Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Chicken Spaghetti and a New Cookbook (Trying to Stay Calm During the State of the Union...)

Tonight we had a craving for something old-fashioned, and what best to fix but my mother’s recipe for Chicken Spaghetti. It was given to her by a friend named Penn Gilbreath, way back in the early 1940s, I believe. It’s something we grew up eating often, since it’s inexpensive, quick, and tasty. Of course, Mom fixed it using a whole cut-up chicken, which was cooked and then deboned, and I use two chicken breasts that can be cut up and cooked quickly.

Chicken Spaghetti

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2 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, cut in 3-4 pieces each
1/2 c chopped bell pepper
1/4 c chopped onion
1 clove garlic, minced
8 oz. thin or regular spaghetti ( I use Barilla Plus or Trader Joe's Low Carb)
1 10 3/4-oz. can undiluted tomato soup
1 8-oz. can tomato sauce
1 c milk
1 4-oz. jar diced pimento, drained
salt and pepper

Put chicken, bell pepper, onion and garlic in a large pot with 3 cups of water. Cover and bring to a boil. Lower heat to medium, and continue to cook, covered, about 10 minutes, or until chicken is done. Remove chicken to a cutting board. Add 2-3 quarts of water to pot (enough to boil pasta) and bring back to a boil. (The bell peppers and onions are still in the pot) Add pasta, and cook until tender. Drain. Add back to pot along with remaining ingredients. Heat over low heat, approximately 10 minutes, watching pot to make sure the bottom doesn’t scorch. Serves 4.

I’d like to tell you about the wonderful gift I received yesterday from Ingrid, my office manager. She came in to work and handed me a copy of the Los Angeles Times Magazine, opened to an article titled “Simply Simon.,”by Emily Green. “Here, read this. It’s interesting,” was all she said. Since it was about a cook and a cookbook, I read it, learning that the book, Roast Chicken and Other Stories had knocked Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince from the Amazon U. K. No. 1 slot only 2 weeks after the Harry Potter book was released.

I read on, enjoying the writer’s description of Simon Hopkinson and the various times she had met him and worked with him. Towards the end of the article, she says, “Waitrose Food Illustrated, gave the 2005 Award for ‘The Most Useful Cookery Book of All Time’ to Roast Chicken.” I read that part aloud, and stated, “Gee, I always thought Joy of Cooking was the most useful cookery book. I guess I have to go get one.”

Ingrid reached into her bag, and pulled out a small brown package from Amazon.com, and said, “No need. I got you one.” I just about hugged her to death! She couldn’t find one on the U.S. Amazon.com site, so she went to the UK site and paid 12 pounds for it! Isn’t she wonderful? I look forward to cooking a few things the Simon Hopkinson way.

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Monday, January 30, 2006

Crispy Oven-Fried Fish, Broccoli Casserole

Since we had to use up another package of the barracuda that was in the freezer, I asked DH to thaw some and then cut the skin off for me. When he catches it, it’s filleted for him, but it still has the skin attached so the fish and game folks verify that you’ve obeyed the rules and don’t have too much of one kind of fish. The fish is a recipe I’ve made before, Crispy Oven-Fried Fish. When I got home this evening, all I had to do was steam the broccoli for the casserole, mix up the ingredients, dip and coat the fish, and throw both pans in the oven.

The first time I fixed a broccoli casserole, it had much more fat in it, and I thought I could change the ingredients to make it lower in fat and calories, yet still taste good. What I’ve come up with is all that. We like the addition of the water chestnuts as they give it a good crunch.

Broccoli Casserole

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3 -4 bunches broccoli (about 1 3/4 lb.)
1 10-3/4-oz. can fat-free cream of mushroom soup, undiluted
1 4-oz can lowfat or nonfat evaporated milk
(could use regular lowfat or nonfat milk)
1 8-oz. can sliced water chestnuts, drained and chopped
1 c shredded lowfat cheddar cheese
1/4 c bacon bits (I use the real ones made by Hormel or Oscar Mayer)

In a large covered pot, steam the broccoli for 7 minutes in 1 inch of water. Drain, and place in a 13 x 9” baking dish sprayed with nonstick cooking spray. Whisk together the soup and milk. Stir in remaining ingredients, and pour evenly over broccoli. Bake at 350-375˚ 20-25 minutes. Makes about 6 servings.

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Sunday, January 29, 2006

Ruth's Shepherd's Pie

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In case you don't remember or are new to reading my site, I've been testing some of Ruth’s recipes for a cookbook she'll be publishing. As I was driving home from LA and State Council today, I decided we'd try her version of shepherd's pie. I called DH and told him to take some ground beef out to thaw, and was able to get it mixed up and cooked by 5:30. When I had told him last week that we were going to try shepherd's pie, he told me then, "I don't like shepherd's pie." I told him I'd never made it, ever, and he said," but it has lamb in it and I don't like lamb." After a bit of research, I learned that there are indeed versions of shepherd's pie that had lamb in them, but there are also versions that have venision, cubed beef, and other types and cuts of meat. Some have carrots and onions, and others have different kinds of vegetables. The common feature, though, is the mashed potato topping. Ruth makes hers like her mother did–like a meatloaf. She said that some people put corn in between the potatoes and the meat, and DH said he wanted his like that. This was a filling and tasty meal, accompanied by a salad and a couple of rolls.

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James' Beach in Venice

I had hoped to post last night from my hotel room in Los Angeles, but I grew frustrated with the wireless keyboard and TV-screen internet and gave up. A word of advice: NEVER try to use the internet with that setup! First of all, there’s no mouse. So you’re stuck with arrow keys. Aaarrgghh. Second, your cursor, when you’re in a text box, is nearly invisible. Third, the keyboard was horrible. It stuck and skipped letters constantly. After 10 minutes, I’d typed only 2 sentences! I wanted to scream and throw the thing at the TV. Yes, I know, I should have brought my laptop. But I didn’t think I’d want to get on the internet, and I didn’t think I’d have time. Lesson learned.

Last week I had asked Kristy of Best of LA to recommend some places to eat in Venice or Marina del Rey. She recommended several restaurants, and I narrowed it down to Chart House and James’ Beach. Since I’ve been to a Chart House before, and I wanted to try some place new, I decided on James’ Beach. Fantastic choice! It was easy to find–north on Lincoln, west on Venice, pull up in front of the restaurant entrance and use their valet parking. James’ Beach is divided in half as you come in, with the left side being sort of outdoors, and the right side indoors. Since I’m not a smoker, I let them seat me at a small table indoors. There were about 8 people eating and drinking at the bar, all twenty-somethings, and three other couples at tables. As soon as I sat down, a waiter brought out what my mom would call “a relish tray,” a small plate with fresh broccoli, radishes, and celery, and a small bowl a ranch-type dressing. I perused the wine list, hoping to see a riesling, but didn’t. I asked the waitress what she would recommend to someone who liked sweet white wines, and she suggested the Cayman Conundrum. Interesting name. It’s a California wine, and I haven’t been able to find out much about it on the net. But I liked it. It wasn’t as sweet as a riesling, but it was light and fruity and went well with my heavy dinner.

First up was salad. I had heard about James’ Beach’s wedge salad, and knew that it had lots of blue cheese on it. I asked for it to be chopped, as I knew that I didn’t want to be cutting up a whole wedge of iceberg lettuce. My salad came covered with wonderful, tangy blue cheese, and was just heavenly. I couldn’t finish it all, though, as it was a pretty hearty size. I couldn’t help but think about the wasted years–I always thought I hated blue cheese. I remember when I was a child, Daddy would be served a “relish plate” before dinner–celery, radishes, carrots, green onions, and a few chunks of blue cheese. My brothers and sisters helped him eat it, but I turned my nose up at cheese that looked moldy and smelled nasty. My, how things have changed. Now I eat blue cheese every chance I get–on salads and on steaks.

James’ Beach has a daily specials menu, but I never really looked hard at it once I spied the calves’ liver on the main menu. I grew up eating liver, usually beef liver, but have not had much during the last few years while my daughter has lived with us. To me, calves’ liver is a luxury, and tastes so much better than beef liver. James’ Beach serves theirs with both sautéed onions and three pieces of pancetta, as well as a rich brown sauce. It’s accompanied by a large serving of creamed spinach and potatoes au gratin. The creamed spinach was rich–definitely real cream in that recipe. The potatoes were square-cut, and offset the liver quite well. I think I actually moaned in pleasure with the first few bites of dinner.

Dessert presented itself with many great choices. My waitress brought out a tray to show me what all the offerings looked like: chocolate layer cake, pecan pie, chocolate pudding, carrot cake, cappuccino mousse, lemon tart, and she told me about the sundae (ball of vanilla ice cream rolled in pecans and topped with fudge sauce) and sorbets (chocolate, lemon, and berry). I went with the lemon tart, and have no regrets. It was a good-sized wedge, with a tasty crust, tangy lemon filling,a and fresh whipped cream on top–almost like a lemon meringue pie.

After I got back to the hotel, I told some friends about it, and we decided we’d go as a group next State Council meeting. I can’t wait to go back!

Friday, January 27, 2006

Sugar High (Low) Friday #15

Over at Becks and Posh, they're doing a twist on Sugar High Fridays, a SUGAR LOW FRIDAY. I’m going out of town today, so I won’t be able to cook for two nights, so I’ll put up the recipe I think is "a delicious, mouthwatering dessert whilst being a lot more frugal than usual with the fat and the sugar." In my opinion, that has got to be something chocolate. And when I want a chocolate dessert, it has to be ooey-gooey and warm and melting all over. So, I created this:

Warm Chocolate Pudding Cake

1 c all-purpose flour
2 t baking powder
1/8 t salt
1/2 c Splenda granular
2 T unsweetened cocoa
Vegetable cooking spray
1/2 c skim milk
3 T light margarine, melted
1 t vanillat
1/4 c Splenda granular
2 T packed Splenda Brown Sugar Blend
1/4 c unsweetened cocoa
1 1/2 c warm water

Combine first 5 ingredients in a 9-inch square pan coated with cooking spray; stir in milk, margarine, and vanilla. Spread evenly in pan. Combine 1/4 c Splenda and next two ingredients; sprinkle evenly over batter. Pour warm water over top. Bake at 350˚ for 30 minutes.

I don’t have a photograph, since I’m not making it tonight, but I guarantee you it will be wonderful! I’ll be in Los Angeles, sitting in meetings and eating off of a hotel-provided sandwich buffet line. Gourmet food, yes?

At least I get to go out Saturday night. I’ve checked around, and Kristy from Best of LA took the time to recommend a few restaurants. I’m considering James’ Beach, C & O Trattoria, both in Venice, and the Chart House in Marina del Rey. Now I’ve been to a Chart House before, and would really love to have their scallops again, but I also want to try something different. It’ll probably be James’ Beach, but I won’t do a final decision until tomorrow. I’ll be sure to report back!

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Tuesday, January 24, 2006

ARF/5 a Day Tuesday

Today’s ARF/5 a Day Tuesday at Sweetnicks, and tonight’s main dish incorporates three veggies: onions, bell peppers, and zucchini. I reall NEED to cook something healthy tonight after last night’s dinner at the Little Emperor in Riverside. Mikki, our CTA Director took about 40 of us out to dinner to thank us ofr helping defeat the governor’s agenda in the November election. (She had a surprise for us: CTA Vice President David Sanchez was there! He’s so wonderful.) She ordered everything for us: egg rolls, fried shrimp, cream cheese-filled wontons, hot and sour soup, Kung Pao Shrimp, Asparagus Chicken, Orange Peel Beef, Vegetable Lo Mein, and a pork dish I don’t know the name of (which was nasty, by the way). And what did I do? I ate some of everything. I didn’t make a pig of myself, but did eat more than I really should have. What can I say? You set food in front of me and I eat.

So this morning it’s low-carb yogurt with granola, dried raspberries, and pecans, and lunch was hot and sour soup from the Chinese place next to my office. A quick, 99¢ meal. Dinner is Steak and Veggie Spaghetti, plus a green salad. I took a recipe I've had for years that used just bell peppers and onions, and added zucchini. It made it even better, I think. Between the steak and the salad, we had our veggies: onion, bell pepper, zucchini, tomatoes, and leafy greens. Thats 5!

Steak and Veggie Spaghetti

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1 lb. tender steak, thinly sliced
1/4 c butter or margarine
1 large clove garlic, mashed
1 large onion, chopped
1 small red or orange bell pepper, chopped
1 small zucchini, chopped
1/4 c white wine
1 t salt
8 oz. whole-wheat spaghetti
2 T oil
Parmesan cheese

In large skillet brown meat in butter with garlic. Remove meat to warm platter. Add onion, bell pepper, and zucchini to skillet and cook until crisp-tender. Add wine and salt; return meat to skillet. Meanwhile, cook spaghetti; drain. Toss spaghetti with oil, then combine with meat-vegetable mixture. Top with Parmesan. 4-6 servings.

Since we have negotiations tomorrow, it’s baking night. I haven’t been able to find even frozen cranberries anywhere, so I decided to use a recipe from Joe of Culinary in the Desert and change it to make it low carb. In addition, I had to do what Joe did–change the recipe to go with what I had. Joe’s original recipe for Lemon Coconut Bread is here . Joe stated that the recipe he started with called for 8 ounces of yogurt, but he used a 6-ounce container plus 2 ounces of sour cream. I was using Dannon’s Carb Control Yogurt, which comes in 4-ounce containers, so I used two of them. Joe used a cup of sugar; I used a cup of Splenda granular. Also, Joe used lemon yogurt; all I had was vanilla. So I replaced Joe’s 1/4 cup of vanilla soy milk with 1/4 cup of lemon juice plus a teaspoon of lemon extract. Another difference is a minor one: I always add two tablespoons of ground flaxseed in my homemade breads. It’s just a “Cyndi” touch, started when my friend Yvonne (who’s on the negotating team with me) started giving me flax that she grinds herself.

Here’s my adapted recipe:

Lemon Coconut Bread

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1 c Splenda granular
1 T canola oil
1 t lemon extract
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 4-oz. containers Dannon Carb Control Vanilla Yogurt
1 c whole wheat pastry flour
1 c all-purpose flour
2 T ground flaxseed
1/3 c flaked sweetened coconut
2 t grated lemon rind
1 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
1/4 c lemon juice
1 T flaked sweetened coconut

Preheat oven to 350˚. In a medium bowl, whisk together Splenda, oil, lemon extract, and egg. Whisk in yogurt. In a large bowl, whisk together flours, flaxseed, 1/3 cup coconut, lemon rind, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. Make a well in the center of flour mixture, and add wet mixture plus lemon juice to flour mixture, stirring just until moist.

Spoon batter into a 9X5” loaf pan coated with nonstick spray. Sprinkle with remaining 1 tablespoon coconut. Bake for 40-50 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan 10 minutes. Remove from loaf pan and cool completely on a wire rack.

Food Blogging in the News Again

I came across this article in USA Weekend, cut it out and saved a paper copy, and was going to summarize it for you. But I found the article online, and decided to give you the link so you can read the whole thing. Aw, what the heck, I’ll summarize it anyway. It mentions seven of the author’s favorite food blogs:

1. The Food Section, “All the news that’s fit to eat,” is a filter blog, meaning it posts food-industry information such as recipes, articles, and calendars of food events.

2. Accidental Hedonist, which most of you know as the blog that organized and ran the first Food Blog Awards.

3. Chocolate and Zucchini, focused on the foods of the host’s native France.

4. Too Many Chefs, a group blog.

5. Obsession With Food, a blog about food and wine, with really great photographs.

6. Slice, a blog that reviews pizza joint in and around New York.

7. Orangette, which was just chosen the Best All Around Food Blog in the 2005 Food Blog Awards.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Another Ruth Recipe for Dinner

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Breakfast today utilized the leftover potatoes from last night’s dinner. I sautéed them in a little oil with more onion and bell pepper, then topped them with two fried eggs and some of my homemade salsa. I make this salsa often since it’s so easy and so tasty.

Cyndi’s Salsa

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2 cloves garlic
1/2 t salt
1 small jalapeño, sliced (remove the veins and seeds if you want it milder)
1 14.5-oz. can diced tomatoes (Contadina is best)
1 t Splenda granular
1 T dried cilantro
2 green onions, sliced (including green part)

Place all ingredients except green onions in blender and whirl until garlic and jalapeño are ground up and mixture is of even consistency. Pour into serving bowl and add green onions.

After working on the computer all day re-doing my template, I made another of Ruth’s recipes for dinner. Tonight’s choice was Spinach-Stuffed Chicken Breasts. Her recipe was easy to follow, and DH’s comment was, “Boy, we’re eatin’ high-falootin’ stuff here!” He ate two servings.

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It’s very low in carbs, and tastes wonderful.

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Pretty in PInk - Hay, Hay, It's Donna Day!

It’s Donna Day #2, in honor of cooking “goddess” Donna Hay–a fixture in Australia, but virtually unknown here in the U.S. For more information about Donna Hay, go here . Donna Day requires that you start with an original Donna Day recipe, and replace one ingredient with one (or more) of your own to come up with something else.

Donna Day #2 is being hosted by Glutton Rabbit of Pearl of the Orient, who won the very first Donna Day event. Winners are determined by online voting, and each winner gets to host the next Donna Day. Sounds fun, yes?

Here’s the original Donna Hay recipe for this round:

Lime Macaroons

2 cups desiccated coconut
1/2 cup sugar
2 egg whites
1 tablespoon shredded lime zest (** replace this with your own ingredient)

Preheat the oven to 180ºC. Place the coconut, sugar, egg whites and lime zest in a bowl and mix to combine. Roll the mixture into balls. Place on a lined baking tray, flatten slightly and cook for 10-12 minutes or until light golden. Serve with coffee. Makes 15.

And here’s my entry:

Pretty in Pink Macaroons

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2 c flaked unsweetened coconut
1/3 cup Splenda granular
2 T almond flour (I ground my own almond flour in my former coffee grinder)
1/8 t salt
2 egg whites
1/2 t almond extract
1 drop red food color

Preheat oven to 325 ˚.
Combine coconut, splenda, almond flour and salt in mixing bowl.
Stir in egg whites and almond extract: mix well. Roll the mixture into balls. Place on a lined baking tray, flatten slightly and cook for 10-12 minutes or until light golden. Watch closely, they burn easily. Remove from baking sheet immediately.
Cool on rack. Makes 12.

These end up being low carb! Yummy, too.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

WHB # 16 - Shallots

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The shallot is a member of the lily family, along with onions, garlic, and leeks. Shallots come in different sizes and shapes. In Asia, shallots are small and round, and are red in color. In France, the pear-shaped, reddish-brown ones like I show above are more common. In the Netherlands and Denmark, shallots are round, red-brown and yellow. Other colors are gray and white.

Shallots are native to the Mediterranean, and their botanical name is Allium ascalonicum, derived from Ascalon, a town in South Palestine, where they are thought to have originated. They are thought to have come to the United States by the explorer De Soto during his Louisiana explorations. In some areas, shallots are incorrectly called scallions. The reason for this is that early French settlers couldn’t find their favored shallots, and had to subsitute green onions. Scallions are generally the tops of immature onions and leeks.

Once you peel a shallot, it divides into cloves like garlic, though there are usually only two or three. Larger shallots may have up to six cloves. Many cooks believe that shallots have a flavor somewhere between onion and garlic, and prefer it for many dishes because it doesn’t have a pungent odor and it caramelizes well.

I used a shallot today in my Poppy Seed Dressing, and find them to be a necessary ingredient when I make Chicken Marsala.

This is for Weekend Herb Blogging on Kalyn’s Kitchen. Check out her site!

WDB # 18

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Tonight, Pepper watched me cook.

Sweetnicks has more Weekend Dog Blogging at her place!

An Apple a Day...

Today’s theme is apples. It happened accidentally. I had planned the main course, Apple Pork Mini-Roast, and decided during the afternoon to make the Apple Crisp Muffins. I flirted briefly with putting apples in the salad, but decided that we had enough apple already.

First up is the Apple Crisp Muffins. While I cooked them according to the recipe below, I think that the next time I make them I’ll dice the apples and mix them in the batter.

Apple Crisp Muffins

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3 apples, peeled, cored, and cut into thin slices
1/2 t allspice
1/2 t cinnamon
1 c whole wheat flour
1 3/4 c all-purpose flour
3/4 c oats
3 T ground flaxseed
1/2 c Splenda granular
1/4 c Splenda brown sugar blend
1 T baking powder
1/2 t cinnamon
1/2 t allspice
1 t baking soda
1/4 t salt
3/4 c Eggbeaters or 3 eggs
1 1/2 c nonfat or lowfat milk
1/4 c canola oil

Preheat oven to 375˚. Lightly spray muffin tins with cooking spray or use paper cups. Mix together apples, 1/2 t allspice and 1/2 t cinnamon; set aside. Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk egg substitute or eggs and oil. Add milk; mix well. Stir wet ingredients into dry ingredients until just moistened. Spoon into prepared muffin tins and top each with two slices of apple. Press apple slices lightly into batter. Bake for 20 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Makes 18.

Once the muffins were done, I put the main dish in the oven. This is a recipe I made up after I had pork chops with sautéd apples and onions at a restaurant. Costco sells these thick boneless pork chops, and each one is big enough for DH and me. I used to do this recipe with a large boneless pork roast, but thought this time that I’d try a big chop and then slice it after it was cooked. I love the combination of apples and onions with pork.

Apple Pork Mini-Roast

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1 large boneless chop (about 3 inches thick)
1 onion, thinly sliced
3-5 red potatoes (enough for two people)
2 apples, thinly sliced
1 1/2 c apple juice

Place pork chop in roasting pan. Add apples, onions and potatoes to pan. Sprinkle with seasoned salt. Add apple juice. Cover and bake at 350˚ for 1 to 1/2 hours, or until chop is done and potatoes are tender, uncovering the last 15 minutes.

To go with dinner I wanted a green salad with piñon nuts and blue cheese, but wanted to try a dressing that was different from the usual balsamic vinegar-based one. I wanted it to be slightly sweet, to go with the nuts and cheese, and came up with this one:

Poppy Seed Dressing

1 T honey
3 T cider vinegar
2 T olive oil
1 sm. shallot , minced
2 t Dijon mustard
2 t poppy seeds

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I made a salad of baby spring greens, toasted piñon nuts, and blue cheese, and then used the poppy seed dressing. It was quite tasty!

Friday, January 20, 2006

Rediscovering Cilantro

Tonight’s meal was brought to us courtesy of Ruth, of Once Upon a Feast . She’s working on a cookbook, soon to be published, called Every Kitchen Tells Its Stories. Part of the publication process includes having your recipes tested, and I get to be one of Ruth’s testers! She sent me some delicious-looking recipes, and tonight we cooked the first three. I don’t get to share the recipes with you, because they’re Ruth’s, and they’ll be in her book, but I do get to tell you a little about them.

What I liked best about all three of these is that they were so quick. I had a long workday, one that began at 6:00 am, and included meetings at the district office, working in my office, an open house at the San Bernardino Regional Resource Center’s new office, and a TGIF at BJ’s Brewhouse for my chapter, Redlands Teachers, Redlands ESP, Rialto Educators, and NEA-Jurupa. We must have had over 100 people there. I didn’t eat or drink a thing, oh, wait, I had one small piece of toast with artichoke dip on it, but you know that nibbles don’t count, right? Anyway, I had to battle the traffic from San Bernardino, so it took me almost an hour to make it up the mountain. But from the time I walked in the door to the time I put the plates on the table, it was 35 minutes.

This picture is blurry, for some reason. But it’s the better of the two that I took.

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First to be cooked, since it took the longest, was the Cilantro Citrus Chicken. What a wonderful mix of flavors! I cooked it on the George Forman Grill, since it’s 30˚ outside and I didn’t want to sauté it, and it came out juicy and tasty. The combination of the cilantro and citrus made it “clean” and light, not a heavy, greasy dish. This one’s a keeper, Ruth!

Second to cook was the Savory Couscous. DH normally doesn’t like couscous (I don’t know why; it’s just pasta in a different shape), but he went back for seconds on this one.

The last to cook, since it took only 8 minutes, was the Lemon Zest Spinach. I grew up eating spinach from a can. The first time I ever had fresh spinach was in a salad about 10 years ago, and I’ve always enjoyed spinach salad since then. It wasn’t until last year that I had cooked fresh spinach. It was at a restaurant in Costa Mesa. I was bowled over by the fabulous taste, and make it a point to buy two bags at least once a month–one for salad and one for cooking.

Now it’s time for dessert!

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Gifts in the Mail

I came home today from work to find TWO cookbooks in the mailbox. My mother, who lives in Lubbock, Texas, sent me a Splenda cookbook, with a variety of recipes from breakfasts, to lunches, to dinners, to desserts. I looked through it this evening, looking for a recipe I could share, and thought that this one looked pretty neat:

Warm Spinach Salad

1 bag (7 oz.) baby spinach greens
1/2 c nonfat salad croutons
1/4 c white vinegar
1/4 c water
1/4 c Dijon mustard
3 T Splenda granular
5 slices turkey bacon
1/4 c chopped red onion
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced

Place spinach greens in colander. Wash and remove stems; drain well. Place in serving bowl and add croutons. Blend vinegar, water, mustard, and Splenda granular. Set aside. Slice bacon into small thin strips. Place in medium saucepan and fry over medium-high heat until crispy, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add onion and garlic and cook over medium-high heat 1 to 2 minutes, stirring often. Add vinegar mixture and simmer 1 to 2 minutes. Pour over spinach and croutons. Toss well. Serve immediately.

Nutrition info:
Serving size: 1 3/4 cups (one-fourth of the salad)
Total calories 90
Calories from fat 30
Total fat 3.5g
Saturated fat 1 g
Cholesterol 10 mg
Sodium 660 mg
Total carbohydrate 5 g
Dietary fiber 5 g
Sugars 1 g
Protein 5 g
Exchanges per serving - 1 fat, 1 vegetable

[Splenda from Publications International, Ltd. 2004]

Sounds like a very good low-carb, low-fat, healthy salad. It’s now on my “to make” list.

The second cookbook was sent by my sister-in-law, Alice, who lives in Fuquay-Varina, North Carolina. It’s called More of the Four Ingredient Cookbook by Linda Coffee and Emily Cale. Now, some of you may remember that on January 3, I posted about my office manager and her desire for two-ingredient recipes. That generated a few responses, on and off-line, about three and four-ingredient recipes. I even found a website with some four-ingredient recipes, and shared it with her. So it’s interesting timing that Alice sent me this cookbook. I’ve already found several recipes I’m looking forward to trying.

Tonight’s dinner was a quick, tasty, filling one. I called DH on my way home and asked him to take out some ground beef, flour tortillas, and grated cheese to thaw. (I live 20 minutes away; had to finish the thawing in the microwave.) DH had requested this dish; it’s one I got from my friend Diane. While it has potatoes in it, there aren’t many, and they add to the great flavor.

Beef and Potato Soft Tacos

1 c frozen southern-style hash browns (the cubed ones)
1 T vegetable oil
3/4 lb. lean ground beef
1/2 of small can tomato paste
grated cheddar cheese
flour tortillas (whole wheat or low carb are best)

Brown the hash browns in the oil. Remove to drain on a paper towel. Wipe the skillet. Add ground beef, and cook, breaking up into small pieces. When beef is cooked, add the tomato paste and mix to combine. Add potatoes. Serve with cheese and salsa on warm tortillas. Serves 2-3.

Fun times ahead! I get to test some recipes for Ruth of Once Upon a Feast. She’s writing a cookbook, and must have testers for the recipes. She sent me six, and they all look yummy. I shared them with DH tonight, and he’s looking forward to them, too. We’ll be having the first one Friday night, since I’m teaching a class at Cal State Thursday night for a friend. I’ll get to share the title of the recipe and a photo of my finished product, but the recipes are going to have to wait until she publishes the book and we all buy a copy.

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Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Chocolate Cravings

Today was work-in-the-office and meet-with-assistant-superintendent and go-to-school-board-meeting day. I didn’t get to come home and cook today. Lunch was a sub from Subway, and dinner was a hamburger from Bob’s Big Boy. I don’t know why, but I just HAD to have a hamburger. That happens some times–this overwhelming need for beef. But here’s what I REALLY wanted, and resisted, but I thought I’d put it on the site tonight because it’s such a good recipe. Maybe writing about it will help ward off the chocolate craving. Well, actually, I’ll be able to ward it off because it’s late at night and I don’t have the ingredients anyway!

Milky Way Cake (Now doesn’t that sound good right off the bat?)

Melt in double boiler: 8 Milky Ways, 1 stick butter
Set aside.

Blend: 1 stick butter, 4 eggs, 2 cups sugar
Add: 1/2 tsp. soda in 1 cup buttermilk
Alternating with: 2 1/2 cups flour, 1 tsp. vanilla

Fold in Milky Ways and add 1 cup chopped nuts. Bake for 1 1/2 hours at 325 ˚ in a greased and floured tube or bundt pan.

Glaze: 3 Milky Ways, 1 stick butter, melted. Add 1 Tbsp milk, 1 tsp. vanilla, 1 cup powdered sugar.
Cool cake and poor glaze over.

This must be like a thousand calories a piece. Perhaps someone out there will enjoy it! And I have more where these came from. Let’s see. How about this one:

Chocolate Lava Muffins

8 oz semisweet chocolate chips (1 1/3 cup.s)
1 stick butter softened
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 c sugar
3 T flour
1/4 t salt
4 eggs

Place a medium metal bowl in a saucepan of simmering water. Melt chocolate and butter in the bowl. Stir in the vanilla. In another bowl, combine the sugar, flour and salt. Sift these into the chocolate mixture and mix with an electric hand mixer. Add one egg at a time, fully incorporating each egg before adding the next. Beat on high until the batter is creamy and lightens in color. (approximately 4 minutes) Chill mixture.
Preheat oven to 375. Coat muffin tin with butter. Spoon mixture into the muffin tin using approx. 1/3 C. Bake for 12-13 minutes. Outside should be cake-like and centers should be gooey. Let cool some before serving. Makes 12

Okay, okay–one more!

Mocha Walnut Pudding Cake

1 c all-purpose flour
3/4 c sugar
3 T unsw. cocoa powder
2 t baking powder
1 t instant coffee powder
1/4 t salt
1/8 t cinnamon
1 c chopped walnuts
1/2 c milk
1/4 c butter, melted
1 t vanilla extract
1 T dark rum or brandy
1/2 c sugar
1/2 c packed dark brown sugar
5 T unsweetened cocoa powder
1 c hot water
1 c chilled whipping cream, whipped to soft peaks

Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350˚. Sift first 7 ingredients into med. bowl. Stir in walnuts. Com-bine milk, butter, vanilla, and rum in another bowl. Pour over flour mixture and stir until just combined (batter will be stiff). Spread in 8-in square glass baking dish. Mix 1/2 c sugar, brown sugar, and 5 T cocoa powder in small bowl. Sprinkle mixture evenly over batter. Pour hot water over top of pudding (do not stir). Bake until top is glazed and dark brown, about 40 minutes. Cool on rack at least 1 hour. Sauce will thicken as it cools. Serve warm or at room temperature with whipped cream.

I’d better stop. I’ll probably dream about chocolate tonight. It’s back to oatmeal in the morning!


Monday, January 16, 2006

Pepper Jelly Chicken, Gurkensalat, Mac & Cheese, and Yogurt Pie

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I’ve had this jar of Jalapeño Jelly sitting in my cupboard for some time, waiting for the right recipe. It came from a place called Honeyville, which is about 10 miles north of Durango, Colorado. As their name implies, their main product is honey, especially creamed honey in a multitude of flavors, but they also make jellies. I usually pick up jars of honey and jellies every time I go to Colorado (they’re sold in many different towns in southwest Colorado). I created this recipe this afternoon–a simple three-ingredient recipe. It tasted great!

Pepper-Jelly Chicken

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2 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
1/3 c jalapeño jelly
1/2 packet dried onion soup mix

Put chicken in small baking dish. Combine jelly and soup mix; spread over chicken. Bake at 350˚ for 25-30 minutes, or until juices run clear when chicken is pierced.

Patti of Adventures in Food and Wine gave me the inspiration for this recipe. Yesterday she posted a recipe for macaroni and cheese that used smoked gouda. Wow! What a flavor that must have. As I was trying to figure out what to fix with our chicken for dinner, I remembered her yummy recipe and decided to make mac and cheese as well. I ddin’t have any smoked gouda, but I did have various other cheeses, so I decided to make a four-cheese mac and cheese. I also used only 6 ounces of pasta instead of 8, since it’s just DH and me. Patti’s wonderful smoked gouda mac and cheese is here.

Four-Cheese Mac and Cheese

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4 T butter
6 oz. pound elbow macaroni (I used soy macaroni)
4 T all-purpose flour
2 cups whole milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground white pepper
dash cayenne
1/2 c Swiss cheese, grated
1/2 c sharp cheddar cheese, grated
3 slices Provolone
1 c cheddar, graded
1/3 cup fine bread crumbs
1/2 t seasoning salt

Preheat the oven to 350˚. Butter a 2-quart baking dish with 1 tablespoon of the butter and set aside. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the macaroni and cook until al dente, about 10 minutes. Drain in a colander and rinse under cold running water. Drain well. Melt the remaining 5 tablespoons butter in a heavy 3-quart saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour, and stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, cook over medium heat for 3 to 4 minutes, being careful not to let the flour brown. Using a whisk, add the milk in a steady stream and cook, whisking constantly, until thick and smooth, 4 minutes. Remove from the heat. Add the salt, pepper, cayenne, the Swiss, sharp cheddar, Provolne, and 1/2 cup of the cheddar, and stir well. Add the noodles and stir well. Pour into the prepared dish. In a mixing bowl, combine the remaining 1/2 cup of cheese with the bread crumbs and seasoning salt. Sprinkle evenly over the macaroni and bake until golden brown and bubbly, about 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and let rest for 5 minutes before serving.

My salad to go with dinner is another German favorite, something I can whip up in 2 minutes as long as I have a fresh cucumber. I checked with Ulrike (Ostwestwind) at Kuchenlatein if she made hers like this, and she said she did. She also passed on a unique recipe for cucumbers with peanut butter sauce, and I think I’ll try it next week with some chicken satay.

Deutscher Gurkensalat (German Cucumber Salad)

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1/4 c white vinegar
1/4 c water
2 t Splenda Granular
1/4 t salt
1/8 t pepper
1 cucumber, peeled and thinly sliced or waffle-sliced (see picture)

In a medium bowl, whisk together the vinegar, water, Splenda, salt and pepper. Add cucumber and stir. Keep in refrigerator until you’re ready to eat it. Toss salad occasionally to get all pieces in the vinegar mixture.

Desset is this wonderful pie, adapted from a recipe I got on Recipe*Zaar
. The original recipe called for blueberries only, and sugar. I substituted mixed berries and Splenda, and it came out great. I need to get a set of pie crust shields, though, as every pie I cook gets overly-dark brown edges. DH had two slices; he said this is his favorite kind of pie–not too sweet. It is pretty tart, but tasty.

Mixed Berry Yogurt Pie

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1 9" pie crust
2 eggs
3 tablespoons Splenda granular
1 cup plain yogurt
3 T lemon juice
1 t vanilla extract
2 cup mixed berries (I used blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries)

Preheat over to 350°F. Filling: Mix all the filling ingredients, except the blueberries until smooth. Put the berries into the pie shell and gently pour in the filling so the berries are coated and evenly distributed. Bake for about 60 minutes until the crust is browned and the custard has set. About halfway through, you'll want to cover the crust edges with foil or pie crust rims. Chill well.

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Sunday, January 15, 2006

Comfort Food for A Cold Day

Breakfast this morning was one of our favorites, Biscuits and Gravy. I grew up eating my mother’s made-from-scratch biscuits, and sometimes she made gravy to go over them. She always made sausage patties; I crumble the sausage up and use it as the base for the gravy. But we both agree that Jimmy Dean sausage is the best. I’ve tried other brands such as Farmer John , Tennessee Pride, and Jones, but they either had too much grease or didn’t taste as good. I get the Hot flavor, and sometimes even add more red pepper. Another thing I don’t do is make biscuits from scratch. While I cook a lot from scratch, I cut corners when I can to save time, and in this case I use the refrigerated biscuits from Pillsbury. About 7 years ago we started putting scrambled eggs on top of the biscuits before we put the sausage gravy on top. DH says it started (for us) in a restaurant in Buena Vista, Colorado when we were camping. I really don’t remember that part, but I do remember having a variation of Eggs Benedict where roasted asparagus replaced the Canadian bacon. Yum! But I’ll agree with DH in that putting the scrambled eggs on top of the biscuits is really tasty.

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Biscuits with Sausage Gravy and Scrambled Eggs
for two-three people

1/2 lb. breakfast sausage (I prefer Jimmy Dean Hot)
1/4 c flour
2 c milk
1 t chicken bouillon powder or granules
1/2 t black pepper
1/4-1/2 t ground cayenne pepper (optional)
4-5 eggs or equivalent in Eggbeaters
nonstick cooking spray
freshly baked biscuits of your choice

In a large skillet, brown the sausage over medium-high heat, crumbling it into smaller pieces as it cooks. When it’s almost completely brown, sprinkle with flour. Continue to cook another 2 minutes. Add milk, bouillon powder or granules, pepper, and cayenne, if desired. Lower temperature to medium low, and continue to cook, stirring often, until thickened. Spray another skillet with nonstick cooking spray and scramble the eggs. Split biscuits on plates. Top with scrambled eggs, then with the sausage gravy.

After breakfast, I drove down to San Bernardino for my monthly trip to Costco. I get most of my groceries at the commissary at March Air Force Base, with supplemental trips to Vons, Stater Bros., and the produce market, but there are a few things that I always buy at Costco. One is the boneless, skinless chicken breasts. They come wrapped in pairs, ready to freeze and later thaw as needed. Now that it’s just DH and me, and we both need to eat less, one package of two breasts is perfect for a meal.

Another item I get at Costco is the 5-lb. bag of shredded cheese. When I get home, I take all that cheese and separate it into 5 quart-size zip bags. These go into the freezer so I always have shredded cheese available.

Bacon is another Costco purchase, as it comes in 4 one-pound packages for less than $10. Sometimes bacon is on sale for about that much at the local markets, but it’s nice to get stocked up with the 4 pounds.

I think it’s a form of insecurity–this overwhelming need I’ve always had to have food in my freezer and cabinets. DH sometimes says we have too much food in the house. I say he’s wrong–you can NEVER have too much food.

Dinner tonight comes from both the freezer and the vegetable bin: Teriyaki Beef and Pepper Bowls, and egg rolls with sweet and sour sauce for dipping. Yes, a little Japanese with a little Chinese. We were just in the mood for both tonight. I’ve thawed a 1-lb. package of beef sirloin and a freezer bag of already-cooked brown rice, made some sweet and sour sauce for the egg rolls (definitely NOT made from scratch), and will cut up a yellow bell pepper I bought at the produce market yesterday. I’ll be making about 2/3 of the recipe below, since there’s just the two of us.

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Teriyaki Beef and Pepper Bowl

1 lb. flank steak or sirloin
steak, thinly sliced
1/2 c teriyaki sauce (I use Mr. Yoshida’s Gourmet Sauce)
1/2 med. onion, thinly sliced
1 T vegetable oil
2 bell peppers, any color, cut into strips 1/4” wide and about 2 inches long
1 8-oz. can sliced water chestnuts, drained
2 c hot cooked rice

In a bowl, marinate meat, teriyaki sauce, and onions for 5 minutes; drain and discard marinade. In large skillet or wok, heat oil until hot. Stir-fry meat and onions until meat is lightly browned. Add peppers and water chestnuts, sauté until peppers are heated through. Divide rice into bowls and top with teriyaki beef. Add additional teriyaki sauce if desired

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Sweet and Sour Sauce

1 T + 1 t vinegar
2 T Splenda
1 T + 1 t ketchup
2 t cornstarch
1/3 c water

Combine ingredients in a small saucepan; heat over low heat until thick. Serve hot or cold.

Dessert is a “retro” favorite: sugar-free Jell-o to which I added sliced bananas and topped with light Cool Whip. Every once in a while we like Jell-o with different fruits added (peaches, fruit cocktail, mandarin oranges, strawberries, etc.). I remember Mom would make orange Jell-o with grated carrots in it, and would call it a salad. Must be a Texas thing.

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Saturday, January 14, 2006


I’ve learned through the years that many of your tastes and preferences as an adult are shaped by what your mother cooked for you as a child. Both DH and I grew up on Wonder Bread, and whole grain bread is something to get used to. Now both of us really love whole grain breads, but I found out this morning that this new love of whole grains doesn’t necessarily extend to other foods. DH requested banana-walnut pancakes this morning, and when I asked him if he wanted the whole wheat ones or the white ones, he asked if he could have the white ones. I relented, knowing that I could just have one and be okay. I used the same seasonings as in the whole wheat recipe, but used Krusteez Complete Pancake Mix. They were pretty good. I have mine with sugar-free syrup, and envy him with his almost-real stuff. But since they’re based on the whole wheat recipe, that’s what I’ll give you.


Whole Wheat Banana-Walnut Pancakes

1 1/2 c whole wheat flour
1 1/2 t baking powder
dash salt
1/2 t cinnamon
1/2 t nutmeg
1/8 t ground clove
1 egg
1 t oil
1/2 T honey
1 1/2 c milk
1/8 t vanilla
2 very ripe bananas
1/2 c chopped walnuts

In a large bowl mix first six ingredients until well blended. Make a well in the center of the mixture. In a separate bowl, beat together egg, oil, honey, milk, and vanilla. Slice banana in quarters lengthwise, then slice horizontally into very thin pieces. Add egg mixture, banana, and walnuts into the well of the flour mixture. Stir ingredients until well blended. Add a little more milk, if necessary, until the mixture has a good, pourable quality. Fry on greased griddle until cooked through.

We had these with little smokies sausages, mainly because I’m out of bacon. My Costco trip’s tomorow–I love that place!

Dinner was one of our old-time favorites. Right after we got married, 25 years ago, I subscribed to a mail-order cookbook–the kind that sent you the three-ring binder and a starter set of recipes, and then continued to send more recipes and two other binders over the next couple of years. They were great for a beginning cook, and this was one of the first recipes I ever cooked out of them. I got rid of them two years ago when I put all my recipes on disk and decided that many of my cookbooks were just taking up space.

With dinner, we had a baby greens salad with pears, blue cheese, walnuts, and a simple vinaigrette of balsamic vinegar and olive oil. We also had turnips, fixed the way my mother always fixed them: boiled, then mashed with a little butter, salt, and just a teaspoon of Splenda (though Mom always used sugar).


Honey-Lime Chicken

1/4 c oil
1 chicken, cut up
2 T minced onion
2 clove garlic, minced
2 T honey
1/4 t turmeric
1/2 t crushed red pepper
1/2 t ground cumin
1/2 t ground coriander
4 T soy sauce
3 T lime juice
1 lime, cut in wedges.

Heat the oil in heavy skillet and brown chicken lightly. Add onion and garlic to skillet; continue cooking chicken until onion is tender. Mix honey, turmeric, red pepper, cumin, coriander, and soy sauce. Pour over chicken, stirring to coat. Cover and simmer 35 minutes or until chicken is tender. Sprinkle with lime juice, place on hot platter, and garnish with lime. If you use this recipe with boneless breasts, it doesn’t take as long to cook.

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WHB # 15

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Molly's Trunk

This is Molly, a giant incense cedar (Caolcedrus decurrens) who lives up against my cabin. I named her a year ago when I had to do an assignment in my environmental ed class. She’s over a hundred years old; she was large back in 1930 when this cabin was built around her. As the years have gone by the girth of her trunk hasn’t increased enough to cause us to worry about damage to the house, but we do feel her a couple of times a year when big winds blow.

Molly's Branches

Molly is home to a family of raccoons–a mother and two youngsters, who often clamber down to play on the roof or in the back yard at night. In this picture they’re not there; I think they have several places they call home and they’re visiting one of the other ones right now.

WDB # 17

Pepper Sleeping

Pepper spends most of her day zonked out on her bed.

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But when it’s time to cook dinner, she’s there by the kitchen door, ready for any handouts or dropped food she can get.

Meme, Meme, Meme, Meme (A meme in fours)

I was tagged the other day by Kalyn from Kalyn’s Kitchen for a meme. I’m new to this, but it looks fun, and a great way to get to know my “community.”

Four Jobs You’ve Had in Your Life

1. Teacher’s Union President (yup, just like Kalyn!)
2. Officer in the U. S. Air Force
3. Fry Cook at Burger King
4. Wilderness Camp Counselor/Guide in New Mexico

Four Movies You Could Watch Over and Over

1. Last of the Mohicans
2. Jeremiah Johnson
3. Sound of Music
4. Schindler’s List

Four Places You’ve Lived

1. Kleinbundenbach, Germany
2. Air Force Academy, Colorado
3. Allbrook Air Base, Panama
4. Lubbock, Texas

Four Websites You Visit Daily

1. I’m Mad and I Eat Similar politics, similar love of cooking

2. Kuchenlatein The best source for more German cooking recipes and ideas

3. Recipe*Zaar Thousands of recipes in a great searchable database

4. Kalyn’s Kitchen We have so much in common!

Four TV Shows You Love to Watch

1. CSI
2. House
3. Battlestar Galactica
4. Cold Case

Four of Your Favorite Foods

1. Potatotes - fried, baked, boiled, mashed, roasted–and now that I only have them once or twice a week, they sure are a luxury!
2. A good filet mignon
3. Chocolate
4. Hot and Sour Soup

Four Albums You Can’t Live Without

1. Mortal City by Dar Williams
2. Somewhere Near Paterson by Richard Shindell
3. White Ladder by David Gray
4. Pink Moon by Nick Drake

Four Places You’d Rather Be
1. Somewhere on the Escalante River between Escalante and Glen Canyon
2. Alaska
3. High up in the Colorado Rockies
4. In bed with DH ; )

Four People Who Are Now Obligated to Do This to Their Blog

1. ostwestwind of Kuchenlatein
2. stephanie of Dispensing Happiness
3. michele of Chef Michele’s Adventures
4. paz of The Cooking Adventures of Chef Paz

Friday, January 13, 2006

Spaghetti Night, Plus a Healthy Dessert Treat

I was able to come home early tonight since my 3:00 meeting with the assistant superintendent was cancelled (she forgot about it and was out of town at a workshop). DH was pleased to see me, and requested spaghetti. Since I had just gotten some Barilla Plus thin spaghetti, and had enough time to thaw some ground beef, I agreed. I used to use other people’s spaghetti sauce (Newman’s Own, Hunts, etc.), but I think mine is much better. It’s an adaptation of my mother’s recipe, with one of the biggest changes being the addition of crushed red pepper to give it a little kick. DH said tonight’s was the best I ever made, and I told him that it would be that way from now on since I wrote down exactly what I did.


Mom’s Spaghetti Sauce

3/4 lb. lean ground beef
1/4 c chopped onion
1/4 c chopped bell pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed through a garlic press
1 14.5-oz. can diced tomatoes
2 small cans tomato paste
2 tomato paste cans water
1 T Splenda
1 t salt
1 1/2 t dried oregano
1/4 t dried thyme
1/2 t crushed red pepper
1/4 t ground black pepper
2 T chopped parsley
1/3 c Parmesan cheese

In a large saucepan, brown the ground beef together with the onion and bell pepper. Add remaining ingredients. Simmer over low heat at least 30 minutes for flavors to blend. Serve over hot spaghetti noodles.

On to Dessert:

I had picked up some zucchini yesterday at the produce market, and decided to use it in something for dessert. Yes, zucchini and dessert. I created this recipe, drawing on a few others in my file, and put zucchini, baby food, applesauce, and apples in it. I used whole wheat and flax to keep it healthy, used Splenda instead of sugar, and WOW - it was perfect. I got the amount of baking powder right. These come out with the texture of brownies, and the zucchini and apples soften with the baking, making these a treat that I’m proud of sharing. I’ll call ‘em Freggie Bars, since they have fruit and veggies in them. I guess you could add nuts, too, but this time I didn’t. Tonight I used baby sweet potatoes, but I'm sure it would be just as tasty using carrots, plums, or other fruit or vegetable baby food.


Whole Wheat Freggie Bars

2 1/2 c whole wheat flour
3 T ground flaxseed
1 1/2 t cinnamon
1 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
1/2 c Splenda
2 T Splenda brown sugar blend
1/2 c unsweetened applesauce
2 large eggs
3/4 c finely chopped zucchini
2 sm. jars baby food - try carrot, plums, sweet potatoes
1 med. apple, chopped

Preheat oven to 350°. Spray a 9x13" baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. Combine flour, flax, cinnamon, baking powder, salt and Splenda brown sugar blend and Splenda. In a separate bowl, combine applesauce and eggs. Mix in remaining ingredients. Combine wet and dry ingredients and spread in prepared pan. Bake 20 minutes.

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Blog Party #6

Over on Dispensing Happiness Stephanie hosts a blog party every month, each one with a different theme. This month’s theme is retro, so I searched my files for recipes that could be considered “retro.” I started with the appetizer, and came up with a bean dip that my mother made while I was a kid. My brother Chuck decided it was so good that we’d have it almost every Friday night. It’s easy to make; uses true “retro” ingredients, and tastes wonderful!

Chuck’s Bean Dip

1 can condensed bean with bacon soup
3/4 cup Velveeta cheese, cut in cubes
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 small fresh jalapeño, finely diced

Mix undiluted soup with Velveeta, garlic powder, and jalapeños. Heat over low fire and serve hot. This works well in one of those miniature crockpots.

Next, I looked for what could be considered a “retro” drink. Having no idea, really, what I could make, I remembered that my ski trips in college always included Hot Buttered Rum. This mixture is truly decadent (try eating it with a spoon!), and always hits the spot when it’s cold and snowy outside. It’s definitely not for diabetics or people trying to watch their sugar.

Hot Buttered Rum Mix for a Crowd

1 lb. brown sugar
1 lb. powdered sugar
1 lb. butter
1 qt vanilla ice cream
1 t allspice
1 t cinnamon
1 t nutmeg

Mix all ingredients except rum. Heat very slowly until mixture is like thin cake batter. Remove from heat; cool. Cover and freeze. When ready to serve, put 2 teaspoons frozen mixture in a mug, add 1 1/2 oz of rum. Fill remainder of cup with hot water and stir to melt frozen mixture. Sprinkle with nutmeg.

I hope that while we're "circulating" and getting to know each other, some of you try my dip and drink! Hope you enjoy it!

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Make it Easier to Cook From Scratch

I try to cook from scratch as much as I can, since it’s much healthier for us, and it always tastes much better. However, I don’t go to the store every day, usually because I don’t have time. When I shop, I stock up on things that I know I use often, and keep a lot of useful food items in my freezer. My freezer door is the”condiment” drawer, meaning that’s where I keep zip bags of all kinds of food items that I can pull out, use what I need, and then pop back in the freezer.

Here’s what’s in my freezer right now:

• a zip bag of chopped onions If I’m in a hurry, or the recipe calls for only a little bit of onion, I can use these. Frozen chopped onions work for any recipe that’s going to be cooked. If the onion needs to be fresh, I start with a new one. Then what I don’t use goes into the bag.
• zip bags of chopped bell peppers, green, yellow, and red See above.
• a zip bag of sliced jalapeños These can be diced while they’re still frozen, and then tossed into salsa, guacamole, or any other recipe that calls for fresh jalapeños.
• Calavo brand Haas avocado halves I found these at Smart & Final, and it’s so nice to be able to have guacamole or sliced avocado for a sandwich any time I want it without having to go to the store.
• zip bags of individual whole tomatoes (from a can) I have a few recipes, such as tonight’s Spanish rice, that call for only a little bit of stewed/canned tomato.
• zip bags of grated cheese: sharp cheddar, cheddar, and swiss
• zip bags of chopped pecans and walnuts Keep them in the freezer so they won’t get rancid.
• low-carb, whole-wheat tortillas
• corn tortillas
• zip bag of chopped celery
• a can of frozen orange juice concentrate I just scoop out a spoonful or two when a recipe calls for orange juice.
• a zip bag of ground flax, ready to add to all my breads, my yogurt, and other food.
• zip bags of “dollops” of tomato paste, left over from recipes that call for only 1-2 tablespoons.
• raspberries
• blueberries for muffins and whole-wheat pancakes
• peas
• mixed vegetables
• bananas for bread-making
and 6 more of Kaylin’s egg “muffins.”

I planned a crockpot dish today, and decided to use a recipe I got from Kalyn’s Kitchen, though I changed it from chicken to beef, using beef broth instead of chicken broth as well. Oh, my! Was that good! I’d tried making beef or chicken fajitas before, but they never came out as good as this. Thanks, Kalyn!


Beef Fajitas and Spanish Rice

Beef Fajitas

1 lb. skirt steak, cut lengthwise across the grain into 4” strips
2 bell peppers, sliced lengthwise 1/2” thick
1-2 onions, sliced lengthwise
1 T lime juice
2 t chili powder
1 t cumin
1/2 t beef bouillon granules
1/2 c hot water

Place beef in crockpot; top with bell peppers and onions. Sprinkle with lime juice. Combine chili powder, cumin, salt, beef bouillon granules and water; pour over meat and vegetables. Cover and cook on Low for 6-7 hours or until tender. Serve with tortillas, guacamole, sour cream, and salsa.

Spanish Rice

1 T vegetable oil
1 c white rice (regular or converted, but NOT instant)
2 T chopped onion
1 clove garlic, minced or pressed through garlic press
2 c water
2 t chicken bouillon granules or 2 cubes
2 T chopped peeled tomato (this is where I use canned tomatoes that I’ve frozen individually)
1/3 c frozen peas or mixed vegetables
black pepper

In a saucepan, sauté rice in oil over medium heat until rice is brown. Add onion and garlic; sauté another minute or so. Add remaining ingredients. Cover; bring to a boil Lower heat and simmer approx. 15 minutes or until all liquid is absorbed.



1 Haas avocado (the black pebbly skin)
2 T finely chopped onion
1/4 t garlic salt
1 T dried cilantro or 2 T chopped fresh cilantro
1 tomato, diced
1 T light or regular Miracle Whip (really!)
2 T light or regular sour cream
1 t finely diced jalapeño ( or more, if you’re brave!)
1/4 t ground cayenne pepper
1 t lime juice

Peel avocado, smash with a fork. Add remaining ingredients; stir well.

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You Are Mexican Food

Spicy yet dependable.
You don't pull punches, but people still love you.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Quinoa and An Empty Nest

I was looking through the local newspaper today, and saw that they had reprinted an article from the Seattle Times that had lots of food tips in it. They were alphabetized, and the letter Q was for Quinoa. Interesting timing, with Paper Chef #14 using quinoa as one of its ingredients.

First, a tip about quinoa:

Q: Quinoa salads and pilafs can be bitter. Is there a way to prevent that?
A: The secret to removing the bitterness from quinoa is to rinse well with cold water through a fine sieve for at least 5 minutes before cooking. Drain well.

Next, a recipe:

Quinoa with Roasted Vegetables

Roasted Vegetables:

2 red bell peppers
2 tomatoes
2 T olive oil
1/4 t kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
1/3 c slivered fresh basil
1 (14-oz. can reduced-sodium chicken or vegetable broth (1 2/3 cups)


1 c quinoa
1/4 t kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
2 T toasted pine nuts
1/4 c jarred romesco sauce*
2 T lemon juice
1 T olive oil
4 c cleaned and stemmed arugula leaves
1/3 c Parmesan cheese shavings

To prepare Roasted Vegetables: Preheat oven to 375˚. Halve red peppers and remove stems and seeds. Cut into 1-inch-wide pieces and put on a rimmed baking sheet. Cut tomatoes in half crosswise and place cut-side up on the baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast 30 minutes or until tender and browned. Stir peppers once. Remove from oven and cool slightly. Toss peppers with basil. When tomatoes are cool enough to handle, remove skins and seeds. Chop flesh to a fine puree or puree in a food processor. Combine with broth to equal 2 cups and set aside.

To prepare Quinoa: Put quinoa in a fine sieve and rinse with cold water 5 minutes to release the bitterness. Drain well. In a 1 1/2-qt. saucepan, combine tomato broth with quinoa and salt. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer 15 minutes. Uncover and cook about 5 minutes longer until the liquid has been absorbed. Season with pepper and add pine nuts. Set aside, uncovered, 5 minutes. Whisk together romesco sauce, lemon juice and olive oil. Divide arugula among plates and spoon quinoa on top, then peppers. Drizzle sauce over everything and sprinkle Parmesan on top. Makes 4-6 servings.

*There are several brands of romesco sauce, a puree of sweet peppers, toasted almonds, hot pepper and other seasonings, available. Look for it in the condiment or sauce sections in supermarkets.

We're Empty Nesters Again!

We're celebrating our daughter's moving out. The day finally came, and she's all set up in her new apartment. She's so happy to not live up here in the mountains any more, where it's cold, it snows and she has to put chains on the car, and it's too far from everything, including work. Now she's only 5 minutes from her job, instead of an hour, she's got independence again, and we are alone again! Hooray! For us and her!

Tonight's dinner was leftover oven-barbecued chicken for DH, and shrimp cocktail for me. We also had a big bowl of Jamie's Chopped Salad–one of DH's favorites. I'm planning a crockpot meal for tomorrow, since for the first time this week I don't have to be at work at 7. I'll have time to put a good breakfast together for DH and put dinner in the crockpot.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Screw-up at the Grocery Store

I'll start with the grocery store--I'd planned on some roasted GREEN vegetables to go with some grilled chicken, and bought a bunch of diferent produce items at the store. When I got home, I discovered that for some reason, I didn't have the bell peppers, the zucchini, or the tomatoes. I was going to roast the zucchini with the bell pepper and some onion, and have a tomato salad. but had to re-think my plans. (I called the store and they'll let me pick up my lost veggies tomorrow--I wasn't going to drive back down the mountain tonight.)

Roasted Vegetables

Dinner was tasty in spite of the screw-up. We had Chicken Thighs Adobo on the George Foreman Grill, and roasted potatoes, carrots, onions, mushrooms, and green beans in the oven. All I did for the vegetables was cut them up, toss them in olive oil with a bit of garlic, and roast them at 425˚ for about 30 minutes. They were delicious.

After I put the vegetables in the oven, I mixed up the marinade for the chicken thighs and put them in it for a while. Just before the veggies were done, I heated up the GF grills and cooked the thighs. It's one of our favorite marinades, and I always have the ingredients on hand.

Chicken Thighs Adobo

1 T Splenda brown sugar blend
1 T olive oil
1 T orange juice concentrate
1 T dried cilantro
2 t red wine or cider vinegar
1 t chipotle or regular chili powder
1/2 t ground cumin
1/2 t dried oregano
1/4 t salt
1/8 ground red pepper
1/8 t ground cinnamon
1/2 t minced garlic
6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs

Mix all ingredients except chicken in a medium bowl. Put thighs in bowl; turn them to get all surfaces coated with marinade. Marinate as long as possible before grilling. Works on either an indoor or outdoor grill. Serves 3

Tip: Keep a can of orange juice concentrate in the freezer. Any time a recipe calls for orange juice, just scoop out some of the concentrate. You mignt not even want to dilute it if you want a stronger orange flavor.

I know I missed something, and I just figured out it was ARF Tuesday at Sweetnicks. It's too late to link now, so I'll try to plan ahead for next week.

I discovered a new treat today. My friend Dan suggested it: put a banana, 2 tablespoons of sugar-free chocolate syrup or drink powder, and two tablespoons of peanut butter in a ziploc sandwich bag. Squeeze out the air, zip the bag shut, and then squish it all up! Snip off one corner, and eat the ooey gooey mess. It's sooooooo good. A great snack, or a dessert. Take out the chocolate, and it would make a good grab-and-go breakfast to eat in the car on the way to work. Here's the nutritional info on one 7 oz. banana and 2 tablespoons of peanut butter: 330 calories, 37 carbs, 16 g fat, 5 g fiber, 8.5 g protein. Not a bad breakfast to start the day with!

Tip: Store peeled bananas in the freezer. Just pop them in little zip bags, then take them out when you need them for bread or smoothies. If you don't peel them before you freeze them, they're impossible to peel frozen, and a mess to peel thawed.

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Monday, January 09, 2006

I Visited the Dietician Today

I had an appointment with the dietician today to discuss how to eat now that I’m a diabetic. We started off by discussing the various changes I’d made since August:
-switched from sugar to Splenda
-switched from white bread to whole wheat and other whole grains
-switched from white rice to brown rice
-switched from wheat pasta to whole wheat or soy pasta
-began eating more whole grains (flax, oat bran, wheat bran, whole wheat)
-eliminated potatoes except for 1 small serving a week
-switched from frying with fat to “oven frying” without any fat
-switched from Starbuck’s Caramel Macchiato to coffee with half & half, sugar-free caramel syrup, and Splenda
-began using more Eggbeaters
-cut down to 1600 calories/day most days
-kept carbs to 200 grams or less most days

We talked about the meaning of the different blood test results, and she told me my triglycerides and cholesterol were good. She shared food lists and snack ideas, and we had a good time going over those (at least I did–I was talking about food!) I learned that there are many foods I can eat that I’d been going without (graham crackers and potatoes, for example). The emphasis, she said, is on portion control and balance. She also said to try having snacks, which would mean cutting down on the meals in order to stay under my daily maxium. We looked at the Diet Diary program I have on my Treo (cell phone/PDA), and she realized that she’d been advocating the book version, not knowing there was a computer and PDA program! She’ll now start tellling her patients about the Calorie King program, as she knows there are many who use computers and PDAs that would like it. We then discussed what my daily maximums should be in order to continue to lose weight and keep my blood sugar under control:
• 1600 calories
• 200 carbs, with no more than 65 in a meal
• 50 grams of fat
and these targets:
• 35 grams of fiber
• 70 grams of protein

She gave me some good advice about snacks, along with a nice list:
• 1/2 meat sandwich (1 slice bread + 1 oz. meat or 1/4 cup tuna + mustard + veggies)
• 1 T peanut buttter on 1 slice wheat bread
• 1 slice lowfat American cheese + 6 low fat Triscuits
• 1 string cheese + 1 small apple (or any fruit serving)
• 1 carton light yogurt + 1/2 c strawberries [we talked about low-carb yogurt, which is even better than the light yogurt)
• 3 cups unbuttered popcorn + 3 T grated cheese (or 1 oz. cheese)
• 1 corn tortilla + 1/2 oz. (about 2 T) melted cheese
• 1/2 c low fat cottage cheese + 1/4 c pineapple
• 1 South Beach cereal bar
• 1 Glucerna bar
• 1 Pria carb-select bar
• 1 Choice bar
• 1 serving of fruit + 1/4 c nuts

We talked about how it’s a good idea to carry some snacks in my purse, so now I’m carrying Trader Joe’s fruit leathers, little bags of 14 almonds, Skippy peanut butter tubes, and Baskin-Robbins sugar-free hard candies. Those snacks keep me from straying too much, and help keep my appetite in check.

A new dessert idea she suggested was taking a banana and “smooshing” it with your fork, mixing in two tablespoons of sugar-free Nestle’s Quik. I tried it tonight, and it satisfied the craving for something chocolate and ooey-gooey.

About the only advice she gave me, since she felt I was on the right track, was to exercise more. We talked about my work schedule and demands, and my excuses, and she suggested I go get a pedometer. So I did. I’ll start using it tomorrow. She recommends that I count the steps in a day, and make it a goal to increase them the next day. We also talked about how to get some exercise right in my office. I have a TV and VCR and DVD player, so I’ve ordered the Leslie Sansone “Walk Away the Pounds” DVD. I used to have the video, but lost it, and I remember that it was fun and took only 15-20 minutes a day. That’s time I’ll have, since I won’t have to leave my office. In case you’re not familiar with it, it’s here , and it’s a way to burn calories and lower blood sugar by walking in place, with kicking, marching, and stepping to the side,
all at different paces. By the time you finish one of the sets, you’ve either done a mile or two miles, depending on which one you chose.

Since the appointment was in the morning, it motivated me to have a pretty good day. Supper had to be quick, since I didn’t get home until 6. I threw some tortilla chips on a cookie sheet, mixed up a little refried beans (fat free, from dried-I get large packages from Smart & Final), and put dollops of beans on the chips. These were topped with canned turkey chili, diced pickled jalapeños, and shredded cheddar cheese. After I baked that in the oven at 400˚ for 12 minutes, I pulled them out and topped them with a bunch of Chachie’s salsa. Olé! Super Nachos!

Super Nachos

I just noticed that all my food photos so far are brown/orange/red. I REALLY need to make more salads and veggies! Let’s see–how about an Oriental Chicken Salad tomorrow night? Or fix those brussels sprouts in the fridge. I see I have a goal now–make more green foods. I need to try Kalyn’s bok choy, so maybe have to stock up on some fresh veggies.

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Sunday, January 08, 2006

The End of the Weekend Approaches

I love sleeping late! This morning I didn’t get up until 7:30. After my first cup of coffee I decided to fix Huevos Rancheros. I make my own, based on some I was served at the Embassy Suites in Palm Desert. Any time I go to a restaurant that serves breakfast, I check their menu to see how they fix their Huevos Rancheros. Most of them don’t do it right. The word Rancheros implies a ranchero sauce, yet a lot of restaurants put salsa on their eggs instead of ranchero sauce. Very few of them use cheese, and I believe the cheese is important to the recipe. I could fix this every weekend, DH says, though I know he’d get tired of it if I did.

Huevos Rancheros

Huevos Rancheros

Ranchero Sauceo

1/4 c chopped onion
1/4 c chopped bell pepper
1 T diced pickled jalapeño (don’t use fresh–they’re too hot!)
1/2 t vegetable oil
1 t chicken bouillon powder
1 10-oz. can mild or medium enchilada sauce (I use Old El Paso)
1/3 c water

In a small saucepan, sauté onion and bell pepper in oil until tender. Add jalapeño, bouillon powder, enchilada sauce, and water. Simmer 5-10 minutes. Store leftovers in freezer until next time. This recipe makes enough for 4-6 servings of Huevos Rancheros, depending on how much you use.

Putting it all together:

Put two 6-inch corn tortillas on a hot griddle or skillet. Sprinkle with some cheddar cheese. In another small skillet, cook two eggs “over easy” or “over medium.” Remove tortillas to your plate when cheese is melted. Top with the eggs, and then put Ranchero sauce over the eggs. We usually have this with some hash brown potatoes.

I had intended to get some scrapbooking done today, but remembered that I have a deadline to meet regarding interviews for state assembly and senate and U. S. Congress. So, I spent several hours getting organized and sending e-mails. By the time I was finished, it was time to fix dinner. I had some carrots left over from Rep Council earlier this week, so I shredded them up and made Karottensalat (German Carrot Salad). It’s a simple mixture of carrots, vinegar, water oil, and now Splenda, since I switched from sugar. I got this recipe from Frau Nagel, our landlord’s wife in Kleinbundenbach, Germany. She knew how to make salads from every vegetable imaginable.


Karottensalat (German Carrot Salad)

3 c shredded carrots
3 T Splenda
3 T vinegar
3 T water
2 T vegetable oil

Mix together all ingredients. Chill until serving.

Next, I prepared the fish. DH had gone deep-sea fishing out of Oceanside a few months ago, and brought home 10 large barracuda, already filleted into 20 large fillets. I cut them all in half, since they were very long, and froze them.

Up until recently I’ve avoided eating fresh fish. I think I was turned off by the smell of catfish caught out of a not-too-clean lake. I’ve since learned that ocean fish don’t have that taste (and catfish out of Lake Mead in the winter is good, too!), and now look forward to eating it. I always cook it this way: “fried” in the oven. It’s low in fat and carbs, and has that crunchy outside that I like. DH and I don’t like sautéed, broiled, or poached fish. His favorite way used to be fried, but now this way is is favorite.

Oven-Fried Fish

Crispy Oven-Fried Fish

1 lb. white fish fillets, cut into 4 equal pieces
1/3 c Eggbeaters
1/2 c corn flake crumbs
1 t ground paprika
1-2 t Mrs. Dash
nonstick cooking spray

Rinse fish with cool water and pat it dry with paper towels. Place the egg substitute in a shallow bowl. Place the corn flake crumbs and seasonings in another shallow bowl, and stir to mix well. Dip the fish pieces first in the egg substitute and then in the crumb mixture, turning to coat both sides well. Coat a medium-sized baking sheet with cooking spray, and arrange the fish pieces on the sheet in a single layer. Spray the tops with cooking spray, and bake at 450˚ for about 15 minutes, or until the outside is crisp and golden and fish flakes easily with a fork. 4 servings

Hope you enjoy it!

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Originally uploaded by mtncyndi.
This is my 14-year-old neurotic but lovable dog, Pepper. She's half Golden Retriever and half black Labrador Retriever - hence the long hair like goldens, but the black color.

She's into people food. My daughter and I have fed her table scraps for years, and her favorites include rice, cheese, any meat scraps, and bread.

She's the biggest shedder--though we get her groomed periodically, and the groomer takes away tons of "under-fur," she still sheds all the time. But we love her anyway!

This is for Sweetnicks Weekend Dog Blogging!

Saturday, January 07, 2006

My First (and hopefully not last) Paper Chef Competition

Paper Chef #14 Ingredients

Unlike cookiecrumb, I’m a joiner when it comes to food. So when I heard about the Paper Chef competition going on over at a few other blogs, I had to see what that was all about. I love experimenting, and my husband’s favorite line (when it comes to cooking) is “I’ll try anything once.” Paper Chef #14 ingredients are quinoa, cashews, yogurt (and I’ll spell it without the ‘h’, thank-you--such a stickler I am!), and anything ‘baby. I’ve never eaten quinoa, but have seen it at the store where I buy my grains and flours. I’d been planning to make cornbread to go with Mom’s chicken recipe tonight, so I just did a few adjustments and came up with this:

Sweet Potato Quinoa Cornbread

Sweet Potato Quinoa Cornbread

2 T butter, melted
1 egg
1 4-oz. jar baby food sweet potatoes
1 8-oz. carton plain nonfat yogurt
1 c medium-grind cornmeal
1 c quinoa meal *
1 T baking powder
1/2 t salt
2 T Splenda brown sugar blend or 4 T brown sugar
1/2 c coarsely chopped cashews

*I ground it in my coffee grinder, which we no longer use since we quit buying whole bean coffee because DH will settle for Folger’s and I hardly drink coffee at home and stop at Starbuck’s on my way to work...I’m such a Starbuck’s snob.

Preheat oven to 350˚. In one medium bowl, blend together the butter, egg, sweet potatoes, and yogurt. In another bowl, mix together the cornmeal, quinoa meal, baking powder, salt, and Splenda brown sugar. Add to wet ingredients and stir just until moistened. Gently stir in cashews. Spread batter in a greased 9x9” baking dish. Bake 50 minutes or until bread tests done with a toothpick. Cool in pan 10 minutes; remove to wire rack to finish cooling.

We had this bread with dinner, which was my mother’s Oven Barbecued Chicken, rice, and turnip greens. A sort of Texas/southern meal. Those of you who live where you can get turnip greens in the grocery store--I’m jealous. We don’t have them here in southern California. I don’t even know if they have them in northern California. (cookiecrumb? and don’t tell me about fresh turnip greens, for some reason I like the canned ones better!) I have to have them shipped to me, and boy, does that get expensive. I went to visit my brother in North Carolina last June, and bought a case to ship home. The turnip greens cost under $12, the shipping, I think, was about $26. But I grew up eating them, and I really love ‘em. I got a mixed case--half plain turnip greens, and half turnip greens with chopped-up turnips in them. Seldom do I share them with DH, since he’s ambivalent about them. But tonight, he agreed that they go with oven-barbecued chicken and cornbread.

The cornbread was “different.” We didn’t know what to expect, and were a bit surprised at the crunchiness. But it grows on you. Around the third bite you’re used to the different texture and taste. “Not bad,” DH stated. “Can I have some more?” I proudly proclaim it a success.

Back to the chicken. This will be the first of many wonderful recipes given to me by my mother that I grew up eating regularly. The first time I made it for DH, he fell in love with it and requests it often. He especially likes the sauce, which he pours over rice. When I make this, I have to make extra rice, because he eats so much. This morning, when I pulled the breasts out of the freezer and told him what I was making, his response was, “My mouth is already watering. Can’t wait.” I made one change to this recipe from my mother’s, and that was to use Splenda Brown Sugar Blend. Anything I can do to cut sugar, I’ll try.

Oven-Barbecued Chicken

Alice Alene’s Oven-Barbecued Chicken

2 8-oz. cans tomato sauce
1 c water
1 onion, chopped
2 T soy sauce
3 T mustard
1/4 c Splenda Brown Sugar Blend or 1/2 c brown sugar
1 t garlic powder
3-4 chicken breasts or 1 chicken, cut up

Place all ingredients (except chicken) in small saucepan. Mix well and simmer about 10 minutes. Put chicken in shallow baking dish and pour sauce over. Bake, uncovered, at 350˚ 50 minutes to an hour. Serve with rice.