Thursday, August 30, 2012

Portabella "Burger" and "Fries"

Portabella Burger and Fries
Serves 2

1 large baker potato, washed, but not peeled
2 large portabella caps
1/2 Vidalia onion, sliced
1+1 tablespoon olive oil
Mustard (I like a spicy brown)
1 slice of cheese (optional and your preferred variety)
2 hamburger buns (Optional, but it makes for a more enjoyable "burger" experience)

Preheat oven to 450, and turn your grill on high.
Place 1 tablespoon olive oil in a medium sized bowl.
Slice the potato into 1/2 inch thick slices.  Then cut into 1/2 thick fries. (I used a crinkle cutter from Pampered Chef.)
Place fries in the bowl and toss in the olive oil to coat.
Place fries on a baking pan, spread out so they are not touching.
Bake for 18-24 minutes (or until the outside is brown and crispy and the inside is soft and hot), turning halfway.
Remove and sprinkle with your preferred seasoning. I used Penzey's Sunny Spain.

Take the portabella cap and remove the stem. With a spoon, scrape the gills off the underside. Coat the upper surface with the residual olive oil from the potatoes. Set aside.

While the fries bake, place the remaining olive oil in a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add onions. Saute until soft and caramelized (5-10 minutes.)  Set aside.

After the onions are done, place the portabella caps on the grill (they could also be pan-fried on the stove.) Grill until they are hot and starting to sweat their juices.  Lay the slice of cheese (if using) on the cap to let it melt. (I used a smoked Swiss.)

If you want, place your buns on the grill grate, cut side down, to toast them.

Place the portabella cap on the bottom of the bun. Place half of the caramelized onions on the cheese, and top with mustard. Serve with half the baked fries.

Nutritional data (Portabella Burger with 1 slice cheese and bun):
Calories:        255
Fat:                 11g
Sat fat:           4.7g
Chol:              20mg
Sodium:        381mg
Carbs:         26.7g
Fiber:            6.5g
Protein:       12.7g

Nutritional data for the fries:
Calories:        175
Fat:                3.7g
Sat fat:           0.5g
Chol:                0mg
Sodium:          21mg
Carbs:          32.1g
Fiber:             3.4g
Protein:          3.9g

Other options:
Add fresh or sauteed jalapenos.
A slice of tomato
Sun-dried tomato
Barbeque sauce and bacon (Yum!)

Thursday, August 23, 2012


Just a quick thought today.

This morning, I had just finished breakfast with my wife. It was nothing fancy. I fried some leftover polenta, topped it with two fried eggs, half a mashed avocado and some salsa.

As I sat there, contemplating the rest of the day and sipping some coffee, I turned to her and said, "I LOVE eggs!" She looked at me as though I were maybe a bit odd, and I explained: "When I start the morning with eggs, I just feel better. Happier. More satisfied."

I'm not sure what this means, other than I really, really like eggs. But I know that I will keep eating eggs, because calorie-for-calorie an egg breakfast makes me more than full. It makes me satisfied.

That's all.

Maybe someday I will raise chickens?

Monday, August 20, 2012

Hoisin Chicken Thighs with Rice and Asian Slaw

Hoisin Chicken Thighs with White Rice and Asian Slaw
Serve 4-8, depending on how hungry you are

8 chicken thighs, boneless/skinless
2 tablespoon sesame oil
4 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
2 garlic cloves, crushed and minced
2 teaspoons fresh ginger root, minced (or 1/2 teaspoon dry ginger powder)

Thaw thighs. Place in a Ziploc bag. Add all remaining ingredients.
Place bag in fridge and let marinate for 1-2 hours. Turn occasionally.
Heat non-stick skillet on med-high. Spray with cooking spray.
Place thighs in pan. Pan-fry until brown and turn (4-5 minutes per side). With finished cooking remover from heat and keep warm.

Nutritional data (for 1 thigh):
Calories:        151
Fat:              10.2g
Sat fat:           2.2g
Chol:           49.4mg
Sodium:         46mg
Carbs:           1.1g
Fiber:               0g
Protein:       13.6g

Warm Hoisin Sauce
Serves 8 (1 tablespoon each)

After removing the chicken, add:
3 tablespoons sesame oil
1 tablespoon Hoisin sauce
2 teaspoons fresh crushed ginger (or 1/2 teaspoon dried ginger powder)
2 cloves of garlic, crushed and minced
4 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup semi-dry red wine

Combine all ingredients, bring to a boil. Loosen any brown bits (fond) stuck to the pan. Stir over med-high heat until the fluid is reduced to about 1/2 cup.

Nutritional data (for 1 tablespoon sauce):
Calories:          42
Fat:                5.2g
Sat fat:           0.7g
Chol:                0mg
Sodium:          26mg
Carbs:            2.3g
Fiber:                0g
Protein:          0.2g

Serve one or two thighs on rice, with one tablespoon sauce.

Asian Slaw
Serves 10 (1 cup portions)

1 small head of Napa cabbage, shredded (approximately 6 cups)
1 bag broccoli cole slaw
6 ounces snow pea pods, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 bunch scallion (green onions), sliced thinly, whites and green of the onion

Juice of one lime (2-4 tablespoons)
4 tablespoons sesame oil
6 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 tsp fish sauce
1/4 cup Splenda (or other sweetener)

Mix all ingredients together.  Allow to dwell before serving, overnight is best.  Toss together frequently.

Nutritional data:
Calories:         76
Fat:               5.1g
Sat fat:          0.7g
Chol:               0mg
Sodium:      63.5mg
Carbs:           6.9g
Fiber:               3g
Protein:         1.9g

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Easy Complete Breakfasts

Easy Complete Breakfast
Serves 1

Note: This has a dumb name. I'd take any suggestions on what to call this meal. It has a texture similar to a muffin, but without the crispy top.

Take a microwave-safe soup bowl or large (10-12 ounce) coffee mug. Spray with cooking spray.

Into this, add:

1 egg
1 tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon brown sugar (loosely packed)
1 dash cinnamon
1/4 cup regular (not instant) oatmeal
1/4 cup berries (fresh, or thawed frozen berries)

Stir together. Don't expect it to become completely uniform, you are just trying to make sure it is mixed together.

Microwave for 1.5 - 2 minutes (depending on your microwave.)

Eat from the directly from the dish, or place a plate over the mug/bowl and invert it. I topped mine with a little whipped topping.
Nutritional data: (for the first picture, and for the version served with slices of cantaloupe)
Calories:         194
Fat:                 6.7g
Sat fat:               2g
Chol:              212mg
Sodium:            80mg
Carbs:           24.7g
Fiber:              2.9g
Protein:           9.7g

You can use almost any fruit, as long as it is about 1/4 cup. In the first picture I used 1/4 cup blueberries, and in the second picture (using a coffee mug) 1/4 of a mashed banana.

The other version in the second picture is a more robust version. I started with the basic recipe (above) and for fruit, 1/4 of a mashed banana. But then I added 2 tablespoons milled flax seed, 1 tablespoon peanut butter and 1 tablespoon semi-sweet Ghirardelli chocolate chips.

Calories:         434 (for the more robust version)
Fat:                24.9g
Sat fat:             6.5g
Chol:              212mg
Sodium:       157.6mg
Carbs:           42.6g
Fiber:              8.5g
Protein:         17.3g

My wife noted, and I agree, that using a soup bowl instead of a coffee mug creates a meal that is more visually filling. It looks like there is more food (even though it has the same amounts.) I'd recommend using the bowl just for the psychological factor of feeling more satisfied.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Potato Ham Skillet and Lemon Souffle Cheesecake

Potato Ham Skillet and Lemon Souffle Cheesecake
The Potato Ham Skillet serves 6 and the Lemon Souffle Cheesecake serves 8.

Potato Ham Skillet
3 Medium potatoes, peeled and sliced VERY thin (If using redskin potatoes, wash them well, and leave the skin on, which is what I do.)
3 scallions, sliced into thin slices
6 ounces of chopped, cooked ham
4 eggs, scrambled
1/4 cup shredded cheese (your preference)

Spray a 10 inch non-stick skillet with cooking spray.
Layer half the potatoes.
Sprinkle half the scallions and half the ham.
Black pepper to taste.
Repeat the layers.
Cover and cook over medium heat for 15 minutes.
Pour the eggs, cover and cook another 3-5 minutes, or until the eggs are almost set.
Top with cheese, cover and cook for 3-5 minutes, or until melted.

Nutritional data:
Calories:        167
Fat:                6.9g
Sat fat:           2.8g
Chol:             156mg
Sodium:        88.2mg
Carbs:          16.3g
Fiber:             1.3g
Protein:        10.4g

Other options:
Add bell peppers, jalapenos, mushrooms or tomatoes.
Use zucchini instead of the potatoes.
Add corn or black beans.
Replace the ham with bacon, sausage, pulled pork, taco-spiced ground beef, shrimp or smoked salmon.

Lemon Souffle Cheesecake

1 graham cracker, crushed
2/3 cup boiling water
1 package sugar-free lemon gelatin
1 cup 2% cottage cheese
8 oz low fat cream cheese
2 cups thawed fat free whipped topping

Spray a springform pan or pie plate with cooking spray. Sprinkle half the cracker crumbs on the side of the pan.
Add water to a gelatin mix in  small bowl. Stir 2 minutes or until completely dissolved. Cook for 4 minutes.
Blend gelatin, cottage cheese and cream cheese with electric mixer or blender until smooth. Pour into a large bowl.
Gently stir in whipped topping.
Pour into prepared pan. Smooth the top. Sprinkle remaining crumbs around outside edge. Refrigerate for 4 hours or until set.

Garnish with lemon zest. (We topped it with a bit of whipped topping and blueberries.)

Nutritional data:
Calories:        106
Fat:                5.5g
Sat fat:              3g
Chol:               19mg
Sodium:         268mg
Carbs:            6.8g
Fiber:                0g
Protein:          6.2g

Other ideas:
Use orange flavored gelatin, top with chopped fresh pineapple and whipped topping.
Use fat free cottage cheese and cream cheese (I don't like the taste of fat free cottage cheese and cream cheese, so I won't use those.)
Use cherry flavored gelatin, chocolate graham crackers, and top with shaved dark chocolate.

I'm Back! (Again!)

It is the beginning of the school year. Our college starts earlier than most, so I have been neck-deep in school work (to explain my recent absence.)

Friday was a nice day (I define a "nice day" as "a day when I do not need to go to the campus or the clinical site".) I got a bunch of work done around the house, but I also got prepared for a special meal. We invited both set of parents over for a meal and a viewing of the vacation pictures, both Tammy and my vacation out east and Ethan's trip to China. (It was a lot more fun that than sounds. Everyone in our family tends to be grandiose storytellers, so it got to be a bit wild and crazy.)

You've already seen many of the East Coast trip photos. Ethan is a lot like me, and he took almost 800 pictures over 17 days. I will not post all 800 pictures, but I think there are four that are representative of his trip and his personality.  After I subject you to those pictures, I will tell you about the simple, delicious and healthy meal we served.  But first...

Early in the tour, they went to this pagoda, the Sixth Harmonious Pagoda.
The were able to go inside and explore.  Twelve stories up.

That is Ethan. Doing his own thing, enjoying his life to his own internal drummer.
All while sitting on the edge of a tall building.

And another view. It is a long way down.

He got to walk on the Great Wall of China. I am a bit jealous.

Yesterday was fun, and we all shared laughs and stories. And food, of course.We have a few people in the extended families that are more particular about what they eat, so that makes meal planning a little more work. But we found a meal that satisfied everyone.

This was a simple meal. The main dish was a potato-ham skillet (recipe to follow.) I served it with my from-scratch four bean salad, a wilted lettuce salad with hot bacon sweet-sour dressing, some homemade rye bread, a fruit salad (pictured above) and that light lemon souffle cheesecake (recipe to follow.)

Sometimes--most of the time, actually--the meals do not need to be fancy or elegant to be supremely enjoyable. This was another "breakfast-for-dinner" type meal, but it was easy to prepare while everyone was milling around the kitchen. (Have you noticed that no matter where you want people to go, they always gravitate to the kitchen?)

Anyway, it was a nice afternoon and evening. I hope you give one or both of these recipes a try. They were ridiculously simple.

More recipes will be following over the next few days. Now that the school year has actually started, my life will get back into the routine and blogging will be a bit easier (well, easier than the last week or so.)

Friday, August 10, 2012

Simple Tiramisu

Simple Tiramisu
Serves 12

2 tablespoons instant coffee (instant espresso is best)
1/4 cup boiling water
32 reduced fat Nilla wafers
1 tub (8 ounces) whipped low fat cream cheese
1/4 cup Splenda (or other non-calorie sweetener, or powdered sugar if you prefer real sugar)
1 tub (8 ounces) fat free frozen whipped topping, thawed
Fresh raspberries
1 teaspoon cocoa powder

Dissolve the instant coffee in the boiling water.
Cover the bottom of an 8x8 dish with 16 Nilla wafers. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon of the coffee.
Mix 2 tablespoons coffee to the cream cheese gradually, mixing until blended. Add Splenda. Mix well.
Stir in whipped topping.
Spoon half the coffee-cream cheese mixture over the wafers.
Cover with remaining wafers, and drizzle the remaining coffee over them.
Top with remaining cream cheese mixture.
Refrigerate at least four hours (overnight is better.)
Cut into 12 portions. Top each with raspberries and a dusting of cocoa.

Nutritional data:
Calories:        117
Fat:                  6.2g
Sat fat:            4.2g
Chol:            13.8mg
Sodium:     100.8mg
Carbs:          15.2g
Fiber:             0.9g
Protein:         1.2g

The Godfather Event, Part 1 and 2

Tammy had an idea for a family event. We would find a movie that we were all interested in watching and then create an evening around it. I tossed around the usual things that the boys and I enjoy (Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, super heroes) and she gave me the response that I expected (I made those suggestions as a joke.)

So we started thinking about classic movies that we might all enjoy and we discovered that only Bennett has seen the Godfather, and none of us have seen Godfather II. So that was the theme. We thought we would be able to watch both in a single evening, but that was not going to work. Combined, those movies are almost six hours long, and Ethan has summer classes in the morning and marching band practice in the afternoon. That means we could not start until at least. No worries. That means we get two family nights!

Wednesday evening was the first movie. As a starter, I made another antipasto platter.

I sliced a loaf of French bread, spread a bit of olive oil on each piece and sprinkled garlic powder on each. I baked them at 375F for about 12 minutes (or until golden brown as shown.) The bowl in the lower right is a quickie bruschetta (1 large tomato, diced, with about 1/4 cup finely minced onion, and a tablespoon each of olive oil and balsamic vinegar.) The platter holds stuff that was in the fridge. Some cheeses, pickles, two types of olives, some salami cut into wedges, some pepperoni slices. The red and orange cherry peppers are from my garden.

We all made a plate of that and retired to the TV room to watch Marlon Brando mumble through his role as Don Vito Corleone. It was a great movie and fun to see actors as they looked 40 years ago. The boys and Tammy enjoyed it as much as I did.

At the halfway point, we enjoyed pasta. I filled the pasta pot with salted water before we started the movie. About 45 minutes into the movie, I turned the heat on the water. When it came to a boil, I threw in the fettuccini. At the same time, in a large (12 inch) non-stick skillet I combined 1/2 cup olive oil and 12 cloves of garlic, crushed and minced. I didn't turn that heat on yet. In a small sauce pan, I put the Alfredo sauce. Again, I didn't turn the heat on yet. (To be honest, I cut one corner in this meal. I bought a jar of Ragu, low calorie Alfredo sauce. While I am able to make my own, I also wanted to be able to enjoy the evening and movie. That means I needed to minimize my kitchen time. It still tasted very good.)

When the pasta was cooked al dente, I turned the heat on for the olive oil and the Alfredo sauce. I drained the fettuccini and added it to the olive oil-garlic pan, and tossed to coat. I also chopped some chicken breast from Monday's meal (Beer Can Chicken) and warmed it in a small skillet.

When everything was hot, we paused the movie and everyone made a plate for themselves and went back to the TV room. Normally, when we eat as a family, we sit at the dinner table, but last night was special. (It drive Ozzy nuts that we were eating in the TV room!)

When the movie was done, we enjoyed the Tiramisu that Tammy made.

Note for any people of Italian descent that may be reading this. This is not your mother's Tiramisu! It is simple, easy and relatively healthy. I will give the recipe in a separate blog post.

Thursday evening was Godfather II, and in my opinion, the better of the two movies. Bennett and I disagree--he feels Brando was better then DeNiro. That's okay. Everyone can have their opinion!

The evening started with a simple--but large--Ceasar-ish Salad, with basil and Parmesan crusted chicken. (That sounds fancier than it really is. I used the chicken from the Beer Can Chicken, and rolled it in some basil pesto mixed with fresh-grated Parmesan. Then I quickly warmed it in some olive oil in a non-stick skillet.) A pile of romaine lettuce, some Kalamata olives, left leftover crostini from last night cut into croutons, and shaved Parmesan (with a commercially prepared Ceasar salad dressing.) I know, I know. It is not a traditional Ceasar salad. But that is the way it is on our home. We make things the way we like them, and only loosely follow the rules. Hey, the Pasta Police know where we live if there is a problem! 

After dinner, we turned on the movie, and as I said, I enjoyed this one a little more than the first. I made some popcorn (2 tablespoons coconut oil and 1/3 cup yellow popcorn) topped with some unsalted butter for the boys. We did nothing else special in terms of food. The "specialness" was just from sharing time with my entire family.

I hope everyone is able to find special time with family and friends, and if it revolves around food, I hope you are able to make food that everyone enjoys. And if you want to use any of my recipes, I hope you have as much success as I.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Peanut Butter Cup "Sundae"

Peanut Butter Cup "Sundae"
Serves 1

8 ounces (by weight) Fage 0% plain Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa
2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter, divided
1 packet Splenda (or other non-calorie sweetener. Use 2 teaspoon table sugar instead of one packet sweetener if you prefer.)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 scoop whey powder (2 tablespoons)
1/2 to 1 teaspoon instant coffee powder (plus a bit more for garnish)

1/2 cup whipped topping (or more)

Place yogurt into a medium bowl.
Place 1 tablespoon of the peanut butter in a microwave-safe bowl. Warm for 10-15 seconds, or until liquid and pourable. Set aside.
Add vanilla, Splenda, instant coffee and cocoa to yogurt. Stir well to mix completely.
Add protein powder. Stir well to mix completely.
Taste. If not sweet enough, add another packet of sweetener.
Add remaining peanut butter. Stir into the yogurt, but you do not want it to be smooth. (Little pockets of peanut butter is the goal.)

Spoon into a serving bowl. Drizzle the melted peanut butter over the yogurt. Top with whipped topping, sprinkle coffee powder.


Nutritional data (including the whipped topping):
Calories:        450
Fat:                19.4g
Sat fat:             5.9g
Chol:                20mg
Sodium:         266mg
Carbs:           28.8g
Fiber:              5.4g
Protein:        44.5g

I realize that most people will not be able to fit this into their budget. It is a large snack/dessert. But I created this because I needed to find soft foods to eat after having oral surgery. And since the surgery involved drilling into my jaw bone, grafting new bone material, and hoping that my bone integrates with the graft bone, I need a high protein, high fat diet.

And it still needed to be soft. It is two days since the surgery, and my jaw is still very tender. (I accidentally chewed a cherry tomato on the spot--a simple cherry tomato!--and it really hurt and started it bleeding again.)

So, if you are in a position where you need the calories and you need protein and fat, give this a try. It was really good!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Warm Quinoa Vegetable Salad and Grilled Stuffed Cabbage

Quinoa Salad and Grilled Stuffed Cabbage
Salad Serves 8
Cabbage Serves 4-8 (depending on the size of the cabbage)

Quinoa Salad

1/2 cup uncooked quinoa (white or red)

2 cucumbers, peeled and seeded, chopped into 1/4 inch pieces (about 2 cups)
1 cup bell pepper, seeded and chopped into 1/4 inch pieces
1/2 cup pea pods, sliced into thin pieces
1/2 cup onion, diced
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes (diced if not already diced)

4 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon of your preferred herb blend (I used Penzey's Tuscan Sunset blend.)
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

  1. Prepare quinoa according to instructions on the label.
  2. While quinoa is cooking, prepare all veggies. Place veggies in a large bowl.
  3. Mix vinegar, oil, mustard seasonings and pepper in a small bowl.  Whisk until mixed.
  4. Add quinoa to veggies. Pour dressing, toss to mix and coat.

Nutritional Data (each serving is 3/4 cup):
Calories:          99
Fat:                  4.4g
Sat fat:            0.5g
Chol:                  0mg
Sodium:        75.9mg
Carbs:           12.6g
Fiber:              2.4g
Protein:          2.7g

Grilled Stuffed Cabbage

1 head of cabbage (red or green)
1-3 strips of bacon
1/2 medium onion, diced
2-4 teaspoons brown sugar

The amount of bacon you will use depends on the size of the cabbage.  Mine was small, about 4 inches (10 cm) across. I used 1.5 slices.

  1. Preheat grill on high while prepping the ingredients.
  2. In a non-stick skillet, fry the bacon until it is partially cooked. It will still be limp, but some of the fat will have melted off.
  3. Remove bacon from the skillet and dice. Set aside.
  4. Pour off most of the bacon fat (unless you want to use it all.) I used about 1 teaspoon.  Saute the onions over med-high heat until just translucent (3-4 minutes.) Remove from heat.
  5. Core the cabbage and remove the largest (and inedible) outer leaves, leaving a tight head. With a sharp knife, create a well 2-3 inches deep and 1-2 inches across. Do not cut through the cabbage.
  6. Fill the well with water (I used beer). You can also use wine or fruit juice.) Tightly wrap entire head with plastic wrap. Microwave for 5 minutes. Carefully remove from the microwave. It will be hot. CAREFULLY remove plastic wrap (it will be steamy) and pour off the liquid.
  7. Fill the well with half of the bacon, some onion, the remaining bacon and onion to fill. Top with the 2 teaspoons brown sugar in a mound. (You might not use all the onion.)
  8. Tear off a piece of aluminum foil (12" inches long.) Shape it into a long roll and fashion the roll into a ring just big enough to hold the cabbage off the surface of the counter. (The idea is to hold the well upright, keeping the cabbage off the grill grates, preventing it from burning.)
  9. Place ring on grill. Over direct medium (300-400F) heat, grill cabbage. My 4" head cooked in 30 minutes. A larger head will take longer.
  10. Cut into portions. Again, my cabbage made four servings. A large head will make more serving.

Nutritional Data:
Calories:          58
Fat:                  1.4g
Sat fat:             0.4g
Chol:               3.3mg
Sodium:        93.7mg
Carbs:              9.5g
Fiber:                  2g
Protein:           2.4g

Monday, August 6, 2012

Grilled Sirloin Steak with Warm Barley-Spinach Salad

Grilled Sirloin Steak with Warm Barley-Spinach Salad
Serves 4-5

24 ounce sirloin steak
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons red wine (any variety)
Black pepper

Place steak in a Ziploc baggy. Add next four ingredients. Let the steak marinate, turning occasionally, for 1 hour.

While the steak in marinating, prepare the vegetables:
4-6 scallions, sliced thinly
4 ounces fresh mushrooms, sliced thinly
6 baby carrots, halved lengthwise, then sliced thinly
2 stalks celery, halved lengthwise, then sliced thinly
2 cups fresh baby spinach, roughly chopped

About 30 minutes before dinner service, combine:
2 cups water, boiling in a sauce pan
1 cup quick cooking barley

Cover and let cook until the water is mostly absorbed (12-15 minutes, or until the barley is soft and chewy.)

Preheat the grill on high for 5 minutes. Clean grate.
Remove steak from marinade, blot dry.
Season with salt and pepper (if desired.)
Grill over direct medium heat, 7 minutes per side.
Remove from heat and cover loosely with foil while finishing the meal.

While the steak is on the grill, heat a large non-stick skillet over med-high heat.
Add 1 tablespoon olive oil, and all vegetables except spinach
Saute until warm (4-5 minutes) Set aside.

In a large (4 quart) bowl, combine:
Juice of one large lemon
1 tablespoon brown mustard (sweet German mustard works well)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon lemon zest

Set aside.

The barley should be done about the same time as the steak. While the steak rests, place chopped spinach in bowl with dressing. Pour barley over the spinach (if there is water remaining, add it to the bowl.) Stir to combine. Add sauteed vegetables to the barley. Stir to combine.

Slice the steak across the grain, in slices 1/4 inch thick.

This can be made using other steaks or roasts. I will not provide nutritional data for the meat since that will vary based on what you grill.

Nutritional data for 1 cup salad:
Calories:      165
Fat:                   6g
Sat fat:          0.8g
Chol:               0mg
Sodium:     28.4mg
Carbs:        26.5g
Fiber:           3.9g
Protein:       4.1g

A word about the salad recipe. We, as a family, did not really like this recipe. The lemon flavor was too aggressive and masked everything else. My lemon yielded almost 1/2 cup of juice. When I make this salad next, I will use only 4 tablespoons lemon juice. Or I might substitute a vinegar for instead of the lemon juice, letting the lemon zest provide a hint of citrus flavor. (I think balsamic vinegar would work very well.)

A word about the steak. I cooked it to rare, as you can see in the picture. Not everyone like their meat rare, but my family prefers that. If you want it medium-rare, grill it 8-9 minutes on a side. Medium will be 9-10 minutes on a side. As always, the times will be dependent on the heat of the grill and the thickness of the steak. (I don't think a good piece of steak should be cooked more than medium.)

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Baked Cod, Baked French Fries, and Brussels Sprouts

Baked Cod with Baked French Fries and Brussels Sprouts with Balsamic Glaze
Serves 4

24 ounces Alaskan Cod fillets
2 tablespoons butter
Your preferred herbs (I used dill weed and Penzey's Sunny Paris.)
2 large Russet potatoes
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon paprika
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 pound raw Brussels sprouts
1/4 cup red wine
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

1.   Preheat oven to 425
2.   Place cod fillets in a 9x13 baking dish. Dot fillets with butter, sprinkle with herbs. Set aside.
3.   Slice potatoes into 1/4 inch slices. Turn and slice again into 1/4 inch strips.
4.   Toss potato strips in 2 tablespoons olive oil.
5.   Lay potatoes strips in a baking sheet in a single layer so that none are touching.
6.   Place the cod on oven's upper rack and potatoes on lower rack.
7.   After 15 minutes, flip fries. Switch fries and cod to different racks.
8.   While baking, mix Parmesan cheese, paprika, onion, garlic and salt. Set aside.
9.   Heat non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil.
10. Saute Brussels sprouts, toss frequently for 15 minutes.
11. Add wine and balsamic vinegar. Toss frequently, until the liquid is reduced by half. It will be like thin syrup.
12. Fries and cod will be done after 30 minutes in the oven. Sprinkle Parmesan seasoning over fries.

This meal took about 10 minutes to prepare, and thirty minutes to cook. It is fast and simple.

Nutritional data baked cod:
Calories:      230
Fat:                7.2g
Sat fat:           3.9g
Chol:         108.8mg
Sodium:    133.5mg
Carbs:               0g
Fiber:                0g
Protein:      38.9g

Nutritional data for baked fries:
Calories:      218
Fat:                 8.2g
Sat fat:           1.7g
Chol:              3.1mg
Sodium:     208.8mg
Carbs:          32.1g
Fiber:             3.4g
Protein:         4.8g

Nutritional data for Brussels sprouts:
Calories:      107
Fat:                 3.5g
Sat fat:           0.5g
Chol:                 0mg
Sodium:       21.1mg
Carbs:          12.1g
Fiber:             3.4g
Protein:         3.5g

My Garden Is Beginning to Produce

Some of my garden.
A bowl of Sweet 100 and Lemon Drop tomatoes.
Large red sweet Hungarian peppers, medium-sized red jalapenos, and Thai ("Bird's Eye") chili.

In case you are wondering about the heat of each pepper, the Hungarian peppers have a
Scoville rating of 100-200. The jalapenos have a Scoville rating of 4,000-8,000 (but in my opinion, it is closer to the 4,000 because they are pretty mild.)

The Thai Chili peppers are rated 50-100,000.
At 50,000 units, I am not sure how I will use them, but they will be spicy.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Asian Steak with Asparagus and Mushrooms

Asian Steak with Asparagus and Mushrooms
Serves 4

1 pound lean beef steak, 1/2 inch thick
1 large Vidalia onion, chopped
2 discs of fresh ginger, 1/8 inch thick, sliced into matchsticks
2 cloves of garlic, mashed and chopped
1 pound asparagus, chopped into 2 inch lengths
8 ounces fresh mushrooms, sliced
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil, divided
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup water
2 teaspoon Hoisin sauce (optional, but important)
Salt and pepper
Chinese Five Spice powder (optional, but important)

1.   Season the beef with salt and pepper to taste. Also use a touch of five spice powder. Set aside.
2.   Heat a large non-stick skillet. Add 1 teaspoon sesame oil.
3.   When hot, add onions. Saute for 2-3 minutes.
4.   Add mushrooms and asparagus. Toss to mix.
5.   Add water, vinegar and Hoisin sauce. Stir, turn heat to high and cover.
6.   Heat a second non-stick skillet (11 inch). When hot, add the remaining sesame oil.
7.   Pan fry steaks, about 2 minutes per side.
8.   Turn the heat off the vegetables. They should be hot, but a bit crunchy.
9.   Remove the steaks, and cut into strips, about 2 inches long and a 1/2 inch wide.

Nutritional data:
Calories:        311
Fat:                14g
Sat fat:          4.6g
Chol:           98mg
Sodium:  114.5mg
Carbs:         10.2g
Fiber:            2.3g
Protein:          37g

If you want a much more detailed review of asparagus and many more ideas on how to prepare and use it, here is a great web resource: How to Cook Asparagus

Thanks to Lita Watson for sharing this information with the blog and all of my readers!

If you want to a new podcast on your play list, listen to my show Make Your Someday Today (MYST). Here is a link to the first episode, where I tell my personal story of how I went from wearing a 3XL shirt down to a Medium, from 48" waist to 34", and my jacket went from a 54 Portly to 44 Regular.

If you've ever wondered about "starvation mode", "free foods" and "how often should you weigh yourself?" here is the show for you!

Friday, August 3, 2012

An Awesome Motto for Life

Some of the new decorations.

My wife is redecorating our home and one placque now hanging on the dining room wall says:

A good motto.

And I have to agree with that sentiment. Oh, I don't actually suggest that you eat that blueberry tort before everything else at dinner. But really, why not? Why must we always clean our plate before we can have our sweet treat? Your body doesn't care if the salad arrives in your stomach before the mushroom-topped chicken breast, or if the nice mocha mousse is the first food eaten.

And maybe, if you time it correctly, eating your dessert first may allow you to not eat as much in total. Maybe you could have a piece of angel food cake, topped with a few fresh strawberries and whipped topping. But the key here is that you eat the dessert 20-30 minutes before the rest of the meal. Then, after finishing the dessert, you finish cooking the main course. That will force you to slow down, fully enjoy the food, and give your stomach a chance to send the "I'm full" signal to your brain.

But the motto on the placque really is just telling you to make sure you do the things that you really enjoy. Take time for yourself. Go on vacation--even if you do nothing more than stay home, turn off your phone and ignore your pile of school work. Drive the slow route to work and enjoy the different scenery. Read a book for pleasure.

And make room in your budget for dessert. The easiest way--and what I do every day--is to decide what you want for dessert, and log it as soon as you make that decision. That way, you have already deducted those calories from your budget, which gives you your remaining daily budget. In essence, you are eating your dessert first. And when you do this, you will be able to have that dessert and stay within your budget.

I like desserts. I generally eat them after dinner, as my evening snack. We generally eat dinner at 5:30ish. My dessert is usually about four hours later. That spreads out the food, preventing me from feeling over-full, and gives me a nice snack a few hours before going to bed for the night. My preferred evening dessert/snack is either an ounce of almonds and an ounce of dark chocolate, or a carton of yogurt mixed with some whipped cream and topped with some nuts, chopped dark chocolate, and coconuts. Both are about 300-350 calories and have more fat and protein than carbs which takes me through the night very well.

So, eat your desserts! Enjoy the sweet side of life. (Just make sure you log it.)

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Ribs! A Perfect Summer Meal

This post is more of a story, but it is also a recipe for happiness.

I like ribs. Baby back ribs, short ribs, beef ribs, spare ribs, country-style. I am completely rib-centric and open-minded in my love for ribs. I like them wet or dry. With a sweet tomato sauce, or a sharp mustard sauce. With a vinegar sauce or no sauce at all. Dry rubbed. Par-boiled. Smoked or grilled over direct heat. In an oven, a crock pot, or a grill.

If you are not a pork-itarian, maybe you should skip this post.

Over the weekend, I made two huge racks of spareribs. Each weighed about 7 pounds. I dry rubbed them with a spice blend on Friday and let them sit in the fridge until Saturday afternoon. At noon, I fired up my smoker-grill and cooked them over low (225-ish) indirect heat with chunks of hickory for heat and apple wood for smoke.

Just after I put them on the grill.

If you are curious, the rub was 4 tablespoons paprika, 2 tablespoons table sugar, and 1 tablespoon each of coarse salt, black pepper, dry mustard, celery seed, garlic powder, onion powder, and 1 teaspoon cayenne. I tend to go overboard when I make spice blends, but this works on ribs.

I added one or two hickory chunks every 30 minutes, as well as a handful of apple wood chips that I had soaking in beer. At the same time, I also sprayed the ribs with a spray bottle filled with 3/4 cup apple cider vinegar and 1/4 cup Jack Daniels. I never turned the ribs or repositioned them at all. There are four air vents on this grill, and all were open half-way. It made a lot of smoke but not a lot of heat.

After five hours on the grill, they are ready to come off.

Towards the end of grilling, I prepared the other aspects of the meal. I make zucchini pancakes and grilled corn on the cob.

Those are three inch cakes. It takes 1/4 cup batter to make one.

I had fresh corn on the cob that I partially husked (I pulled the husk to expose the corn, but I did not remove it from the cob.) I fired up my gas grill and preheated it on high for ten minutes. (Yeah, I have a charcoal grill AND a natural gas grill, directly connected to my home natural gas supply. I am a bit grill obsessed.) I laid the cobs directly on the grate. Corn grills at 2-3 minutes per side, and I basted it with olive oil and a bit of salt and pepper. (I was too busy finishing the ribs and frying the pancakes so I did not have time to take a picture of the corn on the grill.)

Ribs are resting and the corn is grilled.

Notice the pink edge to the ribs. That is not rare meat, but rather a "smoke ring" cause by the smoke beginning to preserve the meat, when the smoke is absorbed by the meat and them chemically interacts. A smoke ring is a sign of low heat and long smoking.

I am not going to give nutritional data, because everyone will buy different ribs and therefore will have different numbers. And you may choose to use a commercial spice blend or a liquid sauce. I just tell you about this to give you the idea that you can smoke meats, too. You do not need a smoker. You just need a grill that is large enough to allow for indirect heat, and then add your preferred wood chips for the flavor. (I actually do not prefer hickory, but it is what I had on my grill shelf. The smoke is a little "medicinal" but it still tastes better than ribs without smoke.)

We had five people eating dinner (my wife and myself, our two sons and one of their friends.) After we finished dinner we still had an entire rack of ribs leftover. That's okay because they taste even better the next day. Except when I got up the next day, the ribs were gone. Apparently, the guys stayed up late playing Xbox and sometime in the early morning hours, they enjoyed a snack of pork ribs.

At least they left me a few of the pancakes.

Life is meant to be enjoyed and shared, which is what I do with my interviews on my Make Your Someday Today podcast. I interview people from around the world, ask them to share their stories and in the process, we all learn how to be more successful and happier.