Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Suppah Club

About a month ago, I decided to have the girls over to my place for some casual dinner. Why? Well, I love to cook and entertain for people (and I think I am getting better at it each time I try) and the boyfriend is gone on Tuesday nights for a late class, so I figured what better time to try out those Chicken Fajita Burgers I have been dying to try? The dinner was such a hit, that we decided to do it every week, rotating houses and chefs. You bring together good food, wine, girls, gossip and some ANTM, something good (or quite awful) is bound to happen. Well, after a few weeks eating mediocre food at friend's houses, (ok just kidding gals! You know that everything has been wonderful, but this is my blog so I have to talk trash) this week the feast is headed to 5235 (that's my apartment number if you're slow).

Now before I started this ingenious gal pal get together, I enjoyed my Tuesday nights alone freely roaming through the aisles of Target with no curfew (ok, I don't really have a curfew but the man likes to eat, and you know how I love to cook) or hitting the gym for a few hours with no one there bugging me about, "Are you done? When are we leaving? I'm tired." And no, I don't have a five year old child, but rather a 28 year old boyfriend who does not love to work out (although to his credit, he did run the Cooper River Bridge Run this past weekend with me, without stopping!).

So I guess what I am trying to get at, is that before we started doing this I truly relished the one evening that I have with the house to myself; and the fact that I could aimlessly shop after work with nothing to rush home to. Not that I don't love coming home to Matthew every evening, I do, but we all know that a little alone time never hurt anybody...and us females need it to de-steam ourselves sometimes (that's not really a word, but we do tend to get steamed up, so de-steaming seemed approp). But all that being said, I am definitely glad that we have started this tradition and I plan on enjoying it as long as it lasts.

So for tonight's menu, I am sampling a bit from Kalyn's Kitchen as well as Culinary Concoctions. Someday I won't have to sample from anyone, I can just pull recipes out of my head, but until then this blog is going to have to be a regurgitation of other people's recipes (other very creative, ingenious, culinary wizards, if you will). It also must be noted, that today I made my first batch of cookies from scratch, and although I only had one egg when the recipe called for two, I must say that they turned out delicious! Even though they are probably one of the most unhealthy things ever invented...but if we exercise regularly we can cheat every now and then, no?

I am going to post the recipes and links now, and then pictures later on this evening after everything is cooked and gobbled up.

Main Course:

Grilled Ginger Soy Pork Chops
Adapted from Kalyn's Kitchen

(4-6 servings, recipe created by Kalyn)
4-6 boneless pork chops

1/4 cup peanut oil
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup rice vinegar (not seasoned rice vinegar, it contains sugar)
1 tsp. dried chili pepper flakes (I used red chili flakes)
2 tsp. ginger puree (also called ground ginger)
2 tsp. garlic puree (also called ground garlic)
1 tsp. dried mustard

Trim all fat from pork chops and pound to slightly over 1/4 inch thick. (If you're using the very thick pork chops you might want to cut them in half crosswise.) Mix marinade ingredients. Put pork chops in zip-loc bag and pour marinade over. Marinate 6-8 hours or longer.

To cook, preheat grill to medium hot. To get those nice grill marks, rotate the pork chops after about 4 minutes on the first side. (I usually lift one up and check for the marks before I rotate them.) Cook about 8 minutes per side; total cooking time will depend on the temperature of your grill and the thickness of the pork chops. Pork chops should feel firm to the touch but not hard when they're done. Serve hot.

Asian Cabbage Salad with Sesame Seeds
(Makes about 4 servings, recipe adapted from the original South Beach Diet Book.)

6 cups green cabbage, sliced in strips (about 1/2 large head of cabbage)
2 T sesame seeds, toasted
2 T peanuts (or more)

2 T rice vinegar (don't use seasoned vinegar, which contains sugar)
1 T sesame oil
1 T agave nectar (can use honey but agave nectar is lower on the glycemic index)
1/8 tsp. Thai Chili Garlic Paste (or use a few drops of your favorite hot sauce)
1/8 tsp. grated ginger (I used ginger puree from a jar)

Slice cabbage in strips about 3/8 inch wide, cutting strips in half crosswise is they are too long. Mix rice vinegar, sesame oil, agave nectar, Thai Chili Garlic Paste and ginger in a small jar and shake to combine. (Can also wisk together in a bowl.) Toast sesame seeds about 1 minute in a small dry pan, until they start to be fragrant and slightly browned. Put cabbage strips into mixing bowl, toss well with dressing, arrange on individual serving plates and sprinkle with sesame seeds and peanuts.


Chocolate Covered Sunflower Seed Cookies

1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
½ cup granulated sugar
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 ¼ cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
¼ tsp ground sea salt
1 ½ cups chocolate covered sunflower seeds, unsalted(see note)

Preheat oven to 375F.
Cream together butter and sugars, about 3 minutes.
Add eggs one at a time and scrape down bowl after each addition.
Add vanilla and beat for 30 seconds.
In a separate bowl, combine and sift together flour, baking soda and sea salt.
Add flour mixture to butter mixture and mix on low until fully incorporated.
Stir in chocolate covered sunflower seeds.
Form into 1-inch balls and place on a ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 8-9 minutes.
Let cool for 2 minutes on pan and then move to wire rack.
Makes about 38 cookies.

NOTE: Chocolate covered sunflower seeds are found at Trader Joe's. I bought one container and while this was not 1 1/2 cups, it still was enough. If you cannot find these in the store, you can also order them online or substitute ¾ cup unsalted sunflower seeds and ¾ cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips.


I overcooked the pork, salad was kind of bland. But--the cookies were fab!

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Seared Jumbo Scallops with Cauliflower Puree & Grilled Asparagus

Last month I wrote about how I made Easy Cauliflower Soup, and while browsing food blogs today I came across a recipe that included cauliflower mash made with Greek yogurt. Now, I don't really know about adding the yogurt to the mash, but I am willing to give this recipe the benefit of the doubt because it looks...well, damn good.

Seared Jumbo Scallops with Cauliflower Puree & Grilled Asparagus
(serves 2)

1 lb jumbo sea scallops (about 10)
1 small head cauliflower
2 cloves garlic
1 bunch asparagus
2-4 tbs snipped fresh chives
1/2 c Greek yogurt
1/2 tbs light Smart Balance butter
Olive oil spray (or you can brush/drizzle)
Salt and pepper to taste
Seasoning salt

Bring a large stockpot of water to boil. Add chopped cauliflower and whole cloves garlic. Simmer until cauliflower is fork-tender. Drain and remove from heat, mash with a fork until cauliflower and garlic are completely pureed. Add chives and Greek yogurt, stir to incorporate.

Meanwhile, heat a grill pan over medium heat. Spray or drizzle asparagus with olive oil, salt and pepper. Grill until just done and still crisp.

Meanwhile, in a saute pan, heat butter until foam subsides. Season scallops on both sides with seasoning salt. Place scallops in pan and do not move until they can be moved freely (not sticking at all). Turn over and remove from heat. The heat of the pan will continue to cook until perfect.

To serve, mound approx 1 c cauliflower puree in the center of the plate. Top with asparagus spears, then scallops. Garnish with chives and serve immediately.

Lime Cilantro Marinade

Cilantro - pronounced [sih-LAHN-troh]
This member of the carrot family is also referred to as Chinese Parsley and Coriander. It is actually the leaves (and stems) of the Coriander plant. Cilantro has a very pungent odor and is widely used in Mexican, Caribbean and Asian cooking. The Cilantro leaves look a bit like flat Italian parsley and in fact are related.

Ahh, cilantro how I love thee. Frida will agree with me--cilantro is the ooomph needed for home made salsa and guacamole, and plenty of other tasty dishes. Used best when fresh, cilantro keeps pretty well in the fridge and is relatively inexpensive to purchase (versus other fresh herbs), and the leaves and the stems are all edible.

Last night I made this quick and easy marinade for grilled chicken (but it would also be great with a white fish) and after only marinating for about 45 minutes the meat was incredibly juicy and filled with flavor when cooked.

Lime Cilantro Marinade
  • Juice from 4-5 limes
  • 1 tbls olive oil
  • 1/2 bunch of fresh cilantro, chopped
Cut the limes in half and squeeze their juice into a medium sized bowl, watching out for seeds. Chop up the cilantro and add it to the bowl along with the olive oil and mix all together.

At this point you can use the marinade as is, and just add your meat of choice, but I put mine in a food processor to get everything well mixed and to chop the cilantro even finer. This would be the best option. You could also use a blender.

Let meat marinade for at least 30 minutes, even longer for more flavor. Poke holes in meat to allow for easier absorption.

Yields marinade for 3-4 medium sized chicken breasts.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Glucomannan - The Magic Supplement

Women's Health recently posted the Women's Health Perfect Body Diet, and the plan included taking daily doses of Glucomannan. Glucawhat? you say?

"Glucomannan is a gentle and effective natural fiber that promotes healthy colon function. Derived from the konjac root, glucomannan is a water-soluble dietary fiber considered to be a "bulk-forming laxative." This means it may help you produce stools that are easier to pass, with less straining on your system.

Glucomannan may also promote healthier cholesterol and support healthy blood sugar levels."

This came directly from Vitacost.com where I purchased my bottle, but actually surprised me a bit 'cause WH didn't tell me this was a laxative! They told me that this root was a natural fiber that would expand in my stomach, and help me feel more full, thus...making me eat less over time.

After trying out this "magic pill" I would agree with both Vitacost and WH, the pill does provide laxative like effects (who am I kidding, it makes you poo) but it also does fill up your stomach and make you feel more full. Read more below about what WH had to say about this magic pill...

"Your Secret Weapon Sprinkle this super-fiber on your food and feel stuffed on fewer calories When you're trying to trim down, soluble fiber is your BFF--it expands in your digestive tract, making you feel fuller and warding off snack attacks. But a girl can down only so many bowls of All-Bran before she feels so gassy and bloated she's afraid to leave the bathroom. There is one kind of soluble fiber, however, that works without the nasty side effects. Glucomannan, which comes from an Asian plant known as the konjac, or elephant yam, is nature's get-skinny sponge. Able to expand up to 50 times its own water weight, it's one of the world's most effective fibers, so you can cut down on calories without even trying.

Researchers at Chicago Rush University College of Nursing reviewed 12 clinical trials to determine the benefits of glucomannan and found that it promotes weight loss and satiety.
Glucomannan is also flavorless, so you can add it in powder form to just about anything, from smoothies to frozen entrées to sauces. Mix it in thoroughly (otherwise you might get unappetizing clumps that can stick in your throat) and wait 2 to 3 minutes for it to soak up whatever sauce, broth, dressing, or other liquid is on your plate. It will thicken your food and fill up your stomach, sending satiety signals to your brain. Because of that, you'll want to wash it down with plenty of water, so drink at least 8 ounces of H2O with every meal or snack.

In addition to cutting calories, both meal plans include 6 grams of glucomannan a day. It generally comes in capsules, so break them open and mix the powder directly into your food. (Our fave: NSI Glucomannan, $10 for 180 2 g capsules,

After using this on several occasions (I have yet to be a continuous follower of the powdery pill...so bad at taking things regularly) I must say that the 6 grams a day is definitely the most you should take, each pill (if you purchase the recommended bottle) is 2g, and when I take this it totally makes me feel full!

I usually mix it into my yogurt at breakfast, or into soups or really whatever you want. You just open up the little pill and oila! instant fullness. Be careful though, it can get clumpy and gross if not stirred enough, or if you try and put it into something small. I am going to try and use this more frequently and I will report back on my findings.

NOTE: I usually don't promote taking any pill for weight loss (thank god I listened to my bowels when everyone was screaming alli alli alli....I know I would have slipped up with some grease and had 'oily stools' or whatever it warned against) or really pills and medicine in general (yet I am the ultimate hypochondriac, go figure ) but as this is a natural supplement (from the elephant yam) I don't have a problem using it. However please note that:

Pregnant or lactating women, diabetics, hypoglycemics, and people with known medical conditions and/or taking drugs should consult with a licensed physician and/or pharmacist prior to taking dietary supplements.

These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.