Kung Pao Chicken with Green Beans

Kung Pao Chicken with Green Beans

I cannot remember the last time I ordered some really good Kung Pao Chicken. It’s probably been over a year since I even stepped into a Panda Express for some tasty, but not so healthy take-out. I guess it is a natural progression when you start cooking more at home with health in mind.

My inspiration for my dish came from an Epicurious post in July 2013, a recipe by Diana Kuan, author of The Chinese Takeout Cookbook, 2012 Ballantine Books. I used more commonly found ingredients and added the green beans in order to make it a one dish meal. The chicken was tender and slightly spicy and the green beans had a nice crunch to them. I cheated and used organic packaged frozen white rice, but this is optional. Chinese food is one cuisine I cannot eat without a little white rice!

Kung Pao Chicken with Green BeansIngredients:

Marinade:

  • 1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoon dry sherry
  • 1½ teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 pound chicken breast tenderloins, cut into 1-inch cubes

Sauce

  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons hoisin sauce
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoon cornstarch
  • ½ teaspoon ground pepper
  • 3 tablespoons organic high heat canola oil
  • 10 dried red chilies
  • ½ pound French green beans, cut 1-inch long pieces
  • 3 green onions, white and green parts separated and thinly sliced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated
  • ⅓ cup unsalted dry roasted peanuts
  • Packaged frozen white or brown rice, prepared according to package instructions, (optional)

Directions:

  1. Make the marinade using a medium bowl. Stir together soy sauce, sherry, and corn starch, until the cornstarch is completely dissolved. Add the chicken, toss gently to coat. At room temperate, let stand for 10 minutes.
  2. Using another bowl, make the sauce. Combine vinegar, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, sesame oil, sugar, corn starch and pepper. Stir, until sugar and cornstarch are combined and dissolved. Set aside.
  3. Over high heat, heat a wok or large frying pan. The pan is at the right temperature when a bead of water sizzles and evaporates upon contact. Add 1 tablespoon oil and coat the base of wok or pan. Add green beans and stir-fry, until beans are heated through and tender crisp. Transfer beans to a dish and cover to keep warm.
  4. Heat wok or pan again over high heat. Add 2 tablespoons oil and coat the base of wok or pan. Add chilies, stir-fry for about 30 seconds, until oil is slightly fragrant. Be careful not to burn the chilies. Add the chicken and stir-fry until no longer pink, 2 to 3 minutes.
  5. Add the “white” part of green onions, garlic and ginger. Stir-fry for 30 seconds. Add the green beans. Pour in just enough sauce to coat the ingredients. Mix in the peanuts and cook for another 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to a serving platter and sprinkle with the rest of the green onions. Serve with white rice or healthy brown rice, if desired. 4 servings.

Kung Pao Chicken with Green Beans

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Acorn Squash with Sausage and Apple Stuffing

Acorn Squash with Sausage and Apple Stuffing

My inspiration for this dish came from the news feed of my Facebook page. It was a post from “One Little Project” and they were sharing a “Tasty” video. Normally, I don’t pay attention to this, but for some reason it caught my eye. The acorn squash in the video was a deep green and my squash is a bright orange! I have never prepared this squash before, probably because I thought the vegetable would be tough to cut through and it was!

When preparing this dish, I made modifications to the original recipe. First, you don’t need to add any salt or pepper to the dressing. The sausage is salty and spicy enough; you won’t miss them! Second, I used a half an onion, instead of a whole. Third, two cloves of garlic is plenty. Fourth, I didn’t add any rosemary. Finally, I cut the amount of bread crumbs in half. My husband and I loved this dish. We thought mild tasting squash balanced out the flavorful stuffing. It was a delicious, simple and healthy fall meal!

Acorn Squash with Sausage and Apple Stuffing

Acorn Squash with Sausage and Apple Stuffing

Ingredients:

  • 1 acorn squash
  • 1 tablespoon grape seed oil or any high heat oil.
  • Sea salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • ½ pound sweet Italian chicken sausage
  • ½ onion, chopped
  • 2 organic celery stalks, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ organic baking apple (such as honey crisp), chopped
  • ½ cup Italian style bread crumbs
  • Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Slice off approximately ¼-inch of the top and the bottom of the acorn squash. Then cut it in half. Scoop out the seeds and place on rimmed baking pan lined with foil.
  3. Brush or drizzle with squash with the oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Bake for 20 minutes.
  4. Using a large nonstick frying pan over medium heat, break up the sausage into small pieces. Cook meat, until it is slightly brown. Depending upon the fat content of the sausage, you may want to drain the excess fat. Transfer meat to a bowl.
  5. Using the same pan, sauté the onion and the celery over medium heat, until soft. Add garlic and cook for another minute.
  6. Add the apple and cook until it is slightly soft. Add the bread crumbs and mix thoroughly. Cook for a few minutes. Then stuff the 2 acorn halves with the dressing. Depending upon the size of your squash, there may be leftover dressing. Sprinkle with cheese.
  7. Place squash back in oven and bake for another 30 minutes at 400 degrees. Serves 2.

Acorn Squash with Sausage and Apple Stuffing

Acorn Squash with Sausage and Apple Stuffing

Lentil Marinara with Zucchini Spaghetti

Lentil Marinara with Zucchini Spaghetti

Last night, we had a gluten-free and vegetarian meal. I had two zucchini that I wanted to use before they went bad, so I decided to use my spiralizer and make the healthy veggie pasta. For the sauce, I had “pinned” a recipe by Lemons and Basil that used lentils in a marinara sauce. I made some minor changes to the original recipe—only one clove of garlic, just 4 tablespoons of tomato paste and omitted the spaghetti seasoning. The sauce is very flavorful and the lentils makes it hearty. My husband, the meat lover, gave me thumbs up, and that’s all I needed to hear about my simple and healthy dinner!

Lentil Marinara with Zucchini Spaghetti

Lentil Marinara with Zucchini Spaghetti

Lentil Marinara with Zucchini Spaghetti

Lentil Marinara with Zucchini Spaghetti

Ingredients:

  • 2 large zucchini, spiralized
  • ½ cup dry lentils, rinsed and sorted
  • 1¼ cups water
  • Sea salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can organic diced tomatoes
  • 4 tablespoons organic tomato paste
  • ¼ medium red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 teaspoon organic dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon organic dried oregano
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese + more for garnish
  • Fresh basil, chopped

Directions:

  1. Using a small saucepan, add lentils and water. Bring to a boil and simmer until water is all gone, about 40 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  2. While lentils are simmering, add diced tomatoes, tomato paste, onion, garlic, dry basil, oregano, red pepper flakes and Parmesan cheese to blender. Blend thoroughly. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  3. After lentils are cooked, add the sauce to the lentils. Bring to a boil and simmer for about 10 minutes.
  4. Steam the zucchini while the sauce is simmering. Cook vegetable until just tender. Divide the “pasta” evenly onto 2 plates. Add sauce and sprinkle with Parmesan and fresh basil. Serve immediately.

Lentil Marinara with Zucchini Spaghetti

Zucchini Lasagna with Chicken Sausage

Zucchini Lasagna with Chicken Sausage

Today, I learned something new—”lasagna” is the American spelling of the delicious pasta dish and “lasagne” is the Italian way. Since I want to reduce the amount of refined carbohydrates in our diets, I decided not to use the traditional pasta noodle. Instead, I used healthy sliced zucchini. I found that slicing the zucchini using the mandoline was less time-consuming than cooking the pasta. Also, I used sweet Italian chicken sausage. I just added a little more fennel and a  generous pinch of red pepper flakes for extra “kick.” Well, I am pleased to say that my dish was a success in taste and reducing the carbs! This non-pasta version is going to be regular meal in our diets.

Zucchini Lasagna with Chicken Sausage

Zucchini Lasagna with Chicken Sausage

Zucchini Lasagna with Chicken Sausage

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound Trader Joe’s Sweet Chicken Italian Sausage or Italian turkey sausage
  • 1 tablespoon organic extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup onion, finely chopped
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • ½ pound mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon organic dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon organic dried basil
  • ¼ teaspoon fennel seeds
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 2 tablespoons parsley, finely chopped
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 3 zucchini (8 to 9 inches long), sliced lengthwise ¼-inch thick.
  • ½ pound part-skim shredded light mozzarella cheese
  • ½ pound low-fat cottage cheese
  • ¾ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Zucchini Lasagna with Chicken Sausage

Directions:

  1. In a large nonstick frying pan, brown the chicken sausage until it is no longer pink, breaking it up into small pieces. Drain any excess fat.
  2. Using a 3 quart pan, warm olive oil over medium heat. Add onion, garlic and mushrooms and sauté for about 5 minutes. Stir in tomatoes, sausage, oregano, basil, fennel, red pepper flakes and parsley. Cover and simmer for at least one hour, stirring occasionally. Add pepper to taste. (To have a less watery dish, I would cook the sauce until almost all the liquid is gone. The zucchini contains a lot of water and the baking process will bring out more liquid).
  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9” x 13” lasagna baking dish with oil.
  4. Spread a little sauce over the bottom of the dish. Cover with 7 zucchini slices, spread half the mozzarella and cottage cheeses and sprinkle with one-third of Parmesan cheese. Then add one-third of sauce, just enough to cover. Repeat with zucchini and cheeses. Finally, add the third layer of zucchini, followed by remaining sauce and Parmesan cheese.
  5. Bake uncovered for about 50 to 60 minutes, until zucchini is tender.  Take out of the oven and let it sit for 10 minutes. Serve hot. 10 servings.

Zucchini Lasagna with Chicken Sausage

Beef Bolognese with Zucchini Pasta

Beef Bolognese with Zucchini Pasta

Since I have to follow a special diet for my medical procedure on Friday, I thought I would make beef bolognese with zucchini pasta for tonight’s dinner. I can eat vegetables, as long as they are cooked. Normally, I would have whole wheat pasta, but no whole grains this week! The inspiration for my dish came from Ina Garten’s “Weeknight Bolognese,” Food Network, 2015. As usual, I made changes to the recipe, reducing the amount of wine and salt and eliminating the cream. The sauce with its hint of spiciness from the red pepper flakes compliments the mild tasting steamed zucchini!

Beef Bolognese with Zucchini Pasta

I had purchased the Paderno 4-Blade Spiralizer at Williams-Sonoma earlier in the summer, but it remained in the box until today. Like with so many kitchen gadgets, there was a learning curve. After I figured out how to put it together, I used a blade which made angel hair sized pasta. I thought it was too “dainty” for the bolognese, so I tried the next size larger. It was the perfect thickness for the sauce and for steaming!
Beef Bolognese with Zucchini Pasta

Beef Bolognese with Zucchini Pasta

Beef Bolognese with Zucchini Pasta

Ingredients:

  • 4 medium zucchini, made into pasta using a spiralizer
  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1½ teaspoons dried organic oregano
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 1 (28-ounce) can crushed San Marzano tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons organic tomato paste
  • Sea salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh basil leaves, lightly packed
  • Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Directions:

  1. Heat a 12-inch nonstick frying pan on medium-high heat. Add ground beef, breaking it up with a wooden spoon into small pieces, until no longer pink and slightly brown. Depending on the leanness of the meat, drain any excess fat.
  2. Return to the heat, add garlic, oregano and red pepper flakes. Cook for 1 minute.
  3. Pour the wine slowly into pan. Add tomatoes and tomato paste. Season with salt and pepper. Stir ingredients, until well combined. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 10 minutes. While the sauce is simmering, steam the zucchini, until slightly tender.
  4. Finally, add nutmeg and basil and stir well. Serve on top of the zucchini pasta and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. 4 to 5 servings.

Beef Bolognese with Zucchini Pasta

Black-Eyed Pea Salad with Peaches and Pecans

Black-Eyed Pea Salad with Peaches and Pecans

I am going to miss summer with all its wonderful variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, so I am going to make the most of what time is left. Today, Laura and I had a very delicious and healthy salad made with fresh peaches, arugula and basil. The recipe by America’s Test Kitchen, Cooking Fresh, 2015, asks for frisée, but I used arugula, instead. Watercress would also make a great substitute. The proteins in this salad are black-eyed peas with some crunchiness from toasted, chopped pecans. The surprise flavor is from the finely chopped jalapeño pepper. The salad was a hit with my daughter, who will be returning to college in just a few days. I’m going to miss my food critic!

Black-Eyed Pea Salad with Peaches and Pecans

Black-Eyed Pea Salad with Peaches and Pecans

Ingredients:

  • 1 teaspoon lime zest
  • 2½ tablespoons lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon organic honey
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced
  • Sea salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons organic extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 (15 ounce) cans black-eyed peas, rinsed
  • 2 peaches, halved, pitted and chopped coarse
  • 3 ounces arugula, frisée, or watercress
  • ¼ cup red onion, finely chopped
  • ¼ cup pecans, toasted chopped
  • ¼ cup fresh basil leaves, torn into ½-inch pieces
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, stemmed, seeded and finely chopped

Directions:

  1. Whisk together lime zest, lime juice, honey, and garlic in a large bowl. Drizzle in olive oil, stirring constantly. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  2. Add peas, peaches, arugula, onion, pecans, basil and jalapeño to large bowl. Toss thoroughly. Add additional salt and pepper, if necessary. 4 to 6 servings.

Black-Eyed Pea Salad with Peaches and Pecans

Asian Turkey Lettuce Wraps

Asian Turkey Lettuce Wraps

This is the beginning of week 3 of our family’s weight loss challenge. Laura has been the most successful and I, unfortunately, have been the least. I have lost weight, but only 2 pounds! This wonderful recipe I am about to share with you is served with white rice, but I decided to eliminate it, since we are trying to cut back on calories and carbs.

When I found this dish in America’s Test Kitchen, Cooking Fresh, 2015, I thought it would be very tasty. My husband, however, wasn’t quite as excited as I was. I told him that he needed to trust me! Well, to his surprise, he thought it was delicious! The original recipe asked for chicken, but I decided to use lean ground turkey. The meat absorbs the flavors from the fish sauce, lime zest and lime juice. I thought that since it was Asian that it would need some soy sauce, but I was wrong. At the end of cooking, fresh basil and green onions are incorporated for additional flavors. I can’t believe how easy this meal was to prepare and how fabulous it tasted!

Asian Turkey Lettuce Wraps

Asian Turkey Lettuce Wraps

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound ground turkey or chicken
  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, stemmed, seeded and minced
  • 2 teaspoons lime zest
  • 3 tablespoons lime juice (1 to 2 limes)
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 1½ tablespoons packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon corn starch
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh basil
  • 2 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 10 to 12 Bibb lettuce leaves
  • Cooked white rice (optional)

Directions:

  1. Heat a large nonstick frying pan over medium heat with oil. Add turkey, jalapeño and lime zest. Break up meat into small pieces, until it is no longer pink for about 5 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, whisk together fish sauce, sugar, corn starch and lime juice in a small bowl. Pour into turkey and stir constantly, until sauce has thickened for about 1 minute. Turn heat off and stir in basil and green onions. Serve with lettuce leaves.  3 servings without rice, 4 servings with rice.

Asian Turkey Lettuce Wraps