Sunday, January 31, 2010

We Did It and The Dream Begins...

We did it.

We bought 12.5 acres of land.

Four acres (4) of which is beautiful meadow.

Eight and a half (8.5) of which is wooded, with a stream.

There are tenants:

And deer
And rabbit
And pheasant
already making their home on "our" land.

I can hardly think straight for the plans that are running through my head.
Lions and Tigers and Bears [oh my!]

A driveway
A barn
A garden
A goat
A pony for my littles?
A "green house"... not a place to grow stuff, a geothermal, solar and wind powered house.

I can hardly believe it. We did it. We are actively planning for our future. A future of fresh air, clear and clean water, home grown vegetables, free range animals and land- to stretch. and hike, and explore and love.

Tonight: Celebration, Wine, Laughter, Possibilities, Dreams.

Tomorrow: Holy Shit What Did We Do? And Etouffee (tune in - when I am nervous I cook even better - and this etoufee was incredible!)

For now:

Our land: (ps.. thanks for caring)

This is the forest we will view out the back windows of our eventual home.

This meadow is where we are going to build our future home

This is the stand of trees that will shield our home from the road

This is the meadow with the surrounding woods, an aerial view
A Cook's Notes: The little town is beautiful. A restaurant, a beautiful inn, a general store and a post office. Surrounding farms are all pasteur raised, organic, grassfed raised livestock and poultry. Do I belong here or what? Sigh.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Mise En Place

Mise en place (meez ahn plahs) is a French term referring to having all the ingredients necessary for a dish prepared and ready to combine up to the point of cooking.

Ingredients for Veal with capers and lemon, polenta with arugula and brussel sprouts with pistachios

If you have taken one of my classes the term will be familiar to you. I am all about the mise en place.

If you have been a guest in my home you will recognize all the little prep bowls lined up on my counters.

Everything I need is measured, chopped, squeezed and ready to cook before hand. Yes, you will have a few more bowls and dishes to wash, BUT

mise en place makes life easier and allows me to chat and visit with my students, guests, friends and family while I'm busy putting a meal together.

Try mise en place the next time you are cooking or baking. Simply measure out all the ingredients before hand and set aside. Wash and chop everything you may need to combine. Make yourself a cocktail and relax.. having everything on hand will reduce your stress, enhance your cooking experience and guarantee you don't forget to add an ingredient to the recipe.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Me, On A Diet and Mediterranean Tilapia En Papillote

I recently decided that having been on about 17 different diets in the past few months the only way I am ever going to loose this stubborn 20 pounds is if I create my own diet.

Seriously folks. There are just too many things about some of these current diets that turn me off. I start one and within a few days I completely pitch it. And eat. What I want and how I want it cooked.

For instance, I could NEVER be on that diet system that delivers all your meals (plus snacks) to your house. I am a cook. Having prepared food delivered to my door would be like swearing off wine. And we all know that's not going to happen.

One recent diet had me giving up coffee - but Dr. Oz says coffee is one of the most antioxidant loaded beverages around. And I only ever have one cup, so does that mean I blow the entire program with one caffeine fix?

A very popular diet regimen in this country has assigned points for every morsel of food in the world. You get a certain number of points per day to eat and when you add up all your food (and points) you are done. I lost my calculator on the third day and think I ate a week's worth of points for breakfast.

Another diet had me eating seeds and nuts 4 times a day. I had to quit that one because I had an inexplicable urge to climb the backyard trees AND I could not for the life of me remember where I had buried all the rest of the nuts.

Yet one more had me abstaining from potatoes, bread, rice, fruit and several types of vegetables, but absolutely encouraged me to eat my fill of butter, oil, meats and cheese.


I am highly suspicious of any diet regime that forbids entire food groups and encourages mass consumption of others. The very word forbid makes me run out and buy a years supply of whatever the forbidden food is. Thank goodness I wasn't in the Garden of Eden, I would not have just bitten the apple, I would have baked a pie, made some applesauce AND written a blog post about it.

I believe I have enough schooling and culinary experience to have a pretty good grasp of what is healthy and what is not. In addition, I am fairly well versed in portion control AND I own and know how to use a food scale.

I'm thinking that my diet should consist of:

Lots of fruits and vegetables.
Dairy in the form of low or no fat yogurt and milk.
Some protein (lean) - like 3-5 ounces a day
An egg a week
Whole wheat pasta, brown rice and whole grain bread and cereal in moderation (like 1 serving a day)
Lots of water
Some fat - but healthy fat, like olive oil.
Herbs and spices - as many as I want in any combination.
Wine (like I always say, "Wine Is Life" and I'm not dead yet - just a little chubby)

What do you think? Do you have a magic combination of foods that help you reduce while keeping you satisfied?

Mediterranean Tilapia En Papillote: serves 4

16 to 20 ounces (1 to 1 1/4 pounds) Tilapia
1 roma tomato, diced
1/2 orange pepper, diced
1/2 yellow pepper, diced
1 small shallot, minced
4 black olives, sliced
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
2 tablespoons sherry or red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup tri-colored couscous, regular couscous or brown rice (cooked you will need 2 cups)
Parchment paper, cut into four 12 X 8 inch pieces

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Put one cup of water on to boil. When it is boiling, add your couscous, cover and remove from heat.

Chop up your tomatoes, peppers, shallot, olives and parsley.

Whisk the olive oil and vinegar together and toss in the tomato, peppers, shallot, olives and parsley and whatever else I told you to chop up.

Stir it around to meld the flavors and Oh and Ah over how pretty that combination looks.

Now, lay one piece of parchment on the counter in front of you. Fold it in half, and crease it. Now open it back up. Place 1/2 cup cooked couscous in the center of the right hand side of the paper.

Lay a piece of Tilapia on top of the couscous.

Now spoon 1/4 of the tomato mixture over the fish. Make sure you include some juices. That will flavor the fish and couscous and keep both moist during cooking.

Here comes the fun part. Fold the left side of the paper over fish

and fold each edge several times, forming a seal on all three edges. Make small folds and really crease it. Place on a rimmed cookie sheet and repeat with remaining fish. You will have four packets in all. You may need 2 cookie sheets.

When you put the packet on the cookie sheet, fold down the corners, under the packet.. this will really seal it and keep it from opening in the oven. Go ahead. I'll wait.

Yes, I know there are only 3 packets in this picture. I only needed 3 servings. You can make as many as you want. The math is easy.

Now, put the cookie sheet with the packets in the 400 degree oven for 15 minutes. They will puff up a bit. It is the steam making the parchment puff. The parchment may even brown a little. That's okay, it's actually exactly what you want!

Serve the closed packets on individual plates. When each diner slices into their packet they will be rewarded with an incredible aroma! Warn them though - the steam is hot!! You may want to open a childs packet for them.

A Cook's Notes: I serve this dish with simple steamed broccoli on the side. Chop your broccoli, rinse. Add some minced garlic and steam. When crisp-tender, remove from steamer, drizzle with a little olive oil and a sprinkle of salt.

I like using parchment paper but you can use aluminum foil (lightly grease with olive oil before adding couscous) or even a brown paper bag cut to size (print side OUT).

This is also a fun dinner to make if you are having guests. You can make the packets a few hours ahead and put in the refrigerator until you are ready to bake them. OR supply a variety of toppings and have your guests each make their own packet. Have them write their initials on the corner of the papillotes so they know which meal is theirs! Have fun. There are endless combinations of ingredients for en papillote cooking. And of course as always, Bon Appetite!

Beechtree Farms, Michael Pollan and Steaks Done Right

You know me.

I have, at times, climbed up on my soapbox when it comes to the foods we eat.

This is one of those times. If you're not in the mood for a [small] lecture, stop reading now - but I hope you don't because this is important. To you. To your health.

Last week I visited a new farm (new to me, not a NEW farm) in Hopewell, New Jersey. Charles and Lucia Huehner, Beechtree Farms' owners are dedicated to raising grassfed beef, lamb and pork.

This is Lucia standing in front of one of her fields. See the cattle in the background? They were just walking around, munching on grass...
Here are some more cattle in the front field. I walked right up to the fence and guess what? They didn't smell. You know why? More on that later...
Lucia is about my age and is slight in frame and attractively slim. Not what you would expect from a beef eating farmer. You know why? More on that later....

I had a lovely visit with Lucia and learned a lot about her farm, her philosophy and her animals. Lucia and her husband have been raising cattle since about 1993 - but only for their own consumption and a few sold at auction. They didn't realize the benefits of grass-fed and free range (which is exactly what their animals have always been) until around 2003. I think that's about when the "movement" really started to kick into high gear. I just know there's a pun in here somewhere, but I am being serious about this subject - but think about it. Grass Roots - Grass Fed. Anyway....

When Lucia and Charles realized that what they were doing was actually beneficial to the environment AND healthy to humans, they began offering their products for sale to the public. They are a small farm with BIG beliefs and standards. Their animals are humanely raised in a setting that is natural. The animals are allowed to graze and eat what mother nature intended for them to eat - fresh grass, in an environment that nature intended - with fresh air and water. They are processed (okay, that's a nice way to say put down, okay - total disclosure, killed) in a humane and dignified manner.

Here is what Lucia told me:

Our Customers
First of all, we don’t call our customers “consumers.” We are all people who eat. Consumer is such a dehumanizing word.
Grass-fed beef does not contain growth hormones, antibiotics and pesticide residues. The meat has less fat, fewer calories and less cholesterol than skinless chicken breast. Grassfed beef has two to four times more omega-3s, the “good fat” and conjugated linoleic acid CLA’s. Omega-3’s are an important building block in every cell of your body. People who eat food with more omega-3 and CLA’s are less likely to have heart problems, develop cancer, arthritis and high blood pressure. They are also less likely to suffer from depression, attention deficit disorder and Alzheimer’s disease. Grass-fed beef is loaded with vitamins A, D and E as well as beta-carotene. A nutritionist friend of ours tells her patients they can eat grassfed beef three times a week but must limit conventionally raised beef to once a month at the most. (this is why Lucia has an admirable figure!)
The Environment
Imagine the impact on the environment of confined stockyard beef operations with mountains of manure vs. cattle roaming in the field spreading their manure naturally. One pollutes the environment, the other returns nutrients to the soil. Here is a comment I received from another farmer in our town, “One of the greatest environmental benefits of grass farming is that the soil is so well protected from erosion. Another really cool thing about what you are doing is that it is tolerable in densely-populated areas, so it can be local. A stinking stockyard has to be miles from any neighbors.”
The Farmer (this is part about the smell...)
Farmers who sell directly to the consumer realize a greater return on their investment which goes back into supporting the small family farm. Also, manure from grainfed beef has an unpleasant odor while grass-fed manure hardly has any odor at all. The farm and barnyard is a much more pleasant environment for everyone. And grass farming is beautiful and a great environment to live in. TGC: I would not have believed it if I hadn't been standing right there - but I'm telling you, there was NO smell.
The Cattle
Grassfed cattle live a natural, humane life with their herd. Cattle are ruminants with a digestive system designed to eat grass and forages. Of course they love to eat grain just as people love sugar. But grain is not good for cattle any more than unlimited sugar is good for people. The antibiotics that stockyard operations pump into cows are given to overcome the effects of the grain they are fed. Cattle thrive on what the food they are meant to eat - grass and forages.
The Taste
Grass-fed beef is delicious! It has a superb beefy flavor that puts the alternative to shame. This statement is true, true, true. This is beef the way beef is supposed to taste people. I tell my son's friends when they eat here that they are eating "cowboy" beef - because this is the way beef tasted 100 years ago...

Thank you Lucia for allowing to reprint your words. If you'd like to read more about Beechtree Farm, view some great photos of the farm or to visit and purchase your own products, go to their website. To find a source of Grassfed products near you, visit and click on your home state. I have found these farmers to be passionate about what they are doing, eager to tell their story and incredible stewards of the land. Do yourself a favor and visit a local farm soon.

Michael Pollan, food expert, will be on Oprah on Wednesday, January 27th. Tune in to hear the latest about where your food REALLY comes from.

Sear Roasted Grassfed T-Bone Steaks - Serves 4

Two 8-10 ounce Grass Fed Steaks
4 teaspoons olive oil
1 teaspoon sea salt
freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Take steaks out of refrigerator 1 hour before ready to cook.
Rub steaks all over with olive oil.
Rub in sea salt and a few grinds of black pepper on both sides. Let rest for about 10 minutes.

Heat a cast iron skillet on your stove top until searing hot. Place steaks down and sear for 2 minutes. Turn and sear other side for 2 minutes. Place in hot oven and pan roast for 5 more minutes for medium to medium rare. Let rest 7-10 minutes before slicing off the bone.

A Cook's Notes: You will be amazed at the flavor of this beef. It is rich, dense and filling. Plan on only about 3 to 4 ounces a person with a big appetite. I find 2 to 3 ounces is plenty for me. Serve with a whole wheat roll, a salad made of fresh root vegetables and an olive oil vinaigrette and feel good about the food you eat.

To learn more about grassfed animals, visit the American Grassfed Association.

PS - I went to's website and found a farm not far from the land we are looking at that offers grassfed beef, pork, lamb, free range chicken and fresh milk and cheeses... is that a sign or what????

Monday, January 25, 2010


My girlfriend Michele's daughter, Jenna on keyboards. They won their high school talent show contest (DUH...). I am proud to be her honorary aunt.

Hey Jenna - when you are all grown up and famous - you won't forget Aunt Good Cook will you?

Building A Dream and Tomato and Herb Frittata

I've been absent from my blog for a few days.

I've been dreaming.

For some years now TBHITW and I have talked about and dreamed about our (eventual) retirement. As our children grow older and one by one leave our nest we have discussed what we will do and where we will live and how..

It's fun to dream. There are so many possibilities.
Travel the country in an RV?
Work part-time in national parks?
Move out west and become "ski" ambassadors? (unpaid skiers who help tourists and notify ski patrol of problems)
Live abroad for a year?
Buy a small plot of land, build an eco-friendly house, plant the biggest garden ever, buy a goat, make cheese from goat milk, raise some chickens, get another dog...
oh wait... this last one actually has some definition to it. Hmm...

At some point you have to stop dreaming and start doing.

We are going to look at some land next weekend. Not a big piece, but not small. Enough acreage to do all the stuff in that last dream point..

I spent the better part of this morning looking at house plans... dreaming of what may be.

What do you think? A Contemporary??
Or a Log Cabin type?

If you're bored with the same old cereal or bagel for breakfast, try this Frittata. It only takes a few minutes to make and will brighten up your day. And who knows? Maybe it will start you to dreaming your own dreams.

Tomato and Herb Frittata (serves 2)

1/2 cup chopped plum tomatoes
1/4 cup chopped scallions
3 basil leaves, chopped
A few drizzles of olive oil
1 cup egg substitute (or 4 eggs, scrambled with a fork)

Turn your broiler on.

Coat an ovenproof 10 inch skillet with cooking spray or rub with olive oil. Place over medium heat until hot. Saute the tomatoes, scallions and basil in a drizzle of olive oil until tender. Reduce the heat to low and add the eggs. Cover and cook until the bottom is set and the top is almost set but still runny (about 5 minutes). Transfer the skillet to a broiler and broil until the top is set. Watch it closely. It will puff up and set quickly.

Slide the frittata off onto a serving plate and slice into wedges.

If you are using egg substitute the frittata has about 169 calories per serving. If you are using whole fresh eggs the calories count will be about 240. Dietitians recommend about 400 calories for a complete, nutritious breakfast - so go ahead and add a slice of whole wheat toast!

A Cook's Notes: What do you dream for your future? Among other things, I'm thinner in my future. That's why I keep posting lower calorie meal options! Bon Appetite!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

New Stove, 200th. Post and Baked Glazed Donuts

My new stove is being delivered and installed as I sit here typing.
I have wanted a new stove for about 10 years - but I didn't need a new stove until the oven started acting up about 8 weeks ago. First, it wouldn't heat. Then it heated to whatever temperature it felt like. Set it at 350 degrees, it might heat up to 200 or it might heat up to 450, whatever it felt like. There was no way I was even interested in having it repaired. Ten years is long enough to wait for a vital piece of machinery when you are a cook. I've been thinking about the first thing I should cook on my new stove for about 2 weeks and today THIS recipe poked me in the eye. It is fairly low calorie so it fits my current diet
AND TBHITW is about to go into dessert withdrawal.
AND I get to test the oven out.
AND I'm not only celebrating my new stove (with two ovens, 5 burners and a griddle) I'm celebrating my 200th. post!! Happy Day!

Baked Donuts:
3/4 cup plus one tablespoon buttermilk
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup egg substitute
1/2 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon lemon peel
2 1/2 cups bread flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon thyme (optional)*
1/2 tablespoon yeast
*thyme and lemon and olive oil make a delicious dough, if you've never had it, try it!!
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 tbsp. lemon juice

Place ingredients in bread machine* following the order specified by manufacturer and process on “dough” cycle; when dough is ready, remove from machine.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
Separate into 10 balls. Pull a large hole in the center of each, shaping into donut shape. Place on greased baking sheet, cover and let rise until double, about 45 minutes. Bake about 6-8 minutes.
Combine lemon juice and sugar, adding more juice if needed to make drizzling consistency and spoon glaze over warm donuts.
*If you don't have a bread machine, combine ingredients by hand, proofing the yeast in 1/4 cup warm water first. Mix thoroughly, then knead by hand for 8 to 10 minutes. Proceed to shaping and rising.
Now I've got to go. It's time to make the donuts!!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

A New York Weekend and Homemade Hummus

The city gods smiled on us as we began our day on Saturday. The sun broke high and clear and the temperature reached an unbelievable 49 degrees.

Our first stop was Carlo's Bake Shop in Hoboken, NJ. You may recognize the name as this is the bakery from TLC's Cake Boss television show. Carlo's is everything a bakery should be. Lobster Rolls, Cannoli, Ski High Crumb Cake, Eclairs, cakes to die for - oh my... plus Buddy was on hand for pictures. My girlfriend Michele was in heaven. AND we found parking on the street! Even the parking gods were smiling down on us.

Michele and Buddy
The place was mobbed. Everyone at the bake shop was super nice despite the crowds. Even Louie the door man was sweet. And the Lobster Rolls? Mama Mia - that is good pastry.

Our next stop was just a few minute drive through the Holland Tunnel to China Town in NYC. We were in search of Dim Sum for lunch. We found the perfect lunch spot at The Palace on Mott Street. YUM.

The place was jammed with locals; a good sign that the dim sum (and the prices) were good. We weren't disappointed and ate our fill of several delicacies. If you're not familiar with Dim Sum, the staff push metal steamer carts piled high with little plates of various soups and rolls, dumplings and buns stuffed with shrimp, crab, vegetables, rice, etc... you just point to what you want and they mark a card at your table. When your done, the card is totaled up and you pay on the way out. I love Dim Sum.

After lunch we wandered about China Town for a bit walking off that one extra steamed bun we just had to have. I love looking at all the exotic vegetables, fishes and wares piled out front of the shops.

When we decided we had burned at least 10 calories we headed over to Little Italy to La Bella Ferrara Pasticceria on Mulberry Street for cappuccino and gelato.

We were good to our waistlines and we shared this. Pistachio, Strawberry and Vanilla. Yum
After being refreshed by our cappucinno and gelato we wandered about Little Italy, stopping in a few shops to sample cheeses and olive oils. At Di Palo's they were having a tasting in the stone basement of the shop. We were treated to pistachio cream, dried peppers (mmmm), a fig reduction and some delicious slivers of the most amazing cheeses. I love Little Italy.

Our last stop was to walk back up to Canal Street and China Town where I purchased two roasted ducks for our dinner. I selected two perfectly roasted, crisp ducks from their hanging place in the window and the house butcher expertly chopped each duck into bite size morsels and packed it to go. It was fun to watch him as he swung his cleaver high and came down hard in what was an amazing feat of knife work. Michele and Barb were somewhat relieved that I told him to not include the duck heads. I had earlier purchased bbq'ed pork buns to take home and steam with the duck for our dinner. When I say delicious, I mean oh wow, oh my... delicious.

Too soon the weekend was over. I bid my girlfriends goodbye on Sunday morning. We made plans to see each other again in March at Michele's farm in upstate NY. Her daughter has the lead role in her high school's production of Bye Bye Birdie and as her honorary aunts Barb and I must be there for opening night!

I love having guests for the weekend and try not to get bogged down in the kitchen. I make some simple bites in advance so that when my guests arrive everyone can refresh with a little food. Keeping it simple ensures everyone (including me) has a relaxing and fun time. What is your go to appetizer when guests are coming?

On this plate: store bought assorted olives and dolmades (stuffed grape leaves) and homemade hummus with whole wheat mini pita breads. Keep it simple and keep it light! Offer up chilled water, beer and wine to drink.

Hummus (makes about 3 cups)

1 can chick peas (drained, liquid reserved)
1/2 jar store bought tahini (about 8 ounces)
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1/2 lemon, juiced
pinch of salt
Pita bread, cut into bite size wedges

Place the drained chick peas and half the reserved liquid into the bowl of your food processor. Process until almost smooth. Add garlic, lemon juice and salt and process again. Add the tahini and process. If too thick add some more reserved chick pea liquid. Process until smooth and creamy. Refrigerate.

To serve spoon some out on a plate and make a slight well in the middle. Drizzle a little olive oil in the center and sprinkle with chopped parsley (optional). Serve with pita bread, green and red pepper slices, carrots, celery and/or cucumbers for dipping.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Girlfriends and Crab Cakes

“Walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the light.” - Helen Keller

Two of my favorite people in the world are coming to my home for the weekend.

Michele and Barb are staying with me. Though these two woman are not related to me by blood, they are affectionately and respectfully called Aunt by my children.

We are celebrating our 30th. year of friendship. Ours is a sisterly bond that has witnessed the joys, sorrows, successes and failures that a lifetime, any lifetime, goes through. And through it all we have laughed, cried, stomped our feet, raised our glasses and danced to each other's music.

As with any guest in my home I asked both Michele and Barb what they would like to eat and do over the course of 2 days. Michele requested my (as of this moment) World Famous Crab Cakes. Barb requested cocktails in the hot tub on Saturday night. I'm happy that I can accommodate both requests.

Living just outside New York City has its advantages when it comes to interesting things to do and see. I'll fill you in on our weekend escapades later, but for now:

The Good Cook's Crab Cakes (makes 6 large patties or 12 small - serves 4 - 6 people)

2 Tablespoons unsalted butter plus more for frying
2 large shallots, minced
1 stalk celery, minced
1 pound lump crab, pick it over to remove any shells
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped fine
1 teaspoon thyme, minced
1 good pinch red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
1 egg
1/4 cup fresh bread crumbs
1 cup fine dry bread crumbs
salt and pepper to taste
Oil for frying

Melt butter saute pan and add shallots and celery. Saute on low until just soft. Remove from heat, cool and add to crab. Add parsley, thyme, pepper flakes and lemon juice. Toss with hands to combine. Be gentle. You want to keep that Lump Crab Meat lumpy.

In a small bowl whisk together the mayo and egg. Add to the crab mixture. Add 1/4 cup fresh bread crumbs. Gently combine.

In a pie plate, place fine bread crumbs. Line a cookie sheet with waxed paper.
Scoop up a bunch of crab mixture and make a pattie, keeping it more round than flat - about the size of a tennis ball. Coat with fine bread crumbs and place on wax paper lined cookie sheet. Repeat with remaining crab until done.

Refrigerate for at least one hour or until ready to cook.

In a large skillet heat enough butter and oil (1 part butter to 2 parts oil) to cover the bottom of the pan. When the fat is sizzling, carefully add the crab cakes, one at a time. Don't crowd them. Work in batches if need be. Flatten slightly with your spatula. Cook until golden brown on one side, then turn over and brown the other side (about 3 minutes per side). Serve with a lemon wedge and tartar sauce or a lovely lemon aioli.

Eat these with very close friends while making memories.

A Cook's Notes: Life can't always be about diets. Everyone needs a little fat with the lean, this recipe is one of my favorite ways to get it. I serve these with a simple salad and a nice crusty roll. Add a bottle of your favorite wine and you have a very special meal. Bon Appetite!

American Generosity

I believe that Americans are among the most generous, caring people in the world.

I doubt than there is anyone who is unaware of the 7.3 magnitude earthquake that shook Haiti on Tuesday. The news coming out of Haiti is of utter devastation.

Haiti is among one of the poorest nations on earth. If you'd like to help clothe, house, feed and send medicine to Haiti, you can donate $10.00 to the Red Cross by simply sending a text message from your cell phone.

To: 90999
Text: haiti

The $10.00 charge will show up on your cell phone bill. The donation goes directly to the Red Cross. The Red Cross is usually the first "boots on the ground" organization in times when emergency response is called for.

How many text messages do you send in one day? This could be the most important one of all.

A Cook's Notes: Please feel free to visit The Red Cross to verify that this donation is valid.

The Important Stuff and Penne with Shrimp and Tomatoes

I've been busy doing some very important stuff.

Chatting with Grandlittle #1

Baking with Grandlittle#2

Here is a healthier alternative to spaghetti and meatballs:

Whole Wheat Penne with Shrimp and Fresh Tomatoes (serves 4)

1/2 box whole wheat penne
1 pound large shrimp, peeled, deveined and dried on paper towels
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup white wine (or chicken or vegetable broth)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
10 black olives, sliced
1 tablespoon capers, rinsed
2 teaspoons thyme, minced
2 teaspoons parsley, minced
1 tablespoon plus 1/2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, divided
4 medium roma tomatoes, deseeded, then rough chopped

Put a large pot of salted water on to boil. Cook pasta according to package directions to the al dente stage.

While the pasta is cooking, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in large saute pan and add shrimp.

Saute over medium heat until curled and pink on one side, about 2 minutes, turn and continue to cook until almost cooked through.

Throw in the garlic, capers and black olives. Add the wine or broth and stir in the tomato paste. Saute for about 2 minutes to combine flavors. Add the tomatoes and herbs and saute until just heated through, tossing all about.

Drain the pasta, drizzle with the remaining olive oil, toss the shrimp/tomatoes over pasta and serve. Pass some shredded parmesan or romano cheese on the side.

A Cook's Notes: Have you seen the tubes of tomato paste yet? So convenient. Just squeeze out the amount you need and store the tube in the fridge. An idea whose time has come!!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Queen of Kitchen Gadgets FAIL and Breakfast Muffins

TBHITW (The Best Husband In The World) works outdoors many days a week.

Like the rest of the USA, it has been positively frigid here in the Northeast.

Now because I am a good wife (and because TBHITW would eat fast food everyday) on most days I pack his lunch. On especially cold days I get out his very manly, man Thermos and pack something steaming hot. Like soup. Or hot coffee and a manly sandwich. Or chili if I just happened to have made some.

This week TBHITW is working outdoors at a very big drill site. There are large, tough drill rigs and even larger, tougher rough necks who operate the rigs. (they are drilling for water, not oil, texas tea, black gold). These are manly men, the kind you see on "Dirtiest Jobs". They work hard and play harder. They LIKE being called Rough Necks. They eat nails for lunch and they like that too. They have tatoos that do not say Mother. Well, not just Mother.

Drilling is cold, hard, dirty work and a bit of hot home cooking goes a long way in making it a little less grueling.

If you read yesterday's post, you will recall that I made a big pot of chili. My plan was to serve some for dinner and have some leftover to reheat and pack for TBHITW's lunch. And that's exactly what I did.

MMMM... nice hot lunch to go in a manly, man Thermos
All TBHITW has to do is unscrew that lid, and scoop some chili into the top. Instant warmth. When I was packing the chili I noticed that the Thermos is pretty tall and slender and the chili was pretty chunky and thick. I thought it would be easier for TBHITW if he had a spoon that he could kind of dig the chili out with. Plus he would need a spoon to eat with right?

Tablespoon and teaspoon
The only problem was a tablespoon was too wide and a teaspoon wasn't long enough. An ice tea spoon would be perfect I reasoned! That's when I realized that of all the gadgets, silverware, pots, pans, casseroles, quiche pans, souffles, roasting pans, spatulas, graters, sifters, measuring cups, knives, lalapaloozas and bamboozas in all the drawers, cupboards, cabinets and holders, I DO NOT OWN ONE ICE TEA SPOON. How could I have failed on such a grand scale? Me, Queen of All Kitchen Wares. The shame, the horror, the utter unspeakableness of it all. (is that a word?) Anyway,

Not to be defeated I found a suitable replacement and somewhat happily finished packing his lunch. Even whistling a bit as I was so pleased with myself and my ingenuity.

TBHITW just called me from the job site and informed me he is somewhat miffed with me and unlike the Rough Necks he works with, he is not amused.

Ice Tea Replacement Spoon - Sea World 2006

Breakfast Muffins (makes 12 muffins)

These muffins are mighty. They fill you up, but not out.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Spray a 12 cup cupcake tin with non-stick spray.

1 3/4 cups whole grain flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
Combine the above ingredients in a large bowl. Set aside.

1 cup fat-free vanilla yogurt
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup egg substitute (or 1 egg)
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
Combine the above ingredients and mix into the flour mixture. Just give a few quick stirs.

1/2 cup crushed pineapple in juice, drained
1/3 cup raisins
1/4 cup carrots, grated
1 1/2 cup walnuts, chopped

Stir the fruit, carrots and walnuts into the batter. Divide evenly among the muffin tin. Bake for 20 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool on rack in pan for 10 minutes, then remove from pan and continue to cool on rack.

A Cook's Notes: This recipe is adapted from Rodale's Flat Belly Diet Book. According to their recipe each muffin has 242 calories, 6 grams of protein, 29 grams carbs, 12.5 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 18 mg cholesterol, 177 mg sodium and 3 grams of fiber.
According to me, the muffins taste like carrot cake and if you add a glass of skim milk it makes a very satisfying breakfast. (I have not been paid to review The Flat Belly Diet - I'm just trying to get a flat belly)

Is It Just Me?

I received this advertisement in my email box this morning.

Is it just me or are these the dumbest winter boots you've ever seen?

And do any of you know anyone who would actually wear any of these? I mean, where do you wear these boots to? Grocery Shopping? Your kid's parent / teacher conference? Sledding? I'm especially intrigued by the gladiator style boot - second from the left... do you wear these to church?
I'm not even going to imagine what you wear these boots with.
Just sayin....

Sunday, January 10, 2010

18 Degrees and Chili (Vegetarian Chili, that is)

TBHITW and the 19, 17 and 16 year olds are skiing today.

I had to stay home because earlier this week I went out for a run, slipped on the ice and triggered my sciatica. Ouch. That's what I get for acting like a 40 year old (which I am not).

While I am disappointed that my family is off shooshing down snowy slopes without me I must admit to a bit of warm contentment as it is 18 degrees outside. 18 DEGREES. And I am inside in my nice warm kitchen.

I know when they get home this evening everyone will have had a great day, they'll be tired, cold AND hungry so I'm making a big pot of chili and a side of corn bread to welcome them in from the cold.

I am experimenting a bit with ingredients, trying to make some old tried and true recipes a bit more healthy. In today's chili I'm using soy-crumbles instead of hamburger and in the cornbread I'm using stone ground corn, 9-grain flour, olive oil, egg substitute and agave nectar (to replace the sugar).

Vegetarian Chili: (makes a big pot)

One onion, chopped
One small can whole green chiles, drained and chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
One package (12 ounces) soy-based crumbles
Two 28 ounce cans crushed tomatoes
Two 15 ounce cans kidney beans, drained and rinsed in cold water
One 15 ounce can pinto beans (we love beans) drained and rinsed in cold water
2 tablespoons olive oil
I like the following seasoning mix:
1 tablespoon ancho chili pepper powder
1 tablespoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon cumin powder
1 teaspoon low sodium salt (I'm trying to cut back on sodium)
1 bay leaf
1 big pinch Chipotle pepper flakes

I like this brand of vegetable protein. (nobody paid me to say that)

In your favorite chili pot pour the olive oil and add the onions and chile peppers. Saute until soft, but not browned. Add the garlic and stir for a minute.

This is my favorite chili pot, it's cast iron

Add the soy crumbles and heat through. Add the tomatoes and beans and bring to a simmer. Now comes the fun part - seasoning. You can make the chili as spicy or mild as you like. The spices I have listed make a medium/mild chili (I'm a whimp when it comes to spicy food)

Simmer all of this with the lid off for a good hour, stirring every now and then.

Corn Bread (makes one 9X9 inch pan or one cast iron skillet full)

1 cup Yellow Corn Meal
1 cup sifted flour (I'm using Eagle Mills Unbleached Ultragrain flour. It bakes and acts like white flour, but has 9 grams of whole grain per serving)
2 tablespoons agave nectar (or 1/4 cup sugar)
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup olive oil (MUFA!)
1 cup skim milk
1/4 cup egg substitute (or 1 egg)
1/2 cup pecans, chopped (MUFA!) - optional

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Combine cornmeal, flour, sugar (if you are using sugar, if using agave, don't add) baking powder and salt in a bowl. Stir around to lighten. Mix egg, milk, oil and agave together, add all at once to cornmeal mixture. Give it a few swift strokes to combine. Stir in pecans (if using)

Grease a 9X9 pan and pour batter in. OR swirl about 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil in cast iron skillet and place inside oven for 2-3 minutes. Swirl again, pour out any excess and pour batter into pan and place in oven.

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden and puffed.

A Cook's Notes: I am struggling with the calorie counts on this. Perhaps because I am sitting on an ice pack for my sciatica. I believe the chili, per cup is about 220 calories. The cornbread for a 3X3 piece is around 125.

Disclosure: I am not a nutritionist or a dietician. I am a cook who is always looking at new ways to prepare healthy food. I read labels for calorie counts and total everything up, dividing by servings. If calorie counting is part of your diet I suggest you do your own calculations and not rely on mine as they are at best, guesstimates. I do believe this relieves me of any diet sabotage or conspiracy theory problems - your thighs are your own!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Just Have To Share Granny

I am sitting here choking on my breakfast and laughing so hard that tears are streaming down my face.

I just have to share this blog and today's post with all of you. But be warned, you will laugh. Happy Weekend!

ps. if you leave a comment be sure to tell Granny that The Good Cook sent you.

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