Wild About Rice

People who’ve never eaten wild rice don’t know what they’re missing.

Wild rice is the only cereal grain native to North America. It’s been harvested by Native Americans for more than a thousand years, and according to historians, the seed from this plant has been harvested from natural stands and used for food for more than 10,000 years.

Wild rice is special for several reasons. Besides being so tasty, it’s easy to prepare (cook 1 cup of rice in 3 to 4 cups of boiling water for 30 to 45 minutes depending on your tastes), inexpensive ($5 per pound or 23 cents a serving), can be kept for a long time (up to 10 years in an air-tight container) and can be frozen for later use (will keep for up to six months in freezer in an air-tight container).

And to top it off, wild rice is really nutritious. It’s a high-fiber complex carbohydate, high in quality protein and low in fat, with only 130 calories per ½-cup serving.

I’m lucky enough to have a nice supply of wild rice all the time. My mother goes to the White Earth Indian Reservation several times a year (she likes to go to the casino to play the slots) and always brings me back a couple of package of wild rice.

Just this past weekend, I made one of my signature dinners — baked pheasant with wild rice dressing. It’s one of the dishes I like to make when we have company.

The compliment I hear most about the dressing is that the wild rice is so tender. My secret is to cook it a low temperature (325 degrees) for about two hours then lower the heat to 275 degrees for about the last hour.

Here’s my recipe, along with another from the Minnesota Cultivated Wild Rice Council, which I’m sure you’ll enjoy.

Wild Rice Dressing
1 onion, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
2 cloves garlic, diced
1 pound mushrooms, sliced
1 cup wild rice
1 10½-ounce can Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom with Roasted Garlic Soup
½ to 1 cup red wine
½ pint half and half
2 tablespoons poultry seasoning
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon pepper
1 cup water
Mix the onions, garlic, celery, mushrooms and wild rice with red wine, soup and water in a large, greased oven-proof baking dish. Add half and half.
Bake dressing at 325 degrees for 2 to 3 hours or until done. If the mixture gets a little dry, occasionally add some water.
Serving suggestion: Cook with cut-up pieces of chicken, pheasant or other fowl. If you brown the meat, deglaze the pan with wine and pour over wild rice mixture.

Brown and Wild Rice Walnut Dressing
½ cup chopped onion
½ cup chopped celery
1 clove garlic, minced
1½ tablespoons butter or margarine
1 cup cooked wild rice
2 cups cooked brown rice
½ cup chopped walnuts
½ teaspoon rubbed sage
¼ teaspoon seasoned salt
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
½ cup chicken broth
In small skillet, cook onion, celery and garlic in butter until tender. Combine with remaining ingredients. Place in buttered baking dish. Cover and bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Uncover and continue baking 5 minutes.

Passover Halibut

Passover, one of the most widely observed Jewish holidays, began at sundown Monday. As with most other holidays, food plays a big part during the celebration, which starts with the seder.

The seder is a ritual performed by a community or by multiple generations of a family, involving a retelling of the story of the liberation of the Israelites from slavery in ancient Egypt. The seder customs also include drinking four cups of wine, eating matza and partaking of symbolic foods placed on the Passover Seder Plate.

One of the foods associated with Passover is gelfite fish, which is poached fish patties or fish balls made from a mixture of ground deboned fish, mostly carp or pike.

Here’s a suggestion to change things up a bit — substituting halibut for the gelfite fish — from Michael Ginor, co-founder of Hudson Valley Foie Gras and chef-owner of Tel Aviv restaurant in Great Neck, N.Y.

Halibut Poached in Tomato-Pepper Sauce
FOR THE PAPRIKE-INFUSED OIL
¾ cup grape seed oil or olive oil
1 tablespoon sweet paprika
½ tablespoon hot paprika
½ tablespoon smoked paprika
FOR THE FISH:
1 cup lemon juice
½ cup salt
8 6-ounce halibut steaks
FOR THE SAUCE:
1 bunch chopped coriander, stems included
3 red bell peppers, finely diced
2 onions finely sliced
3 large ripe tomatoes, sliced into thin rounds
5 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons ground turmeric
1 teaspoon ground white pepper
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
FOR GARNISH:
1 lime, cut into wedges
½ cup cilantro leaves, stems removed, for garnish
A day in advance of serving, combine the grape seed oil and paprikas.
Thoroughly combine the lemon juice and ½ cup salt, and allow the steaks to brine in the liquid for about 1 hour, turning them over after 30 minutes. Rinse the fish in cold water and set aside.
In a large, flat-bottomed pan, spread coriander, bell peppers and onions. Place the tomatoes over them, and place the garlic and fish on the tomatoes. Season everything with the turmeric, white pepper, salt and sugar. Pour cold water over the fish to barely submerge it, cover the pan and bring to a boil over high heat, then lower the heat so the liquid is at a simmer. Cook until fish is just about to lose its translucence, 20 to 30 minutes.
At this point, uncover the pan, and spoon in the paprika-infused oil, avoiding the paprika that has settled at the bottom of the bowl. Simmer 5 minutes longer. Taste, and adjust salt, if needed. To serve, place a piece of fish on each plate, sauce with stewed vegetables, and garnish with additional cilantro leaves and a wedge of lime.
Yield: Serves 8 as a main course. To serve as an appetizer (it makes an exotic alternative to gefilte fish), halve the recipe and use 4 6-ounce steaks, cutting each one in half before cooking.

Serving Up Soy

The nice weather we’ve had this month has me thinking about gardening. I know it will be at least May until any seeds can be put into the ground, but that hasn’t stopped me from kicking around a few ideas in my head.

One of the best things about having your own garden is the option to grow your favorite fruits and vegetables. It’s some of the healthiest food you can find because you know exactly what went into producing it. It’s also economical. For the price of a few seeds, you can have a garden overflowing with fruits and vegetables all summer long.

One of the vegetables I’m thinking about planting is soybeans. From what I’ve read, growing your own soybeans is easy, and with a little care, you can enjoy fresh, green edamame all year long and all the health benefits of soy.

Soy is a complete protein. In fact, it’s the only plant protein that is equivalent to animal protein and has all amino acids. And in 1999, the Food and Drug Administration claimed soy protein lowered blood cholesterol levels, which improves cardiovascular health.

I’ve done a bit of research to see what kind of recipes might be suitable for edamame, and here are a few of them, which look mighty tasty.

Fettuccine with Edamame, Chicken and Mozzarella
1½ cups shelled edamame
8 ounces fettuccine
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ red bell pepper, diced
1 14½-ounce can chicken broth
2 chicken breast halves, cooked, shredded
½ teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan
8 small mozzarella balls, quartered
¼ cup pitted green olives, cut in slivers
½ cup shredded fresh basil leaves
Heat a stockpot of salted water to a boil; add edamame. Cook until just done, about 3 minutes; transfer with a slotted spoon to a colander, leaving water in stockpot. Rinse edamame with cold water; set aside. Heat water in stockpot back to a boil. Add pasta; cook according to package directions.
Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat; add bell pepper. Cook, stirring, until softened, about 3 minutes; add broth. Heat to a simmer; add shredded chicken, turning to coat with broth. Season with salt and pepper to taste; set aside.
Drain pasta; add to the skillet and toss. Gently stir in Parmesan until it melts and coats pasta. Stir in reserved edamame, mozzarella and green olives. Divide among 4 serving bowls immediately or the mozzarella will become a melted mass; top with basil.
Yield: Serves 4.
Approximate nutrition analysis per serving: 585 calories, 26 percent of calories from fat, 17 grams fat (4 grams saturated), 55 milligrams cholesterol, 53 grams carbohydrates, 54 grams protein, 1,281 milligrams sodium, 8 grams fiber.

Crisp Summer Salad
1½ cups fresh or frozen corn
1 cup chopped tomatoes
1 cup chopped peeled cucumber
1/3 cup shelled edamame
½ cup chopped red onion
1/3 cup chopped avocado
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
In a bowl, combine corn, tomatoes, cucumber, edamame, red onion, and avocado.
In another small bowl, whisk together lime juice and oil, and then toss with corn mixture and season to taste.
Yield: Serves 6.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 92 calories, 42 percent of calories from fat, 4 grams fat (1 gram saturated), no cholesterol, 9 milligrams sodium, 12 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams dietary fiber, 3 grams sugars, 3 grams protein.

Edamame and Walnut Salad
½ heaping teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon brown sugar
Freshly ground pepper
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1 teaspoon seasoned salt
4 navel oranges peeled and sectioned of 2 cans mandarin oranges
12 ounces shelled cooked edamame
½ cup walnut halves, toasted
Combine first 7 ingredients, whisk together until emulsified. Combine orange sections edamame, and walnuts. Just before serving, toss salad with about half of the vinaigrette, adding more if necessary.
Slice oranges between the membranes to make "supreme" slices of orange sections. Mix gently with the cooked edamame and toss with enough of the Ginger Dressing to moisten the salad. Taste for salt and pepper and adjust as necessary. Crumble toasted walnuts on top and serve.
Yield: Serves 8.

Appleberry Edamame Spinach Salad
2 cups edamame, cooked according to package directions, divided
1 5-ounce container  baby spinach, washed and drained
1 Granny Smith apple, rinse, cored and chopped
½ cup fresh raspberries, rinsed and drained
½ cup fresh blueberries, rinse and drained
½ cup feta cheese
1 cup fresh bean sprouts
DRESSING:
½ cup soybean oil
¼ cup sesame oil
1 shallot or ¼ small onion, grated
½ cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
In large salad bowl, combine 1½ cups of the cooked edamame and all remaining salad ingredients. Toss gently to mix. In medium bowl, whisk together dressing ingredients. Pour dressing over salad in bowl and toss to coat completely. Serve topped with remaining ½ cup edamame.
Note: You can use individually quick frozen raspberries and blueberries.
Yield: Serves 6.

Discover Potlucks

Potlucks are great. Where else do you get a chance to try all sorts of different foods and only have to be the author of one?

Over the years, we’ve had some pretty memorable potlucks at work. A recent one featured several kinds of soup, and it sure was a big hit.

Hosting your own potluck is one of the online features that the long-running PBS series, Point of View, is promoting for the premiere of "Food, Inc." (www.pbs.org/pov/foodinc), the Academy Award-nominated documentary, at 8 p.m. April 21, in celebration of Earth Day. (See show on Prairie Public Television.)

The film answers questions such as how much do we know about the food we buy at our local supermarkets and serve to our families? "Food, Inc." reveals surprising — and shocking — truths about what we eat, how it’s produced, who we have become as a nation and where we may go from here.

Beyond the national broadcast, the POV Web site will offer viewers many opportunities to learn and participate, including a Potluck Party Guide, which features an online invitation, checklists, discussion topics, links, resources and recipes (www.pbs.org/pov/foodinc/party_kit.php).
 

By joining the Potluck Campaign, you may be selected for a free POV gift basket (visit the POV Web site from April 22 to May 3 to enter the giveaway. Gifts include autographed copies of "Fast Food Nation" and "The Omnivore’s Dilemma," "Food, Inc." DVDs, autographed "Food, Inc." movie posters and more. (For more information about other activities you can participate in, go to the POV Web site.)

Here are a few sample recipes for a potluck party. More can be found at www.pbs.org/pov/foodinc/potluck_recipes.php.

I Am Not a Chef’s Pasta With Spicy Sausage and Spinach
(http://iamnotachef.com/2007/10/19/pasta-with-spicy-sausage-and-spinach/)
1½ pounds spicy Italian sausage, casing removed
2 ounces olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced fine
6 ounces white wine
10 ounces fresh spinach, washed, and stems removed
6 ounces half and half
1 ounce unsalted butter
4 ounces freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 pound pasta
Boil a large pot of salted water for the pasta.
Heat the oil in a large saute pan on medium-high heat. Cut the sausage into ¼- to ½-inch pieces and then saute until the sausage is cooked through and lightly browned. Remove the sausage from the pan, leaving the fat and the oil (now would be a good time to put the pasta in the boiling water). Turn the heat down and add the garlic. Cook for a few minutes and then add the wine. Deglaze the pan on high heat, making sure to scrape all of the little bits of sausage and garlic into the liquid. When it has reduced a bit, add the spinach and cover until the spinach has wilted completely.
Turn the heat down to medium and add the half and half and the butter. Swirl the sauce around until it thickens a bit more and the butter is completely incorporated. Put the sausage back into the pan, and when it is reheated, dump it over the pasta. Toss the pasta into the sauce as you sprinkle the Parmesan cheese over the whole thing, and serve hot.

Last Night’s Dinner’s Savory Bread Pudding
(Jennifer Hess, www.lastnightsdinner.net/2009/05/17/on-the-radio/)
3 farm eggs
3 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
2 to 3 tablespoons good, sharp Dijon mustard
Kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper, if desired
4 to 5 cups of cubed bread
2 to 3 cups fresh seasonal vegetables (such as diced asparagus, scallions or what’s fresh and in season).
1 to 2 cups flavorful artisan cheese, shredded or crumbled (the amount will vary according to your taste and how mild or strongly flavored the cheese is)
Butter for the baking dish or muffin tins
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, then stir in the milk, cream, mustard, salt and pepper if using, until the mixture is well-combined. Add the bread cubes and press down so that they are completely submerged in the egg mixture (clean hands are best for this, so you can really put some muscle behind it). Let this sit for a few minutes, then toss and press again so that all of the cubes are thoroughly soaked. Add the vegetables a little at a time, stirring through so they are fairly evenly distributed.
Butter your baking dish or muffin tins. Spoon the bread mixture in until it comes about halfway up the sides, then sprinkle a layer of cheese on top. Repeat with the remaining bread and cheese, then cover tightly with foil. (If you are preparing this ahead of time, you can stop at this point and store it in the fridge until you are ready to bake it.)
Bake covered for 20 minutes, then remove the foil and bake an additional 10 minutes or so, until the top is golden and bubbly. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Spicy Lentils With Turkey Sausage
½ medium onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
2 leeks, trimmed and chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
1 cup brown lentils
3½ to 4 cups reduced-sodium vegetable stock
1 bay leaf
½ teaspoon dried thyme leaves
½ teaspoon pepper
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper or to taste
1 pound smoked turkey sausage, cut into 1-inch pieces
Spray a Dutch oven with nonstick spray coating. Heat pan over medium high heat. Add chopped vegetables and cook, stirring frequently, until onions are tender, about 4 to 5 minutes. Stir in lentils, 3½ cups stock and seasonings. Cover and heat to boiling. Reduce heat to low and cook 45 to 50 minutes or until lentils are just tender. (Note: If mixture becomes too thick, stir in remaining ½ cup stock.) Stir in sausage. Cover and cook 10 minutes or until lentils are tender. Remove bay leaf before serving.
Yield: Serves 6.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 270 calories, 23 percent of calories from fat, 7 grams fat (3 grams saturated), 56 milligrams cholesterol, 26 grams carbohydrates, 30 grams protein, 386 milligrams sodium, 11 grams dietary fiber.

Yankee Pot Roast

Pot roasts are one of the easiest meals to put together — and one of the tastiest.

I remember when growing up how my mom used to fix hers. She first would brown the roast in a little butter and then put it in a roasting pan along with some potatoes, carrots and onions and bake it for 2 to 3 hours.

Mine are pretty much prepared the same way, although the my roasts are frozen when I stick them in a Dutch oven with the vegtables.

I usually don’t have the time to thaw and brown a roast, which is OK because slow-cooking it at 275 degrees for about 3 hours works just fine.

Just today, I received a recipe for Yankee Pot Roast from John Douglas of Roseau, Minn. John served aboard a U.S. Navy "tin can" in the 1960s and said he found the recipe in a newspaper paper called "The Tin Can Sailor," a publication that promote naval history.

The recipe, which comes from the Cookbook of the United States Navy, Revised 1944, is pretty similar to mine except that it contains tomatoes. Since tomatoes are one of my favorite vegetables (they’re really a fruit), I just might have to give the recipe a shot. But I might have to scale it down a bit, since it yields enough to serve 100. However, the recipe would be nice for a large get-together.

If you don’t like the idea off trying to figure out the amount of ingredients for a smaller batch, you can try the other recipe that follows, which serves 8.

Yankee Pot Roast
42 pounds boneless beef
3¾ quarts onions, finely chopped
1¾ tablespoons pepper
3 quarts diced carrots
3 quarts tomatoes
8 ounces beef fat
¾ cup salt
1 quart beef stock
Bay leaves and parsley, as desired
Cut beef into 6- to 8-pound pieces. Cook in fat until meat is browned on all sides, turning frequently. Add salt, pepper, stock or water, onions (may be cooked in fat until brown, if desired), bay leaves and parsley. Let simmer in tightly covered kettle or bake in slow oven (300 degrees) for 3 hours or until tender.
Turn meat 2 or 3 times while cooking. Add small amounts of liquid as needed.
Remove from pans and slice across the grain in 1/8-inch slices.
Yield: Serves 100 (4 to 5-ounce portions).

Old-Fashioned Pot Roast
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper
1 beef chuck roast, 2½ to 3 pounds, trimmed
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup beef or chicken broth
2 tablespoons quick-mixing flour, such as Wondra
8 red potatoes, halved
8 small carrots
2 yellow onions, quartered
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
Combine the all-purpose flour, salt and pepper to taste in a large resealable plastic bag. Add the meat; seal. Shake until evenly coated.
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat; add the meat. Cook, turning occasionally, until browned on all sides, about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, combine the broth and quick-mixing flour in a small bowl until smooth. Transfer the meat to a slow cooker.
Arrange the potatoes, carrots and onions on top of the meat; pour in the broth mixture and vinegar. Cover; cook on low until the meat is very tender, about 8 hours. Skim off fat.
Yield: Serves 8.
Note: If you don’t have a slow cooker, you can make the stew in a Dutch oven and cook in the oven for about 2½ hours at 325 degrees.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 578 calories, 33 percent of calories from fat, 21 grams fat (6 grams saturated fat), 98 milligrams cholesterol, 54 grams carbohydrates, 42 grams protein, 560 milligrams sodium, 6 grams fiber.

Sweet Inspirations

I’m a big fan of cooking with herbs and spices, so buying them in bulk isn’t a problem.

But if you are like some people, a jar of spice might sit in your cupboard for a couple of years — if not more. While the good news is that dried herbs and spices never spoil, per se, the bad news is their flavor fades. So, the trick is to keep and use spices as long as they have flavor.

Well, McCormick’s, the spice people have come up with an idea that solves this problem, and I think it is just brilliant.

They’ve introduced something called "Recipe Inspirations,"  which makes it easy for home cooks to try something new, liked adding paprika and rosemary to perfectly roasted chicken and potatoes or turning the flavors of a quesadilla into a hearty one-dish casserole.

Each Recipe Inspiration packet contains six pre-measured, no-waste spices and herbs, along with a perforated, plastic-coated recipe card on the back that can be filed for future use. And if you do like the recipe, then buying a larger amount of the herbs and spices won’t be a problem.

The recipes, which serve four to eight, take just 15 minutes to prepare and 30 minutes to cook. There are six varieties of the Recipe Inspiration packets: Apple and Sage Pork Chops, Rosemary Roasted Chicken with Potatoes, Quesadilla Casserole, Spanish Chicken Skillet, Garlic Lime Chicken Fajitas and my favorite, Shrimp and Pasta Primavera. The packets are available in the spice aisle of supermarkets nationwide and cost $1.99.

Here’s a recipe for one of them, which I plan on trying shortly.

Shrimp and Pasta Primavera
1½ teaspoons dill weed
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon minced onions
½ teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon thyme leaves
8 ounces linguine
1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
4½ cups assorted cut-up vegetables such as broccoli florets, sliced carrots, red bell pepper strips and peas
1 cup heavy cream
¾ cup chicken broth
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons butter
½ teaspoon salt
Cook pasta in large saucepan as directed on package, adding shrimp and vegetables during the last 3 to 4 minutes of cooking. Drain well.
Mix remaining ingredients in same saucepan. Bring to boil, stirring constantly with whisk. Reduce heat to low; simmer 5 minutes. Add pasta, shrimp and vegetables; toss gently to coat well. Serve immediately with additional Parmesan cheese, if desired.
Yield: Serves 6.

Fish Fajitas

During Lent, a lot of people are looking for tasty fish recipes that go beyond the traditional fish fry, tuna casserole or salmon loaf. Even more important to some is that the recipe be healthy.

Here’s a recipe that crossed my desk this week that certainly fits the bill in both categories. It’s for a baked fish fajitas.

Of course, we all know that baking is a lot healthier than deep-frying — and also less messy. This particular method — breading then roasting fish at high heat — provides crunchy texture similar to fried, while keeping it moist and flavorful. It’s served fajita-style by wrapping fish strips in a soft flour tortilla with sauteed onion, colorful red pepper and tomatillos with touch of cilantro, lime and strips of nutty cheese.

Shake-Bake Fish Fajitas
1 pound cod or tilapia fillet, cut lengthwise in ½-inch wide strips
¼ cup fine, unseasoned bread crumbs
½ teaspoon each salt and pepper
1 medium onion, sliced
1 large red bell pepper, cut in strips
8 tomatillos, husks removed, then quartered (or 1 cup chopped green tomatoes)
1 teaspoon cumin
4 large 10-inch flour tortillas
4 ounces Jarlsberg (or reduced fat version) cheese slices, cut in strips
¼ cup finely chopped cilantro, mixed with squeeze of lime
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In plastic bag, gently shake fish to coat with bread crumbs, salt and pepper and place on nonstick baking pan. Spray fish lightly with oil and roast 15 minutes, or until fish is opaque and flakes easily. In large nonstick skillet, saute onion, pepper and tomatillos with cumin until just tender, about 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer vegetables to warming plate.
Heat tortillas according to package directions. Divide cheese evenly between tortillas; top with vegetables, fish and cilantro. If desired, serve with traditional tartar sauce or make a Tex Mex version, combining 1 tablespoon minced canned chipotle chilies in adobo with ½ cup mayonnaise.
 Yield: Serves 4.

Chicken Cordon Bleu

If you like to play in the kitchen, you can’t have too many cookbooks.

I’m not exactly sure how many are in my collection, but there’s a new one out there by celebrtity chef Rocco DiSpirito that I’m going to pick up. It’s titled Now Eat This! 150 of America’s Favorite Comfort Foods All Under 350 Calories (Ballantine Trade Paperback Original, available at most book stores).

Apparently, I’m not the only one who’s enamored by this cookbook. Just released March 2, Now Eat This! already has risen to the No. 1 spot on the New York Times Bestseller list. 

What’s made me decide to buy the cookbook is that I’ve already tried one of the recipes, and it is delicious. The Chicken Cordon Bleu has fewer calories (333 as compared to more than 1,300 in the traditional recipe), less fat and real flavor. The only thing I did differently was to substitute pheasant for chicken and shallots for chives in the recipe.

DiSpirito came up with the recipes for the cookbook by asking his loyal Twitter followers what favorite foods they wished they could eat guilt-free. Other recipes include macaroni and cheese, chocolate chip cookies, burgers and french fries.

The recipe follows as does one for a  Chicken Cordon Bleu Panini.

Rocco DiSpirito’s Lightened Chicken Cordon Bleu
½ cup evaporated skim milk
2 teaspoons cornstarch
½ cup shredded Swiss cheese
3 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Nonstick cooking spray
4 chicken cutlets (4 ounces each), pounded very thin
3 ounces. thinly sliced lean ham (from the deli counter)
1/3 cup whole wheat flour
1½ cups whole wheat panko bread crumbs
4 large egg whites
In small saucepan, whisk evaporated milk into cornstarch. Bring milk mixture to boil over high heat, whisking constantly. Reduce heat to low and continue to cook until mixture has thickened, about 1 minute. Then whisk cheese into sauce until melted and smooth. Whisk in chives and season sauce with salt and pepper to taste.
Spray ice cube tray with cooking spray and divide cheese sauce equally among 8 cube holes. Freeze sauce until hard, about 2 hours.
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place wire rack on foil-lined baking sheet. Set aside.
Lay chicken cutlets on work surface and season with salt and pepper to taste. Arrange ham slices over chicken. Remove frozen cheese sauce cubes from trays, using a fork if necessary to pry them out. Place 2 cubes in center of each piece of chicken. Roll up chicken to encase filling, and secure each package with 2 toothpicks.
Put flour in shallow dish. Place panko bread crumbs in another shallow dish. In medium bowl, whip egg whites with whisk until they are extremely foamy but not holding peaks. Working in batches, dredge chicken bundles in flour, shaking off any excess. Dip into egg whites to coat completely. Then dredge in bread crumbs to coat completely.
Place chicken bundles on wire rack. Spray chicken lightly with cooking spray and season with salt and pepper to taste. Bake until breading is golden brown and crispy outside and cheese sauce is fully melted, 25 to 30 minutes. Serve hot. 

Chicken Cordon Bleu Panini
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
½ cup flour
1 egg, beaten
1 cup panko bread crumbs
4 boneless, skinless thin-cut chicken breasts
Salt and pepper
¼ cup prepared yellow mustard
¼ cup honey
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1½ teaspoon dried onion flakes
1 loaf French bread, cut crosswise into 4- to 5-inch pieces
4 slices smoked, fully-cooked ham
4 slices Swiss cheese
Heat the olive oil and butter in a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Set up a dredging station for the chicken by placing the flour, egg and panko bread crumbs each in separate shallow dishes. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and dredge each piece in the flour, egg and bread crumbs. Place the breaded chicken into the pan and saute for about 4 minutes per side until cooked thoroughly. Transfer the chicken to a cutting board and set aside.
In a small bowl, whisk together mustard, honey, corn syrup, mayonnaise and dried onion flakes. Set aside (or refrigerate if not using immediately).
Preheat the panini grill to medium-high heat (375 degrees).
For each sandwich: Half the bread lengthwise. Spread honey mustard sauce inside both halves. On the bottom half, layer a chicken breast, a slice of ham and a slice of cheese. Close the sandwich.
Grill panini for 3 to 4 minutes until the cheese is melted. Serve immediately.
Yield: Serves 4.
 

Salsa Turkey Burger

Did you know that overeating by just 50 calories a day can add up to a noticeable weight gain each year? And by doing this for five years, you might be looking at a gain of 30 to 50 pounds. That’s just one bit of information that’s crossed my desk in March, which happens to be National Nutrition Month.

According to the American Dietetic Association, which is dedicated to raising awareness about the importance of making informed food choices and engaging in physical activity and is the sponsor of National Nutrition Month, people should keep in mind that small changes such as cutting the fat and calories in your meals can have a powerful impact. And it is actually easier than you may think.

 

For example, a typical 4-ounce Angus-beef burger will add up to around 650 calories and a lot of fat. But you can make a tastier burger by choosing a leaner meat, such as turkey.

The following recipe for a Salsa Turkey  Burger, which is topped with an avocado spread, is just 425 calories and is packed with a great balance of nutrients.

Salsa Turkey Burgers with Avocado Spread
1 pound ground turkey
½ cup salsa of your choice, plus more to taste
½ red bell pepper, chopped
½ sweet onion, chopped
½ cup chopped cilantro
½ teaspoon each, plus more to taste: salt, freshly ground pepper
1 large ripe avocado, peeled, seeded, mashed
½ jalapeno chili, minced
1 tablespoon lime juice
¼ cup sour cream (optional)
4 hamburger buns
4 thick slices ripe tomato
Red leaf lettuce leaves
Prepare grill or broiler. Mix turkey, salsa, red bell pepper, onion, cilantro and ½ teaspoon of the salt and pepper in large bowl. Form into four patties.
Cook patties over medium heat on grill or 4 inches under a broiler until brown on one side, about 7 minutes. Turn; cook until cooked through and temperature in center of each patty reads 160 degrees on instant-read thermometer, about 7 minutes. Meanwhile, mix avocado and jalapeno in medium bowl. Stir in lime juice. Stir in sour cream. Season to taste.
Place patties on bottom halves of buns. Top each with a tablespoon or two of avocado spread. Top with tomato slices and lettuce leaves. Top with bun. Serve with extra salsa, if you like.
Yield: Serves 4.
Approximate nutrition analysis per serving: 425 calories, 43 percent of calories from fat, 21 grams fat (4.5 grams saturated), 80 milligrams cholesterol, 33 grams carbohydrates, 28 grams protein, 770 milligrams sodium, 6 grams fiber.

Quiche with a Kick

You’ve probably heard the saying "real men don’t eat quiche." It’s been my experience that ‘s a bunch of hooey. I’ve known plenty of "real men" who just love quiche.

Quiche is a baked dish that is based on a custard made from eggs and milk or cream in a pastry crust. Usually, other ingredients such as meat, vegetables and cheese are added after the pastry shell has been baked, and then it is baked again. Traditionally, quiche has been a breakfast food, but it has become acceptable to eat for lunch or dinner.

I don’t remember my last encounter with quiche, but after looking at a recipe that came via e-mail today from Cacique, the next time could be sooner rather than later. Cacique is a company that specializes in natural and traditional Hispanic fresh cheeses. It also markets  creams, chorizos and beverages that are deeply rooted in Mexican history and tradition. (The products are available at WalMart.)

The reason the quiche looks especially appealing is because of the addition of jalapeno peppers. I love food with a little kick. And it’s also vegetarian, boon for those who are abstaining from meat during Lent.

Quiche with a Kick
1 cup Cacique Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
¼ cup fresh cilantro, chopped
¼ teaspoon cracked black pepper
2 eggs
¼ cup milk
½ cup red bell pepper, diced
½ cup red onion, diced
1 teaspoon salt
1 jalapeno pepper, diced
1¼ cup liquid egg substitute
Nonstick cooking spray
1 frozen whole wheat pie crust (see note)
2 teaspoons chili powder
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a medium-sized skillet with nonstick cooking spray. Saute peppers, onions and diced jalapeno over medium heat until softened, about 8 minutes. Scrape sauteed vegetables into prepared pie crust. Reserve.
Whisk egg substitute, eggs and milk until frothy. Stir in salt, chili powder, pepper and cheese. Pour egg mixture over vegetables in pie crust.
Bake until top is lightly browned and set, about 50 minutes. Cool 10 minutes, top with chopped cilantro and serve.
Note: Whole wheat pie crusts are available in the freezer section at natural food stores and some large grocery stores
Yield: Serves 12.