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.