Monthly Archives: February 2013

Slow Cooker Greek Chicken Lettuce Wraps

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As much of a foodie as I am, even this girl needs an easy, go-to meal for those busy days when I don’t have the time I normally like to spend tinkering away in the kitchen. Those are the days when I like to pull the slow cooker out and let it do the work for me, and thus my Greek Chicken Lettuce Wraps were born.

Life has been a little crazy lately. In addition to the normal insanity of work and kids, I’ve been more proactive with my social life in my attempt to get out there and find Mr. Right-for-Right-Now.
Over the three day President’s Day weekend, I was busy every single night, sometimes double booked. Friday night I met a girlfriend for a tequila tasting at a local Mexican  Oaxacan restaurant. Then later that night I met a guy for a second date for a late night happy hour at a cozy, trendy, local bar. He and I met again Saturday night at another trendy place, a whiskey bar, where we noshed and sampled the whiskey then wandered through the neighborhood. We window shopped the boutiques and laughed at the folks standing in the 45 minute line, in the freezing cold, for Salt and Straw, a purveyor of the most delicious ice cream you’ve ever had. We shared our first kiss and then parted with an agreement to meet up again Tuesday night, since I already had commitments Sunday and Monday nights. It was a fantastic night and I left giddy, excited to see him again on Tuesday.
But let’s not skip forward too fast because you don’t want to miss out on the weird, parallel universe that I found myself in on Sunday night. A few months ago, a co-worker of mine and I bought a coupon for a Flirting 101 class, because despite what you may think I am really not adept at the art of flirting. But that’s another story.
So Sunday night, we went to this flirting class. I arrived there a bit early, anticipating the normal Portland parking challenges, and I found myself the first person there. As I approached the building, this petite woman emerged, looking as if she’d just come down from the penthouse apartment, cradling a small Pomeranian dog in her arms. She appeared frazzled and disorganized, and she begged me to help her out by checking people in as they came in the door, which I stupidly agreed to, then she disappeared upstairs. She reappeared as others started showing up, enlisting one gentleman to walk her dog, and a couple of other ladies to help her prep food and drinks for the class. Let me remind you that all of us paid to be here.
After all of this, I should have anticipated that the class would be just as disorganized and schizophrenic. There were some good tips in there, but the space was so cramped for the amount of people that it was difficult to engage in the exercises she wanted us to engage in, and there was just no logical flow. One of her tips on where to meet men: Craig’s List. Seriously. My last quibble: more than half of the men in there were friends of hers that she had recruited in to get a balance of men and women, so the encounters weren’t exactly genuine. It was a big disappointment. My friend and I skipped the social hour afterwards — as did most of the class — and went to grab a bite at a nearby restaurant.
Monday night found me at home, sipping wine over a Skype call with my cousins and their friends as we discussed our upcoming trip to Ireland. That’s right, yours truly is embarking on an Irish adventure on March 7, returning March 19. I’m meeting up with my cousins and the rest of our group on the 9th and we’ll spend some time in Dublin together before heading out to see Killarney, Galway and Donegal. My personal goal on this trip is to have a fun Irish fling — Irish men you have been warned!
And this brings us to Tuesday night when I was supposed to meet up again, for a fourth date, with this guy from Friday and Saturday nights. Supposed to. Tuesday afternoon he texts me — yes, texts me the day of — that he’s been thinking about it and he just wants to be friends. Seriously? He couldn’t have said something Sunday or Monday? Needless to say I haven’t heard from him since, and I don’t expect to. Friends indeed. Whatever.
When I’m running around like this, I look to my slow cooker for relief. For this particular dish, I love that I can throw in all of these ingredients and when I come home the kitchen smells so wonderful that I almost believe I’ve been transported to the Greek island. (I said almost.) The chicken is so tender that it literally falls apart when I shred it up. As a finishing touch, I mix the shredded chicken back into the juices, herbs and onion that it cooked in then stir in some creamy Greek yogurt, crunchy cucumber, mild roasted red pepper, and salty feta cheese. The result is a delicious and versatile chicken salad that I wrap in lettuce leaves here, but can also be stuffed into a pita pocket or even a tomato.
While I can’t rely on meeting a decent guy, it’s nice to know that I can rely on my kitchen prowess to get me through the week. Now if only I could find a good kitchen assistant and taster.
Slow Cooker Greek Chicken Lettuce Wraps
Recipe by Colleen Fields
I love the versatility of this easy dish. I am serving this simple, creamy, crunchy Greek chicken salad in lettuce cups, but you could also stuff it into a juicy tomato or a soft, whole wheat pita for a delicious, nutritious meal.

Yield: 4

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 2 tbsp fresh oregano leaves
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
  • 1/2 red onion, quartered and sliced
  • pinch coarse sea salt
  • 1/2 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
  • 3 oz. roasted red pepper, diced
  • 3 persian cucumbers, diced
  • 2 oz. reduced fat feta cheese, crumbled
  • 2 tomatoes, diced
  • 1 head butter lettuce, leaves separated and washed

Cooking Directions

  1. Put the chicken, vinegar, lemon juice, oregano, garlic, onion and salt in the slow cooker. Cook on low for 8 hours or extra low for 10 hours.
  2. Remove the cooked chicken breasts from the pot and shred with 2 forks until they are finely shredded. Mix back into the pot. Stir in the yogurt, roasted red peppers, cucumbers and feta cheese.
  3. Serve a dollop of the warm chicken mixture along the rib of the lettuce leaf. Top with some of the tomatoes. Wrap the leaves of the lettuce over the chicken like a burrito and enjoy!
Nutritional Information: Calories 210.6, Total Fat 2.4g, Cholesterol 66.5mg, Sodium 209.2mg, Total Carbs 16.4mg, Dietary Fiber 1.5g, Protein 32.7g

Healthy Fish and Chips with Roasted Garlic and Yogurt Aioli

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There is a little British pub near my house that serves up amazing fish and chips for just $5. They are salty, crunchy, slightly greasy, and present a challenge to someone like me who has difficulty eating just one. But you know me, I’m always up for a challenge.

I decided to create a healthier version of this British pub staple, while also upscaling a bit with some unexpected, non-traditional ingredients. Of course, I had to keep the traditional beer in the ingredient list because what are fish sticks without beer?

And so my Baked, Beer-Battered Tilapia Fish Sticks were born. After experimenting with several different kinds of fish, I elected to use tilapia because it’s firm, mild, and very low in fat.

I used a dredging method to create a savory coating that crisps up nicely in a hot oven. In the first bowl, I use an unbleached all-purpose flour with a little dry, cultured buttermilk for additional flavor. The second bowl contains nothing but beer. I recommend using a light, hoppy beer with citrus notes; I used a Double Mountain Vaporizer IPA. The base coating of flour and buttermilk then dipped in the beer creates a nice gooey coating on the fish which then helps the contents of the third bowl stick to the fish. In that third bowl I use panko, or Japanese style, bread crumbs with a little dried dill mixed in for extra flavor. I love how crispy and light panko bread crumbs bake up in the oven, they are perfect for these types of dishes.

My Sea Salt and Vinegar Parsnip Chips came together a little more quickly for me. In fact, I nailed the recipe on my first try. I decided to skip the potato and use parsnips for this dish because they have more nutrients and vitamins than their potato cousins. Parsnips also have a delicious sweet taste when cooked, which is the perfect partner for a sea salt and vinegar flavor combination.

And what would fish and chips be without a creamy sauce to dip it in? In the States, we love our tartar sauce, but in the UK you’ll find these served with a side of mayonnaise. Leaning towards tradition, I created a mayonnaise-like Roasted Garlic and Yogurt Aioli. Roasting the garlic first creates a sweet, caramelized flavor which I then offset with tart red wine vinegar and plain, nonfat Greek yogurt. It’s the perfect dipping partner for these two dishes.

 

Looking for a healthy alternative to traditional deep-fried fish and chips? Try this delicious version featuring Baked Beer-Battered Tilapia Fish Sticks and Sea Salt and Vinegar Parnsip Chips with a creamy Roasted Garlic and Yogurt Aioli on the side. It’s easy, it’s scrumptious, and it’s good for you. What more could you want?

Recipes by Colleen Fields


Baked, Beer-Battered Tilapia Fish Sticks

Yield: 4 Servings

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. raw tilapia filets, sliced into 1″ wide sticks
  • 1/4 cup unbleached, all-purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp dry, cultured buttermilk powder
  • 1/4 cup beer
  • 1 cup panko (Japanese style) breadcrumbs
  • 1 tsp dried dill weed

Cooking Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425F. Spray a baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.
  2. Prepare 3 shallow, medium bowls for dredging:
    Bowl 1- mix together the flour and buttermilk powder
    Bowl 2 – pour the beer in here
    Bowl 3 – mix together the breadcrumbs and dill
  3. Take a piece of the fish and roll first in the flour and buttermilk until it is well coated. Shake off the excess then roll in the beer. Again, shake off the excess then roll it in the panko bread crumbs until it is well coated. Shake off the excess and place on the baking sheet. Repeat until all the fish has been used.
  4. Bake for 10-15 minutes until the breadcrumbs are golden and crispy and the fish is cooked through. Serve immediately.
Nutritional Information: Calories 193.7, Total Fat 2.5g, Cholesterol 55.3mg, Sodium 104.0mg, Total Carbs 12.3g, Dietary Fiber 0.7g, Protein 24.8g

Sea Salt and Vinegar Parsnip Chips

Yield: 4 Servings

Ingredients

  • 2 parsnips, peeled and sliced into 1/4″ rounds
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp fine sea salt

Cooking Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 425F. Spray a baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.
  2. Whisk together the oil and vinegar until well combined. Toss with the parsnips so that the parsnip pieces are well coated. Spread on the baking sheet in a single layer. Sprinkle the salt over the top so that all parsnip slices are coated.
  3. Bake 10-15 minutes or until the chips are lightly browned and slightly crisp. Serve immediately
Nutritional Information: Calories: 86.8, Total Fat 3.7g, Cholesterol 0.0mg, Sodium 568.0mg, Total Carbs 13.6g, Dietary Fiber 2.9g, Protein 1.1 g

Roasted Garlic and Yogurt Aioli

Yield: 4 Servings

Ingredients

  • 1 whole bulb of garlic
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 cup nonfat, plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • pinch coarse sea salt
  • dash freshly ground black pepper

Cooking Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 425F.
  2. Slice the very tip of the top of the garlic bulb off. Place in a small baking container with a lid. Drizzle with the 1 tsp of olive oil. Place the top of the bulb back in place then cover and bake for about 30 minutes or until the cloves are completely gooey. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.
  3. In a food processor, combine the extra virgin olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. Squeeze all of the creamy cloves of garlic out of their papery shells and into the food processor, making sure not get any of the shells in the food processor.
  4. Pulse the food processor until the mixture is well combined and completely creamy. Keeps for up to a week, covered, in the fridge.
Nutritional information: Calories 89.0, Total Fat 5.0g, Cholesterol 0.0mg, Sodium 79.0mg, Total Carbs 5.1g, Dietary Fiber 0.2g, Protein 6.5g

 

 

Roasted Sweet Potato and Rosemary Soup

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This weekend I was in search of the perfect light and healthy dinner. I mentally searched my repertoire — which, as you can imagine, is quite vast — and my mind quickly settled on this creamy, luscious Roasted Sweet Potato and Rosemary Soup.

You see, I am spending an extended weekend in the sunny, beautiful Napa Valley — that’s the heart of California wine country for those of that you that might live under a rock. I get down here every other month in order to relieve my uncle of his care-taking duties of my 92 year-old grandmother for a long weekend. She enjoys seeing me, I love creating more memories with my Nana, and it gives me an excuse to escape the perpetual rain of the Pacific NW for the land of sun and endless vineyards.

Being an enthusiastic foodie, I also enjoy the tremendous food scene that Napa has to offer. On this trip, my Nana treated me to lunch at Bottega, an upscale restaurant owned by one of my favorite TV chefs, Michael Chiarello. We shared a starter of grilled prawns on a bed of shaved fennel and grapefruit in a citrus vinaigrette (which I am totally going to attempt to recreate) and then she had an entree of grilled skirt steak and I had the beet and rabiolo ravioli. Of course, we also each had a glass of wine to accompany the experience. It was a little slice of heaven.

We left the restaurant, my Nana slightly staggering and clutching my arm for balance, full and satiated. We wandered the adjoining V Marketplace, ooing and aahing over the pretty (and very expensive) jewelry, chocolates, and assorted other sundries in the shop windows. Then I bundled her in the car and we headed back to my aunt and uncle’s house where she promptly fell into a food coma on the couch.

Such a rich mid-day meal calls for a light dinner, but I also wanted something easy since on this particular night my aunt and uncle had escaped to Bodega Bay and I was in charge of my Nana as well as my aunt’s 87 year-old mother who suffers from Alzheimer’s. This is where my Roasted Sweet Potato and Rosemary Soup comes in.

This soup is not only the perfect light meal, it’s also very easy to prepare, containing only 7 ingredients including the salt. I love to roast the sweet potatoes with a little olive oil first as it lends an even sweeter and caramelized flavor to the dish. I then saute minced shallots and rosemary in a little olive oil, deglazing the pan with a bit of white wine for additional flavor.

When cooking with wine, it’s always important to use a quality wine as well as one that will impart complementary flavors to the dish you’re preparing. I normally like to cook with a sauvignon blanc when I’m preparing a dish that incorporates white wine, but sauvignon blanc is often very crisp and citrusy, which does not pair well with the sweet potato. So for this recipe, I chose a creamy, buttery, oaky Napa Valley Chardonnay. It was perfect.

Once the reduction is complete, I blend in the sweet potatoes, chicken broth, and a little bit of plain, nonfat Greek yogurt, which adds a little creaminess to the dish without the fat and calories of traditional cream. On this particular night, I got to experiment with my aunt’s immersion blender for this dish, and I have to tell you I am in love. I fell so in love with it that when I gushed to my aunt about it, she promptly went out and bought me one to take home. Have I mentioned that I am blessed with the greatest family ever?

I love to eat a bowl of this sweet, thick soup with a simple side salad and a couple of slices of baguette warmed with a dab of sweet and nutty cheese, such as a good gouda. It’s the perfect light meal to close out a wonderful day of rich, happy memories.

Roasted Sweet Potato and Rosemary Soup
Recipe by Colleen Fields
There are a lot of recipes out there for sweet potato soup, and some that even incorporate rosemary. I’ve changed it up a bit, though, by first roasting the sweet potatoes for a sweeter, caramelized flavor. I then mix that together with some mildly sweet sauteed shallots and fragrant rosemary in a white wine reduction for a creamy bowl of pure deliciousness.

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 lbs raw sweet potatoes
  • 4 tsp olive oil
  • 2 shallots, minced (about 1/4 cup minced)
  • Pinch coarse sea salt
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1/4 cup nonfat, plain Greek yogurt
  • 4 cups homemade, salt-free chicken broth

Cooking Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400F.
  2. Halve the sweet potatoes lengthwise and lay cut-side up on a baking sheet. Use 2 tsp of the olive oil to brush the cut sides of the sweet potatoes. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until the potatoes are soft and tender when pierced with a fork. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.
  3. Heat the remaining 2 tsp of olive oil in a deep soup pot over medium heat. Add the shallots, rosemary and sea salt and cook until the shallots have browned up, about 5 minutes. Stir in the white wine, using the back of a wooden spoon to scrape up all of the bits of shallot and rosemary stuck to the bottom of the pan. Continue cooking until the wine has reduced by half.
  4. Meanwhile, remove the cooked sweet potatoes from their skins and place them in a food processor. Add the Greek yogurt and about half of the chicken broth. Pulse until the mixture is smooth and creamy, adding additional broth as necessary. Pour into the pan with the shallots and rosemary and add the remaining broth. Cook over low heat until the soup has reached the desired temperature. Serve immediately.

  5. (Note: If you have an immersion blender, you can add the sweet potatoes, yogurt and broth directly to the shallots and rosemary and puree right in the pot. Note that using this method will make for a very smooth soup since the shallots and rosemary will also be pureed, whereas with the food processor method you will still have some texture in the soup since the shallots and rosemary are not pureed.)

 

Nutritional Information: Calories 226.7, Total Fat 4.8g, Cholesterol 0.0mg, Sodium 209.9mg, Total Carbs 37.6g, Dietary Fiber 5.2g, Protein 7.3g

 

 

Coconut Curry Tofu Stir-fry

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Asian cooking is not my forte. It’s a style that I enjoy experimenting with, though, taking various flavors and combining them into dishes with own unique spin. This has lead to all sorts of personal discoveries.

I have always known that curry powder is really nothing more than a combination of other spices, such as turmeric, ginger, coriander, etc., ground and mixed into a powder. I have used red curry paste before and know that it, too, is an amalgamation of other ingredients. My new to me discovery though is the use of curry leaves.

I discovered curry leaves quite by accident. While picking up some kefir lime leaves for my Asian Turkey Meatballs in Cranberry Chili Sauce with Rice Noodles and Vegetables, I noticed a small package of fresh curry leaves tucked neatly into the produce case. I opened the package and inhaled deeply, the wonderful aroma of humid tropics and spice filling my senses.

My interest was piqued. I enthusiastically added them to my cart, my mind already going through all the ways I might use them. I decided to mince the leaves and add them to my stir-fry and swim it in a complimentary coconut curry sauce.

I had to play with the vegetables for the stir-fry quite a bit. I like a little crunch in my stir-fry, and the bean sprouts, carrots, and baby bok choy are perfect for that. The winning addition, though, is the edamame. These tender beans are full of essential protein and are so delicious I could eat them by the handful. The pale green color is also quite pretty on the plate.

I top the stir-fry with cubes of baked tofu. This is one of my favorite ways to prepare tofu because it’s as easy as just spreading the cubes in a single layer on a greased baking sheet and baking them for 10 minutes at 400F. But the texture and flavor they add to the dish is even better. The baking process lightly crisps the outside while the inside remains soft and silky. I toss them across the top of the stir-fry like croutons on a salad.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: going meatless 1-2 times a week has been a cornerstone of my weight loss success. This vegetarian, and even vegan, dish is perfect for those nights when I’m in need of nutritious, lean protein. Give it a try and let me know what you think!

Coconut Curry Tofu Stir-Fry
Recipe by Colleen Fields


Ingredients

  • 1 cup basmati rice
  • 2 cups water
  • 8 oz. firm tofu, cubed
  • 2 tsp sesame oil
  • 8 scallions/green onions, trimmed and diced
  • 1 large red bell pepper, cut into 2-3″ strips
  • 8 fresh crimini/brown mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 medium carrots, cut into strips
  • 6 curry leaves, ribs removed and leaves minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
  • 2 heads baby bok choy, trimmed and roughly chopped
  • 12 oz. fresh bean sprouts
  • 1/2 cup shelled edamame soy beans
  • 1 tbsp fresh grated ginger root
  • 2 tbsp reduced sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tsp red curry paste
  • 1 tbsp ground curry powder
  • 1 tsp fish sauce
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 cup light coconut milk


Cooking Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400. Place the cubed tofu pieces on a baking sheet sprayed with nonstick cooking spray and bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.
  2. Cook the rice in the water according to package directions.
  3. Heat a wok or deep skillet over medium heat and add the sesame oil. Add the scallions, bell pepper, mushrooms, carrots, curry leaves and garlic and cook until the carrots are tender and the mushrooms have started to release their water – about 5 minutes. Add the bok choy and bean sprouts and cook for another 3 minutes until the bok choy has started to wilt. Add the edamame and mix well.
  4. Stir in the ginger root, soy sauce, curry paste, curry powder, fish sauce and cumin, mixing well to make sure that the curry paste gets distributed throughout the vegetables. Add the coconut milk and let cook for just 1-2 minutes more until warmed through.
  5. Serve the stir-fry mixture over a bed of rice. Top with cubes of the baked tofu. Garnish with chopped fresh cilantro and/or slices of fresh scallions as desired.


Yield: 4 Servings

Nutritional Information: Calories 406.9, Total Fat 12.8g, Cholesterol 0.0mg, Sodium 599.5mg, Total Carbs 60.9g, Dietary Fiber 10.7g, Protein 22.1g