Zero Points Cabbage Soup

cabbagesoup

 

Lately I’ve been watching my “middle age spread” get further and further out of control, so when a few customers at work asked that I prepare a light selection each day I decided to dust off some of the recipes I’ve cooked in the past. When I was the chef at The Birmingham News, I would offer a regular entree each day and a Weight Watchers entree because so many of the staff were following the plan. That’s where I first tried this delicious soup. I’ll admit the name doesn’t conjure up images in my head of a tasty dish, but this soup is pure delicious. Now my current customers are asking for the recipe so here’s my version of the famous Cabbage Soup (from the Cabbage Soup diet). This is also the same recipe for the ZERO POINTS soup promoted in Weight Watchers. Yes, you can eat all of this soup you want for any meal and have no points added to your daily total.

  • 3 cups non-fat beef stock
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp Tomato paste
  • 2 cups cooked cabbage
  • 1 can diced tomatoes in juice
  • 1/2 a yellow onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup shredded or diced carrots
  • 1/2 cup green beans
  • 1/2 cup sliced mushrooms
  • 1/2 tsp basil
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • salt and pepper to taste

Here’s the easiest part. Combine all ingredients in a pot and simmer on the stove 15 minutes.

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Mushrooms Au Gratin

Thanks to Betty Crocker, most people associate the words “au gratin” with cheese sauce, but in the culinary world, au gratin is a cassoulet with a browned crust on top, usually breadcrumbs and cheese. This recipe is delicious but not low fat. It’s great with a grilled steak or a beef tenderloin so it’s usually a dish I reserve for dinner parties or holiday gatherings. Nothing like a nice piece of beef tenderloin with this dish and some truffled mashed potatoes to impress your friends and guests! If you love mushrooms like I do, give this one a try!

  • 3 pounds sliced crimini mushrooms (sold in grocery stores as Baby Bells)
  • 1 pound thinly sliced red onion
  • Sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper
  • 1 tbsp chopped parsley
  • 8oz butter, quartered and melted
  • 8oz heavy cream
  • 8oz Panko bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 375F. Spray a baking dish with PAM. Add one layer of mushrooms to the bottom of the dish. Top with 1 layer of onions. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, top with some parsley. Drizzle with 2oz of melted butter and 2oz of cream. Repeat the layers 3 more times. Top with breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, until top is golden brown.

 

Grillades & Grits

 

Earlier this week, we caught beef tenderloins on sale for $10.99 a pound, so we snatched one up. When you butcher a whole beef tenderloin into filet mignon steaks, there are parts of the tenderloin left (the trimmings) that aren’t big enough to serve as steaks, but you don’t dare waste that wonderfully tender meat. I froze some of the trimmings for a future pot of Beef Bourguignon and with four of the smallest “steaks” I decided to make Grillades and Grits.

Grillades and grits is a southern (New Orleans mostly) tradition served usually at brunch but it can make an excellent dinner. The meat “grillades” can be anything and many times you see them made from round steak, chuck roast, pork tenderloin medallions and at times, beef tenderloin. I knew the basics for making this dish, so I drew on my Southern roots and Creole heritage (no, I’m not Creole, but my father’s family came to Birmingham from New Orleans and picked up all the cooking techniques) and created a really good version of this classic dish. It was so good, I had to run write it down, so I thought I’d share it with you.

First, I made the grits. I used 5 minute “quick cook grits” (Jim Dandy). The amount you use will depend on how many servings you want to yield. Follow the instructions on the box or bag except where it says to start with boiling water, replace the water with chicken or vegetable stock (I used vegetable stock made from “better than bouillon” stock base). To the stock, add 1/4 cup heavy cream, 1 tbsp garlic powder and 1 tbsp Italian seasoning. Once the grits are cooked, fold in 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese.

For the “grillades” you will need:

  • 2 large chunks of meat per person (I used 4 extremely small filet mignons, approximately 3 oz each)
  • 1/2 of a white onion, chopped
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/2# Crimini mushrooms, sliced (a.k.a. Baby Bell)
  • 1 tbsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 cup liquor or wine (I was planning to use white wine but we were out and all we had on hand was Wild Turkey American Honey Liqueur, which actually worked wonderfully)
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tbsp Grey Poupon mustard
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tbsp olive oil

In a large saute pan, heat the olive oil, then add the meat and sear on all sides to get a nice caramelization and cook to medium or medium rare (about 3 minutes per side). Remove the meat and hold in a bowl. To the pan drippings, add the onion, bell pepper and mushroom and cook until the onions and bell pepper are tender. Deglaze the pan with the liquor/wine, scraping up all the burnt bits on the bottom of the pan (that’s your sauce flavor). Add the cream, mustard, salt, pepper and garlic powder and boil until the sauce begins to thicken. Add the meat back to the pan.

To serve, mound some of your cheese grits on a plate. Top with 2 pieces of meat and then a spoonful of the sauce over the meat.

The Perfect Meatloaf

Whenever I have meatloaf on the menu during lunch, I never seem to make enough. Everyone lines up and we sell out long before lunch service is over. Doesn’t matter which meatloaf I make (beef or turkey) or which glaze/gravy I use (traditional, caramelized onion, creamy mushroom, etc). In the south, meatloaf is as common as fried chicken. Everybody has their own meatloaf recipe.. Some are really good.. some aren’t so good. Most everyone knows how to make a meatloaf but not everyone can make a really good meatloaf. In my opinion, meatloaf should be tasty and moist. I like mine to “almost” fall apart on their own. No knife should be involved in eating a slice of meatloaf!

These days, meatloaf is a generic term for a dish that can be made with a variety of meats (beef, turkey, pork) or even vegetarian style. One thing I’ve learned, the leaner the meat, the less flavor and the “firmer” the meatloaf with be, so if you want a really tasty meatloaf, you’ve got to deal with some fat. Buying 93/7 lean ground beef won’t produce a really good meatloaf, although it will be a lot healthier. If you want to “lean up” a meatloaf but still retain the flavor and moisture, try using 1/2 ground turkey and 1/2 ground beef. You won’t taste the turkey.. in fact, because of seasonings, when I make a true 100% turkey meatloaf at work, most of my customers have no idea they aren’t eating ground beef.

This recipe is written for a standard, delicious meatloaf but has variations as noted. They all work and they are all wonderful, so if you’ve had problems making a perfect meatloaf in the past, give this recipe a try!

  • 1 pound ground chuck mixed with 1 pound ground round (or mix beef with ground turkey, or do all ground turkey if you prefer)
  • 3 large eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup PANKO (Japanese Breadcrumbs) or 1 cup crushed saltine crackers (do not use finely ground bread crumbs from a can)
  • 2 tbsp Montreal Steak seasoning (a blend found in the spice isle)

Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl. Grease a bread loaf pan with cooking spray and add meat to the pan. If you prefer one of the glazes below (traditional or creamy mushroom) add it before baking the meatloaf, or you can bake the meatloaf and then top with caramelized onions and brown gravy if you prefer.

Bake at 400F for approximately 45 minutes. Meatloaf is done when internal temperature (read with a kitchen thermometer) reads 165F, so check it periodically. One it reaches that temp, remove from the oven. If you cook it longer, it will dry out.

Glazes:

For a traditional glaze, mix 1 cup dark brown sugar and 1/2 cup ketchup and pour over the top before baking meatloaf.

For creamy mushroom meatloaf, simply open a can of Cream of Mushroom soup and pour over the top before baking meatloaf.

 

Chicken Breasts with Mushroom-Sage Sauce

Every so often, I get a reprise from cooking, and today was one of those days. Yesterday I traveled to Tuscaloosa to see the Tide whip up on North Texas so I didn’t make it home until after midnight. Today was a lazy day so it was nice to not be the cook tonight and to my surprise, I was served a dinner that rivaled a restaurant quality dish, so I thought this week I’d share the recipe with you.

This would be an ideal “dinner party” entree. We had it served over farfalle pasta (bow ties) and the sauce was perfect for the pasta. It’s not a “low fat” recipe, but every so often it’s nice to splurge on yourself.

  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup chopped shallots (a small red onion will suffice)
  • 8-10 oz shitake or crimini mushrooms, thickly sliced
  • 1 tsp chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 cup dry vermouth or dry white wine (we used Sauvignon Blanc because we already had a bottle in the chiller)
  • 2/3 cups heavy whipping cream (light cream may curdle, so be sure to use the heavy cream)
  • 3 tbsp chopped fresh sage
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 1/2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breasts, pounded to 1/3″ thickness
  • Salt and fresh ground black pepper
Melt the butter in a saute pan over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook for 1 minute, then add the mushrooms and parsley and saute 5-10 minutes more, until the mushrooms have absorbed the liquid and started to brown (mushrooms will first absorb your butter, then they will give off their moisture, then before the brown they will soak back up the moisture in the pan). Add the vermouth/wine to deglaze the pan, scraping up the brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Stir in the cream, bring to a boil, and cook the sauce until it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon (about 10 minutes).
While the sauce is reducing, in another pan, heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Season the chicken on both sides with salt and pepper. Cook for 3 minutes on each side, until browned and cooked through.
Stir the sage into the reduced sauce and season with salt and pepper. Pour sauce over cooked chicken to serve. Garnish with fresh chopped parsley.