Recipe posts

So, Dale and I bought a house and got married, and a ton of other stuff has been going on. It’s been insane. Obviously, for the Alaska contingent, the 365 Days of Cooking project has been abandoned wholesale, for quite some time. The other contingents have been quiet, but I would guess they’ve been trucking along?

As for us, well, now we have the house, most of the work on it is done, we’re done getting married, we’re through with the most immediate of the unpacking, and there’s time to get back to work on projects such as this one. I’m restarting, with a goal of eating restaurant food no more than once a week. I’m not, however, going to worry about the weeks when I’m away on travel or whatever. Or weeks when social engagements make restaurant avoidance impossible. My goal is for Dale and me to eat at home whenever we have the option. A saner approach will no doubt make success more, um, possible. 🙂

To get started, I did a bunch of fiddling with an old favorite recipe (favorite to eat; I’ve only ever made it a handful of times). I hope I don’t get in trouble for telling the Internet about it!

Chicken Divine (heavily modified; originally from Joseph Ney’s lunchroom, circa 1960)

  • 20 oz broccoli spears, cut long and thin (fresh, frozen, whatevs)
  • 3 chicken breasts cooked and boned
  • 2 “cans cream of soup” (cream of chicken or cream of broccoli recommended)
  • 1 cup nonfat plain yogurt
  • 1 tsp lemon juice ( I use lime)
  • 2 tsp – 1 Tbsp curry powder (I use the full Tbsp)
  • 1/2 – 3/4 cups very sharp cheese

Cook broccoli in salted water til bright, then drain well. (Don’t overdo this step, but also don’t skip it completely. Uncooked broccoli doesn’t bake through enough in 25 minutes; trust me.)

Arrange in 11×7″ or 13×9″ baking dish. Place chicken on top.

Combine soup, yogurt, lemon juice, curry powder, and pour over chicken. Sprinkle with cheese.
Bake at 350 degrees, 25-30 min.

Serve over egg noodles, traditionally, though it would be good over rice or whole wheat pasta, too.

Works well to make ahead.

Using nonfat milk and nonfat yogurt and also 3/4 cup of cheese (because let’s not kid ourselves), this recipe makes 6 servings of 376 calories apiece; each serving has 14.5 grams of fat, 22.4 grams of carbohydrate (3.8g fiber), and 39.5 grams of protein. If each serving is combined with a serving of egg noodles, it’s 521 calories, 16.1g fat, 49.4g carb (4.8g fiber), and 44.9g protein.


I think I’m pretty much recovered from the holidays (and my birthday). 2011 is well on its way, and I’m finding my groove. I’m also finding myself making some compromises. “Maybe it’s OK to eat Orowheat buns. They’re HFCS-free, high fiber, and low calorie. And darn if they aren’t the right shape for burgers.” “Come to think of it, salmon burgers from CostCo are pretty healthy, on the whole.” “That recipe looks like it would hit the spot, even if it does call for a roll of croissants.” And so on. Still going whole-grain where I can, still going for unprocessed, homemade, and organic foods where it makes sense. Still going CAFO-free on meat, organic on milk, and cage-free+organic on eggs. But I’m approaching it all with a little bit more of a sense of balance.

And you know what? I’m happier.

So may it go with the “no sugar until the end of February” thing, too. I’ve had ketchup in restaurants (regular Heinz has HFCS), and I even had a hot buttered rum with a little bit of whipped cream, on Saturday. (The scandal!) I can’t make myself feel too guilty for that. I think “I’ll mostly avoid processed sugar” would have been a better rule. In fact, I hadn’t really thought about it until now, but the fruit salad I’m eating (with plain Greek yogurt! yum!) has a few canned fruits “in light syrup” in it, so it’s totally not allowed. But it’s fruit–at least, mostly fruit. I drained off the syrup and put in as many “canned in juice,” “canned in water” (bleh!), and frozen fruits as I could. If I were to follow the rule to the letter, I would not be eating fruit and yogurt right now. And what could I possibly be eating, instead, that would be healthier?

Anyway, as far as the Challenge goes, I find that if I don’t have some easy things around, I fail. I am trying to eat homemade every day, not spend every day cooking. So I spent Sunday cooking up a storm. I now have a bunch of black bean burgers (do follow the commenters’ suggestions about draining everything REALLY WELL; also, I use oats instead of bread crumbs, to good effect) joining those salmon burgers in the freezer, plus those sandwich buns on hand to eat them with. There’s also a batch of pineapple carrot muffins (I can post the recipe if anyone wants it—they’re super easy!) in the freezer for quick breakfasts/snacks. I cooked up a package of chicken for some chicken tetrazzini (I used whole wheat spaghetti, regular parmesan, nonfat evaporated milk, fewer mushrooms, and some peas, but otherwise followed the recipe as is–it’s quite good) and put the extra in the freezer, to grab and throw into sesame noodles (add a couple of handfuls of chicken and broccoli, and split that recipe in half for a tasty one-pot entree for two) or maybe chicken noodle soup, in the future.

I also made the brunch bake I linked to in the first paragraph, roll of low-fat croissants and all–I used 5 largish strips of bacon, instead of the sausage, and I think I need to add an egg or two to make up for the smaller mass of meat-product; as it was, the crust made up about half of the bulk. But it was good! We enjoyed it on Sunday, and I’ll eat the remaining four servings over the next few days, for breakfasts. It can’t be an every week thing, but it is definitely going in the rotation!

You’d be amazed at how much calmer I feel with all of this stuff in my freezer, to be pulled out and warmed up with minimal difficulty (or waiting!) on low-energy evenings. I have more than a week’s worth of meals planned and ready, and that feels good. I mean, yes, it’s fine and healthy to do this Challenge, for its own sake. But I’m glad to be gaining some strategies and figuring out what compromises I need to make with myself so I can continue these good habits past October, too.

I’ve been reading nerdy books lately like What Einstein Told His Cook, Cooking for Geeks, and On Food and Cooking.  I felt like trying to hard cook some eggs differently than usual using knowledge of the physical process.

I put four eggs from the fridge into a small pot of cold water, slipped in a dial thermometer, and put a lid on (not closed all the way because of the thermometer).  I set the burner to low (#2 out of 9 settings) and let the temperature of the water come up to about 158 F.  I tried to hold the temperature there by checking periodically and adjusting the heat; it fluctuated between 156 and 161 F.  The goal was to perfectly congeal the yolk without it turning into a crumbly, dry ball.  After the water had held at about 158 F for 30 minutes, I removed one egg and opened it up.


As I started to peel the egg, I found the white quite liquidy, so I poured the contents into a glass.  The reason this happened is that, although the yolk become firm at 158 F and much of the white becomes firm at 144-149 F (the ovotransferrin proteins), some of the white (the ovalbumin proteins) do not become firm until 176-180 F.  It is hard to see in the pictures, but the yolk was a firm gel, and the white looked like shreds of cooked white floating in water (mostly what it was).  The ovalbumin has not yet clumped together enough to reflect light.  I took a bite out of the yolk before the third picture so that its interior is visible.  I was asked if it was safe to eat such an “uncooked” egg, and I explained that the egg is cooked, just not boiled.  Salmonella dies in just about a minute at 158 F, and the eggs are pasteurized by this heating process even if they weren’t before.  The yolk was moist and tender, but solid, preferable to a dry ball or runny liquid.

While I was playing with the first egg, the other eggs got another 10 minutes of cooking in at 158 F, but I’m not sure that the extra time had much of an effect.  I removed the three eggs, brought the water in the pot up to a boil, and put the eggs back in for a minute.  This was to set the rest of the white so I could eat the hard cooked eggs by hand.  I opened one of eggs immediately.  Some white was torn by the peeling, and some white in the center of the egg was still a liquid.

I ate a third egg the next day, and it was clear that the residual heat finished cooking the white after I removed the eggs from the water, and had also overcooked the edge of the yolk just a little.  It was easier to peel, too.  So, for my preference, a hard-cooked egg should be cooked at 158 F for a while, then boiled for a minute and quickly chilled.  I will probably experiment more.  Potter recommends a reverse method of putting the eggs in boiling water for 30 seconds first, then putting them in cold water and bringing it up to heat.

Just using boiling water would result in only part of the yolk reaching the desired consistency.  Either the center of the yolk would be too runny, or the outside of the yolk would be too crumby.  The slow cook creates an even consistency.

This was Dale’s and my first Thanksgiving together in Alaska—so, too far away to visit family. We were going to do our own thing, at home, but kind of at the last minute we decided to go to a potluck at “our” church (we haven’t gone a lot, admittedly, but if any church in town is ours, it’s this one). I still had the ingredients for a few things we like and a thing or two I wanted to try, so after the late lunch at the church, we came home, hung out for a while, and I started cooking again when we were no longer quite so full. It worked out well—by the time I was done, we were hungry. 🙂

We had turkey kielbasa—which didn’t technically fit my purchasing rules, but kielbasa is something Dale’s aunt always makes at holidays, and I think that’s a cool tradition—fruit salad (our contribution to the potluck, actually); broccoli cheddar rice casserole; cranberry-orange cornbread; and pumpkin pie.

The cornbread came from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day—and looked like kind of a disaster on the baking stone, as some of the hot sugar escaped. You’re really supposed to make it in a cast iron skillet, so I froze the second half of the dough until I have one. It was still tasty, though, and the sugar scraped/washed off the stone more easily than I expected—there’s still a bit of a stain, but that’s not surprising. People seemed to enjoy it on Friday. (I’m not planning to write about it at length, but pizzas-at-home were a success! The one batch of dough was too wet, but we got through it.)

My family usually does macaroni & cheese for holidays, but Dale and I had had that double batch on our hands not quite a month ago, so I branched out into vegetable-starch-cheese-soup-casserole territory, making this broccoli, rice, and cheese casserole with this “cream of soup” recipe (which is linked from the casserole recipe, conveniently enough). I made cream of celery and used Summit Spice & Tea’s “chicken broth” powder, which is made up of soy lecithin (it can be extracted mechanically, so I think it fits by my rules) and a number of spices—no actual chicken in it. It’s really convenient not to have to use chicken broth by the box, by the can, or by the chicken. I also used brown rice instead of white and halved the casserole recipe, in part because there are just two of us and in part because I don’t own a big enough casserole dish. Except for needing more salt, it came out great. I’d consider throwing chicken or maybe tuna in and making it a one-dish meal. (I didn’t calculate the nutrition information on this one; I’ll have to before I decide whether it’s going into the standard meal rotation or not.) I thought the brown rice might make it “weird,” but it was actually a little hard to tell I hadn’t used white.

I also made Artisan Bread‘s pumpkin oat bread, which was excellent, though I got tired of telling people it didn’t have pumpkin pie spice in it—it was just bread that happened to contain pumpkin. Anyway, I’m probably going to take some of that to the potluck at work this Friday.

So, it was a good Thanksgiving. The only recipe that’s truly my own is the fruit salad. Most people can probably throw fruit together and make something tasty, but, just in case, here’s my take on it…

Fruit Salad:

This recipe is modified from my grandfather’s. He used to always make a huge container of fruit salad for holidays. He hasn’t made it for a couple of years—maybe nobody’s asked him to? Anyway, his always started with fruit cocktail; mine has a lot less canned stuff in it but is generally the same basic composition. He also added marshmallows and shredded coconut, but I left out the former in the interest of sharing with vegetarians and the latter because apparently(?) there are people who don’t like coconut? I don’t know. I’ve heard rumors.

  • a can of pears in light syrup (I don’t think pears are often canned in juice alone, sadly), drained and then diced into the bowl (I actually always use canned pears, for some reason, even when fresh ones are available; it might just be that I still have a bunch of cans in my CostCo flat. 🙂 Or maybe I’m afraid of there being too many “crunchy” fruits and throwing off the balance.)
  • a can of peaches, drained and then diced into the bowl (I prefer to use a couple of fresh peaches or nectarines, but there aren’t any in Alaska right now)
  • 7ish(?) strawberries (I had frozen ones—if you go that route, they cut and store more nicely if you don’t thaw them first, but man are they cold), diced and put in the bowl
  • 6-8 ounces (I only know a measurement because I put them in a mug :)) of blueberries (I used frozen, but thawed and drained them first; if you don’t mind the salad turning a little purple, you can just throw them in frozen), dumped in the bowl—this is inconsistent with my grandfather’s fruit salad recipe but works nicely
  • a bunch of grapes, washed—if you have the patience, the flavors mix better if you’ve cut the grapes in half before putting them in
  • you’ll want to pour some lemon juice into a bowl or one of your empty cans—NOT in the fruit salad itself
  • peel and dice an apple into that can or bowl, and make sure the pieces are all coated in lemon juice; then strain them (keep the lemon juice in that bowl or can; it never goes in the salad directly) and put them into the fruit salad—this keeps the apple nicer
  • peel and dice a banana into the lemon juice—and give it plenty of time to soak it up, trust me
  • peel a mandarin orange/clementine/tangerine or two, clean the bitter part off the sections, and cut each section in half before you throw it into the bowl
  • maraschino cherries—look, it would be healthier to use real cherries, but the maraschino ones are sweet and make kids happy—drained, cut in half, and put into the fruit salad (fruit cocktail has maraschino-like cherries, but my granddad knows I like them, so he adds extra :)); I think these might help offset the sour traces of lemon juice, too
  • Extemporize! You can add some other kinds of berries, more of some fruit you like, less of some fruit you don’t like (I wouldn’t leave out the pears or peaches, though); big-flaked coconut is good; celery might be tolerable; pineapple is good (and only got left out because I forgot it).

And give it at least a few hours for the flavors to mix, before you eat it. Overnight is better (though you may want to hold off throwing in the bananas until the day of).

Maybe the nicest thing about winter is that soup starts tasting awesome. I don’t usually think of myself as much of a soup person, but I’ve been enjoying it, this year. This weekend I made a very big batch of potato soup—splitting it out into individual containers, it turns out it’ll feed us both for a total of 5 nights (or lunches).

I based my “recipe” kind of loosely off of one in this book. I forgot to look in my Mennonite cookbook, which I think probably had the actual recipe I was looking for. Anyway, it came out fine. I’ll make my potato soup this way from now on. I’ll probably add carrots next time—I didn’t want to, because I was thinking this might be a soup the color of clam chowder, when in fact it’s a much earthier-looking (and tasting) soup, due to the broth. Some carrots, some parsnips, possibly even (gasp!) a turnip would go nicely in this soup. Also, of course, you could use vegetable broth instead of chicken, to make it ovo-lacto vegetarian friendly.

* 3 Tbsp oil (I used grapeseed oil; butter might give you a really nice flavor, though)
* 1 smallish onion, chopped
* 2ish cloves of garlic, more if you really like it, chopped
* 4-4.5 pounds of raw potatoes, washed and cubed (peeled if you want), 4-4.5 pounds
* 4 cups of chicken broth (I used Pacific Natural Foods Natural Free Range Chicken Broth)
* 4-5 stalks of celery, more if you really like it
* 4 cups milk (I used skim)
* 3 Tbsp flour
* nutmeg and cayenne – a dash of each
* parsley, rosemary, basil (but I love basil), white (or black) pepper, paprika, and salt – to taste

Chop your potatoes into a large pot, and pour the broth over them. If you need to add water to cover the potatoes, go for it. Start cooking them on low.

Throw 2 (not 3) Tbsp of oil into a medium saucepan, heat, and throw in the onions. Saute until the onions start to get soft, throw in the garlic, cook a little longer. You want nice, soft onions and garlic, but you don’t want them browned.

You might disagree with this step, but it helps give the soup a really nice consistency, so I recommend it: run the onions & garlic through a blender or food processor to liquefy. Pour them into the pot with the potatoes, and turn up the heat to medium-low. Throw in the leafy herbs, crushed up small, at this point, too. If you’re too gentle at this step, you can add more herbs or spices later—I did, and it was fine. Also, throw in your celery, chopped up small—if you don’t want it to get too soft, you can hold off and throw it in closer to the end.

You’ll have probably half an hour, at this point (I didn’t time it as closely as I could have), to do other stuff. You want your potatoes to get pretty close to entirely cooked. Stir from time to time.

When the potatoes seem mostly cooked, put your water, flour, 1Tbsp of oil, and a dash each of nutmeg and cayenne into the saucepan you used before. Whisk them together over medium heat; with luck, the mixture will thicken nicely and become a nice white sauce. Even if it doesn’t thicken, it’ll taste fine. Pour it into the potato pot when it’s nice and heated through.

It really only needs a couple of minutes for the flavors to blend, at this point. Add anything you think the soup is missing, and serve.

I split this soup into 10 servings, each with 267 calories, 4.3g fat, 39.6g carbohydrate (3.9g fiber, since I left in the peels), and 8g protein. I serve it with Artisan Bread…‘s light wheat bread. The meal could stand a bit more protein, but short of turning this into a seafood soup or throwing in beans (which I don’t think would be very good, for this particular recipe), I have no ideas. I’m having a bean burger for lunch, plus probably a snack of some kind of nut, so I will make it balance OK.

I got a lot of cooking done this weekend, which is good, given my plans to get back on track this week. What did I make?

  1. Macaroni & cheese for a birthday party potluck (jelly bean boom!) – Left that with the birthday girl and host. I would share the recipe by email if you asked nicely, but I might get disowned by my family if I just put it up on the web. Weirdly, for the first time ever in my whole life, it didn’t set up the way it normally does. The liquid stayed liquidy, despite PLENTY of baking. It seemed to get better as it cooled, though.
  2. “The Master Recipe: Boule” from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, p. 26. It came out kind of oddly shaped—I think I didn’t form the dough ball correctly—but man was it tasty. I want to try a few more recipes, but I plan to post a book review—at this point, it’s looking like it will be a very positive review—in the near future.
  3. Sticky pecan caramel rolls, from Artisan Breads…, p. 187. (It was the first recipe that I noticed would let you reuse the boule dough for something other than a boule. It’s “five minutes a day” because you make multiple days’ worth of dough, you see, and while I wanted to practice with the master recipe before moving into wheatier versions, we don’t actually eat that much white bread.) They were omgamazing. But they’re not exactly a health food: I’m going to have to take the leftovers in to work tomorrow, for the student workers.
  4. Based heavily off of the Curried Carrot Soup in Simply in Season, p. 241, as well as this and this, I made a carrot-acorn squash-curry soup that was, if I say so myself, quite good! I’ll put the recipe at the bottom of this post.
  5. A big crockpot of steel cut oats, with some almonds, pecans, and brown sugar thrown in.

Plans for today and later this week:

  1. Either pizza or a spinach & cheese calzone – I just now noticed that you can use the boule dough for this, so I think I might. … We have pizza sauce we need to use and no ricotta to speak of, so I guess I know which we’ll be having, this week.
  2. Potato soup – I haven’t picked out a specific recipe, yet. But we have a ton of potatoes.
  3. Roasted Brussels sprouts – I don’t have a clever idea for a main dish that goes nicely with Brussels sprouts, mostly because I pretty much never eat them. They smell bad when you boil them, but they came in the CSA box, and I feel like maybe roasting them in the oven will lead to a nicer experience, overall. Not sure what the rest of this meal will look like, though.
  4. This “orange beef” recipe, done with fewer peppers (run through a blender :)) and buffalo instead of beef.
  5. Hard-boiled eggs, hummus, and cutting a bunch of carrot spears, to fill in meals.

Curried carrot and squash soup:

  • 1Tbsp oil (I used grapeseed)
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 cans (=24 oz) broth (chicken, veggie, whatever—I used chicken, this time)
  • ~5 carrots, washed and chopped
  • 1 large acorn squash, or 2 small ones (the one I used was 2lbs 13 oz before cutting, cleaning, cooking, etc.)
  • ~2/3 cup coconut milk (was a leftover from mchicha, which called for 1 cup, instead of 1 can)
  • A large clove of garlic, or maybe more 🙂
  • 2 Tbsp curry powder (I have a nice yellow curry powder from Summit Spice & Tea)
  • dash of cayenne
  • 1 tsp fresh ginger, ground up or chopped up really small
  • Do the baking and cooling portion of acorn squash preparation (cut, clean out the seeds and stuff, put upside down on a lightly oiled baking sheet, bake at 400 degrees until soft), cool a bit, pull off the skin, chop it , and set aside.

    In a large pot, cook the onion in the oil, add garlic a couple of minutes later, and cook until both are soft. (I always have to add a couple of splashes of water during this step, to keep it from drying out or burning, but that might be that I’m using too little oil.) Add in the carrots, broth, squash, coconut milk, curry, ginger, and cayenne. Bring to a boil, then decrease the heat and simmer until the carrots are soft.

    Blend. Serve.

    At 4 servings, the nutrition information looks roughly like this: Calories: 202.7, Total Fat: 6.6 g, Cholesterol: 5.0 mg, Total Carbs: 35.1 g, Dietary Fiber: 6.8 g, Protein: 4.1 g

Much as I try to be super organized and full of planning, whether its in my teaching, my kitchen, my housework, or any other area of my life… I’m reminded EVERY SINGLE TIME that planning is not for me. I am an improviser, and the seat of my pants has wings.

So I’ll just describe some of the good things I’ve done recently in this effort and not discuss the fact that my meal planning did not last past week one.

I made some fantastic salmon cakes- two batches, actually. The first batch used this Easy Salmon Cakes recipe from Eating Well and was made with some probably-questionable Costco Kirkland brand canned salmon, a bunch of fresh farmer’s market parsley, and some crushed Special K cereal as the bread crumbs. Batch number two of salmon cakes was made with definitely wild Alaskan canned salmon, crushed pecans, and sweet potatoes. The recipe came from Mothering magazine, but is sadly not accessible online. It was roughly: two sweet potatoes, unpeeled, cubed, boiled, and mashed, two cans salmon, two eggs, some cornmeal, parsley, rosemary, and some optional shallots and scallions. It also called for ground flaxseed (which I didn’t have then, but do now!), so I subbed in some ground pecans. Pan-fried and packed with nutrients.

Both very yummy, especially with a creamy sauce like half yogurt/half mayo + lemon juice and herbs (parsley and/or dill).

One of my favorite quick lunches has been to layer the following ingredients: cooked brown rice, fresh spinach, previously cooked and seasoned black beans, and cheddar cheese. I heat this up until everything is warm and melty (I use my convection toaster oven, but the microwave works well, too). The spinach water moistens the rice and wilts so it’s easy to mix. Very yummy, simple, and healthy- and a good way to use up burrito leftovers from the night before.

Cooked down the seasons’ last tomatoes and used the sauce to make lasagna with ground turkey. Used my Foley food mill to really crush up the tomatoes after boiling them, then added a little can of tomato paste to thicken it up, plus olive oil, various salts and spices, and fresh herbs from the garden. All of this slow-cooked overnight and turned out well.

Made a decadent macaroni and cheese from this recipe at Moms Who Think. That was the sort of dish that had me licking the saucepan. I felt guilty about it for the rest of the night. 😛

Chris made a few steaks on the grill to help me with my iron levels, which were a little low on my last round of blood work. The leftovers were incorporated into a spinach salad with hard-boiled egg, as well as a steak-and-egg breakfast.

One of my recent babysitting barters was for a homemade enchilada bake- layers of tortillas, rice, black beans, and cheese in a red taco sauce. That was delicious and lasted a long while as leftovers.

And now I think I’m going to throw some frozen strawberries into the blender with some cream-top yogurt and surprise Chris, who’s been working hard downstairs to defeat space pirates.

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