Archive | March, 2010

Weight Watchers Cooking Take 1: Chicken Tagine with Apricots and Almonds

31 Mar

While I found a number of sites that have Weight Watchers Point Values listed with their recipes, there are very few curated recipes that say which ones are actually GOOD.  (I want an AllRecipes.com style sorting for recipes with points!)  One of the few places I found was a thread on Chowhound that discusses some good and bad recipes.  It was here that I found a recipe that sounded right up my alley.  I love chicken with fruit. 

I browned the chicken cubes in whole wheat flour which really added a great extra flavor to the chicken.  I also used cooking spray instead of oil since it’s 0 points.  But watch your cooking spray! I learned that more than 5 seconds of spray means you have to add a point.

When I added the apricots to the chicken, it smelled great. 

We had leftover rice (from the stir fry) so I added half a cup to my meal (2 points). 

Honestly, this recipe was absolutely sensational. I would make this even if I’m not on a diet! It is so delicious and perfectly balanced. 

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RECIPE
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Chicken Tagine with Apricots: 5 points (6 pts. if you decide to add oil to cook the chicken, I went with cooking spray)

Ingredients:

  • 4 oz. dried apricot halves
  • 1 cup fat-free chicken broth
  • 1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast, cut into 1” cubes
  • 1 tbsp. all-purpose flour (I actually used whole wheat flour which was VERY tasty!)
  • 1 medium onion chopped
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp. honey
  • 1/4 cup slivered or sliced toasted almonds
  • 1/8 tsp. salt or to taste
  • 1/8 tsp. fresh ground pepper or to taste

Directions:

  1. In a saucepan, bring the chicken broth and apricots to a simmer and then set aside.
  2. Toss chicken with flour
  3. Coat a large, nonstick saucepan with cooking spray and place over high heat
  4. Sautee chicken until coated chicken until golden brown – about five minues
  5. Add diced onion, reduce heat to medium low and cook until onions are soft, about 10 mins.
  6. Add cinnamon and honey
  7. Stir in apricots, broth and almonds
  8. Season to taste with s&p.
  9. Simmer 5-10 minutes

Serves four (I found the servings a bit small on gym day, so I went with a serving and a half and put down the 7.5 points that time… still easy amount of points to work with!)

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Kodama – Take 182

29 Mar

I’m typically not the type of diner who goes back to places multiple times, so the ones I frequent are a short list.  Kodama Sushi, however, remains my favorite affordable sushi joint in the city. It’s such an easy and delicious pre-theatre meal and you know you can be in and out quickly.  Hard to beat.  It also helps that it’s just a few short blocks away from where I live!  I’ve already written about it at greater length, so this will be short and just two quick pictures.

Go. You won’t regret it.

A Turning Point

28 Mar

On Thursday, March 11th, 2010, everything changed…  NYC Nom Nom, lover of food, especially baking and butter, joined Weight Watchers.  It was a big deal for me as while I was never a really bad eater, I had certainly put on weight and was having a complete inability to take it off (even after cutting out lots of foods, cutting portion sizes, and going to the gym 4-5 times per week).  When my doctor suggested I try Weight Watchers, I’m not going to lie… I cried a little.  Then when I marched myself to a meeting nearly 2 weeks later, I honestly felt like I was marching off to jail.  Food jail. 

The meeting felt exactly like what I expected… a cross between a AA meeting and a self-motivation class.  But I could kind of see why it would be helpful to hear others’ stories and be able to get advice along the way.  If I decided I hated it in my cynical New Yorker way, I could always step-down to the online only program and track points that way… but if I was going to food jail, I was going all the way!

I went home that night and I ate edamame.  I had absolutely no idea how to do this and thought I would go through all my points in a heartbeat and starve.  The next day at work, I didn’t eat until 3pm because I just didn’t know WHAT to eat. I wound up going to the grocery store around the corner to get a frozen meal so I would know exactly what the point value I was eating.  I was pretty paralyzed by the fear.

That afternoon, I decided that was it.  I was going to do this and I was going to do this 100%.  I looked up some recommended Weight Watchers recipes that sounded up my alley and made a Fresh Direct order… 

It is now about two and a half weeks later and I can honestly say that, so far, it has been easy. And delicious! Sure,  meals require more forethought than before, but I have not been really hungry or felt at all deprived. In fact, the idea that I can have a (diet) dessert every night on the plan is motivating! I can choose between a roll with lunch or an ice cream cone with dinner. No brainer!  I also have cooked some really delicious low-point recipes.  Now I have to give a bit of a spoiler… I’m 8 pounds down!  Pretty amazing really.

So the next few weeks will be a journey… this blog will feature recipes that I specifically will review based on how well they compare to “regular” food as I don’t think dieting should ever mean you can’t eat well.  I’ll also be trying to eat differently when I go out.  I’m sure this won’t be all successes… but I hope to make the most of it.  I apologize to those of you who love the butter sauces and baked goods on this blog… but there will be a bit of a hiatus for those. I’m sure they will be back… some day… hopefully after another 20 pounds.

So without further ado, next week the Weight Watchers postings will begin!

Il Punto

26 Mar

I seem to have a tendency to move into neighborhoods that are labeled as “up and coming.”  I spent nearly 3 years living near Penn Station, and now I’m pretty close to Port Authority.  While Hell’s Kitchen has always been close, it’s still not “right on the corner.”  Therefore, imagine my happiness when we went to the restaurant on the corner, and it turned out to be great! 

Il Punto is on 9th Ave and 38th Street… right below all that tunnel traffic and the block that no one likes (9th Ave between 41st and 42nd, right at the back entrance of Port Authority). 

The inside was actually quite lovely.  You didn’t feel like you were in the “seedy” part of town at all (and for what it’s worth… I’d rather be in this neighborhood that is constantly filled with people than in a sleepy part of town where it’s just too easy for things to go unnoticed).  While the restaurant was certainly more traditionally Italian, there were certainly decorations of the more eclectic kind (take, for instance, the little wagon in the photo below or the Asian table besides the main dining area).  It felt more like someone decorated this place along their personal tastes as opposed to just fit a theme.

There were artichokes on the menu, so, of course, I got them.  They were stuffed and baked in their fresh tomato sauce.  The artichokes were decent, but the sauce was REALLY good.  I sopped every last drop up with the bread.  It was sweet but still tangy. Tons of flavor.  The kind of sauce I want to learn to make!

Mike chose the veal shank special.  It came with mushrooms and tasted like a marsala sauce without the marsala. Quite flavorful and delicious.

I wanted to be healthy, so I went with the pear salad.  The pears were poached in red wine with cinnamon sticks… and they were AWESOME.  The salad also had arugula, gorgonzola, bacon, walnuts, and lemon dressing.  It was just a perfect salad.

I wish I could have truly enjoyed the Italian as Italian should be enjoyed (with ZERO regard to calories and fat).  But for what we got, I was really impressed.  It was quite unexpected, and I’m sure we’ll return.

Total Nom Points: 7 out of 10

Antonio’s: Jersey Italiano

24 Mar

It doesn’t matter what your heritage is, if you grow up in New Jersey, you grow up on Italian food.  When my family was in need of some good comfort food, we went right to Antonio’s (on Applegarth Road in Monroe Township).

Since my sister loves artichokes as much as I do, the family split two fried artichoke apps.  They were lightly breaded and fried and in a lemon sauce.  Mmmm yummy!


Most of the table went right for a special on the menu that sounded insanely good.  I just wish I could remember exactly what it was!  It was mainly lobster ravioli, but I know there was something else in it.  Veal? Shrimp? I just can’t recall.  But it was SENSATIONAL. 

My sister went with the crab stuffed shrimp.  It was SO tasty and SO flavorful and over a bed of some of the best spinach any of us had ever tried.  How they got it to taste that good, I will never know.  I’m not even that big a spinach fan but I went back for a second bite since this was so good.

I was so impressed that this little restaurant within a strip mall that was in the middle of (what I consider) nowhere could produce food this good.  It easily rivaled many of the places I’ve been to in NYC, but much cheaper and much more casual.  So very New Jersey.  This place is not only a neighborhood gem… it’s worth going out of your way for!

Total Nom Points: 7.5 out of 10

Five Napkin Burger

22 Mar

People have been singing the praises of Five Napkin Burger (on 45th and 9th, with a 2nd location just opened at Broadway and 84th Street) to me for quite some time.  I would usually say that ”I am not a burger person,” but the truth is that I only enjoy a burger when it’s especially good (and most just… are not especially good). Five Napkin Burger, however, was more than especially good. It was fantastic!

Though the full shelf of Maker’s Mark at the bar was slightly alarming.

Mike went with the bacon cheddar burger. It was delicious, and juicy enough to earn the restaurant its name.

Since it was still brunch time, I was lucky enough to see the Eggs Benedict Sliders on the menu.  It was the same as regular eggs benedict but with a burger slider instead of ham.  It was delicious! The bernaise had that perfect sour flavor and the eggs were cooked perfectly.  Not to mention to burger itself just had that perfect, juicy (without being greasy), burgery flavor.

I thoroughly enjoyed this brunch and I’m glad we tried it.

Total Nom Points: 7 out of 10

Another Rack of Lamb Recipe

19 Mar

 I had made the same recipe for rack of lamb every time I bought one previously.  This time, however, I wanted to switch it up a bit.  I went with an Emerill recipe that included rosemary and balsamic vinegar.  Again, it was incredibly easy to make, and came out great!

Paired it with herbed Israeli cous cous.  Great counter to the meat.

When lamb is that perfect pink color, I get a little misty-eyed.

I think I liked this recipe even better than the other. That could have something to do with the other having mustard, however, the balsamic and rosemary were just perfect compliments for lamb.

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RECIPE
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Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons parsley leaves, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon rosemary leaves, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons garlic, minced
  • Kosher salt
  • 8 double lamb rib chops (4 ounces, 2 ribs, with bones attached), ribs frenched
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons shallots, minced
  • 6 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 cup chicken stock (or low-sodium canned chicken broth)
  • 1 large rosemary sprig (or 2 small sprigs)
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • Cooking Directions

    Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

    In a small bowl, combine olive oil, parsley, rosemary and 1 teaspoon of the minced garlic. Season with salt to taste and set aside.

    Set a 12-inch oven-safe sauté pan over medium-high heat. Season the lamb chops liberally on all sides with the kosher salt and black pepper. Add 2 teaspoons of the oil to the sauté pan and place the lamb, fat side down, in the pan. Sear the lamb until the fat has rendered and the skin is golden brown, about 3 minutes. Continue to cook the lamb, turning to cook evenly on each side, about 2 minutes on each side. Baste them with the herb and oil mixture.

    Transfer the pan to the oven and cook until the lamb has reached the desired degree of doneness, about 5 minutes for rare. (Alternatively, you can grill the lamb chops.)

    Make the balsamic reduction sauce while the lamb is roasting in the oven: Set a 10 inch sauté pan over medium-high heat and add the remaining 2 teaspoons of olive oil. Once the oil is hot, add the shallots to the pan and sweat until translucent, about 1 minute. Add the remaining teaspoon of garlic to the pan and “sweat” for 30 seconds. Add the balsamic vinegar and rosemary sprigs to the pan and cook until thickened, about 1 minute. Add the chicken stock to the pan and continue to cook until sauce has reduced by half, 3 to 4 minutes longer. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

    Remove from the heat, remove the rosemary sprigs and swirl the butter into the pan. Keep sauce warm until ready to serve, but take care not to allow sauce to boil or it will separate.

    When the lamb has reached the desired degree of doneness, remove from the oven and let rest for 5 minutes before serving. To serve, slice each double chop in half, and drizzle with the balsamic reduction sauce.

    Chicken (and Pork) in Mushroom Sauce

    17 Mar

    Sometimes you just need to make it up as you go along.  Mike did a great job with that when he pulled some leftover chicken out of the fridge and then made a sauce out of what was available in the fridge.  This mostly consisted of mushrooms, shallots, and wine.

    It wasn’t until post defrostation that Mike realized that he accidentally grabbed one freezer bag of chicken and one of pork.  No matter, the sauce went well with both (and maybe even better with the pork!)

    He also grabbed some frozen brussel sprouts and prepared them the way we usually do fresh ones plus mushrooms and minus pancetta. 

    It was a damn good quick prep meal with what we had laying around.

    Valentine’s Day at Uncle Jack’s Steakhouse

    15 Mar

    The first time Mike and I celebrated my birthday as a couple, he took me to Uncle Jack’s Steakhouse (on 9th Ave near 34th Street, also locations in Bayside and on West 56th Street).  I have been to some of the best steak restaurants in the city, so I was slightly skeptical when he was taking me to one that was not only right near my apartment, but also right near Penn station… not exactly a hot bed of great food choices.  My skepticism was soon relieved, however, as we had a fantastic meal there.  The most memorable part was the king crab legs.  Wow were these good! The BEST I have ever had.

    So when Mike suggested we go back for a simple Valentine’s Day meal, I was totally game.  Uncle Jack’s also had been running a promotion that if you friended them on Facebook or added them on Twitter, they sent a $25 gift card. Score!  We were both more than happy to be fans after our last great meal.  I was also sent a “Lifestyle” card where I earn points for eating there.  It also happens to still be very close to our new apartment.  So… great last experience + gift card + rewards card + close to home = Valentine’s Day winner! They also didn’t have any crazy upcharged menu for the holiday AND promised a “free gift for the ladies” for dining on Valentine’s Day, so really this was the clear winner.

    They do not have menus, however, they do have a big chalk board with all their main meals.  We were VERY sad to see that king crab legs were not on the menu, but our server quickly cheered us back up by informing us it was on the Specials menu.   

    Score!  These were REALLY good, but not quite as good as last time.  Perhaps it was due to the seasonality.  We certainly enjoyed every last morsel, however.

    Choosing the steak was tough. I was really tempted to go with the Kobe (compared to other restaurants, it was much more affordable), however, I’m still not convinced if the big upcharge for Kobe is worth it.  I keep saying I should try it, but I chicken out when I try to determine if double the price is worth it.  So we went with the “signature dish”: The  for 2.  I do love me a porterhouse. It’s hard to beat a steak that has BOTH New York Strip and Filet in one. 

    This steak had the most amazing char I think I have ever tasted!  Throughout the meal, Mike and I were both trying to determine which of the two types of steak we liked better, but it was futile as they were both just SO GOOD.

    We went with creamed spinach on the side and they really do creamed spinach right. Big fan! 

    The worst part about the meal is when we had scraped every single last piece of edible material we could off the bone.  If I could have picked it up and noogled it, I would have!

    And what would a Valentine’s Day be, especially at a steakhouse, without dessert? Unfortunately, the dessert menu is not posted online… so I’ll have to do this from memory.  I’m sure the menu had much better titles, and now that it’s a month later, I probably don’t remember as clearly… but here we go.

    Mike went cheesecake.  It was exactly how I like cheesecake.  Not just thick cream cheese, but a little bit of a sour taste and more fluffy.  And the chocolate covered strawberry was definitely a great touch.

    I went with, what else? the chocolate souffle cake.  I honestly can’t remember if this center was perfectly gooey or just okay… I believe at this point we were two bottles of wine in plus an amaretto for dessert (Hey! It was a holiday!) so the memory is a bit fuzzy.  I wish it were more memorable either way… but I don’t remember being at all disappointed.

    We were promised a “special gift for the ladies” since it was Valentine’s Day.  Mike was hysterical as he asked for this and I received a little box of Russel Stover’s chocolates.  A nice little touch Uncle Jacks. Bravo.

    Uncle Jacks also has some other interesting specials that I really would like to try if I had more money and wasn’t now on Weight Watchers… (wait! NYC Nom Nom is on Weight Watchers?! Oh yes… more on that later though.)  On Tuesdays they have half priced bottles of wine (all bottles if you’re a “Lifestyles” member, which you can sign up for on the site). Wednesdays are “Wine Tasting Wednesdays” when they do free tastings at the bar for two hours in each location (with complimentary fruit and cheese platters!).  Then Thursdays are “Ladies and Gents Nights” where they have complimentary tastes of “manly drinks” (scotch, port, whiskey, and bourbon) and “girly drinks” (cocktails and martinis) while serving their signature appetizers between 5pm and 7pm in NYC (6pm and 8pm in Bayside).  Wow! How great does that sound?!  I’ll have to check it out more and try to be good.  I love that they do these fun promotions.  Someone on their marketing team is quite creative.

    Trust me, this place is great. Even without all the fun specials, it’s worth it. The fun specials just add more fun!  Try it… you won’t be disappointed.

    Total Nom Points: 8 out of 10

    Chicken stuffed with grapes, hazelnuts, and parm

    12 Mar

    I have an absolute LOVE for white meat and fruit combined.  Add in nuts and cheese, and I’m sold!  When I saw this recipe for chicken breasts stuffed with grapes, hazelnuts, and parmesan, I knew I was making this… and soon!

    I even faced my fears of raw chicken and voraciously cut a pocket in the thick chicken breasts and stuffed all the goodies in.

    They suggested the chicken be held together with toothpicks.  I was a bit concerned they’d catch on fire, but they made it through without incident.

    We also wilted some spinach with garlic, onions, and mushrooms.  So easy and so delicious!

    I decided to top the chicken with some more of the stuffing (since it was a bit more than I could fit inside).  This wound up being one of my favorite parts. It browned nicely and gave it just a little more crunch.

    The dishes complimented each other nicely.

    This was a great, easy recipe and I recommend it wholeheartedly. 

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    RECIPE
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    Stuffed Chicken Breasts with Grapes, Hazelnuts, and Parmesan

    Ingredients:

    • 3 or 4 medium bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts (we went boneless due to availability and skinless to be healthier)
    • 1/2 cup whole hazelnuts, skins removed (if necessary), toasted, and roughly chopped (I just used chopped ones out of the bag)
    • 1/2 cup chopped, purple grapes
    • 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
    • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened and divided
    • more salt and pepper for seasoning

    Directions:

    1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
    2. Combine the hazelnuts, grapes, parmesan, salt, and pepper in a bowl. Add one tablespoon of softened butter and pinch with your fingers to combine the ingredients.
    3. Pat chicken breasts dry, and make a deep slit along the meatiest side, cutting far into the breast to create a pocket (but not slicing all the way through).
    4. Stuff small handfuls of the grape and nut mixture into the pockets, dividing it between the breasts. You should have enough stuffing for four small breasts or three medium to large ones.
    5. Stick two or three toothpicks through the open edges of the chicken to keep the stuffing from falling out.
    6. Loosen the skin on each chicken breast, and use your fingers to push small bits of the remaining butter under the skin of each one.  (we went skinless and skipped this step and rather topped the breast with the extra stuffing, which was EXCELLENT since it got a little browned and crunchy)
    7. Sprinkle the chicken breasts liberally with salt and pepper.
    8. Place on a foil or parchment paper-lined, rimmed baking sheet.
    9. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the skin is brown and crispy.
    10. Remove toothpicks before serving.