Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Smoothie update

Costco had some great-lookin' berries yesterday, so I branched out with a new smoothie.

Yeah, OK, I know smoothies aren't rocket science. It's pretty easy to come up with flavor combos. But here's one I did yesterday.

Blueberry-almond Smoothie

1 cup blueberries
1/3 cup soft tofu
1 cup ice
2 Tbs. honey
1 banana
1/4 tsp. almond extract
1/3 cup pomegranate juice.

No, I didn't really measure all this stuff. I just dump it by handfuls (except the honey) into the blender and go to town. All measurements are WAY approximate. I liked this one. I know I've mentioned this before, but I'm REALLY looking forward to peach season. I'm totally going peach-mint, peach almond, peach raspberry, peach cherry bananas! when the time comes.

I do believe now I'll go make one of these blueberry ones for my breakfast!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Turkey Ragout and Green Salada

I took the inspiration for this from my rockin' sister-in-law, Natalie, whose picture I'm not allowed to put on the intrawebs, despite the fact that she's drop-dead gorgeous. She is pretty damned near perfect. She's gorgeous (as aforementioned), she's ripped, she's fun, she has a great sense of humor, she has great taste (despite having married my brother, love you John!), and she can cook! She mentioned the other night that she made a ground turkey ragout. So I decided to give my own a try tonight, sans recipe. Along with a salad with strawberries (it IS Spring, after all...) and a balsamic vinaigrette. So here you go, faithful readers.

The salad:

Mixed greens, chopped almonds, sliced strawberries, a little crumble of feta cheese, and a dressing of 1 tsp. honey, a pinch of salt, a grind of black pepper, 2 tsp. white balsamic vinegar, and about 3 Tbs. of olive oil. Really good.

And the main course:

Whole wheat pasta. The ragout was as follows:

1 small onion, chopped
1 cup mushrooms, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbs. olive oil
1 lb. ground turkey
1 15 oz. can tomato sauce
2 Tbs. goat cheese
1 Tbs. basil pesto
1 Tbs. black olive tapenade
3 Tbs. goat cheese
1/4 cup red wine
1/4 cup skim milk

Salt and pepper to taste

Use a 12" pan over medium heat. Sautee' the onion and mushroom in the olive oil until transluscent, then add the ground turkey. Add a generous pinch of kosher salt and ground black pepper. Brown the turkey, about 10 minutes. Add the red wine, tomato sauce, goat cheese, and pesto. Simmer until thick. Thin as needed with equal amounts red wine and skim milk. Taste and season as necessary with salt and pepper. Serve over whole wheat spaghetti noodles and top with grated parmesan cheese.

In cooking your pasta, SALT THE WATER, people! The water ought to be almost too salty to deal with - like sea water. I use about a Tablespoon of kosher salt in mine. And I got that tip from Marc the chef, who worked at the French Laundry, so don't be telling me I don't know what the hell I'm talking about.

Now. Was this good? Sure. It was fine. Yes. I mean "fine". Not great. Was it as good as a REAL ragout with beef and veal and all the other fattier meats? Heck no. I'm not going to lie to you like Cooking Lite or something where they're all "This is JUST as good as the REAL THING!" Psh. Right. If it was, folks wouldn't have such a hard time losing weight. I mean seriously. If green beans were as good as french fries, do you think there would be so many weebles waddling around? Yes, it's a lower-fat version. No, it's not anywhere near as good as the real one with lots of meat fat and cream. Reality bites. I made it because we're trying to eat cleaner to go with the P90X workous we're busting our heinies on every day. Why undo an exhausting PlyoX workout with a cream-laden, fatty meat dinner? If you've done plyo, you know what I mean. It's like having a kidney removed without anesthesia. While jumping up and down at the same time. When you finish that, you need ALCOHOL, not food. Empty calories? Sure. But better at helping you temporarily forget the punishment Tony put you through earlier.

Ah, I digress. We're kind of obsessed with P90X right now. Back to dinner. It was fine. Not "ohmygod this was WONDERFUL", but fine. And we have leftovers for lunch. So thanks again to Nat for putting the bug in my ear for making this. Now I have to go put the leftovers away since my husband is apparently on strike for scullery duty. Cheers, folks!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Dinner catch-up!!

Whoops! I'm catching a little grief for not posting "since freaking JANUARY" says my sister-in-law. So here I'm playing catch-up. Nothing terribly special to post, but here it is nevertheless. Let me scroll through what I got here...
Let's see. What's this? That was a chicken, broccoli and snap pea stir-fry over brown rice. Do I remember what I seasoned it with? Let me think... I think soy, sesame and - oh hell. I can't remember. Someone shoot me. Sorry about that! I don't remember it, so it must not have been all that good anyway.

Now what else do I have here...

OK, this one I remember. We picked up some nice-looking wild Alaskan Salmon (I guess it hung out in bars and picked up loose women) and I grilled it topped with some dijon mustard (and salt and pepper - do I have to say that?). Then I put it over some deleeshious white beans simmered with celery and bay leaf. I like white beans. Salmon... not so much. But Pootie asked for salmon, so there it is.

Lastly, we have a chicken parmesan sort of thing. I dredged a pounded chicken breast in some panko crumbs and a little parmesan cheese, then browned it in about a tablespoon of olive oil, then baked it the rest of the way at 350 for about 20 minutes with a slice of skim mozarella on top. I served that over whole wheat pasta with marinara sauce. (Make your own out of a chopped onion sauteed, then a can of tomato sauce and a teaspoon of pesto sauce.) This was very good. I just cut the chicken breast in half. It was plenty for the two of us.

There you go. Three for the price of one! And remember! You get what you pay for! Tonight I'm doing a curry of some sort. I have a bunch of veggies - eggplant, carrots, snap peas... um... other stuff. So I'll be mooshing all that together somehow. We're leaving tomorrow for a couple of days, so I won't be cooking for a couple of days. After this disappointing ensemble, you probably will be relieved!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Fish and Chicken Tacos with Jack and Beth

Tacos, tacos, tacos! And Jack and Beth! What a nice evening!

I had some tilapia and chicken, so I threw that on the grill after salting and peppering it, made some black beans and some brown rice, and then chopped up a bunch of stuff to go with. There you go! Dinner!

The weather was great, so we got to eat outside. We had a pleasant evening, ate and ate, and then went inside to play spades with the cards they got us from a cheesy Vegas casino when it got dark. Beth and I were winning, but Jack is a card shark and they managed to pull ahead by the designated quit time. We have to do that because we're all so danged old that we can't make it until someone scores 500.


Hey all. Yesterday I got a nice email from someone who apparently read the blog (who wasn't related to me! Who knew!?) and she requested a recipe from one of the blogs. I don't always post them, because sometimes they're published somewhere for real and I don't want to be stealing someone else's thunder and such. But if you see something you'd like to try, and I've been too vague about how to do it, or where it came from, by all means, zap me an email, or leave a comment here on the blog and I'll be happy to provide it. My email is, and I opened up the comments section so you don't have to register with the CIA to do it.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Buckwheat Noodle Salad with Shrimp

I'm pretty pleased with his picture. Yes, I am! It turned out well, I think. For me, I should say. Let's look at it and admire it for a minute, shall we? (sigh)

OK, so last night's dinner is a bastardization of a noodle salad that Marc taught me to make. He might strenuously object to this comparison, because I actually lost my notes from making it last time, so it probably isn't real close anymore to what he does. His doesn't use shrimp, and has wasabi, which I was out of, and... well, sorry. His is a lot better. But this was a good dinner so I'm giving him credit anyway.
It's a pretty quick one to put together, once you get all the chopping done. And once you get someone else to peel the shrimp. I have this thing with shrimp. I can eat them fine, no problem, but there's something on the shells that I'm allergic to and when I peel them, I get this itchy red streak that starts shooting up my fingers through my arm, and if it's bad enough, my eyes swell shut, I have to take a Benedryl, and then I may as well hang it up for the evening because that stuff knocks me out cold. Isn't that fascinating? Now back to dinner.
Here's the prep:
  • Julienne (Hope you do better than I did) a carrot, a cucumber, some snow peas, and some red pepper.
  • Get your Pootie Pie to peel the shrimp. Do I need to tell you about the shrimp shell thing again? I didn't think so. (We had about a pound of head-on shrimp.)
  • Mince about 2 Tbs. of fresh ginger and 2 garlic cloves together.
  • Grate the zest of half a lime which your Pootie Pie is using to make himself a mojito, and chop about 1/4 cup cilantro and 1/4 cup fresh mint (from which your Pootie Pie grabs a pinch to make his mojito) and mix that together. The mint/lime thing was a mutual exploitation.
  • Salt and pepper the shrimp, and mix in a tablespoon of garlic chili paste. More if you like stuff really hot.
  • Mix together a couple of tablespoons of sesame oil and about a tablespoon of soy sauce.
  • Chop about a tablespoon of peanuts and cut a couple of lime wedges.
Here's the cooking:
  • Boil buckwheat noodles in salted water about 5 minutes, drain and toss with the sesame/soy sauce mixture.
  • Heat up a frying pan, drizzle with vegetable oil and sizzle the shrimp until they're done through.
  • Dump all the chopped vegetables and the shrimp in with the noodles and toss.
  • Top with the lime zest/cilantro/mint mixture, then the chopped peanuts. Serve with lime wedges.
It was pretty good, and since I didn't peel the shrimp, I actually got to eat it. The kitchen was a disaster area this morning, because I wound up skyping with my brother and his wife, and Pootie sat outside enjoying the nice weather and we didn't clean. I won't do that again. But he says the mess was worth it. (Of course, he didn't clean it up, either, but it's the principle of the thing.)

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Whole Wheat Pizza with Arugula and Lemon Parm topping

Oh! Em! Gee!! This pizza was SO GOOD!! Pootie said it was worthy of the heavyweights. He didn't mean fatties. He mean the friends we have who REALLY appreciate good food. He didn't name names. You know who you are. And if you are reading this blog, you're probably in the crowd. (How's that for exclusive? And the others will never know...)

Here's before:

You aesthetic peeps can just hush. I know it's not round. I'm working on that. It's not a PRETTY pizza. But it was deleeeshious!

Look at that browned moz! Gorgeous!

I made a whole wheat pizza crust in the KitchenAid mixer. Some people use their food processors, but I still like the mixer with the dough hook. I made myself a pomegranate margarita (step 1), then got busy. Into the mixer goes 1 cup of very warm water, 2 tsp. of salt, 2 tsp. of SAP yeast that Marc recommended, about 3 Tbs. of good quality olive oil, and about half and half whole wheat and white flour until it was a nice ball. I then sat on my heinie and drank that margarita! Yes, I did! The mixer did all the kneading for me, for about 10 minutes. Then I stopped to let it rise and play on Facebook while Pootie did Plyo. I did core this morning, so my workout time was over. Thank goodness. (P90X is our new thing. Yes, I know the ad is cheesy, but the workout is killer. Sometimes literally.)

But I digress... While Pootie was getting his shower and cooling down with his P90X Recovery Ale, I put the pizza on the grill. I put the pizza stone on the grill, heated up to about 450, then stretched out the pizza crust to as thin as I could get it, and topped it with roasted garlic, some olive oil, a sprinkling of sea salt, and some good mozarella.

A word about roasted garlic: I am not a fan of raw garlic. It's too harsh and makes me a little queasy in the morning when I wake up with that taste in my mouth. Roasted garlic has a nice, mellow flavor that doesn't carry over quite as long. Take a head of garlic, slice off the top, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with kosher salt and roast at 350 for about half an hour. Then just squeeze out the cloves and rub onto a pizza crust or bread or whatever you want.

Back to the pizza - When it was done and the mozarella was nice and browned, I mixed the Arugula Salad (this came from Bon Appetit). It's Arugula and tomatoes (I used grape, they called for cherry) dressed with a parmesan dressing that is 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, 8 or 9 tbs. of olive oil, 2 tsp. of lemon zest and 2 Tbs. of lemon juice. (I think. Check http:\\ for the proper recipe.) I cut it in half.

So then you dump the salad onto the pizza. And here's what it looks like:

Let it sit for a few minutes, then cut it. Yum! Pootie ate about 2/3 of it. I think there's one piece left. Refreshing, reasonably healthy (if you don't eat all of it in one sitting) and very tasty. This one is definitely a keeper!

Grilled Chicken Salad with Pesto Dressing

Now this one was simple. I seasoned four chicken breasts with salt and pepper, and grilled them. then I set those aside. I only used one for the salad for the two of us, but we needed some cooked for lunches. Then I grilled some asparagus and some mushrooms (because that's what I had.) Set those on top of mixed greens, some grape tomatoes and a little crumbled bacon. Then sliced the chicken and drizzled it all with a pesto salad dressing. I made one with a Tbs. of pesto (purchased, because it's too early for basil here), 1 tsp. of lemon juice, and 2 Tbs. of olive oil.
Goes without saying (but of course, I'm saying it anyway) that you could use whatever vegetables in the salad you like.
We ate outside in the pavilion again while the weather was still warm. A cold front moved in overnight, so we'll be indoors for a few days.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Oven Fried Chicken and Asparagus Salad

I probably could have plated this "prettier", but I worked in the yard for a solid 8 hours yesterday, and still managed to Bring It with dinner, so you'll have to excuse me. The back yard looks a lot better than this, I think.

These were another two from Bon Appetit I wanted to try. I have to say, after a VERY long dry spell with that magazine, and toying with the idea of quitting it, they've won me back over with the past four issues or so. There have been a decent bunch of recipes I've wanted to try out of the last few.

We were completely gassed by dinnertime. We really did work hard - raked, bagged leaves, trimmed, weeded, and cleaned out the pond, which was vile. So I felt pretty good about pulling dinner at all, instead of just tossing it in and heading out to eat somewhere. Of course, there are times when that takes more effort than just cooking at home (dressing, gathering, going out, etc.) So we cleaned up from the yard work, poured some drinks, and I got down to business while Pootie sat on the back deck and listened to some Jack Johnson. This was OK because he's the one who did the bulk of the pond cleanout, and it was awarded Worst Job of the Day. Now my herb bed is ready for planting, once this cold weather spins through here this week.

Oh - back to dinner. OK - so this oven fried chicken is pretty basic. Marinate the chicken in buttermilk and dijon mustard and lemon juice, then dredge it in a mixture of seasoned panko, then drizzle it with butter (I used olive oil) and bake it until it's crisp, about 40 minutes at 350.

The asparagus salad was a little fussier. The white blobs on top are oyster mushrooms, which Pootie LOVED. You roast the green and white asparagus, sautee the oyster mushrooms with some shallots, and that's all pretty easy. But the dressing/sauce is a little time-consuming. Boil shreds of parmesan cheese, then reduce that, mix in vinegar and some other stuff (the recipe will be up on epicurious soon if it's not already).

"Ugh!" you say! "Get on with it! If you're not going to post the recipe, at least tell us how it was so we can go find it!" P. declared it "delicious", although he probably would have been happy eating cardboard smeared with peanut butter after the day we had. I thought the chicken was good, but would have liked it crispier. I'm going to experiment with it a little next time. The asparagus salad was excellent. I loved it and will definitely make it again. Even if it does make the bathroom smell funny the next morning. (I love asparagus.) So these are keepers, and if I can get my stupid MasterCook working properly, I'll add them.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Asian Noodle Salad with Shrimp

This one came out of the latest Bon Appetit, and I have to say, is not a keeper, at least not without some modification. Its benefits are that it's fast, easy, takes a minimum of ingredients, and is pretty healthy. But I thought the amount of lime juice the recipe called for was about twice what was needed. It was sour and the flavors weren't well-balanced. It's basic - fish sauce, lime juice, sugar - but too heavy on the lime. If I do it again, I'll cut the lime in half and add just a little more sugar, I think.
Besides the sauce, it's just shrimp, chopped cucumber, sugar snap peas and red pepper, and noodles, then topped with a mixture of chopped cilantro and mint. As I said, pretty basic. It has potential, but I'll definitely be tweaking the sauce next time around. The recipe will be up on within the next couple of weeks, I think. They usually post them a little after the magazine arrives.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Advanced Menu Planning

Well, peeps, I'm back in the groove, I think. Fortunately, the last batch of cooking mags I've gotten have been pretty inspiring. There's lots I want to try out. So I got back into my normal MO of sitting down and planning a week of menus.

I know that the "chef" method is to go to the market, see what looks good, and take your inspiration from there. That's all well and good at the farmer's market, where the stuff really is fresh. But ours hasn't opened yet, so we're dealing with the Teeter, which is your typical supermarket fare. Fine, but not local and fresh. So we just deal with that until the real produce season rolls in. And when I do that at the Teeter, I have a tendency to waste food. I do better if I just plan the menus, make my list, and buy what I need for that week.

The menu planning thing really isn't all that time-consuming. I sat down with three magazines - Fine Cooking and two Bon Appetits and found what I needed to feed us nicely for a week and expand my horizons a little and shake me out of the "I don't know what to cook" funk. The whole process took me about 20 minutes, including making the grocery list. That is a lot less time that I'd spend wandering through the kitchen peering into cabinets and the fridge, trying to figure out what we're having for dinner.

Later today, we'll scoot over to the grocery and stock up, and I'll have some more entertaining posts for you this week than turkey burgers and whole wheat pizza. Cheers!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009


So I've yawned you through the boring saga that is my new life of trying to cook and eat healthier. Here's the deal: My sister-in-law (hey Natalie!) and my brother John are RIPPED now. Uber-healthy, slim and fit as all hell. They make Lance Armstrong look like a damned couch potato. They turned Phillip and me on to the P90X videos with Tony Horton. They're funny, fun, and a much better workout than I was getting at the gym on my own, and better than Phillip was getting with his walking and workout. John and Nat also are eating right - like squirrels, basically. We didn't go whole hog and adopt their complete eating plan, but we're making some pretty major modifications to our diet. You know, lean protein, more fruits and vegetables, whole grains instead of starches... Phillip has lost 11 pounds. I have... well, let's just not go there. It makes me mad, so just hush. I've even doubled up on the workouts. At least I'll be the fittest fatty in the world.

Anyway, one of my new favorites for after a Tony workout (I do mine in the morning) is a smoothie. I swiped a really good recipe from Fine Cooking and modified it. All this stuff just gets crammed into a blender and pureed.

Fruit Tofu Smoothie
8 large strawberries
1 ripe banana

1 cup ice
1/4 pound soft tofu
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/3 cup pomegranate juice

and here's another one I made for P that we both love:

Peanut Butter Banana Smoothie
2 ripe bananas
1 cup ice
3 Tbs. Natural Peanut Butter
2 Tbs. Honey
1/3 cup skim milk
1/4 lb. soft tofu

I think you can take it from here. Just toss in whatever fruit you have available, frozen included, and get the blender busy. The tofu is just fine in these - I don't care much for tofu, as you know, but it's just fine in here, and it keeps me full and going after a hard workout. And it's the perfect time of year, since it's getting warmer out there and fruits are welcome. I'm looking forward to peach season. A peach vanilla mint smoothie already sounds great!

Ew, yuck. This is sounding like a magazine article. If I hit on any more that I really dig, I'll post them up here.