Thursday, July 30, 2009

Mustard Dill Catfish

1-1/2 lbs catfish fillets
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 c. Dijon mustard
3 tbl chopped fresh dill (or 1-1/2 tbl dried)
3 tsp olive oil, divided
4 medium tomatoes, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped

Rinse fish and pat dry. Put it on a plate and season it with salt and pepper.

In a small bowl, combine mustard, dill, and 1 tsp olive oil. Spread the mixture over both sides of the fish.

In another bowl, combine 2 tsp olive oil, the tomatoes, and the garlic.

Spray a large nonstick skillet with cooking spray and heat over medium-high heat. Add the fish to the skillet and cook 5 min. Turn the fish over and cook another 5 min. or until fish flakes easily. Transfer to a serving plate. Add the tomato mixture to the skillet, cook and stir 1 minute. Serve the tomato mixture with the fish.

4 servings

Monday, July 20, 2009

PB2 Dip

This dip gives me my peanut butter fix without all the fat. I like it with apple or banana slices, but you could use pears, pretzels, crackers, vanilla wafers, raw veggies; or spread it on toast.

1/4 c. reduced-fat (or fat-free) cream cheese
3/4 c. 1% (or fat-free) cottage cheese
2 tbl PB2 (or peanut butter)
1 tbl fat-free milk
1 tbl Splenda
dash of cinnamon (optional)

Put everything in a small food processor and whiz until very smooth.

Yield: 22 servings of 1 tablespoon each

Per serving:
16 cal, .7 g total fat, .4 g sat fat, 2 mg cholesterol, 47.6 mg sodium, .7 g carbs, neglible fiber & sugar, 1.7 g protein

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Yogurt Fluff

2 6-oz containers of yogurt (fruit or other flavor)
1 4-serving package sugar-free gelatin (flavor of your choice)
1/4 c. boiling water
1 8-oz container sugar-free Cool Whip

Add the gelatin to the boiling water in a large bowl and stir until dissolved. Add the yogurt and combine with a whisk. Add the Cool Whip and whisk again. Refrigerate until set.

You can pour this into a graham cracker crust to make a pie, if desired.

Chicken Liver Pate

8 oz. chopped onions
1 clove garlic, chopped
16 oz chicken livers
1 tbl butter
2 tbl chicken broth or water
1 tbl light sour cream
1 tsp salt

Rinse the chicken livers and cut off any membranes or excess fat. Dry on paper towels.

Melt the butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and saute about 5 min. or until softened. Add the chicken livers and continue to cook about 10 min. or until the livers are slightly browned on all sides and cooked to the desired degree of doneness. Don't overcook them or they will turn bitter.

Put the contents of the skillet (juices and all) into a large food processor. Add the broth, sour cream, and salt and process until smooth. The mixture will be runny, but it will set when it's chilled.

Refrigerate at least 1 hour.

Serve with toast, crackers, or raw veggies.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Honey Sesame Pasta & Tofu Salad

Combine in a large bowl:
1 recipe Honey Sesame Tofu, cut into cubes
4 cups cooked pasta (thin spaghetti, linguine, soba noodles, or other pasta)
1 recipe Honey Sesame Dressing
Veggies (see below)

1/2 c. diced red bell pepper
1/4 c. diced raw carrot
1/4 c. chopped scallions
2 tbl chopped fresh herbs (basil, cilantro, mint, or a combination of those)

Honey Sesame Tofu:
12 oz. firm tofu, cut in 1/4" thick slices
2 tbl honey
1 tbl sesame oil
1 tbl soy sauce
Preheat broiler. Cover a baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray with cooking spray. Place the tofu slices on the baking sheet.
Combine the honey, oil, soy sauce and water or broth. Drizzle half of it over the tofu and spread around with the back of a spoon.
Broil the tofu 5 min. or until browned, being careful not to burn it. Flip the slices over, drizzle with the rest of the honey mixture, and broil another 5 min. or until browned. Set aside. When cool, cut into cubes.

Honey Sesame Dressing:
2 tbl honey
2 tbl rice wine vinegar
2 tbl sesame oil
1 tbl canola oil
1 tsp soy sauce
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp onion salt
Whisk all ingredients together.

4 servings

Middle Eastern Eggplant Salad

2 red bell peppers, cut in half lengthwise and seeded
1 lb. eggplant, peeled and cut in 1" cubes
1 medium tomato, peeled & seeded
3 tbl tomato paste
2 tbl water
1/2 tsp salt
3 garlic cloves, chopped
2 tbl olive oil
1/4 tsp pepper
2 tbl pine nuts, toasted

Preheat broiler.

Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil, spray with cooking spray, and place red peppers on it skin side up, flattening them down with your hand. Broil 12 min. or until blackened. Place in a zip-top plastic bag, seal it, and let stand 10 min.

While the red pepper is sitting, remove the foil from the baking sheet and spray it with cooking spray. Place the eggplant cubes on the baking sheet and spray with cooking spray. Broil 5 min. or until browned, remove from oven, flip the cubes over, spray with more cooking spray, and broil another 5 min. or until browned and tender. Remove from oven and set aside.

Remove the red peppers from the bag. Peel off the blackened skin and chop the flesh.

Place the tomato in a mini food processor and whiz until smooth. Add the tomato paste, water, salt, garlic, olive oil and pepper, and whiz again until smooth.

Combine the eggplant with the tomato mixture and pine nuts. Refrigerate or serve at room temperature.

4 servings

Crab Cakes

2 cans crab meat, drained
1 beaten egg or 1/4 c. egg beaters
1/2 c. cracker crumbs or dry bread crumbs
1 tbl Dijon mustard
1 tbl Worcestershire sauce
2 tbl light mayonnaise (see note below)
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp Old Bay seasoning
1/2 tsp dry mustard

Combine ingredients well and form into 6 cakes. Refrigerate 30 min.

Spray a large nonstick skillet with cooking spray and heat over medium heat. Add the crab cakes and cook 4-5 min. per side, until golden brown.

6 servings

Note: instead of regular mayonnaise, try Baconnaise! ( - available in regular and light versions

Persian Spinach with Yogurt

2 tbl pine nuts
2 tsp butter
1 10-oz package fresh spinach, chopped
1-2 tbl water or broth as needed
1/3 cup finely chopped onion
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup plain fat-free yogurt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/8 tsp ground cinnamon

Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium high heat. Add the pine nuts and stir until lightly toasted. Watch carefully because they burn easily. Remove the pine nuts and set aside.

Melt the butter in the skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic and cook 5 min., until the onion is tender. Add the spinach and salt, cook and stir, adding water or broth if needed to keep it from sticking to the skillet. When spinach is wilted and soft but still bright green, remove the skillet from the heat. Let cool to room temperature.

Combine the spinach mixture with the pine nuts, yogurt, pepper and cinnamon. Refrigerate 30 min. before serving

3-4 servings as a side dish
or serve as a dip with pita chips

Apple Pineapple Nut Salad

2 apples, peeled, cored, and cut into bite-size chunks
2 tbl lemon juice
1/2 cup water
1 celery stalk, strings removed, diced
4 oz. pineapple tidbits, drained
2-1/2 tbl chopped walnuts

Combine the apples, lemon juice and water, cover and set aside until ready to serve.

When ready to serve, drain the apples and combine with the celery, pineapple & walnuts. Toss with the dressing.

1/2 c. plain fat-free yogurt
1/4 c. soft tofu
1/2 tbl honey
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

Combine ingredients in a mini food-processor and whiz until smooth. Chill until ready to serve.

4 servings

Couscous & Peach Salad

1 cup couscous (dry)
3 tbl lemon juice
2 tbl lime juice
2 tbl olive oil
1 tbl honey
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
2 cups diced, peeled peach (about 2 medium)
2 cups diced, peeled jicama
1 cup finely chopped mint

Cook the couscous according to the package directions. Set aside to cool.

Whisk together the juices, oil, honey, salt and pepper. Add to the couscous together with the peach, jicama, and mint. Toss to combine. Chill 1 hr.

8 servings

Eggplant & Tomato Salad

2 medium eggplants, trimmed
1-1/2 cups chopped seeded tomato
1/4 c. chopped fresh herbs (mint, basil, parsley or cilantro)
1 tbl lemon juice
1 tbl olive oil
1/2 tsp garlic salt
1/2 tsp black pepper

Preheat grill (or broiler). Spray grill rack (or a cookie sheet) with cooking spray.

Cut each eggplant in half lengthwise. Lightly score the cut sides. Lay eggplant on grill rack cut side down (or place on cookie sheet cut side up) and grill (or broil) 20 min. or until tender. Scoop out the eggplant flesh and discard the skins. Place the eggplant flesh in a sieve over a bowl and let sit 1 hr or until cool and well-drained. Discard the liquid. Coarsely mash the pulp. In a small bowl, mix the pulp with the rest of the ingredients.

4 servings

Friday, July 10, 2009

Apricot Mustard Sauce

Use as a cooking sauce for chicken, pork, or ham.

2/3 c. apricot preserves
3 tbl Dijon mustard
2 tbl cider vingegar
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

Makes enough sauce for 2 lbs of meat

Beef Ribs in the Crock Pot

3.5 - 4 lbs beef ribs
2 cups water
1/4 c. ketchup
1 envelope dry onion soup mix
2 tbl Worcestershire sauce
1 clove garlic, chopped
1/4 tsp pepper

Spray the inside of the crock pot with cooking spray.

Combine the water, ketchup, onion soup mix, Worcestershire, garlic and pepper.

Place the ribs in the crockpot. Pour some of the water mixture over each layer of ribs.

Cover and cook on low for 8 hours or high for 4 hours.

4-6 servings

Barley with Mushrooms & Dill

1 tbl butter or margarine
1 medium onion, chopped
16 ounces fresh mushrooms, chopped
1/2 c. hulled or pearl barley
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1-1/2 c. chicken broth
3 tbl chopped fresh dill (or 1-1/2 tbl dried)

Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook 3-5 min. or until softened. Add the mushrooms, salt and pepper, cover and cook 2 minutes. Uncover, raise heat to high and cook another 3-5 min. or until the mushroom juices have evaporated.

Add the barley and cook, stirring, 2 min. Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer 50-60 min. or until all the liquid is absorbed and the barley is tender. Remove from the heat and let stand, covered, for 10 min. Just before serving, stir in the dill.

4-6 servings

Summer Squash & Sausage Casserole

1 lb bulk pork sausage or turkey sausage
1 clove garlic, minced
1 medium onion, chopped
4 c. sliced yellow squash (or 2 c. zucchini, 2 c. yellow squash), cooked until tender-crisp & well-drained
1/2 c. cracker crumbs, breadcrumbs, or Fiber One bran cereal
1/2 c. grated parmesan cheese
1/2 c. skim milk
1 tsp Italian herb blend
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs or 1/2 c. egg beaters

Preheat the oven to 350F. Spray a large casserole dish with cooking spray.

In a large nonstick skillet, cook the sausage, garlic and onion until the meat is done. Drain off any grease or liquid. Add the cooked squash, crumbs and cheese and put it all in the prepared casserole. Whisk together the milk, herbs, salt, and eggs and pour over the top of the casserole.

Bake 30 min. or until bubbly.

Serves 6

Peach & Tomato Salad

4 large ripe peaches, pitted & peeled
4 medium tomatoes (peel if desired)
2 tbl lemon juice
1 tsp crushed fennel seeds
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 c. olive oil
4 fresh basil leaves, shredded

Cut the peaches and tomatoes into 1/4" thick slices and arrange on a serving plate. Whisk the rest of the ingredients together and drizzle over the salad. Sprinkle with the basil.

Serves 6

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Clean up as you go - Part 3

About 15 years ago, I was friendly with a woman who was in most respects my total opposite. Our coworkers called us things like "Frick and Frack", "Mutt and Jeff", and "Slim and Jim" (she was Slim, I was Jim). We shared some interests, like decorative painting, did some stenciling and wall treatment projects for local clients, and had a lot of fun.
One night when we had a job in a beauty parlor in the small town where this woman lived, she invited me to dinner at her apartment before we went off to do the stenciling. She served pork chops and two other dishes (potatoes and a veg, as I recall). It was all delicious, but I was horrified when I walked into her apartment because there were dirty cooking dishes everywhere and she wasn't anywhere near to being done with cooking the meal. And her entire apartment could have fit in the kitchen of my (small) home. I'd say her kitchen could have fit in my master bathroom."I hope you haven't gone to a lot of trouble over this," I said, sounding like one of my mom's church friends who really meant, "I hope you've gone to a lot more trouble for me than anyone else.""No, it's just pork chops," she said blythely.
I looked at her boyfriend for verifcation, and he just shrugged.
And he got stuck with the cleanup, too.

Clean up as you go - Part 2

Why am I returning to this topic after already addressing it at great length in another post? Because I spent this afternoon engaged in one of those use-every-pot-pan-utensil projects that overtakes me from time to time and have dishpan hands as a result.
We do have a dishwasher. But although our household consists of 10 creatures (7 dogs, 2 humans, 1 cat), we don't use enough dishes to run that thing on a daily basis (I suppose we could run it daily, but I was scarred as a teenager by the grim movie Soylent Green and I worry about running out of water one day). We have duplicate sets of measuring cups, measuring spoons, and other kitchen items, but not enough extras to commit them to the dishwasher for more than one day at a time. So we stick plates, bowls, glasses, flatware, and plastic storage containers (those seem to reproduce at will in the dark, mysterious interiors of the kitchen cupboards, and that reproduction NEVER results in lids to match every container) into the dishwasher and run it every other day, and wash the rest (skillets, saucepans, cooking utensils) by hand.
So I have dishpan hands today, and that reminds me of the days I spent as a slave when living in Scotland in 1970-1971. Not literally a slave, you understand. No one bought me. My parents spent something like $300 on a one-way ticket to fly me to Scotland (apparently hoping that I would never return) and friends of theirs put me to work in their home, estate, garden center and florist business in return for my room and board (at 17, I was too young to get a work visa).
These friends of my parents had employed people (mostly the young friends of their 4 kids) in this way as "slaves" for many years. When I was living there, they employed an older woman, Jolande (my mother's age) and her 19-yr-old daughter as slaves (Jolande's 15-yr-old daughter also lived there but her job was going to school). Jolande had been a professional chef and hotel manager, and she taught me how to cook.We were all encouraged to cook. We had to take turns cooking breakfast every day (Full English Breakfast). Jolande handled the rest of it (hot lunch, afternoon tea, hot dinner) but if you wanted to contribute a dish or a meal at another time, that was OK. Some of us (like me) quickly figured out that cooking lunch guaranteed you a place in a kitchen warmed by a huge coal stove while the others were outside trying to burn piles of wet leaves in the cold Scottish rain.Anyway, one of Jolande's rules was (surprise!): clean up as you go. If you cooked a meal or even one dish (like a batch of scones, or a cake), you were exempt from cleanup. Everyone else had to pitch in and wash dishes. Some of that (china, flatware) happened in a very smart "butler's pantry" with automatic dishwasher next to the dining room, and the rest (saucepans, etc) happened in the scullery. The scullery was a cold, drafty, damp room next to the kitchen. There was a huge sink with cold running water and ribbed, wooden counters that drained into the sink. There were also big bins for storing root vegetables (where rodents liked to explore at night) and hooks and shelves for storing big cooking pans. Having to do dish duty in that scullery in January was no fun. The only thing that didn't have to be washed was the "chip" pan. We fried chips (what Americans call French fries) in the same rendered meat grease over and over again...washing the pan inbetween uses was sacrilege.With this system, it quickly became clear that being a good cook was not necessarily the same as being a beloved cook. We had a slave there for a while (not me!) who would tackle the most complicated recipe you can imagine and produce delightful dishes, but who left every article in the kitchen dirty and waiting for someone else to clean it. (Later I named a dog after that girl - I won't say which dog - I'll just say it wasn't a smart one). At the same time, we had a slave who could barely figure out how to make toast (I'll admit that's tricky when you have to use an oven instead of an electric toaster) but left virtually nothing to be washed afterwards.
About 4 months after I returned from that stay in Scotland (having earned enough money to buy a flight home), I was working as a Mother's Helper for a coworker of my mom's. Her kids were troubled and difficult (for many reasons), especially the oldest (who had been designated as family caretaker when his mom went back to work after her divorce). One day the mom told me to give the boys hamburgers for supper. I made the hamburger patties under the boys' close scrutiny: why was I adding salt and pepper? Worcestershire sauce?! Worcestershire sauce is for grownups! Despite their fears, the boys enjoyed the hamburgers (on store-bought buns, with lots of catsup), but the oldest one supervised me closely when the meal was done. I put the skillet I had used to fry the hamburgers into the sink and filled it with warm water and a few squirts of dishwashing liquid. The boy said suspiciously, "What are you doing?"
"I'm leaving the skillet to soak."
"It will be easier to clean later."
"It will?"
"Yup," I said. "But don't worry about it, because I'll wash the skillet before I go home."
The boy nodded, and I realized he was storing the Clean Up As You Go information away for the next time he had to deal with preparing and cleaning up after a meal.

Clean Up As You Go!

One of my mom's kitchen rules was: clean up as you go.

It's possible to take this to ridiculous extremes. My Aunt Jeanne (for whom I was named) was not a great cook but she was a dedicated dishwasher. If you were cooking anything in Jeanne's kitchen and let go of it for a minute (let's say you were stirring the sauce and put the spoon down while you spent 30 seconds searching for the dried basil), she would wash it. You'd reach out your hand for that spoon and it'd be gone...over to the dish drainer.

And then there's my second (and final) husband (the first one never did anything in the kitchen that I ever noticed, which is possibly one of the reasons he was so skinny), who is (in many ways) cut from the same piece of cloth as Jeanne. In the (small) kitchen of our first home, the food prep area was to the left of the sink. We stacked anything that needed to be washed to the right of the sink.

I spent something like 49 hours one day (yes, I know there are only 24 hours in one day) making my own beef stock. I roasted a cow's worth of beef bones, then I boiled them in huge vats (lobster pots, actually) of water with onions, carrots, celery, and herbs. Then I drained the stock, put it back in the vats, and added crushed eggshells to help "clarify" the broth. (By now you're thinking, "You are a very sick lady, Jean", and I agree, and you haven't even heard yet about the time I boned and stuffed a game hen into a chicken into a turkey before adding gourmet stuffing and roasting the whole thing one Thanksgiving) Then I poured the broth into large bowls and left them to cool for about 10 minutes while I washed my hands, took a leak, and had a hit of wine.

Refreshed, I returned to the kitchen ready to pour this fabulous stock into freezer containers and IT WAS GONE! Mr. P. had discarded every last drop, carefully washed all the bowls, and was sitting virtuously at the kitchen table reading the Sunday newspaper."Where is the stock?" I screamed.

He looked up from the financial pages and said, "What stock?" (OK, I just added the financial pages for fun. He would only read the financial pages if there were ads in there for guns and knives - hey, not a bad idea!).

"The stock I left on the counter!""You mean that brown stuff in the bowls?""Yes, the brown stuff in the bowls! Where is it?""I threw it out and washed the bowls. Why?"For a moment I was speechless (hard to imagine, I know). I looked at the gleaming, empty kitchen counters and thought of all the work I had put into that stock. What was more important, a loving husband or 20 quarts of beef stock?

And I said, "What the f**king f**k?! That was the f**king beef stock I've been working on all day, and you threw it out? Why would you do that?!"

He carefully set the newspaper on the table and said (slowly, with equal care), "It was on the right side of the sink. That's where we put everything that needs to be cleaned, right? On the right side of the sink?"

Silence again. How could he think that those bowls brimming with fragrant, glorious, homemade beef stock were something that needed to be discarded? Was he totally witless? Or was I? Because he was right: I had put them in the goodbye zone. I shook my head at him ("You got me!"), wearily refilled my wine glass and retired to the living-room with two dogs who were probably thinking, "That beef stock sure would've tasted good poured over my kibble."

Monday, July 6, 2009

Cucamole - even better than Brocamole!

I got this idea for lightened guacamole from Ellie Krieger (Food TV). I did change the recipe quite a bit and hope Ellie agrees that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. I like this recipe even more than the Brocamole I've posted here before, and maybe even better than regular guacamole, because the taste is so light. This would be a nice treat when you're on a puree diet post-op, and you could dip raw veggies or pita chips into it.

1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded & chopped
2 avocados, peeled, pitted & chopped
2 scallions, chopped
1 tsp hot sauce (or to taste)
1/4 tsp salt
dash of black pepper
3+ tbl lime (or lemon) juice
3 tbl chopped fresh cilantro

Whiz in the food processor, adding more lime (or lemon) juice as needed to achieve a smooth consistency.