Monday, January 28, 2013

Farewell Post - Secret Recipe Club

I have made the decision that this is to be my last Secret Recipe Club post.  I've realized that while I like going through other people's blogs, and occasionally trying new recipes, I've lost the desire to keep my own blog updated and full of new ideas.  More and more these days I find myself cooking the foods I'm comfortable with - the ones that are family recipes, or my husband's favorites, or my go-to recipes when I need something "good."  I seldom update the blog these days since I rarely cook anything new.  I've also realized that my desire to have top-quality photographs is no longer there. I see other people's fabulous photos, and then look at my dull, yellow pictures, and understand that while I could do better, I really don't want to. My passion now is for quilting. I have a quilting blog, and even that isn't updated as much as it should be since I'd rather be in my sewing room than at my computer.

Okay, enough of that. For my last Secret Recipe Club post, I was assigned Nora of Natural Noshing. Nora is a twenty-something foodie and fitness lover, who cooks gluten-free and (mostly) refined-sugar free.  How fitting that at this time of year I'm assigned a blog that will teach me how I SHOULD be cooking and eating. At first, Nora's recipes seemed foreign and "different" to me, but the more I read the more I found myself saying to myself, "That sounds yummy!" and "I want to try that!"  Already I've found 6 recipes to try after this one - all of which are going to be tasty and healthy at the same time. I've added some ingredients to my shopping list that I've never used before, and today, when I made my Java Smoothie for lunch, I found myself using dates for a sweetener instead of sugar. (Note to Nora:  I don't know if they were medjool dates or not - I had some Dole chopped dates in my cabinet that were going to be used in some very sugary candy, and decided that they will now be the "sugar" in my smoothies until that bag is gone. Then I'll get whole fresh dates from the grocery store.  The Dole ones have added dextrose, which I know is sugar. Oh well.)  I already purchased a container of protein powder, which I hope to put to good use.

On to the recipe for this post.  Nora has a good number of smoothie recipes on her blog, and at first, I wasn't interested in them.  I cook breakfast most mornings because I'm also feeding Don, and I hate to eat cold cereal since I know it's not good for me (I have to watch my blood sugar).  Then lunch time rolls around, and since I don't like sandwiches, I'm always looking for ideas for healthy lunches. Too often it's been cold cereal, since Don likes the leftovers from dinner.  As I was looking at Nora's smoothie recipes, it hit me - LUNCH!  I don't like a lot of food at lunch time - and if I make my smoothies with protein powder, and cut back on the sugar, I can drink my lunch while I'm sewing and be satisfied until dinner.  Believe me, it worked.  Today's lunch was the Java Chip Smoothie without the chips, and just a tweak of an added 1/2 banana. I was pleasantly full and didn't get hungry until dinner time.   I'll be trying more and more variations and flavors as the weeks go by - I'm looking forward to trying fresh mango - and perhaps will share those variations here on my blog. I won't be using the exact same ingredients Nora uses, but will tweak her recipes to go with what I have here in my kitchen.

Today's lunch was WONDERFUL!

Java Smoothie
adapted from a recipe by Nora of Natural Noshing

1 cup lowfat milk
1 cup protein powder (I used vanilla)
1-2 medjool dates (I used about 2 tablespoons of Dole chopped dates, since that's what I had on hand - but they have added dextrose)
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
2 teaspoons instant coffee granules
1/2 banana (I keep a bag of frozen banana halves in my freezer for smoothies)
4-5 ice cubes

Combine all ingredients in a blender and process until smooth.

Since this was sweetened by the dates and the banana, it wasn't as sweet as I thought it would be. After the first couple of sips, my taste buds adjusted, and it was sweet enough.  The cocoa powder made it dark, and the coffee granules brought out the rich chocolate taste.  I thoroughly enjoyed this smoothie, and like I said above, I was full and didn't get hungry until dinnertime. The protein powder has 26 grams of protein in one scoop - so that was the reason why.

To all my friends in the Secret Recipe Club, it's been fun.  I will continue to read all your posts and perhaps even try a recipe or two.

Friday, January 11, 2013

So Far, So Good

Day 2 was yesterday, and I started off the morning with 2 of the egg and bacon "muffins" I'd made the day before. I had a quilt guild meeting, so I stopped off at Starbuck's for a coffee with some sugar-free caramel syrup in it. Then at the meeting, I had nuts, tangerine slices, one small pretzel, one small piece of sugar-free cheesecake, and one cookie.  Lunch was more of Kalyn's power salad with walnuts and pickled kidney beans. Dinner was chile colorado and spanish rice. For dessert, I was inspired by the sugar-free cheesecake I'd had at the guild meeting, so I threw some little ones together. The only sugar is in the graham crackers.

(Almost) Sugar-Free Cheesecake Cups

3 graham crackers, crushed finely
2 tablespoons butter, melted
2 tablespoons Splenda granular
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sour cream
1 egg
1/4 cup Splenda Granular
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 cups frozen mixed berries
2 tablespoons Splenda granular 
1 tablespoon cornstarch mixed with 1 tablespoon lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350˚.  Put 12 silicone muffin cups in muffin tins, or use paper baking cups. In a small bowl, combine the graham cracker crumbs, butter and Splenda. Distribute mixture evenly among cups, and press down with the back of a spoon. In a small mixing bowl, combine the cream cheese, sour cream, egg, Splenda, lemon juice and baking powder. Beat with electric mixer until smooth. Spoon evenly into muffin cups.  Bake approximately 20 minutes or until lightly browned. Tops will crack. Let cool about an hour. For topping, heat the berries with the Splenda in a small saucepan until boiling. Add cornstarch/lemon juice mixture and remove from heat. Let it cool about 10 minutes, then spoon on top of the cheesecakes. Place in refrigerator to cool.

Since these are small, and low sugar, I ate two. I was in heaven.

Today was also a good day.  Breakfast was an egg-bacon-cheese quesadilla, and lunch was a bowl of frosted mini-wheat cereal. Now I know that the cereal was not a great option, but I'd been on the phone for 3 hours, mostly on hold, working on my change in prescription coverage.  At 1 pm I was starving and that was quick and easy.  Dinner is in the oven: chicken tidbits with raspberry-chipotle sauce.  I'll serve these with a side of canned corn.  I'd prefer a baked potato or some French fries, but those cravings are just going to have to fade. I think a couple of raw carrots will taste good, too.

So all is not perfect, but I've definitely toned down the sugar consumption compared to what I'd been eating last week. 

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Baby Steps

Yesterday, while I was in the middle of cutting some fabric for sewing, I had this overwhelming need to go to sleep. I haven't felt that way in several months, and after my nap (I slept soundly for 1 1/2 hours), I started to think about the possible reasons. I then joined a couple girlfriends at Red Robin, where I unwisely had a big burger and some fries.  While chatting with my friends after dinner, it hit me. I've been careless about my eating habits - I've been eating WAY too much sugar.  I've made lots of sweets - from cookies to candy to cakes - and even had half of a Texas Sheet Cake still sitting at home. I haven't checked my blood sugar for a while - and I bet if I did it would be extremely high.

So, I made a mental list of some things I needed to start to change my habits, and stopped at the grocery store on the way home for some fresh produce. I used to eat lots and lots of fresh vegetables, and we had only a head of romaine sitting in the refrigerator.

When I walked in the house with my bag of groceries, I was met by my husband, who informed me it was time for a change. Nice coincidence!  He'd stepped on the scales, and was heavier than he'd been in quite some time. We agreed to do this together - and the first thing we needed to do was get rid of that darn cake.  A quick phone call to Cindy and John across the street did the job - they were happy to take it off our hands.

Don doesn't have a blood sugar issue, and likes to eat something in the 45 minutes or so he's up before me, so I bought him some bagels.  When I got up, I made Kalyn's Cottage Cheese and Egg "Muffins" with Bacon and Green Onion - one of her early recipes on her blog. Kalyn focuses on South Beach Diet-friendly recipes, so I know I'll be using her as a resource as much as I can. Not only does she have her own recipes for her readers to use, she does monthly roundups of other bloggers' recipes.

Cottage Cheese and Egg "Muffins" with Bacon and Green Onion
from Kalyn of Kalyn's Kitchen

⅔ cup cottage cheese (I used low-fat)
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
¼ cup white whole wheat flour
⅔ cup almond meal
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons water
4 eggs, beaten
3 strips bacon, cooked until crisp, fat blotted with paper towel, then crumbled
3 tablespoons thinly sliced green onion (scallions)

 Preheat oven to 400 F.  In mixing bowl, combine cottage cheese, Parmesan cheese, white whole wheat flour, almond meal, salt, water, and beaten egg. Mix well. Gently mix in crumbled bacon and green onion, until well distributed in batter.  Spray muffin tins or silicone muffin cups with nonstick spray, or use foil muffin liners Fill muffin cups 3/4 full. Bake 25 -30 minutes, until muffins are firm and lightly browned. Serve hot or room temperature.

Note from Cyndi:  Somehow this made enough for 12 muffins, not six, and I'm assuming my oven burns hot, because after 25 minutes these were almost overcooked.

Kalyn says:
Muffins can be refrigerated and reheated in the microwave. (I cut in half crosswise before heating. Be very careful not to microwave more than about a minute, or they will become tough.) I haven't tried freezing them, but I would imagine they will freeze well.

These are great with a little salsa.

Lunch was a variation of Kalyn's Power Salad.  I didn't have any kale, but I did have some romaine and a head of white cabbage, and I had some walnuts to add a bit of protein.  I really like kidney beans on my salads, so I made some pickled kidney beans to go on top of my salad. They add some protein and fiber to an already fiber-rich salad.

Pickled Kidney Beans

1/3 cup white vinegar
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons Splenda granular
dash salt
dash pepper
1 can kidney beans, drained and rinsed

In a small bowl, combine the vinegar, water, Splenda, salt, and pepper.  Add kidney beans.  Let sit for at least 30 minutes before eating.  The flavor deepens with time.   Use about 1/4 cup beans on a salad.

My dressing, recommended by Kalyn, comes from Kelley of Mountain Mama Cooks. I had the correct ingredients on hand, and used my new salad dressing bottle to mix it up.

Lemon-Parmesan Vinaigrette 
from Kelley of Mountain Mama Cooks

1/2 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup good grated parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Put all the ingredients in a glass mason jar or other container with a tight fitting lid. Cover tightly and shake all ingredients to combine. Store unused dressing in the refrigerator. Use within a few weeks. If it even lasts that long.

 Baby steps.  I can only do things one meal, one day at a time.  Getting rid of that cake was the first step. I've got to work on my sweet tooth - any tips will be appreciated.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Blueberry Brunch Cake - Secret Recipe Club

So, it's Secret Recipe Club time again, and I see that I haven't posted anything since the last time. Hmmm. I think I know the reason why (again). It's because I'm in one of those "fix the usual, standard things and don't try anything new because I don't have time" moods. We're eating well - I've had a lot of freezer meals to eat, as well as all kinds of other meals. We've even eaten out a couple of times. Most recently we enjoyed an evening at Olive Garden. I just love the salad there.

My assigned blog for this month was My Judy the Foodie. Shari's blog is a memorial to her mother Judy - who clearly was a cook just like my mother. There are so many similarities between the two. It's been interesting to see how a self-proclaimed "NYC carryout junkie" has described her journey through her mother's cookbooks and recipes.

I almost made Judy's Garlic Chicken as my SRC recipe - and it HAS been added to my "must do" list, but I ended up making Blueberry Brunch Cake this morning for breakfast. It's made with ingredients I always have around - even the blueberrries (I used frozen ones) - and Don loves all kinds of coffee cakes.

This one was definitely a hit. The batter was really thick - yet the cake itself was not a dense as I thought it would be. I loved the crunchy top, too.

Blueberry Brunch Cake
from My Judy the Foodie

2 cups sifted flour
4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tbsp butter
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups blueberries (shake with l tbsp flour to keep from sinking)

3 tbsp sugar 
1 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Use a greased 9″ pan.  Combine flour, baking powder and salt. Cut in butter and sugar. Beat eggs in measuring cup, adding enough milk to make 3/4 cup plus 2 tbsps. Beat liquid into dry (mixture will be thick). Add in vanilla. Fold in blueberries. Put in greased 9″ pan. Combine topping and sprinkle on top. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until done.

Note:  I used a 12" round stoneware pan from Pampered Chef, and since the cake was thinner, it only needed to cook for 30 minutes. Serves 8. 

Note to SCR Members - I was without internet until noon PST today - just got off the phone with my provider, resetting the modem. Hooray! So that's why this post is 3 hours late.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Cranberry-Walnut Pumpkin Bread - Secret Recipe Club

After being out of town for several months - our trip to Colorado, followed by our trip to New York - it's time to be back participating in the Secret Recipe Club.

This month I was assigned Emily's blog Life on Food.  I had a great time going through her blog, checking out as many recipes as I could, but since I had just finished processing two pumpkins, I was drawn to her pumpkin bread. I had frozen 8 two-cup packages of fresh pureé, and was in the mood for baking.

Emily states in her recipe, "To mix things up a bit I like to add 1/2 cup of mini chocolate chips or dried cranberries to the batter before baking."  I figured "more is better," and added a cup EACH of chopped walnuts and dried cranberries. Oh my, was this bread yummy! Emily's recipe made two regular-sized loaves and two mini-loaves.

Cranberry-Walnut Pumpkin Bread
from Emily of Life on Food
  • 4 eggs
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 16oz canned pumpkin (I used two cups of pumpkin pureé)
  • 3 1/3 cup flour
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • pinch of cloves
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  1. Beat eggs. Add oil, water, and pumpkin and mix well.
  2. Sift flour. Measure and sift together with the sugar, soda, salt, and spices. Make a well in the center of these ingredients and add the pumpkin mixture to this. Stir in the cranberries and walnuts.
  3. Turn into 3 well-oiled loaf tins. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour. Remove pans from oven. Set on rack to cool.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Dump Chicken - 2 recipes tried and reviewed

As I've mentioned before, I put quite a few meals in freezer bags with seasonings, and promised to share the recipes as we ate them. Last week we tried the Herb Wine Chicken, and tonight we had the Spiced Citrus Chicken. They were both from the Yahoo Group Frozen Assets.

Herb Wine Chicken

1 cup Red Wine
⅔ cup Vegetable Oil
2 Cloves Crushed Garlic
½ Lemon (sliced thinly)
2 Tablespoons Minced Parsley
1 Teaspoon Thyme
1 Teaspoon Basil
½ Teaspoon Salt
¼ Teaspoon Pepper

Combine wine, oil, and remaining ingredients in a gallon-sized reclosable freezer bag. Add 4-8 pieces of chicken - any pieces will do... breasts, wings, thighs, drumsticks, bone-in, skin-on, boneless, skinless, etc.   Freeze.

To cook:  Thaw overnight in refrigerator. Then you can either a) cook it in the crockpot on LOW for 6-8 hours, b) cook it in an uncovered pan in the oven at 350˚ (boneless - 30 minutes; bone-in up to an hour), or c) grill. 

----while this one smelled really good, the taste was "okay."  Don liked it, but agreed with me that the herbs overpowered the wine.

Spiced Citrus Chicken

2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
2 Tablespoons Lime Juice
2 Tablespoons Orange Juice
2 Tablespoons Lemon Juice
2 Tablespoons Chili Powder
2 Tablespoons Paprika
1 Teaspoon Cayenne
½ Teaspoon Pepper
½ Teaspoon Salt

Combine olive oil, juices, and remaining ingredients in a gallon-sized reclosable freezer bag. Add 4-8 pieces of chicken - any pieces will do... breasts, wings, thighs, drumsticks, bone-in, skin-on, boneless, skinless, etc.   Freeze.

To cook:  Thaw overnight in refrigerator. Then you can either a) cook it in the crockpot on LOW for 6-8 hours, b) cook it in an uncovered pan in the oven at 350˚ (boneless - 30 minutes; bone-in up to an hour), or c) grill.

---this one gets a definite thumbs up from both of us. The citrus juices helped to tenderize the chicken (we used boneless thighs and breasts in this one), and the spices went well with the citrus. We ate this with baked sweet potatoes - a good contrast to the spicy chicken.

Lemon Soufflé Pancakes - tasty!

I admit it - I'm a Pinterest addict.  Almost every time I'm sitting in the recliner with my laptop, I'm checking out the food & beverage section of Pinterest.  I've found so many things to pin; and a vast majority of them are desserts.  Occasionally I'll find something great to try for breakfast - and this morning I tried the Lemon Soufflé Pancakes I pinned Friday night.

These are from the blog Shirley had these light, fluffy pancakes posted on her old blog (Kokken69) and since I love all things lemon, I just had to try them.

Lemon Soufflé Pancakes
from Shirley

¾ cup buttermilk
2 egg yolks
3 teaspoons grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons butter (melted)
¾ cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 tablespoons powdered sugar
A pinch salt
2 egg whites

To serve
Strawberries, halved
1 tablespoon honey
powdered sugar for dusting

1. Mix egg yolks, milk, vanilla extract, lemon juice and lemon zest together in a bowl. Add melted butter and mix well.
2. Sift flour, baking powder, powdered sugar and salt into a large bowl. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and pour in (1) gradually and mix flour with milk mixture until the dry ingredients are moistened. Be careful not to overmix.
3.  Place egg white in a clean bowl and beat until soft peaks are formed. Fold in egg white into (2).
4.  Melt a small portion of butter in a heated non-stick frying pan. Place 2 tbsp of the batter from (3) into the pan.  [Note: I just used nonstick cooking spray] Cook until the cake turns golden brown on the underside and looking dry on the edges. Flip over and continue to cook the other side. transfer to a plate and keep warm while cooking remaining batter.
5. Toss fresh strawberries with honey and a light dusting of icing sugar. Dust pancakes with powdered sugar and serve immediately.   [I just served them with a few raspberries and dusted with powdered sugar.]

These made 18 4-inch pancakes - and since they're very, very light, it's enough for 3 people.

Verdict:  OUTSTANDING!  Don and I both devoured these, while at the same time, trying to savor every bite. The lemon is subtle, in spite of the amount of zest and juice used - but it is definitely lemon. I liked the light texture as well.  I think Don and I will be fighting each other over the leftovers.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Cooked all day

Don was getting a load of wood delivered today; I knew he was going to be busy so I decided to tackle the rest of the apples. We'd talked about what we liked best, and the #1 choice was apple pie and apple pastries.  So the first thing I did was make another batch of apple pie filling. This time I used more apples, and ended up with 6 quarts and 2 pints.

With about 16 small apples left in the box, and a bag of cinnamon red-hots I'd picked up last week, I made cinnamon apple wedges.  Don said that he ate cinnamon apples a lot as a child; I remember Mom serving them often as a dessert.  This was a simple recipe which didn't require much sugar at all (compared to jelly).

Cinnamon Apples
from Miranda via SB Canning

4 cups water
1 ½ cup red-hot candies
⅔ cup sugar
6 medium tart apples, peeled and quartered (I used about 15 small apples)

In a large saucepan, bring the water, candies and sugar to a boil over medium heat; boil and stir until candies and sugar are dissolved. Reduce heat; carefully add apples. Cook in sugar mixture for 10 minutes on low. Turn off the heat for 10 minutes to let the apples suck up the syrup then just heat them back up to a simmer. Turn off the heat and with a slotted spoon, transfer apples into pint size jars then fill with the sweet liquid. Fill to ½” headspace. Remove air bubbles, wipe rim, add lid/rings. Process in water bath canner 15 minutes. I ended up with 4 pints and 5 half pints.

The last canning I'll do for a while (I'm worn out!) was a batch of jelly.  I saw a few recipes around the web for jelly using the peels and cores - cooking them for a while to get the good flavoring, adding some water or cider, and using that juice as the base for a jelly.

Apple Core & Peel Jelly
adapted from a recipe on

cores and peels from 15 -20 medium tart apples
6 cups water (for cooking cores and peels)
1-2 cups apple cider or juice
1 (1 3/4 ounce) box dry pectin
9 cups sugar
1-2 drops red food coloring (optional)

Cook peelings and cores in 6 cups water for 20-30 minutes. Strain through prepared cheesecloth or jelly bag. Add cider or juice as needed, to strained juice, to obtain 7 cups liquid. Whisk in pectin and bring to a rapid boil. Add sugar, bring back to boil and boil hard for 1 minute. If desired, food coloring can be added to juice for color. Pour into sterile jars, leaving 1/8" headspace; wipe jar rims, adjust lids and rings; water bath 5 minutes.  Note:  This jelly will take several days or longer to set up, so be patient!  This recipe made 6 half pints and 8 4-oz. jars, or 10 half pints.

Once I finished cleaning up the kitchen after all the canning, Don decided to take a break from hauling and stacking wood. [Our woodshed is out behind the house. The truck dumps the wood in our driveway, and Don has to put it in a wheelbarrow and go up some stairs and back to the woodshed to unload it and stack it.  It's a two-day job to do a cord.] I knew he'd be hungry, and I had a piece of beef thawing, so I made some gulaschsuppe.  It's a German dish that he and I have had in restaurants when we were stationed there, and I don't recall where I got this particular recipe. It's a bit different from the restaurant versions since it has potatoes and bell peppers in it (in addition to the onions). But we were both pleased with this, and the addition of the potatoes and bell peppers "stretches" it.  We had plenty for dinner and have a bag ready for the freezer for another meal.


1 lb. beef (round, chuck, arm, etc.)
5 slices lean bacon
2 medium onions
1 green bell pepper
1 red bell pepper
3 medium potatoes, peeled
6 cloves large garlic
3 medium tomatoes, peeled
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons paprika
1 teaspoon caraway seeds (I didn't have any this time, and it was fine)
2 teaspoons dried marjoram
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 teaspoon black pepper
4 cups water or beef stock
½ cup vegetable oil

Cut beef and bacon into small cubes. Finely dice the vegetables. Heat oil in a large stock pot; add meats and saute onions until brown. Add remaining vegetables. Stir well. Add tomato paste and all other spices. Stir well. Ad 3 to 4 cups of water. Bring to a boil. Simmer, uncovered, for 1 hour. Stir occasionally.