Healthier Carbonara

Cutting up bacon

Cutting up bacon

To finish off this week, I made a healthier carbonara for my mom for Mother’s Day. Healthy carbonara may seem like an oxymoron, but in reality it is possible.

I found a recipe online, and mostly followed it to a T, but I did add my own finishing touches.

I began by boiling water for the pasta. Usually I would use whole wheat pasta from my local, family-run pasta store, but my mom prefers normal pasta. Because it was Mother’s day, I felt like it was important to make it with her in mind.

While the water was boiling, I began to cook the bacon. Both my mom and I both really like crispy bacon, so I made sure to cook it a little longer than the package stated. I also added some onions into the skillet with the bacon, just to add some extra crunch. Then I boiled the frozen peas. While the pasta was cooking, I combined the 2 eggs and parmesan cheese.

Bacon, onion, and peas

Bacon, onion, and peas

I added the peas to the bacon and onion skillet. Once the pasta was finished, I drained the pasta and then added it into the large saucepan with the bacon, onions, and peas. Then I simply added the egg/parmesan combination and mixed it around, so the pasta was covered thoroughly.

Lastly, I added a bit of chives and some pepper.

The final product was delicious, and even my mom who is often a harsh critic said that I should save this recipe for future use. We had so much that we had some for dinner tonight also.

Finished carbonara!

Finished carbonara!

Grades:

Health: B-. It’s still not that healthy, but it does avoid the heavy creams that are often in carbonara. It’s healthier, but still not really healthy.

Taste: A+. This is probably my favorite dish of the week.

Cost: A-. Bacon is a bit expensive, but everything else was pretty affordable.

Overall: B+. It is extremely tasty, but this is probably not something I should be eating every week.

 

 

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Zucchini Pasta

I’m a huge fan of pasta. This week I am going to be focusing on different pasta dishes.

I started this week by attempting to make zucchini pasta. I looked up many different recipes for zucchini pasta and they all differed slightly, but all included zucchini and salt. Some of the recipes had you actually cook the zucchini while others proposed eating it raw.

Salting the zucchini

Salting the zucchini

I began by peeling the skin of the zucchini off. While the skin has extra fiber, I wanted the texture to be as close to pasta as possible, so I didn’t use the skin. Then I continued to slice the rest of the zucchini into long, linguine-like slivers. Next I used sea salt to cover the pasta and drain out the excess water. I waited 10 minutes for all the water to drain out and then used multiple paper towels to soak up the excess water.

In a skillet, I used about half a tablespoon of olive oil. I placed the zucchini into the skillet and stirred it gently. I let it cook for about 5 minutes, before it started browning.

I finished it off by putting just a little bit of tomato sauce on top and a bit of parmesan cheese.

Overall, I have to say, I was disappointed. I suppose I had used to

Finished zucchini pasta

Finished zucchini pasta

much salt in when trying to dry the zucchini, but I really tried to be cautious. The zucchini came out very salty and did not have a very pasta-y texture. While it was edible and I did eat it for dinner, I don’t know if I would make it again.

Grades:

Health: A-. Everything is good, but just make sure the cheese is in moderation. Also, the salt content is pretty high if you are too heavy handed with the sea salt.

Taste: B-. As I said, it was edible, but still it had a strange, crunchy texture.

Cost: A. I was able to purchase 2 medium sized zucchinis for less than 2 dollars. The amount of 0live oil, sauce, and cheese I used was negligible.

Overall: B. The taste just doesn’t really make me want to make this again.

Healthier Fish ‘n Chips

I love fish. It can be prepared so many ways and contains so many important nutrients including omega-3s which can help keep your heart healthy and reduce the risk for stroke and arthritis.

Breaded fish

Breaded fish

This was the first time that I ever cooked fish, so I didn’t want to do something too difficult. Still, I bought fish at the farmers’ market and cut it into small slivers. In other bowls, I filled one with egg whites and the other with whole wheat panko breadcrumbs. Similarly to the breaded chicken for my General Tso’s chicken, I dipped the fish into the egg whites and then made sure to thoroughly coat all sides of the fish. Then I laid them out on a lightly greased pan. Once I had repeated these steps about 8 times, I put the fish into the oven at 450 degrees for 12 minutes.

Potato chunks

Potato chunks

As the fish was cooking, I cut up potatoes into small chunks. I lightly sprayed them with olive oil. Once the fish was done, I cooked the potatoes for about 20 minutes.

I added some carrots and some parsley. I cut up a lemon to give the fish a bit more flavor.

I am very happy with how this meal came out. In all honesty, this is probably one of my more successful meals, and definitely something that I can do all on my own.

Yum!

Yum!

Grades:

Health: A-. Overall really good, but potatoes are full of carbohydrates and could be substituted with lower carb Popchips, or another healthier chip alternative.

Taste: A. One of the best meals I’ve made so far.

Cost: B+. Fish is pretty expensive, but everything else is pretty cheap. Not too bad.

Overall: A-. Really enjoyed making and eating this. As did my mother.

 

Macaroons

I basically figured out this recipe on my own after looking at many different recipes for inspiration. I wanted to make macaroons with the least amount of ingredients as possible and cut down on the sugar.

Ultimately I used this recipe:

2/3 cup of sugar

5 Egg whites

6-8 oz of shredded coconut

1/2 tsp almond extract

1/4 tsp vanilla extract

That’s it! Pretty simple!

I started by combining the egg whites, sugar and coconut, stirring periodically until the coconut was completely covered. Then I put the coconut into the bowl added the almond extract and vanilla extract. I stirred the coconut together and then put the bowl into the fridge. It is important to put it into the fridge so it’s easier to work with when making the macaroons.

I came back a couple of hours later and preheated the oven to 325 degrees. Then I prepared the baking sheet with parchment paper. Then I put small balls of the mixture onto a baking sheet and baked them for about 25 minutes. My recipe yielded 24 macaroons.

I am very happy with how they came out. They were my most successful dish this week and tasted delicious. Next time I would probably use even less sugar. When they were warm, they were divine.

Grades:

Health: B. Compared to regular, store bought macaroons these are healthier. But still, they are a dessert and contain a lot of sugar.

Taste: A. Not much to say except I absolutely love these. I tried them side-by-side with store bought macaroons. The difference is huge!

Price: A. So much cheaper than buying store bought ones. The bag of shredded coconut I purchased was 2 dollars. The other ingredients are pretty inexpensive as well.

Overal: A-. I not only would make these again, but I definitely will!

Matzo Ball Soup

In order to prepare for Passover week, I decided I would start by making matzo ball soup. I found a great recipe online that I tweeked a bit for my liking.

The recipe from Skinny Kitchen:

¼ cup club soda

1 tablespoon canola oil

2 large eggs, I used Eggland’s Best eggs

⅔ cup matzo meal

1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

¼ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

I only used this recipe for the matzo balls and used my own recipe for the soup. I like a simple soup, so I just used chicken broth, carrots, celery, and pepper.

Matzo ball mixture

Matzo ball mixture

I started making the matzo balls by combining club soda, oil and eggs. I used a little bit more club soda than stated in the recipe and used organic sunflower oil instead of canola oil. I used some fresh pasture eggs from the farmer’s market. Then I added the matzo meal, dill, salt and pepper. I went heavier on the dill because matzo balls tend to be a bit bland.

I kept the mix in the fridge for a couple of hours while I went out. When I returned, I immediately began to boil a large pot of water. I waited for a rolling boil and then added the balls. Because I was making my own soup, I cooked the balls in a slightly different manner than in the recipe I was originally following. I read through a few of my mom’s Jewish cookbooks and found out that it is best to cook them for 20 minutes covered. So I

Cooking matzo balls

Cooking matzo balls

went ahead and cooked them on low heat for about 20 minutes.

While I was cooking the matzo balls, I heated up my own soup in another pot. I also cut up some carrots and celery and added salt. I let it boil and then poured it into two bowls. One for my mother and one for me. I added two to three matzo balls to each bowl and started to eat. The matzo balls were pretty good. I would make this recipe again, but next time I would cook the matzo balls for at least half an hour. They seemed dense and I don’t know if that is because of the cooking time or not enough club soda. Still, I am happy with the way these came out.

Yum!

Yum!

Grades:

Heath: A-. Pretty good. Soup has vegetables and is filling, but doesn’t have many calories. The only problem is the extreme amounts of salt in the broth. Next time I may try a lower sodium broth.

Taste: A-. Good, but I wish the matzo balls were just a bit more fluffy.

Cost: A. All of the ingredients, in both the matzo balls and the broth, are very inexpensive.

Overall: A-.  I would definitely make this again.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Sandwiches

Oops, I forgot to post this after the oatmeal cookie disaster. It was in my drafts! Anyway…

After my oatmeal cookie disaster, I wanted to make something that I could share with my classmates. I decided to try something a bit easier and looked up recipes for healthy cookies. Healthy and cookies generally don’t go together, but I did find some recipes. Many of them used complicated ingredients as substitutes, but I did find one recipe that intrigued me. This recipe was for chocolate chip cookies. It only used 1 cup of sugar total, 1 cup of flour total, and used

Chocolate chip cookies

Chocolate chip cookies

egg whites instead of whole eggs. I began by combining the baking soda, flour, and salt. I used two kinds of flour: whole wheat pastry flour and all purpose flour. From my past experience, whole wheat pastry flour is pretty heavy and dense, so to offset it, I used all purpose flour as well. Then I added sugar, butter, applesauce, an egg white, and vanilla. I just mixed those ingredients together and I got a thick, cookie-like batter. I was so happy after my previous cookie disaster!

I put tablespoon sized balls onto my greased cookie sheet. I let them bake for about 8 minutes and I could tell they were done because of the wonderful smell that was permeating from my oven!

Filling

Filling

To make these into a “sandwich,” I found a recipe for Oreo-like filling. Oreo filling has shortening in it, and I didn’t have that in my house, so I had to use an alternative. I simply used butter, confectioners sugar and a bit of vanilla. It came out well and I was able to make these chocolate chip cookies into sandwiches.

Cookie sandwiches

Cookie sandwiches

 

I handed these out in school and I had a couple comments. For starters, everyone said they were delicious, but I really wanted to hear about how I could improve them. A couple of my friends noted they were too sweet. I think this is because of the filling, which had the majority of the sugar content. Next time I will definitely use less sugar. Another comment I had was that the cookies should be a bit flatter. I completely agree, and next time I may use a different recipe for the cookie. I was going for a whoopie-pie type sandwich, but I could not find a healthy recipe, so I used this one instead. Thanks to all my friends who gave me feedback!

Grades:

Health: B-. What can I say, they’re cookies. Still, they are healthier than alternative cookies.

Taste: A. Great, but as noted they were a bit sweet.

Cost: A-. I had all of these ingredients in my home already, but some of them such as whole wheat pastry flour can be a bit costly.

Overall: B+. They’re cookies, so how healthy can I really make them? I think this is a great dessert to make if you want to try to eat healthier, but still want something sweet!

 

Cooking for My Local Shelter

Once a month, my family volunteers to cook for the local church’s shelter. Usually, I help by cutting up a store-bought baguette or making a simple package of pre-made, pre-cut cookies. Because I was inspired by all the cooking I have been doing, I decided this time was definitely going to be different!

I thought about what I could make on a large scale that would be healthy. My mom and I looked through her many cookbooks, and we decided to make a home-made chicken pot pie. The recipe was very simple. It only required vegetables, including carrots, onion and celery. It also needed potatoes. The sauce consisted of butter, flour, chicken broth and a bit of white wine. Lastly, it needed a puff pastry.

Squaring chicken

Squaring chicken

I made this dish all on my own and I am very proud of the way it came out. I began by poaching the chicken in a broth. My mom taught me how to do this, because my other experiences with chicken have all been by grilling or in an oven. I was surprised how much moisture the chicken retained. This is definitely a way I will cook chicken in the future!

After cooking the chicken, I squared them into smaller cubes. This was a pretty easy and relaxing task.

After that, I cut up the many different kinds of vegetables needed for chicken pot pie. Like cutting up the chicken, I found this very relaxing as well.

photo (7)

Cutting up veggies

Then I made the sauce by combining the buttery, flour, chicken broth and white wine. This is where I think the dish went a bit awry. The sauce needed more flavor, because the dish was ultimately a bit dry. After reading this article, I realized there were some really easy ways to make dishes more flavorful. If I were to make this dish again, I would maybe add just some leeks or chives.

While this chicken pot pie was a bit bland, I was happy with the way it came out. I made a smaller version for my mother and I and we both enjoyed it. We added some pepper to our portions and it helped flavor it a bit.

One of the biggest things I want to express is the cost. Cooking for 10 to 12 people is much more costly than cooking for a family of 4. Because of this, not all of my ingredients were local or organic. Still, the ingredients used were all pretty healthy and I think this is a great meal that can served to a large group of people.

photo (8)

Chicken Pot Pie

Grades:

Health: A-. Besides the butter, everything is healthy. Chicken is a great source of protein and vegetables are filling, but don’t have many calories.

Taste: B+. Good, but as noted in the full rundown, it was bland.

Price: B+. I used mostly conventionally grown ingredients, so the price was okay. If I were to use organic and/or local ingredients, I don’t think I would have been able to afford to cook this meal for 10-12 people, and the grade would probably be much lower.

Overall: B+. This was a good meal that I would definitely have again.