Monday, March 26, 2012

Hot Mayo

Today's sneak peek Monday is about complaining. Nothing say's "here's your hint for the week" quite like complaints. Maybe not that bad =) BUT, seriously. I have real issues with hot mayonnaise. There's lots of different kinds of mayo. Homemade, 'real', Miracle Whip. Most people have a favorite; I commonly hear real mayo is the best. I've tried it and I'm not a fan. I'm not really a fan of any of them, but if I had to choose it would be a light slathering of Miracle Whip. It's not more healthy, or any better, just something about it is tolerable. That is, until someone adds heat. Take a hamburger, or a sandwich, or just leaving it in the car too long and suddenly, I cannot stomach it at all.

Something about hot mayonnaise is blerg worthy. I can't smell it, can't taste it, can't tolerate it. I'll wipe it off sandwiches I would get from fast food restaurants, and if I was smart, ask them beforehand to skip it. So, why then when I search for recipes sometimes, they have mayo in them? I think this is disgusting. A condiment should NOT be in a recipe. A true recipe will have ingredients, which can be altered with heat or mixing, but why add ketchup to a sauce? What's that doing for you? Why not just some vinegar, tomato paste and some sugar? That would taste much better and probably cook better too. Somehow people still do this though.

I was really craving something amazing that I could not eat. I found out they made this particular dish with flour and no longer could order it. It was one of the most delicious, amazing dishes, and I really missed it. After a long time searching the internet, you know what people were using in this dish? Mayo. Seriously. Mayo. I was about to lose my stomach all over the keyboard. I could not imagine such a delicious dish containing mayonnaise. So as I continued to dig, I did find something.

You don't need mayonnaise. Surprise, surprise (sarcasm font).

So, save it to put on fish, chicken, sandwiches or burgers (if you must) but I assure you - you will NOT need it for this next dish, and I guarantee you'll LOVE it (if you loved it before having to give up wheat!) This next recipe is one of my favorites, it was adapted from another source, so I"ll let you in on who that is, and then we'll go from there.

That's your hint of the day! Regardless of where you've found this recipe before - it won't require mayo.

Friday will be a big day for me with my birthday and concert, so I may post Friday's a bit early! I have delusions of grandeur of getting everything done that day!

Come back and see what we have cooking on my birthday!

Have a good week!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Free Friday - Crème Brulée

It's FRIDAY! Thank goodness. This has been a rough week; bad food choices, giving up, then refusing to eat (what am I a two year old?) the long and short of it is, we are still here, still walking, and still dealing with life. So, let's do what we can with what we have. Which may not be much! You know how it goes, you're tired of watching everyone have whatever they want, meanwhile you're nickle and diming whatever you can out of meals to try to find something edible AND tastes good.

I know I didn't say much on Monday and today I was hard pressed to find something I could write about, after all, this week is food crisis week right? Well. Not entirely. Monday I made my first ever crème brulée. While this was not my first custard, it was my first of this particular dish I'll refer to as CB. All I can say, is it turned out SMASHINGLY well. Like blockbuster hit at the theatres on a Friday night smashing. Speaking of movies, this recipe is not time consuming, it is a little difficult and precise but I assure you if I can do it at 11 o'clock at night before a party, you can do it on a Friday night after a movie (do not attempt after drinking - but if you have blood sugar issues WHY are you drinking???), and have decadent CB in the morning for breakfast. Added sugar free, creamy, rich and delicious to boot. I broke it down as simply as I could one step at a time so there's no missing anything.

Let's hope I got pictures of this one. I was really tired that night. (update: zero pictures of the custard and tons of pictures of chocolate I shouldn't have eaten. So, at least we know where my focus was. As soon as I make another, I'll be sure to post the pic. Until then, I'll save you the torture of staring at pics of chocolate and put up something adorable like Johnny.)

Vanilla Crème Brulée

1 quart of heavy whipping cream
9 large egg yolks
1 oz vanilla extract
3/4 of an OUNCE of splenda (2/3 of a cup)
pinch of nutmeg
pinch of salt

1. Scald cream with vanilla in heavy bottomed pan over medium heat. Set aside allow to cool a bit.

2. Put 8, 6oz ramekins in a baking dish (or 2)

3. Preheat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit - make sure the rack is in the center.

4. In a mixing bowl, whisk egg yolks and splenda, salt and nutmeg

5. While mixing constantly, slowly stream the hot cream into the eggs. Very. Slowly. That's the biggest help I can give you here, because too hot, too fast, and too much = scrambled eggs, not custard. If this happens, you're done. Start over because the custard will never set right.

6. Pour custard in ramekins.

7. Place baking dish in oven on center rack and add the hot water to the pan, being very very careful not to spill any water into your custard cups.

8. Bake 30 - 35 minutes - they will be 'jello' like in texture (but not liquid), when you shake the pan, expect them to jiggle. Bigger ramekins will require more time, account for this if you're using a different size.

9. Remove the ramekins (CAREFULLY!) from the water and place them on a rack until room temperature.

10. Refrigerate and allow to set up overnight.

11. Wake up in the morning and enjoy a perfect crème bruleé.

Now, some of you may be thinking, "Wait, wait, wait. How do we get that decadent crispy-fried crust on the top of it that we all know and love from the restaurant?"
Well, I have some good news, and I have some bad news. The good news is that some people do this with packet splenda (as you will see in her recipe) and they are happy with it. Here comes the bad news: I will tell you. I was unhappy with it. It gave off a nasty chemical burn smell. Splenda is a chemical so there you have it (I will try this recipe with Stevia at another time.) The only other thing I tried was a little bit of sugar free syrup on top, that got gooey like a caramel. It tasted fine. The custard itself is amazingly delicious when done right and has a to die for texture. It doesn't really NEED the crusty coating, but if you absolutely had to have it, you could try one of the above suggestions, or just a tiny bit of sugar.

PS - you need a mini torch for that, which I have, but not crisping the top saves you from having to buy a kitchen torch just to make CB. =)

Enjoy the scenery. And do not be afraid to make crème brulée!!!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Sneak Peak Monday - mystery meal

Today is Monday and it doesn't even feel like it. My friend threw a party today (all day affair) and it was a blast. I wore a new 'party dress' from Modcloth that was pink with multi colored mushrooms on it and a red sash. Paired with a pink headband and my pink Fluevogs, I could definitely have pulled off a June Cleaver. It's always great to get out with that circle of close friends and just laugh and eat and eat and eat. There went that diet. We had a great time, lots of chatter and just a great get together for friends. I'm totally exhausted now and I'm sure it has to do with all the chocolate I ate (for those of you on a sugar free diet, like me, that is a big no-no). So, another fail for today, another meaning two days ago, I kinda caved to some chocolate and know this is going to come back and bite me in the rear... as in adding another 10lbs to my rear. Tomorrow is another day and not every day is a party with friends.

I'll be able to get a new start and possibly get back on my walking schedule with my neighbor. She and I walk about four miles, three times a week. This alone can be exhausting when your metabolism doesn't work well and your pancreas doesn't function correctly. But it can be done and it can be enjoyable. I know how difficult it is to get a partner for this most times, but if you can find someone near you that will go, definitely do this. It's so much better to walk with someone, it makes the miles melt away and you won't even realize you're exhausted until you get home and collapse on the couch. The average time it will take to see results from this is about 4 weeks, but continuing this habit can result in permanent changes for the better. The body can be trained to improve it's calorie usage and you in turn will get better at remembering to eat right and keep going. Even small changes are totally worth it, don't get derailed (like me) when you have a setback. I get totally crushed because it feels like all the work wasn't worth anything. But it is. It's taken me almost 3 years to completely revamp my diet and start working out as often as I do. I DO wish there was some sort of time machine to show me what I'd look like if I wasn't taking care of myself the way I do now. Perhaps I'd be so bad off I'd be bedridden at this point or have compounding health issues. Either way, all we have is here and now, so go for it, if here and now has to happen once a day, then affirm to eat better and take better care of yourself. It is hard. I think it is a hundred times harder for people battling chronic disease. It's not like you can tell yourself it will get better some day. It will only get worse no matter what you do. But if you take care of yourself and eat right you can minimize the effects on your life and be able to enjoy yourself more often.

So today's sneak peak is a mystery meal. What does that even mean? heh. It means I spent all day with my friends partying and laughing and not thinking about anything so here I am at the end of the day saying, "hey, I have your hint ready!"

Hint: I have no idea what I'm going to post Friday, so come back and get a surprise! Even for me!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Free Friday - Chicken Kale stew

Welcome to Friday! It's the weekend and today I'm going to give you a great recipe to feed the family as well as freeze for a few lunches next week. My hint was that you were going to need a slowcooker. If you are starting with nothing but a bunch of ingredients and a raw chicken, then yes, you need this. But if you're swinging by the store on the way home and grabbing a rotisserie chicken, then no, you don't need the crock pot. This particular dish is a great, warm, comfort food, filled with hearty veggies and rich proteins. No sugar and no wheat, it's the perfect cold night stew. I realize we're headed into spring and don't worry, I'll be pulling out more recipes for salads and maybe a few cakes, but for now I was really looking for something nutrient dense and this definitely does it.

The ingredient list isn't complicated but it is full. The method isn't crazy but it can take a little bit. If you're in a hurry, make this stew ahead of time. It tastes great after being in the fridge overnight and freezes very well. I used my 6 qt pot and found it was a little too small. If you have a stock pot, definitely use that.

Also, straying from my usual butter obsession, today I've put a new ingredient on the list: coconut oil. Coconut oil is supposedly VERY good for you, has all these magical abilities and in general will save the world someday. Unrefined will give your food a light coconut magic taste and refined will just give you magic. I used the coconut oil in my chicken stew instead of butter because there's been some recent discussion about how butter is bad. I disagree to a certain extent, however, I do think I probably eat too much butter. So, if you can make the splurge (coconut oil is NOT cheap) then go for it, it's good fat.

Let's get started!

Chicken Kale Stew:


3 oz butter or coconut oil
8 oz carrots chopped
1/4 onion or bunch of spring onions chopped, including green tops
3oz chopped garlic (about 1/2 head garlic)
2 stalks of celery chopped
2-4 cups water
2 tablespoons of chicken soup base
bag of frozen mixed veggies - your choice/favorite
14 oz of fresh chopped kale - I buy a huge bag already chopped
2 cans cannellini beans
teaspoon of thyme (or if you have it fresh 3 sprigs torn up)
8 large basil leaves torn
1 whole cooked chicken, pulled apart into pieces/chopped into 1" pieces

Start with some oil/butter in the bottom of your stock pot. Throw in onion, garlic, celery and carrots. Cook on medium heat till the carrots start to become tender. Add the soup base and 2 cups of water, and the frozen veggies. Stir and start to bring the pot back up to medium heat cooking the veggies. Add in the basil and thyme, beans and kale. Stir until the kale is fully incorporated into the soup and turning bright green, adding water if necessary to cover everything. Finally, add the chicken, bring the stew to a boil (add more water if you find it to be a little thick). Gently boil for 15 min to help blend flavors and serve hot. This is where your stew will end up tasting better the next day, by letting it sit overnight (refrigerated), reheating will awaken some of those flavors that weren't quite ready when it was fresh. But it still tastes great right out of the pot.


Monday, March 12, 2012

Sneek Peek Monday - main dish!

We're back to Monday already! The weekends slip by pretty fast when you're busy sleeping and trying to catch up on housework. After a week in bed, I still have until Thursday before I'm supposed to be "back to almost normal pace." I overdid it Sat. and realized why they tell you not to lift, bend or do anything stressful. There's nothing really stressful about shopping - or so I thought. And there's really nothing stressful about cleaning - it's a great de-stressor! But, my body didn't agree both days and I ended up back in bed. So, today, I've done a few loads of laundry and firmly parked myself in my chair. I'm dying to go for a walk and have to wait for Thurs. The goal today is find a week's worth of meals I can make for me and the family and start putting together a grocery list to support that. At some point, like my friend J, I hope to have a whole month of meals. Her refrigerator is beautifully decorated in a 30-31 day calendar with three meals printed on each day. It's like the lunchroom at school when you were a kid. You had the whole month in front of you so you knew not to be sick on pizza day. I used to be amazed at the organization and thought to myself, 'someday I'll get my sh*t together too." Then I realized, cooking for my family isn't quite so cut and dry. I have my picky kid (this discussion has been covered already today by my friends about picky eaters and frustrated moms) then I have my eat anything kids, and then there's me. Dietary restriction. It should be a four letter word. Certainly, my diet is not conducive to family living... who wants to give up pasta, garlic bread, rice and potatoes? Any hands? Volunteers? Anyone?????

No, there's not a lot of takers for that one. So I still try to do what I can to remain "normal." It's easy to work with a protein (chicken), a starch (pasta), and a veggie (broccoli.) The end result is pretty decent. Cook broccoli, pasta and chicken, make a cheese sauce, put broccoli, chicken, cheese, and pasta together for everyone, for me just the chicken and broccoli. That's a really easy 'transformer' meal. But they aren't all that simple. Pizza is a killer. Have you ever ordered a pizza, been starving hungry, craving pizza and then just sat and watched everyone else eat it? Try that some day. I almost think I'd rather have someone break a bone in my face and then drill out my sinus... oh wait....

Getting back to today's sneek peak - I have a heavy hitter this week. Something for the whole family, it takes a bit of time, but if you're prepared, it's not terrible. You'll be oh-so-glad for this one, very hearty, healthy, delicious, hot meal. It is a main dish, and can be used for the whole meal, no sides necessary unless you'd like to add some garlic bread (GF for celiacs, or regular for those who aren't). Want the hint? NO GROANING ALLOWED!!

Hint: crock pot required (kinda... hee hee)

Can you wait for Friday? Take a seat.... =)

Friday, March 9, 2012

Free Friday - green beans!

Welcome back! It's FRIDAY! YAY FRIDAY FRIDAY FRIDAY FRIDAY!!! So, as we all get ready for the gates to open and us go running out into the freedom that is no work and all play weekends, I have a new recipe to enhance your day!
The bad news was last weekend I missed a Goos concert. The great awesome ridiculously wonderful news is there is a charity event near my home for an autism program which has asked John Rzeznik to be their headliner. He'll be singing acoustic and opening Friday afternoon at 5pm. Tickets are so very affordable and on sale now. The icing on this cake? It's on my birthday. Thank you John. =) I'll be there.

As you can see, from this week and last with my surgery and recovery, I was a bit lazy with today's dish. It's super easy and perfect for a weekend with company, or without, this side dish will be an easy and instant hit. It's colorful and has some crunch. Gluten free, but not so sugar free. Most dried cranberries that I've found are tossed with sugar. If this is a problem for you, certainly you can buy fresh cranberries and cook them down or dry them yourself in a dehydrator. Since this is a side dish, I do not worry so much about the small amount of sugar it contains. It's going to be paired with a main dish, in my house typically some kind of protein/meat.

The whole thing can be heated in the microwave if you really need to, but I do prefer the stove. Also, butter is a huge key to making this work, so if you're not using real butter, try using about 1/2 as much of "Earth Balance buttery spread" instead. It's a vegan vegetable oil, but tastes just like butter. When my son was having sensitivities to dairy, we used that and no one could tell the difference. It just tends to be a little pricey.

Green Beans and Cranberries

3 oz roasted salted almonds
1/2 stick (2 oz) of butter - or 1 oz Earth Balance
2 oz dried cranberries any flavor
1 lb of cleaned, snapped fresh green beans
3-6 chopped green onions
1 clove garlic (crushed)
couple pinches of nutmeg

Start with the butter, onions, garlic and cranberries over medium heat. Sauteé until the cranberries start to plump up. Add almonds, green beans and nutmeg. Continue to cook until green beans turn bright green. Serve immediately.

In my house, this recipe serves one about 2 times. LOL. I love these and can eat them just as a meal. So, if you have people who love green beans, go ahead and double or triple this recipe. Otherwise I think it should normally feed about 4.


Monday, March 5, 2012

Sneak Peak Monday - Side Dish!

So, welcome back from the weekend. It's been a great one for all you who are probably NOT reading this blog but still on a Sat night high from the Goos show in Orlando. Of which... I missed. DON'T PANIC! I didn't die. Obviously. I'm here writing. =) No, perhaps in a fate worse than death, I had sinus surgery. I know, I know, you're thinking, "Well, what day was it, cuz I'd totally brave some pain to get some Goo?!" Yes, agree. I think under normal circumstances - like pneumonia - I'd just go and that would be that. But this was a little different. I didn't have someone who could drive me (and I couldn't drive), I had no working painkillers (still don't), and doc orders said to stay away from other people (what's some germs among Goo fans?) Monday morning found me at my computer, sighing over fan recordings and comments on the site about how awesome and kick@ss it was and how John sang an acoustic version of "Can't Let It Go." /swooning.

What does all this have to do with a food blog? Nothing. But you can't have good food without good music and you can't enjoy good food and good music without good company and here we are. =) Glad you made it. I'm still kinda recovery mode and that means having to be purposefully lazy. So, as a sneak peak to Friday, we're going to do a really simple, colorful, delicious side dish. You're not going to want to save this one for company because it's just easy to do any night and then hide in the back of your refrigerator so you can have the leftovers the next day. Here's your hint: pairs perfectly with turkey! But like I said, don't just save it for that. You can put it with meatloaf, roasted chicken, and maybe even a buttered whitefish! They all work with this one.

To get your mouth watering, here's your pic of the day: >=) (evil grin)

I believe this picture was taken when he was talking about the time they woke up from a drunken night to find themselves in dresses, him with one leg shaved, and 3rd degree burns all over their bodies; it was also shortly before John started throwing his clothes into the crowd. That was a really fun night. We met him out on the street before the concert and got an autograph then my oldest son went with J (owner of the other pic from previous post) for the meet and greet. This was a Goo jackpot for him that night.

See you Friday!