What better way to spend time with the family than to get everyone in the kitchen to cook up a fun meal! Kathleen Daelemans, author of the best-selling cookbook “Cooking Thin,” was invited on the “Today” show to share some meal ideas that will help facilitate quality time with Mom, Dad and the gang. Here are the recipes:
Easy Pizza Dough
Yield: 2 pizzas, 10-inch thick-crust; or 4 pizzas, 10-inch thin-crust
If you've never made pizza dough before or if you have and wish you hadn't, you'll be delightfully surprised at how simple this recipe is. It takes longer to read the recipe through than it does to prepare it (unless, of course, you have taken one of those speed-reading courses). This dough keeps well in the refrigerator overnight or in the freezer.
No time to make dough? Don't call for carryout! Keep your eye out for ready-made pizza dough, which can be found in most Italian delis and gourmet markets.
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Tip: If you can talk your family into whole-wheat dough and want to up the nutritional bang for your calorie buck, make a whole-wheat pizza using 70 percent whole-wheat flour. Combine 2-1/2 cups whole-wheat flour and 1 cup of unbleached all purpose flour instead of the 3-1/2 cups of unbleached flour called for in the recipe. This ratio of whole-wheat to white flour yields a more nutritionally dense dough that cooks up like “regular” pizza.
Most “whole wheat” pizza you buy contains very little whole-wheat flour. In fact, you’ll rarely, if ever see a 100 percent whole-wheat pizza, because a dough made with all whole wheat is cardboard chewy and just too dense to please the masses.
3-1/2 cups of unbleached, all purpose flour
2 packages of dry active yeast
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon of sugar
1-1/2 cups lukewarm water from the tap
1/2 teaspoon olive oil
Flour for the work surface
A sprinkling of cornmeal
Place flour, yeast, salt and sugar in a mixer fitted with a dough hook. While mixer is running, gradually add water, knead on low speed until dough is firm and smooth, about 10 minutes. Turn machine off.
Pour oil down inside of bowl. Turn on low once more for 15 seconds to coat inside of bowl and all surfaces of dough with the oil. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let rise in warm spot until doubled in bulk, about 2 hours.
Rolling out the dough and baking the pizza
Preheat oven to highest setting, 500° or 550°. If using a pizza stone, place stone in oven on bottom rack and heat oven 1 hour.
Punch dough down, cut in half or fourths. On generously floured work surface, place one piece of dough.
By hand, stretch dough into a circle. For thin pizza, roll dough into a large circle with a floured rolling pin until very thin. Don’t worry if your circle isn’t perfect, and if you get a hole just pinch edges back together.
To prevent dough from sticking to counter, turn dough over; add flour to dough, counter and rolling pin as needed. Sprinkle a pizza peel or rimless cookie sheet. Add toppings. Slide dough onto pizza stone or place cookie sheet with pizza on bottom rack.
Bake 10 to 12 minutes, or until golden. Remove pizza from oven, using a pizza peel if you used a pizza stone, and serve immediately.
Roll out remaining dough, top with desired toppings, and bake or freeze in freezer bags.
Chicken Taco Casserole
Serves 5 to 7
As an adult who can’t afford the indulgences of her Taco Bell youth, I love to have this casserole once in a while. It has all the flavors of cheesy, beefy tacos with a fraction of the calories. Serve with dollops of light sour cream and salsa from a jar or, if you have the time, with Quick Avocado-Mango Salsa. It’s outrageous with this casserole, not to mention a sneaky way of getting in another serving of fruit before the day’s out.
Tip: Ground chicken usually contains white meat, dark meat, chicken fat, and skin. Get your ground chicken directly from the butcher. Ring the bell, smile a huge hello, and ask him or her to grind you a pound of white meat only.
Tip: Portion control is important with the cheese: cut a 1/2-pound block in half or weigh it. If you don’t have a kitchen scale, this is the perfect excuse to buy one. Use a Microplane grater with coarse holes to grate your cheese.
Because it grates the cheese so fine and fluffy, you’ll end up with a huge pile before you get to 4 ounces, so you can get away with using as little as an ounce to cover the entire casserole. If you want to cut calories, this is one way to do it.
Tip: You can use taco seasoning mix, but keep an eye on the sodium content listed on the label.
1 large onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced or grated
3/4 cup water
1 bunch scallions, white parts only, thinly sliced
1 pound ground chicken breast
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 15-ounce can fat-free refried beans
Coarse-grained salt and cracked black pepper
1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes with jalapeños
4 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated
1/2 head iceberg lettuce, cut into thin strips
Preheat oven to 350°. Place onion, garlic, and 1/4 cup water in a heavy-bottomed 3-quart saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until onion is translucent and completely softened, 15 to 18 minutes. If you need to add a splash of water to keep the onion and garlic from burning, add it.
Add scallions and cook 3 to 4 minutes more, or until softened. Add ground chicken, cumin, chili powder, and cayenne. Cook until chicken is crumbly and cooked through, 7 to 8 minutes. Add remaining 1/2 cup water and refried beans. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cook and stir often until combined and heated through. Spread evenly into a 9 x 13 inch baking pan.
Pour tomatoes and their juice over chicken mixture and top with cheese. Bake until cheese melts and casserole is heated through, about 25 minutes (or longer if you want the cheese golden and bubbly). Sprinkle shredded lettuce evenly over casserole and serve immediately.
Italian Vegetable Soup
This soup delivers all the flavor and satisfaction of an Italian sausage meal but with way fewer calories and way more nutrition. Vegetable-rich and protein-packed, it is layered with ingredients that have high flavor impact.
Add fresh or frozen corn, carrots, green beans, peas, eggplant, or sliced bell peppers.
The recipe calls for 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, which isn’t a lot, but if you’re really trying to cut calories, grate the cheese over each bowl of soup. You’ll use less.
1/2 pound bulk Italian sausage
1 medium onion, diced
1 28-ounce can tomatoes with juice, chopped
1 15-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
2 medium zucchini, sliced
1/2 cup loosely packed, coarsely chopped fresh basil
1/2 cup loosely packed, coarsely chopped fresh parsley
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 14.5-ounce can low-sodium chicken broth
1-1/2 cups water
Coarse-grained salt and cracked black pepper
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
In a soup pot, brown sausage and onion over medium-high heat. Drain off and discard excess liquid. Add tomatoes with juice, chickpeas, zucchini, basil, parsley, oregano, chicken broth, and water and bring to a boil. Simmer over medium-low heat until chickpeas are heated through, 6 to 7 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Garnish with cheese and serve.
My grandmother used to feed these to my mother as a child. They’re called porcupines because they look like porcupines to a child. All the rice sticks out of the meatballs. If you’ve got finicky kids, you might be able to talk them into these.
Shortcut chef: Make the rice the night before. You can really make the entire dish the night before, up to the point of baking.
Morph: These are great wrapped in blanched cabbage leaves too.
Tip: If you don’t mind crunchy onions, don’t bother adding the water or cooking them covered. I prefer my onions soft and sweet, so I take the extra time, but it’s entirely a matter of taste.
1 teaspoon oil
3/4 cup diced onions
1 pound lean ground beef
2 cups cooked brown rice
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes or whole tomatoes you crush yourself
Coarse-grained salt and cracked black pepper
1 bay leaf
Preheat oven to 350°. Place onions and oil in a nonstick sauté pan over medium heat, stir until onions are coated with oil, add one tablespoon water to pan, cover and cook until onions have completely softened, 15 to 20 minutes. Set aside. Place meat and brown rice in a mixing bowl, add onions, season with salt and pepper and mix to combine. Form into 8 sleeping porcupines (round balls) and place in ovenproof baking dish just large enough to hold but not squish them. Pour tomatoes over porcupines, season with salt, pepper and bay leaf. Bake 1 hour.
Garden Lettuce Salad
Really great salads can be easy to prepare. At their simplest, a thoughtfully chosen head of lettuce will do and require just the smallest amount of oil, salt and vinegar, and perhaps a crack or two of fresh black pepper, to bring out their best flavors. With all the wonderful oils and vinegars on grocery store shelves, who needs bottled dressings filled with sugar and tasteless bland oils?
Tip: Don’t skimp on the extra virgin olive oil. Buy the best you can afford, in quantities you’ll use, and don’t keep it around for ages. Olive oil should be used within the year it’s pressed. Store olive oil in a dark, cool location and for heaven’s sake, use it. Try different vinegars such as sherry, champagne and balsamic. Be sure there’s nothing in the ingredient list except vinegar. A lot of vinegars are watered down, you’ll never get the dressing to taste right. (See the back of the book for olive oil and vinegar sources. You don’t necessarily have to order them from these sources, but take note of the brands and see if you can find them in your grocery store.)
Tip:Buy the best salad greens you can, and by the best I mean the freshest and best looking, locally grown if at all possible. The leaves should be whole and perky with mostly no blemishes. Some lettuces are so sandy they require two washings, but don’t leave greens in the water too long or they’ll become waterlogged. Invest in a salad spinner, it’s the quickest, most efficient way to dry greens. They’re under $25. Budget it in when you can.
8 cups washed and dried garden lettuces
2 tablespoons good quality extra virgin olive oil
1/8 teaspoon coarse-grained salt or more to taste
1 tablespoon good quality vinegar
Cracked black pepper to taste
Place greens in a large tossing bowl. Drizzle first with the oil and, using your hands, gently toss until well coated. Sprinkle with salt and vinegar a few drops at a time. Toss to coat well. Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary. Add pepper if you like. Serve immediately.
When my sister, Talitha, was old enough to use the stove she and her friend, Erin, would sneak into the kitchen in the middle of the night during all-night monster-movie marathon sleepovers to make this pudding. Instead of waiting for it to cool, they’d eat it warm.
Mostly to keep the cupboard slamming, pot clanging and cleanup to a minimum, my Mom, just before she went off to bed, set out the recipe, the measured ingredients and all necessary tools so the girls couldn’t miss them.
If the Queen’s coming for dinner: Serve the pudding in champagne flutes topped with whipped cream, a mint sprig and chocolate shavings.
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup cocoa powder
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 cups low fat or non fat milk
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
In a medium, heavy-bottomed sauce pan, stir together sugar, cocoa powder and cornstarch. Turn heat to medium high. Gradually add milk and stir constantly until pudding begins to boil and thicken, about 5 minutes. Reduce heat to medium low, add bittersweet chocolate and continue heating 5 minutes more until pudding is completely thickened. Remove from heat, let cool 5 minutes. Add vanilla and pour into pudding cups. Eat immediately or refrigerate.
Kathleen Daelemans is the author of the best-selling “Cooking Thin, 200 Easy Recipes for Healthy Weight Loss,” Houghton Mifflin, 2002, and “Getting Thin & Loving Food, 200 Easy Recipes to Take You Where You Want to Be,” Houghton Mifflin, 2004. She hosts her own show, “Cooking Thin With Kathleen Daelemans,” on the Food Network. Talk to Kathleen live and swap recipes at chefkathleen.com.
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