The “s” Diet

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Kitchen Diva’s “S” Diet

This time of year when most of us faintly remember that resolution to recover our waistlines after the decadence of the past holidays, some of us turn to program diets (Jenny, Weight Watchers, etc.) or supplements (like the new Hoodia). But if you will follow Kitchen Diva’s “S” diet you will have an easy life-long plan of weight control:

1) Select a fiber-rich diet—whole grains, fruits, vegetables (fresh or frozen) and Supplement with a small amount of protein to prevent cravings and keep blood sugar in check.

 2) Eat less of the “S’s”—Sugar, Simple Starches, and Salt. All tend to Stimulate the appetite.

 3) Snack Healthy—A handful of nuts (almonds or walnuts are best) with a glass of warm water help ease hunger pangs. 

4) Step! Get out and move. Exercise, like walking, will help to replace fat with muscle (a minimum of 30-minutes a day). Muscle burns more calories and raises metabolism.

5) Sleep more—A tired body looks for other sources of energy often resulting in over-eating quick energy foods full of fat and sugar. 6) Splurge once a week by treating yourself to a little decadence. Denying yourself desserts makes them more desirable and leads to overindulgence. 7) Simple Cooking—Cook a majority of your meals at home to control ingredients and portions.

The following simple, healthy recipes are delicious and easy to prepare. You’ll be finished preparing and eating this meal before a waiter could bring your drink order!

Pan Seared Shrimp

Total prep and cooking time less than 10 minutes

Serves 4

                                   
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided (canola or extra virgin olive oil recommended)

1 1/2 pounds raw, large shrimp, peeled and deveined (use 21/25 shrimp per pound—if frozen thaw and dry thoroughly)

                                   
1/4 teaspoon salt (Kosher salt recommended)

                                   
1/4 teaspoon pepper (freshly ground recommended)

                                   
pinch sugar

                       

1. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large 10 or 12-inch skillet (nonstick recommended for easier cleanup) until very hot over medium-high heat. You need just enough to coat the bottom of the pan. If needed use a basting brush to spread the oil.

                       
2. While pan is heating, toss shrimp with salt, pepper and sugar.

3. Lay half the shrimp in a single layer in the hot pan; cook until edges turn pink, about 1 minute. Remove pan from heat; with tongs, flip each shrimp over and let sit off the heat until opaque, another half minute. Transfer shrimp to a plate.

                       
4. Return pan to heat and repeat with remaining oil and shrimp.

5. After second batch has been flipped and has stood off the heat, return the first batch and toss to combine; cover skillet and let stand (off the heat) until shrimp are cooked through, 1-2 minutes. Serve immediately.

                                        

Warm Spinach Salad with Plum Vinaigrette

Making your own vinaigrette is easy and controls the amount of fat. Canola or extra virgin olive oil is actually healthy for you in small amounts.

Serves 4

                       

Vinaigrette (Can be prepared up to one week ahead)

2 tablespoons plum jam or preserves  
1/4 cup Champagne vinegar or white-wine vinegar (or substitute Sherry vinegar; in a pinch use apple cider vinegar)  
1 teaspoon Dijon-style mustard

1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon finely chopped shallots (or substitute green onions or scallions) optional
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1/4 cup canola vegetable oil (or substitute extra virgin olive oil)

1. Briskly stir (using a whisk or fork) the jam, vinegar, mustard, sugar and shallots until combined; season with salt and pepper to taste. While continue stirring, slowly add the oil until incorporated. Refrigerate in a jar with a lid until needed.

Tip: Keep several different flavored vinegars in your panty. By simply changing the vinegar and jam (use apple or raspberry jelly or omit for a true French Vinaigrette), you can easily make your own healthy salad dressing every day.

                       
Salad

4 cups (1/4 pound) prewashed baby spinach leaves
4 cups (1/4 pound) prewashed mesculun or baby greens (or substitute spring mix)

1 tablespoon canola or extra virgin olive oil

1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnut pieces
1. Mix all the greens in a serving bowl.  
2. Heat oil over medium-high heat in a medium skillet; add the nuts. Sauté 2-3min., stirring all the time, until the walnuts are lightly browned. 3. Add one half of the vinaigrette (if separated, shake to combine) to the walnuts in the skillet and heat through (do not boil). Immediately pour over salad and toss. Serve immediately. (Use as much of the vinaigrette as needed to lightly dress the salad).

                                                 

Roasted Asparagus

4 servings

           
1          pound fresh asparagus spears*, tough ends removed, rinsed and dried

                      
  1-2      tablespoons vegetable oil (preferably extra virgin olive oil)

                                   
salt and pepper to taste

                       
1/4       cup finely grated Parmesan cheese

1. Preheat oven to 375*.

2. Place asparagus on a lightly greased baking sheet, lined with aluminum foil for easy cleanup (or coat with a nonstick cooking spray).

3. Drizzle vegetable oil over asparagus, rolling the spears to completely coat with the oil.

4. Season with salt and pepper. Bake 5-6 minutes or until crisp-tender.

5. Sprinkle evenly with cheese.

6. Return to oven and bake an additional 1-2 minutes until cheese has melted. Serve hot.

*Asparagus is plentiful during its peak season February through June. Choose fresh, firm stalks, 1/2-inch in diameter with tightly closed caps. For thicker stalks, peel the outer layer to the tender middle. To remove tough ends, bend each spear until it snaps. To store: put 1/4-inch water in a tall, narrow jar or glass. Cut off 1/2-inch from the butt end and stand spears up in the jar. Make a tent with plastic wrap or a plastic bag and refrigerate. Will keep fresh 2-3 days or if the water is changed daily, up to 1 week.

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SuperBowl Sliders

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Congratulations to Denver & Seattle for great wins! Let the party planning begin.

A Fickle Cook

Right behind Christmas and Thanksgiving, Super Bowl Sunday ranks as the third largest occasion for Americans to consume food, according to the National Football League. Some people revere this game-viewing day as a national holiday. It certainly is a great excuse to invite a bunch of friends over for food and fun. I’ve always wondered why NFL doesn’t move the game to Saturday to give us all a chance to recover from, ummm, over imbibing on all this food and adult libations but I guess that will be next year’s rant.

The time has come to decide what food would be the most fun and the best match for football. Why not make Sliders for the celebration of the Super Bowl with our friends. In today’s market Sliders are current, hip and cool. Every restaurant worth its weight in catsup has its own version of these Mini Burgers on the…

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Soups and Breads that Love Them

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When I woke this morning the temperature was much below my comfort level. Not much of a sunrise either, replaced by a cloudy, dreary dawn: the kind of day that begs for hot soup. I pulled my robe tighter and as I settled into my daily routine, my catalogue of soup recipes started pestering me: each one arguing its case to create a hot, vibrant antidote to such a colorless day. The best persuasion came from one of my favorites: Taco Soup. The list of ingredients may seem long, but the soup is quick and easy to assemble, plus most of the ingredients are just lingering in my pantry. Now I should decide a bread accomplice. Cornbread seems like an acceptable partner, but I want to enhance the conventional muffin adding a touch of spiciness and a boost of heartiness. My Creamed Cornbread fit the bill to a tee. Both soup and bread are a matchmakers dream, a communion of kindred spirits.

 

Taco Soup

Nothing tastes better on a cold, dreary day than this super easy soup. If you can operate a can opener, you can make this soup. Dress it up as you would tacos with chopped tomatoes, sour cream, grated cheese, sliced olives or avocados or any garnish you might dare dream up.

8-10 servings

1 pound extra lean ground sirloin (or ground round)

2 large onions, chopped# (2 cups)

2 cloves garlic, crushed (1 teaspoon)

1 package (1.25-ounce) dry taco seasoning mix

1 can (14-ounce) Rotel® tomatoes, undrained

1 can (14-ounce) stewed tomatoes, undrained

1 can (4.5 ounce) chopped green chilies

1 can (6-ounce) tomato paste

1 package (1-ounce) dry ranch salad dressing mix

1 can (8-ounce) cream style corn

1 can (15-ounce) whole corn

1 can (14-ounce) chicken broth

2 cans (15-ounce each) Ranch Style Texas beans, undrained

1 cup (8-ounces) sour cream (for garnish)

1 cup (4 ounces) shredded sharp cheddar cheese (for garnish)

1. Heat a soup pot over medium-high heat and brown the meat until it sizzles, and browns breaking apart with a fork as it cooks. Drain off fat.

2. Add the onions and garlic and cook until onions soften, about 5-8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add taco seasoning.

3. In a mixing bowl, stir together Rotel tomatoes (for milder soup substitute mild Rotel tomatoes), stewed tomatoes, chilies, tomato paste, and ranch dressing, breaking the tomatoes into smaller pieces with a fork.

4. Stir tomato mixture into the meat until thoroughly mixed. Add the corns, chicken broth and beans. Mix together and heat through over medium-high heat.

5. Serve hot; garnish with 1-tablespoon sour cream and cheese, if desired. Soup will keep refrigerated 4-5 days or freeze up to 3 months.

 

 

Creamed Cornbread

The perfect partner to any hot soup.

 

Yield: 18 medium muffins

2 cups self-rising cornmeal mix

1 large egg, lightly beaten

1 cup milk

1/2 cup sour cream

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter or margarine, melted

1 small can (8 ounces) creamed corn

1/4 cup finely chopped green bell pepper

1 can (4 ounces) chopped green chilies

1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded Cheddar cheese

1. Preheat oven to 375*.

2. Measure all ingredients into a large mixing bowl; mix together just until moistened.

3. Divide evenly among greased medium (2-inch) muffin cups.

4. Bake 18-22 minutes or until puffed and golden brown. Remove from oven and cool for 2 minutes. When cool enough to handle tip each muffin on its side in the muffin cups to keep warm without getting soggy bottoms because no one likes a soggy bottom.

SuperBowl Sliders

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Right behind Christmas and Thanksgiving, Super Bowl Sunday ranks as the third largest occasion for Americans to consume food, according to the National Football League. Some people revere this game-viewing day as a national holiday. It certainly is a great excuse to invite a bunch of friends over for food and fun. I’ve always wondered why NFL doesn’t move the game to Saturday to give us all a chance to recover from, ummm, over imbibing on all this food and adult libations but I guess that will be next year’s rant.

The time has come to decide what food would be the most fun and the best match for football. Why not make Sliders for the celebration of the Super Bowl with our friends. In today’s market Sliders are current, hip and cool. Every restaurant worth its weight in catsup has its own version of these Mini Burgers on the menu. At the beginning of the trend (even before I knew it was a “trend”), I made Mini Cheeseburgers in Paradise for a Jimmy Buffet birthday party theme for a friend. I must say they are delicious if you are a burger fan. Most burger recipes tout the ratio of 80% lean meat to 20% fat. Whoa! Way too fatty for me. Who made this rule? I prefer 90-92% lean ground round or sirloin (tastes like a little steak—yum!) to make these mini burgers, uh, sliders (forgot the trend).

The trick to keeping the burger airy and light and not so heavy and dense is not to over-handle the meat or overcook. Pinch off enough (about the size of a lemon). Smash it flat between your palms (squish it flat enough to cover your rolls) and place on a tray; season with salt and pepper, to taste. Don’t worry if the edges are not pretty or even. This just adds to the character of the sandwich. Preheat a grill pan or griddle or heavy-bottom frying pan—the heavier the better.  Brush lightly with vegetable oil to prevent sticking. When the oil is almost smoking hot, place the burger on the pan. You will hear an instant protesting sizzle. Now just wait. Don’t touch the burger, or move it or check it. Just leave it be! NO PEEKING! You want a nice dark brown finish on the outside. And especially don’t flatten it with the spatula. Stop it! You want to keep all that juiciness inside. When the burger is really protesting (a LOUD sizzle) and the juices are starting to run, flip it over to the other side and wait some more, keeping the heat on medium high. When it is almost ready,(should only take 3-4 minutes depending on the thickness) top it with a slice of cheese. I prefer American (it is an American sport after all!) but choose whatever cheese you like. To help the cheese melt faster without overcooking the burger, cover the pan briefly with a lid. Remove the patties to a serving plate and tent with foil or a plate or the lid from the pan. I like my buns toasted, thank you. The tastiest way to toast is to use the same pan where the patties cooked. If the pan has drippings in it, drain and wipe out with a paper towel. Plop the “buns” (really just dinner rolls that have been cut open) cut-side down. The bread will brown and absorb the meat flavors. Uhmmm! No need to waste all that yummy meat flavor after all. Place a patty on each roll and top with whatchalike. Have bacon; tomato slices; pickles; onions; mustard; catsup; sautéed mushrooms; pickled jalepeno slices; etc., etc. on a tray and let each guest make his/her own slider. You should plan to make 2-3 per person. If you buy the right size dinner rolls, these sliders will disappear before Denver scores their first goal! Enjoy!