Friday, January 29, 2010

Feed the birds bread, whad-da-ya get?

Feed the birds bread, whad-da-ya get? Fat birds!--From the movie Mary Poppins

I don't know why, but that tickled my funny tonight.

OK, so back to business. Went on vacation. We all knew that.

On vacation I got re-motivated, is that a word? Re-motivated...At any rate. I got re-motivated to follow my sparkpeople program. I have been following it closely along with at least 30 minutes of wii fit plus.

My husband also got motivated. By my dad and my brother.

They both have plans they are following, similar to mine: Dad is watching what he eats and does the wii fit plus everyday along with his daily walk. Adam is watching what he eats and goes running.

Jon and my dad became very competitive at the wii fit games. So, the competition lives on! Now that we are home we know some of the numbers to beat. Talk about motivation :)

Mom had a cookbook that she rarely used, Better Homes and Gardens New Dieter's Cookbook, 3rd Edition. She told me I could have it if I could fit it into my luggage. If I had to mail my clothes back, that book was coming home. And it did, as did all my clothes. I am in love with this cookbook!

Tonight we had "ham and potato scramble" from that cookbook. I added some veggies and reduced the cheese. It was great! Jon gave it his seal of approval as well.

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friend. Cheers!

Ham and Potato Scramble
Serves 4
232 calories per serving

8 beaten eggs*
2-3 TBS water
1/4 cup onion, diced
1/4 cup bell pepper, diced
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 TBS country crock margarine spread
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup shredded hash browns
1/2 cup diced, extra lean, ham
1/2 ripe Roma tomato, diced
1 oz mild cheddar cheese, shredded

In a skillet melt margarine. Add hash browns, onion, bell pepper, black pepper, garlic, and ham. Cook until golden, stirring occasionally. Remove from skillet. Keep warm.

Spray the skillet with cooking spray. Mix water into eggs. Add eggs to skillet and scramble until soft set.

Fold in hash brown mixture. Add in tomatoes. Top with cheese.

Serve immediately.

* You can replace the 8 eggs with 16oz of egg beaters or similar refrigerated egg product.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Beach Bum in January

My husband and I went on vacation to Florida and Georgia. It was fantastic. But, as my mom said, "The genie is out of the bottle, you can't put it back in now!"

I want to live where it's not negative 40 degrees in the winter. I want to live where it is nice year round, but the seasons still change.

I am thinking somewhere southeast coastal or southeast mountain-y. Anyone know where I might find this happy paradise?! If you know, let me know!

I have loads to write about, but for now, I will leave you with two things: A picture of my parents, myself, and my brother wandering on the beach. And a recipe for shrimp fried rice.

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friend. Cheers!

Shrimp Fried Rice
Serves 4
225 calories per serving

1 cup cooked rice
12 oz cooked shrimp, tails removed
2 cups frozen mixed veggies
1/4 cup diced onion
3 eggs
1/2 TBS soy sauce

Spray a wok or large skillet with cooking spray. Saute mixed veggies and onion until soft and slightly caramelized.

Meanwhile, cut shrimp into bite sized pieces.

Add cooked rice and shrimp to veggies. Toss well.

Remove from pan. Spray wok/skillet with cooking spray. Lightly scramble egg.

Toss with veggies and rice.

Mix in soy sauce. Serve hot.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Anyone have a heat lamp I can borrow?!

It has been bitterly cold here in the upper Midwest. All the sudden MINUS 10 degrees seems like a heatwave. That is just wrong.

Jon and I are becoming snowbirds for a little while and flying south to escape the cold. It is a much anticipated trip filled with family, fun, and of course, food.

Our cat, Charlie, knows we are up to something.

I took out the suitcases the other day to get him used to the fact that we are leaving. He will look at the now filled blue and maroon cases then look at back at me as if to say, "Mom, you forgot to leave room in there for me..."

He will be angry for the first day or two and then will fall madly in love with his interim caretaker, Brandon. When we return he will have nothing to do with us for a good week. It's a cycle I have grown accustom to.

As the weather has been cold, Jon was longing for a treat that reminds him of summer. A gyro. So, I found a really neat recipe for gyro burgers. They aren't an exact match, but they will do in the winter. We decided they were a definite keeper.

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friend. Cheers!

Gyro Burgers
Serves 2

1/8 cup chopped parsley
1/2 tsp oregano
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 medium beefsteak tomato, sliced
2 Kangaroo pita pockets
3 TBS Tzatziki cucumber garlic Greek yogurt
1/8 cup fine chopped onion
5 oz lean ground beef or lamb
5 oz ground pork
Shredded iceberg lettuce

Heat an outdoor grill or an indoor grill pan to medium high.

In a bowl combine the meats, onion, parsley, oregano, garlic, salt and pepper to taste. Don't over mix or the meat will become tough.

Form into 4 thin patties. Grill until cooked almost thru. Remove from grill. Tent with foil to let carry over cooking finish the burger.

While meat rests, warm pita pockets on the grill.

To assemble: Open each pita and place two patties inside. Top with 1 1/2 TBS Tzatziki sauce, tomato slices, and shredded lettuce.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Patience young padawan

I have been brave in the kitchen lately.

Yesterday, I conquered roux based gravy. I have failed at roux based gravy many times before. So, I avoided it. I mastered corn starch gravies and shaken cold flour gravies. I was waiting for the day to come when I would say "Flour, butter, get in the pan, we are gonna do this thing." That day finally came.

This is what I learned:The roux tells you when it's ready for the liquid and when it's had enough. You just have to be watching for the roux's subtle cues.You have to use all your senses to get it right.

You watch the color change from pale white to honey blond. The smell of the raw flour toasting as it swirls into the pool of melted butter fills the entire kitchen. The sound of the stock spilling into the pan as it mingles with the rue makes my mouth start to water. And,after a few minutes, I get to taste the velvety smooth gravy. It's perfect.

It's a thing of love. It's a relationship, it's an art, it's my happiness. It is how I express myself. I can't draw, I can't paint, I can't photograph. But, I can cook.

Today, feeling rather courageous because of my victory over gravy, I decided to give chocolate chip cookies another go around. I have failed at cookies for years. Without my dad standing there to test the dough, telling me to add this and not that, reminding me to check the cookies in the oven, I have not been successful in the cookie department. I know how to bake them, but they always, literally, fell flat. The flavor was always great, but I couldn't get the dough right so they would spread out too much. More often than not, I would end up over baking them.

But today was a new day. And it was a great day! I tweaked a recipe and made what ended up to be, picture perfect cookies. To prove it, here they are:

They are fail proof. If I can make these puppies work, anyone can. The recipe makes 3 dozen. They stay soft for 3 days according the original recipe. I like to store mine with brown sugar stone(used to keep brown sugar soft)or a slice of fresh bread. They stay softer longer. The higher cook temperature and reduced cook time help keep these cookies from spreading out and over baking.

Taste, enjoy, and love your food.

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friend. Cheers!

Picture Perfect Cookies
3 dozen cookies

1 stick real butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
¼ cup white sugar
1 large egg
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 1/3 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
¼ tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt (table salt please!)
1 1/4 cups semisweet chocolate chips(pictured above with dark chocloate and mint chips)

Preheat oven to 400.

In a bowl, using a sturdy wooden spoon, cream together butter and sugars.

Beat in egg and vanilla until smooth, scraping down sides of bowl as needed.

In another bowl, mix flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Stir into butter mixture until well incorporated.

Stir in chocolate chips.

Drop dough by spoonfuls (about 1 1/2-2 TBS per cookie) 2 inches apart, onto baking sheets.*

Bake in the center of the oven, 1 pan at a time, until cookies are lightly browned and no longer wet in the center, 7-9 minutes. In my oven it takes 9 minutes exactly.

Let cookies stand on pan to firm up, 2 to 5 minutes, then transfer to a flat surface covered with brown paper bags or newspaper. Cool completely.

* If you are like me and typically end up with cookies that touch during baking resulting in "square" shaped cookies, try only dropping 9 cookies per sheet instead of 12.

Upside down and backwards

Jon often works a different schedule from me. So, a lot of the time, I am ready for dinner but he is ready for breakfast or lunch. The other day he requested on his favorites that would please us both: breakfast pizza.

Like most pizzas, this one is very versatile. Think of this recipe as more of a basic idea and fit it to your personal tastes. It can be as healthy or naughty as you make it. So have fun!

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friend! Cheers!

Deep Dish Breakfast Pizza
(Listed with Jon's favorite toppings)
Makes 6 servings

1 (8oz) can refrigerated crescent rolls, reduced fat
6 links sausage, cut into bite sized pieces
1/3 cup diced ham
1 1/2 cups frozen shredded hash browns, thawed
1/2 large onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
3 whole eggs or 4 egg whites
3 TBS skim milk
fresh cracked pepper

Preheat oven to 350.

Unroll crescent dough and place on a lightly sprayed, shallow, 8x8 pan. Press seams together. Gently press dough partially up sides of pan to form a crust. Set aside.

In a skillet, brown sausage, ham, and onion over medium heat; drain well and cool slightly.

Sprinkle crust evenly with hash browns. Then meat mixture.

In a bowl, beat eggs, milk and pepper; pour over pizza.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until golden brown.

Let stand 5 minutes before cutting into 6 pieces.