Saturday, December 31, 2005

It’s Raining! But There’s a Fire in the Fireplace and Dinner in the Crockpot

I awoke this morning to the heater running - it was pretty cold outside (38˚), so my DH turned on the heat. It felt soooo good to get out of bed for once. Over coffee I suggested a coffee cake - and decided to try a recipe that sounded interesting. I’ve been having a craving for Sara Lee’s Pecan Coffee Cake - but realize now that I should NEVER have that again! I can eat half of one at one time! When I made this, I changed the ingredients a little - it originally called for 2/3 cup of honey, but I changed it to 1/3 cup honey and 1/3 cup Splenda. I was a little leery of the amount of spices called for, but it still came out great. My problem now is portion control. That “one serving” thing always gets me. Dr. J says whole grains still have carbs, and I also know there are carbs in the honey, so I really have to stick to one serving. It made 8 squares - I ate 1, DH ate two, and then I froze the rest for another time. I have one square I can pull out and zap for a quick breakfast, and then 4 squares that DH and I can have for another breakfast.

Kenny called from Korea right after 7 am to tell us Happy New Year - it was just after midnight there where he was (Kunsan).

Whole Wheat Pecan Coffee Cake

2 c whole wheat flour
1 t baking powder
2 T milk powder
1/2 t baking soda
1 t salt
1/2 t cinnamon
1/2 t nutmeg
1/2 t ginger
1/4 t ground cloves
1/4 t allspice
2 eggs, beaten
1 c buttermilk or plain yogurt
1/3 c honey
1/3 c Splenda granular
3 T melted butter or oil

2/3 c chopped toasted pecans
1 T butter
2 T honey

Preheat oven to 350˚. Stir all the dry ingredients together using only one-half of all the spices. Set aside the remaining 1/4 teaspoons of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and 1/8 teaspoons of cloves and allspice for the topping. In a separate bowl combine the eggs, buttermilk, honey, Splenda, and melted butter. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry with as few strokes as possible, then turn the mixture into an oiled 7x11" baking pan. Prepare the topping as follows: melt the butter in a small frying pan; add the chopped pecans and heat until they are toasty brown and fragrant with butter. Remove from heat; stir in the honey and remaining spices. Spread the topping carefully over the batter in the baking pan. Bake for about 25 minutes, until the cake tests done.

GREAT FIND: Sugar-Free Caramel Syrup. I’m a Starbuck’s snob. While DH enjoys any coffee, usually Folger’s, I really enjoy the bold flavors of Starbuck’s. For a long time I got a caramel macchiato - until I realized how many calories and carbs it had (Grande = 566 calories, 36 carbs, 42 grams of fat (WOW!). I discovered DaVinci sugar-free caramel syrup at Clark’s Nutrition Center in Loma Linda. Now I order a coffee, add Splenda and the syrup, plus half and half, and I end up with 39 calories, 1 carb, and 5 grams of fat. Much better, yes? And the flavor is still fantastic.

There’s one problem with having a small breakfast–you’re really hungry later in the day. This is when the “small meals” concept is useful. Some ideas for those mini-meals include yogurt with granola, toasted pecans, and dried blueberries (use the Dannon Carb Control yogurt–it’s only 3 carbs!), an apple or orange, a couple melba toasts spread with a cheese spread, a whole wheat tortilla spread with a little peanut butter, a handful of mixed nuts, beef jerkey, applesauce…the list goes on and on.

I cooked dinner in the crockpot today- Ground Beef and Lentils, from Fix It and Forget It. We smelled it all day; especially the molasses and cloves. The recipe says to top this with sour cream or salsa. Molasses? Cloves? Salsa? Since when do those go together?

Beef and Lentils

1 med. onion
3 whole cloves
5 c water
1 lb. lentils
1 t salt
1 bay leaf
1 lb. (or less) ground beef, browned and drained
1/2 c ketchup
1/4 c molasses
2 T brown sugar
1 t dry mustard
1/4 t Worcestershire sauce
1 onion, finely chopped

Stick the cloves into the whole, peeled onion. In a large saucepan, combine water, lentils, salt, bay leaf, and whole onion with cloves. Simmer 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, combine all remaining ingredients in crockpot. Stir in simmered ingredients from saucepan. Add additional water if mixture seems dry.
Cover. Cook on low 6-8 hours. Add water as necessary to keep from drying.
Serve topped with salsa and/or sour cream.

You know, I really didn’t care too much for this. DH did. He ate two large bowls full, topped with Chachie’s salsa. He said it was too bad I didn’t like it, but he did, and is looking forward to eating the leftovers tomorrow. To each his own.

CYNDI’S TIPS: You know how you get those little puddles of clear liquid in your sour cream or yogurt after you’ve used some of it? Here’s how to prevent them: Just before you put it away, take a spoon and press the remaining sour cream or yogurt all down so the top is flat - no holes or dents. The liquid won’t form!

Friday, December 30, 2005

Very First Post - With Trepidation and Anticipation

I guess it's time to join the wonderful community of cooks and bloggers. I'm inspired by Sweetnicks, whose cooking-related blog is my favorite place to visit. I plan to focus my blog on my endless fascination with food, with food that tastes great, food that is USUALLY healthy, and recipes that have been given to me by family and friends. I was just diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes a couple months ago, so I'll also be talking about my search for good diabetic recipes. I'm a camper, meaning my husband (DH) and I go out a lot in our pop-up tent trailer, so I'll also have great recipes here for camping - both with and without electricity. Most importantly, I suppose, will be the family heritage recipes - the ones that are tried and true, passed down from both my family and from my husband's.

So - what's for dinner tonight? I'll start with a favorite: Lemon-Garlic Schwenks. What's a schwenk? When we were stationed in Germany (Zweibrucken Air Base), a popular food in that part of Germany was the schwenkbraten. It's a boneless pork sirloin marinated in curry powder, garlic powder, parsley, paprika, sliced onion, and oil, then grilled and slapped on a crusty roll. No cookout or carnival at ZAB was complete without the POL troops manning a booth that had schwenkbraten. DH loved to cook them; keeping them warm in a pan of German beer was crucial. While I still make the German kind of schwenks, I discovered a new marinade for boneless pork sirloin that my family likes just as much.

Marinade for Lemon-Garlic Swenks

1/3 cup olive oil
1/3 cup lemon juice
1-2 tsp chopped garlic
1 t dried oregano
2 T dried parsley

Marinate the pork sirloin in it for a few hours or overnight, then grill. Serve on a crusty sandwich roll.

Now, since I'm watching carbs, I'll be eating mine without the bread. As side dishes, we're having Jamie's Choppped Salad and my 4-bean salad. I throw the bean salad together every once in a while to get some beans into our diet. I switched from sugar to splenda a few months ago and don't even notice the difference in taste.

Cyndi"s Four-Bean Salad

2 T finely diced onion
1/2 c white or cider vinegar
2 T Splenda granular
1/2 t salt
1/4 t pepper
1 14-15-oz. can cut green beans, drained
1 14-15-oz. can cut wax (yellow) beans, drained
1 14-15-oz. can red kidney beans, drained
1 14-15-oz. can garbanzo beans (chickpeas), drained

In medium bowl, whisk together the onion, vinegar, Splenda, salt, and pepper. Add beans. Stir to mix.

Jamie's Chopped Salad is an adaptation of one I got from "the naked chef," Jamie Oliver. I've made it fit two people (since
DH eats two bowls). I added crumbled blue cheese to mine, which reminds me of my first tip for this blog:

CYNDI'S TIPS: Store dry cheeses in the freezer - they'll last for months. By dry cheeses, I'm talking about grated cheddar, swiss, mozarella, and parmesan, as well as block or crumbled feta and blue cheese. I keep the cheeses in plastic zip bags, and can take out just what I need.

Anyway, on to the recipe:

Jamie's Chopped Salad

1 head romaine (the heart - from a bag of three), sliced and then chopped
about 3" of a cucumber, peeled, diced
2 small roma tomatoes (or other ripe tomato), diced
thinly sliced purple onion to taste

3-4 T red wine vinegar
3 T olive oil
1/4 t salt
1/8 t (one twist of the grinder) black pepper
3 t Splenda granular
1/8 t paprika

Whisk together the vinaigrette, toss with the salad. Add blue or feta cheese crumbles, if you like.

Okay, now it's on to dessert. I crave sweet stuff in the evenings, and sometimes I just don't want another sugar-free jello or pudding cup. Tonight we'll have some of my cranberry-orange bread that I made yesterday. I started cooking with whole grains, and really don't use white flour any more except for thickening gravy or coating meats before sauteeing. This bread is dense but the cranberries make it moist. The dried cranberries, which are sweetened, offset the tartness of the fresh ones, and using Splenda helped cut back on some of the "bad" carbs. This bread is high in protein, too, so two slices make an excellent breakfast.

Whole Wheat Double Cranberry-Orange Bread

1/2 c butter, softened
2/3 c honey
1 1/2 c Splenda granular
3 eggs
2 c orange juice
3 2/3 c whole wheat flour
1/3 c nine-grain cereal (can substitute oat or wheat bran)
1/2 c powdered milk (I use Milkman brand)
1/4 c ground flaxseed
2 t baking powder
2 t baking soda
1 t salt
2 T dried grated orange peel
2 c chopped pecans or walnuts
1 bag (about 2 cups) fresh cranberries
1 6-oz. package (about 1 1/3 cups) dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 325˚. Grease two 9-inch loaf pans. Cream the butter and honey; beat in Splenda, eggs, and orange juice. In a separate bowl, stir together all dry ingredients (except nuts and berries); add them gradually to the liquid mixture. Fold in nuts and cranberries. Turn the batter into the prepared loaf pans. Bake 1 1/4 hours. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to finish cooling.

GREAT FIND: Crystal Light's "on the go" packets. They are perfect for diabetics - and anyone trying to lose weight. One little packet sweetens a 16-oz. bottle of water, and they come in several different flavors. The orange flavor tastes like Tang, which I like, and there's also raspberry (which tastes like kool-aid), tea, and lemonade. I've also seen a green tea flavor made by Lipton. I keep a bottle mixed up all the time, and it's a great drink when I don't want a carbonated soda or sugary fruit juice.