Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Launching My Clipped Recipes Project

Whiskey-Soused Salmon
In the interest of avoiding the Internet for a while, I decided to finally go through all of the recipes that I have clipped from magazines and newspapers over the years. I got the idea from reading some of my aunt's Cooking Light magazines that she let me read at the cabin. I was so inspired by the magazines I decided to get my own subscription. The recipes they feature are right up my alley. Great quality ingredients cooked in creative and healthy ways. There were so many recipes I wanted to try, it reminded me of all the recipes I have stowed away from other magazines and publications.
I have kept them all relatively organized in a binder, but it's still hard to shuffle through the piles and piles. I decided to categorize and catalogue them in Excel. When I'm done typing up all the titles in Excel, I'm going to paste the clipped recipes onto paper in their categories and put them in a binder. The Excel spreadsheet will be the table of contents, making it so much easier to see what recipes I have. It's been a lot of fun so far. I can't wait to try some of these recipes. Hello, Pappardelle with Butternut Squash & Blue Cheese, Zucchini with Quinoa Stuffing, and Maple-Bourbon Glazed Salmon! Why haven't I done this sooner?
Already this week I got started making some of my clipped recipes. One was from the newspaper just last week. Whiskey-Soused Salmon. I didn't make the side of boiled potatoes and broccoli, choosing instead to serve it with a rice pilaf and salad. After tasting it however, I think it would be amazing with roasted potatoes and steamed broccoli, drizzling the sauce over everything. YUM! This recipe definitely meets my recipe trifecta: 1) easy 2) healthy 3) delicious. I love when the salmon is seasoned just right and you get that brown crust from the searing. Heavenly. I will make this again. For convenience, I'm writing the recipe below.
Banana Bread with Cinnamon Crumble Topping
The other recipe I made is one I've made many times before. Banana Bread with Cinnamon Crumble Topping from Bon Appetit magazine. It is fabulous, with the sugary topping and the honey baked in. I usually replace half of the flour with whole wheat flour and reduce the sugar to 3/4 cup. You won't notice a difference.








Whiskey-Soused Salmon
adapted from Linda Gassenheimer, McClatchy Newspapers

serves 4

Ingredients

1/4 cup light mayonnaise
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablepoon whiskey
cooking spray, preferably olive oil
4 (4 oz.) salmon filets, skinless
salt and fresh ground pepper

Directions
  1. Prepare the sauce: In a small bowl, whisk together the mayo, lemon juice and whiskey. Set aside.
  2. Heat a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Spray with olive oil spray. Add salmon and saute 4 to 5 minutes on each side.
  3. Serve salmon with sauce spooned over top.

Self-Compassion

Serenity
While I was on vacation last week, I didn't have access to email or the Internet. I could have checked it when we went into town, but I chose not to. I have to say that I didn't really miss it. The Internet is very addicting and I was so surprised how much time I was wasting on it. The culture of the Internet has started to feel very unhealthy to me. All of these websites that feed our egos, but in all the wrong ways. I'm currently reading a book called "Self-Compassion: Stop Beating Yourself Up and Leave Insecurity Behind," by Kristin Neff. I do have a history of perfectionism, insecurity and being hard on myself, so I'm very excited about this book. I'm learning the difference between self-esteem and self-compassion. Self esteem is based on our self -worth. Our society is so competitive, we get wrapped up in being the best. Our self-worth is based on how we compare to others. So as you can imagine, how we feel about ourselves goes up and down, up and down, depending on who we are comparing ourselves to at the time.

I've known for quite a while that some websites are not good for me and make me unhappy. Looking back on some of my past blogs, I realize that I talked a lot about taking breaks from the Internet, and now I better understand why I did that. I would spend so much time on certain websites that would feed my ego one day, yet make me feel like a loser the next day. But I had to keep coming back for those times it would raise my self-esteem. I have a feeling other people get caught in this same loop too. I realized that I was basing my self-worth on how I was perceived on these websites, to people I don't even know. No wonder I was so unhappy being on the Internet!

It's ridiculous and there is a much better way of being healthy and happy - self-compassion. We are all human and make mistakes. Nobody is perfect. Let's forgive ourselves a little. Be nice to ourselves when we screw up or when times are rough. Do what we enjoy, for the sake of enjoyment, not rewards and accolades. Treat ourselves as we would a friend.

There was a very interesting quote in the book,which is actually a quote from another book. It really rang true to me. It is from "The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement" by Jean M. Twenge.
"Understanding the narcissism epidemic is important because its long-term consequences are destructive to society. American culture’s focus on self-admiration has caused a flight from reality to the land of grandiose fantasy. We have phony rich people (with interest-only mortgages and piles of debt), phony beauty (with plastic surgery and cosmetic procedures), phony athletes (with performance-enhancing drugs), phony celebrities (via reality TV and YouTube), phony genius students (with grade inflation), a phony national economy (with 11 trillion dollars of government debt), phony feelings of being special among children (with parenting and education focused on self-esteem), and phony friends (with the social networking explosion). All this fantasy might feel good, but, unfortunately, reality always wins. The mortgage meltdown and the resulting financial crisis are just one demonstration of how inflated desires eventually crash to earth."

The Internet seems to perpetuate these fantasies and so that's why I'm stepping away from certain sites for a while. All that being said, I am going to continue blogging. I find it very therapeutic, getting my thoughts down, sharing my passion for food and eating healthy, and doing one of my favorite things - taking photos. I have to feed my husband and myself, so why not share my recipes and ideas and have some fun with my camera? I have all of these thoughts and ideas running around my head all the time and writing about things helps me get my brain "organized" (if that makes any sense). Just writing this blog is helping with my comprehension and memory of the book.

I highly recommend "Self-Compassion." In fact, I think everyone should read it. Everyone deserves to be nice to themselves and enjoy what comes from that. Happiness, peace of mind, serenity.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Northwoods Vacation and August Cocktail

Sunset on Eagle Lake
We decided to end our summer by (finally) going on a vacation. My aunt and uncle own a cabin on Eagle Lake "up north" here in Minnesota. My dad's family has been vacationing on the same lake since my dad was a kid. Over 50 years! Even I have been going to same lake since I was little. My husband and I got engaged at Eagle Lake! There is a lot of history there. I remember how my parents, aunts and uncles would talk about someday actually buying some property on the lake. My Aunt Jackie and Uncle David finally made that a reality about six years ago. They bought just about the very last piece of land on Eagle lake and built a cozy cabin. Family and friends have a standing invitation to stay during the summer. We can't afford to do much for our vacations, so having a cabin to go to is perfect for us.

Stanley sleeping on the porch
David and Jackie are the consummate hosts and we are truly spoiled when we stay there. When we go there, we go to relax. We sleep in (if the dogs let us), eat lots of great food, enjoy happy hours and great conversation. I bring a stack of magazines and books and spend hours reading on the screened-in porch.

Me & my little walleye
We like to going fishing, and sometimes actually catch fish. I don't like to bait my hook or even touch the fish I catch, but my uncle happily does it for me. I just like to sit there in the boat and wait for a sharp tug, then take all the credit for that night's dinner. This year I caught a little walleye and Bryan caught a nice Northern. The bulk of the dinner came from the big Northern David caught, though! You can see in the photo, I won't even touch my little fish. I don't know why, I have no problem touching raw fish to cook, but if it's still alive - ewwwww!
Fishin'

Strawberry goat cheese salad
I like to help my Aunt and Uncle make dinner. This year we had some wonderful meals. The first night we were there we had a traditional Iowa meal: pork chops, corn on the cob, beets and a strawberry goat cheese salad. The next night we had grilled hamburgers and roasted potatoes.




Jackie's blueberry pie
The day we caught our fish, we had the fish for dinner, fresh out of the lake. David seasons and grills it and it is delicious. There were bones to deal with, but it's worth it. I taught Jackie about quinoa and how to cook it. I just made up a pilaf recipe with ingredients we had the cabin. Our last night was grilled chicken, asparagus and baked potatoes. Jackie made a delicious blueberry pie for dessert and no stay at the cabin is complete without S'mores.

Of course, I also try to find some time to walk around with my camera and take some photos. It is so beautiful and scenic and I'm always so inspired to capture it. There is so many beautiful trees and wildflowers. The sunlight streaming through the trees is ethereal. I enjoyed exercising in the woods, hiking up hills and jogging next to the lake. If I only had such motivation to get me exercising all year round!

We went for several boat rides in the evening and saw some amazing wildlife. We saw two bald eagles really close to each other. It's pretty awesome seeing just one bald eagle, let alone two at once! We also saw herons and of course, loons. I love loons and one of my most favorite sounds is hearing them sing in the mornings.

Eagle Lake is near a small town called Park Rapids, which has a really cute downtown area. They have lots of neat gift shops and candy stores. I really enjoy the art stores and looking at the creations that local artists have made. This year I even bought a necklace created by a local artist.

My uncle David makes some great cocktails. He makes the best cosmopolitans, using top-notch ingredients. Here is his recipe (my August Cocktail of the month):

David's Cosmos

1/4 jigger Chambord (a raspberry liqueur)
1 jigger Grey Goose Vodka
3/4 jigger cranberry or pomegranate juice
1/2 jigger Grand Marnier (an orange liqueur)
1/2 jigger Rose's Lime Juice

Shake all ingredients with ice and strain into a martini glass. Garnish with a slice of lime, if desired. Serves one.

This sums our summer vacation. It was a beautiful, relaxing time for us and we are sad to be home.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Is There Anything Better Than Chocolate Chip Cookies?

I had the day off yesterday and wanted to bake something. I've been experimenting with so many different recipes the past couple of years (cakes, muffins, cupcakes, breads, bars, etc.), but today I wanted to go back to the basics. Chocolate chip cookies. Oh, how I love chocolate chip cookies. It was a beautiful day, so I opened up the windows, let the cool breeze blow in and baked. I was in bliss.

After trying various recipes for chocolate chip cookies over the years, I've learned what makes a great soft cookie. I found this recipe for Soft Chocolate Chip Cookies on allrecipes.com and knew this was going to be a winner. First, it has the right proportion of brown sugar and white sugar. Brown sugar makes a cookie chewier and this recipe had lots of brown sugar. A mixture of real unsalted butter and shortening results in the perfect texture. The shortening helps the cookie from spreading too much and gives the cookie a delicately crisp texture on the outside. The butter, of course, adds great flavor. I have made cookies with all butter (spread out too much), all shortening (lacking that butter flavor), all butter-flavor shortening (too much "fake" butter taste). I have come to the conclusion that a mixture of unsalted butter and plain shortening is ideal. I did increase the salt in the recipe. I found out that I love salt in chocolate chip cookies, which probably isn't a good thing because it does give them an "addictive quality" (cringe).

I was right about these cookies! Any chocolate chip cookie is absolutely fabulous right out of the oven, but the true sign of a great cookie is how they are after they have cooled. How the texture and flavor is the next day. These were still soft the next day and totally delicious. This may be my new go-to chocolate chip cookie recipe!

Here are some of my other tips for great chocolate chip cookies:
1. Chilling the dough before baking. This helps the cookie from spreading out and becoming thin.
2. Rolling the dough into balls or scooping them into high mounds. Again, this helps them from spreading too much.
3. Using an insulated cookie sheet. This helps the bottom of the cookies from not getting to brown.
4. Using parchment paper. This makes clean-up a breeze. Cookies don't stick and sheets don't get too dirty.
5. Setting some of the chocolate chips aside to press into the tops of the cookies as soon as they come out of the oven. This makes the cookies gorgeous.
6. Letting the cookies cool on the sheet for at least 5 minutes. This assures the cookie won't fall apart when transferring to the cooling rack.

Here is my version of soft chocolate chip cookies:

Dianne's Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies
(This is not a low-FODMAP recipe)
(adapted from allrecipes.com)
makes about 3 dozen cookies

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup shortening
3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 egg
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips, divided

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
2. Combine flour, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. In another bowl, combine softened butter with shortening, brown sugar and white sugar. Beat until creamy. Beat in egg and vanilla. Gradually add flour mixture and mix well. Stir in 1 1/2 cups chocolate chips (setting aside 1/2 cup to press onto tops of cookies). Chill dough in refrigerator for at least 1/2 hour.         
3.  To form cookies, use a 1 1/2 Tbsp.-size cookie scoop or roll into 1 1/2 Tbsp.-size balls. Bake on ungreased cookie sheet (or cookie sheet lined with parchment) for 8-10 min. Bottoms of cookies should just barely be starting to turn golden. As soon as cookies are removed from oven, press 4 - 5 chocolate chips onto the top each cookie. Let cool on sheet for 5 minutes before removing to cooling rack.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Quinoa Pasta and Healthier Spaghetti Carbonara

I've talked about quinoa before and what a wonderful grain it is. It has fiber and protein, plus it's gluten-free. I've used pasta made from quinoa before and was pleasantly surprised. It pretty much tastes like regular wheat pasta, but it is a little firmer in texture. I have found that my stomach is much more settled when I avoid wheat, so I try to use these alternative pastas.

Ancient Harvest Quinoa Spaghetti was the perfect ingredient for a healthier version of Spaghetti Carbonara. I get my cooking inspirations from many different places. I recently read a book called "To Have and to Kill: A Wedding Cake Mystery" by Mary Jane Clark. It was a light, fluffy, entertaining book, but mostly forgettable (I gave it 3 stars). In the book there is a scene that, to me, was not so easily forgettable because it involves food. The main character and a friend cook Carbonara together and the author describes in great detail how it is made. It sounded rather simple and delicious, so of course I had to try make it myself!

Carbonara is an Italian pasta dish based on eggs, cheese, bacon and pepper. It is the perfect time of year to make this recipe since it doesn't require heating the oven and goes well with a simple, fresh side salad. I chose the highest-rated recipe on allrecipes.com and put my own healthy twist on it. I halved the amount of pasta (using the quinoa pasta). This halved the amount of servings, but since I kept the amount of the other ingredients the same, it meant less carbs and more protein. Instead of regular bacon I used turkey bacon and replaced the bacon fat with more olive oil. The trick with carbonara is to not overcook the eggs. Add the eggs and parmesan, then immediately remove from the heat. The heat of the pan and the other ingredients will cook the eggs enough so they are not raw.

Dianne's Healthier Spaghetti Carbonara
(This is not a low-FODMAP recipe)
serves 4

1/2 pound spaghetti
1 tablespoon olive oil
8 slices turkey bacon, diced
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup dry white wine
4 eggs
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 pinch salt and black pepper to taste
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

  1. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook spaghetti pasta until al dente. Drain well. Toss with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, and set aside.        
  2. Meanwhile in a large skillet, cook chopped bacon until slightly crisp; remove and drain onto paper towels. Add remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil, and heat in reused large skillet. Add chopped onion, and cook over medium heat until onion is translucent. Add minced garlic, and cook 1 minute more. Add wine; cook one more minute.               
  3. Return cooked bacon to pan; add cooked and drained spaghetti. Toss to coat and heat through, adding more olive oil if it seems dry or is sticking together. Add beaten eggs and cook, tossing constantly with tongs or large fork until eggs are barely set. Quickly add 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, and toss again. Add salt and pepper to taste (remember that bacon and Parmesan are very salty).               
  4. Serve immediately with chopped parsley sprinkled on top, and extra Parmesan cheese at table.               

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Gardener I Am Not.....

Gardener I am not, but lover of things gardened I am. I have never had a green thumb. My mom always had a garden before she was confined to a wheelchair. She had a flower bed in the front yard and a vegetable garden in the back yard. I would often find her outside tending to her gardens on summer mornings. Alas, I did not inherit the gardening gene, if there is one. My husband did however. Whenever we have had plants in the house, he's the one who has kept them alive. He does a wonderful job with our lawn and landscaping. He's also the one to keep plants alive for his coworkers at the office.
I've often dreamed how nice it would be to have a garden. To wander out to the backyard and pick vegetables for dinner. To be blissfully aware of how environmentally and fiscally responsible I was. But......the worked involved usually prevents me from carrying out my dream. There's also the pain. After all of my surgeries, I've developed bursitis in my hip which prevents me from bending over for any extended amount of time. I could have a raised-bed garden, so I wouldn't have to bend over so much, but no. I still don't think I would have the energy or the inclination.

Not being a gardener doesn't prevent me from enjoying all of the wonderful produce Minnesota has to offer in the summer. I'm always on the lookout for seasonal vegetables at the store, and love when it is Minnesota-grown, like the tomatoes pictured. Last week zucchini and yellow squash were on sale, so I decided to make one of our favorite summer dishes, Cheesy Italian Turkey Zucchini Casserole. It started with this recipe, but I made so many changes, I basically made it an entire new recipe. This is really good served with cheese garlic biscuits and a nice Shiraz. I like this recipe for cheese garlic biscuits because it's made entirely from scratch, but I'm still tinkering around with it to make them a better texture and not so greasy. I hope you enjoy this meal as much as we do!

Dianne's Cheesy Italian Turkey Zucchini Casserole


(This is not a low-FODMAP recipe)

1 cup rotini pasta, uncooked
1 pound Italian seasoned ground lean turkey
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 cup diced fresh tomato
2 cups cubed zucchini squash
2 cups cubed yellow squash
8 oz. fresh mushrooms, sliced
8 oz. shredded Italian cheese blend
1/4 tsp. dried oregano
1/4 tsp. each salt and pepper

1.  Prepare pasta according to package directions.
2.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (165 degrees C).
3.  Cook turkey, onion and garlic in a large skillet over medium heat, stirring until evenly browned. Drain excess grease and remove from skillet. Add olive oil, zucchini, tomatoes and mushrooms to skillet and cook until tender. Combine turkey mixture, vegetable mixture, pasta, half of the cheese, oregano, salt and pepper in a 9x13 inch baking dish.
4.  Bake, covered, for 30 minutes in the preheated oven. Uncover and top with remaining cheese and bake until cheese is melted, about 5 minutes.