Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A Christmas Break Snack

The kids are out of school and you need to find a few extra snacks.  While searching the web for something else (what, I can't remember), I found a cute new take on the ants on a log recipe.  I thought this was the perfect Christmas break snack.  It's quick, easy and nutritious. With a little extra help, kids can make this snack.  To go along with this snack, how about a cup of hot chocolate. 

Pears in a Pod

4 stalks of celery
½ cup peanut butter
2 pears, cored and cut into cubes

1.  Spread the peanut butter into the center of the celery stalk. 
2.  Place pears on top of peanut butter.  Cut celery into desired length and serve.
Source: USA Pears

Hot Chocolate

Serves 1.

Combine 1 tablespoon cocoa and 1 tablespoon sugar in a mug.  Pour in 1 cup hot low fat milk.  Stir to combine and serve. 

If you want to mix up your hot chocolate, here are a few suggestions.
  • Peppermint candy
  • Marshmallows
  • Vanilla flavoring
  • Cinnamon
If you would like additional snacks and activities to keep the little ones happy, try Disney's Family Fun website.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Cauliflower - Finishing Up the Holiday Sides

This is the last of the healthier (and good) holiday sides.  They started the week after halloween with that infamous green bean casserole.  I hope that you have gotten a chance to try a few of the holiday sides that have been offered in this blog.  As always, it has been fun to put these posts together.  At this time of overeating, it's nice to have some healthier options.

This last post is for browned then braised cauliflower.  I found the recipe quite intriguing.  I had never browned and then braised anything.

It's the holiday season and you don't have a lot of time for extra reading, so I'll get to the recipe.

Browned then Braised Cauliflower

Serves 4.

4 teaspoons olive oil
1 head cauliflower, about 2 pounds
3 garlic cloves, minced
teaspoon red pepper flakes
½ cup reduced sodium chicken broth
Salt and pepper, to taste
¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 Tablespoons minced fresh parsley

1.  Separate flowerets from the head.  Cut larger pieces into quarters.  You should have about 6 cups.

2.  Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet.  Add cauliflower and cook, stirring occasionally, until flowerets are golden brown, about 7 to 9 minutes.

3.  Clear the center of the skillet.  Add 1 teaspoon of the oil, garlic and red pepper flakes.  Cook for about 30 seconds, until the garlic becomes fragrant.  Stir into the cauliflower.

4.  Add chicken broth, salt and pepper.  Cover and cook until cauliflower is crisp-tender, about 4 to 5 minutes.  Uncover and cook until liquid is almost evaporated.

5.  Remove from heat and stir in cheese and parsley.  Season with salt and pepper.

Source:  The America's Test Kitchen Healthy Family Cookbook

Enjoy and Have a Great Holiday Season!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Cranberries, Minus the Can

I grew up eating canned cranberry sauce.  You opened the can and out it popped.  We will always have a can of cranberry sauce on the holiday table.  Otherwise, someone in the family will be sitting before a jury. 

Now that my tastebuds have grown up, I've come to enjoy making my own cranberry sauce.  It's not that difficult, cranberries, sugar and water. (For exact amounts, check the package of fresh cranberries.)  Cook until the cranberries pop.  Refrigerate and the mixture becomes thicker as it cools. 

One of my favorite recipes for cranberries came from a friend.  It is a little beyond the basic cranberry sauce, but a nice addition to the holiday table.

Winter Fruit Bowl

4 medium grapefruits
1 cup sugar
½ cup orange marmalade
2 cup fresh cranberries
3 medium bananas

1.  Peel and section grapefruit, discard the white inner membranes.
2.  Combine cranberries and one cup of water, cook until the skins pop.  Add sugar and marmalade.  Heat to boiling. 
3.  Remove from heat.  Add grapefruit, cover and chill.
5.  Just before serving, slice bananas and stir into sauce.

The original recipe states that it serves 10 people.  However, at my dinners it serves at least 15 people.

I have made this sauce several times and find that even those who like the canned stuff also like this dish.  In addition to turkey, it pairs well with pork. 

Cranberries are also good at other times of the year.  Purchase an extra package or two.  Sort and remove the bad berries.  Wash and freeze until ready to use.  For additional recipes, check out Ocean Spray website.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Mashed Potatoes on the Holiday Table

Although I did not grow up eating mashed potatoes for the holiday meal, most of my midwestern friends don't think it's a holiday dinner without mashed potatoes.  And when in Rome, do as the Romans do.  Therefore, I am doing mashed potatoes as one of my holiday sides.

For your holiday mashed potatoes, start with either russet (Idaho) or Yukon Gold potatoes.  These types are better suited for making mashed potatoes.  Russets are high in starch and low in moisture.  For this reason russets cook up drier and fluffier and are better able to absorb butter and cream. Russets also lose their shape when simmered, so they are good for thickening soups and stews. Yukon Golds are a great all purpose potato.  Although they contain less starch than russets, they are good for baking and making mashed potatoes.

To make lower fat mashed potatoes, try using buttermilk or nonfat yogurt instead of sour cream. 

Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes

Serves 4.

1 pound potatoes, Yukon Gold or Russets
½ cup buttermilk, at room temperature
1 Tablespoon butter
½ teaspoon salt

1.  If desired, peel potatoes.  Cut into 1-inch pieces.  Place potatoes in a medium saucepan; cover with water.  Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes or until potato is tender. 

2.  Drain potatoes thoroughly.  To further remove water, return potatoes to the saucepan on medium heat for 1 to 2 minutes, shaking constantly so they don't burn.  Mash potatoes with a potato masher.  Stir in buttermilk, butter and salt.

Since it is the holidays, if you want to "upscale" your mashed potatoes, here are some suggestions.  But remember, add-ins like cheese and bacon also bring extra calories.
  • Roasted Garlic
  • Chives or green onions
  • Herbs, such as parsley or pesto
  • Horseradish and low fat sour cream, especially good for serving with beef

Monday, November 28, 2011

Barley - Again?

In March, 2010, I wrote about barley.  Well, once you discover a good thing, you stick with it.  And I have discovered barley.  Barley can be purchased hulled, pearled and rolled (quick) cook. 

Hulled barley is similar to brown rice.  It retains the bran and therefore, takes longer to cook than pearled or rolled barley.

Pearled barley is similar to white rice.  The bran has been removed.

Rolled barley is flatter and requires the least amount of time to cook.

Although this recipe is included in my holiday collection, this is a great fall recipe and would be a great accompaniment to pork or chicken.  If this dish does not make an appearance at your holiday table, you can still give it a try.

Butternut and Barley Pilaf

Winter squash contributes a rich, full flavor to a simple barley pilaf.  Gremolada, an Italian mixture of parsley, lemon zest and garlic, gives the dish a lively finish.

Serves 6.


2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 can (14 ounce) reduced sodium chicken or vegetable broth
1¾ cups water
1 cup pearled barley
2 cups peeled and cubed butternut squash
cup chopped parsley
1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1 clove of garlic, minced
¼ teaspoon salt, or to taste
Freshly ground pepper, or to taste


1.  Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Add onion and cook, stirring often, until softened, 2 to 3 minutes.

2.  Add broth, water and barley; bring to a simmer.  Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until the barley is just beginning to soften.  Add squash and cook until squash and barley are tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed, about 30 minutes.

3.  Add parsley, lemon zest, lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper; mix gently.

Monday, November 21, 2011

More Green Beans

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about that ever present Thanksgiving dish – Green Bean Casserole.  This week, before the Thanksgiving holiday, I decided to post another green bean recipe for people who just can’t fall in love with the green bean casserole.  I found this recipe after a few failed attempts.  I must say it is my favorite recipe.  I could not stop eating them.  Now how many times can you say that you have been unable to stop eating green beans?

There are a couple of things that I like about this recipe – it can be partially prepared ahead of time and it is cooked completely on the stovetop.  It is quick and simple. 

Green Beans with Lemon and Garlic

Serves 6.


1½ pounds green beans, trimmed
1 teaspoon salt, divided
1½ Tablespoons olive oil
1½ Tablespoons butter
1 clove of garlic
2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
¼ teaspoon black pepper
2 Tablespoons fresh parsley, minced 


1.     Fill a Dutch oven about half full of water and bring to a boil.  Add green beans; cover, reduce heat.  Simmer for about 10 minutes or until tender.  Drain beans.

2.     Heat oil and butter in a skillet over medium heat.  Add garlic and sauté for about 1 minute.  Add beans, juice, salt, and pepper.  Cook for 2 to 3 minutes or until thoroughly heated.  Sprinkle with parsley. 

Note:  If desired green beans can be cooked ahead of time and sautéed just before serving.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Sweet Potatoes - Queen of the Show

Okay, last week was king of the holiday side dishes. This week is the queen.  And a king needs a queen.  In a January post, I wrote about sweet potatoes being the new "in" food for 2011.  In the South, a holiday is not a holiday without sweet potatoes.  In homage to my Southern roots, I had to have sweet potatoes as a part of my healthy holiday side dishes. 

As a kid, we ate sweet potatoes two ways; one was baked with nothing added and the other was candied with lots of sugar and butter.  We considered candied yams a side dish, while some of my Midwestern friends say they are dessert.  When most people talk about sweet potatoes and the holidays, they refer to sweet potatoes with marshmallows.  Although, I didn't grow up with marshmallow topped sweet potatoes, I do like them.  But I am not psychologically attached to them - not like candied yams.

I normally try and throw a little nutrition into my posts, but it's the holidays.  So let's just say sweet potatoes are loaded.  They have some of everything that you need.  This year, we will not bury sweet potatoes beneath marshmallows.  Nor will we load them up with sugar and butter.  We are going to bring out the natural goodness of sweet potatoes.

Southerners often combine sweet potatoes and coconut.  And why not, they are both tropical crops.  Sometime ago, I found a recipe for sweet potatoes, coconut milk and grated ginger.  I thought the combination sounded wonderful and perfect for the holidays.  According to the source, this dish is known as piele in Hawaii.  But whatever the origins, this is a great recipe.  It will surely grace many a family meals.

Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Coconut Milk

Serves 4.


1 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes, about 3 medium
3/4 cup "lite" coconut milk
1 Tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt


1.  Prick sweet potatoes with a fork in several places.  Microwave on high until tender all the way to the center, 10 to 15 minutes.

2.  When cool enough to handle, peel off and discard skin.  Transfer the sweet potatoes to a medium microwavable bowl and mash thoroughly with a potato masher.  Add coconut milk, ginger and salt; stir well.  Reheat in the microwave for 1 to 2 minutes or in the oven for 8 to 10 minutes.  Serve warm.

Note:  Sweet potatoes can be baked.  Preheat oven to 425°F.  Place sweet potatoes on a baking dish and bake until tender all the way to the center, about 1 hour.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Green Bean Casserole – The King of Holiday Side Dishes

It seems that you can always tell when Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays are approaching.  This is the time of the year when the green bean casserole makes its annual appearance. I talk to lots of people about this dish.  Some people always had it on the holiday table.  Others are just kind of ho-hum about it.  No matter, everyone has an opinion about it. 

And why not serve green bean casserole for Thanksgiving dinner.  It is a uniquely American dish.  The green bean casserole was developed by the Campbell Soup Company in 1955.  The idea was to make a quick and easy dish consisting of items that most people would always have on hand – green beans and cream of mushroom soup. The original casserole contained only 5 ingredients – green beans, cream of mushroom soup, milk, soy sauce and French fried onions.   

We decided to update this American classic. We started with a cream sauce and used real mushrooms, onion, and frozen green beans.  It is a little more work than the original, but worth the effort.  However, we did keep the original onion rings.  No one was willing to part with them.  And why should we, this is, afterall a comfort dish and it is the holidays. 

Even though our version is a little more work, it can be assembled ahead of time.  On the day of the dinner, top with onions, bake and serve.  So go ahead and enjoy a little of an American classic.

Green Bean Casserole

Serves 8.


1 Tablespoon olive oil
½ small onion, chopped
8 ounces fresh mushrooms
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
¼ cup all-purpose flour
1 cup reduced sodium chicken or vegetable broth
½ cup reduced fat sour cream
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 package (16 ounce) frozen green beans or
            1 pound fresh
1 can (2.8 ounce) French fried onions


1.      Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Add onion and cook, stirring often, until golden, 3 to 4 minutes.  Add mushrooms, cook, stirring until tender, 3 to 4 minutes.  Add garlic and cook for about 1 minute.  Stir in flour.

2.      Slowly add the broth, stirring constantly.  Reduce heat to low and cook, stirring, until thickened, about 1 minute.  Remove from heat.  Whisk in sour cream, nutmeg, salt and pepper.

To Assemble Casserole:

1.      Preheat oven to 350°F.

2.      Combine sauce and green beans.

3.     Spray a 2-quart baking dish with cooking spray.  Pour green bean mixture into baking dish.  Place in oven and bake until bubbly, approximately 25 minutes.  Top with fried onions and bake for about 10 minutes.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Pumpkins, Pumpkins, and More Pumpkins!

Yes, that has been my fall.  A neighbor grows a plethora of pumpkins and shares them with me and anyone else who will take them.  She had so many that she was giving them away out of the trunk of her car.  Kind of like an old lady drug dealer.

Now, I too, have an abundance of pumpkins.  I decided to step out of the pumpkin pie routine and try a cheesecake.  Since traditional cheesecake is loaded with fat and calories, I also decided to try and make one with less fat while retaining the flavor of a traditional pumpkin cheesecake (aka, full fat).

Pumpkin Cheesecake

Serves 12.


1 cup ground gingersnap cookies
1 cup walnut halves or pieces, divided
2 Tablespoons butter
1 container (12 ounce) reduced fat cottage cheese
2 packages (8 ounce) reduced fat cream cheese
½ cup sugar
½ cup dark brown sugar
½ teaspoon ginger
½ teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 large eggs
2 cups pureed pumpkin


1.       Preheat oven to 325°F.

2.      Wrap the bottom and halfway up the sides of a 9-inch spring form pan with aluminum foil.  Grind cup of walnuts in a food processor.  In a small bowl, combine cookies, walnuts and butter. Press into the bottom of pan.  Set aside.

3.       In a food processor, combine cottage and cream cheeses.  Pulse until thoroughly combined.  Add both sugars and blend again.  Add spices, vanilla, eggs and pumpkin.  Pulse until completely blended. 

4.       Pour mixture into prepared pan.  Bake cheese cake at 325°F for about 1 hour and 15 minutes.  The center should not be set.  The cake should giggle slightly when shaken.

5.       Refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.

6.       To serve, top with toasted or candied walnuts (recipe follows).

Candied Walnuts

1.        Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2.       In a medium skillet combine ¼ cup of sugar, ¼ teaspoon salt, 1 tablespoon water and 1 tablespoon honey.  Stir to combine.  Cook mixture until it reached a light golden brown color, about 3 to 4 minutes.  Add ⅔ cup of walnuts and stir.  Cook until mixture turns a deep golden brown color, about 2 to 3 minutes.  Turn on parchment paper.  When cooled completely, break into clusters.

We hope you enjoy or version of pumpkin cheesecake.  Our foodie colleagues thought it passed the test.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Goat Cheese Alfredo Sauce - The End of My Assignment

As some of my most diligent followers may know, I gave my foods class a grocery store assignment last year.  The assignment was to go to grocery stores that they did not normally go to and find cheeses that they did not normally purchase.  To that end, I believe the assignment and my students were a success.  I am always tempting them to become more adventurous with their food choices, that is, to venture out from their usual food pattern. 

I, too, decided to complete the assignment, mostly because I never turn down a chance to eat cheese.  Well, the semester is almost over and I am still working on my assignment.  Ok, I wasn’t getting a grade and neither the boss nor Mom was checking up on me.  A goat cheese made by Beemster is my final choice.  I had never seen or heard of this cheese before my assignment.  This particular cheese is aged for four months.  My colleague and I tasted it and decided the texture was similar to Parmesan cheese.  I ran through a number of things I could make.  At first I was going to make squash ravioli and toss it with some kind of Parmesan cheese sauce.  As time got closer, I realized that was not going to happen.  What do they say about the best laid plans?  I am sure there were some other things I was going to make with this cheese, but they did not get made either. 

I finally decided to make Goat Cheese Alfredo Sauce.  It’s simple.  My ‘eating, chef’ colleague once told me that Alfredo sauce was nothing more than cream and parmesan cheese.  It sounded easy enough to me. 

Here is my version of goat cheese Alfredo sauce.

Goat Cheese Alfredo Sauce

Serves 4.


1 Tablespoon butter
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tablespoon all purpose flour
1 cups 2% milk
1¼ cups (5 ounces) grated cheese, divided
2 Tablespoons less fat cream cheese
½ teaspoon salt
8 ounces fettuccine pasta
2 teaspoons chopped flat leaf parsley

1.     Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Add garlic; cook for 1 minute, stirring frequently.  Stir in flour.  Gradually add milk, stirring with a whisk.  Cook until mixture thickens, about 5 minutes, stirring constantly. 

2.     Add 1 cup of grated cheese, cream cheese and salt.  Stir until cheese melts.  Toss with hot pasta.  Sprinkle with remaining cheese and parsley. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Working on My Wish List

It seems that all bloggers have a wish list.  There’s the old saying that if you can’t beat’em, join’em.   So join them I did.  I came up with my own wish list.  While some bloggers focus on things they want, (aka, gifts), I decided to focus on dishes I want to make.  At first I chose things like breads, cakes, and chocolate ice cream.  Well, my student helper spoke up, “Why, Dr. Jones, you don’t have any vegetables on your list.  You only have baking stuff”.  So I relented and decided to add some healthy vegetables to the wish.  And yes, these are vegetables that I really want to cook.

If you notice, I have crossed out a few things on my list, like chocolate ice cream and mac & cheese.  But ratatouille remained on the list.  So at the end of this gardening season, I finally got around to ratatouille.  I’m not sure why I wanted to make ratatouille.  Other than, I just did.  I suppose after seeing the movies, Ratatouille and Julia and Julie, I have become somewhat fascinated with French food. 

Ratatouille is an eggplant casserole originating in the Mediterranean.  It can be served hot or cold, as an accompaniment to meat or as an hors d’oeuvre.  I looked all over for a recipe.  I found some that grilled the vegetables, some that threw all the vegetables together in a casserole dish and allowed them to simmer.  Some that included basil and parsley and some that omitted them.  I was in a real quandary as to what to do.  Other than zucchini, tomatoes and eggplants, I knew nothing about making ratatouille.  So, I went to the ‘source’, Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking.  On page 503 of volume 1, is a recipe for ratatouille.   

Here is Julia Child’s recipe for ratatouille.  I did make a few changes.  I hope she won’t mind.


Serves 6 to 8.


½ pound eggplant
½ pound zucchini
1 teaspoon salt
4 Tablespoons olive oil
½ pound thinly sliced yellow onions, about 1½ cups
1 cup sliced bell pepper, preferably green
2 garlic cloves
1 pound tomatoes, peeled, about 2 cups
Salt and pepper
3 Tablespoons minced parsley


1.     Cut eggplants into 1-inch cubes.  Set aside.  Cut zucchini into a similar size and set aside.  Toss each vegetable with ½ teaspoon salt and allow to sit for 30 minutes.  Drain and towel dry.

2.     Sauté the eggplants in olive oil, one layer at a time.  Season with salt and pepper, to taste.  Place eggplants in a bowl and set aside.  Sauté zucchini in the same manner as the eggplant.  Season with salt and pepper, to taste.  Combine eggplant and zucchini.

3.     In the same skillet, cook onions and peppers.  Stir in garlic.  Add tomatoes and cook until most of the juices have evaporated.  Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

4.     Assemble the casserole:  in a 2½ quart casserole, place of the tomato mixture.  Sprinkle one tablespoon of parsley over tomatoes.  Arrange ½ of eggplant and zucchini mixture over tomatoes.  Place another of tomatoes over eggplant and zucchini mixture.  Sprinkle one tablespoon of parsley over tomatoes.  Arrange remaining eggplant and zucchini mixture over tomatoes.  Place remaining tomatoes over eggplant and zucchini mixture.  Sprinkle with remaining parsley.

5.       At this point the casserole can be refrigerated until ready to cook. 

6.       To cook, place casserole in oven at 350°F.  Cook until hot.

What I Changed:

1.      I did not peel the eggplant.  Thought I might need those antioxidants in the peel. 

2.       I also used red bell pepper, since that is what I prefer.  I also cooked mine in the oven and not on a stovetop.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Autumn Equals Apples

It’s that of year again.  It’s time to go to Nebraska City for apples.  It’s one of my favorite times of the year.  And of course I always purchase way too many apples.  There are tons of apple varieties, each with a unique flavor characteristic.  Apples are available in an assortment of colors and textures, in flavors from tart to sweet.  With thousands of varieties to choose from, it’s easy to find the perfect apple.  If you have been stuck in a red or yellow delicious apple rut, try your local apple orchard for some local varieties. 

Although apples are available year-round, they are best in autumn.  There are about 2,500 varieties of apples grown in the US and over 7,500 varieties worldwide.  The five most common varieties grown in the US are red delicious, golden delicious, granny Smith, gala, and fuji.

A Few Apple Facts for Trivia Buffs

·         25% of an apple’s volume is air, which is why they floats
·         Don’t peel your apple.  Most of the fiber and antioxidants are in the peel.
·         The science of apple growing is referred to as pomology.
·         Apple trees are not self-pollinating.  They need bees to pollinate the flowers to form the fruit.
·         Apples are members of the rose family, along with peaches, plums, cherries and pears.
With my apples I decided to make caramelized apples.  Here is my version.

Caramelized Apples

Cheese for your 'savory' friend and one for your 'sweet' friend.
Serves 8. 


4 large tart apples
½ cup sugar
2 Tablespoons butter
½ cup apple cider
1 pint frozen yogurt or
     about 4 ounces sharp Cheddar cheese 


1.     Peel apples if desired.

2.     In a large skillet combine, sugar and 2 tablespoons water.  Stir until sugar dissolves, bring mixture to a simmer.  When sugar turns brown (caramelized), whisk in butter.  Add apples and simmer for about 5 minutes.  Add apple cider and continue to simmer for about 5 minutes.

3.       Serve with ice cream or for a savory twist, try a sharp cheese such as Cheddar or blue.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Excess Zucchini?

Recently, on my facebook wall, I posted a recipe for people with too much zucchini.  And just in case you were wondering, I got two zucchini this year.  I think rabbits ate the blossoms.  My facebook friend and colleague, Joan, replied that she would gladly accept the role of taster.  One good thing about working in a nutrition department is there are always people around to eat.  

I decided to take the challenge and bake the zucchini bread just for Joan.  So I went off in search of free zucchini.  Why buy zucchini?  I attempted to get someone to pay me for taking it, but that didn’t fly.  
After tasting the bread, Joan declared, “It’s healthy”.  My reply, “What’s wrong with that?”.  If you want to join Joan in eating healthy zucchini bread, click on the hyperlink above.    
Yes, it's healthy!
If you get a chance, let us know how you are using your zucchini supply.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Carrots and Lemon-Lime Soda – Together?

My chef colleague gave me the idea of cooking carrots in lemon-lime soda several years ago.  My first thought was, ugh, what?  Needless to say, I was somewhat dazed by the idea.  But then I thought, if you can make a cake with coke or barbeque sauce with soda, why not cook carrots in soda.  A soda is basically flavored water and sugar. 

After getting over my initial shock, I decided to give it a try.  Making foods with soda dates back to the depression era when sugar was rationed.  The ever clever American cooks decided to use soda instead of sugar.  I decided the idea of carrots cooked in soda was an interesting idea.  I thought it was worth a try.  You’ve got sugar and flavor.  Off to the kitchen I went to test out this bright new idea.

If you are totally intrigued, here is my recipe.

Lemon-Lime Carrots
Serves 3 to 4.

1 pound carrots
Lemon-lime soda, about ¾ cup
1 Tablespoon butter, optional

1.      Wash and peel carrots.  Cut into ¼’ slices. 
2.     Place carrots in a small saucepan.  Add enough soda to cover carrots.  Cover with lid and bring to a simmer.  Cook until carrots are tender.  Drain.  If desired, add butter.  Stir until melted and serve.

I thought the carrots turned out nicely.  I would make them again if I wanted to try something with a little different twist.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

A Food You Should Eat! (And Probably Don’t)

Ok, the title caught my attention.  I was excited.  A chance to eat!  This must be heaven!
So what should I eat and probably don’t.  Sardines.  That was enough to knock the wind out of my sails.  Somebody popped my balloon.  Needless to say, I only occasionally eat sardines.  I don’t really have great memories of sardines.  While I was growing up, only poor people ate them.  They were often packed for lunch.  One can was just enough for one person.  They were easily portable. 
They were the perfect food, except.  When you ate them, everyone within a one mile radius knew what you were eating.  There is no hiding when eating sardines.  As an adult, I was happy to make enough money not to have to eat the smelly little fish.  Now that I make enough money sardines are in vogue.  Not only is it acceptable to eat them, they are good for you and the environment.  Nutritionally, sardines are a powerhouse.  They are one of the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids.  One (3 ounce) can has about 1,950mg of omega-3 fatty acids, more than salmon.  They are an excellent source of vitamin D.  And sardines are available in a wide price range, from about 99 cents up to 3 or 4 dollars per can.  In addition to the oil packed types, they are available in mustard, hot sauce, Mediterranean with capers.
Sardines are small fish, making them low on the food chain.  For more on sardines and other environmentally friendly seafood, check out this article from the magazine, Eating Well magazine(
If you want to try sardines, here are a couple of recipes for you.
Greek Salad with Sardines -
Tomato Toast with Sardines and Mint -
As for me, I am sticking with that old time favorite, sardines and saltine crackers.  Why mess with a classic?

For those of you truly interested in being green, check out what to do with your sardine can. (  Now if someone can tell me what to do with old Christmas cards.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Heirloom Tomatoes - What's Old Is New Again

While taking a stroll through my local farmers market, I discovered a wide array of tomatoes.  Some are red and round, red and oblong.  There yellow, orange, green and purple tomatoes.  Through visiting the farmers markets, I have discovered a whole other world of tomatoes. 

These “new” tomatoes have been around for quite some time.  It’s just that many heirloom tomatoes are not necessarily good for shipping.  Therefore, they don’t show up at your local supermarket.  However, local farmers grow for flavor and taste.  Long distance shipping is not a major concern for them.  This frees up farmers to grow what they like and most importantly, what we like. 

Local farmers are more likely to grow what is referred to as heirloom varieties.  An heirloom variety is generally a variety that has been passed down, through several generations of a family.  Many heirloom varieties are pre-Columbian and some are pre-European.  Some heirloom varieties can be traced back to Africa and Asia.  Heirloom vegetables come in a myriad of shapes, flavors, textures that are so different from commercial varieties seen in large grocery stores. 

This tomato salad recipe is a perfect place to show off heirloom vegetables.  If you like, capers, olives and a cheese, such as goat, or blue can also be added.

Heirloom Tomato Salad

Serves 6.


6 ½-inch thick slices crusty bread
1½ Tablespoons red-wine vinegar
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 Tablespoons olive or vegetable oil
½ small red onion, thinly sliced
3 pounds mixed tomatoes, cut into bite size pieces


1.    Slice and toast the bread.

2.      Whisk together vinegar, salt, mustard, and pepper.  Add oil in a slow steady stream, whisking until dressing is emulsified. 

3.     Add onion and tomatoes.  Toss gently to coat.  Season with salt and pepper. Place bread on plate.  Top with tomatoes and serve.