Saturday, April 30, 2011

Fini-Dini Chicken - 3 Points, Music Friday on Saturday

"Is it okay to eat tuna on Ash Wednesday?"

I don't purposefully try to get traffic from Google, but it is fun to see exactly what people Googled in order to find my blog. Would you believe that 10 people found me by Googling the above question? True.

Most of the hits I get through Google come from people searching for "fini dini" or "fini dini sauce". The fact that my little blog is getting so many hits for my post on fini dini pork  tells me that there are not a lot of people cooking fini dini. That challenges me to share another version - this time with chicken - because I think that most cooks would be thrilled with this easy, unique sauce.

Fini Dini Chicken
8 chicken thighs
1/2 cup vinegar
1/2 cup soy sauce
1 onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced

1. Combine vinegar, soy sauce, onion, and garlic to create a marinade. Place the marinade in a gallon size Ziploc bag. Add chicken thighs to bag. Place in the fridge to marinate for at least eight hours.
2. Removed chicken thighs from the bag. Place in an oven safe dish. Cook at 375 for 30 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, place the marinade in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer until chicken is ready to be removed from the oven. Serve chicken topped with sauce.
4. Yields 8, 3 point servings

I served my fini dini chicken with roasted Brussels sprouts and veggie rotini. The fini dini sauce on the pasta was a new dish for us; we usually have rice with fini dini. The rotini turned out to be the perfect shape to catch the sauce and the subtle veggie flavor of the pasta was an excellent compliment to the strong flavors of the fini dini.

It is not Friday, but I did forget to add my song for Music Friday last night. I am back to random for you tonight. I don't generally think of fini dini as romantic, but my DJ has chosen a very romantic song for you. Here is "You're the One" by The Carpenters.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Fat Mo's, The Perfect Burger

Hello, again, blogging world! I have been taking a bit of a break because I had family staying with me from out of town. We enjoyed a lovely visit (even despite the tornadoes that ripped through town on Wednesday), much laughter, some good card games, and some excellent food. 

I don't have a recipe for you tonight: I have a restaurant recommendation and some pictures for you to drool over.

I love hamburgers. A lot of people do, I know, but my love for hamburgers is on a deeper, more meaningful level than most. I crave, desire, and esteem a good hamburger the way some people think of prime rib or an expensive wine. I am a hamburger connoisseur.

Here is what I need in a hamburger. Size matters. It needs to be big. If I can comfortably hold it in one hand, it is too small. It also needs to drip. A good drip is everything. It means that the juice from the thick tomato slices, the perfectly round pickles, the creamy mayo, the spicy mustard, and the juicy meat are too much for one burger to contain. When I pick up my burger and take that first bite, the juice must drip down over my fingers and onto my plate.

See this is perfect.
That is a Fat Mo's burger. In my opinion, Fat Mo's is the home of the best hamburger in the United States. It meets my burger loving expectations every time. (If you are - for some strange reason- not in the mood for a burger, their chicken is just ridiculously good.)

Fat Mo's is a franchise in Middle Tennessee, and lucky for me there is one not far from my home in Murfreesboro. Mo and his wife actually run one of the Smyrna locations, and they are super nice to talk with. They are very proud to provide quality food and want every customer to be 100% satisfied.

In addition to the perfect burger, Fat Mo's offers my favorite fried side - the fried mushroom. If the burger is all about the drip, the fried mushroom is all about the pop. The beauty of the fried mushroom is all of the moisture held inside the subtly spiced, crunchy coating. When you break through the golden brown breading on the mushroom, all of that moisture should burst out and feel like a pop in your mouth. A pop full of the earthy taste of mushroom, the spice of the breading, and the satisfying crunch that says "deep fried" .

I know that the mushroom on the side of this plate appears diminutive. It is a very large mushroom. It just happens to be sitting next to a Fat Mo's Super Deluxe burger - a monster burger which has 27oz of beef on it.

Now, before you chastise me for posting a burger ode on a website that provides you with Weight Watchers points for my recipes, let me give you my three points on the wisdom of this post.
1. Food is always there. Burgers are not going to go away just because you are on a diet. Accept that the world is full of temptation and that you have to learn how to deal with it in a way that keeps you healthy.
2. It  is okay to be indulgent every once in awhile. Fat Mo's every day is bad for me. Fat Mo's never, ever is like punishing myself. I don't want to live telling myself I can't ever, ever have what I want because it isn't "on my diet".
3. Make your calories worth it. A stale donut from the teachers lounge is not a temptation to me anymore because those calories just aren't worth it. If I start to eat something and I don't like it; I don't make myself finish. It isn't worth it. I know which indulgent foods I truly love and those are the every-once-in-awhile splurges that are worth it.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Chocolate Chip-Cinnamon Easter Bread - 7 points

I finally did it! After bemoaning my lack of planning and time, I did sit down on Saturday morning to make my weekly menu and managed to find some easy recipes for today. But...when to shop? Well, I have the best husband in the world. Between the Happy First Birthday party and the quinceneara yesterday, Stone ran to store for me while I took a quick bath and got all dolled up. What a great guy!

As our day yesterday was rather a blur, it is appropriate that my first picture for you is a rather blurry shot of myself attempting to keep my nephew from getting a head start on the Easter egg hunt that was our first event of the day. 

I decided that I may as well make something ridiculously indulgent for Easter. Easters is supposed to be a joyous celebration, so it is a good day to share to special occasion food. Thus, I decided to go back to a pre-Weight Watchers treat that I haven't in a very long time. It is full of prepackaged food (which I do not shun on special occasions or busy days - growing up with absolutely no convenience foods makes you quite thankful for the woman who first put spaghetti sauce in a jar and the man who decided to box up some cake mix).

Second photo break...look at this little cake covered hand at the Happy First Birthday Party!

You will have to excuse me for using a little bit of slang in my description of this breakfast treat. My students  - and thus I, by exposure to them - often describe something that is extreme as being "on crack". So, for example, fried green tomatoes from Miller's Grocery are like tomatoes on crack.  Chocolate Chip-Cinnamon Easter Bread is like the middle of a cinnamon roll on crack. You know...the part of the cinnamon roll that you eat the whole rest of the roll just to get to? The gooey, sweet, cinnamon center. That is what this is, except it is even better.

Chocolate Chip-Cinnamon Easter Bread - from Pillsbury Annual Recipes 2008
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 cans refrigerated cinnamon rolls with icing
1 box vanilla pudding and pie filling mix (not instant according to the recipe - I used instant and it was fine)
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips

1. Use 1 tbsp butter to grease a bundt pan. Melt remaining butter in microwave (or over the stove if you are trying not to wake your sleeping spouse).
2. Separate roll dough into 16 rolls. Cut each roll in half crosswise. Place half of the roll pieces in the pan. (If you are like me, this will not look like enough to constitute a bottom layer. Trust me, it is.)
3. Over the rolls in the pan pour half of the pudding mix, half of the brown sugar, and half of the melted butter. Repeat layers; top with chocolate chips.
4. Bake 25 minutes at 375F. Cool for 2 minutes before inverting the pan to remove the ring to a plate. Top immediately with icing. (The recipe says to wait 15 minutes. The recipe is wrong). Serve immediately.
5. Yields 16, 7 point servings

With that much sugar and that much fat, how could it not taste delicious?

I would love to end with a picture from the event that ended our blur of a Saturday - the quinceneara. Alas, I have no pictures that do not show multiple faces of other peoples' children. As I did not ask their permission to post those pictures, I will leave it up to you to imagine a girl in a beautiful pink dress celebrating young womanhood...tier upon tier of chocolate cake...smiling faces...and me, in a pale blue dress, dancing with my handsome husband.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Creamy Cabbage Soup - 1 Point

Yes, this soup is one point. I know, I know, you are thinking, "That must mean it tastes bland and boring." Not so, not so? First of all - cabbage and onions are always a good combo. Add in some broth, some sausage, and black pepper - ah, perfection. One point of oh-so-good!

Creamy Cabbage Soup - 1 point
1 small head of cabbage, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
6 oz low fat chicken sausage, sliced
4 cups fat free chicken broth
3/4 cup sugar free almond milk (fat free milk could be substituted)
1 tsp ground black pepper
1. Combine cabbage, onion, sausage, and broth in a large pot. Simmer until vegetables are tender.
2. Stir milk and pepper into soup. Heat until bubbly.
3. Yields 8, 1 point servings

I have missed a few Fridays of music Friday, but I do have a song for you tonight. This one is not chosen randomly by my MP3 player as per usual. Last night at Maundy Thursday services and this morning at Good Friday service, there were beautiful performances of the African American spiritual "Were you There?" Listening to the sounds of this sad song with its African harmonies took me back to childhood; I grew up listening to "Where you There" on an old Mahalia Jackson LP. Now, if you do not know the voice of Mahalia Jackson, you are missing out on one of the most beautiful and powerful voices of all time. The emotion she can convey in a single note is unprecedented. Whatever your spiritual beliefs, I don't think you can resist being touched when you hear her sing.

Since I have missed a few Fridays, I hope you will indulge me with one more song from Mahalia Jackson. This is my favorite of her songs, another African American spiritual entitled "Sweet Little Jesus Boy". Now, there is one person in the world who I think outdoes her on this song, but since my dad's ethereal tenor cannot be found on You Tube, here is Mahalia's stirring rendition.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Easter Bunnies

"If you do not tell me how adorable the bunny is, you do not get to eat him!"

Those were my instructions today to a class of hard working teenagers who were the recipients of my second Easter bunny cake today. They all giggled and told me that my ridiculously goofy looking cake was cute; and they were all very gracious when they were served and while they were eating. I love my job...I have the best students.

I haven't planned my Easter dinner yet and, apart from the wonderful recipes I have seen on some of your blogs, I haven't even done much looking through ideas.  I did, however, need to make something for Simon to take to school for his Easter party. Since my schedule is insane at the moment, I went to the Betty Crocker website and chose something that looked fast and easy.

Even though they were not elegant and they wouldn't wow anyone with the intricacy of their structure, these cakes were fun to make! They were very, very easy and I think they would perfectly suit if you are looking for something with which your kids can help. You can find the directions here if you are interested.

Here is a flashback to the cake I made for Simon at Christmas.
And even further back to Halloween.

Now for the rest of Easter... I am at a loss. I have let my plate get overloaded and have left the planning to the last minute. Now I am feeling extremely guilty for not having designed an elaborate menu. I love Easter - Lent is my favorite season - the tenebrae service tonight brought me to tears. I don't want to disrespect this holiday by failing to give proper planning to our Easter meal. I must come up with something between now and Sunday!  I just have to figure out when that will happen between the church services, the egg decorating, the Easter egg hunt, the birthday cooking, the present wrapping, the birthday party, the Aunty craft project, the quinceneara, the paper grading, the lesson planning... and, well, that is probably enough stressing for one night.

Funny, after all of that, I actually feel better. Easter will work out and through it all, I will remain very blessed. And, in my blessings, I count the opportunity to share through this blog and to get to know all of you.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Twice Cooked Pork - 5 points

Thank you all so much for your sweet comments on yesterday's post. I was really humbled and overwhelmed by your support and am grateful to be part of this lovely, affirming blogging community. It was not easy for me to post something so emotional, which is part of why it took me so far into the month to participate in the challenge. You made me feel very comfortable sharing my feelings.  Much love to you all. 

Here is a fantastic pork recipe that I hope you will love. It takes planning, time, and a bit of work but it is worth it. The combination of boiling and stir frying yields moist, tender pork that soaks up the sweet and spice of the sauce.

This recipe is adapted from the fabulous book Yan-Kit's Classic Chinese Cook Book.

Twice Cooked Pork
32 oz lean pork loin
2 medium onions, cut in strips
3 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
1 tsp chili oil
2 tsp hot sauce
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp honey
2 tbsp white wine
1 cube chicken bouillon

1. Place the pork on a large saucepan; add boiling water to cover. Simmer over medium heat for 20-25 minutes.
2. Place pork on the fridge for at least 2 hours to firm (can be left overnight, covered).  Slice into 1/2" strips.
3. In a small bowl, mix together hot sauce, salt, honey, wine, and chicken bouillon.
4. Heat skillet over medium heat. Add chili oil and spread to coat the bottom of the pan. Add the onions; stir fry until translucent. Remove the onions from the pan and set them aside.
5. Add garlic to skillet and stir fry for 1 minute. Add pork; stir fry until any fat on the pork is translucent and pork ins lightly browned.
6. Return onions to the skillet along with sauce. Stir until the onions and sauce have heated.
7. Yields 8, 5 point servings

Linking to Hearth and Soul Hop 
What's on the Menu Wednesday
Welcome Wednesdays 

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Gingerbread Modeling Dough for Random Recipe Challenge

I love Dom's Random Recipe Challenge. It truly forces me to be brave and creative. This time, the challenge was to pick a random recipe from your very first cookbook. Well, I am so lucky to have a wonderful mother who bought me a fabulous cookbook for my first forays into independent cooking. Without further ado, I present Loaves and Fishes: A Love Your Neighbor Cookbook.

That this was my first cookbook is in complete keeping with my parents who, despite their conservative outside appearance, are truly hippies on the inside. The authors of this cookbook for children were hoping to educate young people about the realities of world hunger and the need for sustainable agriculture. In the educational preface, some facts are given concerning American over-consumption and world hunger. THe authors also state three goals for young people (rephrased for space).

1. Become educated about world hunger.
2. Become advocates for healthy eating in schools.
3. Make healthy, careful food choices at home.

The book has great pictures and a cute little, hand-drawn ladybug who follows you throughout the book.

I made a big deal of opening the book after dinner one night to choose my random recipe. When the pages fell open to an old favorite, "Gingerbread Modeling Dough", I was simultaneously excited and terrified.  I will tell you more about that later.

First, the recipe. It is a fun recipe that encourages kids to work with their hands and to craft their own, original gingerbread men. I thought it was great fun to make all kinds of gingerbread shapes when I was younger. The texture of the cookie is very chewy, almost doughy. The flavor starts with the spicy ginger and then begins to hint at the sweet molasses until you are engulfed in the very taste of Christmas.

Gingerbread Modeling Dough
1/4 cup margarine
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup molasses
3 1/2 cups unbleached flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup water

1. In a large bowl mix well the margarine and sugar.
2. Beat in the molasses.
3. Add the flour, soda, cloves, cinnamon, ginger, and salt.
4. Add the water and mix well, using your hands to mix the flour in when the dough becomes stiff.
5. Now the dough is ready to model into gingerbread boys or girls or anything you wish.
6. Place modeled dough on greased cookie sheet. Bake the dough at 350F for 8-10 minutes or longer depending on its thickness.
7. Yields 20, 2 point servings (#7 is not from the cookbook.)

Here is the gingerbread boy I made for Simon (with raisin face and bellybutton,  and sesame seed hair).

Now, obviously I was excited to make this recipe because it is one that is familiar - one that I even love. But terrified? Well, that is another story. I try to keep my blog a happy place, but part of this bit is sad. Trust me, however, that the end is - I think - affirming.

In another life (aka for almost ten years, until three years ago) I was married to another man. Let us call him The Dark. During the first year of our marriage, I made these cookies to share with him. I wanted to share part of my childhood with him - part of myself. He hated them. He not only hated them, but he said degrading things about them. Things I won't put on a blog.

These are not, perhaps, the world's best cookie, but they don't deserve to be defamed. The Dark was defaming them because insulting what someone loves is a way of undermining their self esteem and keeping them in your control. The cookies were something sort of small, but there were bigger things as well. There was Africa. We went there, for him to see my roots, and he hated it. He hated all of it, every place and sight and sound and taste that was the fabric of my heart. He told me that we would never, ever go back.

Fast forward to now. I have a new life, and now a new husband. He wants to go to Africa. I won't take him. I will not take him because I can't risk him hating it. He keeps telling me that he is not The Dark. I know that. But, still...

I set this glass of milk and these star shaped gingerbread modeling dough cookies in front of my husband, who had no idea the emotion behind them. He took a bite. He smiled. He mmmmmed. "Oh. Oh, wow. These are spectacular. I mean, these are amazing. They are so moist! They are so chewy! Can I really only have three?"

He loved them. And, he didn't just love them because they were good. He loved them because I made them. He loved them because he loves me.

So, maybe someday I will take him to Africa. But not yet....

Monday, April 18, 2011

Eier-Kuchen - 5 points

Eier Kuchen (from the Loaves and Fishes book Dom at Belleau Kitchen inspired me to pull off the shelf) are a lovely, thin German pancake. They have the pliability and light texture of a crepe. They are versatile - equally good topped with cottage cheese and chives or smothered in cinnamon cream syrup (as below).  They have the added bonus of being kind to one's diet - three pancakes for only five points.

4 eggs
1 cup milk
1 cup flour
pinch of salt
1. In a medium bowl, beat the eggs. Add flour, milk, and salt; beat until smooth.
2. Heat a non-stick skillet over medium heat. Pour out pancakes by 1/4 cup. Flip when bubbles form and the edges are dry.
3. Yields 4, 5 point servings (approximately 3 pancakes per serving)

If you would like the recipe for the taste bud tempting cinnamon cream syrup, it is posted directly below this recipe. Yes, two posts in one day - I know, I know. Too much. I am just trying to catch up a bit, and I am anxious to post on the cookie I made tonight for the Random Recipe challenge!
For more about points, click here.

Here is my plan a la Menu Plan Monday.

loaded potato soup
creamy cabbage soup
banana brownie pie

old fashioned stewed chicken
gingerbread modeling dough for Random Recipe Challenge

spicy split peas

spicy teriyaki mushrooms
bunny cake for Simon to take to school

dinner out before Maundy Thursday services

onion, pepper, and feta quiche
prepare bean casserole to take to party on Saturday 

eat at former students' quinceanera

Cinnamon Cream Syrup - 2 points

Since I am working on become the world's foremost pancake blogger (sarcasm, I assure you - I feel positive that there must be an actual foremost pancake blogger out there), I must also share some of my lovely syrups with you. This one is a real dream - it has a hint of the center of a cinnamon bun.

Cinnamon Cream Syrup
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup corn syrup
1/4 cup water
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 cup light soy milk
1. Combine first four ingredients in a medium pot. Bring to boil over medium heat.
2. Boil 2 minutes; stirring constantly.
3. Cool 5 minutes. Stir in milk
4. Yields 18, 2 point servings

In the above picture, I was trying to give you a view of the syrup and of my grandma's beautiful depression glass cream pitcher. It was very difficult to get the glass to show, even in natural light. I hope this gives you a hint of its loveliness.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Pineapple Angel Food Cake - 2 Points

My poor house has been afflicted with a stomach virus for the last few days, so I have felt completely left out of the blogging world! Tonight, I am planning to take most of my time to catch up on your wonderful blogs. So, here is a very fast, easy recipe for you. Don't be deceived by the simplicity of this recipe; it is delicious. The sweetness of the pineapple is offset by that little bit of zip in the angel food. To be fair, I also have to warn you, this is one of those cakes you should share. If you leave it in your fridge, it will call to you in the middle of the night. 

Pineapple Angel Food Cake
1 large can crushed pineapple in juice
1 box angel food cake mix

1. Pour pineapple with juice and cake mix into a large bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat ingredients on high heat for 2 minutes. 
2. Pour batter into a greased 9x11" cake pan. Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes. 
3. Yields 20, 2 point servings (it is also very low in carbs, if you are diabetic)

It was my intention to take a pretty picture of one of the leftover pieces of cake, since I made it for a friend's birthday and didn't want to cut it before the party. However, there were no leftovers! (I swear, one guy ate four pieces. Don't get me wrong - I was quite flattered). Here is the undecorated cake on my desk at work, waiting for a layer of fat free whipped topping. 
And here it is with the topping. 
Do you have foods that are connected with random memories? Whenever I eat angel food cake, I always remember the TV show Highway to Heaven. When I was about seven, I saw an episode of that 80's gem with my parents and some of their friends. In the episode, the bearded sidekick bought his angelic comapanion an angel food cake - thinking it was what angels ate. All of the adults in the room laughed. I, having no idea that there was an actual cake called angel food, had to have the joke explained to me. I still didn't think it was funny, but at least I discovered a new kind of delicious indulgence.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Wendy's Welsh Scones - 2 Points

Dom over at Belleau Kitchen has a new challenge involving your first cookbook. Mine is a hippie-inspired volume called Loaves and Fishes (which I will tell you more about when my life slows down enough for me to actually take on the challenge). I took it down in order to begin the challenge; while flipping through it's pages I found an old favorite that would be perfect to make with a little helper. 

Here are all of the ingredients set out on the table for Simon to dump into the mixing bowl. 

He was a fabulous chef and greatly enjoyed the pouring, mixing, and spooning out. He also greatly enjoyed the fruits of his labor. In fact, after he ate an aunt sanctioned cookie, he pulled a chair up to the cabinet and had a second, unapproved cookie in his mouth faster than I could grab him. I couldn't really blame him. They are slightly sweet, dense, packed with nature's candy - delicious, plump raisins. 

Wendy's Welsh Scones
1 cup white flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup brown sugar Splenda
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp butter
3/4 cup raisins
1 egg
1/2 cup light soy milk
1. In a large bowl, mix all ingredients save raisins.
2. Add raisins and mix.  
3. Drop dough by tablespoons full on a stone or greased cookie sheet.
4. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes. 
5. Yields 24, 2 point servings

Here are the lovely scones themselves...

And here is the cutie assistant on a trip to the park. 

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Scallops with Tomato and Mango - 4 points

When I say the pictures of Bal Arneson's dish "Scallops with Tomatoes and Papaya" in the March issue of Ladies' Home Journal, I really wanted to try it. However, there was fear in the pit of my stomach. I just don't like papaya. True, I found a recipe for Tropical Tapioca that I really liked and the Orange Roughy with Tropical Salsa that I made in January was delicious. However, I was not willing to brave a third papaya recipe. Surely, it would taste of feet.

So, I thought I was a complete genius for picking up mangoes to replace the papaya. That was until I saw the note on the recipe that reads, "If you like, mango is also delicious used in place of the papaya." So, I am not a genius. This dish is still flippin' awesome. The pop of the tomatoes - the silky tang of the mango - the delicate fish aroma of the scallops all combine into the perfect dish. My grandmother, who does not like seafood, loved it. My mother was asking for recipe details after the first bite. This is going to be a dish I make over and over for the rest of my life!

Scallops with Tomatoes and Mangoes
2 tsp olive oil
12 oz scallops
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 tbsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp salt
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
4 small mangos, diced
1. Heat 2 tsp oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the scallops and sear, about 2 min on each side.  Remove from skillet and set aside.
2.  Spray skillet kitchen spritzer. Add garlic and cook for 10 seconds. Add the remaining spices and salt; cook for 5 seconds. Stir in the tomatoes and cook until they are tender, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the mango and cook for 3 more minutes.
3. Add scallops to the sauce, coating gently.
4.Yields 6, 4 Point servings 

Monday, April 11, 2011

Turkey Vegetable Soup - 3 Points

One of my favorite comfort foods is a delicious beef and vegetable soup made by one of my book club friends.  The first time I had it, I fell in love; I begged her for the recipe! A year later, when I was very ill and had to spend some time in the hospital, she brought me a big batch of soup and a photocopy of the recipe she used from Southern Living magazine. It was a fantastic get-well present. 

As much as I love the beef and vegetable soup, it has a few flaws in the realm of nutrition. For example, a 1/2 cup of butter. Not a Weight Watchers friendly ingredient. I was so happy to figure out how to modify the recipe and still come out with a soup I can have a deep and lasting relationship with, sans the heavy cholesterol of its predecessor.  This is flavorful soup, rich and fresh at the same time - packed full with vegetables and comfort. 

Turkey Vegetable Soup

2 lb ground turkey
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup seasoned flour
5 cups water
1 cup onion, chopped
1 cup celery, chopped
4 cups frozen, mixed vegetables
1 cup canned tomato sauce
28 oz canned tomatoes, chopped and undrained
2 cubes chicken bouillon

1. Brown turkey in a large pot, stirring to crumble. Drain well, set aside.
2. Heat olive oil in the same pot; add flour to make a roux. Cook over low heat for 3 to 5 minutes until smooth.
3. Gradually add water to the pot, stirring constantly. Cook over medium heat until bubbly, stirring occasionally.
4. Add ground turkey and remaining ingredients to the pot. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 1 hr. Add salt and pepper to taste.
5. Yields 16, 3 point servings

charity fish fry

better than 0 point soup


Cedric's casserole

salmon selyanka

chicken cacciatore

Sam's Club summer preview

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Cake Mix Banana Snack Cake - 4 points

I concocted this recipe for one of Stone's library patrons. Without going into detail, suffice it to say that this child does have a wealth of material resources, was about to turn 10,  and told me that she "would like to have a birthday cake someday". When I asked her what kind of birthday cake she would like to have, she looked puzzled and said, "Banana?" She then told me that she doesn't think she likes that "frosting stuff" because it looks "gooey". 
I wasn't really sure where to start with a banana cake with no frosting, especially since my mobility was limited by my back issues. I threw this together, hoping it would work, and it came out beautifully. The birthday girl, and her compatriots, were very pleased. She took home the leftovers to share with her family.

Cake Mix Banana Snack Cake
1 box white or yellow cake mix
3 bananas, mashed
1 egg
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup chunky peanut butter
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp nutmeg

1. Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Mix for two minutes, on medium setting, with an electric beater.
2. Pour into a loaf pan or brownie pan. Bake for at 350F for 50 minutes (loaf pan) or 45 minutes (brownie pan).
3. Yields 24, 4 point servings

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Chunky Pancakes - 4 Points

Yes, another pancake recipe! Someday I will be able to start a blog full of them! This recipe was adapted from the excellent cookbook The Newcomer's Guide to Cooking in Africa: American Recipes from Scratch, edited by Edith M. Jenkins.
Chunky Pancakes
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup quick cook oats
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1  cups milk
3/4 cup yogurt
2 egg whites, slightly beaten
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1. Mix dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl.
2. In a medium mixing bowl, combine wet ingredients.
3. Pour wet ingredients into the dry ingredient bowl. Stir just until combined.
4. Heat a medium skillet over medium heat. Pour out 1/4 cup batter for each pancake, flipping when bubbles form in the middle and the edges are dry.
5. Yields 12, 4 point servings (for an explanation of the points system, click here)

Friday, April 8, 2011

Weight Watchers Points Plus Questions and Answers

Here is an explanation of the points that are connected to all of my recipes.

What are the points?
The points that I refer to in my recipes are Weight Watchers Points Plus (the new program Weight Watchers initiated in 2011). I am using the Weight Watchers program to lose weight and therefore need to calculate the points of everything I eat. Since I have already gone to the trouble of calculating them, I include them in my recipes for others who are on Weight Watchers.
What do the points mean?
The points are based on the nutritional content of the food. Weight Watchers considers the fat, carbohydrate, fiber, and protein content of each item of food and assigns a point value based on those numbers. High fiber and protein, with low fat and carbohydrates, will yield the least amount of points. For example, an item with 1 gram fat, 1 gram carbohydrates, 10 grams fiber, and 10 grams protein would have a value of 0 points. An item with 10 grams fat, 10 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram fiber, and 1 gram protein would have a value of 4 points.

What are the strengths and weaknesses of the points program?
That would take a long, long time to answer in detail. So, I will give you what I think are the two most important points on both sides. I believe the biggest strength is that the points values cause you to be more conscious of the quality of the food you are consuming.  If I see a recipe that has 15 points per serving, warning bells start going off in my head to alert me that this is a dish I should not be eating on a daily basis. I believe that the biggest weakness is that Weight Watchers does not differentiate between fats as they should. An avocado, for example, has a value of 10 points because of its fat content. That is roughly equivalent to ¼ cup of butter (12 points). This means that I, along with others on the program, avoid foods like avocados and nuts. From a nutritional standpoint, that is not a good thing – we need those healthy fats. It is my hope that Weight Watchers will rectify this in the future.

How many points should someone eat in one day?
Points vary depending on your gender, age, height, weight, and physical activity. The lowest daily point allowance is 29 points (that is my allowance). I am 5’ 3”, 33 years old, at the high end of “normal” weight, and I have my physical activity down as “sitting most of the day” (this is not true, but I put that in so that I could track my steps and physical activity – for which I earn extra points). If you are taller, younger, male, or do hard physical labor, you get more points. Also, the more you weigh, the more points you get. However, as you lose weight and your body has less to carry, points are subtracted from your allowance. You also get 49 flex points to use throughout the week for extra snacks or special means. Supposedly, you can still lose weight if you use those points. That has not been my experience, but that is the theory.

If you put on of my recipes into the points calculator on Weight Watchers, you will not get the same points that I am giving on my website. I decided, in April, that I would no longer use the recipe calculator to determine recipe points but would use the point values of the ingredients instead. Why? Because I think that the recipe calculator is asinine. According to Weight Watchers, the recipe calculator may be “different from what you expected” because they are calculating the “nutritional content” of the whole dish. Let me give you an example of “different from what you expected”. For breakfast, I had a scramble of four egg whites, 2 cups tomatoes, and ¼ cup fat free cheddar. If I calculate that by individual item it is:
4 cooked egg whites = 1 point
2 cups cooked tomatoes = 0 points
¼ cup fat free cheddar = 1 point
GRAND TOTAL = 2 points
If I put those ingredients into the recipe calculator I get:
4 cooked egg whites = 1 point
2 cups cooked tomatoes  = 3 points
¼ cup fat free cheddar = 1 point
GRAND TOTAL = 5 points
Asinine. I don’t think that Weight Watchers’ explanation of calculating “nutritional content” holds water. I think it is, to be crass, crap.
I struggled with the decision to calculate my points on the individual ingredient basis because I don’t want anyone to think that I am trying to make my recipes look lower in points than they are. I decided, in the end, that I simply cannot justify Weight Watchers’ recipe calculation math and that I don’t want to use something I believe to be illogical and flawed.

Please let me know if you have any other questions about the program that I could attempt to answer. As I tell my students,  if I don’t know the answer to your question, I will do my best to find out. 

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Cypriot Pork in Tomato Sauce - 4 points

This recipe is adapted from the book Cyprian Cooking by Despina Tskiri which a friend purchased for me while she was living on the island. I have had great success with this book, especially with this recipe. The pork is succulent and rich

Cypriot Pork in Tomato Sauce
3 lean pork chops, sliced into 1/2" strips
2 tsp olive oil
2 cups diced tomatoes
1 cup white wine
1 tbsp lemon pepper
1. Heat olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add pork; fry until brown.
2. Pour tomatoes, wine, and lemon pepper over pork. Simmer until the wine is almost completely evaporated.
3. Yields 3, 4 point servings

I recently finished a book which I would recommend to anyone with a child in his/her life: Reading Magic, by Mem Fox. It is an excellent little volume extolling the virtues of reading aloud.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Simple Cocoa Cake - 3 points

This is another adaptation of my Aunt's simple spice cake.
Simple Cocoa Cake
1 1/4 cups flour
1/4 cup cocoa
1/2 cup butter
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1/2 tsp salt
1 3/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla
1. Sift flour and cocoa into a large mixing bowl. Add remaining ingredients and beat for 2 to 3 minutes.
2. Bake in a greased 9x13" pan for 30 minutes at 350F.
3. Yeilds 24, 3 point servings
Alas, this is not the best photograph. I was just so, so hungry! And so, so desperate for chocolate! I took the cake piping hot from the pan, sprinkled on the powedered sugar, and stuffed my face. It was...bliss. 

I am a bit late for Menu Plan Monday, but here is my plan nonetheless.

chicken country captian

crock pot hot Cornish game hen

tuna in chili oil

roasted eggplant soup

book club

fini-dini shrimp

dinner with friends

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Teriyaki Chicken Thighs - 3 points

Okay, so this is not really teriyaki in the true sense of the word because it is not grilled. It is, however, delicious and easy. And, can I just take a moment to speak of my love for the chicken thigh? It is tender, juicy, soaks up flavor, and is just the right size for a cold chicken sandwich. If only I could love my own thighs with the same devotion.

Crock Pot Teriyaki Chicken Thighs
6-8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup water
1 cube chicken bouillon
2 tsp ground ginger
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp Splenda brown sugar blend

1. Place chicken in crock pot. Combine remaining ingredients; pour over chicken. Cover.
2. Cook on high for 5-6 hours.
3. Each thigh is a 3 point serving of yum

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Resolution Round Up

It has been 3 months since I hopped back on the healthy wagon after my holiday hiatus. So, it is time for my Resolution Round Up. This is late (it was due on March 26), so my apologies for my tardiness.

1. Get down to goal weight of 127 pounds. Starting weight: 149.5, so -22.5 pounds. About ½ pound per week.
My weight on Friday yesterday was 142. If you look back at my last resolution round up, you will see that this means I have gained two pounds. Not exactly what I am going for here. You may think that this is a result of going on vacation and eating things like this from Betty's Country Store... (those are on a dinner plate, btw)

Or drinking things like this hot chocolate (from a bakery I will not name, since their amazing food was offset by poor service).
But, alas, the truth is that I had gained three pounds before even going on vacation. I have Hashimoto's disease, and it was not under control. At the end of last month I began having increased symptoms - two of which are constant, ravenous hunger and weight gain without another cause. Blood tests and a trip to the doctor confirmed that I needed a higher med dose. I am starting to improve and have lost one of the pounds I gained. I should lose the rest of it as my metabolism restabilizes. Alas, I am still sad to report a gain.

2.      Log 130 workout hours (the equivalent of 30 minutes, 5 times per week). I chose total hours instead of times per week because I will inevitably be sick for at least a week and then feel like a failure for not exercising.

This month I logged 19 hours before injuring my back, which gives me a total of 49.2 hours for the year – still ahead of my goal. After gaining an inch of muscle on each thigh last month, I tried to balance my cardio with plenty of yoga and pilates to lengthen those muscles out. It was a bit of a relief, to be honest, because I absolutely love yoga and have missed it while concentrating so heavily on burning fat.

I also got some creative exercise on vacation, hiking through the Blue Ridge Mountains with my nephew on my back.

We found some great views, like Ana Ruby Falls.

I haven't done anything other than gentle walking since throwing my back out Monday, but I am looking forward to being more active when I am fully recovered.

3. Make plans to do something special with my best friend once a month. We talked about it; I will plan one month, he will plan the next.

Stone and I did run out on the family to enjoy a night in Helen. We had so much fun at our favorite Helen eatery, the Hofbrauhaus. I am super picky about schnitzel, and theirs was the best in Helen (this is half of the order- wow!).
We enjoyed a walk around the town and bought some sweets for the family from Hansel and Gretel's Candy Kitchen.

 Chocolate covered graham cracker for Simon
Chocolate dipped caramel apple for us.

Taffy for the other grown ups.

4.      Take my nephew out to do something special at least once per month.

We had a lot of fun this month. We went on our date to the Thai Bangkok. We also had a great deal of fun together on the family vacation.

Here we are shopping at Jolly's Toys, where - of course - I bought him a new car.
 And here is a picture of a family outing to Charlemagne's Kingdom, where we all enjoyed the model train version of Germany.

5. Go on two vacations. (I really want three, but two seems more achievable).

We had a very lovely time in Helen, Georgia - so, check off one vacation. We now have two more trips lined up. One is a visit with my parents in the Ozarks of Missouri toward the beginning of the summer. The other is a trip to visit one of my oldest friends and his family in south Indiana. We are looking forward to both. Just because I am having such fun showing you vacation pics, here was a sign we couldn't resist snapping.

6.Update blogs for a total of 5 updates per week.

I have fallen behind since the crashing of the desktop computer. It is being worked on and will hopefully be working again by the end of next week. I am having some definite blog withdrawal.

7. Finish editing the book of short stories I wrote last year. Contact at least one agent.

I am almost finished editing and giving thought to whether I want to do another major overhaul of the whole thing before moving on.

I enjoyed reading the writing of others this month.

8.      Pay off the remaining loan on my car.2,792.61 which I owe to a relative who does not ask me to make regular payments.

This month, that just didn't happen. With vacation and a root canal, we actually went over our budget this month. We did make some changes that we hope will improve our finances. Although we miss her, our dog went back to her original owner this month. We were caring for her while her owner was getting back on her feet after a job loss two years ago. She was a rather expensive dog, as vet bills go. Also, we replaced Stone's giant, gas guzzling truck with a fuel efficient car. We had to trade the truck in, use our tax return, and still take out a small loan. However, we are hoping that the difference between 16 miles to the gallon and 32 miles to the gallon will pay off in the long run (for the earth as well as our pocket books).
9. Say no more often.

I am replacing this one because I have decided that it is to abstract. Therefore, number 10 is now Participate in a 5K. Fab friend Lisa says she will participate with me.
10. Make time to do things that make me happy.

This one always requires effort on my part. I continue to feel selfish taking time for myself, but I also see the rewards of being fulfilled. One thing that made me happy this month was trying something new - I had prime rib for the first time and loved it.

11. Make an effort to be a better person.

This one also is too abstract. I have not yet decided what will replace it.

I had a lovely list of shout outs for the month, but of course it was lost with the crashing of the computer. I remember some, but I am afraid that I might leave someone out and hurt his/her feelings. Therefore, I am going to forgo that section for this month and hope to have no more technical difficulties in April.