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 j-pouch.org. 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 recipezaar.com, 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.