Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Mother's Day (and Multi-Grain Bread)

Occasionally, I disappear… :) But I have now returned. Perhaps I shouldn’t promise myself that I will write a blog post every day. Or, actually, put any sort of time frame at all on my posts. I’ve never been one to do well on a deadline, particularly a self-imposed deadline!

I am finally getting things accomplished around the house and why, every darn spring, is it a surprise to me how much my back can ache after a day working outside? But it is quite satisfying to look around and actually see some sort of order appearing out of the chaos of weeds, and that is what keeps me going.

This past Sunday was Mother’s Day, and it was a beautiful one. I had spent the previous day scooping dead leaves, muck, and fish poo from the goldfish pond (who says life isn’t fun???) and was a little sore from all of the bending which that particular job entails. I woke a little after 7:30 and decided to stay in bed a little longer than usual. Jack, ever agreeable, promptly fell back asleep. However, after a few minutes, a paw was laid on my arm. I opened my eyes and Spooky was lying beside me, staring. He has such gorgeous eyes. I mumbled something about being a nice kitty, stroked his ears a couple of times, and fell asleep. For another minute. The paw was moved, he was almost “tapping” on my arm. Over and over. I opened my eyes again and he was still staring, and this time imparted a soft little trilling noise. Sigh. Spooky is a creature of habit, even more so than any other cat we have ever had, and he wanted his breakfast. In bed. As usual.

I should explain, before you all think that I am too crazy (too late, you say?).

For the past 5 years, Spooky has been eating a special veterinarian-prescribed diet because he has kidney issues. Fortunately, this has not worsened too much, but I try to get as much canned (wet) food into him as possible while leaving some dry food for him to munch on (to clean his teeth). It seems as though the best opportunity to get a quantity of canned food into the little cat is first thing in the morning, and that has become our routine. I go downstairs around 7:30, whirl some canned food with extra water in the mini-processor, and warm it a bit. Then I take it back upstairs and feed Spooky breakfast in bed.

Whoops, I may have overstepped that “too crazy” line…

So, on Mother’s Day morning, the schedule continues. Not that I actually expected breakfast in bed, mind you! But it was time, and he wanted his breakfast. :)

And, later that morning, he gave me a lovely foxglove plant to thank me for my catering to his every need and desire.

Looks a little unenthusiastic, doesn’t he?

To tie the following recipe in with the Mother's Day theme, I will mention that my Mom is a great cook and a wonderful baker. She learned from the best, my Gram. And Mom gave me all kinds of leeway in the kitchen once I began showing an interest. Mom turned 74 a couple of months ago and her daily schedule tires me. She walks outside, weather permitting, a couple of miles a day and when it's nasty out she uses her treadmill. She is willing and enthusiastic to care for any ill grandchild at a moment's notice while the parents go to work. The flower beds and hanging baskets around the house are beautiful; she and Dad do all of the outside work themselves (he has a large veggie garden and some fruit trees). At least two days a week there is someone else at the dinner table, a grandchild or two or one of my siblings who worked late and just needed a good, Mom-cooked meal; on Tuesdays she makes a huge pasta dinner and any or all are invited (most times, most of them will show up!). Unless it's high summer and too sweltering to cook, whenever we visit and I walk in the house there are wonderful cooking-smells emanating from the kitchen and, walking in to that room, I will find at least one baked dessert. Usually two. Or perhaps three. Plus fresh-baked bread or rolls. And Christmas and Easter? Don't get me started, you'll only become very, very hungry!

Is there any question from where I have acquired my enjoyment from being in a kitchen?

And now to a recipe. I have been working on this bread recipe all winter and have finally, almost consistently, been pleased with the results so I am going to post.

* Exported from MasterCook *

Multi-Grain Bread

Recipe By: Vicci

Servings: 28

Amount Measure Ingredient -- Preparation Method

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

2 cups white whole wheat flour

4 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast

1 1/3 cups bread flour

1 cup regular oats

1/2 cup unprocessed wheat bran

1/3 cup oat bran

1/3 cup toasted wheat germ

2 tablespoons wheat gluten

2 teaspoons salt

1 3/4 cups skim milk

1/4 cup molasses -- or honey

3 tablespoons olive oil

In a large mixer bowl, combine 2 cups of white whole wheat flour and yeast. Attach the bowl and the paddle attachment.

In a separate mixing bowl, combine the bread flour through the salt and set aside.

Heat the skim milk through the olive oil to 115F-120F.

With the machine running at low speed, add the liquid ingredients to the yeast/flour mixture and continue to mix for 1 minute, scraping bowl. Turn the speed of the mixer to high and beat for 2 more minutes. Turn the speed to medium and slowly add the bread flour mixture until it is incorporated. Turn off the mixer, cover the bowl loosely with a towel, and allow to rest for 10 minutes.

Remove the towel and turn the mixer to low, adding more bread flour until a ball forms on the paddle (this may be 1/4 to 1/2 cup, depending on the humidity in the kitchen). Change to the dough hook and knead for 8 minutes, or until smooth and elastic (adding more flour if necessary). Transfer dough to a board which has been lightly dusted with flour and knead by hand for 2 minutes.

Place dough in an oiled bowl, turning to oil the top of the dough ball. Cover with plastic and raise for 1-1/2 hours. Punch down, divide into 2 equal pieces and form each into a log. Place each in a 8"x 4"x2" bread pan which has been coated with cooking spray. Cover with plastic wrap and raise for about an hour, or until dough is doubled and above the pan rim (about an hour).

Remove plastic from each loaf, spray with cooking spray, and bake in a preheated 375F oven for 26-30 minutes (you may want to place a sheet of foil loosely over the pans for the last 15 minutes or so of baking to prevent over-browning.

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

Per serving: 145 Calories (kcal); 3g Total Fat; (15% calories from fat); 4g Fiber; 6g Protein; 26g Carbohydrate; trace Cholesterol; 164mg Sodium

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

Okay, I am now going to post about a total failure. I made the above bread recipe a couple of weeks ago and forgot to add salt. That’s it—only forgot the salt. And how horrible it turned out! Not being one to waste food, we struggled through the first loaf then I realized that I just had to make more. I sliced the non-salt loaf and placed in the freezer. Maybe the ducks will eat it. Or not.

Anyway, it seems as though simply forgetting to add one ingredient turned that lovely loaf pictured above into this mess:

Can you believe the difference between these loaves, and could it be just because I didn't use salt? But I went through the preparation and ingredients over and over and the only differences between the loaf of bread pictured above and that which accompanies the recipe is that I used honey and no salt in the nasty-looking (and not too much better tasting) loaf and molasses and salt in the improved version.

Go figure. I'd ask Mom but, even though we've talked for a total of over two hours during the past 3 days, I haven't remembered yet.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Red Curry Soup with Rice Stick Noodles

I am sitting here in our screened-in porch, typing on my laptop, because the weather is awfully hot and humid for early May. And typical for spring weather here, the highs this weekend are expected to be only in the mid-50’s. Ping-pong weather.

Late this morning I went out for a run and, with sensory delights surrounding me, I went further than anticipated because it was just so lovely to be outside. Wild honeysuckle is blooming in the fields and the air is heavy with that delicious, sweet scent which was intensified with today’s warmth. The colors of spring are so vibrant they almost hurt my eyes to look at them, especially all of the newly-leafed trees wearing their light green foliage (and the white honeysuckle blossoms, and the pink honeysuckle, and the purple-leaf plum trees in our yard, and the bright crimson new growth on the pieris—it’s a color-wheel around here!). The sun is out, the sky is a bright blue, and only my aching back finally forced me to stop and come in. I love spring. I love, love, love spring!

And, really, I love any form of exercise which I enjoy so much that I actually look forward to doing it. During the entire month of April, my runs were sporadic. And I was grumpy (well, perhaps not running wasn’t the only reason for that!). Now I am going out regularly and I feel so much better. Those endorphins are pumpin’ along, making life in this household a happy one, indeed!

It’s difficult to do so today, but I now have to reach back to two whole weeks ago, to when it was chilly and rainy. And for lunch I made a wonderful soup to warm us.

From the recent issue of Cuisine At Home, Red Curry Soup with Rice Stick Noodles was a winner. We both enjoy the flavor and heat of curry, and this soup certainly fit the bill on that particular day. Delicious!

I made a few changes. Because I didn’t have green pepper, I used red bell pepper. To up the veggies, I added chopped baby spinach. And I also added some minced garlic and used some chicken stock I had on hand in place of half of the water.

The recipe calls for coconut milk and, well, we just don’t do the full-fat coconut milk for obvious reasons. I subbed about half of the amount of light coconut milk, and the remaining was skim milk. This kept a rather “creamy” texture while keeping the fat count low. Of course, if you do this it is necessary to add a “coconut punch” by stirring in some coconut extract at the end (because the flavor of extracts tend to cook away if added too soon in the recipe).

Using a nonstick pan and only 2 teaspoons of oil, plus the changes to the coconut milk as described above, netted a decrease in fat from 25 to 8 grams per serving an, more importantly, a decrease from 19 to 3 grams of saturated fat.

These changes are noted below in bold italic:

* Exported from MasterCook *

Red Curry Soup with Rice Stick Noodles

Recipe adapted from Cuisine at Home

Servings : 4

Amount Measure Ingredient -- Preparation Method

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

12 ounces boneless skinless chicken breast halves -- cut into bite-size pieces

1 tablespoon canola oil (2 teaspoons)

1 cup water

1 cup low-sodium chicken broth

1 cup coconut milk (1/2 cup light coconut milk)

2/3 cup skim milk

3 teaspoons red curry paste

1 tablespoon fish sauce

1 cup green bell pepper -- very thinly slices (used red bell)

3 ounces chopped fresh spinach

2 ounces rice stick noodles – broken (I used 3 ounces)

1/2 teaspoon coconut extract

1 small lime -- cut into wedges (optional)

2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro -- (optional)

Season chicken pieces with s&p.

Heat oil in a large nonstick saucepan over medium-high heat. Add chicken to the pan and sauté until browned, 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic, stir for 30 seconds.

Add water and coconut milk, bring to a boil. In a small cup, mis the curry paste and about 2 tablespoons of water. Add the curry paste slowly to the soup, stirring well to incorporate, and tasting occasionally (because this stuff is spicy!). Stir in fish sauce and simmer 2-3 minutes.

Add bell pepper, spinach, and noodles and turn up the heat a bit to bring the soup to a boil. Turn the heat down to simmer and cook, stirring, frequently, until the noodles are softened, 3-4 minutes.

Serve with lime wedges and chopped cilantro, if desired.

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

Per serving: 373 Calories (kcal); 25g Total Fat (19g saturated); 23g Protein; 16g Carbohydrate; 49mg Cholesterol; 513mg Sodium

Nutritional values using my options:

Per serving: 198 Calories (kcal); 8g Total Fat (3g saturated); (32% calories from fat); 26g Protein; 11g Carbohydrate; 51mg Cholesterol; 121mg Sodium

And a free preparation tip! :)

Place the rice noodles in a large plastic bag, close it, then break the noodles into pieces. WAY less of a mess to clean up afterward!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Chile-Honey-Glazed Salmon

Last night I tried one of the very few new recipes that I made during the past month or so. I wanted salmon, we try to eat it at least once a week, and this recipe which I adapted from the May issue of Food and Wine was no less than incredibly delicious.

Chile-Honey-Glazed Salmon with Two Sauces was altered a bit to have only one sauce, and I cheated a bit on this because of time constraints.

After his first bite, Jack asked “so, why would you make salmon any other way?”, and I felt compelled to reply with the names of several other salmon recipes which we enjoy and are on a regular rotation. He agreed, but said that I was to make this one often.

As for the recipe, I wonder why a serving is to be 8 ounces of salmon? That is simply too much. A serving is supposed to be 4 ounces, but I stretch it to 6 ounces for Jack, usually. Too many calories, and even though salmon has those wonderful Omega 3 fats, too much of those as well.

The original recipe is as follows:

Chile-Honey-Glazed Salmon with Two Sauces

F&W May 2010


  1. 1 pound tomatillos, husked
  2. 1 red onion, coarsely chopped
  3. 8 garlic cloves, 2 chopped
  4. 2 large jalapeños, stemmed
  5. 1/4 cup canola oil, plus more for brushing
  6. Salt and freshly ground pepper
  7. 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
  8. 1/4 cup chopped cilantro, plus sprigs for garnish
  9. 1/4 cup honey
  10. 1 canned chipotle in adobo, chopped
  11. 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  12. One 19-ounce can black beans with their liquid
  13. 1 1/2 teaspoons pure ancho chile powder
  14. 1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  15. Four 8-ounce center-cut salmon fillets, with skin
  16. Sour cream, for serving


  1. Preheat the oven to 375°. Spread the tomatillos on a roasting pan along with half of the onion, the 6 whole garlic cloves and the jalapeños. Toss with 2 tablespoons of the oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast for about 35 minutes, until tender.
  2. Transfer the vegetables to a blender and puree until smooth. Add the lime juice, chopped cilantro and 2 tablespoons of the honey and pulse to blend. Season the tomatillo salsa with salt and pepper and transfer to a bowl. Rinse out the blender.
  3. In a medium saucepan, heat another 2 tablespoons of the oil. Add the chipotle, cumin, chopped garlic and the remaining onion and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the onion is softened, about 5 minutes. Add the beans with their liquid and 1/4 cup of water and cook over low heat for 15 minutes. Transfer the black bean mixture to the blender and puree until smooth. Season the sauce with salt.
  4. Light a grill or preheat a grill pan. In a small bowl, combine the remaining 2 tablespoons of honey with the ancho chile powder and mustard and season with salt. Brush the salmon with oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill the fish skin side down over moderately high heat until very crisp, about 3 minutes. Cook the fish on the remaining 3 sides just until lightly charred, 3 minutes longer. Brush the salmon with the chile-honey glaze and grill skin side up until lightly caramelized, 2 minutes.
  5. Spoon the tomatillo salsa on plates and top with the salmon. Garnish with sour cream and the cilantro sprigs and serve with the black bean sauce.

Okay, it looks like a great recipe should you decide to make the 2 sauces and the jalapeno crema. However, I had neither the time nor the tomatillos, so here is my version. I served it with grilled zucchini planks (brushed with some of the glaze) and a mixed-grain pilaf.

* Exported from MasterCook *

Chili-Honey-Glazed Salmon

Adapted from F&W

Servings: 2

Amount Measure Ingredient -- Preparation Method

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

1/2 cup salsa verde (I used Trader Joe's -- (I used Trader Joe's brand and drained it a little before measuring)

1 tablespoon finely chopped white onion

1 tablespoon lime juice

1/2 tablespoon honey -- divided

1 small garlic clove -- crushed

1 teaspoon hot sauce

chopped cilantro to taste

1 tablespoon honey

3/4 teaspoon ancho chili powder

3/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard

10 ounces salmon fillet -- wild preferred, skin on

1 tablespoon light sour cream

1 1/2 tablespoons skim milk

Mix the salsa verde through the cilantro in a small bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside

In a small bowl, combine the 1 tablespoon of honey with the ancho chile powder and mustard and season with salt. Set aside

Spray both sides of the salmon with cooking spray and season with salt and pepper. Grill the fish skin side down over moderately high heat until very crisp, about 3 minutes. Turn the fish, use a metal spatula to remove the skin, and cook for 2 minutes. Carefully spray the salmon with cooking spray and turn once more. Brush the salmon heavily with the chile-honey glaze and grill for 2-3 minutes, or until fish is opaque.

While the salmon cooks, mix sour cream and skim milk in a small cup. Set aside.

Divide salsa between 2 plates. Break fillet in two pieces and place a piece on each plate, on top of the tomatillo salsa. Drizzle with sour cream mixture, garnish with cilantro leaves.

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

Per serving: 225 Calories (kcal); 5g Total Fat (1g Saturated); (20% calories from fat); 29g Protein; 15g Carbohydrate; 74mg Cholesterol; 189mg Sodium

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

And an additional note: If you don’t have time to make the salsa, the glazed salmon would be quite good by itself.

I really would like to try the tomatillo salsa made the way directed (I love roasting tomatillos over charcoal, it provides an amazing flavor!) so I'll put this recipe in my file to try when my tomatillos in the garden are ripe (provided I can actually find time to plant them...).

Weird spacing and other stuff happening here, and I have no idea why... sorry!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

DIY Pasta Salad

Yesterday was an absolutely beautiful day. Sunny, 80 degrees, a harbinger of summer to come, perhaps?!

I’ve been neglecting everything around the farm as we spent the entire month of April getting Jack’s mom moved and accustomed to her new apartment. Yes, I know that it sounds like an unusually long period of time to do those things, but she needed a lot of adjusting. Happily, all of our efforts have paid off and now our lives are going to return to a more normal schedule. I hope.

Yesterday I went outside and looked around, overwhelmed. But I am older (alas) and wiser and realized that I simply will not be able to jump right back into the outdoor chores (in addition to the indoor ones). So I spent a little over two hours weeding. That certainly was enough for the first day!

For lunch, I made my favorite “quick pasta salad”. No, there is not a recipe. I see what veggies I have, maybe add a little grilled chicken or other meat if I have it, and go from there.

This is also a favorite lunch when we go to hockey games (which we have been doing lately—go Pens!). Because we eat dinner at a restaurant before the game, I try to make a low-calorie, lowfat, veggie-heavy lunch to “make up” for what I have at dinner. Friends we sit with usually order a huge appetizer to share, and it’s comprised of fried things (onion rings, zucchini planks, mozzarella sticks… you get the idea) and, well, I’m not made of stone so I usually indulge a little. Then I order the “best” entrée that I can, but no matter what I choose, it isn’t as “healthy” as I would like.

The pasta salad. I cooked 5 ounces of spirals and, when there was 2 minutes left (according to the package cooking instructions), I tossed in a sliced carrot. After a minute, I added a half of a red bell pepper, cut into short strips, and boiled for one more minute. I placed a couple of handfuls of fresh baby spinach (chopped) into a strainer then drained the pasta and veggies over it. I waited for a half minute (enough for the hot mixture to wilt the spinach), poured ice water over it all, then turned this into a bigger strainer and tossed until the spinach was “unclumped”. Ten minutes later, I added some prepared Penzey’s Country French Vinaigrette dressing (made with a little less oil than called for on the package). The flavors melded for 15 minutes, then I added

sliced chicken sausage, minced onion, and some grated Locatelli romano cheese.

It was a great lunch. And quick.

I was using up some “veggie spirals” I found in my mother-in-law’s apartment while clearing out the cabinets, but I usually make wheat pasta (penne, spirals, whatever). Any vegetables on hand will do, just cook them enough to soften a bit, adding the “hardest” veggies first to the boiling water. This way, the asparagus and broccoli will be firm as well as the softer bell peppers and snow peas. Cooking less also means retaining more vitamins. And since spinach really only needs to be wilted a bit, all it needs is a splash of boiling water as the pasta is drained over it.

I sometimes like to add chickpeas, or black beans, to the pasta salad instead of chicken. And I vary the type of cheese as well- Parmesan, reduced-fat feta, lowfat cheddar, etc.

Even though Jack prefers hot meals (that spoiled man), I work this salad in to the menu one or two times a week for lunch in warmer weather. If I plan a “big” day outside, I will prep the pasta salad ahead of time and refrigerate it until lunchtime, because it holds well for several hours.

Although I would not have believed it would ever come three months ago, spring must be here because I’m making pasta salad again! :)