Sunday Salad

I am sort of determined to eat better because I can lose weight, reduce cholesterol, and better manage hypertension. So there is all my protected health information in one fell swoop. Oops! Hubby is on board with this as long as he can keep his cheese and chips. Speaking of which, we had one supper this weekend which consisted of tortilla chips covered with melted shredded cheese with jalapeno pepper slices scattered on top. And we had planned on making a hearty salad! So on the next day when I suggested that I could make a Beef Bourguignon, he said, “what about that salad?” Party pooper!

At our last grocery shopping I had bought a lot of produce with the intent of eating healthier than not. So I get out all of the produce from my fridge:romaine, spinach, fennel, carrots, green onions, celery, colorful mini peppers, mushrooms, cilantro, parsley, dill, cucumber, and some coleslaw mix. I also have tomatoes but these are not stored in the fridge. We don’t put all of this in our big salad tonight but most of it.

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It is nice to have Hubby help with the meal prep. I don’t often give him the chance but I’m working on it. I set the vegetables before him and he wields the knife.

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I am in charge of the dressing. Hubby’s favorite is my version of a buttermilk ranch. I take the cruet and pour red wine vinegar to the “V” mark. (I usually use lemon juice but did not have any.) I pour olive oil to the next mark even though it is “W”. I chop a bit of fresh parsley and fresh cilantro and one clove of garlic. I put that in the cruet and shake that up in the vinegar and oil. Then I pour in buttermilk to the next mark, “O”. Shake vigorously. Then add a dollop or two of plain yogurt to thicken it up a bit. Add just a few shakes of salt and pepper. Voila!

To serve, tomato is added along with a sprinkling of Romano cheese, grated cheddar, and freshly ground pepper. I had bought a store-bakery baguette earlier in the day. This is one good looking salad even if I say so myself!

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Now this is no guarantee that this will stop us from having chocolate ice cream for dessert!

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Easy dinner: leftover beef stir fry

I wanted to make something light for dinner. The scale keeps telling me I am gaining weight. I’m sure Girl Scout cookies have something to do with that. One can not have just one or two or three of those Thin Mints! So I am thinking “bunches of vegetables” but something for meat as well. Taking a peek into the freezer finds a bit of leftover steak and a stir-fry frozen vegetable package. That’s the start.

stir fry dinner 001The package of frozen veg is not going to be enough if I want this meal to be mostly vegetables. So I add a package of mushrooms and an onion. And then I decide I will cook some brown rice after all, thinking that I have a package of “instant” brown rice that will cook in 10 minutes. Nope! So I put regular brown rice on and figure that will give me time to prep the vegetables and cook the stir fry.

I cook the beef strips briefly and then remove them from the pan to cook the vegetables. I add the Teriyaki sauce to the meat and when vegetables are mostly tender I put it all back together with more Teriyaki. The best guess I have for this throw together meal is:

  • about a pound or a little less of beef steak, cut into strips
  • 1 package frozen stir-fry vegetable mix, this one is a sugar snap pea combination
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 8 ounces of mushrooms, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup of Teriyaki sauce, more or less to taste
  • 1 cup uncooked brown rice, cook per package directions

This is a super simple dinner to prepare. Technically one could just cook the meat and throw it in with the frozen package, douse it with Teriyaki or Soy Sauce and the meal would be ready in 15 minutes. I chose to do a little bit more work that than. Note: brown rice takes twice as long to cook as white rice. My timing was a bit off but it’s all good!

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served over rice

Seems to me I’ve been serving most of our dinners in bowls lately. Just works out that way I guess…and it saves on serving dishes to set around the table…and then to wash. There seems to always be dishes to wash!

 

Wheeler Sundaes and some thoughts on real ingredients

Here are the ingredients for a Wheeler Sundae. Actually they are made with vanilla ice cream but we finished that container off!

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ice cream 009But first Hubby and I are so excited that we found Daisy Cottage Cheese in one of the local grocery stores. We had just about given up the search. We have been able to buy their sour cream but had not found the Cottage Cheese for quite some time. This hearkens back to our quest to eliminate additives from our food. We are not purists, although I sometimes wonder if we should be? Or if a reasonable weight loss plan would be to refuse to eat foods that one cannot recognize all the ingredients as real food. I am not the originator of this idea but I do think about it from time to time. Well pretty much at least once a day!  And now that spring should be on its way and the farmers’ markets should start to open, maybe we should? (There are a lot of shoulds in that sentence and I try to avoid shoulds.)

We had the girls over and this was exciting. They are in college and both were able to be home with us on this day. And it was a record warm day too! Ice Cream just seemed to be in order. So we pile into the car and go downtown looking for the ice cream parlors (are they still called parlors?) that we remembered being there. There were no more on Main Street. We weren’t fancying the newfangled frozen yogurt parlors so we went to another part of town looking for an ice cream restaurant that used to be there! But is no longer there. We could find NO ice cream places in our town!! What to do?

Looking across the street from the NO LONGER THERE place, I spy a grocery store. “Wheeler Sundaes”, I cry, and everyone agrees. Traipsing through the store we look for the ingredients: Spanish peanuts, vanilla ice cream, chocolate syrup (we have some at home actually), and whipped cream.

ice cream 006Hubby and I decided we would check the ingredients to the ice cream just in case there was a brand that had real ingredients. Most of our grocery stores have disappointed us with this. Several “naturally flavored” cartons had odd sounding ingredients and some even have High Fructose Corn Syrup. But we found a brand that was real! It was the premium product and I paid $1.40 more per carton than the others. Yes, we bought one carton of vanilla and one carton of Belgian Chocolate. Why not? This is Turkey Hill All Natural ice cream. We had not bought ice cream for the house for the longest time and now this is a marvelous find! Yea!

 

Here’s where the Daisy Cottage Cheese comes in. I am scanning the dairy aisle for a can of whipped cream (I told you we were not purists!) and I spy the Cottage Cheese. Hallelujah!! I pick up three cartons, I did not want to be greedy. Now in the refrigerator at home there was an unopened carton of a store-brand cottage cheese as well as a 1/2 carton already opened. Remember, we had been in the mood for Cottage Cheese and had given up our quest for Daisy brand.

We are clearly not purists for real food. Look at the ingredients for the Hershey’s chocolate syrup: high fructose corn syrup! AND I bought whipped cream in a can! There is something to be said for convenience. I usually keep whipping cream on hand to whip myself but not this time. I won’t be buying Hershey’s chocolate syrup again until they remove the high fructose corn syrup either.

Meanwhile the four of us enjoyed our Wheeler Sundaes and one girl noted that “this ice cream is good for us, right?”

It’s different every time!

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I make my own barbecue sauce and it is never the same. But this time I remembered what I did. I find that BBQ sauce is basically a tomato base with a “hot” added plus some vinegar of some kind. I saw once a “recipe” that was three ingredients of ketchup, sriracha, and Worcestershire. I don’t usually cook with ketchup; I save that for cheeseburgers. Although I do plan to make my own ketchup later this spring. I have seen a recipe for making it in the slow-cooker. I like that idea.

I love barbecued ribs! So we bought a rack of baby-backs at our discount grocery store. So I don’t know if this is the best of my homemade sauces or if it was the best rib rack we bought or the two of them combined, oven-baked smothered with sauce.

Not wanting to use ketchup I use tomato sauce. And not having Worcestershire, I use apple cider vinegar. Most of the amounts are approximations and can be adjusted to taste.

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  • 8 ounce can tomato sauce
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons sriracha sauce
  • 1 tablespoon dried minced onions
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon espresso powder (at hubby’s insistence)

Just mix this all up together. I suspect hubby also put in some ground coffee. He has been telling me this is an essential ingredient in barbecue sauce. Anyone ever hear of that?

We poured the sauce over a rack of ribs (cut into individual ribs) turning them to coat each one in sauce, covered the roasting pan with foil and baked this for 45 minutes at 325 F. Then removed the foil, baked for about 10 more minutes, and then broiled for maybe 5 minutes. We then poured the sauce over the ribs. These were delicious! I may never let hubby grill ribs again!

I also made coleslaw and toasted some anadama bread slices on the griddle. I make a dill-buttermilk coleslaw dressing adapted from my cookbook The Basic Gourmet by Morgan, Taggart, Taggert, and Vareldzis (1995 Chronicle Books). I buy the coleslaw mix in the produce section because a head of cabbage makes too much slaw.

  • 1/4-1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise or plain yogurt
  • 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried dill weed; I used snippings of fresh dill because I had some!
  • 2 teaspoons mustard, any kind
  • 1 dash hot pepper sauce (sometimes I forget to add this)
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar (I usually leave this out)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Whisk the ingredients together and pour over the coleslaw vegetables and stir to coat.

This was good eating!

Quinoa 2

Continuing on my quest to use interesting ingredients and healthy ones I have made another quinoa dish. This one I found on food.com: http://www.food.com/recipe/southwestern-quinoa-vegetable-casserole-304705

This is an easy to prepare recipe as it is mostly assembly. I added ground beef and an onion so that had to be browned before putting it all in the dish to bake. I actually followed the directions exactly but for that. Sort of.

  • 1/2 pound ground beef, browned
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 14 ounce can diced tomatoes with green chilies (I used the store brand; the name brand is Rotel.)
  • 1 15 ounce can black beans, drained (I forgot to buy black beans most recently so I substituted a can of pinto beans, drained.)
  • 1/4 cup sliced jalapeno
  • 1/2 can vegetable broth (I used chicken broth because that is what I had on hand.)
  • 3/4 cup quinoa
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 cup cheddar cheese
  • sour cream for serving

I had only whole cumin seeds and whole coriander in my spice cabinet so I got to use the mortar and pestle that my son brought back from his international travels. I believe he brought this from Morocco. So these are “roughly ground”!

Preheat oven to 400 F. After browning the onion and beef, all the ingredients except the cheese and sour cream are mixed together in a 2 quart casserole.

quinoa 2 007Cover the dish with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove and stir. (I was not sure if this meant to remove the foil for the next cooking segment, so I covered the dish again. Bake for another 20 minutes until liquid is absorbed and quinoa is tender.

At the 30 minute mark the quinoa still looks quite small and raw. But the next 20 minutes finished cooking it perfectly.

After the 20 minutes remove the foil, cover with cheese and broil until cheese is melted about 1-2 minutes only. Serve with sour cream.

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I served this with tortilla chips to add some crunch. This makes four servings so I will have leftovers. I’ll serve the leftovers with a big salad and freshly baked cornbread or rolls.

Note: This dish has heat. It is very spicy. I might leave out the jalapeno next time or use a can of regular diced tomatoes without the chilies.

Quinoa 1

sewing 007My sewing room has been feeling neglected so I spent time in there instead of browsing recipe books. But dinner is needed and I was thinking of something simple like bacon and eggs when I took a break and looked through my “recipes of interest” notebook. And there I found a recipe for a quinoa and green bean salad. In fact I found two variations. I say to myself “Self, there are green beans in need of fixing! And there is quinoa in the pantry.” Although salads can be nice for lunch and can work for suppers, I think hubby would like more substance. How about adding the bacon and eggs? And serving it warm?

sewing 008I put together what I want to use. Servings for two. (You can double the quinoa and the beans if you want to serve four.)

  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • olive oil for the skillet
  • 1/4 pound bacon, diced
  • 1/2 cup quinoa
  • 1/2 pound green beans
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon dried parsley, plus sprinkle for garnish
  • 3-4 eggs, poached

sewing 009First make the dressing: whisk together the vinegar, 1/4 cup olive oil, and parsley.

Put a bit of olive oil in a skillet to saute the garlic and onion. I then added the diced up bacon. Oh boy does this make the kitchen smell good! When the bacon is cooked I added the quinoa and stirred it for one minute. I am adding the amount of water per the quinoa package directions, so this is 1 cup. This is then brought to a boil, the skillet is covered, the heat lowered and let simmer for 15 minutes or per the quinoa package directions.

Meanwhile blanch the green beans just for a few minutes until bright green. (Do these look brighter green?) They should be al dente.

After the quinoa has been cooked per package instructions and let sit for 5-10 minutes to finish absorbing the liquid, stir in the green beans and the dressing. Keep this warm.

Now to poach the eggs. I have not really studied how best to do poached eggs. I think I read somewhere to put a little vinegar in the water but I am not sure. I bring about a half inch of water to a boil in a skillet. Then I slowly pour each egg into the water. I cover the pan and wait for the whites to solidify. How did I do?

Scoop the quinoa mixture into serving bowls and carefully place an egg or two on top.

Quinoa is one of those super foods that is being touted as something we all should eat. It provides protein. fiber, and essential vitamins and other nutrients. I have some other recipes I plan to try out in hopes to put this in our diet. Stay tuned.

 

 

“Anna, damn her” bread

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I will be able to go back to work soon. So now I feel all this pressure to get everything done that I can’t get done when I spend my days at work! This pressure comes from myself, I know this! So I have a list of sewing projects that need starting and finishing; I have a bunch of recipes I still want to try; there are books still to be read, solitaire games to play (oops!), and I have enjoyed the luxury of having mornings at my kitchen table writing and planning my days. But I am very much looking forward to going back to work, having a schedule, a broader purpose to the day, and seeing all my co-workers.anadama bread 018

This was my lunch. I saved this three ingredient pancake recipe on one of the many Facebook feeds I get from food and cooking sites. http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/food-network-kitchens/3-ingredient-gluten-free-banana-pancakes.html They are more like crepes and very light and tasty with a light banana flavor. Eggs and banana: protein and fruit!

That said, I was looking for an easy bread recipe and have always wanted to make Anadama bread. Basically this is a yeasted cornbread. The recipes in my many cookbooks vary using molasses or honey, using cornmeal or creamed corn, sometimes eggs sometimes none. The origin of the bread is in New England so I thought it appropriate to get out my cookbook The New England Table by Lora Brody and see if I could make that version. This recipe is  a “throw everything together in a bowl, mix, and knead”. What could be simpler?

The story, true or not, behind the bread is that a man was sent to work with cornmeal mush in his lunch box and kept asking his wife to put in bread instead. So he cursed her and added yeast, molasses, and flour himself to make the bread. I found this link to a food historian while googling the name of the bread: http://atasteofhistorywithjoycewhite.blogspot.com/2015/02/anadama-bread-new-england-tradition.html

  • 1 1/4 cup warm water
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon instant yeast
  • 1/2 cup cornmeal
  • 2 scant teaspoons salt
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 3 tablespoons regular molasses

Handy hint: it does really work when you use oil in the measuring spoon before measuring the molasses. Slides right out!

I placed all the ingredients in the bowl of the stand mixer with the bread hook attached. I mixed it up and then set it on knead (speed 2) for 8 minutes. Sticky dough! To place in a greased bowl I pushed the batter to one side of the bowl, sprayed with cooking spray, pushed it back to the other side of the bowl, sprayed that side and made sure the batter was covered with the “oil”. Covered this with plastic wrap. This was to rise one-third. So I waited an hour and it looked nicely risen to me. The instructions are to gently deflate the dough and knead in some toasted sunflower seeds but I didn’t plan to add seeds so I left this step out. I then placed the dough in the prepared pan (9 x 5 loaf pan sprayed with cooking spray). Cover this with plastic wrap and let rise until almost doubled. Spray the plastic wrap so that the dough does not stick when you uncover it.

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The loaf looks good at this point. Preheat oven to 375 F. Bake for 35-40 minutes. I checked it at 35 and it looked done to me although a bit flat. When I was much younger and baking bread the loaves would rise up out of the loaf pan. What is different now? Looking up on the internet it may be that I needed to bake it for the additional 5 minutes.

Dinner that night included this fresh baked bread. It was pre-breaded fish from frozen, leftover mashed potatoes, small spinach salad with olives and feta, and a citrus salsa. The salsa recipe is from http://jovinacooksitalian.com/2016/03/02/when-you-are-in-the-mood-for-seafood/. She has some nice recipes.

(If you look closely you can see the white paws of Felix the Cat in the background. He’s eating his dinner too.)