Friday, July 29, 2011

My New Favorite Vegetarian Junk Food

OK, my new favorite junk food I can actually eat guiltlessly on weight watchers is officially my black bean burgers topped with a melted Kraft single and barbecue sauce in a half-a-whole wheat pita pocket. Try it, really -- that Kraft cheese just makes it so junky and good, with that special processed-cheese taste, but actually also goes really well with the flavors of black beans, quinoa, and whole wheat. Who knew? Plus, Kraft singles are little and only 60 calories a slice so you get a lot of the satisfying feeling of having eaten something fast-food-esque with only a little of the consequences.

And on the side, try some sliced heirloom tomatoes, ripe yellow peach, and watermelon with salt, a good squeeze of lemon, a little olive oil, and some chopped fresh basil. YUM.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Manila Clams with Prosciutto and White Wine

I found some Manila clams at a Korean supermarket in our neighborhood and decided to try my hand at cooking clams for the first time. Manila clams are tiny and sweet - you see them on restaurant menus a lot. I followed a recipe online, but I don't remember where I got it from -- any way, the gist of it is that you cook a bit of prosciutto in the bottom of the pan until it gets crispy-ish with shallots and garlic. Then you add between 1/2 cup and a cup of white wine. I let it cook down for a little while before adding the clams. I think you don't really have to cover the pot but I did, and kept peeking and taking out the clams as they opened up so they wouldn't overcook. Finally, pour the cooking liquid into the bowl of clams, and garnish with fresh chopped herbs. With some crusty bread to mop up the juices, it's a lovely and very fast dinner. Clams only take a few minutes to cook. This could just as easily be tossed with spaghetti for a nice spaghetti alla vongole. It's a little difficult to calculate the weight watchers points for wine used in cooking -- but unless you are simmering it for at least 15 minutes it's fair to assume that it is pretty much the same as if you were drinking it. I read up on this a bit and contrary to popular belief, all of the alcohol does not cook off unless you simmer something for at least three hours. However, it reduces by 25% after 15 minutes and by 50% after 30 minutes. So if you make this and simmer it for 15 minutes before adding the clams, you can enter it into WW as if you used a couple less ounces of wine. Clams are about 3 points for 3 oz. of the edible portion. I figure the edible portion of 4 clams may equal about an ounce, these being small clams, so 3 oz. is about a dozen clams.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Homemade Black Bean Burger - 6 points per patty

What is up with stores not carrying black bean burgers anymore? Are they really a relic of the '90s? I spent a lot of happy high school and college vegetarian days scarfing down black bean burgers from Chili's and Morningstar Farms frozen black bean burgers with Trader Joe's guacamole. Ah, the good old days. I missed black bean burgers, so I decided to make some. This recipe came out very, very well. I think that actually if you double the poblano, add more chili powder, and more vital wheat gluten, they'd be perfect. At six points per patty, they're more of an investment than a three oz cold cut sandwich, but they are probably healthier and the patties are thick and satisfying. Use half a small whole wheat pita in place of a bun, and even with some cheese and barbecue sauce it's an under-ten-point meal.

Homemade Black Bean Burgers (6 large patties)

1 can black beans, drained
1/2 red onion, chopped
1 large clove garlic, chopped
1 1/2 tbsp chili powder
1/2 tsp cumin
1 tbsp vegetarian worcestershire sauce
1 poblano pepper
1/3 cup vital wheat gluten
2/3 cup quinoa
2/3 cup panko or other breadcrumbs
4 tbsp cornmeal
1 egg
4 tbsp olive or canola oil
2 tbsp soy sauce
black pepper

Turn on your broiler to high. Very lightly coat your pobano with oil and put it in the broiler. You'll want to turn it after about 3 minutes, when the skin is blackened.

Meanwhile, bring 1 cup of water to a boil. Add 1/2 cup quinoa, cover, and turn off the heat but leave the saucepan on the burner. In about five minutes you will have fluffy quinoa. Around that time, you may be ready to take out your blackened poblano and put it in a bowl covered with saran wrap.

While the poblano is cooling, put the black beans, onions, garlic, spices, egg, worcestershire sauce, gluten, and quinoa into the food processor and puree them. It may in fact be better to just mash them, but I'll stick with what I did right now since it turned out well.

Pour the puree into a bowl. Peel and chop the poblano, and stir in the chopped poblano and bread crumbs. Now, it must be kneaded-- this is what makes gluten activate. It's a wet, sticky mixture, so I used a rice paddle to sort of fold it and press it in a kneading motion until it became firmer.

Cover a baking sheet with cornmeal. Form patties by hand and press into the cornmeal on each side to coat.

Heat 2 tbsp oil in a frying pan. When hot, add three patties. Flip after few minutes, when the cornmeal on the bottom is browned. Before taking them out, throw a tbsp of soy sauce in the pan. It will sizzle up and season the burgers. Repeat with the second batch.

They are good right away, but better refrigerated overnight and then reheated. You can reheat them in a dry nonstick skillet. Top with some avocado, salsa, cheese, barbecue sauce, or whatever your soul desires.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Morrocon Vegetable Stew with Bacon - 4 weight watchers points per serving

I just made a rather delicious impromptu dinner out of leftover vegetables. I had some thick-cut applewood smoked bacon, so I cut up half a slice into smaller chunks and started it cooking in the pot. Then, I added 1 cup chopped kabocha squash, 1/2 cup chopped red onion, 2 chopped garlic cloves, and 1 tsp chopped ginger and sauteed them for a few minutes. I added a pinch of cumin, about a tsp of curry powder and a tsp of cinnamon, and sauteed a minute more. I added a cup of vegetarian chicken-flavor broth, a few diced drig figs, ground black pepper, a half-cup cooked brown rice, and about 1 1/2 or 2 cups chopped fresh spinach. Then I covered the pot and let it simmer for ten minutes. Throw in some fresh cilantro and a squeeze of lemon juice at the end. It is really tasty! You can make it two servings for 4 points each, or a full meal for 8 points. I had never had the combination of Morroccan spices and bacon before - probably because pork is not eaten much in that part of the world for religious reasons-- but it is really tasty. I was thinking about how bacon and maple syrup go together on the way home and I started thinking about cinnamon and bacon. They really go together well.