Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Copy Cat (Sort Of) Lettuce Cups

I've been having this huge craving for PF Chang's lettuce cups, but I know that their recipe is loaded with sugar. The chicken stir fry sauce has sugar in it as does their super delicious secret sauce. So, I was on a mission to re-create this recipe in a South Beach Diet friendly manner.

First things first. I had to locate a copy cat recipe for the PF Chang's lettuce cups. Thankfully, this wasn't a difficult task. Once I obtained the recipe I got to work converting it to be SB diet friendly. That wasn't difficult either. Then, on top of that, I wanted to incorporate as much of my CSA shipment in this dish as possible. So, in place of the water chestnuts (which I love, by the way) I used the beautiful turnips and radishes that I received from Harvest2U this week.

This recipe is SB friendly and Gluten Free (so long as you use GF soy sauce)

So, let's get started!

South Beach Diet Lettuce Cups - Modified PF Chang's copy cat recipe.

First, let me start by saying that you can easily make the sauces up the day before, and place them in the refrigerator.

What you'll need:
2T olive oil
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1c minced turnips
3 minced radishes
1c minced mushrooms
1 large shallot minced
1t minced garlic or two cloves minced
1 head butter lettuce, core removed

Secret Sauce
1/4c splenda
1/2c water
2T soy sauce
2T rice wine vinegar
2T sugar free ketchup
1T lemon juice
1/4t sesame oil

1T hot mustard
2t hot water
1-2 t red chile paste (optional)

Stir Fry Sauce
2T soy sauce
2t splenda
1/2t rice wine vinegar

The first thing I did was mince my turnips, radishes, mushrooms, shallots and garlic. I tossed them in a bowl and set them aside.

Next I prepared all sauces. For the secret sauce, start by dissolving the splenda in the water in a small bowl. Then add the next five ingredients to the same bowl. Give it a quick whisk with a small whisk or even a fork.

In a separate small bowl (I used a pinch bowl) add the hot mustard and water. Give this a quick whisk.

For the stir fry sauce, add all three ingredients to a small pinch bowl and give a quick stir.

Next, you'll heat the oil on medium high heat in a large frying pan or wok. Once the oil is heated, add the chicken breasts and cook 5 to 6 minutes on each side, or until done. Remove chicken from pan and let it rest on a plate or cutting board. Turn the heat down to medium low and add once more tablespoon of olive oil if needed.

Once the chicken has cooled you will want to dice it into small pieces. I would say about the size of a garbanzo bean. Turn the pan back up to med-high heat and add the chicken and the bowl of minced veggies. Drizzle stir fry sauce over the meat and vegetables and cook for 5-7 minutes or until the veggies start to become a little tender. I like a bit of crispness still to mine. If you like yours more thoroughly cooked, you'll be looking at 7-10 minutes.

Once the chicken is done spoon it into a lettuce cup and top with secret sauce. Add spicy mustard and chili paste if desired. You could also add red pepper flakes in lieu of chili paste.

This recipe is going to definitely be in my meal rotation from here on out. It was in no way a disappointment! My youngest son asked if he could have this again for dinner tomorrow night. Sadly, the answer is "no" since I have another recipe to South Beach modify on my list. Up next, Chicken and Dumplings.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Ode To the South.....I'm Talking About Collards, Y'all!

Thanks to my dear old friend, Michelle, I'm blogging two nights in a row. OK, so she's not really "old", it's just that I've known her since I was in middle school and honestly, there aren't that many people that I still know that I've known that long.

I'm not complaining, I'm actually quite happy that she requested ideas for collard greens. I made this last weekend. It was super easy, super yummy and super inexpensive to make. I received these beautiful collard greens from my local CSA, Harvest2U, last week. Also, you could use other types of greens with this recipe like mustard, beet or turnip greens. For those of you who are also Harvest2U customers, I know you received some beautiful beets with the greens attached and YES, you can use those.

Black Eyed Peas With Ham and Collard Greens

Here's what you'll need for this recipe:
1 1/2 cups black eyed peas (soaked, drained and rinsed) or 2 cans of black eyed peas
2T olive oil
1/2 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
salt and pepper to taste
One ham bone with some ham still on it OR two cups of diced ham.
-You could easily purchase an inexpensive ham steak for this purpose, I had ham scraps in the freezer from the holidays
4-6 cups chicken stock
1 bunch of collard greens, rinsed and rough chopped
Parmesan cheese (optional)
Crushed red pepper flakes (optional)

OK, are you ready for some seriously easy comfort food? 

Heat olive oil in a large pot or dutch oven. Saute onion and garlic until onion is translucent. Add the ham to the onion mixture and heat until the ham is warm. 

Once you've heated the ham through, add the black eyed peas, chicken stock and pepper. Cover the pot and bring to a gentle boil. 

Once the the liquid begins to boil, add the collard greens and stir. 

The collards will turn bright green and then start to wilt. 

Now, put the lid back on and turn the heat to down to low. Cook until the black eyed peas have reached the desired tenderness. I think mine took around 30 minutes or so. Also, keep an eye on the liquid level and add more if it needed.

When the black eyed peas are tender the meal is ready. Top with grated parmesan cheese and red pepper flakes if desired.
*On a side note, you could also season with Worcestershire sauce or apple cider vinegar once served. I tend to like a little vinegar in my bean soups/stews.


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Sausage, Kale and White Bean Soup

First. my apologies, I'm so extremely behind in my blogging. Life has been crazy around these parts. I'm really back logged and I'm hoping to crank a few posts out this week.

Although spring is inching it's way in to Southern California, we're still very much enjoying our winter vegetable crop. I know this because I'm still getting lovely winter squashes, beets, and greens that thrive in our winter climate from my CSA Harvest2U.

So, for this rainy Wednesday afternoon in Southern California, I'm going to share a recipe for some serious winter comfort food. If you've ever had that sausage and potato soup from the Olive Garden you'll know exactly where I'm getting my inspiration for this South Beach Diet friendly and Gluten Free (GF) version of this yummy tummy warmer.

Here's what you'll need:

1 1/2 cup dried white beans. (sorted, rinsed and soaked 8 hours)
2T olive oil
2-4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 onion diced
3-4 celery ribs diced (more if you like)
salt - to taste
pepper - to taste
herbs de provence (2-4T)
1 pound ground italian sausage (I used mild turkey sausage, but use whatever heat you like. Just make sure it's a low fat meat)
Chicken stock (I used a little more than one 32oz box)
1 large bunch of kale (rinsed and given a rough chop)
1/2c grated parmigiano-reggiano
red pepper flakes (optional)

In a stock pot or dutch oven heat olive oil and add celery, onion and garlic and saute until the onions become translucent. Add your salt and pepper and herbs de province.

Add sausage to the pan and brown.

Once sausage is browned add your kale and saute until kale begins to wilt.

Add white beans to the pot and stir.

Add enough chicken stock to cover the solid ingredients.

Give everything a good stir, cover and cook on low until beans reach desired tenderness. I cooked mine about 45 minutes. I also stirred about every 15 minutes.

Ladle this winter wonderfulness into your favorite bowl and top with freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese and red pepper flakes (optional) if desired.

Here's a photo of the version without red pepper flakes for one of the boys. And just in case you were curious, my three year old told me that he likes "the soup with meat and salad in it" could you not laugh?

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Have No Fear!

Tonight, as I was cooking dinner I was thinking about blogging. I've got a couple of things to blog about from the last two weeks, but haven't gotten around to putting the words to my laptop. As I was thinking about this, and the taco salad I was making, I began to feel uninspired. Not that my taco salad wasn't exciting and delicious, I just wasn't feeling it.

Anyhow, I was going through my produce drawer and came across one lonely avocado. It put me in the mood for salsa. So, since I'm really trying to incorporate at least two items from my Harvest2U CSA shipment every night, I started digging around. I pulled out the last of the cherry tomatoes from last week, along with a handful of radishes, garlic chives, a red onion and some cilantro. I decided to make a 'seasonal' salsa and put as many Harvest items into it as I could.

The salsa is South Beach friendly (all phases) and gluten free (GF). The taco salad briefly described at the end of this post is also South Beach Diet friendly and GF. I did not use a taco seasoning packet as some contain flour (which is a no-no for SB and GF) and/or MSG (not GF). I used spices out of my pantry. I also didn't use any tortillas or chips. SB dieters stay away from these items, but you can add corn tortilla chips and still be GF.

So, when I say "Have No Fear," I mean, don't be afraid to go outside of the box. Don't be afraid to put your own flair into something. Seriously. It was JUST SALSA, but it was delicious, fresh and I was able to use my seasonal produce. If I cannot teach myself how to rely on seasonal produce then there is no way I can wholly support my local farmers, but that is just me though. It's a process and, for some, requires baby steps.

Here's what you'll need for this salsa. Get creative, make it what you want. It's just salsa, anyone can do this, I promise.

A handful or two of cherry tomatoes (like my super precise measurements)
one lonely avocado
1/2 small red onion
A handful of radishes (YES, radishes)
1-2T garlic chives
1/3 bunch cilantro
garlic (1-2 cloves)
the juice of 1/2 a lemon (or lime, but I had a lemon)
1/2 cup black beans (totally optional)

All you have to do is dice the tomatoes, avocado, onion and radishes into salsa sized chunks, chop up some garlic chives, cilantro and garlic. Dump in the black beans. Mix everything together squeeze the lemon/lime juice on the salsa, add a dash of salt and mix again. Take a bite and add anything you want.

I used mine on top of a lovely taco salad that I made for dinner using several different types of lettuce that I had in my crisper, seasoned organic ground beef (garlic, onion, chili powder, cumin, paprika, salt and pepper), low fat cheese, a dollop of plain/non fat greek yogurt and topped with fresh salsa and hot pepper sauce. You could absolutely add a jalapeno pepper if you fancy, but I've got preschoolers and that would not be advisable! Once again, a fast, easy, completely family friendly meal that is GOOD for you.