Thursday, July 29, 2010

Red Snapper - It has to be Creole

 I couldn't think of any other way to fix Red Snapper.  Something about it just screams New Orleans.  We happen to have a bounty of ripe tomatoes and spicy peppers from the garden, so this was too easy.

The sauce was just chopped fresh tomatoes, hot peppers - in this case Topepo Rosa -, minced garlic, seasoned pepper, a little Worcester sauce and red wine vinegar.  I added dried basil, but I think the flavor would have been so much deeper with the fresh basil, chopped.  There was a dash of hot sauce for good measure.  After softening the vegetables in a little olive oil, and adding the tomatoes and other ingredients, I brought the sauce to a boil, added the RedSnapper fillets, and let it simmer, covered for about 15 minutes.  Really good.

Today we received a copy of The New American Heart Association Cookbook.   I already can't make enough meals to use up all the wonderful sounding recipes I have been finding and here is this 600+ page recipe book!   We could just start at the beginning and work our way through!

Cooking, and eating, hasn't been this much fun for a long time!

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Monday, July 26, 2010

A Busy Week Cooking

As promised, we spent a busy week trying out new recipes. The first was Black Bean & Goat Cheese Quesadillas with Guacamole.  Again, this meal started with an intriguing recipe emailed to me from Fine Cooking magazine. They also provided a recipe for homemade tortillas, so I tried that too. 

The tortillas were more trouble than I expected and left the kitchen covered with flour - probably the fault of the cook not the recipe.  The instructions said, "It should be more or less circular, though an amoeba shape is fine too."  We had the amoeba shaped variety, though a few got closer to round as I practiced with the rolling pin.   Jose, our HVAC tech, says corn meal tortillas are better and not as messy.  I'll try them next.  (Jose only works on the system when peppers are being harvested from our garden!)

The tortilla recipe will be posted at, but with a few modifications.  Next time I would use a teflon coated skillet and very little olive oil, and as previously suggested, I would try cornmeal.

The Quesadillas themselves were very dry, but the leftovers were improved greatly by reheating so making them ahead of time may be the key.  I have had better Guacamole.  This recipe was nothing but the avocados and fresh lime juice.  It definitely needed more.

The hit of the week was last night's Portabella Mushrooms with Garlicky Swiss Chard.  That is definitely a keeper!   Fine Cooking had suggested Sirloin Steak with Chard, but I wanted to improve the heart healthy aspects of the recipe, so we substituted large portabellas.  I took a hint from our old favorite broiled mushroom recipe and brushed the mushroom caps with an olive oil and lemon mixture, adding some fresh chopped rosemary.  The Swiss Chard in the garden had just gotten big enough to yield some leaves so the timing for this was great.  Larry couldn't get over how good it was.  The little bit of olive oil and a sprinkling of cheese contributed the only fat in the meal.

Garlic is a wonderful addition to so many of these meals.  The next adventure will be planting our own.  We have done it before with good success.  You plant on the shortest day and harvest on the longest day according to Georgia gardening lore, so now is the time to order. The catalog recommends planting between October and January.

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Monday, July 19, 2010

It pays to read the label

     A trip to the supermarket takes a little longer now.  Reading the labels and comparing the contents is an exercise in amazement and discovery.  I have been fooled before by labels that say "heart healthy", "low sodium" and "fat free".

     Just today I sought out fiber rich canned black beans.  The low sodium variety listed 180 milograms of sodium on the label.  But in the health food aisle I found Eden Organic Black Beans with "no salt added" - only 15 mg per serving.  No cholesterol, 1 gram of fat (not saturated or trans fat), 18 grams of carbs offset by 6 grams of dietary fiber.  7 grams of protein.  All good!  These will be in our low impact black bean quesadillas this week.

"No salt added" seems to be the phrase that is the most reliable predictor of sodium levels, as opposed to "Low Sodium" which is low relative to what?  Between two cans of green beans, the only difference in nutritional content is the milograms of sodium - 400 mg for one and 10mg for the "no salt added" variety.

I know what you are thinking... "but the no salt ones don't taste good."    My answer is that the "no salt added" ones taste different and the flavor of the beans can be enhanced by adding things like seasoned pepper or balsamic vinegar, or both!  Better yet, buy or grow fresh beans that taste good plain.

Penzey's Spices  offers a variety of seasonings that we have found to be very flavorful and more than adequate in replacing salt.  Adobo seasoning is one of our favorites for seasoning chicken, fish or pork. Penzey's recommends it for guacamole as well.  No sodium.  It's companion for Mexican cooking is Epazote which has a good relationship with all kinds of beans.  No sodium. I don't like to be without either of them.

This is a seasoning chart I have carried with me for 40 years. I have no idea what the source was but it served me well as I learned to cook.

This herb used forAppetizers & SoupsMeat & PoultryFish & ShellfishVegetablesSaladsEggs, Cheese, Sauces
ALLSPICEVegetable, Pea, Mock Turtle, TomatoSpaghetti Sauce, Spiced Beef, Tongue, Meat LoafClam Chowder, Court Bouillon for Cooking FishRed Cabbage, Beets, Pumpkin, Sweet PotatoesOrange and Grapefruit Salads
BASILTomato and Vegetable SoupsLiver, Lamb, Any stew, Beef StewBluefish, Halibut, MackerelCabbage, Egg Plant, Squash, TurnipsMixed Greens, Seafood, Tomato AspicAny Cheese, Rice or Macaroni Dish, Spanish Omelet
CLOVESTomato, Pea, Potato, BeanHam, Pork, Veal Loaf, Duck, Beef StewBeets, Beans, Baked Onions, Winter SquashFruit Salads
Cream, Pea, Asparagus, Tomato, Cheese Spreads, Avocado DipsChicken, Lamb, BeefFish stews or ShellfishCarrots, Cabbage, Rice, Beans, Mixed Vegetables, TomatoesFrench Dressing or MayonnaiseScrambled or Deviled Eggs
MARJORAMSpinach Soup, Oyster Stew, Vegetable JuicePot Roasts, Any Stew, Gravies & StuffingsAll Broiled Fish, Creamed Crab or ScallopsCarrots, Onions, Peas, SpinachMixed Greens, Chicken, SeafoodAny Egg or Cheese Dish, Creamed Sauce for Vegetables
OREGANOSoups, Minestrone, Tomato, Vegetable, AvolemenoFried Chicken, Kidney Stew, Pork VealMelted Butter served with Shellfish, Fish stuffingMushrooms, Onions, TomatoesMixed Greens, Potato, SeafoodOmelets, Italian Sauce
PAPRIKACream Soups, Chicken Broth, Potato Soup, CanapesVeal,Lamb,Pork,BeefAny Fish or ShellfishCabbage, Cauliflower, Potatoes, SquashFruit Salads, DressingsBaked, Poached, Omelets
PARSLEYGarnish in Canapes & SoupsStews, Steak Sauce, Stuffing, GarnishParsley Butter, Fish StuffingAll Vegetables and in Lemon Butter for Potatoes and CarrotsIn Salads or add to dressingSeasoning & Garnish - all dishes
SAFFRONChicken Soup, Soup StockChicken, Lamb, VealHalibut, SoleOnionsDeviled Eggs, SeafoodSpanish Rice, Saffron Butter Sauce
SAGEFish Chowder, Cottage Cheese SpreadPoultry Stuffing, Sausage, StewsBaked Fish, StuffingBeans, Onions, TomatoesSpanish Omelet
TARRAGONSoups, Tomato, Vegetable, Cheese SpreadsChicken, Game, Turkey, Sweetbreads, VealAny Fish or ShellfishAsparagus, Celery, Green Beasn, Peas, TomatoesAny Salad Dressing, Chicken, Sliced TomatoesAny Egg or Cheese Dish, Sauces, Bernaise, Tartar

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Sunday, July 18, 2010

Summer Squash - Use it up

In our ongoing quest for healthy food, we slightly modified a recipe from Fine Cooking magazine.  The vegetable garden is producing more than we can eat, primarily cucumbers right now, but also yellow squash.

I had received a recipe in my email for Grilled Sausage with Summer Squash, Fresh Herbs & Olives.  When I checked the sausage we had in the freezer I found that even the chicken/turkey sausages, that we had been eating because we thought they were good for us, have a bunch of sodium and fat.  The next option was to substitute skinless chicken breasts.  I rubbed a minimal amount of olive oil on the chicken pieces and sprinkled a tiny bit of Lawry's Seasoned Salt on them, leaving them whole for the grill.    

Once the chicken was on I chunked a big yellow squash into 1 inch pieces and tossed it in a bowl with a little olive oil and Lawry's Seasoned Pepper, a salt-free mix of black and red peppers.  The garden had given us a few yellow bush beans so I threw them in with the squash.  This went into a grill basket and joined the chicken on the grill.

While they cooked, I chopped fresh basil and parsley from the garden with some mint left over from the Middle Eastern Lentil Loaf.  Threw this in a big bowl with a tablespoon of capers.  The recipe called for halved kalamata olives but having accidentally bought the ones canned with red jalapenas, I put them in a separate dish for Larry to add at will.

When the chicken was done, I cut it into eating size pieces and added it to the bowl with the roasted vegetables, tossing everything together.   Larry is not a fan of lemons but I squeezed fresh lemon juice on my serving.  No extra salt was needed.  It wasn't missed.

We both loved it.  Every bite offered a different combination of fresh flavors.  We post all our favorites online, so this will be added to our website .  As we discover and enjoy new heart healthy recipes we will post them with a small heart symbol

Stay tuned since we have an ambitious agenda for dinners this week.  Lobster Rolls, Black Bean and Goat Cheese Quesadillas with home made tortillas and guacamole, Portabella Mushrooms with Garlic Swiss Chard and Summer Bouillabaisse with Smoky Rouille - all modified from recipes sent to me by Fine Cooking magazine.  No, I am not on commission. They just send really fine recipes to me every day!

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Thursday, July 08, 2010

Lentil Bean Loaf?

Okay, so it sounded like it had great potential. I had to try anything that included so many intriguing flavors. Better Homes & Gardens called it "Nutty Meatless Loaf". Hugely high in fiber with 13 grams per serving and lots of protein.

It took a long time and lots of pots and pans to prepare. 40 minutes for brown rice really slowed me down, plus rehydrating the lentils, but golden raisins, garlic, toasted pecans, mango chutney, fresh mango - who could resist? The end result was actually very attractive with the loaf smothered in a chutney, mango and chopped red pepper topping. The taste was as interesting as the ingredients promised but very dry to the mouth. The additional fresh mango that we paired with the loaf slices and even more chutney made it pretty palatable.

I'm afraid that it will be in the "good experiment but we won't have to have it again" category.
As it turns out, we WILL have to have it again - and again - because as the old joke goes, "There's lots of it!" Anyone who thinks they want to try it will find it in the March 2010 issue of BH&G.


Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Wow! Great Pizza

In our ongoing quest for heart healthy meals, I decided to make pizza sauce yesterday, since everything jarred in the supermarket is full of high fructose corn syrup, fat and salt. We microwaved the final bag of last summer's Roma tomatoes from the freezer, skinned them and hung them to drip in a jelly bag, reserving the tomato water for soup. Dripping the moisture out really speeds the sauce making process.
Sauted chopped onion with the last of the frozen chopped Poblano peppers (again 2009 garden) and minced garlic. These were added to the tomato pulp with chopped fresh basil from the garden and parsley (from the market)and some dried oregano. We threw in the leftover Baby Bella mushrooms in the refrigerator and cooked it down. No salt. Some ground pepper.
Tonight we got out the Boboli crust and I read the label again. It sounded healthy when I read it quickly in the store. A more careful examination revealed that the nutrition stats were for one of SIX servings from one small crust! The "heart healthy, whole wheat" crust is great if you only eat a tiny piece of it!
We had gone this far, so we proceeded. We spread our homemade tomato paste and added chopped deli ham on top. Larry's half had the first of our new season 'Felicity' jalapena peppers on it. One taste sent me to the canister for a spoonful of sugar to kill the heat. My half had a whole can of anchovy fillets. The pizza had to be cut in half before baking to prevent migration.
A few chopped olives and some shredded Asiago cheese and into the oven.
What a treat. Yes, it did take a long time. Prep was more than 5 minutes. But so worth it since every bite was full of fresh flavors.

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Sunday, July 04, 2010

Relearning how to eat

My husband was surprised with bypass surgery 2-1/2 weeks ago and since then we have been learning how to eat! Reading labels is a startling experience with many of our regular favorites now on the don't buy- don't eat list. But it has also opened us up to experimenting with food that actually IS good for us and making it enjoyable.

Not every meal has been a big success. The chick pea, no-fry falafel patties may have been better if we had had an onion in the house. Since we didn't, I substituted yellow bush beans (which we have a mountain of from the garden)to replace the moisture. I used lots of gourmet ground pepper instead of salt. The year-old frozen oat bran pitas had not improved with age. So overall, though nourishing, it was NOT an acceptable dinner.

Tonight we had our first actual meat meal. Well-trimmed boneless pork ribs with corn-on-the-cob and butternut squash. Who knew that you could enjoy corn without butter and salt? I found a recipe on
for Mexican Grilled Corn.

2 tablespoons low fat mayo
2 tablespoons plain yogurt
1/2 teaspoon chili powder

Squeeze some fresh lime on the cob and then spread with the sauce. Sprinkle finely shredded cheese on the corn. We used Asiago while the recipe recommended an aged Mexican cheese called Cotija or Parmesan. Never missed the salt and butter. It was delicious. So much so that we are going to run out and buy more corn tomorrow. For two ears of corn, half the sauce recipe would suffice.

The butternut squash has been decorating the kitchen counter since last fall. Now that new ones are growing in the garden, we need to finish eating last year's crop. Our norm would be to cut it in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds, and add butter, chopped pecans and brown sugar. (yeah, no wonder he had high cholesterol.)Tonight we sprinkled Splenda on the squash and that was pretty acceptable. Since the garden is already producing more Butternut and Acorn squash, it will require some research to dress them up.

Another interesting and satisfactory dinner. Tomorrow the plan is to make our own salt-free pizza sauce, from last year's frozen tomatoes, and see what we can use to top a whole wheat Bobolo pizza crust! Maybe bush beans?

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