Sunday, December 19, 2010

Grilled Angel Food Cake with Warm Wild Blueberry Sauce

Some desserts are just so incredibly rich and glorious that we know they must be oh so very bad for us, calorie laden as well as full of wonderful fat. Such desserts are Things We Crave and do our best to resist using self-righteous terms that speak of our supreme sacrifice, and ultimately the depth of our failure as we give in to temptation.

Grilled Angel Food Cake with Warm Wild Blueberry Sauce.

Words worthy of their own sentence in italics. Yes grilled cake, over coals. The grilling creates beautiful brown stripes of caramelized crispness on the outside while slightly softening the sugar spun insides of the cake. That alone would bring the simple cake to near perfection making it enough to swoon for, but topped with warm gently simmered blueberry sauce, Angel Food Cake is taken to a totally new level of beauty and deliciousness.
If I were a chef I would have found the perfect Angel Food Cake recipe and made it from scratch. However, I just like to prepare and eat good food, so I bought a grocery store made cake and make no apologies for it. Slice and grill 2-4 minutes on each side. How long depends upon how hot your coals are, do not put the cake slices too close to the coals and watch carefully so that the cake does not burn or flame on.

The sauce can be prepared ahead of time and then just reheated, or made fresh in about 10 minutes.

Warm Wild Blueberry Sauce

Ingredients -

2 10 oz packages of frozen wild blueberries
1/3 C orange juice
1/3 C sugar
2 T lemon juice
4 t cornstarch

Directions -

Combine blueberries, juice and sugar in a medium saucepan. Cover and gradually bring to a boil over medium high heat, stir every now and then. After it begins to boil, reduce heat and simmer for four minutes.

While it's simmering, combine the lemon juice and cornstarch in a small bowl. Add this to the berries after the four minute simmer concludes and return to a boil for a minute or two stirring often. Remove from heat and either use it right away, or cool and put in the fridge for reheating while the angel food cake is grilling. Can be made 3-4 days in advance.

I saved a surprise for the end. The calories in a typical slice of Angel Food Cake is 72. The calories in the sauce is a mere 67. Thus this beautiful impress the company dessert has only 139 calories. For a nutrition breakdown on the sauce, click here.

This sauce can be used on anything you want - pancakes, oatmeal, cakes, ice cream, cheesecake, or eat it out of hand with a spoon. Lovely and remember, blueberries are good for you. Don't use a wooden spoon that you love very much while stirring as it will turn very purple.

Enjoy this beautiful dessert in a mindful way.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

A Primal Sauce

I love finding one new recipe to mix in with the traditional required elements of our Thanksgiving dinner. This year I found a fabulous recipe at Saveur, a website which I strongly recommend to everyone for an outstanding collection of wonderful recipes. The new find was for Broccoli with Sicilian Sauce. I am determined to eat well and save calories so I always look for ways to reduce calories but not at the expense of flavor. This recipe took only a few minor tweaks.

You can find the calorie and nutrition analysis here.

Anyway, the dish was absolutely outstanding and the hit of the dinner. Yes, broccoli was the hit of a Thanksgiving dinner. Ok, not the broccoli, the sauce was so superb we had a great time coming up with other foods you could us it on.

The recipe made quite a bit of sauce so there was a ton of left over. Last night we decided that it must be consumed on ravioli. Again, sublime.

Now, this is a picture of my plate. The husband and son added Sicilian olives both on top of the broccoli and the ravioli as that is what the recipe called for. However, olives are just one of those things that I cannot abide and the sauce truly did not need them no matter what the husband says. Pine nuts would be pretty, but I am trying to drop a few pounds and all they really add are pretty, some crunch, and calories.

Unfortunately, that killed every last scraping of the wondrous sauce. As we concluded this meal conversation again extended to the incredible nature of the sauce and what else it would be wonderful on. Next up will be baked potatoes in Sicilian Sauce. Here's the Recipe for Sicilian Sauce - you put it on whatever you want and let it become one of your primary "go to" sauces.

1/8 t Sea Salt
1/8 t black pepper, fresh ground
3 tbsp. olive oil
1/4 c parsley, finely chopped
2 red onions, medium sized, thinly sliced
1/2 cup red wine, dry wine
2 tbsp. vinegar, red wine
1 tbsp. tomato paste, generous tablespoon
3/4 tsp. dried oregano
1/8 tsp. red pepper flakes
2 tsp garlic, thinly sliced
28 oz. tomatoes, crushed include liquid
1/3 cup seedless raisins

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add parsley, onions, and salt and pepper as you like, stir often til onions are softened and browned (10 minutes or so).

Add wine, vinegar, tomato paste, oregano, pepper flakes, and garlic and continue cooking stirring occasionally until it reduces a bit to a lovely glaze (about 4-5 minutes).
Stir in the tomatoes with the liquid and bring sauce to a boil. Lower heat to medium low and simmer uncovered stirring every now and then til it thickens a little (about 8-10 minutes).

If everyone likes olives, you can add about 1/3 cup of black Sicilian olives at this point or you can set them on the table for people to add as a topping - ditto with pine nuts.

Stir in the raisins and simmer a minute or so and serve with broccoli, fried cheese, ravioli, baked potatoes, etc.....

A Primal Sicilian Style Sauce
Enjoy slowly and mindfully with family and friends in as many creative ways as you can.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Wild and Brown Rice Stuffed Acorn Squash

When I make Wild Rice Stuffed Acorn Squash I feel like I have became one with the Great Julia Child, and can simply toss off a company ready, special occasion recipe with much flair.

While you are looking at the pic to the left, imagine the dissolving rivers of brown sugar making tracks in melty swirls of butter dusted with fresh cracked black pepper, covered with wild and brown rice, plumped up raisins, and toasted pecans, deliriously fragrant with rosemary, garlic, and basil:

It's impressive sensory feast in addition to just being delicious. It makes a glorious side dish or fantastic vegetarian main dish. The best thing is that it is incredibly easy to make.

Wild and Brown Rice Stuffed Acorn Squash
nutrition facts


3 large or 4 small acorn squashes (nutrition facts set on three)
6 T butter
6 T dark brown sugar
fresh cracked black pepper
2 1/2 C organic chicken broth
1 C Lundberg Wild Blend Wild and Brown Rice you can use plain wild rice if you like, but I do love the blend. I suppose you could use Uncle Ben's wild rice mixes, but if you do eliminate the rosemary garlic blend and minimize the basil addition...won't be as good though and it will be way too salty.
1/2 C raisins
2 T Spice Island's Rosemary Garlic Blend (no need to grind, just open the cap and dump it in), or 1 1/4 T dried garlic and 2 t dried rosemary
1 T dried basil
1/3 C (or more if you just love nuts) smashed pecans or walnuts


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Prep and measure all the ingredients. You can get fancy and toast the nuts before putting them in a partially sealed zip lock bag and smashing with the smooth side of a wooden meat tenderizer - which does a fine job of "chopping" nuts.

Using a large very sharp knife, cut the acorn squash in half lengthwise and scoop the seeds with a spoon. Make sure to put the seeds and fibers in your compost bin. Place cut side down in a one or two baking pans as needed. Pour about an inch of water in to the pans, cover tightly with foil, and bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about 35-45 minutes or til the flesh is tender. Take care not to poke a hole in the bottom side of the acorn half as you test for tenderness or all the buttery brown sugar will escape.

After the squash is in the oven, prepare the wild and brown rice: Bring the broth to a boil in a medium sized pan. Add the rice, cover and simmer about 30 minutes (or to not quite done per the package directions). Add the raisins and seasonings and simmer another 15-20 minutes - just til the rice is just tender and water absorbed. Add pecans and toss. Cover with a lid so it stays hot while the squash halves finish cooking.

Remove squash from the oven, turn cut side up in the pan. Place 1 T butter and 1 T brown sugar into each cavity and sprinkle with pepper. Bake 15 minutes longer.

To finish, simply divide the rice mixture in the cavities of the cooked squash. Use two large spoons to carefully plate and serve.

Take the time to drink in the visual beauty of the squash and rice, inhale the savory aroma, and the notice the contrasts of texture.

Enjoy mindfully.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Happy World Pasta Day!

The entire world united in celebration today of one of the most delicious foods on the planet. I hope you enjoyed your favorite pasta, because today is World Pasta Day. Eat your pasta it's good for you, eat it with family and friends, eat it with a bunch of other wonderful foods like terrific salads and sauteed veges, have it with a nice glass of wine, eat it slowly, talk, laugh, and savor the flavors.

Pasta ala Laura (see previous blog)

Monday, October 18, 2010

Pasta Ala Laura

This fabulous recipe will be my Pasta of Choice on October 25th for World Pasta Day! I slightly modified it (just a few tweaks like removing the extra dashings of salt as my taste buds can't do much salt) from a Laura's Best Recipe. (do go visit Laura's website for her recipe on Tagliatelle with Applewood Smoked Bacon, Caramelized Onions, and Mushrooms, she's awesome and available for "Liking" on FB!).

Use the meatiest best bacon you can find, applewood smoked bacon is out of this world wonderful. Do not even consider using the typical fatty breakfast bacon, this pasta is all about incredibly fantastic bacon.

If you are unfamiliar with Parmigiana Reggiano it is a great pungent cheese, in the manner of blue cheese only without the blue color. If you prefer milder cheese rather than one that bites back, use regular Parmigiana, it will be great anyway. 

Use any wide egg pasta, I used Pappardelle. When measuring any ingredient, remember YOUR personal taste buds rule. Feel free to go up or down with the amount of any ingredient. I cannot imagine this recipe without the bacon, but if you are a Vegetarian, go ahead and omit it and double up on the mushrooms.

Pasta Ala Laura 

Ingredients with variations on a bacon theme:

3 T olive oil
1/4 lb Applewood smoked bacon (ok, this is for the calorie minded individual, I really used about 1/2 a pound...or so and boy was it awesome)
2 small onions
1 lb cremini or portobello mushrooms (even my anti-mushroomed son enjoyed these caramelized delights!)
1/2 t dried rosemary (more if you love rosemary, up to 1 t)
4 t garlic
1 lb wide pasta noodle such as tagliatelle or pappardelle
approximately 2 1/2 cups lightly salted water reserved from cooking pasta
4 T butter
1/2 C fresh parsley
1/2 t fresh cracked black pepper

Optional: when you add the black pepper, add some crushed red pepper flakes. Most excellent, especially if you are not adding any salt beyond what is in the water and bacon.


Put the large tall sided skillet on the stove to which you add the olive oil. Fill a large pasta pot with cold water - never ever fill a pot with hot water as the sediments from your water heater are not delicious seasonings. Set out the Pappardelle.

Chop onion, slice of the excess fat from the bacon if needed and cut into 1 inch chunks, place both in a single bowl.

Rinse, dry, and slice the mushrooms and place in bowl with measured rosemary.

Mince the garlic and place in small bowl.

Cut four T butter and put on plate in the fridge.

Grate the Parmigiano Reggiano and place in bowl with the rinsed and chopped parsley, and fresh cracked black pepper.

Directions with extra notes of bacony goodness:

In a large skillet, heat 3 T of the olive oil over medium high heat. Add bacon and onions, cook about 15 minutes til the onions and bacon are a pretty brown but not fully caramelized - minimize the stirring to encourage browning. If you got the good meaty bacon you should not have to drain off fat. Otherwise, drain some, but not all of the cheap bacon fat (although if you are going to eat bacon don't get the cheap stuff). This recipe is not super low fat or vegetarian, but you can always pretend. Watch the pan for fat spittery. If it spits, you may need to lower the temperature.

Bring the large pot of lightly salted water to boil over high heat while you set about finishing the veggies and make the sauce.

nicely browning
Add the mushrooms and rosemary to the bacon onion mixture and cook with minimal stirring until the mushrooms are caramelized. This part will take a while - at least 10-15 minutes. The time is shorter if you can keep your pan on medium high. When the mushrooms are caramelized, add the minced garlic and stir frequently but not ridiculously so for about a minute to release the aroma of the garlic. You stir more here so the garlic doesn't burn.

Season with pepper (salt if you salt stuff) and scrape the mushroom mix into a large serving bowl. Cover to keep warm.

 Don't wash the skillet, just set aside til it's time to make the sauce (near the end of the pasta cookery).

Cook the pasta in lightly salted boiling water til it is nicely al dente - about 8 - 9 minutes depending on your pasta. After about 4-6 minutes of cooking time, remove one and one half cups pasta water and dump it into the unwashed skillet. Reserve another cup of pasta water and set aside for later use if needed. 

Add cold butter pieces and simmer over medium high heat til the liquid reduces to a bit and takes on a sauce-like consistency (about 6-8 minutes). It doesn't look like much, but the buttery goodness coats the pappardelle just beautifully.

Drain the pasta and place it in the bowl with the mushroom mixture. Pour in the hot butter sauce and mix well. Add the Parmigiana Reggiano, cracked black pepper and parsley, toss lightly and serve with more cheese. If the mixture is too dry, add some of the reserved pasta water.

Calorie Breakdown (assuming you did not do as I did and just start tossing in mountains of bacon).

Bacon on Foodista
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Friday, October 15, 2010

Garlic Oven Fries

French fries were one of the delicious reasons I needed to lose weight. They certainly do not fit into a mindful Michael Pollen style whole natural food diet that excludes eating any "food" that arrives through the window of your car. Yet, every now and then, I simply had to have french fries.

A little tinkering with this wonderful oven fry recipe from the BBC made it easy to give up consuming the thousand calories worth of fat that accompanied the take out fries. I can't even pretend that I need to give Mr. Ore Ida my money, as delicious home made garlic oven fries take even less time to prepare.
Made from peeled baking potatoes

Aren't they beautiful!!!

Garlic Oven Fries, Americanized version
(serves four) nutrition facts


2-3 large red potatoes
2 T olive oil (grapeseed also works very well)
1 t granulated garlic or to taste
pinch or so of cayenne pepper (optional)
Course ground sea salt and black pepper to taste


Heat oven to 450 degrees F.

Rinse the potatoes and cut off any funky bits, but do not peel. Slice into wedges that are about the size of your forefinger. Put them in a large bowl and cover with cold tap water. Allow to set for 1 hour. Drain, rinse well, and pat dry with a tea towel. Dry the bowl. Soaking and rinsing removes some of the starch from the potato which lets moisture evaporate more quickly in baking so that the wedges crisp up nicer.

Return the potatoes to the dried bowl and mix with just enough olive oil to lightly coat. Then sprinkle with a generous amount of garlic and salt to taste. Stir well. I find that the bit of cayenne finishes the flavors just perfectly. It's not spicy since there is only a tiny bit, it's just enough to add a peppery flavor in the background. Give it a try.

Line your largest baking dish (15x10 inches is great) with parchment paper and spread out the potato fingers. Do not crowd the fries or they will not crisp. 

Roast on the bottom rack of the oven for about 20 minutes, remove from the oven and gently turn each fry.

Return to the oven and cook for another 15 minutes or so. It will all depend upon how thickly you cut the wedges, gently turning over with a spatula after 20 minutes.

They are done when they turn a lovely golden brown. 

Use a spatula and remove the browned fries to a bowl and taste one (you are the cook and thus it is required that you taste to make sure all is well for your guests). Sprinkle with more sea salt or fresh cracked black pepper if you like.

If you use only 1 T of oil, there are only 143 calories in one serving. The processed reformed potato bits are simply no where near as lovely, low calorie, nutritious, or delicious as your very own. A mindful win!

***News Flash!!! I made Oven Roasted Sweet Potato Fries in addition to the regular potato fries last night and they were fabulous! I did not use the garlic or cayenne on the sweet potatoes, just salt and pepper. They cooked slightly faster than the regular potatoes so do them on a separate sheet.

The original recipe from the BBC used regular baking potatoes. They were fine (see the picture) and if you love that type of potato roast them using the same method.
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Friday, October 8, 2010

Walnut Stuffed Mushrooms

Recently began putting my library into a cool website collective of book lovers called LibraryThing. I even made a widget for a page of this blog so you can see random books from my collection – if you click on a book that looks interesting it opens in to a bigger window where you will find more information about the book and a handy link to if you find you must have that book.

While I was entering the cook books into the database, I naturally thumbed through them and realized that I had been neglecting a number of wonderful recipes.  The following was inspired by a recipe in an old copy of the Pillsbury Kitchen Cookbook.

Walnut Stuffed Mushrooms are amazingly healthy for you and if you eat three of these large beauties the calories are awesomely low!


12 larger button type mushrooms or good sized cremini  - rinse (I know some of you say “Egads!” but I don’t like to just brush the dirt off shrooms and it's my blog and recipe so...), pat dry.
Mushroom stems, diced
2 T butter
2 T diced onion
2 t chopped garlic
2 T finely chopped walnuts (easiest way - put some in a freezer quart bag and whack with the side of a meat tenderizer and you have smashed walnuts in a matter of seconds)
2 T chopped fresh parsley
Fresh cracked black pepper
Dashes of Tabasco sauce

Directions with variations depending upon the size of the mushrooms and the manner of presentation desired

In a skillet, melt the butter over medium heat, then sauté the diced mushroom stems, with onion and garlic til softened. Add the walnuts, parsley, black pepper, and Tabasco (two shakes minimum) and sauté another minute or so.

Preheat the broiler. Place caps gill side up on a Pam sprayed tray suitable for placing under a broiler. For small batches like this the toaster oven is just perfect. Using two small spoons (the only way I can do it without making a huge mess) divide the sauteed mixture among the caps, mounding carefully, picking up all the pieces that fall off (repeatedly) and placing them back again and again - until they remain in a somewhat mountainous form. If there is butter remaining in the skillet, drizzle it on top of the shrooms.

Broil til browned and the mushrooms cooked through. This doesn't take long so watch closely. The mushrooms will look all juicy when they are done.


Cooking time will vary depending on the size of your mushrooms. If they finish browning but the shrooms are still dry looking, switch from broil to 375 degrees baking to finish the cooking. The need to bake a bit is more likely to occur with the larger thicker shrooms. You may also need to remove a few little fellows from the oven if you have a variety of sizes.

The above ingredient list is for making big bite appetizer sized mushrooms, if you want, you can easily make a glorious and impressive side or main dish by increasing the ingredients and using portabello mushrooms. You could also try adding bits of bread crumbs if you are using the lovely and large portabello mushrooms to make sure there’s plenty of filling...or just increase the walnuts or chop up a couple regular mushrooms along with the stems.

Be creative, use this recipe as a template, and come up with a filling you just love.

Enjoy with friends!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Chicken Fajitas

Nothing better than a sizzling platter of goodies to make the Tex Mex build your own "sandwich" known as a fajita! The creative possibilities are endless and they can please the vegetarian as well as the meat lover. For the vegetarians, just make sure to have plenty of portabello mushrooms.

Ordinarily I marinate flank steak in a big freezer bag with a liberal amount of balsamic vinegar and most of a little jar of chopped garlic and do likewise with portabello mushrooms in a separate bag. For a variation, I sometimes add a bit of that Instant Smoke stuff, but not always. Marinade at least an hour, turn frequently and bring to room temperature before grilling. When the coals are ready, grill both til done, slice, and fight off the *neighbors who are now all standing by your fence, plates in hand, asking what on earth that heavenly smell is and when should they come over. Don't recommend this marinade if you use chicken. It "colors" the meat unattractively, just rub with spices and grill.

*true story, well, true except for the plates.

Recently made chicken fajitas without the usual and most excellent addition of that outdoor grilled over coals flavor because I did not decide until the last minute what I wanted to eat. Sure, it's better if you can do the meal over coals, but this did just fine in a pinch and since chicken can be done without a marinade that was the meat of choice.


Ingredients and Directions All Mixed Up With Variations:

Whole wheat flour tortillas (warmed in the microwave)

3 thin chicken breasts coated liberally with your favorite fajita seasoning or other southwestern combination of seasonings. I used Emeril's this time. Pan fry til browned and just done with a little olive oil over medium heat, allow to sit a bit covered with foil to keep warm and slice before serving.

1 portabello mushroom given the same treatment of liberal seasoning, sliced, and sauteed in the chicken pan til softened and add to covered plate of chicken.

On another and much prettier plate, arrange sections with a pile of quartered cherry tomatoes or the tomato of your choice cut small, slices of sweet yellow onion, sliced jalapeno peppers, and torn lettuce of your preference (I used red leaf lettuce as you can see by the darkened lettuce edge to the right hand side of the "fixings" pile on the tortilla, but the type of lettuce is totally up to you).

In a bowl, squish the juice of 1/2 a lime. Then slice a not overly soft Haas avocado in half and pull apart. Use a spoon to scoop out the seed. The use the spoon to scoop bite sized lumps of avocado and add it to the bowl of lime juice and stir to coat. Scoop out the brown bits if needed - always good to have a spare avocado or two!

The lime juice will keep the avocado from turning an ugly brown. If you like the taste of lime, squish in the other half too! You could make guacamole if you prefer, and that's best kept simple: scoop the avocado(s) into a bowl with the squishings of lime juice, add a little minced garlic and mash all together, taste and add a pinch of salt if you like (I used to use celery salt and it was very good that way too). That's really all you need to do, however if you want to get fancy, add tiny bits of tomato and jalapeno as that is also very good. I don't suggest using picante sauce or Tabasco as that tends to "color" the guac and it's prettiest nice and green! For me, the more you "do" to the guacamole, the less guacamole-like it is. I've seen people make a horrid pale green mess by adding things like sour cream or some such abomination. *shudders*. Do not ever do that.

Set all this on the table with some grated sharp cheddar and your favorite salsa and get creative, or even competitive, as you build your sandwich!

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Saturday, September 11, 2010

Mindfully Grape

I was hungry for a mid-morning snack and decided that fruit was what I wanted. As a mindfully aware consumer of deliciousness I stopped and before I even opened the fridge, I held an internal debate with myself over which beautiful fruit to enjoy, but once the door was opened the decision was made for me as front and center in a pretty red plastic bowl was a mountain of freshly washed red seedless grapes. Did not even bother looking at the layer of goodies in the fruit drawer itself because I had to have those grapes.

Before my experiment in mindfulness, I would have grabbed the bowl from the fridge and noshed until I was done. Not a very mindful way to eat. 

Mindful eating intentionally engages all the senses. So I individually selected small clusters of grapes and arranged them on the small black stoneware plate until I was satisfied with the presentation. 

Then I sat in my favorite chair feeling the pop as each plump orb separated from its stem. The contrast of the crispy crunchy outside and the juicy insides with the accompanying burst of aroma and flavor was intensely satisfying.

This was so much more than just a snack because I didn't mindlessly grab a handful of grapes, I created a beautiful and delicious treat and enjoyed it well from start to finish.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Grilled Pineapple

One thing I don't like to do on Labor Day, is to, well, labor. So we had a variation on one of my favorite grilled and roasted meals - grilled prime sirloin and pineapple rings served with oven roasted mixed seasonal veges.

The meat was glorious. I have to admit that the wonderful flavor and aromas of grilled steak or lamb is the main reason I am not a vegetarian. This time the roasted veges consisted of quartered mini-bellas, thick chunks of yellow squash and beautiful green zucchini, with fat slices of onion all coated with my favorite olive oil and tossed together with loads of garlic, fresh ground black pepper and a bit of sea salt (roast in a pan at 375 for about 40 minutes).
For me, the star of the show is always the beautifully charred rings of golden sweet pineapple. Grilling adds a wonderful savory element that combines perfectly with the natural sweetness of the pineapple. There is no need for dessert, simply make sure that your last bite is a bit of grilled pineapple. It's easy and delicious.

If you are lucky, you live in a place where you can buy freshly cored and pared pineapple. Then all you have to do is make thick slices (at least 3/4 - 1 inch thick) and grill them about the same amount of time you would a steak. If you must prep the pineapple yourself, it's not that hard. Cut off the top and the bottom using a large sharp knife. Then from top to bottom slice off the rough exterior working your way all around – do not worry about cutting away too much even if it seems wasteful, just cut til all the tough skin is mostly gone. Then cut thick slices and section out the core for each slice. There is no need for a marinade or glaze of any type, let the flavor be real and true to the fruit. Simply perfect.
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Friday, September 3, 2010

Whole Grains Month

Recently I discovered two terrific organizations - Oldways and the Whole Grains Council. Both offer outstanding information for everyone that wants to enjoy beautiful, delicious, and healthy food. You have probably already seen the Whole Grains Council seal of approval on a variety of products, but may not have paid much attention to it. Here it is:

The seal tells you what percentage of the product is whole grain and the number of grams offered in a serving. Ideally half or more of the grains we eat should be whole grains. I doubt if many of us even reach 10% of the recommended grams.

Eating enough whole grains has been shown to be an aid in attaining a healthy weight because they fill you up for fewer calories, keep you fuller longer than refined grains, and provides more nutrition which the body uses to burn off excess fat. As losing weight is one of my personal goals, it is a no brainer to include more whole grains with each meal. Just have to love a diet tweak that has you eating more food!

On September 1st, I was delighted to discover that the Whole Grains Council has declared September Whole Grains Month! Found that out because I Liked both organization's pages on FB. Go Like them yourself!

A quick look through my pantry revealed several items that had the seal, such as the Uncle Ben's. Win! However, I also noticed that I had several packaged foods that were made from mostly refined products. This means that the healthiest part of the grain has been removed. The tasteless remains are then "enhanced" with "natural" flavor and vitamins. This does not sound like the description of any beautiful, delicious, or healthy glorious food. So, in honor of Whole Grains Month, my goal is to replace as many of these foods as possible with an equivalent product that, preferably, has been given the WGC seal of approval. Can I make more permanent, healthier, and tastier changes in my diet without extending the amount of preparation time? Can I do it and keep my focus on the beauty and delicousness of each meal? I do work a day job so time for cooking is restricted.

First up for a change are a couple packaged rice and vege side dishes. I'll look for an equivalent that has the seal - or at the very least indicate that they are whole grain. However, my first thought here is, the UB brown rice takes 10 minutes to prepare. 10 minutes. I can thaw out some frozen peas, or saute some onion, garlic, and sweet red pepper, or nuke any number of veges while the rice cooks and then mix them together with a little olive oil and maybe a seasoning or two. It will take no longer than boiling the dried out veges in hope that they will form some approximation of their original plumpness. It will certainly taste better.

Going shopping tomorrow and will report back on items that I find in the store with the seal.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Hatched a Plan

Somewhere along the line, my food education was wanting. I recently discovered that what I wanted was Hatch Chilis, specifically, fire roasted Hatch Chilis wrapped up in a whole wheat tortilla with a slice of that fabulous Mexican Queso cheese that is so flavorful and similar to Feta in texture. I mentioned Hatch Chilis in the blog on Barefoot Chili, but have decided that they are quite blogworthy on their own.

Fire Roasting Chilis!
Hatch Chilis are a remarkable pepper grown in New Mexico with a very limited growing season. If you are very fortunate, you live in a place where there is an HEB fire roasting these glorious peppers right outside the door to the store where the incredible aroma simply propels you over to the table for a sample. Not to worry if you do not like heat, there is a mild as well as a hot version, so ask which is which before tasting. The problem with tasting the bit of pepper cheese and tortilla is that you are then driven by forces beyond your control directly to the counter where you must immediately purchase all three items. If you buy a bunch of bags, remember to freeze them as they will spoil quickly - in just a few days.

If you want to moderate the heat, slice open the spicy chili and scrape off some of the seeds. Otherwise, just decapitate the stem, lay it in its full blackened beauty across the center of a fresh whole wheat tortilla, cut a thick slice of the fresh cheese, roll up, and nuke it for a few seconds just to the point where the cheese begins to melt. Instant heaven for lunch.

Add them to your homemade chili. Make chili rellanos. Add them to all stews and meats for fajitas. I may not try them on oatmeal, but in the morning I will add one to my egg scramble. I simply cannot wait.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

My Dragon Fruit Experience

I found two lovely looking Dragon Fruit at the HEB this morning! Will have them for dessert tonight. Here's a pic. I'll edit this post later with pics of the cut fruit and a description of the flavors and aromas!

The skin was remarkably easy to peal - as you can see by the picture to the right. Did not notice any aroma at all, but it looked just like the web pages, juicy with the pretty speckles of tiny black seeds. The texture was very similar to a pear and the taste extremely mild and refreshing. Reminiscent of a kiwi in texture so it's easy to see why they would be good for smoothies.

Very glad I tried them and will definitely have it again. Not sure what the season is like and hope I did not hit the end. Dragon Fruit and Kiwis would be very pretty on my black stoneware.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Dragon Fruit

These spiny colorful fruits are absolutely gorgeous. I've never eaten one, but after seeing this painting by Sarah Jayne Blackhall, there is no question that they must be delicious.

The pretty flower opens at night so is pollinated by bats. Is that cool or what. According to a host of websites, the Dragon Fruit is incredibly nutritious whether eaten fresh or dried and contains significant quantities of Carotene, fiber, protein, phosphorous, along with Vitamins B1, B2, B3, and C. Health claims include: regulation of blood sugars, lowering of bad cholesterol, improvement of the skin, speeds the healing of wounds, enough calcium to make a positive impact on bone health, and if consumed in sufficient quantities world peace is more than just a dream...ok, maybe I made that part up. But what else is there for this fruit to do? Ok, there one more thing, if you are one of the many who are juicer aficionados, they are supposed to be marvelous for that as they are easy to process.

Peel (make sure all skin is removed even little bits) and slice (the seeds which may or may not be present are edible too) - those are the instructions for consumption, so now all I need to do is locate a Dragon Fruit. The search begins tomorrow.
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Monday, August 16, 2010

Barefoot Chili

Usually I make a white chili with turkey and white beans. Yesterday, I tried something different from the Barefoot Contessa - Devon's Chili. Very talented chef, and I have bookmarked her website.

Made some minor changes - I am not a fan of green peppers and nearly went with red peppers when I discovered that it is fresh Hatch Chili season! Whenever these beauties are available the local HEB fire roasts them which makes them absolutely divine.The nice HEB roasting guy lays the blackened chili in a tortilla, adorns it with slices of white Mexican cheese, rolls and cuts it to bite sized bits for our sampling pleasure...I went back for more samples...well I had to make sure didn't I? After eating a bite or three you can only watch as you put a bag or two in your cart...along with the cheese...and the tortillas. Very interesting out of body experience.

Now, being me, I chose the spicy rather than the mild hatches. For this recipe, I was a tad dubious about a full tablespoon of cayenne powder and tablespoon of red pepper flakes rather than using some more full flavored variety and thought, hmmm, I ramped up the heat with the hatches so I'll slightly more than halve the cayenne and flakes figuring I'd add more later if I over did the reduction.

Other then that I made the recipe pretty much as directed. Unfortunately, I could not adjust the spices because I like to do that by aroma as well as taste and had managed to spill mass quantities of chili powders during the sauteing process (stove, hot burners, kitchen island, floor, bills, pen holder, wicker basket, etc). This meant that the entire kitchen and an assortment of other rooms in the house smelled rather too strongly of chili. In fact, just about everywhere I went I took the pungent aroma with me as it had settled firmly in my nose and would not be dislodged. Had to do the thing on trust.

The taste from the pot a little before serving was ok, hot but not nuanced. So I warned all that this was an experiment and apologized in advance. However, as the pot sat on the table, the flavors began to sing the same song rather than a cacophony of tunes in a variety of keys and beats. As it attained the place of honor in the bowl, the flavors continued to morph. By the time we were done eating, I was convinced that the chili was still not yet done changing and that a sitting over night in the fridge would complete the process. I'll let you know...and yes, the sitting a spell turned this excellent dish into just perfect.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Rabbit and Eggplant

Went to a concert in a small offbeat under the freeway dive with decent food and a fake beach music venue called the Last Concert Cafe. Saw a mediocre warm up band and was getting bored by the delay when the main act arrived - Gram Rabbit. A remarkably energetic, polished, and talented bunch. May have to join the Royal Order of Rabbits (their page for fans). The show was a great blend of music, lyrics, and showmanship.

Before the concert, we had dinner at a great Vietnamese restaurant that was given the very original name of Vietnam Restaurant. Clever, no? While the location in The Heights is new since 2003, the original location was in downtown Houston in 1880. Excellent food was had by all. I particularly enjoyed the Vietnamese Eggplant which featured crispy fried slices of eggplant, grilled onions and jalapenos in a wonderfully flavored brown sauce and served with brown rice.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Mushroom Spinach Quesadillas

Love having quesadillas for dinner. Fast and very simple. Decided to make a black bean topping tonight instead of just spooning on Pace picante sauce. Also wanted to see what happened when I added BBQ sauce to the tortilla. What happened was deliciousness!

Mushroom Spinach Quesadilla:

Brush a large tortilla a little bit of BBQ sauce (about 1 t) combined with four shakes of McIlhenny's Tabasco Chipotle Pepper Sauce. Cover the tortilla to about 1/2 inch of the edge with a very liberal sprinkling of sharp cheddar. Top that with a sauteed mix of portobella mushrooms slices and chopped red onion. I used Habanero Olive Oil, but regular oil is fine. Then tear about a cup of fresh spinach in to pieces entirely covering the cheese and other veges. After spraying a non-stick pan with a light spray of oil, heat the pan over medium high heat. When the pan is hot, place a second tortilla on the spinach. Pan grill the quesadilla on one side for several minutes (check for brownness and melty cheesy goodness before the one and only flip). Before flipping, spray a bit of oil on top of the uncooked tortilla and continue to cook til a nice brown. The tortilla will crisp up a bit. Cut in to fourths.

Black Bean Topping:

To one can of rinsed black beans add about 3/4 of a can of crushed tomatoes with chilis, a generous dose of chili powder, cumin, and Chipotle Pepper sauce. Simmer until hot, spoon over the quesadilla.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Spicing Things Up

Made one of my favorite breakfasts today - a pile of chopped onions and sweet red pepper sauteed in habanero olive oil until the veges start to turn a pretty brown. Sprinkle with turmeric - one of the foods and herbs that work wonders for my arthritis - and stir a minute. Add about a cup or so of torn spinach and saute until wilted. Finally add two Country Hen eggs and scramble til you get the consistency you like. Incredibly aromatic way to start the day. I folded the egg scramble inside of a slightly warmed tortilla. No need for cheese - I've tried it and it competes with rather than enhancing the other flavors.

When you cook with eggs, always go for the high quality humanely raised by happy chicken eggs that you can find at a local farm or farmers market. Or you may get real lucky and find some in your local health food store. Do avoid eggs from egg conglomerates as the poor chickens there lead terrible lives and nobody wants to contribute to that. Be mindful of your egg choices.

Unfortunately, I finished the bottle of oil with this breakfast but can order another! I also ate it all before remembering to take a pic. So, for your visual enjoyment, here's another beautiful acrylic painting by Sarah Jayne Blackhall, entitled Habanero.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Aline's Chicken Stew

I work with a lovely woman from White Castle, Louisiana named Aline who is a fabulous cook. As do all the best cooks from Louisiana, her recipe begins "first, you make a roux...". But, because Aline has learned over the years that some short cuts work as well as the original long cuts, she also said that I should use Tony Chachere's Instant Roux, and you know what? That stuff works great! Five minutes from powder to roux. In the recipe below, you are more than welcome to make your own roux if you are too good to use instant. Aline uses vegetable oil and I use butter in the traditional roux, you use what you like. Aline and I will use instant roux.

This is absolutely Louisiana home style comfort food at it's best. I served it over brown rice and added a side of green beans for color. I've been told that the appropriate way is to serve it over rice with a side of baked macaroni and cheese, and a frosty cold Barg's Root Beer from a bottle. Maybe I'll try that next time, but first I'll ask Aline for the proper mac and cheese recipe.

 Aline's Chicken Stew

One cup prepared roux
2 pounds chicken thighs (either bone in or not as you prefer)
1 medium onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
3 T Paul Prudhomme's Magic Seasoning for Chicken (brand preference is mine, you use what you like)
2 cups chicken stock
3 t garlic, chopped
fresh cracked pepper to taste

First, make a roux. See! I told you! You only need to make the roux first if you are not using the instant roux. If you use instant you can make it right before it is to the sauteed veggies.

Season the chicken thighs with a couple teaspoons of the Magic Seasoning and cracked pepper. Place in a baking pan that has been sprayed with your favorite cooking oil. Roast in a 350 oven for 30-45 minutes until  browning but not quite done.

While the chicken is baking, saute the onions and celery in a little olive oil in a large pot, add the roux, the rest of the seasonings, the chicken, the stock, and simmer covered for 15 minutes to finish cooking the chicken - the 15 minute finish the chicken part is what you do if you used bone in chicken. At this point you would remove the chicken and take the meat off and return it to the pot if you don't want bones and skin at the table. Otherwise, just proceed with the simmering. I just used boneless chicken so all I had to do was discard the skin... which I did at this point!

You can either use prepared chicken stock, or make your own. Or, if you started cooking and realized you don't have any stock, add a couple cups of water to the pan drippings from the baked chicken and simmer a bit, adjusting flavor to your taste with some pepper and maybe some garlic or a dash of Tabasco.

Continue to simmer 45 minutes - or longer if you want the chicken to fall apart. The falling apart chicken was to die for. Just cook the chicken until it's dinner and don't fuss the time too awfully much.

If the gravy is too thin, add more roux (mix the instant roux with some of the gravy and add back to the pan so you don't have to worry about lumps). If it is too thick, add more stock. Make it as thick as you like. Adjust the seasonings to your taste.

You know you have the seasonings are right when your son comes in from the garage and says "what is that? Even the garage smells great!"

Excellently and mindfully served over brown rice with a side of tender green beans.