Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Living with Quakers

We are alive here at Chez JJ. We are also eating. I am hoping to get back to menu and recipe posting after the new year. Hubby's work schedule has changed so he's working some days until 7:30 or 9:00 pm (he starts at 9 am with his normal end time of 6 pm). This has made dinners a bit more challenging since I usually tried to have them ready for him when he walked in the door, now I'm usually asleep when he walks in the door. :( We aren't sure how long the overtime will continue, but we aren't complaining.

Since Ralph the Quaker has joined the family (and when I was bird sitting 3 cockatiels for a friend) we've learned these essential rules (I didn't write them and I don't know who did):

Parrot Rules: It is MINE!

If I like it, it's MINE!
If I can reach it, it's MINE!
If I have it in my beak, it's MINE!
If I can take it away from you, it's MINE!
If I had it a while ago, it's MINE!
If I destroyed it, all the pieces are MINE!
If it looks as if it was mine, it's MINE!
If I saw it first, it's mine!
If you have it and put it down, it's automatically MINE!
If it is YOURS, and you think it's good, than give it immediately to me, because then it's MINE!

At the moment I've also got Cricket (another Quaker) here. I'm hoping that he'll (she'll??) help me to get Ralph into the bird room. You see, Ralph has taken to hubby totally. John is "HIS" and he only likes me now if I have food. Any other time he attacks me. The way he is I won't be able to go into the bird room at all, so Ralph spends his time in his cage in the living room or if I let him out, I spend my time holed up in the bird room. I am hoping that at least with another Quaker I can move Ralph back and remove the focus away from me a bit (or buy a pith helmet). :)

I will say that the week of Thanksgiving I made Ellie Krieger recipes (and I've picked up her new cookbook So Easy) and they were all really good! I'll have to use some of her recipes more often!

I hope to update soon!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Veg Time's Curried Red Lentil Soup with Lemon

This was dinner last night, and it was great. I decided to use Toor Dal (at least that what they were marked as at the ethnic market where I bought them (they are little yellow lentils) and they turned out nice. They also didn't take as long to cook (although the red lentils I buy there also don't take that long either). This ends up looking more like the color of a pea soup, even in the picture in the magazine, just to warn you. I also sauteed the veggies first, then put in the spices (I always read to "open" the curry spices in oil when using them) and then added the lentils and liquid. I had rinsed the lentils well and there was very little foam. All told it took about 30 mins of simmering before they were cooked. It will be interesting to see how it tastes today. :)

I can't wait to make this for lunch while at work for Matt and A!

Curried Red Lentil Soup with Lemon
Serves 6/Vegan/Gluten Free
This deliciously easy soup became an immediate favorite among VT staffers. It's even better the second day, after the spices have had more time to mingle.
From "Vegetarian Times" Oct 2009

2 cups red lentils, sorted and rinsed
1 qt. low-sodium vegetable broth
1 large onion, finely chopped (2 cups)
4 celery stalks, finely chopped (1 1/2 cups)
2 large carrots, finely chopped (1 1/2 cups)
2 cloves garlic, minced (2 tsp.)
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1 Tbs. curry powder
1 tsp. ground cumin
2 Tbs. lemon juice

1. Bring lentils, vegetable broth, and 4 cups water to a simmer in a large pot. Skim away foam that rises to top. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

2. Add onion, celery, carrots, and garlic; simmer, uncovered, 20 minutes. Add cilantro, curry powder, and cumin, and cook 20 minutes more, or until lentils are soft. Season with salt and pepper, if desired, and stir in lemon juice.

Per 1 1/2 cup serving: 283 cal, 19g prot, 2g total fat (<1 g sat fat); 50g carb, 0mg chol; 146mg sod, 13g fiber, 7g sugar

Monday, September 21, 2009

Life keeps on going...

We are still alive here at Chez JJ. We have added a new addition here- Ralph is finally here. He's settled in, and is now glaring at me from his cage. Normally when I am home he is out, but today he wants to bite- so most of his day has been spent getting put back into the cage. Actually, he's now falling asleep on his perch, maybe he was just grumpy because he needed more sleep. *shrug* I'll just call him Kelly. (my sister who gets puts on quite the pair of crankypants when she doesn't get enough sleep). He also deserves the nickname of Q-Tip, he loves to clean our ears. Hubby and I aren't quite sure why he thinks our ears are so dirty, we wash them, we swear! He is interested in Miko, more from the "why are you paying attention to her instead of me?" and doesn't really pay any attention to my cockatiels. And he loves hubby more than me now. I'm only good enough for when hubby isn't around.

Yesterday hubby was mowing the lawn and Ralph did not like it. Everytime he went by the front window (where Ralph's cage is, although Ralph was out) he gave his warning screech. It set the cockatiels off and their cage was open so they flew out. I couldn't find Buster for 45 mins! He wouldn't answer any of my calls or anything! I was searching everywhere and behind everything! I finally found him under the kitchen table hiding under the tablecloth.

Work at Project Perry is going well. I'm still loving it, and it's been keeping me busy. I've stayed a few times overnight too, when needed (yes, it's been needed). We're planning to start a pet sitting business, as in we go to the owners homes to take care of their birds (and any other animals they may have) along with mail, plants, etc. The cost of doing such will be split between Project Perry and the person doing the pet sitting (I'll be one of the people doing such). So hopefully once we get it up and running it will be a way for me to get a little money coming in for me and some money coming in for PP also. It's hard to find a place for people who own birds to leave their birds so we're hoping that the word will spread.

I am cooking at work occasionally- my boss, Matt, is vegetarian, and about once a week or so that's what I cook. Unfortunately, I'm still trying to get used to my schedule (or lack of one) that hubby and I are doing a lot of freezer eating. I've also been using Saving Dinner Menus a lot also. I need to sit down and plan out some easy and freezer meals that are WW friendly since I'm about out of ideas and tired of what we've used/had, not to mention the season is changing.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Snakes in a Car!

Well, I did end up volunteering at Project Perry on Friday, and got to meet some new folks in the process. That's always a nice thing, meeting other volunteers. We got the new half sunshade hung up on the African Grey Aviary and Matt said that it drops the temp in there by about 5-10 degrees or so. That is a big help, especially since a lot of it was reflected heat. Matt found another black snake in the Grey Aviary, and we once more threw it into a kitchen trash bag and I headed home with it, except this time I looked down while driving home to find it looking back at me from between my feet. I will admit that I was cursing Matt for not closing the bag's top very tightly, but somehow either there was a small hole in the bottom (middle of the bottom) that the snake widened or it made it itself. It crawled around behind my seat and I saw it again on the passenger's side floor exploring my backpack (I will admit that I let out another high pitched squeak when I saw it). I was speeding, hoping that there would be a police officer like there sometimes is along my path home, but no luck. I was hoping that the place where I get my car fixed was still open, and they were. They weren't real happy to help get a snake out, am I'm sure the fact that I was the one that actually put it in there in the first place didn't help matters. But they did help me get it out, and they threw it in a box and took it elsewhere on their property. I offered to bake them whatever cookies they wanted and was politely declined. I still want to make them something but not sure what. When I got home I told Matt that I wasn't sure I would be moving snakes anymore.

I also ended up going in on Sunday too, since he didn't have anyone else to help him. I told Matt he had to double my pay, but double nothing still isn't much. ;) I'm glad that I'm close enough to help and didn't have anything else planned this weekend. I got the chance to clean the top of Murphy's cage AND scrub the sunroom's floor. At least I got to spend some quality time with Ralph, and entertain Cricket while cleaning the floor too. :) We got a few new Quakers in, but I didn't meet them since I worked in the sunroom. The person that dropped them off has had a few unexplained deaths and we don't want to introduce anything into our healthy ones yet. I was exhausted when I got home and slept for a few hours. Hubby mowed most of the lawn (it rained for a few hours here, but not at Proj. P), and got Papa John's for dinner.

The big thing that's been going on this weekend is that Miko's not doing very well. She's got a doc appointment this afternoon to find out what's going on. She's been pacing around at night, so much so that she doesn't sleep with us anymore. :( She's also started to go stand in corners. Her tail isn't up a lot of times and she's also panting a lot more, even if it's not that warm. It's not really looking like a good thing, I'm hoping that it's something simple and not as bad as I know that it could be.

All this to say, I hope to find the time to make a menu plan today- but we'll see how it turns out. I may just have to go day to day instead. I do know enough to at least have an idea of a dinner (I have a small paperback of Saving Dinner in the side pocket of my car incase I need it).

Thursday, July 30, 2009

We really are alive around here, I swear!

I know that I haven't written in ages (has it really been over a month??), and for that I'm sorry. I'm getting used to working and managing my time I guess. Getting back to being a "normal person" I guess you could say. :) I've gone from volunteering one day a week to three. And this week I've volunteered Saturday, Monday, Tues, Wed and Thurs. Add to it that it's finally starting to feel like July with the humidity most of this week and I've been a bit beat. We are still eating around here. I've been alternating between quick meals (spaghetti with saucefromajar [as one of my blog friends calls it] and Saving Dinner [books, Menu Mailers and Freezer Supplies - I recommend them all, I often use "It's Leanne's." when hubby asks and he knows exactly who I mean].

Tomorrow I'm going to go through my SD (Saving Dinner) stuff and figure out what we're going to be having. We've had to put out $1,500 for our cars this month for them to pass inspection (both of them were due this month) and we've got our car insurance due at the beginning of Aug (which starts tomorrow I think!!). I went to FoodLion today to pick up a few things (including hot dogs and fish sticks incase things get REALLY screwy next week), vegetables (for sides and salads), frozen raw shrimp and lunch stuff for hubby. I have chicken thighs, a whole chicken, frozen mixed seafood and cuts of beef in the freezer along with pasta and beans in the pantry. I'm sure I can come up with meals, just got to figure out what they'll be. :)

The decluttering is moving along. Both John and I are doing pretty good, although actually being home helps (we've been gone a few weekends) and both of us have been busy so sometimes we are both exhausted at night and don't get much done but dishes and clothes. I have a whole bunch of fabric that I need to figure out what to do with. I know I can do freecycle thing, but I'd like to give it to someone that can use it for something good. I've also got a bunch of patterns that I'm not sure what to do with. I'm hoping to never be able to fit into them again, so there's no reason to keep them.

So far I'm off tomorrow, although I have offered my services to Matt since he's not feeling so hot (it seems like he's caught what I think of as con-crud from the thing he went to this weekend). He probably won't take me up on the offer, but it's ok if he does. Anyway, I'm going to relax for a bit and then head to bed.

Monday, June 22, 2009

A Plan, no really!

Since I had a doctor's appointment today, I didn't have time to also go to Project Perry today. I will be going Tuesday and Wednesday this week. Because of that I've had time today to figure out my menu for this week though. For more menu ideas visit: http://orgjunkie.com/2009/06/menu-plan-monday-june-22nd-giveaway.html

Monday: steak, baked potatoes, broccoli
Tuesday: Turkey Cutlets with Orzo-Spinach Salad and Butter-Braised Squash
Wednesday: chili with oven fries (leftover chili with oven-baked homemade fries)
Thursday: Salmon with Garlic Aioli and Lemon Couscous
Friday: Italian Spaghetti Sauce With Meatballs

Grilled Steak
Serves 4 to 6.

1 1/2 to 2 pounds steak
1/3 cup soy sauce
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
3 tablespoons vegetable oil (optional)

Combine soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, and oil; pour over steak. Marinate at least 8 hours in refrigerator. Turn steak frequently to keep coated with marinade.

Remove steak from marinade; grill, turning to cook both sides, over medium coals to desired doneness. Slice thinly across grain to serve.

The Baked Potato
If you're cooking more than 4 potatoes, you'll need to extend the cooking time by up to 15 minutes.
Recipe courtesy Alton Brown
Serves: 1 potato per person

1 large russet potato (If it looks like Mr. Potato Head(r), you've got the right one.)
Canola oil to coat
Kosher salt

Heat oven to 350 degrees and position racks in top and bottom thirds. Wash potato (or potatoes) thoroughly with a stiff brush and cold running water. Dry, then using a standard fork poke 8 to 12 deep holes all over the spud so that moisture can escape during cooking. Place in a bowl and coat lightly with oil. Sprinkle with kosher salt and place potato directly on rack in middle of oven. Place a baking sheet on the lower rack to catch any drippings.

Bake 1 hour or until skin feels crisp but flesh beneath feels soft. Serve by creating a dotted line from end to end with your fork, then crack the spud open by squeezing the ends towards one another. It will pop right open. But watch out, there will be some steam.

Turkey Cutlets with Orzo-Spinach Salad and Butter-Braised Squash

Turkey Cutlets:
1 pkg (16 oz.) Turkey Cutlets
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tbsp. Olive Oil (for Cooking)
Orzo Spinach Salad:
1/2 package Orzo pasta, cooked al dente and drained
4 tbsp. olive oil
2 large mushrooms (2 cups) sliced
9 oz. spinach
1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp. red wine vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
Butter Braised Squash:
1 medium zucchini, sliced
1 medium yellow squash, sliced
1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded and cut in strips
2 tbsp. butter
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Turkey Cutlets:
Preheat oven to 150 degrees.

Heat a large, heavy bottomed skillet with 2 tbsp olive oil over medium heat.

Mix salt, pepper and flour together on a serving plate or shallow baking dish. Flour each turkey cutlet lightly on both sides, shaking off any excess flour. Cook in batches in skillet for approximately 2 minutes per side, or until just cooked through. Place on baking sheet in warm oven while cooking remaining turkey.

Turkey can sit in warm oven for up to 20 minutes before serving.

Orzo Spinach Salad:
Heat olive oil in a large, high sided skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally until mushrooms begin to smell earthy and are a deep color. Add spinach in handfuls, stirring constantly to wilt leaves evenly. Add more as the volume in the skillet becomes manageable.

Add garlic and cook, stirring often, for 2 minutes. Add cooked orzo and stir to combine. Add tomatoes and toss gently. Taste for seasoning.

Serve hot with a bit of grated Romano cheese if desired.

Butter Braised Squash:
Heat butter and olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add squash and cook, stirring often, until it begins to soften. Add bell pepper and continue cooking, stirring often, until squash is translucent and soft, but not mushy. Season and serve immediately.

Wendy's-Style Chili
Makes about 12 servings.
Wendys Chili Tidbits:
For spicier chili, add 1/2 teaspoon more black pepper.
For much spicier chili, add 1 teaspoon black pepper and a tablespoon cayenne pepper.
And for a real stomach stinger, add 5 or 6 sliced jalapeno peppers to the pot.
I use diced canned tomatoes with chilies in place of the green chili and chopped tomatoes and if you want thicker chili use tomato paste instead of tomato sauce. (Original recipe also called for 2 cups water but it was way too watery). You can also make this in the crockpot - this makes A LOT!

2 pounds ground beef
One 29-ounce can tomato sauce
One 29-ounce can kidney beans (with liquid)
One 29-ounce can pinto beans (with liquid)
1 cup diced onion (1 medium onion)
1/2 cup diced green chili (2 chilies)
1/4 cup diced celery (1 stalk)
3 medium tomatoes, chopped
2 teaspoons cumin powder
1-3 tablespoons chili powder (depends on how hot your chili powder is)
1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper
2 teaspoons salt

Brown the ground beef in a skillet over medium heat; drain off the fat. Using a fork, crumble the cooked beef into pea-size pieces. In a large pot, combine the beef plus all the remaining ingredients, and bring to a simmer over low heat. Cook, stirring every 15 minutes, for 2 to 3 hours.

Wendy's Chili Seasoning
Recipe By: Gloria Pitzer

2 Tablespoons red pepper flakes
1 Tablespoon seasoned salt
1 Tablespoon dry minced onions, crushed very fine
1 teaspoon dry parsley flakes, rubbed to dust
1 teaspoon granulated garlic, crushed to dust
2 Tablespoons taco seasoning mix

Stir all ingredients well together and store in a bottle with tight cap. Keep at room temp and use within 6 months.

Classic Oven Fries
Lemony Oven Fries: Prepare Classic Oven Fries and mix 1 teaspoon grated fresh lemon peel, 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, 1 tablespoon dried oregano, and 1 large garlic clove, crushed with press, with salt, pepper, and oil in bowl. Add potatoes and toss to coat and continue with recipe.
Spicy Oven Fries: Prepare Classic Oven Fries mix 1 teaspoon onion powder, 1/2 teaspoon turmeric, and 1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper (cayenne) with salt, pepper, and oil in bowl. Add potatoes and toss to coat and continue with recipe.
Makes 6 servings
Serving Size: 10 fries

Non-stick cooking spray
4 medium baking potatoes or sweet potatoes
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
seasonings (optional) (Try one or several of these seasonings: salt, pepper, seasoning salt, garlic powder, onion powder, chili powder, paprika)

Preheat oven to 475° F.

Lightly spray baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray.

Wash potatoes thoroughly and dry with a paper towel.

Cut potatoes into long strips about 1/2 inch thick.

Put oil in a plastic bag (I just put into a large bowl). Add potatoes and toss to evenly coat with oil. You may add seasoning to the bag. Spread strips in a single layer on a baking sheet and place in preheated oven.

Bake at 475° F for 20 minutes.

After 20 minutes, take sheet out of oven and turn potato strips over. Immediately return sheet to oven and bake at 475° F for 15 more minutes.

Nutrition information Per Serving
SWEET POTATO OVEN FRIES: 130 calories, Total Fat 5 g, Saturated Fat 0.5 g, Protein 1 g, Total Carbohydrate 21 g, Dietary Fiber 3 g, Sodium 10 mg, Excellent Source of Vitamin A, Excellent Source of Vitamin C
OVEN FRIES: 170 calories, Total Fat 5 g, Saturated Fat 0.5 g, Protein, 3 g, Total Carbohydrate 29 g, Dietary Fiber 3 g, Sodium 10 mg, Excellent Source of Vitamin C

Salmon with Garlic Aioli and Lemon Couscous

2 cups chicken broth
1 cup plain dry couscous
1 lemon grated and juiced
4 (6-ounce) Atlantic salmon fillets
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons minced shallots
1/3 cup dry white wine
1 (8.5 ounce) jar Benedicta Gourmet Creamy Garlic Aioli Sauce
2 tablespoons minced Italian parsley

In medium saucepan, bring chicken broth to a boil; add couscous, lemon peel, and lemon juice. Stir to combine; cover and remove from heat. Allow to sit for 5 minutes.

Rinse salmon; pat dry with paper towels.

Heat large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat for 2 minutes. Season salmon with salt and pepper. Add oil to the skillet; swirl to coat. Add salmon, skin side up; sear for 2 minutes per side. Reduce heat to medium-low; cook until salmon just flakes with a fork (4-6 minutes).

Transfer salmon to a serving platter; cover with foil to keep warm. Add shallots and sauté until translucent (about 2 minutes). Remove skillet from heat, deglaze skillet with wine, stirring to scrape up any browned bits. Stir in Benedicta Aioli.

Pour sauce over salmon. Add parsley to couscous, fluff with a fork to combine. Serve couscous with salmon.

Amount:4 servings

Italian Spaghetti Sauce With Meatballs
From http://www.momadvice.com
Serve meal with a tossed garden salad.
Breadcrumbs Recipe: Making your own breadcrumbs can be easy and inexpensive. The flavor of fresh breadcrumbs versus the store bought variety is not even comparable. Store your breadcrumbs in your freezer and you will always have fresh breadcrumbs on hand. I keep mine in a freezer-safe container and when I get low, I simply make another batch. Breadcrumbs can be made out of loaf ends, stale bread, hot dog rolls, & hamburger buns- whatever you have on hand! Keep a bread bag with all of your bread in it and store it in the freezer. Once the bag is filled, it is time to make some breadcrumbs! Set your oven to broil and then lay all of the bread out on cookie sheets. You only need to broil the bread a couple of minutes (keep one eye on it because it can burn quickly). This helps just to dry the bread out and make it easier to handle. Once the bread is toasted, put this bread into my food processor. You can just have only the bread in there, or if you like the Italian seasonings type of breadcrumbs add your own seasonings (I add garlic salt, and an Italian seasonings dry blend of herbs to mine for that variety). Run the food processor until the bread crumbs are of a fine consistency. Then put these crumbs into a freezer-safe container.

1 pound ground turkey
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons paste
1 egg
3 tablespoons of beef broth
Handful of parmesan cheese
Salt & pepper
3/4 cup chopped onion
5 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup olive oil
2 (28 ounce) cans whole peeled tomatoes, undrained
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon white sugar
1 bay leaf
1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
3/4 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a large bowl mix together turkey, bread crumbs, tomato paste, egg, beef broth, handful of cheese, and salt and pepper. Shape into meatballs (any size, just make sure they are all the same size for even cooking) and bake the meatballs for fifteen to twenty minutes or until cooked thoroughly. Carefully remove meatballs from the baking sheet and add them to the sauce. Or in a large skillet, cook meatballs in two tablespoons hot oil over medium-high heat seven minutes or until browned; remove from skillet and drain.

To make sauce, saute onion and garlic in 1/4 cup olive oil until onion is translucent. Stir in tomatoes, salt, sugar, and bay leaf. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer one hour and thirty minutes. Stir in tomato paste basil, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and meatballs and simmer thirty more minutes. Discard bay leaf. Serve over spaghetti.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Look! An update! Ohh...a squirrel...

Things are going well around here, just not really enough to warrant a post, I feel. That's one of the pluses to Twitter, they are mini-posts for me. They aren't all that exciting I'm sure, and there are those who would be bored to tears by my Twitters, but I don't really care. Just like my blog, my twits are really just me. I don't do them to make money, to promote anything, or to gain more readers. It's really just a brain dump I guess - just to let anyone who cares to know what is on my mind. It's the best thing for someone with ADD, huh? ;) I'd probably twitter more if I didn't get distracted so much. LOL!

I'm still loving the birds and all that it entails. I got bit by Charlie the other day, possibly because Andrea was there beside me (Charlie's "girlfriend" in his mind). It wasn't horrible, but it's still a bit sore. I had to throw a towel over him to get him back into his cage whereas the day before he let me pet him and pick him up and put him in his cage. They had to move Ralph to the sunroom because the other birds started to pick on him really badly. He was so happy to see me, he wouldn't let Chicken or Cricket near me on Monday, which didn't make them happy one bit. Cricket already wasn't happy because she had to wear an e-collar because she's been picking her feathers. Cricket was even mad enough to nip my ear (while Ralph was scrambling over to get her off of me from the other shoulder) when I stood too close to her. It took me 5 tries before I was finally able to get out of the room fast enough before he landed back on me before I was able to close the door. On Tuesday Ralph actually flew out of the sunroom to me (he's been flying to the French doors when he sees me thinking I'm coming in). Andrea was going in first and he landed on Dolly's cage that was outside of it (she's a new bird that might be coming in). I had him step up onto my finger (I was worried that he might bite it like he does when I try to get him off my shoulder so I can leave, but he didn't) and placed him on my shoulder. He rode there most of the time I was in there. Once Cricket realized I was changing the papers on the floor she got excited and started going after my fingers again. I had forgotten to put my tennis shoes on, and I just set them down and she started going after the shoelaces instead, thank goodness. I was able to at least get the papers up before she grew tired of that. I put my tennis shoes on and we played a bit of cat and mouse for a bit when I put the papers down, but I think Ralph pretty much intimidated her. It once more took me a couple of tries before Ralph let me leave. Tuesday was cleaning the Cockatiel Aviary and once more cleaning the African Grey aviary. I tell you, I'm getting a workout!

Meals haven't been that impressive this week. I'm still trying to figure out summer meals here, and what I feel like cooking/eating. Thanks to paperbackswap, I got Rick Bayless's Mexican Kitchen in the mail last Friday. So this weekend I cooked up a batch (a double batch actually) of his Classic Mexican "Pot" Beans (Frioles de la Olla) and used some of those to make Classic Mexican fried beans with onions and garlic (refried beans - I did the Frijoles Chinitos version). And then with those I made the Rustic Red-sauced Eggs on Corn Tortillas (Huevos Rusticos), and I've been eating bean soft tacos for lunch. Food lion had 5lb bags of Vidalias on sale so I also made Caramelized onions in the crockpot too. So I made French Onion Soup one night too. I used some of the beans to make Beans and cornbread. Used the rest of the onions to make Mujuddarrah (it's spelled plenty of ways) or rice and lentils with caramelized onions. This time I cooked brown rice and lentils at the same time in the rice cooker. It was so easy and turned out great! Tonight I'm using the last of the beans and making Wendy's-style chili. I haven't typed up the recipes from Rick Bayless yet, but I hope to soon.

Has anyone else made a switch over to summer cooking?

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Bird Brains?

Things here are going well. The heat and humidity have moved into Virginia - but it hasn't reached the 100's yet (they were talking on the news about "remember how last year it was already reaching the 100's at this point last year"). Because of the heat during the day, we've also had scattered showers with thunderstorms in the evenings. Since we're on well water out here, I'm not complaining one bit. A few years ago 3 people in our neighborhood actually had to re-drill their wells because of the drought. We have a crick (it's not large enough to be called a creek *GRIN*) out back that is from a spring and we can tell how the water table is when it disappears.

My thighs are a bit sore- as we were discussing yesterday while I was at what I'm going to start to call work even thought I'm volunteering (Project Perry).- you definately get a workout. I'm not lifting 50 lb dogs and such, but I'm doing a lot of squatting and stuff like that. I don't mind at all though. Chicken and Cricket left my fingers alone yesterday- I think it's only when I put down newspapers that they bother me. Cricket on the other hand wouldn't get off the food dish for me to to refill it, and then when I brought it back, she couldn't wait for me to put it down. I was worried I'd crush her feet and then when she did move her feet off the rack she helped me to set the the container down - apparently I wasn't putting it down fast enough for her. :) Andrea couldn't get the water dish out of the other Conure room and asked if I could get it for her (one of the Conures wouldn't get out of the food dish for her [sound familiar?] and she couldn't grab it). I went in to get it and PJ and one of the other Quakers wouldn't get off my shoulder. I had to wait for her to return with the food dish. She told me they would get off when I headed into the double doors but I had to show her that they would ride in with me. She just laughed. I found out the other Quaker had lost his mate last week. :( I went back to finish cleaning and she told me later that the Quaker was giving her his feathers while she was picking up feathers from the floor (we save fallen feathers). After I finished with the sun-room conures I went to wash my hands and I looked out at the African Grey aviary and noticed Matt who looked like he was on his cell phone and I noticed that the phone was ringing. I went to check it out and the number listed looked like his. Andrea had told me last week that she doesn't normally answer the phone, and at that point the phone stopped ringing. I went to check to see if the number listed was the same one that he had listed on the front door. It was, so I headed down to the aviary to see what was up. He had locked himself in! :) Andrea had told me it had happened when they were first building it, the outside door is basically just a screen door and they hadn't put the metal screen up, so they broke through the screen and got out that way. He had since put up the metal screen and the yarn that he had linked to the handle had gotten hooked under the handle and wouldn't lift it up. He said he had been calling for 20 minutes, Andrea had her cell phone in her car, he didn't have my cell phone number, and I had been in the sun room with Chicken and Cricket and couldn't hear the phone since they were talking to me.

Once Andrea and I were done with the inside birds we headed down to the African Grey Aviary to help clean their feeding platform. I love being whistled at, even if it is by a bird. ;) My job was to pick up the nut shells around the platform - hence the sqats and sore thighs. Andrea scrubbed the platform that the feeder sits on. She got quite a workout too. Before doing that though, she had to go get a drill so the feeder could be dismantled. I sat out in the flight part of the aviary, and waited. It was funny - one of the greys was interested in me and I watched him walk up behind me (I was sitting in a folding chair) and around me, watch me for a bit and then walk away. They really are curious things - they watched everything we did, and some will fly right up to watch and others will hang back, just like humans. There is one really old one, she's at least 50 years old, Pearl. She likes to hang out at the food and she's arthritic too- when you think of a crotchedy old woman, think of Pearl. :D She tells you exactly what she thinks when you get too close and she doesn't want to go anywhere. So yeah, getting her to move to clean the feeding platform was fun. And she wasn't happy and glared at us the whole time. Matt had built a little perch on the platform just for her too. A few weeks ago Matt had found a snake skin, and he caught the snake today too. It was a smaller black snake, and I brought it home and released it here. I took it to the end of my neighborhood and it slithered off into the woods. Believe me, it will be a lot happier here than there. I actually miss the birds when I'm not there. I come home exhausted, but that's a good feeling though.

Do you miss my cooking posts? (All 5 of the people who read my blog?)

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Tapas Party!!!

Jennifer and I were planning to go to the Va Renaissance Faire this year (we've wanted to go, and never realized that the other wanted to also). But since we're both a bit short on money we decided to wait. I've wanted to have a Tapas party for a while, so I decided to stop by Grayhaven Winery and see about picking up some of their wine for their sangria. When Jennifer and I decided to start learning about wine years ago, we went to the Powhatan Festival of the Grape. One of the things we fell in love with was their Sangria, and then we found out that it was made right up the street from me. They didn't have the wine used in the one we liked, but the person there suggested their Touriga wine (she said if they had Pinotage you could use that too). I bought that and while it was good, it was a bit stronger than we liked. Luckily I had a cheap bottle of sweet champagne in the fridge (from our anniversary that I didn't use). I added that and it helped it a lot. For the wrapped figs I used proscuitto instead of ham, and they were wonderful. And they are good out of the fridge the next day too. The Vanishing Oatmeal Cookies were actually dinner. I served Tapas for lunch and Jennifer and Mike were still here for dinner. When I asked if they wanted anything for dinner (we had plenty still let from lunch), Mike asked for cookies - so I made these, I added a bunch of things to them: chocolate chips, Heath chips, mini Reeses cups, butterscotch chips, and peacans. The recipes that are listed are ones that I've made for dinners (the only one still left to make is the stuffed mushrooms. I figured I may-as-well make tapas for dinners and continue to use the same ingredients. It's worked out well- and I'm serving them with the leftover sides.

Rendezvous Red Sangria
From Grayhaven Winery (www.grayhavenwinery.com)

3 bottles of Rendezvous wine (Claret style red)
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
2 cinnamon sticks
3 oranges
Juice of 1 lime

Combine sugar and water in sauce pan, add cinnamon sticks and bring mixture to a boil. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature. Slice orange in bite-size pieces that will fit into a wine glass. In a large pitcher, combine wine, oranges, and lime juice. Add sugar syrup 1/2 cup at a time until the sangria is as sweet as you like it - add cinnamon sticks. Store sangria in fridge overnight, serve chilled.

Remove cinnamon sticks after 24 hours. Makes about 1 gallon.

Assorted olives: POINTS value per serving (10 small or 6 large): 1 (I had pimiento and garlic stuffed)
Spanish semi-soft cheese, such as Manchego: POINTS value per serving (1 inch cube): 3 (I had Manchego and Iberico)
Warm crusty bread: POINTS value per serving (1-ounce slice): 2
Marinated mushrooms (from deli or jar)
Grape tomatoes, halved and drizzled with low-fat vinaigrette
Marinated Artichokes
Membrillo paste (quince paste)
Fig and almond cake (from Whole Foods- basically dried figs with whole Spanish almonds)

Spicy Red Peppers
Not just for tapas, these savory strips are fabulous layered in a sandwich, and they make any salad special. Roast a double batch when red peppers are on sale; they'll last up to a week in the refrigerator and up to a month in the freezer. For best flavor, omit the lemon rind when preparing the peppers for freezing, then add it to the thawed peppers just before serving. To freeze the peppers, place them in a zip-close freezer bag and squeeze out as much air as possible. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator. This recipe makes wise use of the juices created by roasting peppers - a clever idea anytime. Roasted pepper juices add wonderful flavor and body to salad dressings and are also tasty in poultry or vegetable marinades.
Serves 6 POINTS 0

4 red bell peppers
1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon rind

Preheat the oven to 425 F. Spray a baking sheet with nonstick spray.

Arrange peppers on the baking sheet and roast, 15 minutes. Turn the peppers an roast until they are softened and blistered, about 15 minutes longer. Transfer the peppers to a large bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let stand 15 minutes, to allow the peppers to steam. Peel, core, and seed the peppers, reserving the remaining juice in the bowl, and cut them into 1/2-inch-wide strips.

Heat a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Swirl in the oil, then add the garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, 1 minute. Add the pepper strips, crushed red pepper and salt; cook 3-4 minutes. Add the reserved pepper juice and cook 1 minute longer. Remove from the heat and stir in the grated lemon rind. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Per serving (1/3 cup): 22 cal, 1 g fat, 0 g sat fat, 4 mg chol, 98 mg sod, 4 g carb, 1 g fib, 1 g prot, 6 mg calc

Shrimp in Garlic Sauce
This tapas classic can be found on the menu of almost any Spanish restaurant, here and abroad. The key to this dish is a quick saute over fairly high heat. The addition of fresh parsley at the end helps mellow the garlic. This dish is even more flavorful when made in advance. Cook the shrimp through, then refrigerate until chilled, at least one hour or up to a day ahead. Bring to room temperature, then toss with the parsley and serve.
Serves 6 POINTS 1

2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
3/4 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
3/4 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoon dry sherry
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Swirl in the oil, then add the onion and garlic. Saute until the onion and garlic begin to soften, 3-4 minutes. Add the shrimp, paprika, cumin, and salt; cook, stirring occasionally, just until the shrimp are opaque, about 4 minutes. Add the sherry and lemon juice, and cook 1 minute longer. Remove from the heat and stir in the parsley. Serve warm or a room temperature.

Per serving (1/2 cup): 70 cal, 2g fat, 0 g sat fat, 81mg chol, 290 mg sod, 3 g carb, 1g fib, 9g prot, 29 mg calc

Figs Wrapped in Ham
This classic dish, which combines the sweet, soft figs with the salty bite of ham, condenses the best of a tapas bar into a single bite. In Spain, this dish is traditionally made with jamon serrano. This is a great do-ahead dish, too: Prepare the figs to the point of baking, then cover them with plastic wrap and refrigerate for a few hours overnight. When ready to use, simply uncover and bake as directed. For a nuttier flavor, heat the almonds in a small skillet over medium heat until fragrant, about one minute, before stuffing the figs.
Serves 6 POINTS 3

18 dried figs
1 cup orange juice
2 Tablespoons sherry vinegar
18 whole almonds, blanched
2 ounces deli-sliced boiled ham, cut lengthwise into 18 (3/4-inch-wide) strips

Preheat the oven to 400 F. Spray a baking sheet with nonstick spray.

Combine the figs, orange juice, and vinegar in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat and cook 1 minute. Remove from the heat and let stand until the figs are softened, 10 minutes. Drain, discarding any remaining liquid, and let cool 5 minutes.

With the tip of a sharp knife, make a 3/4-inch incision in each fig. lace one almond into each fig. Working one at a time, roll a ham strip around a fig and place seam side down on the baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining figs. Bake until the ham begins to brown slightly and the figs are hot, 10-12 minutes. Serve immediate or at room temperature.

Per serving (3 figs): 201 cal, 3g fat, 1 g sat fat, 6 mg chol, 149 mg sod, 42g carb, 6 g fib, 5 g prot, 95mg calc.

Spanish Potato Tortilla
Though Americans think of the tortilla (literally, "little cakes") as the wrapper for a taco or a burrito, Spaniards use the term to refer to flavorful omelets like this one. Serve it hot or make it up to a day ahead (wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate), then serve at room temperature. For a striking presentation, garnish with habanero peppers (but don't eat them). This recipe also makes a wonderful main dish for four on it's own; serve it with a green salad or a side of crisp cooked green beans dressed with vinaigrette.
Makes 6 servings. 4 POINTS

1 3/4 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and sliced into thin rounds
4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, sliced
4 large eggs
4 egg whites
1 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper

Place the potato slices in a large pot and add enough water to cover them by 1 inch. Bring to a boil; reduce the heat and simmer until the potatoes are just tender, about 3 minutes. Drain and let cool 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Swirl in 1 teaspoon of the oil, then add the onion. Saute until softened but not browned, 5-6 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Whisk the eggs, egg whites, salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Add the warm potatoes and onion, mixing well to coat; let stand 15 minutes.

Return the skillet to medium-high heat. Swirl in the remaining 3 teaspoons oil, then add the potato-egg mixture, patting with a spatula to form a disk. Cook undisturbed 3 minutes; reduce the heat to medium and cook until the tortilla is golden on the bottom, about 8 minutes longer. Invert a large plate over the skillet and flip the skillet over to drop the tortilla onto the plate. Return the skillet to the heat and slide the tortilla back into the pan, uncooked side down. Cook until the bottom is golden, about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, wash the plate in hot, soapy water (to prevent bacterial contamination from the raw eggs).

Invert the plate over the skillet again and flip the skillet over to drop the tortilla onto the plate. Slide the tortilla back into the pan and cook about 5 minutes longer. Remove from the heat let cool 10 minutes before serving.

Per serving (1/6 of tortilla): 200 cal, 7 g fat, 1 g sat fat, 142 mg chol, 473 mg sod, 27g carb, 3 g fib, 9g prot, 33 mg calc.

Vanishing Oatmeal Raisin Cookies
Yield: 4 dozen.

1 cup butter, softened
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp salt (optional)
2 eggs
3 cups Quaker® Oats (any variety, uncooked)
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup raisins
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

Heat oven to 350°F. Beat together margarine and sugars until creamy. Add eggs and vanilla; beat well. Add combined flour, baking soda, cinnamon and

salt; mix well. Stir in oats and raisins; mix well. Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until light golden brown.

Cool 1 minute on cookie sheet; remove to wire rack. Cool completely. Store tightly covered.

Nutrition Information (1 cookie): Calories 100; Fat 4 g; Sodium 75 mg; Dietary Fibr 1 g

-Stir in 1 cup chopped nuts.
-Substitute 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate pieces or candy coated chocolate pieces for raisins; omit cinnamon.
-Substitute 1 cup diced dried mixed fruit for raisins.
Ice Cream Sandwich Cookies: Spread softened ice cream on bottom side of one cookie; top with second cookie. Wrap securely; freeze.
For bar cookies bake 30-35 min in ungreased 9x13 baking pan.

Chorizo-Stuffed Mushrooms
WWM Nov/Dec 2006 Serves 8 Points 2

40 fresh cremini mushrooms
1 (3 1/2 oz) chorizo sausage, finely diced
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1 Golden Delicious apple, peeled and finely chopped
1 egg white, lightly beaten
1/4 cup plain dried bread crumbs
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Preheat the oven to 350F. Spray a large rimmed baking sheet with nonstick spray.

Remove the stems from the mushrooms and chop finely; set aside. Put the caps, stem sides up on the sheet.

To make the filling, heat a medium nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chorizo and cook, stirring, occasionally, until lightly browned, 3-4 minutes. Add the mushroom stems, onion, garlic, and thyme; cook, stirring until the vegetables just begin to brown, 6-7 minutes. Add the apple and cook, stirring, until it begins to soften, 2-3 minuets. Transfer to a bowl and let cool slightly, about 5 minutes. Stir in the remaining ingredients.

Stuff each mushroom cap, mounding the filling in the center. Bake until the filling in the center. Bake until the caps are browned and sizzling, about 25 minutes. Serve warm.

Per serving (5 stuffed mushrooms): 104 cal, 5 g fat, 2 g sat fat, 0 g trans fat, 11 mg chol, 264 mg sod, 9 g carb, 2 g fib, 7g prot, 15 mg calc.

Savory Potato and Ham Chunks
WW Simply Delicious 4 Points Serves 4
The combination of paprika, tomato paste, and vinegar in this sweet-and-tangy dish is a typical sauce used in many classic Spanish tapas recipes. Crunchy carrot spears provide a nice contrast to this savory mix. Paprika is a powdered blend of sweet red peppers that can range in favor from mild to hot. Most varieties sold in supermarkets that are simply labeled “paprika” are mildly spicy. If you can find it, use smoked paprika for extra flavor. Or, to bring out the flavor of a mild paprika, roast it in a dry skillet over medium heat, stirring constantly, 1 to 2 minutes, then cool before using.

4 oz thickly-sliced lean ham, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 pounds potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 1 inch chunks
2 cups fat-free, low-sodium chicken broth
2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/8 teaspoon cayenne

Spray a very large nonstick skillet with nonstick spray and set over medium heat. Add the ham and cook, stirring often, until lightly browned, 2-3 minutes. Transfer the ham to a large bowl.

Heat the same skillet. Swirl the 2 teaspoons of the oil, then add the potatoes and cook, stirring often, until golden, 2-3 minutes. Add 1 cup of the broth and simmer, covered, until the potatoes are just tender, about 15 minutes. Uncover an cook until any remaining liquid evaporates. Transfer the potatoes to the bowl with the ham.

Swirl the remaining 1 teaspoon oil in the same skillet, then add the flour and paprika and cook, stirring constantly, 1 minute. Gradually add the remaining 1 cup chicken broth, and the vinegar, stirring to keep the mixture smooth. Add the tomato paste and cayenne. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is smooth and thickened, 6-8 minutes.

Return the ham and potatoes to the skillet and stir gently until evenly coated with sauce. Serve hot.

Per serving (1 cup): 241 calories, 5 g fat, 1 g sat fat, 15 chol, 413 mg sod, 37 g tot carb, 4g fib, 11g prot, 24 mg calc

Sauteed Clams and Chorizo
If you're following the Core plan, substitute Canadian bacon for the chorizo and use reduced-sodium chicken broth instead of white wine.
Serves 4 Points: 3

2 teaspoons olive oil
2 medium red onions (3/4 pound), finely chopped
1 ounce chorizo sausage, finely chopped
1 bay leaf
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup dry white wine or reduce-sodium chicken broth
2 dozen littleneck clams, scrubbed
1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves

Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the red onions, chorizo, bay leaf, and salt; cook; stirring, until the onions are softened, about 5 minutes, add the wine or broth and bring to a boil.

Stir in the clams and cook, covered, shaking the pan occasionally, until they open, about 4 minutes. Discard the bay leaf and any clams that do not open. Stir in the cilantro. Serve at once.

Per serving (6 clams): 144 cal, 6g fat, 1 g sat fat, 0 g Trans fat, 36 mg chol, 210mg sod, 8 g carb, 1 g fib, 13 g prot, 55mg calc.

I am alive, really!

Sorry for the silence, it's been a bit busy for me and I'm afraid the blog was put on the back burner. I guess you could call it a vacation?

The dog sitting for my sister went really well, and the dogs got along really well. And Daisy did so well, that my sister is dropping them off for another week long stay at the ComfortHound Spa as we've been calling it. :) We had no aggression problems (when she's sleeping and you pet her or try to pick her up to move her she will try to nip at you) and they let us sleep until 8:30-9:00 am on the weekends (we were already getting up around 6-6:30 their normal times during the weekday.

Yesterday I went to the doctor, and yes, I broke my toe. That did put a bit of a crimp in my plans for walking them and getting more exercise while they were here. But it turned out that Daisy was more than happy to lay on the couch beside me and Lilly was more than happy to look out the front door or sit on the chair and do the same. She also told me not to wear my tennis shoes but to wear my Croc-style shoes since they have a wider toe base and won't squeeze my toe so much. It's going to be odd to wear them out in public since I rarely wear them like that. I do sometimes walk Miko in them, but only for short distances. They are my gardening shoes - not public shoes.

I am also volunteering at Project Perry (www.projectperry.com/ )So far I've done it twice now and I'm loving it. Charlie is a Scarlet Macaw (his story with some pictures is here: http://www.projectperry.com/Charlie.html ) He is becoming interested in me - and this is a good thing. He's pretty picky about who he likes so it will be good to have someone else he can interact with. Right now he likes Sheryl well enough to let her pick him up and everything. And he loves Andrea's feet. :) Those are the two that I've "worked" with and will mostly be seeing on the days I'll be volunteering there. On Monday while Sheryl, Matt and I were rinsing the Coconut litter outside, with Charlie out there with us (he's arthritic and can't fly away), I would talk with him and he'd sidle over to me and chatter with me and then go back to Sheryl the whole time. As Sheryl said, "You keep two timing me." :D
And then yesterday after feeding and cleaning his cage (I worked with Andrea) he came out and would do the same thing, come up to me and chatter a bit and then go back. So I'll just let him keep doing that until he's comfortable enough to "step up" onto my arm. It was pretty funny, I was laying on my belly in front of his cage and he was underneath it. He crawled on his belly up to me, looked at me, clicked, rolled his "r's" and crawled back under (we were rolling our "r's" together earlier). Another time I was sitting on the couch that is near his cage. I couldn't see what he was doing but Andrea was watching him across from me. He slowly came out from under the cage and crept up to me and peeked around the corner to see what I was doing and to see if I was watching him. When he saw me looking at him he went back under his cage. He's quite the character.

PJ is pictured on the sponsored page (http://www.projectperry.com/sponsorships.html he's the third one down). He's a big lovebug - so much so that he doesn't want you to leave, much less want to leave your shoulder. On Monday he rode around on my shoulder while I walked around picking up broken bird toys and pieces of food on the floor. He yelled at me when I ran into the hanging perches (because if I ran into them it meant he did too). I had to keep apologizing because I was more focused on the floor than him. I think I should train him to help me scan for obstacles instead of yelling at me when I've hit them. :) On Tuesday he did allow a Quaker to to land on my other shoulder, while on Monday he wouldn't let one of the Sun Conures do such. On Tuesday he was even nuzzling and nibbling on my ears. Trying to get him off my shoulder both days wasn't easy. He goes after my finger because he knows what I'm trying to do, and you have to move fast to the door (It's a double door, so that you won't have an escapee). It takes a couple of tries. On Tuesday I was able to get a bit of help from the Quaker, it distracted PJ and I was able to get through the door in time. But not before he bit me a few times while trying to get him onto the perch before hand. I'm thinking most of my bites will be from him, but luckily they are more nips than anything.

My other bites? Probably from Chicken and Cricket, Conure and Quaker. It's not a bad thing really, it's just the way they are. Birds use their beaks and tongues just like we use our hands - so you can't really fault them for it. Cricket is the Quaker (http://www.petfinder.com/petnote/displaypet.cgi?petid=12735995 ) She loves toes and fingers. She also loves men. When I went to visit Project Perry before deciding to volunteer there was a family visiting also, and Cricket and Chicken were all over the son, loving and nibbling on him. She likes to go after my shoelaces, and loves my short socks (she nibbles on the tops of them. I could imagine if I wore those shocks with a pompom ball on the back that she would go crazy! I was trying to replace the papers on the floor and both of them were ganging up on me, going after my fingers, all I could do was laugh, especially when Chicken started to hide under the papers. Chicken is the Conure (http://www.petfinder.com/petnote/displaypet.cgi?petid=13789479 ). When I get there, he loves to hang on the French doors that separate their room from the rest of the room and watch what I'm doing. He is very nosy and loves to be right where you are, watching what you're doing. While we were putting down the papers (before he and Cricket ganged up on me (not Andrea btw) he threw an orange piece right in the middle of the paper we just put down, I think to make sure we paid attention to him.

Andrea took me into the newly finished African Grey building (http://www.projectperry.com/africangreys.html ). It's outside and it's beautiful! Think of a large greenhouse, but instead of plastic it has metal mesh. About half of it does have plastic, but it's hard plastic, so when winter comes it can be heated and protected from the elements, but the other half is the metal mesh (and the bottom is mesh so that other animals can't get in and the birds can't dig out) There are plants in there that they can eat (like figs) or perch on. It has the fans on one end to help regulate the temperature along with a misting system. It is quite amazing. They are hoping to raise enough money to build a similar building for the macaws eventually too. Right now the Cockatiels have a smaller, similar building, and that was the test building. I can imagine that the Conure/Quakers would be the fourth ones to get the same once the money was raised too. It takes a lot of money, not to mention time though.

I'm sure I'll be posting more about the birds as I get to know them and they get to know me. I'll post about the tapas party next, with recipes. :)

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Party Planning

I live smack dab in the middle of Virginia (what is known as Central Virginia). I am not sure if I am blessed or cursed with the fact that we are also a great state for wine making. Where I am located is also pretty much smack dab like the Napa Valley of Virginia in essence. As a matter of fact, a winery is technically one road up from me. It's actually easier for me to walk than to drive to it - luckily it's topographically illogical to do that (not to mention WW-wise illogical to do that too).

The Virginia Renaissance Fair has moved closer (it's now in the same county we live in) and Jennifer and I were hoping to go to that for the first time with our hubbies. But with our current finances, we decided to hold off for now. Instead we're going to get together, probably play the Wii, and I'm going to do something I've wanted to do for awhile - a Tapas party. When Jennifer and I first started to learn about wine together, we went to a Wine Festival in Powahatan that showcased a bunch of state wineries. We fell in love with a sangria that ended up being made by the winery right up the street from me (see why I say cursed?).

I am searching my WW stuff for recipes. I really wish there was an easier way to search my WW magazines. Just in case anyone else is going to search for them - here's a few I found in what I own, including a few that I thought sounded good. Not all are what I'm going to make either. The WW site does have two that come up when you put Tapas in the search bar, but that's it. [all typos mine *wink*] This is just a quick check of a few I knew would have something.

WWM June 2004: Flavors of Spain
Shrimp in Garlic Sauce p 164
Sauteed Clams and Chorizo p 165
Dining Tapas Style additions: [not recipes]
assorted olives
cubes of good quality lean smoked ham
cubes of Spanish semi-soft cheese, such as manchego
roasted peppers drizzled w/ sherry vinegar
warm crusty bread

WWM M/J 2004 Tapas for Two:
Garlic Shrimp p 101
Pipirrana (Pepper, Tomato, and Cucumber Salsa) p 132
Marinated Mushrooms p 133

WWM Nov/Dec 2006 p 136
Chorizo-Stuffed Mushrooms

WWM M/J 2001 A Little Taste of Spain p 99-103
Spicy Red Peppers p 99
White Bean Salad p 100
Seville Artichoke Salad p 100
Shrimp in Garlic Sauce p 101
Spanish Roasted Potato Salad p 101
Figs Wrapped in Ham p 102
Spanish Potato Tortilla p 102
Cerveza-Marinated Chicken Skewers p 103
Minute Tapas Ideas:
Thin slices of jamon serrano, prosciutto, or high quality deli ham wrapped around precut chunks of ripe melon and held together with a toothpick
Roasted red peppers (from the deli or a jar)
Bean salad: one (15 oz) can cannellini (white kidney) beans, tossed with one can drained, olive-oil packed solid white tuna
Marinated mushrooms (from deli or jar)
Grape tomatoes, halved and drizzled with low-fat vinaigrette
Canned smoked oysters or mussels
Stuffed green olives (try anchovy- or tuna-stuffed, available at Latino and gourmet grocery stores).

WWM Mar/Apr 2002
Romesco (Red Pepper) Dip p 109

WWM July/Aug 2003
White Gazpacho with Green Grapes p 82

WW Simply Delicious Cookbook
Spicy Garlic Shrimp p 26
Savory Potato and Ham Chunks p 27
Hogazas with Sausage and Peppers p 29
Chunky Balsamic Mushrooms p 30

Monday, May 11, 2009

Technical Difficulties, please standby - in a darkend room ;)

I am afraid that this will be a short post, the combination of the weather, pollen and my hormones have given me a horrible migraine today. I will post my menu and weekend doings tomorrow I hope. This rainy weather has really been killing me when it comes to my migraines.

I am really glad that I planned ahead and we're having Sauerbraten tonight though. I threw it in to marinate while we were gone for the weekend and threw it into the CP while I was gone to get my permanent crown later this afternoon.

I hope everyone had a nice Mother's Day weekend.


Monday, May 04, 2009

Menu Plan Monday - Hubby's Off

Yes, hubby is on vacation this week. We aren't going anywhere and from the weather report, most of its going to be rainy. Great vacation for him, huh? Actually it is, just not for me. He's more of a homebody so he'll love it.

Here's the planned dinners for this week with the recipes to follow. For more menu ideas visit I'm an Organizing Junkie: http://orgjunkie.com/2009/05/mpm-may-4th-my-top-10-list-for-selecting-recipes.html

Monday: Au Gratin Potatoes (From Weight Watchers)
Tuesday: Braised Chicken with Chickpeas and Tomatoes (from Cooking Light)
Wednesday: Herbed Baked Tilapia, Lemony Rice Pilaf and Steamed Broccoli (from MomAdvice: http://www.momadvice.com/aldi/index.php/main-dishes/herb-baked-tilapia/ )
Thursday: Southern Slowcoooked Chicken & Grits with greens (From Weight Watchers)
Friday: Homemade Pizza

Au Gratin Potatoes
Our cheesy potato dish is the perfect crowd pleaser—rich enough for your spouse and kids, yet light enough to keep your waistline slim.
POINTS® Value: 3
Servings: 8

1 spray cooking spray
1 tbsp butter
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
2 cups fat-free skim milk
2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, thinly sliced
1 cup low-fat shredded cheddar cheese
1 tsp table salt
1/4 tsp black pepper

Preheat oven to 375°F. Coat a 2-quart covered baking dish with cooking spray.

Melt butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion begins to brown, about 5 minutes. Stir in flour; add milk slowly, stirring. Add potatoes and stir to mix. Bring to a boil. Stir in 3/4 cup of cheese, salt and pepper.

Pour mixture into prepared baking dish and level out surface. Bake for 1 hour, uncovered. Cover and bake until potatoes are fork-tender, about 20 minutes more.

Change oven temperature to broil. Sprinkle remaining cheese over potatoes. Broil 6 inches from the heating element until the cheese is golden brown, about 1 to 2 minutes.

Braised Chicken with Chickpeas and Tomatoes
Total cost: $9.33/Cost per serving: $1.17. This dish uses dark meat chicken parts, which are cheaper and more flavorful than breast meat. Purchase leg quarters, if available, and split them into drumstick and thigh portions before cooking to save even more.
Cooking Light, OCTOBER 2007
Yield: 8 servings (serving size: 1 chicken leg or thigh and 3/4 cup bean mixture)
1 cup dried chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
4 cups water
1 cup thinly sliced onion (about 1), divided
6 garlic cloves, chopped
1 bay leaf
2 teaspoons olive oil
4 chicken drumsticks, skinned (about 1 1/4 pounds)
4 chicken thighs, skinned (about 1 3/4 pounds)
2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
2 cups chopped plum tomato (about 5)
1/2 cup Chicken Stock
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Lemon wedges (optional)

Sort and wash chickpeas; place in a large Dutch oven. Cover with water to 2 inches above chickpeas; cover and let stand 8 hours. Drain chickpeas.

Place 1 1/2 cups chickpeas, 4 cups water, 1/2 cup onion, garlic, and bay leaf in pan; bring to a boil. (Reserve leftover chickpeas for another use.) Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 45 minutes or until beans are just tender. Drain chickpea mixture in a colander over a bowl, reserving 1/2 cup cooking liquid. Set chickpea mixture aside.

Heat oil in pan over medium-high heat. Dredge chicken in flour. Add chicken to pan; cook 6 minutes, browning on all sides. Remove from pan.

Add remaining 1/2 cup onion to pan. Sauté 4 minutes or until tender. Add vinegar, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Cook 1 minute or until liquid evaporates.

Add 2 cups tomato, Chicken Stock, and reserved cooking liquid to pan. Add chickpea mixture, and bring to a boil. Place chicken on top of chickpeas, and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 40 minutes or until chicken is done and chickpeas are tender. Discard bay leaf. Serve with lemon wedges, if desired.

CALORIES 261 (34% from fat); FAT 9.8g (sat 2.4g,mono 3.9g,poly 2.3g); IRON 2.6mg; CHOLESTEROL 82mg; CALCIUM 36mg; CARBOHYDRATE 14.8g; SODIUM 244mg; PROTEIN 27.7g; FIBER 3.2g

Herb Baked Tilapia (or “Fish with Sprinkles”)

4 (4 to 6 ounce) tilapia fillets
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup low-fat mayonnaise
1/4 cup dry bread crumbs (I prefer the Italian breadcrumbs & I skip the dried seasonings)
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Place tilapia on nonstick foil. In a small bowl, combine cheese and mayonnaise. Spread evenly over fish. In another bowl, combine bread crumbs, basil, oregano, salt and pepper.Sprinkle over fish. Coat fish lightly with cooking spray. Bake 10 minutes or until fish flakes easily with fork.

Serve with steamed broccoli and rice.

Lemony Rice Pilaf
Courtesy of Recipezaar
This reheats very well so you can make a double batch for another night, if you like!

1 teaspoon vegetable oil, preferably canola oil
1 cup finely chopped onion
1 1/2 cups long grain white rice
3 cups chicken stock
1 grated lemon, rind of
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup coarsely chopped flat-leaf Italian parsley
fresh ground pepper

In a heavy saucepan, heat oil over medium heat and cook onion for 5 minutes, or until softened. Stir in rice, then stock, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cover; let simmer for 20 minutes, or until rice is tender. Stir in lemon zest, lemon juice, and parsley; taste and add pepper if you wish.

Southern Slow Cooker Chicken and Grits

POINTS® Value: 5
Servings: 4
Works with Simply Filling
Like cooking short-cuts? Cut back on prep time and add a spicy, smoked flavor to this recipe by using one (14.5-ounce) can of drained, diced, roasted tomatoes with chiles in place of the fresh tomatoes. This dish will be soupy so serve in bowls.

1 3/4 cups fat-free chicken broth
6 tbsp uncooked corn grits
1 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, diced
1 medium garlic clove, minced
1 cup mushrooms, sliced
1 small jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced (do not touch seeds with bare hands)
1 medium sweet red pepper, or yellow pepper, chopped
2 medium tomatoes, cored and chopped
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp table salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch chunks

Place broth in a 3- to 5-quart slow cooker. Slowly add grits, stirring constantly, to avoid lumps; set slow cooker aside.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion, garlic, mushrooms, jalapeno and red pepper; sauté, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes. Add vegetables to slow cooker. Place tomatoes, cumin, salt and black pepper in slow cooker; stir to mix. Add chicken thighs; cover and cook at medium setting for 5 to 6 hours. Yields about 1 1/2 cups per serving.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Last night's dinner - Pad Thai Chicken Noodle Soup.

I did vary a bit from my menu plan last night. The weather broke last yesterday, going from the 90's to 60's. I made chicken broth yesterday in the crockpot, and used some of it for this soup. I saw it while skimming through the 2009 Weight Watchers Annual Recipes. We didn't care much for the peanuts, they were kind of out of place in the soup itself (I know they are scattered on top of the dish itself usually) since they were little crunchy-ish bits in the soup. I would rather stir in a bit of peanut butter if I wanted the taste. I did stir in vinegar, fish sauce, brown sugar, lime juice and chili garlic sauce though, because that's what I use when I make pad thai and it gave it a bit more of a normal flavor for me. It was pretty darn tasty, and easy.

Pad Thai Chicken Noodle Soup
From Weight Watchers 2009 Annual Recipes
Yield 4 servings. Serving Size: About 1 1/3 cups soup, 1 Tablespoon peanuts, 1 Tablespoon cilantro, and 1 Tablespoon green onions.

Peanuts, cilantro, and green onions add crunch, color and extra flavor to each serving.

2 ounces uncooked rice stick noodles (such as Hokan)
4 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken stock
1 cup shredded cooked chicken
1/2 cup matchstick-cut carrots
1 Tablespoon grated peeled fresh ginger
1/4 cup chopped unsalted peanuts
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 cup sliced green onions

Soak rice noodles in warm water to cover according to package directions. Drain.

Bring noodles and next 4 ingredients to a boil in a large saucepan; cover, reduce heat, and simmer 5 minutes. Ladle soup into bowls; top with peanuts, cilantro, and green onions.

Per Serving: Cal 211 (40% from fat); fat 9.3g (sat 2g); Pro 15.9g; carb 17.2g; fib 1.7g; chol 31mg; iron 1.1mg; sod 619mg; calc 21mg

Monday, April 27, 2009

A Homebody Weekend

This weekend was spent at home, and it was nice to be a homebody for the weekend.. We had Mike and Jennifer over for dinner on Saturday night. Jennifer had requested Chicken Enchiladas that I had made for her birthday last year so along with those I just bought a bag of nachos and some salsa and cheese dip. I would have made homemade chips and cheese sauce but with it being 90 degrees (or more, I didn't actually check to see what it ended up being) I really didn't want the oven on for longer that it had to be. We didn't have the A/C on that night, just used fans, but on Sunday with Miko we finally relented and turned it on. I feel horrible about having the A/C on in April but she just wasn't herself on Sunday. Since she's a smushed-face breed we really need to watch the temp in the house. And now that she's getting older too, we're getting more worried about her too I guess.

John and I were watching Mr. Ed yesterday and we laughed at how the old shows had the couples sleeping in separate beds. At that point the wife, frustrated with the husband informed him that he would be sleeping on the couch if he kept his antics up. We then discussed that it wasn't much of a threat since they're already in separate beds, much less, he's got that great stable for Ed too. We also got to watch some of the Magnificent Seven. Neither of us have yet to see all of it. *sigh* It's that way for a lot of older movies for me, I've seen parts of them, and not always in the correct order, but usually not the whole thing.

I've started the Walk-It Challenge that Weight Watchers has put out on Monday. Actually Miko and I have both started it. I got reprimanded by the vet because she had gained 4 lbs since we were last there 6 months ago. I missed walking on Saturday because of the heat (I didn't think about it when planning my day since I usually walk later in the day and with Mike and Jennifer coming over it changed my timeline too). I'll have to change to my early morning/late evening walks (when it's cooler) that I do during summer instead of the early evening (when it's warmer) that I do during winter. I now have a reflective vest that I can wear when it gets dark so I feel a bit safer while walking too. We don't live on a busy street, but the fact that it's a country road with no street lights makes it really dark. I think I might also change their suggested rest days to be off on the weekend totally too, it's just easier for me to get my walks in during the weekday than the weekend since we're usually doing something and I don't always know my schedule during the weekend.

Here's my menu for the week, not sure how well I'm going to stick with it- It was already planned out for me (by me) but I don't feel like hitting a grocery store for some of the things I'll need. I'll either change the menu or improvise (with improvise being the thing I'll more likely do). For more menu ideas visit: http://orgjunkie.com/2009/04/menu-plan-monday-april-27th.html

Monday: Spanish Tortilla with Spinach
Tuesday: Caramelized Onion and Bacon Pierogies
Wednesday: Carolina Baked Beans & Pork Chops
Thursday: Southern Slow Cooker Chicken and Grits
Friday: Fontina, Prosciutto and Caramelized Onion Pizzas
Saturday: Corn Casserole
Sunday: Ultimate Grilled Cheese Sandwiches with Leftover Roast Chicken Soup

Spanish tortilla with spinach
Serves 4
A popular tapa served in bars and cafes across Spain, tortilla is a versatile treat that is served warm or at room temperature, for lunch or with drinks. The traditional recipe calls for potatoes fried in olive oil and combined with eggs (and sometimes onion), all cooked into a thick omelet. Like Italian frittata, which it most resembles, there are many variations. Here, spinach is added to the egg-potato batter before the tortilla is cooked. Flipping the tortilla is the only tricky part. Slide it onto a plate, top it with another plate, and invert them together. Then slide the tortilla back into the pan to finish cooking. After making one, you'll want to do it again quickly and have tortilla on hand, just like every Spanish home does.

Salt and pepper, to taste
4 1/2 ounces (4 packed cups) baby spinach leaves
6 tablespoons olive oil
3 small Yukon Gold potatoes (10 ounces total), peeled and diced
1 leek (white part only) finely sliced
5 eggs
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil. Add the spinach and cook for 1 minute. Drain, rinse with cold water, and with your hands, squeeze out all the excess water. Chop the spinach finely; set aside.

In an 8-inch nonstick skillet, heat 3 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium heat. When it is hot, add the potatoes and leek. Cook, stirring often, for 8 minutes or until the potatoes are tender. Remove from the skillet.

In a bowl, whisk the eggs with salt and pepper. Add the spinach, potato mixture, chives, and cumin.

In the skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. When it is hot, add the egg mixture. Cook over medium-low heat, without stirring, for 5 to 6 minutes or until the top is still slightly runny but the bottom is set.

Run a knife or rubber spatula around the edges of the tortilla and slide it onto a plate. Cover it with another plate. Hold the plates tightly and invert them. Add 1 tablespoon of oil to the skillet. Slide the tortilla back onto the skillet. Cook for 5 or 6 more minutes or until the bottom is set. Cut in wedges or into smaller pieces as finger food. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Caramelized Onion and Bacon Pierogies

Rich and sinful tasting, it combines pierogies, caramelized onions, bacon, and peas. Simple and delightful. 7 WW Points per serving.

One box of frozen pierogies
8 slices bacon
2 large onions, sliced
1 tsp raw sugar
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 1/2 cups frozen peas
salt and pepper to taste
reduced fat sour cream

Place pierogies in a microwave safe casserole, cover with hot water, and cook on high for 6 minutes. Let stand in microwave, while you do the rest. Cook bacon, drain all but a few tablespoons of the bacon drippings. Add onions, thyme, and sugar and saute until onions are caramelized. Add peas and cook for one minute. Add pierogies, tossing to combine all ingredients. Serve 3 pierogies with 1 TB of low or no fat sour cream.

Carolina Baked Beans & Pork Chops
Makes 6 servings

2 cans (16 ounces each) pork and beans
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper
1/4 cup French's® Classic Yellow® Mustard
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
2 Tablespoons French's® Worcestershire Sauce
1 Tablespoon Frank’s® RedHot® Original Cayenne Pepper Sauce
6 boneless pork chops (1 inch thick)

Preheat oven to 400°F. Combine all ingredients except pork chops in 3-quart shallow baking dish; mix well. Arrange chops on top, turning once to coat with sauce.

Bake, uncovered, 30 to 35 minutes or until pork is no longer pink in center. Stir beans around chops once during baking. Serve with green beans or mashed potatoes, if desired.

Southern Slow Cooker Chicken and Grits
Works with Simply Filling
Like cooking short-cuts? Cut back on prep time and add a spicy, smoked flavor to this recipe by using one (14.5-ounce) can of drained, diced, roasted tomatoes with chiles in place of the fresh tomatoes.
main meals
POINTS® Value: 5
Servings: 4 Yields about 1 1/2 cups per serving. (Note: This dish will be soupy so serve in bowls.)

1 3/4 cup(s) fat-free chicken broth
6 tbsp uncooked corn grits
1 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion(s), diced
1 medium garlic clove(s), minced
1 cup(s) mushroom(s), sliced
1 small jalapeno pepper(s), seeded and minced (do not touch seeds with bare hands)
1 medium sweet red pepper(s), or yellow pepper, chopped
2 medium tomato(es), cored and chopped
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp table salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 pound(s) boneless, skinless chicken thigh(s), cut into 1-inch chunks

Place broth in a 3- to 5-quart slow cooker. Slowly add grits, stirring constantly, to avoid lumps; set slow cooker aside.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion, garlic, mushrooms, jalapeno and red pepper; sauté, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes. Add vegetables to slow cooker. Place tomatoes, cumin, salt and black pepper in slow cooker; stir to mix. Add chicken thighs; cover and cook at medium setting for 5 to 6 hours.

Fontina, Prosciutto and Caramelized Onion Pizzas
Recipe by Cliff Crooks and Betty Fraser
For their delectably crusty and chewy pizzas, contestants Betty Fraser and Cliff Crooks adapted a bread recipe from star chef Jamie Oliver—a recipe Fraser had memorized—then covered it with slices of nutty Fontina cheese, prosciutto and sautéed onions.

1 envelope active dry yeast
1 cup warm water
Pinch of sugar
1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon chopped thyme
1 teaspoon salt
About 2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 pounds white onions
Salt and freshly ground pepper
3/4 pound Italian Fontina cheese, sliced
8 thin slices of prosciutto
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
1 tablespoon white truffle oil
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1 apple—peeled, cored and cut into matchsticks
4 ounces arugula (6 cups)

MAKE THE DOUGH: In a large bowl, mix the yeast with the water and sugar and let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. Add the olive oil, thyme and salt. Add 2 cups of the flour and stir until a very soft, wet dough forms. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead, working in about 1/3 cup more flour, until the dough is soft and silky. Shape into a ball and put in a large, oiled bowl. Cover and let rise until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour at room temperature or overnight in the refrigerator.

MAKE THE TOPPINGS: Preheat the oven to 450°. Oil 2 large baking sheets. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet. Add the onions and stir to coat with the oil. Cover and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until the onions are softened, about 5 minutes. Uncover and cook the onions over high heat until golden brown, about 8 minutes longer. If the onions dry out, add a few tablespoons of water. Season the onions with salt and pepper, transfer to a plate and let cool slightly.

Punch down the dough and turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface. Divide the dough into 8 equal pieces. Roll each piece out to a 9-by-3-inch rectangle and arrange on the prepared baking sheets. Top the dough with the Fontina, sautéed onions and prosciutto. Bake for 25 minutes, or until golden and crisp.

In a large bowl, whisk the grapeseed oil, truffle oil and vinegar; season with salt and pepper. Add the apple and arugula and toss. Top the hot pizzas with the salad and serve immediately.

Corn Casserole
Magazine reader Kathie asked for a renovation for the corn casserole she makes at family BBQs. We upped the veggies and dropped the butter to help lighten it up.
side dishes. To remove the corn kernels from the cobs, cut off the ends of each cob. Stand the cob on its end, holding it near the top. Hold a knife parallel to the cob and cut off the kernels using a sawing motion.
We renovated Corn Casserole by:
Increasing the amount of vegetables.
Omitting the butter and relying on cooking spray to cook the bacon and vegetables.
Decreasing the total amount of fattening bacon and finely dicing it to help sprinkle it throughout the casserole.
Was POINTS® Value: 5
Now POINTS® Value: 3
Servings: 8

2 spray(s) cooking spray, divided
1 slice(s) bacon, uncooked, finely diced
2/3 cup(s) onion(s), diced
2/3 cup(s) sweet red pepper(s), diced
1 tbsp all-purpose flour
14 3/4 oz canned cream-style white corn
3 medium corn on the cob, kernels removed* (about 1 3/4 cups)
1/4 cup(s) fat-free egg substitute
3/4 cup(s) low-fat Swiss cheese, shredded
1/4 tsp table salt
1/8 tsp black pepper, freshly ground
3/4 cup(s) seasoned croutons, whole-grain, coarsely crushed

Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat a 2-quart shallow baking dish with nonstick spray.

Cook bacon in a medium nonstick skillet over medium-low heat until crisp, about 5 minutes. Drain on paper towels and set aside. Pour off and discard drippings from skillet.

Add onion to skillet. Reduce heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 4 minutes. Add red pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender, about 6 to 8 minutes. Add flour and cook, stirring constantly, about 1 minute.

Transfer vegetables to a large bowl and let cool 5 minutes. Stir in bacon, canned corn, fresh corn, egg substitute, cheese, salt and ground pepper. Spread corn mixture in baking dish. Top evenly with croutons and lightly spray croutons with cooking spray. Cover with foil and bake 30 minutes. Uncover and bake until top is golden and center is set, about 15 minutes more. Let stand 10 minutes before serving. Yields about 1/2 cup per serving.

Ultimate Grilled Cheese Sandwiches
Serves 2

1/3 cup finely chopped mix of shallot, red onion, white onion, sweet onion, and leek (pale green and white part only)
3 Tablespoons chopped scallion
1 small garlic clove, finely chopped
4 slices (each 1/2-inch thick) country bread, halved crosswise
3/4 pound aged Cheddar, coarsely grated
4 Tablespoons ( 1/2 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature

Heat a large griddle over medium-low heat until hot.

In a bowl, combine the onion mixture, scallion, and garlic. Make 4 sandwiches with bread, cheese (pack it on), and onion mixture. Butter both sides of the sandwiches.

Set the sandwiches on the griddle and cook for 5 to 8 minutes, turning once, until the bread is golden and the cheese melts. Adapted from Gourmet

Leftover Roast Chicken Soup
Many people buy a whole roast chicken from the grocery store on the way home (see left). Once the chicken is picked over, the remaining carcass can be the beginning of a simple and rich soup. Add kitchen staples such as carrots, onions, celery, and mushrooms, season the pot with paprika and cayenne pepper, and this versatile supper extends the life of a simple bird. The soup is made in two parts: the chicken carcass simmers in water while the vegetables saute for about half an hour. The stock on its own can be the base of other soups, or use it as the broth for risotto. The recipe calls for a single leftover chicken, but you can also use two carcasses without altering the remaining ingredients. Food dollars need to do double duty these days. Why not have your chicken and eat it too?
Serves 8

1 leftover roast chicken carcass (skin, bones, and any meat)
4 quarts water
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 Tablespoons butter
2 medium onions, coarsely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
8 ounces button mushrooms, thinly sliced
7 stalks celery, cut into 1/2-inch slices
4 medium carrots, cut into 1/4-inch slices
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan (for serving)

In a soup pot, combine the chicken carcass and water. Bring to a boil. Lower the heat, cover the pot, and simmer the mixture for 1 hour.

Place a colander or strainer over a large bowl. Tip the contents of the pot into it. Let the mixture cool. Pour the strained broth back into the soup pot.

Pick through the bones and remove any meat; discard skin and bones. Add the meat to the broth; set aside.

In a large flameproof casserole, heat the olive oil over low heat. Add the butter and when it melts, add the onions. Cook, stirring often, for 8 minutes or until softened.

Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute.

Add the mushrooms, celery, and carrots. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes.

Sprinkle with salt, black pepper, paprika, cayenne pepper, and parsley. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes more or until the carrots and celery are almost softened.

Add the vegetable mixture to the broth. Taste for seasoning and add more salt and black pepper, if you like. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer for 30 minutes.

Ladle into bowls and sprinkle with Parmesan.

Friday, April 24, 2009

I'm back to my version of normal

It was a pretty busy few days for me once we got back. On Tuesday I had my Weight Watchers meeting (I lost 2.2 lbs!) and then my yearly eye check appointment. And on Wednesday I had the appointment for my temporary crown (at the dentist, not as a queen *sigh*). I had to get my eyes dilated while at the eye doctor so I had already planned to stay at MiL's (we were having dinner with her) instead of driving home. Neither of us really thought of the fact that I couldn't read. It wasn't funny at the time, but I do laugh now. I couldn't get into her house using the keypad, I couldn't text her or read any texts and I had to wait for her to call me since I don't know her cell phone number because I always use my contacts list. I'm glad I didn't have to wait too long.

My dentist appointment went well. I think the fact that I had my root canal last year actually helped, the tooth is just a bit sensitive around it. I was really worried more about my TMJ - after my root canal my jaw was worse than the tooth after having to hold my mouth open for so long. The dentist used a bite block and let me have breaks when he could. It helped a lot and I'm not sore at all, just a bit tender. :) I go back in a few weeks for my perm. crown. The whole reason I have to get the crown is because it turns out that the dentist that did the root canal put in a temporary filling it seems. :( I must admit, I like this dentist a lot better.

Cooking-wise it hasn't been a great week. MiL fixed us for dinner some crab-stuffed salmon at Costco that hubby has informed me we need to buy next time we go. The pea soup was moved to Wednesday instead. And last night we had Chinese steamed dumplings (not homemade, I buy them at the Chinese grocery store in their freezer section). I have made homemade ones before, but it's nice to keep a few on hand for easy meals, and this way I can even have different flavored ones too. :) Dinner tonight is going to be Papa John's pizza. Hubby has a gift card to use up, so we'll have that instead of homemade pizza tonight.

I've been having a tasty breakfast lately. I got the idea from WW Annual Recipes for Success 2009. From their 7 day Menu Planner Week 2- Bacon Tomato Grits (Stir 1 cooked and crumbled turkey bacon slice, 1/4 cup chopped tomato, and 2 Tbsp reduced-fat shredded Cheddar cheese into 1 cup hot cooked grits - POINTS 4)
On the WW boards a bit ago someone had mentioned a way to make single serving-size portions of polenta and I've done that instead. I've got some finely ground cornmeal from the Mennonite Relief Sale last year that I'm using and it doesn't take as long and I like a bit more water so you may have to change the amounts and directions to suit your tastes, ingredients and microwave. I did not write who I got it from though. :(

Single Serve Microwave Polenta

3/4 cup water or stock
1/4 cup polenta or cornmeal
1/4 tsp salt

Place all in a 2-3 cup microwaveable container. Mix well. Microwave on HIGH 3 minutes. Stir. Cook on HIGH 2 minutes.

When I make the Bacon Tomato Grits I make the polenta as above then add 1 Tbsp of Reduced fat real bacon bits (I buy a big bag of them at Costco but you can find them at the grocery store too, 1 Tbsp is equal to 1 slice), and the rest of the ingredients are the same. I've eaten it two days in a row. I'm thinking it would be great also served with an egg too.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Menu Plan Monday

This week is a bit odd, only because I'm not sure how I'm going to feel. Tuesday I have an eye appointment with my eyes getting dilated. I don't remember how long it's going to take before I can see so I'm going with a crockpot meal. I'm going to have a cap put on a tooth I got a root canal on last year, so on Wednesday I've the first part of that. That means for 1 1/2 hours I'll have my mouth open, and my TMJ means that I will probably have a migraine and my jaw will be sore for a few days too. Not sure that I'm going to feel like eating or cooking. I'm going to go with canned ravioli that night but we'll have to see how I feel for the rest of the week. I do have Mike and Jennifer coming for dinner on Saturday with a request. So I will make dinner and hopefully my jaw will feel better by then.

Monday: still trying to figure out what I want to do with chicken breasts
Tuesday: Split Pea Soup
Wednesday: canned ravioli
Thursday: TBA
Friday: Homemade pizzas
Saturday: Chicken Enchiladas Verde

Weekend Update with JJ

Had a great weekend this week. I had my fraternity reunion - otherwise known as Banquet. I have to admit I haven't been in YEARS, so I was a little nervous about who/what I could remember. The fact that the house wasn't even the same one was a bit weird (and sad) too. I surprised my big brother. :D It was sooooo great to see him again and we got to talk quite a lot and catch up. When they assigned him to me, they didn't realize that he grew up in the same small town that I did, and he actually graduated in the same class as my next door neighbor, so we always got along really well. Another odd thing, one of the other brothers that lived in the dorm across from me ended up teaching at my old HS after he graduated. Hubby and I (actually I !!!) drove down on Friday night after hubby got off work. We got there a bit after 10:30 pm. The husbands and Miko stayed at Beth's (my BFF from college and shes a TD little sis) since they were tired and we headed out to the new (to me) house. I must admit, it's so nice to finally be able to drink the water at the house straight from the tap. Let's just say that the road the old house was on is Yellow Sulpher and it fits. Beth and I got home at 2:30 am and were up around 5:30 or 6.

Once the guys were up we headed to Little Anthony's for breakfast. Hubby was in heaven. :) I had a bit of a dilemma, I really wanted to get the oatmeal with some sauteed apples and some bacon but they were all sides and would have costed more than my other choice - one of the breakfast specials of half plate sausage and gravy biscuit with bacon (1 biscuit instead of 2). I chose the special because it really was WAY different in price. *SIGH* I was good though. After that John, Beth, Miko and I were off to the TD softball game. This was the first time I was able to make it to the game. While in school I was a night monitor - the dorms with girls (either single sex or co-ed) had their doors locked (you could always get out but not in) at 11 pm and we were stationed there over night until 6 or 7 am the next morning (I can't remember when). We had to check ID's to make sure that that people lived there, and do rounds to make sure that no one had propped open doors (that happened quite often). Anyway, I worked Friday nights, so I was usually sleeping Saturday mornings. It was nice and Miko loved the attention. We got burned, I didn't even think about taking sunburn lotion (I don't tan, no use taking sunTAN lotion with me). After that we headed back to see if Beth's husband was back from picking up a Hokie bobble head from the lacrosse game - he had been back but was gone again. Miko was dropped off and we headed to Mike's Grill for lunch without him. Mike's Grill was my fave place while at Tech. We didn't go often (poor students and all), and since the burgers are huge (1/2 pound) we didn't eat lunch and went for an early dinner and still didn't finish them. I don't know why I love it so much, but maybe it's just because it's "our" place. Beth, Jen and I would go there, plan it out and just have fun. Course we always had fun. :) Beth got the french fries and I got the onion rings and we shared, the onion rings are great!

After lunch we headed off to find Mosaic. After the shooting at Tech a few years ago, I wanted to do something and the yarn store there offered to sew together squares that were knitted into blankets to give to the victims and their families. So I knitted an orange and maroon VT square and sent it off to them. I wanted to see the store since it wasn't there when I was on campus. John was even nice enough to let me buy some Claudia's Handpainted fingering weight wool yarn (for socks) in the colorway Hokies (maroon and orange). They have a very nice selection of yarns and I had a great time touching, and it was hard not to want to buy more.

We headed back to Beth's and her husband was there. He told us that Miko scared him. We're sleeping on the sofa bed, and she had apparently been sleeping under it while we were gone (we brought one of her beds with us but she didn't sleep in it). He didn't know that and he heard a scrambling under the bed and all the sudden she appeared. We all pretty much fell asleep not soon afterward, guess I'm old. Once we all woke up after our naps, we headed out so I could see how Tech itself has changed. We walked around downtown B'burg for a bit, and that has changed too! Beth and I still weren't very hungry after our lunch, but walking around was a good choice, because we were more hungry afterward. We decided to eat at Ceritano's Ristorante (http://www.ceritanos.com/pizza.html ) which is actually right up from Mike's. We decided to order two pizzas and share. They use fresh mozzarella on their pizzas, btw, and they are cooked in a wood-fired oven. We chose a pepperoni (Fra Diavolo: marina sauce, pepperoni, fresh mozzarella) I, of course, decided to be different and asked if it was ok to get the Bella Vista
(thinly sliced potatoes topped with extra virgin olive oil, fresh garlic, fresh rosemary, coarse black pepper) surprisingly everyone said yes. When it came out it smelled heavenly with the rosemary (my fave herb). I have made something like it when I was trying to eat vegan, so John and I knew it would be good, and it was. It was actually finished before the other one. Tom had just read that they got a gelato machine, so that was next. I got pineapple, John got strawberry, Beth got Oreo, Tom got hazelnut and something else I can't remember. It was GREAT! It was as good as what we got in Little Italy in NYC. If you're in B'Burg, you should definitely stop for their gelato since it will be warming up soon.

I must admit we returned home and pretty much all died and went to sleep. I'm definitely not able to handle what I used to. Woke up with Miko and walked her. The house across from Beth has horses, and I got to pet one of them. :D It likes to nuzzle and once more was interested in Miko but she wanted nothing to do with it. I called my cousin Matt and got directions to his apartment so we could pick him up for breakfast. Found him (I tell you, things have really changed, the names may be the same, but I don't recognize much) and we drove to the TD brunch at Cracker Barrel in Christiansburg. We had 22 people, and things were hoppin'! Eric had mostly lost his voice and to me I think I'll start calling him "squeaky". John and I headed home after that, stopping to say hi to mom, Keith, Kelly, BJ, and the kids (and use the bathroom at mom's). Mrs Mary was also there and I was able to say hello to her too. Found out we've got a b-day party to go to on the 9th. I can't believe that Kenny is going to be 40!