Sunday, November 6, 2011

Split Pea Soup

Maybe not the most dietetic thing in the world, and now I'm actually going to visit Fitday to do a calorie count, but this is what I made today in the good old reliable crock pot. It's the recipe my Grandmother always made, in the days before crock pots. The whole house smells wonderful all day, and then getting to eat it is like a small slice of heaven to me.

She was my mother's mother, and she lived with us when I was a kid. We had a mother-daughter house and I could go and visit Grandma anytime I wanted just by opening a door into her attached apartment. The woman was a FANTASTIC cook. She was one of those old-fashioned ladies that made everything from scratch, used real butter and real buttermilk (she used to drink it - said it gave her glossy hair), and could just pouf up a delicious meal off the top of her head. She lived through the Great Depression, so she knew how to make a meal that could last for a week, and she really knew what to do with leftovers. She was amazing.

God, I miss her. I don't think I appreciated her when she was alive, and I regret that. She was a wonderful lady.

Her recipe also yields a heck of a lot of soup. I just filled up three huge Tupperware containers of it, and put two in the freezer. I know there is no way I'm getting The Daughter to eat anything green, and husband took one look at it and the fact that it had ham hocks in it for flavor and said, "You're not going to make me eat that, are you?" Nope.

MORE FOR ME! MWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA....they don't know what they are missing.

I'm posting the recipe here in case anyone wants to try it. I just looked it up on Fitday, and the entire thing is hefty in calories and carbs - divided by the number of cups it yields, though - it's really not bad at all.
I'm going to say this recipe yields around 15 servings.

Per serving: 254 calories, 5 grams of fat, 33 grams carbs, 19.5g protein. Calorie and fat-wise, not too shabby --- except the carb count is what's killing me. Figures, because I love it.


2 ham hocks
2 small bags of split peas
5 whole cloves
4 cans of low sodium chicken broth
1 large whole white onion, finely diced
5-6 large carrots, also finely diced

Pre-soak the split peas by bringing them to a rolling boil for 10 minutes, then turning off the heat and leaving them in the pot with the water, covered, for 2 hours. Drain.

In a crock pot combine everything, adding the soaked peas to the other ingredients and cook on low for 8 hours. (If you want a thicker soup, use slightly less chicken broth).

Remove the ham hocks and discard. Remove the cloves and discard. Take the remaining soup and puree in a food processor. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve with home made croutons, if desired.

Mine made so much I am set for lunches for the next month.

Until next time... who knows what I'm making tomorrow night, since it's a work day/packing day... and we find out about our mortgage commitment tomorrow as well.
Fingers crossed... enjoy your food!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

So much

So much stuff to write about, so little time to do it in. We are in the process of buying a house, packing, and moving (again) so I'm particularly stressed and in the mode of making easy standby meals.

One of my crowd-pleasing dinners here at Chez Moi is the turkey burger. I soup it up a bit, mostly because using ground turkey breast can be challenging due to the lack of fat in the meat, which makes undoctored burgers very dry. I have some tricks I use to make them taste better.

Trick 1: Flavor the meat. Instead of just slapping the turkey breast meat into patties, I find that adding Worcestershire, Soy Sauce, and just a hint of steak sauce to it (about 1 tbsp of each thing), plus a dash of garlic powder and some salt & pepper ... or Nature's Seasonings make the meat more flavorful and moist.

Trick 2: If possible, use an indoor grill. Not only will something like the George Foreman grill leach off that fat, it cooks the burgers on both sides at once, reducing the cooking time. And it gets the nice BBQ taste (although not exactly) which is an added bonus.

Trick 3: Sauteed onions are a must - I slice up a yellow onion and saute it in a nonstick pan using a few spritzes of olive oil and saute until they are translucent. Then add a bit of the Worcestershire sauce to it to give them some zing.

Trick 4: If you are looking for a diner-like experience, add some turkey bacon as a topper.

We usually eat this meal with steamed corn or corn on the cob and I use whole wheat buns on them. You can also throw on some reduced fat cheese for extra zing.

All in all, the burger meal takes me about 20 minutes to make, and it is consumed rapidly by all who live here.

We've been having these once a week at least since Moving Hell has commenced.

I know I haven't been on here much, either but that's due to working, the child, and packing to move and dealing with the builder/the bank/my life. Good times, I tell ya.

I hope to get back to some more experimental recipes after Thanksgiving - although I will also be posting about our Thanksgiving meal, since my young one will not let me get through a year without having a (in her words) "giant turkey".

Be back when I can. Enjoy your food....

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Beef Daube Provencale

Another slow cooker recipe, as promised.

Unfortunately, I have now discovered yet another limitation to Picky Spouse's list of Do Not Makes (you know, soups, cream sauces, fish, etc.?) Yup, can't cook with wine, apparently, either. He walked in the door and wanted to know what smelled like feet. This was not an auspicious beginning to the entire meal.

The conversation went:
"It's a version of French beef stew in the crock pot.
"Did you put feet in it?"
"No, there are carrots, onions, olives, and some red wine in there, though."
"That's it - why did you cook something with wine? Have you done that before?"
"Yes, we ate Julia Child's recipe for Beef Bourginon and you loved it. Remember?"
"Well, the house smelled pretty good then but right now it smells like feet."

So, The Spouse is refusing to try this meal at all and is planning on making hot dogs for his supper. I think he'd be perfectly content to live on hot dogs, pancakes, and tacos for the rest of his life because those are really the only things he likes.

The pickiness makes me want to bang my head against the wall. I miss eating things like fish, too. The Daughter has suggested that we start a Good Food Club of just her and I, and we let The Spouse fend for himself for dinners at this point. She, too, misses seafood. And soups.

I will now rate the recipe for the beef with my usual commentary. The Daughter and I both ate it over long grain rice rather than the noodles the recipe recommends.

Link to the recipe is here. Please also note that my stew came out just like the picture. Hooray.

The Good: Prep time not too bad, ingredients not hard to find, not too expensive, and it cooked within the allotted time and (I thought) smelled wonderful. Don't you just love coming home and having the whole living area smell like stew, especially when it's raining and kind of icky outside (like it was today)? The Daughter and I both enjoyed it - the meat was tender and flavorful, and the veggies were yummy, too.

The Bad: I had to buy cheesecloth in which to put the herbs in the crock pot and of course my regular grocery store didn't carry that, so I had to go to a specialty cooking store to get it (which is a pain in the hind quarters in Southern California as there aren't many of those around. Most people here go out to eat.) The stew also had a very acidic taste to it - like a tang, which you may not be used to if you always eat classic American-type beef stews. I enjoyed it, but people with a taste bud profile like Le Spouse will probably not care too much for it.

The Ugly: See the conversation I had with the Spouse, above. I cannot get the man to try anything new and different lately without an almighty struggle.

I should have known better, considering that the first time I ever took him out for Chinese food, he refused to eat it as he said the plate resembled snot. Green snot, if I recall correctly. I should learn and keep the gourmet experimentation cooking for me and The Daughter, because at least we are willing to try new things.

First time in a Japanese restaurant in California, the Daughter (8 years old) plunged right in and ordered Unagi. And ate it. And enjoyed it. Once I told Le Spouse it was eel, he freaked right out. Not that he'd ever try to eat anything that swims, so it's a moot point.

Anyway, this recipe rates a solid 4 out of 5 stars for me. Easy to prep, easy to eat, and great for a rainy day. It meets the "Will I make this again?" test with a resounding 'Yes'.

I apologize for turning this into the Complaint About What the Spouse Will Not Eat blog, but it's frustrating for me - I will be the first one to admit that I love being a great cook, and hearing people praise my food. Now, I don't say this lightly or with arrogance - I have a lot of experience and I'm pretty good at cooking. I have my failures, like everyone else - but I really love to cook, and it's a labor of love for me. It's like I'm giving the love to the people I feed when I create meals for them. And when The Spouse gets all cranky and toddler-like, I can't give him the love on a plate and I don't receive any love back. Cooking is my love language. Does that make sense?

Well, in any case - that's all for today - may your culinary adventures be tasty ones! Tomorrow, I'll blog about lasagne.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Slow Cooker Recipe - Part Deux

I made another recipe from my experimental slow cooker selection again on Friday. This time, it was Slow Cooker Red Beans & Rice. Recipe link:

Please note that mine came out with more liquid than they are showing in their photo of the dish. I don't know why that happened, either. The ingredients didn't absorb the 3 cups of water? I also think the flavor could be a bit further improved by substituting chicken broth for the water, but that's just me.

I left out the red pepper flakes because we are not big fans of "spicy" in this house, and I used Hillshire Farm smoked turkey sausage, sliced into thick slices.

The good: It makes a very tasty dish, actually. The Daughter and I very much enjoyed it, and we ended up eating the leftovers from it for lunches over the next few days. I would gladly make it again, because prep time was a snap and it wasn't expensive to buy the ingredients at all.

The bad: The Spouse, however, had a complaint about the turkey sausage I used - saying the flavor was "too smoky" and it "tasted funny", so I cannot make this recipe again for the whole family. Unless I switch sausages to a blander tasting type. He was also not a big fan of the consistency ("too mushy" and the sausages had a "funny skin").

The ugly: Hey, there was no ugly this time around. Overall, it's a dish I can make again that is not too costly, it has a lot of healthy stuff in it, and it's tasty. Just gotta find a different flavor sausage for Mr. Fussy-Spouse.

This one rates 4 out of 5 stars for me. I'd also use brown rice to save a bit on carbs rather than the long grain white rice, but your mileage may vary on this point.

I've already set up the crock pot this evening with this week's experiment - Beef Provencale (not sure if that's pronounced Beef pro-ven-KAL or Beef pro-ven-SAL because I don't speak la Francois) - so far, it smells good but I'm a bit put off by the prep time and I'm also preparing for at least one complaint about the mushrooms involved. I also had to hunt down some cheesecloth for the spices, which was a bit annoying but we'll see if it was worth it tomorrow night after work.

Til tomorrow or when I can get back here again, and may all your culinary adventures be delicious.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Slow Cooker Recipes

I am a fan of the Slow Cooker Recipe, particularly as working full time does not inspire me to be an instant gourmet when I get home from work with a hungry family to feed. I'm the only one in my family who cooks, so the meals are up to me. But let's face it, I love to cook - just during the week, I don't have much time to get creative so I'm open to lots of new ideas.

Because I just subscribed to Cooking Light magazine, I am now a member of their
e-mail newsletter and consequently receive lots of new recipes to try. I was very excited to see that last week's was a slew of slow cooker recipes. One in particular appealed to me, so I attempted to prep it on Sunday night and cook it on Monday.

Brazilian Feojada was the recipe I chose - the link to the recipe is here:

The good: It makes a ton of feojada, with lots and lots left over for lunches or even a second dinner later on in the week. The Daughter was also very happy to have a pork meal, for a change - as she really loves eating pork when we can get away with it. Other than that, however, there wasn't anything good to say about it.

The bad: Prep time was an issue - there was a LOT of pre-prep for this recipe; the time spent soaking the black beans could have been saved by purchasing canned black beans, and deboning/cubing/dicing up the meats and onion was time consuming as well. At the end of the cooking process, I also had to scoop out the meat and shred it with a fork, then replace it in the crock pot.

The expense was another issue - I don't know what the folks at Cooking Light are thinking, but they sure seem to believe that the average American has money to burn at the grocery store; probably because this is "gourmet" food made healthy. Still, it was a lot of money to sink on the three meats (pork shoulder, beef ribs, and pork hocks) for one meal. We are a family on a budget, and this meal was NOT budget friendly.

The ugly: Aside from the fact that I got a "What is this?" with a pouty expression from my spouse while he picked through the dish with a fork, it was BLAND. No real flavor - not savory, not spicy, not even meaty - just - blah. Add to this the fact that I had to make sure to get home early to remove the pork hocks from the dish before he got a look at them because that would have guaranteed his not even trying the dish. I also ended up scooping out quite a bit of bone that had disintegrated from the hocks during the cooking process.

Overall, I'd give it 1/2 a star on a 5 point scale with 5 being the top of the scale. Definitely not worth the time or expense, and I'm stuck eating it for the rest of the week now because The Spouse won't touch it again and The Daughter doesn't have access to a microwave at school.

Until next time, and may all your culinary adventures be tasty ones!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Ezekiel Bread and Random Thoughts

I made a new culinary discovery recently, thanks to watching The Biggest Loser on Channel 4. A lot of contestants keep mentioning Ezekiel bread, and I kept asking myself, "What the heck is that?"

Well, I went on a mission to find it - and discovered it at Ralph's supermarket. All I can say is: OH MY GOD.This stuff is FANTASTIC! I have to have it for breakfast, toasted, every single day. And it's good for me! Made by a company called "Food for Life" and based on the biblical reference to make bread out of sprouts and whole grains, this stuff is like a low-carb secret weapon that's also high in protein. Here is their website:

I highly recommend the sesame flavor... and I see they make tortillas now, so I'll be all over that the next time I go food shopping. Seriously. Life changing bread. SO GOOD!

We now return you to the regularly scheduled blog on dinner... and food in general.

Last night, I got home late due to a variety of reasons and I realized that I forgot to defrost the chicken breasts that I was planning to use for my chicken and baby spinach salad dinner. Don't we all do that sometimes? So at 6:30, with a very hungry and complaining child in tow, I had to make a snap decision on what to make, on whatever was floating around in the fridge and pantry at the time.

I had some leftover fish (The Child and I still eat it, even if The Spouse won't touch it) and decided to try my hand at fish tacos. I reheated the fish that I had, threw some taco shells into the oven and chopped up fresh veggies. The problem? It was too bland. We put taco sauce on it, but it needed something more - not sure what.

I need to do some research on some recipes to make this tastier, since I actually got The Spouse to try them due to the fact that they were meat on a taco shell. I have to figure out the proper allocation of spices for these things, and I also have to watch our sodium intake, so it's time to get tweaking!

Posting about fish reminds me of the other recipe I tried while Husband was working nights. Cooking Light has a fabulous recipe for seafood cakes - I could not make it while he was home because even the smell of cooking fish gets him all upset and makes him nauseous. My mom was the same way - why am I always doomed to live with people who have this reaction to fish? I LOVE fish.

Anyway, these were wonderful and the mustard crema was tasty as well, although I only used a slight bit of it on the cakes. They were fine without it, too. The Child even scarfed hers down and wanted to know when I'd be making more.

Seafood Cakes with Mustard Crema

1/3 cup light sour cream
6 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, divided
1 tablespoon stone-ground mustard
1/2 teaspoon black pepper, divided
7 teaspoons canola oil, divided
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
1/4 cup finely chopped celery
8 ounces peeled and deveined medium shrimp, chopped
8 ounces lump crabmeat, drained and shell pieces removed
1/4 cup grated fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large egg whites, lightly beaten
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 cup panko

1. Combine sour cream, 2 tablespoons parsley, mustard, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper, stirring with a whisk until blended, set aside.
2. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add 1 teaspoon canola oil to pan, and swirl to coat. Add onion and celery; cook 5 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat; cool slightly.
3. Combine shrimp and crab in a large bowl. Stir in onion mixture; remaining pepper, remaining 1/4 cup parsley, cheese, salt, egg whites, and egg. Stir gently. Add panko; stir gently. Divide mixture into 8 equal portions; flatten to 1/2" thick patties.
4. Heat skillet over medium-high heat. Add remaining 2 tablespoons oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add patties to pan; cook 3 minutes or until lightly browned. Carefully turn over; cook 3 minutes or until done. Serve with sauce.

OK... time for me to get back to work. Here's hoping your culinary adventures are tasty ones!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Last Night's Dinner - Sloppy Joes

It wasn't a new recipe, but it is a recipe that I found in an old cookbook and modified to make it healthier. I looked up the nutritional information on so that I could give you a basic calculation of what you're eating. Bear in mind that Fitday didn't have a category for ground turkey breast meat, so the fat content will be lower if you use that option, and I also use the "no sugar added" Ragu sauce, which will lower the carb content.

What did I make? Sloppy Joes on whole wheat buns with mixed vegetables on the side.
I buy the Green Giant Steamers because they are just a pop and nuke option for veggies that I don't have to think much about. I check the packages to make sure they're not coated in butter or sauce. They make it much easier for me to fit our veggies in without taking another hour to prepare them, which I appreciate as the person who works full time and cooks all the meals.

The recipe as modified serves 4. Per serving: 339 calories, 16g fat, 19g carbs, 28g protein. Buns cost additional calories - I didn't include them in the calculations.

1 pound ground turkey (breast preferred)
1/2 cup diced green pepper
1/2 cup diced onion
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp mustard
1/2 cup catsup
1 tbsp vinegar
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
8 ounces (1 cup) Ragu no sugar added tomato sauce
whole wheat buns

In a large skillet sprayed lightly with cooking spray, combine the meat, peppers, and onions. Brown and drain excess fat. Add the remainder of the ingredients, stirring until well combined. Lower heat, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes. Serve on wheat buns.

This is a great recipe to use for cooler days where you are craving one of those belly-sticking hearty dinners but you don't want to consume millions of calories and clog your arteries. Not difficult to make, and tasty. Win-win-win.

The family's vote on this is a solid 5 out of 5 stars. Even the most picky eater, the Daughter, consumed her sandwich in practically one gulp. And she didn't complain about the vegetables, either, which is very unlike her.

Tonight - not sure what's on the menu, but it's due to the fact that I take my cookbooks and choose 7 meals for dinners, and we can pick and choose from those options. That way, I can still plan my meals and eat healthy but I can also choose what I'm in the mood for on that particular day. I need that flexibility yet loose structure in my eating plan.

This week's lineup:

Garbanzo stew, Cuban style
Black beans & rice
Chicken spinach salad
Spinach ravioli
Chinese chicken stir fry
Turkey burgers with side salad
Taco night

If you have a favorite from the list and would like me to blog about it, let me know and I'll make it for dinner that night.

Until tomorrow...may all your culinary adventures be tasty and healthy.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Hello and Welcome!

Let me introduce myself... I am a frustrated home chef. I'm frustrated because I'm not working in the industry, which I'd really love to do... and the kitchen in my apartment sucks, quite frankly. I have no storage and when I open cabinets or try to use counter space, things often fall out on my head and/or I run out of room.

Despite all of that, I'm trying to do healthy meals, sometimes gourmet type meals, sometimes just regular down-home food, to help improve my health and that of my family.

I have some obstacles - my weight, my blood sugar levels, and then there is my family. My daughter, 9, will not touch a green, leafy vegetable to save her life. My spouse, a grown man, will not touch a) seafood, b) pork, c) soup, d) anything "slimy" or e) anything with a cream sauce.

It's challenging to try and find food that we all will eat that is healthy, trust me.
This blog is going to chronicle my experiments with healthy recipes that I find and try out on my group of Picky Eaters.

Let's start with my first foray into the world of healthy eating for the picky.

This week, I tried a new recipe from Cooking Light magazine - it was "Favorites Made Healthy" - Mac & Cheese with the tagline "Creamiest Ever." Link to the recipe is here, for those people who might be interested:

The good: It was a recipe that lowered the calorie content per serving from 908 to 390, which is pretty substantial, and it lowered the sodium and saturated fat as well. It incorporated butternut squash, which meant that I got to hide a vegetable in one of my daughter's favorite dishes. I often try to hide veggies in this manner to get her to eat something healthy. It used ingredients that were pretty readily available, and it looked like we'd have leftovers to have for lunch during the week (always a plus when you're on a budget).

The bad: Prep time was lengthier than they indicated in the recipe, it's a good thing I had my food processor unpacked from storage because it would have been Hell to make without it, and the cheeses that were mandated in the recipe were quite expensive ($10.00 for a block of Gruyere at my local store, and that was only ONE of the cheeses!)

The ugly: Although the squash gave the dish the correct golden orange color that was very traditionally mac-n-cheese-like, the sauce didn't cling to the pasta properly and the dish dried out the minute that you baked it as indicated in the recipe instructions. The texture was not at all creamy. And even though it smelled wonderful, it tasted terrible. The squash gave it a bitter aftertaste, and the blend of cheeses was not optimal - not what you'd expect AT ALL from traditional mac-n-cheese dish. Maybe a more sophisticated mac-n-cheese for adults, but not for kids.

Overall, I'd give it 1 star on a 5 point scale with 1 being the lowest. Definitely not worth the time or expense, and we ended up throwing it out after we each tried it (and I hate to waste food, not to mention the fact that we really can't afford to be throwing food away in my house).

I'm currently searching for a good healthy Chinese chicken recipe... stay tuned.