Saturday, November 8, 2014

Lazy Paella

How much do you love the 70s/80s? Remember how we were supposed to Have It All? As a little girl, I very clearly knew I was going to have a Career and work in an Office and have fabulous Work Outfits, but also come home from said Career and Cook Fabulous Meals and maybe also Be an Opera Singer or Photographer or something Amazing, you know, in my Spare Time. Perhaps you saw the same commercial for Enjoli? Perhaps you, like me, are still trying to figure out how to make it all work… or at the very least, how to use hot rollers…

 Anyhow, in my quest for self-actualization (aka dinner), I pulled out my copy of the brilliant 1974 lifestyle guide / cookbook that is Better Homes and Gardens “After Work Cookbook”  and found this tasty-looking dish in the “make-ahead main dishes” section. I’d never made paella, and in fact I thought it was the kind of thing you would have to actually Be from Spain to make, and that it would take Hours… but what REALLY attracted me was the Dansk casserole in the picture. Like, Ohmygod, I said (because the 80s were eclipsing the 70s at that moment), my MOM has that dish! I can make this!

Oh no, conflicted – the Dansk casserole dish was WAY too big – come on, I’m only feeding two people here! Fortunately, I had another Dansk vessel to substitute: my Kobenstyle paella pan. Saved!

 As I assembled the dish one night after dinner (to heat and eat the following, as instructed), I told my daughter about eating paella in Spain and how terrified I was of all the tiny, beautiful sea creatures that dotted the massive bowl of saffron rice, and how I picked around them, eating only the rice and carrot pieces because I didn’t know how to get into any of the shells, and because octopi are Just Too Chewy. (See, vegetarians, this is what you are doing to your children – turning them into socially awkward eaters who can’t get the hang of seafood till they turn 30!) My daughter said not to put in any shrimp or she wouldn’t try it. Also, canned mushrooms? Gross. I used fresh, and lightly sautéed them in butter. Because butter always wins.

The other thing is, I just used what they now market as “chicken tenders” because I’m still not an expert at breaking down chickens. And because I was trying to use less fat, I steamed the chicken bits. Tasty, but I cannot claim they are attractive in any way. I see now that I should have perhaps gone heavier with the paprika for color. Forgive the food styling, or lack thereof, which just proves that you can’t actually have it all. Rats.

Yes I used onion soup mix, but I can't deal with canned mushrooms. I know, I know!

Steamed chicken: tastes great, not sexy at all. Sad face.

I used onion soup mix, because the recipe told me to be "Lazy" and do that, but if I were to make this again, I’d use garlic and onions, like real ones, and maybe some oregano. Oh and what the heck is saffron rice? Since I’d never heard of it, I dumped in a teeny bit of real saffron because I hear that’s how they make it in Spain (where they also often use Land Snails, but that’s another story entirely!).

So I enjoyed finally using my paella platter, but I can’t say this was the Best Thing Ever. I do think it needed the shrimp, and they need to be spicy. I’m thinking about variations, and about the Dansk casserole and what to make in that one. Oh, and I’m still singing the Enjoli commercial because some myths just simply refuse to die. 

1 3-pound ready-to-cook broiler-fryer chicken, cut-up
2 Tbsp. cooking oil
1 ½ cups chicken broth
8 ounces shelled shrimp
1-8 ½ ounce can peas, drained
1 6-ounce package saffron rice mix
1 3-ounce can sliced mushrooms, drained
½ envelope onion soup mix (1/4 cup)

Advance preparation: brown chicken in oil. Season with salt and pepper. Mix remaining ingredients; spread in 3-quart casserole. Top with chicken. Sprinkle with paprika, if desired. Cover; chill ip to 24 hours.

Before serving: Bake, covered, at 350 degrees about 1 ¼ hours. Makes 4 servings.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Banana Whip

Inspired by the Art Deco Society of California’s annual amazing time-travel picnic the Gatsby Summer Afternoon, I decided to research 20s recipes because I usually make things that are much newer - in the realm of my own experience or just before it, for the most part. But how different could it be? I sought out my 1927 “Piggly Wiggly Cookbook” (from the popular grocery chain of the same name, which dates back to 1916), to find out.

WELL! Things were different. First of all, the “name brand” ingredients are totally baffling to me, and they are often listed out by name only, with no further explanation. I had to research most of them to see if I could even concoct the majority of the creations. What was Snowdrift? What was Fluffo? (both are shortenings, it turns out.) Next, cuts of meat were not familiar to me either, and all vegetables were presented canned. (All hail the new technology of canned foods, right?) Then many of the titles confused me. What is a Junket? Hmmmm. Basically, nothing appealed till I found a somewhat simple chilled dessert made with bananas and pistachio nuts. Hey, that almost sounds like a new foodie pairing, doesn’t it? I can just see the next artisan doughnut: banana batter with pistachios and bacon bits…

Ingredients - shelf-stable whipping cream is NOT recommended BTW

Anyhow, seems like when you cook anything from the 20s, the first step is to get out the double boiler. CRASH! (Sorry, neighbors!) I suppose if it were a recipe from the 80s, you would microwave it, but just YUCK . So you heat up the bananas and sugar and lemon juice and then it gets flavored, mixed with whipped cream, served in cute little glasses and topped with chopped pistachio nuts.

On a hot afternoon I prepared this for after dinner and it was surprisingly tasty – I would even make it again! I don’t think you need to line the glasses with sliced banana – I did, but it was more than necessary. Try it – you’ll like it so much you might even find yourself breaking into The Charleston….

Banana Whip

3 Bananas
1 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup sugar
Few finely chopped pistachio nuts
Pinch of Leslie’s salt
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
Folger’s vanilla

·         Cooked mashed banana pulp in a double boiler with sugar and lemon juice until scalded. Add a few drops of vanilla and a pinch of salt and cool.

·         Whip cream until firm, and gradually beat in banana mixture. Set mixture aside to chill.

·         Pile high in sherbet glasses with a sprinkling of finely chopped pistachio nuts on top. If you wish, line the glasses with slices of banana before filling. This serves eight people. 

Heat the bananas in a double boiler

Chop the pistachio nuts


Friday, September 5, 2014

Apple Chutney

fresh apples plus pantry staples is all you need!

I have made chutney before, (apricot – see it here) and loved it, but never – I repeat NEVER – as good as this! If you like chutney, make this immediately. You will either DIE or THANK ME or both! You can also thank the goddess Mollie Katzen who wrote the hippie bible, The MoosewoodCookbook, in 1977.

It also helps if you have lots of tart apples from your best friend’s tree (thank you Misty!) because there is nothing like local produce. I thought of applesauce, but why not take it one step further and have this super yummy condiment for your sharp cheddar sandwiches or to top your pork chops! And it can’t get any easier, you don’t even have to peel the apples. Get picking and stewing!

it helps to have a helper to grate the ginger

Chop - don't peel! EASY

Stew: throw ingredients in a pot, apply heat and get YUM!

Chutney makes a perfect topper for pork chops. (Fresh corn on the cob doesn't hurt either.) OR try it on a sandwich with salami and cheddar cheese! YUMMMM!!!

1 1/2 pounds apples (you can use a combo of peaches, pears - any stone fruit)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 Tbsp grated ginger root
1/2 cup orange juice
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp salt
1 cup honey (to taste)
1 cup cider vinegar
cayenne to taste

1. Coarsely chop the apples. (You needn't peel them) ** YAY!
2. Combine everything in a heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer.
3. Simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, 45 min to 1 hour. Cool before storing in a jar.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Tuna Casserole Makeover

I love tuna casserole – I mean, is it even possible to have grown up in the 70s and not love tuna casserole? I can’t remember if this is something my mother ever made, but I know I had it at friends’ houses and it was always a favorite. I’ve been making it for years using the recipe from the back of a package of egg noodles and it’s always yummy. But… what if you don’t want a can of soup? What if you want to reduce the fat in the dish? I know, radical moves, man… but it can be done!

First, no canned soup. Toss the tuna with lemon and some olive oil for brightness, and then make a heavenly cheese sauce in place of the soup. You will be so happy, you’ll never go back to The Old Ways. Oh all right, we’ll keep the frozen peas. Frozen vegetables retain more of their vitamins than canned and don’t contain preservatives, so they get a pass. (Gotta keep the mid-century feel somehow.)

Noodles play a big part in many casseroles, especially this one. Heck, some versions are called Tuna Noodle Casserole, so you see they’re not messing around. You can use traditional egg noodles, but I like whole wheat pasta and I like to vary the shape, from spirals to penne to shells. Go crazy… it’s like the art you made in kindergarten with pasta and glue, only you eat it. (You didn’t eat the glue, did you? Oopos sorry.
sautee the onions first...

Finally, you can make this with canned salmon if that’s what floats your boat, and I must say that is a mighty tasty version.  I might consider adding chopped scallions or chives next time. Who knew tuna casserole was going to turn out to be such a blank canvas! Whip some up for dinner today and let me know how you like it.

12 oz noodles
Salt and pepper
3 (5 oz each) cans tuna (in water) drained thoroughly
4 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp lemon juice
½ onion, chopped fine
1 ½ cups low sodium chicken broth
1 cup ½ and ½
6 oz shredded cheese
1 cup frozen peas
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
2 Tbsp butter

1.     Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Bring 4 quarts water to boil on stove top in Dutch oven. Add noodles and 1 tsp salt and cook, stirring often, until al dente. Drain pasta and set aside.
2.       Combine tuna, 2 tsp oil, lemon juice ¼ tsp salt and ¼ tsp pepper in a medium bowl and flake tuna into chunks with a fork; let sit for 10 min.
3.       In now-empty pot, heat 1 tsp oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add onion and cook till translucent, 6-8 min. whisk in broth and ½ and ½ and bring to a simmer for 2 min. Remove from heat and whisk in shredded cheese, a handful at a time, till melted. Stir in cooked noodles, tuna mixture, peas and ½ tsp salt and ½ tsp pepper (to taste).

4.       Transfer mixture to casserole or baking dish. Toast panko breadcrumbs in small pan with melted butter and sprinkle on top of casserole. Bake until sauce is bubbling around edges, 12 to 14 min. Let cool slightly before serving. 

toasting breadcrumbs with butter to top it

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Carrot Muffins

Yes, I have made carrot muffins before (with a recipe for carrot cake, see it here) and those were YUMMY but these are… I don’t know, different? Take my word for it, you want to make these. AND you can eat more because they are even better for you than my previous version. ½ whole wheat flour! Just over 200 cal each! Your whole house will smell amazing, and when they are hot just out of the oven, there is NOTHING like them. What are you waiting for? Try these NOW!!!

I saw a version in the new Sunset Magazine (yes, I do read it as well as collect the old books!) for “Miracle Carrot Muffins” and it reminded me of an old recipe from 1960’s “The Sunset Cookbook” in particular because I wanted to make healthy carrot muffins, but I hate raisins. I recalled a yummy recipe for Prune Bread, but… well, we’re not always in the mood for prunes, I get it. Instead, dried cherries. And while they sound great with cream cheese and orange zest, you seriously do not even need that. Seriously.
This prune bread is really good, but these muffins are perhaps more "accessible"

The technique is the same: soften the dried fruit in hot water, but this new version is easier and (shocking) you don’t even need a mixer. Got totally off the grid, man!

Grating carrots smells SO GOOD! but... use a food processor, duh!

No mixer, just "whisk" the flours. OK.... 

Softening the dried fruit while melting the butter - this smells HEAVENLY and very fall-like. Who needs scented candles???

Going into the oven...

1 1/3 cups sugar
¼ cup butter (in you want to make these vegan, use margarine)
1 ¼ cups shredded carrots (food processor, hello!)
1 cup dried cherries (or raisins, eww)
1 tsp. each salt, cinnamon, and ground allspice
¼ tsp. ground cloves
1 cup each all-purpose and whole wheat flour
1 tsp. each baking powder and baking soda
4 oz cream cheese
1 Tbsp. orange zest

1.       Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Put sugar, butter, carrots, raisins, salt spices and 1 1/3 cups water in a medium saucepan. Heat over high heat, stirring occasionally, just until mixture comes to a boil.
2.       Whisk flours, baking powder and baking soda together in a medium bowl. Pour in warm carrot mixture. Stir to combine, but do not overmix.
3.       Spoon mixture into greased muffin cups.
4.       Bake until browned and a toothpick comes out clean, about 15 min. Let cool on a rack.

15 min later = YUM!

5.       Blend cream cheese with zest and serve with muffins (optional)

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Grasshopper Pie x 2

Summer – it just screams pie, right? The call is too loud to disregard, clean eating efforts be damned. My excuse is, when I make a pie and take it somewhere, at least it won’t be in the house so that I am tempted to eat the whole thing. Plus, the purchasing of bizarre, mystery liqueurs to make a dessert is half the fun! Take it to a party and make other people eat it! Yeah, that’s the ticket…

There are many versions of Grasshopper Pie (including one made with ice cream which I did not try), but I naturally gravitated first to one made with Jell-O, my eternal love – that most versatile of sugary powders. I will share it with you, but I warn you – it’s not the best. It is entirely too sweet, and It has to be mixed with Cool Whip, for heaven’s sake. Yuck! Why did I think *that* would taste good? Cool Whip – something I had only heard about until I began recreating vintage recipes for this blog, something I didn’t even know where to find in the grocery store. (Tip: you find it in the freezer section. And it’s strangely weightless. And tastes of chemicals.) Still, this is the first version of the pie that I made, so here is the recipe, from 1988’s “Jell-O: Fun and Fabulous Recipes”. Yeah, some are more fabulous than others…

Looked great, but too sweet. Plus, shame on me for not making my own pie crust!

Next, I turned to a more trustworthy source, my Betty Crocker Cookbook from 1969. Thank you Betty for relying on the old stand-by, melted marshmallows, to create the filling in the pie! And remarkably, other than the marshmallows, Oreos and food coloring, this version of grasshopper pie is made with actual real ingredients – things I know! That are not highly processed! I had a good feeling about this.

First: the crushing of the Oreo cookies to make the crust. Yes, you could use chocolate wafers but I was making this pie for a party at my Dad’s, and the local store didn’t have the right kind. So, crush up Oreos (Fun! Place them in a plastic bag and go to town with a meat tenderizer! BANG!), then mix with ¼ cup melted butter, form in the pie dish and bake for 20 min, then chill.

The only thing tricky about this pie is that there are several steps and each one requires
chilling before and/or after. It doesn’t take long to put together, but the overall time will be a few hours  because of chill time. So plan to, you know, chill, between steps.

I succumbed to lure of green food coloring, essentially because it is an amusing novelty to prepare food that is green, but honestly you don’t need it – the crème de menthe provides a green tint. And speaking of food that is green, after these two pies, my next experiment was with another green pie, featuring a secret ingredient that provided the color and consistency: avocado! However, that is a story for another time. Spoiler: it is NOT something I will be making again. I’m kind of thinking of going back to fruit pies…

"The Best"? DON'T BELIEVE THE HYPE. This is a lie. Sorry...

Monday, July 14, 2014

The Real Mod Cleanse aka 3 Day Refresh

I have had trouble with portion control for a long time, and also had been traveling and eating all the wrong things over the 4th of July holiday, so I decided to do the 3 Day Refresh from the makers of Shakeology.

3 Day Refresh Kit

Here is the kit with my shaker bottle. If you don't already use Shakeology, you can get a Complete Kit that also has a 3 day supply of your breakfast shake.

 Day 1 I was sad to have my Shakeology with water, because I normally blend it with fruit and coconut water or almond milk, but I did put ½ a banana with the Greenberry flavor and it was fine. When I got to work I had green tea which was, well, hot. I don’t love green tea (Ice cream? Yes) but I am used to drinking tea in the morning, so this was similar at least, and gave me something to do. It was a bummer that of all days THIS was the day I had to review catering menus for an upcoming event, but it was a good test of my willpower. (USUALLY I have very little willpower when it comes to food, hence the cleanse!) Anyhow, before I knew it, it was time for Fiber Sweep which *HOLY MOLY* tasted to me like a Botan Rice Candy! It was very thick but not bad, in a vaguely sweet and citrus-y way. Fiber? I’d rather not over think it. Downed it and moved on.

3 Day Lunch

Here is the lunch I packed for Day 1
For lunch, I had carrots and 2 Tbsp hummus (NEVER have I been so thrilled to eat humus!) and some grapes and the first Vanilla Fresh shake. The grapes tasted so very sweet and I loved them – good thing, because though the shake was not BAD, I didn’t love it. Again, I just downed it and felt full, which was the idea. My co-workers were having tacos (cruel) but I managed not to even eat one chip! The rest of the day, I watched the clock to make sure I was having my next tea and snack (cherry tomatoes) each hour – if I went much longer than that, I felt cranky. I nearly caved in the afternoon when I always drink coffee, especially since someone had just made a pot, but I stayed strong and was proud and surprised! On the drive home I was feeling really hungry and thought about the Cliff bar that was in my gym bag, but remarkably, I didn’t eat it, though as I prepared the salad for my dinner which was meant to be topped with sunflower seeds, I have to admit I just ate them right away because I had gone too long between meals and was feeling shaky. Then I had another Vanilla Fresh (downed it in 3 seconds flat) and the Spinach Salad recipe and veggie broth and I felt really full and happy but also very tired. Full disclosure: I was also gassy, which horrifies me and made me glad I live alone! I went to bed at 9pm on Day 1, after looking at cheese in the fridge and wanting it but deciding to dream of it instead of eating it.

3 Day Breakfast

 Here is a typical breakfast: water / shakeology / green tea

Day 2 I woke up at 5:30 and I felt great! I made sure to drink lots of water and then I did a PiYo (Pilates / Yoga) 30 min workout which I had no problem with – you can totally still exercise while on the 3 Day, just keep it mild. For breakfast I had chocolate Shakeology blended with pineapple (yum!) and water (booo) and to be honest I can’t say if it is the cleanse or the workout, but I got in the shower feeling 10 years younger! At work I was again very careful to space out each drink, shake or snack so that I was having something each hour. I had a meeting in the afternoon that went 2 hours, and towards the end I felt a big slump and wanted to sleep. As soon as I got out of the meeting, I had my snack of mushrooms, and that made me perk right up again. Somehow also the foods I picked today didn’t give me any gas, thank heavens! I made a point of going home on time so that I could have my 3rd shake of the day at 6pm and after, I felt good enough to go for a quick jog! Then at 7pm I had dinner (green beans) and broth. Went to bed at 10 feeling full and happy.

 3 Day Dinner

Here is dinner with the Lemony Green Beans, which I would totally make again!

3 Day Green Beans Recipe

Day 3 I felt hungry when I woke up but drank lots of water and then did my workout and felt great, plus I was happy to have my Greenberry Shakeology with pineapple this time. AND I’m not gonna lie, I also snuck in 1/3 cucumber in the blender, and it tasted SO much better. Did I just blow it entirely? I don’t think so. Again during the day I very carefully ate one item each hour, even splitting up the things I had for lunch over 3 hours just to avoid any spikes or slumps. Being busy at work helped keep me from thinking about food, but I also found I wasn’t all that into obsessing over it today. The REAL test came when, at 5pm, I met friends in a BAR! And (drumroll please…) I had a Calistoga with lemon!!! And I didn’t die! I didn’t cave, even walking to my car, through San Francisco’s North Beach which is full of amazing restaurants with delightful smells. The fact that I had made it that far made me keep on walking. Pride is a strong emotion, and it gave me willpower that day! Also, I was truly not starving. Though by now I was sick of the Vanilla Fresh shakes, I was glad to have one more that was ready in seconds when I got home. I downed that as I made the roasted asparagus dish for dinner, which was STUNNINGLY good and something I will totally make again as a side dish. I was full and very mellow, which is a strange state for me; usually I am 100% ON or 100% OFF, as in hyper or asleep. At the end of day 3 I felt relaxed and tired but not exhausted.

Day 3 Dinner Recipe: 

3 Day Asparagus Recipe

3 Day Empty Box
All done!


The morning after the 3 Day Refresh I had lost 2.5 pounds and felt calm and in good spirits. What surprised me was that I didn’t run right out and get tacos! I was actually mindful of what I put into my lunch for the day, and had a small dinner. I did go back to drinking tea, but that is more of a habit. I had no coffee and didn’t really miss it. A lovely benefit was that I was able to put on a ring that hadn’t fit me in the last few years! What I learned was the importance of spacing out food to avoid spikes, and to be mindful of portion sizes.

ONE WEEK LATER - I still feel good and have been eating smaller portions and not had as many cravings! The 3 Day Refresh really was an easy way to "re-set" my eating habits and also helped me to get back to being mindful of what I put into my body.