The picture doesn’t do justice to this really delicious, points-friendly meal. I adapted the lentils and vegetables base for this dish from a Barefoot Contessa recipe. Serves two.
1/2 cup dried lentils
1 TBS olive oil
2 cups diced onions
1 tsp. fresh thyme leaves (or 1/4 tsp. dried)
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper (scant)
3/4 cup diced celery
3/4 cup diced carrots
1 large clove garlic, minced
3/4 cup chicken stock (or vegetable stock)
2 TBS tomato paste
1 TBS red wine vinegar
1. Pour the lentils into a bowl. Cover with boiling water for at least 15 minutes. Drain and set aside.
2. Saute the onions, thyme, salt and pepper over medium heat until the onions are translucent. Add the garlic for the last couple of minutes.
3. Add the drained lentils, carrots, celery, stock, and tomato paste. Stir well.
4. Cover the sauté pan and simmer for about 20 minutes until the lentils and vegetables are tender.
5. Add the red wine vinegar. Check for seasoning.
6. Use as a side for grilled salmon.
Okay, it’s not really summer, but we did manage to have salsa and chips and a drink on the deck last night while the Big Guy manned the grill. The chilly breeze sent us back inside for dinner, but it was a start.
Maybe other people take out the chips and salsa all year long, but I associate it with summer and outside entertaining. Opening a jar of prepared salsa works, of course, but with a bit more effort, you can upgrade the contents of that jar to something special.
I like to start with a jar of Tostitos Medium Chunky Salsa. Adding corn kernels (fresh if it’s really summer, or defrosted frozen, if it’s May,) diced sweet onion, diced red, yellow, or orange bell peppers, and some chopped tomatoes turns that basic jar into something much more interesting.
We had grilled steak tips and vegetables on skewers last night, so prepping the peppers and onions to be threaded on the skewers provided the tops and trimmed ends that were tossed into the salsa.
That’s actually the trick with summer salsa. You get to use leftover corn, slices of tomato or sweet onion that didn’t make to to the hamburger, or the tops and bottoms of the peppers that were left when you cut even slices down the sides. Turning a little of this and a little of that into something good is always a bonus.
Now, all we need is summer weather!
spring dawn breaks early
heady with the scent of lilacs
dewy with promise
A downside of living with Weight Watchers is the tendency to become overly obsessed with point counting. It’s kind of funny if you think about it. We had pasta last night that was half spiralized zucchini. Our focus rested on the fact that the addition of zucchini cut the point count in half. On the plus side, we really like the crunch factor that zucchini imparts.
With point count on my mind, the stir-fry I made on Tuesday had far more vegetables than meat and scaled down the amount of oil. Under ordinary circumstances, I rarely use chicken breast because I find it dry. I focus on thighs that are much more tender and don’t dry out with cooking. They also have three times the point count.
Tuesday’s stir-fry started with one skinless chicken breast. Using an old Joyce Chen technique, I sliced the breast very thinly while it was still partially frozen. I tossed it with one teaspoon of corn starch, one teaspoon of dry sherry, and a teaspoon of salt. You would be surprised how this tenderized the meat. I then set this aside while I prepped the vegetables.
Stir-fries are flexible. I used onions, red bell pepper, zucchini, and mushrooms, but broccoli, asparagus, leafy greens are also good. I also minced about a tablespoon each of ginger and garlic.
- Heat 1 tablespoon of a neutral oil in a skillet or wok. Fry the chicken quickly, tossing it in the pan. Remove to a strainer set over a small bowl.
- Return the oil drained from the chicken to the pan. Add the ginger and garlic. Stir-fry for a minute or so. Add the other vegetables and keep stirring things around. Add a little chicken broth if the mixture seems too dry. Season with a splash of soy sauce. Add a bit of chili paste if you want some heat, or a dash of Thai sweet chili if you want a touch of heat and sweetness. Total free form as to seasoning.
- Once the vegetables are crisp tender, return the chicken to the pan and heat through. Serve over a half cup (3 points) of rice per person.
The Weight Watcher’s point count on this recipe may not be accurate based on the current plan. We’re sticking to a prior version that we followed a couple of years ago. Based on my calculation, this whole dish rang in at about 8 points, making it a 4 point main dish for each of us.
Ingredients for Stuffed Zucchini for Two:
2 medium zucchini
1/4 pound of lean hamburger
1 medium onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup corn, defrosted if frozen
1/2 cup cooked brown rice
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and deveined, finely diced
1 15 oz. can of small diced tomatoes
olive oil, Kosher salt, Freshly ground pepper
- Slice the zucchini in half lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds. Season with salt and pepper. Place in a roasting pan.
- Saute the hamburger in a non-stick skillet until no longer pink. If your hamburger is super lean, you might need a tiny bit of olive oil to get it started. Season with a little salt and pepper. Drain off any grease and set aside.
- Add a teaspoon of olive oil to the same skillet. Cook the onion until limp. Add the garlic and jalapeño. Season with a little salt. Stir for a few minutes until blended. Return the hamburger to the pan.
- Add the corn and tomatoes, with their liquid. Let simmer until mixture thicken a bit. Add the rice and heat through. Check for seasoning.
- Divide the mixture among the four zucchini shells. Cover with aluminum foil and bake in a 375 oven for 35-40 minutes. Uncover for the last five or ten minutes.
- Each serving is two pieces of stuffed zucchini sprinkled with a little Parmesan cheese.
Rescued the all but forgotten bikes from their shadowy lair in the back corner of the garage. Dusted them off. Added air to the tires. Brushed the cobwebs off the helmets. The bikes were ready, but were we? It had been at least a year since we had been on our bikes. Could it be two? Hard to tell. Time zips by so quickly.
Remembered skill snapped into place. As did the delight of rolling along the bike path under a canopy of leaves. Perhaps our steady pace wasn’t quite up to the standards of those who zoomed past us with the bike path refrain of “On your left,” ringing in the breeze, but we were content with our progress.
Just day one of renewed interest in this activity. Hopefully, the first of many.
The calendar says May, and leaves and flowers have sprouted, but Spring on Cape Cod is more fantasy than reality. Ocean breezes that cool us during the summer chill us in April and May. But the sky is blue, and the crabapples are in full bloom, so life holds promise of warmth to come.
With even the hint of warmth and light that lingers until 8 o’clock comes the urge to get outside. The bike path is filtered with light through a canopy of leaves that seem to have unfurled almost over night.
Also time to lighten up in the food department. The Big Guy and I are counting points again, using the slightly older iteration of Weight Watchers that we’ve had success with in the past. Our goals are pretty simple this time. Unlike bears who lose weight when they hibernate for the winter, we tend to put on a few pounds with winter inactivity.
This whole Weight Watcher thing is such a mind set. If the WW fairies are whispering in your ear, you tend not to reach for the roll and butter, or order the fried seafood. It also becomes sort of a game to see how many points can be shaved off of a recipe.
Case in point: Last night, I made a shrimp and cabbage dish. I found myself measuring a teaspoon of oil instead of simply splashing some into the pan to start the process. In addition, I put a half cup measuring cup next to the rice cooker to measure out an appropriate amount of brown rice. It’s often the seemingly little things that add up.
In my mind, the trick with Weight Watchers is to treat it as an adventure instead of a burden. Maybe that’s the trick for most things.