013

Filed under: Cooking — skpierce12 @ 3:26 PM
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Peanut butter is among the foods that I would have trouble living without. Spread on a warm, toasted English muffin, tucked inside two soft slices of bread, or featured in a delectable dessert, peanut butter works well any time of the day. The only problem (well, not a problem, per se — perhaps more of an issue) with peanut butter is its fat content and its propensity to hike up the PointsPlus value of any recipe in which it is an ingredient. So when I found the Hungry Girl’s Freezy Downside-Up PB Dream Pie recipe, I was thrilled to try a peanut butter pie that would set me back only 4 PointsPlus per serving.

 

One of the best parts of using peanut butter in a recipe is how yummy it smells. As soon as I began mixing the batter, I wanted to dive right in and eat it thanks to the nutty aroma wafting up from the bowl. I held back — but only for so long.  I was so eager to try the pie that I didn’t leave it in the freezer long enough for the pie to solidify all the way through, so it was a little runny the first time I served it to John and myself. The following day, however, the pie had firmed up nicely and I was able to cut it into neat and tidy triangles, as pictured above.

 

Whether frozen solid through or not, the pie was very tasty. It wasn’t too sweet, the amount of peanut butter flavor was just right, and the crumbled graham crackers provided a nice contrast to the cold, creamy filling. I gave it 3.5 stars.

 

Freezy Downside-Up PB Dream Pie

½ cup reduced-fat creamy peanut butter, room temperature
Half an 8-oz. tub fat-free cream cheese, room temperature
¼ cup powdered sugar
½ cup light vanilla soymilk (or Unsweetened Vanilla Almond Breeze)
1 cup Cool Whip Free, thawed
2 sheets (8 crackers) low-fat honey graham crackers, crushed
Optional topping: Fat Free Reddi-wip (I didn’t use this)

1. Place peanut butter and cream cheese in a large bowl. Using an electric hand mixer set to medium speed, mix until smooth and uniform.

2. Add powdered sugar to the bowl. Set the mixer to low speed, and mix well. Add soymilk and continue to mix until smooth.

3. Gently fold in whipped topping, until uniform in color.

4. Carefully transfer the filling into a pie pan. Evenly top with crushed graham crackers. Cover and freeze until firm, at least 2 hours.

5. Cut into 8 slices and, if you like, top with Reddi-wip.

Yield: 8 servings. Per serving, 4 PointsPlus.