Monday, January 24, 2011
Blueberries are fascinating little bundles of health. They are one of the few fruits native to the Americas and have been used for thousands of years by Native Americans for everything from food to dyes to medicines. The Calyx of the berry, the little burst open portions at the bottom of the berry forms a perfect five pointed star. The American Indians called them star berries; and told stories that the Great Spirit sent them to feed the children in times of famine. Blueberries play a fascinating role in the Native American’s lives and were often central to their diets. When the colonists came they too were taught the virtues of the berries by the Indians that helped them. To this day America is the top blueberry producer in the world. Blueberries are available year round due to crops grown in the Southern Hemisphere; however they are freshest and best during our summer months.
Just one cup of blueberries contains 80 calories and is a great source of dietary fiber. These little wonders contain about 25 percent of your daily dose of Vitamin C in one serving! They are simply chock full of antioxidants which as you may know fight free radicals in your body. Those free radicals cause all kinds of issues not to mention early signs of aging. Interestingly enough blueberries are one of the few naturally blue fruits in the world.
I love blueberries now! They are just amazing. I put them on everything and eat them raw like Skittles. When I came across this recipe though, I was concerned… Heated blueberry sauce? The idea made me think of that horrible glop you find at the IHOP. I just did not believe this would work out. My family was skeptical and sort of wary looking as I presented the beautifully plated food in front of them. That being said, I surprised myself and renewed my faith in blueberries! I can take no credit for this recipe as I pulled it directly from a Weight Watchers magazine. I only made a couple of tweaks here and there, but not enough to call it my own. This recipe was too good to not share though and because I love y’all I will pass it along. It is a bit fancy for every day, but sure to impress when you are having guests over or just want to do something totally different. I realize chicken can get boring!
Chicken with Blueberry Sauce
· 1 tablespoon butter, divided
· ¾ lb. chicken cutlets (about four cutlets) I used the extra thin sliced cutlets because I like at least feeling like I am getting more even if I am not.
· ½ teaspoon salt
· ¼ teaspoon pepper, freshly ground
· ½ cup (2 oz.) shredded Fontina cheese. I used Mozzarella, as I had no Fontina on hand.
· 3 tablespoons apple juice
· 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
· ½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
· 1 cup fresh blueberries, I tossed in a little extra.
· 1 ½ teaspoons fresh thyme
1. Melt 1 teaspoon butter in large skillet over medium high heat. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. (Never forget to pat your meat with paper towels, it helps the cooking process) Add chicken to pan; cook 3 minutes on each side or until done. Sprinkle with cheese. Keep warm.
2. Combine apple juice, vinegar, and mustard in small bowl (I just did this in my sauce pan, why dirty up more dishes); stir well with a whisk. Add apple juice mixture to sauce pan (or in my case leave in sauce pan). Simmer one minute. Add blueberries and thyme; simmer two minutes. Stir in remaining 2 teaspoons of butter. Spoon blueberry sauce over chicken.
Yield: 4 servings (about one chicken cutlet, or in my extra thin cutlets case two, and 2 tablespoons sauce.
**Weight Watchers points value of 5**
Ginger Green Beans
· 1 12 oz. package of pre-trimmed green beans (I used French style beans)
· 2 tablespoons olive oil
· 2 teaspoons grated, peeled, fresh ginger. (I could not find any at the store, odd I know, so I used my powdered ginger and added 2 extra teaspoons and got a good flavor.)
· Salt and Pepper to taste
1. Pre-heat oven to 450˚.
2. Combine green beans, olive oil, ginger, salt, and pepper on a foil lined roasting pan or baking sheet. Toss well to coat.
3. Spread beans into single layer. Bake about 10 minutes or until crisp but tender.
Yield: 4 servings
**Weight Watchers points value of 1**
As always enjoy! Let me know how yours turns out! Be creative and trust your instincts!
"Five Ingredient 15 minute Recipes" from Weight Watchers
Wednesday, January 19, 2011
When I started this blog I didn’t intend to only give you food, but a bit of myself as well. (Food is boring without personality, and I have personality in spades.) I do not want to be one of those bloggers who glosses over their life and makes everything sound like it is perfectly fabulous all the time. Life just is not that way. So I will share the good, the bad, and the ugly with you. Honesty is the best policy, right? I am only human after all. As you may already know I am working to lose some weight; it is one of my New Year’s resolutions. Growing up I danced ballet and was quite fit and in shape. In fact I was rail thin. Too thin sometimes, but I was proud of my body, especially my abs. I do not believe I owned a shirt that covered my stomach. I worked really hard to look that way; ballet is not an easy sport (yes, I said sport). I dreamt of being a professional dancer. Two bad knees and the threat of surgery caused me to give up that dream and only dance a few classes in college and eventually just around the house.
As much as it pains me to disclose the next fact to you, especially my readers who knew me in those glory days; I am no longer rail thin. (I find this humiliating) Not even close to thin, though not unattractive, just outside the “norm” or current standard of beauty. It started when I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease; they give you steroids to treat “flare ups” and apparently my body and steroids do not agree with one another. On the plus side I finally developed a chest, and could put away the “chicken cutlets” I had been using to fill out my bra. The downside is I become ravenously hungry for those long periods of steroid treatments. Each time I am put on a steroid treatment I gain weight and every time have to work the weight back off. This last summer (for my 30th birthday) I was in the hospital again and back on steroid treatments and took some home for further treatment. This time I gained around 30 pounds without even trying. I fell into a deep depression because I hadn’t finished getting the last weight gain off from the previous treatment. I swear to you I could eat anything and gain weight. A bag of carrots could mean five pounds. It is insane what steroids do to my metabolism. I have come to the conclusion that the next time I have a flare up I am going to refuse steroids and tell them to work their medical magic some other way. So now I weigh around 200 pounds, though no one believes me when I reveal that fact, I guess that is a good thing… it means I carry it well. (I am pretty tall for a girl. My measurements remain proportionate, which is a plus.) However having a bra size that could be a vowel except for my refusal to accept that… is all getting to be a bit much and I do not believe I should feel humiliated by my body if I can change it.
I am also working to give up another bad habit… I tend to turn to smoking when I get stressed out. (Bad habit I picked up when I lived with a total loser). Smoking is bad for anyone, but especially “foodies” because it alters how you taste foods. (Also makes you stinky, which as a perfume junkie I find repulsive, don’t ask me how I got started in the first damn place.) It is especially bad for me and my Crohn’s disease. My quit date is set for the 31st of January… I am working a program online. So this New Year is full of changes! Good ones. I look forward to sharing my progress with you along the way.
Being a foodie queen however there are certain things I cannot give up entirely. For example Fat Free cheese is just nasty plastic and I refuse to eat it. You will also not find me ever buying skim milk unless I am having a house guest who drinks it. Skim milk is not milk, in my opinion, it is blue water. I will still use butter when necessary, but not as much. I have given it up all together except in baking, or if a recipe specifically calls for it. I also refuse to give up my “mini” cokes. I love Coca Cola and I am not ashamed to admit it. While I have certainly decreased the amount I drink; 12 fl. Oz. is a far cry from the liters of it I could drink in my younger years. Increasing my intake of water and Crystal Light has really helped me cut that habit. So if you are still reading at this point then you probably know more about me than you ever bargained to. But this is what my life is, and what drives my cooking.
Without further ado, my recipes for Salmon Cakes and Cucumber and Grape Tomato salad.
2 5 or 6 oz. cans of Boneless Skinless Pink Salmon, like Bumble Bee.
1/3 cups dry bread crumbs (plain)
3 tablespoons chopped green onions
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill (or dried, I didn’t have any fresh)
1 large egg
½ cup finely chopped pine nuts (can increase or decrease this based on preference)
Salt and pepper to taste
Garlic Powder to taste
2.) Shape mixture into small patties.
3.) Heat about two tablespoons of either canola or olive oil in large skillet over medium high heat.
I serve these with a quick and easy Low Fat Tzatziki Sauce. They would be equally good alone though.
Serves three to four people based on how big your patties are.
**Worth 9 Weight Watchers points.**
Cucumber and Tomato Salad
1 package (1 pint) of grape tomatoes, halved.
1-2 large sliced cucumbers (based on your preference)
½ cup 2% Mozzarella Cheese Shredded (Or you could buy the really good stuff and slice it into chunks)
2-3 tablespoons of lemon juice (based on your taste)
1-2 tablespoons of fresh chopped basil (again more or less based on your taste)
2 tablespoons of olive oil
Salt, pepper, and garlic powder to taste.
3.) Pour lemon juice and olive oil over the salad and mix well.
4.) Stir in Mozzarella cheese.
This will serve about five people and is worth an amazing 2 Weight Watcher points! Thus the reason I serve it with the higher point salmon cakes!
Quick and Easy Tzatziki Sauce
1 peeled, seeded, and grated cucumber
½ teaspoon grated lemon rind
1-2 tablespoons lemon juice (based on how tart you like it)
Salt to your preference
(The recipe does not call for it but I always throw in some dill, because I love, LOVE dill.)
2.) Serving size to stick with points is ¼ of a cup. (Though you could use up to a half cup)
**Worth 2 Weight Watchers points. **
Monday, January 17, 2011
My mother is the queen of email forwards. She would likely kill me if she knew I wrote this about her, but she doesn’t read my blog… mostly because she doesn’t know what a blog is. I love her to death; but her serious lack of interest in technology is astounding to me. My father and I are very tech savvy. Me, obviously because of growing up with it all and my father because of his job, my mother has no interest in a computer other than to forward emails and play solitaire. She drives me nuts because she has a Blackberry and won’t even use the camera on it. To me it seems a waste to have such an extraordinary piece of technology and never use it to its full potential.
That being said she did send me a forward the other day that I read through and it struck me as something worth sharing with my readers. I know it isn’t food related in the slightest, but food is life and part of enjoying life… so I figure a few entries that are not food related can be okay. (That and I have been working on finals for my classes and haven’t cooked anything but leftovers and microwaved Weight Watcher meals in over a week. Nothing to share there…)
Before I posted this tidbit of an email I chose to look up the supposed author of this and found out a few things. First and most notably is that the author is not 90 years old as the email suggests she is in fact 54 and a breast cancer survivor. She wrote a column giving 45 lessons on life when she turned 45 and had beaten the cancer. The author is a Pulitzer Prize finalist for 2009 and 2008, which is pretty amazing for any writer. Her name is Regina Brett and has written a couple books. Please feel free to “Google” her as I did. (I will include a link to her page at the bottom)
Enough back story now to the warm fuzzy, feel good blog post…
45 Lessons Life Taught Me
By Regina Brett
1.) Life isn’t fair, but I it’s still good.
2.) When in doubt, just take the next small step.
3.) Life is too short to waste time hating anyone.
4.) Your job won’t take care of you when you are sick. Your friends and parents will. Stay in touch.
5.) Pay off your credit cards every month.
6.) You don’t have to win every argument. Agree to disagree.
8.) It’s okay to get angry with God. He can take it.
9.) Save for retirement starting with your first paycheck.
10.) When it comes to chocolate, resistance is futile.
11.) Make peace with your past so it won’t screw up the present.
12.) It’s okay to let your children see you cry.
14.) If a relationship has to be a secret, you shouldn’t be in it.
15.) Everything can change in the blink of an eye. But don’t worry; God never blinks.
16.) Take a deep breath. It calms the mind.
17.) Get rid of anything that isn’t useful, beautiful, or joyful.
18.) Whatever doesn’t kill you really does make you stronger.
19.) It’s never too late to have a happy childhood. But the second one is up to you and no one else.
20.) When it comes to going after what you love in life, don’t take no for an answer.
22.) Over prepare then go with the flow.
23.) Be eccentric now. Don’t wait for old age to wear purple.
24.) The most important sex organ is the brain.
25.) No one is in charge of your happiness but you.
26.) Frame every so-called disaster with these words: “In five years, will this matter?”
27.) Always choose life.
28.) Forgive everyone everything.
29.) What other people think of you is none of your business.
30.) Time heals almost everything. Give it time.
31.) However good or bad a situation is it will change.
32.) Don’t take yourself so seriously. No one else does.
33.) Believe in miracles.
34.) God loves you because of who God is, not because of anything you did or didn’t do.
35.) Don’t audit life. Show up and make the most of it now.
37.) Your children only get one childhood.
38.) All that truly matters in the end is that you loved.
39.) Get outside every day. Miracles are waiting everywhere.
40.) If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else’s problems, we’d grab ours back.
41.) Envy is a waste of time. You already have all you need.
42.) The best is yet to come…
43.) No matter how bad you feel, get up, get dressed, and show up.
I have left all the bits at the end that turn these beautiful suggestions into a (sigh) chain letter. Some of these really hit home for me in my real life. Which ones do you find mean something to you?
Tuesday, January 11, 2011
Snow has found its way to the Carolinas! It is so beautiful outside! The quiet beauty of snow makes everything so peaceful and makes the tired winter landscape new again. Winter is not always my favorite time of year, I do love Christmas but generally the dreary, cold winter days are not my favorite. Snowy days are different though! I am like a giddy school girl on snow days. Playing in the snow with my dog is great! Griffin seems so confused when it snows; but he absolutely loves it! He snuffles through it like a pig looking for truffles. This snowfall was not typical for us here in the south. We usually only get an inch or two, but this time we got nearly six! It was odd to step into snow and not see the grass in my foot print. Living down here I have never owned a sled in my life, but I absolutely wished I had one these last couple days! It looks like so much fun! Instead I settled for throwing a ball for Griffin and watching him root it out in the snow. He is so funny. I love that dog!
After battling a bad cold for a couple weeks now I felt I should actually cook something. For dinner instead of going for the obvious option of soup I decided to make some quick and easy Chicken Scaloppini and roasted potatoes. I paired the two with some frozen field peas with snaps I had on hand. For so long I have been trying to “eat out of the freezer” but it is so difficult to do sometimes, especially when you go to the store and see all the tantalizing fresh stuff! I am actually really thankful for that freezer being pretty full this week as I have not been able to make it out of the house due to the frozen sheet of ice outside(I live on a hill). Freezing rain after a good snow is not a good combination!
Obviously the recipe below is adjustable based on how many you are going to feed. Since I am usually just cooking for me or one or two other people I tend to buy in small portions.
Quick and Easy Chicken Scaloppini
· Thin Chicken Breasts (I buy the singles by Purdue and for this use the White Wine and Garlic marinated ones)
· Panko Bread Crumbs
· Plain Bread Crumbs (though you could easily use Italian Bread crumbs if you prefer)
· Lemon Juice (one whole lemon)
· Salt and Pepper
· Olive Oil
· ½ cup of Chicken Broth
2. Then the FUN part! I do not have a meat mallet, if you have one use it if not do what I do. I leave the Purdue “Singles” in their packet wrap them in a couple paper towels and using a small but heavy pan bash the ever living uh… stuff out of the chicken. (Great stress reliever!) You want the chicken to be flattened out, but not destroyed so keep an eye on it.
4. Heat about 2 tablespoons in a frying pan. You want the oil to get hot! It should sizzle when you place the chicken in the pan. Medium-high heat.
5. Lay the breasts flat in the pan, not touching. If you are doing more than will fit this way in the pan, be prepared to move them to a “resting place” where they can stay warm. Remember the chicken should sizzle when it goes into the pan!
6. The trick here is to leave them alone. I know you want to look to see if they are browning and not burning. But it is fine, leave them alone. After about three minutes slide a slotted spatula under the breast and lift; you can look underneath to make sure it is pretty and brown. Flip and cook another three minutes on the other side. If needed move them to a resting plate, I like to put them on a warm pan with a rack to keep them crispy.
7. Add broth and lemon juice to pan, stirring to deglaze (remove the brown bits) Cook about 2 minutes. Drizzle, the juices over the chicken to serve.
**Worth 6 Weight Watchers points**
· Potatoes, I used regular white potatoes for this but any type of potato should work.
· Salt and Pepper, to taste
· Garlic Powder to taste, or chopped garlic cloves.
· Olive Oil
· Extra spices if you want… I used sprigs of Rosemary to just scent the potatoes.
1. Preheat oven to 400°
2. Peel your potatoes if you want, I did in this case because I just did not want to scrub them. Slice the potatoes, about ¼ to ½ inches thick depending on your preference.
4. Drizzle with olive oil.
5. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, garlic and any other spices you like.
6. I lay a few springs of Rosemary on top of the potatoes.
ENJOY! As always be creative, and remember your preferences are always the best additions to a recipe! Make it your own and trust your instincts! Laugh if you mess up and try again the next time! Of course let me know how it turns out!
Sunday, January 9, 2011
As any good southern woman will tell you anytime the weather looks frightening; (i.e.: snow is even mentioned as a slight possibility in the forecast) you go directly to the store and buy bread and milk. All my life this has been drilled into me. I have utterly no idea what the reason for bread and milk is; I guess you won’t starve to death in the event of the snow lasting any longer than 12 hours if you have a loaf of bread and gallon of milk. In my whole life I can likely count on one hand the amount of times that snow has not melted by noon the day after a snow. I can only remember once that I have seen more than a couple of inches. Don’t get me wrong I love snow, I love everything about it, and the way it falls and makes everything quiet and new again is just wonderful. Let me assure you though southern snow is very different than other parts of our country. Southern people just freak out!
The companion to this is the fact that I grew up with a list of things that must always, ALWAYS be kept in your pantry at all times. Pantry staples likely vary from region to region. I seriously doubt that many people outside of my area of the country always have a can of SPAM in their pantry, but eh it works for southern people. I will not be including SPAM on my personal list of pantry staples; instead I will try to make a list of staples that all people should have and I welcome suggestions from other parts of the country and the world! I have noticed I have readers in other parts of the world, so by all means feel free to comment on what you keep in your larders and cupboards all the time. There are just a few common things I don’t think anyone should ever be caught without!
- Olive Oil: Extra Virgin is my preference but some people like the “fully leaded” versions of this versatile oil.
- Broths: Chicken broth, beef broth, vegetable broth. Easy to make soups from or just heat and sip. I love chicken broth when I have a bad cold or flu!
- Pasta: Personally I have at least three boxes of Barilla pasta in my pantry at all times. So many things you can do with pasta, even if nothing more than a bit of salt and pepper and a pat of butter or drizzle of that olive oil.
- Fresh Garlic: One of the best spices to have on hand at all times. You can chop it, slice it, roast it, smash it, grate it, or use whole cloves. Of course you will not be popular with your friends or spouse, but you will sleep well at night!
- Jarred Pasta Sauces: This of course plays right into having pasta in your cupboard at all times. I keep at least Barilla’s Tomato and Basil sauce in my pantry for those nights I don’t feel like cooking. Warm sauce, toss in pasta, and sprinkle with cheese… voila! Easy meal.
- Rice: Like pasta this is so versatile and easy to handle. Mix with broth or soup to give some more weight to the meal. Mix with beans and wrap with a tortilla and some cheese and you have a quick meal. Always good to have in your pantry.
- Dijon Mustard: Maybe odd to you for me to mention something like Dijon mustard but again lots can be done with this particular condiment.
- Honey: Mix with the above and you have a dipping sauce, dressing, or even a marinade for meats. Honey also makes a wonderful mask for your skin… but that’s another topic all together. Local honey is best as it will help you build up antihistamines to local pollens. Check your farmer’s markets!
- Milk: Come on, you knew this was coming! Cereal and milk is absolutely one of my favorite meals. I think it is because I am just a big kid at heart!
- Baby Spinach (Fresh or Frozen): Make salads, steam and eat… it is just good for you!
- Peas: I keep a variety of “peas” on hand at all times. Black-eyed peas being some of my favorite. I love Crowder Peas, green peas, and Butter Beans though I think they qualify more in the bean department.
- Canned Beans/Dry Beans: Black beans, white beans, navy beans, red beans… need I say more?
- Canned Tuna: Canned meats are usually not something I recommend to anyone. However Tuna is rare in that it fairs well in a can (or packet) please for you own good buy it in fresh spring water! (And look for dolphin friendly tuna only!)
- Canned Tomatoes: What can’t you do with canned tomatoes?
- Peanut Butter: At the very least when that snow threat is imminent you can have peanut butter sandwiches! I can use peanut butter as a flavoring in dishes as well.
- Salsa: Always an interesting and quick topping for chicken. Naturally goes well with chips.
- Potatoes: Does this need explaining?
- Corn Meal: Corn bread, breading, corn cereal….
- Sugar/Brown Sugar: You just never know when you will need to sweeten something. Or make a nice body scrub.
- Eggs: Not difficult to figure out. Full of protein and vitamins, easy to scramble or to hard boil.
- Bread: Okay, I give in; I have to have bread in my pantry. I serve some type of bread at every meal. You can do a lot with bread; I love French toast.
- Spices: Anyone with a great pantry has more than just salt and pepper in the spice cabinet. Now we will all differ on our opinions as to what belongs in the spice cabinet. My personal favorites are Basil, Rosemary, Cilantro, Tarragon, Garlic Powder, Chinese Five Spice, Paprika, Curry, and Nutmeg.
- Cheeses: I always have at least cheddar on hand. Typically I have more than that, including goat cheese, Italian cheese blends, Brie, and Provolone.
This is just my list of must haves. What is on your list? Do you feel I missed something vital? Let me know your thoughts!