Thursday, October 30, 2008

Moroccan-Spiced Vegetable Soup

Today, the first snow fluffies of the season. I celebrate by wearing my red sweater with embroidered snowflakes. Yes, my life is that exciting!

While we were at the lake house this past weekend, it was chilly and rainy. There were some of Trader Joe’s tandoori naan in the freezer, so I came up with warming, spiced soup to serve with it.

Check out the nutritional info—lowfat with tons of protein and fiber (for a 2-cup serving), and absolutely delicious to boot!

I forgot to "dollop" the plain yogurt until after the photo was taken and we had started eating.

As is appropriate in so very many areas of my life, I just say "better late than never"!

* Exported from MasterCook *

Moroccan-Spiced Vegetable and Bean Soup

Recipe By: Vicci

Servings: 4

Amount Measure Ingredient -- Preparation Method

-------- ------------ --------------------------------

1 tablespoon olive oil

8 ounces sweet onion -- 1/4-inch dice; about 1 1/2 cups

1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic

1 teaspoon grated ginger root

6 cups low sodium vegetable broth

1 cup red lentils

14 ounces diced canned tomatoes with juice, undrained)

1/2 cup diced carrots

1/2 cup diced celery

1 teaspoon garam masala

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cardamom

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper -- or more to taste

3/4 teaspoon ground cumin

9 ounces garbanzo beans -- (from a 15-ounce can, drained and rinsed)

9 ounces cannellini beans -- (from a 15-ounce can, drained and rinsed)

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1/4 cup plain yogurt

2 tablespoons chopped cilantro

In a nonstick pot, heat the oil over medium heat then add the onions and saute, stirring often, for 5 minutes. Add the garlic and ginger and stir for 2 more minutes.

Add vegetable broth, lentils, diced tomatoes, carrots, celery, and spices. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for about a half hour or until lentils are tender (they will split apart and disintegrate a bit as the cooking goes on). Add garbanzo and cannellini beans and cook for 5 minutes or until heated through.

Carefully pour half of the soup into the blender and blend until smooth. Return to pot and combine with the unblended soup; stir in lemon juice. Ladle into bowls and top with dollops of yogurt and sprinklings of cilantro.


"8 cups"

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Per serving: 612 Calories (kcal); 9g Total Fat; (12% calories from fat); 29g Fiber; 46g Protein; 93g Carbohydrate; 2mg Cholesterol; 977mg Sodium

Food Exchanges: 5 Grain (Starch); 3 1/2 Lean Meat; 2 Vegetable; 0 Fruit; 1 Fat; 0 Other Carbohydrates

My Notes: The next time, I will toss in a diced potato as well.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Creamy Root Vegetable Soup

I noticed this morning that there was a length of garden hose lying outside of the back door and was surprised that, with all of the other outdoor summery items I had cleaned and stored in the basement or garage in the previous couple of days, I didn’t take care of this. So just before lunch I went outside to have one final look around the patio areas before the predicted *shudder* snow moves in tonight.

Suddenly, it is winter. Well, no, but it certainly felt like it. If I hadn’t seen the gold, red, and still-green trees, and had wandered outside with my eyes closed (that hardly ever happens, really), I would have thought it was January.

The sky is a dark gray, the wind gusts are close to 20mph, the air temperature is in the upper 30’s but feels as though it’s in the low 30’s, and it’s also spattering rain. Suddenly the wind stops, the sun comes out, and the gold trees practically glow in the light. Then some more gray, more wind, harder rain.

I did not stay outside for very long, and my faithful feline companion Spooky decided that he would rather be curled up on the warm radiator instead of chasing leaves in the yard.

This is definitely a soup day.

I have declared this to be The Fall/ Winter of the Soup Lunch. Jack has not previously considered soup to be a meal, but he is slowly beginning to see things my way. How better to get a lot of nutritious vegetables than in a nice, substantial, warming soup? And now that the weather had turned cool (cold! freezing cold!!!) I have a supply of homemade bread on hand to either make go-along sandwiches or just serve warm with the soup.

Years ago I had clipped a recipe for a soup which contained parsnip and carrot, and since I now actually had a couple of parsnips on hand, I dug the recipe out of the depths of my binder and went to work.

This soup was easy to get started (actually, I worked on it as Jack changed the water filter underneath the kitchen sink. Tell me, after reminding him to do this chore since last spring, why did he choose when I was in the kitchen cooking, needing to use the sink??? But I digress…). Onions are sautéed until sweet and golden, then parsnips and carrots added for a bit and stirred until softened. Vegetable broth is poured in, potatoes added, and the mixture simmers for a while. When the vegetables are soft, fresh parsley and thyme are stirred in and the mixture is pureed until almost smooth. That mixture is then returned to the pot, lowfat half & half and is added, the thick, fragrant mixture is rewarmed, and dry sherry is stirred in.

After ladling into soup bowls, I garnished with some light sour cream (thinned with more lowfat half & half).

Jack wrinkled his nose at the mention of parsnip, but immediately said how good it was. And he was right. The parsnip added a peppery bite, the carrot a little sweetness, and the potato substance. Balanced with the creaminess of the lowfat half & half and spiked with dry sherry, this could very well be an elegant first course to a holiday meal or a nice light lunch.

As an additional note, Spooky enjoyed the soup as well. Yet he turns his little nose up at shrimp. Go figure.

* Exported from MasterCook *

Creamy Root Vegetable Soup

Recipe By: Vicci

Serving Size: 3

Amount Measure Ingredient -- Preparation Method

-------- ------------ --------------------------------

2 tablespoons olive oil

9 ounces sweet onion -- quartered, sliced 1/4" thick; about 2 1/2 cups

6 ounces parsnip -- peeled and chopped into 1/4" pieces; about 1 1/2 cups

4 ounces carrot -- peeled and chopped into 1/4" pieces; about 1 cup

10 ounces white potato -- peeled and chopped into 1/4" pieces

3 cups low-sodium vegetable broth

3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley -- or 1 tablespoon dried

1 teaspoon fresh thyme -- or 1/2 teaspoon dried, crumbled thyme

3/4 cup lowfat half & half

2 tablespoons dry sherry

3 tablespoons light sour cream

1 1/2 tablespoons lowfat half & half

In a nonstick pot, heat the oil then sauté the onion slices over a medium flame until golden, stirring frequently, for about 12 minutes. Add the parsnip and carrot and stir often for another 10 minutes (do not allow the vegetables to burn). Add the potato, stir for a few more minutes, then add the broth. Bring the broth to a boil, turn down the heat to low, add the DRIED herbs (if using), cover, and simmer for about 15 minutes or until the potatoes are soft. Stir in the FRESH thyme and parsley, if using, and cook for 2 more minutes.

In two batches, puree the hot soup (be careful of steam burns!) until almost smooth. Return to the pot, add the lowfat half & half, and rewarm slowly*, stirring constantly. Stir in the sherry.

In a small bowl mix the sour cream and 1-1/2 tablespoons of lowfat half & half until smooth.

Ladle soup into bowls, dollop with sour cream.

* Lowfat half & half will curdle if brought to a boil, so turn off the heat before this can happen.


"4 cups"

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Per serving: 284 Calories (kcal); 10g Total Fat (2g Saturated); (30% calories from fat); 15g Protein; 34g Carbohydrate; 1mg Cholesterol; 548mg Sodium

Food Exchanges: 1 1/2 Grain(Starch); 1 1/2 Lean Meat; 2 Vegetable; 0 Fruit; 2 Fat; 0 Other Carbohydrates

This was originally a Gourmet recipe, but I made several changes to it and therefore deem it as my own. The Queen has spoken.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Roasted Tomato Puree

Last Saturday I purchased some wrinkly Roma tomatoes for 75¢ a pound. They were neither moldy nor rotten, just a little past their prime and I had a specific use in mind.

I had the oven going on Monday morning for the apple muffins and, after they were done, I bumped up the heat a bit to roast the Romas. I was happy to do this, for the heat. I was still resisting turning on the furnace in our house. I’m not a totally frugal person, but we do have an old house with large windows and high ceilings and, even though the thermostat is set at around 65ºF in the daytime during the winter, I wait as long as possible to start those high heating bills rolling in.

Roasting tomatoes is a perfect way to use those which are not fresh enough to be used in salads, or even in cooked recipes. This technique concentrates their flavor and gives them a wonderful “roasted” taste as well. The final product is a thick paste, just a little thinner than commercial tomato paste, which is perfect to add to soups, stews, and gravies for an incredible punch of tomato flavor. I purchased a dozen medium sized ones and they produced about a cup of puree.

The Roma variety are particularly suited to this technique ad they are more “meaty” than the other varieties. I have used regular tomatoes, though, but I roughly chop them then drain in a strainer for a half hour or so in order to eliminate the excess moisture.

I have to apologize for the imprecise amount of tomatoes. I had thought that my receipt would show the weight of the tomatoes, so I didn’t bother to weigh them before cooking, but now I cannot locate the receipt.

Now, when I make this I do not add anything other than olive oil, salt, and pepper; I want the flavor of the tomatoes to shine through.

Vicci’s Roasted Tomato Puree

12 medium Roma tomatoes

2 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for the pan

freshly ground black pepper and kosher salt, to taste

Heat oven to 450ºF. Lightly coat a baking pan with olive oil. Remove the stems from the Roma tomatoes and quarter. Place, skin side down, on the baking pan. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper (don’t use too much, you can always add more after making the puree).

Roast for 25-35 minutes, occasionally shaking the pan gently, or until very soft (the skins will begin to brown a little but do not allow them to burn).

Remove from oven and cool. Transfer the tomatoes to a blender or small food processor (also scrape any juices or excess oil from the pan and add to the tomatoes). Puree until smooth. If necessary, add a little more olive oil to improve consistency. Taste and adjust seasonings.

Store for up to a week in a tightly covered jar in the refrigerator, or for longer storage, place

1 tablespoon portions in an empty ice cube tray and freeze; pop out the cubes and store in a plastic freezer container or bag.

To use, add to soups, stews, or gravy starting with one tablespoon and increasing amount as desired.

Also, a quick and quite good tomato soup can be made by using a cup of vegetable stock, 2 tablespoons of puree, about a half teaspoon of sugar, some basil, and a dash of cayenne.

Now, I have to admit that on Monday evening I finally caved in and turned up the thermostat. There's only so much self-sacrifice I can handle, and waking in a 56-degree bedroom was beginning to lose its novelty...

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Stuffing-Topped Chicken

This past Friday was a damp, drizzly, cool fall day. I guess that the end of summer had to come sometime, and the weather forecasters had been calling for this change, but it still depressed me a bit. After all, I had thought that the summer weather would last for a while longer-- weather forecasts are often wrong, correct? Oh well.

I needed to go out on errands, among these was to buy more paint for our front porch project, so I braved the drizzle. The autumn colors in the trees have been incredible this year due to the perfect combo of dry conditions, wet conditions, cool nights, warm days, etc. and even a grey day didn’t dull the brilliance of these as I drove to Lowe’s. I wish that I had brought my camera with me several times as the contrast between a steel-colored sky and the bright gold and orange leaves was gorgeous.

For dinner, I was in the mood for something warm and hearty. This was the perfect day to try a recipe I had marked in the October issue of Eating Well.

Jack and I do not eat red meat and the biggest hurdle preventing me from eliminating chicken from our diet can be directly blamed on my grandparents. :) My Mom’s parents had a poultry processing business (it was small; they woke up at 4am daily to pluck chickens and I cannot imagine doing anything even similar) and, later, a hatchery. I loved to visit them when I was a kid and, since the hatchery was practically in their back yard, I would go to “work” with them. Every so often, as an adult, I will open the large glass door of the refrigerated section in Sam’s Club which holds the 36-packs of eggs, and inhale. That aroma is very nostalgic for me! Anyway, my “job” was to pack the pee-wee eggs into cartons. My Grampa, who had been blind since he was a child, would sort the eggs by touch. Gram sometimes “candled” the eggs. She sat in a dark-curtained booth and watched as the eggs came by singly on a conveyor belt, their interiors illuminated by a large light bulb behind them (luckily, candles were no longer being used). Any egg with spots or defects inside, or cracked shells, were discarded.

As you may imagine, I ate a lot of chicken and eggs while growing up. Our big family dinners almost always featured a roasted, stuffed chicken or capon, or fried chicken. Gram made, hands down, the absolute best fried chicken in the history of the world. And eggs are one of my favorite breakfasts (I do use less yolks now, though, about one egg white to each whole egg).

When I saw the recipe for Stuffing-Topped Chicken, I became nostalgic. The rainy evening was perfect for trying this recipe. Although it was not Grams’, or even Mom’s, stuffed roast chicken, this was a very good recipe and I will definitely make it again with a few small changes.

One important change that I will make is to actually buy fresh celery. The only time of the year that I seem to buy this vegetable is just before Thanksgiving and it usually lasts until after Christmas. For the other 11 months of the year, I am able to do without. I have found that ground celery seed lends a similar flavor, and I don’t have to clean the slimy celery out of my crisper after I forget about it for several weeks. However, I believe that the fresh celery is absolutely essential to the stuffing in this dish. The shallot can be subbed with onion (I upped the quantity a bit to 1/3 cup) and a small, minced garlic clove.

I also used boneless, skinless chicken breast meat and cooked it for a tad shorter than the recipe, which called for chicken thighs, required. And I added 2 tablespoons of chopped parsley to the stuffing.

Although I scaled the recipe down for Jack and me, the next time I make this I will use extra chicken broth and flour to make more gravy. Although Jack said that he actually expected the stuffing to be a bit on the dry side, and it wasn’t, I would have liked more moisture in the dish (and a little additional gravy for the mashed potatoes).

Cubes of savory bread stuffing on top of chicken pieces and gravy,
what a delicious
meal for a cool fall evening!

Stuffing-Topped Chicken

Eating Well, October 2008

Here’s a one-skillet version of chicken and stuffing made with wholesome ingredients. We use chicken thighs because we love the rich flavor of dark meat, but boneless, skinless breast works too. Serve with Brussels sprouts and mashed potatoes.

Makes 4 servings

ACTIVE TIME: 45 minutes

TOTAL TIME: 45 minutes


2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
3/4 cup chopped celery
1 tablespoon chopped shallot
5 slices whole-wheat country bread, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
1/2 teaspoon salt-free poultry seasoning (see Shopping Tip)
1 1/2 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth, divided
1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces (see Tip)
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour, divided
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups quartered mushrooms (6 ounces)
1/3 cup dry white wine or dry sherry

1. Position rack in upper third of oven; preheat broiler.

2. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large ovenproof skillet over medium heat. Add celery and shallot; cook, stirring, until the shallot begins to brown, about 2 minutes. Add bread and poultry seasoning; cook, stirring, until the celery has softened and the bread begins to crisp, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer the stuffing to a medium bowl and toss with 1/4 cup broth; set aside. Wipe out the pan.

3. Toss chicken with 2 tablespoons flour, pepper and salt in a large bowl. Whisk the remaining 1 1/4 cups broth with the remaining 2 tablespoons flour in a small bowl and set aside.

4. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil to the pan and heat over medium heat. Add the chicken (shaking off any excess flour) and mushrooms; cook, stirring, until the chicken is cooked through, about 8 minutes.

5. Increase heat to medium-high; add wine (or sherry) and cook, scraping up any browned bits with a wooden spoon, until almost evaporated, about 2 minutes. Stir in the reserved broth-flour mixture and cook, stirring, until thickened, about 2 minutes more. Spoon the reserved stuffing over the chicken mixture. Transfer the pan to the oven and broil until the stuffing begins to crisp, about 4 minutes.

NUTRITION INFORMATION: Per serving: 401 calories; 17 g fat (4 g sat, 9 g mono); 77 mg cholesterol; 27 g carbohydrate; 30 g protein; 4 g fiber; 481 mg sodium; 515 mg potassium.
Nutrition bonus: Folate & Magnesium (15% daily value).

2 Carbohydrate Servings
Exchanges: 2 starch, 3 lean meat, 1 1/2 fat

TIP: Shopping tip: Look for “salt-free” poultry seasoning near other spice mixes. If you can only find poultry seasoning with salt, reduce the salt to 1/8 teaspoon.

Tip: To trim boneless, skinless chicken thighs, we like to use kitchen shears to snip the fat away from the meat. After trimming, you’ll have four 4-ounce portions.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Vegetable Korma, a la Trader Joe's

After a few days "off", both Jack and I began working on our front porch project again yesterday. At the end of 7 hours, we had scraped, cleaned, caulked, repaired, and primed 2 windows and the decorative railings and columns. Once more, I could barely move enough to take a shower before dinner, my shoulders and back hurt so much. But the front porch is beginning to look nice! ;)

Our dinner, Vegetable Korma, was (mostly) courtesy of Trader Joe's.

After the shower I started to steam basmati rice, then I sat at the kitchen table and chopped a bunch of vegetables. I had bits and pieces of yellow squash, green beans, cauliflower, carrots, and red and green bell peppers in the refrigerator veggie bin. I sauteed some chopped onion and russet potato for a few minutes, then added everything else, sauteed for a couple of minutes, then added Trader Joe's Korma Simmer Sauce. This all cooked for 20 minutes, and I served it over the rice, garnished with sliced toasted almonds (TJ's brand, 0f course!).

Add some of TJ's tandoori nann (crisped on the grill), a glass of pinot nior, and a wonderfully soothing, satisfying, meal is our reward for hard labors.

One of the easiest yet tastiest dinners I have ever made. I am so happy that I discovered these "simmer sauces"! Otherwise, dinner would have been packaged, bright orange, mac & cheese. Well, probably not, that was our lunch. :)

During these last few nice days, meals are taking a back burner to house restoration projects. I hope to get back on my usual course soon.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Vegetable Barley Soup

I think that it’s Indian Summer!

From what I have heard, Indian Summer is a prolonged period of warm weather after a frost. Well, our frost was a light one, and it happened a few days ago. Today was sunny and bright, the temperature reached 70 degrees, and the same is forecast for the next 4 days (with temps increasing into the mid-70’s).

Welcome back, summer—please warm my house!

We’ve resisted turning on the furnace so far. It has been a bit nippy in the mornings, but I keep envisioning the heating bills climbing during the winter and I am convincing myself that the longer I delay using heat in the house, the more money we will save. Yeah, right. But it makes me feel virtuous!

Today for lunch I made vegetable soup. I had several bits of vegetables (half a red pepper, a piece of yellow squash, etc.) which were crowding the bin in my refrigerator. Wild rice seemed appropriately hearty, but I guess that I used my supply last winter/spring and never replenished. So I chose pearled barley, which added a wonderfully chewy texture to the soup.

I thawed a few slices of Whole Wheat Italian Bread to serve alongside, and this made a wonderfully satisfying autumn lunch.

* Exported from MasterCook *

Vegetable Barley Soup

Recipe By: Vicci
Servings: 4

Amount Measure Ingredient -- Preparation Method
-------- ------------ --------------------------------
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
2/3 cup chopped red bell pepper
1/3 cup diced carrot
1 teaspoon minced garlic
6 cups low sodium vegetable broth
2/3 cup pearled barley
2/3 cup diced tomato
2 teaspoons fresh, chopped rosemary (or ¾ teaspoon dried, crumbled)
1 cup chopped zucchini
2 tablespoons fresh basil (or 2 teaspoons dried, crumbled*)
4 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese -- divided

Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat; add onion, pepper, and carrot and sauté for 3 minutes. Stir in garlic and stir for a minute, then slowly pour in the vegetable broth. Bring this to a boil, add the barley, return to a boil, and simmer for 20 minutes.

Stir in the tomatoes, zucchini, and fresh (or dried) rosemary.
*- If using dried basil, add the entire amount.
Simmer for 10 minutes.

Just before serving, stir in 1 tablespoon fresh basil. Ladle into soup bowls, sprinkle with remaining basil and grated Parmesan.

"8 cups"

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Per serving: 256 Calories (kcal); 3g Total Fat (1g Saturated); (11% calories from fat); 23g Protein; 36g Carbohydrate; 4mg Cholesterol; 881mg Sodium
Food Exchanges: 1 1/2 Grain(Starch); 2 Lean Meat; 1 Vegetable; 0 Fruit; 1/2 Fat; 0 Other Carbohydrates

Monday, October 6, 2008

Pear Oatmeal Pancakes

For the past several months I have been feeling more disorganized than usual, and it has been bugging me. I don’t know why, and it has been very frustrating.

Perhaps it has been the change of seasons, but I have recently become aware of a change in me (in addition to muscle aches from my fall chores). Things seem to be more in focus, I seem to have a sharper sense of perception, and I am actually aware that I am functioning on a more productive level.

I’m scaring myself… ;)

Anyway, while we were working on the outside of the house, housekeeping inside has been sliding. When Jack offered to finish the last of the heat gun work on the front porch this morning I jumped at the chance to get started on cleaning. I dusted and vacuumed absolutely everything, although in previous years I also would have tackled oiling the antique furniture. Maybe sometime this winter… Anyway, a pile of “stuff” had been accumulating at the base of the attic stairs and I hauled that all up and did a little attic organizing. I also started to bring down the Halloween and fall decorations and place them here and there.

I have a friend who is a maniac about decorating for Halloween. She sends me photos and I tell her that she should open her home (for a fee!) to the public. It’s that good. I always had more fall and Thanksgiving décor, but she inspired me to purchase a few Halloween pieces. Not surprisingly, because of Spooky, my living room and dining rooms are now practically awash with black cats in every material, form, and size.

Before I started getting my mind back in gear, I was having difficulty remembering to buy certain kitchen staples. Like flour. When on earth have I ever run out of flour??? But I did, this past Saturday morning. I needed a certain amount to bake bread later in the day, which left me none with which to make our regular Saturday-morning pancakes. I looked in the pantry and found a half cup of pancake mix. I used to make my own pancake mix and that fell by the wayside several months ago. Perhaps I will start this again now that my brain is working more efficiently again.

Anyway, one-half cup of pancake mix does not make enough for two adults. I looked through my cupboards and decided to make oat flour by pureeing rolled oats in the food processor. Then, what the heck, I’ll just add some oat bran and chopped pears and nutmeg. Pear Oatmeal Pancakes were created.

Jack walked into the kitchen, sat at the table, and asked “what kind of pancakes are we having?”. I replied, and he then gave a rather odd smile. “Yay. More fiber.” Some day I shall make him pancakes from all white flour, filled with melted butter, and they will rise nicely and be very fluffy as a result. But not on that particular day.

I didn’t tell him just how much oatmeal and oat bran were in these, though. I made the pancakes, and placed the plates on the table. He spread “butter” on his (actually Brummel & Brown spread with yogurt), because he isn’t a syrup guy (poor man...). I drizzled maple syrup on mine. We dug in and were both very pleasantly surprised.

Jack said that they tasted like oatmeal but even better, and that the pears added a nice flavor (and moisture). I liked them, too, very much. In fact, this will be a regular recipe on my rotation. They did have a grainy texture, but neither of us minded that. The addition of toasted walnuts really brought everything together.

Now, the total fat in these pancakes is a bit on the high side for a “healthy” serving, but check out the saturated fat (a mere 3g) and monosaturated (11g of that “good” fat). Also, 11 grams of fiber is pretty darn good as well.

* Exported from MasterCook *

Pear Oatmeal Pancakes\

Recipe By: Vicci

Servings: 2

Amount Measure Ingredient -- Preparation Method

-------- ------------ --------------------------------

1 1/4 cups rolled oats

1/2 cup pancake mix

1/3 cup oat bran

1 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar

3/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 cup lowfat buttermilk

2 tablespoons canola oil

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 medium pear -- chopped; about 2/3 cup

2 tablespoons chopped walnuts – toasted (optional)

In a food processor or blender, process the rolled oats until they turn into a fine powder. Pour into a large bowl, and then stir in the remaining ingredients (pancake mix through nutmeg). Set aside.

In a smaller bowl, mix the buttermilk, oil, and vanilla. Pour this into the dry mix and mix gently until all ingredients are moistened, then set the bowl aside for 15 minutes for the oat bran to soften. The mixture may look too loose, but it will firm up as the oat bran absorbs the liquid. Fold in the chopped pear and nuts.

Cook on a preheated grill until light brown, then flip and finish cooking.


5 5" pancakes

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Per serving: 663 Calories (kcal); 23g Total Fat (3g saturated, 11g monosaturated, 9g polyunsaturated); (33% calories from fat); 20g Protein; 95g Carbohydrate; 12mg Cholesterol; 1024mg Sodium

Food Exchanges: 4 1/2 Grain (Starch); 0 Lean Meat; 0 Vegetable; 1 Fruit; 4 1/2 Fat; 1/2 Other Carbohydrates

And that bacon… Kutztown Turkey Bacon, a mere 1g fat per slice. It does taste more like Canadian bacon to me, but it’s very good. Mmmmmmmmmmm.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Seckel Pears. That's it.

The past 4 days have been rather brutal and not much "postable" cooking has come from my kitchen. Trader Joe's Indian entrees-in-a-pouches have become my dinner of choice lately. I was trying to think of what I did on days like these before I discovered TJ's and realized that I cooked dinner as usual, but we would eat about 2 hours later.

I woke up today feeling like a truck hit me; I am sore everywhere. I took the day off and basically laid on the sofa with heating pads on various parts of my body, but even as I made dinner I realized I am not yet ready to report back to "work" in the morning-- I was squeezing a lime and the juice trickled onto my hand and into a few of the several scrapes in my knuckles. Eeeyow!

The end is in sight for this particular project, though. About a half hour more with the heat gun and the thick layers of paint around the front door will have been removed. After that I will scrape the last bits off, sand, and clean the surfaces. I report to jury duty early (really, really early) on Wednesday morning and Jack will begin to paint this area. Next up, the railings. But that'll be a lot easier (no more standing on ladders, twisting, turning, etc.)

So what do I post about when I don't cook (anything I want to post about)???

Pears. Specifically, Seckel pears from my very own dwarf Seckel pear tree. This year, for the first time in several years, our resident family of groundhogs didn't get to them before I could. Using this wonderful concoction I found at Home Depot called Liquid Fence, I sprayed the fruit every two weeks since the beginning of August. The day before we left for vacation, September 4, I picked all of the pears and they are now being stored in the crisper bin of my 2nd refrigerator.

It only takes a couple of days at room temperature to ripen them, I take a dozen out every 2 days so that they don't all ripen at the same time. How wonderfully sweet these little beauties are, so good that I haven't made anything with them but we eat them out of hand, instead. Of course, it takes 4-6 to equal a small "regular" pear but the extra effort is so worth it!

Aren't they gorgeous?!

Actually two of the larger pears (on the top) are from a very old Bosc pear tree in the back yard. When we first moved here the fruit on this and the 3 otherBosc trees had me making pear butter, pear jam, and anything else with pears which I could think of. Lightning hit one tree and killed it about 15 years ago, and in the past 5 years or so there hasn't been much production as they all are dying. I wish I had thought to plant a few trees 10 years ago but, at that time, I was too busy dealing with the bounty and had no idea that it would ever end. Silly me.

For now, I shall enjoy my Seckel pears. And hope for strength to get through this episode of This Old House. :)

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Black-Eyed Pea Cakes with Adobo Cream

For us, October is the month where we traditionally try to do all of the exterior house fix-ups that we should have done all summer. I don’t even try to make excuses any more.

This week, we will attempt to remove the many layers of cracked paint around the front door. Back in the early part of the 20th century this trim was painted green, but several layers of white paint are on top of that. It is very thick and we use a heat gun to soften the paint so it can be scraped off. Also being scraped off are the top part of my knuckles. To add to the beauty of my hands this week are several small burns (from trying to tame that heat gun, of course). Does anyone out there have a romantic notion of finding and buying an old house and then restoring it? Please talk to me first!

While I was doing this, Jack was installing a lockset in the new screen door. By midafternoon I was tired and decided to go for a (hopefully) rejuvenating run instead. Before I could do this, Jack asked me to lean against the screen door while he drilled holes through it from the other side. It didn’t sound very safe, but there was no other way to steady the open door. I stood there for several minutes, pushing against the door, while he was on the other side using the drill. Several panel trucks and pickup trucks went by, some with ladders attached to the top, some with the names of contractors or remodelers on the side doors. I silently willed any of them, just one of them, to stop. “Please help us!” I mouthed at they drove past. No luck. They were too far away to understand my plea.

We have had this house for almost 25 years. I have been working on it steadily for the last 20 of those. I’m tired. I love this place, but I am really, really tired. And it's never finished!

Lunch needed to be quick. We had waffles for breakfast this morning (oat bran/banana), but working outside gave both of us an appetite. I chose a recipe from Cooking Light’s September issue, Black-Eyed Pea Cakes with Adobo cream.

These were very good, but I have to take exception to the serving size. I made the recipe as directed (less adobo cream) and it supposedly served 4. I formed 5 patties, Jack had 3 and I ate 2, and this was just enough for us. I can’t imagine having just one patty. And, really, they are so flavorful you will want more than one.

As I mentioned, I did make less adobo cream. I halved those instructions, using 2 tablespoons of the fat-free sour cream, ½ teaspoon adobo sauce, and I added 1 tablespoon of lowfat half & half to make it a softer consistency. Adobo sauce is that incredible thick, dark spicy sauce that comes with canned chipotles (the label will read “chipotles in adobo”). A small can should last me for a year. When I open it, I transfer the contents to a clean glass jar and keep it in the refrigerator.

The only change I made in the recipe was to use 2 egg whites instead of 1 egg white and 1 whole egg. I also used a lowfat Mexican cheese blend (Sargento’s brand).

With the black-eyed pea cakes I made a tomato-and-sweet onion salad, dressed with a simple mixture of 2 teaspoons of olive oil and 2 teaspoons of TJ’s Orange Muscat Champagne Vinegar, a little salt and some freshly-ground pepper. I also served steamed corn tortillas on the side.

Well. After several tries, I just cannot get this photo to download horizontally!

Please tilt your head to the right...

Black-Eyed Pea Cakes with Adobo Cream


  • 1/4 cup fat-free sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon adobo sauce
  • 1 (15.8-ounce) can no-salt-added black-eyed peas, rinsed and drained
  • 1/4 cup dry breadcrumbs
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped onion
  • 1/2 teaspoon bottled minced garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 large egg white, lightly beaten
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1/4 cup (about 1 ounce) shredded Monterey Jack cheese

1. Combine sour cream and adobo sauce in a small bowl.

2. Place beans in a medium bowl; partially mash beans with a fork. Stir in breadcrumbs and next 7 ingredients (through egg white). With floured hands, divide pea mixture into 4 equal portions, shaping each portion into a 1/2-inch-thick patty.

3. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add patties to pan; cook 2 minutes on each side or until golden and thoroughly heated. Remove from pan; top each cake with 1 tablespoon cheese. Serve with sour cream mixture.

And, by the way, happy World Vegetarian Day! :)

I will post our vegetarian dinner tomorrow, if it passes The Test. And if I can still type from another day of scraping paint.