Saturday, December 26, 2009

Shrimp Cocktail

Usually we use shrimp size 36-40 (per pound), but the ones in this picture are some giant shrimp size 16-20 that we found on sale just before Christmas. Buy frozen, cooked shrimp and thaw them slightly. Squeeze the excess water out of them. They should still be quite cold, but not frozen.

Cocktail sauce - mix together:
1/4 c. catsup
1/4 t. Worchestershire sauce
1/8 t. dry mustard
1/2 t. lemon juice
2 t. horseradish

Grilled Ham and Cheese Sandwich

Michael makes everything special.

Ham and cheese sandwich. A slice or two of deli ham, a slice of Swiss cheese (or your favorite kind), whole wheat bread, grilled just like grilled cheese. (Butter/oleo on both pieces of bread, meat and cheese inside. Butter side down in pan until golden brown, flip, repeat on other side).

That mushroom soup is Campbell's except Michael adds a can of drained mushroom stems and pieces. Even more mushroomy! Yum! Don't forget some fresh veggie sides for a low cal filler.

Home canned tomatoes (pressure cooker)

This picture is from our last October batch, picked green just before the first hard frost, and ripened in plastic bags on the kitchen counter. The recipe is the same for all fresh picked tomatoes. Roma tomatoes are the best for canning because they have less water content.

Wash your canning jars well in hot water. Be sure you have enough lids on hand.

1/2 bushel Roma tomatoes yields about 27 pints.

Canning is a labor of love - seeing the results is a pleasure. Eating summer's sun-kissed harvest in the middle of the winter is a joy.

Assemble clean jars, lids, screw rings, clean dish towels, pressure cooker, canning tongs (to lift jars), colander, paring knife, medium size bowl, medium size pan, ice, salt, 1/2t. measuring spoon, butter knife, measuring cup.

Wash the tomatoes off under running water, place in colander. Boil water in medium size pan, 2/3 full. Put 4 c. of water in bottom of pressure cooker, and put the rack in (upside down). Fill medium bowl 2/3 full with water and ice to make ice water. Spread clean dish towels on the counter top.

Dip tomatoes into boiling water a few at a time, for 1 minute. Immediately put them in the ice water to loosen the skins. Peel the skins off, trim out any bad spots, cut in half, place into jar. Press the tomatoes together tightly in the jar so that juice forms, filling to within 1/2" of the top, and using the butter knife around the sides to remove air pockets. Carefully wipe the edge of the jar clean, add 1/2 t. salt to each jar. Put on lid and screw band, firmly, but not over tight.
Place 4 jars at a time into the pressure cooker, at 5 lbs pressure. Process for 10 minutes after the pressure regulator jiggles. Important: cool the pressure cooker for 10 minutes before you gently test the regulator to expel any remaining steam.

Carefully remove the jars with the canning tongs, being careful not to touch the rings or lids, and being careful to avoid burns. Place the jars immediately onto the clean dish towels to cool, with about 2" of space in between the jars. You will probably hear the "ping" of the jars as they seal. Let them cool a few hours and then check the seals. Any unsealed jars should be reprocessed (after cleaning the top edge and lid), or placed in the refrigerator to be used.

Baked Cod

Michael bakes this in a Emile Henry ceramic baker. Shown here with Kraft's mac & cheese (made lite), beets, salad.

12 oz frozen cod, thawed
1 carrot, sliced & halved
1 stalk celery, sliced and diced
1/2 medium onion, chopped
2 oz chicken broth
butter spray, cooking spray
salt & pepper

Spray the baking pan with cooking spray. Form a bed of the chopped vegetables in the baker. Add broth. Place thawed fish on the veggie bed. Spray with butter spray. Salt & pepper to taste. Bake at 400 degrees until fish flakes (15 to 20 minutes). Watch closely. Serve with veggies. Spoon broth onto fish and veggies.

Curried Turkey Burger with Pasta Gypsy

Shown here with Pasta Gypsy (see recipe Jan. 19, 2009 in this blog)

For 2 patties:

Mix together:
8oz ground turkey
1/2 tsp. to 1 tsp. curry powder
1/2 medium onion, chopped
1/2 tsp. salt

Shape into patties. Saute in 1 tsp. olive oil or canola oil, turn, cook until done.

Aunt Helen's Cottage Cheese "salad" (dessert)

I love this! Easy to make and even easier to eat.

Be sure to drain the pineapple, or it will not set up!

In a medium bowl, stir together:
1 small carton cottage cheese
1 small box lime jello (or any other color)
1 small carton Cool Whip lite
1 small can crushed pineapple, well drained

Refrigerate for a few hours to let it set up. Eat!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Trail mix for healthy people

This is a simple mix of items we buy at Trader Joe's:

1 c raw almonds, whole
1 c broken cashews, roasted and unsalted
1 c Thompson raisins
1/2 c raw Pepitas
1/2 c sunflower seeds, roasted and unsalted

Delicious! Healthy stuff if you're careful how much you eat!

Friday, March 13, 2009


After a few meals at the fabulous Ruby Tuesday salad bar, we decided to make fancier salads at home.  The trick is to watch the amounts of the higher calorie items and dressings that go into your composition.

Greens:  We grow our own mixed lettuces in the spring and summer, but the rest of the year we puchase the bags of mixed baby greens.  You can also use leaf lettuce, romaine, spinach, or your favorite greens.  Remember, the deeper green colors have more good nutrition.  (We hate head lettuce -yuk!)

Other low calorie stuff - USE LOTS:  Tomatoes, cucumber slices, carrots, onion, shredded cabbage, salsa, cauliflower, broccoli, celery. 

Medium calorie stuff - USE SOME to make your salad interesting:  beets, grapes, craisins, dried apricot pieces, dried cherries, edamame beans (shown in picture*), kidney beans, chickpeas, peas, corn.

* Edamame beans are soy beans, can be purchased frozen in the pod.  You thaw them, use the beans, but throw away the pods.  Edamame is delicious!

Higher calorie stuff - WATCH THE AMOUNTS YOU USE: Hard boiled egg, cheese, Chinese rice noodles (from a can - for a touch of crispy), croutons, sunflower seeds, almond slices, pecans, walnuts, pignoli (pine nuts), olives, meats, salad dressings. 

Dressings: Our current favorite dressing is Kraft Light Raspberry Vinaigrette which shows 60 calories for 2 tablespoons.  Salsa is another wonderful alternative.  Read the labels on your dressings!  Sometimes you can cut the calorie count by mixing equally with low fat yogurt (like ranch dressing).  Whatever you choose, be careful, as you can really load up the calories with the wrong choice of dressing.

Restaurant Leftovers

Restaurant meals are often much higher calorie count than we should be eating.  One of our favorite local meals is this Angus burger with cheese, onions, and mushrooms, with a baked potato and a side of vegetables, and bread.  At the restaurant we eat 1/2 of the meat and potato, the bread, and all of the vegetables (if you have the restraint, you can also skip the bread!).  We bring the other 1/2 of the meat and potato home.  The next day, we add a salad and some steamed vegetables, and have another wonderful meal.  

Meatball Stew

This is a great recipe we have used for years.  To control calories, be sure to watch the calorie count of the meatballs you purchase.  We are currently using Casa Di Bertacchi Italian Style meatballs from Sam's (frozen).  They show 5 meatballs = 220 calories.  This is lower than some of the meatballs we used previously.  You can also make your own meatballs, but watch the calories.

Meatball Stew (serves 4)
20 Italian meatballs
15 oz can diced tomatoes
1 medium onion, chopped
10 oz potato, chopped
16 oz frozen peas and carrots (or mixed, or add a few lima beans)
15 oz can green beans
2 beef bullion cubes
1 t chili powder
4 c water (or use carrot water, see January 18.2009*)

Put all ingredients in a large pot excdept the green beans.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 20 minutes.  Add the green beans and simmer 5 more minutes.  Serve.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Seafood Paella

Seafood Paella (serves 2)
1 c cooked rice
8 oz bay scallops
4 oz cooked shrimp
1 can (15 oz)diced tomatoes, drained
6 oz peas & carrots (frozen)
1/2 onion, chopped
1 t turmeric
2 t olive oil, divided

Spray 2 frypans with cooking spray.  In pan 1, saute the onion in 1 t of the olive oil.  Add the cooked rice and the turmeric.  Stir.  In pan 2, saute the scallops in 1 t of oil about 2 minutes, add the shrimp and heat about 1 minute more.  Add the peas & carrots, and the tomatoes to the seafood pan, and cook until well heated.  Add the seafood mixture to the rice mixture, heat through.  Serve with chopped parsley.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Strata (egg casserole)

My favorite special breakfast.  This recipe was given to me by my friend Gail many years ago.  Michael adapted it to single servings with lower fat content.

Strata (Egg Casserole) (2 servings: 2 dishes)
2 slices whole wheat bread
2 eggs
2/3 c milk (1/2%)
2 slices deli ham, chopped
1/2 small onion, chopped
1 can mushroom pieces or slices (4 oz) (or 6 oz. fresh mushrooms, chopped and sauteed)
1/2 c shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 t dry mustard, optional

Spray 2 individual casserole dishes with cooking spray.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Beat eggs with the milk , pepper, and dry mustard.  Dividing the ingredients, put a slice of bread in the dish, add the onions, ham, mushrooms, cheese, top with egg mixture.  Bake 15 minutes, check it, continue in 5 minute increments until golden and firm.  This casserole will "fall" slightly after you remove it from the oven.  Serve it right in the dishes, but pad them because they are hot.

Monday, January 19, 2009

NOW STOP THAT! Eggplant Parmesan, Pasta Gypsy

NOW STOP THAT!  Don't you dare miss this meal because you think you don't like eggplant!  I thought I hated eggplant, and I definitely hated spinach the way it was served to me as a child (with vinegar - yuk!)  But the Italian cooking shows always rave about eggplant.  Then last summer I saw such a beautiful little eggplant at the store - all shiny purple and calling out "Buy me! Buy me!".  So I did.  I took it home and challenged Michael to find the correct way to cook it so it wouldn't be bitter.  Wow!  He does love a challenge!  What a success this is, and we'd had it several times since then.  Please give it a try!

Eggplant Parmesan (serves 4 large servings)
1 to 1-1/2 lb eggplant
1 egg
1 c matzo meal (or cracker crumbs or dried bread crumbs)
1/2 c total Parmesan, divided
1 can tomato sauce (15 oz), heated w 1/2 T Italian seasoning and 1/2 T dried basil
4 oz mozzarella cheese
1 T olive oil

To remove the bitterness, wash and slice the eggplant into 1/2" slices.  Salt the slices generously on both sides and lay them out in a colander.  Let it sit where it can drain for 30-60 minutes. Blot the salty brine off with a paper towel. Bye bye bitter!

Meanwhile beat the egg with 1 T water, pour it out onto a small plate.  Put the matzo meal and 1/4 c of the parmesan on another medium plate, mixed together.  Heat the tomato mix as listed in the ingredients. Spray a frypan and a 9x9" glass or ceramic baking dish with cooking spray. Preheat oven 350 degrees.  Once the eggplant is blotted, heat 1 t. olive oil in the frypan.  Dip each eggplant slice in the egg mix, the cheese/crumb mixture, put in the frypan in a single layer.  Cook until golden, flip, cook until golden on both sides.  As you continue these, start the finished eggplant slices in a layer in the 9x9" baking dish.  Top each layer with 2 T Parmesan cheese and half of the tomato sauce mix and half of the mozzarella .  Michael usually gets 2 layers.  Make sure you end with mozzarella on the top.  Bake about 30 minutes.

Pasta Gypsy (serves 2)
A note about the ingredients.  Michael modifies this a lot depending on what is available seasonally, or on sale, or on hand.  You can modify too.  I love it with artichokes, as it was served in a Philadelphia restaurant.  We've used cherry tomatoes, various pastas, various olives, fresh basil when available.  Don't miss out on the truffle infused oil, black or white, as it adds a wonderful flavor.  It's expensive, but you use so little a small bottle will last you a long time.

4 oz mostaccioli or penne pasta
3 portobello mini caps (mushrooms), chopped into bite size pieces
handful or 2 of fresh spinach (what we had left), washed
1 clove garlic, pressed in a garlic press (or minced)
1 T parmesan cheese
1 t olive oil
8 olives
1/2 t truffle infused oil*, divided
1/4 c carrot water (see previous entries) or broth
1/2 t dried basil

Cook pasta per package directions, drain.  Saute the mushrooms, garlic, and olive oil in a frypan that has been sprayed with cooking spray, sprinkle with salt.  Add the cooked pasta, carrot water, basil, and the parmesan cheese.  Add the spinach last and cook until just wilted and most or all of the water has evaporated.  Place on plate and top with olives and drizzle 1/4 t truffle oil on each serving.

*truffle oil: can be purchased in gourmet cooking stores.  We buy ours from Earthy Delights.

Fruit Smoothies

Michael whips up these smoothies in a Vitamix machine.  Can your blender handle frozen food?

Fruit Smoothies (makes 24 oz total)
6 oz frozen fruit (raspberries, strawberries, peaches, blueberries, your choice)
2 bananas, ripe, fresh or frozen*
1/2 c lowfat plain yogurt
1/2 t vanilla
4 packets NutraSweet (or other sweetener)
Ice cubes, crushed, about 1 cup?
Cold water, 1/2 cup?

Put first 6 ingredients into the Vitamix. Start with low speed, moving to high speed quickly (Vitamix Variable speed 1 to 10, then high). Use the plunger to jam the frozen bits down into the blades.  Then it is usually too thick, so start adding water through the lid until the whole mixture is smoothly swirling.  Blend another 30 seconds.  Pour into glasses.

*ripe bananas.  These should not be any more ripe than in this picture.  If you can't use them in time, peel the bananas, put them in a plastic bag, and freeze them for smoothies!

Scalloped potatoes (no fat added), steamed carrots

Today we had the leftover Hawaiian turkey patties from yesterday.  To reheat, spray frypan with cooking spray, start heating the patties, flip and add about 2 T water, cover and steam until water evaporates and patties are heated.  

Scalloped potatoes (no fat added) (serves 2)
2 potatoes, medium, sliced thin
1/2  small onion, sliced thin
1/2 c milk
1 T flour
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Spray small casserole dish with cooking spray.  Mix the milk and flour together.  Layer all ingredients into the dish, pour the milk mixture evenly over all.  Cover with foil and bake 30 minutes to desired doneness.

Steamed carrots (serves 2)
4 carrots

Peel the carrots and cut diagonally into slices.  Place in steamer basket inside pan.  Fill bottom of pan with water to bottom of steamer basket.  Cook on medium heat 9 to 10 minutes.  Spray just a little  with Parkay spray or I Can't Believe It's Not Butter Spray.  Salt to taste.  Save the carrot water to use as our secret ingredient* (see January 18).

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Hawaiian Turkey Burger, Baked "fries", Braised Cabbage

Hawaiian Turkey Burgers (4 servings)
1 lb ground turkey
3 T matzo meal (or bread or cracker crumbs)
1 small onion, chopped
1 egg
3 T soy sauce
1 T brown sugar
1/8 t ground ginger
1/8 t garlic powder

1/4 c chicken broth or water or carrot water*
4 pineapple slices

Mix the turkey, matzo meal, chopped onion, and egg together.  Make a Teriyaki sauce of the next 5 ingredients, and mix into the turkey mixture.  Divide into 4 patties.  Spray a frying pan with cooking spray, saute the patties over medium to low heat, turning until both sides are golden brown and cooked all the way through.  Grill the pineapple slices in a separate pan that has been sprayed with cooking spray, using a grill pan if you want the grill marks on the pineapple, using medium to high heat for a very short time.  Serve the pineapple slices on top of the turkey patties. (Note you will have 2 patties left for another meal if cooking for 2.)

*carrot water - this is our "secret ingredient".  After years of steaming carrots in a steamer pan and discarding the water afterwards, we decided to save the beautiful yellow "carrot water" and use it, along with its minerals, in other recipes.  Delicious, adds  a subtle sweet taste!

Baked "fries" (2 servings)
1 (5 or 6 oz) Yukon Gold or russet potato
1 1/2 t. olive oil
garlic powder to taste
salt to taste

Slice the potato 1/8" to 1/4" thick. Toss them with the olive oil, garlic powder, and salt.  Bake on cook stone or sprayed metal pan at 400 degrees for 10 minutes, turn, bake another 6 or 7 minutes.

Braised cabbage (2 servings) (the dieter's friend!)
1/4 head of cabbage, chopped into bite size pieces
1 beef bullion cube, soaked in 6 oz water
2 t soft oleo (we use Smart Balance)

Spray frying pay with cooking spray.  Heat the oleo until it melts.  Add the cabbage, saute 3 or 4 minutes on medium heat until it lightly browns in places.  Add the bullion cube with its water.  Cook uncovered until the cabbage wilts to the doneness you prefer (we like medium, not too hard, not mushy).

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Welcome to Michael's cooking!

My husband has been doing all of our cooking for several years now.  He is great at cooking healthy, tasty meals that fill you up and keep you satisfied, while being reasonably low on calories. Yes, we are fighting that ongoing battle.  Michael's meals smell so good and look so appealing, that I said what a shame others can't enjoy this.  So we have decided to share via this blog.  So, please join us and enjoy!

The calorie count we strive for is about 250 calories for breakfast, 450 calories for lunch, and 450 calories for dinner.  We sometimes have a mid afternoon snack (favorite snacks are apple with cheese, or popcorn, or a fruit smoothie).  We don't eat sugars and sweets but do enjoy a glass of milk and 1 square of dark chocolate in the evening (really keeps those cravings at bay).  Our goal is about 1600 calories a day, since we are trying to lose a few pounds.