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.