Being Mrs. Pierce

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

Skinny Broccoli Mac and Cheese March 22, 2015

Filed under: Cooking — skpierce12 @ 8:40 PM
Tags: , , , ,

019 021

On the same day that I made the Crustless Swiss Chard Pie for lunch, I made a second vegetarian recipe from The Skinnytaste Cookbook for dinner: Skinny Broccoli Mac and Cheese. John comments from time to time about loving broccoli-and-cheese or mac-and-cheese. Since I rarely cook either one, I thought I’d treat him to both in one go while also getting in another recipe for my vegetarian cooking challenge.

This dish is designed to be a vegetarian main, but I have to admit that I pulled out some leftover steak from the fridge to serve alongside it. I know, I know. That seems especially like cheating to me now, 10 days later, when I am on the eve of launching Mark Bittman’s VB6 (Vegan Before 6) diet plan.

At any rate, the broccoli mac and cheese was delicious, and it would make for a tasty main. It was very filling thanks to the pasta (I used 100% whole wheat rotini) and cheese (2% cheddar). The leftovers were surprisingly good, as well. Milk-based dishes often don’t hold up to refrigeration and reheating, but this one did fairly well. John, especially, loved this recipe all three nights we had it. It earned a solid 4 stars, putting it at the top of my March Cooking Challenge list.

022

 

Slow Cooker Herbed Apricot Pork Tenderloin January 28, 2015

Filed under: Cooking — skpierce12 @ 9:05 PM
Tags: , ,

003

 

Last weekend I spent my Saturday supporting John and his high school students at a UIL Academics invitational meet, so that left me with just Sunday in which to whip up a slow cooker recipe for my January cooking challenge. After the success of the Balsamic Pork Tenderloin earlier this month, I was eager to try a different twist on a slow cooker pork recipe. I selected Herbed Apricot Pork Loin Roast from my mother-in-law’s Diabetic Living: Favorite Slow Cooker Recipes cookbook. My husband makes delicious Apricot-Glazed Pork Chops, so I’d been eager to try this particular slow cooker recipe for a while.

 

At the store, I did not have any luck finding a 3-pound pork loin roast, but there was a 3-pound pork tenderloin available that I snagged instead. According to this guide, the two cuts should not be interchangeable, but I’ve done it in the past to no ill effect (as long as the tenderloin isn’t overcooked). To that end, I cooked the tenderloin on low for 5.5 hours rather than the 6-8 hour time frame called for in the original recipe. After 5.5 hours, the tenderloin easily came apart into large pieces on my platter.

 

001

 

I thickened the apricot sauce on the stove and poured it on top of the pork. To complete the meal, I served roasted cauliflower and sautéed Brussels sprouts on the side. The original recipe calls for sliced fresh apricots to be served alongside the pork, but with it being January, I omitted the out-of-season fruit and went heavy on the vegetables.

 

005

 

The pork was very delicious – moist and slightly sweet thanks to the apricot spread in the sauce. I granted it an immediate 4 stars, and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed eating the leftovers, which have made for easy, tasty sandwiches over the past few days. John also liked the apricot pork, but the Balsamic Pork Tenderloin remains his favorite recipe of the month. As for me, I am undecided which of the two recipes would be my top choice!  They were both winners.

 

Herbed Apricot Pork Tenderloin

[adapted from Diabetic Living: Favorite Slow Cooker Recipes]

1 3-lb pork tenderloin
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper, divided
1 10-oz jar apricot spreadable fruit
1/3 cup finely chopped onion
2 TB Dijon mustard
1 tsp lemon zest
1 tsp snipped fresh rosemary
1/2 tsp dried sage
1/2 tsp dried thyme
2 TB water
4 tsp cornstarch

1. Season pork with salt and 1/4 tsp black pepper. In a medium bowl, combine spreadable fruit, onion, mustard, lemon zest, rosemary, sage, thyme, and remaining 1/4 tsp black pepper.

2. Place pork in a 5- or 6-quart capacity slow cooker. Pour fruit mixture on top of pork.

3. Cover and cook on low for 5.5 hours.

4. Remove pork from slow cooker, reserving liquid. Cover pork loosely with foil while preparing sauce.

5. In a medium saucepan, combine water and cornstarch. Carefully pour in liquid from slow cooker. Cook and stir until sauce has become thick and bubbly; cook and stir for an additional 2 minutes. Pour sauce over pork and serve.

Yield: 8 servings

 

Slow Cooker Balsamic Pork Tenderloin January 4, 2015

Filed under: Cooking — skpierce12 @ 9:30 PM
Tags: , ,

004

 

Today I officially embarked upon my 2015 Cooking Challenge by making my first new recipe for the January slow cooker category. While recently browsing slow cooker recipes on Skinnytaste, I followed a link to this Balsamic Pork Tenderloin recipe on the Add a Pinch blog. I thought it seemed promising, and I knew I could easily pick up a pork tenderloin at my small-but-convenient local grocery store. I also was in search of a light recipe. After indulging myself for the past two weeks, it’s time to get back to making healthy choices.

 

As the recipe promised, I had the pork in the slow cooker within minutes. I set the timer for 6 hours on the low setting, and off John and I went to look at lots. It seems we are going to build a house this year.

 

When we returned two hours later, the sauce was bubbling and the pork was progressing along nicely. I did not love the smell, as the ½ cup of vinegar was emitting a fairly strong aroma. And frankly, pork tenderloin is about the one thing I make in the slow cooker that just doesn’t smell all that appealing while it’s cooking. But it tastes great at the end, so I can live with its faint odor for an afternoon.

 

After six hours, I turned off the slow cooker and removed the pork to a platter to rest. I transferred the sauce from the slow cooker insert to a small saucepan in order to reduce it down to a glaze. While the sauce cooked down, I used two forks to slightly pull the pork apart:

003

 

When the glaze was ready, I evenly poured it on top of the shredded pork. Now the meat was looking and smelling good.

004

 

I rewarmed roasted vegetables and sautéed Swiss chard from last night’s dinner to serve on the side. Thanks to these leftovers and the ease of the pork recipe, tonight’s homemade dinner could not have been simpler. The Balsamic Pork Tenderloin was very tasty, too, earning a solid 4 stars from both John and me. We’re already looking forward to making sandwiches out of it for our work lunches tomorrow. Hopefully they will help us get through our first days back at school after our two-week winter break.

 

My first slow cooker recipe of the month was a success; stay tuned to see what I cook up next!

 

Banana Pudding with Vanilla Wafers August 9, 2014

Filed under: Cooking — skpierce12 @ 12:08 PM
Tags: , , , , , ,

061

 

I share a birthday month–July–with two lovely ladies in my family: my mother-in-law, Loveta, and my niece, Lydia. Our birthdays are the 2nd, 12th, and 21st, respectively (talk about easy to remember). For Loveta’s birthday last month, John and I invited his parents over to our house for a home-cooked birthday dinner. On the menu: Honey-Crisp Oven Fried Chicken, Fresh Corn Fritters, Zucchini Hash, and Buttermilk Biscuits. With such a down-home feast, what else could I have served for dessert but Banana Pudding?

 

I selected Ellie Krieger’s Banana Pudding with Vanilla Wafers recipe from Comfort Food Fix. I had made the dessert a couple of years ago and knew it was a solid one. In addition, it would help me check off another recipe from my Comfort Food Fix cooking to-do list.

 

I made the vanilla pudding from scratch as directed, but I confess that I did not stick strictly to the rest of the recipe when assembling the dessert. I wanted to serve the pudding in my clear trifle bowl, which is larger than the 1.5-quart bowl that Ellie recommends. Layering just six vanilla wafers in at a time would have been paltry, indeed. So I significantly upped the number of wafers from the stated 24. I also did not whip heavy cream for the topping – I went with Cool Whip. Despite its unnaturalness, I simply prefer it to whipped heavy cream. I guess we all have our guilty pleasures.

 

The banana pudding looked fantastic in my trifle bowl, and I was more than happy to serve it up as Loveta’s birthday dessert. The four of us gobbled up this 4-star treat in one sitting!

 

060

 

Comfort Food Fix recipes made: 25
Comfort Food Fix recipes still to make: 128

 

Roasted Red Pepper Hummus August 4, 2014

Filed under: Cooking — skpierce12 @ 8:23 PM
Tags: , , , , ,

004

 

Sometime last spring, I lost my cooking mojo. In the weeks and months after launching my blog, I spent hours happily looking for new recipes, making frequent grocery store trips, and whipping up new recipe after new recipe. Eventually I burned out, as evidenced by my lack of food posts for months. Yet I did not forget my commitment to cooking every recipe from Ellie Krieger’s Comfort Food Fix cookbook, nor did I stop cooking full-stop. Back in April, I tried out Ellie’s Roasted Red Pepper Hummus to delicious results.

 

Hummus has long been a favorite, but until Ellie’s recipe, I had only ever tried one recipe for it courtesy of WeightWatchers. While the WeightWatchers one is a tasty recipe, it’s also VERY heavy on the garlic in order to make up for the lack of olive oil and tahini. (So heavy, in fact, that I can still taste it hours after eating it.) So I was eager to try Ellie’s take on hummus, which includes both olive oil and tahini in its list of ingredients but in reduced, reasonable quantities compared to a full-fat hummus recipe.

 

The only change I made to the recipe was reducing the amount of fresh lemon juice from 3 TB to 2. I typically dislike recipes with too strong of a lemon presence, so I’ve learned to be careful from the outset when a recipe calls for lemon juice. I found the 2 TB to be perfect for this hummus.

 

John’s look upon seeing the hummus on the table was one of skepticism; even I can admit that the pink-orange hue of roasted red pepper hummus is perhaps slightly unappetizing. Yet he and I both liked the taste of the hummus quite a bit, granting it a solid 4 stars. Even with its higher PointsPlus value, I would make this recipe over my old WeightWatchers one any day.

 

Comfort Food Fix recipes made: 23
Comfort Food Fix recipes still to make: 130

 

Roasted Red Pepper Hummus

1 large roasted red pepper, drained and rinsed if jarred
1 clove garlic, minced
½ tsp of salt, plus more to taste
One 15-ounce can chickpeas, preferably low-sodium, drained and rinsed
2 TB tahini
3 TB fresh lemon juice (I used only 2 TB)
2 TB extra-virgin olive oil, plus 1 teaspoon for garnish
¼ tsp ground cumin
1 TB of water

1. Finely chop 1 tablespoon of the roasted red pepper and reserve for garnish. Coarsely chop the remaining roasted red pepper.

2. Using the broad side of a knife blade, mash together the garlic and the ½ teaspoon salt to form a paste. Place the garlic paste, chickpeas, tahini, lemon juice, 2 tablespoons of the oil, cumin, water, and roasted red pepper into a food processor and process until smooth. Season with additional salt to taste.

3. Place the hummus into a serving bowl and garnish with the reserved red pepper. Drizzle the remaining 1 teaspoon of oil over the top. Hummus will keep for about one week in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Yield: 8 servings (serving size: ¼ cup). Per serving, 4 PointsPlus.

 

Skillet Mac & Cheese April 23, 2014

Filed under: Cooking — skpierce12 @ 7:56 PM
Tags: , , , , , , ,

007 010

 

When confronted with a head of cauliflower, I typically cut it into florets for either roasting with olive oil or dipping into hummus. Cauliflower has been a staple in my CSA for the past several months, however, and even I, the woman who eats a sandwich for lunch nearly every single day, got a little tired of the cauliflower roasting and dipping. Enter Ellie Krieger’s Skillet Mac & Cheese from Comfort Food Fix. What better way to use up cauliflower than to veggie-fy a typically unhealthy dish with it?

 

The recipe calls for Ellie’s Light and Crisp Whole Wheat Bread Crumbs, which I successfully made when trying her version of fish sticks and which I had planned to make again for this recipe. But mac & cheese day also turned out to be the day when my husband and I finally sold a car we’d been trying to sell for months, so the homemade bread crumbs never materialized. I substituted store-bought crumbs, which at 1¼ cups made A LOT of topping. Perhaps the store-bought ones were more dense than the homemade ones would have been; I doubt that the recipe really meant for the topping to be so thick.

 

While thickening the sauce, I worried that it was not thick enough, so I cooked it longer on the stove than the recipe recommends. This I wish I had not done. By the time the mac & cheese finished baking in the oven, the sauce almost seemed to have disappeared. I would have preferred the dish to have been slightly creamier.

 

I still rated the recipe 4 stars, despite the bread crumbs and sauce issues, as it was very tasty. I especially enjoyed the combination of textures: soft pasta, crunchy topping. Next time, I plan to use fewer bread crumbs in the topping and allow less cooking time for the sauce. With these slight adjustments, Ellie’s Skillet Mac & Cheese just might become my go-to homemade mac & cheese recipe.  I would only make this again when expecting company, though, as the leftovers were so-so.  The mac & cheese is best when served piping hot from the oven.

 

Comfort Food Fix recipes made: 22
Comfort Food Fix recipes still to make: 131

 

Skillet Mac & Cheese

6 ounces (1½ cups) whole grain elbow macaroni, cooked according to package directions (about 3 cups)
2 cups 1-inch wide cauliflower florets
1¼ cups Light and Crisp Whole Wheat Bread Crumbs
3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 teaspoons olive oil
3 cups cold 1% low-fat milk
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1¼ cup shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese (5 ounces)
¼ cup shredded Gruyère cheese (1 ounce)
2 teaspoons mustard powder
¾ teaspoon paprika
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
cooking spray

1. Preheat the oven to 375°F.

2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the macaroni and cook for 3 minutes less than the directions on the box. Drain. Place the cauliflower into a steamer basket fitted over a pot of boiling water, cover and steam until just tender, 5 minutes. Then, finely chop it.

3. In a small bowl, combine the breadcrumbs, Parmesan cheese and olive oil.

4. In a large saucepan whisk together the milk and flour until the flour is dissolved. Whisking constantly, bring to a gentle boil over medium heat, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer and until mixture thickens slightly, 2-3 minutes. Stir in the cheddar cheese, Gruyère, mustard, paprika, ¼ teaspoon each salt and pepper, and cayenne. Whisk until the cheeses are melted and mixture is smooth, 1-2 minutes. Add the macaroni and cauliflower and stir until well coated.

5. Spray an ovenproof 10-inch high-sided skillet with cooking spray and pour mixture into skillet. Sprinkle with the breadcrumb mixture, place on a baking sheet and bake until top is browned and the cheese is bubbly, 35-40 minutes.

Yield: 6 servings (serving size: 1¼ cups). Per serving, 9 PointsPlus.

 

Butternut Squash Risotto March 29, 2014

001

 

To celebrate surviving an especially busy week, I made dinner for my husband and me on Friday night. Typically a Friday night dinner for the two of us involves either eating out or eating leftovers, so I was rather proud of myself for whipping up something more special. Our meal featured Ellie Krieger’s Butternut Squash Risotto from her Comfort Food Fix cookbook. I’d had my eye on that recipe for many weeks, so I was especially eager to discover how it would turn out.

 

On the ingredients list for the recipe is 1 cup of butternut squash puree. I had intended to purchase the frozen package of squash puree, but after walking up and down the frozen vegetable aisle three times at my grocery store, I gave up on finding it. Luckily, when I got to the produce section, a pre-cubed package of butternut squash was on manager’s special. I snapped up the squash and tossed it into my cart. When I got home, a quick Google search yielded steamed butternut squash directions, and fifteen minutes later, I had my squash puree ready to go.

 

The recipe also calls for ½ cup of dry white wine, but I used Gewürztraminer, a sweeter wine, instead. John and I prefer our wines on the sweet side, so we were able to enjoy a glass of the leftover Gewürztraminer with our dinner.  As far as I can tell, the substitution did not adversely affect the results of the risotto.

 

I made the risotto in my 3.5-quart Dutch oven, which was the perfect size for the dish. Ellie categorizes the recipe as a vegetarian main dish, but I served the risotto as a side rather than a main. The recipe therefore yielded a huge batch of risotto, making at least 6-8 side servings rather than the 4 servings as stated on the recipe.

 

Making the risotto was easy enough, although it did require constant attention and care–and a tolerance for heat. Even I, who am almost always cold, would not want to make risotto in the throes of a summer heat wave. It did get rather steamy standing by the stove for 40 minutes straight.

 

Normally such effort would mitigate the ranking of the resulting recipe, but not so for this risotto. I found it utterly delicious: creamy, flavorful, and filling. I gave the recipe 4 stars. My husband rated the risotto slightly lower at 3.5 stars. When I asked him why, he simply said, “It’s butternut squash risotto.” Fair enough. Butternut squash is not my favorite of the winter squashes, either, but it’s perfect for this dish. I fully intend to make this risotto again in the fall when my CSA once again features farm-fresh butternut squash.

 

Comfort Food Fix recipes made: 20
Comfort Food Fix recipes still to make: 133

 

Butternut Squash Risotto

5 cups low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, finely diced
1½ cups Arborio rice
½ cup dry white wine
1 cup pureed butternut squash (one 10-ounce package frozen butternut squash puree, thawed)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (1½ ounces)
½ teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

1. Heat the broth in a pan on the stove until it is hot but not boiling. Reduce the heat to low and cover to keep warm.

2. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring, until softened but not browned, 6 to 8 minutes. Add the rice and cook, stirring for 1 minute. Add the wine and simmer until it is absorbed, stirring constantly, about 2 minutes.

3. Add ½ cup of the hot broth and simmer over medium heat, stirring frequently, until it is absorbed. Repeat with the remaining broth, ½ cup at a time, allowing each addition to be absorbed before adding more, about 30 minutes total. When all the broth is incorporated and the rice is tender and creamy, add the squash, sage, all but 2 tablespoons of the cheese, the salt, and pepper. Season with additional salt to taste. Serve immediately, garnished with the reserved cheese.

Yield: 4 servings (serving size: 1½ cups). Per serving, 11 PointsPlus.
[If divided into 8 servings, each serving is 6 PointsPlus.]