Sunday, January 31, 2010

Superbowl Sunday 2010

Who's playing the game? Who cares? Ok, ok - I know plenty of people care. I'm just not a big football fan, although there is a good chance I'll watch some of the game. Oh - and Michael tells me the Colts and the Saints are playing. I'm sure the game will be on the television in my parents living room. Here is what I plan to have on the menu...

I'm leaning towards a semi Tex-Mex menu. I'll make a Healthy and Hearty Smokey Black Bean Dip and Spiced Chili-Lime Corn Chips. I found both recipes on Chowhound. Tex-Mex Corn Chowder sounds yummy too.

I think a salad with fresh grapefruit will be refreshing. Because so many of the recipes that popped up when I searched for "grapefruit" salad have avocado in them, but none are just what I am looking for, I think I'll make this one up. I'm going to use grapefruit, avocado, fresh greens, toasted pecans (I have quite a few pecans still on hand), goat cheese (just because I love goat cheese), maybe some red onion, fresh lime for the zest and juice, maybe a few chopped kalamata olives, maybe a fresh jalapeno pepper, a bit of kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper. I might try to make a dressing with olive oil, grapefruit juice, Dijon mustard, red wine vinegar, and brown rice syrup or I'll use Maple Grove Farms Balsamic Vinaigrette dressing.

So, we're basically having soup and salad with chips and dip. I haven't come up with dessert yet.

Grapefruit reminds me of the absolutely best ever Cosmopolitan I ever had - it was a grapefruit Cosmo. This was a few years ago in Seattle at a restaurant kind of close to the main library. Yummy mussels, scallops, and fresh fish dish (yeah, I know, what else would you expect in Seattle?). The Cosmo though, mmmmmmm...makes my mouth water just thinking about it. Do you think I could remember the name of the restaurant? Of course not.

Anyway, it's Tex-Mex for Superbowl Sunday dinner. I'll let you know how it all turns out.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Not This Week

This Sunday my sister and brother-in-law are hosting a party for my terrific nephew Chris who turns 21 on Monday! Gee - it's amazing that 21 years have passed since Chris was born. We'll look forward to visiting Fast Eddie's Bon Air in Alton, Illinois with him something (no-one under 21 allowed in the place).

Anyway, since we'll be celebrating Chris I won't be preparing Sunday dinner. Stay tuned for next week - I believe that's Superbowl Sunday. Wonder what we'll have? Hmmmm...

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

After Dinner Thoughts

Mmmmmm...I really, really like Pad Thai; and my making it hasn't changed that at all. This was the first time Mom and Dad had ever had Pad Thai and the first time I had made it. They really, really liked it too! I added a few baby portobella mushrooms sliced thin and shredded carrots to the original recipe. Also, I used peanut oil for the cooking oil. Instead of crushed peanuts I used crushed cashews. It was yummy! I'll make this again and will probably add even more vegetables in the future.

I remember the very first time I had Pad Thai. It was at a restaurant in Springfield Illinois of all places! My friend Sharon Ruda took me to this place on the curve of MacArthur (if I'm remembering the street name correctly). It was in this little A-frame building. The restaurant is gone now, although the building might still be there; last time I was in Springfield I think it was a Subway. Anyway, I am forever grateful to Sharon for many things and turning me on to Pad Thai is just one small example of the kindnesses she has shown me.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Vegetable Pad Thai

This coming Sunday Mom, Cindy (my sister), and I will be attending an Alzheimer's program/workshop from 2 - 3:30, so I need something fairly easy to prepare for dinner. And, I've got a taste for some Pad Thai. Sooooo...Vegetable Pad Thai. I'm going to up the amount of noodles to 16 oz and I'm going to add shredded carrots. I plugged the ingredients into my Weight Watchers recipe builder and came up with 8 points for 1/6 of the recipe.

And, I'm looking at Iced Mini-Chocolate Loaves for dessert. The recipe is in the Weight Watchers Hit the Spot cookbook on page 197. One serving is 4 points.

Ummm Ummm, sounds good to me. I'll let you know how it all turns out.

After Dinner Thoughts

Well, it's been a few days since Sunday dinner and I'm finally getting around to letting you know how it was. Yummy!

Another winning dinner. And, fairly easy to make. However, when I make it again I think I will double the vegetable filling. The cobbler was actually more like a pot pie, although with a thicker "crust." Because of that it seemed like there wasn't much filling. Mom, Dad, and Michael all really liked the cobbler.

The creamed spinach was quite tasty too! And, also pretty easy. I will certainly make both of these recipes again.

So, now I'm off to think about our upcoming Sunday dinner. Hmmm...

Friday, January 15, 2010


Recently I've been busy reading. My mom had recommended a particular title to me that I had given her on audiobook; I borrowed it for myself from the library. Sweeping Up Glass by Carolyn Wall was an amazing read! I highly recommend it. It takes place in rural Kentucky during the depression and recounts Olivia's life and how she comes to be at a particular point in her life. As a voracious reader, it is hard for me to be truly surprised by a book - this one truly surprised me. There is a certain depth to this plain story that compelled me in such a way that I could not put the book down. The issues confronted in this tale are not easy, but they are engaging. So, after reading such an emotionally wrenching book, I am in the mood for some comfort food.

After going through the pile of recipes I've been wanting to try, I decided on these two: Creamy Vegetable Cobbler and "Creamed" Spinach. Both are Weight Watcher recipes.

Creamy Vegetable Cobbler
Serves 6, 5 ww points per serving (1 2/3 cups)

1 onion
1 garlic clove, minced
1 1/2 cups fat-free milk
1 cup reduced-sodium vegetable broth
1 cup + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 (16 oz) bag frozen mixed vegetables, thawed
1 teaspoon dried tarragon
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/3 cup cornmeal
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon paprika
1/4 cup fat-free egg substitute
2 tablespoons canola oil

1- Preheat the over to 350° F. Spray a 9-inch baking dish with nonstick spray.
2- To make the filling, spray a large nonstick saucepan with nonstick spray and set over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring constantly, just until fragrant, about 20 seconds. Stir in 1 cup of the milk and the broth. Vigorously whisk in the 2 tablespoons flour until smooth and cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture thickens and bubbles, about 2 minutes. Stir in the mixed vegetables, tarragon, oregano, salt, and pepper. Pour into the baking dish.
3- To make the topping, combine the 1 cup flour, the cornmeal, baking powder, sugar, and paprika in a large bowl. Stir in the remaining 1/2 cup milk, the egg substitute, and oil until a sticky dough forms, Drop by heaping tablespoons over the filling in the baking dish.
4- Bake until the topping is lightly browned and the filling bubbles, about 25 minutes.

"Creamed" Spinach
Serves 4, 1 ww point per serving (1/4 of spinach)

2/3 cup low-fat cottage cheese
1/4 cup low-fat milk
1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 garlic clove, minced
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 (10 oz) bags spinach, steamed until tender and chopped

1- In a food processor or blender, combine the cottage cheese, milk, Parmesan cheese, garlic, salt, and pepper; puree. Add one-fourth of the spinach; puree until smooth.
2- In a large nonstick skillet, combine the remaining spinach with the cottage cheese mixture. Cook, stirring occasionally, until heated through, about 5 minutes.

I'll let you know how it all turns out - dinner that is, you'll have to read the book for yourself.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

After Dinner Thoughts - Original Recipe

Today I made my own creation, something I really don't do very often. Sure, I make adjustments and modifications to the recipes I find, but I don't usually make my own recipe. So, we wanted lasagna and I was thinking once again of that Mediterranean Orzo Salad with Feta Vinaigrette we had on September 13, 2009. Tonight I made what I am calling Mediterranean Veggie Lasagna. The photo is of the 1/3 of the entire dish that I brought home.

Tina's Mediterranean Veggie Lasagna

1 tablespoon olive oil
8 oz small white mushrooms, quartered
1 small red onion, chopped fine
3 large cloves garlic, minced
3 carrots, sliced thin
2 small yellow squash, sliced or chopped
4 oz fresh baby spinach, chopped
3 oz sundried tomatoes, chopped
12 oz jar marinated artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
3.8 oz can sliced ripe olives, drained
2 oz pine nuts
2 24 oz jars marinara sauce (I use Bertolli Marinara with Burgundy Wine)
2 eggs
15 oz container light ricotta
4 oz goat cheese crumbles
6 oz domestic Parmesan cheese, shredded
2 cups 2% milk Mozzarella cheese, shredded
10 No boil Lasagna noodles

1- Spray a large lasagna pan with non-stick spray.
2- Combine ricotta, eggs, parmesan, and goat cheeses in a large bowl.
3- Put olive oil in a medium pan on the stove on medium heat. Add mushrooms, saute for about 5 minutes; add carrots, saute for 3 more minutes then add onion and saute until soft. Add garlic and saute 2 more minutes. Set aside.
4- Cover the bottom of the pan with 1/2 of a jar of marinara sauce. Lay 1/2 of the noodles on top of the sauce, breaking to fit the pan.
5- Spread 1/3 of cheese mixture on noodles.
6- Layer all of the squash on top of the cheese. Cover the squash with about 1/2 cup of Mozzarella cheese and then the rest of the 1st jar of marinara sauce.
7- Layer remaining noodles. Spread 1/3 cheese mixture.
8- Cover noodles with artichokes, and black olives. Spread mushroom mixture over artichokes/black olives. Cover with spinach and sundried tomatoes. Add last 1/3 cheese mixture.
9- Cover with remaining marinara sauce; sprinkle pine nuts and then remaining Mozzarella cheese over all.
10- Cover dish with aluminum foil and bake in a 350 F oven for 55 minutes.
11- Take foil off dish, return to oven and bake for another 5 minutes or until cheese begins to brown and is bubbly.

I figured this recipe makes 12 servings with 7 - 8 weight watchers points per serving.

We loved it! Mom said she wants this recipe every so often. It had a flavor similar to the Orzo salad, but a bit different with the marinara sauce. It did make a huge batch of lasagna. I would have put another layer of noodles in the pan if I would have had room, but there was no room with all the veggies.

I must say I am pretty proud of how this turned out. YUMMY!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

After Dinner Thoughts

Well, I learned something this evening after dinner was cooked. Neither Dad nor Michael like tomato soup! So, why didn't they tell me this before I made a huge pot of it? It was good soup; and there is some leftover. Hopefully someone will eat it. Perhaps if I add some vegetables to it they might eat it. Oh was a good excuse to use my immersion blender. Boy I really like that kitchen tool. It is fun to immerse the stick into the soup and blend away! It's almost like magic.

The croissant panini was tasty and enjoyed by all. We used my mom's old waffle iron to make the paninis. The waffle iron has exchangeable plates that are smooth to press sandwiches. It worked great! The strawberry/peach crumble was pretty good too, and it was really easy to make. It also looked pretty.

It is really hard to believe it is now 2010. This is when we were supposed to have flying cars and other "jetsonian" life aids, like robot maids. While we do have many modern conveniences that we probably wouldn't have imagined when we were younger, things don't feel all that different. I guess an immersion blender is enough of a modern tool to make the first Sunday of 2010 good enough.

I return to work tomorrow after an extended vacation. I'll find out tomorrow if I'm ready or not. I expect I am. Let's all have a good week!

Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy New Year!

Well, today being New Year's Day, I decided to make what could have been a Sunday dinner today.

I've had a hankering for chili. Because of that, I recently did some scouting around looking for a new chili recipe. I found four chilis and one soup that sound intriguing to me. They are:

Jane's Vegetarian Chili

Pierce Street Vegetarian Chili

Granny's Slow Cooker Vegetarian Chili

BHG Three-Bean Vegetarian Chili

Vegetarian Lentil Soup

The winner for today was the Pierce Street Vegetarian Chili.

I think it was in Cook's Illustrated magazine where I read that the key to keeping food from burning and/or sticking to stainless steel pots is to warm the pot before adding any ingredients. Well, wherever I read that hint it is one to remember! I have also found that if you allow whatever is cooking to cool completely and then to rewarm your pot you must be very careful because it can (and will) stick and burn at that point. So, the trick seems to be to keep the pot warming.

When preparing today's chili, I started out by putting my large stainless steel pot with the copper bottom on the stovetop and turning the element on medium heat to warm the pot before I added the olive oil. I then followed the recipe; however, because I started the chili long before we were to eat I kept the pot warming throughout the day and just periodically added more broth. No sticking, no burning! Just a wonderfully yummy pot of chili!

And, instead of taking the chili to mom and dad, I brought mom and dad to the chili at our house for dinner. That worked too.