Every week, my editor reads through interesting recipes supplied by McClatchy Newspapers, our wire service. She saves the promising ones. If we don't use them right away, they go into a folder where many remain unless an urgent need arises.
This week an urgent need arose when the food story we planned to run this week fell through at the last minute. We consulted our trusty folder, with an eye toward reasonably healthy, seasonal recipes.
Several recipes are from Kathy Manweiler, a McClatchy columnist who was adept at lightening family favorite recipes. Unfortunately, she's no longer writing her "Don't Say Diet" column. She used leaner cuts of beef and reduced fat cheese in her stuffed peppers to bring the original 576 calorie total down to 343 calories.
Manweiler shaved calories and fat from a traditional beef stroganoff recipe by using a fraction of the half-and-half and butter listed and substituting low fat versions of sour cream and the cream of mushroom sauce. The calorie count settled at 394.
Vegetable lasagna sounds so healthy, and it can be, but not when it's loaded with a heavy cream sauce and lots of cheese. Manweiler kept the creamy flavor but sliced calories and fat by whisking flour into low-fat milk to create a thicker sauce and combined part skim ricotta and low fat cottage cheese for a filling. Total calories: 214.
Jill Wendholt Silva's recipe for lentils calls for 3/4 cup of diced ham, and is a good way to use the last of any New Year's ham. If you don't have leftover ham on hand, pick some up at the supermarket's salad bar. This simple recipe involves simmering the ingredients in a soup pot for about an hour.
Silva's recipe for apricot pork chops pairs a lean chop with dried apricots, both foods that are high in iron. Iron is more easily absorbed when paired with foods that are high in vitamin C, so she cooks the apricots in orange juice, to make a delicious sauce with easily absorbed iron.
I plan to try all these recipes, but I'll probably tackle the stuffed peppers first, partially because green peppers on sale this week at my grocery store.
Reach Julie Robinson at jul...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1230.
Makes 4 servings
4 medium green or red bell peppers (about 6 ounces each), 1/2 inch trimmed off the tops and cores and seeds discarded
2/3 cup long-grain white rice
1 medium onion, finely chopped
12 ounces 96 percent lean ground beef
3 medium garlic cloves, minced
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes
3/4 cup shredded Colby-Monterey Jack cheese blend made with 2 percent milk
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
Salt and pepper to taste
BRING 4 quarts of lightly salted water to a boil in a large stockpot over high heat. Add the bell peppers and cook until the peppers just begin to soften, about 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the peppers from the pot, drain off the excess water and place the peppers cut-side up on paper towels. Return the water to a boil, add the rice and boil for about 13 minutes, or until tender. Drain the rice and transfer it to a large bowl. Set aside.
HEAT oven to 350 degrees.
RESERVE 1/4 cup of the juice while draining the can of tomatoes and discard the remaining juice.
WHILE the rice is cooking, in a skillet, cook the ground beef over medium-high heat until it's crumbly and browned. Add the chopped onion and garlic and cook for about 4 minutes. Transfer the mixture to the bowl with the rice. Stir in the tomatoes, reserved juice, cheese, parsley and salt and pepper to taste.
PLACE the peppers cut-side up in a 9-inch square baking dish. Divide the filling evenly among the peppers and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the filling is heated through. Serve immediately.
Per serving: 343 cal, 7.6g fat, 642mg sodium, 36g carb, 4g fiber, 28g protein, 64mg chol
Adapted from a recipe in the "New Best Recipe" cookbook
Makes 6 servings
1 pound top round steak
3 cups fresh mushrooms, sliced
3/4 cup chopped green onions
1/4 cup cooking sherry
1 10.5-ounce can of reduced-fat, reduced-sodium cream of mushroom soup, unprepared
1 1/2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup half-and-half
1/2 cup beef broth
1/2 cup fat-free milk
1/4 cup light sour cream
1/4 teaspoon pepper
4 cups hot cooked noodles
USE a mallet or rolling pin to pound the top round steak. This helps tenderize the meat. Slice the meat diagonally across the grain into 1/4-inch wide slices. Cut each slice into 2-inch pieces, if you wish.
WHISK together the soup, half-and-half, beef broth and fat-free milk.
SAUTE onions and mushrooms in butter. Turn heat down to low and add cooking sherry.
LIGHTLY coat a pan without a nonstick surface with cooking spray. Over medium heat, cook the meat until it's lightly browned and the meat's juices are released. Stirring constantly, turn the heat up and cook the meat until it's fully browned and the juices are cooked down. The bottom of the pan should develop a dark brown coating, but do not burn the meat.
REMOVE the meat from the pan and set aside.
TURN the heat back down to medium and add the soup mixture to the pan, using a wooden spoon to scrape the pan and mix in the browned bits at the bottom. The soup mixture will darken. Return the browned meat to the pan and add the mushroom and onion mixture. Simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring frequently.
REMOVE pan from heat just before serving and stir in the sour cream and pepper. Serve hot over cooked noodles.
Per serving (2/3 cup beef mixture with 2/3 cup noodles): 394 cal, 19.3g fat, 110mg chol, 396mg sodium, 33g protein, 35g carb, 1.8g fiber.
Makes 12 servings
12 uncooked lasagna noodles
2 teaspoons canola oil