Monday, November 30, 2009

Roast Beef Hash - almost as good as Mom's

When I was growing up, Mom made roast beef at least once a month. She made sure to use lots of carrots and potatoes, since we loved the hash she made with the leftovers (if there were any!). I've had a craving for that hash, but didn't want to start with a roast and cook all day. So, believe it or not, I was able to recreate that same flavor using canned roast beef from Costco. There are two kinds of canned roast beef - one is hunks of beef in a brown gravy, and the other is what I used - hunks of brisket in beef broth. I added some burgundy, which Mom never did, but otherwise, this came out pretty close to how I remember hers.

Roast Beef Hash

carrots, diced (about a cup)
potatoes, diced (about 2 cups)
1/2 medium onion, chopped
2 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
salt and pepper
1 12-oz. can roast beef in beef broth, undrained
1/4 cup burgundy
1/4 to 1/2 cup water or beef broth

In a small saucepan, boil the carrots in a cup or so of water for about 10 minutes, or until nearly tender. Add the potatoes and a little more water, and continue boiling another 10 minutes or until carrots and potatoes are tender. Drain. In a large skillet, saute the onion in the butter until tender. Sprinkle with flour, salt, and pepper, and cook another 2 minutes. Add beef and broth from can, burgundy, and 1/4 cup water or beef broth. Stir and cook over medium heat a couple of minutes until thickened. Add carrots and potatoes, and heat through. Serve over some soft bread. Remember Mom fondly.

Baked Cabbage and Braised Autumn Pork Chops

I hauled a big head of cabbage to Lake Mead and back, and decided Sunday night I needed to use it before it went bad. We weren't in the mood for cole slaw or any other kind of salad, and since we were having pork chops, this recipe sounded like it would go well with them.

Baked Cabbage

1 medium cabbage
2 eggs, lightly beaten
6 tablespoons butter, melted
3 tablespoons heavy cream
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup dry bread crumbs

Preheat over to 375 degrees. Grease a 2-quart casserole. Cook cabbage in boiling, salted water for 10 minutes. Drain and let cool; chop finely. In mixing bowl, blend eggs, 3 Tablespoons butter, cream, salt and pepper; stir in cabbage.Turn into casserole dish. Blend remaining butter with bread crumbs and sprinkle over cabbage. Bake 30 minutes.

* Note: You might want to use some paper towels to dry the cabbage thoroughly before chopping it.

To go with the cabbage, I tried a recipe for pork chops that was in my old notebook - it sounded like something that was appropriate for Sunday. A cold winter storm had just come through southern California, and left several inches of snow behind.

Braised Autumn Pork Chops

2 boneless pork chops
¼ teaspoon salt
dash pepper
1 teaspoon canola oil
¾ cup thinly sliced onion (about 1 medium)
1 rib celery, diced
½ cup apple juice
2 teaspoon cider vinegar
1 teaspoon sage

Sprinkle pork with salt and pepper. In a nonstick skillet, cook meat in oil for about 3 minutes on each side or until browned; drain. Remove meat; keep warm. In same skillet, cook onion and celery for about 4 minutes or until tender. Stir in the apple cider, vinegar and sage. Return meat to skillet. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes or until meat is tender.

Brown Sugar Banana Bread

(another recipe from the old notebook)

Don loves "sweet" breakfasts when I'm working and don't make time to cook - so I make him things like muffins, waffles, and quick breads that he can just grab and eat. This recipe is a bit different than other banana breads I've made since it's sweetened with brown sugar instead of white.

Brown Sugar Banana Bread

2 cups whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 3/4 cups mashed ripe bananas (about 4 medium)
2/3 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons walnut or vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 - 2/3 cup chopped toasted walnuts

Preheat oven to 325˚. Place the flour, baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg and cinnamon in a large bowl, and stir to mix well. Put the banana and brown sugar in a medium bowl, and stir until the brown sugar has dissolved. Add the banana mixture, oil, and vanilla to the flour mixture, and stir just until the dry ingredients are moistened. Fold in the walnuts. Coat an 8" x 4" loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray (I use the kind with flour in it ). Spread the batter evenly in the pan and bake at 325˚ for 50-55 minutes, or just until a toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean. Cool 15 minutes, then remove from pan to finish cooling on a wire rack. Refrigerate any leftovers not eaten within 24 hours.

Confetti Chicken

I have two recipe collections - MacGourmet, which I use 99% of the time, and my old, typewritten collection, which is in a 3-ring binder in the kitchen. Several times I've gone through it and added recipes from it to MacGourmet, but this one slipped through the cracks. I used to make this often, and when I saw it recently I knew we had to have it so I could post it and then transfer it over to the computerized collection.

This recipe was one that I got through a mail-order cookbook - I don't remember what it was called, and I no longer have it. But you were given the binders for free, and each month you were sent sections of recipes for the binders. I still use a lot of the recipes that were in that cookbook. This one combines roasted chicken, which I now do with boneless breasts and thighs, and roasted potatoes, one of my weaknesses. I make sure now that Don eats 3/4 of the potatoes so I don't overdo.

Confetti Chicken

2 tablespoons oil
1 bunch green onions, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 sweet red pepper, chopped
2 lbs. chicken pieces
2 ½ teaspoons lemon juice
6 small to med. red potatoes, halved
2 tablespoons white wine
salt, pepper, paprika
1 teaspoon dried rosemary

Preheat oven to 375˚. Mix oil and garlic. Arrange chicken and potatoes in a shallow roasting pan. Brush well with oil and sprinkle with half the rosemary, and salt, pepper, and paprika to taste. Bake 25 minutes. Remove from oven, turn chicken and potatoes; sprinkle with remaining rosemary, salt, pepper, and paprika to taste. Bake 25 minutes longer and check for doneness. Chicken should be crisp and lightly browned. Sprinkle green onions and red pepper over chicken, and bake 5 more minutes. Sprinkle lemon juice and wine over chicken. Place on hot platter and pour any pan juices over it. Serve hot.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Being Borderline Diabetic... really the same as being diabetic. I have to watch the carbs, cook and eat carefully, and test my blood sugar. The only difference is that I only check my blood sugar 2 times a week, fasting (in the morning before breakfast). (I made a big mistake on Saturday - I pricked my finger while sewing, and thought, "why not use this little blood to do a blood test?" It was right after lunch.... totally freaked me out how high it was! But this morning it was normal. Whew!)

I've learned how to "tweak" so many recipes, added so many new recipes to my repertoire, and continue to try new things - while I know I'm eating healthier, it just get so frustrating. I just hate it that so many good foods are so bad for me.

What does a diabetic eat for breakfast? I would love to keep working on this list - it's rather limiting, and you can't eat eggs all the time. I don't care that much for oatmeal, but I'll eat it just to have variety. What I really need is recipes for work mornings - things I can grab and take with me.

1. eggs - fixed every way you can think of
a. egg/cheese quesadillas on whole grain tortillas
b. migas (eggs scrambled with tortilla chips and salsa)
c. scrambled
d. "fried" (with nonstick cooking spray)
e. egg "muffins"
f. Huevos Rancheros
g. Sausage-Egg Breakfast Quesadillas
h. Mexican Soufflé

2. oatmeal - with additions like pumpkin purée or peanut butter
3. whole grain waffles - spread with cream cheese (Kraft makes some good flavors)
4. whole grain pancakes - with sugar-free syrup (Carey's tastes the best to me)

I started a list of general changes and tweaks - and will keep adding to it as I go. But it's been a long process, and continues to change every day. I fall off the wagon and climb back on all the time - you really have to take it one meal, one snack at a time.

Changes and Tweaks:

1. morning coffee - I use Splenda and sugar-free Coffeemate
2. white flour is no longer found in my kitchen - I use whole wheat, even for thickening gravy
3. Splenda granular - I now buy it by the "5-lb." bag, and the canister of sugar that used to be refilled monthly now gets refilled once a year.
4. fresh vegetables - we used to stock up on canned vegetables, which are still fine, but we rarely use them any more. I cook more fresh vegetables than ever before.
5. fewer potatoes - potatoes are my favorite "vegetable," and I've relegated them to an afterthought on most menus - if we have them, I deliberately make half of what I used to make, and serve Don the much larger serving.
6. substitutes for potatoes - I used to have potatoes as a side dish with nearly every meal (unless we had pasta - but that's another change). My mind still wants a white or yellow starch - so I use brown rice, turnips, cauliflower, okra, cabbage, sweet potatoes (sparingly), squash, corn, and other non-potato vegetables.
7. Dreamfields pasta - since it has a lower glycemic value (fewer digestible carbs), that's all we eat. I no longer buy any other kind. I wish, though, that Dreamfields made orzo or couscous.
8. If any ready-made product, such as ice cream, pancake syrup, or whipped topping, comes in a sugar-free version, that's what I buy. The only exceptions so far have been sweet pickles and jelly. The sugar-free versions of those were just nasty.
9. brown rice - I no longer buy any kind of white rice, with the exception of Uncle Ben's Converted - which, in addition to having a lower glycemic value than regular white rice, is good for making Spanish Rice.
10. fresh baby carrots as a substitute for potato chips - I have to have something with my sandwiches for lunch, and these give me that crunch.
11. popcorn as an occasional substitute for potato chips

This post will change often, as I learn more things about eating as a borderline diabetic. I'm open to all suggestions and ideas.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Roasting Pumpkins

Two weeks ago, before Halloween, I saw various posts on different blogs about roasting pumpkin to make pumpkin purée. Ree on Pioneer Woman said to make sure that I had a "sugar pumpkin" instead of the normal jack-o-lantern type, so I went in search of one. The first place I went to, our local fresh vegetable stand, had lots and lots of orange pumpkins. When I asked about "sugar pumpkins," the gal at the front said they only had "those," pointing to the ones outside. Since I was short on time, I grabbed two that were about the same size and took them home.

They were both small, so I decided to roast them at the same time. As I was cutting them up, I noticed that one had darker flesh than the other - but the difference between the two was more noticeable after they'd been roasted. For these two, I followed Ree's directions of cutting them in quarters (or eighths, depending on the size of the pumpkin), scooping out the guts, and then roasting at 350˚ for about 45 minutes. Next I peeled them. The one with the darkest flesh was very difficult to peel while the other one had stringy flesh and had peel that came off easily. I decided to mix them together while puréeing, and ended up making 6 cups of purée. This I froze in 2-cup bags. I've already used that purée up - in pumpkin pancakes and pumpkin butter.

The pumpkin butter recipe comes courtesy of Kevin, whose blog is called Closet Cooking. It tastes like pumpkin pie! I'm glad I discovered his blog - so many wonderful recipes.

Pumpkin Butter
from Kevin of Closet Cooking

2 cups pumpkin puree
1 cup brown sugar
½ cup apple cider
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon cloves

Simmer everything in a pot until most of the liquid has evaporated and the sauce has thickened.

As it got closer to Halloween, I decided to go ahead and spend a bit more money on my pumpkins. I went to Live Oak Canyon Pumpkin Patch - not even 2 miles from my office - and asked for assistance in finding pumpkins meant for eating. They advertise that they have over 50 varieties of pumpkins - so it was quite fun to explore and try to pick out the "right" ones for me. These are the ones I got:

The large orange one is called a Cinderella. The gray-green one is appropriately called an Ironbark. The white one is a Casper.

Here's the Ironbark before I roasted it. This time, I followed the directions that were in a handout from the pumpkin patch and roasted it whole. I set the oven to 35o˚, put the pumpkin on a cookie sheet, and roasted it for 90 minutes.

This is the Ironbark after it was roasted and quartered. I decided I liked the other method better - where I cut it up before I roasted it. The flesh came out more evenly cooked that way. But this pumpkin had very smooth flesh that puréed easily without having to add any water.

Still down in the basement are the Cinderella and the Casper - they're supposed to last for months, so I'll do the next one in a couple of weeks.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

How Time Flies!

I cannot believe it's been over a month since I posted last! That's terrible; inexcusable - but I've been busy. I've been busy at work, since the California budget is in the tanks and our governor and legislators are idiots, and it's been affecting everything our district does. I've been busy at home - yes, I've been cooking - I even took pictures, but for a while I just didn't want to connect that little cord from the camera to the computer to transfer the photos. I DO want to share a fabulous new recipe I got from my friend Chris. He brought it to the Halloween party I went to; it was potluck and I brought my mom's macaroni salad. What Chris actually brought was a salad made with orzo, but since I need to lower the carbs, I made this today with brown rice. It has a lower glycemic value, and the salad still was yummy.

Debbie's Orzo Salad with Feta
from Chris Brunette

1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons honey
1/2 cup olive oil
1 box orzo (alternately, you can use 2 cups of brown rice)
6 cups chicken broth/stock (I cheat and use powdered bouillon)
2 cups grape tomatoes, cut in half
1 bunch green onions, thinly sliced (green parts, too)
1 cup chopped fresh basil
6-7 oz. crumbled feta (I used a 6-oz. container from Trader Joe's)
1/2 cup toasted pine nuts

In a small bowl, make the dressing: Whisk together the vinegar, lemon juice, and honey. Whisk in the olive oil.

In a large pot, bring the orzo or rice to a boil in the chicken stock. Boil until tender (orzo - about 7 minutes; rice - 40 minutes). Drain and rinse with cold water. Add remaining ingredients and toss with the dresssing. Makes about 12 servings; keeps well several days in refrigerator.