Thursday, December 21, 2006

My Blogging by Mail Package Arrived!

My BBM Holiday Edition pal was April of Gastronomicon, who lives in Pittsburgh, PA. I had listed on my signup that I was interested in regional foods, so she obliged me. She also cooked up some pretty good stuff herself!

Here's what I got:

Tulip Poplar Honey from a local apiary - DH and I are looking forward to some of that on our toast in the morning!
Brown Sugar marshmallows from a local confectionary - I've already tasted them, and they are sooo goood.
Chocolate S'mores Balls from another local confectionary - It's hard to stop eating these. They chocolate-coated marshmallows with a graham cracker "crust."
Pistachio-Dried Cherry Chocolate Bark - delightfully unusual. And delicious.
Chocolate-Covered Apricots - these will go with us on our camping trip to snack on.
Cinnamon Snaps - sort of like Snickerdoodles - really good!
Rugellach from a bakery near April's apartment - another breakfast treat - I think we'll eat these "on the road"
Cardamom cookies - sort of like a soft shortbread - not too sweet - yummy with coffee.

So you can see, I "hit the jackpot!" What a wonderful assortment of goodies! Thanks so much to April for sending the package, and thanks to Stephanie of Dispensing Happiness for organizing Blogging by Mail. This is so much fun!

If you'd like to see what I sent to my partner, go to Erin-Go-Blog! and see.

I DID get that cold, and boy was it a doozie! Sunday was the tickling in the throat, Monday was the beginning of the sniffles and congestion, and by Monday night I felt like I was hit by a semi truck. Tuesday was spent in bed all day; I used up an entire box of tissues. My poor nose is so red and tender! Yesterday I was a little stronger, but last night the coughing started. The cough syrup wasn't strong enough; I got only a few hours' sleep. Today I feel like I'm on the uphill side, with a little bit of everything still hanging on.

The reason I'm such a wimp about this is because I haven't had a cold or been sick for almost 4 years. When I was in the classroom, I caught every virus my students brought in, especially around semester finals time, when my resistance was low because of the exhaustion and stress. But when I became union president, no more kids. I guess I was awfully lucky not to catch colds from my colleagues, but I didn't. Still haven't - I'm sure I caught this from DH.

I should be fine for our trip - we leave Saturday for almost two weeks of camping in our new trailer on Lake Mead. I'll be posting all about it after the trip on my other blog, Wanderlust. This will be our second year to go; we went last year and fell in love with it. We go to Overton Beach, on the Overton Arm of Lake Mead. Picture Lake Mead as an upside-down T, and then go to the top. There's a marina there, plus a 30-site campground, which is probably packed and noisy during the summer months with seadoos and ski boats. But this time of year, the only ones there are snowbirds (full-time RVers) and us. Last year, within an hour of our setting up, two different ladies came and knocked on our door to tell us that on Christmas Day they all do a potluck, and wanted us to come. We did - and ate turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, stuffing, sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, and an assortment of other sides, breads, and desserts. We brought a pumpkin pie I was able to get at a market in Overton, which is 10 miles north. This year I'm planning to make a cranberry salad, and I'll be sure to post a pic and recipe later.

At night, you can sit in your chair, look out across the desert and see nothing but some far off twinkling lights of Overton, and listen to the coyotes and the occasional bray of the famous Lake Mead burros. We saw four of them one afternoon, so I knew what that strange sound was. The lights of Las Vegas brighten the western sky some, but not enough to dim our view of the stars. It's heaven - no kids, no atvs, no seadoos - just peace and quiet.

Last year DH met a guy his age, also retired, also with wife still working (she's a nurse), who also has a passion for fishing. They hit it off and spent lots of time together fishing. Gary's from Las Vegas, and parks his motor home up at Overton Beach for the winter; he's let us know he bought a boat and plans to take DH fishing a lot. We're also looking forward to spending the day with DH's niece and her husband - they're both stationed at Nellis Air Force Base and will come up to see us Sunday.

Oh, I wish I was there already!

Sunday, December 17, 2006

I HOPE I don't have that darn cold!

I think I might be getting a cold - one that my husband got from the salesman at the car dealership. DH had it for about a week; I didn't feel any symptoms until this afternoon. All I have right now is the back-of-the-throat pain and tickling that usually presages a cold. Please no. And if I DO get it, let me get it over with by Friday. Saturday we go to Lake Mead. I don't want to be sick on vacation.

Tonight I wanted an easy but tasty fish recipe, and found this on Eating Well. The original recipe called for mustard, but I took that out, since I wanted some good orange flavor. This one's a keeper.

Sautéed Fish with Orange-Shallot Sauce

⅓ cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt, or to taste
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 lb. flounder, sole or haddock fillets
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 large shallot, finely chopped
½ cup dry white wine
1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
2 teaspoons butter
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Mix flour, salt and pepper in a shallow dish. Thoroughly dredge fish fillets in the mixture.
Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering but not smoking. Add the fish and cook until lightly browned and just opaque in the center, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate and keep warm.
Add shallot to the pan and cook over medium-high heat, stirring often, until softened and beginning to brown, about 3 minutes. Add wine and bring to a simmer, scraping up any browned bits. Cook until most of the liquid has evaporated, 1 to 2 minutes. Add orange juice; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer until the sauce thickens a bit, about 5 minutes. Add butter and parsley; stir until the butter has melted. Transfer fish to individual plates, top with sauce and serve.

I served this with some Roasted Vegetables and some fancied-up biscuits:

Cheddar-Garlic Biscuits

1 10-count package refrigerated biscuits (any kind)
1 Tbsp. butter, melted
1/3 cup (approx.) shredded sharp or medium cheddar
1/2 tsp. garlic powder

Preheat oven to 425F. Separate biscuits and place on ungreased baking sheet about 1-2 inches apart. Brush each biscuit with melted butter, and top with about a tablespoon of shredded cheese. Sprinkle lightly with garlic powder. Bake about 10 minutes, or until lightly browned. Makes 10.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

It's Snowing this Weekend

While my mother in Lubbock is talking about temperatures in the '80s, we've got a winter storm that's come on shore in southering California, and we're getting some pretty good snow here in the mountains. Any time it's cold outside, I look for meals that utilze my oven so we can take advantage of the oven's heat to help warm up the house. This morning I was flipping through the pages of my cookbook ( which won't happen much longer since I'm converting all my recipes to MacGourmet) and saw this breakfast casserole. I like to cook with Bisquick, so I gave this one a try. It was really easy and tasty, and DH says it's a "keeper." I think next time, though, I'll try using the whole grain baking mix I picked up at Trader Joe's.

Bisquick Breakfast Casserole
(to serve 3 people, use half the ingredients)

1 lb bulk breakfast sausage (I use Jimmy Dean)
8 eggs
2 cups milk
1 cup Bisquick
1/2 cup Monterey Jack cheese
1/2 cup cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 325°F. Lightly grease a 9x13" dish. Cook sausage and drain well. Beat eggs, add milk and Bisquick and stir thoroughly. Layer sausage on bottom of dish. Sprinkle the monterey jack cheese over the sausage. Pour on the egg mixture and sprinkle the cheddar over the top. Bake for 50 minutes or until set.

I picked up some produce at the market this morning, including some fresh mushrooms. For dinner tonight, I made an old favorite, Chicken and Mushrooms with Herb Cheese Sauce. We had that with some brown rice and a salad.

Remember when I posted a while back about Uncle Ben's ready brown rice? A few folks let me know that if I used a good quality Japanese rice cooker, I could cook brown rice without burning it. I hope to post in a few months and show you my new rice cooker! My son just got stationed at Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, Japan, and has let me know that he's going to get me one for a belated Christmas gift. Hooray!

I just checked outside - we have about 4 inches of snow so far. It's a dry snow - the way we know it's dry is that it's not sticking to and filling up the Direct TV dish. When we get a dense, wet snow, it fills up the dish. DH has to climb up on the ladder and clean it out every few minutes. Tonight he doesn't have to. I'll take some snow pictures to post tomorrow.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Some More Sweets for BBM

Having just bought a new travel trailer, I spend a lot of time on the forums at RV.Net. They have a thread called "Camp Cooks and Connoisseurs, where I found this great recipe for Turtle Bars. I think it didn't even take 10 minutes to mix everything up and get it in the the oven. They're very simple, and very delicous. They'll travel well as part of the BBM package I"m mailing (late) tomorrow.

Turtle Bars
from Heather on RV.Net Open Roads Forum

2 cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup light brown sugar, packed
½ cup butter, softened
1 ½ cups pecans, coarsely chopped
½ cup light brown sugar, packed
⅔ cup butter
1 ½ cups milk or semisweet chocolate chips

Combine flour, 3/4 cup brown sugar and 1/2 cup butter; blend until crumbly. Pat mixture firmly onto bottom of ungreased 9x13-inch baking pan. Sprinkle pecans over the unbaked crust. Set aside.
In small saucepan, combine 1/2 cup brown sugar and 2/3 cup butter.
Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture begins to boil. Boil for one minute, stirring constantly.
Drizzle the hot caramel mixture over pecans and crust.
Bake at 350° for 18 to 20 minutes or until caramel layer is bubbly and crust is light brown.
Remove from oven and immediately sprinkle with chocolate chips. Use a small spatula or butter knife to spread chips evenly as they melt. Cool completely before cutting into squares.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

My Brother's Favorite Cake

When I went to visit my brother Barry last year (not knowing it would be the last time I'd see him), he reminded me about a cake Mother used to make that he'd been longing for. He described the coconut topping, and I told him I'd vaguely remembered it. I did some research, and learned that it's a Bisquick classic.

It hit the spot for breakfast this morning. I lightened up the original recipe just a bit by substituting Splenda for the sugar, and then used canola oil for the shortening. I also used the low-fat Bisquick. I could have used Splenda's brown sugar blend, but chose not to this time.

Velvet Crumb Cake

1 1/2 cup Bisquick® mix
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cp milk or water
2 Tbsp. canola oil
1 tsp. vanilla
1 egg
Crumb Topping (See Below)

Heat oven to 350ºF. Grease and flour 8-inch square pan or 9-inch round pan. Beat all ingredients except Crumb Topping in large bowl on low speed 30 seconds, scraping bowl constantly. Beat on medium speed 4 minutes, scraping bowl occasionally. Pour into pan. Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean; cool slightly.
Make Crumb Topping; spread over cake. Set oven control to Broil. Broil about 3 inches from heat about 3 minutes or until golden brown.

Crumb Topping. Stir together:

1/2 cup flaked coconut
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup chopped nuts
3 Tbsp. butter, softened
2 Tbsp. millk

High Altitude (3500-6500 ft)
Heat oven to 375ºF. Use 9-inch square pan. Decrease Bisquick mix to 1 1/3 cups and add 1/3 cup all-purpose flour. Increase milk to 2/3 cup. Bake about 25 minutes.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Pecan Pralines Texas Style

When I was going to college at Texas Tech, my favorite restaurant was a Mexican place called El Chico. In addition to great Chile con Queso, Sour Cream Chicken Enchiladas, and other wonderful items on the menu, they always had a basket of pecan pralines sitting by the cash register. Theirs were the "Texas style" pralines - meaning they were NOT chewy. I was given a recipe for microwave pralines a few years ago, and they come out just like the ones at El Chico.

I'm getting my Blogging By Mail box ready to ship (yes, I'm a litte late, but I'll send it priority), and decided to make a batch and send them to my BBM pal.

Texas Pecan Pralines

1 lb. light brown sugar
1 cup whipping cream
2 Tbsp. butter
2 cups pecan pieces

Combine sugar and cream in large bowl, mixing well. Microwave on HIGH 12 minutes, stirring after 6 minutes. Add butter and pecans. Microwave on HIGH 1 to 2 minutes, or until a few drops form a soft ball in a cup of cold water. Working quickly, drop by large tablespoonfuls onto waxed paper. If necessary, return to microwave for a few minutes to soften the mixture. Do not beat after the soft ball test shows the consistency is correct. Spoon out immediately. Makes approx. 30 pieces.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

New Products for Camping

When we go camping, we don't always carry fresh potatoes, and even if we do, I don't always like to go to the trouble of peeling and shredding and slicing and such. I used to buy Betty Crocker's Hash Browns, and they disappeared from the shelves for a while. Then yesterday, I saw them at the store, but BC has changed the packaging and now has a ine of "Seasoned Skillets." They still have the hash browns, but they now also have Crispy Potato Slices in two different flavors - Lightly Seasoned and Roasted Garlic & Herbs. I'll be giving these a try in a couple of weeks when we go to Overton Beach for Christmas.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Catchin' Up - Three Breakfasts

I can't believe how busy I've been while I've been on Thanksgiving Break! You'd think that there'd be lots of time to get lots of posting done. Well, not this year. On Sunday, we bought a brand new travel trailer! We've been camping for the past 10 years or so in a tent trailer, which, while it was definitely better than tent camping, didn't offer the amenities I'm looking forward to now. I've decided to start a separate blog about the trailer and our camping experiences; I'll do the first entry soon. We plan to take it out next weekend for a two-night "shakedown," then on a longer trip over the winter break.

I HAVE done some cooking, though. With my DS son here, I've made some decent breakfasts. In addition to my wonderful bisuits and gravy, I used the Jimmy Dean sausage in a bread-based casserole. It was easy to throw together, and I didn't keep it in the refrigerator overnight like most recipes call for. (However, I think if I did, it would be a bit softer and probably even better!)

Easy Breakfast Casserole

½ lb. Jimmy Dean sausage
1 tablespoon mustard
6 slices bread , torn into bite-size pieces
1 cup cheddar cheese, grated
6 eggs or equivalent in Eggbeaters, beaten
1 4-ounce can evaporated milk or 1/2 cup milk

Preheat oven to 350?. In a skillet, crumble and brown the sausage. Stir in the mustard. Combine bread, cheese, and sausage, and put in a 9" baking pan. Mix eggs and mik, and pour evenly over bread-meat mixture, and bake about 30 minutes until puffed, golden, and set. Serves 2-3.

Have you ever eaten at Mimi's Cafe? They make a dish for breakfast they call Pain Perdu - which is basically French toast with cream cheese and marmalade inside. I've taken that concept and added almonds - and it was soooooo good.

Orange-Almond Pain Perdu

6 slices white or whole wheat sandwich bread
3 Tbsp. softened cream cheese, divided
6 teaspoons orange marmalade
2 eggs or equivalent in Eggbeaters
2-3 Tbsp. milk
3 Tbsp. sliced almonds, toasted
nonstick cooking spray

Spread 3 slices of bread with 1 tablespoon each cream cheese and 2 teaspoons each orange marmalade. Form three sandwiches with the other three slices. Combine eggs/Eggbeaters and milk in a shallow dish. Heat a griddle sprayed with nonstick cooking spray. Sprinkle space where you're going to place a sandwich with 1 tablespoon of the almonds. Dip both sides of sandwich in egg mixture and place on top of almonds. Grill until brown on bottom side, flip and grill until both sides are browned. Serve with maple syrup. Makes 3.

This morning's breafast made use of some refrigerated biscuits, and is one of DS's favorites. I'm sure I could change this a bit to make it lower carb, but he doesn't need fewer carbs so I made it this way.

Apple Breakfast Stacks

1/3 c packed brown sugar
2 T all-purpose flour
1/2 t ground cinnamon
1 10-oz can refrigerated biscuits
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
1 large apple, cored and cut into rings
1 Tbsp. butter or margarine, melted

Combine first 3 ingredients in a small bowl; set aside. Separate biscuits, and press each into a 3-inch circle. Place on lightly greased baking sheets; sprinkle with cheese, and top each with an apple ring. Sprinkle with reserved sugar mixture, and drizzle with melted butter. Bake at 350F for 15 minutes or until crust is golden. Serve immediately. Makes 10.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Cooler Nights Mean it's Cobbler Time

Tonight between football games (Ohio St./Michigan and USC/Cal), I was able to talk DH into cooking some Italian sausages on the grill. I warmed up some hoagie rolls (also called submarine sandwich rolls), and sautéed some bell peppers and onions with a bit of garlic to top the sausages.

By the way, what do YOU call these long sandwiches? Hoagies? Subs? something else? I’ve called them both hoagies and subs, but I know there are some other names for them.

For a side dish, I made my mother’s pasta salad. Her ingredients for pasta salad are identical (except for the pasta, of course) to her potato salad: boiled macaroni, chopped sweet pickle, chopped onion, hard boiled eggs, pimentos, and Miracle Whip.

It’s our dessert that I’m highlighting tonight. I’ve decided that in order to defrost the freezer, I need to start using up all the food that’s in it! I’ve had a bag of berry blend (blackberries, blueberries, and raspberries) from Costco in there the longest, so I decided to create a mixed berry cobbler. I lightened it by substituting Splenda for about two-thirds of the sugar, then I switched out some all-purpose flour for some white whole wheat, and added flaxseed to the batter. I also cut about a quarter of the butter out of the batter. This is sooooo good!

Mixed Berry Cobbler

1 cup white whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup ground flaxseed
1 cup Splenda granular, divided
3/4 cup sugar, divided
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 stick cold butter, cut in small pieces
1 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 cup boiling water
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 cup cold water
2 tablespoons lemon juice
6 cups mixed berries, rinsed and drained

Preheat oven to 400˚. Line a large cookie sheet with foil.
In a large bowl, mix the flours, flaxseed, 1/2 cup Splenda granular, 1/4 cup sugar, baking powder, and salt. Cut in butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in almond extract and 1/2 cup boiling water just until mixture is evenly moist. In a separate bowl, dissolve the cornstarch in cold water. Mix in remaining 1/2 cup Splenda, 1/2 cup sugar, lemon juice, and blackberries. Transfer to a cast iron skillet, and bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Drop dough into the skillet by spoonfuls. Place skillet on the foil lined baking sheet. Bake 25 minutes in the preheated oven, until dough is golden brown. Serves 8.

Weekend Herb Blogging is being hosted this week by Nandita of Saffron Trail. I just realized that my berries "count", since we've been celebrating herbs, fruits, vegetables, and plants in general. After Monday, go to Saffron Trail to check out the roundup.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

A Study of Mole

Many years ago I had a dish at a faculty party called Chicken Mole (pronounced mo-lay). It was a chicken dish, with pieces of chicken in a dark red sauce. All these years I’ve been under the mistaken impression that red mole was the only kind of mole. After seeing a post on Is it EDible?, I learned that there’s a green mole. I had to give it a try, and at the same time, decided to learn more about moles. First, I followed Ed’s directions and bought a jar of Mole Verde at the Mexican grocery store in Yucaipa. (The bigger stores carried only the red). I was intrigued by the list of ingredients in Mole Verde: pumpkin seeds, soybean oil, crackers, sesame seeds, peanuts, salt, chile peppers and “natural flavors.” When you open the jar to use some of it for a recipe, you need a very strong spoon, because the mixture is a paste that’s so thick it’s almost solid. In addition, if the recipe says to use only a quarter of a cup, then use only a quarter of a cup. I thought, “a quarter cup doesn’t look like a whole lot, maybe I should throw in a little more.” Wrong! It softens and dissolves into the broth, and if you use too much you end up with a thick muddy-looking sludge. So don’t use too much!

Once I made dinner, I got on the internet and tried to learn more about mole. The best resource is a site called The Mole Page. In addition to lots of recipes, I found information about types of moles and the history of mole. Bob, the owner of the site, says this:

"The word "Mole" comes from the Aztec word "Molli," meaning "concoction," "stew" or "sauce." To the unenlightened, Mole is a Mexican chocolate sauce. In Mexico, Mole is a hundred dishes in a hundred homes. It varies from town to town and family to family. The most famous Mole, "Mole Poblano de Guajolote" (made with Wild Turkey--the bird, not the booze) is a special complex dish carefully woven together using dried chiles, nuts, seeds, vegetables, spices and chocolate (preferably ground, toasted cacao beans, but Mexican chocolate, such as Ibarra brand, is acceptable).

Some refer to Mole Poblano as the National dish of Mexico. But there are many, many Moles, including Green Mole with Tomatillos, Green Mole with Pumpkinseeds, Orange-Red Mole, Red Mole, Yellow Mole and the famous peasant Soup, Mole de Olla. To some, Mole is a sauce poured on enchiladas and heated up in a microwave. To others, Mole is a Turkey (or Chicken) stew. To me, Mole is my expression of passion for cooking, especially cooking with chiles. It is a tribute to 17th century tradition while it allows me to create a new dish every time I make it.

Today, there are two focal points for Mexican Mole: 1) Puebla and 2) Oaxaca, though Veracruz is famous for "Mole Verde" (with Tomatillos and NO nuts or seeds), Guerrero features "Mole Verde" (with ground pumpkinseeds), Mexico City and Guadalajara play host to "Manchamanteles de Cerdo y Pollo" (simple Red Mole with Meat, Fowl and Fruit).”

This means that the mole I made for dinner probably originated in Guerrero. I have a jar of red mole that I bought at Trader Joe’s, and I bet it’s like the mole I had all those years ago.

I don’t know if the Guerrero version has mushrooms in it, but Ed put them in his, and it really “made” the dish. I didn’t have DH and K really ate it up, and declared it a success. Thanks, Ed!

Chicken Mole Verde
from Ed of Is it EDible?

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 shallots, minced
2 cloves, garlic minced
2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs (I used breasts this time)
8 ounces mushrooms, halved
4 ounces Dona Maria Mole Verde sauce
2 cups water
2 chicken bouillon cubes
1/2 cup queso fresco (a Mexican white cheese with a crumbly texture)

In a large saucepan with a lid, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add in shallots and garlic. Sauté for a minute. Add chicken. Saute until lightly brown on all sides. Add remaining ingredients and stir. Cover and reduce heat to medium low. Let simmer for 20 minutes, stirring to blend once the mole paste melts. Sauce will thicken on its own. Just before serving, sprinkle the queso fresco on top. Serve over rice.

I have a jar of red mole sauce that I bought at Trader Joe’s. Red mole usually has unsweetened chocolate in it, which is common in some Mexican sauces. The red comes from the chocolate and the red chiles used for spice. It’s prepared in the same way, and tastes just as good–just different.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

A snack for the road trip (plus some for me!)

DH and K have to go to Salt Lake City tomorrow to retrieve K's inoperable car from storage. It's been there the whole time he was in Korea, and now they want to bring it here so he doesn't have to pay for the storage any more, and so that we can look into trying to get it running again. Something about a $2000 estimate has kept K from getting it fixed.

They're leaving at "O Dark Thirty," meaning whenever DH gets up and makes K get up. That'll probably be around 3 am. But I know that they'll need a good snack on the road, so I made some homemade granola bars. I'm keeping a few for myself to grab for breakfast a couple of days.

Coconut Cranberry Granola Bars

2 cups rolled oats
¾ cup packed brown sugar
½ cup wheat or oat bran
1 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
1 cup chopped nuts (almonds, walnuts, pecans)
1 cup whole wheat flour
¾ cup dried cranberries
¾ teaspoon salt
½ cup honey
1 egg, beaten
½ cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350˚. Generously grease a 9x13 inch baking pan or line it with parchment paper. In a large bowl, mix together the oats, brown sugar, wheat bran, coconut, nuts, flour, cranberries and salt. Make a well in the center, and pour in the honey, egg, oil and vanilla. Mix well using your hands. Pat the mixture evenly into the prepared pan. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes in the preheated oven, until the bars begin to turn golden at the edges. Cool for 5 minutes, then cut into bars while still warm. Do not allow the bars to cool completely before cutting, or they will be too hard to cut.

Soup for Lunch

There’s a great barbecue restaturant in Redlands called Slim Pig’n’s, which I’ve written about here. I’ve been on the lookout for a recipe for tortilla soup that’s similar to theirs.

Earlier this week, Randi of Culinary Adventures posted about some tortilla soup with chiptotle shrimp that she’d made; she got the recipe from Cuisine at Home Soups and Splendid Sides magazine. Without posting the recipe, she described the basic steps she took to making the soup, and I decided I had to try to come up with a recipe that was similar to what she made, since it seemed a lot like the one at Slim Pig’n’s. Mine doesn’t have any meat in it, though you could add chicken or shrimp if you want.

Here it is!

Creamy Tortilla Soup

1/4 cup chopped onion
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1 clove garlic, minced
2 Tbsp canola or vegetable oil
4 cups chicken broth
1 tsp dried cilantro
1/2 tsp chipotle chili powder
1/2 tsp regular chili powder
1 15.25-ounce can corn, drained
1 15-ounce can pinto beans, drained (next time I’ll use black beans, but I didn’t have any in the cupboard)
1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes, drained
1 4-ounce can chopped green chilies
2 6-inch corn tortillas, torn in small pieces
2 Tbsp flour
1/2 cup sour cream

Sauté onion, cumin, coriander, and garlic in oil until onion softens. Add chicken broth, cilantro, chili powders, corn, beans, tomatoes, green chilies, and torn tortilla pieces. Bring to a boil, and cook over medium heat 10-20 minutes. Stir flour into sour cream; add sour cream to soup. Stir with a whisk until all lumps are gone and heat another 5 minutes without boiling. Serve topped with grated cheese and crispy tortilla strips (or do what I did, which was to use broken-up tortilla chips). Makes 6 servings.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Makeover Pumpkin Bundt Cake

Last week, Patti of Adventures in Food and Wine made a great-looking Pumpkin Bundt Cake, from a recipe she got on I told her I was going to make it this weekend, but I decided to change it and make it hearty and healthier: lower fat, and lower sugar, and higher fiber. This is what I came up with:

Hearty Pumpkin Bundt Cake
adapted from a recipe from Patti of Adventures in Food and Wine

1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup unsweeteened applesauce
3 eggs
1 can (15 ounce) pumpkin puree
1/2 cup ground flaxseed
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups Splenda granular
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup 9-grain cereal (you can also use oat bran or wheat bran)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees˚. Spray one10-inch bundt or tube pan with Baker's Joy or Pam for baking. Cream oil, beaten eggs, pumpkin, flaxseed and vanilla together. Sift the Splenda, sugar, flours, baking soda, ground nutmeg, ground allspice, ground cinnamon, ground cloves and salt together. Stir in 9-grain cereal. Add the flour mixture to the pumpkin mixture and mix until just combined. Stir in walnuts. Pour batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 1 hour or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Let cake cool in pan for 5 minutes then turn out onto a plate and sprinkle with confectioners' sugar.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Family Update - With Photos!

Today was a great day. My son came home from Korea to spend a month with us before he goes to Japan for two years. His sister, the one who had surgery, was very anxious for him to get here, and they had a happy reunion at the airport. Don't they both look great?!

After we got home, K unpacked his bags and produced gifts! For his soccer-playing sister, he brought a Landon Donovan United States team jersey, for his Miami Dolphin-fan father, a Dan Marino jersey, and for his Atlanta Braves fanatic mother, a Chipper Jones jersey and hat.

Breakfast or Dessert?

I love Pineapple Upside-Down Cake, and when I was looking at some recipes on the Food Network website, I came across a recipe by Paula Deen for Pineapple Upside-Down Biscuits. I think she made them for dessert, but I thought they'd make a great breakfast. This morning I went to make them, and discovered I had no pineapple, but I did have a can of peaches. "Hmmmm," I thought, "why not try it with peaches?" DH and I have decided that not only are they good with pineapple and peaches, but might also be good with some diced apples and a bit of cinnamon, or maybe some other fruits. This is quick and easy, and tastes wonderful. I lightened it up some by using "lite" peaches and Splenda Brown Sugar Blend.

Peach Upside-Down Biscuits
adapted from a recipe by Paula Deen

1 can (14 ounce) peaches (I used "lite" peaches)
½ cup packed light brown sugar OR 1/4 cup Splenda Brown Sugar Blend
¼ cup (1/2 stick) butter, at room temperature
1 package (12-ounce) refrigerated buttermilk biscuits (10 count)
Preheat the oven to 400˚.

Grease 10 cups of a muffin tin. Strain the can of peaches, reserving the syrup, and dice the peaches. Combine the peaches, sugar, and butter, and mix well. Divide the peach mixture among the muffin cups. Place 1 biscuit in each cup on top of sugar and peach mixture. Spoon 1 teaspoon reserved peach syrup over each biscuit. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or until golden. Cool for 2 minutes. Run a knife around each biscuit and invert the pan onto a plate to release the biscuits. Serve warm. Serves 2.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Cooking Again

Now that my daughter is back home in her apartment (she's doing so well she'll return to work next Friday), I can get back to cooking things that require recipes. For several weeks we've been keeping it pretty simple and I haven't cooked much, or I've cooked things that I've already posted about.

Tonight I adapted a Rachel Ray recipe and came up with a wonderfully spicy-sweet dish. The original recipe, Apricot Chicken, was basically a sweet dish, but I wanted to spice mine up a bit. I also used pork instead of chicken, and thickened the sauce with cornstarch and water.

Every couple of months the Vons supermarket in Yucaipa puts pork sirloins on sale, and I stock up. This meat is like beef sirloin in that it's very tender, and cooks up better than boneless pork chops (which I also use a lot of). Pork sirloins are wonderful for grilling, and I use them for Schwenkbraten and my own Lemon-Garlic Schwenks. Instead of getting tough during grilling, like the boneless chops, this meat gets tender. You should try it sometime with your choice of marinade. Tonight I used it in this recipe:

Spicy Apricot Pork

1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 pork sirloins (about 12 oz.), cut in bite-sized pieces
salt and pepper
1 small onion, chopped
1 T cider or white vinegar
4 dried apricots, diced (it doesn't look like enough, but they expand while cooking)
1 c chicken stock
1/2 c apricot all-fruit spread
1-2 teaspoons sambal oelek (ground fresh red chile paste) (I used 2, and it was really spicy-so if you want it milder, just use 1)
1 Tbsp. cornstarch dissolved in 2 Tbsp. cold water

Heat olive oil in a large skillet. Add meat and season with salt and pepper. Brown on both sides; add onion. Cook 5 minutes. Add vinegar to the skillet, and when it evaporates, add the apricots and chicken stock. When the liquid comes to a boil, add the apricot fruit spread and the sambal oelek; stir to combine. Cover pan, reduce heat, and simmer 10-12 minutes. Raise heat to medium-high, add cornstarch-water mixture, and stir until sauce is thickened and bubbly. Serve over hot rice. Makes 3 servings (or 1 normal serving for you and 1 large serving for your hungry spouse!)

PRODUCT REVIEW-Uncle Ben's Ready Rice - Brown Rice

I saw this at the store last time I bought groceries, and since I absolutely CANNOT cook brown rice without burning it, I decided to give it a try. This bag has 2 servings of brown rice in it, and the directions call for you to microwave it on high for 90 seconds. I was pleasantly surprised to see that that's all it took. Perfectly-cooked brown rice. Since I normally cook for two, I plan to stock up on these. 90 seconds to perfect brown rice is worth the extra cost to me.

Celebrating a BLUE Day

Today was a great occasion to share with you one of my favorite martinis. I first had this one at the Mission Inn in Riverside. I really can't afford to eat there often, so I got the "recipe" from the bartender. Now I make up a batch and keep it in the refrigerator, ready to pour into a glass whenever I want a sweet taste.

Butterscotch Martini

1 6-oz. can pineapple juice
6 oz. vanilla vodka
6 oz. butterscotch schnapps

Combine all ingredients; serve cold. Makes about 5-6 martinis.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006


Take a stand. Make sure you have a reason to complain if you don't like the results.

I'm really looking forward to the change that's coming.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Making Use of Some Leftovers

I had some things in my refrigerator that needed to be used: half a package of cooked egg noodles, a small zucchini, and a carton of cottage cheese. I decided to make a casserole, and came up with this:

Italian Sausage Casserole

½ onion, chopped
½ bell pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoon olive oil
1 small zucchini, diced
4 sweet Italian sausages
1 tsp. salt
1 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 8 oz. pkg. cottage cheese
1 egg
¼ cup Parmesan cheese, grated
¼ cup grated Mozarella cheese
6 oz. egg noodles or pasta, cooked
1 cup grated Mozarella cheese

Preheat oven to 350˚. Sauté onion, bell pepper, and zucchini lightly in olive oil till softened; add crumbled Italian sausage and cook until meat is browned. Add salt and tomatoes. In a medium bowl, combine cottage cheese, egg, Parmesan cheese, and 1/4 cup shredded Mozarella. In a 3-quart casserole dish, layer half of the noodles, half of the meat mixture, the cottage cheese mixture, the remaining noodles, and then the remaining meat mixture. Bake, uncovered, 30 minutes. Top with 1 cup shredded Mozarella and cook 10 more minutes. Makes 6 servings.

It's sort of like lasanga. DH ate two large bowls full, and says he's looking foward to the leftovers tomorrow.

Oven Fries - With Half the Carbs

I subscribe to a daily email from Hungry Girl, which sends me tons of information about healthy eating, new low-calorie, or low fat products, and advice about great fast food that's healthy. If you've never visted the website, check it out.

Last week, she sent out a recipe for Butternut Squash Fries, and suggested to try them as a replacement for fries made with potatoes. I've been searching for such replacements, as the hardest thing for me about having to cut carbs has been cutting down on potatoes. If you ask me what my favorite food is, it's not chocolate - it's potatoes. Especially fried and roasted. Now, baked, boiled, and mashed are okay, too. But I digress. I bought a butternut squash last week, and it's been sitting on my kitchen counter waiting to try Hungry Girl's recipe. Last night I made it to go with our sloppy joes, and I have to say it was a success. When they were roasting, they even smelled like potatoes. When they were served, we ate them with ketchup, as Hungry Girl recommended. They tasted great - a bit like sweet potato fries, but not as sweet.

Butternut Squash Fries

1 butternut squash
2 tsp. olive or canola oil
1 tsp. kosher salt

Preheat oven to 425˚. Cut ends off of squash, and peel. Cut squash in half vertically, and scoop out seeds. Slice squash into french-fry-like shapes, and toss in a large bowl with oil and salt. Spread in one layer on a cookie sheet, and roast 25-35 minutes or until browned. (You'll have to check to make sure they're not burning). Makes 3 servings.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Not My Mom's Coffee Cake

Now that T is feeling much better, and is eating normal foods, she chose two of her favorites today. For breakfast, she'd wanted my mother's coffee cake, which I haven't made for over a year because it has so much sugar and fat in it. I decided to try "lightening" it up, and adding fiber to make it healthier. It was a success.

Here's the original recipe:

Mom's Coffee Cake

1 1/2 cup flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup shortening
1 egg
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup milk

Heat oven to 375F. Grease pan (9" round or square). Blend all ingredients, beat 1/2 minute. Spread in pan. Topping: Melt 1/4 cup butter, pour on top. Sprinkle cinnamon and sugar generously (I've always used a teaspoon of cinnamon mixed with 3 tablespoons of sugar). Bake 25-30 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

And here's the revision:

Not My Mom's Coffee Cake

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
2 Tbsp ground flaxseed
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup Splenda granular
1/4 cup canola oil
3/4 cup 1% or skim milk

Heat oven to 375F. Grease pan (9" round or square). Blend all ingredients, beat 1/2 minute. Spread in pan. Topping: Melt 2 tablespoons butter, pour on top. Sprinkle with a mixture of 1/2 tsp cinnamon and 2 tablespoos sugar. Bake 25-30 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Blogging By Mail - My Package Arrived!

Stephanie of Dispensing Happiness hosted this round of Blogging By Mail, where 89 bloggers signed up to send each other goodie packages. The package I sent out is somewhere between California and Singapore, but my package came this week–all the way from Germany!
I received a package from Lena - and it had some great goodies in it. I'll start from the left.

First, there are several packages of salatfix (salad dressing), including two flavors I've never had before - Mediterranean and Greek. I'm really looking forward to trying those, since I usually eat the garden herb and the dill flavors.

Next are some Mozartkugeln, or Mozart balls - I used to eat these when I lived in Germany, and Lena tells me that this is a confectionary that was invented in 1890 in Salzburg, Austria, where Mozart was born. Lena got these for me in Vienna.

The package on the top with the red bow is full of little cookies called Wibele. Lena says these are a traditional treat where she lives in southern Germany. (Lena, my husband was born in Augsburg, not far from where you live!)

The jar in the middle is homemade strawberry jam, made by Lena's grandmother. That will soon be all gone!

In front is a package of Tomato & Cheese-flavored crackers, which will be going to work with me tomorrow for lunch with some cream cheese.

At the top, tied with a yellow ribbon, is a package of homemade peanut butter cookies. I LOVE peanut butter cookies, and will have to keep these away from DH!

On the right is a package of Neapolitan cookies - the kind with hazel nut cream inside, a piece of white chocolate flavored with bourbon vanilla, and something very unusual (for me): a bar of chili pepper-flavored chocolate. I've seen this on the Food Network - chocolate with red pepper in it, but haven't ever eaten it. Now I get to give it a try.

It was so much fun opening this box! Thanks, Lena, for sending it, and thanks, Stephanie, for organizing this round of Blogging by Mail!

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

I Need a Better Name for This Recipe

My Aunt Gwen made these chops for me once about 28 years ago! I'd made them a couple of times again a long time ago, but came across this recipe last week. The recipe is called Mayonnaise Pork Chops, but that just doesn't sound that good for a recipe that is really tasty. Any ideas?

Mayonnaise Pork Chops

boneless, skinless pork chops
thinly sliced onion or chopped onion
shredded or grated Parmesan cheese

Spread chops generously with mayonnaise. Add a thin slice of onion or some chopped onion, and top with some shredded or grated Parmesan cheese. Bake at 425˚ for about 30 minutes.

T Update: T is doing so much better. She shed the catheter Sunday and the IV on Monday, and has already been taking care of her ostomy pouch. She's getting around really well, is eating normal foods, and is anxious to come home. The only negative thing right now is a horrific rash - we think it was caused by the plasticky meshy underwear they put her in after the operation, because the rash is everywhere the underwear was. It's really ugly and painful. To add to that, the temperature in her room has been hot, and the nurses said they put a work order in days ago but nothing has been done. Tonight, she reached the end of her rope and demanded they move her to a room with air conditioning, because that rash won't get better as long as she's hot and sweaty. So they moved her! We're hoping she'll be able to come home tomorrow.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

More Comfort Food

Yesterday's early evening dinner was a previously-tried and loved recipe - Rigatoni with Mushrooms, Roasted Garlic and Red Pepper. I really like the flavor of roasted garlic, so I used two VERY large heads I picked up at Trader Joe's. Instead of fresh mushrooms, I used the dried shitaake mushrooms from Costco. Kalyn’s Kitchen had warned me that they could be chewy, and she was right. I followed the directions on the package and poured boiling water over them and let them sit for 15 minutes–maybe next time I'll let them sit longer. But the dish was still good. The combination of roasted garlic, cream, red peppers, mushrooms, and Parmesan cheese is divine.

This morning, DH is visiting T at the hospital, giving me a break and a chance to clean up, do some cooking, and get ready to go back to work a little tomorrow. I decided to search for a recipe to use two lemons I had in the refrigerator, and came across a tasty-looking recipe on Two Lime Leaves. While Kirsty's recipe looked good, I wanted to change it a bit to add fiber, take away some of the sugar, and add coconut. This is what I came up with:

Lemon Coconut Muffins

1 cup white whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup flaked unsweetened coconut
1/3 cup ground flaxseed
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup Splenda granular
⅔ cup butter
1 cup milk
1 egg
½ teaspoon lemon extract
zest from two lemons
¼ cup sugar
juice of two lemons

Preheat oven to 375˚. Mix flours, coconut, flaxseed, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and Splenda, together in a large bowl. Melt butter. Mix egg, milk, lemon extract, and lemon zest together. Add cooled butter. Add liquid ingredients to dry ingredients and combine VERY gently until lightly mixed. Spoon into 12 greased muffin tins. Bake for about 15 minutes.
Stir together topping and drizzle over hot muffins. Let muffins cool in pans as they soak up the liquid.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Chipotle Orange Chicken

Since I had a little time yesterday evening between trips to the hospital, I wanted to make some chicken. I leafed through my recipe collection, and saw this one, which was first published by Cooking Light, but attracted my attention on Culinary in the Country. I was making roasted potatoes as a side dish, instead of the rice that Joe used, so I changed the recipe a little to make less sauce. The combination of flavors–orange, cumin, and chipotle chilies–was divine. I really liked how the chicken browned up–the sugars in the orange juice, I suppose.

Orange-Chipotle Chicken
adapted from Cooking Light and Culinary in the Country

2 boneless chicken breasts
1 t butter
1 t canola oil
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 t ground cumin
1/4 t salt
1/3 cup thawed orange juice concentrate, undiluted
1/3 cup water
1 t chopped chipotle chilies in adobo sauce

Using a meat mallet, pound each chicken breast to about 1/4" thick. In a large nonstick skillet, melt butter and oil over low heat. In a shallow plate, mix together flour, cumin, and salt. Lightly coat each chicken breast with some of the flour mixture. Dip chicken in orange juice concentrate and then dredge back through the flour mixture. Reserve leftover concentrate. Increase heat to medium-high and when the butter starts to brown, add chicken. Cook 3 minutes on each side or until done. Remove and keep warm. In the same skillet, stir in leftover concentrate, water and chopped chipotle. Bring to a boil and cook 2 minutes. Serve chicken with sauce on top.

Update on T
So much better. She's shaken off the sedation that dragged her down, has her fresh-faced color back, the fever's gone, and has her personality back. She's moving around a lot; has a lot of discomfort from sitting in one place for three days, and is looking forward to losing the catheter and getting out of bed. Maybe that will happen today. There were lots and lots of visitors yesterday, which kept her awake most of the day, so when we noticed last night that she was fading fast, we left so she could get some much-needed sleep. I'm hoping that when we go see her this morning she'll be on her feet. I know that's what the dr. wanted.

Friday, October 20, 2006


My daughter's doing better now, having had two very difficult days. First of all, surgery day. She was originally supposed to have laparoscopic surgery, for about 2 1/2 to 3 hours. When they were almost finished, she developed a bleed and they had to open her up to find it and fix it. So she was on the table for over 7 hours. She spent 4 hours in recovery, and was taken to her room at 6:30. Because of the extended surgery, she was heavily sedated; her breathing stopped every time she closed her eyes, which was about every 10 seconds. The breathing alarms went off hundreds of times during the evening, and we kept tapping her toes, shaking her shoulder, saying her name, whistling, and doing other things to keep her breathing. The nurse told us it was safe to go home, so we left around 10.

Yesterday was a totally lost day, as far as recovery goes. She was still having breathing problems in the morning, but the larger concern was her blood pressure, which was horribly low, and dehydration. Blood tests showed renal failure, which was a false alarm, but then another blood test and a fever showed an infection. She was in a lot of pain, but they couldn't give her more pain medication because the blood pressure was so low. They moved her to a room on the Definitive Observation Unit (one step closer to ICU), and kept pushing fluids. The doctor was in and out often, and was baffled as to why she wasn't doing any better. He spoke of the possibiity of having to go back into surgery to see if there was a leak; and was concerned about the infection and blood pressure. At 10 pm, they decided her blood pressure was stable (88 over 45) and said I should go home, get some sleep, and they'd call if they were going to move her to ICU.

This morning she looked a lot better; was more alert, her fever was down, and she even said she felt a bit better. She's turned a corner, no worry now about further surgery, and might even get out of bed tonight. She showed us the incision - 10 inches, vertically, right through her belly button. Ack. We left her sleeping this afternoon, and will go back after supper.

Now, speaking of supper! This wouldn't be a food blog without food, would it? I was looking for a quick and easy meal last night between hospital visits, and had seen this recipe in the Trader Joe's Fearless Flyer. (Isn't that flyer wonderful? It introduces you to so many of their products that you normally wouldn't buy, and then some of them become "regulars.") Now that spinach is back on the shelves, I was ready to use it. DH agrees with me that this soup is fabulous, and we'll definitely have it again.

Italian Sausage and Spinach Soup
adapted from a recipe in the Trader Joe's Fearless Flyer

4-5 sweet Italian sausage
1 small onion, chopped
6 cups chicken broth
1 cup uncooked rice
1 20-oz. can diced tomatoes
1 6-oz. bag fresh baby spinach

Remove sausage from casings, crumble, and brown with the onion in a large stockpot. Add broth, rice, and tomatoes. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer about 20 minutes, or until rice is done. (Longer, if you use brown rice) Add spinach, then cook another couple of minutes until spinach is wilted and bright green. Serve with some crusty Italian bread or rolls.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The Night Before T's Surgery

Last night's dinner was a repeat from months ago: Texas Goulash

Tonight was dinner out for DH and me; T has to do that nasty prep, and didn't want us eating in the house since she can't eat.

Tomorrow my almost-25-year-old daughter is having some major surgery. Life-changing. For details, check out That way I won't go into details here. I'll post tomorrow or Thursday with a general update on how it went and how she's doing.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Snackin' Cake and a Photography Discovery

Do you like that picture? Don't you agree it's much better, lighting-wise, than my others? I realized today that I've had a great photography light all this time, and never used it. It's a tabletop craft light, similar to Ott lights, that casts a whiter light on yur work than a normal lightbulb. I don't have to go buy a fancy photography light now!

This recipe originally came from Light and Tasty magazine, and I changed it a little to make it even healthier. I found the dried cherries at Whole Foods, but I know you can get them at Trader Joe's, too.

Whole Wheat Cherry Almond Snack Cake

⅔ cup reduced-fat stick margarine, softened
3/4 cup Splenda Granular
¼ cup honey
1 egg
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 c whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
¾ cup fat-free milk
⅔ cup ground almonds
½ cup dried cherries, finely chopped

In a large mixing bowl, beat the margarine, Splenda and honey. Beat in the egg and almond extract (mixture will appear curdled). Combine the flours, baking powder, baking soda and salt; add to the creamed mixture alternately with milk. Stir in almonds and cherries. Batter will be thick.
Spread into a 13-in. x 9-in. x 2-in. baking pan coated with nonstick cooking spray. Bake at 325° for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack. 15 servings.

Question: Why is my cake so crumbly? The only change I made from the Light and Tasty recipe was substituting 1 cup of whole wheat flour for 1 cup of the all-purpose. Should I have added something else or taken something else out to compensate? What makes a cake "stick together?"

From My College Days - A Breakfast Soufflé

Back in the day, nearly 30 years ago, I went to Texas Tech University in Lubbock. One of my closest friends was Carla, and for a while she had a roommate named Reneé. I remember that Reneé was a good cook. She cooked breakfast for us occasionally, and this was one of her specialties. I was leafing through my notebook of recipes this morning, looking for something to make for DH and me, and saw this. It's perfect for a cold fall morning, since the oven heats the kitchen up and the food is hot and yummy. While it was cooking in the oven, I whirred up a batch of homemade salsa, which we now get to use later today with some more tortilla chips.

Mexican Soufflé

4 eggs, separated
1 4-ounce can whole green chilies, drained and cut into 1-inch chunks
1/2 cup shredded Monterey Jack or Pepper Jack cheese

Preheat oven to 375˚. In a small mixing bowl, mix egg whites with an electric mixer on high aboout 1 minute, or until soft peaks form. In another bowl, whisk egg yolks until well blended. Fold into egg whites. Put half of egg mixture into a 2-quart baking dish sprayed with nonstick cooking spray. Sprinkle the cheese on top, top with green chilies. Cover all with the rest of the egg mixture. Bake 20 minutes or until browned. Serve with salsa and tortilla chips. Serves 2.

Note: This recipe can be easily doubled to serve 4.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Another "Lost" Recipe?

While I was exploring other food blogs this evening, I read a post on Michelle’s blog, The Accidental Scientist. She wrote about her grandmother’s Date Loaf Cake, and I was going to write a comment about my own grandmother’s Date Loaf Candy. Before I could type my comment, I saw a comment by vlb5757 of The Moveable Feast, in which she wrote about losing her grandmother’s Date Loaf Candy recipe when her grandmother passed away. Well, I’m going to post MY grandmother’s recipe, and I hope it’s the same one. Even if it’s not, this is some darn good candy. I grew up eating it every Christmas, and when I got married I made it for DH, who declared that I have to keep making it every year. I agreed, as long as he takes a good turn at the “beating till dull” stage. It makes your arms pretty tired, but the work is definitely worth it! When my son comes home on leave next month, he’ll be here for Thanksgiving. So I plan to make it then, and will post a photograph.

Date Loaf Candy

3 cups granulated sugar
1 cup milk
1/2 cup water
1 Tbsp. butter
1 12-oz. box dates, chopped
1 cup pecans, chopped

In a heavy saucepan, mix sugar, milk, water, and butter. Bring to a boil, and add dates slowly, stirring constantly over medium heat. Cook until soft ball stage (drop a small amount from a spoon into a bowl of cold water–you should be able to pick it up and form a small ball with your fingers). Remove from heat, and stir until mixture turns dull and stiff. (This takes a long time, especially if you’re using a heavy heat-retaining pot like Calphalon). Stir in the nuts. Turn mixture out onto a clean damp cloth placed on a cookie sheet; mold into a long log about 3-4 inches in diameter. Keep log wrapped in cloth, and place the cookie sheet into the refrigerator until log is firm. Slice in 1/4” slices. Store, covered, in refrigerator.

I hope this is the recipe you’re looking for!

Rediscovering a "Lost" Recipe

Many many years ago I found a recipe in a magazine for linguine with ham, peas, and swiss cheese. I made it, loved it, and then promptly lost it. I've been looking for a replacement, and knew I could probably create one on my own. Then a few days ago I saw a recipe on Something So Clever that was a great starter for trying to recover my old recipe. Alicat made Amazing Fettuccine with Peas, Ham, Cream, and Parmesan, and I thought I could start with her recipe, take out the garlic, and add Swiss cheese. So I did. It was wonderful– just like the recipe I lost all those many years ago.

Linguine with Ham, Peas, and Swiss Cheese

8 oz. linguine (I used Dreamfields)
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup frozen peas
1/2 cup sliced ham, cut in 1" long matchsticks
1/2 cup shredded Swiss cheese
2 Tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese

Cook linguine in a large pot of salted boiling water. Drain, return to pot, and keep warm. In a medium saucepan, heat broth and cream over medium heat. When nearly boiling, lower heat and add remaining ingredients. Simmer about 10 minutes. Pour over cooked pasta and stir. Serves 2.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

You Have to Try This Recipe from Kalyn!

Oh. My. God. I just had the BEST potato replacement in the world. Thank-you Kalyn! You see, I’m borderline diabetic, and my doctor has told me to work on keeping the blood sugar down through diet and exercise so I don’t have to take medicine or do injections. I started a year ago, and have slowly, ever so slowly, brought both my weight and my blood sugar down. The hardest part of this has been avoiding potatoes. I really have not done that very well. For about six months, I did great - not a single bite of potato anything crossed my lips. But, since potatoes happen to be one of my most favorite foods in the whole world, especially fried, roasted, and baked, I started eating them again. Now I know that I can have them in moderation, but we all know how self-control works (or doesn’t).

Last week Kalyn, on her blog Kalyn’s Kitchen, posted her recipe for Twice-Baked Cauliflower. Since I love loaded baked potatoes, and this one sounded like them, I had to give it a try. You know what I discovered? I like this recipe better than REAL loaded baked potatoes. The baked cauliflower is slightly sweeter than a potato, and this dish has sour cream, cream cheese, Parmesan cheese, bacon bits, and cheddar cheese - all blending together to make this a sinfully-tasting side dish. And with ZERO CARBS! We had it tonight with bratwurst and sauerkraut. DH went back for seconds, and said I should definitely make this again and again.

Yes, it’s not really twice-baked, since the first step is boiling, but I agree with Kalyn that “Twice Baked” sounds better.

Twice-Baked Cauliflower
from Kalyn of Kalyn’s Kitchen

1 large head cauliflower
4 oz. low fat cream cheese
1 Tbsp. butter
1/2 cup low fat sour cream
1/2 cup minced green onions (I used a couple tablespoons of chives)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
6 slices bacon , cooked and crumbled
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 350˚. Cut out stem and core from cauliflower, and cut into small pieces. Cook in large pot of boiling water until cauliflower is tender, but not overly soft. Drain well and mash with potato masher, leaving some chunks. Mix in cream cheese, butter, sour cream, green onion, Parmesan, and 3/4 of the bacon. Spread evenly in an 8 X 8 inch glass casserole dish. Sprinkle with cheddar cheese and reserved bacon. Bake 30-35 minutes, or until hot and bubbly. Serves 4

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Quick, Easy, and Elegant

After last night's late meal, I wanted to make something "fancy" for DH (though he really enjoyed the sloppy joes!), so I picked Chicken Piccata. This is a dish that is made in nice Italian restaurants, yet is really quick and easy to make. I always have the ingredients on hand, so it was a simple decision.

Chicken Piccata
2-3 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
1/2 c flour
1 T olive oil
1 T butter
1/4 c white wine
2 T fresh lemon juice
salt to taste
freshly ground pepper
1 T chopped parsley ( I used 2 t dried)
2 t capers, drained

Put breast halves between two pieces of plastic wrap, and flatten with a heavy saucepan or a meat mallet. Dredge chicken in flour; sauté over medium heat in butter and oil until browned on both sides and cooked inside. Remove to a plate and keep warm. Deglaze the pan with wine and lemon juice. Bring to a boil. Season with salt and pepper to taste; add parsley and capers. Serve chicken with sauce poured over. Recipe can also be used with veal or pork.

Have you tried the new whole grain Rice a Roni? Tonight we had the Chicken and Herb Clasico flavor, and we've also tried the one with Garlic. Both are really good, easy, and are much healthier than the original flavors. Yes, I know they're high in sodium, but sometimes I just need something out of a box.

For a salad, I kept it simple - I sliced up two large, ripe tomatoes, topped them with chopped purple onion and crumbled bleu cheese, and sprinkled them with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. This has got to be my most favorite way to eat fresh tomatoes. The combination of flavors is divine.

Sloppy Joes

Last night DH and I had the best sloppy joes! A few months ago I had made a batch of Meat Sauce Mix, and decided to make a quick, simple meal since I had a late meeting. All I did for sloppy joes was add 1/4 cup of barbecue sauce (I used KC Masterpiece) to one pint of Meat Sauce Mix, heat, and serve over hamburger buns.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

A Shortcut to Kung Pao

One of my favorite selections at SOME Chinese restaurants is Kung Pao Chicken. I say "some" because they all make it differently. Some places use battered, fried chunks of chicken, others don't, and they all differ in what vegetables they put in the dish. My favorites are zucchini and onion, but I will tolerate some carrot or bell pepper. What I really don't like in my Kung Pao is celery. I pick it out the first time I eat it, and then I don't go back. I just don't like celery. Another difference between various restaurants is the sauce. I like mine sweet and spicy. There's a little Chinese take-out place near my office that makes great Orange Chicken, but their Kung Pao has celery and carrot and chicken (nothing else), and their sauce isn't sweet at all. I don't order it there any more.

On the Los Angeles ABC television station there's a guy who gets a feature show on the news (he gets about 2 minutes), called "Mr. Food." He shows how to make all kinds of dishes, from desserts to appetizers to main dishes. He uses shortcuts–along the lines of Sandra Lee's "Semi-Homemade." About 3 years ago he presented his version of Kung Pao Beef. It was very simple, and he said to use a ready-made teriyaki sauce as the base for the sauce. I've tried several, and found most of them too salty for this recipe. I discovered Mr. Yoshida's Gourmet Sauce at Costco, and use it for my own version of this recipe, Kung Pao Pork. It's got the right amount of sweet, and turns into a great Kung Pao sauce with the added ginger and red pepper flakes.

Kung Pao Pork
Note: This recipe would work well with chicken, beef, and firm tofu.

1 Tbsp. canola or vegetable oil
1 large onion, cut in chunks
2 small zucchini, sliced
3/4 lb. boneless pork, cut in bite-sized pieces (I use one of the thick boneless chops from Costco)
1/2 cup Mr. Yoshida's Gourmet Sauce, divided
1 Tbsp. cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon ground (powdered) ginger
1 6-oz. can sliced water chestnuts, drained
1/4 cup peanuts, divided

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion, zucchini, and pork. Stir-fry about 5 minutes, until meat is browned and vegetables are beginning to soften. Add 1/4 cup of the gourmet sauce. Let simmer a minute while you blend the cornstarch, red pepper flakes, and ginger into the other 1/4 cup of the gourmet sauce. Add to skillet along with the water chestnuts. Heat and stir 2-3 minutes until thickened. Serve over hot rice, and sprinkle with peanuts. Makes 4 servings.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

It Was a Meat and Potatoes Night

DH wanted steak, and he was looking at my list (yes, I make lists) of meals that I could fix, so he selected this meal. I haven't made it in a long time, since it has potatoes in it, but I relented and made it for him. It throws together in less than 20 minutes, so it could easily be a weeknight after-work meal. I call it Pepper Steak because it has both bell peppers and black pepper. I use a garlic pepper blend made by McCormick, and if that's unavailable, you could substitute equal parts garlic salt and coarsely ground black pepper. Tonight I made half of the amount the recipe called for since it's just DH and me.

Pepper Steak and Potatoes

4 medium potatoes, sliced 1/4"
2 Tbsp. water
1 lb. sirloin, thinly sliced
1 Tbsp. garlic pepper
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 bell pepper, cut into thin strips

Put potatoes and water in a large microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on HIGH 6-10 minutes or until tender. While potatoes cook, toss beef with garlic pepper and heat oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add beef to skillet and toss 3 minutes. Remove beef. Add green pepper to skillet; toss 3 minutes. Add potatoes; sauté 5 minutes or until browned. Add beef; toss until heated through. Season with salt. 4 Servings.

Dessert was a small bowl of ice cream, with my homemade praline nut topping. I've found a "carb select" vanilla ice cream at the supermarket that has a net of 3 grams of carbs per serving. It tastes great! And it's not that air-filled slow-churned crap that the major brands have all started making. You do understand, don't you, that it's just a way to make more money - use less liquid and more air in a carton of ice cream, and call it something creative like slow-churned. Yuck. Anyway, my nut topping is very low in carbs.

Praline Nut Topping
2 teaspoons butter
2 teaspoons Splenda Brown Sugar blend
1/4 cup chopped pecans or walnuts

Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan. Heat and stir over medium heat until butter and brown sugar have melted. Let cook one more minute. Immediately pour over two bowls of vanilla ice cream. (If you let it cool, it hardens.)

Friday, October 06, 2006

How to Have Your Own Raclette Experience

Those of you who shop at Trader Joe’s: have you ever wondered what to do with raclette cheese? I’m going to tell you how I was taught to use it.
When I wrote my post about Five Things to Eat Before You Die, # 2 on my list was raclette. I soon learned that Pamela of Posie’s Place put it down as #1 on her list. Pamela might do hers differently; there’s really no right or wrong except that you include boiled potatoes.

Raclette is made in large wheels. In many Swiss restaurants, the wheel of cheese is heated, sometimes in front of an open fireplace, and the melted cheese is scraped off onto a plate of potatoes and other fixings.

A lot of German and Swiss homes have raclette machines. It’s sort of like a fondue experience - the machine is a bit like a small salamander - it has a broiler, into which the diners put their own little pans of raclette-covered food. When we lived in Mörfelden-Walldorf (south of Frankfurt), we became friends with our landlord’s daughter Christina and her husband Egon. Christina had a raclette machine, and introduced us to a great dining experience.

Here’s how you can do it at home with just a toaster oven or even your large oven.

You’ll need: boiled potatoes (they must be the waxy kind, such as white or red, but not russets), and then your choice of add-ins. We use sliced bananas (really! the taste combination is sublime!), canned mushrooms, and cooked bacon.

On a small baking sheet or oven-proof dish, put a layer of sliced, boiled potatoes, sliced bananas, mushrooms, and pieces of cooked bacon. Top with thin slices of raclette. Broil or bake at a high temperature until cheese has melted. Serve with some pickles on the side. (I like sweet, but I think that you’re supposed to use dill.)

As I prepared the potatoes for this dish, I pulled another of my favorite kitchen gadgets out of the drawer and realized I forgot to submit it to Pamela’s Favorite Kitchen Gadget event. I don’t know what this is called. Ulrike? Pamela? Do you know what it’s called? I bought it in Germany 25 years ago. It’s used to hold hot potatoes while you peel them. I sure would like another one, so if anyone can get one and send it to me, I’ll be glad to pay you in advance!

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Playing Catch Up

Whew! It's been a busy couple of weeks, with almost no time to cook during the week. I've had crisis team meetings, school board meetings, an executive board meeting, representative council meeting, home tutoring for a girl with a broken leg, a meeting with chapter presidents from all over the county, and meetings with various teachers and administrators. But I was able to squeeze in SOME good cooking.

Monday night I cooked up some more of the barracuda fillets that are in the freezer, and made Pecan-Coconut Crusted Fish with Pineapple Salsa. The fish recipe is an adaptation of one I saw on, but I sautéed the fish in a skillet instead of baking in an oven.

Pecan-Coconut Crusted Fish

½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground cayenne (red) pepper
½ cup finely chopped pecans
½ cup shredded coconut
2 tablespoon plain breadcrumbs
4 boneless fish fillets
1/4 c butter, canola oil, or olive oil

Combine salt, cayenne, pecans, coconut, and breadcrumbs in a shallow bowl. Dampen fish lightly, then dredge in breadcrumb mixture, pressing mixture into fish. Heat butter or oil in a large skillet; sauté fish over medium heat until browned on both sides and fish flakes easily with a fork. Serve with Pineapple Salsa.

On Tuesday night I threw together a 20-minute meal that I found in Cooking Light. I used one of those nice thick boneless pork chops from Costco, plus half a package of HIllshire Farms beef summer sausage. The sauerkraut was just store brand, but with the apples, onions, and beer, the flavor was just wonderful.

Quick Choucroute
from Cooking Light

2 teaspoons canola oil
1 pound boneless center-cut loin pork chops, cut into 1/2-inch slices
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup chopped Golden Delicious apple (about 1)
3/4 cup thinly sliced onion (about 1 medium)
1 bay leaf
1 (12-ounce) bottle light beer
2 cups sauerkraut, rinsed and drained
1/2 pound low-fat smoked sausage, cut diagonally into 1/2-inch slices
1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons prepared horseradish
1 tablespoon whole-grain mustard

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle pork with salt and pepper. Add pork to pan; sauté 2 minutes. Remove pork from pan, and keep warm.
Add apple, onion, and bay leaf to pan; cook 2 minutes or until onion is lightly browned. Add beer, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Add sauerkraut and sausage; bring to a simmer, and cook 5 minutes. Return pork to pan; cover and cook 2 minutes or until pork is thoroughly heated. Discard bay leaf. Stir in parsley. Serve with horseradish and mustard.

Tonight's dinner was one of DH's favorites, since his mother used to make it for him all the time. The rolladen recipe was given to me when we lived in Walldorf (near Frankfurt), and I can buy the meat for it at the German market near my office. I sometimes serve this with rice, but it's much better with the potato dumplings (kartoffelknödel).

Rinderrolladen (Stuffed Beef Rolls)

4 pieces of very thin beef cut from a round steak, about 4" x 10" x 1/4"
salt and pepper
4 t prepared mustard, divided
4 slices bacon OR 4 T real bacon bits, divided
4 T dried parsley, divided
8 t finely chopped onion, divided
1 large dill pickle, quartered lengthwise OR 1 c pickled salad mix (I use Kruegermann's)
2 T oil
2 c water
1 T cornstarch dissolved in 2 T water

Lay out the four pieces of beef on a flat surface. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, then spread each one with a teaspoon of mustard. Sprinkle each with bacon bits or lay a piece of bacon lengthwise on the meat. Next, sprinkle each piece of meat with a tablespoon of parsley and 2 teaspoons of onion. If you're using the whole pickle slice, lay it crosswise along the widest end of the meat. If you're using the pickle mix, put about a quarter cup of it on the widest end of the meat. Roll up the meat, widest end first, and then fasten the narrow end to the roll with a toothpick. (I used to go to the trouble of tying these with dental floss, but it took way too much time and effort. A toothpick works fine. You can see in the picture above that I used a blue toothpick!) Heat oil in a large skillet, and brown the meat rolls on all sides. Add water, cover, and simmer over low heat at least 30 minutes. Remove rolls to a serving platter or to plates, and add cornstarch-water mixture. Bring heat to medium-high and stir, about a minute or two, until gravy is thickened. Serve gravy over meat rolls with rice or dumplings.

Kartoffelknödel (Potato Dumplings)

2 T flour
2 large baking potatoes, peeled, boiled, and then riced
1 egg
1 t salt
dash nutmeg
dash white pepper
2 t beef or chicken bouillon granules (depending on whether you're serving these with beef or chicken)

Combine flour, riced potato, egg, salt, nutmeg, and pepper. Bring a large pot of water to a boil; add bouillon granules. Using hands, shape potato mixture into small (about 1 1/2") balls and drop into boiling water. Initially, they will sink to the bottom. Cook another 15 minutes (they will rise to the top). Remove from pan with a slotted spoon and serve. Makes about
16, or enough for 3-4 people.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Sugar-Free Cookies

UPDATE: This is now the day after I made these cookies, and I'm going to be throwing them out. They've sat in a covered storage container overnight, and now you can't taste the chocolate-butterscotch flavor any more. All you can taste is the baking mix, with almost a burning sensation on my tongue that must be the baking powder.

Do not make these cookies.


I came across a recipe for sugar-free pudding cookies on recipezaar, and thought I'd give it a try. The original recipe said to try my choice of pudding flavors, and it called for Bisquick. I tried chocolate and butterscotch together, and used Trader Joe's Multigrain Baking Mix.

I'm not EVEN going to show a picture of these, because I failed to follow the directions. But DH and I have tasted them and believe they're definitely edible. If you decide to make these, remember the part about criss-crossing with a fork. I made the little balls, and then cooked them like that.

Chocolate-Butterscotch Cookies
Sugar Free

1 (3 ounce) package sugar-free chocolate pudding mix
1 (3 ounce) package sugar-free butterscotch pudding mix
2 c Trader Joe's Multigrain Baking Mix
1/2 c canola oil
2 eggs, beaten

Preheat oven to 350˚. Mix pudding and baking mix. Add oil and beaten eggs. Shape in balls with hands (mixture is crumbly) and place on ungreased cookie sheet. Criss cross with a fork. Bake 8 minutes. Makes 2 dozen.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Donna Hay, I like this chicken!

Back in Janaury, I wrote this post, where I first learned about Australia's Donna Hay. Tonight I decided to make one of her chicken recipes, and chose a very simple one that I could throw together quickly and cook in the oven.

Parmesan-Crusted Chicken
Donna Hay

finely grated Parmesan cheese
ground black pepper
boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (1 per person)
egg whites or beaten egg

Preheat oven to 390˚. Line a baking tray with baking paper. Dip the chicken breasts into the egg whites, then toss in the combined Parmesan and pepper to coat. Place in the baking tray and cook for 15 minutes or until the chicken is golden and cooked through.

Since I have re-dedicated myself to cooking as low carb as possible (though sometimes you just gotta have some potaotes!) I made roasted broccoli and stuffed tomatoes. The first time I'd ever thought about roasting broccoli was when Kalyn posted her recipe for Garlic Roasted Broccoli. I've always wanted to give it a try, but had to wait for cooler weather since I didn't want to use the oven during the summer. I chose not to use the garlic this time, though I will the next time I make this. While the recipe below says the oven should be at 400˚, I used the same temperature (390˚) this time that I used for the chicken.

Roasted Broccoli

1 large crown of broccoli
2 T olive oil
1 t salt

Preheat oven to 400˚. Trim broccoli and break into florets. Toss with olive oil and salt, and spread on a baking sheet. Roast 15-20 minutes. Serves 2.

The other side dish this evening was stuffed tomatoes. I always keep some cooked brown rice in the freezer, and pulled out a small chunk (about 1/3 cup) for this recipe. I also used frozen spinach.

Stuffed Tomatoes

4 medium tomatoes
1/3 c cooked brown rice
1/3 c frozen spinach, thawed
1/4 t chopped garlice
2 T grated Parmesan
1 egg
more Parmesan to sprinkle on top

Preheat oven to 400˚. Cut tops off tomatoes. Using a spoon, scoop out the insides and discard. Sprinkle lightly with salt and turn upside down on a paper towel to drain for about 10 minutes. Combine remaining ingredients, and fill tomatoes. Top with a little more Parmesan. Bake 15-20 minutes.

So, you can see that the cooking time for tonight's dinner was 15-20 minutes - in my oven, it was all ready at 18. Later, I'll make a couple more of yesterday's Chocolate Lava Muffins for dessert!