Thursday, January 30, 2014

Braised Beef over Butternut Squash Polenta

Eating the same foods over and over again can get pretty boring. Lately, we've been going through a bit of a boring stretch with food, sticking with favorite old standbys. And it shows. I have gotten bored with eating. So today, I decided to make something different, something I haven't had in a long while: Braised Beef over Butternut Squash Polenta, a recipe I found in Diabetic Living magazine.

The recipe:

2 pounds boneless beef chuck
4 teaspoons olive oil
2 stalks celery, cut into pieces
2 medium parsnips, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces
1/2 cup coarsely chopped onion
1/2 of medium turnip, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces
1/2 small rutabaga, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces
1/2 cup dry red wine or reduced-sodium beef broth
1 1/2 cup water
2 teaspoons fresh rosemary
1 cup lower-sodium beef broth
2 teaspoons Kitchen Bouquet (or other browning sauce)
1/3 cup fat-free milk
1/4 cup water
3/4 cup yellow cornmeal
1 cup water
5 ounces frozen butternut squash, thawed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup cold water
1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Option: Fresh Parsley Leaves

Preheat oven to 325F (162.778C). If you're not using precut meat, cut the meat into 1 1/2 inch pieces. Heat 2 teaspoons olive oil in 4 quart Dutch oven, cooking half the meat at a time until browned while stirring often. Remove meat.

Add the next two tablespoons of oil to Dutch oven and cook all vegetables in pot for about 5-7 minutes or until vegetables start to brown. Remove from heat, stir in wine, rosemary, and 1 1/2 cups water, broth, and Kitchen Bouquet. Cook over medium heat until boiling, stirring to scrape browned bits from bottom.

Now, I have to admit that I did not completely follow the directions. I couldn't get any rutabagas, so I increased the number of turnips (they're related, so I don't think that's a big deal). I also didn't have enough beef -- I had only 1 pound, 2 ounces of beef, so I added an additional 10 ounces of low fat Italian turkey sausage. I had no idea how it would work, but it certainly would add some flavor.

Return meat to Dutch oven. Bake, covered, for about 2 hours or until meat is tender.

About half hour before the meat and vegetables are ready to come out, start the polenta.  In a medium saucepan, combine milk and 1/4 cup water, bring to boil. In medium bowl, combine 1 cup cold water and cornmeal, stirring. Slowly add cornmeal to boiling milk, reduce heat to medium low. Stir in squash, salt, and pepper, cooking 25-30 minutes or until mixture is very thick and soft, stirring often and adjusting heat to maintain slow boil.

Stir the 1/4 cup cold water and flour, adding to meat. Cook and stir over medium heat on stovetop until thickened and bubbly.

To serve: Spoon polenta into shallow serving bowls, top with meat and vegetables, sprinkling with parsley if desired.

1/3 cup of polenta and 1 cup meat-vegetables mixture has 379 calories, 11g total fat, 31g carbohydrates (4g of fiber!), and 36g protein.

I went a little light on the meat, as I usually have only 3 ounces of meat at dinner, but otherwise, this is what the meal looks like. It's definitely not your run-of-the-mill stew and I really enjoyed it. It's a bit more labor intensive than some of the other meals I've made here, but if you're bored of standard winter fare, this is definitely a recipe to try!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Tonight's Dinner: Slow Cooker Pork Roast

When I was growing up, one of our favorite dinners was a pork roast cooked in a slow cooker. Made with garlic, onions, peppers, tomatoes, and Italian sausage, it was a dinner that was tasty, but also tended to be high in fat from the roast (into which went the slivers of garlic) and the sausage.  At that time, no one really thought about the amount of fat we were consuming, even someone like myself, who was continually on a diet to try to shed the excess weight I was carrying. Still, it's a dinner that has the potential to be much healthier, with a few tweaks.

I selected a 1lb, 8oz (0.68 kg) roast for tonight's dinner, which I had trimmed of nearly all its visible fat after I had purchased it. Thinly slice 1 1/2 large green peppers (the only kind available during the winter, unfortunately) and 1 medium to large sized onion, putting them in the bottom of the slow cooker (vegetables cook better when on the bottom of a slow cooker). Add 1 large can of diced tomatoes -- no salt is great, as it will lower the sodium content of your meal, if you need to watch your sodium intake.  Add your roast, sprinkle with parsley, oregano, garlic powder (if you don't put garlic in your roast, which you're welcome to do; I don't because of garlic sensitivities in this house), and black pepper.  I like my pork spicy, so I generally add some red pepper flakes to give it a bit of spice.  This is also the time to add a little salt and/or some beef and chicken bullion powder, but remember to go easy on these if you're on a salt-restricted diet. Stir spices and tomatoes to spread spices through the pot.

For years, this is where I'd start the cooking.  We'd eliminated the sausage portion because of its high fat content.  Well, our local grocery store (Giant) started carrying a low-fat hot Italian turkey sausage that tasted even better than most of the pork Italian sausages we found in Pennsylvania, so now this pork creation tastes more like it did when I was a kid! I used 3 links (~10 ounces, or 283 grams), sautéing them in a pan coated with non-stick spray:

Yum, yum!! I added these, stirred to evenly distribute these through the meal. Cover the cooker, turn to high's now cooking. 

As this stands, it's a fairly low carb meal. Tomatoes, onions, and peppers aren't very high in carbs, and of course, the meats have no carbs in them at all. Now all that's left to do is for the meal to cook.  It should be done by around 7:00 this evening.

Generally, I serve this over rice and pair it with a green salad, making it a very healthy meal. When dinner's done and I have it plated, I'll update this entry so you can see how it looks.  'Till then, good eating!


Dinner is done and here's what it looks like:

Instead of rice, this goes well with noodles, too. No matter how you serve it, this dish has a lot of texture, aroma, and flavor. Now, I have to admit that this is not my plate; this has more than I normally eat. My serving is more like this:

This has 2/3 cup of noodles, ~ 3 ounces of meat, and an ounce or so of tomatoes and veggies. It's not a lot, but it does has enough to fill me up.

Again, good eating!!