Sunday, June 28, 2009

A Sunday Update

Ok, so I've got some changes going on in my life, and probably won't be posting totally regularly for a while (if at all). I think Mom is still going to post every Wednesday (last I heard, anyway), and I'll just post when I can. At the moment I'm trying to get through some leftovers before they turn, so I haven't been cooking a lot, but when I have a new recipe, I'll post. :)

In the meantime though, I'm trying to move and study for law school entrance exams (woo-hoo!) at the same time, so my posting will be sporadic while my life shifts and moves. I'll still post new recipes as I come up with them, but I make no promises to post every Sunday! :)

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Spinach Grapefruit Salad with Citrus Dressing

I love salads. I even eat them in the winter, when tradition dictates warm stuff. So, we have sort of warm salads; I roast vegetables and put them on lettuce of some sort! Ha! After 35 years of this, my husband, Steve, doesn't even blink anymore! His was a meat-and-potato household, as was mine, but I think my mom was more adventurous than his was. Of course, my mom fed the four of us: 2 kids and 2 parents, while his mom fed 12: 10 kids and 2 parents! Under those circumstances, I'm not sure how adventurous I'd feel in the evenings, either! Ha! She amazes me still!

This is one of my favorites, and it's the dressing that pops it. The ingredients for the basic salad are spinach, grapefruit, and onion rings, and, like fashion, if you coordinate the colors, it's pretty enough for a party salad. Pink grapefruit sections with white onion, or white grapefruit with red onion. Either way, it goes great, color-wise, with the deep green of the spinach!

Per serving:
2 cups spinach leaves, washed and chilled
1 thin slice of onion, off a medium-sized one
1/2 grapefruit, peeled (To cut the grapefruit sections away from the membrane, run your knife from the outer edge to the inner core along the membrane walls. Remember, there are 2 sides to each section, so you're running your knife twice between each section! It's quicker the more you do it; "practice makes perfect," to be sickening about it! Ha!)
OPTIONAL: 1/2 an avocado adds creamy texture (and a yellow color, if you're using pink grapefruit and white onion). You can also add walnuts to this. (The brown color provides an "earthy" note!) These two ingredients are just filler, though; the real taste is the combination of spinach, onion, and grapefruit. Obviously, you can add other stuff, too! I wouldn't add really strong-tasting stuff, like olives, for instance!

For the dressing, also per serving:
1 Tbl. lemon juice (1 small, ripe lemon gives about 2 Tbl. juice)
2 Tbl. canola oil
1/2-1 tsp. (or a bit more) honey, agave nectar, xylitol, or sugar--sweetener amount depends on how tart your grapefruit is, so tasting--of both grapefruit and dressing--is involved here!
a few grains of salt to punch the sweetener--not enough to actually taste! 2-4 at the most! So, a tiny pinch of salt!

Stir, or whisk, to dissolve the sweetener and salt and to mix the dressing.

To serve:
Put the spinach on a plate. Separate the onion into rings and arrange on the spinach bed. Arrange the grapefruit over the onions. Pour the dressing over, and eat! MMMMM!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Sweet and Spicy Garlic Chicken - Part 1

This was inspired by a noodle dish that I used to love (well, I still do, but it's REALLY bad for you, so I don't make it very often). I used the same spices and sauces on chicken, and it came out pretty well. (I cooked it a little long, so it was a little dry – but I know what I should have done differently, so the recipe is fixed. :D) I call this “Part 1,” because later I’ll shred the chicken in the recipe below, add some veggies and some cooked pasta, and stir-fry the whole thing. YUM.

Note: I made this in the CrockPot, but you can do it in a roasting pan (or glass baking dish) in the oven. Just cook it on 350 for 45 minutes (if using thawed chicken) or an hour and fifteen minutes (if you're using frozen chicken).

The Recipe:
Serves 2 hungry adults, or 2 adults and 2 kids (Figure about 1 pound of chicken per person, if you're using bone-in pieces. I only had 3 pounds, so that's what I used. But that's why the serving size is weird. Just FYI.)
3 lbs chicken pieces (I used breast halves with the bone in and the skin on)
3 Tbs rice wine vinegar
8 cloves garlic, minced (yes, EIGHT)
1 Tbs sesame oil
1/3 cup oyster sauce
½ tsp hot sauce (optional)

Put the chicken pieces in the CrockPot. Mix the sauce ingredients together and pour over the chicken pieces. Cook on high for 4 hours or on low for 6-8 hours. (I cooked it on low for nine and a half hours, and it was really dry. Don't cook it longer than 8 hours. Seriously.)

Ta-da! Yummy goodness. (Oh, and that funny white mark is where I tore a piece off to see JUST how dry it was. Very dry. Eight hours MAXIMUM, my friends. No lie. Nine and a half was WAY too long.)

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Green Beans, Mushrooms, & Sweet Potatoes

I'm sure these dishes will publish in reverse order:  "steaks" after Green Beans & Sweet Potatoes.  They do go together, however!  If this is too much cooking, try adding Rosemary potatoes instead, published on 4-8-09, which are easier, since they bake in the oven after shorter prep time!  The sweet potato dish will go better with the eggplant, but the potato dish would be good, too!

This is the other part to my "comfort food" dinner, one that at least looked like my childhood memories!  Ha!  If I add a salad, I even have my "3" sections on my plate!  (And, although this goes better with a salad and citrus dressing, published at the bottom of the Eggplant Steaks recipe, have I mentioned recently that I love Balsamic Vinaigrette?  1/3 c. balsamic vinegar, 2/3 c. olive or canola oil, 1/4 tsp. salt, and 1/8 tsp. pepper gives you a great dressing!  If it's too tart--all balsamics are not created equal, so to speak!--add 1/4-1/2 tsp. sugar or xylitol.  Costco sells a balsamic that's sweet and smooth and imported from Italy!)

I fed the eggplant steaks and the green bean/sweet potato dish to my carnivorous father and brother, and there were no leftovers!  Ha!

You can use yams, but sweet potatoes are more easily digestible than yams for most people.

Serves 4-6, depending on the appetites.

1 large sweet potato or yam, or 10-12 fingerling sweet potatoes or yams
1 Tbs. canola oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1 lb. fresh green beans, cleaned, or 1 lb. frozen
6-8 oz. fresh mushrooms, sliced
1 Tbs. fresh thyme, or 1 tsp. dried leaves, crushed when adding (dried leaves will be added earlier in the cooking process than fresh, so they have a chance to soften!)

Heat water under a steamer in a large saucepan or soup pot.  Quarter the large sweet potatoes or yams lengthwise, and cut them into 1/2"-3/4" pieces.  (Similar size allows for even cooking.)  Or cut the fingerlings into 1/2"-3/4" pieces, halving them if the pieces are fairly large.  Place them in the steamer basket, and steam until fork tender.

Meanwhile, heat the canola oil in a large skillet.  Add the garlic, and cook a minute or two, or until the garlic is fragrant.  Add the green beans (and the dried thyme, if you're using it--do not add the fresh yet!), and cook until the beans start to become a brighter green, just a few minutes.  Add the mushrooms, and cook until most, if not all, of the water has evaporated from the pan.  Add the cooked sweet potatoes and fresh thyme, and stir until well mixed.  Continue heating over low heat, stirring occasionally to avoid burning, until the sweet potatoes begin to break down, coating the green beans and mushrooms with a little color.  Immediately remove from heat; you don't want complete mush!

To serve with the eggplant steaks:  put the eggplant on a plate, spoon a little sauce over them, put the green beans, mushrooms, and sweet potatoes on the side, and enjoy!  MMMMMM!  Comfort food!!!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Eggplant "Steaks" with Lemon-Rosemary Sauce

Sometimes, we just like the Standard American Diet--or at least, something that looks like it!  And since I'm still running and gunning, we're still eating out a lot, only eating at home when I think I'd have to hurt someone if I had to look at, let alone eat, more restaurant food!  Even GOOD restaurant food!  That isn't usual for me, by the way!

So, comfort food, according to my upbringing, is meat, potatoes, and vegetables on a plate.  Not combined.  Three separate piles.  And today, I really want comfort food a la childhood!  My dad's doing a lot better, and my stress level should be going down, but it kind of all "hit"--hence the comfort food crave!  Ha!

I love eggplant grilled on a barbecue of any kind!  So, I highly recommend this!  Unfortunately for me, our grill is gas-powered, and the tank is empty, so I'll brown these in a skillet, instead.

Serves 4-6, depending on side dishes!

For the eggplant:

Canola oil spray
1 Tbs. canola oil (olive oil is too heavy a taste for this), per batch
1 garlic clove per batch, minced
1/4 tsp. salt, per batch
2 eggplants, cut in half lengthwise (easier to fit into a pan; don't do this, if you're grilling!) and sliced into 3/8" slices

For the sauce:
(Double this if you're grilling.  It makes a great basting sauce for the eggplant!)
1/4 cup canola oil
2 tsp. lemon zest
2 tsp. lemon juice
2 Tbs. chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper

Spray a large skillet.  Add canola oil, and heat on low.  Add 1 clove of garlic and the salt, and cook a minute or two, until the garlic is fragrant.  Turn up the heat to medium-medium high.  (Eggplant soaks up oil like crazy and becomes heavy with oil, has a gloppy texture, and tastes disgustingly like oil unless the heat is high enough to cook the eggplant quickly.)  Place the eggplant slices in the skillet.  Cook for 2-3 minutes, until the slices are lightly browned on one side.  Turn the slices, and continue cooking for 2-3 minutes more.  (The oil should be gone; DON'T ADD MORE!  If you've sprayed the pan, it won't stick.)  Now turn the slices again, cooking briefly to darken the color.  And turn for a brief time on the other side.  Dish them onto a plate, and put it into the oven on the lowest setting possible--150 degrees, or so!  Finish cooking the remaining eggplant slices, starting with 1 garlic clove for each batch.  Add them to the plate as they're finished.  On the last batch, cook the eggplant slices a bit longer on lower heat, until they're tender.  (Placing the plate with the first slices in the oven continues the cooking process, and the slices will be tender when they're ready for eating.) 

While the eggplant is cooking, between bouts of turning slices!, combine the oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, rosemary, salt, and pepper.

To serve:  place eggplant on a plate, and spoon the sauce over it.  Serve this with salad and citrus dressing ( 1/3 cup oil, 1/4 cup lemon juice, 1/4 tsp. salt, 1/16 tsp. pepper), and Green Beans, Mushrooms, and Sweet Potatoes.  MMMMMMM!  Enjoy!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Taco Chili Souper Salad

I’m not a big chili fan. Something about the texture weirds me out. But I made chili using coarse ground beef (instead of regular) the other night, and it was FANTASTIC! I was so excited! Plus I’m using up the beans in my pantry, which I don’t tend to eat, so this was a win-win, as far as I’m concerned. :)

This is also a fairly healthy dish. There is a little bit of fat in the beef and the sausage, and of course if you add guacamole, cheese and sour cream, you’ll increase the fat a LOT, but even still it’s not too bad. (And the avocado fat is even good for you! Actually, I think it’s all pretty ok, unless you’re allergic to dairy, but different studies say different things about that, so I’ll just sing the praises of the avocado, ok? Everyone seems happy with plant-fats.)

I’ve been trying to incorporate more vegetables into my diet though, so I also didn’t really want to just eat a big bowl of chili. I started thinking about serving it over salad, and ta-da! Taco-chili Souper Salad! (Cutesy name, huh? I can’t decide if I like it or not.) The cold, crisp texture of the lettuce, tomatoes and onions contrasts really well with the warmth of the chili. AND since the chili has some juice in it, you don’t even need dressing! (No, really. Trust me. I’m the dressing QUEEN. I promise you don’t need it here, though. ;D)

The Recipe:
Chili only: 6-8
Chili over salad: 8-10

The Soup:
nonstick spray
1 pound coarse ground lean ground beef (ideally 10% fat or less)
2 Italian sausage links (optional)
1 medium onion, chopped (approx. 1 cup)
1 15-oz can black beans with juice
1 15-oz can white beans (also called cannellini or Great Northern beans) with juice
1 14.5-oz can diced tomatoes with juice
1 14.5-oz can fire-roasted diced tomatoes with juice
1 4-oz can diced green chilis
1 package taco seasoning

Spray a large skillet with nonstick spray and add the ground beef. Cut the sausage casings open and put the meat into the skillet with the ground beef. Add the onion and cook the whole mixture until the meat is browned.

Beginning with the meat (if you’re using 10% fat or less, don’t drain the fat), add the ingredients to the crockpot, and stir to combine.

Cook on low for 8-10 hours.

Saute the onions in a large pot. Add the beef and sausage and cook through. Add the remaining ingredients, and allow to simmer
until heated thoroughly. This will produce a slightly thicker chili than the crockpot.)

The Salad:
3 romaine hearts, chopped/shredded/whatever
16 oz cherry or grape tomatoes
sliced red onion
1 15-oz can black beans, drained and rinsed thoroughly (optional – I did not include it in mine)
1 14-oz can corn (optional – I did not include it in mine)

On the side (optional):
sour cream
shredded cheese

On a plate, pile up the lettuce. Spoon some hot taco-chili over the lettuce, and top with the remaining salad fixings. (Because there will be juice in the chili, you won’t need dressing.)

Perfect: healthy, comforting and refreshing, all at the same time. Who knew? :)

Friday, June 12, 2009

What I Ate for Dinner - Trader Joe's to the rescue!

I did NOT feel like fixing dinner the other night. I stood in front of my freezer, contemplating my options, which basically boiled down to either cooking something or eating a TV dinner. Neither option seemed particularly appealing.

And then, peeking out from behind some frozen ground beef, I saw it! Trader Joe’s Shrimp and Vegetable Stir Fry! It’s a self-contained meal with shrimp, veggies and a salt-and-pepper mixture, and all you have to do is stir-fry it.

But. I didn’t feel like expending the effort to get out a pan.

Yes, I was feeling JUST THAT LAZY. Shut up.

BUT! I figured that it had similar ingredients to a TV dinner, and THOSE are microwaveable, so why not the stir fry?

As it turned out, it takes a LOT longer to zap something that isn’t meant to be zapped. Altogether it took about 10 minutes in the microwave, and the veggies did come out a little weird. Also the shrimp were a little tough. (I didn’t care. I didn’t have to stir-fry.)

Having said that, I drained the water off and it was perfectly fine. (I will note here that when you stir-fry this stuff, it’s FANTASTIC. Microwaved . . . slightly less fantastic. But still good!)

The picture at the bottom is an entire package. So figure on one package serving 2 moderate adult-sized portions. Since the whole package is fairly low-cal, I ate the WHOLE FREAKIN’ THING, and it was YUMMY. MMmmmmmmm . . .

Wait, what? Where was I? Oh! Oh, yeah.

I almost always add some sort of extra sauce to it: oyster, plum, hoisin, peanut, whatever. But in truth, it’s really good as is, and it’s relatively inexpensive! (No, I don’t remember how much I paid for the package. Wouldn’t that be nice? *sigh*)

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Eggplant and Zucchini Puttanesca

"Puttanesca" is Italian for--well, let's just say that "ladies of the night" made it to attract customers.  So, the sauce is fragrant and tasty!  It could also be served over tilapia, chicken, salmon, or shrimp, with or without the zucchini or eggplant.  (I'd keep them, just for the extra vegetables!)  Also, you can add pasta, but I never do, unless I have guests drop in, and I need extra food in a hurry!  Ha!

4 servings, vegetables only.  6 servings, if you include pasta

1 Tbs. olive oil
1 large onion, preferably red, cut into smallish wedges
1 Tbs. olive oil
1 medium eggplant, cut into 1" dice
3 medium zucchinis, quartered lengthwise and cut into 1/2" pieces  (These are denser than eggplant pieces, so cutting them smaller allows them to cook at about the same rate as the eggplant.)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 14.5-oz. cans diced tomatoes, undrained
1 1/2 tsp. dried oregano leaves, crushed as adding  (or 1 1/2 Tbs. fresh!)
1 tsp. dried thyme leaves, crushed as adding  (or 1 Tbs. fresh!)
1/4 tsp. dried red pepper flakes (less if you don't like much spice, more if you like it hot!)
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 Tbs. capers, drained
2 Tbs. chopped fresh Italian (flat-leafed) parsley (or 1 Tbs. dried parsley)
Grated Parmesan cheese, for sprinkling over the top
1/4 cup Kalamata olives, pitted--I hate olives, so I definitely consider this "optional," although it's a traditional ingredient in this!  Ha!
8 oz. pasta, also optional!

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil, and cook the onion until tender, about 8-10 minutes over medium heat.  Add the garlic, and cook until it's tender, too--a couple of minutes.

While it's cooking, add the next tablespoon of olive oil to another large pan.  (I use my soup kettle.)  Add the zucchini, and cook, stirring occasionally, until its browned on a couple of sides.  Add the eggplant, brown it, and add 2 Tbs. water, and cook, covered, until the zucchini and eggplant are tender, about 20-25 minutes.

While this is cooking, go back to your skillet, and add the tomatoes, oregano, thyme, crushed red pepper, salt, and pepper.  Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer for 5 or 10 minutes to meld the flavors.  It will also reduce the sauce, so you might need to add a couple of tablespoons of water at the end of this cooking cycle.  Add the capers and olives, if you're using them.  Heat through.  Turn off the heat.

During this cooking time, cook the pasta, if you're using it.  Drain.  Set aside.

Drain the tender zucchini and eggplant.  Pour the sauce over them and toss.

To serve:  place some pasta, if you're using it, on a plate.  Spoon the vegetables and sauce over it.  Sprinkle Parmesan cheese over the top.  This is great with spinach, halved cherry tomatoes, red onion slivers, and balsamic vinaigrette!  Enjoy!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Mu Shu Chicken!

Yay! for Mu Shu! I love that stir-fried goodness, all wrapped in a rice pancake and topped with some plum sauce! MMMMMmmmmmm . . . Ok, I actually don’t really care about the pancake. I like the vegetables and the plum sauce. Protein is a bonus.

PLUS! It's HEALTHY! It's almost all vegetables, plus whatever protein you add. There's a little bit of fat for cooking, but other than that, the only thing you really have to be aware of is what's in your sauce. Who could ask for anything more?

The Recipe:
Serves 6-8

2 Tbs canola oil
1 onion, chopped
1 head of celery, stalks sliced diagonally into quarters (in other words, BIG pieces)
½ 10-oz bag grated carrots
1 10-oz bag sliced mushrooms
2 10-oz bags presliced cabbage
6 large green onions, white parts chopped, green parts cut into 3-inch lengths
2 cups cooked protein: chicken, scrambled eggs, steak, whatever (I usually use eggs, but had some leftover chicken to use up, so I used that in this recipe)
*Note: I do NOT add salt or pepper to this; most of the sauces you’ll put on top have salt, and that will be plenty.

Heat the oil in a large pan. Add the onions and celery, lower the heat, and allow to cook, stirring occasionally, until the celery begins to soften just a little bit, and the onions begin to get translucent.

Add the carrots and mushrooms, stir to combine, and cook until they begin to soften.

Add the cabbage and green onions, and stir gently until the cabbage begins to wilt. (Note: you might have to add the cabbage a little at a time, stirring until it wilts before you can add the next couple handfuls. Your pan will be REALLY, REALLY full.)

Add the protein and heat through.

Spoon generous portions onto plates, and top with plum sauce.

*There are LOTS of sauces that will work with this: sometimes I add oyster sauce or soy sauce mixed with chili sauce. I’ve added sesame oil, I’ve added fish sauce, I’ve added spicy peanut sauce. These particular veggies seem to go best with an Asian-style sauce, but feel free to experiment. The only flavors you’re working with are the vegetable flavors, and the sauces usually have salt, so I don’t even add that to the mix.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Make Your Own: Ranch Dressing Mix

I love Ranch dressing. Really. A LOT. So much that I really try not to have large quantities in the house at any given time, because I will eat it with a SPOON, ok? And Ranch dip is even BETTER. But since I didn't want to store opened packets of dry Ranch mix, I made 2 cups of dressing when I opened a packet. Two cups is about a cup and a half too much for me to have laying around. Ahem. Plus, there’s the chemical problem. Have you ever READ the ingredients on a packet of dressing mix? Scary stuff.

So I poked around on the internet for a while, cobbled together a bunch of recipes, and came up with my own!

The Recipe:
Makes about 1 ½ cups mix

1 cup dry buttermilk (found in the baking aisle)
2 tsp salt*
1 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp dried minced onion
4 heaping tsp parsley
Optional mix-ins**:
2 tsp dill weed
1 tsp dill seed
*My original recipe called for 4 tsp of salt, but it was WAY too much. Start with 2 and add more as you see fit.
**Regarding the optional mix-ins: sometimes I add these to the finished dip. There isn’t actually any dill at ALL in packaged ranch mix though, so this is strictly a personal preference.

Combine buttermilk, salt, garlic powder, onion and parsley in a bowl. Store in a container in the refrigerator until ready to use. (Dry buttermilk will actually go bad once it’s been opened, so always store it in the fridge.)

To make dressing:
1 – 2 Tbs mix
1 cup milk
1 cup mayo
Combine thoroughly and chill.

To make dip:
1-2 Tbs mix
1 cup sour cream
1 cup mayo
Optional mix-ins:
2 tsp dill weed
1 tsp dill seed
Combine thoroughly and chill.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Zucchini "Quiche", Crustless

Okay, this "quiche" has no cheese!  I just couldn't think of another name to call it!  Ha!

My dad is still having health issues, and we've gotten tired of eating in more-or-less fast food places--the kind where you order at a counter, and someone brings it to you!--AND fast food places!  So, I've been making what I think of as "blender food."  I went from lots of soups, which we also got tired of, to other things that involve some sort of cooking.  This is probably the longest, time-wise, thing I've made.


It has occurred to me that these are good for those of us who "run and gun," to use my brother's descriptive phrase, pretty often!  They're also good for those of us who hate to cook and want to spend as little time as possible doing so!  Ha!


350 degrees F.

4 servings



1/8 small onion

1 small clove garlic

1 small zucchini

4 large eggs

1/4 tsp. salt

1/8 tsp. pepper

OPT: If you're not using the sauce, you can add one of these to perk up the flavor:  1/2 tsp. of dried basil, dried thyme, dried oregano, dried rosemary, dried savory, or any other herb you like!


OPT:  Lemon Basil Sauce

1 small clove garlic

1/4 cup olive oil

2 Tbs. lemon juice

1/4 tsp. salt

1/8 tsp. pepper

OPT:  1 tsp. sugar, or its equivalent, if the lemon juice is too tart!

1/4 c. packed basil shreds


OPT:  2 green onions, thinly sliced


For the quiche:

Put onion in a blender, and pulse until it's coarsely chopped.  Add garlic, and pulse it.  Add zucchini, and pulse it until it's coarsely chopped.  Add eggs, salt, and pepper, and blend it until everything's mixed, but not necessarily smooth.  Put this into a sprayed, 8x8 baking dish, and bake at 350 degrees F. until the top is light brown and a knife tip inserted into the middle comes out clean.


For the sauce:

Put the garlic clove, olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and sugar (if you're using it), and blend.  Pour into the measuring cup you used, and add the basil shreds.  Stir.  


To serve:  put 1/4 of the quiche on a plate.  Spoon some of the sauce over it, spreading the basil leaves with the back of the spoon.  Add green onions, if you're using them.  Enjoy!