Sunday, January 25, 2009

Creamy Tomato Basil Soup & Cornbread

We have a diner in town, and on it's menu is "Creamy Tomato With Basil Soup". They serve it with a nice chunk of cornbread and a small salad. A Perfect Cold-Weather Lunch... until you realize how buttery the cornbread is, and that they used REAL cream in the soup. Oh yes, it's delicious with a capital "D" (which rhymes with " T " which stands for "Tubby"). I might as well have slathered it onto my hips, 'cuz that's where it landed once I ate it!

Shortly after my taste buds fell head-over-heels-in-love with this soup, I joined Weight Watchers. I bought one of their cookbooks titled "Quick Meals, in 30 minutes or less". In it was my beloved Creamy Tomato With Basil Soup! The result was so close to the diner version, I couldn't tell the difference. Each spoonful is a little Flavor Bomb of goodness. ♩ ♩ ♫ ♬ (That's the sound of my taste buds humming)

The accompanying cornbread recipe I use is my mother's, and I'm passing it on to you.

Creamy Tomato With Basil Soup
Makes 4 servings

2 tsp olive oil
1 C chopped onions
1 garlic clove, minced
4 fl. oz. (1/2 C) dry white wine
2 C tomato puree
12 oz evaporated skimmed milk
1/2 C packed fresh basil leaves, slivered
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

In medium saucepan, saute onions and garlic in olive oil. Cook over medium heat, about 3 min., until onion is softened. Add wine and bring to a boil. Cook, stirring occasionally, until most of the wine is evaporated. Add tomato puree to the onion mixture and bring just to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring frequently, about 20 minutes. Stir in milk, basil, salt, and pepper. Heat thoroughly, but do not boil.

serves 8

1 C cornmeal
1 C flour
4 tsp baking powder
1 T sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 flax egg (1 T ground flax seed + 3 T water: let sit 10 min before using)
1 1/2 C skimmed milk
2 T melted shortening (I use canola oil)
2 T applesauce

Sift together meal, flour, baking powder, sugar and salt. Add beaten egg and milk to make a stiff batter. Add shortening, until light and thoroughly mixed. Pour into a shallow, greased pan (an iron skillet is perfect for this). Bake 25 minutes.

 nutritional info:
188 calories
2 gr fat
4 mgs cholesterol
909 mgs sodium
29 gr carbohydrate
4 gr fiber
10 grams protein

164 calories
4 gr fat
1 gr cholesterol
26 gr carbohydrate
5 gr protein
30 gr sodium

copyright 2009 What's Cooking?

Friday, January 23, 2009

Birthday Wishes for Marble Man

Today is Marble Man's birthday. We generally don't do birthday gifts, just make a spectacular meal that will render us comatose by the end of the evening. 26 years-worth of tradition here - we're not letting a little thing like a diet get in the way!

Tonight's menu:

Fillet Mignon
roasted sweet potatoes
celery root and apple puree
velvet cupcakes

The cupcake recipe is actually for RED velvet cupcakes, which I've made in the past. Marble Man would snarf them up as fast as I could frost them. Then he saw the recipe and goggled. He got a bit freaked out by the tablespoon-and-a-half of red food coloring. In his mind, we're only supposed to use a few drops at a time, so this recipe is gonna kill us.

To appease him, I'm leaving out the food coloring. Since the recipe calls for cocoa powder, I thought I'd replace the food coloring with espresso, and make them mocha velvet cupcakes. They should come out ok, since I'm keeping the liquid proportions the same as the original recipe.

The celery root puree recipe is one I tried at Thanksgiving, but I cut waaaaay back on the butter and cream. I think there's a direct correlation between the size of Ina Garten (of the Food Network's Barefoot Contessa) and the amount of these two ingredients found throughout her recipes! So, I used just enough to create moisture, and some flavor. The results were phenomenal. Who could imagine a vegetable this ugly could make something that delicious?

These days, it seems like the only real creative time I've gotten has been in the kitchen. I don't mind. I love to cook, and I am paying closer attention to portions and substituting healthier ingredients for the old favorites of butter, cream, and sugar. Today is no different - I'll be spending the better part of the afternoon mixing up this feast for my guy.

Make a wish and take a deep breath, Sweetheart. Time to blow out all those candles.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Salmon Cakes

My recipe for salmon cakes, is an adaptation of an old Weight Watchers recipe for Maryland Crab Cakes. I love crab, but who can afford it? One day I had some leftover cooked salmon fillets in the fridge and decided to use it in this recipe. It was fantastic. Now, when Marble Man sees salmon in the meat drawer, he does a little happy dance 'cuz he knows these cakes are in his future.

Salmon Cakes
Makes 4 servings

1 pound salmon, cooked and flaked
1 onion, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tsp canola oil
3 oz bread crumbs (I used Italian seasoned)
1/4 C low fat or skim milk
2 T + 2 tsp reduced calorie mayonnaise
2 T fresh parsley, minced
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp white pepper
3 T all-purpose flour
1 T+1 tsp reduced calorie tub margarine (I use Smart Balance)
2 1/2 C mixed green lettuce leaves

In skillet, combine onion, garlic, and oil. Sautee until translucent.

In large bowl, combine salmon, onion mixture, bread crumbs, milk, mayonnaise, parsley, salt, and white pepper. With moistened hands, form into 8 small patties. Refrigerate 1 hour.

On a shallow plate, spread flour. Lightly dust each cake on both sides - give them a little spanking to shake off the excess.

In large skillet, melt margarine over medium heat. Cook cakes 4-5 minutes on each side, until golden and crisp. Line serving plate with greens and arrange cakes on top.

The nutritional information I have is for the original crab recipe.

Each serving (2 cakes):
257 calories
27 grams protein
8 grams fat
19 grams carbohydrate
800 mgs sodium
118 mgs cholesterol
1 gram fiber

copyright 2009 What's Cooking?

Saturday, January 10, 2009


One night last week we kicked back after dinner and, as we enjoyed our postprandial bliss, Marble Man looked me straight in the eye. He asked, “So Honey, how 'bout some cheesecake for dessert?” My pulse was racing, my brain was screaming, “we have CHEESECAKE?!?”. Then I caught a twinkling look in his eye which one only recognizes after spending 26 years together. And I knew I was about to fail The Test. Instead, I told him, calmly, “no thank you, Sweetheart, I’m on a diet”. And we laughed because we both knew how close I’d come to ransacking the kitchen to look for that damned mythical, diet-busting confection. After pondering this event, I remembered lessons I’d learned in Weight Watcher’s meetings many moons ago: if you really enjoy something, go ahead and have a couple of bites, put your fork down, and move on.

I’ve had this recipe for years - just forgot it was in my cookbook. I used to watch Giada De Laurentiis’ show on the Food Network, called Everyday Italian. I loved this show – she’s engaging, perky without being too annoying, and she was all business when it came to cooking. Then, inexplicably, the camera started to concentrate more on closeups of her impressive cleavage (cleaving heavage?) than on the food preparation. I lost interest. BUT, I did come away with the instructions to make these wonderful treats:

Individual Orange and Chocolate Cheesecakes
Serves 6


1/3 C finely crushed chocolate wafers (I use chocolate graham crackers)
2 T butter, melted
¼ C ricotta cheese, part skim
2 oz cream cheese, low fat
¼ C sugar, plus 2 T
1 orange, zested
1 egg
butter for greasing
Special equipment: mini muffin tin, lightly greased.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Combine the crushed chocolate wafers and the 2 T melted butter. Place a tightly packed teaspoon of the wafer mixture into each muffin cup and press down firmly.

In a food processor combine ricotta cheese, cream cheese, ¼ C of the sugar, half the orange zest, and the egg. Blend until smooth. Fill the cups with about 1½ T of the cheesecake mixture. Place the muffin tin in a baking dish and pour in enough hot water to come halfway up the sides of the muffin tin. Bake 25 minutes. Transfer the muffin tin to a wire rack and let cool for 30 minutes. Refrigerate for 15 minutes. Use a small knife to gently pop the cheesecakes out of the cups.

Just before serving, combine the remaining orange zest with the remaining 2 T of sugar. Top each cheesecake with about ¼ teaspoon of the orange zest mixture and serve.

Nutritional info:
Serving size: 2 cakes

152 calories
7.6 grams fat (3.6 grams saturated fat)
53.8 mg cholesterol
95 mgs sodium
17.4 grams carbohydrate
3 grams protein

I guarantee, if you make these for company, or bring them to a potluck supper, people will beg you for the recipe! You might want to make extra.

So, I say, "Sure,Honey, let's have cheesecake for dessert tonight".

copyright 2009 What's Cooking?

Sunday, January 4, 2009


Now that the cookie orgy is over, I've been going through old recipes I've collected over my (many) years of weight loss efforts. I thought it would be fun to post a different recipe each week: this'll make sure I keep things fresh in my mind, as well as on our plates. Marble Man always says "I love when you go on a diet! We get great stuff to eat." I'll be concentrating on foods rich in whole grains and nutrition. I hope you'll find it interesting, and maybe even helpful.

Today's recipe:

Quinoa pilaf

Prep time: 40 minutes

1 C quinoa
1 T vegetable oil
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 T pine nuts
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 small sweet potato, peeled and cubed
2 T golden raisins
2 C vegetable broth
salt and pepper to taste

Rinse quinoa with cold water and drain well.

Heat oil in a large skillet. Add onion, garlic, pine nuts and red pepper and cook over medium heat until lightly browned (about 5 minutes). Add sweet potato, raisins and quinoa and cook for 1 minute.

Stir in broth and black pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer until liquid is absorbed and quinoa is tender, about 15-20 minutes. Fluff with a fork and serve at once.

Serves 6 (recipe makes about 5.5 cups)

Note: this recipe is remarkably versatile:
*If you don't like sweet potato, try substituting acorn squash.
*If red peppers are too expensive, or you just don't have any, try chopped portobello mushrooms instead.
*Dark raisins work just as well as golden.

If you are unfamiliar with quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah), you can find more about it here.

I hope you try this wonderful recipe. It's delicious!

copyright 2009 What's Cooking?