Scallops with fresh tomatoes, herbs and white wine.

I had a friend over for dinner last weekend in an effort to be social without eating junk food or drinking alcohol (believe me, this is a challenge in my world). Lucky her, it was scallops night – lucky me, I have access to this fabulous cookbook.

In my cooking adventures, I’ve discovered that it’s difficult – if not impossible – to mess up scallops. You can saute them in olive oil and garlic, you can dress them up with fancy sauces, whatever – they’re low-maintenance molluscs. I’ve used recipes from my favorite Asian stir-fry cookbook, Fine Cooking, and the bag of scallops from Trader Joe’s, and I have never had bad scallops. In fact, they’ve always been fantastic. So I figured last Saturday was a good opportunity to make a delicious dinner for someone other than myself.

The only scallop recipe in my Cuisine of California cookbook is Scallops with Fresh Tomatoes, Herbs, and White Wine. Perfect. That’s what I ended up serving, along with steamed green beans.

(Serves 2 as a main course – recipe halved from original)

Ingredients:

1 lb. sea scallops
2 tbsp olive oil
1 medium shallots, finely chopped
2 large tomatoes, peeled, seeded and diced
1/3 cup dry white wine
1/2 teaspoon finely chopped fresh basil
1/2 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme
1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary
1/2 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley
1 medium clove garlic, minced
1/8 teaspoon salt
Pinch of finely ground pepper
1/2 tablespoon whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley (for garnish)

Directions:

1. Remove small white muscle at the side of each sea scallop. Cut sea scallops in half horizontally.

2. Heat 1 of the tablespoons oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add shallots and saute for 3 minutes, or until soft. Add tomatoes, wine, herbs and garlic. Simmer for 5 minutes, or until slightly reduced. Add salt and pepper and taste for seasoning.

3. Pat scallops dry. Sprinkle with flour; shake off excess.

4. Heat remaining oil in a large skillet. Place scallops in the skillet and saute over medium-high heat, turning frequently, about 2 minutes per side, or until lightly browned and tender.

5. Spoon scallops onto serving plates and pour sauce over each serving. Sprinkle with chopped parsley.

Creative solutions for chocolate cravings.

I’m doing so well on this round of Perricone meal plans. I’m realizing belatedly that this isn’t supposed to be a temporary fix for the effects of over-eating (as I will admit I was doing), but it’s a lifestyle. I’ve even gotten back into my exercise routine. Yay me.

Despite all my progress, I still can’t seem to get away from my love of sweets. Thankfully, I’ve finally made the switch over to stevia, so at least I’m not potentially poisoning myself with Splenda. But lately I’ve been thinking about chocolate bars. Dr. Perricone says that dark chocolate is okay, even recommended – the darker the better. And unsweetened cocoa powder is great. I keep unsweetened cocoa powder around the house. How convenient! Now, how does one make a chocolate bar? This looks promising…

But, butter? I don’t even keep butter in my apartment. And vegetable oil is a questionable choice. So… wait. I know! Olive oil! And it would be so healthy! I could put some stevia in there for sweetener, too. And vanilla extract, and orange extract… oh boy. I decided to try it.

After several hours in the refrigerator, I consider it a success. So much so that I decided to share it. I think Dr. Perricone would be proud.

The challenge will be not eating it all in one sitting.

Healthy Dark Chocolate Bar

Ingredients:

6 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup (12 packets) stevia
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp orange extract (optional)

Directions:

1. Mix the cocoa powder, stevia, and olive oil in a small bowl. Once the mixture is the consistency of melted chocolate, mix in the extracts.

2. Spread mixture into pre-formed container lined with parchment paper. Refrigerate or freeze for a few hours, until the bar is solid.

3. Wrap in parchment paper and aluminum foil to store.

Three-Berry Pie with Olive Oil Shortbread Crust.

I slept in until 11 this morning, something I haven’t done in what seems like a very long time. I had breakfast at noon, then I did something else I hadn’t done in a long time – I sat down and wrote a song, start to finish. I used to do that all the time (Exhibit A), but I haven’t been feeling creative/inspired/what-have-you enough to sit down and write. Everything comes out sounding wrong. But I’m really enjoying this project. Maybe after I get back to my happy weight I’ll even get professional photos taken for my album art. That would be a nice reward, right?

So anyway. (Nice segue, wasn’t it?) Yesterday, one of my employees had a birthday. I’d decided about a month ago that I would make it a tradition to bring in treats for each of their birthdays – it’s practical, because there are only four of them, and it allows me to get my baking fix. For yesterday’s celebration, I baked this berry pie. It started out as olive oil shortbread cookies, but the dough were entirely too crumbly despite my best efforts to keep it together, so I molded it to a pie dish and threw some berries in there. The experiment was a definite success.

Three-Berry Pie with Olive Oil Shortbread Crust

Ingredients:

For the crust
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 cups granulated Splenda
3 cups rice flour
1 tsp almond extract
2 tsp vanilla extract

For the filling
4 cups berries (I used strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries)
1/2 cup granulated Splenda
3 tablespoons cornstarch

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 400˚F. Lightly oil a pie pan; set aside.
2. Make the crust: Mix the olive oil, 1 1/2 cups Splenda and rice flour in a large mixing bowl. Gradually mix in the almond and vanilla extracts. Once ingredients are thoroughly mixed, place dough in the pie pan and spread evenly along the bottom and the sides.
3. Make the filling: Mix the berries, 1/2 cup Splenda and cornstarch in a medium bowl. Evenly pour into crust.
4. Bake pie for 30 minutes, or until crust is golden. Remove from oven and crush berries, then let cool before consuming. I recommend refrigerating the pie – covered – overnight to allow the filling to set.

Healthy Pesto Pasta with Chicken, Roasted Broccolini & Cherry Tomatoes.

I’m not a big pasta person. I went through a pasta phase in college, but that’s only because it’s so easy and inexpensive, and I was always lazy about my food. Sometimes I’d just eat Wheat Thins for dinner. Ironically, they don’t make you so thin, especially if you eat the whole box.

Anyway, I rarely get pasta cravings, which makes it really easy to stay gluten-free. I’ve found that, when I am in the mood for noodles, shirataki noodles work really well to quell the cravings. After all, pasta is just a vehicle for other food.

I got broccolini from the grocery store this weekend and perused the mighty interwebs for a recipe the other night. Conveniently enough, I also currently have a surplus of cherry tomatoes, due to a sale at Whole Foods. So I roasted some broccolini and cherry tomatoes in olive oil, garlic and red pepper, loosely based on this recipe (except it was at 450˚F for 12 minutes). And tonight, I wanted pasta, so I just used the leftovers from that and the remaining 4 ounces of Serenada chicken from Trader Joe’s. The result? Delicious.

Healthy Pesto Pasta with Chicken, Roasted Broccolini & Cherry Tomatoes

Ingredients:

1/2 lb. broccolini
4 cherry tomatoes
olive oil
1 clove garlic, sliced
pinch of crushed red pepper
salt and pepper

2 tablespoons panko breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 8-ounce package shirataki noodles
4 ounces Trader Joe’s Serenada chicken, cooked and diced
1 tablespoon basil pesto

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 450˚F and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Toss the broccolini and cherry tomatoes in olive oil (enough to coat the veggies),  garlic, red pepper, and salt and pepper. Spread mixture on the baking sheet and bake for 12 minutes.

2. Follow the directions to parboil or microwave the shirataki noodles. If the noodles lack preparation instructions, drain the noodles, rinse under cold water, and microwave for 1 minute. Set aside.

3. To prepare the breadcrumbs, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a frying pan. Add the panko to the olive oil and brown, stirring occasionally. Move to a small bowl and set aside.

4. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to the pan and heat. Add the noodles, chicken, and broccolini and cherry tomatoes to the pan, stirring to combine. Saute until heated through, about 5 minutes, then turn off the heat and mix in the pesto until combined.

5. Top with breadcrumbs and serve!

Back to the drawing board.

I’m so good when it comes to meals. I know what healthy is supposed to look like, thanks in large part to my mother, not to mention Dr. Perricone. I know what I’m supposed to eat and I eat it. But then… I get rebellious. I think, “I was so good today, I’m going to reward myself with a piece of cake. But I don’t have cake. So I’m going to bake one.” What? That’s stupid, Self. I don’t know why I have this compulsion, but I have it with everything – eating, shopping, reading, everything I enjoy has to be presented to me in bulk. I don’t do “less is more.” I’m sure that’s not entirely normal.

I’ve decided that I have to stage an intervention for myself. I’m going to do a combination of Perriconian food principles and calorie counting/food journaling. I must keep myself honest, and it doesn’t seem like there’s any way to do that other than the food journal. Otherwise I get sneaky.

Today is Day 1. I didn’t take a picture of this breakfast, but I had a two-egg omelet with 2 ounces smoked salmon, cherry tomatoes, and dill, along with 1/2 cup low-fat yogurt with Splenda, vanilla extract and blueberries. I also need to get away from the Splenda. All in good time.

And for funsies, here’s a picture of last night’s wholesome dinner, before I baked the cake:

I so love that Mediterranean chopped salad – it’s from the first Perricone book.