Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Awesome low-cal recipes

The Lovely Spouse is on a calorie-restricted diet at the moment. Which means, among other things, that in order to support him I've been looking for new recipes that fulfill the calorie restriction and are yummy enough to forget about the diet. This week I found two that fit the bill and thought you all might like to know.

The first recipe is Moosewood Restaurant's Herbed Fish in a Packet from the Moosewood's Low-Fat Favorites Cookbook. I bought this book when I lived in my very first apartment and haven't parted with it since. In fact my copy is probably due for replacement after the spine split. I always use salmon (wild-caught, if available - Kroger has them filleted, deboned, vacuum-packed and flash-frozen in the frozen seafood section) with this recipe in addition to sweet basil and rosemary (from the garden, if possible - if you're allergic to rosemary, substitute with fresh tarragon). The fish comes out very moist and full of rich, herbal flavor. I've had several people tell me they won't eat salmon unless it's used in this particular recipe. It takes around 30 minutes to prepare, including cooking time. And each serving is about 175 calories, mostly protein and very little fat. Recipe is conveniently on-line if you're shopping with your smart phone and left the book at home.

The next recipe comes from the Food Network website. While doing some research for my own sport-related diet and nutrition plan I keep hearing about how incredibly nutritious lentils are. Thus I decided it was time to give them a try. But where to start? I've only ever had them in Indian food, which, for me is a bit more advanced than just a quick family meal. So I went over to the Food Network website for a search. Most of the results yielded stews, which didn't interest me. Then I saw Giada's Italian Lentil Salad. Since I really hadn't had too many lentils I didn't really know what to expect. However one review caught my eye: "My entire family loved it and helped themselves to more." Sold! There were a couple of substitutions: pecans for hazelnuts (not available this time of year), I left out the shallots because I can't eat uncooked shallots, and generic lentils for Sabarots (Kroger didn't have a selection so I went with what they had). The results were yummy! The vinaigrette is absolutely necessary, so make sure you don't forget it. It lends a wonderful lemony flavor that improves with a couple days in the fridge - the recipe makes a lot so you'll have left-overs. Bonus points for getting The Lovely Spouse to eat grapes. Normally he doesn't like them, but they added a very nice character to this dish. About 30 minutes prep and cooking time, total. Roughly 100 calories per serving. A good mix of protein and carbs and very little fat. Also tastes great heated up in the microwave the next day.

(note: the pictures came from Moosewood's and Food Network's websites)

Monday, March 15, 2010

Eating around at the Houston Rodeo

It's March in Texas and that can only mean one thing: time for the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. Every year the Rodeo comes to Houston at Reliant Park and includes the arena and stadium. This year I made it my goal to sample a couple of the more famous foods from the show. Specifically it was my goal to try the ultimate bad food: a deep fried oreo. But, I'm getting a little ahead of myself.

For those of you who have never been to Texas, Houston or the Houston Rodeo, it's a bit of an understatement to say that Texans like things larger than life. And that even applies to how they eat. This is the state that brought you the 72 oz steak challenge, after all. Therefore for some of you it will be no surprise that the vendors at the Rodeo bring portable restaurants.

And there is generally a huge selection of sausage and other "Texas delicacies" such as chicken fried bacon.

What does chicken fried bacon taste like? Like a chicken bullion cube with a hint of bacony goodness. The texture's a bit weird because they overcook the bacon before breading it and frying it. Just...meh. (For the record, yes, the picture is from last year. We didn't bother to re-sample the chicken fried bacon,)

Additionally the trend this year, as in past years, is to try and put everything on a stick. No, I didn't actually try the pizza on a stick. It looks and sounds rather scary. Try not to make any sudden moves in front of it. O.O

Did I mention that everything is bigger in Texas?

What will also come as no surprise is the incredible variety of fried foods. If it can stay together in the fryer, it's on the menu. And even some crazy, never-would-have-thought-of-that stuff, like a hot dog surrounded by a potato? Whodathunkit?

For lunch I settled in on a restaurant that won an award at the Rodeo for their sausage and boudin. When I walked up to the window I asked which was better, the boudin or the sausage. The cook recommended the smoked boudin blanc, so away I went. And it really was fantastic. All boudin is sausage with rice in a natural casing. This one had mild creole seasoning and jalapeno peppers. Well-balenced and truly delicious.

The spouse got a burger with a side of one of my favorite street foods on the planet: ribbon fries. If you've never had them before, they're a whole potato that's been spiral sliced and dropped in a frier. The result is just like fresh potato chips. If done right they're crispy and delicious. And these were. *drool*

Lest we all forget the Rodeo is also an educational venture, meant to expose Texans to their heritage. So it was with great pleasure that I was able to stop by the chuck wagons and sample some real cowboy cooking. The beef stew was excellent.

In addition to the carnival food and restaurant vendors of the Rodeo there was also a retail show of sorts and I'm sure my guests at the Rodeo would be remiss if I didn't mention their favorite vendor: Silverleaf International, with the fortuitous url of www.4garlic.com. While I was unable to partake, I am assured that that garlic products were excellent and that the sauces were even better the next day at breakfast.

Which leads me to my quest for the day: the deep fried oreo. I found the booth near the Kid's Corral in front of Reliant Arena. Evidently these people really know their fried foods, especially the sweets.
And, yes, they really will fry everything listed on that sign. The line was huge. So, I thought, "this MUST be the place." There were other vendors of fried oreos, but none had a line like this one. So I stood in line. And waited. And waited. After about an hour of waiting I was rewarded.

The fried Oreos are on the left. I also got fried green tomatoes because I realized I hadn't had any vegetables all day. So what did the fried Oreos taste like? Kind of like a beignet with an Oreo in the middle. If you haven't had a beignet, it's a French-style donut; kind of like little fried dough pillows. This was just like that...with an Oreo in the middle.

As you can see, my quest was a success. I finally tried my fried Oreo. And it was all I hoped it would be. If any of you get the chance, I recommend stopping in Houston in March and checking out the Rodeo. There are always intersting foodie finds. I didn't even mention the wine competition and auction or the beer selection. :-)