Saturday, December 22, 2012

Bacon and Cheddar Stuffed Mushrooms

Bacon and Cheddar Stuffed Mushrooms
Makes 24 Mushrooms

24 large button mushrooms
2 slices bread, torn
3 tablespoons bacon bits (or 2 slices bacon, crumbled)
1 cup finely shredded cheddar cheese
  1. Remove stems from cleaned mushrooms. Finely mince the stems.
  2. Preheat oven to 375F.
  3. Preheat a 10" non-stick skillet and spray with cooking spray.
  4. Add minced mushrooms stems. Saute until then get soft (4-6 minutes.)
  5. Add torn bread. Continue to cook and stir until the bread becomes well-mixed.
  6. Add bacon. Stir.
  7. Add cheese and remove from the heat. Stir until well-mixed.
  8. Fill each cap with a teaspoon of filling.
  9. Place all caps in a 9x13 baking pan.
  10. Bake, uncovered for 30-45 minutes, or until the mushrooms get hot and the stuffing browns.
Nutritional data (per mushroom):
Calories:     29
Fat:           1.9g
Sat fat:      1.1g
Chol:        5.5mg
Sodium:  72.4mg
Carbs:       1.2g
Fiber:        0.3g
Protein:     2.1g

Onions, garlic instead of bacon
Crab meat instead of bacon
Onion and avocado instead of bacon and cheddar
Onion, sausage and mozzarella instead of bacon and cheddar
Sun-dried tomato, garlic and mozzarella instead of bacon and cheddar
Onion, black olive and feta instead of bacon and cheddar
Minced ham and shredded Swiss instead of bacon and cheddar

Friday, December 21, 2012

Baked Cod and Wilted Spinach with Parmesan Panko Crumbs

Baked Cod and Wilted Spinach with Parmesan Panko Crumbs
Serves 2

12 ounces cod fillets
2 teaspoons olive oil, divided
2 cloves garlic, mashed and minced
6 cups (9 ounces by weight) baby spinach, torn
1 tablespoon panko bread crumbs
1 teaspoon parmesan cheese
  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Place fish in a shallow oven-safe dish. Sprinkle with your preferred seasonings (I used Penzey's Sunny Paris and Dill Weed.)
  3. Bake for 25-30 minutes or when the fish begins to flake apart. (Start checking for that at 20 minutes.)
  4. While the fish is baking, preheat a small non-stick skillet over medium-high heat.
  5. Add 1 teaspoon olive oil.
  6. When the oil is hot, add the panko crumbs. Toss frequently to prevent burning.
  7. Then the crumbs begin to get toast colored, add the parmesan cheese.  Toss to combine and remove from the heat.
  8. In the last 5 minutes of the fish cooking, heat a large (10-11 inch) non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the remaining teaspoon of olive oil.
  9. When the oil is hot, add the garlic. Let it cook for a minute, and then add the spinach. (If you use a smaller skillet, you will need to do half at a time.
  10. Toss the spinach frequently. You want the spinach to wilt, not fry. This will start slowly at first, but when the leaves start collapsing it will finish quickly.
  11. Remove the spinach from the heat before all the leaves are wilted. Ideally, only about half the leaves will be soft and wilted when you remove the skillet from the burner. (They will continue to wilt as they sit in the pan.)
  12. Add half the spinach to each plate. Top with half the panko-parmesan crumbs. Place half the cod on the plate and serve immediately (this is a dish that will not wait for people to come to the table.)
Nutritional data (for 6 ounces of cod + one portion of spinach):
Calories:       250 (179 cod + 71 spinach)
Fat:             7.3g (2 + 5.3)
Sat fat:        1.3g (0.4 + 0.9)
Chol:    124.7mg (124 + 0.7)
Sodium:   263mg (177 + 90)
Carbs:         4.5g (0 + 4.5)
Fiber:             2g (0 + 2)
Protein:     54.9g (51.8 + 3.1)

You can also use haddock, pollack or just about any white fleshed fish
Add crushed red pepper to the spinach
Replace the parmesan cheese with sesame seeds (and replace the olive oil with sesame oil)

Winter Wonderland? You bet!

Wednesday, at 1pm:

Thursday, at 1pm:

Welcome to winter in Wisconsin!

This storm was predicted a few days ago and it did not live up to the hype. But I'm not complaining! I only needed to run the snowblower a total of three times in less than 24 hours. In Wednesday's photo you can also see that I ran the snowblower on the patio and in the backyard. That is another example of spoiling Ozzie. He doesn't like to run in the snow. When I plow a few runways in the backyard, he has places to "do his business." This is actually a benefit for me, too, because it makes clean up easier.

Anyway, Winter Break is finally here! I have about 3 weeks off from school. Three busy weeks which have three Christmas celebrations, two dental visits, a platelet donation, and a three day vacation for Tammy and myself in Chicago. (The in-laws will house-sit the boys.)

But finally, the end of the semester is done. That is a overwhelmingly busy and stressful time (and any other educators here will attest to that) but now I can get back to my fun here.

For the past couple weeks, the food has been pretty basic and not really a lot to write about, but that has recently changed.  Yesterday's meal is an example. Oh, most of the meal is nothing particularly exciting. Roasted vegetables and a beef roast makes for a nice meal, but they are not truly special. However, Tammy found a new potato recipe and that was a killer recipe! Even Bennett (our 20 year old) ate several servings.

Sometimes I think that finding a good side dish to finish a menu is harder than choosing the main dish. When I make a new side dish, and it works so well, I am excited to share it with you. So if you are making a meal and need a new way of serving potatoes, I hope you try the Bacon-Spinach Mashed Potatoes. 

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Bacon-Spinach Mashed Potatoes

Bacon-Spinach Mashed Potatoes
Serves 6 (approximately 1/2 cup or 4 ounces by weight)

3 medium Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and quartered
1 teaspoon olive oil
3 cloves garlic, smashed and minced
1/4 cup (2.5 ounces by weight) Fage Greek yogurt
2 tablespoon real bacon bits (or 1-2 strips, fried and crumbled)
4.5 ounces (by weight) baby spinach, torn
  1. Place potatoes in small pan, covered with water and bring to a boil. Boil until the potatoes are soft, and easily pierced with a fork (8-10 minutes--small dices cook faster).
  2. While the potatoes cook, heat a large (10-12 inch) non-stick skillet over medium high heat with the olive oil.
  3. When the oil is hot, add the garlic. Let it saute for 1 minute, then add the spinach.
  4. Turn the spinach frequently. It is finished when it wilts completely. Remove from the heat.
  5. When the potatoes of cooked, drain and place potatoes in a deep bowl.
  6. With an electric mixer, whip the potatoes. Add the yogurt and bacon bits.  Mix well.
  7. Stir in the spinach and serve.
Nutritional data:
Calories:      93
Fat:            1.6g
Sat fat:       0.5g
Chol:         1.7mg
Sodium:      88mg
Carbs:        17g
Fiber:        1.6g
Protein:     4.7g

Roasted Vegetables:
Choose your preferred veggies (I used fresh crimini mushrooms, bell peppers, Brussels sprouts, and onions.)
Wash all veggies, and lay in a 9x13 pan. Drizzle 3 tablespoons olive oil evenly. Sprinkle with your favorite herbs and spices.
Roast at 450 for about 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes.

Nutritional data will vary with your veggies choices. Other options include adding baby carrots, zucchini, butternut squash cubes, potato cubes, cherry tomatoes, whole garlic cloves.

Roast Beef:

Let the roast rest at room temperature for 1-2 hours. Season it as you prefer.
Preheat oven to 325.
Place the roast in a pan.
Bake uncovered, 30 minutes per pound (for medium) or until an instant read thermometer reads 150.

Take it out of the oven, and cover loosely with foil. The roast will continue to cook for another 15-20 minutes.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Did You Notice A Change?

Hi! It's end of semester over here and I am kicking my feet as fast as possible, trying to keep my head above the rising waters. One more day and life will get back to normal (or whatever I consider "normal".)

But for right now, I added a new feature to the blog. On the right side, right under the "Followers" (are you a follower yet?  If not, add yourself!) there is a cloud of labels. I added labels to all my recipes. The labels are key ingredients and other attributes of the recipes (such as "Easy", "Salmon", "Grilled", "Feta" and "Dessert".) If you don't know how those clouds work, the more often I use a specific word as a label, the larger the size of the word in the cloud. The number after the word indicates how many recipes correspond to that label.

That was not a difficult task, but it was fussy. Using "side dish" and "side dishes" created two different labels. Misspelling a label once also created different labels. So I needed to label everything, then go back and consolidate multiple versions of the same attribute together.

What does that mean for you? You can consider this an interconnected index of all my recipes on the blog. The cloud will make it easier for you to find recipes that you want. If you want a breakfast recipe, clicking on "Breakfast" will open all recipes connected to that label. I hope this feature makes the blog easier to use.

It also quickly illustrates what my cooking is like. Apparently, I use chicken, mushrooms, eggs and spinach a LOT!

Friday, December 7, 2012

Roasted Carrots and Peas

Roasted Carrots and Peas
Serves 6

6 large carrots, peeled, and cut in quarters lengthwise
2 cups frozen peas, thawed
1 tablespoon olive oil
Seasoning (black pepper, coriander, garlic powder, onion powder is what I used)
  1. Preheat oven to 450 and place a baking pan in it while heating.
  2. Place carrots in a Ziploc baggie.
  3. Top with olive oil and seasoning. Toss to coat.
  4. When the oven is hot, put the carrots in the hot pan.
  5. Roast for 25 minutes.
  6. Add peas, mix together. Roast another 10 minutes.
Nutritional data:
Calories:   79
Fat:           2.7g
Sat fat:      0.4g
Chol:           0mg
Sodium:  90.3mg
Carbs:     11.9g
Fiber:        3.7g
Protein:     2.9g

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Tomato, Spinach and Feta Topped Chicken Thighs

Tomato, Spinach and Feta topped Chicken Thighs
Serve 4

1 tablespoon olive oil
Your preferred seasoning (I prefer Penzey's Greek Seasoning)
4 chicken thighs (skin on, and bone in)

1 medium onion, finely minced
3 cloves garlic, smashed and minced
2 cups diced tomatoes, or about 16 grape tomatoes, halved.
4-6 ounces of fresh baby spinach
4 ounces white wine
Black pepper to taste
4 tablespoon crumbled feta cheese, divided
8 kalamata olives, sliced
  1. Drizzle olive oil over skin side of chicken thighs. Sprinkle seasoning and herbs on, and let rest for 30 minutes (in the fridge.)
  2. Preheat a 10-11 inch non-stick skillet over med-high heat (if it has a lid, that will help.)
  3. Preheat oven to 350F
  4. Lay chicken thighs in skillet, skin side down. Sprinkle additional herbs.
  5. Fry until the skin browns (8-10 minutes). Turn over and brown the opposite side.
  6. Lay the thighs in an 8x8 baking pan, and bake for 20-30 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 165F. (If you insert a sharp, narrow knife into the thickest part of the thigh, clear juices will run out when fully cooked.)
  7. Carefully pour any residual grease out of the skillet. Reserve one teaspoon of grease. Do not wash or wipe the skillet clean.
  8. The topping will take 15 minutes, so time it accordingly.
  9. In the same skillet saute the onion in the reserved teaspoon of cooking grease until translucent (5-6 minutes over medium-high heat.)
  10. Add tomatoes, and let cook, undisturbed for 2 minutes.
  11. Add the garlic and stir everything together. Cook for one minute.
  12. Lay the spinach over the onions and tomatoes. If possible, add all, otherwise just half at a time.
  13. If all the spinach fits, pour the wine over the spinach. (If you have a lid, cover the skillet now and reduce the heat to low.)
  14. If only half the spinach fit, start with half the spinach and half the wine. When the spinach wilts, add the remaining spinach and wine.
  15. To serve, place a chicken thigh on the plate and top with 1/4 of the topping. Add 1 tablespoon feta, and 1/4 of the sliced olives.
Note:  I am providing the nutritional data for the topping only. You can made this with chicken thighs (my preference), or breasts (my wife's preference.)  Skin on, or skin off. Large pieces or small pieces. One thigh (my portion) or three thighs (my college son's portion.) All those options will vary, and to give you the number for what I ate will not mean much to you. But regardless of how much protein you serve per portion, the amount of topping remains unchanged.

Nutritional data for the topping:
Calories:    132
Fat:            7.8g
Sat fat:          2g
Chol:        12.3mg
Sodium:     266mg
Carbs:        8.3g
Fiber:         2.2g
Protein:      3.6g

Monday, December 3, 2012

The Winner of The Eating Well Subscription Is:

Jennifer Wegner!

Thank you to everyone that entered my first giveaway. It was exciting to receive an enthusiastic response. I hope to have others from time to time, always of products that have helped me reach my goals.

Jennifer, please email me your address. A link to my email is in my profile. As soon as I have your address, I will send in your subscription. (I don't know how quickly you will receive your first copy. That is out of my control.)

Again, thank you to everyone!

Baked Egg with Feta and Spinach

Baked Egg with Feta and Spinach
Serve 4

4 eggs, separated
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
1 teaspoon of your preferred herb blend (I used Penzey's Mural of Flavor.)
1 cup (packed) fresh baby spinach, finely chopped
Pepper to taste

1.  Preheat oven to 350F.
2.  Spray oven-safe custard cups with cooking spray (or otherwise grease them.)
3.  With electric mixer, beat egg whites until stiff peaks form.
4.  Gently stir in cheese, spinach and herbs.
5.  Divide between the four cups.
6.  With a spoon, create a small well in the center of the egg white mixture.
7.  Carefully slide a yolk into each well.
8.  Place cups on a baking sheet, and place in oven.  Back 10-14 minutes, until the egg white puffs up and browns. The yolk will be hot and thick, but not solid.

Note: in the picture, I topped the egg with a half tablespoon of Greek yogurt. That was unnecessary, and won't be repeated in the future.

Nutritional data:
Calories:       106
Fat:                 7g
Sat fat:            3g
Chol:           220mg
Sodium:       186mg
Carbs:          1.6g
Fiber:           0.2g
Protein:        9.3g

Crumbled bacon and finely shredded sharp cheddar
Shedded Swiss and minced mushrooms
Fresh basil, scallion and Parmesan

Friday, November 30, 2012

The "Ps" of Long Term Success, the Final Piece of the Puzzle AND my FIRST EVER GIVEAWAY!

You've got PASSION, are PLANNED and PREPARED. You've PROCEEDED towards your goal with PERSISTENCE and you PAY ATTENTION with PATIENCE.

You have a PASSION for your goal, and have a well-defined PLAN and are PREPARED. You PROCEEDED on your path, with PERSISTENCE and are PAY ATTENTION with deep PATIENCE.

What's left?


This time of year is a challenge. Thanksgiving feasts. Neighborhood parties. Holiday parties at the office. Christmas and New Years. The food is never ending. And it is all soooo good!

And in parts of the country and world, the weather begins to turn nasty. It gets cold. Blustery. Snowy. Night comes earlier than we want, and our commitment to before- and after-work activity diminishes. We start to get more enthusiastic about sitting in our recliner than taking that extra walk.

And you know what happens then.

The scale creeps upward. And that is so frustrating. You get angry at yourself for "losing willpower." You feel as though you "failed."

Pardon yourself. Forgive yourself for your slips. We are all human. No one is perfect and can show daily losses on the scale. We are not machines. So go easy on yourself. Remind yourself that every day is another day and each time you eat, you have another chance to make a good decision. Eating to excess on one day should not trigger a bad choice the next day.

If you are using LoseIt, or Weight Watchers, you are given a set budget, either calories or points. Maybe during this time of year, you might be better off to temporarily stop your quest for losses and increase your budget to your maintenance level so that you don't lose, but also don't  gain. That may give you enough of a budget so that you can avoid the self-recriminations for overeating during the holiday season. But don't stop logging what you eat. And don't stop getting on the scale. Logging provides accountability and the scale gives one form of feedback.

Taking a break is not quitting. If you follow NASCAR, you know that at some point every driver pulls out of the race and goes into the pit. Sometimes it is for gas, sometimes for tires.  But whatever the reason, it is all to help the driver succeed. Even though he/she takes a brief break and falls behind some of the other drivers, he/she knows that without that pause, the risk of catastrophic failure is greater. Pulling into pit row is not quitting. It is part of the plan, and prevent future problems. What would happen to the driver of a car who decides to push it, "just one more lap" on bad tires? A blown tire would end his/her race.

If you are excessively challenged, and everyday find yourself exceeding your budget by a little, maybe you need to drive into your pit row. Give yourself permission to take a short break. Make the conscious choice to stop and recharge yourself. Losing weight is hard work, physically, mentally and emotionally. A brief respite now might give you more energy after the new year to make a hard drive to the checkered flag.

(No. I really don't follow racing. I just know some of the terms.)

Now, for the GIVEAWAY!

One of my favorite periodicals is Eating Well. It has great recipes that are healthy and delicious, as well as easy to make. My subscription is up for renewal and I have the opportunity to give a free one year subscription. I will give it to one of my readers.

To enter:
1.  Respond to this blog post, and tell me which of my recipes that you have made at home is your favorite. (If you haven't made one yet, which will be the first you want to try.)
2.  If you are on Twitter, make a Tweet about this contest, such as: "Eating Well has great recipes, and you can win a subscription here" and then tell me here that you tweeted the link.
3.  If you have your own blog, mention the contest on a post with this address and add your blog address here for everyone else to see.

Each of those actions will be another entry.

I will announce the winner on Monday, December 3, 2012

You can start the New Year (or whenever they start the subscription) with a great magazine, full of new ideas for healthy and delicious food.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Welcome to All My New Followers!

Just a quick post right now. I want to welcome my new followers and thank all the others who have been following me for months. I hope that you find this blog has useful information for you. I try to right the same way I think: slightly humorous (in my mind), honest and to the point, and hopefully with interesting subject matter.

My recipes tend toward the relatively simple variety, that are also delicious and generally healthy. Not all my recipes will be strictly "diet" recipes, but my belief is that anything can be eaten, in the correct portion size (food allergies excepted, of course.)

I have used that approach to bring me to my goal weight, and stay there for more than 11 months now. It works.

Come back soon and often. Check out all the recipes (there are 100+ as of now, and I try to add 2 or 3 a week.) Also, on Friday I will announce my first ever giveaway! (It will cost nothing to enter!) Check back tomorrow for details!

Have you tried the soups yet? If you don't have any leftover turkey, go to your local grocery store or deli and get a rotisserie chicken. That will work just as well. With the dumpling soup, don't be stingy with the seasonings. The broth and dumplings seem to absorb the flavors of the soup. Add them during the cooking and taste often, adding more as needed.

Talk to you all tomorrow!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Turkey Dumpling Soup

Turkey Dumpling Soup
Serves 4

1 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 onion, minced
2 carrots, diced
2 stalks celery, sliced thinly
1 garlic clove, smashed and minced
16 ounces (2 cups) reduced sodium chicken stock
12 (1.5 cups) ounces water
4 ounces (0.5 cup) white wine
8 ounces shredded, cooked turkey (or chicken)
1 teaspoon rubbed sage
Salt and pepper to taste

1/4 cup cottage cheese
1 egg
1 tablespoon water
1/2 cup flour
1 teaspoon seasoning (I used Penzey's Sunny Paris. Alternative combinations could be tarragon and thyme, onion and garlic powder, or sage and celery seed)
  1. In a medium to large sauce pan (3-4 quart), heat the olive oil over med-high heat. Add onion, carrots and celery. Saute until the onion begins to turn translucent.
  2. Add garlic. Saute another minute.
  3. Add stock, wine, cooked turkey and sage. Bring to a boil, reduce heat (medium-low, but not to a low simmer) to a low boil for 15 minutes.
  4. While you wait for the soup to boil, mix together dumpling ingredients.
  5. After 15 minutes, increase the heat to medium-high.
  6. Using a soup spoon or tablespoon, drop dumpling batter into the soup by the spoonfuls. Cover, reduce heat to simmer, and let the dumplings cook for 15 minutes. They are done when a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
Nutritional data (approximately 1.5 cups soup and 2-3 dumplings)
Calories:    192
Fat:             3.9g
Sat fat:        1.2g
Chol:            97mg
Sodium:     190mg
Carbs:        19.1g
Fiber:           1.9g
Protein:     17.9g

Creamy Turkey, Wild Rice and Mushroom Soup

Creamy Turkey, Wild Rice and Mushroom Soup
Serve 4

1 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 medium onion, diced
1 clove garlic, smashed and minced
8 ounces fresh mushrooms, sliced
1/4 cup shredded carrot
Seasoning (your preference--I used Penzey's Sunny Paris.)
1 cup reduced sodium chicken stock (I used homemade, no salt added chicken stock)
1/2 cup white wine
8 ounces shredded cooked turkey (or chicken)
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup flour
1 cup milk
Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Heat a 10" non-stick skillet over med-high heat. Add olive oil.
  2. Sautee onions until beginning to soften and turn translucent.
  3. Add mushrooms. Let them cook, undisturbed for 2 minutes, then stir together.
  4. Add garlic and carrot.
  5. While the mushrooms are cooking, melted the butter in a small saucepan. Add flour to form a roux.
  6. Add milk, and stir over medium heat until it begins to bubble. Remove from heat.
  7. Add shredded turkey to mushrooms.
  8. Add stock and wine. Bring to a boil.
  9. Stir in the roux. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. As it cooks it will thicken.
Nutritional data:
Calories:       222
Fat:                7.7g
Sat fat:           4.3g
Chol:              46mg
Sodium:         54mg
Carbs:         16.5g
Fiber:            1.5g
Protein:      16.4g

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Ginger Broccoli Pork Stir Fry

Ginger Broccoli Pork Stir Fry
Serves 6
3 cups fresh (or frozen) broccoli
24 ounces pork, sliced into 1" x 1/2" strips
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon olive oil
1 medium onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, smashed and minced
10 teaspoons fresh ginger, grated or finely minced
8 ounces fresh mushrooms, sliced
Salt and pepper to taste

Mix together in a small bowl:
4 tablespoons orange marmalade
1 teaspoon soy sauce
2 tablespoon water
  1. Heat a non-stick skillet (10") over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil.
  2. When the oil is hot, carefully add pork slices. Brown on all sides. When browned, remove from skillet, cover and keep warm
  3. Add remaining teaspoon olive oil to the pan.
  4. Add onions. Saute until the just begin to turn translucent.
  5. Turn heat to medium. Add mushrooms, and let them cook, undisturbed for 2-3 minutes.
  6. Stir onions and mushrooms together. Add garlic and ginger.  Mix together.
  7. Meanwhile, heat broccoli in a microwave until hot and still crisp.
  8. Add broccoli and pork to skillet.
  9. Pour sauce into skillet. Stir to coat. Serve when combined and hot.
Nutritional data:
Calories:      330
Fat:              14.1g
Sat fat:           4.3g
Chol:          96.3mg
Sodium:      112mg
Carbs:        16.4g
Fiber:              2g
Protein:     36.2g

Friday, November 23, 2012

I Will Return...


I ate well yesterday, and currently I am still in a borderline post-feast coma. When I fully recover, I will post the pictures of the feast and will post the LAST "P" of long term success!

And this "P" is probably going to be needed by some (most?) of the readers.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Bourbon Pecan Pie

Bourbon Pecan Pie
Serves 12 (small pieces of a rich pie)

1 pie crust (this recipe assumes a store bought crust)
1 cup pecan halves
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup brown sugar
4 tablespoon melted unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 large eggs
1 tablespoon molasses
1.5 ounces bourbon
  1. Preheat oven to 425. Line a glass 9" pie plate with the pie crust dough. Fold and pinch overhang to form a nice decorative crust.

  2. Line pie shell with parchment paper or aluminum foil. Fill with dried beans or rice, and bake 15 minutes

  3. Remove foil and beans, bake another 5-10 minutes, until golden brown.

  4. Cool on a wire rack.
  5. Coarsely chop 3/4 cup pecans.

  6. In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, syrup, sugar, butter, vanilla, eggs and bourbon until blended. Stir in all pecans (chopped and halves.)

  7. Pour filling into crust.

  8. Bake 45-50 minutes, until the edges are set, but the center is still a little jiggly. Using an aluminum shield (or aluminum foil) will prevent excess browning of the crust.)
  9. Cool on a wire rack completely.
  10. Serve with whipped cream
Nutritional data:
Calories:     279
Fat:           16.3g
Sat fat:           5g
Chol:        66.4mg
Sodium:  125.2mg
Carbs:      31.5g
Fiber:         0.9g
Protein:      2.8g

Turkey Gravy

Turkey Gravy
Serves:12 (1/4 cup portions)

2 cup pan drippings, with as much floating grease removed as possible
1 cup hot water
Salt and pepper as needed to taste
  1. Combine equal parts flour and melted butter together (roux). Start with 1/4 cup butter and flour. It's easy to make more if needed.
  2. Bring the pan drippings and water to a boil.
  3. When boiling whisk in small amounts of roux until you get the consistency that you desire. The gravy will continue to thicken as it cools on the table.
  4. Using a roux and whisking while adding the roux to the boiling liquids will reduce or eliminate lumps.
  5. You can add finely minced cooked turkey liver for more flavor. Alternatively, you can also replace some water with beer or wine.
Nutritional data (approximate, will vary with the consistency of the pan drippings):
Calories:      82
Fat:            8.2g
Sat fat:       4.1g
Chol:       14.2mg
Sodium:    5.6mg
Carbs:      1.9g
Fiber:       0.3g
Protein:     0.5g

Basic Poultry Stuffing/Dressing

Basic Poultry Stuffing
Serves: 12

18 slices bread, toasted and cubed (Healthy Life brand, Whole Wheat)
2 tablespoon olive oil
Seasoning as desired
2 large onions, diced
4 stalks celery, diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed and minced
2 teaspoon rubbed sage
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
8 strips of bacon
Chicken stock
  1. Either purchase bread cubes or make your own. I laid out 18 slices of bread, brushed one surface with olive oil, and seasoned the bread with sage, onion powder, garlic powder and ground celery seed.
  2. Preheat oven to 400F. Lay prepared bread on baking sheets (or directly on the grates.)
  3. Bake until beginning to brown (8-10 minutes.)

  4. Dice into 1/4 inch cubes.
  5. Fry bacon until crumbly. Crumble and set aside.
  6. Measure out 2 tablespoons bacon grease. Saute onion and celery over medium heat until the onions caramelize and the celery softens (10-15 minutes.)
  7. Add garlic, sage and pepper in the last minute of cooking the onion and celery.
  8. In three quart oven-safe dish, add half the onions-celery and bread cubes. Stir to mix, and add chicken stock to moisten, but not soak.
  9. Add remaining bread cubes and onions and half the crumbled bacon. Add more stock. Again, you want the mixture moist, but not soupy. The amount of stock will depend on how dry the bread is.
  10. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes uncovered (or until hot enough for you.) This only needs to be heated, there is nothing to cook.
  11. Five minutes before it is finished, sprinkle remaining bacon over the top.  Add additional chicken stock if it seems too dry.
You can substitute wine or beer for half of the chicken stock, if preferred, for a slightly different flavor.

Nutritional data:
Calories:     133
Fat:             7.2g
Sat fat:           2g
Chol:             7mg
Sodium:     257mg
Carbs:      15.2g
Fiber:         3.7g
Protein:      4.9g

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Turkey Brine and Roasting Recipe

2 quarts apple cider
2 cups dark brown sugar, packed
2 cups kosher salt
1/4 cup black peppercorns
1 tablespoon juniper berries
4 bay leaves
1 cinnamon sticks (3-inch)
1 teaspoon whole cloves
4 quarts dark beer (I am using my own German Rye)

Other needed ingredients:
1 stick butter
1 cup chicken stock
Your preferred seasoning, or a mix of sage, onion powder, garlic powder, black pepper and ground celery seed.
  1. Dissolve brine ingredients together. Pour into a large bucket or cooler. Add a thawed turkey and submerge in the brine. (Weight it with a brick if needed to keep it submerged.)
  2. Keep it cool for 24 hours. When ready to roast, pat dry and place in roaster.
  3. Melt the butter. Basted the turkey with half the butter. Season it well. Roast at 400F for 30 minutes.
  4. Baste with remaining butter. Reseason. Turn the oven down to 300F and roast for 30 minutes.
  5. Baste with 1/2 cup chicken stock. Reseason. Baste once more, about half-way through this roasting period. 
Total roasting time is 15-17 minutes per pound (unstuffed turkey). Roast to an internal temp of 155F in the thickest part of the breast, but not touching bone. When you withdraw the thermometer, the juices should run clear. I know the serving temp for turkey is at least 165F. But when you are done roasting, you need to let the turkey rest before carving, 20-30 minutes. During that time, the bird will continue to cook (all that mass hold heat very well.)  When you are ready to carve, the temp will be at least 165. (That's why so many birds are overdone and dry, because by the time the bird is carved the internal temp is 180 or more.)

The "Ps" of Long Term Success, Part 8

You've got PASSION, are PLANNED and PREPARED. You've PROCEEDED towards your goal with PERSISTENCE and you PAY ATTENTION with PATIENCE.

5.  Presentation

Presentation is more than a bit of parsley on the plate. Proper presentation helps us anticipate what we will experience when we eat. We taste our food with our eye first. Then we smell it. Then we taste it. But our eyes are first.

And when we truly enjoy our food, we are more likely to feel satisfied, and less likely to keep eating. Think about all those cookbooks and cooking magazines that we read. Absolutely beautiful pictures, right? Those food photographers are true artists. When I try to duplicate the recipes, I am happy if I am even close to the professional photo. Still, I'd like to think that I am not horrible at food presentation.

I think the Spinach Lasagna (foreground) and Beef Lasagna is an okay picture.

This Chocolate Pumpkin Torte looks tasty!

And my BBQ'd Chicken Thighs, Mashed Potatoes and Cheesy Broccoli looks edible, too.

My Dublin Lawyer with Beer Carrots and Steamed Asparagus looks good.

Even something with an appearance as boring as Baked Tilapia, Mashed Parsnips and Zucchini Fries looks okay with it's contrasting textures and service on a colorful plate.

All those recipes are from my blog. I do NOT claim to be a professional photographer, nor a professional chef. I don't use exotic techniques or ingredients. I just make good food and try to make it look good. And I have fun doing it, and am able to feed a happy family, which all helps.

But what about food that is poorly plated and presented?  Will that change the flavor, texture, and enjoyment? Take a look and tell me. The following pictures are from a restaurant's website, and are NOT my pictures, nor what I ordered. These photos are used by the restaurant to entice new customers. (Note: normally, I would give full credit for other's pictures. But these are bad shots and I don't think the restaurant would like to have their name identified.)

Petite Cut Sirloin Steak with Onion Frills
Okay. They are trying to sell a steak. Where is it? And the part I see looks a bit burnt. And a half piece of toast, blending in with the onion frills? It probably tastes good, but would you order this? Is it worth the $13 they are charging? Where is the side salad that comes with the meal? Even some steamed dilled carrots (not an available option) would be a welcome addition to the meal.

Chicken Cordon Bleu ($14)
All I see is a yellow sauce covering something lumpy underneath it. Is it meat? It is vegetable? Who knows? Ideally, this should have been cut open to show the chicken under the sauce. Even better, the chicken could have been plated ON the sauce, allowing us to see the chicken. (What I think when I see this is "what are they hiding from me?") But this picture is all about the sauce. And a slice of orange? Come on! What about something with contrast, such as a tomato-cucumber salad?

Baked Cod  ($12)
I don't know what to say about this. Well, actually yes, I really do know what to say. The plate is too large. The fish is white on a white plate. The piece of lettuce and lemon wedge look old and anemic (and are almost the size of the fish portion!) Where is the starch to give it some color? Maybe they could have put some some sweet potato fries on the side (except this restaurant doesn't offer them.) How about a portion of butternut squash puree in the center of the plate with the fish placed on it (again, not offered as an option) would be better. Maybe pair the butternut squash puree with a fresh and tart broccoli slaw? But this plate? Ugh.

Food needs to look good before it will taste good. And it needs to both look and taste good to be satisfying. Otherwise, you are just chewing and eating something that will physically fill you but emotionally leave you still hungry.

That is the difference between "full" and "satisfied." Eating food that energizes all our senses will more likely leave us feeling satisfied and complete because we are experiencing it through multiple sensory pathways in the brain. (Likewise, when you are learning something new, you will have greater recall if you are able to learn the information using your eyes, ears, hands and voice. But that is a completely different lecture!)

Besides tossing a bit of greenery on a plate, what can you do to enliven your meal? Go to a thrift store and find some colorful plates, in different shapes sizes so that you can use a smaller plate for a smaller portion size and not have the food look inconsequential. Prepare your food nicely. Find menu items with contrasting colors, textures and tastes and combine them in a meal. Try new foods! Explore the culinary world. Read new cookbooks and magazines for ideas, and pay attention to what is paired together.

More importantly, eat what you love. Eat the correct amount of calories (or if you are in Weight Watchers, eat all your points.) And feel satisfied when you eat, so that you do not feel the urge to graze your way through the pantry an hour after dinner.

Next: The LAST "P" of Long Term Success! (And more recipes, of course!)

Monday, November 19, 2012

Warm Bourbon Egg Nog

Warm Bourbon Egg Nog
Serves 3

1 egg
1 ounce Irish cream liqueur
1/2 ounce bourbon whiskey (the original recipe called for Irish whiskey)
2 cup milk
Cinnamon to garnish
  1. Heat milk over low heat until hot, but not boiling.
  2. While the milk is heating, in a 1 quart bowl whisk egg, Irish cream and whiskey until very smooth.
  3. When the milk it hot, slowly pour into the egg mixture, whisking while pouring.
  4. Divide between mugs. Garnish with cinnamon or nutmeg.
Nutritional data:
Calories:       148
Fat:               6.3g
Sat fat:          3.4g
Chol:             86mg
Sodium:      108mg
Carbs:        10.3g
Fiber:              0g
Protein:        7.8g

This tasted good, but personally, I didn't think it was rich enough. Maybe it needed an additional egg or two, and some cream would help it (but then the calories would skyrocket!) However, for a once-in-a-while treat, the extra calories may be worth it. If I try that adaptation, I will post the results here.

Mushroom-Spinach Baked Eggs

Mushroom-Spinach Baked Eggs
Serves 4

4 pieces bread, lightly toasted
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
8 ounces fresh mushrooms, sliced
4 cups baby spinach (4 ounces)
¼ cup milk
4 large eggs
¼ cup shredded cheese

1.   Preheat oven to 350F
2.   Spray 8x8 baking pan with cooking spray
3.   Preheat 10” non-stick skillet. Add olive oil
4.   Saute onions until they get translucent (4-5 minutes)
5.   Add mushrooms. Let them cook, undisturbed for 4 minutes. Then stir together, cooking another 4 minutes.
6.   Add spinach, stir together. Let the spinach begin to wilt.
7.   Lay the toasted bread in the pan in single layer, trimming the bread to make it fit if needed.
8.   Spread mushroom-spinach evenly over the toast. Make 4 wells in the topping, one for each piece of toast.
9.   Pour 1 tablespoon milk in each well.
10. Carefully crack eggs and place 1 egg in each well.
11. Bake for 25 minutes.
12. After 25 minutes, sprinkle cheese evenly. Return to oven for 5 more minutes
13. Remove, cut into four portions and serve.

Cooking it a total of 30 minutes will give you a warm but still liquid yolk. Adding 5 more minutes will give you a yolk that is very thick, but not yet solid.

Nutritional data:
Calories:      171
Fat:              8.1g
Sat fat:         2.7g
Chol:          216mg
Sodium:      232mg
Carbs:       15.9g
Fiber:          3.6g
Protein:     12.1g

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The "Ps" of Long Term Success, Part 7

Getting back to the previous topic:

You've PASSIONATE about your goal, are well-PLANNED and PREPARED. You 've PROCEEDED and have demonstrated PERSISTENCE, and you PAY ATTENTION to yourself and your surroundings.

5.  Patience!!

It won't happen overnight.

You didn't gain all the extra weight overnight. It crept on slowly. Stealthily. Ninja-weight. (Sorry. I'm a guy, and sometimes I need to throw a ninja in here.) But my point is that you gained your weight, one bite at a time.

What makes you believe it will leave your body any faster? When people set their goal, it is common to say "I will lose X pounds, by Y date" and then they follow it with "... because I need to look great for Z."

Writing a goal like that is a great way of shooting yourself in the foot. Our bodies don't like to lose weight. Our bodies will fight back. Random gains after a few days of eating good, followed by a sudden loss the day after the office party. You might know how fast you should lose weight based on your calorie budget, but your body is illiterate. It can't read the weight loss books. Your body's fat cells (in nurse-speak, "adipose tissue") are stubborn, irritable, and cantankerous. (Sounds like one of your relatives, right?) You need to force the weight loss attitude on them.

But still, your body will never shed weight as fast as you want. You will need to accept that fact. It will always take a little longer than you want. Just like most construction projects, they don't finish on time, and are generally over-budget. Your weight loss journey will take you longer than you expect, and will be harder than you planned.

But you will succeed. The only way you won't succeed is if you quit. Even if you show minimal or no losses for a few weeks (months even?) just remind yourself that staying the same weight is better than gaining. Stick with your plan. Keep your eyes focused on your goal, which should be a weight, or a set of inches, or a level of physical fitness and should not include a date.

I saw this turtle on my long hike in May, 2012

You CAN succeed. You WILL succeed. Eventually. To mix a few metaphors, the tortoise will win the race
as long as the little engine never gives up.

Questions for my readers (and the first will separate the men and women from the boys and girls):
What do I mean about the "little engine that never gives up?"
What keeps you going when the challenges pop up?

Creamy Chicken and Spinach Pasta

Creamy Chicken and Spinach Pasta
Serves 4

2 cups warm, shredded cooked chicken (or about 8 ounces)
6 ounces dry pasta, some sort of short variety (penne, rotini, etc)
1 cup frozen peas
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 cup Vidalia onion, diced
2 garlic cloves
1 cup (10 ounces by weight) plain Greek yogurt
6 ounces baby spinach
  1. Prepare pasta according to directions. When the pasta is done, save 1 cup of the pasta water.
  2. Heat the shredded chicken in the microwave (or any other preferred method.) Keep hot.
  3. While you are boiling the pasta, in a small non-stick skillet, add olive oil. When hot, add onions. Saute until they are beginning to become translucent (4-6 minutes over medium-high heat.) Add garlic and stir for an additional minute.
  4. Add yogurt to the onions and garlic. Stir to combine. If it seems too thick for your preference, add small amounts of the hot pasta water.
  5. To quickly and easily thaw the peas, place them in a large colander, and pour the cooked pasta over them. Quickly drain the pasta, and add back to the pasta pot. The pasta does not need to be fully drained.
  6. Add half of the spinach.  Top with onion/yogurt mixture and chicken.  Stir to combine.
  7. Add remaining spinach.  Toss to combine. The spinach will partially wilt under the surrounding heat of the dish.
Note: You could easily use leftover turkey from Thanksgiving. Simply shred it and reheat in the microwave, or in a saute pan with some broth and a bit (1/4 cup) of gravy.

Nutritional data (each portion is approximately 1 1/4 cups):
Calories:      279
Fat:             7.7g
Sat fat:           2g
Chol:            36mg
Sodium:      130mg
Carbs:       32.5g
Fiber:             3g
Protein:        20g

Note: This was the first time I made this dish. Next time, I will add something with another color, maybe some diced fire-roasted red bell peppers.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Raspberry Balsamic Vinaigrette

Raspberry Balsamic Vinaigrette
Serves 1 or 2 (depending on the size of your salad)

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil (extra virgin)
1 teaspoon Penzey's Raspberry Enlightenment
Seasoning of your choice (I prefer Penzey's Sunny Paris.)
1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  1. Mix all ingredients together.
  2. Briskly whisk (or if you used a container with a type cap, shake vigorously.)
  3. Serve.
If you prefer a different oil (grapeseed or walnut) or a different vinegar the process is the same. Balsamic vinegar has a bit of sweetness to it, so if you use a red wine vinegar, you may need to add a little sugar/Splenda to help balance it. If you don't like raspberries, you could mash a few blackberries into it, or mash and mince a couple tart Montmorrency cherries.  Like many of my recipes, this is a basic type that can be infinitely varied to your tastes. However, keep the mustard if you don't want the vinegar and oil to rapidly separate.

It is really that simple. The mustard is used not for flavor, but as an emulsifier. It helps keep the vinegar and oil from separating.  Here is a picture of the dressing taken 15 minutes after whisking. (Try that without the mustard for comparison.)

Penzey's Raspberry Enlightenment
It is an awesome ingredient, adding a bit of tartness and sweetness with the raspberry flavor.
It is not a syrup. It is more like a thin jam.

(I'm not trying to be a salesman for Penzey's. It is just that I find their spices, herbs and blends to best fit my needs at a reasonable cost.  Also, I have frequently mentioned that Penzey's Sunny Paris is my preferred salt-free seasoning blend. The reason is that is contains such a well-rounded flavor profile, which marries well with eggs, chicken, fish, soups, stews, and just about anything else. It is a blend of shallots, chives, green peppercorns, dill weed, basil, tarragon, chervil and bay leaf. How can that get any better?)

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Tomatillo-Radish Salsa

Tomatillo-Radish Salsa
Serves 8 (1/4 cup portions)

1 pound tomatillos (6-8)
6 radishes, shredded
3 celery stalks, minced
1 cup fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
Juice of 1 lemon
  1. Peel the husk off the tomatillos. Rinse them under cold water to remove the stickiness. Dice all but two tomatillos.
  2. Place the remaining tomatillos in a food processor or blender. Process/blend until they are smooth.
  3. Combine all ingredients in a bowl.
  4. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour, or overnight, to let the flavors blend together.
  5. Optional: add 1/2 to 1 minced jalapeno (not used in the above picture.)
Serve on fish, chicken or turkey. Use as a topping on tacos and burritos. Serve as a salsa with chips.

Nutritional data for 1/4 cup of salsa:
Calories:          16
Fat:                0.4g
Sat fat:           0.1g
Chol:                0mg
Sodium:          16mg
Carbs:           3.2g
Fiber:               1g
Protein:         0.5g

Note: The next time I make this, I will add one teaspoon lemon zest for a bit of color and bright lemon character.

Spaghetti Squash Boat

Spaghetti Squash Boat
Serves 4

1 medium spaghetti squash
1/2 onion, diced
1/2 red (or green) bell pepper, sliced
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 cup shredded cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
Optional ingredients: jalapeno peppers, diced cherry tomatoes, diced ham
  1. Pierce the skin of the squash in many places. Place in microwave and cook for 8-10 minutes.
  2. Preheat oven to 350F
  3. While the squash cooks, pre-heat a non-stick saute pan.
  4. Add oil and saute the onions and peppers until the onions begin to get translucent and soft (4-6 minutes). Turn the heat off.
  5. When the squash is done in the microwave, cut in half lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds.
  6. With a fork, pull out the squash. It will come out in long shreds, similar in shape to strands of spaghetti. Pull the squash out of both halves and place in a bowl.
  7. Combine squash meat, onions, peppers and cheese. Place in one of the squash shells.
  8. Place in an 8x8 baking pan (or similar). If the squash will not rest without tipping, use a piece aluminum foil, rolled into a tube, and then shaped into a ring to use as a base. (In fact, just plan to need it.)
  9. Bake 25-35 minutes, or until the top begins to brown.
Nutritional data:
Calories:       90
Fat:              5.9g
Sat fat:         3.2g
Chol:            15mg
Sodium:      115mg
carbs:          6.3g
Fiber:          1.4g
Protein:       3.7g

Note: If you are making this for a large meal and are very busy with other menu items, this could be prepared in advance. Follow the directions above, but stop after step 7. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate1-2 days. When ready to finish, preheat oven to 350, and cover the squash loosely with aluminum foil for 25 minutes. Then remove foil, and let it finish for another 15. (That should get it entirely heated. The foil will prevent excess browning.)