Foodie Found the Way to His Heart

Once upon a time, I got the attention of a certain fellow and he asked me on a date. Well, actually, it was a blind date his cousin set up.

Time passed after a few dates and I decided I wanted to cook a meal and invite him over (to try and impress him, obviously). The main dish would be beef stroganoff, which I’d learned to make with my brother-in-law a year or two prior.

This was also the first time I’d made this particular dish for my family and I was pleased that it was a hit. Especially with that fellow. I eventually married him and we had a couple of children together. Our daughter, Sarah, who moved west and left her poor mother in the Midwest to pine for her…wait, that’s another story.

Sarah confessed some time after she got married that her husband would like more variety in the meals she served. (I hope he said it kindly.) She conceded that she had limits and wondered if I had any ideas. So I recruited family members to send me recipes for main dishes, appetizers, desserts–you name it–that were favorites at their house. Or dishes that were traditionally prepared on special occasions. We definitely had to include her Grandmother’s chocolate cake recipe. My siblings and I still talk about that cake that was so moist, we didn’t even care if it had frosting. That one had tradition written all over it.

She was delighted with the book we put together for her.

I included the recipe for Beef Stroganoff because a certain tale had been told over the years. It was almost legend that cooking that particular dish had turned her dad’s heart toward her mom. (I don’t know that it’s the only thing. I was pretty good with a sewing machine too.)

Love and food go together. And I don’t just mean “Goodness, I love to eat food,” although if we’re Foodies, we not only love to cook, we love to eat and feed others.

Maybe it’s the process of cooking and baking and then sharing the meal that makes for a true Foodie. I have a friend who says this is absolutely one of  the ways she shows love. If she cooks for you, she’s loving on you.

I don’t think it matters if it’s an elaborate meal for a Foodie to love on someone with what they prepare. It could be as simple as making your friend’s favorite oatmeal cookie recipe–just because he’s your friend. Maybe your kids could eat tacos ’til they’re coming out of their ears. Make a traditional Taco Night. And let them help in the kitchen. You never know; you might pass the soul of a Foodie to one of your children. Now wouldn’t that be love made visible?

Cook. Bake. Serve. Love. Enjoy being a Foodie. And eat hardy!

 

 

Foodie Snacks For 100 Or Less

I can always make a long story longer, but the short of it is I don’t eat the way I used to.

What I mean by that is I read food product labels; I don’t eat as much processed food; I cook from scratch even more than I used to; I log my food with an online app; and I eat ‘normal’ portion sizes.

Today’s post is about snacking. I still snack because I need to. Snacking is “doctor’s orders” and a strong suggestion from a dietician I see regularly.

You all know how much I like to cook, how much I like to try new flavors, and how much I enjoy experimenting with new recipes. This list is a sampling of my favorite snacks that are 100 calories or fewer.

It’s Almost Apple Pie Sprinkle a dash of cinnamon on 1 cup unsweetened applesauce.

Miniature Tostada On a small corn tortilla, spread 1/4 cup nonfat refried beans. Top it with shredded lettuce, diced tomato, and a sprinkle of shredded low fat cheese.

Mediterranean Tomato Dice a medium tomato and top it with 2 tablespoons feta cheese.

Cottage Cheese With Melon For a twist on cottage cheese with fruit, combine 3/4 cup diced cantaloupe with 1/4 cup nonfat cottage cheese. If you’re craving sweetness, drizzle a little raw honey over it.cottage-cheese-cantaloupe

Carrots With Hummus This is the old veggie dip idea but with protein instead of fat. Crunch on nine or ten 2-inch carrot sticks dipped in hummus. Bonus points if you make your own hummus. Hey, it’s easy to make and tastes better than store-bought.

Santa Fe Black Beans Combine 1/4 cup drained and rinsed black beans, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1 tablespoon nonfat Greek yogurt. It’s a hearty snack with protein that won’t quit.

Greek Watermelon Can you tell I enjoy the flavors of the Mediterranean? This one combines watermelon (1 cup) and 2 tablespoons feta cheese. Those seemingly incompatible flavors do work. (And I really like feta cheese.)

Oh-So-Sweet-Potato This is not a sugary sweet potato; it’s sweet because of the lack of sugar. You’d be surprised how quickly you can get used to not eating sugar on food. Just bake a small sweet potato and sprinkle salt or cinnamon on it. If you want to, microwave it in a potato bag. If you’re handy with a sewing machine, here’s an easy pattern for making your own bag. The potatoes come out great this way and it’s so quick.

Turkey Tartine It’s a fancy name for a foodie snack that’s a simple open faced sandwich. Spread 1 teaspoon mustard on a slice of toasted whole grain bread and lay on 2 thin slices of deli turkey.

Carrot ‘Salad’ Mix two grated carrots with 1 tablespoon raisins, 1 teaspoon raw sunflower seeds, and 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar.

Black Bean Salad This one’s not only lean, it has protein and fiber. Mix 1/4 cup drained and rinsed black beans, 1 small chopped tomato, 1/4 cup chopped green bell pepper, and a pinch of chili powder.

Spiced Cottage Cheese Mix 3/4 cup nonfat cottage cheese with a pinch of chili powder and a pinch of curry powder. A garnish of chopped scallions is nice.

strawberryspinachsaladStrawberry and Spinach Salad Mixing savory and sweet reminds me of those cooking shows on the food networks. So be a pro and mix 1 cup baby spinach with 1/2 cup sliced strawberries. Drizzle on 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar.

My tastes run to the spicy and savory so this baker’s dozen snack sampling reflects that. You probably have some favorite healthy low-cal snacks as well. Share them in the comments. I’ll give you bonus points for that too!

In the meantime, you know what I always say: get creative in the kitchen. Life’s too short to eat boring food.

Eat hardy!

Foodie Bucket List

This past year, I came up with a list of cooking-related activities I’d like to accomplish or participate in before I die. We’re facing a new calendar year in my part of the world and people often make lists of goals to accomplish for the coming year. So this list seems appropriate right now.

Of course you’ve heard of Bucket Lists. Here’s a Foodie oriented one for me. I came up with a list of 20, but am always open to adding to it. Perhaps as I check these off, I’ll post about the experience. Eat Hardy!list-learn-to-cook

  1. Bake a batch of filled cupcakes
  2. Bake a new recipe from an old cookbook
  3. Make a cheesecake from scratch
  4. Cook a new-to-me Asian dish
  5. Try my hand at seafood gumbo
  6. Make a chowder
  7. Cook with an herb/spice I’ve never used
  8. Try a decorative lattice top for a pie
  9. Decorate a pie top with dough cutouts
  10. Participate in a progressive dinner
  11. Eat vegetarian for a week
  12. Create a piece of food art
  13. Make cheese
  14. Make a pesto
  15. Make salsa
  16. Shop at a different farmer’s market
  17. Try a new fruit
  18. Make plantain chips
  19. Make/bake an edible gift for Christmas or other celebration
  20. Learn a new kitchen technique
  21. Always open to another challenge!

Foodie (Thick As) Pea Soup

It’s been a lazy sort of day. Looking out the window, I see big chunks of snow falling from a cloudy sky. There’s no wind so the snow, which has been falling all day, is sticking to the tree branches and trunks.

It’s beautiful. And time for comfort food; like pea soup, maybe.

This is what I’d be conjuring up in the kitchen if my refrigerator wasn’t already full of enough food to keep me going for about a week and a half. (I’ve been on a spree.)

There’s no reason why I can’t share a couple of recipe ideas with you, though.split-pea-soup-960x1438

One is from a blog I follow almost daily when I log my food on MyFitnessPal. They’ve set me up with some great recipes which I add to my database. When I’ve eaten that food for one of my meals, I go in and log from the recipe database. I love how easy that is. Here’s one, Split Pea Soup With Bacon, which came from the blog, HelloHealthy.

I like ham in my split pea soup and most often use a good leftover bone with meat on it. That’s how my mom always made a soup with ham in it. This Canadian Yellow Split Pea Soup includes ham and might be more to your taste.

Whether or not it’s snowing in your neck of the woods, comfort food may be exactly what you’re hungry for. As always, make adjustments to the recipes so they work for you.

And eat hardy.

Foodie, Zucchini and Grace

Playing Hostess

Several years ago, when I was a member of our church’s choir, I invited four of my fellow choir members over for dinner. The main dish was Chicken Breasts Diane; I tried my hand at twice-baked potatoes for the first time; the vegetable was steamed zucchini; and the dessert was a sugar-free, fat-free cream-pie-thing I whipped up.

Everything was going well when my friends began to show up. I’d coordinated the cooking so that the food would be ready to set on the table hot from the oven and stove. The last thing I did was to steam the zucchini so it would still be hot when I placed it on the table with everything else.

You know how steamed veggies seem to get cold fast, right? I didn’t want them to be cold.

Backstory

Rewind to a couple years earlier. I’d been in a near-fatal automobile accident and came out of it with numerous injuries. One of those injuries was a fractured sphenoid sinus. (Say THAT three times fast.) The sinus was supposedly healed, but one residual effect was that I couldn’t smell odors unless I was right on top of them.

It’s caused problems more often than I like to admit.

Dinner, continued

As the zucchini steamed away, so did the water in the bottom of the pan. Carol, who had been watching things progress, said, “Paula, your pan is on fire.”

Yep, it sure was.

The pan had boiled dry and, well, it was time to turn the burner off. “Oh, wow,” I said. (Or something like that.) I took the pan off the stove, put the zucchini in a bowl and set it on the table with the rest of the meal. We sat down, said grace, and began to eat.

Everyone took a little of everything, I guess, including the steamed zucchini. Dinner conversation was a little stilted after a few minutes until I took a bite of my green veggie.

smelly-zucchini-lady“This stuff is burnt!” I said. “Why are you guys eating it?” I scraped it to the side of my plate. I apologized to my friends and, you know what? They were so kind to me. I was so embarrassed. My smeller didn’t catch the scent of burnt zucchini and no one said a word.

Now that’s love in action.

“Foodie Fail”

They sat there eating that scorched zucchini and extended grace to me. Every time I think of this episode in my life––and believe me, with a nose that doesn’t work like it should, there have been many such episodes––I laugh.

In fact, I’ve been laughing out loud the whole time I’ve been writing this blog post.

But I also feel extremely grateful.

We’ve all had our cooking failures. I have some that have nothing to do with not being able to smell.

Since it’s the day after Thanksgiving, I thank Amy, Carol, Brooke and Carol for the gift of grace. You know, of course, grace is unmerited favor. I surely didn’t deserve what they offered, and friends who love like that are worth keeping.

Next time, though, I’m going to nuke the zucchini.

Scout Saturday: Irresistible Bunnies

A friend came over to have dinner with me recently and we enjoyed the company. We also watched my rabbit, Scout, frolic in the apartment while we chatted in the living room. He steals the show. The cameras came out and we caught him chilling out in a couple of his favorite spots.

One is The Library. Scout loves my books. He chews on them if I don’t catch him, but he also just likes to sit among them and run through the shelves.

These photos are especially for my food blogger friend, Genie on Bunny Eats Design. You can check out a few of her Tofu Tuesday posts featuring her mini-lop, Tofu. He’s a cutie and reminds me of Scout. Check out some of her recipes and culinary adventures too. Her recipes often reflect her culture and the culinary adventures, well, they make you a little jealous.

Today officially becomes “Scout Saturday.” Enjoy, and eat hardy.

loves-the-bookcase-10-16scout-sits-quietly

Shake it Up, Foodie

As a busy young mother (oh, so many years ago), I took shortcuts in the kitchen if I could. Because it gave baked chicken a flavor my husband liked (and because someone came up with an easy way to add flavor and crispiness to baked chicken), Shake ‘n Bake brand coating mix was a staple in our house.

Not anymore. I prefer to make my own ‘mixes’ when I can from ingredients I have in my cupboards. That way I know what’s in it and avoid additives. The flavors are usually the same and sometimes even better (depending on how I tinker with the concoction) than the so-called original.

Here’s my coating mix recipe for meat––chicken or pork––you can make easily. In fact, if you don’t want to make it up ahead of time and store it, you only need a few minutes to mix it up while you’re preparing dinner. The recipe is easily doubled or tripled.chicken-in-pan

Crispy Coating Baking Mix

  • 1 c. bread crumbs
  • 1/2 c. flour
  • 2 t. garlic powder
  • 2 t. poultry seasoning
  • 1 t. paprika
  • salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients (shake ’em up in a plastic bag, if you want!). The recipe as written coats all the pieces of a whole chicken. Obviously, for more or less chicken, use more or less mix. It’s good on pork chops too, but you may want to substitute a combination of basil, oregano and rosemary for the poultry seasoning.

Store in a tightly sealed container or zipper bag. Depending on the humidity, you can store in the cupboard up to 4 months. DO NOT store any mix which has already been used for coating meat. Toss it!

I make my own bread crumbs too. I just chug 3-4 slices of bread around in the blender until they’re finely ground, stopping to stir the larger pieces toward the blades. When I want an Italian flavor as in the commercially prepared Italian crumbs, I add 1 t. Italian seasoning for every 4 slices of bread. Another variation you can try is adding 1 1/2 t. of ranch dressing mix, but that defeats the purpose of avoiding additives. Folks with gluten intolerances: you know how to adapt ingredients.

When baking chicken, just like when you’re frying, coating mix stays on better when you dip it in a mixture of 1/2 c. buttermilk and one beaten egg. It also gives it a Southern-fried flavor.

So there you go. You can shake it and bake it with your own homemade mix. I’m happy to say, “And I helped!”

Eat Hardy!

 

Hey Foodie, Say “Cheese”

I’ve never met a cheese I didn’t like.

It could be that someday a new taste will not set well with me in that dairy category, but so far, cheese has always made me smile. Like Little Miss Muffet, I even like my curds and whey.**

Here in my area of the planet, it’s autumn and getting chillier outside every day. We naturally begin to add comfort foods to the menu which we might not have eaten during the hot summer days.

Like soup. Chicken soup, chili, bean soup, pea soup. Nothing like a steaming bowl of homemade soup or stew.

I’ll keep my pie hole closed for most of this post and give you a couple recipes using cheese. These come right out of my recipe box (stained 3×5 cards and all). First, the soup, featuring two favorite foods.about-cheese

Cheddar and Bacon Soup

  • 6 slices bacon cut into ½-inch pieces
  • 2/3 c. chopped onion
  • 2 T. flour
  • 3 c. shredded cheese (I use cheddar)
  • 1 quart milk
  • ¼ t. pepper

In a medium saucepan, fry the bacon over medium heat until browned and crisp. Reduce heat to low. Add onions and sauté about 5 minutes or until onions are tender.

Stir in flour; cook one minute. Stir in milk. Raise heat to medium-high. Add cheese and cook, stirring frequently with a wire whisk until cheese is melted and soup is heated through (about 10 minutes). Do Not Boil! Add the pepper; stir until mixed. Yields about 6 1-cup servings

Now for a quick appetizer for snacking on crackers while you cuddle up in your recliner to watch a good movie. Or “Walking Dead,” if that’s your thing. This spread also tastes good on a sandwich with tomato. Use whole grain bread, an English muffin, croissant, bagel thins or whatever you like. You know me, I throw it together and see what comes out.

Pimiento Cheese Spread

  • 2 7-oz. jars sliced pimientos, drained
  • 3 8 oz. bricks sharp cheddar cheese, finely shredded
  • 1 c. mayonnaise

Place the drained pimientos in a blender or food processor and puree them until almost smooth. In a very large bowl, using an electric mixer, combine the cheese and pimiento, beating until partially blended. Beat in the mayonnaise.

The spread can be stored, covered in the refrigerator for up to one week. Allow the spread to reach room temperature before serving. Yields about 32 servings, 2 T. each.

Don’t forget the family favorite: grilled cheese sandwiches with tomato soup. Or homemade macaroni and cheese. Loaded baked potatoes. Big old cheeseburgers, and, well you get the idea. In my world, any time is a great time for a dish made with cheese.

Eat hardy!

*Cottage Cheese

Chocolate Addict Foodie

Yeah, I’m addicted to chocolate. But you won’t hear me saying I want to recover from the addiction. Any excuse to eat it is a good one. Several years ago, I made a New Year’s resolution to eat chocolate at least once a week. I figured it was a resolution I could keep.

Today is National Dessert Day so Foodie Friday will feature a couple (or more) chocolate desserts. But first, let’s talk about baking with chocolate.

Helpful Hints

For converting chocolate, these tips should help.

1 oz. (1 square) unsweetened baking chocolate = 3 oz. (1/2 cup) semi-sweet chocolate morsels. If, in a recipe calling for unsweetened baking chocolate, you use semi-sweet morsels instead, decrease butter, margarine or shortening by 1 T. and sugar by ¼ cup.

¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder = 3 oz. semi-sweet chocolate morsels. When substituting, again, butter (or whatever you use) and sugar should be decreased by the same amounts.

Chocolate may develop a grey film on its surface called a “bloom.” Chocolate bloom is caused by cocoa butter within the chocolate rising to the surface. It’s no big deal; it doesn’t change the taste, even though it dulls the color. Go ahead and use it for melting or baking. The attractive color will reappear.

Keep chocolate in a cool, dry place. It can be refrigerated, but if you choose to do so, wrap it tightly so it doesn’t absorb odors from other foods. Airtight wrapping also prevents the chocolate from acquiring moisture which can condense on it. This is a problem discussed below. Also, chocolate becomes hard and brittle when chilled, so allow it to come to room temperature before using.

About Melting Chocolateheart-dripping-chocolate

Important Warning: The smallest drop of moisture (even a wet spoon or steam from a double boiler) can cause melted chocolate to become lumpy. If this occurs, stir in 1 T. vegetable oil or shortening for every 3 oz. chocolate. Don’t use butter since it contains water.

Yield: One 12-ounce package (2 cups) of semi-sweet morsels equals 1 cup melted chocolate.

Top-of-stove method: Place the chocolate in the top of a double boiler. Place over hot, not boiling water. Stir occasionally until smooth.

Microwave method: To melt chocolate, place morsels or chunks of baking chocolate in a dry 4 cup microwave safe bowl or measuring cup. Microwave on high for 2 minutes; stir. Nuke it again on high 1 more minute and stir until it’s smooth.

These methods also, obviously, work for other morsels such as butterscotch, white chocolate, etc.

I’m doing the happy homemaker thing today. I’ve baked the squash and toasted the seeds from it. Next will come the mending, ironing, and laundry. But I just might get around to making something chocolatey for National Dessert Day. Brownies? Sounds good.

I promised some recipes and here are some I found. My favorite dessert, besides pie, is cheesecake and a well-done cheesecake is worth the effort. Urban Bakes offers her Hazelnut Chocolate Cheesecake. Looks dreamy.

Suburban Soapbox has a recipe for a No Bake Chocolate Mousse Pie. It’s easier to prepare than a cheesecake, but you have to save a bunch of your daily calories for it. It’s reeealy rich.

And these aren’t exactly a dessert––more of treat or snack––but here you’ll find a recipe for my ‘famous’ Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies.

keep calm eat dk chocWe who are addicted to chocolate could have told researchers a long time ago that chocolate is good for you. We didn’t know anything scientific; we just knew we felt better when we ate it. Right? Well, here’s a story by Medical News Today with a list of facts about chocolate and some reasons backed up by research (finally!) for why we should be eating this sweet–or semi-sweet–substance.

Enjoy your chocolate desserts today!

Midwestern Autumn-Lovin’ Foodie

I live in one of the Midwestern states so I get to experience four distinct seasons. Autumn is my favorite.

The weather in autumn agrees with my body. Autumn also stirs my soul. I have fond memories of school starting, playing in fallen leaves in the front yard of my childhood home, and cookouts over backyard fires. (Say, “marshmallows,” “hot dogs,” “S’mores.”)

Autumn brings a harvest of some delightful produce as well, and pumpkins are ready about now. Or getting there. Those delightful places where they sell apples, cider, donuts, and pumpkins  open up during September in my home state. People flock there.

Hewlett-PackardPumpkins will grace porches soon–just as they’re picked or carved with a face. They provide a pantry item when we pack them up for the freezer. And in my opinion, eating pumpkin pies just makes more sense during autumn.

This is one of my favorite recipes using pumpkin. The cream cheese frosting makes it really special, but even without it, the bars are exceptionally moist. Enjoy!

Pumpkin Bars

4 eggs
¾ c. oil
1 ½ c. sugar
1 16 oz. can pumpkin puree (not pie filling)
2 c. flour
2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. baking soda

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
In a large bowl, cream together eggs, oil, sugar, and pumpkin. In a separate bowl, mix together the dry ingredients. Add flour mixture to creamed mixture and blend.
Spread mixture into a 13” x 9” pan and bake for 25 minutes.
While pumpkin bars are baking, make the frosting.

Frosting
1 3 oz. pkg. cream cheese (room temperature)
1 tsp. vanilla
¼ c. butter or margarine, softened
2 c. confectioner’s sugar

Cream together the cheese and butter. Mix in the vanilla. Add the confectioner’s sugar and blend well. When bars are cooled, spread frosting on top.

If you want to use your own fresh or frozen pumpkin from your pantry, you probably can. I suggest using a food processor or blender to “whip” it into shape. Be sure all the stringy fibers are removed for the best texture.