Trying to shrink

I hope you aren’t getting tired of muffins. Obviously, I’m not. Today’s post is masquerading as yet another muffin post, but it’s really about something else entirely. Something very personal. If you have been a very long time reader of mine, you will remember the year that I was serious about Weight Watchers and I lost forty two pounds. Several months ago, I just let it all go. It happened the way this sort of thing happens to people. I had a routine and it centered around work. I ate certain things at certain times of the day and walked during my breaks and then sometimes, made it to the gym on top of that. I had a really good routine that I hardly had to think about. The weight loss came easy. When I lost my job, I lost my routine, I got really depressed, things started to slip and a whole host of bad habits came back. Then I stopped trying altogether. I have gained back seventeen pounds.

Now, I know your first instinct is to be supportive and tell me that seventeen pounds isn’t even half of what I lost and I’m still okay. The problem is that I was going through all of this effort for my health. I don’t want to get diabetes, go blind, trip and break my hip, trip again and break my other hip and suffer the way my mother has. I don’t want to clog my arteries, suffer for years with angina and then have a quadruple bypass like my dad. I know I don’t want any of that, but I suffer from human nature and I am my parents daughter and I have ingrained poor habits that I have to concentrate very hard on changing every day. My dad said something last week that sums up what I need to strive for. He basically said that everyone gets old and everyone will die, but you want to do whatever you can to have the best quality of life until the end. Well said. Something I need to concentrate on very hard. Something that seeing my mom laying in her hospital bed so fragile and unhappy drives home for me.

One problem I have that I think everyone struggles with is portion control. I have a bad habit of having more than one of something I like and taking too much of it to begin with. In order to shrink me, I’ll need to shrink my portions so that’s what I did this week. I did a knock-off of the delicious strawberry muffins from last time but I made sure I made them in mini muffin tins. Here is the Mimi math for you. Each mini muffin is one half the size of a regular muffin. If I ate a regular muffin and then lost control and had to have a second muffin, it would equal four mini muffins. So, if I have a mini muffin and have a second, it equals one regular muffin. If I go really crazy and have three, it is equal to one and a half regular muffins, I am still ahead half a muffin. Terrible logic, I’m sure, but these are the little tricks that helped me lose the weight last time.

Sourdough apple walnut mini muffins

3 tbsp flax seeds

½ cup water

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour

1 tbsp baking powder

¼ tsp baking soda

¼ tsp salt

1 tsp cinnamon

½ tsp ground ginger

¼ tsp allspice

3/4 cup coarsely chopped, toasted walnuts

½ cup apple sauce

½ cup honey

½ cup buttermilk

½ cup sourdough starter

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 large apple diced

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 24 cup mini muffin tin with olive oil spray and set aside.

In a blender, grind flax seeds to a powder. Add water and blend for forty-five seconds until thickened. Set aside.

In a large bowl, mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, allspice and walnuts.

In another large bowl, mix together all of the flax seed mixture with the apple sauce, honey, buttermilk, sourdough starter, vanilla extract and diced apples. Add wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix until well combined. Let stand for a few minutes to rise a little bit.

Spoon the batter evenly into the muffin cups. Put the muffin tin into the oven and bake for 20 minutes until the muffin tops are browned and a toothpick inserted into the center of the muffins comes out clean. Cool for a few minutes and then serve.

P.S. Any muffin batter can be baked as mini muffins instead. Just experiment with decreasing the amount of time they bake. Here is a list of muffins that have appeared on Delectable Tidbits before:

Blood orange sweet cherry corn muffins

Carrot-currant muffins

Coco-nutty-cocoa sourdough muffins

Orange poppy seed mini muffins

Peach and strawberry muffins

Sourdough strawberry walnut muffins

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A friendly reminder: play with your leftovers

When I was a kid, my Mom would admonish me to eat everything on my plate because there were starving kids in (the third world country of her choice for that week). I’m not sure why parents did that. Kids are a bit selfish and it’s hard to get guilty about a kid you’ve never met in some country you’ve probably never been to. Sometimes I wish I had taken the parenthood route. Why? Because now you can hit ‘em with this one: “Jimmy finish your food! You know that food waste causes global warming and we’re all going to die!!”. Now that should get little Jimmy’s attention!

Anyway, the threat of global destruction isn’t half as personal as what many of us are going through economically right now and wasting food is really wasting money, isn‘t it? I am guilty like all of us of buying food and letting some of it go to waste each week and it makes me sad to toss out perfectly good food especially as we see our grocery bills go up and up. Lately, I’ve been concentrating on finding ways to identify what is hiding in the fridge and I’ve been finding creative ways to make use of it. For instance last week when we weren’t particularly hungry for an actual dinner but we wanted something to munch while watching the Olympics, I made a veggie tray of carrots, celery and radishes (all things I buy for soups and salads and toss out a few of each week as they rot). A quickie guacamole made out of an overripe avocado, lemon juice and salt made a terrific dip. This was healthy and strangely satisfying. That same week I also turned leftover brown rice into sourdough rolls.

A couple of days ago I made the Indian Spiced Salmon from the Muir Glen cookbook that I got with the tomatoes I reviewed. The recipe is a knockout, full of garam masala and sweet from honey. The problem with this recipe is that it makes a lot of sauce since you need to braise a couple of pounds of salmon fillets. We ate a generous amount of the sauce with our four servings of salmon over two days, but when we were done, we had a full two cups of the sauce left over! Organic canned tomatoes are pricey so it seemed like a shame to waste the sauce but I didn’t really want to eat it on pasta due to the garam masala and sweet honey flavors. I saved the sauce anyway (which normally means putting off throwing it away until I find where it got pushed into the back of the fridge two weeks later). I also made a pan of homemade polenta to go with the Tuscan chicken dish we liked so much from the same book. This makes a load of polenta. Such great food but what on earth do you do with the odds and ends and things you are tired of eating?

I was so proud of myself this morning. Having a desire to try an Israeli/North African dish called Shakshouka (tomato sauce poached eggs) for a very long time, but a failure to remember to buy the ingredients, I suddenly realized I could use leftovers to make something similar. Fifteen minutes later we were eating breakfast food good enough to be served in a fine restaurant on leftovers that could have ended up in the trash next week. Here is how simple this meal was:

Mock Shakshouka (tomato poached eggs)

2 cups leftover tomato based sauce of your choice (I used leftovers from this salmon dish)

5 large eggs

Salt and pepper to taste

In a large skillet, heat the sauce over medium high heat until simmering. Crack 5 eggs over the sauce, season with salt and pepper to taste and lower the heat to medium. Cover the pan and cook for 5-8 minutes to the desired doneness (5 minutes for runny yolks, longer if you like a hard poached egg). Serve eggs with a liberal amount of sauce.

Griddled Polenta

6 or more 1” thick slices of homemade or store bought cooked polenta

Olive oil spray

Heat a cast iron or other heavy skillet over medium heat. Spray liberally with olive oil spray. Lay polenta in pan and griddle for 3 – 4 minutes on each side, until browned and slightly crisped.

Wow! That was easy and so delicious. We got an extra high quality meal this week with little more than the effort to imagine what could be done with leftover food. Please, I encourage you to go into your kitchen today and really look hard at what is sitting in your pantry and your refrigerator. A box of macaroni and cheese, a can of tuna and frozen peas could be your next satisfying lunch with the benefit of keeping wasted food out of the trash, money savings and the end of that nasty fast food habit.

You can thank me later.

Free Whole Foods salad!

Almost.

O.K. I lied. Uh. Sorry.

But it feels like it is for free. Did you know that Whole Foods Market has a collection of it’s recipes online? Did you know that the recipes are actually really good? My salad feels like it was for free because it is full of ingredients I already have in my refrigerator, my pantry and my garden. Click here to view the recipe for Brown Rice Al Fresco Salad. It is a crispy, tangy rice salad, perfect with turkey sandwiches. The only thing I did differently was to substitute half lime juice for the lemon juice since I was short a couple of lemons and I used a little less mint since my herb garden is a little sleepy at this time of the year.

It’s January. A new year. But do yourself a favor. Instead of making resolutions for your health that you’ll never keep, just look around. A healthy lifestyle is as close as adding a new recipe to your arsenal. Look for recipes that feature whole grains, lean meats, low-fat dairy and lots and lots of fruits and veggies. Enjoy!

Muir Glen Tomatoes: Product Review and a Giveaway!

A couple of weeks ago, I was contacted by the nice folks at Muir Glen tomatoes. They offered me a free sample of their 2009 Reserve Tomatoes to review on my blog. The nice folks at Muir Glen, are really nice folks: they also offered to let me give away the same nice box of goodies to one of my lucky readers. (I’ll give you more details at the end of this post).

When I was corresponding with the representative from Muir Glen, I tried to appear really casual. You know, really savvy and cool. I let her know that by sending me and my readers freebies, she was not guaranteed a good review! Little did she know  the reality of the situation:  I use their tomatoes every time I cook (so she was almost guaranteed a good review, in fact, I was trembling with anticipation about receiving this kit!). I came across their products years ago and in my opinion, the canned tomatoes are the best on the market. They taste good. They don’t taste like the can they come in. Not only do they have tomatoes of exceptional flavor, but the tomatoes are organic which is important to me. Why? Because not only am I concerned about the pesticide residues in my food and in the environment, but tomatoes have been one of those foods that have been genetically modified quite often in the past. Although there is no proof (yet) that GMO foods are harmful to us, I have a gut feeling that I should avoid them. Certified organic foods cannot contain GMOs. After the box arrived, I started pouring through the materials included in the shipment. I learned that the high quality of the tomatoes has to do with careful handling from the farm to the can. I also learned that these tomatoes are grown in California which for me, makes them a local food (yeah!).

Now, let’s talk about the box I received in the mail. It is gorgeous! You get a wooden crate filled with goodies.

Inside the box is a packet talking about the two cans of Reserve tomatoes included within. There are also two recipe cards. Now… I was promised recipe cards and at first I was a little disappointed because I saw only two recipe cards and I didn’t yet realize what the book underneath these materials was.

It turns out that the book is a gorgeous cookbook, with all of the information about how they grow and package the tomatoes, but…it includes 50 pages of delicious sounding recipes with full color photos of the food. This is a gorgeous book, and in my opinion. it is  worth as much as the tomatoes themselves if not more. After perusing this book, I decided I would use the four cans of tomatoes to make two of the recipes from the book so that you can get an idea of what the recipes are like.

Below the books, nestled away, were the four cans of tomatoes. There were the two cans of reserve tomatoes: Yolo Red diced tomatoes and Brigade whole tomatoes. Also included were Fire Roasted tomatoes and Adobo Seasoned tomatoes.

I used the reserve tomatoes to make Braised Tuscan Chicken with Fennel and White Beans. Upon opening the cans of tomatoes, I took a taste of each. I was disappointed with my choice in recipes for a minute, because the Yolo Red tomatoes where so sweet and delicious, they would have been wonderful used in something fresher such as a bruschetta or in a salsa. (If you win my contest, take note of that). The Brigade tomatoes had good acidity and tasted like they would be perfect for this slow braise. The only surprise I had, happened when I poured the Brigade tomatoes out of the can. If memory serves me right, a 15 oz can of tomatoes usually includes about 5 or 6 tomatoes. When I poured, three perfectly gorgeous round tomatoes popped out of the can. I had to laugh, I guess they didn’t want to smash them, so they only include enough tomatoes to not get smashed in transit. Luckily, the can of diced Yolo Reds where packed full, making it so that I had plenty of tomatoes for the recipe. The braised chicken came out delicious. The sauce begged for bread to sop it up and was loaded with chunks of vegetables and beans and a hint of herbs, the tomato flavor was outstanding. The chicken was falling off the bone tender. I’ll be making this chicken dish again!

The next day, anxious to taste the Adobo seasoned tomatoes, I decided to make the vegetarian chili recipe. I tasted the tomatoes upon opening the cans. The fire roasted tomatoes are familiar to me. They have a good roasted tomato flavor with a hint of smoke from the charred tomato skins you see floating among the diced tomatoes. I tasted the Adobo Seasoned tomatoes. The flavor was strange and familiar at the same time. I had to taste again before I realized that it is a light version of the super hot adobo sauce you find in a can of chipotle with adobo sauce. It is like they added just a hint of chipotle to their tomatoes. I had a really good feeling about cooking with these!! The chili turned out to be a smash hit. I followed the recipe exactly, using the prescribed amount of jalapeno and chili powder even though I knew that half my tomatoes had a good kick already. The chili came out spicy with a hint of that good chipotle flavor. It was wonderful. I’ll be looking for the Adobo Spiced tomatoes at my grocery store, I can think of many recipes that would be improved by using them.

So… you are probably wondering how you can get a box of these tomatoes and recipes for yourself.  Please leave a comment on my blog between now and Monday December 7th. I’ll hold a random drawing and one lucky Delectable Tidbits reader will receive a Reserve kit from Muir Glen.  Unfortunately, Muir Glen can only ship the reserve kit to people in the U.S., Sorry.

If you are not the winner, you can still get a Reserve kit. Muir Glen has these Reserve kits available for $7.00 at this link. By my calculation, that price barely covers the cost of the tomatoes much less the shipping and you get a crate to recycle for storing CDs and the cookbook and… Muir Glen will donate money to the charity Chefs Collaborative each time we buy a reserve kit. They are donating $2 for every Reserve kit they sell and $1 for each person who becomes a fan on their Facebook page (My friend Kevin is laughing at me right now because I am anti-Facebook, but hey, it’s for a good cause! So stop laughing Kevin!)

So, all of my friends and lurkers, leave me a comment.  Good luck everyone!!

Health alert: the dangers of excess sugar

Brown sugar

I’ve wanted to talk about this for some time. Please bear with me as I may seem a little hypocritical when you consider the percentage of recipes on this blog that are sweet. What I want to make you aware of is the fact that excessive amounts of sugar are bad for you. You may already know this. Maybe you don’t. Maybe you don’t really care. Maybe you should care. It is really important for your well being.

Tonight, the American Heart Association came out with a warning that we need to cut the amount of sugar in our diets. They say the average American adult consumes 22 teaspoons of added sugar a day. The average American teenager consumes 34 teaspoons of added sugar a day. When they say “added” they mean on top of the natural sugar we are eating from fruits and other carbohydrates. What does 22 teaspoons of sugar look like? I couldn’t resist finding out. See the picture above. That is an eight inch diameter plate. The pile was about 2 inches high! To put things in perspective, the AHA recommendation is that women should eat no more than 6 teaspoons of sugar a day and men should eat no more than 9 teaspoons per day.

Where is all of this sugar coming from? It could be coming from soft drinks and sweets but it is likely coming from processed foods. In my opinion, I eat a healthy diet, but there are a few processed foods in my home for convenience. I get these products from health food stores and stores like Trader Joes that don’t use a lot of processed ingredients. Here is what a quick perusal of my pantry turned up:

Trader Joes brand spaghetti sauce: evaporated cane juice.

Pitted kalamata olives packed in extra virgin olive oil imported from Greece: glucose.

S & W organic tomato sauce: organic sugar.

Hain all natural Canola mayonnaise: dehydrated cane juice and honey.

Milton’s multi grain baked snack crackers: sugar and invert cane juice.

Doctor Kracker organic artisan baked spelt crackers: agave syrup, molasses, and barley malt syrup.

Kashi go lean hot cereal: evaporated cane juice, brown rice syrup and honey.

The AHA is concerned for us because the extra sugar likely means we are unconsciously consuming extra calories. A lot of us have inactive lifestyles and if we do not get extra exercise to burn off the extra calories, we gain weight and risk heart disease and diabetes. These concerns while valid don’t tell the entire story. Sugar also prematurely ages us. An article in Prevention magazine talks about the damage sugar does to the proteins in our skin. If this is happening to our skin, the biggest organ in our bodies, I wonder what it may be doing to our other organs!

What can we do to protect ourselves? First off, read labels and be aware of what you are buying. Second, cook as much of your own food as you can. It is the only way to really know what is on your plate. As the cook, you can reduce the amount of sugar in your food by adjusting it downward as low as you can tolerate it and as low as a recipe can stand without ruinous results. Know your sugars. While all sugar is bad in excess, some sugar such as honey or molasses have trace nutrients and while they are not exactly health food, you will get a little more added nutrition than if you used processed granulated sugar.

Please let me know your thoughts on this matter. Have you been aware of this issue already? What do you do to reduce the amount of sugar in your diet? Do we as bloggers have a responsibility to show our readers a healthy diet or are we just a tourist stop on the internet foodie trail?

The new social mood

Dollar1

You really don’t want to know my opinion about who is to blame for the ongoing recession we are in.  All I know is that I saw it all coming.  I saved diligently when the American savings rate was plummeting to zero.  I didn’t buy an overpriced house in the most ridiculously overpriced market in the country.  I didn’t buy things that I didn’t need.  I drove my old car for seventeen years and when it could no longer pass a smog check; I dove into my savings to fund the purchase of a new car to keep myself debt free.  I feel like I was one of the good guys – a cheap bastard who did not take advantage of the greed and stupidity that was running rampant for nearly two decades.  So you would think I’d be bitter and angry to be a victim of the economy, laid off from a work place that I called home for seventeen years.  I saw it all coming.  It was no surprise to me.  I am thankful that my foresight caused a nest egg.  I am thankful that my hard work and years of service gave me the gift of severance pay.  I am thankful that I already have good habits.

During the past few months there has been a noticeable shift in social mood.  Whereas people used to make a point of boasting about the house they bought, the clothes they bought, the trips they were taking, the new car they were shopping for, etc, etc, now it is alright to talk about paying off your bills, putting off purchases, saving money and getting bargains.  It is so okay that advertisements are beginning to acknowledge this new austerity. 

To go along with this change, I noticed a shift in the articles in the food and lifestyle magazines I read.  Food articles changed from telling us how to make the most lavish meals for our next extravagant party with our enormous social circle to showing us how little a meal costs to make for our family.  Yes, even Bon Appétit magazine is putting a frugal price tag on the food they want us to cook. 

I don’t really think it is only about a dollar amount.  Here are some truths about food:

  1.  Restaurants are a treat not your personal chef
  2. Food cooked from scratch is cheaper and healthier than processed or premade food from a grocery store.
  3. You are responsible for what goes into your body:  put your life into someone else’s hands or do your own cooking and know what your food is all about.
  4. Money saved by eating at home can be used wisely to make better quality food at home.

That being said, use your splurges at a restaurant as your muse for eating quality food at home.  If there is something you love, learn how to cook it.  If there is something easy that you lazily go out to have, there has got to be a better and less expensive way to make it at home.  Here is a ridiculous example:  A favorite German style restaurant of mine in town has a wonderful chef who makes the most amazing food at dinner time.  His lunch menu is a bit lazy.  Sandwiches, served a la carte for a pretty good profit.  People go there for the atmosphere.  What is the biggest waste of your money on his menu for lunch?  Smoked salmon on D’Angelo bakery pumpernickel rye bread with onions and capers with a pickle on the side.  $11.95.  You can order a side of German Potato salad for $4.95.  Today, I did myself a favor.  I bought  wild caught king salmon for $13.95 for 12 oz.  This much salmon will make this sandwich at least six times over, maybe more.  (Instead of sandwiches, the leftover salmon will likely make many more meals of eggs or pasta).  D’Angelo bread is about $6 a loaf at the local foodie store but I made another round of sour corn rye for pennies.  I topped the sandwiches with a few cents worth of slivered red onion and capers.  Mark Bittman’s How to cook anything contains a recipe for mustard potato salad that is to die for.  I made this salad in 15 minutes.  It was fabulous.  What? You still have a job you say?  How can you eat like this when you are so tired and busy?  This kind of food packs well and comes together in minutes, make it tonight and pack it to work tomorrow.  You will eat better than if you went out for fast food.

So what did I really want to say after this long convoluted rant and rave?  Just this:  Eat like a king, clean up like a maid.

The end.

 Lunch

A public service announcement

MyKindaSaladBar

We interrupt this blog for a public service announcement.  It is summer!  Stop buying bagged salad!! Heads of fresh lettuce are available for half of the price of that sickly possibly dangerous stuff (remember that little E Coli problem a couple of years back?).

Grab a giant bowl.  Fill it with fresh salad greens.  Cut up broccoli, carrots, radishes, avocado, celery and anything else that is fresh crispy and tastes delicious.  The picture above is an example of what you could have.  (I forgot the can of chickpeas).  Buy a good quality salad dressing or make your own.  These goodies will keep in the fridge for a couple of days giving you salad at a moment’s notice.  You now have no excuse not to eat your veggies and this is far cheaper than going out to buy a salad at a restaurant.

This has been a public service announcement sponsored by Delectable Tidbits.

It hit the spot

I have to admit.  I am an addict.  I love melted cheese.  Just love it.  I hate to admit it, but a lot of the weight I packed on over the years was due to melted cheese.  The salty, creamy, soft textured beauty of melted cheese.  Over the past few weeks, melted cheese has been seriously scarce in my diet.  There was the one day I went on a two hour hike and rewarded myself with half a plate of nachos but other than that, the only cheese I have been friends with is light string cheese. 

 

Last week, I must have gotten a whiff of fall in the air.  Although coastal California is known for fall days that are hot, the morning and evenings can be tinged with the salty tang of the fog and that is when you feel it.  Fall is in the air and it is time to shift away from cold food and barbecued food and start thinking about food that gets baked or roasted in an oven.  I was searching several healthy food sites for meatloaf.  If you are a longtime D.T. reader, you know that I am beefaphobic.  Lately, I have been rediscovering the joys of ground poultry and a poultry meatloaf was what I wanted.  I stumbled onto a recipe called Santa Fe Meat Loaf.  It had ground turkey, bacon(!) and a layer of melted cheese.  How can that be healthy?  Well, the bacon is center cut and there is just enough of it for flavor.  The cheese is reduced fat.  But… although it is reduced fat cheese, the cheese layer in this concoction was what got my attention.  It is a Mexican style four-cheese blend and the picture I saw showed a yummy melty ribbon of it.  This looked like just the ticket.  I figured it would hit that melted cheese spot that had been so neglected for so many weeks.

 

Well, let me tell you, this meatloaf was a big hit.  It is moist and spicy.  The cheese, (which tasted like salty rubber when it was cold) became cheesy and melty and goooooood!  We are looking so forward to spicy meatloaf sandwiches for lunch tomorrow.

 

Before the recipe, I have two tips to pass on to you.  The recipe calls for dry breadcrumbs.  I was going to buy some but I was in a fancy store today and the breadcrumbs they offered cost anywhere from $3 for a handful of them to $5 for a decent amount.  Tip:  Make your own.  You know you have lots of stale bread in your fridge.  I know I do!  Grind the bread in your food processor, spread the crumbs out on a cookie sheet and bake them for several minutes at 350 degrees F.  You can save the leftovers in an airtight container for later.  Tip number two do not try to cook sweet potatoes faster by cooking them at a high temperature and if you do, do not use parchment paper to line your cookie sheet.  The ensuing near fire catastrophe is not worth it, lol!

 

Santa Fe Meatloaf

Adapted from Cooking Light Magazine

 

Cooking spray

½ cup chopped onion

1/3 cup finely chopped red bell pepper

1 tsp chili powder

½ tsp ground cumin

4 garlic cloves, minced

1 – 1 ½ tbsp minced, canned chipotle chile in adobo sauce

½ lb dark meat ground turkey

1 lb ground turkey breast

¾ cup homemade whole wheat bread crumbs

2/3 cup medium salsa, divided

1 tsp oregano

6 slices center cut bacon, cooked and crumbled

2 large egg whites

¾ cup reduced fat finely shredded Mexican style four-cheese blend

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

 

Heat a large skillet over medium high heat.  Coat the pan with olive oil cooking spray.  Add onion, bell pepper, chili powder, cumin and garlic to the pan.  Sauté the veggies for 1 ½ minutes or until the onion is tender.  (You may need to lower the heat; the spices may tend to burn).  Stir in the chipotle chile and sauté for 30 seconds.  Cool the mixture.  Combine the onion mixture, the two types of turkey meat, the breadcrumbs, 1/3 cup of the salsa, oregano, bacon and egg whites in a large bowl.  Make sure the mixture is combined well but not over mix.  You are looking for assimilation of the ingredients but you don’t want tough meatloaf.

 

Place half of the turkey mixture in an 8.5” x 4.5” loaf pan (preferably glass so you can see what you are doing).  Make a slight curve in the center of the mixture so that it will hold the cheese.  Add the cheese on top of the meat.  Top the cheese with the remaining half of the meat mixture.  Tuck the meat in so that you can crimp the top and bottom meat layers together over the cheese (you don’t want the cheese to leak out).  Spread the remaining 1/3 cup of salsa over the top of the meatloaf.  Bake for 1 hour and 25 minutes or until a meat thermometer registers 165 degrees F., Let stand 10 minutes, cut and serve. 

 

Makes 6 servings.

 

 

 

Come out of hiding with me.

Hello.

 

Did you miss me?

 

Sorry.  I didn’t mean to make you forget that there was a blog called Delectable Tidbits.  If you remembered it was out there in the blogosphere and you stopped by to wonder what happened to it’s author, I am sorry you were disappointed that the very rude looking baguette pointing itself straight at you in a very crass way was still sporting itself as the leading photo. 

 

Let’s catch up shall we?

 

I stopped blogging because I was going through some pretty heavy personal turmoil.  I am dealing with something that is a very big deal.  A big deal for me anyway.  Unfortunately, it is the kind of thing I don’t want to share.  Some of the closest people in my life are probably really frustrated with me right now because the silence on my blog has been nothing compared to how little I’ve been keeping in touch with them.

 

Anyway.  One thing that happened while I was away is that I finally came to terms with the fact that exercising myself to death without dieting and dieting without exercising will never make me lose the weight I need to lose.  As you know, I dealt with a scary health issue with my Dad this year and got to live with my Mom for three weeks and see how bad her health really is.  That and the general personal turmoil that is now my life, made me really reflect on how very little I care about myself.  In fact, I’ve cared zero about myself for years and years now.  Sure I talk like I care, but when it comes right down to it, I haven’t cared.  Sometimes a disaster or two or three can help put things in perspective.  Once I decided to care, I began going back to the gym in earnest and I walked during my breaks at work.  Since I did nothing about the huge amounts of food I love to eat, the scale didn’t budge.  So after really concentrating on what was wrong with me, I finally decided I needed help.  I joined Weight Watchers two weeks ago.  So far, it is working out well, but I have been relying on restaurant food and frozen food and food that is way simple to make due to a very strange couple of weeks that coincided with my new “lifestyle”.  So there you have it.  Any posts to my blog going forward will have a bit of a diet bent to them. I hope I don’t lose anyone during this interesting time.  The good news is that Weight Watchers allows you to eat whatever you want as long as you don’t go over the amount of points they give you.  Points you say?  They have you take a questionnaire, which determines an amount of points you can have each week.  The food you eat is assigned a point value.  You add points each time you eat, you subtract points each time you exercise and hopefully you don’t go over your allotted weekly points.  If you are good at it, you lose weight.  So far I have been very good at it and I have lost more weight per week for the past two weeks than they recommend.  Unfortunately, I am a Virgo and bean counting is my forte.  I’m trying not to be too restrictive since I am a little freaked out about the warning on the W.W. website that states that losing weight too fast can cause gallstones.  Yikes.  So in the spirit of not being too restrictive, I will share a recipe with you in a little while.

 

But now, more catch up.  Did you hear about the Gap fire in Goleta?  The fire was extremely close to my house.  So close in fact, that we were right next to it.  Although we were five houses outside of the mandatory evacuation zone, the quarter size pieces of ash raining down on our house, the thick smoke that we couldn’t keep out of the house, and the fact that we could see flames from our kitchen window prompted us to leave on our own.  We went to my Boyfriend’s Dad’s house and spent a lovely fourth of July weekend in fire free Orange County while we kept an eye on the news to see if our house burned down.  The fire crews did an excellent job and very little structural damage occurred during the fire.  We are so very thankful for the firemen in this country.  They are amazing.  Most of them were fresh from battling blazes in Northern California and they still had the bravery and energy to save all of us too!

 

Now I need to share something wonderful.  Corinne from “A Gourmet Love Affair” didn’t forget about me while I’ve been gone.  In fact, she has been making my day by still posting comments to my blog even though there has been nothing new to talk about.  Now she really made my day by giving my blog its first award.  She gave me a “you make my day” award. 

 

 

Since there are no rules I am not obligated to pass it along but I would like to. There are three Bloggers who have been keeping me sane during this time and I’d like to pass it along to them:

 

Dylan of Sourdough Monkey Wrangler.  Why?  Because he shares his kids with us every week.  I don’t have kids so reading about his adventures as a stay at home Dad really makes me smile.  Sometimes his kids are so cute, it makes me feel like I’m missing something and sometimes… I like that he shares his kids with us and I don’t have to have my own, lol!!

 

Peabody of Culinary Concoctions by Peabody and Northwest Noshings.  Why?  Her stories and sense of humor are wonderful.  I laugh out loud when I read her posts.  Nobody else has the energy she has.  This gal can cook and cook she does.  She posts several times a week!  Fantastic!

 

Susan of Farmgirl Fare.  Why?  The “daily dose of cute”.  She posts pictures of her farm animals every couple of days. If you are blue, there is nothing like a baby donkey or a furry lamb to lift your spirits.

 

Let’s talk about food now.  One thing I am noticing about this diet is that I am getting hungry.  Like… really hungry.  The kind of hunger you don’t get when you indulge yourself ALL OF THE TIME.  When I eat now, I am so hungry that food tastes, well, fantastic!  And I am eating so little of it that every bite is wonderful.  We’re talking almost as good as sex.

 

When you are on Weight Watchers you try to fit as much food as you can into that set amount of points.  You realize that fruit and vegetables are your new best friend.  They are worth very little points so you can eat lots and lots of them.  At the same time, you begin to realize that you need to not eat so much butter and sugar and the usual crap you are used to eating because these things are worth a high percentage of your meager amount of points.  I have been eating very little sweets these past two weeks.  I did find myself fantasizing about a half rotting banana at work the other day.  When I think half rotting banana, I usually think banana bread.  I began to think cookie instead.  (Probably because of the whole portion control thing).  From cookie, my thoughts wandered to biscotti, which led me to this recipe on Cooking Light magazine’s website for banana biscotti.  The cookies as they published the recipe are worth two points each.  It turns out that by making a few tweaks such as upping the fiber content with whole-wheat pastry flour I was able to knock the point score to one Weight Watchers point per cookie.  I just had a freshly cooled cookie and it was crunchy, lightly sweet, with a subtle fruity flavor.  Even if you are not watching your figure, I highly recommend you find a half rotting banana and make these cookies!

 

 

Banana-Pecan Biscotti

Adapted from Cooking Light Magazine

 

Makes 24 Biscotti (one Weight Watchers flex point each)

 

1 ¾ cups whole-wheat pastry flour

½ cup evaporated cane juice or sugar

1 tsp baking powder

¼ tsp salt

1/3 cup mashed very ripe banana (about 1 small banana)

1 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 large egg

1/3 cup chopped, toasted pecans

Parchment paper

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

 

Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a bowl.  In another bowl, combine mashed banana, olive oil, vanilla and egg.  Add wet to dry ingredients and mix until well combined (I had to get in there and knead a little bit, the dough did not combine easily).  Turn the dough out onto a floured board.  Cut the dough into two equal halves.  Form the dough into two eight-inch rolls.  Transfer the rolls to a parchment lined cookie sheet and then flatten the rolls slightly.  Bake for 23 minutes.

 

Remove the cookie loaves from the oven and cool them on a wire rack for ten minutes.  Meanwhile, lower the heat to 250 degrees F.  When the loaves have cooled, Carefully cut each loaf into 12 diagonal slices.  Place the slices on two parchment lined cookie sheets.  Bake for 15 minutes.  Turn all of the cookies over.  Bake them for 15 more minutes.  Transfer the cookies to the wire rack and cool completely before serving.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Soufflé on a weeknight… are you nuts?

Am I nuts?  Well maybe.  But until I got to the cleanup part, it really wasn’t that bad.  Really.

 

How on earth did I manage to get the idea in my head that I could make a soufflé on a weekday during a time when I am working harder during the day then I ever have?  It all started last night.  No scratch that.  It all happened on Sunday if you really think about it.  But then again, it was probably Michael Pollan’s fault.  Who is that?  You mean that guy who wrote the Omnivore’s Dilemma?  That guy?  Well yeah.  I bought his new book:  In Defense of food: an eaters manifesto.  While not as engaging a read as OD, his new book was full of factoids.  Facts I know already because I read everything.  Facts that should make me a healthier person, that is if I paid any attention to the facts.  But I don’t.  This book opened my eyes to the fact that although I buy a lot of veggies, I am not so successful at getting them into my body before they melt down to a little smear in the bottom of my refrigerator’s crisper.  The fact that I am perfectly happy to cook healthy meals at home and then supplement these meals with god knows what at a restaurant.

Well.  I am trying to be better.  So I bought beets on Sunday.  I bought beets because beets are a bargain.  You get two veggies for the price of one (as long as you don’t let them melt in the fridge)!  You’ve got your sweet orbs of red, orange or yellow root for cooking or crunching up raw.  You’ve got your vitamin-enriched greens to eat like chard or kale.  This is a spectacular veggie that nobody is eating. 

 

Last night, I suddenly remember that I need to cook the greens before they melt.  I know how to make cooked greens taste pretty good but I wanted some inspiration.   I started leafing through the stacks of cookbooks.  I picked up Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone.  Yes!!  This has got to be the right book.  I found the recipe that would do it:  You boil beet greens for a couple of minutes and then sauté them in olive oil, sliced garlic and tomatoes.  Add a touch of dried oregano and top with Asiago (which I didn’t have so I used Parmesan).  I Plopped this ethereal mixture onto the top of a warm piece of leftover cornbread and I was in heaven.  It was the best thing I put in my mouth in a long time.

 

While I was looking for the beet recipe, I stumbled onto her soufflé section.  Ms. Madison has this recipe for Goat Cheese Soufflé with thyme that she follows with a half dozen veggie infused variations.  I couldn’t stop obsessing over the possibilities.  As you know, I am a sucker for the bonus meal, the meal you make that comes about from the serendipity of having just the right things in your kitchen that aren’t on a shopping list that becomes something really amazing.  I thought about this recipe all day while I was at work.  You see, I never thought I could make a soufflé because I don’t own the right dish to cook it in.  Deborah Madison cooks soufflés in a gratin dish.  I have a gratin dish; I could do this!!  I could finish up that little bit of cream from last week.  I have plenty of eggs.  I can substitute Rosemary for the thyme and green onions for the white onion slices, etc, etc.  My mind kept rewriting the recipe to suit my needs.  This would work!

 

Well. Let me tell you! You need to make a soufflé.  Even if it is a weeknight and you are tired.  It was that good.  It was flavorful and it had a texture that was both fluffy and lightly bready.

 

Being the crazy gal that I am, I made a salad of two lettuces, thinly sliced yellow beets, radishes, grated carrots, green onions, avocado, and blood oranges.  I also made homemade buttermilk dressing.  Aren’t you jealous I didn’t invite you over?  Well, I’m kinda peaved I didn’t invite you over because the kitchen was grotesque and I could have used your help cleaning!

 

The moral of this story is, read in Defense of food.  It will make you a better eater.  Make sure you have a copy of Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone.  It is one of the best cookbooks I own.

 

Broccoli Cheddar Soufflé

Adapted from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison

 

Butter for greasing the pan plus 2 tbsp freshly grated Parmesan for coating the dish

1 ¼ cups milk or cream or milk and cream (which is what I did)

Aromatics:  Rosemary (or thyme), fresh bay leaf (or dried), 3 2” pieces of green onion

3 tbsp butter

3 tbsp whole-wheat pastry flour

1/2 tsp salt

Freshly ground pepper

Dash of cayenne

2 tsp Dijon mustard

1 cup steamed and then finely chopped broccoli

½ cup sharp cheddar, grated

4 egg yolks

6 egg whites

Minced parsley and cilantro for garnish

 

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  Butter an eight-cup gratin dish and coat the butter with the Parmesan.  Heat the milk/cream with the aromatics until it just boils then remove it from the heat and let it stand 15 minutes.  Remove the aromatics.

 

Melt butter in a large saucepan over low heat until foamy.  Stir in the flour and cook over low heat for a few minutes (it should get thick and aromatic but don’t let it burn!).  Whisk in the milk all at once, stirring vigorously for a couple of minutes until it thickens.  Add salt, pepper, cayenne and mustard.  Mix well and remove from heat.  Beat in the egg yolks one at a time until well blended.  Fold in the broccoli and the cheese.

 

Beat the egg whites with a dash of salt until they form stiff peaks.  Mix a quarter of the egg whites into the soufflé mixture to lighten it up.  Fold the rest of the egg whites into the soufflé mixture being careful not to over mix and deflate your egg whites.  Transfer the soufflé from the mixing pan to the gratin dish.  Put the dish into the center of the oven and lower the heat to 375 degrees F.  Bake for 25 minutes until puffed and brown.  Serve immediately garnished with parsley and cilantro.

 

 

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