Wednesday, December 30, 2009

First Sunday 2010

Well, it's been snowing in the St Louis area for the past week, which puts me in the mood for soup and sandwiches. So, I think I will make Giada De Laurentiis' Croissant Paninis and a Triple Tomato Soup from Better Homes and Gardens.

The panini calls for Genoa salami, so I'll leave that ingredient off my sandwich, but will include it for the others. All-in-all, though, this just sounds comforting and yummy to me.

I'm also going to make a Peach and Strawberry Crumble recipe I found in my December issue of Shape magazine. I won't eat the ice cream, but I know my mom and dad will.

Peach and Strawberry Crumble
Butter for pan
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons ground arrowroot
1 pound frozen, thawed strawberries, halved
1 1/2 pounds frozen, thawed peaches, peeled, pitted, and sliced
3/4 cup light brown sugar, divided
2/3 cup flour
2/3 cup old-fashioned oats
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, chilled, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 cup vanilla ice cream

1- Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350°F. Butter an 8-inch square glass baking dish.
2- whisk together lemon juice and arrowroot until smooth. Add fruit and 1/2 cup of the brown sugar. Gently toss until coated. Pour fruit mixture into prepared pan.
3- In a food processor, combine flour, oats, almonds, remaining brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Pulse until mixed. Add butter and pulse until pea-size. Sprinkle mixture over filling and bake for 40 to 45 minutes or until filling is bubbling and top is golden. Remove from oven and let cool for 5 minutes. Spoon into bowls and serve with ice cream.

Sounds pretty tasty. I'll let you know how it all turns out.

Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Happy Birthday, Dad!

Today is my Dad's 74th birthday! And, it being Sunday, I certainly prepared his dinner request, with a few modifications. We had Cheesy Italian Tortellini; this recipe is from a 2006 Pillsbury publication called Easy Ground Beef Recipes - one of those recipe brochures found at the checkout at the grocery store. Here's the original recipe:

1/2 lb lean ground beef
1/2 lb bulk Italian pork sausage
1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
1 (15 oz) container refrigerated marinara sauce
1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes with Italian seasonings, undrained
1 (9 oz) pkg refrigerated cheese-filled tortellini
4 oz (1 cup) shredded mozzarella cheese or pizza cheese blend

1- In large skillet, break ground beef and sausage into large pieces. Cook over medium heat about 10 minutes or until browned, stirring occasionally.
2- Spray 4 to 5 quart slow cooker with nonstick cooking spray. Combine meat mixture, mushrooms, marinara sauce, and tomatoes in sprayed slow cooker; mix well.
3- Cover; cook on low setting for 7 to 8 hours.
4- About 15 minutes before serving, add tortellini to slow cooker; stir gently to mix. Sprinkle with cheese. Cover; cook on low setting for an additional 15 minutes or until tortellini are tender.

Here is how I modified the recipe:
Instead of ground beef and pork sausage, I used Boca ground crumbles; when using this product it is important to add olive oil for the browning process. I also chopped up 1/2 onion, a few stalks of celery, and 2 carrots and added those to the meat substitute. Since I wasn't using Italian sausage I added about 1 tablespoon of Italian seasonings. Because it was what I had, I used a 20 oz package of mixed cheese tortellini (mixed as in some spinach pasta, some white pasta). Because I added more tortellini than was in the original recipe, I also put an additional container of marinara sauce (so I had 2 jars of marinara sauce in the dish); and I used jarred not refrigerated sauce. Finally, again because I had it on hand, I added some shredded fresh Parmesan, Romano, and Asiago cheeses to the mozzarella.

This dish turned out to be quite delicious and incredibly easy to make! Dad was quite pleased with his dinner. Mom also made a triple layer chocolate, chocolate, chocolate cake. Dad truly was very very happy this evening.

It is such a blessing to be able to share good times with my parents. I truly appreciate the time we have together. My dad was diagnosed with Alzheimer's about four years ago; we have noticed that his memory loss has recently gotten worse. So, we were happy that today was a good day for him.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

After Dinner Thoughts

LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the kidney bean burgers!!! I served them on warmed pretzel bread that I had frozen a few weeks ago. I wrote about the pretzel bread November 30th. Boy, is it good. We have had the green bean and mushroom medley before and were quite happy with it again tonight. The potato salad was okay; there was just a bit too much lemon juice. It wasn't bad, it just could probably be better. Also, the potato salad might be better as a summer dish since I served it cold. I also made an apple crisp that turned out pretty tasty.

I had some trouble when prepping for tonight's dinner. I was chopping, dicing, and slicing Saturday and had actually gotten through all the vegetables and had just started on the apples when I sliced my thumb. Almost took the tip flesh completely off, but it's still there. Here's what happened...I purchased a new Kyocera ceramic paring knife at the Chef's Shoppe the other day (they had a terrific special on a limited number of these knives as part of their 12 Days of Christmas special). I knew it was especially sharp, and was really happy with the ease of cutting vegetables with it. As luck would have it I was slicing the apples very thin and had my thumb right were it shouldn't have been. OUCH! It took more than a half hour to staunch the bleeding. It's pretty painful, and looks quite ugly,as you can see. It will probably take some time for this wound to completely heal as it is in a really bad place. At least it's on my left thumb and I am right-handed. Michael helped me out by finishing the apple slicing.

The Koycera really is a terrific knife, when I bought mine I also picked one up for my sister and one for my mom as part of their Christmas presents. I'm a bit concerned about giving this knife to my mom who is legally blind; I would feel terrible if I gave her the knife and she cut herself with it. If you pick one up be very careful!

This afternoon I stopped by the Chef's Shoppe and picked up today's special: a pair of Bamboo Island cutting boards (9x11 and 11x14). The Chef's Shoppe really is offering some great buys on some great tools! And, I certainly love cooking tools. I'm on their email list and get advance notice of the specials they are offering. It really is worthwhile being on their list.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

A Fabulous Report

Many of you may know that I drastically changed my eating habits as a result of reading The China Study. When we moved back to the St Louis area, my cholesterol, triglyceride, and blood sugar levels were all approaching dangerous levels. I was put on nine or ten different medications daily. My weight was the highest ever.

So, about two years ago, after reading the book, I quit eating meat; for awhile this meant all meat and poultry. More recently I will eat poultry occasionally. I've had pork maybe two or three times. But I have had absolutely no beef/red meat. I do eat fish, however my diet is mainly plant based. I quit drinking cow's milk about 20 years ago when I discovered that was what was causing my IBS. I will drink/use soy milk these days. I don't ever eat ice cream and I have really cut back on the amount of cheese I ingest (I really need to decrease cheese even more).

I had uterine cancer when I was 32 as a result of untreated polycystic ovary disease. A complete hysterectomy took care of that; I was fortunate to catch it very early on and did not need any follow-up treatments. With the removal of my ovaries, my diagnosis was changed to metabolic syndrome, meaning I have the propensity to develop diabetes, heart disease, and other nastiness. I am devoted to not becoming another statistic! I am working very hard to curtail an unhealthy lifestyle and to turn things around.

Every three months I visit my endocrinologist and we go over my blood work. I don't have to test my blood at home, instead I visit the lab about a week and a half before visiting the doctor. In the past twelve months I have been able to lose a bit of weight (still working hard on that, but probably not hard enough since it is excruciatingly slow to come off), and I have lost quite a few inches. Here's the real impact though: I have been able to decrease about one-third of my meds. In the last six months I was able to stop taking one cholesterol medication and decrease the dosage of another. Well, this past week I had my regular visit to the doctor and we decreased the lipitor to every other day! When I return in three months we will discuss dropping another med completely (either the lipitor or the tricor).

I also had a bone density test this week and from those results we dropped another med. So, within a year I have gone from taking eight prescriptions every day to four daily and five every other day.

The moral of this story? What I eat really does matter. I have the ability to truly control my health and welfare. By taking control I can live a more comfortable, healthy, productive, and happy life. And, taking control really isn't that hard. I'm looking forward to 2010 being an even better year. Here's hoping for a happy, healthy, prosperous, and peaceful New Year for us all!

Friday, December 18, 2009

A New Resource!

While perusing the Web, trying to decide what to have for dinner this Sunday, I came across a resource I just have to share. The Vegan Nutritionista has all sorts of useful information. I really appreciate that she has a Vegan Meal Plans ebook. I purchased the ebook and am so happy that I did.

This Sunday we will be having most of the Week 2, Day 5 menu; Kidney Bean Burgers and Un-Potato Salad with Lemon-Dill Dressing. I can hardly wait!

The Kidney Bean Burgers include the kidney beans, chopped onions, garlic, hot sauce, oregano, cumin, Worcestershire sauce, nutritional yeast, rolled oats, flour, salt, almonds, and olive oil; they also call for cilantro but since I am not fond of this ingredient I am leaving it out. The Potato Salad has along with the potatoes, green beans, corn, cucumber, green onions, lemon juice and zest, Dijon mustard, fresh dill, sugar, and olive oil.

I am also making a dish we've had several times in the past: Green Beans with Mushrooms Medley. This is a truly yummy recipe! I may leave the green beans out of the potato salad since I'm making the medley. Here is how I've adapted the medley:
I use olive oil in place of butter. I dropped the teaspoon of salt (it's not needed) and I use a garlic clove instead of garlic salt. I steam the green beans, carrots, and onions together. Then I saute the mushrooms and garlic in olive oil. When I feel everything is ready, I then stir the steamed vegetables in with the mushrooms. Add the seasoned salt and pepper and cook together for about 5 minutes. Like I said, this is truly a yummy recipe!

We've decided on Christmas dinner. We're having salmon, macaroni & cheese, peas & mushrooms, green salad, pumpkin-cranberry spice cake, and pecan pie (Mom's). I'm also preparing a pork tenderloin with honey butter for the carnivores; when I ate meat I would make this periodically - it is a very simple dish that is quite tasty.

As always, I'll let you know how it all turns out. And, whether you celebrate Christmas or not, I hope yours is a happy one.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

After Dinner Thoughts

Not the best, not the worst, dinner was just fine this evening. I couldn't get the carrot and parsnip latkes to form into patties, so I made it into more of a stir-fry; good enough like that. The portobello caps were yummy enough too. I roasted the baby squash medley with a tablespoon of olive oil and some salt and pepper, and they were quite good that way. All in all, a fine meal.

I'm off work until January 4th. While we won't be going anywhere this year (sure do wish we were going to Florida again, but oh well), I plan to get my home office in complete order. It's a real mess. I still have unfiled papers from when we lived in Springfield nine years ago! It's really, really time to get things cleaned up and out. So, if I can't be on a beach I guess I'll get my life in order.

I don't yet know what will be on the menu next Sunday. Until then, let's all have a terrific week.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Where've You Been?

Last Sunday I hosted my 6th annual Cookie Exchange. We each baked and brought 6 dozen cookies to exchange. I had a new Christmas Jeopardy PowerPoint, a Christmas Duets mix for the gals to guess who was singing, and refreshments. We had a great time! Twelve of my girlfriends came to the party so we had 156 cookies to swap. Then, on Monday we had a cookie exchange at work; I made 3 dozen cookies for that exchange. All together, I made about 15 dozen cookies this year: 9 dozen to exchange, I burned 2 dozen (and threw them away), and we had about 4 dozen in the house. We're a little cookied-out around here.

I made four different cookie recipes this year. There were Cinnamon-Spiced Hot Chocolate Cookies, Crisp Chocolate Chip with Dried Cherries and Pistachios, Pistachio Sandwich Cookies with Fig Filling, and Oatmeal Pecan Lace Cookies. All were yummy! I swapped the Hot Chocolate and Chocolate Chip cookies at my cookie exchange and the Pistachio Sandwich cookies at the work cookie exchange. I took some of the Oatmeal cookies to the trivia game we went to last weekend too.

The Pistachio Sandwich cookies are my favorite; the original recipe calls for cherry preserves and I made them that way the first time I baked them. However, I like them best with the fig filling. I also used a Christmas Tree cookie cutter so they looked kind of neat. Also, the oatmeal pecan cookies are incredibly easy to make and a real crowd pleaser! I will make all of the cookie recipes again.

For refreshments I made:
Wind & Willow White Chocolate Cherry Cheeseball served with Club crackers honey wheat snack sticks
Brie & Pepper Jelly Shots served with crostini from the Dierbergs 2009 Holiday Idea Book
Salami won tons (roll salami up in won tons, secure with a toothpick and bake until browned - 400 F about 18-20 minutes)
Cheese Tortellini salad (the Mediterranean Orzo salad with cheese tortellini instead of Orzo - see September 13th)
Fresh Veggies (cucumber, carrots, bell peppers, and grape tomatoes)
Fiesta Ranch Dip
Hot Crab, Spinach, and Artichoke Dip
- look on page 13
Crunchmaster original crackers (love these - and they're gluten free!)
and Super Stuffing Stuffed Mushrooms

My sister, Cindy, brought Pomegranate Martinis (page 17) over. Boy were they YUMMY! Everyone really enjoyed those.

I got the stuffed mushrooms recipe from a Healthy Cooking Showcase hosted by the University of Illinois Extension that I attended in November. I've made them twice now; they're really easy to make and people really like them. Here's the recipe:

Super Stuffing Stuffed Mushrooms
20 large white button mushrooms, stems removed
1 cup leftover stuffing
1/4 cup grate Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1/2 teaspoon chopped garlic
2 tablespoons olive oil

1-Preheat oven to 400 F. On a lightly greased baking sheet, bake the mushroom caps, stem sides down, for 10 minutes.
2-Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the stuffing, Parmesan cheese, parsley, garlic, and olive oil. Flip the mushroom caps over and mound the stuffing into each one.
3-Bake until the mushrooms are tender and the stuffing is golden, about 20 minutes.

Yield: 10 servings (2 mushrooms per serving)
You can prepare these a day in advance and they are microwavable.

So, that's what was on the table last week. This weekend I plan to make:
Carrot-Parsnip Latkes
Baby Summer Squash Medley from Whole Foods that I'll steam
and Spinach & Cheese Stuffed Portobello Caps

I got the latkes recipe from my Weight Watchers meeting this week. We all received a small weekly magazine that's new. It's more like a little brochure.

The latkes call for:
3/4 lb carrots, peeled
3/4 lb parsnips, peeled
1 small onion, peeled
3 large egg whites, lightly beaten OR 1/3 cup fat-free egg substitute
1/4 cup all-purpose flour OR plain dried bread crumbs
2 tsp chopped fresh thyme
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp coarsely ground black pepper

1-Set a rack on a large baking sheet and place in the oven. Preheat the oven to 200 F. Coarsely grate the carrots, parsnips, and onion into a medium bowl; stir to combine. Add the egg whites, flour, thyme, salt, and pepper; mix well.
2-Spray a large nonstick skillet with nonstick spray and set over medium heat. Drop the mixture by 1/4 cupfuls into the hot skillet to make 4 mounds. Press each mound into a 3-inch pancake. Cook until browned and cooked through, about 8 minutes per side. Transfer the latkes to the oven and keep warm. Repeat with the remaining mixture.

Yield: 8 servings (2 latkes per serving) for 1 point per serving.

I'll let you know how it all turns out.

Monday, November 30, 2009

After Dinner Thoughts

Thanksgiving Left-overs Turkey Soup turned out to be pretty good. Although I almost ruined it. I used my large stainless stock pot to cook the soup. And everything went fine until I transported the soup to my parents house and put it on the stove-top to bring up to temperature. I was busy looking through some sales ads and didn't go in the kitchen and stir the soup. The corn began to burn on the bottom of the pot! Well, I transferred the soup into a different pot and was able to continue to cook the soup. I added the noodles and everything was fine.

I was really worried that I had ruined the soup, but it all turned out well after all. Michael and I had it for dinner again tonight. I have a bit left over to take to work for lunch; and Michael will have it one more time as well. Mom and Dad were having it for dinner again tonight too.

The real find for dinner, though, were the Bavarian pretzels I picked up at Dierbergs. Holy cow these were fantastic! They are from Companion Breads in St. Louis, and unfortunately are only available for a limited time. I'll be picking some more up and seeing if they will freeze. They truly were the yummiest.

Next Sunday is my 6th Annual Cookie Exchange. So far I have 12 friends who have said they will come. I'll put up a separate post about the Cookie Exchange, including what appetizers I will be serving. So until then I hope you are having a great start to the Holiday season!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Thansgiving Left-overs Turkey Soup

As you know by now, I am mostly vegetarian. Most vegetarians would say there is no such thing. So, maybe I'm flexitarian. I usually eat vegetarian, however I will eat fish occasionally and chicken every once in awhile. It's been at least two years since I've had any kind of beef. Extremely rarely I might have pork. Since I will eat chicken, I figured why not have turkey this year?

I used to always make this soup after Thanksgiving and everyone loved it. So, I went ahead and made it this year (I skipped all turkey last year). I started it last night by taking the carcass and gently boiling it for about an hour and a half in enough water to cover. Then, I let it cool so that I could work with it: I strained the solids from the liquid into a very large bowl I had sitting in the sink because I knew I had more broth than the bowl could accommodate.

Once I had the meat and bones in my largest strainer, I poured the broth back into the pot. I let the bones and meat cool for a bit in the strainer. Then, I began taking the meat from the bones. I do this slowly and carefully by hand so that I discard everything except the meat.

I then put the meat back into the pot with the broth; there wasn't a whole lot, but I think there's enough to keep the soup flavorful. I added the following that were left over from Thanksgiving dinner: corn, mashed potatoes, dressing, and gravy; these I stirred into the broth until the potatoes and dressing were well incorporated and no longer lumpy. Next I added frozen mixed vegetables. That's where I stopped last night. Because I added the remaining ingredients straight from the refrigerator it cooled everything down enough that I could put it all back into the refrigerator and go to bed.

This afternoon I will bring this all to a slow boil, then gently simmer it for at least an hour. I'll add no yolk egg noodles and cook them as instructed on the package. There you have it! I have used all sorts of leftovers in this soup in the past, but these are the ingredients I have on hand this year. We really like the mashed potatoes and dressing in the soup because they basically dissolve and thicken the broth.

I have to tell you a little about my becoming mostly vegetarian. I read this book called The China Study that discusses the relationship between what we eat and diseases such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. Well, I've had cancer and hope not to have it again (16 years ago, uterine cancer, completely cured). I also have high cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood pressure (as well as too much weight). I've been working very hard at getting these all under control. After reading this book, I stopped eating red meat - that's the only change I made in my lifestyle at that time and my cholesterol started dropping into a more normal range. I was able to stop taking some medications. Since that time I re-joined Weight Watchers and began exercising daily. My blood chemistry and pressure is starting to come back into normal ranges - I hope to be able eventually to be off all medications. I've lost 17 pounds and while I've been at a plateau for some time now, I've not gained any back.

Luckily my family loves vegetables. Michael and I had already been eating almost vegetarian, so this hasn't been a completely drastic change for us. I don't know that the turkey soup is all that healthy, but I can think of other things to eat that would be much worse. I'll be sure to let you know how it all turns out.

Monday, November 23, 2009

After Dinner Thoughts

My, my, my - oatmeal soup is Very Good! I combined two recipes - the one I shared and another one I found online.

Here are the ingredients I ended up with:
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
10 oz fresh mushrooms, sliced
1 medium onion, diced
garlic cloves, minced (I used 6 medium sized cloves)
Can diced tomatoes
Can tomato sauce
Old fashioned rolled oats (1 cup toasted, about 1/2 cup straight from the container)
64 ounces vegetable broth
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 fresh lime, juiced
salt and pepper
Parsley for garnish
And then I followed the directions from the recipe I linked from the St Louis Post Dispatch newspaper.

We LOVED it! All of us - Mom, Dad, Michael, and me. In fact, Michael and I had it for dinner tonight too. There is only a little bit left, so I will take it to work for lunch tomorrow. Very low calorie, nice amount of fiber, and low fat. Don't skip the lime juice - it really makes this soup have a nice zing.

We also had a loaf of sourdough bread, warmed, and Mom made chocolate cupcakes. All in all a very tasty dinner. We will definitely have this soup again. The oatmeal ends up making the soup taste similar to a barley soup - and it kind of ends up having the same kind of consistency.

Annette asked for the recipe my Mom used to make her upside down apple pie last week. It is from the Better Homes and Gardens Encyclopedia of Cooking, Volume 1 (1973), page 87. In the version Mom made last weekend, she used two cans of caramel apple pie filling in place of everything except the pie crust ingredients (she used the butter, the pecans, the brown sugar, and the crusts).

The recipe is called "Topsy-Turvy Apple Pie." Here it is:
1/4 cup butter or margarine, softened
1/2 cup pecan halves
1/2 cup brown sugar
2-crust 9-inch pie pastry
5 large tart apples, peeled, cored, and sliced (about 6 cups)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Dash of salt

Spread butter evenly on bottom and sides of 9-inch pie plate. Press nuts, rounded side down, into butter on bottom of pie plate. Pat brown sugar evenly over nuts. Place 1 pie crust pastry over sugar.

Sprinkle apples with lemon juice. Combine flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, and dash of salt; toss with apples. Turn into pie plate; spread evenly to keep top level. Top with remaining pie crust. Pinch to seal. Prick top of pie with fork. Bake at 400 degrees for 50 minutes.

Remove from oven; cool 5 minutes. Place serving plate on top of pie, invert. Carefully remove pie plate. Serve warm or cool.

Tip: put a cooking sheet on bottom oven rack to catch any juices (and keep clean up easy).

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Oatmeal Soup

Yep - you read it right - Oatmeal Soup! I read a recipe for Oatmeal Soup in the St Louis Post Dispatch and was completely intrigued by it. When my parents were at our house this week to meet with our designer (remember the addition we are building onto our house for my parents?) we talked about what to have for dinner this weekend. Well, I asked if they would be willing to try the Oatmeal Soup and they said yes! So, it's Oatmeal Soup. I almost can't believe it myself.

As to the house addition plans, we seem to be in the final stages of making decisions. Joel came over to take some final measurements. Next we just need to talk to our original builder to answer some questions about the roof and then we should have our blueprints in hand! Whew, what a process. The stage of putting the construction out for bid is near. If the weather holds we might even be able to have the foundation poured and then it should be just a matter of time before the big move!

Anyway, it is supposed to be a beautiful weekend. I'm just about completely ready for my annual Cookie Exchange. I'll put the final touches on Christmas Jeopardy. And, we'll have Oatmeal Soup. I'll let you know how it all turns out.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

After Dinner Thoughts

So, Sunday's soup was pretty good. It turned out to be a fairly rich soup and with the tofu puree substitute for the heavy cream a very filling soup. It is possible that we would have this again, however I might change it up even more. For one thing, I don't think I'm personally fond of cream soups. I tend to avoid them in restaurants (okay, except for the Lobster Bisque wherever it can be found - but I really can't eat much of it). I guess I need to avoid them at home too.

Mom made an upside down caramel apple pie. Here's a picture of it; it broke apart a little, but that doesn't matter to the taste. It was yummy. Can't eat much of that however - way too many calories! It was filled with apples, caramel, pecans, and brown sugar. Mmmmmm....good thing Sunday is the only day I allow myself to indulge in such sugary decadence.

Recently I've been working to get my annual Christmas Jeopardy PowerPoint put together. I need six categories and I currently have four: 1-Charity; 2-Begins; 3-Classic Board Games; and 4-Commercial Mascots. I would like to do a category called "At Home" (to go with 1 & 2) and am having a hard time deciding which direction to go with that. And then I need a sixth category. I have a few ideas: Libations (Christmas beverages); Christmas animals; or Tots. Do you have any category ideas? Please share if you do! This year, for the first time, I will be able to use these cool Me First buzzers I purchased last year; it will make it much easier to know which player buzzed in first.

Well, I need to figure out what will be for dinner this coming Sunday. I'm thinking I need to keep the upcoming Thanksgiving dinner in mind and should go "light." I'll share what it will be when I know. Have a great week!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

On Hold

I've got a short out of town trip this afternoon and so won't be making anything for Sunday dinner this week. Stay tuned - I'll make the Mushroom Spinach soup next week and will certainly let you know how it turns out!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

How I Decided on Mushroom Spinach Soup

Okay, so here is how my mind works (it's circular, so stay with me)...

On my Minestrone post there was a comment asking me to add the Foodista widget to the page. I naturally needed to investigate and did a little browsing through the Foodista Web site. I went to the vegetarian section and found what looks like a truly scrumptious recipe for Mushroom Spinach Soup Served at Multnohmah Falls Lodge (in Portland, Oregon). This brought back memories of one of my library conference trips when Michael went with me. We had a delightful time and took a relaxing tour of Multnohmah Falls. By now I'm having really nice warm fuzzies. I decide to look up Multnohmah Falls Lodge, and there is a photo of the bridge in front of the fall just like one I took when there - that made me smile the rest of the afternoon.

Well, that just puts that Mushroom Soup at the top of my list. I plan to make it this upcoming Sunday. However, I really, really don't want to use heavy cream (2 cups of it!). So, I go on a new search: heavy cream substitutes. Chowhound has a few interesting suggestions. Cooks Illustrated Bulletin Board has some product suggestions too; while there I also discovered Go Dairy Free a site that has lots of dairy substitute recipes and product suggestions.

After browsing through the suggestions, I'm going simple. I'm going to puree medium firm silken tofu. I think this will work fine for the soup recipe. If you look at the Monday, September 7, 2009 "After Dinner Thoughts" post you'll see the tofu ricotta cheese substitute recipe - it worked wonderfully! Since I happen to be a tofu fan, and since Michael, Mom, and Dad will all eat tofu I'm going that route. The will be much better for Weight Watchers points than heavy cream - that's for sure!

Speaking of Weight Watcher points, I have been quite remiss and realize that's why I haven't been losing any weight recently. Thankfully I haven't been gaining any either. It's a good thing I continue to exercise everyday and that I go to a meeting each week. So, I'm getting back on the WW tracking wagon. I'll need to figure out the points for this recipe, but it shouldn't be too bad. I'll use vegetable broth in place of the chicken broth and Smart Balance 50/50 spread stick in place of the butter. Other than the tofu, the rest of the ingredients are vegetables, salt, and pepper - very low in points.

Anyway, that's how I came to the decision to make the Mushroom Spinach Soup. And, isn't it terrific that I've decided this a entire week in advance? Amazing! I'll let you know how it all turns out.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Minestrone Soup

Happy Halloween! My folks are coming over to our house this evening to hand out goodies to the trick or treaters. We thought we would eat Minestrone Soup leftover from last night's Halloween party for dinner. However, there's not enough soup left for four people. We're ordering pizza in instead. Also, we're not having Sunday dinner this week. Well, we are eating Sunday dinner, but it is a hodgepodge of leftovers.

I thought, then, that I would share the Minestrone Soup recipe with you. It is a favorite at our house and I make it every so often. Apparently it was a favorite last night as well. This is one of the easiest recipes I know.

MINESTRONE adapted from Cooking Light Annual Recipes 1998 [original recipe title: Hearty Beef, Pasta, and Spinach Minestrone]

1 package (12 oz) Boca Ground Crumbles
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 box (32 oz) vegetable stock
1 can (14.5 oz) stewed tomatoes, undrained and chopped
1 package Bear Creek Vegetable Beef soup mix
1/2 cup uncooked ditalini or other "mini"-type pasta (I used mini-penne)
1 package (10 oz) frozen chopped spinach, thawed, drained, and squeezed dry (or not - I usually put it in the soup frozen and let it slowly incorporate)
Extra vegetables: I add some frozen white corn, probably about 3/4 cup
Water: I add water throughout the cooking process to keep everything moist - this soup tends to thicken quite easily and the pasta keeps soaking up the water

Cook the boca with olive oil in a large pot over medium heat until browned a bit more; be sure to use olive oil or the boca will stick to the pot. When you are ready, add the stock and tomatoes. Let these integrate a bit; add more water. Add the soup mix and bring to a boil, simmer about 7 minutes. Add the spinach, stir until the spinach is no longer frozen and the soup begins to come to a boil again. Add water if needed. Add the pasta, lightly boil 7-9 minutes*. Add the corn; allow all to heat through.

The soup is now ready to eat. However, I usually cook it earlier in the day and so at this point I transfer it to a crock-pot, add more water, and put it on low or warm until it's time to eat.

This makes a lot of soup - at least 10 servings. I wouldn't know where to cut back since it calls for the package of soup mix. I might be able to freeze some of the soup, though, by waiting to add the pasta* until last and dividing the soup before adding the pasta.

The original recipe stated a serving size equals 2 cups; when I figured the Weight Watchers points for the original recipe it equals 5 points per serving (that's with ground round).

Minestrone Soup on Foodista

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Halloween Party Treats

Friday, October 30th Michael and I are having a few friends over for a Halloween Party. I've finally decided on what we'll be serving. We want to keep it simple, since we aren't serving dinner, just snacks.

Whipped cream cheese, jalapeno jelly, and Crunchmaster multi-seed crackers
Harvest Snack Mix (popcorn, dry roasted peanuts, candy corn, pretzel sticks, and M & Ms)
Wind & Willow Garden Vegetable Cheese Ball
Pumpkin Cheesecake Pie
Raw vegetables
Salami roll ups (salami slices rolled up in won ton wrappers and baked until browned)
Pickle roll ups (tortillas, turkey lunch meat and cream cheese rolled around dill pickles, then cut into bites)
Spooky Black Bean Hummus
And a crock of Minestrone soup - for those who need just a bit more.

Happy Halloween Everybody!

After Dinner Thoughts

Dinner was insanely delicious this evening. When I called Mom this morning I gave her the list of choices. She said the pineapple fried rice sounded intriguing. And, it was! It was fairly easy to make - the prep took the most work and that wasn't much really. Mom, Dad, and I loved it! Don't know yet if Michael will be on board for this one, but it will definitely be repeated at some time in the future. A real keeper.

So, along with the fried rice we had a nice green side salad and I made a Pistachio Cake. I had picked up some raw shelled pistachios a few weeks ago and didn't know how I was going to use them. So, today was the day. I chopped then roasted them for about 15 minutes in a 325 degree Fahrenheit oven. Then, I added about 1 3/4 cups to the cake batter; and probably about 3/4 cup on top of the icing. Oh - instead of the icing suggested on the recipe I made a quick cream cheese icing:

8 oz 1/3 less fat cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup smart balance 50/50 spread stick, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 small box instant pistachio pudding mix
about 2 cups powdered sugar (I used what I had)

Mix the first three ingredients together until smooth. Add the pudding mix and beat until smooth. Add powdered sugar 1/2 cup at a time - beat until smooth each time. Add to the cake and top with prepared pistachio nuts.

It was much better than I expected. In fact, it was darn good. It looked a bit funky what with being so green, but it wasn't real sugary - and I was really glad for that. I left half of the cake for Mom and Dad and the photo is of the half I brought home. I really need to remember to take my camera over to take photos before cutting.

Everyone enjoyed dinner and will look forward to these recipes again. Until next week - Happy Halloween!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Last Minute Dinner Ideas

I've been so busy thinking about and preparing for Halloween that I've neglected thinking about Sunday dinner. This evening I'm trolling the Internet looking for a recipe with garbanzo beans (also known as chickpeas) and rice. I've found a few that sound promising, but haven't quite settled on one yet. Here are the recipes I'm considering:

Middle Eastern Garbanzo Rice Pilaf also has sundried tomatoes, garlic, Kalamata olives, goat cheese, capers, and lemon juice - this sounds somewhat similar to the Mediterranean Orzo Salad we had on September 13th that we liked so much. Definitely a possibility.

Thai Heavenly Pineapple Fried Rice doesn't actually call for garbanzo beans, but when I was searching through VeggieBoards I came across a post about the pineapple fried rice and someone suggested adding garbanzos. Sounds intriguing. This recipe includes peas, carrot, raisins or currants, cashews, and onion. If I make this I will add the garbanzo beans.

Garbanzo Tomato Pasta Soup doesn't actually have rice in it. It does, however, sound easy and yummy.

Chickpea Pot Pie is what started this search; this recipe is in the most recent Vegetarian Times that came in the mail this week. It received 2nd place in the 2009 Reader Recipe Contest. You should be able to find it online in a few weeks. Another similar recipe that sounds good is "Chicken" Pot Pie from Vegan Dad. No rice in either of these recipes, just good old comfort food.

All these recipes sound so good it will be hard to decide. I guess it will depend on what I have in the cupboard. I'll let you know how it all turns out.

Until tomorrow, here's a photo of this year's Halloween costume. I'm very happy with how it turned out - and it shocked everyone that I actually sewed, myself included! Last night was our monthly bunco girls' night out and each October we dress for the occasion. On the 30th Michael and I are having a few friends over to celebrate the holiday; I'll wear this costume again for the party. No telling if I'll be prepared to cook for next Sunday's dinner too.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

After Dinner Thoughts

I really like my own cooking. I also really like cheese tortellini, spinach, black olives, cheese, and everything in this dish. Needless to say, it was delicious! And, only 7 weight watchers points per 1 cup serving. We had the casserole, green salad and a pumpkin cake my mom made.

After dinner, cleaning up, and taking the trash out for pick up tomorrow, my mom and I started working on my Halloween costume. This year I am going to be Athena, Goddess of
Wisdom, War, and the Arts. We're making a toga/chiton outfit. I picked up some chiffon the other day, but apparently not enough. So, I need to get a few more yards and then we'll finish the costume tomorrow. I've got some fun gold braid as well as some Greek key ribbon to use for trim. I'll have to make sure to take a photo!

Last year I was a tornado - it was a hoot! We used some gray organza-type fabric and wrapped it around an old black dress. Then I made a thunderhead from an old straw hat that I wrapped the gray fabric around and stuffed with tissue paper. I attached matchbox cars, farm animals, and other such stuff to the dress so that when I twirled, the objects spun in the air. I also found a Miss Gulch riding her bicycle ornament that I added to the costume. Red slippers completed the look. Here's what it looked like.

I love Halloween - everything about it! This year I have three opportunities to dress up: bunco, a small party we're hosting, and giving out treats on the holiday itself! I certainly hope the weather holds up this year. Mom and Dad will be coming over to our house to hand out the treats this year and I hope we can sit outside for most of the evening. It's just too much fun!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Feeling Better - How About Some Pasta?

Whew - thank goodness that cold I had is just about history. I hope that's the end of that for the season. With all the talk about the flu, there's lots of hand-washing going on. We even got those automatic hand sanitizers at work. Better safe than sorry!

So, while I was at home this past week I was able to take a bit of time to think about Sunday dinner before Michael went to the grocery store. I know you're wondering what we're having, so here it is...

Tortellini Spinach Casserole from Taste of Home. This recipe sounds tasty. The recipe list includes fresh mushrooms (I'll use a combination of white button and baby portabella mushrooms), garlic powder (I'll use fresh minced garlic), onion powder (again, I'll use fresh chopped onion), pepper, butter, evaporated milk, brick cheese, frozen chopped spinach, and mozzarella cheese. I plan to add sun-dried tomatoes, black olives, toasted pine nuts, and a splash of white wine.

We'll include a fresh green salad and garlic bread. Mom said she'll make dessert, so for now that's a surprise. I'll let you know how it all turns out.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Not this week

This past week I attended the Illinois Library Association Conference in Peoria, Illinois. It was a good conference. However, when I attend conferences it seems I always come home sick. This time I'm coming down with a cold. I think I even know where I caught it. I attended the Reference Forum luncheon at the Pere Marquette hotel. The waiter who was serving our table was sniffing...I can barely think about his handling the plates, glasses, etc...YUCK! Hey - here's an idea to help with health care in the Untied States: make it mandatory for sick people to stay home from work (with pay). That way fewer people will be spreading their germs around so that fewer people come in contact with them and then fewer people end up sick.

Oh well. Being sick means I am not going to my parents house today. I'm keeping my ickyness to myself (as well as my crabby-ness about being sick at all). Luckily I'm off work tomorrow and can hopefully be a better by Tuesday (I'll be 4 days in by then). I'm taking the Zicam rapid melts every three hours - we'll see if I can cut the severity down.

So, no Sunday dinner this week. I'll spend the day lounging around, washing the laundry, considering what might be on next Sunday's menu, and just taking care of myself in general. Michael made some yummy vegetable soup Friday, maybe I'll have some of that.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

After Dinner Thoughts

Okay - all I can say is YUM YUM!!! The Mexican Lasagna was mighty tasty. We also had a side salad and Michael made a cherry pie. For the lasagna, in the future I might add a bit of tomato sauce. While it was not too dry, it could have used a bit more juice. Instead of canned green chiles, I chopped some jalapenos from a jar; I just like jalapenos better. The recipe makes 8 servings, 4 Weight Watchers points per serving - that's terrific.

After dinner Mom and I looked over the three house addition proposals we recently received. We like one of the proposals quite well, with a few changes. I sent our desires to our designer. This picture shows our notes. Hopefully he will be able to get the plans together before too long. We are ready to get this show on the road! If you are wondering what this is all about, well we will be putting an addition on our house for my Mom and Dad to move in with us. There will be a master bedroom and bath and a common area like a four season porch. We need to find out if we can keep our current fireplace and build the addition with it incorporated. To that end, Michael will be visiting the fireplace place this week. Hopefully it will all work out.

I'll be out of town for most of the week, attending a conference. I don't expect to be thinking about Sunday dinner much this week. No telling what will be on the menu, guess we'll find out before next Sunday! Until then, have a great week.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Something Easy

This recipe was in the St Louis Post Dispatch this week and caught my eye. Sounds really easy, fast, and yummy. So, why not? Corn Tortilla and Mixed Bean Lasagna.

Why am I so interested in something real easy this week? Because I don't really want to spend a lot of time inside. I'm bringing the Halloween decor up from the basement and decorating our house inside and out. You see, I LOVE Halloween. It's the perfect holiday to me - no pressure and you can do as much or as little as you want. I want to do more this year than I did last year.

So, enough yakking - it's time to leave the computer and spend sometime outside today! Have a great day yourself - and check back to see how it all turns out.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

After Dinner Thoughts

East African Pea Soup - a WINNER!!! We really liked the soup. And, after I used my hand blender it was very much like split pea soup in thickness. There was a slight similarity in taste. With the spices it had a nice "tang" to it. The cinnamon and cloves made it somewhat sweet, without being over sweet. And, the cayenne and other pepper gave it just enough kick. Definitely a keeper. We all liked it. As an aside, I don't know why I haven't used my hand blender before today. I will certainly use it more in the future - what an easy tool! I made the soup up to adding the peas yesterday afternoon because I wanted the flavors to meld together. I am really glad I did that. It not only made today easier, but I do believe it made the soup even better than it would have been. Kind of like chili on day two - always better!

The bread was really good too. I picked up the Companion multigrain rolls at Dierbergs, and I highly recommend it. We warmed the rolls for about 15 minutes in a 350°oven. The result was a nicely warmed roll with a crunchy exterior - not hard - easy to bite, with a soft interior. Yummy.

Mom's chocolate meringue pie was quite good too. It was a bit too rich for me, but that's because I really am not big on dessert. I'm sure Michael will enjoy it tomorrow.

I want to include a word of warning to anyone who uses turmeric. This is the second recipe I have used it in. It really is a great spice! However, be very careful of what you wear when using it. It stains clothes (and plastic utensils) easily. Last time I used it I got some on a white tee shirt. I ended up dieing that shirt to cover the stain. I also used a blue cooking spoon as I was stirring the soup; it is now easy to tell how deep the soup was because it is dark green to halfway up the handle. So, while turmeric is a really good spice it also easily stains stain-able items. Be careful with it.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Soup Weather!

I don't know about you, but I LOVE soup! Mom, Dad, and Michael do too, thankfully. We all also really, really like split pea soup. And, while I would be perfectly happy to make a big batch of split pea soup, I feel like changing it up a bit. So, when I found a recipe for East African Pea Soup (not exactly split pea, but similar), I thought - this is it!

We'll see, though, because it does call for an array of spices that will be new/different/exciting for my folks. The recipe calls for onions, garlic, ginger, coriander, cumin, turmeric, cardamon, cinnamon, cayenne, cloves, tomatoes, sweet potato and frozen green peas. This sounds very much like the taste sensations I experienced at an Ethiopian restaurant in Washington DC (I think it was Dukem). The food at that restaurant was quite different than anything I had had before and it was absolutely yummy!

Michael and I walked the Alzheimer's Memory Walk at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville today. Our team, Team Bob in honor of my Dad, walked a 3-mile course. We had 15 adults, 2 youngsters, and 1 dog on our team. It was a great morning for such a walk! This is the first time we have participated in this event and are already planning for next year. We lucked out too - it didn't start raining until long after we had left. The photo is of our team - aren't we a good looking group?

Anyway - for dinner tomorrow I also picked up some multigrain bread, because I don't have the energy to track down any teff, an ingredient necessary to make injera (Ethiopian flat bread). Mom is making a chocolate pie. Hopefully everyone will enjoy dinner. I'll let you know how it all turns out.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

After Dinner Thoughts

So - the cheesy pizza pasta was good. Mom and Dad really did enjoy it, although it seemed more like a lasagna than a pizza pasta. I ended up adding carrots, celery, and garlic to the mix. This makes a huge amount of food - lots of leftovers!

I also decided to make diet soda cupcakes (a regular weight watchers recipe). I used yellow cake mix and diet cream soda. We used fat free cool whip for the topping. These were tasty!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Ahead of the Game!

I've been having a terrific craving for pizza. I'm pretty sure it was prompted by this "Healthified" Cheesy Pizza Pasta recipe I came across last week. In actuality, this recipe was delivered to one of my email addresses. Yes, I have more than one email address - I bet lots of other people do too. I have my work address, my personal address, and my personal business address (pba). The pba is the one I use for special offers and to place online orders - it allows me to be fairly anonymous and it keeps my other addresses from being cluttered up with unnecessary mail. (Okay it's impossible to completely avoid unnecessary mail, but you do what you can.)

Anyway, I'm trying to remember why these EatBetterAmerica emails are appearing in my pba. I know it's because I signed up for a free sample of something, I just can't remember what that was. I guess it doesn't really matter, but if you want to get on the mailing list, visit and you too can have "healthified" recipes sent your way. They even have a place to send your recipes in to have them "healthified." I haven't tried this, but it could be an option. Oh - and as an added bonus they also offer $ off coupons on lots of grocery items.

So, I found this cheesy pizza pasta recipe, set it aside, and had the presence of mind to note needed ingredients on the grocery list before Michael went to the store today! Yay - I don't have to stop anytime this weekend!!! This recipe calls for multigrain rotini, lean Italian turkey sausage, an onion, fresh mushrooms, diced tomatoes, pasta sauce, dried basil, turkey pepperoni, and reduced fat Italian cheese blend. I'm okay with just about everything in the recipe except the turkey ingredients. I am going to just drop the pepperoni altogether and I'm replacing the turkey sausage with Gimme Lean ground sausage style veggie protein. This Gimme Lean product is meant to be used as you would any regular ground sausage. I've not used it before, but my friend Amanda tells me Gimme Lean is pretty good stuff. They also make a pepperoni, but I don't have any on hand.

I may still have to visit the grocery, however, because I don't yet know what's for dessert. My friend Jan sent me the tofu chocolate pie recipe below; she raves about it. Jan's not a vegetarian either, she just likes to eat healthfully. I might try it, if I get to the store.

AB's Chocolate Silk Pie
12 oz silken tofu
2 cups chocolate chips
1/3 cup coffee liquor (chocolate and orange would work well, too)
1 tsp vanilla
1 tbsp honey
1 graham cracker crust (chocolate, if available)

Place tofu and honey into a blender or food processor.
Melt chocolate chips and coffee liquor together until smooth in a double boiler. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Pour over tofu and whizz/blend the mixture until completely smooth, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl occasionally.
Pour into a pie crust and chill until firm, at least 2 hours.

Serves 10.

I don't know how may ww points everything is yet, but I do know that the cheesy pizza pasta is 6 points per serving with the turkey ingredients, so it's got to be less with the Gimme Lean. Anyway, I'm happy to know what I'm making this Sunday. I'll let you know how it all turns out.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

After Dinner Thoughts

Well, dinner was scrumptious! That orzo salad is a real winner. Quite easy to make, too. I added pine nuts and fresh lemon juice to the original recipe. We all really really liked it. That's a good thing since I made a double batch of the salad in order to have leftovers (lunch for work tomorrow).

I was a little worried about the combination of baked sweet potatoes and the orzo salad, but they actually worked quite well together. Mom, Dad, and I all really like sweet potatoes so this was a hit of a dinner. The peach pie that Michael made was mighty tasty too. He added pecans to it for a new taste sensation.

While I was at my parents' house this afternoon my Aunt Carolyn and Uncle Bill came by for a visit. I had called earlier and asked if they wanted to eat dinner with us, but they had just finished lunch and said it wasn't going to work out for them. Right before they finished their visit, Aunt Carolyn took a bite of the orzo salad, though, and I think was surprised by how truly yummy it was. Uncle Bill said to remember to invite them again and I will! They know, however, that there will be no meat, which is, I think, a bit startling for them.

All in all we had a very nice weekend.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

What's For Dinner

So, today is my parents' 50th Wedding Anniversary! The whole family will be going out for dinner this evening. This includes my sister Cindy, her husband Dave, their sons Chris and Tommy, my mom Dottie, my dad Bob, my husband Michael, and myself. We're going to Andria's, a really good steakhouse that was started by a family friend and his wife (Sam and Mugs). Yeah, I know - me in a steakhouse. I've already planned what to eat: a small salad to start, then the grilled portabello mushroom appetizer with a small baked potato for my entree.

Tomorrow is Sunday and dinner is planned! We're going to have Mediterranean Orzo Salad with Feta Vinaigrette from Cooking Light. I'll make it just a tiny bit lighter by using water-packed or dry-reconstituted sun-dried tomatoes instead of oil-packed. I'll also squeeze a bit of fresh lemon juice into the salad to brighten it up a bit. Sounds yummy! With my adjustments I figure one serving of this recipe equals 6 Weight Watchers points.

We're also going to have baked sweet potatoes. To bake sweet potatoes:
  1. wash them well
  2. cut the ends off
  3. bake them in a 400° preheated oven for 40-60 minutes.
Be sure to leave the skin on the potatoes. Also, either wrap them well in aluminum foil or place them on a rimmed baking sheet. Otherwise you'll find a mess in your oven from the sugars dripping out of the potatoes as they cook. These are so easy to make and yummy to eat, and only 3 Weight Watchers points.

Michael is making us a peach pie for dessert. He won't actually be with us for dinner since football season is now in session. In fact, I won't share another Sunday dinner with him until next spring (or unless there is a special event or somehow a Sunday without football). One-sixteenth of a peach pie is around 4 Weight Watchers points - one-sixteenth is half of what you might normally eat for a serving of pie. This works fine for me because I am not a big sweets eater. Mom and Dad will be happy though. After dessert is over, I'll split the leftovers to leave some with my parents and some to take home - Michael can have it later.

So, I think we're going to have a pretty good Sunday dinner. And in honor of Michael - go Raiders (although they are playing Monday night not Sunday). Oh - and Monday is our 18th Wedding Anniversary. Wonder how we'll be celebrating? I think Michael said something about making spaghetti and staying home. Sounds good to me.

Monday, September 7, 2009

After Dinner Thoughts

So, we enjoyed the Portobello-and-Zucchini Tacos, although they were a bit messy/juicy.

Instead of the black bean and corn salad, I made Bean and Corn Casserole with Tortilla-Crunch Topping from Weight Watchers Comfort Classics cookbook (page 137). I changed recipes because my husband, Michael, really doesn't like vinegar of any kind, and all of the Black Bean and Corn Salad recipes I'm aware of use some type of vinegar.

The Weight Watchers recipe calls for ricotta cheese, which I didn't have on hand, and I didn't want to go to the grocery. So, I searched for an alternative and I found a few tofu substitutes for lasagna recipes. Well, I had tofu on hand, so I adapted a recipe to fit my needs (I wasn't needing Italian seasonings). With my adaptation the Weight Watchers points value went from 7 points per serving to 5 points per serving. Here's my adaptation:

Tofu Ricotta Substitute
1 package extra firm tofu
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic
juice of 1 small lemon
1/4 teaspoon salt
pepper to taste
1/4 cup nutritional yeast

1- Using your hands, crumble tofu in a large bowl
2- Add lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper
3- Mash everything together until no tofu chunks remain and mixture is more the consistency of ricotta (about 2 minutes)
4- Add oil and nutritional yeast and mix together using a fork
5- Set aside until needed in recipe

I just omitted the basil and oregano from the original recipe. I'll use the tofu ricotta substitute again. The casserole was TERRIFIC, if I do say so myself. Michael also made some fresh guacamole that was delicious as always. We put the guac on the tacos and added some fresh salsa on the casserole. Everyone was happy. My total dinner points = 12 (5 for the taco, 5 for the casserole, and 2 for the guacamole); not too bad.

My dad was really happy, though, when he got to eat some of the leftover pecan pie my mom made yesterday. Dad has a huge sweet tooth!

I've got to try to remember to take my camera with me to have some photos to share.

Saturday (9/12) is my parents' 50th Wedding Anniversary! The following Monday (9/14) is Michael and my 18th Wedding Anniversary. We'll have some celebrating to do next weekend. However, since football season starts in earnest next weekend, we won't be seeing much of Michael on Sundays for awhile. He enjoys watching football with some of his longtime friends; I must admit I enjoy his watching football with them instead of me too.

A friend of mine, Amy, was my inspiration for starting this blog. She hosts Vintage Cookbooks, where she shares her collection "with the unsuspecting public." Amy has asked me to be a guest blogger on her site next Sunday. I'm already fretting about out what to wear...

Saturday, September 5, 2009


Welcome to The Sunday Cook. Why? Because I love to cook, however I usually only cook on Sunday when I make a special dinner for my parents.

For several years now I have done my prep work at my house and then taken all the ingredients to my parents house to actually cook the meal. Soon (yay! - we've been talking about this for a few years now) we will combine our households and I won't need to transport any part of the meal from one house to another. We're building an addition onto our house! There will be a master bedroom, master bathroom, and a four season room added onto the back of our house specifically for my parents. We'll share the kitchen, laundry, dining area, and family/living/great room (it's only one room - call it what you will). I'll share our progress as we get it all underway. I'm just thrilled that we have actually hired a designer/architect.

Anyway, this blog is not about the home addition - it's about the food. While I am not a complete vegetarian, I'm pretty darn close. I will eat eggs, cheese, fish, and rarely poultry (and that is increasingly rare). I will use milk products only when I cannot find a soy or other substitute. For example, today I couldn't find a light cream or other substitute, so the recipe also allowed evaporated milk - I purchased a fat free evaporated milk. An interesting aspect to Sunday dinner is the fact that my parents are not vegetarians. They are good sports, though, and thoroughly willing to eat vegetarian at least one day each week!

Here's how Sunday dinner comes about: I start looking for a recipe the Friday evening before the Sunday dinner. Sometimes I know what I will cook early, usually I know what I will cook Saturday night and will then need to stop by the grocery Sunday morning. I'm getting much better at figuring it out earlier. One day I may actually have it figured out before Thursday (when my husband does the majority of our grocery shopping). That will be one delightful day - when I don't have to go to the grocery because my husband was able to pick up any needed ingredients on Thursday.

I had been posting the links to the recipes I use on Facebook, and began to wonder if my fb friends think I only think about food, since it's what I post most about. I guess I do think about food quite a bit - I'm always on the look out for new recipes and new ingredients. Oh - and another complication to what we have for Sunday dinner: I'm a weight watcher. I've lost 15 pounds so far and am determined to lose even more. It's taken me seven months to lose those first 15, I certainly hope I get the next 15 off a little quicker than that. I also exercise six days a week - that helps a lot!

Last Sunday I cooked Penne with Porcini Mushrooms and Beer-Stewed Artichoke Hearts. It was okay, but a bit bitter. I don't think I'll cook it again, but I will certainly consider the method again. I also made a Pineapple Cheesecake Pie that was absolutely divine (and I did lighten it up - I used 1/3 less fat cream cheese and plain light soy milk). I will make that again. Everyone LOVED the pie!

This Sunday, I am making a Pumpkin Cheesecake Pie to take to my sister's house (yep - we really liked that pineapple cheesecake pie, now I'm making a similar pie with pumpkin); again I will lighten it up as much as I can - this is the recipe that will have the fat free evaporated milk in it. My sister is hosting a double birthday party for both her mother-in-law and her father-in-law. I'll be taking our parents over there for the party.

I find it kind of amusing that for my first post as the Sunday Cook, I'm not actually cooking on Sunday! However, since this is Labor Day weekend, I will be cooking Monday night dinner for my parents.

Here's what we are having:
Portobello-and-Zucchini Tacos
Corn & Black Bean Salad
Fresh Guacamole (homemade)
Fresh Salsa (store bought)
Baked tortilla chips (store bought)

Yum! I'll let you know how it all turns out.