Archive for the ‘recipes’ Category

My Christmas Crockpot

April 20, 2013
My Christmas Crockpot

My Christmas Crockpot

My daughter says that she and I both have minds like steel traps. According to her, there still is a huge difference between the two of us. Her trap is set to capture new concepts and ideas and my trap is sprung so it locks out everything new to me.

This discussion started a few years ago when she first tasted my coffeepot cooking including, Caribbean, Indian and Thai cooking. Her comment then was, “You could pick-up woman by cooking for them if you get rid of the weird factor of cooking in your coffeepot.” Of course my granddaughters reinforced the weird factor because all their friends at school told them that I was weird for cooking in my coffeepot.

Well of course I told my daughter and granddaughters, that crackpots were all the wrong size; I couldn’t find one that would safely work for my needs, and I was not going back to cooking monster meals.

Naturally, my daughter Dagny just ignored me and found a proper size (2 to 2 1/2 quart) Crockpot for Christmas. By proper size, I mean it holds pretty much the same amount of fluid as my 12 cup coffeepot so there is no temptation to super-size a meal. Over the past few months I have been checking it out and there are good and bad features compared to coffeepot cooking.

On the negative side, it has poorer temperature control than my coffeepot. When cooking a meal all day, the coffeepot will pretty much hold 165 degrees Fahrenheit and not change. With an aluminum foil cover it gets to 190. When set on low temperature, the crockpot varies considerably and will boil liquid after several hours. On high, it will actually scorch some foods. You have to pay closer attention to cooking times, When the food is done in the Crockpot, turn it off. The coffeepot is an excellent slow cooker and it is still at low enough temperature to act as a warmer. I used a Kill-A-Watt to measure the cost of electricity for cooking a meal and the Crackpot costs about twice as much to do the job compared to the coffeepot.

On the positive side it is much easier to get a pot roasted chicken out of the Crockpot because of the wider opening than the coffeepot. If you get stupid and stir the pot with a heavy metal spoon, you are less likely to break the ceramic pot than a glass coffeepot. Of course it is still easier to see when the glass pot is clean than it is to see when your black ceramic pot is clean.

Still my friends and family, male and female, are glad to see that I am conforming with societies values and using a standard tool of the kitchen rather than “abusing” my coffeepot. All things considered, I believe this is the best possible Crockpot when cooking portion controlled meals for one or two people. However, when warming things that probably don’t need to be cooked yet might scorch (Kielbasa and Baked Beans), I will use my coffeepot to warm them up especially if I don’t have time to watch the pot.

Coffeepot Lasagna: Oxymoron or Good Eating?

June 23, 2012

Rolled Lasagna: Coffeepot Style

When my parents started getting older, it seemed that all they wanted to talk about was the weather and their grandchildren. Now the first topic is boring and there is not much I can do about it, but I must admit that I spend a lot of time talking to my children about their wonderful and sometimes not quite so wonderful children. I also spend a significant amount of time talking to my children about business, exercise (their’s and mine) and cooking.

My daughter discovered a recipe for rolled lasagna in early April and was concerned that it was not quite perfect. We talked about it and it sounded like something that could be done in my coffeepot but I didn’t get around to it until just before Memorial Day and have been too busy since then with my anti-inflammatory diet to worry about publishing new recipes.

However, I get two of my three Granddaughters for the first three weeks in August and this is another one of those fun meals that shouldn’t be possible to make. Even the name Coffeepot Lasagna sounds like an oxymoron. One of the most important things I learned with his meal is that you can cook the whole box of lasagna noodles and the ones that you don’t use can be frozen between layers of wax-paper and are perfectly fine for another day.

Naturally, my daughter and I never cook anything exactly the same way. She tends to be aware and adapt to the contemporary interpretations of old recipes and I tend to do it the old-fashioned way. It’s all good. When I cook, she loves it. When she cooks, I love it. The biggest difference in this recipe is that she included crumbled cooked sausage in her cheese mix for the filling, I sliced cooked meatballs and made it a layer on top of the filling. If I were including sausage, which I have in the past, I slice it and include it with the meatball slices or in a separate layer. Oh well, to each their own.

Rolled Lasagna

Ingredients:

1 cup Ricotta cheese
1/2 cup Parmesan
1 egg
4 oz shredded Mozzarella
handful fresh parsley minced

3 Lasagna noodles cooked as per box directions.

Method:

1. Cook all the noodles and freeze the ones you don’t use between sheets of wax paper.

2. Microwave one portion of frozen meatballs for the appropriate amount of time.

3. Mix the rest of the ingredients in a bowl.

Spread the Cheese Mix on the Lasagna Noodles

4. Spread the cheese mix on the noodles.

5. Place the sliced cooked meatballs on top of the noodles and dab a little sauce on top of everything.

6. Roll and spike with toothpick to hold.

7. Put a little sauce in bottom of coffeepot so nothing sticks.

Cooked Rolled Lasagna

8. Place meatballs inside and cook for two to four hours.

9. Enjoy

I haven’t made this in the three years since Dolores died but I am definite I will make it when my granddaughters are here. Truth be told, I forgot to dab the sauce on top of the cheese and meatball layer before rolling because it’s been too long, but that is the traditional way to do it.

Ah, I remember it well!

Everything from Soup to Nuts – Spicy Foods in the Old World and Asia

June 22, 2012

Italian Pumpkin Soup

When I used to visit Aunt Adel, she used to prepare a six course Italian meal described by her as “Everything from Soup to Nuts.” Now any one of the courses could have been a meal unto itself but if you were really Italian, which I was not, you learned to pace yourself, which I did not. 

I never much thought about the purpose of each course and why some foods were alleged to go together until I first started thinking about the Inflammation Factor and healthy anti-inflammatory spices. Now as I mentioned before on the post on pumpkin soup, the addition of a chicken breast and some carrots makes this a hearty meal and since pumpkin is still on sale, I decided to check it out and find out how healthy it was.

I went to the Nutritionaldata site to check for the calories, protein, carbohydrates and Inflammation Factor for each ingredient including a chicken breast and carrots. I added up the totals for everything in the pot and was amazed at how healthy this soup really is and how high the anti -inflammatory qualities are. The results have been divided in two to reflect that the pot holds enough food for two people or two meals.

Calories 319
Protein 46
Carbohydrates 30
Inflammation Factor 709

Now this is a very impressive balanced low calorie anti-inflammatory meal, just the type I wanted to experiment with on my detox. Since I never do anything half way, I added fresh grated ginger, hot pepper and celery and more than doubled the anti-inflammatory properties without altering the other values by much.

I begin to see the concept of “Soup to Nuts” when I checked the anti-inflammatory properties of Almonds which Aunt Adel traditionally served at the end of the meal and found out they also had a positive influence. The concept would appear to be that if the meal started with and ended with foods high in anti-inflammatory properties, you could indulge in whatever you liked in the middle courses.

Pinto bean Curry

This new knowledge got me to thinking about other old world foods so I checked on some Indian Recipes while searching for a vegan recipe. The pinto bean recipe was also an original Indian recipe and unmodified by me as I don’t know enough about Indian Foods to alter the spice blends, but “I know what I like.” Once again I was utterly amazed at how high the anti-inflammatory properties are.

Calories 586
Protein 19
Carbohydrates 82
Inflammation Factor 1141

I guess in the old days, the people of the world did not have the luxury of picking and choosing what they were going to eat and just ate whatever was available to survive. To compensate for what might be the ill effects of refined flour and white rice, they just added spices and balance to the meals and got on with their lives. In many of these cultures, people live longer than Americans despite drinking too much wine and eating refined grains and starches so, I guess spices could be important.

In my mind, the jury on anti-inflammatory foods is still out but I intend to monitor what I naturally eat for the next year and make my decision after I go through a winter where my level of aches and pains traditionally increases.

Grilled Spicy Fish and Grilled Bok Choy

June 15, 2012

Grilled Spicy Fish and Bok Choy

Seems my daughter called a few weeks ago with a recipe for Tandoori Salmon which she got from a magazine called Cooking Light which promised a whole bunch of recipes involving 5 ingredients and 15 minutes. This is one of those slick magazines by the checkout counter in grocery stores published by the people at Coastal Living and Southern Living. The spice list was basic involving Ginger, Turmeric and Cumin.

I laughed and told my daughter I was starting to like and become a fairly decent Indian cook and was sure I had never cooked Tandoori because I didn’t have all the spices and this was so basic that it probably bore no resemblance to real Tandoori. She said she was OK with that because there were limits to what her daughters would eat. I checked Tandoori and I was correct, I didn’t have the spices on hand to cook that style but I could bring this basic recipe up a notch with spices traditionally used in Tandoori cooking. As a matter of fact, these spices are fairly traditional in all Asian Cooking. I used the rub with tilapia which is a fairly bland fish but could see it working with much stronger fishes like tuna.

My Spicy Fish Rub

Ingredients

1 oz ginger grated about 2 Tablespoons
1 T crushed garlic
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp garam masala
2 T Lemon Juice

Method:

1. The Ginger was grated and the spices and lemon juice mixed in a bowl.

Coated Bottom of Fish and Spice Mix

2. The spice mix was coated on one side of the fish.

Fish on Duck Rack with Both Sides Coated

3. The fish was placed on a duck rack for Grilling with the spicy side down. I use the duck rack because I don’t have to flip the fish or move it until it is over a platter. This prevents fish in the coals.

4. The spice mix was coated on the other side.

The Grill is set up for Bok Choy (top) and the Fish (bottom)

5. The grill is set up with areas to grill the Bok Choy and grill the fish.

Grilled Bok Choy

Grilling Bok Choy is simple and another nice and easy way to eat it. The Bok Choy is cut in half in the long direction, placed in a bowl and drizzled and tossed with Olive Oil.

The fish is placed on the grill and cooked for about 10 minutes. The Bok Choy is tossed on the vegetable area (top of grill picture) and cooked covered. Every couple of minutes toss it like stir frying. When done remove from grill and serve.

Coffeepot Meatloaf!

June 7, 2012

Turkey Meatloaf and Coleslaw

I love meatloaf. It is one of the all-time great comfort food and every family makes it good and every institutions gets it wrong. I made meatloaf, my wife made meatloaf, my mother-in-law made meatloaf and my mother made meatloaf. It was all different and all good. When I was still eating a lot of beef and pork, I kept ground pork and ground beef around because the mixture makes a pleasant meatloaf. I tried making meatloaf in my coffeepot several times and was not satisfied with the results. It was either messy, stuck to the mold or just didn’t work out correctly. It seems you are never too old to learn from your children and this meal was made possible by learning from both my son and my daughter.

While visiting my son, He and my Granddaughter were making cupcakes and I was just amazed to see how well Silicon Cupcake molds worked. You use them as standalone molds on top of a cookie pan and the cupcakes cook and nothing sticks to the mold. I just knew that they would be perfect for coffeepot meatloaf and I got some. After cooking each mold holds a 4 ounce piece of meat loaf so this meal is for two portions. I must admit I ate two of them for dinner because it came out so well and snacked on the third. Oh well!

None of my previous recipes came out particularly well as they are all too moist and there is no way to cook off the extra moisture in a coffeepot. For this success, I turned to my daughter who is an excellent cook and for more traditional cooking methods, you might want to visit Dinner By Dagny. The key to my success was her recipe for turkey burgers which I adapted into turkey meatloaf. She is a big fan of ground turkey and there are two secretes to her success. First, purchase quality ground turkey not the cheapest house brand and also start with a good recipe.

Turkey Meatloaf

Ingredients:

Meatloaf:

1/2 pound ground turkey
1 egg
1/2 T crushed garlic
1 handful of fresh Herbs (I used basil and parsley and minced the blend))
1/2 tsp Adobo or other seasoned salt
1/2 tsp cracked pepper (I put peppercorns in a mortar and pestle and cracked them)
1 Tomato diced
1/3 cup breadcrumbs (I grated the amount off a piece of frozen whole wheat bread)

4 oz tomato sauce to cover the meat. (I used leftover sauce)

Method:

Add all the ingredients to a bowl except the sauce.

1. Add all the ingredients to a bowl except the sauce.

Mix all the ingredients together and stuff the cupcake molds.

2. Mix all the ingredients together and stuff the cupcake molds.

Place carefully in the coffeepot and cover with sauce.

3. Place carefully in the coffeepot and cover with sauce.

Cook covered with foil for over 4-8 hours.

4. Cook covered with foil for over 4-8 hours.

5. Take out of the molds and serve.

This was excellent meatloaf and a double success. The turkey meatloaf was excellent and the molds did their job.

Thank You Andy and Dagny!

Fish is Brain Food – Fact or Fiction??

May 19, 2012


Salt Fish Marinara (Baccala alla Marinara)

My mother always said fish was brain food and ate a lot of fish. She snacked on sardines and tuna and loved any fish we caught and cooked it for herself if no one else wanted fish. She died at the age of 93 with her brain still functioning and her wit and wisdom intact. I eat a lot of Fish because I like it.

When I first started my lifestyle change, I went to a nutritionist who also supported the consumption of large amounts of fish and the use of a fish oil supplement for improved cardiovascular health and this was definitely not a problem for me. Now that I have been living my new life style for two and a half years I am satisfied with my weight and excercise program so I have started to focus on what I eat. Unfortunately, fish has a tendency to concentrate the highly toxic environmental pollutant methyl mercury. Methyl Mercury is so toxic that a few drops on the outside of a scientist’s protective rubber glove which was cleaned and disposed of instantly still caused death within five days by skin adsorption.

Around 2000, the FDA and EPA put out a joint advisory that women who wanted to get pregnant, were pregnant or lactating should stop eating fish. Many did and the results proved my mom knew what she was talking about. Seems that scientist found a benifit for children of women who ignored the warning and continued to consume ocean fish. Their children had advanced cognitive and motor skill development compared to the children of women who skipped fish in the diet. Moreover, resent research reports from the University of California at Berkley document that eating fish can play a positive role in mental health. Some interesting preliminary studies suggest that fish oil, usually in the form of supplements because they are easy to use in research, may be of some help in treating bipolar disorder (also known as manic depression) and schizophrenia.

I never stopped eating fish as the probability of me being pregnant or lactating is remote and at least two (anchovies and tilapia) of the four fish that I regularly eat are low in mercury. I am not too worried about the high mercury level in ahi tuna as I can’t afford to eat it very often. The other fish I love has been worshiped in a bawdy calypso song by the Mighty Sparrow.

Saltfish,
Nothing in the world sweeter than
Saltfish
English, colloquial, Bajans
Saltfish,
It’s sweeter than meat
When you want to eat
All saltfish sweet

If you look up the health benefits of saltfish, people who are not familiar with cooking or eating this fish condemn it for it’s high salt content. If you check Mediterranean or Caribbean Recipes, you find the salt is extracted from the meat over 24 hours with multiple water washes and you sometimes have to add flavor to the pot because all the salt has been removed.

The meal pictured above was actually closer to my Perfect Puttanesca because after washing the saltfish, it had very little flavor. You don’t lose the protein or oil by soaking the fish just the salt. Since I was just starting the meal, I used the following ingredients to build more flavor.

Ingredients:

Tablespoon extra virgin Olive oil
2-3 cloves of garlic minced
1 large yellow onion -diced
Thin slice scotch bonnet hot pepper or crushed red pepper to taste
3-4 thin pieces of anchovies the size you get on pizza -diced
1 sprig basil with leaves
1 fresh bay leaf
T capers
Can of diced tomatoes.
4 to 6 ounces of well washed saltfish

Method:

1. The oil, garlic, onion, anchovies pepper, bay and basil are placed together in the coffee pot and and sautéed for about two hours
2. The capers are added to the pot along with the can of tomatoes. Stir and let cook 2-4 hours
3. About 1 hour before dinner, add the saltfish.
Serve with Pasta

A final thought is that all saltfish is not created equal. The three main variety of fish are Ling, Cod and Alaskan Pollock. Ling and Cod have high mercury levels so Alaskan Pollock is the preferred choice. Even at that, the recommended amount of Ling and Cod is no more than 12 ounces of fish per week I eat 4 to 6 ounces of saltfish about once a month so I guess it really wouldn’t matter which one I chose. Given that they are all available and all about the same price, I guess I’ll stick with Alaskan Pollock.

Vegan Black Beans and Tomatoes with Brown Rice

May 9, 2012

Vegan Black Beans and Tomatoes with Brown Rice

I simply like black beans and complex flavors and this meal just popped into my head. I have eaten similar meals with barley made with chicken stock but this time I had a cup of cooked brown rice made with no flavoring or salt so it could easily be accompanied by strong flavors. Since it was a vegan start and I hadn’t defrosted any meat, I decided to stick with the genera.

The starting point was the red beans and brown rice which I had done a while back. In that recipe, I had started with uncooked rice and used vegetable broth instead of water and cooked it all day. I also used less spices. This time I only had about 5 hours which is enough for canned beans and cooked rice. Well the meal was full flavored and complex, I loved it but only ate about half of the cooked beans and tomatoes. The rice was 200 calories and the rest of the pot was less than 800 so I only had about 600 calories and was very comfortable. Even if I had eaten all, it would have ended up at less than a 1000 calories for dinner.

Vegan Black Beans and Tomatoes with Brown Rice

Ingredients:

1-2 T of olive oil
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 T minced garlic
1 T thin sliced ginger
1 medium onion rough cut
1 thin slice scotch bonnet hot pepper
1/2 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp oregano
1 package Sazon (optional)

1 can Black Beans
1 can diced Tomatoes

1 cup cooked brown rice or barley

Method:

1. Put all ingredients in the coffeepot and cook covered with a piece of foil for about 2 hours.

2. Add the Beans and tomatoes and all of the liquid to the pot.

3. Stir and let cook for another 2 hours.

4. Microwave cooked rice for 3 minutes.

5. Serve and Enjoy!!!

The most amazing epiphany I had with this meal is that 600 calories would really satisfy me. When I started my lifestyle change, I used to consume as much as 5000 to 6000 calories a day. including food and beverages and couldn’t concieve of a meal without meat.

Without thinking about it yesterday, I ate 1/2 coconut which has 700 calories, small amounts of celery probably less than 100 calories including dip, dinner 600 calories and wine 1000 calories or 2400 calories. I also walked 3 miles and worked in my yard for a few hours. Pretty much, I act like this everyday and I have lost all the weight I recently gained on vacations (about 10 pounds). I am now at 172 pounds with a 37 inch waste. That is down from 265 pounds with a 56 inch waist at my peak and 245 pounds with a 47 inch waist at the the start of my commitment to a lifestyle change.

Imagine that meatless days by choice and no perceived sacrifice. Amazing!!!

Grilled Pesto Stuffed Chicken Thighs

May 6, 2012

Grilled Pesto Stuffed Chicken ThighsIn St. Croix, the growing season is in the winter. It is cool for growing and there is usually ample rain. Not everything grows everywhere with all of the different soils and rain fall ranges on the islands. Still, you can get bumper crops of some vegetables. I have an abundance of Arugula, Bok Choy and Collard Greens. Like most gardeners, I have been giving excesses away, cooking new recipes for friends and just trying my best not to let anything go to waste.

On a calorie per calorie basis, arugula is not quite as healthy as spinach or even bok choy. However, it is a spicy green that adds a lot of flavor to a salad and is still fairly healthy for you with lots of vitamins and minerals. The biggest reason I cook it other than I like the taste, is with my combination of soil, water and sun it is growing like a weed in my yard. I was therefor fortunate to find a recipe for a small batch of arugula (also called rocket) pesto at Frugal Feeding

I have made and cooked with pesto before so I didn’t need a recipe. What I found useful was the suggestion to use arugula instead of basil and one of his commenters suggested almonds instead of pine nuts. Since arugula is abundant and I like almonds better than pine nuts, I jumped at the idea.

Arugula (Rocket) Pesto

Ingredients:

2 cups fresh arugula leaves, packed
1/2 cup Parmesan or Romano cheese
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2.6 ounce package of shredded almonds
1 T minced garlic (3 cloves)
1 T lemon juice
¼ tsp ground black pepper to taste
salt as desired

Method:

  1. Put everything except the oil and cheese into the blender or food processor and pulse it a few times.
  2. Slowly add the olive oil a little at a time while contuing to pulse the blender. When stopped, scrape down the walls and force the arugula into the blend.
  3. When uniform, add the grated cheese and pulse again until blended.
  4. Taste and add salt as needed.

This batch was quite good and I gave some to a friend who gave me some pine nuts that she had intended to use to make her own pesto. Since I also have an abundance of Basil, I will probably make a batch of that in the near future to see if I have a strong preference either way.

Grilled Stuffed Chicken Thighs

When I grill, I usually prepare a baked sweet or Irish potato so I don’t have a mess to clean in the kitchen. The chicken is prepared and in this case, I skinned, deboned and defatted the meat. Since I didn’t add any salt to the pesto I washed the chicken in lime an sprinkled it with Adobo which is a Puerto Rican Seasoned Salt. Sometimes when you stuff the thighs, they will cooked closed and sometimes they open up. They are all good and if I really cared, I would hold them in place with a toothpick.

Even Better Bok Choy

April 24, 2012

Good, better, best.
Never let it rest.
Until your good is better
and your better is best.

Cooked Bok Choy

With all the Bok Choy in my garden, I had to keep searching for a low sodium way to prepare it or else keep giving it away. I found this recipe over at allrecipes.com and there are a few differences other than it calls for no salt at all. With a cooking time of 15 minutes, it is a lot longer than any of the other stir fry recipes I had seen. It also includes capers, vinegar and lemon juice to essentially give this bland vegetable some more flavor beyond the ginger and garlic. Well of course I wasn’t going to buy red wine vinegar just to test the recipe and with a lime tree outside my kitchen door, I thought it senseless to buy a lemon when I use lime for every recipe that calls for lemon and like the taste. So with these very minor changes, the Bok Choi turned out excellent and I will be eating more of it and testing other low sodium recipes with a little longer cooking time.

Ingredients:

6 big leaves bok choy
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup water
1 T capers
1 T minced garlic
1 T minced fresh ginger root
1 T balsamic vinegar
1 dash fresh lime juice, or to taste

Method:

1. Remove the leaves from the stems of the bok choy. Cut the stems into bite-sized chunks and shred the leaves.

2. Heat the olive oil in large skillet over medium heat and add the stems to the pan

3. Cook the bok choy stems in the oil until slightly tender, about 3 minutes.

4. Add the water and chopped leaves and cook until the water is gone or about 10 more minutes.

5. Stir in the capers, garlic, and ginger and cook 1 minute more.

6. Sprinkle the vinegar and lime juice over the bok choy and remove from heat;

7. Serve immediately.

I used this as a substitute for my mid day salad and am planning a smoked turkey and Bok Choy dinner now that I find I prefer the taste of well cooked bok choy.

Pollo en Escabeche – A Zesty Chicken Dinner

April 23, 2012

Pollo en Escabeche - A Zesty Chicken Dinner

In my last post on Pollo en Escabeche, I mentioned a Goya recipe that looked attractive and for the most part, I followed their recipe with only a few minor changes. What attracted my attention was that their meal was definitely served as a dinner and not just an appetizer. Well I just had to give it a try to see how their presentation compared to mine.

Ingredients:

1 chicken breast, skinned and deboned.
1 packets Sazón GOYA con Azafrán
1/2 cups Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 medium onions, thinly sliced and separated into rings
2 carrots, coined
2 T crushed garlic
1/2 tsp. Paprika
1 bay leaves
½ tsp thyme
3 whole cloves
1 thin slice scotch bonnet pepper
1 T Spanish olives
1 oz dark rum
2 oz Lime or Lemon Juice
2 oz Balsamic Vinegar

Method:

  1. Wash chicken with lime and sprinkle evenly with Sazón.
  2. Add oil to the coffeepot and add all ingredients except rum, vinegar and chicken.
  3. Cook about 1 hour until onions are glazed add rum and chicken. Cook covered until done. Minimum of 2 hours but can be up to 8 hrs.
  4. Add vinegar, stir and serve.
  5. I served the chicken hot with brown rice and used the oil blend as gravy for the rice.

Actually, I think I like this better than the appetizer Pollo en Escabeche that I previously published. Even though it used the same ingredients, it just looks more like a dinner.


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