Thursday, March 30, 2017

Biscuits with a touch of Corn - Gluten Free as Well

Ok these, aren't exactly low calorie, carb, or fat.  But they are wonderful paired with salad, soup, or a lean roast, veggies, and fruit for dessert.,

OR, if your husband is out of town for a week -  with Amish bacon, and lingonberry jam.

Cornmeal Buttermilk Biscuits

BISCUITS

1/4 cup yellow cornmeal
1 cup buttermilk (or use a cup of milk replacing 1 Tablespoon with lemon juice)
3 Tablespoons honey

2  cups gluten-free baking mix  (or all-purpose flour)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
4 oz.(1 stick) COLD butter, cut into 1/2 tablespoon sized pieces.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with two layers of parchment paper. In a large mixing bowl, combine the cornmeal, buttermilk, and honey. Stir well and let sit for 10 minutes to soak the cornmeal. Add flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt to a food processor and pulse to mix. Add cold butter and pulse until mixture is coarse. Pour the flour mixture into the buttermilk mixture and stir to make a soft dough. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead about 8 times until smooth. Using a biscuit cutter or the top of a glass about 2 inches wide dipped in flour (I dip mine in a little water), cut out 6 rounds. Arrange rounds on cookie sheet. Bake at 450 for 5 minutes or until biscuits really start to rise in the oven, then turn heat down to 400 and bake for another 12-15 minutes or until golden brown and serve with jam or butter and honey.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

A Better Sammich

I grew up on pretty much peanut butter and honey or peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on "wonder bread" if Mom was feeling poorly or homemade white when the chemo effects weren't so bad.  (she battled cancer more than once from age 4 until my college years when she passed). My Mom also would, with the peanut butter and honey ones, butter the outside of the bread and grill them like a grilled cheese "Sammich" when we were kids and a bit under the weather and not wanting to eat much.  The peanut butter would get all warm and creamy, the bread would be all buttery and crunchy, and the honey would start to caramelize.  I made one of those for my husband when we first me and he LOVED it. Still, it's  an occasional indulgence due to the fat content, usually as "Mom memory comfort food" when I'm coming down with a cold.

Other than that, I'm not a big fan of most sandwiches made at home.  Just meat and cheese and iceburg lettuce is too boring and unless you add a bunch of mayo (I HATE mustard) too dry. My husband happily goes off to work each day with one, mayo-free, just some sandwich sprinkle spice from Penzey's, but his work has a nonprofit cafeteria where he can add a side salad for a dollar or two. But I decided to start adding more veggies to my sandwich and it made a lot of difference.  Try sprouts (I make my own as grocery store sprouts do have a higher risk of salmonella than most lettuces), add mushrooms, or avocado, tomatoes or spinach. Cranberry sauce is good with turkey or "veggie turkey" especially with a thin smear of fat-free or dairy-free cream cheese.  Ditch the mayo. Keep the meat lean or a vegetarian protein adding a little pepper, teriyaki sauce or barbecue seasoning to it before baking and only use a thin slice of cheese (better yet use hummus, keeps the sandwich moist and also healthy). Decorate with a toothpick with a pickle spear or add some shredded cabbage with rice vinegar as a side (a non-fat "coleslaw")

Serve on a whole grain, sprouted grain, or gluten-free bread, whatever you prefer.  No thick white bread - that defeats the whole purpose of a healthy sandwich.

Yum - I didn't know a lunch sandwich from home could be this good!

Friday, March 24, 2017

Browned Butter Carrot Soup

Carrots aren't high on my list of favorite veggies (those would be beans, corn, and potatoes).  I like home garden carrots but so many of the ones at the story are either mutant baby carrots (which I don't like) or don't have a great flavor as they are so water laden. I do buy them for stews, so sometimes I end up with a mostly full bag about to spoil. So I make carrot soup.

I actually like this better than just the carrots and could eat it regularly (and it's less than 200 calories a cup and SO creamy.)

Browned Butter Carrot and Sage Soup

2 Tablespoons butter
1 medium onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
handful of fresh sage (leaves only, and washed)
5 cups chopped carrots
1 and 3/4 cups water
4 cups reduced-sodium vegetable broth (or use chicken or vegetarian "chicken" broth, both also good)
3/4 cup reduced fat half-and-half
dash of salt and white pepper to taste

Heat butter in a Dutch oven and heat until it's starting to brown and go frothy. Add sage and cook until starting to crisp up, remove with slotted spoon.  Add onion and celery; cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 4 to 6 minutes. Stir in carrots. Add water and broth; bring to a lively simmer over high heat.

Reduce heat to medium and gently simmer until the carrots soften (25-35 minutes).  Cool 10 minutes minimum (so you're not pureeing piping hot liquid) then puree the soup a cup or so at a time in a food processor or blender until smooth.  Stir in half-and-half and salt and pepper, return to saucepan and heat on low until warm. Garnish with a few croutons and a sprig of fresh herb of choice.

Vegan version:
Use olive oil instead of butter.

Instead of cream, omit the onion and make a "creme" substitute out of roasted onions (it's really amazing, not tasting exactly like cream but with the same texture and depth to add to recipes). If you don't do onions and can eat soy, blend tofu and water in a 1/1 ratio to make a "cream".

Veggie "Cream Substitute:
Makes 3/4 to 1 cup

3 large sweet onion
Salt, to taste
Lemon juice, to taste
Olive oil, to taste

Coat the onions lightly with extra virgin olive oil, and roast them at 400ยบ F in a pan that's not a lot bigger than they are until they are very dark on the outside and molten soft on the inside—the insides should not have taken on any color. That's about 45 minutes in my oven. Let cool. Once they have cooled, Remove the peels, and add the onions into a blender. Blend until very smooth, about 3 to 5 minutes. Finish by adding salt, freshly squeezed lemon juice, and olive oil to taste, then blend 20 to 30 seconds more. Adjust seasoning if necessary. Use as you would cream to finish a dish. Will keep in the fridge for 3 days and in the freezer for a couple of weeks.  Great to make mashed potatoes with for vegan friends.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Drop a Bath Bomb on Me Baby

I bet the first thing you are thinking is "Beets?"

Although eating better quality food and starting a serious work out program this last year has made me feel better (and I lost 9 pounds without  any sort of structured "diet"), I also am making an effort to make more "me" time. Working full time, maintaining a couple of blogs plus twitter and facebook for marketing the books and working on the next book (which is almost like having two full time jobs) and family leave little time to just relax. For me, it's the occasional board game with my husband after dinner with a glass of wine and a long soak in the tub while my husband then happily curls up with nothing else to do but enjoy a book or putter in his shop.

I love my baths and have a number of bath products, my new favorite being the new "Tub Tingle" bath bombs from SACS & Co. But I was out!
So while I happily waited for my next box to arrive.  I decided to make my own. Nope. Not having a custom mold I just pressed them in a muffin pan sprayed with non stick spray (or you can use a drop of olive oil) and they were SUPER easy to make and work just as good as the manufactured ones.

DIY Bath "Bomb"

1 cup baking soda
1/2 cup Epsom salts (I gave them a few pulses in the food process to make them finer)
1/2 cup Citric Acid (I found on Amazon)
1/2 cup corn starch
2 Tablespoons melted coconut oil
2 and and 1/2 teaspoons water
Essential oil (I used lavender) 10 drops for lightly scented 1/4 tsp for heavier scented.
1 teaspoons beet juice (for color).

Mix dry ingredients in one bowl, wet in another.  Combine (it will fizz up, that's the expected chemical reaction.)  Stir until combined and spoon into muffin tins, pressing down with a spoon or with gloved hands
It's ALIVE!

Leaves some room as they do expand as they dry.  Let sit at room temperature to dry out 3 hours to overnight.  Store in baggies away from kids and pets (these would be toxic to eat) and enjoy in your bath. When they are done, they will have risen up to the top of the muffin pan and smoothed out, and will be dry and firm to the touch.  They were a little more "crumbly" than the purchased ones, so I just stored them in baggies and dropped the contents into the tub.
Makes one dozen bombs.

Now go have that glass of wine.



and get your bath.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Easy Soy Free Stir Fry

Looking for an easy stir fry with no soy or wheat?  Or an alternate that has soy and gluten but no meat? This turned out really good with just a handful of ingredients and made enough for meals for two over a couple of days.

Get some rice cooking in your steamer.

In a coffee cup mix a teaspoon of fresh grated ginger (or use half as much of powder), the juice of a lime (about a Tablespoon), a teaspoon of honey (or half teaspoon of sugar) and cayenne pepper to taste (I like mine spicy).

If you want to be totally soy free use gluten free breaded chicken bites.  I used the veggie chicken pieces since it was one of my meatless days -  I like the Gardein ones which do have a little gluten and soy in them. I cut them in pieces and just nuked for a couple of minutes then crisped them up in a fry pan.  Remove from heat and cover with lid to keep warm.

When the rice is a few minutes out from being done, stir fry in a tablespoon of olive oil half a bag of frozen oriental veggies (mine was a mix of broccoli, carrots, sugar snap peas, water chestnuts and red pepper).  When veggies are crisp/tender, toss with your protein and sauce and serve with rice.

Serves four.


Wednesday, March 15, 2017

The Personal Trainer - A Year Milestone

It has been one year since I hired a personal trainer.  I worked with her six months. She moved out of state as her fiance was transferred but at that point, I had the workouts down where I could do them by myself.  We created several sessions that I can mix and match to do core, upper, lower, and cardio. At first, there were a few weeks I didn't work out without her being here to make me do it, but when I saw the effects on my progress, that ended quickly.

I'm doing 3-4 days a week - 60-minute sessions with one 90-minute session on the weekend, Weights (with an emphasis on arms as that was my weak area), cardio, boxing, and strength training to my Piano Guys CD (seriously, best workout music). I can also do the entire session without having to stop for several minutes to catch my breath between sets. Planks went from 5 seconds to 3 minutes and my partial meniscus-less knee only hurts when the weather is changing (accu-knee) instead of 24 and 7. My 3-pound weights are now 8-pound weights (going for repetition rather than overall weight lifting) and a 10-pound medicine ball was added to the mix.

One year in, without dieting, just cooking healthy food/healthy fats food more often with more fruits and veggie laden meals but still enjoying some wine and treats on a regular basis,  I lost 18 pounds and 2 pants sizes. I can also wear sleeveless shirts for the first summer in 10 years.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Angels among us - and decent smoothies.

If I add a glass fo wine I think I've covered all food groups.

This week was not my finest in the healthy eating department.  My husband was gone all week, I was working on a project at home and things were happening in life that were stressful.  With pretty much perfect credit, I got a bill sent to collection for a fairly recent diagnostic medical exam that I never had.

I had a few things working in my favor:
The diagnostic procedure was in a state I moved away from and haven't revisited in 10 years
The address they sent the bill to, I'd moved from 12 years ago.
The last name of the "patient" was my maiden name, and I was long married at the time of the exam.
I was never a patient of the doctor that sent "me" for the diagnostic procedure, I was simply in the system for the medical group he was part of, or at least was 10 years ago.
I have no records of physical issues that would have required this procedure, being a licensed airline pilot, those things are in my FAA flight surgeon records.
Road tolls would show me driving from Chicago to Indianapolis early that morning to start duty at 9:30, leaving duty at 1800.
There's just not enough pizza for the week I had.

Still, the collection people didn't believe me, thinking I just "forgot" the exam (which I would have had to drive 650 miles to get, a procedure, readily available 5 minutes from where I lived), and told me I should just call the doctor and take care of the bill.

But his practice was closed, patients being picked up by a large medical provider in the area. (really, I need more pizza).

Fortunately, a very kind woman named Kim, a financial counselor at the large medical group who inherited the record when the practice that billed me closed, realized they inherited a billing error and got it sorted out though my credit report hasn't updated yet.  She probably spent half an hour on the phone with me trying to sort out what had happened.  Kim - you are an angel.  Bless you.

But at the start of the week when I found all this out let's just say red wine and cheese may be on the endangered species list by now.

So this weekend, my husband home and things back to normal, time for some healthy eating after a fairly big breakfast of gluten-free biscuits (King Arthur flour recipe) and gravy.

You know I love smoothies.  I tried the Daily Harvest home delivery smoothies once a year and a half ago and the initial ones were VERY good, with really healthy ingredients, but a little more than I wanted to pay. Then later shipments arrived with the contents fused together as if they had thawed and refrozen, and they seemed smaller, so I didn't order again.

Then I noticed in my Schwan's catalog they now have smoothies.

Most of you in the US are familiar with Schwan's - the big yellow truck that delivers flash frozen meals, fruits, veggies and ice cream to your door.  My Dad was a huge fan when he and my stepmom got up there in years and didn't like to cook much.  He still ALWAYS has their pot pies and GoldnNugget ice cream bars in his freezer and a couple of the skillet meals if he has one of the home health aides that's not much of a cook (they're hired for their nursing care, the house and cooking tasks are provided, but some are more skilled at that part than others).

I like them too.  I do tend to make 95% of everything from scratch, including my bread to save money but my family does have some favorites

The Toaster Waffles - before I ditched regular wheat I absolutely loved these, they put grocery store frozen waffles to shame.  They're crisp with a pillowy interior and a wonderful vanilla aroma.

The Ciabatta rolls (great for dinner or make little pizzas out of them for the little ones).

Fully cooked microwavable bacon (when you just want a quick BLT)

The whole sockeye salmon filet - growing up on fresh caught what we find in a store in the Midwest is NOT that great, the catch of the day usually being Perogies.

The southwest roasted corn and beans - less than $8 for two pounds, mix with rice and cheese and you've got a great vegetarian lunch burrito as it's already seasoned perfectly

and their frozen fruits and veggies, so fresh and good tasting.  (the roasted sweet potatoes are the bomb, especially drizzled with some pear/cinnamon balsamic vinegar before roasting).

But I'd not tried their smoothies. I'm glad I did

Pros:

Healthy ingredients - this tropical one had mango, carrots, sweet potatoes banana, and pineapple.  I mixed it with a cup and a half of a mixture of orange juice and goat milk kefir.

Great Taste - even my husband, NOT a fan of smoothies with veggies in them, took a sip and said, "that's good!"

Easy:  no chopping, no dicing

No gluten/no sugar/no sodium

Ready in two minutes.

Cons:

You will need to add more than just water, juice or coconut milk work great.

More $$ than making from scratch but they were HALF the cost of the Daily Harvest smoothie or ones from a "smoothie bar" kind of eatery (you can add protein powder or spirulina and such if you wish).

They also have a strawberry banana and a green smoothie (with peaches, pineapple, broccoli, and kale).

I really liked the tropical  flavor I just tried - I didn't notice the taste of the sweet potato and carrots after mixing it thoroughly with the juice and kefir.  It also made enough for a glass and a half and it was filling. If I added a heaping tablespoon of Vega Protein powder, this could be a meal.

Thanks Schwan's!  I will be re-ordering!

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

His Name was Colin. . .



-- Yes, I do ask questions about how my food is prepped, but this totally cracked me up.