Unsolicited Observations and Flexible Feasting

August 9, 2010 at 5:54 pm Leave a comment

    If you asked me to describe last Thursday and Friday – or, apparently, even if you didn’t ask – I would say they were two of those virtually perfect summer days that the Upper Midwest is capable of producing: 80-ish temps with reasonable humidity levels; whisper-light breezes; powder blue skies, quilted with just enough cloud batting to keep the sun from scorching through. 

Of course, all of this will change. Things have a way of doing that. Even the most reasonable bits of advice can devolve into bad counsel. Just the other day I stumbled across the claim that brushing your hair the traditional 100 strokes a day is bad for it, for heaven’s sake; that it “pulls hairs out of their follicles and possibly weakens individual strands.” Is nothing sacred? Next thing you know, someone will decide that eating eggs and drinking beer and coffee doesn’t constitute nutritional suicide. Oh, wait; I guess we’re already hearing that flip side message, aren’t we? 

But then change is what keeps life interesting – life and food preparation. So at the risk of spraining something maneuvering through this contorted transition, I’ll ease into a short discussion on one of my favorite topics: revising great recipes to meet the goal of keeping people healthy. Only a few tweaks are required to lighten up Rachel Ray’s Chutney and Cheese Stuffed Chicken Breasts, so that may be a good place to start. Next, my version of her BLT Potatoes, a big panful of Roasted Yellow Pepper Strips (follow directions for red pepper strips in 11/25/09 posting), a cooling batch of Cucumber Raita, and a refreshing rewrite of Peach Melba on a Tuffet – short or long version.

Guess it’s time to revise my long-held suspicion that the only good change is the kind you get back from a five dollar bill.

You’ll want to start with the potatoes

1-1/3 # Yukon Gold potatoes                                    1 Tb olive oil

salt and pepper                                                                canola oil spray

1 pint grape tomatoes, halved                                  4 slices thin-cut, hickory smoked bacon

2 C thinly slice leeks – tender parts                        ¼ C chicken broth 

Preheat oven to 375° and line a large cookie sheet with foil. Cut potatoes into slightly larger than bite-sized pieces and toss in a bowl with olive oil. Salt and pepper to taste. You’ll be roasting the potatoes for approximately 40 minutes, or until they are golden brown and crispy. 

Twenty minutes into the potato roasting time, shove potatoes to one end of the baking sheet and spread halved tomatoes on the free half. Spray tomatoes with cooking spray, salt and pepper to taste, and return pan to the oven for another 20-30 minutes. 

Meanwhile, lay the bacon in a nonstick frying pan and start cooking over med low heat. Flip bacon after ten minutes or so, then continue cooking until very crisp. Drain well on paper towels.

For the chicken, it’s a simple assemblage of: 

4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts                     4 tsp mango chutney

4-1 oz slices Havarti cheese                                      paprika

canola oil spray

Make a pocket in each chicken breast, carefully slicing them from the side with one hand laid flat on the meat to stabilize it. Spread one tsp chutney in each pocket, topped by one slice of cheese. Spray the breasts with a light coat of oil, dust with paprika, then place them on a foil-lined cookie sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes. 

Spray a large skillet with cooking oil spray, set it over medium hear, and stir in leeks; cook, stirring frequently, for 1-2 minutes. Add chicken stock and simmer an additional 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Place potatoes on a large serving platter. Top evenly with tomatoes, leeks, and crumbled bacon. 

For the raita, a traditional Indian side dish, gather together: 

2 large cucumbers, peeled and chopped             2 cups plain, nonfat yogurt
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin                                     ¼ tsp paprika

 2 TB chopped fresh mint                                            salt and black pepper                                                                                                                                             1 small clove garlic, minced                                     1 TB lime juice

Pat moisture from cucumbers with a paper towel, then mix gently with remaining ingredients. Cover and chill for at least a half an hour before serving.

And for the peaches with raspberry sauce, a super simple dessert to which I like to add a cushiony “sponge” of homemade pound cake, you can opt for a good quality purchased cake if you like. I liked the frozen Sara Lee’s as a kid, but either it’s quite different now or my tastes are. My best advice would be to visit www.rickbayless.com for his scrumptious Grilled Cornmeal Pound Cake recipe, and just skip the extraneous step of grilling the baked, sliced cake before serving. (I have a cool set of baking cylinders that allow me to bake quick-bread type recipes in stylized shapes, and this would be a perfect application for them.) Otherwise, very easy indeed:

1 C fresh raspberries                                2 TB sugar                                                                                                                                                                                      4-1” slices poundcake                                                   2 fresh peaches, peeled & sliced                                                                                                               reduced fat  raspberry swirl chocolate chunk ice cream

Cook raspberries with sugar until syrupy and reduced by ¼. Lay pound cake slices in four flat-bottomed glass dessert dishes. Top pound cake with a scoop of ice cream, sliced peaches, and then the room-temperature raspberry sauce. 

Those are some good changes for sure – a finale  Nellie Melba might have enjoyed being part of as much as my dinner guests seemed to.

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Entry filed under: Musings of a Midwestern Foodie. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , .

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About

Recipe. According to Encarta, "a list of ingredients and instructions for making something." The thesaurus offers the alternate terms, "formula, guidelines, directions, steps, technique."

And what is the "something" we are aiming for here? Simply a life of robust good health in every important area - spiritual, physical, cognitive, and emotional.

To that end we offer inspirational real-life stories about PEOPLE OF FAITH AND COURAGE; menus and cooking directions meant to fuel your creative inclinations and your healthy body in the form of MUSINGS OF A MIDWESTERN FOODIE; and ADVICE FOR LIFE from the perspective of those who have lived it to maturity. (Click on the green category tabs at the top of this page to learn more about each section.)

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