Friday, June 20, 2014

Vitamin D, Summer Solstice, Buttermilk Pie and other things

--- Vitamin D - we need it, more than most know. ---

I've recently been diagnosed as being vitamin D deficient, which doesn't sound too bad.  However, this came after going to the doctor for severe joint pain, and I don't mean achy joints from too exercise.  This was sharp pains in my hands, wrists, ankles and knees.  It was horrible, and I'm glad the blood work came back to show something simple.

My dad had rheumatoid arthritis.  I saw him endure pain that incapacitated him.  Here was this big, strong guy who was used to be able to do yard work and carpentry, and in his latter years, he was confined to his recliner.  Tai Chi helped him, but he was never quite the same.  It was hard on him physically and spiritually.  I could see the sadness in his eyes, over the loss of being able to do what he loved.

My RA factors in the blood work were normal - a huge relief.  Now, to deal with the vitamin D.  This deficiency might be related to perimenopause.  I am 42, and as women reach menopause, our bodies are less efficient at processing vitamin D.  So, it's not that I'm not getting enough sun.  This can contribute to osteoporosis, dental issues, heart disease and some cancers.  All things no one wants.  So, I have my vitamin D supplements and am anxiously awaiting the results of my most recent blood work.  For now, I'm just happy that it doesn't hurt to type.  :-)

--- Summer Solstice - how I celebrate ---

To me, there's nothing that says summer like BBQ or chili.  Yes, I know.  Chili is cold weather food, but I love a bowl of chili in the summer.  That spice.  The peppers.  The cornbread.  Mmmmm.  Finished with a cold beer, it's the best.  So, I'm going to celebrate the summer solstice by making chili this weekend, with a 100 year old recipe that belonged to my great grandfather.  My goal is to eventually make it my own with a little modernization and use that in the upcoming Pflugerville Chili Pfest.  That'll be fun.

--- Buttermilk Pie -  the Goldilocks way ---

I've done this before with lemon meringue, and am doing it again with buttermilk.  There are lots of recipes out there, and not all are very good.  For lemon meringue, I set out to create my own, perfect recipe, and did.  It was a process of starting with a generic recipe, making it, determining what when wrong...and trying again with corrections until it was just right.  It's the Goldilocks approach.  I'm going to attempt this again with buttermilk pie and am looking forward to the results.  There will be pictures.  :-)

Other things...

We might be going to Ireland this fall!  Woohoo!!!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

It's been some time since I posted

Everything is going swimmingly.  Last year, I started taking ukulele lessons, and in that time, I've really fallen in love with the instrument.  It was rough at first, like with anything new.  It took time to build callouses on my fingers and become comfortable with chord changes, but...

I can play several songs now and just signed up for a blues course.  Also, my skills leveled up and so did my uke.

http://www.oscarschmidt.com/products/ukes/ou220-240.asp




I'll keep posting here with songs I've learned, and songs I want to learn...maybe even a video of me playing.

Monday, May 20, 2013

8 eggs - 2 cakes

It's been awhile since my last post, but I took a bit of a break from cooking after having a tumor removed from my parotid gland.  I'm nearly fully recovered now and back to slinging yums in the kitchen. Woohoo!

Last Friday, I baked a cake for a friend's birthday.  It was a yellow cake, this recipe in fact http://allrecipes.com/recipe/davids-yellow-cake/.  It's a nice recipe.  The cake is moist, has a smooth texture and flavor, and there was none left at the end of the night.  That's always a good sign.  There was only one problem -- the recipe calls for 8 egg yolks which left me with 8 egg whites.

After the success of the yellow cake, I decided to try my hand at another cake with the leftover whites.  In my opinion, it came out pretty damned well.  I just tweaked the yellow recipe, and for prosperity, my recipe for the white cake is below. (if I don't write this out and save it, I WILL forget)

White Cake Recipe

Ingredients

1 cup butter, softened to room temperature
1 1/2 cups white sugar
8 egg whites, at room temperature
3/4 cup milk minus 2 tablespoons
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
lemon juice from one large lemon
zest from the lemon


Preheat oven to 350. Grease and flour 2 - 8 inch round pans. I use a baking spray that has flour in it.  Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whip the egg whites to the stiff peak stage.  Set aside.

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Stir in the vanilla and lemon zest. Beat in the flour mixture alternately with the milk, mixing just until incorporated.  Mix in lemon juice, and then fold in the egg whites.  Pour batter into prepared pans.

Bake in the preheated oven for 25 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean or with only a few crumbs. Cool 15 minutes before turning out onto cooling racks.

I used this frosting, from http://www.grouprecipes.com/61740/fluffy-lemon-buttercream-frosting.html.

Lemon buttercream frosting

3 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
1/2 cup of butter softened
1/4 cup of milk
1 t vanilla
1 T lemon zest (the rind of a lemon)
2 T lemon juice


Mix the butter, lemon zest and vanilla together, making sure all the lumps are gone.  Add the milk, and quickly cream it into the butter mixture.  One 1/2 cup at a time, mix in the sugar.  Once all the sugar is mixed in, cream on "high" for two minutes. Mix in lemon juice.

The above cake has so many options.  Instead of lemon, you can do orange, lime or grapefruit.  You can also exchange the vanilla for another flavored extract, and increase the milk to a full 3/4 cup and take out the citrus.  It will also make a dreamy coconut cake by taking out the lemon and substituting coconut milk for the milk.  The coconut cake is my next project.

Here's the lemon cake:










Friday, December 28, 2012

Nothing boring about these leftovers

This Christmas marked the first holiday celebration in our new house, and rightly so, we insisted on having family over.  For the dinner, I did a full spread including turkey, cornbread dressing, cranberry sauce, spinach gratin, and mashed potatoes.  Yum...  Here's Sean's dad, daydreaming about carving the turkey.





So...it was a wholelotta food, and as hard as I tried, Sean's parents wouldn't take any home.  In all fairness, they had another dinner the day they left, and they'd end up with leftovers from that one.  What do we do with all the leftovers then?

Freeze them?  That's an option, but boring.  Donate them?  As nice as this sounds, you can't donate prepared food unless it's been prepared in a professional kitchen, for obvious reasons.  How about soup, chili, or enchiladas?  I considered it but have used these recipes for holidays passed, and it takes care of the turkey but does nothing for the leftover sides.

With a little research, I came across two recipes that used all the turkey, potatoes, and spinach.

First, I made these turkey turnovers.  It calls for broccoli, which I bought, but if I'd done a broccoli casserole, I could have subbed that for the broccoli and cheese.  They're really good, and I froze several without cooking them.  Now, we can have a quick lunch or dinner for the next few weeks.  All we have to do is take some out and bake them for about 25 minutes. Then, lunch!  This recipe used about half the leftover turkey and some of the cheese left over from making the gratin.  Huzzah!

Next, I made samosas.  The original recipe was from Real Simple, and in my opinion, it's too simple.  If you look at the recipe, you'll see that they don't add any spices or veggies, and I don't need much spice.  But give me a dash of something! When I think of samosas, I also think of delicious pastry dumplings filled with potato and VEGGIES.  Where are the veggies in this recipe?  Exactly.  The general idea is nice, but I had to make several changes.  So, here's my leftover turkey samosa recipe:


Leftover Turkey Samosas

Ingredients

1 cup of chopped leftover roasted turkey (I made sure to use a mix of white and dark meat)
1 cup of any green veggie dish (I used spinach gratin, but you can use creamed spinach, green peas, green beans, or any other green veggie dish)
1 cup mash potatoes
1 teaspoon tumeric
1 teaspoon yellow curry powder
salt to taste

refrigerated pie crust (usually a 2 pack of 9" crust)

Cut the rolled out pie crust into 8 segments and roll each segment out into a triangle.  Set aside.

Combine the remaining ingredients in a bowl and taste to make sure it's seasoned to your liking.  Spoon mixture onto triangles of dough.  Bring edges up and pinch together to form a dumpling.  Bake at 375 for about 25 minutes.  These can also be frozen and baked later.  If freezing, don't thaw to bake.  You'll bake them straight from the freezer but for about 40-45 minutes instead.  Here's a picture of the samosas I baked today.  They came out perfectly and go well with that leftover cranberry sauce.



It was a good holiday, and we'll be eating well in 2013.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Adventures in Healthy Cooking: Quinoa Salad

With the new running and yoga regimen, I'm looking into cooking healthier as well. That doesn't mean that I'm abandoning baking altogether. Oh, no! I'll never give up my homemade cookies and pies, but I can dilute that fatty cooking with some healthy fair once in awhile. Like, quinoa.

I've never cooked with this grain, but from what I've read and heard, it's a super food. Also, it's versatile and tasty -- two things I adore in ingredients. This past weekend, I made a quinoa salad inspired by a friend who offered that salad at a recent camping trip. It's simple, and here's the recipe that I created. If you go to Whole Foods, this might look familiar. My friend based her salad off of theirs, and I tweaked the ingredients to get a better consistency.

Cranberry-Orange Quinoa Salad

Ingredients

2 cup dry quinoa
1 cup orange juice
2 1/2 cups water
1 cup mandarin orange slices, drained
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup walnut pieces
1 tspn salt
3 Tbspn extra virgin olive oil


Directions:
Rinse the quinoa with cold water and strain. In a pot, add the quinoa, water and salt. Bring to a boil and turn the heat down to simmer. Cook for 15 minutes or till the liquid is absorbed. When done, fluff with a fork and then lay out in a thin layer on a baking sheet to cool.

While the quinoa is cooking, reduce the orange juice to half by simmering in a non-reactive sauce pan for approximately 10 minutes. Set in the freezer for 5 mintues to cool. Once cooled, whisk in olive oil to make a vinaigrette.

In a large bowl, combine the cranberries, raisins, nuts, orange slices and cooked quinoa. Pour vinaigrette over the mixure and stir together. If desired, add fresh chopped mint. Serve cold. Great with a side of whole grain toast or leafy greens...or by itself. Makes approx 8 servings, 350 Calories per serving.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

School's Out! For Summer!!

School is done! No more classes, homework. None of it. Except for stuff I have to do for the dog training internship, which is fun. Oh. And I started a running class last week!

What??

Yes!!! Running. Me. Whodathunkit?

So far, I really like it and am excited about the prospect of being able to run 5 miles for the first time in my life. After this class, maybe I'll even take the next in the series. Half Marathon Training. That's right. 13 miles. I can do it.

In this, I also started a running journal and am particularly proud of the layout. If you're interested....

Monday, February 21, 2011

A Greek Cowboy Dinner

Sometimes culinary creativity is born of necessity. For example, I had spinach in my kitchen that would spoil unless I found a creative way to use it. Viola! Spinach-feta popovers to go with my white chicken chili. It's Mediterranean meets West, Zorba meets McLintock.

First, the chili:

Chili Blanco con Pollo

1 1/2 pounds skinless chicken thighs
1 medium onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
14 ounces chicken broth
1 teaspoon cumin
6 sprigs fresh oregano, stems removed
8 leaves of fresh sage
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon Cayenne
1/2 teaspoon red pepper sauce
45 ounces great northern beans (3 cans drained and rinsed)
16 ounces frozen white sweet corn, thawed
olive oil

Lightly oil the pottery of your slow cooker with 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil. Mix onion, garlic, broth, spices, herbs, salt and pepper sauce in the slow cooker. Add chicken, and cover and cook on low for 4-5 hours (or until chicken is fully cooked and juices run clear). Remove chicken, and shred the meat from the bone using 2 forks. Discard bones and return the chicken meat to the cooker. Stir in beans and corn. Cover and cook on low for another 30-45 minutes, till hot. Tip: when the chicken is falling off the bone, you can begin shredding the meat from the bone. Cooking time will vary for each slow cooker, and for me, the chicken was ready at 3.5 hours.

Yields about 10-12 servings.

Now, cowboy meets Greek
Spinach-feta popovers

2 eggs
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup crumbled feta
2 cups fresh spinach, steamed or sauteed

Preheat oven to 450.

In a mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk and oil. Add the flour and salt and beat till smooth. It's okay if there are clumps, and it's important to not overbeat. Add the feta and stir just till combined. Fill each muffin tin with 1/8 cup of batter, add a tablespoon of spinach, top with 1/8 batter (tins should be 2/3 full). Bake at 450 for 15 minutes. Reduce temp to 325 and bake for 25 minutes more, till tops are golden brown. Do NOT open the oven while these are baking, or else they'll fall. Remove from the oven and prick the tops with a toothpick to let steam escape. Makes 12 popovers.




Zorba meets McLintock
Originally uploaded by MrsPath