Friday, September 11, 2015

What's New on the Menu?

Although my overall eating is FAR from perfect, I have been having fun trying some new recipes and trying to incorporate more veggies and healthier ingredients. Today I am sharing and reviewing a couple of recent recipes/creations.


A couple of weeks ago, one of the ladies in our group suggested Zucchini Tots as a recipe to try. I don't think she has had a chance to make them yet. I made them the other day and I am eager to hear her review as well. First task is to shred the zucchini. The recipe then instructs you to put the grated zucchini in a dish towel and squeeze out as much juice as possible. I don't think of zucchinis as juicy, but shredding it really brought out the juice and squeezing it even more.
Maybe it is nerdy, but I am enjoying taking pictures of all the recipe ingredients before I start cooking. Getting everything out first is actually a great habit to get into. Believe me it stinks when you start cooking and in the middle have to make a mad dash to the store. Or you are rummaging in the fridge for an ingredient while others are burning in the pan. And putting the ingredients away as you go leaves you with less mess at the end :)
Super easy, everything goes in the bowl together and mix it up.
The mixture is rolled into the tot shape. I actually thought this would be a little messier, but it was super easy.
I decided to roll the tots in a little more of the panko to give them a crispy outside. It worked fine. I think I must have done a good job squeezing the zucchini because I didn't have any juice on the pan.
I liked them - my husband did not. To be honest I am not sure I would make them again, just because we like zucchini in so many other ways. If I did make them again I think I would want to find a way to punch up the flavor. They seemed a little bland for our spicy tastes.

Grilled Veggie Sandwich

I started by making grilled chicken for my husband. He loves grilled peppers and onions too. I decided those were the makings of a good sandwich. Then I remembered I had picked up a couple of portabellos and decided this was a good time to try a grilled veggie sandwich.
I grilled some sourdough bread and melted Swiss cheese on the mushroom and one slice of the bread. I probably made it a little cheesier than necessary (is that possible), but considering the mushroom is only about 35 calories the whole sandwich was still less than 300 calories. I will take that any day
I ended up with a delicious sandwich that I will definitely be making again.  My husband even said it almost made him wish he liked mushrooms.

Barefoot Contessa

I took a day off work this week for my follow up appointment on my mouth surgery/biopsy. Good news nothing cancerous :)  Since I would be home in the afternoon I also scheduled DirecTv to come out and fix an issue we were having with the DVR and connecting the system to the internet. The guy gets there and decides he needs to completely rewire the whole house. I will say it looks much better with the wires properly run - they were all over the place before he started. Since he said he was going to be there awhile I used the opportunity to putter around in the kitchen and make a batch of soup I had seen on Barefoot Contessa.

Let me say from the start, I hate lentils. At least I did the last time I had them, which was probably when I was a kid. But in my effort to make myself reconsider previously despised foods, I am giving them another chance. Ina Garten has a way of making everything look delicious. So here we go with lentils.
First task is to soak the lentils for 15 minutes. Unlike other dry beans, the lentils don't need long soak times before using. It was a nice amount of time to get the veggies chopped.
This was my first time cooking with leeks. I confess I have purchased them before then let them go bad in the fridge because I didn't have a plan. This time I had a plan. I do have one leek left, so I am going to need another plan for it :)
I remembered from cooking shows that leeks should be chopped then put in a bowl of cold water to rinse the dirt that gets caught between the layers. This technique worked great - swish them around and the dirt settles to the bottom of the bowl.
This soup is definitely not meant for a quick dinner on a busy night. But it works great to prepare in advance for a busy night - soup always seems better the next day anyway. In this case, I enjoyed the slow process. Having a "stranger" in the house makes me a little anxious so it was good to have something to occupy and relax my mind. The veggies are sauteed - first the leeks and onions for awhile then add carrots and celery...saute some more,
Add the broth, a little tomato paste and soaked lentils.
After about an hour of simmering, add the sliced sausage and a splash of red wine. Since I am not much of a wine drinker I didn't have red wine on hand and didn't want to buy a whole bottle for one untried recipe. The recipe suggested red wine vinegar as a substitute. And since I have nearly every vinegar known to mankind in my pantry I was in business.. (Incidentally, I am currently looking for white balsamic for a recipe I want to try - so far no luck).
I made a half batch of the soup - about 2 quarts.
I was pleasantly surprised how much I enjoyed this soup. I think my fear of lentils has been vanquished :)  In fact, the next time my niece and I go to the Indian buffet I will try a little scoop of the lentil dishes they always have. In this recipe I used French green lentils, I am not sure if other lentils have significantly different tastes, but these work for me.

I do think this is a soup I would make again with a couple adjustments. I would go with a little less celery...I am not its biggest fan.

I didn't figure out the calories, but I did look up lentils and they are about 230 calories per cup (cooked). The rest is veggies, low fat chicken broth and turkey sausage.  I significantly reduced the olive oil (for veggie sauteing). Overall, I think it would be a very reasonable number of calories for a very hearty soup. I packed a couple of one cup servings to put in the freezer at work for lunches.

It was a successful group of new recipes and I am looking forward to what is next. In the queue - Chicken Spaghetti Casserole (tonight - since my husband has a trip) and Black Bean Burgers (I think I will start with a half batch of that one - it is a bit out of my comfort zone).

I took this picture on my way home from work yesterday. The clouds were so incredible I had to stop and admire them. I wish I had my "good" camera with me.
We have a busy weekend - wedding, football/cheeleading, 21st birthday party. The high tomorrow is supposed to be 68 degrees so I definitely want to find some time to get outside and enjoy it.

Hope your weekend is fantastic!


  1. Can't wait to see your review of the black bean burgers!!!

    Also, that soup looks divine.

    1. The only "veggie" burgers I've had were frozen patties out of a box. So I am eager to try something fresh.

  2. So much yum in this post!! Did everything taste as good as it looks?

    1. My favorite was the veggie sandwich...I almost always love a sandwich :)

  3. Oh man, now I need to try to make those tots and kick 'em up a notch while I'm at it. thanks for being the gunea pig. I will make them tomorrow!

    Trader Joe's sells frozen raw leeks already chopped up. Since I have been known to let a leek or two go bad I feel your pain and would suggest trying that.

    I think I need to make that soup!

    1. Yes, just a little kick. Let me know how your turn out.

  4. That lentil soup looks delicious! Gonna have to try that.