Sunday, February 5, 2017

Healthy start to our Sunday



I recently told my husband that I’ve gotten bored with breakfast. I almost always wake up hungry and wouldn’t skip the first meal of the day, but I needed to find a healthy, new way to launch the week. Woman’s Day magazine came the rescue with a recipe for Egg Pepper Rings with Carrot Salsa. I omitted the tomatoes from the salsa since we don’t have any fresh-from-the-garden in February. Although Jim ate his on a homemade bun, I made mine without bread. Instead, I made a fruit salad to accompany the star of the show.

I enjoyed this fresh-tasting morning treat. Although it was quite good, next time I might add a little cheese. That could be the perfect topper to an already delicious dish.

What’s your suggestion for a creative breakfast?


Sunday, January 29, 2017

Stew and pasta for a winter Sunday



What do I have on hand for today’s creation? That’s the question I often begin with when I cook. This weekend I wanted to use some of the vegetables from last fall’s harvest—pumpkin puree that I had frozen and a butternut squash. Those orange vegetables are a powerhouse of goodness for your body, providing Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Potassium, Vitamin E as well as minerals like magnesium. But I’m rarely content with a one-color dish so I also pulled out some locally grown arugula (thank you Berea College Farm Store) and red onions. 

These vegetables sounded like the perfect complement to pasta. With the pumpkin puree I could make a pumpkin alfredo sauce for the dish. But I still needed a protein so I turned to Lydia Bastianich’s Masteringthe Art of Italian Cuisine. She has a Lentil Stew recipe that is hearty and tasty. It’s also great for leftovers later in the week when I’ll likely combine it with rice or barley for a one-dish wonder.

To balance these dishes I also made a fresh, fruit salad. When we finished eating, my husband (who isn’t fond of pasta) said it was the best pasta he had tasted and he thought it was delicious. He liked the mellow undertones of pumpkin and the subtle spices in the dish. Here’s my recipe.

Pasta and vegetables with pumpkin alfredo sauce
1 butternut squash, peeled and chopped
1 small red onion , chopped
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
Olive oil
2 cups arugula
1 ½ TBS butter
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 cup heavy whipping cream
¼ + cup of grated pecorino cheese
Pinch of nutmeg
1 ½ tsp oregano
2 cups penne pasta
Heat oven to 400 degrees. Toss squash with olive oil and salt. Spread on baking sheet and roast 15 minutes. Stir the squash then roast another 15 minutes or until a fork easily pierces the squash.
 Heat salted water to boil penne for 8 – 12 minutes. If you prefer it al dente, check it at 8 minutes to see if it’s done enough for you. Boiling time depends on if you’re using pasta made from a whole grain or refined flour.
Wash and chop arugula. Set aside.
Drizzle large, flat-bottom skillet with olive oil. Heat. Sprinkle in onions and sauté on low until they begin to get soft. Add garlic and sauté for another minute or two. Add butter and melt then stir in pumpkin puree. Slowly stir in cream then add nutmeg and oregano. Sprinkle in pecorino. By this time the pasta should be done. Use a spider to spoon the pasta from the pasta water and into the sauce. The water that comes with the pasta will help thicken the sauce. Spoon in about half of the pasta then add half of the arugula and stir. Next add the rest of the pasta and arugula and stir. Add the roasted squash, stir, then taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper to your taste.
Top with more cheese and serve.

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.