Sunday, June 24, 2007

450 More Miles, Idaho Falls

From Beaver, Utah, we drove 450 more miles up the 15 to Idaho Falls, where we're camped for the night at the Snake River RV Resort. The last time we stayed here it was the Idaho Falls KOA. The weather's a little cooler, the campground is full, and we're looking forward to getting to Sula tomorrow. I don't know when we'll have internet access again, so bye for now!

Saturday, June 23, 2007

On the Road Again!

Thanks to WiFi, I'm posting this from the Beaver, Utah KOA, about 450 miles from home on the way to Montana! Thanks to our daughter's quicker-than-expected recovery, we were able to leave this morning and head north. We left town at 5 am, had breakfast at Peggy Sue's Diner east of Barstow, lunch in Mesquite, and made it in to the KOA at 4 pm. It's HOT here, but we now have a trailer with a real air conditioner in it (instead of our old popup), and the heat's not bothering us at all. It's started to cool down a little, and we might be able to sleep with the windows open. It doesn't matter either way.

Dinner was hot dogs, but I made some spicy cole slaw to go with it that I thought I'd post about. Two weeks ago I had something similar, made by a colleague, and decided I'd try to duplicate it. It's simple - and since it doesn't use mayonnaise like my regular cole slaw, it's a nice change.

Spicy Cole Slaw

3 teaspoons sugar or Splenda granular
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 tablespoons vinegar

Whisk together sugar, red pepper, salt, pepper, oil and vinegar, and pour over cabbage and carrots. Toss to combine. Serves 2.

Our plan is to make it to either Brigham City, Pocatello, or Idaho Falls tomorrow - it all depends on how Don feels when we get there. Then on Monday, we'll make it to our first long stay - Sula, Montana. I'll tell you all about it when we get there.

I also want to share this pic of T - only one week after having surgery she was shopping with me and using the motorized cart to get around the store. Doesn't she look great?!

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Low-Carb Cooking

For low sugar, this is pretty darn good! I really love pecan pie - but it's got way too much sugar for me to have it unless I can figure out a way to lower that sugar. So I experimented and adapted, and came up with this. I used Mrs. Butterworth's Sugar-Free Syrup, though I'm sure any brand will do. The filling wasn't as transluscent as regular pecan pie, but hey, the flavor was there!

Low-Sugar Pecan Pie

3 eggs
2 teaspoons Splenda Brown Sugar Blend
5 teaspoons Splenda granular
1 cup light or sugar-free pancake syrup
⅓ cup butter, melted
1 cup pecan halves
Pastry for 9" pie

Preheat oven to 350 degrees˚.
Mix eggs and sugar. Stir in the breakfast syrup and melted butter. Stir in the pecan halves. Line a 9-inch pie pan with the pie dough and pour in the pecan pie filling mixture. Bake for 25 minutes with edges covered with foil or pie crust protectors.
Remove foil from the edges and bake for another 25 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

Dinner was a recipe from Martha Green (a local bakery owner with her own cooking spot on the NPR ratio station). I didn't like it at all. But Don did, so it must just be a matter of personal taste. I think I've decided I don't like hoisin. I'm not sure what it was about the sauce, but I bet the sauce I make with Chicken Satay would go with this chicken - or even some sweet and sour sauce.

Sesame Chicken with Spicy Peanut Sauce

6 tablespoons warm water
¼ cup creamy peanut butter
¼ cup hoisin sauce
1 clove, garlic minced
2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
2 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro, or 1 tsp. dried
¾ cups sesame seeds
1-½ lbs chicken tenderloins
6 tablespoons vegetable oil

Whisk water, peanut butter, hoisin, garlic, pepper flakes and cilantro in bowl. Place sesame seeds in shallow dish. Season chicken with salt and pepper and roll in sesame seeds, pressing to adhere.

Heat 3 tablespoons oil in large nonstick skillet over med-high heat until just smoking. Cook half of chicken until golden brown and cooked through, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer to large plate lined with paper towels, wipe out skillet, and repeat with remaining oil and chicken. Serve with dipping sauce. Serves 4.

To go with the chicken I made one of my favorite salads, one that you see a lot a potlucks. I like the combination of flavors, and have made this relatively low carb by using Splenda instead of sugar.

Oriental Cole Slaw
Dressing: 1/4 cup white vinegar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon sesame oil
2 tablespoons Splenda granular
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

1/2 medium cabbage, shredded
4-5 green onions, thinly sliced (with tops)
2 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted
1/4 cup slivered almonds, toasted
1/2 package dry ramen noodles, crushed

In a jar with a tight lid, shake together dressing ingredients. Combine salad ingredients in a large bowl, and pour dressing over. Mix well. Serve immediately so the ramen doesn't get soft.

Surgery Update: T had to have a transfusion due to low hemoglobin, but is now getting up out of bed and sitting in a chair to eat her meals. She still has the catheter in (WHY?) and hopes to lose that tomorrow. They stopped the intravenous pain meds, and switched her to oral ones. I hope that when I go see her tomorrow I can join her on some walks around the 4th floor. Still no word on when she'll be coming home.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Some "Exotic" Flavors

This past week we tried a few new things, and ended up with some flavors I hadn't really used a lot of in the past. The first is pan-roasted corn, but with some cumin added to give it a New Mexican taste.

Santa Fe Roasted Corn

4 ears fresh corn
½ cup chopped red bell pepper (other colors will do-I used yellow this time because it was all I had)
½ cup chopped green onions
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 teaspoon ground cumin
salt and pepper to taste
Using a sharp knife, cut the kernels of corn off the cobs and into a large bowl. Heat a nonstick skillet until fairly hot. Pour in the corn kernels all at once,. They will start to brown in the hot dry skillet, thus roasting the corn. Stir occasionally to roast the corn evenly. When about half the kernels have taken on color, add the bell pepper and green onion. Cook for another 4 minutes and add the cilantro and cumin. Continue to stir and cook until the vegetables are crisp-tender. Season with salt and pepper if desired.

I decided that this is a fantastic way to eat roasted corn - no standing over the grill outside, and it's already cut off the cob so it's easier to eat. The flavor is almost as good as if it were done on the grill. The next time I cook corn this way I'll try it without the cumin, and add some butter, and I bet it'll be wonderful!

To go with the corn, we cooked some fish on the grill - and tried a wet rub that was in the last Cooking Light magazine. While this was very tasty, I don't believe it was better than my Korean Barbecued Fish, which has similar flavors. I wish the flavors were more intense, I guess.

Korean Barbecue Wet Rub

¼ cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons low-sodium soy sauce
2 teaspoons dark sesame oil
4 cloves garlic , minced
Combine all ingredients. Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 1 week. Rub on fish, steaks, pork, or dark chicken just before grilling.

On another night, I tried a chicken recipe with some pork chops. I've started to do that lately, as I realized that a lot of the sauces and coatings I use with chicken can do just as nicely with boneless pork. The main difference is that the pork doesn't come out as tender - boneless pork seldom does unless you try brining or slow cooking. So we just accept that it'll be a little chewier than chicken.

This recipe would qualify for a 30-minute meal - and it's very simple. The flavor is divine, and makes enough sauce to serve over rice or couscous.

Pork Chops with Apple Cream Sauce

4 boneless pork chops, 1/2 to 3/4" thick
1 tablespoon oil
1 cup apple juice
1 teaspoon lemon juice
½ teaspoon dried rosemary, crumbled
½ teaspoon salt
⅛ teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon cornstarch
½ cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon dried parsley

In a skillet over medium heat, cook the pork in oil for 2 minutes on each side or until browned. Combine the apple juice, lemon juice, rosemary, salt and pepper; pour over chops. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Combine cornstarch and cream until smooth; stir into cooking liquid in skillet. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened. Add parsley. Serve with rice or couscous.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Surgery Update

T's surgery took 6 hours; it wasn't the minor one we'd thought it would be. Instead, it was a complete re-do of the one she had back in October - a reconstruction of the j-pouch that had been created and was no longer functional. Wednesday night T was much more alert than she was in October - most likely because she was healthier going into this one and didn't have all the residual steroids in her system. Today she's having a blood transfusion, though, because her hemoglobin count is low (or something like that), and the doctor wants her up and moving around by this evening or tomorow morning. We don't know when she'll go home - Dr. H is hoping he doesn't have to do another surgery in a few days. Apparently, when the first surgery doesn't work, as it didn't for her, the second one probably won't work either. If you're interested in more information about what she's going through, visit the j-pouch website.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Why I'm Not Posting Much

We're winding down the school year, and with contract negotiations settled, I've been busy with member issues, meetings about the new charter school and special education, and getting ready for our long summer trip. In addition, my daughter's having surgery again, on Wednesday, so I'm not really focusing on the blog much.

After her surgery, my daughter's expected to be in the hospital for about 3 days, and then home for a few days --this is a minor surgery compared to the first one, but it has major implications on whether or not she'll be able to eventually get rid of the ileostomy. Her doctor has warned her that this will most likely not work, but agrees with her that they should give it a try since she's still so young (25).

Once she's home and taking care of herself (which shouldn't be but a couple of days), we'll hit the road for a trip to Montana, Wyoming and Idaho. I'll occasionally have WiFi, and might try to do some blog posting and updating - with pictures!

Monday, June 04, 2007

2 Cooking Light Recipes - Korean Cucumber Salad and an Upside Down Cornmeal Cake

I like cucumber salad, and have usually made it my way, with a little vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper. But I like spicy foods, too, so when I saw this recipe in Cooking Light, I had to give it at try. The most interesting part of the recipe was squeezing the liquid out of the cucumber - therefore leaving me with wrinkled cucumber slices and a lot smaller salad than I'd originally planned on. After giving it a taste test, I added an extra teaspoon of Splenda.

Korean Cucumber Salad

3 ½ cups (1/16-inch-thick) slices English cucumber (about 1 large)
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons minced green onions
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
2 teaspoons sugar or Splenda granular
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
½ teaspoon dark sesame oil

Combine cucumber and salt, tossing well. Let stand at room temperature 20 minutes. Drain and squeeze dry. Combine cucumber, onions, rice vinegar, sugar, crushed red pepper, and sesame oil. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

Use a mandoline or food processor to slice the cucumber uniformly thin. Salting the cucumber causes it to wilt and draws out excess moisture. It also gives the dish a pickled quality similar to kimchi, Korea's spicy and pungent fermented cabbage condiment.

I served this salad with the grilled pork chops I planned yesterday to have with more of the tomato jam I made.

For dessert, I tried another Cooking Light recipe, but had to improvise since I'd already used up my blueberries. I had plenty of blackberries, so I doubled up on those. This is what it looks like when you first take it out of the oven, and below, what it looks like once you've flipped it out onto a plate.

Nectarine-Blackberry Upside-Down Cornmeal Cake
adapted from Cooking Light

1 cup (1/4-inch-thick) nectarine slices
2 cups blackberries
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
Cooking spray
1 tablespoon butter, melted
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar, divided
1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour (5 1/2 ounces)
½ cup stone ground yellow cornmeal
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons butter, softened
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350°.
Combine first 4 ingredients in a medium bowl; toss gently. Coat a 9-inch cake pan with cooking spray. Brush pan with 1 tablespoon melted butter. Sprinkle pan evenly with 1 tablespoon sugar. Pour nectarine mixture into pan in an even layer; set aside. Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt in a bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Combine remaining 1 cup sugar and 5 tablespoons softened butter in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until well combined. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla. Add flour mixture to butter mixture; beat just until combined. Spoon batter evenly over fruit mixture. Bake at 350° for 40 minutes or until cake is set and light brown. Cool in pan on a wire rack 5 minutes. Place a plate upside down on top of cake pan; invert cake onto plate. Serve warm or at room temperature.

The wooden pick test isn't accurate for this cake since the fruit makes it appear wet when it's really done. Look for the cake to brown on top as a good sign of doneness. I had to cook it for an hour, though I was using my toaster-convection oven, where things are usually done in shorter times, not longer. As for nutrition, this cake really shouldn't be in Cooking Light magazine. What' s light about it? Sugar, refined flour, butter, fruit - not what I'd call low-calorie in any way. It's absolutely delicious, but not light. What's funny is the Cooking Light website lists on its nutrition chart for this cake that it has zero carbs. Ha ha. A little proofreading needed, dontcha think?

Sunday, June 03, 2007

This is Why I Skipped Lunch Today:

We were at the dealer - you know, the marathon car-buying session. Even though we were pre-approved it still took almost 4 hours. But it's done and it's mine! 2007 Jeep Liberty, 4WD, 6-cylinder engine, all ready for going up and down the mountain. My old Jeep, a 2002 Wrangler, was pretty much nickel-and-diming us to death with "check engine light" (8 times), broken air conditioner (3 times), shimmying and misalignment (3 times), and numerous other issues. On Friday it started making some expensive-sounding clunks when I made right-hand turns, so I decided it was time to get rid of it. I learned after the deal was made for the new one that the transmission was going out, too. I'm confident, though, that this new one won't have those problems. Isn't it pretty?

Fiery Flank Steak with Tomato Jam

This is the recipe I was beginning yesterday when I wrote about the jalapeños. I was worried after I made everything that it was going to be too hot, but it wasn't. It was hot - wonderfully spicy - but not to where it was too hot to eat. And now we have a bunch of tomato jam left over. Don asked what I could make tomorrow night to eat more of the jam, so I changed my pork schnitzel plans to grilled pork chops. I suppose this is called jam because you start with tomato pulp, and tomatoes are a fruit, and add sugar and other seasonings. Then it's cooked just like jam. It looks just like salsa, but it's sweet/hot.

Fiery Flank Steak with Tomato Jam
adapted from Cooking Light

6 large ripe tomatoes, cored and cut in half crosswise (about 4 pounds)
⅓ cup sugar
⅓ cup grated onion
3 cloves, garlic minced
2 jalapeño peppers, minced
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
¼ teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon grated lime rind
⅓ cup fresh lime juice
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 jalapeño peppers, minced
2 cloves, garlic minced
2 lbs. flank steak, trimmed
½ teaspoon salt
Cooking spray

To prepare jam, grate tomatoes, flesh side down, over a large bowl to form 5 1/2 cups pulp; discard skins. Combine pulp, sugar, onion, 3 garlic cloves, and 2 jalapeños in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer until reduced to 2 1/4 cups (about 20 minutes), stirring occasionally. Cool to room temperature. Stir in cilantro, 3 tablespoons juice, and 1/4 teaspoon salt.
To prepare steak, combine rind, 1/3 cup juice, oil, 2 jalapeños, and 2 garlic cloves in a large zip-top plastic bag. Add steak; seal. Marinate in refrigerator 8 hours or overnight, turning bag occasionally.

Prepare grill.

Remove steak from bag; discard marinade. Sprinkle both sides of steak evenly with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Place steak on a grill rack coated with cooking spray; grill 3 minutes on each side or until desired degree of doneness. Let stand 5 minutes. Cut steak diagonally across the grain into thin slices. Serve with jam.

Caramel Apple Salad - Lightened Up

One of my favorite carnival or fair treats is a caramel apple. I love the combination of the gooey caramel coating with the tart, crunchy, and juicy apple. So when the Tootie company came out with its caramel apple pops a few years back, I couldn't get enough of them. Nowadays, though, I have to watch the sugar intake, so I rarely have caramel apples or the pops. When I saw this recipe on recipezaar a few weeks ago I knew I just had to give it a try. But I lightened it up. Yes, I know that there's still sugar in the pineapple and the apple, but at least all the sugar in the pudding and Cool Whip is gone.

Caramel Apple Salad

1 (20 ounce) can crushed pineapple (do not drain)
4 unpeeled apples, cut up (Galas, Fujis, Granny Smith, etc.)
1 (1 ounce) box sugar-free fat-free butterscotch pudding (or regular)
1 (8 ounce) container fat-free Cool Whip

Mix all together and let set overnight. Makes 8-10 servings. (Unless your husband gets hold of it!)

Saturday, June 02, 2007

(Being Alliterative) Forest Falls Flowers

A short walk around my house - not even venturing more than 50 yards in any direction - led me to these flowers. Some are wildflowers, some are cultivated - but they're all beautiful.

The ones to the left grow wild, and come up in large numbers each spring around the trees in my front yard. I don't know what they're called.

These are California poppies, I believe. (If I'm wrong, let me know!)

Purple Columbines


In my neighbor's yard

Same type of flower, different color

More columbines, but with yellow centers

Yellow Columbines

Weekend Herb Blogging - Jalapeños

So, jalapeños are supposed to be "mild." Right. I suppose it's all relative. But I chopped jalapeños this morning, didn't wear gloves, and my hands hurt! I think it's where I have some chapped skin, because it's on the backs of my fingers.

I was working on the computer just now, thinking about my burning fingers, and realized I could write about jalapeños for Weekend Herb Blogging. Jalapeño Madness, a website devoted to these peppers, tells me how to stop the burning on my fingers:

Try rubbing alcohol first to remove the burning oil. Then, soak the skin in milk or another dairy product. Only use water or saline for your eyes, however, and please remember that the best way to combat the chile pepper heat is to use rubber gloves when handling peppers.

These are my poor, red fingers - the oil from the jalapeños actually burned them. I'm glad I wasn't cutting up scotch bonnets or habañeros!

How did the jalapeño get its name? The story goes like this: One of the things Christopher Columbus was looking for, along with a passage to China, was spices. After his first voyage to the New World, he returned to Europe with "aji," or "child." As chilies such as this one made their way into cooking, the "aji" was named "jalapeño," after the town of Xalapa, Veracruz, where it was traditionally produced.

The majority of our jalapeños come from Mexico, where the natives eat them as snack foods, plucking them in droves from sidewalk carts and fields. The red variety of the jalapeño is a bit milder than the green variety, and sweeter as well. They are also milder than their cousin, the serrano, another popular chile pepper, though not as widely known as our favorite, the jalapeño.

Note: I just went and rubbed my fingers with rubbing alcohol; the burning has gotten a little less intense, but isn't completely gone.

Why was I cutting up jalapeños? I just got my June copy of Cooking Light, and saw this fabulous recipe: Fiery Flank Steak with Tomato Jam. We'll be cooking the flank steak on the grill tomorrow, but today I had to get it into the marinade, which has 2 minced jalapeños in it, and I had to cook the tomato jam, which has another 2 minced jalapeños. I'm wondering how hot this will be, since I included the membranes and seeds. We'll see!

Yeah, yeah - I'll use gloves next time!

Visit Kalyn's Kitchen for this weekend's roundup - she's the founder of this great event, too!