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.

Lemon Square Cookies

Lent is approaching all too quickly. Time to think of a few sweets to soften the blow before the ‘give-ups’ begin! We don’t overdo our Fat Tuesday but a batch of fresh cookies made on the preceding Sunday to last through Tuesday always seems the best way to go for us.

Lemon Square Cookies

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup powdered sugar
pinch of salt
1 cup cold butter, cut into small squares
2 teaspoons finely-grated fresh lemon zest
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon extract
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Mix together the dry ingredients, place into a mixing bowl. Add half of the pieces of butter, the lemon zest and mix to form buttery crumbs. Add the second half of the butter and mix until no flour is visible. Add the extracts and lemon juice until the dough just holds together.

Lightly knead the dough and then divide into two portions. Place each on a square of waxed paper and form into about 1 1/2-inch square logs about four to five inches long. Wrap the waxed paper around the logs and refrigerate 3-4 hours or overnight. Remove the dough rolls about 30 minutes before baking to soften a bit.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line the baking sheets with parchment paper. With a sharp knife, carefully slice 1/4th thick slices from the logs and place about an inch or so apart on the prepared baking sheets. Bake the cookies for approximately 15-20 minutes depending on your oven. They should be firm to the touch and golden brown around the edges. Remove them to a rack to cool before icing.

Lemon Icing
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon lemon extract
Enough fresh lemon juice to form a medium-thick icing.

I’ve never heard anyone say no to some colorful sprinkles scattered over the cookies before the icing dries.

*A thought . . . If you have some walnuts or pecans on hand, you can toast a cup of them then finely grind them. After you form the log squares, you can roll and press the nuts all around the logs before you refrigerate them. That way, you get an extra bit of crunch and the flavor of the nuts goes well with lemon.

 

 

Meatless Friday Favorite

Meatless Friday Favorite!

1 cup chopped onions
3 tablespoons butter
1 ½ teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons flour
Pepper and Paprika
2 cups milk
2 teaspoons dried parsley
1 cup shredded Swiss Cheese
5 cups thinly sliced potato

Saute onions in butter 5 to 10 minutes. Stir in flour and seasoning. Gradually add milk, stirring until sauce thickens. Add cheese and parsley. Mix well. Spray casserole with vegetable spray or butter well. Layer ½ of the potatoes, cover with ½ cheese sauce, repeat. If you like, you can sprinkle buttered Panko crumbs over the top.

Cover and bake at 350 degrees for one hour. Uncover & bake for 15-30 minutes more or until potatoes are tender.

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.

Bargain Baking . . . Sort Of!

In the pursuit for savings, we all know the less we frequent the grocery stores, the more we save! However, we often need that certain cake, cornbread or muffin mix. Now, not only are these boxed conveniences expensive when you are counting pennies, the temptations you pass in the aisles can put some items in your shopping cart you didn’t even know you needed.

I have found that premixing packages of baking mixes saves time in the long run and last-minute trips to the store. The concept is simple, you mix up the necessary dry ingredients for your recipe, seal it in a bag along with a stapled on note card with what you will need to finish it. Start simply. Make up one supply, try doing it a week later and see how it works into your schedule. You increase your supplies as you begin to include them into your family’s requirements.

A good, nutritious breakfast or lunch bread is easy to have on hand.

QUICK FRUIT-NUT BREAD

4 cups all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons salt (Can be reduced if you are watching salt intake)
4 teaspoons baking soda
4 cups rolled oats
4 cups raisins (or a mixture of your favorite dried fruit, coarsely chopped)
2 cups coarsely chopped nuts, your choice

Sift together the flour, salt and soda and divide into 4 strong plastic bags or air-tight containers. Add one cup of the oats, one cup of the fruit and ½ cup of the nuts to each container and shake well to mix. Store in refrigerator or freezer until needed.

Additional Ingredients required for baking one loaf:

½ cup light brown sugar
1 egg
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg

Beat the sugar and egg until fluffy. Stir the lemon juice into the milk and set aside to sour. Add the soured milk to the sugar and egg and beat until smooth. Add the contents of one bag of your baking mix to the milk-sugar mixture and stir gently to combine. Stir in the oil. Pour the batter into a greased loaf pan and bake in 350 degree preheated oven for approximately 40 minutes or until golden brown. Cool, slice and serve.

The best part of having a homemade baking mix on hand is your ability to whip up another loaf of bread immediately since your first one is sure to disappear within seconds of leaving the pan.

Many of the recipes we make from scratch can be broken down in the same manner as the above bread mix. The trick is combining the dry ingredients ahead of time and attaching a note of what you will need when you want to bake. Think about the cake mixes I know many of us use. We bring home a box of flour, baking powder, spices and flavoring at a cost of over a dollar. And when we come home, we have to add our eggs, water and oil. We can drop the fancy box and the brand name and start using the house brand—our own!

Frugality is a handsome income. (Erasmus: Colloquia 16th century)

Easy Cheesecake!

Although we always called this a holiday cheesecake, I think it appeared many times at dessert time on ordinary days of the week. Naturally, any time cheesecake showed up after dinner, could be declared a holiday!

EASY HOLIDAY CHEESECAKE

Crust:
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
⅓ cup granulated sugar
½ cup melted butter or margarine

Combine above ingredients and press into a spring-form pan. The crust should come more than halfway to the top of the pan. Refrigerate until ready to use. Pan requirement: seven to nine-inch spring form pan.*

Cheesecake Recipe
3 8-oz. packages of cream cheese, softened
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1½ cups granulated sugar

Place softened cream cheese in a large mixing bowl. using an electric mixer, beat at medium speed until cream cheese is thoroughly creamed. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until each is well combined. Add vanilla. While running the mixer gradually add sugar, beating well. Mixture should be thick and smooth. Carefully spoon mixture into crust. smoothing evenly.

Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for approximately 50 minutes. Top will brown and crack. Cool and refrigerate eight hours or overnight before serving.

You can strike a festive note by spooning a puree of strawberries over each serving and garnishing with a mint sprig. Crushed pineapple also compliments cheesecake. Prepare about an hour ahead, a cup and a half of crushed pineapple combined with the zest of a lemon. Spoon over individual slices just before serving.

*A spring form pan is pictured above. Walmart usually sells them, three to a set for a budget-friendly price considering how often you will be baking cheesecake now!

Salad Bites?

Vegetable Soup was simmering on the stove and cheese bread was baking in the oven. It seemed that the meal needed something a bit more to satisfy a hungry husband who would have had to fight the Friday night traffic coming home from work and a daughter who is always nibbling.

Then, I remember something on Facebook where someone peeled a cucumber, sliced it lengthwise, scrapped out the seeds and then filled one side with lunch meat, greens, etc. and topped it off with the other side of the prepared cucumber and sort of an instant gluten-free sandwich. The moment had come for me to try this!

I prepared my cucumber and lay in a half leaf of Romaine, layered tuna salad with tomatoes on top of that with an extra touch of freshly ground black pepper. I ‘closed’ my ‘sandwich’. To stabilize the whole thing, I stuck in toothpicks every half inch or so and sliced between them. They were now easy to access at dinner and kept their good looks until dinner!