the food bitch

people call me a food bitch. not because of any gourmet tendencies (i go on a weekly fridge-sniff to see what needs to be thrown away), but due to my healthy lifestyle know-how and big mouth. i have a big mouth when it comes to food.

part healthy living, part recipe showcase, part food review - i do a little bit of everything.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Christmas!

Christmas was mellow, the days to follow were completely freaking insane, due to an out of town visitor.

So it's taken me a while to get things together and have the energy to sit down and compile the goodies I made.

First I'll start with my family, all sitting around the table. Note the brother in law with his bottle o' wine. He brought some good wine. The Amuse Bouche 2003 Merlot was particularly tasty, but it was gone before 2pm. Rumor has it he has another 25 bottles laying around. How soon until my birthday? Oh damn.

Anyway:



Aww, ain't they cute.

Christmas was very mellow and this made me very happy. My mother and I made duelling lasagnas, hers loaded with homemade sauce with sausage and beef and whole milk mozzarella, mine with a white sauce and loads of vegetables. I think mine looks better, dammit.



My lasagna was from Cooking Light, a Four Cheese Vegetable Lasagna.

Serves: 8
WW Points: 6

12 uncooked lasagna noodles
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
2 cups chopped frozen broccoli spears, slightly thawed
1 1/2 cups thinly sliced carrot
1 cup sliced green onions
1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
3 cups 1% low-fat milk
1/2 cup grated fresh Parmesan cheese, divided
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed, drained, and squeezed dry
1 1/2 cups 1% low-fat cottage cheese
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded 2% mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded Swiss cheese

Cook lasagna noodles, omitting salt and fat. Drain; set aside.

Preheat oven to 375°.

Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat until hot. Add broccoli and next 4 ingredients (broccoli through garlic), and sauté 7 minutes. Set aside.

Place flour in a medium saucepan. Gradually add milk, stirring with a whisk until blended. Bring to a boil over medium heat; cook 5 minutes or until thick, stirring constantly. Add 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat; stir in spinach. Reserve 1/2 cup spinach mixture for top layer of casserole, and set aside.

Combine cottage cheese, mozzarella, and Swiss cheese; stir well. Spread 1/2 cup spinach mixture in bottom of a 13 x 9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Arrange 4 lasagna noodles over spinach mixture in dish; top with half of cottage cheese mixture, half of broccoli mixture, and half of remaining spinach mixture. Repeat layers, ending with noodles. Spread reserved 1/2 cup spinach mixture over noodles; sprinkle with 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese. Cover and bake at 375° for 35 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes before serving. Sprinkle with pepper, if desired.

Considering I was making this bleary eyed on Christmas morning, it didn't come out as a disaster. I've never had lasagna with cottage cheese in it, but heck, when mixed with the mozzarella and swiss, you could never tell. Well, I love cottage cheese anyway, but the people eating it couldn't tell.

I also made a simple salad with parboiled green and wax beans, cherry tomatoes, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and fresh basil and made a mixed fresh vegetable platter on this beautiful crystal plate that my mother got for Christmas from a co-worker. It was rounded out with fresh Italian bread and butter, meatballs and sausage. And more wine.

I also made desserts. Not that many, as we had tons of chocolates from Commodore in Newburgh (the strawberries nearly killed me. I swooned), various cookies brought by the family, fresh fruit, and I don't even know what else.

But as a tribute to my favorite lady in the whole wide world, I made my Nannie's fruit loaf. This is our first Christmas without Nannie, and I may not be a person of many beliefs, but I think she sent a happy one to us. Perhaps it's because I made her fruit loaf.

I mean, okay, it's an All Bran recipe. All right, it's got no sugar in it. But I swear, it's good eating. I also found that my uncle has seriously reduced his sugar intake (and quit smoking and dropped 25 pounds, good for him!), so we dug in like crazy.



Nannie's Fruit Loaf
Serves: 12
WW Points: 2

1 cup All-Bran
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 cup skim milk
2 packets of Sweet 'N Low
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 cup raisins
2 apples, chopped

Stir all bran, egg and milk together, let sit for 5 - 10 minutes, or until cereal is softened. Mix sweet n low, flour and baking powder together. Sift into first mixture. Add raisins and chopped apple. Bake in loaf pan coated with cooking spray at 325 degrees for 45 - 60 minutes.

I cooked it for just about 50 minutes, and it was perfect. I know it sounds gross. I know.

I also made Maple Walnut Spice Cookies, also from Cooking Light. I read the reviews, and many people had a hard time getting the 30 cookies that the recipe said it made. I had exactly thiry cookies. Because I'm awesome.

Maple Walnut Spice Cookies
Serves: 30
WW Points: 2

Cookies:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup butter, softened
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 large egg

Frosting:
1 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 tablespoon fat-free milk
2 teaspoons butter, softened

Remaining ingredient:
1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts, toasted

Preheat oven to 350°.

To prepare cookies, lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour and next 6 ingredients (through cloves) in a medium bowl, stirring well with a whisk.

Place brown sugar and 1/4 cup butter in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at high speed until light and fluffy (about 4 minutes). Add 2 tablespoons syrup and egg; beat until well blended. Beating at low speed, gradually add flour mixture; beat just until combined.

Spoon batter evenly into 30 mounds (about 1 tablespoon) 2 inches apart on baking sheets. Bake at 350° for 14 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool on pans 5 minutes. Remove from pans; cool completely on wire racks.


Unfrosted. Kind of ho hum.

To prepare frosting, combine powdered sugar, 2 tablespoons syrup, milk, and 2 teaspoons butter, stirring with a whisk until smooth. Spread frosting evenly over cooled cookies. Working quickly, sprinkle cookies with nuts.


Frosted. Ho yum!


So like I said, Christmas was good. My family can be great when they want to be, and I got a good haul of kitchen goodies (everything except for a bigger kitchen!)

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Via Chicago



Ho ho ho, pardon the dirty countertop.

This weekend feels like it's been about five weekends long. I still don't want to go back to work tomorrow, but I've gotten a lot done.

It started Friday night, making up a care package for my friend Matt in Chicago. Sure, he'll most likely (fingers crossed) be home for Christmas, but he's poor and everyone likes baked goods.

I had decided on Peppermint Bark Cookies and Disappearing Marshmallow Brownies. Nothing fancy.

I, however, managed to mess up the cookies big time, and none of them were sent to Matt. I didn't soften the butter enough, and ended up overbeating the batter. Hard, hard cookies. Tasty!, but hard.

After the cookie disaster, I was a little worried about the brownies. Mixing two cups of mini marshmallows into a sticky, gooey, buttery batter just really.. scared me. They came out of the oven, and looked (and smelled, due to the butterscotch chips) amazing. I attempted to cut them while still slightly warm, and ended up with a very soft and crumbly brownie. So, into the fridge they went for the night. And in the morning I had nice, gooey chewy brownies. It's kind of a neat recipie, the marshmallows melt into the batter in the oven and goo everything together. I added Nestle Holiday Morsels instead of just plain chocolate chips. The santa faces were too cute to resist.

Disappearing Marshmallow Brownies
Serves: 18
WW Points: 6 (does it even matter at this point?)

Ingredients:
1/2 cup butter
1 cup butterscotch chips
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups miniature marshmallows
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips (or holiday morsels!)

Directions:

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease a 9x13" inch pan.

2) Using a microwave-safe bowl, melt the butterscotch chips and butter together in the microwave, stirring occasionally until smooth. Set aside to cool.

3) In a large bowl, stir together the brown sugar, eggs, and vanilla. Mix in the melted butterscotch chips, then the flour, baking powder, and salt until smooth. Stir in the marshmallows and chocolate chips last. Spread the batter evenly into the prepared baking pan.

4) Bake for 15 to 20 minutes in preheated oven. Cool, and cut into squares.

That tin is going to work with me tomorrow. I'm putting a sign on it that reads, "Please eat, so I don't have to" because I would seriously be able to eat that entire tin of about 20 brownies in maybe two days. They're really freaky good.

Anyway, I got that done. Did I mention that I made these at my parents house? Well I did. My mother needed some sane company, and I was as good as it was going to get. So I baked, then she had a couple of glasses of wine and we played Scrabble. Next time we play, I've promised to get drunk with her. That woman cracks me up.

At about 1am, I remembered that I hadn't shut my morning alarm off at my apartment, and it was going to go off at 6:05am. I live about an hour from my parents, so I cursed and grumbled and set the alarm on my cell phone so I could wake up and go shut it off. I got here at 6:06am. Not bad!
You would think, however, that I would just curl up in my own bed and go to sleep and call it a day. But no! I had Christmas shopping to do. I had Christmas shopping to do... back near my parents house. So I get back in the car, go back to their house, have some breakfast, and I'm off to the bank, post office, Target, mall (ugh!), and then back to my parents. I had promised to go out with my mother, as she needed to get out of the house. So, I had some lunch and a few gulps of coffee, and off we went!
We hit a couple of stores (one of them being Putnam Market, my favorite specialty foods store. My mother's buying one of the chocolate babkas for Christmas. Oh my. But it was enough shopping, so we hit the casino. I was up $17 on a nickel machine, so not a bad day after all.
And finally, I was able to take a nap.
I did some more shopping today (officially finished! and almost officially finished wrapping!), got my car inspected (almost a month late, not bad), and cleaned today. So many accomplishments. I'm fucking beat.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

if my stomach explodes, at least i'll die happy

Oh goodness, turkey noodle soup. How comforting, and how freaking easy. Chop a few vegetables, open a few cans, defrost the turkey in the fridge overnight. Voila! Turkey soup!



The recipe, as it often does, comes from Cooking Light.

Turkey Noodle Soup
Serves 4 (very generously)
WW Points: 4

Ingredients:
1 cup sliced carrot
3/4 cup chopped onion
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup sliced celery
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
6 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
3 oz. uncooked wheat blend egg noodles
1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
1 bay leaf
2 cups shredded turkey (about 8 ounces)
coarsely ground black pepper (optional)

Directions:
Heat a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add carrot, onion, and garlic; sauté 5 minutes or until onion is lightly browned. Add celery, salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper; sauté 3 minutes. Add broth and next 3 ingredients (through bay leaf); bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 5 minutes. Add shredded turkey; cook 3 minutes. Discard bay leaf. Sprinkle with coarsely ground black pepper, if desired.

While mincing the garlic, I started to worry it was too much. This is definitely garlicy, but not in a bad way. I love the simplicity of it, prep time included and I was eating in just about an hour.

I'm about to settle down for the night and watch the Survivor finale while wrapping some presents. I'm planning on finishing my shopping next weekend, I only have a few presents left to get (good thing, I'm going completely broke). But Tuesday is office party day at The Century House, and there will be lots of drinking (no drinky for me until after my next set of bloodwork), eating, and bonuses. I can't remember how much I got last year, but it was a good amount, and I had only been there for about two months. Now it's been a year longer, perhaps I'll get more (even though I just lost a reasonably good sized sale. oops.)

Alas, football has pushed back my tv watching. Maybe it's a sign that I should be washing my dishes!

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Testing...

So I'm making my soup tomorrow. Tonight, I decided to try out a lasagna recipe. See, I'm on a quest for a good lasagna to make for Christmas. I'm not sure what I want to make yet, so I bought a big box of lasagna noodles, and went to town.

My first attempt is Broccoli Lasagna Bianca. I originally found the recipe in one of my Mother's cookbooks, some kind of brand name vegetarian book. I really like tomato sauce in my lasagna, but I figured it was worth a try.



Broccoli Lasagna Bianca
Serves 4 (I halved the recipe)
WW Points: 5

Ingredients:
1 cup fat free ricotta cheese
1/2 cup egg substitute
1/2 Tbsp basil (fresh or dried, i used dried)
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 garlic clove, minced
1 Tbsp margarine
2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1 cup skim milk
10 oz frozen chopped broccoli
1/2 cup shredded 2% mozzarella cheese
4 1/2 lasagna noodles, cooked
1/2 small tomato, chopped
1 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese

Directions:
In medium bowl, combine ricotta, egg substitute, and basil; set aside. In large saucepan, over medium heat, saute onion and garlic in margarine until tender-crisp. Stir in flour; cook for 1 minute. Gradually stir in milk; cook, stirring until mixture thickens and begins to boil. Remove from heat; stir in broccoli and mozzarella cheese.

In lightly greasted 8 x 8" baking dish, place 2 lasagna noodles; top with 1/2 each ricotta and broccoli mixtures. Repeat layers 1 more time. Top with tomato; sprinkle with parmesan cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour or until set. Let stand 10 minutes before serving. Garnish with basil leaves.



I was pretty worried about this one. There was a lot of egg substitute, and the ricotta mixture was very liquidy. However, it firmed up nicely in the oven and didn't have an overwhelming egg taste. I baked it covered for the first 45 minutes, so nothing would get burnt around the edges. The only thing this recipe needs is salt and pepper. There was none in the original recipe, so I added some to the broccoli sauce. Next time, some crushed red pepper might be nice, too.

I had an out and about kind of day, stopping at Target for some baking supplies (cookiethon next weekend!) and random Christmas gifts and supplies. I also had my picture taken with my sister, as my mother wanted a nice picture of the two of us, and we decided to get one done as part of our Christmas present to her. It was a beautiful day, a nice change after all the snow yesterday, so we went out to Congress Park. Here's a copy of the picture we chose to get enlarged, I think it's a nice one.



Of course, the print looks much better. Not having a scanner, this is just a picture of a picture. My sister makes me look like a beanstalk. Getting this blown up to an 8 x 10" is kind of frightening.

So, tomorrow will be tires, soup, and gingerbread day. My mother promised me gingerbread muffins, as a consolation for having my visit my fresh out of surgery father two days in a row. I love my Dad though, so it's not a chore. And there will be gingerbread.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

i ruined christmas

yesterday at work, my office buddy craig started belting out you're a mean one, mr. grinch at me, in a very authentic boris karloff tone. it's not my fault that i have to inform customers that some very popular items are on backorder. i don't want to ruin christmas, guys!

Anyway, I went to Paramus last weekend for some shopping paradise. First stop: Ikea. Oh my, Ikea. I get dizzy there, my eyes don't know where to settle and want to take everything in at once. I was on a Christmas shopping mission, and didn't end up buying much for myself, other than some Löfbergs Lila coffee and Finax Good For You Apple-Papaya-Raisin Muesli.



This is good stuff. Small (but plentiful) pieces of dried fruits, crunchy grains, and only lightly sweetened with honey. And the coffee is marvelous, I wish I had bought more. You can order from Nordic Trade, but shipping is kind of pricey. I'm still considering it.

I've been cooking, but nothing worth posting about. For dinner tonight, I coated some tofu with wasabi mustard and cooked it until it got all crispy on the outside. Lots of veggies and bulgur on the side. It was good, but who wants to see my green and crispy tofu?

I'm craving a soup, and as luck would have it, I have leftover Thanksgiving turkey in my freezer. I think that's a plan for the weekend. Soup!

There's lots of plans for the weekend, actually.

1) get new tires and wiper blades (my car didn't pass inspection. oops!). My Dad offered to buy me new tires for Christmas. He's having surgery tomorrow and feeling generous. I guess I should have got it in writing.

2) get photographed! As part of my Mother's Christmas present, my sister and I are having a nice professional photo done. We've got a photographer, we've got the date, but we don't have a location. I want it done outside, let's hope for decent weather.

3) buy ingredients for my cookiethon next weekend. I'm sending cookies to my good friend Matt out in Chicago. Baking commences next Friday night.

4) more Christmas presents! Shop, shop, shop.

5) and don't forget the soup. I just have to figure out what I'm in the mood for.

I'm also in the mood for a good casserole of some sort. Winter makes me crave that kind of thing.

But next time you hear from me, there will be soup.