Thursday, April 30, 2009

So, the monitoring begins

I picked up my glucose monitor today. I've decided that the world is not going to end - I will accept this as a challenge, and look forward to getting rid of the monitor. I only have to check twice a week, unless things get worse - which I hope they don't - and if I can get the numbers back down I can stop. You see, while I've lost 35 pounds the last 2 years, and 11 the last 5 months, my blood sugar has gone up. It's because I have such a bad weakness for sugar and potatoes - especially fried ones - and while I was able to lose weight, I ate too many sweets and fries. That has stopped. I've had several good days - including today, even with the fried eggplant I'll be describing in the next post. Today I had a total of 104 carbs, spread out over all 3 meals, and I had good protein, fresh vegetables, fiber, and good fats. I figure if I write about this in my blog, it'll be hard to make excuses, and maybe I'll even have some support and advice.

And I thought I didn't like eggplant...

As I mentioned in a previous post, I received an eggplant in my most recent produce pickup. The last time I ate eggplant had to be 28 years ago, right after Don and I were married. I saw a cooking show (yes, there were cooking shows 28 years ago!) where the host breaded and fried the eggplant, and then placed it in a jar in some sort of marinade. It was pressed down, and refrigerated for a day or so before it was brought back out and eaten. It sounded wonderful. It wasn't. I don't remember exactly what was in the marinade, but it turned me off eggplant. I've believed ever since then that I didn't like it. WRONG!

I like it even better than zucchini!

All these wasted years.

I decided I really needed to use the eggplant, and not let it go to waste. I figured the easiest and "safest" way was to fry it. I did the 3-step process (flour, egg/milk bath, panko) and it came out light and crispy. When Don and I tasted the first piece that had cooled enough to eat it, both of us were surprised. His only experience with eggplant was in Eggplant Parmesan - and he didn't like that much at all. Both of us decided this tasted a lot like fried zucchini - only better - and the texture was lighter than zucchini.

Fried Eggplant

1 medium eggplant (aubergine)
flour (I used white whole wheat because that's all I have, but all-purpose would be fine)
1 egg
1/4 cup milk
1 cup panko crumbs
olive and/or canola oil for frying (to fill skillet about 1/4")

Peel the eggplant and slice into 1/2" thick slices. Sprinkle both sides with salt and let stand for about 20 minutes. Use paper towels to blot the water that is forced out by the salt. Lay out 3 shallow bowls: flour, beaten egg mixed with milk, and panko. Heat the oil over medium-high heat. Dredge each piece of eggplant in the flour, then dip in the egg bath, and the in the panko so each piece is evenly coated on each side. Fry in oil until browned on each side. Drain on paper towels.

The eggplant was our side dish for some chicken thighs. I got the recipe out of Taste of Home's Simple and Delicious magazine, and will make some adjustments before I make it again. Here's the original recipe:

Applesauce Barbecue Chicken

4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (I used thighs)
½ t pepper
1 Tablespoon olive oil
⅔ cup chunky applesauce
⅔ cup spicy barbecue sauce
2 Tablespoons brown sugar (I used 1 tablespoon of Splenda Brown Sugar Blend)
1 teaspoon chili powder

Sprinkle chicken with pepper. In a large skillet, brown chicken in oil on both sides. In a small bowl, combine the remaining ingredients; pour over chicken. Cover and cook 7-10 minutes longer or until juices run clear when cut with knife.

The verdict: too sweet. Next time I'll use unsweetened applesauce (the chunky was pretty sweet), add a little cayenne for spice, and omit the brown sugar. Since we use KC Masterpiece or Bullseye, the barbecue sauce is sweet enough. But overall, the flavor was nice.

Milk-Braised Pork Chops

When I first saw this recipe on Kalyn's website, I though it sounded like pork chops with milk gravy. The ingredients are the same - sautéed pork chops, milk, flour. But since the dish is cooked for a long period of time, covered, and over low heat, the results are completely different. The chops come out extremely tender, and instead of a thick, milk gravy, the liquid is translucent with separated milk solids in it (sounds weird but tastes great).

Milk-Braised Pork Chops
from Kalyn Denny of Kalyn's Kitchen

4 boneless pork loin chops, about 1 inch thick
2 tablespoons flour or 100% whole wheat pastry flour (use whole wheat flour for South Beach)
½ teaspoon salt (or less if using Pork Chop Seasoning)
fresh ground black pepper to taste
½ teaspoon Penzeys Pork Chop Seasoning (I used Spike seasoning)
1 ½ cups milk
2 teaspoons butter
2 teaspoons vegetable oil

Trim all fat from pork chops. Use meat mallet or something heavy to pound pork chops slightly until they are an even thickness and about 3/4 inch thick. Combine flour, salt, pepper, and pork chop seasoning in shallow bowl. One at a time, lightly dredge pork chops in the mixture, shaking off any extra. Wisk 1/2 cup milk into the flour left in the bowl. Heat oil and melt butter in heavy frying pan big enough to hold all the pork chops. Add pork and brown well, about 3 minutes per side. Pour out most of the pan drippings, add 1/2 cup milk mixed with flour, reduce heat to low and simmer covered 30 minutes, stirring a few times. Turn pork chops over, and add the remaining one cup milk, wisking to combine if needed. Cover and cook for 30 minutes more, again, stirring a few times. Uncover skillet and if there is a lot of liquid, cook a few minutes more until reduced to about 1/4 cup. (This will depend on how tightly your pan lid fits.) Serve hot, spooning the milk gravy over the pork.

We had this with brown rice - something I'll be eating more of as I wean myself off potatoes. This recipe is definitely a keeper.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Kale and Egg Breakfast "Muffins"

If anyone who reads my blog is NOT familiar with Kalyn's Kitchen, you need to visit her blog for a while. Not only is she a fabulous cook, and the queen of South Beach Diet recipes, SHE'S A TEACHER! And for a while, she was president of her local, just like I am. Any time I need inspiration for healthy recipes, and to use the produce I get from the IEOPBC, I go visit Kalyn's site.

I had some kale again from the last distribution, and have had the urge to make some portable breakfast "muffins." Kalyn's recipe called for red kale, since that's what she had in her garden, but she said you could use regular kale. I also changed the cheese to add some zing - I added blue cheese crumbles and used cheddar instead of the Italian mix she used.

Kale and Egg Breakfast "Muffins"
adapted from a recipe by Kalyn Denny

1 bunch kale
½ red onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced (1/2 tsp. teaspoon minced garlic)
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 cup grated cheese (I used a mixture of cheddar and blue cheese crumbles)
6 eggs, beaten well
½ teaspoon Spike Seasoning (I finally found some!)

Preheat oven to 350˚. Cut off kale stems and discard, then wash kale leaves and dry well. (I used a salad spinner.) Pile kale leaves up on top of each other and chop, turning them sideways to get smaller pieces.
Heat olive oil in large heavy frying pan, then add onions and sauté 3 minutes. Add garlic and saute about 2 more minutes, then add kale, turning over as it wilts and sautéing about 5 minutes, or until kale is significantly wilted.

Put kale and onion into large bowl and add soy sauce, cheese, beaten eggs, and Spike seasoning. Stir gently until ingredients are well distributed. Spray 12 muffin cups with nonstick cooking spray (I use silicone ones) and fill with egg mixture. Bake 20-25 minutes until eggs are well set and the top is lightly browned. Serve hot.

Kalyn suggests eating these with salsa or sour cream - so that's how I'll try them in the morning when I reheat a couple for breakfast. Tonight I just wanted to try one and ate it plain. Yum!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Sunday Cooking

While we were on vacation last week, and Don was out fishing, I sat at my sewing machine and spent the day happily sewing and watching FoodTV. I watch it in cycles - depending on what else is on and whether I'm into the detective shows that week or not. This time, Bobby Flay was doing a great grilled chicken dish that I had to try at home. It called for tangerine juice. I couldn't find any, after searching 4 different grocery stores. So, since I had bought a tangerine for the zest, I used the juice from it along with some orange juice to make the required 2 cups.
I also decided to use boneless chicken thighs instead of thighs with bones. I quit buying bone-in chicken a while back - just decided I liked boneless breasts and thighs more.

Grilled Chicken Thighs with Tangerine-Maple Glaze
adapted from a recipe by Bobby Flay

1/2 small red onion, chopped
1 Tablespoon oil
juice of one tangerine, plus orange juice to make 2 cups
zest of one tangerine
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 1/2 teaspoons soy sauce
2 Tablespoons maple syrup
4-6 boneless chicken thighs

In a medium saucepan, sauté the onion in the oil until soft. Add juice, zest, and thyme; bring to a boil. Lower the heat a little, but keep it boiling, and cook until reduced to about 1/4 cup of liquid is left (about 20 minutes). Remove from heat; whisk in the soy sauce and maple syrup. Cool. Grill chicken until almost done, then baste well with juice mixture.

Since I have a penchant for spicy glazes and sauces, I think that if i made this again, I would add some heat - perhaps some crushed red pepper? But we really liked the orange flavor in this dish.

I mentioned in the post below that we received cabbage leaves in our produce shares. But then I remembered one of the organizers mentioning that she was able to get some spinach. As I was going through these greens, I realized that about 2/3 of them were spinach leaves, and the rest were cabbage-like greens - I'm not sure what they were, but I think they were cabbage leaves. But I cooked them all together, anyway. This is a dish I learned in Germany and haven't made for years. Now that we've had it again, we remembered how yummy it really is.

Uberbackener Spinat mit Kase (Baked Spinach with Cheese)

1 large bunch (1 pound) spinach, trimmed of thicker stems and rinsed
2 Tablespoons butter
1 clove garlic, minced
2 Tablespoons minced onion
1/2 teaspoon paprika
dash nutmeg
salt and pepper
1 cup grated Swiss cheese

Preheat oven to 350˚. In a large saucepan, boil some water. Plunge the spinach into it and boil for 5 minutes. Drain, dry, and coarsely chop the spinach. In a saucepan, melt the butter. Fry the onion and garlic until the onion is soft and transparent. Add the spinach and sauté lightly until most of the moisture has evaporated. Season and add nutmeg and paprika. Grease an ovenproof dish. Sprinkle the bottom and sides with half the cheese. Place the spinach in the dish, level the top, and sprinkle with the rest of the cheese. Bake for 20-30 minutes until the cheese melts. Serve hot. Serves 4.

I still have tons of vegetables to use up - as for the fruit, I made Sangria Fruit Salad - and have enough left over to take with my lunch for tomorrow's hearing. The remaining strawberries have been flash-frozen, and are now ready to grab whenever I want them. The apples will be enjoyed in many ways, and I think I'll freeze the bananas that Don doesn't eat. (Since I got a volunteer's share, I came home with about 20 bananas!)

Does anyone know how to cook an eggplant for a non-eggplant eater? About the only way I could eat it would be fried, and I don't want the grease. Do you think I could do it in the oven like I do Crispy Oven -Fried Fish or the Zucchini Oven Chips?

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Produce Distribution Day

I volunteered to help distribute again, so in addition to my regular share, I got a LOT of extra goodies today. The regular share consisted of:

5 lbs. russet potatoes
5 lbs. Fuji apples
1 bunch celery
1 head butter lettuce
1 bunch mint
1 large eggplant
1 bunch cabbage leaves
3 beets with greens
1 bunch kale
4 zucchini
1 cucumber
1 bunch green onions
2 tomatoes
1 basket alfalfa sprouts
1 lb. strawberries
7 bananas

I have lot of extra, too, so we're going to be eating healthily, and I get to try some new dishes. Already today I made a batch of Kale Chips, I roasted the beets, and put 2 loaf pans of Zucchini Gingerbread in the oven.

If you have zucchini or banana recipes you think I should try, let me know - I have lots of extra of both. I know that banana bread will be next, but there will be more bananas after that is made.

First out of the oven were the Kale Chips. I found a recipe on recipezaar, which called for apple cider vinegar. Among the reviews was a comment that recommended trying it with balsamic vinegar to add a little sweetness - so that's what I did.

Kale Chips

1 bunch kale
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar

Preheat oven to 350˚. Wash kale, and remove the leaves from the stems. Spin in salad spinner or dry as best as you can with paper towels. Whisk together the salt, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar in a large bowl. Add kale, and toss by hand until it is evenly coated. Place on a large baking sheet and bake about 20 minutes, or until crispy.

While the kale was cooking, I used my little toaster oven to roast the beets. I like roasting vegetables in my toaster oven because it's a convection oven - they come out nicely cooked on the inside and browned well on the outside. You need to know that I refuse to eat pickled beets. Hate 'em with a passion. And I've never, ever had fresh beets of any kind - red, yellow or whatever. So when we received beets in our produce share, I decided I was not going to be squeamish, and was determined to give them a try. I wanted them roasted - I love roasted red potatoes, so I figured that beets done that way might be all right. All of the recipes I found for roasted beets called for either roasting them in their skins, or peeling them and putting them in foil. I wanted the texture I get with roasted red potatoes, so I did them that way.

Roasted Beets

beets (however many you want - I used the 3 small ones we received today)
olive oil
Kosher salt

Preheat oven, preferably a convection oven, to 400˚. Peel the beets, and cut into uniform chunks no larger than 1 inch. Toss in a bowl with a little olive oil and place on a baking sheet. Sprinkle lightly with Kosher salt. Cook for 25-30 minutes or until cooked through (test tenderness with a sharp knife).

Some of the zucchini from this morning went into some zucchini bread. I knew that I'd be making banana bread tomorrow, so I made a zucchini bread that was a bit different than the basic kind. This one really tastes like gingerbread, and the texture came out perfect. I made two loaves, so one's going into the freezer so we can have it some other time.

Zucchini Gingerbread

2 c whole wheat flour (I used white whole wheat flour)
2 c all-purpose flour
1 t baking soda
1 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
1 t cinnamon
1/2 t ginger
1/2 t nutmeg
3 c grated zucchini
3 eggs
1/2 c applesauce
1/2 c oil
3/4 c brown sugar (I used 1/4 c brown sugar and 1/4 c Splenda Brown Sugar Blend)
3/4 c molasses

Preheat oven to 350°. Prepare two loaf pans by spraying with non-stick spray. Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl. Combine wet ingredients including zucchini in a smaller bowl. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir until just combined. Pour mixture into loaf pans. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Monday, April 13, 2009

California Turkey Panini

On the same day that I decided to make this sandwich for dinner, I discovered Panini Happy, a blog devoted to, guess what - paninis! Since April is National Grilled Cheese Month, Kathy is hosting the Grilled Cheese Pageant - a celebration of our favorite sandwich. This is one of our favorite versions - and I call it the California Turkey Panini since it has avocado and green chilies in it.

California Turkey Panini

8 slices sourdough bread
butter or margarine
16 slices deli turkey, smoked or roasted
16 slices Swiss cheese
1 4-oz can diced green chilies, drained, divided in fourths
1/2 ripe avocado, sliced

Butter lightly the 8 slices of bread. Layer on griddle or in skillet in this order:
1. bread
2. Swiss cheese
3. turkey
4. green chilies
5. avocado slices
6. Swiss Cheese
7. bread

Grill/press until bread is lightly browned. Makes 4.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Haupia - a traditional Hawaiian dessert

I saw this yesterday on Pikko's blog, Adventures in Bento Making. I bought a can of coconut milk a while back for a recipe, and never got around to using it. When I saw Pikko's post, I decided to give it a try. The directions said to cook until thickened, but I didn't cook it enough. You're supposed to be able to cut it all in squares - but only the middle section of the pan could be cut. The rest stayed soft, like a custard.

I have to admit, we didn't care for this all that much. I think if I'd added vanilla, it would have been more like a pudding. The flavor just seemed a little off - and I'm sure it's because it was something so different from what we're used to. I'm told this is a traditional dessert at Hawaiian Luaus, but since I've never been to one, this was brand new to me. As I've always said, I'll try anything once!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Successful Experiment - Popovers

One of my favorite breakfasts is my German Oven Puffed Pancake - topped with powdered sugar and toasted almonds, and served with raspberry jam. But it's the main course - and I wanted something similar to use as a side dish. It must have been serendipity when I stumbled across a recipe for popovers on Min's blog - The Bad Girl's Kitchen. While we were camped at Lone Pine last week, I tried them in our little oven in the trailer. This is what they looked like:

While they tasted wonderful, they were undercooked, I think, and a bit on the rubbery side. The recipe said to "prick them with fork to let the steam escape," but these had no steam inside. I think there were two problems - one was the inconsistency of the trailer oven. It cooks very hot underneath (even with a stone in there to deflect the heat), so I have to sometimes remove things before they're truly done. The other problem, I thought, was that the flour-to-milk ratio was wrong (for me).

So, this morning I decreased the flour by 1/2 cup and used 3/4 cup. Add to that the fact that I was using my home oven, which is much more reliable. Take a look at these! Not only are they a rich golden brown, they rose so nicely that each one has a huge cavern of air inside. Boy, these were just delectable!

So here's my recipe, adapted from Min's.


butter-flavored nonstick cooking spray
2 eggs
1 cup milk
3/4 cup flour
¼ teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 375˚. Spray the insides of 12 - 14 muffin cups with cooking spray. (I use free-standing silicone cups, so I can adjust the number easily). Break eggs into the mixing bowl, add milk and beat well with a whisk. Add flour and salt and whisk until blended. Using a small ladle or 1/2-cup measuring cup, fill muffin cups about 2/3 full. Bake for 30 minutes. Serve hot with jam, honey, or maple syrup.