My Facts of Life . . .

Every person has their list of things that they do or need in their lives, sort of a personal facts of life list. The list can have anything on it and if you stop to jot down your thoughts, you might find an interesting mix of do’s, don’t’s and, possibly, don’t cares!

Mine list is relatively simple. But I’m always willing to try new ideas and the list is open to change and additions.

1. I have learned to only save coupons for things I always use and stop wasting money because I could get some condiment or item for a dollar off and couldn’t resist. I’ve discovered a few of these buys in the back of my cupboards way, WAY past their expiration date.

2. Always wash melons with mild soap (diluted dish soap works fine) BEFORE you cut into them. When I told a friend about this, she said that as long as the knife was clean, what was the problem? I mentioned that the outside of the melon has rested on dirt, been harvested by dirty hands, been manhandled once it reached the store and finally placed on display. THEN, who knows how many people ended up touching and hefting the melon you end up purchasing. You don’t even want to know what traces of disgusting stuff has been found on grocery carts and you can’t wait in line with a watermelon without a grocery cart. Just saying!

3. I’ve finally discovered the way to insure a good crust on fried chicken and fish – whey protein isolate! Who would have thought it but it works well as in great. Just season what you need with your salt, pepper, and favorite spices, dip the meat/fish in an egg wash, then in the whey protein isolate mixtures and fry. Yeah, people think I’m super healthy when they see me lugging out with a five-pound container of the stuff and would probably be shocked to know it was going for fried chicken.

4. I’ve heard about the Keto diet for years but swerved away from it because it sounded weird. It also takes wheat products off the dinner table and that includes bread, pasta, etc. It doesn’t recommend rice, either. Well, we have been gluten-free for over five years so that was one step up on the Keto diet. I picked up a cookbook at Costco and was hooked. They advocate meat, fats, cheeses, low-carb vegetables and carefully counting the carbs on your fruit intake. I noticed that on other bouts of watching my diet, I would get hungry and then figure a couple of apples, or a big peach was keeping me in line with my needs versus my wants. Nope. We have been eating Keto for almost a month now and we eat well, we don’t miss the potatoes and get full on the meat/protein portion and a nice salad and/or vegetable. Don’t even WANT to eat between meals which is a nice place to be!

5. At Thanksgiving, everyone should bathe and be presentable for the day . . . except for the turkey! Do NOT wash the turkey before cooking. You can pat it down with a paper towel but do not put that bird into your kitchen sink and run water over it. You may not notice but droplets from the turkey bath do get around your kitchen and, maybe into an open dish. Washing that bird won’t do much good and all the bacteria and germs will die a well-earned death while the bird roasts in the oven.
6. Someone pointed out to me that there are some items you can buy that don’t have to be organic if you lean that way. Bananas, for instance, as they have a thick skin you peel off so nothing has gotten into the covered fruit. In fact, after you do NOT wash you turkey, you CAN wash your banana before eating . . . in fact, I recommend it!

7. My favorite way to make a pasta dinner more filling (back when I indulged in pasta!) was to make my own sauce pureeing steamed vegetables into the tomato base like carrots, onions, garlic, spinach, squash, etc. My final addition was draining a can of pinto beans, pureeing them into a thick sauce and stirring it into the pasta sauce. It makes the sauce nice and thick and very tasty and you just sneaked in a good dose of iron and protein. It is more filling, too.

8. I learned something from my mother about keeping the kitchen cleared of clutter while preparing dinner. She didn’t do so which is why I learned that I couldn’t work in discarded pots and pans and cook properly! I discovered that when baking cookies, they take on the average about ten minutes so when I take out one pan and put in another one, I have ten minutes . . . to wash the first pan and put it away! It just came to me one day that if I bake six baking sheets of cookies, I’m looking at 60 minutes of time to get other things done including cleaning up the kitchen.

9. Potato chips are often my downfall but my budget-minded personality mostly keeps me from buying them. HOWEVER, I discovered that when the yearning for potato chips get overwhelming, a solution of a better sort is at hand. If you have a microwave, parchment paper, vegetable oil spray, and a big potato, you could soon be munching on less salty, non-greasy potato chips with a lot less guilt. If you have a food processor, you probably have a slicing disk for cutting things pretty thin. If not, a sharp knife and patience works, too. You take your thin, very thin potato slices and place them close together on your sheet of parchment paper. Make sure you measure what size sheet of paper you need so it fits in the microwave. Now, give them a good spray of vegetable oil and salt them to taste and put them in the microwave. Now, you are on your own for timing so start it at two minutes and check. Depending on the slices, it can take up to eight minutes for them to get brown around the edges and potato chip like. They shouldn’t have any soft spots. Remove them to your waiting dish and repeat until the chips are all done. You will be surprised to find that you actually get the equivalent of a bag of chips from one, large potato. If you like spicy chips, you can dust them with Ranch dry seasoning or some chili powder. Me, I’m a salt only person. This way I can have what I want when I want it and pay a tenth of what it would cost for a bag of chips.

10. One think I really learned from my mother was to be inventive and curious with my cooking/baking efforts and not be afraid of a new recipe or new ingredient. Fortunately, my husband and children are all pretty adventurous so no complaints from them even if an experiment doesn’t go exactly right. There is no such thing as a person who can’t cook if they want to do so. My mother was raised to go to college so didn’t learn to cook until she got married. She purchased one of those fat, includes everything cookbooks and started in at page one. If you can read, you can cook. And remember, that fancy pots and pans don’t make the food good. It’s the person behind the ladle! I had a person ask me once about buying a cast iron skillet. I asked why she wanted one of those as she was an awful cook and didn’t put much effort into it. She said that she heard that cast iron skillets make really good fried chicken. Uh, no such things as an automatic skillet. You still need to know what to put into the pan.

Friday = Macaroni & Cheese!

Given that we still observe the meatless Fridays, this recipe is a go-to one especially when the day is going faster than I can catch up with it and dinner time appears out of no where! I never cared for Macaroni and Cheese when I was growing up until I discovered the major difference in using ‘real’ cheddar cheese and not the processed stuff! If you want to sneak in some vegetables, steam and puree a cup or so of cauliflower and mix it in the cheese sauce! A small can of diced chilis (mild or hot) makes an interesting change of pace. In fact, you can substitute the bread/panko topping with crushed tortilla or corn chips.

Macaroni & Cheese

2 cups grated, sharp cheddar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon dried mustard
½ teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon salt
1 pound macaroni, just cooked. It should be a tiny bit underdone as it will finish in the oven.
1 cup milk. You might need a bit more
1/4 cup butter
Panko or bread crumbs

Toss the cheese with the dry ingredients.

Gently heat the milk and butter until very warm. Add the cheese mixture and keep stirring until it is melted and well combined. If the sauce seems too thick, add spoonfuls of milk until it reaches the consistency you want.

Pour the sauce into the prepared macaroni and mix well. Top with either the Panko crumbs or bread crumbs. Instead of drizzling melted butter or margarine on the topping, I just spray it with vegetable spray. It cuts the calories and helps it brown.

Put into a preheated 350 degree oven for approximately 20 minutes or until bubbly and hot through.

For variety, I like to mix in a can of drained, diced tomatoes into the dish.

Finally, a Diet That MIGHT Work!

Now, I’ve found the perfect dietary recipe and am so happy to share it with you! Simple ingredients and little to no calories. 🙂

Over the years my husband and I have been married, our eating habits have almost drastically changed on a number of occasions to work with his current likes/dislikes, various allergies, and food sensitivities!

Our latest change is only a week old but not as drastic as some of our other ones, mainly because we were already gluten- and sugar-free. Now, we just have to cut our carbs down to a small percentage a meal. The good thing is that protein and fat are finally on the ‘good’ list. The downside? Potato chips and fries don’t seem to fit into any of the possible categories.

We started arranging our meals in line the the Keto plan and have to say that it has been one of the easier transitions.  One week later and no one has made a secret trip to the store for pretzels or started a chocolate stash. Our newly-opened coffee shop down the street has already lost our patronage but no one has (yet!) been harmed in the change of diet.

When I saw this video, I immediately decided that we are NEVER going to cook with air, catsup, and the stray tomato.

Orange Juice Cake – A Good Summer Treat

This has always been a favorite in my family. There is something about the sweet orange with the chewly raisins and crunchy walnut. It is easy to put together and travels well and always seems to get requests for the recipe.

Orange Juice Cake — From the recipe files of Barbara Barthelette

6 oz. can frozen orange concentrate, thawed
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup milk
2 eggs
1 cup light raisins (optional)
⅓ cup chopped walnuts

Grease and flour bottom of 13 x 9–inch pan. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine ½ cup of orange juice concentrate with remaining ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Blend at lowest speed of mixer for 30 seconds. Beat 3 minutes at medium speed.

Pour into pan and bake for 30 to 40 minutes until golden brown. Drizzle remaining orange juice over warm cake and sprinkle with topping.

Sugar-Nut Topping

⅓ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup chopped walnuts
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Meaty Chef’s Salad

Summertime salads are great but, sometimes, you want a little more protein in a salad that your spouse declares to be dinner because it is too hot outside for meat and potatoes! This one seems to fit the bill and has enough protein and greens to satisfy. AND, if that isn’t sufficient, consider it a prelude to a really big ice cream sundae because it is too hot outside for any more vegetables right now!

Meaty Chef’s Salad
6 c. torn lettuce
1 c. shredded carrot
1 c. diced celery
1 c. cooked ham OR 4 oz.deli ham, cut thick, in strips
1 c. cooked chicken cut thick, in strips
2 tomatoes, diced
3 T. sliced green onions, greens also
2 c. shredded sharp American cheese
2/3 c. milk
1 small can chopped green chilies, drained
3 T. sliced, pitted ripe olives
2 c. corn chips
Cut ham and chicken into julienne strips, then measure. In a large salad bowl, combine lettuce, carrot and celery. Arrange ham, chicken, tomatoes and green onion on top. Just before serving, combine cheese and milk in saucepan. Cook and stir over low heat until cheese melts and is smooth.
Stir chilies and olives into cheese; pour over salad, toss lightly. Serve at once. Pass corn chips to sprinkle on top. Serves 6. Cheese sauce can be made ahead of time and served cold. Increase milk to 1 c. chill till serving time.

Surprise Cake

Surprise Cake . . . Have them enjoy it first and tell them later!

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
2 tablespoons butter or margarine, softened
One can tomato soup
1 cup raisins
½ cup chopped walnuts
grated rind of one lemon and juice
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 11 3/4 x 7 ½ inch baking pan.
In a small bowl, stir together the dry ingredients.
In a larger bowl, combine the sugar and butter, beating until blended. Beat in tomato soup until smooth. Stir in the rest of the ingredients and the dry ingredients. Spoon batter into pan, smoothing the top. Bake about 30 minutes until top springs back when lightly touched. Cool in pan. Dust with powdered sugar before serving.

Gluten-Free/Lactose-Free Crackers

Besides being gluten-intolerant, my husband is sensitive to lactose, too. He can have cheese and butter but needs to take pills to totally enjoy them. He also likes to have some snacks on hand when he braves the Los Angeles traffic coming home as his hunger pangs tell him that traffic is putting his evening meal way off schedule AGAIN!

Most cracker recipes have butter or wheat in them. It took me awhile to come up with something that would stay the onset of starvation on the long drive home but wouldn’t incite digestive problems. I finally came up with the following recipe which has protein, fiber, vitamins, no baking powder, and the right kinds of fat.

Homemade Crackers

3 1/2 cups of gluten-free flour blend (I like Pamela’s Gluten-Free Artisan Blend)
5 tablespoons nutritional yeast (My favorite is Bragg – in imparts a mild cheesy flavor)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup Hemp Hearts*
1/4 cup ground flax seeds
2 eggs
3 tablespoons coconut oil or ghee*
4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice (or 2 water/2 lemon juice)

Combine all the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl.

Combine the coconut oil (or ghee) with the juice and the eggs and mix well.

Combine the wet ingredients with the dry ingredients and gently mix until a workable dough forms. The weather seems to play a huge part so, if necessary, add bits of water or juice along with teaspoons of ghee or coconut oil until the right consistency is reached.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

To save time and mess, divide the dough into fourths. Roll out one fourth between two sheets of parchment paper until about an 1/8th inch thick. Using a small round cookie cutter, cut out the crackers and place them on a parchment-lined baking sheet about a quarter of an inch apart. Bake for approximately 10-15 minutes or until golden. Remove to a cooling rack, wait a few minutes, and try one!

Store in a tightly lidded container. I usually divide the cooled crackers into three or four containers: One for easy snacking and the other ones in the freezer to keep fresh.

*Ghee is merely the solids removed from butter. I make mine my putting two sticks of butter in a large, glass measuring cup and gently melting them in the microwave. Once the butter is completely melted, let set until it separates and then carefully pour off the clear part into a small container being careful to avoid getting any of the cloudy residue into it.

*Hemp Hearts are at Costco and they have the best price I have found. They have a mild, nutty flavor.