A to Z Challenge – C


 

C- Cupcakes

Stokpic

Stokpic

Who doesn’t love cupcakes? In Red Wine & Roses, Julia bakes gourmet cocktail cupcakes. The recipes for those are in the bonus section of the book – a mini cookbook!

C – Chocolate cake

cake

My new favorite cake – Red Wine cake – OMG it is so good. Moist, rich chocolaty goodness. I may have to go bake one now.

C- clouds

Dramatic cumulonimbus Couds

It’s amazing the  contrast of beautiful sky compared to in January. Fluffy cumulus clouds. Let’s just hope that they don’t turn into a massive storm!

None of these things were what I intended to photograph.  My crab cakes were a flop that turned out greasy. Not sure what happened, I’ve made them hundreds of times before.

Oh well.

 

 

Write on my friends, write on!

Ellie

 

 

 

 

A to Z Challenge – April begins with A


So I decided to do a new thing.  A new thing for me anyway. In this challenge, there are many options and the one I chose is photography!  (warning: my photography skills are lame)

APPLES

APPLES

Apples –  my favorite variety of apples for eating is Gala. For baking – I tend to go with golden delicious or granny smith.

Instead of just a photograph, because you know. . . I’m long winded and I had to do something with these gorgeous apples, how about a recipe?

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Apple Fruititza

1 package sugar cookie dough – press into pizza pan, making a small lip for your base.  Bake at 350 for 10 minutes.  Let cool while preparing the base filling.

Base filling

1 package cream cheese (8 ounces) room temperature

1 cup powdered sugar

2 Tablespoons butter (unsalted)

Combine ingredients in mixing bowl, blend well with mixer until thoroughly combined, smooth and creamy.  Spread onto cooled cookie crust.

Apple Filling – 

Peel and slice 3 to 4 apples into thin slices. Cook in skillet with:

2 Tablespoons butter

1 Tablespoon lemon juice

1/2 cup apple juice with 2 tsp cornstarch mixed in

3/4 cup sugar.

Simmer on medium heat until apples are beginning to soften and liquids thicken.

Pour on top of the cream cheese base.

Mix crumb topping :

1 cup flour, 1 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp  cinnamon, 1/4 cup sugar

Add 2 Tablespoons melted butter, Mix until completely moistened.

Spread by spoonfuls on top of apples.

Bake at 350 F for 12 minutes, or until crumb topping is a golden color.

Remove from oven, let cool and cut into “pizza” slices to serve.

Have an amazingly awesome April! Stay tuned for more alphabet goodness.

Write on my friends, write on!

Ellie

 

 

 

 

Super Fuel for A Super You


fresh figs

fresh figs

It’s difficult to have the energy required to get through a normal day much less one that has  more demands than the usual routine.  Especially if your diet consists of  poor quality fillers such as popcorn instead of a meal (admit it, you’ve done it too!),  pasta covered with butter and herbs, or a tube of snack crackers because  you didn’t feel like getting out in the weather and you forgot to pack your lunch.

Sadly,  I’ve done all of these and worse, then wondered why I was fighting the sleepiness in the afternoon.  It’s simple!  I didn’t give my body the fuel it needs to function.

Let me mention briefly a point that I brought up last week in A New Attitude Towards Food about skipping meals.  It has the opposite effect on weight loss than you would think.   Contrary to what most people think,  overweight people are the most likely to skip meals. There are multiple reasons why we skip meals but the result is the same.  You are more likely to overeat at the next meal and have larger portions because by that time,  you are ravenous!

Skipping meals causes your body to hold onto its fat stores, instead of releasing them. It interprets skipped meals as famine, so it locks down on the fat stores because it doesn’t know when the next meal will come. This is actually a quite efficient process, except for the bulging  belly and thighs that plague us.

So, anyway . . . DON’T SKIP MEALS!

continuing on last week’s theme,   here are some more super foods.

Why are they called super foods? 

Most  “super” foods are good for your heart and your overall health when incorporated into a heart-healthy diet that’s balanced in lean protein,whole grains, fruits, vegetables and low-fat milk and dairy products. This diet should also include nuts, seeds and legumes,  as well as fish and liquid vegetable oils.

There are no standard criteria or approved list of super foods, but they are categorized as such based on the dense nutritional values.  Adding “Superfoods” to your diet certainly has  health benefits but the key to a healthy diet is to consume a variety of nutritious foods in the right quantities.

More superfood choices:

Apples –  Seems there is a lot of truth to the adage that an apple a day keeps the doctor away. Aside from the  benefits of fiber and helping regular digestive flora, apples contain polyphenols that offer an assortment of benefits, the most impressive of which is they’re able to help regulate your blood sugar levels. This can be of great use in weight loss! They also help you stay focused throughout the day!

Asparagus – The  takeaway on asparagus is that it hits on two levels: it provides antioxidants and also works as an anti-inflammatory. I haven’t read this anywhere but I can tell you from personal experience ( it may be part of the anti-inflammatory thing)  it can act as a diuretic as well.  So, it helps in fighting free radicals!

Beets – you won’t catch me eating them voluntarily,  but they are loaded with betalains, that aren’t found in many foods that make it to the dinner table.  I have included beets in a smoothie where other things were combined and masked the taste of beets,  but that is my preference.

Cantaloupe – Low calorie, sweet and delicious, and it has an alkaline effect on the body which can help balance your ph levels from getting too acidic –  which helps  in digestion and prevention of yeast infections!  WIN WIN!  Can I trade in my beets for a double portion of cantaloupe?

Cherries -They can help improve your memory and have a substantial amount of beta carotene. You might also want to consider eating cherries to help get a good night’s sleep as they’re a natural source of melatonin.  So see there? Don’t forget your cherry on top next time you get that sundae. (Just make it a  fresh cherry not a maraschino cherry soaked in sugar)

Dark Chocolate -This is one  superfood that many people will not have a problem eating. While it may not be as ubiquitous as milk chocolate this is worth going out of your way for. It’s antioxidant rich and has been shown to help with the heart, the brain, and stabilizing glucose levels. It can even help with dental health. What’s not to love?  YES! There is a GOD!!!!!

Figs – I have to be honest,  up until last year I had only ever eaten a fig as a fig newton. I still remember that silly jingle! Who knew I was eating healthy?  Recently we found dried figs at the health store and they are just as sweet  as  I remember in the newtons.   Just go HERE and check out all the benefits of figs!

Pineapple -Pineapples have a way of adding instant island flavor to most any dish. But they also pack their own benefits by helping with eye health, gum health, and even easing arthritis pain. Even though it is low in fat and cholesterol free, you’ll want to stick to smaller portions due to the sugar content. Plus, for anyone who has ever overdone it  on fresh pineapple the  enzymes in it play havoc on your tongue. But OOOOOOOOOOH, pineapple.

Pomegranate– My mother used to buy pomegranates every time she could.  I never understood her fascination with them. All those little seeds. . . . I guess she knew something.  Nowadays, this usually ends up as pomegranate juice, and it’s makes a great addition to fruit smoothies, or just drinking straight. The top benefits of drinking it are that it can help with breast, prostate, and lung cancer. It’s also been shown to help with blood pressure, and can help prevent or even reverse plaque buildup in the arteries.

Combined with last week’s list,  you should have a variety to plan an entirely new menu!  Try something new this week.  Contact me if you are interested in the menu plans. I’m considering doing a newsletter to include them with some recipes.

Write on my friends,  and eat well!

Ellie

 

A New Attitude Towards Food


Let’s be honest, most of us overindulged around the holidays.  Who can resist those home-baked chocolate chip cookies with melty chocolate? Gingerbread men  that you slowly torture by  dunking first this foot, then that one into your morning coffee. What?  You don’t  create the psychodrama of torturing the little man of goodness?

Maybe it’s a writer thing. Anyway, new year new eating habits.  For the most part it’s a reestablishment of nutritious eating guidelines. My personal approach involves simple changes that I can adapt for long-term lifestyle changes that I can live with because I have more than twenty pounds to lose.

If I make a statement like –  I will not eat chocolate in 2016,  it’s a lie.  I might make it to the afternoon of day 1 before I am scrounging in my secret stash.  It’s not just me,  you do it too.  If we  lay down the law and state that object A is forbidden,  then there is some compulsion within us that screams for it, demands it, wears on our willpower to the point that we give in. A more realistic goal will be that I allow myself 3 small pieces of chocolate throughout the week.   I can live with that!

My new eating plan began on January 4th. Yeah, I’m late in posting this.  I don’t have a big long list of goals to share – sorry to disappoint those of you that are used to my ‘Mega-blowout-I-am-going-to-totally-kick-ass-this-year’ list.  I’m streamlining and simplifying.  Two simple goals: Eat balanced meals and practice portion control.  In reality there are 4 goals because part of eating balanced meals is not skipping meals.  Something that I am terrible about.

I plan my weekly menu before I do my grocery shopping, to avoid impulse purchases and thwart those unhealthy items that tend to jump into my cart like chips or snack crackers and also to save some money on our groceries.

As I plan my menus,  I scour food sites, pinterest, and my cookbooks for healthy nutritious meals.  A typical days menu is between 1500 and 2000 calories. Throughout the week it averages 1800 calories. I plan a couple of desserts into the meal plan sticking mostly to  lowfat, low sugar but still appeases the sweet tooth.

One of the changes I have been making in meal planning is using Superfoods.  The following list is items that I have incorporated into our meals:

Greek Yogurt – plain, unsweetened.  The ingredients on the side of the container  – cultured milk –  that’s it.  The only ingredient.  100%  milk. NO sweetener, no sugar, no additives, no chemicals.

2016-01-12 10.39.23

Quinoa – I’ve made some really interesting meals with this versatile grain. Talk about filling!

Kale –  chopped up kale can work like parsley in some dishes, like on top of my potato soup.  It can be the main part of a salad –  like my favorite citrus kale salad. I don’t care for the tough and woody stems,  but the leaves are amazing.

Blueberries – Who doesn’t like blueberries? From blueberry muffins to fresh blueberries in my cottage cheese or greek yogurt, it’s like nature’s candy!

Oatmeal -This rib sticking old-fashioned breakfast is  a godsend.  I am not a morning person and tend to be on autopilot until after the second cuppa. Whether you make zingy lemon lifter, or blueberry blast, or my  new favorite – peach and almond, it’s a versatile mainstay of our kitchen.

Salmon – We have salmon once a week. Whether  as salmon croquettes, or  grilled, or baked salmon is a good protein choice loaded with omega 3.

Lentils – Cheap nutrition.  Lentils and rice were a mainstay of our diet when we were newlyweds on starter wages. Sometimes we added some meat to it, sometimes we didn’t. Lentils can be added to salads just as you would garbonzo beans.  They can be tossed in soups and stews for added protein. Lentils are high in iron, something I need battling anemia.

There are numerous superfoods, these are just a few that I have worked into a regular rotation in our diets. Would you like some recipes with these superfoods or some others?  Let me know in the comments. Trust me,  I have loads of recipes. I may have to think about what my pinch translates into in a measured amount,  but I am recipe rich!!  If you are interested in meal plans, contact me!

Write on my friends, and eat well!

Cooking Up Something Special


Every Year for my birthday or for Christmas, since the two are close together, I get at least one cookbook as a gift. This year my mother in law gave me The Pioneer Woman Cooks book.

There are a couple of recipes in there that I am going to try.  As most of you know,  each year one of my goals is to try new recipes. I tend to try at least 4  per month. Some are good,  some are terrible, some are – bury that mess in the backyard and gargle with lysol. Every once in awhile,  I find a really great recipe. I’m sharing today a couple of recipes that are not from any cookbook,  but sraight from the master chef themselves.

My daughter has this good freind that she went to high school with that they stay in touch. Her parents run the  best Chinese restaurant in the area. Anny came over to our home to visit and catch up with my daughter, and brought us nommies from their restaurant!  I love this girl!   She indulged in a slice of my birthday cake, while I indulged in the best crab rangoon ever!

Crab Rangoon 1_CrabRangoon2_0410

  • 1 package of cream cheese, softened
  • I Tablespoon pineapple juice
  • 1 Tablespoon of honey
  • 6 ounces imitation crabmeat, chopped into small bits
  •  wonton wrappers

Combine all ingredients  thoroughly. Place 1 Tablespoon of filling onto wonton wrapper, pinch into lotus flower shape and set on baking sheet until all are formed.

Heat oil in deep fryer.  Drop 2 at a time into hot oil. Cook until wrappers are golden brown. Remove from fryer, placing on paper towel lined baking sheet.

Makes 8 servings.

Egg Foo Yong

This is a great way to use up leftovers, or those little bits of this and that. These are basically Chinese omelets. I made mine without any additional meat,  but if you want more protien in yours feel free to add it in.

2015-10-29 19.03.51

My skillet was a little too hot so the edges are darker than I would have liked, but it still tasted amazing!

Ingredients:

  • 6eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1cup fresh bean sprout
  • 14cup minced scallion
  • 14cup minced bamboo shoots
  • or14 cup celery or 14 cup shredded Chinese cabbage
  • 4water chestnuts, minced
  • (1312cup slivered cooked ham or1312 cup chicken or 1312 cuppork or 1312 cup mincedshrimp)
  • 1teaspoon soy sauce
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 2 -3tablespoons peanut oil (or other cooking oil)

    Foo Yung Sauce

    • 1cup chicken broth
    • 1tablespoon soy sauce
    • 2teaspoons sugar
    • 2teaspoons vinegar
    • 1tablespoon cornstarch
    • 2tablespoons water
    Directions:
    1. Mix eggs, vegetables, meat and soy.
    2. Heat 2 tsp oil in a 4-6 inch skillet over moderate heat for 30 seconds.
    3. Add 1/3 cup egg mixture and fry as you would a pancake until lightly browned on the bottom, turn over and brown flip side.
    4. Keep warm (but do not stack), while you fry remaining pancakes, adding more oil if needed and stirring egg mixture before adding to pan.
    5. Foo Yung Sauce: In a pan, heat broth, soy, sugar and vinegar.
    6. In a bowl, blend cornstarch and water.
    7. Add to sauce and cook, stirring, until sauce bubbles and thickens.
    8. Serve with hot Egg Foo Yung over steamed rice.

    Bon Appetit! We have to eat, why not make it  something tasty and nutritions?  OK, well the egg foo yung is nutritious.

    Write on my freinds, write on! And eat well!

    Ellie

     

 

Holiday Feels


Who doesn’t like Holiday goodies?    Anyone?

Part of the “feel goods” of Holiday gatherings are from the comfort foods, and treats that we would otherwise not indulge in.  Food has always been a big part of my family gatherings whether it’s a summer barbecue or Thanksgiving or Christmas, or whatever other get together we had.

I miss those days. I miss the summer barbecues with my dad basting pork steaks in Maul’s/beer combo until it was melt in your mouth good.  I miss the Thanksgiving feast and mom’s stuffing along with 8 different kinds of pie – because not everyone liked pumpkin.  But most of all I miss the Christmas traditions that were long-established since I was a small child.

On Christmas eve we used to go to my grandparents. It was the one time of year when you got to see  everyone –  the aunts, uncles, cousins – and sample some of my Grandpa’s homemade wine. Sometimes his wine was more akin to moonshine but there were other times when it was like nectar of the Gods.   I remember distinctly his banana wine, watermelon rind wine, and Missouri grape wine.  He never entered any competitions for it, it was reserved for family and friends.  Sampling Grandpa’s wine was an honor and something that we looked forward to.

Then sadly Grandpa passed away, because eventually we all pass.  Then the baton was passed to my parents,  and the gatherings grew. I have four siblings who are all married.  Three of them have kids, and their kids have kids.  The Christmas before my mother passed  had a full house! Five siblings and spouses, (10) the grandkids and spouses, (+19)  the great grandkids – plus there are more now (+18) plus my mother.  48 people crowded into the house, but it was a joyous occasion and we never considered it crowded.

We always had finger foods,  never a full-blown meal.  There were the traditional,  Mom would buy a ham and have a variety of bread for sandwiches.  There were always numerous sides to choose from,  chips, dip, cookies cakes  –  so much to choose from and we often overindulged.

SIGH

Now the torch has passed to us,  we no longer have the big family gatherings.  I feel sad that my kids have been short-changed by missing out on  our traditional family gatherings. As most of the parents out there will understand,  I tend to overcompensate and overindulge my kids.

It is a difficult thing when the traditions are taken from you and you have to come up with your own.

Baking sugar cookies and decorating them,  making my Grandma’s snickerdoodles, and of course the Gingerbread men – these are things that have bonded me with my girls in the kitchen for the holidays.  I think we had the most fun the year we made Gingerbread cookies as characters from Louise Rennison’s Angus Thongs and Full Frontal Snogging.  That book was hilarious,  and the gingerbread people definitely had character!  We had Mark Big gob, Slaggy Lindsey, Dave the Laugh, Jaz, and of course Robby and Tom.

I tried a couple of different things over the years,  but the only thing that has really stuck has been  baking treats. So,  in honor of our traditions,  here are a few recipes to share:

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Traditional Sugar Cookies

Ingredients:

 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

1 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 egg
2 1/2 cups Gold Medal™ all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
Granulated sugar or colored sugar
 Directions:
  • 1 Mix powdered sugar, butter, vanilla, almond extract and egg in large bowl. Stir in remaining ingredients except granulated sugar. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours.
  • 2 Heat oven to 375ºF. Lightly grease cookie sheet.
  • 3 Divide dough in half. Roll each half 1/4 inch thick on lightly floured surface. Cut into desired shapes with 2- to 2 1/2-inch cookie cutters. Sprinkle with granulated sugar. Place on cookie sheet.
  • 4 Bake 7 to 8 minutes or until edges are light brown. Remove from cookie sheet. Cool on wire rack.

This is the traditional cookie from my ancient Betty Crocker cookbook. We decorate some with frosting, some with sprinkles and colored sugars.  These are great blank canvases for your own creation!

Microwave_Fudge_Recipes

Fantasy Fudge

(I have never ever had this fail) Grease 9 X 13 pan with butter.

Ingredients:

3 cups granulated sugar

3/4 c margarine or butter

2/3 cup evaporated milk

1 (12 oz) package of chocolate chips

1 (7 oz) jar marshmallow creme

1 cup chopped walnuts

1 tsp vanilla.

Combine in large heavy saucepan sugar, margarine and evaporated milk. Stirring over medium heat bring to boil for 5 minutes. Boil until in soft ball stage.

Remove from heat, stir in chocolate chips, until melted thoroughly. Beat in marshmallow creme, walnuts, and vanilla. Mix thoroughly.

Transfer to pan and let cool before cutting into 1 inch squares.

What are your holiday traditions?

Write on my friends and enjoy those holiday goodies!

Till next time ~~~~

Ellie

P.S. You can check out my other post over on Eclectic Bard Books today as well!

 

 

Rib Stickin’ Goodness – Part 1


This isn’t a food blog. I’ve never shared recipes before today, but hey. . . change is good, right?

Recently we’ve made some dietary changes. I’ve completely changed the way I’ve been cooking. I’m sure I’ve shared before I’m a pretty darn good cook. I’m never going to be on Master Chef, and I’m ok with that. I can create a fabulous meal with minimal ingredients.  I’ve had years of practice. Sometimes even the best household chef gets into a rut. This is when a change  can be good.  I have learned a few things from that show and enjoy watching it and sometimes get inspiration for recipes.

We’ve made the decision to go meatless for a time. Let me be clear here, we are not vegetarians, not vegans.  This was a decision made for various reasons.  I have to say that although I am enjoying the variety of new dishes, I’m looking forward to sinking my teeth into some Thanksgiving turkey!

A few observations before I share the recipes.

  1. I feel better.  My stomach has not been churning or upset over the past two weeks of our new eating plan.
  2. These meals are surprisingly filling!  (Honestly, as a dedicated carnivore I was shocked.)
  3. Meatless meals cost (in general, there are the exceptions) less than with meat.
  4. I’ve lost a few pounds, felt fuller after meals, and feel more energetic.  Coincidence or not – just being honest.

These are not necessarily low-calorie,  but some are. My plan is to share with you 2 recipes a day this week, until Friday. Since it is November,  I  feel compelled to include NANOWRIMO into my repertoire.  I hope the Friday posts help encourage those who are  interested or participating in NANOWRIMO.

As kitchen manager, general dietitian, and master chef of the household, I spend a little time each week preparing a menu before shopping.  I shop from the menu, so that I have what I need on hand and reduce the amount of trips to the store, which in turn cuts down on impulse purchases. Yes, we use that nasty word here –  budget. I seldom buy convenience or prepackaged foods.  I also prepare my meals from scratch. It doesn’t really take that much time and the food tastes so much better.  Like Papa John says – better ingredients, better pizza.  OR in my case better meals all around.

Cost savings, no preservatives, fresh wholesome foods, and a sense of satisfaction for providing for my family. Yes, I am creative in the kitchen as well.

Alright, let’s get down to it then. Meatless meals. My definition for meatless –  it does not contain animal flesh, to include red meats, wild game, poultry, or aquatic (fish, mollusks, shrimp, lobster, etc) I do include dairy and eggs.  (No animal gave its life in the production of these meals!)

Hearty Vegetable Soup

Hearty Vegetable Soup

Hearty Vegetable Soup    

(7 on a scale of 10)

small bunch of parsley, finely chopped

1/2 onion, chopped                                 one clove of garlic, minced

2 stalks celery, chopped                         cayenne pepper

Black pepper                                          3 carrots chopped, ½ head of cabbage, shredded

Ginger                                                    4 cups vegetable broth

2 TBSP tomato paste                             2 cups water

½ cup pearled barley                             1 cup lentils, dry

2 TBSP olive oil

Pour olive oil into skillet. Saute onion and celery. Once onions are translucent add garlic and other seasonings to taste. (approximately ½ tsp each, but I add a dash more cayenne)  Add carrots.

Simmer  while adding broth to dutch oven. Bring to low boil.  Add lentils and barley. Add in the vegetables from the skillet. Cook for 20 minutes stirring occasionally.  Add in tomato paste, and 2 cups of water as the lentils and barley will have soaked up some of liquid.  Add in cabbage, and half of chopped parsley.  Cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Top with parsley after serving.

This soup is 175 calories for 1 ½ cup serving. Surprisingly filling!

3 Cheese and Spinach Calzones

3 Cheese and Spinach Calzones

Three Cheese and Spinach Calzones.
(I’ll give this one an 8 on a scale of 10!)

1 package(10 ounce) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
1 cup shredded fontina cheese
1/2 cup ricotta
1/2 cup crumbled Gorgonzola cheese
3 scallions, chopped
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp black pepper
1 egg lightly beaten
I tube refrigerated pizza crust. ( I make my own from scratch, but store-bought is much easier and faster)
1 cup marinara sauce.

Preheat oven to 375. In a large bowl combine first 8 ingredients.Unroll pizza crust into an 11 inch square. Cut into four squares. Spoon mixture over half of each square (diagonally because you’re making triangles)Fold the other half over, and pinch edges closed. I make a small slit on top so it vents. Bake for 15 minutes. Serve with warmed marinara.

1 calzone with 1/4 cup of marinara sauce is 540 calories.  served with a salad,   this is a very filling meal!

This was a big hit with the family and even got the approval of my meat and potatoes husband. Now that the weather is cooler,  I don’t mind heating up the kitchen to experiment with new recipes.  Tired of our usual fare,  this  dietary change has been  a welcomed change.  When the schedule gets crowded,  I tend to revert to the old standards, where routine turns into a rut.  I hate ruts.

Give these a try and let me know what you think!  Would you like to see more recipes from my kitchen? Has anyone tried any of the recipes that are featured in the mini cookbook at the back of Red Wine & Roses?  What???  You didn’t know there was a cookbook in the back?

A little bonus feature for my readers!

Write on my friends, write on . . . and eat well!