During December 2011, I experienced 3 gallbladder attacks within a week and a half. Although I don't think my diet was THAT bad before this happened, I decided after the third one to drastically alter my eating habits. So, for at least the next couple of months (until my baby comes), my goal is to seek out and share low-fat, high fiber, and low-sugar recipes. I figured as long as I was figuring things out for myself and my family, I may as well share what's working!

June 23, 2010

Buttermilk Corn Muffins: Updated

When I was pregnant with Clayton last year, I had a hankering for corn bread one evening.  I decided that the people who make corn meal are probably a pretty good resource for corn bread, and I gave the recipe on the box a try.  And we haven't looked back once.

If you like a savory, dense cornbread, then keep looking.  This cornbread is moist and sweet--in fact, we sometimes call it corn cake because of the sweetness and texture.

Sweet Buttermilk Corn Bread
(Adapted from the side panel of Alber's Corn Meal)
Makes 1 8x8 pan

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup cornmeal (white or yellow)
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/4 cup milk
2 large eggs, slightly beaten
1/3 cup vegetable oil
3 Tbls butter, melted

Combine flour, sugar, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt in medium bowl.  In small bowl, combine milk, eggs, oil, and butter.  Stir wet ingredients into dry ingredients just until moistened.  Pour into greased baking pan.

Bake 35 min. at 350 degrees or until toothpick comes out clean.

NOTES: Sometimes, I substitute brown sugar for 1/2 of the sugar.  Changes the flavor just a bit.  And, I usually sift my flour through a mesh strainer.  That disintigrates any flour lumps.  One more thing--this is a quick bread.  You don't want to overmix it.  (See my explanation in "Banana Crumb Muffins".)  For muffins, reduce baking time to about 20 min.  It makes about 12.

Extra Notes: (July 6, 2010) Recently, I adapted this recipe to use buttermilk.  It is HEAVENLY!  It makes the texture so much lighter and fluffier.  You would seriously be missing out if you didn't try it!  BUT--if you want to make it with plain milk, omit the baking soda and increase the baking powder to 1 Tbls.

June 21, 2010

Father's Day: 3 recipes in one

I am going to start this post with an apology.  By the time we served dinner on Father's Day, I was too hungry to take a pic.  So, you are just going to have to use your imagination with this one...

Originally, Ryan was planning to make a smoked brisket for Father's Day.  I was all for it.  Less planning and work on my part.  However, when we saw that the weather was going to be rainy and cold all weekend, we scrapped that idea.  Instead, Ryan requested the following:

Pot roast with carrots and onions
Mashed potatoes and gravy
Steamed broccoli

Yellow cake with strawberries and cream

(OK--I decided to have mashed potatoes and jello.  It just went!)
(The explanation paragraphs are color coded to match the colored items on the menu.)

I was reminded that just before we moved, my friend Anna Marie made us pot roast for dinner one evening.  It was seriously the BEST pot roast I had ever tasted and I demanded her recipe.  Turns out it was Pioneer Woman's Pot Roast.  So, that's where I went for Ryan's roast.  Because I forgot to add beef broth to my grocery list, I used 2 cans of chicken broth with 3 beef bullion cubes.  (Again. Has anyone else realized yet that these things are more the norm than the exception?)  I have to say, though, it was still absolutely fabulous.  This recipe has become my absolute favorite Sunday Roast recipe.

And, going back to the whole forgetfulness thing, I'll tell you about our Father's Day jello.  We painted our kitchen (red, of course) on Saturday.  Since it was drying overnight, we had a lot to put away on Sunday morning.  Between assembling the kitchen, getting all 5 of us ready for church, and prepping food, we had a very busy morning.  And, I didn't get a ton of time to prep food prior to our 11 o'clock church meeting.  I made our "Tropical Fusion" jello and put it in the fridge to wait for the pineapple tidbits and chopped maraschino cherries to go in.  When we got home from church, I realized that I had forgotten to stir the fruit into the jello.  By that time, the jello was completely set.  Instead of serving the fruit on top, I broke up the smooth, solid jello and stirred in the fruit bits.  And then I prepared a small box of peach jello (what I had on hand) according to the "Speed Set" directions, then stirred it into the Tropical Fusion and fruit.  By dinner time, the jello was set beautifully--once again smooth and beautiful.  The flavors blended perfectly and it was quite tasty.

OK. Last one. I love watching Alton Brown.  And I consider it quite fortunate that I happened to catch his "Gold Cake" episode sometime last week.  When it came time to make Ryan's yellow cake, I knew I had to give Alton's recipe a try.  Ryan described the cake as "Alton Inspired" because I had to make a few subs.  First of all, I didn't have an accurate kitchen scale.  So, I wasn't able to weigh the ingredients.  Secondly, I didn't have cake flour.  I subbed all-purpose flour. (1 cup cake flour = 1 cup minus 2 Tbls AP flour)  And thirdly, I eyeballed the vanilla and accidentally added way too much.  This being said, it was not my favorite yellow cake.  I thought the butter flavored shortening and too much vanilla gave it an artificial flavor.  And it was a little dry and not very sweet.  Next time, I think I'll switch back to "David's Yellow Cake" from allrecipes.com.  That's my favorite so far.

There you have it.  I hope your Father's Day was as tasty as ours was!

June 18, 2010

Carb Loading: Pasta with Creamy Bacon and Pea Sauce

Now that Ryan's marathon is in a little over a week, I've finally put myself together enough to post Carb Loading on Friday!  Tonight will be my last Friday night pasta for a while.  Next week, Ryan's brother is making his delicious lasagna for the pre-marathon meal.  We're looking forward to that!  And then there will be no more need to carb load the night before long Saturday morning runs.  (Which I'm OK with--the whole pasta every Friday night is starting to get a little too routine for my culinary tastes.)

On to the recipe.  This recipe sounds AMAZING.  And that's what I thought when I bookmarked it.  And, that's what my father-in-law said when he read the recipe sitting on my counter.  In reality, it wasn't amazing.  I'm not sure why.  It could have easily been my techniques or substitutions, but something about it just didn't jive well for us.  I'm not saying it was gross.  (I wouldn't post a gross recipe on here.)  But, it just wasn't anything to write home about.  And that, my friends, is the entire point of this blog.  We tried something new and decided it just wasn't our thing.  However, it might be your thing.  Let me know if it is.

Pasta with Creamy Bacon and Pea Sauce
(Adapted from Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution Cookbook)
Serves 4

1 lb. small shaped pasta
1-2 Tbls olive oil
1-2 Tbls butter
10 slices bacon or pancetta, cut into short thin strips
2 cups frozen peas
2 heaping Tbls creme fraiche
1 small bunch mint, finely chopped
salt and pepper
juice of one lemon
6 oz. parmesan cheese

Boil a large pot of well-salted water.  Add pasta.  While pasta is cooking, melt olive oil and butter in saute pan; add bacon and cook until crispy.  Add peas; stir to combine and let peas defrost a little.  Add mint and creme fraiche; stir until creme fraiche is melted and peas are coated.  Drain pasta; add to pea mixture.  Pour lemon juice over top and stir well to combine.  Top with parmesan cheese and serve.

NOTES: OK--so I think that our rejection of this dish was probably based on my substitutions.  I have a Costco-sized bag of bacon bits.  They are useful and add great flavor to so many foods.  I didn't want to have to use bacon when the bits, (some of which are just fat), would do just fine.  So, I used those instead.  I let them cook in the oil/butter for a few minutes.  It improved their texture and released some flavor.  But, it didn't release much of the grease.

I also didn't happen to have creme fraiche.  And, I couldn't find it at my local grocery.  I'm sure I could have tried another store--but trucking 3 kids into another store wasn't worth the possibility of creme fraiche.  I already had low-fat sour cream, so I used about 1/3 cup of that instead.  In hindsight, I probably should have added a little milk to make it more of a sauce than just a coating.

And, apparently, not finding certain ingredients is the story of my life.  I couldn't find the fresh mint either. I used dried--although the fresh probably would have improved the taste.

June 16, 2010

Chocolate Cobbler

A couple of weeks ago, I was in the mood to make a Sunday evening dessert.  I was all set for something cinnamon-y or almond-y, but my normally sugar-shy husband requested something chocolate-y.  For once in my life, I wasn't in the mood for chocolate.  But, since Ryan rarely requests the stuff, I obliged.  I scanned my "Try It Out" folder and saw that I had all of the ingredients on hand for this one.  This chocolate cobbler is just right--a little cake, a little fudge sauce, and a lot of deliciousness.

(Apparently, I didn't take a picture of this one after it was served.)

Chocolate Cobbler
Makes 1 8x8 pan

1 cup flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
7 Tbls cocoa powder, divided
1 1/4 cup sugar, divided
1/2 cup milk
1/3 cup melted butter
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 1/2 cup hot tap water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In medium bowl, add flour, baking powder, salt, 3 Tbls cocoa, and 3/4 cup white sugar.  Mix well.  Add milk, melted butter, and vanilla.  Stir until smooth; pour into ungreased 8 in. baking dish.

In small bowl, combine 1/2 cup white sugar, brown sugar, and 4 Tbls cocoa.  Sprinkle mixture evenly over batter.  Pour hot tap water over all.  DO NOT STIR!!

Bake for about 40 min. or until center is set.  Remove from oven; let sit for 5-10 min. before serving.

NOTES:  I didn't change one thing on this!  I will say, it's hard to tell when the center is set.  After all, it's a solid over a not-quite-solid.  So, use your best judgement, but don't overcook it.  And, really, if it's undercooked, I doubt you'd know.  By the way, the sauce is really great over ice cream.

June 14, 2010

Cassoulet for Today

I realize that just about everywhere else in the country, you are in the thick of summer.  Well, here in the Pacific Northwest, I'm starting to wonder if summer will ever appear.  The highs are still in the 60's, (if we're lucky), and pants and a light jacket are still necessary most days.  While I can't wait to heap on the summer grillin' and salads, the weather here feels more like fall at the moment.  So, when I found this recipe in my recent Taste of Home, it fit the weather and my taste.

I could not get enough of this dish!  Seriously.  It was a little more time-consuming than other recipes, but OH MY GOODNESS!  This was completely worth a little extra work.

Cassoulet for Today
(Adapted from Taste of Home, April/May 2010)

6 boneless skinless chicken thighs
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. coarsly ground pepper
1 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced, divided
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes
1 bay leaf
1/4 tsp. dried rosemary
1/4 tsp. dried thyme
2 cans (15 oz. each) cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1/4 lb. turkey kielbasa, chopped
1/4 cup real bacon pieces
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley

Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper.  Brown chicken in 2 tsp. oil in skillet.  Remove chicken to medium casserole dish.

In same pan, saute onion in remaining oil until tender.  Add 1 clove garlic; cook 1 min. longer.  Add broth, stirring to loosen browned bits from pan.  Stir in tomatoes, bay leaf, rosemary, and thyme; bring to boil.  Pour over chicken; cover and bake at 325 degrees for 30 min.  Add beans and kielbasa; cover and bake 20-25 min. or until chicken is tender.  Discard bay leaf.  Stir in bacon.

Combine bread crumbs, parsley, and remaining garlic; sprinkle over cassoulet.  Broil 3-4 inches from heat for 2-3 min. or until golden brown.

NOTES: The original recipe calls for fresh herbs.  But, since I rarely have those, I used the dried versions instead.  It also tells you to stir in the bacon at the end--but you might find, as I did, that it's nearly impossible to stir.  So, I just sprinkled mine over the top.  And, finally, I served mine with cornbread, (recipe coming soon!).

June 8, 2010

Sweet and Spicy Chicken

Now that I've been keeping up with this blog for...what?...2 weeks now, I feel like I'm starting to say the same things over and over about recipes.  Here's the form, in case you haven't caught on:

I wanted to try this recipe.  We liked it.  Hope you like it, too.

I really need to change things up a little.  Well, I'll start off by saying that last week, a few days after I made this chicken, my husband took the leftovers to work for lunch.  (He was eating it on a salad.  Have I mentioned that my husband has lost 30 lbs. in the past few months?  He has.  Maybe I should eat more salads for lunch.) 

Anyway...when he got home that night, he said, "Have you blogged about that chicken yet?  Because you need to tell them it's not that great."  You have to understand, my husband has, (in the past year or so), gotten a little more into barbecuing. While he's certainly not a pro (yet), he now actually cares about the spices on the meat. So, in his amatuer barbecuer opinion, this spice rub was only alright--really nothing special.

Really?  Could I post about something that was only mediocre in his opinion?  To be quite honest, I thought it was fine.  Sure it wasn't anything out of the ordinary, but as an easy weeknight meal, I thought it was good.  After this kind of an introduction, I'm sure you're chomping at the bit to get it on your grill.  Well, without further ado, here is the recipe.  (Which I found at realmomkitchen.com, and she got from Simple and Delicious.)

Sweet and Spicy Chicken
5 servings

2 Tbls brown sugar
1 Tbls paprika
2 tsp onion powder
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp chili powder
5 boneless skinless chicken breast halves (6 ounces each)

Combine spices.  Rub on chicken.  Grill until chicken is no longer pink inside.

NOTES: I have no notes on this one.  Can you believe it?  I had all of the ingredients on hand...and there's not a ton to adjust on this recipe without completely changing it.

June 7, 2010

Banana Crumb Muffins

Bananas are a popular item in our home.  In fact, we usually buy 2 Costco bunches each week.  And, with as many as we actually eat, there are always a few that don't make it to the end of the week.  Because of this, I'm always in the market for a good overripe-banana recipe.  A few Sundays ago, my extra time coincided with a few overripe bananas.  So, I hopped on allrecipes.com and found this deliciousness. 

These muffins had a great topping.  And, the inside of the muffin was totally moist.  They were even moist and delicious the next day!

Banana Crumb Muffins
12 muffins

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 bananas, mashed
3/4 cup white sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/3 cup butter, melted
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
2 Tbls all-purpose flour
1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
1 Tbls butter

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Lightly grease (or line with paper) 12 muffin cups.

In large bowl, mix together first 4 ingredients.  In another bowl, mix bananas, white sugar, egg, and melted butter.  Add the banana mixture to the flour mixture just until moistened.  Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups.

In small bowl, mix the brown sugar, 2 Tbls flour, and cinnamon.  Cut in 1 Tbls butter until mixture resembles coarse cornmeal.  Sprinkle topping over muffin batter.

Bake for 18-20 min, or until toothpick inserted near center comes out clean.

NOTES: When I was in college, I took a "Family Cooking" kind of class.  It wasn't as in depth as culinary school would have been, but I did learn a few tricks of the trade.  One of these tricks involved quick breads, which are made with baking powder instead of yeast.  (Examples are pancakes, muffins, banana-type breads...) 

Whenever you are making a quick bread, you should mix your wet and dry ingredients separately.  After you add them together, you should mix only until the dry ingredients are moistened.  Mixing too much causes the gluten in the flour to develop, which creates a more dense structure.  The leavening power in baking powder can't compete with the strands of gluten and you end up with a dense, rubbery quick texture.

In the past, some of my quick breads have ended up with lumps of flour and/or baking soda in the batter.  If you've ever taken a bite with a lump like that, you know it's not a pleasant experience.  I have found that sifting my dry ingredients through a mesh strainer into the wet ingredients helps avoid this problem.

Carb Loading: Muffaletta Pasta

I have had this recipe in my Favorites for a while now.  I would visit it every so often on the Taste of Home website and then decide not to make it.  Since we're eating mandatory pasta once a week, I've been pulling all of the pasta recipes on my list.  We've had tomato based pasta for the last few weeks, so I wanted to try something different last Friday.

I love this picture because you can see all of the different colors of the ingredients.  This was very tasty!  Even my husband, who is NOT a fan of olives, liked it.  (He liked it so much that he ate some of the leftovers the next day!)  But, really, with a butter and cream sauce, how can it not be tasty?

Muffaletta Pasta
8 servings

1 package (16 ounces) bow tie pasta
1 bunch green onions, chopped
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 teaspoons plus 1/4 cup butter, divided
1 package (16 ounces) cubed fully cooked ham
1 jar (12.36 ounces) tapenade or ripe olive bruschetta topping, drained
1 package (3-1/2 ounces) sliced pepperoni
1 cup heavy whipping cream
2 cups (8 ounces) shredded Italian cheese blend
Cook pasta according to package directions. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, saute onions and garlic in 2 teaspoons butter until tender. Add the ham, tapenade and pepperoni; saute 2 minutes longer. Cube remaining butter; stir butter and cream into skillet. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, for 3 minutes.

Drain pasta; toss with ham mixture. Sprinkle with cheese.
NOTES: I used turkey pepperoni.  You know, to save a few calories. *wink*  Honestly, in a recipe like this, I don't think it matters much.  But the turkey kind was on sale.  So that's what I got.  Also, I didn't buy pre-cubed packaged ham.  I had some leftover ham in my freezer--so I cubed it myself.
I spent 10 minutes looking for tapenade at my usual grocery store.  I looked near the pickles, near the mayo, near the cheese, near the deli...and never could find it.  I was just going to add chopped olives.  But, I ended up going back to a different store before I made this.  I was almost immediately successful at locating the tapenade.  BUT, it was $9 for about a cup.  There was NO WAY I was paying that much for chopped up olives.  Instead, I bought a can of chopped black olives and a jar of green olives and attempted my own tapenade using a little lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and garlic.  It turned out great!
As far as the cheese goes, I put the pasta in a big bowl and sprinkled the cheese on top.  Between the time I put it on the table and we ate, the cheese melted and cooled a bit on the top.  Next time, I would put the cheese in a bowl on the table and add it to the individual portions. 
Would I make this again?  For the taste, YES.  It was good!  The one thing that would hold me back is the cream sauce.  So, this one will have to wait for some special occasion to make another appearance.

June 2, 2010

Black Bean Pizza Burgers

I love foodgawker.com.  I head over there almost daily and check out the lastest thing in food blogging.  Sometimes I go for the humor of the situation, "The BEST Tofu Cookies EVER!"  (OK--I just made that up.  But if you're a Gawker, then you know it could be true.)  And you can always see what's going around--like Macarons.  (Must have perfect feet.  Thanks to foodgawker, I know what that means.  And maybe someday I'll give them a try.)  Usually I see the site as a thrift store of recipes.  There are a lot of treasures in there.  You just have to sift through them and pick out the gems.  This recipe was one of those gems!

My husband is TRULY a meat and potatoes kind of guy.  So, when I introduced the idea of black bean burgers (a LONG time ago), he balked at the idea.  But lately, health and physique have come more into play and Ryan has grown a little more adventurous.  Thus, black bean burgers made it onto our weekly menu last week.  The general consensus was that they were tasty and definitely a meal we would eat again! 

Black Bean Pizza Burgers
(Original recipe at feaston.wordpress.com)
4 burgers

1 can of black beans (16 oz., rinsed and drained)

1/2 green pepper, roughly chopped
1/2 onion, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 egg
2 tsp. Italian seasoning
Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup bread crumbs
Oil for cooking (Very small amount)
Burger buns
Provolone cheese
Pasta/pizza sauce
Basil leaves (optional)

Put black beans in large bowl and mash. Pulse green pepper, onion, and garlic in food processor.  Be careful not to overdo it. Add to beans; mix well.

In a small bowl, blend egg and seasonings. Add egg and bread crumbs to bean mixture. Mix until all elements are well incorporated.  Heat a little oil in a large skillet. Shape mixture into 4 patties; cook in oil until outside is crisp and patties are cooked through, (2-3 min. each side).  Place cooked patties on plate lined with paper towels, (This makes them sound greasy.  They're not.)

To assemble: Place patty on toasted bun, top with cheese, tomato slices, and basil leaves.  Enjoy!

NOTES: From the original recipe, it seemed like the bean mixture should be pretty dry by the time you're making it into patties.  I think I over-processed my peppers and onions, so mine was still a bit moist and sticky.  I separated my mixture into four sections and then didn't make them into a patty shape until I placed them in the pan.  I cooked 2 at a time because I didn't have a pan large enough for all 4 at once.  Once they were cooked, the patties held together fairly well, but were still delicate enough that I had to handle them with care.  Make sure to use a spatula large enough to hold the entire patty. 

This recipe make 4 "fits-on-a-large-potato-bun" sized patties.  You could easily get 6 smaller "fits-on-your-run-of-the-mill-burger-bun" sized patties from it.

As for the buns, we used those sandwich-thins style buns and I toasted them using my garlic olive oil.  (I told you, I can't get enough of that stuff!)  And, since I LOVE basil, I added a lot of leaves to my burger.  I won't do that again!  I tasted more basil than anything else--and while it's a great herb, it's not good enough that I recommend making an entire meal out of it.

I've already decided that next time I make them, I'm going to omit the Italian seasoning and Worchestershire sauce and leave off the basil and cheese.  Instead, I'm going to add chili powder and top with tomato, avocado, cilantro, and a squeeze of lime.  Oooh...my mouth is watering just thinking about that.