Monday, July 26, 2010

A Weigh of Life

After a delish girls night out at Judie's in Amherst, I came home ready to tackle the beast again. It's been awhile since I've mentioned Flat Belly Diet and that's because JP and I have been lax. Down 12 instead of 14, the gain was actually less than expected after the last few weeks of lobster crazy around here.

So we're back on the program. With the garden popping, our timing is good to be trolling for yummy lo-cal recipes using summer's best.  This morning's breakfast of a half cup cinnamon sprinkled oatmeal drizzled with 1 teaspoon honey, 1 tablespoon sunflower seeds (MUFA) and a cup of fat free lactose free milk was perked up lots by a cup of fresh picked blueberries from Easy Pickin's Farm in Enfield, CT.

And now that M & M candies come in dark chocolate (another MUFA), we might just consider adding the M & M diet plan to our daily weigh of life! Just kidding. :-)

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Squashed!

I looked at the caller ID. It was my husband's buddy, no doubt calling about their scheduled fishing marathon -- something the two guys do a couple of times each year. Instead, he dove into whether or not I liked zucchini. Just another desperate gardener looking to unload an abundance of squash.

It so happens that we didn't bother growing zucchini this year and I do love both summer yellow squash and zucchini. So I said sure, but with the caveat that I only wanted small ones. No giant billy club zucchini, please. I could hear the disappointment in his voice but he agreed. When it comes to squash this time a year, you have to hold your ground.

Summer squash can make anyone yell "uncle" -- it can also be a bit tiresome to find new ways to prepare squash. And grilled summer squash gets old fast. This recipe is pretty easy and adds quite a bit of kick to a veggie that at times, can come out a bit on the bland side.

STUFFED SUMMER SQUASH
4 medium summer squash (yellow or zucchini)
salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small shallot, grated
1/2 celery stalk, chopped
1/2 carrot, grated

1/4 pound Italian sweet sausage, removed from the casing
1/4 cup marscopone or ricotta cheese
1 small egg, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup water (for the pan)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare baking dish by pouring water into a baking pan, set pan aside.

Using a teaspoon, scoop out flesh from squash. Chop. Should be about one cup. Place chopped squash in a medium bowl. Sprinkle hallowed out squash shells with pepper and salt. Turn cut side down on the cutting board. Set aside. Use a medium size skillet over medium heat. Add oil, shallot, celery and carrot. Cook 3 minutes. Add the chopped squash and cook 3 minutes more, stirring often to saute evenly. Turn burner up to medium high and add sausage. Stir constantly, being careful to crumble meat as it cooks.

Remove skillet from heat and set aside to cool. While it cools, mix cheese, egg and parsley in a small bowl. Once sausage mix has cooled for ten minutes add cheese mix to sausage mix, combining all ingredients well. Fill hallowed shells with the stuffing mixtute. Set the filled shells into the prepared baking dish. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until squash is fork tender. Serves 4 as a side, 2 as a main dish.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

We're Havin' a Heat Wave

Cook? Are you kidding me? In 90-something degree weather?  If only my family would settle for a bowl of cornflakes ... I'd happily toss in a few berries or even cut up a banana. But noooo ... they were hungry for real food. And as much as I wanted to avoid the dreaded evening meal, the very thought of take-out Chinese in this heat just had no appeal.

Solution: a nice hunk of fish lightly marinated. Fingerling potatoes cut in half and tossed in olive oil then thrown on the backyard grill. Took less than twenty minutes. And dinner was served.

Bellies full. Edy's frozen lime fruit pops for dessert. A pitcher of iced tea in the refridgerator. All is well. But I'm still sweltering.  So, I'm headed out with a couple of friends to happily shiver through a midnight movie. Nothing better than hot buttered popcorn,  a comfy seat in a theater with the AC cranked up to winter storm warning levels and the latest movie release.

EASY GRILLED FISH
Juice of 1/2 lemon, freshly squeezed
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme or winter savory

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
4 one inch thick fish fillets (mahi-mahi, swordfish, mako, or tuna)

Make the marinade by combining all ingredients, except fish, in a bowl. Place fillets in a shallow dish just large enough to accommodate them. Pour marinade over fish and turn it, coating both sides. Place coated fish in a ziploc bag in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 hours, turning several times. Grill over medium hot heat, 8-10 minutes per side, basting before you turn. Serves 4.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Breaded Bean Season

When we were a much younger family our backyard was so small that gardening was impossible. My late mom-in-law had plenty of yard but not as much energy to tackle the chores a good garden required. So we reached an accord. We would plant and care for her garden and we would all share in the bounty.

It worked out pretty well for a long time. I learned how to cook veggies the way Babci did. And so did my husband -- who was used to having everything cooked for him but discovered that he enjoyed kitchen duty almost as much as gardening. His yellow beans and Babci's simple recipe for them are a favorite around our house.

Sharing a garden was fun and challenging at the same time. I still miss her but the memories are sweet. When the tomatoes are ripe, I'll tell you about the tomato wars. And a good laugh will be had by all.

BABCI'S BREADED YELLOW BEANS
2 cups. fresh yellow beans, trimmed, cleaned, cut in 2 inch pieces
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 cup Italian bread crumbs
Salt and pepper to taste

Boil beans about ten minutes or until tender, drain. Over medium heat in a 10 inch saute or frying pan, add cooked beans, oil and butter and toss until butter melts. Sprinkle generously with bread crumbs. Toss again. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serves 4 as a side dish.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Auntie Nina's Biscuits

One of the best things about summer days at my great aunt Nina's dairy farm was her cooking. She made everything from scratch, mostly farm fresh. There are no words to describe the difference between the canned veggies too many of us grew up on and corn on the cob picked fresh from the garden. Or the milk from the cows that same morning. Best of all, one of my favorite foods to this day, was her homemade butter biscuits.

Flaky, delicious biscuits topped by sweet tart refrigerator jam made with whatever fruit happened to be ready to harvest that week. Sadly, my great aunt has since passed on and the farm sold off as a horse riders haven. But my memories of Auntie Nina's biscuits will last forever.

I tried many, many times, often with limited success, to recreate the exact taste of those biscuits. Even if I had her exact recipe, using store bought ingredients will never quite get there. After repeated experimenting, this recipe comes pretty close.


BREAKFAST BISCUITS
1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
Dash salt
1 teaspoon white sugar
1/8 cup shortening
3/4 cup skim milk

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Stir flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar in a large bowl. Cut in the shortening until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Gradually stir in milk until a soft dough forms. Turn out onto a floured surface, and knead 10-12 times. Pat or roll dough out to 3/4 of an inch thick. Cut biscuits with a large cutter or a juice glass dipped in flour. Repeat until all dough is used. Brush off the excess flour, and put biscuit dough rounds onto an ungreased baking sheet. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until edges begin to brown.  Makes 6 biscuits, about 175 calories each. Add a tablespoon of low sugar jam, a poached egg and a slice of bacon for a 370 calorie breakfast.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

A Pitcher of Sangria, a Boiling Pot and Thee

There's something sexy about lobster. The idea that seafood is an aphrodisiac goes back to the ancient Greeks whose goddess of love, Aphrodite, was born of the sea. With a nod and apology to my vegetarian friends, I can't help myself -- cooking and eating lobster has a primitive, almost barbaric, appeal for those of us who are meateaters.

Add to that the summer sun, a picnic table and a pitcher of white peach and raspberry laden vinho branco sangria (Portugese table wines are cheap and tasty, the perfect sangria ingredient) and there's no denying the joy of lobster.

PEACH MELBA SANGRIA
1 750 ML bottle of white table wine
1/2 cup peach infused vodka or brandy
1 cup sparkling lemonade
2 white peaches, pitted and sliced
1/2 cup fresh washed raspberries

In a large pitcher half-filled with ice, gently mix wine, vodka and lemonade before adding fruit. Pour into individual goblets, if needed use a spoon to make sure each glass has a share of the fruit. Enjoy!