Sunday, December 26, 2010

Millet and Scraps Pancakes

It all started with a bowl of leftover 7-minute coffee icing.

The 7-minute coffee icing is just like a normal 7-minute icing, except it was made with organic cage-free egg whites, organic evaporated sugar, organic vanilla, and some Christmas blend Via. 

The cake turned out pretty well, but it left me with a lot of leftovers:
  • One bowl of leftover icing
  • 3 left over organic cage-free egg yolks
  • A smattering of toasted almond slices
Expensive stuff. You don't want to just throw it out.  I started wondering what to do with the leftover icing, and figured it might make a nice alternative to maple or agave syrup on some pancakes.

So, I got the jar of Bob's Red Mill baking mix from the freezer.  The directions called for 1.5 cups to make 18 pancakes.  Spouse 1.0 didn't need 18 pancakes, so I decided to halve the recipe -- at least that was the plan.  After measuring out about 1/4 cup, I realized I'd be lucky if all the dregs in the jar added up to 1/3 cup.

OK, so the Spouse doesn't need 9 pancakes, either. Just do the recipe in sixths instead of halves. That should be plenty for one person.

The directions called for 2 eggs -- or, in this case, 1/6 of 2 eggs. It seemed like a perfect opportunity to use up some some of the cage-free organic yolks left over from making the icing.  Back when I bought normal eggs, I might have just thrown out the yolks. But, when you're paying nearly $.30 per egg, you start treating leftovers with more respect.  I used 2 of the three yolks, figuring that a little extra eggy protein would be good.

Next, the oil.  1/6 of 1/4 cup equals 2 tsp, which approximately equals 1 small drizzle.

And water... I did the math and decided that it'd be better to just drizzle in water until the mess looked like pancake batter.

And, it wasn't very much batter at all. Perhaps not enough for one person, after all.

So, what would happen if I mixed in a little leftover millet?  There was about a fist full in the fridge. I just used it all.  The fridge also contained some chopped walnuts. I added a little of those, too. And, a bit more water.

The tiny test pancake came out OK, but not wonderful. So, I added a tsp of raw sugar and a tiny bit more olive oil. But, what the pancakes really needed was more loftiness, like you might get from egg whites....

Egg whites...

As in, 7-minute icing....

So, I stirred in a big spoonful of 7-minute icing. 

The next test pancake was just right.  The millet gave the pancakes an interesting texture, and they were just pleasantly sweet. 

So, I cooked up the pancakes, then topped them with a little 7-minute coffee icing and some leftover toasted almonds.

And, I still have what seems like gallons of leftover 7-minute icing.

The pancakes and ingredients



1/3 C Bob's Red Mill GF baking mix, or your favorite
1 Tbsp olive oil

2 egg yolks
1 Tbsp chopped walnuts
1/3 to 1/2 C leftover cooked millet
leftover 7-minute icing (coffee, citrus, or vanilla)
toasted almond slices

  1. Mix the baking mix, olive oil, and eggs with a fork.
  2. Add walnuts, millet, and enough water to make a nice batter consistency.
  3. Stir in about 1/4 to 1/3 cup of leftover 7-minute icing
  4. Cook on an oiled griddle or skillet
  5. Top pancakes with additional leftover icing
  6. Garnish with toasted sliced almonds

Sunday, December 12, 2010

GF Avocado Bread

OK, so avocado bread doesn't really qualify as easy. Or healthy. But, converting my mom's old avocado bread recipe to GF was easier than expected.  

You read so much about how persnickety the GF flours are compared to wheat (they are), and how getting the right amount of xanthan gum is almost as much art as it is science (it is).

Add the fact that the moisture content of fresh, natural fruits and vegs can vary widely. Yup, you've got a recipe for potential disaster.

But, fortunately, this time disaster did not strike. 

This was Mom's recipe:

3/4 C shortening
2 C sugar
3 eggs
2 C sifted flour
3 tsp cinnamon
3/4 tsp salt
3/4 tsp allspice
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 C pureed avocado
3/4 C buttermilk
1/2 C chopped walnuts
3/4 C raisins
Corn syrup
Another 1/2 C chopped walnuts

  1. Add sugar slowly to shortening, beating until light and fluffy.
  2. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each.
  3. Sift dry ingredients together.
  4. Fold dry ingredients into wet ingredients.
  5. Add avocado and buttermilk.
  6. Add walnuts and raisins.
  7. Pour batter into 2 greased and floured loaf pans.
  8. Bake at 350 for 60-65 minutes.
  9. Brush with corn syrup, top with nuts, and broil until bubbly.
 Mom's avocado bread was exceedingly yummy.  She pretty much only made it at Christmas.

I was kind of missing her, and I had some rapidly fading avocados that needed to be used up.  I'd been wanting to try converting a standard recipe to something we could eat.  So, it was time.

With our dietary restrictions, substitutions beyond the usual GF ones were required:
  • Obviously, no wheat flour for the Spouse.  Substitute brown rice flour, tapioca starch, and potato starch.
  • Xanthan gum. That one is tricky.  I remember seeing a guideline for "If you're cooking this, use this much per cup of flour."  I couldn't find that in my books. So, I decided to go with the oft heard 1 tsp per cup of flour, and hope for the best.
  • No white sugar. Use raw.
  • No pasteurized cow's milk (including buttermilk). But, we can have Greek yogurt.
  • No corn for David, so substitute agave syrup. 
  • Neither of us likes raisins, so substitute dates.
  • Butter is a little cheaper than organic shortening, and I feel better about butter. So, use 1/2 butter and half shortening
Also, a couple of small changes in the procedure were in order:
  • I only have 1 loaf pan, so use one loaf pan and one 9" square pan
  • GF stuff likes parchment paper. So, with the 9" pan I used parchment. I experimented with shortening and almond meal for the loaf pan.
  • Baking took lots longer than expected.

So, the ingredient list now looks like this:

6 Tbsp organic shortening
6 Tbsp butter
2 C raw sugar
3 organic eggs
1 C brown rice flour
1/2 C potato starch
1/2 C tapioca starch
2 tsp xanthan gum
3 tsp cinnamon
3/4 tsp salt
3/4 tsp allspice
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 C pureed or mashed avocado
3/4 C Greek yogurt
1/2 C chopped walnuts
3/4 C raisins
Agave syrup
A fistful or two of chopped walnuts

And, now the procedure looks like this:
  1. Add raw sugar to shortening and butter, beating until it's as light and fluffy as raw sugar and fat can get.
  2. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each.
  3. Mix dry ingredients together thoroughly.
  4. Fold dry ingredients into wet ingredients.
  5. Add avocado and yogurt.
  6. Add walnuts and dates.
  7. Pour batter into 1 greased and almond-mealed loaf pan and one parchment-lined 9" square pan. (Mine are glass.)
  8. Bake at 350 for 60-65 minutes. Then bake another 10 minutes. Then lower the heat to 325 and keep baking until a toothpick comes out reasonably clean.
  9. Brush with agave syrup, top with nuts, and bake or broil a little longer -- until bubbly if you're broiling.

 The results were: Not like mom's. 
Of course, brown rice flour is way grittier than wheat flour.  Next time, I might try using sorghum or a combination of brown rice and oat flour, plus the tapioca and potato to try to get the texture a little closer to home.  And, the yogurt just didn't have quite the tang of buttermilk. I could try a tiny bit of apple cider vinegar mixed into the wet ingredients to give it a little more kick.
The other thing is that the xanthan gum makes the mess pretty hard to mix by the time you add the avocado. You risk burning out your hand mixer (or your hands) by the time you add the nuts and dates. The more you mix, the harder it gets to mix.  Thus, the fruits and nuts didn't get incorporated evenly.  So, next time I think I'll add the avocado and yogurt to the wet ingredients before adding the dry ingredients.
But, despite all that, it was pretty good, in its own GF way. I'd definitely make it again.



Monday, November 22, 2010


One of the biggest barriers to the gluten-free life for Spouse 1.0 has been the thought that, if he fully embraces the lifestyle, it's good-bye forever to really yummy breads.

A life without the crusty, chewy goodness of sourdough bread is about as incomprehensible for him as a life without Diet Dr. Pepper once seemed to me.

Some of the commercial gluten-free breads are interesting and tasty, in their own brick-like way. Food for Life's brown rice and pecan bread is actually quite good, especially when toasted and drowning in melted butter.

But, Spouse needs real bread. Fresh and chewy, not frozen.  Bread-snob approved.

So, I've been reading about gluten free bread. And reading. And reading.

None of it has been terribly encouraging. GF flours are less forgiving than wheat flours. You need a special bread machine with a GF cycle -- but, the reviews of such machines tend to be.... well... mixed. Or, you need a programmable bread machine -- and, you have to program it. Or, you need to intercept your old-fashioned bread machine before the dough rises a second time. Or, you need to use the basic cycle and be prepared for bread that's not really all that good. 

Failure looms at every turn.

Expensive failure, since most GF flours cost between $.75 and $1.85 per cup.

But, last week I stumbled upon Red Star yeast's site. They have recipes for GF breads that, mercifully, use standard, garden-variety GF flours like rice, tapioca, and potato. And, they had a recipe for sourdough starter.

So, Friday night I went to Henry's to get white rice flour and a cooking thermometer.  I started the starter, then nurtured it all weekend long. Lovingly stirring it, keeping it warm and safe and clean. 

The Spouse hauled the old Oster bread machine in from the garage.  I poured over the manual, comparing my machine's features against all the cautions and advice in my new GF breads cookbook.

Finally, this morning, the starter was ready.

I followed the recipe -- mostly.  I was getting low on white rice flour, so I substituted some brown rice flour.  We didn't have powdered milk, and we aren't supposed to have cow's milk, anyway. So, I substituted almond milk for the water, and added a tiny drizzle more than the recipe called for. The egg replacer was optional, so I left it out.

I set the machine on the dough cycle.  When it was done, I put it on the bake cycle. When that was done, tested the temperature. It was only 160, so I left the bread in the hot machine for a few more minutes. Tested again. 185. That was probably close enough to 200. I hoped.

Removed it from the pan, cooled it, sliced it, and....


It looked, smelled, felt, and tasted like bread!

It wasn't the yummy chewy crusty goodness you get at your favorite seafood restaurant, but it was very, very good.

And, it only took me an entire weekend to make it.

Thank you, Red Star.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Cilantro Hummus Pizza Crust

I made two bowls of hummus for the fall potluck at work. One normal and one cilantro-lime. It was surprisingly easy.

After the potluck, I had a little less than 1.5 cups of cilantro hummus left.

Which brings us to the pizza.

I'd actually cooked a whole pound of garbanzo beans in anticipation of making the hummus, and now we have a freezer full of garbanzos.  So, I've been researching garbanzo recipes the last few days.

I found a really cool one for garbanzo pizza dough. It used a can of drained garbanzos, a half cup of wheat flour, and some other stuff. I have no idea exactly what other stuff, because I lost the recipe.

But, if drained garbanzos can be food processed with flour and other stuff to make pizza dough, then hummus can be mixed with gluten-free flour and other stuff to become pizza dough. Right?

Except.... I've both read and learned the hard way that gluten-free flours are not as forgiving of moisture variance as wheat flour is.  And, I'm well aware that my hummus doesn't have the same moisture content as drained garbanzos. So, this could be a disaster.

But, it could be an interesting disaster. And, it would use up that cilantro hummus.

I started by mixing an egg into the leftover hummus. Next, I grabbed my container of Bob's Red Mill gluten-free baking mix and added enough to make a somewhat wet and sticky dough. Probably somewhere between 1/2 and 3/4 cup.  The dough looked a little coarse, so I drizzled some olive oil in to smooth things out a bit.

I decided to bake it in a large iron skillet just in case it came out really bad. Iron skillets are indestructible.

Oiled the iron skillet, spread the dough out, and put it in to bake at 350 for about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, I wondered, what do you top a cilantro and garbanzo pizza crust with?

I thought of all kinds of cool ideas, mostly involving things I didn't have on hand.

So, instead, I smeared some spaghetti sauce on top, then used an ice pick to extract 1/2 cup of hamburger from a frozen block I had in the freezer.  Crumbled up a leftover sausage patty. Added a few kalamata olives, some pre-shredded mozzarella and Parmesan. Next, bumped the oven temp up to 400, and cooked it for another 15 minutes.

The result was a thick, soft pizza crust, almost more like a biscuit than a pizza. Spouse 1.0 declared it a definite improvement over the thin, cardboard-like gluten-free pizza crusts you get in the stores. 

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Noodle Pudding, Sort Of

I made the mistake of buying some gluten-free pasta that was not Tinkyada a couple of weeks ago. It was on sale at Henry's for a really irresistible price.

Unfortunately, the pasta itself turned out to be pretty resistible.

It wasn't awful. It just didn't hold up well. It turned to mush -- as I'd been warned that all non-Tinkyada gluten free pasta would.

I got to thinking about noodle kugel, and how it's kinda sorta like baked french toast or strata: Eggs and dairy and such mixed with starchy stuff and baked. 

I had 4 ounces of the pasta spirals left, so why not make a small pasta pudding, kinda sorta like noodle kugel, for the Spouse?

So, I cooked the pasta. It was really nice not having to worry about cooking it for exactly the right number of minutes. If underdone, it'd cook some more when I put the eggy goo on it and baked it. If overdone, the eggy goo would disguise it.

Next, I tossed in some dried cranberries and some frozen ones.  Mixed a large egg with 1/2 cup almond milk; dashes of cinnamon, nutmeg, & cloves; a splash of vanilla; and a tablespoon of raw sugar.

Poured the eggy goo over the pasta and baked it in the toaster oven at 350 for about 40 minutes.

It came out surprisingly good for being such lousy pasta.  Looking forward to seeing if Spouse 1.0 likes it.

It Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time

In my defense, it been a long day at work.  I was tired and my hands hurt.

And, yes, I wanted chocolate pudding.

I was out of the handy little cuplets of Zensoy, and I really, really, really didn't want to bother with the homemade mess of cocoa powder, almond milk, and blah blah blah.  I was also out of arrowroot.

Spouse 1.0 had plenty of chocolate soy milk.  90 calories per cup.

Hmmmm.... What if I borrowed some?

The resulting pudding would be nearly as low cal as that famous name brand pudding I'd given up when we went healthy. Oh, happy low calorie thoughts.

But, what to thicken it with?  I had potato starch and tapioca starch.... And no arrowroot.

Tapioca pearls = tapioca pudding. So tapioca starch must be a most puddingly starch indeed.

Woo hoo! Low cal and just 2 ingredients!  Chocolate soy milk and tapioca starch.

Yes, it seemed like a good idea at the time.

As it cooked, I tasted it. Not bad, but bland and needed to be sweeter. Added a dash cinnamon, a splash of vanilla, a few drops stevia, and a very light sprinkle of raw sugar.

Tasted better, but as it thickened I noticed a very strange stretchy sliminess to its texture.  Ewww.

But, I really, really, really wanted chocolate pudding.

So I ate it.

And, was glad I'd only made four servings. 

On the bright side, it has separated less than all the other homemade non-dairy chocolate puddings. And, when chilled it's not so very stretchy and slimy. 

And it is chocolate.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Modular Cooking

My mom made the best chili.  She used real beans, usually a combination of pinto and kidney. She'd pick through the beans to make sure there were no rocks or other foreign matter. Then she'd rinse them a few times, put them in a huge pot, add water, and get them boiling.

She didn't soak them. Mom was a bean heretic. 

Next, she'd add all kinds of stuff. Chopped onion, bell pepper, canned tomatoes, real garlic, oregano, other seasonings, and hamburger. 

She didn't brown the hamburger first, the way recipes tell you to do. I guess she was a hamburger heretic too.

Like most of Mom's cooking, chili was an all-day affair.  Real food requires real cooking. And real cooking requires real time. Lots of it.

I don't have entire days to devote to cooking.

I have minutes. 30 here, 15 there.  I have to cook in modules.  It goes something like this:

Week one: Brown 2 or 3 lbs of hamburger with onions, garlic, and other seasonings. Place in two containers, label with the date, and freeze them.

Week two:  On Sunday morning, pick through about 1.5 lbs of black beans.  Rinse, drain, add water, and set aside to soak. Shower, dress, go to church.  After church, drain the beans, add water and seasonings, and put them on the stove to cook.  Eat lunch, then do laundry and other Sunday afternoon chores while the beans cook. When they're done, package in several containers of various sizes and freeze.

Week three: Take 1 package of hamburger and a large container of beans out of freezer to thaw. Run a bunch of Saturday-type errands.  About 1/2 hour before dinner, dump the black beans and hamburger in a 3 quart pot. Add 1 can organic tomatoes, 1/2 can organic tomato paste, the last of the pre-chopped Trader Joe onions, some dehydrated garlic, oregano, chili powder, cumin, celery seed, and whatever else strikes your fancy.  Add more garlic.

Voila. Easy, healthy chili. And, it only took three weeks to make it.

Garnish with a few blue corn tortilla chips and call it dinner.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Vanillascotch Pudding

Yup, I continue my quest for an easy and perfect pudding.

For now, I'm giving up on the crock pot chocolate pudding.  I think I'm finally strong enough to stir a 4-serving recipe on the stove, and the extra work hauling out and washing the crock pot is no longer mitigated by being able to spread the stirring out.

I'll still crock pot the tapioca. It's not as high-maintenance as chocolate.

So, hurray for stove-top chocolate pudding.  But, woman does not live by chocolate pudding alone, or even chocolate with periodic bouts of tapioca.  I need butterscotch.

Luckily, there are recipes for butterscotch out there. So, last week I decided to make butterscotch pudding.

Of course, I can't leave well enough alone. I can't even leave "well enough except for substituting almond milk" alone.

First change: Just say no to processed sugar -- even brown sugar. Raw demerara. About 1/4 what the recipe calls for. And, add a tiny bit of molasses to provide extra brown-ness to the raw sugar.

Next change: Substitute 1/4 date sugar for brown, just because I have it on hand, and just because it's novel.

Third: Leave out the other half of  the sugar. Add some liquid stevia.

Use 1/2 the butter the recipe calls for.  Never mind the fact that this is supposed to be butterscotch. Who needs all that fat?

No corn starch. Arrowroot.

And, of course, almond milk instead of cow's.

Now, add a little extra vanilla to make up for all the flavor lost by cutting back on sugar and fat and such.

Not really butterscotch. Not really vanilla. Vanillascotch.

Results: Don't try this at home, kids.  It's ugly. The date sugar doesn't dissolve, leaving it grainy. It's not bad while it's still warm, and it's even edible when cold. But, who wants not-bad edibility for dessert?

Saturday, October 2, 2010


Sounds like something they'd serve on Cajun Night in the MIT cafeteria. But, no, this is not about how people from the fourth state pronounce things.

Spouse 1.0 loves, loves, loves the jambalaya at Mimi's.  He especially loves, loves, loves it over pasta instead of rice. And, any jambalaya out there is bound to contain sausage that in turn surely contains maltodextrin, dextrose, random sources of free glutamic acid, and assorted other unpronounceables.  Plus, last time I checked, Mimi's pasta wasn't gluten free.

But, it didn't start out as an attempt to give Spouse 1.0 a glutamic acid free, gluten free jambalaya-like experience. It started out as an attempt to throw something together for dinner.

Given my abscessed tooth, I was thinking I might have soft boiled eggs. Room temperature. Preferably sans pepper. Intravenously, if possible. Not something Spouse would welcome. 

Hmmm, what to fix for him?

Digging around in the freezer, I unearthed a 1 lb bag of pre-cooked shrimp from T-Jo. I had some chemical-free sausage I'd picked up at Whole Foods in the fridge. Even had a bell pepper or two.... Jambalaya!!

Problem: I have no idea what's really in jambalaya. And, with the abscessed tooth sapping my joie de vivre, I was in NO MOOD to research recipes. Besides, it's always more fun to just wing it.

So, step one: put shrimp in colander and run cold water over to thaw.

Put a large pan of water on to boil for the pasta.

Next: Cut up one 3 oz link of the Whole Foods mild Italian sausage and put it in a sauce pan.

After it browns a bit, toss in the chopped bell pepper and some pre-chopped onions. Turn heat down to low, add a little water, and cover.

Toss in a can of organic tomatoes and half a can of organic tomato paste. Cover and think about spices.

Garlic.  A bit of basil.  A pinch of oregano. Cumin. Maybe a bit of chili powder. Cayenne. Oops. Too much cayenne. Oh well.  Cover and hope for the best.

By now, the tomato & sausage mixture should be starting to boil. Turn heat really low.

Throw some gluten free pasta into the boiling water. Maybe 5 or 6 ounces. More if you like lots of pasta. Set the timer for 12 minutes, or whatever the pasta calls for.

Taste the tomato & sausage mixture. Add more cumin, basil, and garlic. Or whatever it is you think you need to add.

About 3 minutes before the pasta's done, stir the shrimp into the tomato & sausage mixture.  Cover.

When the pasta's done, drain it.

Put a little pasta in each person's bowl, top with the jambalaya-like mixture, and eat.

Not a true jambalaya. More like a jambaliar. But, not bad.  I think I'll do it again sometime.

Maybe I'll even read a recipe first.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Modular Food: Pork and Black Bean Chili in 5 Minutes

A few weeks ago I crock potted some pork. Froze a few small containers of it, and left some out for immediate use. 

Sunday, cooked up a pound and a half of black beans. Added pre-chopped onions, celery, and carrot from T-Jo.  A little garlic. Not a whole lot of other seasonings. Froze some, left some out.

And, there's almost always some cooked brown rice around here, either in the fridge or the freezer.

So, last night I finally got around to one of the combinations I'd intended when making the pork oh so many crock pot sessions ago: Pork and black bean chili.

Very easy:

  1. Grab a container of pork from the freezer and pop it in the fridge before you leave for work -- about a cup or so.
  2. Also grab a container of precooked black beans, preferably one in which you've put lots of the black bean juice.  Maybe 3 cups total. or 4?
  3. When you get home, dump the pork and black beans into a pan and shred the pork with a fork.
  4. Get it started heating while you finish adding stuff:
    • Pre-cooked brown rice - maybe a cup?
    • Some tomato paste - about 1/2 or 2/3 of a 6 ounce can.
    • Dehydrated garlic, chili powder, cayenne - to taste 
    • pre-chopped onions from T-Jo - probably 1/4 or 1/2 cup
    • A dash of salt
Boom. You're done. Chili in 5 minutes, and only one pan and a few freezer containers to wash.  It probably won't win any prizes in a chili cook off, but it is easy, healthy, and fast.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Definitely Not Hideous

Cornmeal lemon cookies.

Sounds kinda gross, huh?  Especially if you really, truly, completely loathe lemony desserts.

But, my friend Alice's cornmeal cookies were the best.  Lots of crispy buttery sugary goodness, the gritty crunch of cornmeal supplemented by a little walnutty crunch on top.  Just enough lemon zest to give it a little ... zest.  A subtle hint of vanilla to soften the sourness of the lemon.

So, with the new dietary restrictions, was it even worth it to try to replicate Alice's cornmeal cookies?

In my not-so-considered gluten-free experience, G-free flours can be...well... a little gummy. Cakey. They have their own flavor. Or lack thereof.

Alice's cookies call for a mix of shortening and butter. But, I'm not doing hydrogenated shortening these days. Would all butter burn? Be too buttery and thus overpower the cornmeal?

Raw sugar is a lot more coarse than white sugar, and it's a bit more moist. Would that mess with the perfect texture of Alice's cornmeal cookies?

And the cornmeal itself.... Spouse is supposed to avoid white and yellow corn. He can have blue.  But,organic blue cornmeal is significantly more finely ground than normal yellow cornmeal. What if the cookies were too smooth and didn't have any cornmeal grittiness whatsoever?

On top of that, blue is such a misnomer. Blue cornmeal is really lavender-gray. Not exactly a cornmeal lemon cookie color. Would lavender-gray cookies be just too hideous?

But, having experienced relative success with the oaty-oat cookies and the cashew butter ones, I just had to give cornmeal cookies a try.

I'm still enough of a G-free cooking novice that I'm not ready to convert normal recipes.  But, Alice's cornmeal cookies are unusual.  Surely, nobody out there has concocted a G-free cornmeal cookie recipe. Google google google and...

Woo hoo! 

Except... ginger??? Spouse would love that. But me, not so much. And, while I want him to be able to enjoy the cookies, I'm really the one with the hankering for cornmeal cookies.

I didn't have the specified sorghum flour mix.  So, I used a random combination of brown rice flour, potato starch, and tapioca flour.

With blue cornmeal instead of yellow, raw demerara sugar instead of white.

And, of course, Alice's 1 tsp of vanilla instead of that 1/4 tsp of ginger.

Results:  Heavenly. Absolutely the best cookies -- in fact, the best anything -- I've made since going healthy.  

And, while my cookies were brown instead of the happy pale yellow of Alice's cookies, they were not hideous. Not hideous at all.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Lament for a Messy Kitchen

In my first hour and a half of wakefulness this morning I had breakfast, cooked rice, started a recipe of rice pudding in the crock pot, halved and scraped two baby pumpkins, put the aforementioned pumpkins in the convection oven to roast, loaded the dishwasher, and hand washed the dishes needing that.

And, my kitchen is a mess.

Actually, since I've started cooking, the kitchen is always a bit cluttered and messy.

Not dirty.

I simply could not abide that. 

Crumbs, food bits, sticky spots.  Ewwww. No way.

But, it is messy.

Dishes draining.  Butter softening. Pudding cooking. Pumpkins roasting. Recipes standing ready.

My kitchen is a mess of verbs. 

That's probably what makes it tolerable. If it were a nounly mess, I think I'd go ballistic.

I suspect that when my spouse wakes up, he'll just see nouns. Lots of 'em.  All over the place.

But, when he smells the pumpkin and tastes the pudding, maybe he'll embrace the verbs.  And help me tidy up some of the nouns.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Cookie Extravaganza

I'm turning into Alice.

Alice was my friend Rose's mom.  Alice lived through the Great Depression, and was extremely frugal.  So, Alice made everything from scratch.  She never, ever bought a store-bought anything if a little time and effort could cause that thing to be grown, dried, canned, frozen, baked, or otherwise manufactured at home.

Alice made her own soap. She used lard and lye.  It smelled kind of.... lardy, but when I used her soap, I had the best skin.

Another thing Alice made was cookies.  She would periodically bake batches and batches and then freeze them. I'd drop by to hang out with Rose, and Alice would pull a ginormous Tupperware container out of the freezer.  Icebox cookies. Snickerdoodles. And, what eventually became my favorite: Cornmeal cookies.

I haven't started making my own lye soap (yet), but this weekend I did make cookies.

Two batches. If I were really channeling Alice, this weekend's cookie extravaganza would have included at least three kinds.

Of course, I froze most of them for future consumption.  In little Tupperware containers. 

Because Spouse 1.0 is supposed to go gluten-free, I was experimenting with recipes using oat flour and brown rice flour.

G-free flours are, according to my cookbook, a lot less forgiving than wheat. Precise measurement is essential; experimentation is discouraged. And, my cookbook contains recipes for neither snickerdoodles nor cornmeal cookies.

Probably just as well that it doesn't contain a cornmeal cookie recipe. The spouse is only permitted organic blue cornmeal, not white or yellow.  I'm thinking blue cornmeal cookies might not look very cookie-like.

So, Friday night's cookies were oatmeal, made with whole oats and oat flour.  Think of them as oaty-oatmeal cookies.  The recipe called for raisins, which neither of us loves. But, the recipe said you could substitute chocolate chips. 

So, of course, I substituted dates & carob chips for the raisins, plus added a few pecans. 

Results:  A little cakey, but generally yummy. Mostly because of the carob chips and the pecans.

Today's cookies were peanut butter with rice flour. Except we aren't supposed to eat peanut butter. So, I substituted cashew butter. And, I substituted brown rice flour for the rice flour. But, other than that, I stuck to the recipe.

Results: A bit bland. 

Part of the problem: Cashews aren't peanuts. This is OK in Thai cashew sauce, where the flavor is supplemented by other strong ingredients. But, in peanut butter cookies, your strongest flavor is the peanut butter. So, with cookies you're a lot more aware of the fact that cashews aren't peanuts.

Another part of the problem: Rice flour is bland.  It just is. Even brown rice flour.

Third part of the problem: The recipe no doubt was formulated using normal commercial peanut butter, which contains lots of yummy salt and white sugar and hydrogenated oils and preservatives in addition to the peanuts.  The cashew butter contained... cashews.

This has ramifications on both taste (bland) and texture (a bit oily and cakey).

So, next time I'll try almond butter. Or use potato flour. Maybe add more salt and raw sugar.

But, in the meantime, we have cookies in the freezer.

Just like Alice.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

I (Mostly) Know What's In It Barbeque Sauce

Last weekend I cooked up some pork with good intentions of making barbeque sauce to go with.  Luckily I froze some of the pork, because I only today got around to making the sauce.

Have you ever looked at what's in commercial barbeque sauce?  Mostly it contains scary stuff.

Even the organic ones sold at the expensive organic-minded stores can contain "spices" or "flavorings" -- without bothering to tell you what's in the spices or flavorings. Could be anything. Could be monosodium glutamate.

Some simply contain corn syrup -- which is on the naughty-for-us list.

Most recipes for homemade barbeque sauce contain ketchup.  Even organic ketchup contains the ubiquitous and unnamed "spices."  There might be an organic ketchup out there that gives full disclosure. If there is, I haven't found it. And it's probably $10 per bottle.

Sorry. I want to know what's in it before I put it in me.

And, if it's going to have unnamed ingredients, then I'd rather pay $2 per bottle to poison myself than $10.

I had seen a recipe online for homemade barbeque sauce that started with tomato paste.  I couldn't remember what else was in it. Besides, it's so much more fun to just throw things in a pan and see what happens.

The first thing to go in was some dehydrated onions and a can of tomato paste.

Next, some water, molasses, garlic, allspice, cumin, cayenne, black pepper, wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, raw sugar. Oregano.

Too thick. Add some more water. And some more.

Stir and taste.

A little more molasses, garlic, cayenne, vinegar, Dijon.

Stir and taste.

A bit of bamboo salt.  More vinegar and Dijon and raw sugar.

Too thick.

A dribble more water.

Stir and taste.

A few more sprinkles of dry onion. A pinch more raw sugar.

Stir and taste.

OK, I think this will do.

Most Americans would want it sweeter, though it seemed I'd already dumped an alarming amount of sugar into it.

Well, at least I (mostly) know what's in it.  I just couldn't tell you how much of what's in it, is in it.

Friday, September 3, 2010

The Joy of Eggs

My friend and acupuncturist Cathy raises chickens. The real kind. Like in the song "Cluck Old Hen." Free-range. Organic. Cage-free. Like great-grandma used to make.

Sometimes the squirrels and other free-range organic cage-free critters get to the eggs before Cathy can. Sometimes she gets to them first. And when she does, she likes to share.

Before I went all healthy, I didn't have much use for eggs.  They aren't microwave-friendly, and they aren't the protein-per-calorie bargain that cottage cheese is.  So, I used about 3 cartons of eggs per year, all on weeks when it was my turn to do Friday breakfast for the coworkers.

But, the new and improved microwaveless me loves eggs. Especially on those nights (like tonight) when I get home late and hungry and want food NOW.

Eggs were great-grandma's fast food. 

They were also Aunt Gail's.

I spent a summer with Aunt Gail when I was 12.  Aunt Gail worked in Hollywood as a manicurist, and she lived in Glendale. Even back then it wasn't a fun commute.  If microwaves existed, they didn't exist for people living on a manicurist's wages and tips.

So, five nights a week we had eggs and frozen hash browns for dinner. We probably had bacon or sausage, too.  Aunt Gail was, after all, a Southern girl. With her growing boy of a son and her 6'7" giant of a brother living with her, there was surely some meat.  But, it's the eggs and hash browns I remember. 

Every night.

Five nights a week.

All summer long.

I don't recall ever getting bored with that. It felt scandalous, avant-garde, and decadent to eat breakfast for dinner.

Every night.

Five nights a week.

All summer long.

And, now, I come home tired and hungry and grumpy from my commute, having done my fair share of, if not painting toes, at least trying not to step on them.  And, once in a while, it's still delightfully scandalous, a wee bit avante-garde, and deliciously decadent to eat breakfast for dinner. 

Especially when dinner is a couple of Cathy's free-range organic cage-free eggs.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Peanut-free Thai Peanut Sauce

Spouse 1.0 and I aren't supposed to have peanuts.  This breaks my heart because I love miniature dark chocolate peanut butter cups. It breaks Spouse's heart because he loves Thai peanut sauce.

Even if commercial Thai peanut sauce didn't have peanuts, it'd probably have a zillion other things we're trying to eliminate... So, why not make my own?

First: What nut to substitute? Cashew butter seemed the most likely choice, if for no other reason than it was already in the fridge.

Next: Google up a likely candidate for a recipe, and read the ingredients and the reviews.

I didn't bother printing the recipe. The reviews said it had too much lime, not enough flavor, blah blah blah.  The important thing is knowing roughly what kind of ingredients to use, and a rough idea of proportions.

So, off to the kitchen to experiment.

Chunked off about 1/2 cup of the cashew butter and put it in the sauce pan. Added a splash of bottled lime juice and a big splash wheat-containing soy sauce.  If I were a loving wife, I'd have squeezed the lime fresh, and used the new bottle of g-free soy.

But, my hands hurt too much for fresh lime, and I figured that a man who still ate a Starbucks sausage sandwich every day wasn't entirely committed to the g-free life yet. So, why not save myself some money and use up some of our old wheat-containing soy sauce.

I really am a horrible person.

OK, back to the sauce. 

Sprinkled in a bunch of sesame seeds, added a big pinch of powdered ginger, and a dash of cayenne. And a small splash of rice vinegar.  Started heating it up, and boy was it thick.  I didn't recall the recipe saying anything about water, but using less lime juice justified adding some other liquid. And some more. And some more.  Maybe a half cup of water in all. Maybe three quarters.

Oh, yeah.  The sweet stuff:  Maybe 2 or 3 coffee scoops of raw sugar.

A little taste test, and it needed more kick. So, another dash of cayenne.  And some black pepper. I should have added garlic, but I think I forgot.

Still a bit thick, but now it tasted pretty good.  I took a teaspoon of it upstairs and woke up the Spouse.  He declared it a little spicy, but generally worthy. Hurray!

Next time, I'll remember the garlic. 

Friday, August 27, 2010

In Praise of Ingredients

About 12 years ago our nephew lived with us.  His folks came to town, and we decided to meet here after work to go to dinner. Well, the folks arrived before we got home, and sis-in-law decided to bake something. She started rummaging around in my kitchen.  She was appalled to find no flour, no sugar, no eggs... no ingredients.

What kind of kitchen has no ingredients?

Mine of course.  I was very proud of my clean, lovely new kitchen, and I surely wasn't going to spoil it with cooking and ingredients and such.

Fast forward to Wednesday of this week.  Impending vendor meeting on Thursday, which happened to be the tech guy's birthday.

Wouldn't it be fun to have a cake!

But, after work I was too tired & hungry to go in search of said cake. And, Thursday's meetings were too early to plan a side trip on the way in.

What to do???

I could have given up on the cake concept. David would have preferred that. After all, nobody expected a cake.  Nobody needed a cake.

But, one of the things I learned from my friend Carol: A good project manager is always on the lookout for ways to make work fun.  And, birthday cakes are, by definition, fun.

Leafing through my trusty Better Homes and Gardens cookbook, there it was: A recipe for gingerbread that used ordinary flour, brown sugar, molasses, shortening, eggs, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and ginger.

All stuff I had on hand.

None of which I had on hand the day Sis-in-law was rummaging through my cupboards.

So, before bed Wednesday I mixed up the dry ingredients.  Thursday morning after breakfast I mixed in the wet ingredients and put the gingerbread in to bake. 

I'd wanted a glaze for it, but didn't have powdered sugar.  So, I took some blenderized brown sugar and mixed with a splash of vanilla and a few teaspoons of almond milk.  Let that set while I went upstairs to shower.

After the shower, took the gingerbread out of the oven and let it cool while I dried my hair and did the makeup.

Back downstairs to drizzle glaze over the warm gingerbread. Loosely covered it, put on my sandals, and headed off to work, gingerbread in hand.

There are secret advantages to this healthy cooking thing:  You have ingredients, and cooking from scratch starts to to fit into your life -- even into those spaces where a trip to the supermarket would never go.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Confessions of an Idiot

It's pretty humbling to suddenly discover that you're an idiot.

I've always been a label reader. But, mostly I just looked at calories, protein, fats. It's sort of like claiming that you read the newspaper when all you really read is the comics and Dear Abbey.

So, today I started looking through my cupboard and really reading the ingredients lists. I quickly found five things to throw away. And, I equally quickly learned that I'm an idiot.

Below are some of the more um, interesting ingredients from among these five products.  Totals are in parentheses when more than one product contains the ingredient.
  • Maltodextrin (4)
  • "Natural flavor" (2)
  • Tricalcium phosphate
  • Partially hydrogenated soybean oil (2)
  • "Spices" (2)
  • Citric acid (3)
  • Disodium guanylate (4)
  • Disodium inosinate (4)
  • Sulfiting agents
  • Hydrolyzed corn protein (2)
  • Autolyzed yeast extract (2)
  • Silicon dioxide (2)
  • Monosodium glutamate
  • Yellow 6
  • Red 40
  • Hydrolyzed corn gluten
  • Sodium caseinate
Yummy, huh? Just like grandma used to make.

Did I really think that disodium guanylate is FOOD? Did I really think that years of eating maltodextrin and sulfiting agents and silicon dioxide was harmless?

Spouse 1.0 does not share my horror or my outrage. So, he's not entirely enthusiastic about the idea of running off and joining an organic commune somewhere in Colorado.

But, at least he's not mad at me for poisoning him for the last 22.5 years.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Arm-Friendly Chocolate Pudding

I've googled the whole earth over trying to find a crock pot chocolate pudding recipe.  Chocolate pudding cake, yeah. Chocolate pudding, no.  Found one (and only one) for tapioca, but no chocolate.

Maybe it's because pudding really does require stirring, and people just expect to put stuff in the crock pot, go off and run errands for a few hours, and come home to find their food perfectly done.

People also expect crock pots to be forgiving of a little too much cooking time.  Crock pot tapioca taught me that the window of forgiveness for desserts is much narrower than the window of forgiveness for chicken or beef.

But, surely crock potting chocolate pudding is better than having your arms fall off from stirring.  So, here it is, quite possibly the world's first crock pot chocolate pudding recipe. Almost certainly the world's first dairy-free, corn-free, gluten-free, low-sugar crock pot pudding to be published on Blogspot.


4 or 5 quart crock pot
Silicone spatula
Silicone wire whisk
Assorted measuring devices


1/2 C unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 C potato starch
1/2 C raw cane sugar
Dash salt
Microscopic dash of cinnamon
4 C almond milk
Splash of vanilla
1/2 T butter or soy margarine or other fatty substance (opt.)
About 16 drops liquid stevia

Whisk all the dry stuff together until the potato starch is well incorporated.
Add all the wet stuff except the fat and stevia.
Whisk to incorporate.
Turn the crock pot on high.
Every 20 - 30 minutes perform the following stirring ritual:
  • Whisk
  • Stir with spatula, getting the goo off the bottom and sides
  • Whisk again to incorporate the goo
After about an hour or hour and and a half, turn the crock pot on low. Go run an errand for about an hour.
Add the fat, then perform the stirring ritual.

Check to see if the pudding is getting to be about the thickness of tomato sauce or somewhere between chocolate sauce and pudding. If it's not yet nearly pudding-like, then just cook it on low a bit longer, periodically doing the stirring ritual.

When it is nearly pudding-like, turn the crock pot off.
Go run another errand for another hour and a half or so. 
Add the stevia, then perform the stirring ritual one more time.
Package it into single-serve cups, or just dump it all in a bowl and chill.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Super Easy Cilantro Lime Brown Rice

Much as I love Green Olive Chicken, I'm just not ready to have it again. But, that's OK. Salsa Chicken is even easier.

So, not quite knowing where I was going with this week's menu, Saturday morning I put a family pack of boneless skinless chicken in the crock pot. I grabbed the vat of organic salsa from Costco and poured a couple of cups over it, then set off on the usual weekend errands.

Come dinner time, I discovered there was only a half cup of brown rice left. Enough for a meal or two for me and Spouse 1.0, but not enough to justify the effort of sauteing, opening a can of tomatoes, and all the ingredients that would go into even the easiest Spanish Rice.

I thought of cheating and just cooking it with some of the Costco salsa. But, then I remembered seeing the words "Cilantro Lime Rice" somewhere... maybe when scanning through recipes online while looking for rice pudding, maybe on a restaurant menu.  Anyway, I figured, "How hard can it be?"

And, for once, the answer was: Not hard at all.


1/2 cup of brown rice
1 cup of water
A big splash of bottled lime juice (maybe 2 or 3 T?)
Tiny dash of granulated garlic
Dash of salt
3 cilantro ice cubes from Trader Joe

Rinse the rice, then mix it and everything except the cilantro in a pan.  Cook until the rice is nearly done, then stir in the cilantro ice cubes.

Obviously, you can make this even easier by using leftover brown rice, and just reheating with all the flavorings.

The super-easy chicken and rice became part of an almost-easy taco salad dinner, plated as follows:

Layer lettuce and tomatoes on the plate.
Place about  1/3 to 1/2 cup cilantro lime rice in the center.
Top the rice with about 3 to 3.5 oz of the cooked chicken.
Spoon reheated refried beans over all in an X.
Drizzle salsa inside the beanly spokes.
Sprinkle a few canned olives around the edges.
Top with a tiny fluff of shredded cheese.

One of my favorite meals, even though lettuce washing doesn't count as "easy."

Sunday, August 15, 2010

G-Free, Dairy Free, Low Sugar Chocolate Pudding

When I was little, my mom would sometimes make chocolate pudding. She may have used a mix, but back then "mixes" saved you about 60% of the measuring, but only about 10% of the work.

You still had to stir the mix into the milk to dissolve it, and then stand stirring and stirring over a hopefully low enough heat to keep it from burning.  You'd almost certainly still end up with a few lumps.  And, it still required a certain amount of skill and intuition to know when the pudding was done.

You'd pour the pudding into dessert bowls, and a skin would form over the top as it cooled.  Sometimes people would put wax paper over the top of the pudding to keep the skin from forming -- a real travesty, because the coolest part (at least for a kid) was eating that weird stretchy chocolatey skin.

You'd almost never let it cool all the way because the kids were just too eager to eat the pudding. 

The kids would fight over who got to lick the spoon and who got to glean the pudding stuck to the pan. A smart mom would never, ever use a rubber spatula to get all the pudding out of the pan, because then a real fight would ensue. 

Now, pudding is made by Jello and comes in little pre-measured cups. You can get normal, fat-free, and sugar-free.

But, you can't get dairy-free, G-free, white sugar - free, and chemical sweetener-free.

So, last night I made pudding.

And, only an uber foodie chef wannabe would be foolhardy enough to call it easy. But, it was good.  Very reminiscent of the stuff Mom used to make, except almond milk doesn't form that cool stretchy skin.


1/4 C unsweetened cocoa powder
2 T potato starch
1/4 C raw cane sugar
Dash salt
2 C almond milk
Splash of vanilla
About 12 drops liquid stevia

Mix all the dry stuff in a pan with a wire whisk. Then add the wet stuff (except the stevia) and whisk until you're deluded into thinking everything's all blended and smooth.

Heat it all over a very low fire, and stir with a wire whisk until you start worrying about the whisk not reaching the edges of the bottom of the pan. Stir with a silicon spatula until you start worrying about the spatula not getting the center bottom of the pan. Switch to a steel spoon.

Keep stirring, periodically switching your stirring tool, until your arms fall off and the husband (or kiddies) smell the chocolate and start asking if it's done yet.

Stir some more, until it starts burbling like molten lava.  Cook and stir just a bit more. Then stir in the stevia.

Let it cool long enough to keep it from melting your plastic containers. Or, use glass.

Reserve the spoon, pan, and other stirring implements for yourself, for he who stirreth not, licketh not.

Makes 4 1/2 cup servings.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Sesame Soy Roast Beast

David bought some recipe cards before we were married. Why a man who would rather die than cook had recipe cards... That's a mystery to me.

And, why we still have those cards nearly 23 years later is also a wonder.

One of those cards is for sesame soy marinated chuck roast.

Well, last Saturday I had sirloin, not chuck. And, I didn't have time to marinate and roast.  I wanted to crock pot the thing. I couldn't find a "safe" Worcestershire. David shouldn't have corn starch. I wasn't about to add to the roast's calories with butter. And, I had left-over two-buck-chuck white zin, not sherry.

But, other than that, I mostly followed the recipe. Sorta.

After a few hours, my 2.5 lb roast had been reduced to about 24 ounces. A bit anorexic, but enough for 4 meals.

The best part was, three of those meals were FAST.

Monday I warmed up some of the beef in a small pot. I put the two left over potatoes on top. Vegs in a separate pan. Not only were we door to table in about 15 minutes, we only had two pans to wash!

Wednesday I heated up some more of the left over beef in a small pan.  Mixed up a little left over red rice and lentils in a non-stick skillet, and cooked some vegs in another pan. Door to table: About 15 minutes.

And, tonight we had the last of the roast.  I cheated on the healthy thing and used normal instant mashed potatoes.  They had preservatives, but not nitrites.  And, again, door to table in about 15 minutes.

Woo hoo! Dinner in almost microwave time, 3 nights this week!

The adapted recipe:

1 Tbsp sesame seeds
1/2 cup strong coffee (or just sprinkle on a packet of Via)
1/2 cup (or less) soy sauce
1 Tbsp vinegar (I used balsamic)
1/4 cup Two Buck Chuck

Put all that in the crock pot with your roast, and cook until the meat falls apart.  When all is done, add a little arrowroot dissolved in water to thicken the au jus a little.

Sunday, August 8, 2010


When we were courting, Dave & I had a bit of an adventure when his brakes gave out on some twisty windy dirt road in the Sierras. He told me about a movie he'd seen (or book he'd read) where the characters were supposed to be having adventures. Unfortunately, one of them didn't really know what an adventure was. So, the guy that did know what an adventure was told him that he would alert him to an adventure in progress by saying "Pudding" whenever they were having one.

This whole dietary change-up is definitely an adventure.

The latest adventure is... what to eat when my now-forbidden stash of artificially sweetened, cow-milk-based little cuplets of Jello pudding are all gone? 

I've been worrying about this more as my supply has steadily dwindled. 

So, yesterday I bought a bag of tapioca, thinking I'd do something rice-pudding-like with tapioca and almond milk. I dutifully googled tapioca pudding recipes, only to find they involved constant stirring. 

I'm doing this dietary adventure primarily in the hopes of bringing healing to my hands. Using my few remaining hand points for endless stirring of tapioca seemed to defeat the purpose.

Then... Behold!  A crock pot tapioca pudding recipe!  Woo Hoo!

Some reasonable substitutions and additions, and now I have Pudding!

The original recipe is here:

My variation:
  • 1/2 cup small pearl tapioca
  • 3/4 cup water, more or less
  • 3 1/2 cups almond milk (the 60 calorie/cup kind)
  • 2 T raw sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 T organic whipping cream or coconut based coffee creamer
  • 1 t vanilla
  • 6-8 drops liquid stevia
  • a dash or two of fresh ground nutmeg
Soak the tapioca in the water for an hour or two. Mix the eggs in a separate bowl. Dump everything except the stevia & the nutmeg in the crockpot, and whisk together. Cook on low for however long it takes. Mine took about 3 or 4 hours. Periodically stir/whisk the mixture... increasing from about once per hour at first to about once every 20 minutes near the end.  If the tapioca gets too thick before the pearls get translucent, add  a drizzle of water or almond milk.

When the pudding's done, whisk in the liquid stevia and the fresh nutmeg.

The almond milk is a bit sweet, so you don't need as much sugar as the original recipe requires.  Do not use powdered stevia. It's gross.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Variety is the Bane of My Existence

When microwaving was my life, variety meant that the Green Box Food people had discontinued Grilled Chicken Sonoma, and I had to find a new favorite.  Or, the White Box Food people had changed up their formulation for Grilled Chicken Caesar, and I had to start subsisting on Mediteranean Chicken.

I could literally eat the same flavor of microwave dinner every night of every week -- for weeks on end.

So, now that I'm eating microwaveless and healthy(er), why can't I eat Green Olive Chicken every night of every week until they discontinue chickens?

I really, really like Green Olive Chicken. And, I like it even better now that I'm substituting Two Buck Chuck for the Fat Tire Ale the recipe originally called for.

But, no... some weird force compels me to cook different things.

Partly, that weird force is Spouse 1.0, who can eat a Starbucks sausage sandwich every morning of his life, but can't eat Green Olive Chicken more than three times in the same week.

And, partly that weird force is something inside me.

So, tonight I'm crock potting a roast and baking some Yukon gold potatoes. And, I'm wondering if tomorrow I can trick that weird force into thinking that Black Olive Chicken counts as different.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Nothing to Write Home About

Whenever my mother was not particularly impressed by something, she would comment, "It was nothing to write home about."

If Mom had been alive and present for last night's dinner, I know exactly what she would have said.

So, why am I writing about a dinner that was nothing to write home about? Consider it a cautionary tale.

It all started with the remaining two sirloin burger patties from Tuesday night. I still had some leftover brown basmati. I still had the yummy bean dip. I could have just replicated the prior night's success.

But, where's the adventure in that?

More rummaging in the cupboard. I have a supply of Trader Joe's organic fat free marinara because Spouse 1.0 likes to disguise his vegs in assorted sauces. I like to buy him marinara because then he smothers his vegs in yet more vegs so they won't taste like vegs.

So, let's break up the hamburger patties and heat them and the brown basmati in some marinara. It'll be like spaghetti, only without the trouble and mess of boiling pasta.

Nice in theory.

In practice, not so great.

Part of the problem is that rice is simply not spaghetti. And, brown rice (even if it is basmati) is especially not spaghetti.

But the biggest problem was the marinara, which tasted a bit metallic to me. Maybe it's the basil.

Adding visual insult to culinary injury, the colors and texture of the medley... Let's just say I was glad the Spouse had been raised to keep his descriptive similes to himself when confronted with ugly food.

Just to be safe, I hid his under a blanket of melted low fat cheddar.

  • Sirloin burger and rice reheated in marinara
  • Big bowl of vegies
  • About 300 calories for her and 600 for him
  • Nothing to write home about

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

In Praise of Cuban Black Bean Dip

Last night I was experimenting with the concept of cooking ground meat for dinner.
My mom used to make elaborate stove top casseroles with ground beef. She also made an incredible hamburger soup. These things would take hours. And, they'd require chopping. I don't do chopping. Especially not on week nights.

So, I took the pound of ground sirloin out of the fridge, shaped it into 4 semi-rectangular patties, just right for cooking 2 at a time in the smaller of my two skillets. Put 'em on to cook. Started the vegs.
When the two burgers were done, I set 'em aside, then grabbed my leftover brown basmati rice and threw it in the skillet. Added a little water & covered it.
Now, what to do to make the rice less... boring?
I rummaged in the cupboard and found some Cuban black bean dip I'd picked up on impulse at Fresh and Easy a few months ago. Unlike most of the things in my cupboard, it wasn't so far past its use by date that I couldn't use it.

I checked the label: No verboten ingredients. Not organic, but at least no MSG, nitrates, nitrites, corn derivatives, wheat, or anything unpronounceable and unspellable. Mostly stuff you might put in your own Cuban black bean dip, if you were inclined to do that sort of thing.

When Spouse 1.0 opened the jar, it gave a satisfying pop. Not rotten. So far, so good.
I put a glop or two of it on the rice and smooshed it in, replaced the lid. An appetizing aroma wafted through the kitchen as it heated up.

  • Sirloin burger, about 4 oz pre-cooked weight per person
  • 1/3 cup rice and black bean mixture for me, about 1 cup for Spouse
  • 1 large bowl full of vegies per person
  • Probably about 300 or 350 calories for her, 500 to 600 for him

  • Heavenly! I'll definitely do this one again.

Yet Another Food Blog???

A week and half ago, my voodoo doctor told me to go microwaveless.


My lifestyle is all about microwaves. In the morning, I microwave my water to make instant oatmeal.

At work, I microwave my Green Box Food entree. In the plastic tray. Despite all the dire warnings from my coworkers.

At 4 PM, I microwave a bag of frozen vegs (my "snackies").

At dinner time, I microwave mine & my spouse's White Box Food entrees. Again in the dreaded plastic tray.

When we travel, we stay at hotels with fridges & microwaves in the room so we can microwave even more.

Well, the voodoo doc promises health and well-being, so I'm motivated. I wake up every morning, face the stove, and remind myself, "You lived without a microwave for the first 27 years of your life. You can do this."

Adding insult to injury, the voodoo doc gave me & Spouse 1.0 other onerous food restrictions. But, I'm motivated, right?

I'll give it a month. You can do anything for a month, right?

And, a week and a half into this, I'm discovering that it's perversely fun to try to make this work. So, check back as my friends and I explore quick and easy food that is...
  • Low calorie
  • Fast
  • Microwaveless
  • Corn-free (at least white & yellow corn free)
  • Sometimes gluten free
  • Usually contains no pasteurized cow's milk (but might contain other dairy)
  • Nitrate & Nitrite free
  • Artificial sweetener free
  • Usually contains no white sugar
It's an adventure.