Sunday, November 17, 2013

Holiday Ideas (Straight from Facebook!)

I've been saving these photos from Facebook for a couple of years.  They are such good ideas for holiday parties, even gifts.  I'm going to be using them over the next few weeks! 

This Turkey needs some green parsley to perk it up a bit!

Cucumber Cups filled with your favorite--could be egg, tuna, ham or chicken salad, or even pimento cheese.
Shown here as lady bugs, imagine just the tomato and parsley without the black olives topping turkey slices, ham and cheese, or  smoked salmon. 
The star is my favorite!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Peaceful Eating

Sometimes a change is in order. I've been trying for years to lose weight, but with no longterm success. Finally I decided that maybe I needed a little more than a new diet—maybe an attitude adjustment.  You Peaceful Weight Loss graduates already know what I'm talking about, but for anyone else, I'll explain.

Several years ago I spent a long weekend at Yogaville, VA, with Becki and Telisha, my daughter and daughter-in-law. It was a peaceful yoga retreat. We came home refreshed and filled with good intentions, so Yogaville seemed like a good place to begin my search.  And sure enough, there it was, a Peaceful Weight Loss program. I signed up and spent six days eating like the yogis—all vegan--except for a few pieces of contraband cheese and a couple of cups of coffee.
There was nothing fancy about the food, lots of good fresh vegetables and salad greens, beans, rice, pasta--and oatmeal for breakfast.  Let me tell you right from the beginning: not for me. I need at least a few eggs, some fish and a little chicken to keep me going. Once in awhile I crave red meat and BACON! 

However, after two days with none of the above, I felt better. And after six days, there seemed to be a real difference.  The other elements of the program were also helping:  eight hours of sleep each night, meditation, if you chose, and gentle yoga at least once a day. These were the tools we were encouraged to use to nourish ourselves. We recorded how we felt after our experiences.  I think they already knew what our answers would be.

We had classes twice a day to talk about the whole process. We talked about moving and breathing, being more attentive to scheduling, and making menus.  All of these things combine to lessen anxiety and stress which should eliminate anxious eating--eating anything in sight when you don't have the right foods available.  We were encouraged to experiment with different foods and routines to find our own best program. (More info on Peaceful Weight Loss.)  The bottom line was to discover things that really made us feel better, rather than eating as a hopeful quick fix. 

As I said earlier, I don't think I'll ever be a vegan, or even a vegetarian, but I have recognized that some foods make me feel very sluggish, some foods just make me eat more, and some foods take forever to digest.  I also have to admit that having the right foods available, and not waiting til the last minute to plan a meal eliminates a lot of bad choices.  

So far, the two things that have made the most difference in feeling good are practicing gentle yoga for 30 minutes every day (I will slowly add to the time) and having planned menus--putting the things that I know make me feel better first.  I'm learning.  They say it's a journey.  Well, I'm strapped in and ready for the long haul!

I'm calling this process Peaceful Eating--no anxiety--and adding a Peaceful Eating category to the recipe list.  Here are a couple of recipes to add to your menu if you're living on the edge.  Hope you enjoy!!

Seared Sea Scallops with Ginger Pea Purée and Cilantro Gremolata
Recipe adapted from: TasteFood From Food52

Cilantro Gremolata
1 cup cilantro leaves, chopped
One-half teaspoon each salt and pepper
One-half avocado chopped
1 cup cherry tomatoes, chopped
Zest of one lime
1 T fresh lime juice
Combine all ingredients and set aside.

Gingered Green Pea Purée
2 cups green peas cooked in salted water just until done, then drained. Reserve one-half cup cooking liquid
1garlic clove roughly chopped
1 T fresh ginger, grated
2 T lime juice
4 T extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon each, salt and pepper
Pinch of cayenne
Add drained peas, one-fourth cup cooking liquid, and remaining ingredients to food processor and purée until smooth, but not too thin. Add more liquid if needed. Set aside in warmed bowl and keep warm until ready to serve.  (This puree reminds me of hummus made from green peas and would be a good dip or spread--try it!)

Seared Sea Scallops
One and one-half lbs. large sea scallops, patted dry
Salt and Pepper
2 T extra virgin olive oil
2 T butter
Salt and pepper both sides of dry scallops. In medium sauté pan over medium-high heat add one tablespoon olive oil, then one tablespoon butter. Add half the scallops and cook until browned on bottom. Turn and cook until browned and done. Remove from pan to warmed plate and cook remaining scallops in same way.

To serve, add purée to bottom of plate, then add scallops and top with Gremolata. This recipe is equally good served as an appetizer portion (ie Serve one or two scallops on pea purée in martini glass topped with gremolata. Add cocktail fork and garnish with slice of lime.).

Cedar Plank Salmon with Rosemary Orange Sauce
Adapted from: Guy Fieri

2 tablespoons oil
1 jalapeño, discard seeds and cut into rings
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
1/2 cup white wine
3 tablespoons whole-grain mustard
1 cup orange marmalade
2 large or 4 smaller cedar plank pieces
4 (6-ounce) salmon fillets, skinned and boned
2 teaspoons sea salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 (3-inch) fresh rosemary sprigs
Zest of one lime

Soak planks in water for about an hour.
Prepare grill for medium-high heat.
In a small sauté pan over medium heat, heat oil. When hot, add jalapeños and sauté until caramelized. Add garlic, and before it begins to brown, deglaze with white wine. Next add mustard and orange marmalade and bring to a simmer. Simmer over low heat for 20 minutes and let completely cool.
Lightly salt and pepper salmon.
Place the planks on the grill, and when they begin to pop, turn them over and place salmon on planks.
Place a rosemary sprig on each fillet, and liberally apply cooled orange marmalade mixture.
Cover grill and cook for 20-25 minutes, until salmon is done.
Garnish with lime zest.


Thursday, April 25, 2013


 If you've never tried a recipe en papillote, don't be afraid! It's really easy. All you need is parchment paper to wrap your meat, vegetables and seasoning. It poaches together delivering a delicious surprise in a beautiful presentation. 

We enjoyed this dish in a restaurant last week. It was from their new spring menu--Grouper En Papillote with Fennel and Heirloom Tomatoes. It seemed perfect for the season—light and fresh with bright flavors. 

Fold  ~20'' x 14'' parchment paper in half (now 10 x 14). Cut a half heart shape, with center of full heart being the folded seam.

Put vegetables near fold leaving plenty of space around outside edge.  Add your fish, a little butter, more vegetables and seasoning.

Close with top of paper and begin sealing with little folds along the edge that would be the top of the heart.

When folds reach the end, twist the 'tail' to seal.  Place packets on a sheet pan and place in oven.

Grouper en Papillote
4 servings
3 tablespoons capers
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh dill
zest from one lemon
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons chopped shallot
8 plum tomatoes, half each, then cut each half into thirds
1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced
4 skinless fish filets, about 6-8 oz. each (flounder, tilapia or grouper)
4 sheets of parchment paper, each one about 20 inches long and 14 inches wide
Preheat oven to 400°.
Combine the capers, dill, lemon zest and juice and shallots in a small bowl and set aside.
Fold parchment papers in half (now 10 x 14). Cut a half heart shape, with center of full heart being the folded seam.
Open the fold with tip of heart pointing right.
Spread one-fourth of the fennel slices near the fold, and top with six tomato pieces.
Now add about 2 teaspoons of the caper mix spreading evenly over vegetables.
Lightly salt fish on each side and lightly pepper one side. Place one filet on top of vegetables.
Top fish with 3 thin pieces of butter, another six pieces of tomato, and finish with 2 more teaspoons of caper mix.
To close parchment, begin on left side which would be the top of the heart, and make small folds overlapping each other, working towards the other end (tip of heart). When you have about two inches left, twist the parchment paper twice to seal. The finished packet will look a little like a fish.
Repeat with remaining ingredients.
Place parchment packets on sheet pan and bake for 12 to 15 minutes, depending on thickness of fish. Remove packets to plate and serve immediately, piercing center of packet with a knife and then tearing to open.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Afternoon Delight

  I have two new kitchen gadgets, and I love them both!  The first is a silicone macaron mat.  One side is for the tiny bite sized cookie like the one in the picture.  The other side is for the larger two inch cookie.  It takes all the guess work out of making all the macarons the same size.  I ordered it from quite awhile ago, but I used it for the first time on Valentine's Day--my Valentine to myself, really.  The Chocolate Raspberry Macarons were my Valentine gift to my family, but I'll have to admit that I indulged myself by taking the time to make the little treats.  I'm not going to be shy about this, they were delicious, and as far as I could tell, of perfect consistency--and just look at those little 'legs' all macaron-ers talk about (the tiny little flanged crust around the bottom of each cookie half).  I do believe they passed every test.

My second new gadget, and one loved by everyone in the family, is a little Nespresso machine.  It was my early Christmas present to Doug, once again a little selfishness involved.  Truthfully, I don't know how we lived so long without it.  By 4:00 every afternoon we're watching the clock and waiting to push that button.  A perfect espresso every time.  Pairing a bite of macaron with an espresso is as decadent as I imagined! 

Chocolate Raspberry Macarons
(This recipe is from the macaron mould site and uses the Italian meringue method, which she prefers, and so do I: Sarah-Jane Nash, - January 2012)

(I weigh all my ingredients on a kitchen scale.)
180g icing (powdered) sugar
180g ground almonds (almond flour)
30g cocoa powder
5g cinnamon
160g of egg whites (split into two batches of 80g)
80ml water
200g of caster sugar

For the ganache

200g milk chocolate
3 tablespoons seedless raspberry jam
200g double (heavy) cream
3 heaped tablespoons of soft brown sugar

Set your oven to 150deg C fan / 170deg C electric.

Put the ground almonds and icing sugar into a food processor and blitz until superfine. Add the cocoa and cinnamon and blitz again. I use my hand held bamix and grinding mill attachment for this.

Break up any big lumps that have formed and sift into a large mixing bowl. Throw away any bits too large to fit through the seive.

Add one batch of egg whites and mix until a thick paste forms.

Put the caster sugar and water into a saucepan and boil until the sugar thermometer hits 110deg. As soon as temperature reaches 110deg C, whip your egg whites until stiff peaks form. Get the sugar syrup off the heat as soon as temperature hits 118deg C

You know your egg whites are stiff enough when you can hold the bowl upside down above your head and the whites stay put !

Using a hand held or stand mixer, whip the egg whites and add in the sugar syrup in a slow stream. Take care to try and keep the sugar syrup from coming into direct contact with the beaters (or the syrup may crystallise and change the texture). Keep whipping until the italian meringue is cool, stiff and glossy. 

Mix about 1/3 of this into your paste of icing sugar, ground almonds, egg whites etc we already made to loosen in.

Fold in the remaining 2 /3rds. Make sure to incorporate it all fully. You want to mix it enough so that a ribbon of macaronage will start to disappear back into the bowl after about 30 seconds. If it doesn't fold another couple of times and try again. I reckon it takes about 25 full strokes (variable)

Once the macaronage is ready, put into a piping bag fitted with a plain tip. I like to use a 5mm nozzle for optimum control. I sometimes use a 10mm (1cm) tip - but the batter can flow a bit too fast, especially if you are using the small side of the mat.

Put the macaron mats on to baking trays.

Pipe the macaronage into the centre of each cell - leaving approx 3 > 4mm space around the outside of the batter to the cell walls to allow for expansion as they relax. You will only need to leave about 2mm on the smaller side. Once you've got the hang of it and made your first batch, you'll know what's right for you. Pipe in too much and it will overflow the cell walls.

If the macaronage is not dead centre, wet your finger and this will allow you to centre it. Handy trick whilst you get the hang of piping them centrally !

Rap the tray once or twice on your worktop to dispel any air bubbles and level the macaronage. Don't worry if not so level - they'll smooth out in the oven.

If you wish to add any edible glitter or sprinkles to the top of your macarons, do so now.

All macaron instructions I've ever seen involved leaving your macarons out for about 30mins to 1hour until a skin forms on the top before baking. Dr Tim Kinnaird was good enough to share a tip with me that I've used ever since.....

Simply pop the baking tray straight into the oven at 150deg C Fan, BUT leave the door open about 6" / 150mm for the first 5 minutes to dry off the tops. After that, shut the door to complete baking.

Baking time can be variable. I find in my oven that 2" / 50mm macarons always take 18mins to cook (excluding the first 5 mins with the door open) and the 30mm macarons take 13mins (excluding the first 5 mins with the door open)

For the ganache :

Put the chocolate in a bowl with raspberry jam.

Bring double cream to a boil to scald. Add the sugar and stir to dissolve.

Pour the hot cream mixture over the chocolate and stir until the chocolate fully melts. Allow to cool, and then chill in the refrigerator for around 1 hour until firm enough to pipe between your shells.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Chicken with Chipotle Sauce

Heat it up the for Super Bowl!
Chicken with Chipotle Sauce
For the family, or for a crowd, this recipe works.  For the family I serve it with rice packed with vegetables. For the Super Bowl Party, add a basket of nacho chips and a melted creamy cheese. People can choose whether to nosh on chicken nachos, or have a bowl of chicken and rice. The chipotle/tomatillo sauce is delicious. You won't be disappointed!

Chicken and Chipotle Sauce 

2 lbs. Skinless, boneless chicken breasts
1 can (15 oz.) diced tomatoes
1 cup chicken broth
1 chipotle chili in adobo sauce, seeded and chopped
1 dried ancho chili seeded and chopped
Combine entire can of tomatoes, chicken broth and chiles in large sauce pan. Add chicken pieces, bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat to simmer and cook 15 minutes, or until chicken is tender.
Remove chicken and set aside.
Pour chili/tomato broth into bowl and set aside to cool.

2 sweet onions, thinly sliced
1 T extra virgin olive oil
1 lb. Tomatillos, husked and chopped OR 1 can tomatillos, drained and chopped
1 chipotle chile in adobo sauce, seeded and minced (or more if you want more heat)
One-half tsp. Salt
one-fourth tsp. Sugar
Add oil to sauce pan over medium heat. Stir in onions and cook for about 10 minutes, until onions begin to caramelize. Add tomatillos, chile, salt and sugar. Reduce heat and simmer until tomatillos are tender, about 15 minutes.

Shred chicken and add to tomatillo sauce.
Puree cooled chile broth and add to shredded chicken and tomatillo sauce. Reduce heat to very low and cover until ready to serve.

1 cup brown rice, prepared according to package directions using chicken broth
1 T extra virgin olive oil
One-half red bell pepper, chopped
One-half yellow bell pepper, chopped
One-half sweet onion, chopped
3 handfuls baby spinach
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tsp. Smoked paprika

Add oil to saute pan. Add peppers and onions and cook for about 5 minutes, just until beginning to become tender. Add garlic, stir and cook another minute. Then add spinach and paprika, stirring until spinach wilts.
Combine vegetables with rice.

Serve chicken and sauce over rice with shredded cheese, chopped cilantro and lime wedges as condiments.