Sunday, July 16, 2017

Perfect Guacomole

Guacamole is one of those "love/hate" dishes for some people.  I used to hate it until I tried actually GOOD guac and not some runny and bland Mexican fast food versions.  It also is full of healthy fats so even if watching calories, it's a great nutritious snack with some veggies or baked tortilla chips.

Unlike many popular recipes for this dish, I leave out the tomato and garlic  (though I might use a little tomato for photo garnish ). You can also leave out the onion if you don't eat onions.  The key is using the grocery store avocado (Hass)  which are ripe but not so ripe they are mushy.  The avocado should yield to a gentle squeeze of your hand. Friends don't let friends buy mushy avocados.  If all the store has are hard ones, take them home and put in a bag with a couple of bananas which will help ripen them in a day or two.)

4 medium ripe avocados, halved and pitted
1/2  cup finely chopped white onion
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
1 small jalapeño, seeds and ribs removed, finely chopped
3 tablespoons lime juice (about 1 and 1/2 limes)
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin OR coriander
1 teaspoon salt
dash of black pepper
4 dashes hot sauce (optional - I love Scoville Brothers Singing Smoke brand)

INSTRUCTIONS

Use a spoon to scoop the avocado flesh into a medium sized serving bowl, discarding any browned bits.  Promptly add remaining ingredients (except hot sauce) and mash using a  fork, or potato masher until it's at your preferred texture. If using hot sauce, gently stir in after mashing - to taste

I often add a pinch more salt, but taste first and add extra salt after.

Store leftovers in a tall narrow container to reduced the top surface area that may brown.  Cover well with plastic wrap (note, if you use onions in yours, placing a good chunk on top of the guac will help reduce the browning, though you will wish to remove any small areas that do brown before serving leftover.)



Friday, July 7, 2017

Reduced Fat Crockpot Sloppy Joes

I decided to do something different than our usual pizza night as my husband had been fed pizza  several times lately while working late in a plant in another city that needed the advisory engineer.

I also had a busy work week and didn't want to fuss in the kitchen OR heat up the stove when it was 90 degrees out.

Crockpot Sloppy Joes!

But I wanted to make a lower fat version that, other than sweetener, had simple ingredients.

I know you can buy a can of the sloppy joe sauce at the store.  But have you ever looked at the ingredient list of the most popular brand?

Tomato Puree (Water, Tomato Paste), High Fructose Corn Syrup, Distilled Vinegar, Less than 2% of: Salt Sugar, Dehydrated Onions, Dehydrated Red and Green Bell Peppers, Chile Pepper, Tomato Fiber, Spices, Guar Gum, Xanthan Gum, Dehydrated Garlic, Carob Bean Gum, Natural Flavors. 

I think I will pass. This went together as the ground beef cooked and smelled wonderful cooking in the crockpot.  You can also make this with cooked lentils, TVP, or Gardein "beef" crumbles for a veggie version.

In a cast iron pan cook ground sirloin or ground turkey breast with 1/2 chopped onion (or a small handful of chopped celery) until cooked.  Do not add seasoning as you are going to rinse when done to get rid of as much fat as possible.  When meat is cooked, spoon into a colander and rinse thorough under cool water.

While meat is cooking or after mix in a crockpot:

1 and 1/2 cups ketchup (or use tomato sauce if you are cutting back on sugar)
dash of salt and pepper
3 shakes crushed red pepper
1 tsp dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon chopped garlic (optional)
2 teaspoons chili powder
2 Tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon Molasses
2 and 1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire Sauce
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar (I use Braggs, with the "mother")
3/4 cup water (note:  this makes a fairly "sausy" sauce, if  you like it nice and thick reduce to 1/2 cup)
2 Tablespoons tomato paste.

Add in protein/onion mix and a large handful of chopped red, yellow, and green peppers

Cook on low until heated through and the veggies have softened, at least 4 hours.  Serve on toasted buns with salad.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Perfect Reheated Pizza - Just Add Cast Iron


Everyone loves pizza it seems - whether it's thin, thick, or Chicago style, regular or gluten free, meaty toppings or veggie.  Even while watching your calories, pizza makes a delicious meal, simply request that any high-calorie toppings be applied lightly and consider getting all or half of the pizza with extra vegetables. I also have the pizza cut in squares so I can get some smaller slices out of it and serve on a salad sized plate so it just LOOKS like a have a huge plate of pizza  (honest this tip of serving on small plates works).

I also love having leftover pizza, when the local pizzeria has an extra large size on sale.  But microwaved reheated pizza is just limp and heating it in the oven dries it all out.

What to do?

Get out your cast iron skillet.  

Heat the unoiled skillet on high for one minute.  Add pizza slices, making sure there is some space around them.  Heat for 2 1/2 to 3 minutes (this was a pizza with medium thickness).  Add 3-4 drops of water total to the bare parts of the pan and immediately cover with a heavy lid, turning heat down to medium-low and heat an additional 2-3 minutes.  (You'll soon learn what times work for your stove and favorite pizza).

The result of the quick heat on high followed by steam on lower heat while covered  is a very crisp perfect crust and moist cheesy pizza.  If you want to see more, click on the photos to enlarge.

If doing multiple batches for a family, put finished pizza slices on a cookie sheet, lightly tent with foil and place in a warm, not hot oven

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

A Review of CVS Gluten Free Cookies

I don't know if any of you have been into a CVS store and noticed they have their own line of gluten-free snacks/cookies.

Because I love both vanilla and shortbread I immediately snagged a box of  CVS brand Abound Gluten-Free Vanilla Shortbread Cookies. I regularly buy the CVS brand of various cosmetic and skin care products and am MORE than happy with them.

Plus I'm a big fan of cookies. Even the sometimes rock hard Dare Coconut ones. But let's just cut to the chase on my personal opinion of the CVS Gluten Free Shortbread Cookies.

The squirrels wouldn't eat them either.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Canadian Shake and Bake - Et j'ai aidé

Any of you over 50 who grew up in the US remember that Shake and Bake Commercial with the little girl with the thick Southern accent making dinner with her grandma with the words "And I helped!"

I've used Shake and Bake coating mix throughout my life on those nights as it's sort of a "comfort food" memory for me that the family likes.  I've even made my own DIY version to save money.  But there was one Shake and Bake product that was out about 10 years ago I really missed.  It was a GLAZE that was honey/mustard. It was really good on chicken and awesome on wings - only to be discontinued. I HATE mustard so the mustard flavor was beyond subtle, to me it tasted more like honey garlic.

I was seriously bummed.  My friends even requested it when coming over for cookouts where there would be wings.
Then this week, I'm over at the Canadian Favorites website ordering my quarterly fix of such products as Kraft Dinner (KD in Canada, a product that is way better than the U.S. versions of Kraft mac and cheese), Billy Bee Creamed Honey, Dare Cookies, and Canadian Coca Cola (which is made with sugar NOT High Fructose corn syrup like in the US) and I saw it -  Shake and Bake Honey Garlic Glaze.  A box of that SO went into my order.  I was afraid it would taste totally different than the original honey mustard, so I only bought one box, but it was just like the glaze I loved, though no mustard in the ingredients.  PLUS, absolutely NO fat and it's low in sugar.There's no MSG (though there are trace amounts of wheat, barley, and soy) and it didn't have a lot of chemicals or preservative type ingredients either. (that's another difference with the Kraft Dinner, the Canadian version doesn't have near the amount of "science experiment" sounding ingredients the US blue box version has).
The glazed chicken was a hit with my husband.  Working hard staining the new front steps, he's eaten four pieces of chicken in the last 18 hours and asked if there were any left. And even though I overcooked it slightly waiting on some stubborn cornbread to finish cooking it was still incredibly juicy!

Just like regular Shake and Bake you just put the seasoning in the provided bag, moisten your chicken (or veggie protein substitute) and bake until done. Directions are there in English and French.

Check out
I've always had great service from them, the products arriving UPS ground fresh and in good condition, and their prices are reasonable. I'm not Canadian but have a family member and two good friends who are so I developed some favorite products when visiting.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Acne and You - Reviews dot Com wants to Help

If you are like me  - you've bought many nutritional or beauty products due to a flash ad or hype or just on a whim, only to throw them out as it was either ineffective or aggravated acne, dry skin, or whatever skin issue you have. So you decide to do more homework next time which means valuable time from your day lost in Google.  I don't know about you but I have better things to do with what little free time I have.  Look, I'm an author which means book signings and interviews and tours and I have a full-time job as a federal agent (like on TV but without all the private jets and cleavage).  Plus I have two grandkids, an elderly dad, AND a millennial husband (which means time spent explaining to him things like "what the rabbit done died" meant in that 70's Aerosmith song).

So I want information that helps me make a good purchase in an easy to use format

There's a great website called  http://www.reviews.com/ that takes some of the guest work out of that as their team of experts are your unofficial "research partner" guiding you to the best products for your buck.

Everything they review they've tried themselves like I do with products I feature on my blog. They don't have fancy testing facilities but they do get their hands on the products, sometimes hundreds of them before making a determination of quality.  If that means brewing 500 cups of copy they are willing.

It saves ME having to brew 500 cups of coffee. (I have red hair - you do NOT want to see me with that much caffeine in my system).

For example  - let's say you have adult acne.  I don't but I DO use some salicylic acid products to help exfoliate.  Trust me, I threw away several before finding a Paula's Choice one I liked that didn't burn my very sensitive skin ("ow ow ow  - I think this has SADISTIC acid in it, not salicylic!")

What's worse than acne is those of you who are (ahem) older that don't want to turn your face into a desert in the treatment of it.

Research dot com did a great page of research on what the best products are for acne. You can see it

Wasn't that easy? So whether you are looking for acne treatment, sunscreen, whey protein powder or other health and beauty products check out their review dot com's website first.  It will save you a lot of time AND money. (You know so you can go meet your favorite author at a book signing :-)