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The Shepherd’s Life: Modern Dispatches from an Ancient Landscape by James Rebanks. This book was offered as a bargain book from Bookbub, and something about the description resonated with me – maybe because of my Old Testament readings regarding the lives of shepherds back in ancient days. I utterly loved this book. It might not suit everyone – it’s a memoir, so a true story, of a young man growing up in the Lake District of Northern England, the son of a farming family, who sabotages everything in his being about attending further education and leaves as soon as he is able (probably about 8th grade, I’d guess). And becomes a shepherd. And at night, he read literature that he accumulated from his grandfather. He bickers with his father, eventually moves out. One night in a pub with his blokes (friends) he enters some kind of a contest in the pub and realizes he has a lot more knowledge than he thought he did. In time he applies to get what I’d call here in the U.S. a G.E.D (high school diploma), which he does, and then he applies to Oxford, on a whim. And gets in. He graduates. He applies his knowledge to his rural life. He marries, has children, but still, his day to day life is all about his Herdwick sheep although he does have a day job too working for UNESCO. You’ll learn more about sheep than you might have wanted to know. I absolutely loved, LOVED this book. If you are interested, James Rebanks has a Twitter feed, called @herdyshepherd1, and you can sign up to get updates from him about his farm and his sheep. I don’t do Twitter or I would.

Moloka’i: A Novel by Alan Brennert. A riveting book about the early days of Hansen’s Disease (leprosy) in Hawaii, and the stigma attached to the victims AND their families. I could hardly put it down. It chronicles the story of a young woman, diagnosed almost as a child, and ostracized from her family, subsequently learning to live alone and remote. You yearn to hug her, comfort her. Yet she finds eventually happiness and peace. A beautiful book worth reading. Was a book club read.

House by the Fjord by Rosalind Laker. What a darling story. From amazon: A touching and atmospheric love story – When Anna Harvik travels to Norway in 1946 in order to visit the family of her late husband, the country is only just recovering from five cruel years of Nazi occupation. So it is with surprise that she finds in this cold and bitter country the capacity for new love and perhaps even a new home. I just loved this book – could hardly put it down; yet it’s not a mystery. You’ll come away with a desire to find that house by the fjord. I want to go there and have some coffee with the Anna, who was a Brit, yet fell head over heels in love with Norway.

Running Blind (Jack Reacher) by Lee Child. A Jack Reacher mystery. From amazon: Across the country, women are being murdered, victims of a disciplined and clever killer who leaves no trace evidence, no fatal wounds, no signs of struggle, and no clues to an apparent motive. They are, truly, perfect crimes. Until Jack Reacher gets in the middle of it. A page turner, as are all of the Jack Reacher stories.

Say Goodbye for Now by Catherine Ryan Hyde. If you like Hyde’s novels, for the month of September many of her books are available on Kindle at a very reduced price ($1.99 and $.99 each). Go grab them while they’re available. I just purchased 6 of her books. This story, which takes place in a kind of Texas backwater, sets a town into an angry mess when two young boys, one white, one black, become friends, something most folks don’t like. At all. There’s a dog involved, the father of the black boy, the father of the white boy plus a woman who lives in the town and does her best to avoid people altogether. But they all get fused. Wonderful story.

Summer at Tiffany by Marjorie Hart. A sweet book, true story, of the author and her friend, during one summer in the midst of their college years, going by train to NYC and ultimately getting a job of Tiffany’s. This took place in the 40s, and at the time no women were ever seen on the showroom floors, but these two pretty young women were the harbinger of equality, though none of that comes into play here. They were “runners,” who whisked orders and money to and fro from the salesMEN to the office. They stood in silence near the elevators on the ground floor and waited for a sale to take place. They lived in cramped quarters. They enjoyed everything NYC had to offer them at the time, and they were wowed by an occasional celebrity sighting. Cute read.

Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann. You might think what a stretch – what does an Indian (Native American) tribe have to do with the FBI. Read and you’ll find out. This is back in time, 50s I think, and a number of murders have taken place on the Osage Reservation. No one can seem to solve them, and those who try also get caught in the crossfire. Finally a man is brought in from back East. That’s where the inception of the FBI comes into play, though there was no FBI then. This is a very interesting read, probably sufficient info to do a book club read. A book everyone should read if you know little (or a lot) about the abominable treatment given to the Native Americans over the last several hundred years. A wake up call, even for today.

Oh wow. Just finished reading David Guterson’s book, East of the Mountains. You know this author from his most well known book, Snow Falling on Cedars. I loved the Cedars book when I read it years ago, and assumed I’d like this other book (not new) as well. Have you learned to trust my judgment when I tell you, you HAVE to read a book? When I tell you the story line, I can already hear you thinking . . . oh no, I don’t want to read this kind of a book. Please trust me. You’ll come away from it being glad you did. It tells the tale of a 70ish man, a widower, who has been diagnosed with terminal colon cancer. He’s a retired physician, knows the scenario of death by cancer, and doesn’t want to do it. He decides he’s going to take a bird hunting trip, east of the mountains in Washington State (Guterson writes a lot about his part of the world), with his two dogs, and he’ll commit suicide. He sets up an elaborate ruse with his children and grandchildren, and heads out. All of this, so far, takes place in the first 10 pages of the book. First he has an accident in his car, and that sets off a cavalcade of incidents. You’ll learn a whole lot about flora and fauna (one of Guterson’s writing attributes). You’ll learn a lot about apple and pear orchards, which abound in eastern Washington (I’ve been there, it’s beautiful, pastoral and full of fruit). Flashbacks of his life story are interspersed throughout, his growing up on an apple farm, meeting his wife, his service in WWII, their reuniting after the war and the life they had. You’ll learn some about his cancer pain, the grief of his wife’s death 5 years prior, and about his resolve to end it all. Please don’t NOT read this because  you’ll think it’s depressing. It is and it isn’t. It’s so much more for the better. And I just read, this book is being made into a movie.

A fabulous read – Catherine Ryan Hyde’s newest book, Have You Seen Luis Velez? I marvel sometimes about how authors ever come up with the ideas they do, to create the premise for a novel. And this one is right up there at the top of the list. Raymond, a youngster, an older teenager, who has a big lack of self-confidence and feels like an odd duck sometimes, reluctantly (at first) befriends an elderly woman in the apartment building where he lives with his mother and step-father. He discovers she’s blind and needs some help, which he gives her. Then he discovers that there is a lot more to know and understand about this elderly little lady down the hall and he begins a journey to try to find someone for her, the Luis Velez of the title. If you want to use coming-of-age to describe this, that’s partly true. He learns all about himself, the abilities he didn’t know he had, the kindness that lives within him that he never realized was there, and the friends he makes along the way who make some life-changing differences in his young life. He discovers he has some gifts that he can give to others, something most teenagers don’t understand. I can’t recommend this book highly enough – it’s a bit of a tear-jerker, but for every good reason and moral character trait described in the book. It’s there.

Kristin Hannah is quite an author. She’s written upwards of 20 books, I think. This one, Magic Hour: A Novel is another very mesmerizing read. I could hardly put it down. A young, 6-year old child is found in a small town on the Olympic Peninsula. She’s mute and frightened beyond reason. And she seems not to understand English. A psychiatrist is brought to town to try to unravel the mystery and to “reach” the child. I don’t want to spoil the story, but know that the whole subject of nature (biology) vs. nurture comes into play and will keep you hanging onto your seat until the last few pages.

Ever heard of Barbara Pym? I knew the name, but hadn’t ever read any of her work. She was an English author (deceased now), having penned several books. I think she was an inveterate spinster, and in this book, Excellent Women she wrote about a small village community in England with the humdrum, day to day life, but she wrote with such interesting detail. I thought I might be bored to tears reading it, as it describes a 31-year old woman, considered a spinster in the time (1950s), and the book is about her rather boring life with new neighbors who move into her small home (2 units, sharing a bathroom), the local vicar, his sister, and a myriad of other ladies of the parish. Yet you get caught up in the very minor intrigue of the deteriorating marriage of the couple in the building, the love life of the vicar, and the annual planning for a jumble sale at the local church. This book is considered Pym’s best. I loved the book. I highlighted a bunch of phrases and sentences (I will be doing a book review in one of my book clubs). It wasn’t boring at all, and was entertaining right up to the last page!

Did you ever watch Sandra Lee on the Food Network? This was in the early days of the network, and I did watch her some, although her cooking style didn’t mesh much with mine, since I’m a bit of a make-things-from-scratch kind of girl. But then, I don’t make my own mayo, or jam anymore. And I understand her philosophy, making it easier for busy women to feed their families and juggle a busy life. I’d never thought about reading her memoir. But then, a friend highly recommended I do so. I found a used copy online, and read Made From Scratch: A Memoir. She had a very, very hard young life. Her mother? Well, she shouldn’t have even been a mother. Sandra was the eldest and from a very early age she took care of all of her younger siblings. She was badly mistreated and nearly raped by a family member. Her grandmother Lorraine was her favorite person from the get-go and Sandra took care of her grandmother in her waning years. Once Sandra was old enough she left home and went to college for 3 years, then her entrepreneurial spirit just took over. She learned by doing in every job she’s ever had, and I have to admire her tremendously for her accomplishments. She made money, then lost it, found another niche, made money, then lost it. Yet she’s got the kind of grit that we should all emulate. There are 2 recipes in the book. Sandra is a Christian, and a paragraph that really gripped me was at the very end: “Grace has become one of my favorite words. To me it means learning to balance the good days with the bad. Grace is about being proud of yourself, your actions, your life, what you stand for, and the way you give back [Sandra is a huge philanthropist]. Its’ being generous when someone hurts you; it’s knowing when and how to react. It’s knowing that someone you’re not fond of today might turn out to be the only person who puts his or her hand out tomorrow just when you’re about to step in front of a moving bus. Grace is offering understanding and acceptance when the rest of the world does not.” This book isn’t great literature; yet I’m very glad I read it. She is an inspiration.

The book Pachinko (National Book Award Finalist) by Min Jin Lee had been recommended to me by several friends. Finally got around to reading it. It’s a novel about a family of Koreans living in Japan and covers several decades, beginning in the 1940s, I believe. They’re poor. Dirt poor, yet the women just get themselves back up and work. The husbands in the story have problems, health and otherwise. But what you see here is work, and work and more work just to keep above water. You’ve probably read about how poorly Koreans are treated in Japan – they’re kind of thought of as scum of the earth. I don’t know if this phenomena is still true today, but it apparently was even up until a couple of decades ago. As  you read this book, you’ll find yourself rooting for various family members as they progress in life. A fateful decision is made by one that reverberates throughout her life and those of her children. Pachinko (the machines and the gaming economy that runs because of it) is thought of as part of the underbelly of Japanese culture. I remember seeing the pachinko machines when I visited Japan back in the 1960s. So the book infers, much of pachinko is even controlled by a kind of Japanese mafia and certainly has no status if you work in the pachinko arena. Wealth, yes. Status, no. Very worth reading, even though it’s tough going part of the way. This isn’t a “happy” book. But still worth knowing and reading about the subject. Reading the author’s afterword at the end was very revealing and interesting.

Also read An American Marriage (Oprah’s Book Club): A Novel by Tayari Jones. The book is set in the south with a young, well-educated, middle-class couple and suddenly the husband is accused and convicted of rape (that he didn’t commit). The book is not about the justice system or his wrongful conviction. Not at all. It’s about the relationship, the husband, wife, and then the 3rd person who inserts himself into the mix. Much of this story is told through the letters that Roy and Celestial write each other during and after his incarceration. Jones recreates the couple’s grief, despair and anger until they finally work their way to acceptance, but maybe not how you would expect it. This is complicated emotional territory navigated with succinctness and precision, making what isn’t said as haunting as the letters themselves.  Some of the above (italics) came from the New York Times’ book review.

Recently finished Sally Field’s memoir (autobiography) called In Pieces. I’ve always admired her and her acting, but never knew much about her. I remember when she was involved with Burt Reynolds, but knew nothing about her dysfunctional coming of age. I think she’s a consummate actress, and was awed by her performance in Norma Rae, and also with her role as Abraham Lincoln’s wife.  She wrote this book herself, with help from a writer’s workshop and with some good advice from various other writers. It’s very well written. She spends a lot of time discussing the very young years and her perverted step-father. But the over-arching person in her life was her mother, be what she may as far as being a good/bad mother. I really liked the book; really enjoyed reading about how Sally throws herself into her tv and film roles over her life. And what a defining moment Norma Rae was in her career. Well worth reading if you enjoy movie star memoirs.

If you want grit, well, read Kristen Hannah’s newest book, The Great Alone: A Novel. It’s a gripping novel about a young girl whose family moves to Alaska when her father is gifted a small plot of land with a ramshackle cabin on it that’s barely fit for habitation. The family survives only because some of the townspeople offer to help them learn how to live through an Alaskan winter, which is not easy. The girl’s father is a tyrant and a wife-beater as well. Some pages were hard to read. Surviving on the land with nearly no funds is an arduous task in the best of times, but doubly so when you’re dealing with an Alaskan winter which lasts about 9 months of the year. I don’t want to spoil the story by telling you too many details. The book touches on some very current social issues and is so worth reading. Although difficult at times, as I said. But I’m very glad I did. I think it would make for a good book club read – lots of survival issues to discuss, let alone the other social problems that ensue. But there’s also love, which makes it worth the read.

Recently finished reading a book for one of my book clubs. I’m interested to find out who in that group recommended this book, Tangerine: A Novel by Christine Mangan. Had it not been selected for my club, I wouldn’t ever have picked it up. Most of it takes place in Tangiers, in the 1950s. Alice and John have moved there, newlyweds, when Lucy Mason shows up. Lucy is Alice’s former college roommate. Lucy simply moves in. There’s bad blood between them following the death of Alice’s beau during their college years. Lucy, who might appear as a very sensible woman, has a dark physical and mental obsession with her “friend.” Is it horror? Not really by strict definition. Is it a mystery? Not quite, although there are several murders that take place. Chapters jump between Alice’s voice and Lucy’s voice and you understand the mental fragility of Alice, and this consuming obsession Lucy has for her friend. I’m NOT recommending this book, but I did finish it just because of my book club choosing this very strange book.

You’ve got to read Catherine Ryan Hyde’s book – Take Me With You. What a story.  From Amazon’s description: August Shroeder, a burned-out teacher, has been sober since his nineteen-year-old son died. Every year he’s spent the summer on the road, but making it to Yellowstone this year means everything. The plan had been to travel there with his son, but now August is making the trip with Philip’s ashes instead. An unexpected twist of fate lands August with two extra passengers for his journey, two half-orphans with nowhere else to go. What none of them could have known was how transformative both the trip—and the bonds that develop between them—would prove, driving each to create a new destiny together. Have a tissue handy at the end. It’s such a charming, sweet story. You’ll fall in love with the young boys, and fall in love with them again 10 years later.

One of my book clubs occasionally reads a kind of edgy book. This is one of them. By Mohsin Hamid, Exit West: A Novel is a book set in an age not dissimilar to our own and in current time, but something bad has happened in the world. Something never divulged, although symptoms of a civil war are mentioned. A unmarried couple, Nadia and Saeed, are given the opportunity (as others are, as well) to go through a door (this is the exit part of the title) and to another place in the world – it takes but a second – to go through the special door. They go to England (London), to a palatial mansion. Sometimes the power grid is sketchy. Another door. And yet another. And finally to Marin County (north of San Francisco). You follow along with the ups and downs of the chaste relationship of the two, this couple from a house to living on the streets. And the eventual dissolution of the relationship too. I wasn’t enamored with the book, but after listening to the review of it and hearing others talk about it, I suppose there’s more to this story than it might appear. Hope is the word that comes to mind. The book is strange, but it won the Los Angeles Times book award in 2017. It’s received lots of press. It made for some very interesting discussion at our book club meeting.

The Last Letter from Your Lover: A Novel by JoJo Moyes. Story: Jennifer Stirling wakes up in hospital, having had a traumatic car accident. She’s introduced to her husband, of whom she has no recollection, and is sent home with him eventually, to a life she neither remembers or embraces readily. But this is the life she was raised to have, so surely it must be worth living, underneath the strange, muted tones of her daily existence. Jennifer goes through the motions, accepts what she is told is her life and all seems to bob along well enough, except when she finds a letter that isn’t her husband’s handwriting, and is clearly a link to someone she has been involved with, but whom? London, France, Africa and America all come into play in this story of a woman piecing back together her life in effort to understand what she has lost, and what she threw away. There is a bit of a time-hop from 1964 to 2003. . . from a reviewer on amazon.  I loved this book from page one to the end. There’s some bit of mystery and you so get into the head of Jennifer Stirling. I could hardly put it down. Great read.

Francine Rivers, an author relatively new to me, but much admired, is most known for this: Mark of the Lion : A Voice in the Wind, An Echo in the Darkness, As Sure As the Dawn (Vol 1-3) It’s a trilogy. The first 2 books are about Hadassah, a young woman in the time of the Roman Empire. When Jerusalem was overrun and destroyed, the Christians still alive were sent off and away, separated and derided and abused. Hadassah was one of them. She’s a slave to a wealthy family and it takes 2 of the books to read before the son of the family finally realizes that he’s in love with Hadassah. If  you’re a Christian, you’ll learn a whole lot more about the time following Christ’s crucifixion, about the lot of the struggling Christian community. The 3rd book in the trilogy is about a gladiator who is part of book 1 and 2, but not a main character. You’ll learn about his life too, after he regains his freedom from the fighting ring and the battle of his soul. These books are a fabulous read. Can’t say enough good things about them all. I’ve never been a huge fan of old-world Roman Empire reading, but this one was altogether different. Very worth reading.

Amy Belding Brown wrote this book: Flight of the Sparrow: A Novel of Early America, a true accounting in 1676, of Mary Rowlandson, a woman who was captured by Native Americans.  Even before she was captured on a winter day of violence and terror, she sometimes found herself in conflict with her rigid Puritan community. Now, her home destroyed, her children lost to her, she has been sold into the service of a powerful woman tribal leader, made a pawn in the ongoing bloody struggle between English settlers and native people. Battling cold, hunger, and exhaustion, Mary witnesses harrowing brutality but also unexpected kindness. To her confused surprise, she is drawn to her captors’ open and straightforward way of life, a feeling further complicated by her attraction to a generous, protective English-speaking native known as James Printer. The story is riveting, and perplexing once she is traded back to her home. You’ll see a different side to the Indian problem back then and find yourself conflicted. An excellent read.

Taylor Caldwell was a prolific writer, and one I read when I was younger. She died in 1980, and this book, her last, Answer As a Man certainly delivers as her others did. All his life, Jason Garrity has had to battle intolerance and injustice in his quest for power, money, and love. His new hotel will give him financial security, the means to support a loving family and become an upstanding citizen. When family secrets and financial greed combine to destroy his dreams, his rigid moral convictions are suddenly brought into question. . . from Goodreads. Caldwell believed the banking industry was way too powerful, and often took aim at it, as she did in this book. It chronicles the life of a very poor, impoverished Irish immigrant to the U.S. He was an upstanding citizen, God-fearing, but maybe naive in some respects. Good book if you enjoy very deep character study.

Another book by Diney Costeloe, Miss Mary’s Daughter. When a young women is suddenly left with no family and no job or income, she’s astounded to learn that she’s actually a granddaughter of a “grand” family in Ye Olde England. She’s very independent (at least I thought so, for the time period), but is willing to investigate this new family of hers. There are many twists and turns – is she going to inherit the family home – or is the man who has been caring for the home and his daughter the logical inheritors. There’s a villain who nearly sweeps her off her feet, much intrigue from many characters. Well developed plot with a happy ending. A good read.

Celeste Ng is a hot new author. I read another of her books (see below) but this time I read Little Fires Everywhere. There are so many various characters and plots in this book, as in her others. This book focuses on a Chinese baby abandoned at a fire station and the subsequent court battle when the single mother surfaces six months later to try to reclaim her daughter from the family in the process of adopting her. Emotions well up, waxing and waning on both sides of the issue. You may even find yourself changing your own mind about the right or wrong of a child raised with a natural-born mother (albeit late to the raising) or the mother the child has known since near birth. Ng likes to write books with lots of grit and thorny issues. Although a good read, I liked Everything I Never Told You better than this one.

The Rent Collector by Camron Wright. Oh my. This book has so many layers: (1) the young, impoverished couple and their infant son who live, literally, in a dump in Cambodia and about the precarious structure, if you can even call it that, that comprises their “house” in the midst and perched on top of trash; (2) the woman who collects the rent (hence the title and yes, people have to PAY to live there); (3) the young son’s chronic illness; (4) how they make a living out of collecting and selling trash; and (4) the life saving grace and wisdom imparted by characters in the book as the young mother begins to learn to read. If you decide to read this book, please don’t stop at about page 15-20, thinking you just don’t know if you want to read about this. Please continue. It’s so worth it. Have a highlighter pen in your hand because you’ll find so many quotes you will want to remember. Believe it or not, there is also quite a bit in this about literature.

C.J. Box’s book The Disappeared (A Joe Pickett Novel). I just love Box’s novels. They take place in present day semi-wild west, and chronicle the fish and game warden, Joe Pickett, as he unravels another crime in his territory. A woman has disappeared, and the governor has asked him to figure it out. He does, but the tale meanders  through multiple layers of intriguing story. His books are riveting. Men and women enjoy his books – so if you have a fellow in your life or family that would enjoy an intriguing book (this is not espionage) then gift him one of Box’s books.

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng.

The Boston Girl: A Novel by Anita Diamant.

Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers. Rivers is a prodigious writer of Christian fiction, and I’d never read anything by her until now. As I write this, I’ve already read this, another one (below) and just purchased the Kindle trilogy called Mark of the Lion (Vol 1-3) that I haven’t yet started. (Two of my friends have said the trilogy is her best.) Redeeming Love details the fictional story of a godly man, Michael Hosea, forging his way in the era of the Gold Rush. He’s “driven” to rescue a beautiful prostitute who lives and works her trade in a nearby town. The entire book is about the story, the rescue, and it parallels a bit of scripture about Hosea who rescues a prostitute names Gomer. You get into the heads of both Hosea and the prostitute, named Angel. We read this for one of my book groups. A great read.

The Tuscan Child by Rhys Bowen.

Leaving Blythe River: A Novel by Catherine Ryan Hyde. A

The Girl with Seven Names by Hyanseo Lee.

The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian.

The Good Widow: A Novel by Lisa Steinke.

The Girl Who Wrote in Silk by Kelli Estes. W

How It All Began: A Novel by Penelope Lively.

 

Tasting Spoons

My blog's namesake - small, old and some very dented engraved silver plated tea spoons that belonged to my mother-in-law, and I use them to taste my food as I'm cooking.

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Posted in Chicken, easy, Healthy, on June 2nd, 2019.

One of my go-to quick, easy and healthy weekday meals. 

This post is from Sara:  I found the original recipe on Delish.com which is a favorite healthy recipe website for me.  I mostly plan my week’s meals out on Sunday and shop accordingly so that I don’t have to make several trips to the grocery store after work.  However, there are those days that I am not in the mood for my plan or life happens and dinner plans change.  This is one of the fast, easy and healthy recipes I love to make.  It’s a one-pan dish and I usually have everything on hand as it’s fairly common ingredients, at least in my household.  If I don’t have fresh basil, I almost always have pesto sauce that can be substituted.

I serve it with a salad and some balsamic vinaigrette that I add a tsp of pesto sauce to bring up the flavor.  You could also add pasta if you don’t have an aversion to carbs.  Or, like me, you have teenagers that need more calories.  I love this dish because of the fresh ingredients.  I always have grape tomatoes in my fridge as I eat them as a snack daily.  I used fresh mozzarella because I prefer it but regular mozzarella or provolone would work.

Having made this a few times, I found that I prefer to slice the chicken breasts horizontally into two thinner slices.  This keeps my portion size down and gives me leftovers for lunch the next day!  Another bonus of this recipe is to make enough for leftovers so I add the cold chicken cut up to a salad with tomatoes, fresh mozzarella bits and the pesto balsamic vinaigrette dressing.

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* Exported from MasterCook *

Chicken Caprese

Recipe By: adapted from Delish.com
Serving Size : 4

1 tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 pound boneless skinless chicken breast halves — cut horizontally into 4 pieces
Kosher salt to taste and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup Balsamic vinegar
2 cloves Garlic — Minced
1 pint grape tomatoes — halved
2 tablespoons fresh basil — freshly torn
4 slices mozzarella cheese — use fresh if possible or substitute pesto sauce
12 basil leaves — for garnish

1. In a large skillet over medium/high heat, heat oil. Season chicken with salt and pepper and cook until golden and cooked through, approximately 6 mins per side depending on thickness. Transfer to a plate.
2. Add balsamic vinegar to skillet, then add garlic and cook until fragrant, 1 min. Add tomatoes and season with salt. Let simmer until soft, 5-7 mins. Stir in basil.
3. return chicken to skillet and nestle in tomatoes. Top with mozzarella and cover with lid to melt.
4. Spoon tomatoes over chicken and sprinkle more fresh basil if desired.
Per Serving: 537 Calories; 33g Fat (55.5% calories from fat); 51g Protein; 8g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 167mg Cholesterol; 552mg Sodium.

Posted in Brunch, Healthy, on December 13th, 2013.

winter_fruit_salad_ginger_syrup

You might think you don’t need a recipe for a fruit salad, right? But if you’d like to serve a fruit salad that’s just a bit different, you could try this one. You just have to plan ahead a few hours or overnight (to make the flavorful syrup) to serve this with a brunch. It’s well worth making.

Ginger seems to be on my radar lately. And if I were to just add a vanilla bean to the stem ginger in syrup that I made last week, I’d have had half of this recipe already done! In this case you make a simple syrup with fresh ginger, a vanilla bean and a bunch of lemon peel. That does need to be made ahead as it provides a ton of flavor to the fruit once you mix it all together.

Once that mixture has cooled and the solid stuff (ginger, vanilla bean and lemon peels) strained out, you’re left with this delicious ginger/vanilla essence syrup. You could just slurp it with a spoon. Trust me on that one! (If you have leftovers of the syrup, it would be lovely added to a cup of hot tea.) But we’re making a fruit salad, so all you do is add in all the fruit. You could change what YOU like to have in the way of fruit – at the class Phillis Carey used Navel oranges, mangoes, bananas, kiwis, grapes and pomegranate seeds. It was a beautiful and very tasty combination. You could add apples, pears or pineapple too. Your choice.

What’s GOOD: the flavoring in the syrup is what makes this. The ginger gives the syrup just a teeny tiny bit of heat and the vanilla adds a depth to it – perhaps not distinguishable, but it makes for one very tasty bowl of fruit. The pomegranate seeds add a lovely color to the presentation too.

What’s NOT: really nothing except that you do have to plan ahead one day or at least half a day to make this.

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Files: MasterCook 5+ and MasterCook 14 (click link to add to MC – 14 includes photo)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Winter Fresh Fruit Salad with Vanilla Syrup

Recipe By: Phillis Carey cooking class, Nov. 2013
Serving Size: 10 (or more)

VANILLA GINGER SYRUP:
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups water
1 piece ginger — about 1 inch long, peeled and thinly sliced
1 vanilla bean — split lengthwise and seeds scraped out
1 lemon — peel only (reserve lemon for other use)
1 whole navel orange — peel only (use fruit for the salad)
FRUIT SALAD:
3 large navel oranges — or blood oranges
2 whole mangoes — peeled and diced
5 whole kiwi fruit — peeled and diced
1 cup red grapes — seedless
1 cup pomegranate — seeds only (from 1 large one)
2 whole bananas — ripe but firm, peeled and diced

1. Combine the sugar, water, the ginger and vanilla seeds and pod in a saucepan. Use a vegetable peeler to remove wide strips of zest from the lemon and 1 orange, add to the saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat and simmer 5 minutes. Refrigerate until cold.
2. Meanwhile, peel the remaining oranges with a paring knife, cutting along the natural curve of the fruit. Hold an orange over a large bowl and cut along both sides of each membrane to free the segments, letting them fall into the bowl. Also segment the orange used in the syrup that’s already peeled. Squeeze each empty membrane to release the juices. Repeat with the remaining oranges. Add the mangoes, kiwis  and pomegranate seeds and gently toss. Pour the syrup over the fruit and chill overnight.
3. Before serving, remove the citrus zest, ginger and vanilla pod. Add the fresh banana at this point. Pour into a large serving bowl or spoon the fruit and syrup into individual bowls.
4. POMEGRANATES: To remove pomegranate seeds, cut the fruit into quarters, then break apart in a bowl of water. Skim off the pith that floats to the top and drain the seeds.
Per Serving: 158 Calories; 1g Fat (2.9% calories from fat); 2g Protein; 41g Carbohydrate; 4g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 6mg Sodium.

Posted in Chicken, Healthy, on November 7th, 2013.

chicken_supreme_bensons_seasoning

Remember, I told you we’d be fixing that chicken dish – the one that my hubby made for me on about our 3rd or 4th date, way back 32 years ago? Here it is . . . you make it all in one pan (except for a carb if you choose to make one). It’s incredibly easy.

If you didn’t read my post a few days ago about my hubby Dave’s favorites, you won’t have the back story on this dish. Go read that if you care to. Here’s a bit more of the background. In 1981, Dave and his son lived about a block or two from our local fairgrounds, and often on Saturdays they’d go over to the weekly swap meet there (that still goes on at that location). Dave remembers vividly one Saturday as they walked up and down the rows, that he could smell something wonderful. Finally they came to a stand where a couple of Aussie guys were making chicken. It was only about 9:30 in the morning, and both Dave and his son gobbled down a sample of this dish, and Dave promptly bought a set of seasonings from this company, Benson’s Gourmet Seasonings.

The company is still in business, and this recipe – the same one they were fixing at the swap meet in 1981, is still the one they demonstrate, and is their #1 selling mixture. It uses their Supreme Garlic and Herb Salt Free Seasoning 2 oz Bottle – the link here is to Amazon, and they carry the whole line, if you’re interested.

Dave made this dish for me, back in 1981 right after I met him, and he made it at least one other time, and the bottles of seasoning mixes have sat dormant on my pantry shelf ever since. Not in the regular place, but Dave didn’t want to throw them away – when we moved to this house 10 years ago I was going to toss them out. You know, herb and spice mixtures lose all their potency after a few weeks or at most a month. But Dave said, no, don’t throw them out. So they sat in an obscure and out of the way space. I generally don’t use those pre-packed seasoning mixes just because I know they don’t retain flavor well. I like to make my own combos at the moment when I need them. The only one I’ve been known to make in quantity is the North African Grilled Corn on the Cob spice mix. I make up a batch at the beginning of corn season and try to use it up by the time corn season has passed.

dave_kitchenHaving laughed over the chicken dinner story the other day, I dug out the bottle (that is 32 years old), went online, not expecting to find anything, and found the company’s website and their recipe easily enough. And decided that Dave needed to renew his acquaintance with this dish.

Here he is at our kitchen island. I cut up a whole chicken for him (next time we will make it with just chicken thighs, I think – much easier). I set him there at the cutting board with all of the vegetables he needed to chop. A lot. First you must have half a chopped onion and half a bell pepper. chicken supreme_collageThis dish takes 60 minutes to make, hence you want to start with medium-low heat. The herb mixture is added in at 3 junctures in the process.

The pictures here show the progression of the dish. First you put the raw chicken pieces in there (no seasonings, no oil, nothing) in a big honkin’ pan (we used a 12-inch nonstick pan with 4” high sides) skin side down with the heat at medium-low. The first set of veggies are added on top and down in any crevices you can find.

In the 2nd picture, after 20 minutes, you turn the chicken over. See, nicely browned chicken pieces.

Then after another 20 minutes of browning you add all the vegetables (more onion, peppers, zucchini, carrots, celery and mushrooms). The veggies kind of sit there on top and you wonder if they’ll ever cook through.

Ten minutes later  you stir it all up (you do that several times so the veggies will get done). You never add a lid. But you do add 1/2 cup of white wine (we used vermouth) during the last 10 minutes and continue cooking until the chicken is done and the veggies are cooked.

Actually, we removed the chicken pieces to a hot plate and very briefly cooked the veggies for about 2 minutes – there were a few pieces of carrot and zucchini that weren’t quite done.

Meanwhile, make some rice. We made pasta (Dave’s choice), but I really think it would be easier to eat and more tasty with rice. Your choice, of course. I made linguine and thought it was too difficult to handle.

There is NO SALT in this dish. There is NO FAT added to this dish. And it’s delicious. Because the spice mixture was SO old, I measured out double the amount of it (so 2 T. rather than just 1). I think I need to order a new bottle, although the seasoning did have some smell and taste.

What’s GOOD: it’s a make-in-one-pot kind of dinner (except for a carb if you choose to make one). There’s lots of good flavor in it. It’s easy, really, but you do need to do a bunch of veggie chopping and prepping. Makes a big batch – I think it might feed more than 4 if you have a larger chicken. We had a 4-pound one and will likely get 3 meals out of it. It’s a pretty dish – lots of color. We don’t like green bell pepper, but it would have added even more color to the pan. The wine makes a kind of juicy sauce (unthickened, of course) – scoop some of it out with each serving onto the carb. Love that this has not one speck of added salt or added oil. You won’t miss it – really.
What’s NOT: just the time you need to spend tending to this – not hard – but you don’t want to go off and leave this as it requires a lot of chopping at first, then mixing around during the last 20 minutes. The chicken breasts were a little overdone, we thought, so I’d probably add them later or remove them early.

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Chicken Supreme

Recipe By: Benson’s Gourmet seasonings website
Serving Size: 4

2 1/2 pounds whole chicken — cut-up (2 1/2 to 3 lbs)
1 tablespoon Benson’s Supreme Salt-Free Seasoning
2 medium onions — 1 yellow, 1 red, chopped
1 medium green bell pepper — seeded and sliced [we omitted]
1 medium red bell pepper — seeded and sliced
1 medium yellow bell pepper — seeded and sliced
2 medium zucchini — trimmed and sliced
1 stalk celery — sliced
1 medium carrot — peeled and thinly sliced
8 ounces mushrooms — sliced (optional)
1/2 cup dry white wine — chicken broth or water [we used vermouth]
Serve with hot rice on the side (also can use pasta or potatoes)

1. Preheat a 12-inch non-stick skillet over medium-low heat. Place chicken skin side down. Use no oil.
2. Put about 1/2 of a chopped onion & 1/2 of a bell pepper sliced, in spaces. Sprinkle all with 1 tsp. seasoning. and brown over medium-low heat for about 20 minutes.
3. Turn chicken pieces over and sprinkle with 1 tsp. seasoning. Brown another 20 minutes.
4. Add all remaining vegetables. Sprinkle with remaining 1 tsp. seasoning. Stir occasionally so vegetables cook evenly. Cook about 20 minutes longer. Do not cover. Add wine (liquid) the last 10 minutes. Serve with or over rice, noodles or pasta, or just as it is. (If by chance the vegetables aren’t quite done, remove the chicken to a hot serving plate, cover with foil and turn up the heat under the vegetables and cook until they’re all cooked through.) The nutrition count on this assumes you eat all the skin.
Per Serving (this assumes you eat all the skin): 519 Calories; 30g Fat (53.4% calories from fat); 40g Protein; 18g Carbohydrate; 5g Dietary Fiber; 176mg Cholesterol; 162mg Sodium.

Posted in easy, Healthy, Soups, on September 29th, 2013.

broccoli_white_bean_sausage_soup

Hearty, comforting and healthy soup. There’s no cream in it – the broccoli provides the creamy texture. I know that sounds strange, but it’s true. Read on . . .

Rarely do I watch The Chew. The show is so fast-paced (frantic almost, like The View which I refuse to watch at all because they all talk over each other) and loud that I will only watch it on occasion and rarely do I ever try one of the recipes. A few over the years . . . but I know the show is well liked by many. When we were on our trip I happened to turn on TV and I tuned in to the program and Stacy London [a TV fashionista and co-host of the show What Not to Wear, another show I don’t watch] was making a soup. She had someone come to her home to cook for her and this recipe was borne of that professional relationship, as I understood it. Apparently, she had leftovers of both a healthy pureed broccoli soup and one with white beans and sausage and Stacy decided to combine the two. She loves it so much that she learned to make it herself and eats it by the gallon.

It’s no secret around here that I love soups. Not only for their ease (a meal in one pot) but soups are comforting and provide infinite variety. And often I add a little jot of cream to soups. This soup looked like it had cream in it, but it doesn’t. Nary a bit of cream or dairy at all. Basically you make 2 soups – a broccoli soup in one pot (which gets pureed and becomes the liquid in the other soup) and the spicy sausage and cannellini bean soup in the other. Once the broccoli soup is cooked through (takes no time at all) it’s whizzed up in the blender and then that’s added to the other. Because I had some mushrooms on hand, I added them, and I think I added some zucchini too, though neither of those were in the recipe.

The only fat in the entire soup is a tablespoon or two of olive oil to sauté the onions, the same for the chicken sausage soup plus whatever intrinsic fat is in chicken broth and the chicken sausage (not much, in other words).

Adapting the recipe a little, I added some fresh mushrooms and zucchini to the soup. Why not, I said? I wanted more veggies and texture since the broccoli is completely pureed. The recipes serves 8, and that’s about right – we had 2 dinners and 2 or 3 lunches out of the one preparation. I’m sure it would freeze well also.

What’s GOOD: I like that it’s a very healthy soup. I really had to work at it to taste the broccoli (and I like broccoli) since it’s pureed. You honestly think it’s a cream soup! My DH liked it a lot and told me each time I served it that it was really good. I felt the same way. A keeper. It’s not gourmet. It’s not over-the-top with flavor, but it’s just wholesome and good. It’s thick – you can see that from the photo. If you wanted a lighter soup, add more chicken broth and thin it some.
What’s NOT: nothing at all that I can think of.

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Stacy London’s Broccoli, White Bean & Sausage Soup

Recipe By: Adapted slightly From “The Chew”, Sept. 2013
Serving Size: 8

BROCCOLI SOUP:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion — (chopped)
2 large heads broccoli — (florets chopped; stems peeled and chopped)
5 cups chicken stock
CHICKEN SAUSAGE SOUP:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound spicy chicken sausage — (removed from casing and crumbled)
1 bunch kale — (cut into 1/2-inch ribbons and chopped)
6 ounces button mushrooms — sliced [my addition]
2 small zucchini — chopped [my addition]
2 15.5 ounce cannelini beans, cooked — (drained and rinsed)
Salt and Pepper
1/2 cup Italian parsley — chopped (garnish)

1. Place a heavy bottomed pot over medium-high heat. Add 2 to 3 tablespoons of olive oil and then add onion. Season with salt and pepper and cook for 3 to 5 minutes, or until just translucent. Add the broccoli and again season with salt and pepper.
2. Pour the chicken stock over the broccoli and bring up to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Cook for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the broccoli is fork tender.
3. Let cool slightly and then transfer, working in batches, to a blender. Cover the blender with a towel to ensure it doesn’t splatter, and puree until VERY smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning.
4. Place another heavy bottomed pot over medium high heat and add 1 to 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the sausage and brown on all sides, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add mushrooms and zucchini and continue cooking for 5-7 minutes.
5. When almost completely cooked, add the kale. Season with salt and pepper and cook for 3 to 4 minutes or until the veggies are all cooked sufficiently. Add the beans and cook for another 1 to 2 minutes.
6. Pour the broccoli soup in the sausage and kale and stir to combine. Let cook for one to two more minutes to let the flavors meld. Taste and adjust the seasoning, then serve while hot. Garnish with chopped parsley, if desired.
Per Serving: 401 Calories; 12g Fat (25.3% calories from fat); 35g Protein; 42g Carbohydrate; 16g Dietary Fiber; 53mg Cholesterol; 1450mg Sodium.

Posted in Healthy, Salad Dressings, Salads, on February 4th, 2013.

balsamic_fig_dressing

A luscious salad – different – healthy, really – because it doesn’t have all that much oil in it – hard to believe it could taste so good! Dried figs give it a base, and you do add some crumbled bacon.

Having been asked to bring a salad to dinner at friends recently, I ransacked my to-try file, to find something that would complement Thomas Keller’s Roast Chicken and Vegetables, which my friend Donna was going to make. Donna reads my blog (thank you, Donna!) and is always so kind to tell me how much she likes it. Music to any blogger’s ears, I’ll tell ya!

It didn’t really take much to make this dressing – it’s an interesting one – it uses dried figs, balsamic vinegar (I used a fruit-flavored one, but you can use plain too), water, chicken broth (yes, really, chicken broth), honey, shallots and fresh thyme. All things I had on hand. The figs are simmered for green_salad_bacon_cotija_pinenuts

just a minute in the balsamic vinegar and allowed to “steep” or sit while you pull together the rest of the ingredients. Then it’s all whizzed up in the blender. Meanwhile, I chopped up and fried a bunch of bacon. I made this salad twice, on consecutive nights, and used different greens. I couldn’t find arugula the first day, so I substituted Romaine, leaf lettuce and microgreens. I actually think the salad needs some bitter greens to offset the fig-sweetened dressing, so the second time my DH was able to find arugula and I used Feta cheese  that time, rather than the cotija I’d tried the first time. The original recipe (from Cooking Light) called for goat cheese, but I didn’t have any. Nor did I really want to buy a log of goat cheese when I only needed a little bit for the salad. I almost always have Feta on hand, which keeps soaking in brine for many, many weeks. I did have cotija (it’s a dry, salty Mexican cheese that’s used mostly for garnish), so I used that one time.

arugula_salad_feta_fig_dressingThe second night (pictured above) I had arugula, but not quite enough dressing, so I just added more EVOO and another little jot of balsamic vinegar to what I had left from the previous night, and it was plenty for a salad for 4.

What’s good: the low-calorie, low-fat aspect of the dressing. Of course, bacon kind of puts it over the top, but once you divide it among several people, no one has all that much bacon. I added pine nuts one night just because I thought the salad needed some kind of crunch to it. Since it doesn’t have any added vegetables, I really did think it needed some added texture.

What’s not: nothing at all – just know this isn’t any standard kind of vinaigrette – it’s sweet from the figs, but will complement lots of meals – pork for sure – often pork is accompanied by fruit.

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Arugula Salad with Bacon and Balsamic Fig Dressing

Recipe By: Adapted from Cooking Light, Nov. 2008
Serving Size: 6
NOTES: Use other lettuces if preferred, but use sturdy ones like Romaine, not tender leaf lettuces which won’t stay firm with the dressing.

DRESSING:
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar — (use fruit flavored, if available)
3 whole dried figs — chopped (stem trimmed off)
3 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons low-sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons honey
1/2 teaspoon minced shallots
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
SALAD:
4 ounces arugula — (about 8 cups), lightly chopped
1/4 cup red onion — thinly sliced, (optional)
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 pieces bacon — cooked and crumbled
2 tablespoons crumbled goat cheese — or Feta, or Mexican Cotija
1 tablespoon pine nuts — toasted (optional)

1. To prepare dressing, combine balsamic vinegar and figs in a small saucepan over medium-high heat; bring to a boil. Cover, remove from heat, and let stand 15 minutes. Combine vinegar mixture, 3 tablespoons water, and next 5 ingredients (through thyme) in a blender; process until smooth. Dressing will keep for several days.
2. To prepare salad, mix arugula with onion and toss with dressing. Taste for seasonings. Divide evenly among plates. Sprinkle with bacon, cheese and nuts. Serve immediately.
Per Serving: 114 Calories; 8g Fat (58.6% calories from fat); 3g Protein; 10g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 5mg Cholesterol; 109mg Sodium.

Posted in Healthy, Pasta, Veggies/sides, on November 4th, 2012.

no_calorie_noodles_arugula_spinach

No, I’m not joshing you. And no, these aren’t made of cardboard, either. Cardboard would have carbs perhaps? From tree bark and fiber? Nope, these are made from tofu and some kind of
Asian yam. I’m sure I have some readers who, after just
seeing that word tofu – will not even read further. I might have been one of those some years ago. I don’t eat tofu, as tofu, but if it’s in other things, well, yes I do. These noodles have almost zero calories, nearly zero carbs, zero fat in a single serving.

It’s not news on this blog that we are a family of two try to limit carbs, what with my Type 1 diabetic husband. And certainly I can cut down on them myself. But I’ll tell you true – I miss pasta. Once in awhile – a big splurge for us – I make a huge batch of spaghetti sauce from one of my numerous recipes (my favorite one this year is Ina Garten’s Weeknight Bolognese Sauce). I freeze some of it for other dinner splurges months hence. Well, we’re now going to be able to have all we want because of these fantastic new products.

I’d heard about them several months ago when I got an email from one of the daily deal emails I subscribe to, offering me “Miracle Noodles” for some unbelievably low cost. I knew nothing whatsoever about them. I talked to a friend of mine, a recent Type 2 diabetic, who is struggling with her revised diet, to ask if she’d like to share the box with me. It was 29 packages or some odd number. She said no. Knowing so little, I opted not to buy it, either. Then I visited a local Asian market, thinking that surely they would have them – indeed they did, although it wasn’t the “Miracle” noodle, but Tofu Shirataki (the fettucine and angel hair varieties shown here), and it took the store manager’s involvement to find them in the store. Aha! In the refrigerated area – not really near anything in particular – and they were lying flat, so you couldn’t see the package front very well. FYI: a 4-ounce serving (half of the above package) contains 20 calories, .5 grams of fat, 15 mg of sodium and 3 g of carbs. And 1 g of fiber. As I’m writing this, I haven’t had the Miracle Noodle yet – I’ll probably write up another post after that with more info.

Each package holds about 8 ounces including the fluid – and about 4 ounces of net wet noodles – enough for 2 side servings. And just maybe enough for a small serving of a pasta main dish. These packages need to be refrigerated and they’ll keep for about 6 months. They don’t ever spoil, really, but eventually, the noodle may dissolve into its primary form of glucomannen (that’s the tofu and yam product).

I threw together a side dish to serve them the first time. I had no recipe, but wanted to make it a little special for the first time we’d eat them since I wasn’t certain my DH would eat them – he did and he liked them. He loves pasta too, and encourages me to NOT make it very often since it wreaks havoc with his blood sugar. The thing you need to remember is that these noodles, like most tofu products, don’t have much taste straight out of the package, so you must add flavorful ingredients to them, so they’ll soak up the flavor. Don’t just heat them with a little oil or butter and expect them to have great flavor. They won’t.

The other thing about these noodles is that they’re packed in a rather unappetizing fluid (that you drain off). It smells something like Asian fish sauce. In case you haven’t ever taken a sniff of Asian fish sauce, well, it’s not pleasant – kind of like rotten fish, actually. Tastes great, but doesn’t smell all that nice. So, there is a process of getting the noodles ready to eat. First, drain them, then rinse well under running water. According to the package instructions, I put them on a plate and microwaved them for 60 seconds. You can also “cook” them in a nonstick pan until they make a kind of squeaky sound in the pan, but microwaving is almost easier. I rinsed them again, drained again, then they went into the skillet. They’re already cooked, you see, so they don’t really need further cooking – just heating – but they need to absorb flavor. So I stirred them around, added the dairy stuff, some herbs and cayenne, and let them sit in the pan just barely simmering. I had to add a little water as the creamy ingredients boiled away, tasted it for salt and pepper, added the grated cheese and served it piping hot.

What I liked: the fact that they’re very similar – not identical – to a wheat noodle, but have so few calories and carbs. That’s the logical answer, of course. Why would we bother to eat these unless they were giving us some kind of nutritional boon. Or if I needed to restrict gluten. Obviously these are GF also.
What I didn’t like: if you forced me to say something negative (I’m trying to be at least neutral or unbiased), the texture of these noodles aren’t the same as a wheat pasta fettuccine noodle. It doesn’t have the same kind of “chew” as a wheat noodle – more like a rice noodle to me. But if you know going into it that you’re wanting a vehicle for the SAUCE – it’s the sauce we love, right? – then these noodles absolutely work. All in all, this is a great alternative to a much higher calorie wheat noodle.

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Shirataki Fettucine with Arugula and Spinach

Recipe By: My own concoction.
Serving Size: 2

2 teaspoons unsalted butter
1 cup arugula — fresh, chopped
1 cup baby spinach — fresh, chopped
8 ounces tofu shirataki — fettucine style (read notes regarding preparation)
1 tablespoon light sour cream
1 tablespoon heavy cream
2 tablespoons goat cheese — crumbled
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 pinch cayenne
1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese — grated
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
water, as needed to keep the mixture fluid

1. TOFU SHIRATAKI PREPARATION: Remove noodles from package and drain. Run under water for 30-40 seconds, lifting and separating. Place noodles on a plate and microwave for about one minute (this parboils them). Remove from microwave and wash under running water again. Drain.
2. Meanwhile, in a large skillet (large enough to hold all of the mixture) melt the butter. Add arugula and spinach and stir over medium heat until greens are cooked. Add tofu shirataki noodles and stir to combine.
3. Add the sour cream, cream, goat cheese, herbs and cayenne. Stir to combine and continue heating over low heat. Add shredded Parm, salt and pepper to taste and add water to the pan if it’s thicker than you want. Serve immediately. Makes enough for a side dish, not a main dish.
Per Serving: 193 Calories; 16g Fat (66.2% calories from fat); 13g Protein; 6g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 44mg Cholesterol; 432mg Sodium.

Posted in Desserts, Healthy, on August 5th, 2012.

buttermilk_peach_ice_cream

The title is a little bit of a misnomer – it really should be something like Buttermilk Peach Sorbet, or Buttermilk Peach Ice or maybe Peach Sherbet. Not a name with “cream” in the title since there isn’t any cream in it. But we lump all kinds of these frozen confections under “ice cream”  whether they’re made with cream or milk or whatever.

If peaches are still in season around your home, do make an effort to go get some gorgeously ripe peaches, peel them and briefly cook them in a little water, then freeze packets of it. You can then make summery ice cream any month of the year. I just hate to take up valuable freezer space with frozen peaches. My freezer is something of a problem – it’s FULL. And I mean FULL. I could probably get a few frozen chicken breasts in there, and maybe a few very flat things. But that’s about it. I am trying, really I am – to defrost and eat things out of the freezer but then I find some new thing that has to go in there. If I had a full-on stand-alone freezer in the garage it would probably be full too. I need a 12-step program for me and my freezer problem. Want to start one?

Anyway, back to this dessert. The recipe came from Rick Rodgers. I’ve had it for several years, I think, but hadn’t gotten around to making it. But with peaches on the kitchen counter, well, this is what I did with them. I DO want you to read the nutritional info about this recipe – it’s really super low calorie and has a TRACE of fat in a serving. Is that great, or what?

If you’re expecting this to taste rich and creamy like HäagenDazs, it won’t be. It’s more like ice milk. I think you need to be “of a certain age” to remember ice milk. My mother used to buy it all the time (this would have been the 1950’s) when I was growing up, but I don’t think I’ve seen it in years. I read online that it went “out” in the 1960’s when low-fat milk was produced. My dad had a passion for ice cream in any way, shape or form. In his 80’s he had to start eating sugar-free, but he still loved it. We all kidded him because after eating a small bowl (my mother would never serve a big bowl of it) he’d systematically scrape his spoon up the sides, from the bottom center and up, all the way around, until he’d made a full circle. My dad was an engineer, so we’re not talkin’ a few scrapes, I mean maybe 20-30 per bowl. To get every single, solitary, last drop. If there’s a gene for ice cream, I’ve at least inherited some of his passion for the stuff. I try not to indulge, but I do. This recipe makes it a heck of a lot better for me/us.

Wanting to make this particular one more eating-friendly for my diabetic hubby, I made it with half Splenda. I DID use the 1/2 cup of brown sugar, though, in the mixture, because brown sugar has a unique caramel-like taste and I’d never thought about using brown sugar with peaches. It’s a match made in heaven, I’m telling you!

It’s a simple recipe to make – don’t forget to add the almond extract – that’s also a little bit different, and I loved the taste of it. It’s not overpowering but just adds another layer of flavor. The recipe indicates you can make this without an ice cream machine. I did use mine, and when it first came out it was soft in texture, but once frozen for a few hours it was almost rock hard. So my only suggestion about this recipe is: let it sit out for about 20+ minutes before trying to scoop it. That’s what I had to do to get the photo up top. If you’re willing to eat a more icy type “ice cream,” and want the low in fat and calorie type, this may be a new favorite for you. Given the choice of this and full fat, well, of course the full-fat has better flavor, but if you want to cut back, give this one a try.

What I liked: the brown sugar and almond extract add great layers of flavor in this. Just don’t expect it to be soft, scoop-able like ice cream – it’s more icy or sherbet-like. We loved it. Next time I am going to add 2 T. of Peach Pucker Schnapps to the mixture (any alcohol added to home made ice cream helps with the scooping ability), not only for the softness aspect of it, but also to add even more flavor (although it doesn’t really need it – it’s full of peachy flavor as it is).

What I didn’t like: having to let it defrost for 20+ minutes is a bit of a nuisance, that’s all. Otherwise, nothing.

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Peach-Buttermilk Ice Cream

Recipe By: Adapted slightly from Rick Rodgers’ website
Serving Size: 10
NOTES: Can be done without an ice cream machine – freeze a 9 x 13-inch metal baking pan. An ice cream maker gives the best results, but you can make it in the freezer if you wish. (The texture will be somewhat gritty, but it will taste fine.) The Schnapps in the recipe isn’t really needed – but next time I make this I’ll put it in because it may help with the scooping – once this freezes solid it’s rock hard.

2 pounds peaches — ripe (4-6 depending on size)
1/2 cup granulated sugar — (I used Splenda)
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
2 cups buttermilk
2 tablespoons Peach Pucker Schnapps — (this is my suggestion – not in the original)

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add the peaches and cook just until the skins loosen, about 1 minute. (If the skins are stubborn, the peaches aren’t as ripe as you thought, so remove them and pare off the skin with a sharp knife.) Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a large bowl of iced water and let stand until cool enough to handle. Discard the skin and pits and coarsely chop the peaches. Transfer to a food processor.
2. Add the sugar, brown sugar, lemon juice, vanilla, the almond extract and purée. (If using Peach Pucker Schnapps, add that into the bowl too.) Transfer to a large bowl. Stir in the buttermilk.
3. Transfer to the container of an ice machine and process according to the manufacturer’s directions. Pack the ice cream into an airtight container, cover and freeze for at least 2 hours to allow the ice cream to ripen and harden before serving. Leave out at room temp for about 20+ minutes to get it soft enough to scoop, as it freezes rock hard.
Per Serving: 131 Calories; trace Fat (3.2% calories from fat); 2g Protein; 31g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 2mg Cholesterol; 56mg Sodium.

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