Eating Healthy Isn’t All THAT Bad!

My husband has some dietary concerns so I’ve spent my almost 34 years with him evolving our meal menus to keep him in good health. In the course of my research and new recipes, we have learned to enjoy a lot of vegetables, etc., we never thought we’d ever find in our kitchen.

When I was growing up, frozen vegetable started appearing in the markets. If you are of an age to have tasted the first attempts a frozen peas, you will understand why a lot of us grew up hating anything with the word ‘vegetable’ in it!

Fortunately, I had somewhat discerning children who usually ate their vegetables without TOO much complaint especially if said meal was followed by cake or ice cream. These days, it is a rush to serving yourself vegetables as my children will take the majority of them. It only took years of me experimenting and finding ways to make the dreaded vegetable portion of dinner tasty.

These days, everyone’s favorite cooking method for vegetables is cutting squash, cabbage, broccoli, etc., into chunks, tossing them with olive oil, salt, pepper, and any other herbs and spices that sound good to you. (Want a really good source of great herbs and spices? https://www.thespicehouse.com/). You lay the prepared vegetables out on a parchment paper line baking sheet and bake for about 10-15 minutes or until there is a slight browning and they are JUST tender. You can have grated Parmesan on the table for a tasty addition.

I never ate Kale until about five years ago. Now it goes into salads, soups, stews, and often gets roasted for a fun, vegetable side dish. Easy, too! Just tear the leaves in large pieces from the woody stem and soak in a bowl of water with a fourth cup of vinegar for about five or ten minutes, rinse, and pat dry. You can do this ahead and roll the rinsed Kale in paper towel, cover in saran wrap, and refrigerate until needed. In a large bowl, toss the leaves with enough olive oil to give it a LIGHT shine. You don’t want to drown it. Add salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, etc. So many choices to be had from the spice shelf! Arrange the leaves on a parchment paper lined baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees until the leaves are crisp to the touch.

Savory Cookies

Crackers are great with soup but a homemade savory cookies takes the points. And, such recipes can be adapted to whatever cheese or seasoning you have on hand.

Savory Cheddar Cookies
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon hot mustard powder
4 ounces sharp cheddar, grated finely
1 stick softened butter

Sift together the dry ingredients.

Blend together the cheese and butter until relatively smooth. Mix in the flour mixture by hand or with a dough blade with your mixer. Mix until it forms a ball.

Divide the dough in half, form each half into a cylinder, wrap in clear plastic wrap and refrigerate for a least three hour or overnight. (A great make-ahead idea that can be baked just before dinner or the arrival of guests)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line baking sheets with parchment paper. Remove cylinders of dough from the refrigerator (if you froze them, take them out 30 minutes early) and slice them into even discs and place about an inch apart on the prepared baking sheets. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven and let rest on the baking sheet for ten minutes and then place on cooling rack.

These are nice to go with soup, salads, stews, or just for a lunchbox snack.

If you are gluten-free, Better Batter gluten-free ‘four’ mix or Authentic Foods – Steve’s GF Bread Flour works well, cup for cup.

Easy Thanksgiving Side Dish!

Okay, I’m old school in that no matter the reason for the meal, there will be either a salad or some sort of vegetable dish in attendance. I recently realized that the lowly and often misunderstood Brussel Sprout can claim a place of note at the dinner table.

Welcome Brussel Sprout Dish

2 pounds of cleaned and trimmed Brussel Sprouts
2 large green apples, unpeeled and cut into bite-sized chunks
1 medium red onion, peeled and diced in medium pieces
1 tablespoon olive oil . . . or more depending on your tastes
1 tablespoon of Balsamic Vinegar (check the vinegar aisle at the store)
2 teaspoons of Dijon mustard
Zest of one lime and one orange
Salt and Pepper to taste

Tose the sprouts with all the ingredients making sure everything gets a shiny coat of olive oil. Place in a baking dish and bake in the oven for 20 minutes or until they are just tender. Taste for seasonings and serve.

My Favorite Discovery!

I’m pretty sure I mentioned this before but I can’t help grinning everytime we have fried fish or chicken and do it without flour and still get a great ‘crisp’ on it and a very satisfying crunch. AND, what we use is low carb and good for you, too, fewer calories. It is Whey Protein Isolate! Just scoop out what you need, season it like flour and there is your future crispy coating. You just dip your fish or chicken into some  beaten egg, coat with the seasoned whey stuff, and fry. It works well for onion rings, too.

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.

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.

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.