Sunday, January 15, 2017

Three food habits for the new year

Yesterday a friend was talking about getting control of her health. That’s something many people attack with abundant energy in the first few days of the new year. Then the routine sets in, we forget, we stray, we’re tempted into old habits. So much for our health.

There are three food habits that I’ve ingrained into my lifestyle over the years that help me stay on a positive nutrition track. They’re easy and straightforward.

          Don’t buy foods you shouldn’t eat. I could eat an entire bag of Lays Classic potato chips in one sitting if it’s available to me when I get a craving. Once I open it, the smell lures me in and I’m lost to snacking world. I know that’s not good for me so I rarely buy them. If I have to leave my house to buy something I’m craving, I’m likely to choose a healthy food I already have in the house instead. Keeping my kitchen free of my food weaknesses helps keep me healthy.

      Eat a rainbow of foods. I’ve been following this advice for more than 10 years. It causes me to be more intentional about my food choices as I consider what’s available and what colors I’m lacking. The rainbow is an easy and visually appealing way to get a wide range of nutrients.
        Eat as many locally produced, in-season fruits and vegetables as possible. The closer to your home something is grown the less time it spends in shipping, which means the foods haven’t had as  much time to lose their nutrients. Fresh foods also mean flavorful foods. Challenging myself to cook primarily from local foods has made me a more creative cook, a fun side benefit of this healthy habit.

Fruit is the area where I most frequently stray from local produce. We do not have an abundance of it available in my area. So check out the picture for an appealing and healthy dish you can create for a meal or snack. I used kiwi, oranges and pomegranates. I’m already thinking about what other fruits I could use to make a flavorful masterpiece for the table.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Easy and tasty turkey breast for any time

During December I looked through magazines and dreamed of the scrumptious foods I would make during the Christmas season. Dreams are often bigger and glitzier than reality and that was true this month.  There were so many recipes to attempt but only a limited number of mouths to feed. However, the Glazed Bacon-Wrapped Turkey Breast that I made today was definitely a winner.

I am blessed to have a group of women who I’ve been sharing my spiritual journey with for more than 20 years. We all come from different walks of life but have shared the twists and turns we’ve encountered—supporting, guiding and celebrating with one another through the years. Our Christmas get-together is always a special one and since I was hosting this year, I wanted to try something new.

I found the recipe for the Glazed Bacon-Wrapped TurkeyBreast in the December issue of Good Housekeeping magazine. It looks beautiful and I wasn’t sure if I had the skill to pull it off, but it wasn’t hard at all. The recipe calls for a boneless turkey breast, which was considerably more expensive than a bone-in breast. Lucky for me my husband has enough skill with the knife to debone poultry for me. He did his part then I got to work following the recipe.  The most difficult part was using toothpicks to hold the round together since I didn’t have the called-for kitchen string.

The result was moist, garlicky meat that I will definitely make again. The parsley spread that goes inside was delicious. As we ate we speculated about the possibility of replacing the parsley with spinach, which would be easier to find at this time of year.

I’ll soon be searching the grocery store to see if they’ve marked down turkey breast so I can store one to use on another special occasion in the coming year.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Use what you have to make something scrumptious to eat

I went on a trip around the world this month thanks to my Secret Santa. Each day at work I received a surprise from another part of the world—tea from Sri Lanka, sesame fudge from Turkey, Christmas soda from Scandinavia and chocolate from Finland, to name a few. When I saw the cardamom milk on my desk from India, I knew it would give me an opportunity for experimentation in cooking.

I’m not much of a milk drinker, even though this one had an enticing smell. The ingredients listed milk, sugar, cardamom and almond. It was like something the cooks on Food Network’s Chopped would find in their basket then put to good use. When I woke up this morning craving French toast, I knew I had found a good way to satisfy my craving and to use the milk.

Maybe French toast is one of my favorite breakfasts because Mom made it for us when I was a child. I make mine like she did by mixing an egg and milk. Dip the bread into the mixture then cook on a hot griddle with melted butter and olive oil. Instead of regular milk I used the cardamom milk plus some heavy cream to add even more lusciousness. 

Although I don’t like overly sweet French toast, I do use syrup. However, I found none in our kitchen this morning. But I did find a jar of plum jelly—overly sticky plum jelly that felt like it would graft to your teeth like cement. It was part of the first batch of jelly I tried to make and I obviously failed. It’s hard for me to give up even on a failure because I knew it would be useful for something. I added water to the jar, heated it in the microwave and turned it into the perfect syrup to top my breakfast. Since it’s the season of the mighty pomegranate, I sprinkled the toast with pomegranates and toasted pecans. My husband made me a couple pieces of bacon to balance out the sweetness.

Whatever you have in your kitchen, you can turn it into something delicious.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Grandma’s chocolate cake gets a new layer

During the summer Jim made two batches of plum jam—one is rather runny but the taste combines the perfect tartness with a sweetness that makes my taste buds dance. The jam is also appealing because it’s a beautiful, deep plum color.
Besides eating it on toast, what can we do with our plum jam? I decided to combine it with chocolate cake. The easiest chocolate cake recipe I have was my childhood favorite—Grandma’s Salad Dressing cake. Now before you turn your nose up, let me clarify. I’m not talking about ranch or Italian dressing. I’m referring to the white stuff in the jar that’s similar to mayonnaise. When I tell people that they immediately say, “Are you talking about Miracle Whip?” I have to immediately tell them that Grandma’s strict instructions were to never use Miracle Whip.

Sometimes food myths are passed down through the generations. For example, in my family we had nearly certain knowledge that the Salad Dressing Cake needed to be a sheet cake, not a layer cake. It was reputed to be too moist to turn out of a layer cake round. However, when I tried it in my silicon baking rounds, it came out without a problem. That made me wonder if the salad dressing versus Miracle Whip question was also a myth. However, I compared the ingredients and did see slight differences, the largest being that vinegar is listed before sugar in the salad dressing and high fructose corn syrup is listed before vinegar in the Miracle Whip. Would it make a different in the cake? I trusted Grandma and went forth with her instructions.

After the rounds cooled, I put plum jam between the layers of chocolate cake. To visually indicate the plum taste to come I also made a small amount of plum cream cheese frosting and added red food gel to deepen its color. I used it as an accent color on the cake. My cake didn’t look like it came from the bakery but it tasted like it did. It also raised money for my church at our annual cake auction.
Try this easiest ever cake recipe and see what you think.

Grandma’s Salad Dressing Cake

1 ½ cup sugar
3 TBSP cocoa
2 tsp soda
1 cup salad dressing
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup cold water
2 cups sifted flour

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Sift together first three ingredients.

3. Add salad dressing and mix well with a spoon. Add vanilla.

4. Alternately add water and flour as you continue to mix by hand.

5. Divide batter in two well-greased cake rounds or one sheet pan.

6. Bake 35 – 40 minutes until cake tester comes out clean.

7. Cool for 10 minutes then turn onto wire racks.

8. When cooled, place the bottom layer on a cake plate. Spoon a generous layer of plum jam on top then place the top layer.

Cream Cheese Frosting

4 ounces softened cream cheese
2 TBS softened butter
1 TBS sour cream
1 tsp vanilla
8 + ounces confectioner’s sugar

1. Combine first three ingredients then mix in the vanilla. Add a little sugar at a time and continue beating until you get the consistency you want.

2. To make plum icing, start with a little more cream cheese because the jam will make the frosting loose. Add a tablespoon or so of plum jam and continue adding sugar until you get the consistency you want.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

What about those Thanksgiving leftovers?

The thing about Thanksgiving is that it’s sometimes difficult to know how much to cook. We get so excited about cooking for the feast that we always end up with too many leftovers. Here are a few things I’m doing with them.

Turkey salad—My favorite version is a basic Waldorf salad with turkey added. I like the freshness the apples bring to the turkey.

Potato cakes—This is a favorite from my childhood. I don’t know how Grandma made them but I simply lightly beat an egg then add in a few scoops of leftover mashed potatoes with whatever seasonings if feel like. Garlic powder is my standard. I patty them up, coat in cornmeal then brown in melted butter and olive oil.

Turkey pot pie—We love this dish. If I’ve had enough turkey for a while then I’ll chop what I need and freeze it for a pot pie treat in a few weeks.

Pinto bean soup—We don’t always have ham for Thanksgiving but since we did this year I’m looking forward to a good pot of Jim’s beans. I grew the beans so it’s a joint effort!

Bread crumbs—We still have a few homemade yeast rolls left. If we don’t eat them I will freeze them and pull them out when I need bread crumbs.

What are you doing with your Thanksgiving leftovers?