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:

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
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 (

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 ( )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: ) 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 ( 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 ( ) 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 ( ). 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 ( ). 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. :)