Friday, December 31, 2010

New Years Eve

Just a quick post wishing you all a Happy New Year. Yesterday I gave into the cold, slept a lot and wound up ordering a pizza for dinner. ( no worries- we have officially adopted an 80/20rule with diet. 80 percent of the time eat healthy , 20 percent whatever).

Plans for ringing in 2011 include staying home, eating Oxtail Soup and Herring ( two family classics, together for the first time ever) , and game playing. We may or may not stay up till midnight. Probably not :-)

Hope you have a fun evening and Awesome New Year !

Thursday, December 30, 2010

I want my mommy !!!

Had a day of rest, and things feel somewhat better. I still need the chair to walk , and sadly once again I cannot bend my knee enough to be able to get into the shower, so sponge baths and more rest are in order. As if to punctuate my plight, a cold bug has found me , and I am coughing, sneezing and struggling to breathe without it tickling my throat. It makes sense, spending so much time indoors in dried out, heated air. Normally I do not get colds, but when I do, I just want to be comforted ! If I had my way about it I would run home to Mommy, have her tuck me in and just make it all better. Sadly Mommy has advanced Dementia and if I showed up it would be a wild card at best, and she may not even recognize me. So I have to do the next best thing- make food like she did.

My mother was not a great cook, but she did have a few dishes that stood out . One was French Toast. I loved mornings when she would make this, and it was always served with powdered sugar instead of syrup. French Toast and potato pancakes were always served with powdered sugar and NEVER syrup for some reason. When I feel the need to be "mothered", I crave French Toast, and no one made it the same as mom. Even though I follow her recipe, which I learned from watching her and cooking with her, it does not taste the same as when she made it. Mother Magic is missing I guess. Here is her recipe with some alterations to make it more nourishing

Mom's French Toast

4 eggs
1 tsp sugar( I use Splenda)
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup cream
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/8 tsp nutmeg
coconut oil

In a bowl whip eggs and add sugar, salt, cream, vanilla and nutmeg. In a frying pan melt butter and coconut oil. Dip bread in egg mixture and let sit for 30 seconds each side. Slide into the pan and fry 1 minute per side, or till brown. Serve with powdered sugar or Maple Syrup.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Not Good

The most difficult thing for me , it seems , is learning patience with my own body when it comes to recovery ! Yesterday morning I was sore, and I decided it would probably be wise to take a rest day. Should have listened, but for some reason I got it in my head that the soreness I was feeling would work out through exercise, and if I could do 5 minutes on the bike yesterday I could push for a full 10 minutes today. So I did, and it was very stupid to do. Result was pain, my leg once again becoming extremely swollen and needing Epsom salt compresses . This morning it is very painful and I am back to needing the chair on wheels to walk at all.

Only benefit was I got a really good nights sleep. I think today is definitely going to be a rest day. If I suddenly consider trying any exercise, I will ground me !

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Resolution: Lose Weight and Get in Shape!

Plugging along

I rested, I rallied, and in the afternoon and evening I got back on that horse again. Managed to push through the pain to get a final total of 5 minutes bike time and about 3 minutes walking time. I also tried to work with my resistance bands, but at this point they seem a little too intense, so we will put them aside for now. 8 minutes total for the day - yay me ! Best thing about it was that after the pain stopped I felt more stable and mobile, so it is indeed time to do this. More today.

I was really happy to discover I had planned something comfort food wise for dinner ! When I was little , my mom would make something we called Scalloped Potatoes from scratch. You take peeled potatoes, flour, salt , pepper, butter and milk, layer and cover with milk to bake. It made a Bechamel sort of sauce, and it was always creamy and comforting. Through the years I stopped making it because it was too starchy. White potatoes + white flour make for a not so good thing. A while back I stumbled across a recipe for this sort of dish but made infinitely better. It seems that if you combine a starch like potatoes with a higher level of fat and protein, it will not provoke the insulin response that a starch alone will. I think potatoes get an unfair bad rap these days. They have long been a nourishing staple of many cultures for the energy and satiation level they provide. If prepared properly, potatoes are a good thing. And this dis was indeed a good thing- very satisfying, nourishing and pleasing to the pallete !

 Cheddar Cheese Scalloped Potatoes

  2 1/2 cups  heavy cream
     3/4 cup  finely chopped shallots or onions
  2 teaspoons  chopped fresh rosemary (or 1 teaspoon dried)
  2 teaspoons  sea salt
     3/4 teaspoon  ground black pepper
  4 russet potatoes peeled, cut into 1/4-inch-thick rounds
  2cups  grated sharp  cheddar cheese (about 8 ounces)

Preheat oven to 375°F. Butter 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish. Whisk cream, shallots or onions, rosemary, salt and pepper in medium bowl to blend. Place half of potatoes in prepared baking dish, overlapping slightly. Sprinkle with 3/4 cup cheese. Top with second layer of potatoes. Pour cream mixture over potatoes in dish. Sprinkle with remaining cheese. Cover gratin with foil and bake 1 hour. Uncover and bake until top is golden brown and potatoes are tender, about 45 minutes longer. Let gratin cool 10 minutes before serving.

I wound up serving it with some Parmesan crusted pork chops and red cabbage- made for a yummy winter evening meal !

Monday, December 27, 2010

Pushing twoards normalcy

The time has come to push myself in the arena of recovery. Slowly I am going to have to build up my muscles in order to get closer to normalcy, and I am using Spunky Suzi's challenge as my inspiration. Her challenge this week is to get 10 minutes of exercise daily, and for a normal person this would be a nice, gentle starting point. However, for me I am finding that it may well wind up 10 interrupted minutes each day ! I am finding that the really terrible muscles that once were have been replaced by limp strands of cooked spaghetti noodles . I decided to do 10 minutes on my little set of pedals without a full bike thing. You sit in a chair, you put your feet on the pedals and pedal away. First revolution was pain. Second more pain. By the time a minute passed there was so much pain I thought I was going to vomit ( wow, the Biggest Loser Last Chance Workout Experience of my very own !). So I stopped and tried to walk the pain off. 5 passes in the short hallway and I was seeing stars. I think it amounted to a whole 3 minutes of activity. It's a start, and I can try more later today. While it sounds tragic, 3 minutes is a point to start from. Recovery and rebuilding is a painful process, but yo do get there . Thanks Suzi , for the completely measurable challenge !

Yesterday I discovered that I had some cottage cheese and marscapone cheese that was in the fridge with a forgotten purpose, and coming close to expiration. I determined that my freezer was not quite stuffed enough yet so I made a casserole for dinner that could create a few lunch portions worth of leftovers for the freezer

                                                Lasagna Casserole
1 pound ground beef
4 T. minced onion, or chopped fresh onion
4 cups tomato sauce
1 T. basil
1 T. oregano
1 t. garlic powder
½ t. salt
8 oz. cottage cheese
8 oz. pkg. pasta (any shape)
8 oz. mozzarella cheese (or cheddar, or a mixture of both)

Brown ground beef and minced onion. Drain grease. Add tomato sauce, basil, oregano, garic powder and salt. Allow meat and sauce to simmer about 20 minutes. Boil pasta according to package. Drain and stir pasta into sauce. Add cottage cheese, stirring until everything is evenly mixed. Pour into a casserole dish (9×13). Top with cheese. Bake at 350 degrees until cheese is melted and casserole is bubbly.

The Marscapone presented a bit more of a challenge. The only things I have used it for in the past had been savory sorts of dishes. I did not think it would go well with the cottage cheese in the lasagna casserole, and so I searched online and found this recipe for a cheesecake using it. I made some adaptations to make it low carb, and I have to say this was the best cheesecake I have ever eaten ! Glad there is enough for some tonight as well.

Low Carb Marscapone Cheese Cake

12-16 servings

    * 2cup slivered almond, lightly toasted
    * 3 tablespoons splenda
    * 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted


    * 2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, room temperature
    * 2 (8 ounce) containers mascarpone cheese, room temperature
    * 1 1/4 cups splenda
    * 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
    * 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    * 5 large eggs, room temperature

   1. 1 For the crust: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
   2.  Finely grind the almonds and splenda in a food processor. Add the butter and process until moist crumbs form. Press the almond mixture onto the bottom of the  pan (not on the sides of the pan). Bake the crust until it is set and beginning to brown, about 12 minutes. Cool. Decrease the oven temperature to 325 degrees F.
   3. 3 For the filling: Using an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese, mascarpone cheese, and sugar in a large bowl until smooth, occasionally scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Beat in the lemon juice and vanilla. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating just until blended after each addition.
   4. 4 Pour the cheese mixture over the crust in the pan. Place the springform pan in a large roasting pan. Pour enough hot water into the roasting pan to come halfway up the sides of the springform pan. Bake until the center of the cheesecake moves slightly when the pan is gently shaken, about 1 hour 5 minutes (the cake will become firm when it is cold). Transfer the cake to a rack; cool for 1 hour. Refrigerate until the cheesecake is cold, at least 8 hours and up to 2 days.
   5. 5 For the topping: Combine the chocolate-hazelnut spread and cream in a small bowl. Heat in the microwave until warm, stirring every 20 seconds to blend, about 1 minute.
   6. 6 Cut the cake into wedges. Drizzle  chocolate sauce over the wedges and serve.( we ate it with butter sauce instead of chocolate sauce)

Sunday, December 26, 2010


Christmas was quiet , but nice here. No visiting family, no family visiting, no calls, nothing but Mass schedules and then naps to recover from the late night and early morning services. And a big meal. I think my freezer is going to start begging for mercy shortly !

The meal begins with a Who Roast Beast. What is a Who Roast Beast ? It's a second Shank Ham in a week because you husband has been really craving ham and asks you to make a ham the way people used to make hams when you were children. Hey- presentation is everything !

Roast Who Beast ( ham to the rest of the world)

1 shank ham , with rind and outside fat trimmed
4 T stone ground mustard
4 T Brown Sugar
1 can pineapple rings ( reserve juice)
1 jar cherries( reserve juice)
whole cloves

Place ham in roasting Pan. Mix mustard, brown sugar and a small amount of the reserved pinapple and cherry juice till you have a sauce. poke the meat with a knife all over, lightly score and apply sauce with pastry brush. Place pinapple rings on ham, securing with tooth picks and place cherries in the center in the same fashion. Stud the meat with cloves and bake at 325 , 15 minutes per pound.

Polish Sausage and sauerkraut

1 jar polish sauerkraut
1 vacuum pak Polish Sausage( or Kielbasa)
Place sauerkraut in a 9x9 pan. Slice kielbasa into bite sized portions and insert into sauerkraut. Bake 325 for 1 hr.

Baby Bok Choy with Cashews Recipe
   * 2 Tbsp olive oil
    * 1 cup chopped green onions, including green ends
    * 3 cloves garlic, chopped
    * 1 pound baby bok choy, rinsed, sliced
    * 1/2 tsp sesame oil
    * Salt
    * 1/2 cup chopped, roasted, salted cashews
1 Heat olive oil in a large sauté pan on medium high heat. Add onions, then garlic, then bok choy. Sprinkle with sesame oil and salt. Cover, and let the baby bok choy cook down for approximately 3 minutes. (Like spinach, when cooked, the bok choy will wilt a bit.)
2 Remove cover. Lower heat to low. Stir and let cook for a minute or two longer, until the bok choy is just cooked.Mix in cashews

Sweet Potato Dollars ( the most delicious way to make sweet potatoes so far)
Serves 4
3-4 Sweet Potatoes
3 TBL butter
3 TBL Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Celtic Sea Salt

Peel potatoes and slice crosswise at 1/4-inch intervals into “dollars.” Brush two cookie sheets with mixture of butter and oil. Arrange the dollars in one layer and brush with the remaining butter and oil. Season lightly with sea salt. Bake at about 45 minutes at 350 degrees.

I have the bone from the ham becoming broth as we speak, and I am ready to get back to normal life again !
Hope your Christmas was good!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Twas the Night Before Christmas...

One of my favorite things about Christmas is the way that different cultures celebrate the event. I am of Irish/French/German/Ukrainian descent, and somehow through the mingling a lot of customs got glossed over. We left out Bourbon and Cookies for Santa, opened presents and then Mom and Dad settled in for a long winter's nap. ( They had a strange custom of doing NO shopping until Christmas Eve, nor put up the tree. They dropped me and my siblings off at Grandma's for the day, spent the day shopping, picked us up , drove out to my Uncles to exchange gifts, came home about 10 pm , put us to bed, put up the tree when we fell asleep AND wrapped all the gifts and had a room full of gifts and a decorated tree completed about 5 minutes before we woke up). Meanwhile , I was surrounded by friends in homes with rich,"exotic" traditions, and I envied them. It seems that they had a bit more to stand on in this world or something. This year when we learned that we would not be able to be with my family for Christmas , we were free to totally create our own, and I was reminded of the Sicilian custom of The Feast of the 7 Fishes, and decided to try this out.
Soaked rice Arrancini  

 * 1 cup brown rice, soaked overnight in 2 cups water and 1 tsp apple cider vinegar , then drain before cooking
2 T butter
1 small onion finely chopped
1 tbsp. of tomato paste
2 quarts of water
2 eggs
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
1 tsp salt  
Pepper to taste
2 tsp chopped parsley

Over a medium flame, heat butter in a pan.
Add the chopped onions and sauté until light golden, about 7 minutes.  Add tomato paste, and a little at a time add half of the water. After a few minutes, add the remaining water, salt, pepper and parsley.
Boil for about ½ hour, covered. Remove and reserve half of the cooking liquid. Stir the rice into the remaining boiling liquid and cook over a medium heat till done. Let cool for about 30 minutes 
Beat the eggs with the cheese and mix into the rice.Let cool on the stove, stirring occasionally. 

Forming the rice balls
Work and compact cooled rice with your hands into a mass, and if is too dry add  plain water until it is smooth and moist, but not too watery.
Wet hands with oil and shape some rice into a ball, the size of a small orange (hence the name arancine).
Make a hole with your finger and fill it with a teaspoon of the stuffing or small cube of cheese. Use half of a teaspoon if making miniatures rice balls.Add a small amount of rice to cover the hole and smooth the rice ball until round. If it is too small, add some rice.  If it is too large, remove a pinch of rice and reshape.  Repeat until it is a smooth sphere of the desired size

Frying the rice balls
3-4 lb. of sifted fine Italian breadcrumbs
3 eggs
½ glass milk
Deep fryer @ 375 degree (preferably Peanut Oil)

Place milk and eggs in a wide bowl and beat until smooth.
Place the rice balls into the egg mixture, a few at a time.
Taking one rice ball at a time, remove from egg mixture and reshape slightly, if necessary.  Then place it in the  breadcrumbs.
Squeeze the breadcrumbs into the rice ball and continue rolling it in your hands, continuously compacting the breadcrumbs and shaping the ball.
Set the breaded rice ball into a pan or dish.  Once all rice balls have been battered and breaded, move them on to the fryer.
Deep-fry until golden, and let rest on paper towels.
It is advisable to warm the rice balls in a 325 degree oven for a few minutes before serving, to allow the stuffing to get warm.

Calimari Salad

    * 1 1/2 lb cleaned squid
    * 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
    * 1 tablespoon red-wine vinegar
    * 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
    * 1 large garlic clove, minced
    * 1/2 teaspoon salt
    * 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
    * 1 small red onion, halved lengthwise, then thinly sliced crosswise (1 cup)
    * 1/3 cup pitted Kalamata olives, halved lengthwise
    * 2 cups cherry or grape tomatoes (3/4 lb), halved or quartered if large
    * 2 celery ribs, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
    * 1 cup loosely packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
Rinse squid under cold running water, then lightly pat dry between paper towels. Halve tentacles lengthwise and cut bodies (including flaps, if attached) crosswise into 1/3-inch-wide rings.
Cook squid in a 5- to 6-quart pot of boiling salted water , uncovered, until just opaque, 40 to 60 seconds. Drain in a colander and immediately transfer to a bowl of ice and cold water to stop cooking. When squid is cool, drain and pat dry.
Whisk together lemon juice, vinegar, oil, garlic, salt, and pepper in a small bowl, then stir in onion and let stand 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, combine squid, olives, tomatoes, celery, and parsley in a large bowl. Toss with dressing and season with salt and pepper. Let stand at least 15 minutes to allow flavors to develop.

Tuna Meatballs
(Serves 4)

2 cans tuna
Olive oil
2 ounces pine nuts
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Salt and pepper
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
1-3/4 cups plain dry bread crumbs
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 eggs
Zest and juice of 1 lemon

Grind, mix all
Shape into meatballs about 1 -1/2 inch in diameter.
If you keep you hands moist the meatballs will be easier to form.
If the mixture is too sticky, add a little more bread crumbs.
Place the meatballs on a greased baking sheet, and refrigerate for 1 hour.
Heat a little olive oil in a large skillet.
Add the meatballs and sauté until golden brown on all sides.
Heat the tomato sauce in a saucepan.
As the meatballs are done browning, add them to the sauce if desired or finish in 325 oven for 10 minutes

Crab Spaghetti - simply cook a pack of moc crab in marinara sauce , mix with linguini or spaghetti and top with Parmesan cheese
Okay, one family classic and three fishy fellows perhaps ?? These other two were added  because we really needed a veggie and the other just has to be at Christmas

Saut'ed Kale with bacon and dried cherries- just makes it taste good

Pannetoni - because it is simply served at holidays in Italian homes.

Results- delicious, lots of leftovers , and I am wishing that Santa will install elastic walls on my fridge !
And tomorrow we make a meal for Christmas. Who needs cookies and candy ?????

Friday, December 24, 2010


Yesterday was nothing new or interesting food wise, mainly because we were celebrating Festivus ( the Seinfeild inspired holiday). Yes there is supposed to be a big meal , but it was never specified what that meal was, so we just made a pizza.  The important aspects were covered :

The Festivus Pole - ideally should be aluminum but we did not have access to one. The pole is an important symbol of the holiday so we created one out of a bamboo skewer and Bendaroos. We spent the day in the expression of feats of skill ( like this constructed the day before ) :

The airing of Grievances ( which included complaints that our fridge does not have elastic walls, not pictured) , the giving of major awards

And finally the wrestling of the head of the house to the ground. Well, almost !

It was a great Festivus for the Rest of Us !

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Yesterday I started adding some muscle stretches to my activity level. I discovered that the little bike is still out of the question because it hurts sharply when I bend my knee, but stretching just plain feels good  ! I think I can actually move into some yoga activity now. Not every position, but a select few to help gain strength and flexibility. This will ultimately help with the range of motion I have with the knee.

It was also the beginning of the final push of choir rehearsals before Christmas. Hard to believe that it is so close now ! Colored lights on the tree make me think about getting colors on a plate, and I think that was the reason why I chose to make this meal. It's basically a simple sandwich and salad, but with the right compnants and care, that becomes so much more !

Purple cabbage and broccoli slaw with Roast Veggie Meatloaf burgers on Honey Whole Wheat Rolls- colorful and I think the burgers could fill an army ! I cut the recipe in half, split it into three burgers instead of four and found it to be more than I could eat! Next time I will make em smaller and freeze a few.

Purple Cabbage and Broccoli Slaw
( small pieces reminds me of KFC Coleslaw- one of my favorite things !)
    * 1 small purple cabbage or half of a medium purple cabbage
    * 2 Cups baby carrot
    * 1/2 red onion
    * 1 medium head of broccoli,
    * 1/2 Cup dried cranberries
    * 4 Tbsp sugar
    * 1/2 tsp salt
    * 1 tsp celery seed
    * 2 Tbsp white balsamic vinegar
    * 6 oz  plain yogurt
    * 1/4 Cup slivered almonds

Using a food processor, shred the cabbage, carrots, red onion, broccoli. Toss together along with the cranberries in a big bowl.Mix together the sugar, salt, celery seed, vinegar and yogurt.Combine the yogurt mixture with the vegetables. Top with almonds.Refrigerate until ready to eat. 

Roasted Vegetable Meatloaf Burgers with Balsamic Glaze:

For the Burgers:
(makes 8)

    * 2lbs Ground Beef
    * 1 Yellow Zucchini
    * 1 Green Zucchini
    * 1 Small Onion
    * 1 Red Bell Pepper
    * 3 Cloves of Garlic
    * 1 Teaspoon Sea Salt
    * 1 Teaspoon White Pepper
    * 1 Teaspoon Italian Seasoning
    * 1 Teaspoon Parsley

For the Glaze:

    * 1 Cup Ketchup (No Sugar Added)
    * 1/2 Cup Balsamic Vinegar
    * 1/8 Teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes

Take your zucchini and garlic and grate.
Very, very finely chop onions and red bell pepper.Add to a pan with a little bit of cooking oil on medium heat.
Mix together and add spices.
Continue cooking, stirring frequently. It is VERY important to cook until all of the water is eliminated.When finished cooking, place onto plate lined with a paper towel to drain any remaining water. Set aside.

Take the ketchup and balsamic vinegar and put into a pot.
Combine. Add spices.Bring to a simmer and then turn off heat.

In a large bowl combine meat, half of balsamic mixture (reserving other half for later use) and vegetables.Form into patties. I used a measuring cup (3/4 Cup Size) as a guide.
Place onto a baking rack (under the rack I have a tin foil lined baking sheet for easy clean up) and brush with remaining balsamic glaze.
Place into the oven at 400 degrees.
Cook for about 25-30 minutes.
Place on Bun  and if you wish top with grated extra sharp cheddar cheese.

   Soaked Honey Whole Grain hamburger Rolls

Mix well, and let sit covered at room temperature overnight :
7-9 cups whole grain flour
1 cup buttermilk
1 cups  water
1/3 cup melted butter or coconut oil
The next day dissolve
1/4 cup  warm  water
1 Tbsp active dry yeast
1/2 tsp honey
Combine with soaked dough and add   
   1/2 cup honey
    2 tsp sea salt
    additional all purpose flour to make a non sticky , elastic dough

Knead 10 minutes or till dough springs back ( gluten forms). Place in a greased bowl, cover and set in a warm place and let rise till double in bulk. Punch down and let rise for a second time. Punch down and shape into buns. Let rise and bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes. ( Note- you can use half of the dough to form rolls and freeze the other half to use as a pizza crust another time)

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Lazy to the bone

Spent a very lazy day yesterday building a K'nex model as a family, playing board games and just hanging out together. Bob is able ( most years) to take vacation time the week before Christmas , so for us it means that Solstice Day can be spent in blissful relaxation. It is really necessary as a recharging of the batteries before the Christmas frenzy begins as a rule. Between church commitments and family commitments things get a little crazy, and then add end of the year inventory at work immediately following, it really wears you out !

So as we snapped the plastic pieces together and laughed at our errors, I made a batch of Lentil Soup. I think the fact that one has a ham bone in the kitchen makes creating either lentil or split pea soup an imperative ! Heck, some times I will simply make a ham for no reason just to get the ham bone because I want Lentil soup ! Don't know why that idea got stuck in my head, but it is there. In the old days I would simply toss in the lentils because I was led to believe that they required no soaking and were the fast food of the bean world. While this is still true, I have come to learn that lentils and any bean , grain and nut can be improved by soaking in a mild lactic acid solution for 8-24 hrs before preparing. So this time I made my soup with soaked lentils.

                                                                         Lentil Soup

Bone from a shank ham
4 cups bone broth
2 cups lentils ( soaked the night before in 4 cups water and 1 tsp cider vinegar- removes phytic acid)
4 onions,peeled and chopped
2 carrots, sliced
3 ribs celery, sliced

Drain and rinse lentils. Place everything in the crock pot and cook on low 6 hrs or till lentils are mushy.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010


Happy New Year !

Sound odd ? Not really. Today is The Winter Solstice and the beginning of the Solar Year. In our household it is one of the Winter Holidays, and it is usually celebrated on the eve of the event with decorations and a special meal amongst other things.

 Food is a part of most celebrations in some way. It is universal  in language. The participants may not understand the event celebrated in full , but they know when something smells and tastes good ! We had a meal with things that were in some way representative of the sun , the returning light  and I will share the pictures and recipes. It's going to be a big cooking week for me here with Solstice, Christmas Eve and Christmas  ! Good thing is I can make it nourishing !

Let's start with Soaked Sun Bread

Soaked Sun Bread

2 – 2 1/2 cups bread flour
1 stick butter, melted
3 tablespoons buttermilk

2 tablespoons active dry yeast
3 eggs, beaten
3 tablespoons sugar( I used Splenda)
1/2 teaspoon salt
zest of one lemon (optional)
 Mix yeast and milk. Let stand until foamy. Stir in eggs, sugar, 2 cups flour, butter, salt and lemon. Mix well, adding flour as necessary to form a dough.Knead on a floured surface for 8 – 10 minutes or until dough is smooth and elastic.Place dough in greased bowl, cover with a cloth, and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, 1-2 hours. Punch down dough, knead gently, and divide into two portions. With one portion, form a round flat ball to make the sun’s face. Use a knife to carve eyes and a mouth. Use a bit of dough from the second half to form a nose and eyes and mouth
Divide the rest of the second half into six portions.Shape into a rope, cut rope into smaller sections to form spirals and place around the edge of the face.
Cover the sun and allow to rise again in a warm place for about an hour.Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Bake the sun bread for about twenty minutes or until lightly brown. Cool slightly before slicing.( we don't slice him, but kind of rip off pieces !)

Then bring on dinner ! We had  apple Maple glazed ham, spiced red cabbage ( red ball like the new born sun) sweet potatoes with maple butter ( orange like the sun and it goes well with ham) and orange cranberry sauce ( again, orange and red like the sun at different times of the day). All seasoned with herbs and spices that are "firey", like the sun itself.

Crockpot Rotkohl (German Red Cabbage)
1 medium/large red cabbage, shredded
1 med sweet onion, diced
2 med (or 1 large) apple, granny smith or other sour kind, peeled, cored and diced
2 tbsp lemon juice
3 tbsp honey
1/2 c. apple cider vinegar
1 bay leaf
1 tbsp mulling spice, in a cheesecloth bag or tea steeper
1 c. water
1 tbsp butter
salt and cracked black pepper to taste
1/2 c. raisins
1/2 lb bacon, diced (optional)

   1. If using bacon, cook until crispy and drain on a paper towel. Then use the bacon grease to saute the onion.
   2. If not using bacon, saute the onion in the butter until translucent.
   3. Add rest of ingredients into crockpot, set on low for 6 hours.
   4. If you’re going to use a stock pot or dutch oven for this, the cooking time would be between 1 and 2 hours, depending on amount you make.
   5. Remove spice bag before serving. This seems self-explanatory and yet…maybe it’s just me.

Smoked Ham with Maple Apple Glaze
3 to 4 pound, semi-boneless cold smoked ham
1 to 2 large tart baking apples, such as Granny Smith, peeled, cored and coarsely chopped
2 to 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 to 3/4 cup pure maple syrup

Preheat the oven to 325º F.

Rinse the ham well with cold water and pat dry.  Place in a baking dish or roasting pan large enough to comfortably hold the ham, and cover tightly with foil.Bake the ham until completely heated through, about 20 minutes per pound.  About 10 minutes before the ham is done, melt the butter in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat until it begins to foam.  Saute the apples in the butter until tender and golden, about 5 minutes, and add the maple syrup.  Increase the heat slightly and continue cooking, stirring frequently, until the syrup begins to thicken.  Remove from the heat and set aside.Remove the ham from the oven and increase the temperature to 350º F.  Carefully pour the juices from the ham into the skillet with the apple/maple syrup mixture and stir to combine.  Spoon the glaze back over the ham and return to the oven.  Bake, uncovered, for an additional 15 to 20 minutes to glaze the ham, basting it every 5 minutes.Remove the ham to a cutting board and allow it to rest for about 5 minutes before carving; reserve the glaze from the pan.  Carve, spoon the glaze over the slices and serve.

 Cranberry-Orange Sauce

    12 oz fresh or frozen Cranberries
    1 lg. organic Navel Orange
    1/2 Cup  Sugar or Sucanat ( I used Splenda)
    1 tsp. ground Cinnamon
    1/8 tsp. ground Cloves

    Rinse cranberries, and discard any spoiled ones. Finely grate or zest the orange peel. Cut orange into quarters, and add to a blender, along with the orange zest. Pour in enough water to make 1 cup, and blend until roughly chopped. (You don’t want a smooth puree; keep it “pulpy.”)
 Pour juice into a saucepan, along with sugar, cinnamon, and cloves. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Pour in cranberries, and return to a boil. Stir over medium heat for 8-10 min. Be careful!! Cranberries start popping & will splatter!! (When not stirring, you can partially cover the pot with a lid, to allow steam to escape, but keep some of the splatter inside.)

    When most of the cranberries have popped, and the liquid has started to thicken, remove from heat. The sauce will continue to thicken as it cools. Pour into jars to store or into a serving dish. Refrigerate or freeze if not serving immediately.

An evening of fun and games took place, and then it was time for desert- gingerbread and home made eggnog

Soaked Flour Gingerbread

Combine and soak overnight
1 Cup Buttermilk or Kefir
2 ½ C Freshly Ground Spelt or White Wheat Flour
Next day  add
¼ lb Butter or Coconut Oil
¾ C Sucanat ( I used Splenda)
2 Eggs
¾ C Molasses
2 teaspoons Baking Soda
½ teaspoon Salt
2 Tablespoons Powdered Ginger
1 Teaspoon Cinnamon
Pinch Cloves

Pour the batter into a greased and floured 9 x 9 baking dish.   Bake in an oven preheated to 350 ° F for 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the cake’s center comes out clean

Egg Nog

    6 beaten egg yolks
    2 1/4 cups whole milk
    1/3 cup  sugar ( I used Splenda)
    1 tsp vanilla
    1 cup whipping cream
    2 Tbsp  sugar
    Ground nutmeg (optional)

 1) In a medium pot, mix the egg yolks, milk and the 1/3 cup sugar. Cook and stir over medium heat until mixture just coats a metal spoon . Remove from heat. Place pot in a sink or bowl of ice water and stir for 2 minutes to cool mixture off a little. Stir in vanilla. Cover and chill for 4-24 hours.
2) When you're ready to serve:
Beat the whipping cream and 2 Tbsp of sugar  until soft peaks form.
3) Transfer the chilled egg/milk/sugar mixture to a punch bowl. Fold in the whipped cream. Serve immediately. Sprinkle each serving with nutmeg. If you find it a little too thick or too sweet, simply stir in a bit of milk to thin it out.

Happy New Year !

Monday, December 20, 2010

Another hurdle down

No food featured today, but instead a mini goal as far as movement was achieved. I was stable enough to be able to get out of the house for the first time in 30 days !  After lifting a bag of groceries and running the vacuum I felt secure enough to attempt the trip outside and to the car. Secure enough, but still very scared  ! We have had snow and there is ice on the ground in spots , and I kept having images of stepping on a patch of black ice, slipping and re- injuring myself all over again . Normally walking is something you just do. After an injury or with aging, walking requires thought as well as movement. How to step, how to step with the terrain involved, how to shift your weight to be stable and secure- it is a phenomenon that you never realize exists  until you find yourself there. And then once you are there you suddenly understand the slow movements and great cautions of some people. However, the only way for it to get better is to face the fear and discomfort and get moving. The first is the worst, so I decided to tempt my brain with the carrot of a Dunkin Donut Gingerbread Latte as the goal. Getting to the car was nervous , achy , but I did it. Then I discovered that I still cannot bend my knee enough on my own to get my leg in the car ( what is that about ????). So my hands helped to get the leg into position ( accompanied by a lot of verbalization of OUCH) , and off we went. I was shocked to find this great big bright thing in the sky as well- I hear it is called The Sun.

Today I will be doing a lot of cooking for Yule/Winter Solstice, and so there will not be any more excursions. The first hurdle has been overcome, and now it's just press on. I am mentally calling this my Couch to Fully Functioning Human Being program !

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Scientists now saying carbs, not fat, are to blame for America's ills -

Yet more evidence that high fiber, low fat diets not only make weight loss impossible for many, but also are one of the biggest factors in many of the health problems we face today.

Scientists now saying carbs, not fat, are to blame for America's ills -

Improvement on a holiday classic

Getting better and better ! Friday I managed 1,367 steps without aid and yesterday I was strong enough to make a swipe with the vacuum cleaner and actually lift a bag of groceries to the counter. Both moves proved a lot more physically challenging than I ever thought they could be , but I did them. Things will get easier. Today I am going to try to get outside and all the way to the car. It will be the first time I wave been out of the house since the injury, which was the weekend before Thanksgiving.

All this time at home has given me opportunities to play with new recipes and techniques ,  and it has been very rewarding. One of these was an opportunity to make a fruitcake that is better and better for you. Yes, I know. At the mere mention of the word fruitcake most people make jokes  or worse. Poor Fruitcake ! What is commercially sold as fruitcake in most places today is kind of a lab experiment with tar based colored , jellied fruit. Real fruitcake is lighter, delicious and filled with dried fruits and nuts. It is to savor ! I came across this recipe that combines good fruitcake with real gingerbread and does it using the soaked flour and nuts method. It was so good, Nick asked for seconds

Meg's Gingerbread Fruitcake
(From Keeper of the Home   )
The night before you'd like to make the cake, combine:

    * 3 cups whole wheat pastry flour
    * 1 cup buttermilk
    * 1/2 cup melted butter

Let sit on the counter, covered tightly overnight.  The next day you'll need:
  * 3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
    * 3 teaspoons ground ginger
    * 2 teaspoons dry mustard
    * 2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    * 2 teaspoons ground allspice
    * 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
    * 1/2 cup Rapadura or Sucanat( I used Splenda)
    * 1 teaspoon baking soda
    * 1 1/2 cups Blackstrap  molasses ( it's a whole bottle)
    * 2 large eggs, beaten
    * 1 T vanilla extract
    * 3 cups dried unsulphured fruit, finely chopped - apricots, cherries, cranberries, raisins, figs, dates, apples
    * 1 cup chopped nuts (it's best if they have been soaked and dehydrated first) I used walnuts

1) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
2)Spray cake pans with Pam ( I prefer this to butter and flour)
3) Mix the eggs, Sugar, molasses, and vanilla together until creamy.
4) Gradually add the soaked flour mixture, beating until combined.
5) Add the rest of the ingredients, and stir until just blended.
6) Gently fold in the dried fruit and nuts.
7) Pour the batter into prepared pans and bake for about 35-40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
8) Place pan on rack and let cool.

We had this with a scoop of vanilla Ice Cream- YUM !!! ( I have to ask Santa for some colored plates- white is horrible to photograph !)

Friday, December 17, 2010

Comforts on a winter eve

Slowly I turned...step by step....

Okay. Maybe not so many turns, but definitely slowly and step by step. I managed to get the pedometer on correctly , and went about my day with the desire to take at least 1000 steps  . The number is only an impressive goal when you factor in recovery- normally 1,000 steps would be a very bad thing. The pedometer does not display the number on it ( Nintendo DS Personal Trainer Walking) , so you wait till the end of the day when you upload your data to find the number. I knew it was less than 1,000 because it had not turned green, but  it was sort of like Christmas Anticipation to discover the actual number. Drumroll....699 ! Hey- it's a start. A point to build from as I regain strength. Consider how excited people get when a baby takes it's first step. This is sort of similar :-)

I made two different dishes for dinner yesterday. Being the second of three Ember Days, it was another opportunity to go meatless, yet keep it nourishing. Meatless does not mean vegetarian, so you have opportunities to incorporate bone broths into your meals.Bone Broths are so healthful that there is a saying in South America that it can raise the dead. It's liquid gold, and can turn the simplest ingredients into very nourishing dishes . I used it ion both of these,

Cheesy Polenta-Veggie Bake

6 Cups bone broth ( I used chicken)
1 lb Aged Cheddar
3 Eggs, beaten
1 t salt
1 1/2 Cups Polenta
1 Large Red Pepper, cut into small pieces
2 Cups Shitake Mushrooms, chopped
1 t Paprika

Preheat over to 350 degrees
Bring water to a boil. Add polenta, stirring constantly until thickens. Turn heat down and add remaining ingredients. Stir until well blended.Pour into 13 x 9 pan and bake uncovered for 45 minutes to an hour. Cool for at least 10 minutes before serving.

Turnips in Creamy Mustard Sauce ( a Mark Bitterman inspired dish)

2 Tbs. Butter
1-1/2 Pounds turnips peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks
Sea Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 Tsp. raw sugar ( I used Splenda)
1 Cup more or less chicken stock ( I used chicken bone broth),
2 Tbs. Dijon mustard
1/2 cup fresh cream

Heat the butter on medium heat in a saucepan of a size that will allow the vegetables to sit on its bottom in a single layer.  When the butter is hot, add the vegetables, give them a toss and sprinkle on salt and pepper to taste. Allow the vegetables to cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally for about 10 minutes until they begin to brown and they are nicely cooked.

Both were perfect for a cold, wintry day . The polenta reminded me of mac and cheese in a way , being creamy and cheesy with a comfort food quality. The turnips were absolutely delicious ! The sugar and mustard removed any bitter twang of the vegetable and the cream gave it a comforting mouth feel. I thought of the people in Sweden at this time of the year, living in almost total darkness for a couple of weeks. I could see why turnips are a popular vegetable in their cuisine- packs a potent bite like the cold darkness of winter itself. Both are going to show up again on our table.

Going to press for more steps, and maybe a go at the little pedals without a seat thing.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Want to Lose Weight? Think This, Not That

About a month ago I read a blog from a woman to took a challenge to put the scale away for a month, and her posts led me to discover many other blogs that have changed everything I thought about food, health, weight and nutrition. Today I was led to a post on a blog written by the author one of the most convincing arguments to date that we are living in the days of insanity when it comes to weight. I invite you to read his post and think about everything you have been led to believe about weight.

Want to Lose Weight? Think This, Not That

It's not pretty !

Yesterday, inspired by the previous day's excursion with watering plants without aid, I determined that it was time to start pushing myself towards strengthening the muscles again. It it to the point where standing or walking is painful, but not of a sharp, nauseating variety. There is a difference- building muscle strength is pain, but it is a more mellow, core level sensation. Injury pain is sharp, blinding and demands immediate attention. Personally, I think healing pain is more sustained, and therefor a lot worse than the other ! However pain must be endured to heal, and it is best to get about the buisness of facing it sooner than later with recovery for me. So I set a goal to take 1,000 steps during the day. Not run a marathon, not climb a mountain, but simply get in 1,000 steps throughout the day without aid. I strapped on my pedometer and set about the day, encouraging myself to take extra steps whenever possible. It felt good AND painful, and I was excited to learn my step total for the day. Turns out I positioned it wrong, and for the entire day I registered 5 steps. Today is another day, and I have the pedometer positioned better, so we will try again !

Sometimes the results you get are not what your eye expects to see. I was expecting to see a number at least close to 1,000 with the pedometer, but didn't. Yet I know that I did more to be mobile than the day before. When I went to make dinner, I was expecting to have a dish with a pretty outcome, but did not get  one. I made a quiche with a crust, which is basically a pie , and for me that means mini disaster. Pies are not my longsuit at all ! I struggle to get the crust rolled properly , only to be unable to serve a piece in a way that looks pretty. It frustrates me, so I usually skip pie making if at all possible.  Yesterday was the first of three Ember Days ( an ancient custom that is sort of a mini thanksgiving for the season and a rent collection day for rural communities) , and by tradition it is a day of fasting  ( meatless). I discovered this recipe thsat involved a whole wheat, no roll crust, and I was inspired to take a chance.

As you can see, the presentation was not good, but the taste definitely was !    

Crab and Kale Quiche

    1 Single “no-roll” whole wheat crust
    3 Tbl. Butter
    2 cloves Garlic
    1/2 Cup chopped Sweet Onion
    1bunch kale, chopped
    1 Cup cubed Swiss Cheese
    1 – 1 1/2 Cups Crabmeat ( moc crab in my case due to an allergy)
    3 Eggs
    1 Cup Whole Milk Plain Yogurt
    1/2 Cup Milk
    1/2 Tbl. dried Parsley
    1/4 tsp. ground Celery Seed
    Sea Salt & Pepper

    Preheat oven to 400 F. Prepare your pie crust pastry dough, and press into a sturdy 9in pie pan. Bake 20 min. Let cool slightly before adding quiche filling.

    Meanwhile, melt butter in a pan, and gently saute garlic and chopped onions, adding in the fresh kale  when almost done. Season with salt and pepper.
    Beat eggs, yogurt, and milk together, adding in the celery seed powder and salt & pepper. Add crab, kale mixture  and swiss cheese to the pie crust (in that order), and pour egg mixture evenly on top. Sprinkle with a light dusting of paprika. Reduce oven temperature to 375 F, and bake for 23-30 min, until quiche is set. Serve warm or cold.

1/4 cup Butter, softened
1/4 cup Coconut Oil, melted
1  1/4 cups Whole Wheat Flour
1/4 tsp salt
Process in a food processor  and press into a pie pan

I think next time I make this I will do it as individual quiches or chill it before serving. It may have slid, but it was very tasty. As to real men not eating quiche ? Both of my real men wanted seconds.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Cavorting, crock pot and cookies

Yesterday I made a big step towards recovering. I walked around the house, without the chair or a cane, holding a watering can full of water and I watered all my plants . This may sound like a non such thing, but I have still heeded to support my self on the walls while walking , and carrying anything has been  out of the question. This was kind of like a mini marathon at this point. Yay me ...I am getting better !

I am constantly in search of some crock pot recipes that work well ! It seems that modern crock pots cook a lot quicker than their older models, and most foods turn not so nice when cooked in them. Especially true of any dish containing chicken !It takes a bit of experimentation with your own crock pot to discover just the right time table for the dish through trial and error. Happily, my guys are agreeable "guinea pigs"  in this process. These days I am also looking for recipes that use nourishing foods prepared in the proper way, so when I find on , I give it a whirl. Yesterday I experimented with quinoa in the crock pot for the first time. Quinoa is a very healthy, high protein whole grain, and to acchive it's full nutritional benefit it must be soaked in water and a small amount of whey or cider vinegar 8-24 hrs before cooking.( This step removes the phytic acid , which can block the digestive tract from fully absorbing minerals and other nutrients)

                                 Chicken and quinoa stew...or soup

Crockpot Chicken and Quinoa from The Nourishing Gourmet

1 cup quinoa (soaked overnight in water, than drained and rinsed in a strainer. If you don’t soak your grains still rinse to remove a bitter substance from the grain)
2 cups of chicken broth
1/2-3/4 cup of white wine (amount depending on your taste and wine used)
2 cups of water
2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 teaspoon of salt
4-6 carrots, peeled and cubed
3 celery, sliced
1 onion, minced
2 chicken breasts or thighs
3 Tablespoons of butter (opt, for added richness and flavor)

Throw all the ingredients in your crock pot, cook on high, 4 hours or on low, 8. Shred the chicken when done, and stir into the stew and you are done!

Verdict- quinoa seems to really break down in the crock pot !It became almost invisible, and the chicken did get overdone, sadly. It seems that the dish could have used a bit more flavor as well. However, it did come out tasty and very filling !

I also experimented with another cookie - a flourless Walnut Thumbprint using soaked walnuts and home made date butter

Walnut Thumbprints
1 1/2 cup walnuts
2 Tablespoons coconut oil
1 egg
1/2 cup dried unsweetened coconut
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
sweetener equivalent to 1/2 cup of sugar( I used Splenda)
fruit puree OR sugarless jam ( I used Date Puree- recipe follows)

In a food processor, combine walnuts and coconut oil. Process until it becomes walnut butter. You may need to stop and scrape down the sides once or twice. When that mixture is the consistency of a chunky nut butter, add the egg, coconut, soda and sweetener. Blend it until incorporated. Chill for 30 minutes.

Roll dough into balls or use a small scoop. Lay out 24 balls onto a cookie sheet. Use your thumb to make an indentation in the center of each ball as you press down. Fill this cavity with a small amount of jam. Bake for about 15 minutes at 325. Let cool on cookie sheet.

Date Puree
1 lb Majool Dates
water to cover

In a jar place dates , cover with water and soak at room temperature overnight, covered. In the morning drain the dates and place in a food processor. Puree till a jam like consistency. Store in refrigerator.

These were very good ! The date puree gives an almost chocolate taste, so you have a nutty, chocolate cookie that is not overly sweet, and satisfying. Definately a keeper !

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Baggy pants and Cuccia

Some of you may be asking " So how is all of this going for weight loss ? " To be honest, I have not stepped on the scale in a while. We made a decision to go a month without weighing in, and then I fell and injured my knee. There has been a great deal of swelling with the knee, and I know that such can cause a false reading till the swelling goes down. Much of it has , but Bob convinced me to simply put the scale away till after Christmas. However, I think I got an indicator of how we are doing yesterday. Over the weekend we noticed that one store was having fleece separates for 5 dollars and Bob volunteered to buy some. I gave him my size , and he brought these home and a pack of Fruit of the Loom undies. ( you know, the just practical , every day kind). Yesterday afternoon I finally got around to putting them on , and they are pretty ridiculously big, Injury potential big. Same with the underwear. Same with my existing bras , but not as much. Add to that, my rings are getting loose. Judging by these non scale indicators, I would say I am indeed losing weight. Both of the guys have noticed their clothes are loose. Gee- how can this be if weight loss is all about eating high fiber, low fat foods and exercising at least 30 minutes a day ? Could it be true that everything we have been told about weight loss and obesity is a complete and total lie ? Could it be that weight has more to do with hormones, which are fed and fueled by fat, than the idea that if you eat less you will lose weight ? Radical thoughts, but from what I am seeing, truth.

It struck me as kind of amusing that this "enlightening" indicator of my own progress was given to me on the feast of St Lucy ( okay...artistic stretch, but it makes a good segue into the original planned post)  St Lucy  was a woman born in Sicily who lived an extraordinary life of faith and was martyred for her belifs. Her feast day is December 13, and before the calender change , it marked the day of the Winter Solstice, and the beginning of growing light. In Scandinavian countries , where winter means long nights, the promise of returning light is a huge thing understood by all. They celebrate St Lucy's day with saffron spiced buns, cocoa, coffee and young girls serve these wearing wreaths of candles on their heads. And then there is the Sicilian traditions of the day which sort of fall under the wire. The island of Sicily suffered starvation , and they attribute the end to the starving time to the intercession of St Lucy. As a kid, I grew up in a close to Chicago suburb with a lot of ethnic families ( Polish, German, French and Italian). No one mentioned much about feasts celebrated beyond the main ones, but I do recall seeing this interesting looking pudding thing at a few of the Italian homes in mid December. Bob is half Sicilian , and when I decided to celebrate the Advent Saints this year, my thoughts went to serving something Sicilian for St Lucy's day. Cuccia ala Ricotta was in order. It is not a quick dish, but pretty healthy, tasty and could be made even healthier with some adaptations,  First you soak the wheat for a day, then you cook it and let it rest for a day , and then make the pudding. What results is this :

And here is the recipe
 Cuccia alla Ricotta

Soaked Cuccia (Cooked Wheat)
 *1 lb. of skinless wheat                                        
    * 4 oz. unsalted butter   
    * Pinch of salt
    * 1 bay leaf
Pick the wheat over for stones and place in a bowl. Cover with water and 2 tsp apple cider vinegar or whey. Soak overnight and drain.
In a large pot place the wheat, butter, bay leaf, and salt, add enough water to cover it then add an additional 2 quarts of water. Bring it to a boil over a medium heat, lower flame and simmer until it is cooked, about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Stir it occasionally; keep a small pot with hot water on the side to add in case the wheat absorbs all the water before it is cooked.
When wheat is cooked,( soft but still chewy) if the water has not been absorbed, drain the excess water, remove bay leaf, cool it, cover and refrigerate.
This is the Cuccia. The next day , proceed to make Cuccia alla Ricotta

Cuccia alla Ricotta
Serves 4 to 5
    * 1 cup of ricotta
    * 4 tablespoons of sugar
    * ½ cup of assorted candied fruits
    * ¼ cup chopped chocolate or chips
    * 2 drops vanilla
    * zest of ½ orange or 1 t dried orange peel
    * 3 cups of Cuccia
    * 1 teaspoon of cinnamon powder if desired

Combine the ricotta, sugar, half of the assorted fruits, chocolate, zest of orange and the vanilla, blend the ingredients thoroughly: add the cuccia and keep mixing until smooth and creamy. If it is too dry add some milk
Place in a serving dish, garnish with remaining candied fruits and a dusting of cinnamon.

It occurred to me that if I make this again, it would be a little healthier (and more authentic) to swap out the green and red cherries for simple dried fruits .  I do not think green candied cherries would have been served with this for some reason.Why this dish ? According to Sicilian legend, Saint Lucy brought wheat to the starving people of Sicily. A cargo shipment of wheat arrived on this day and people were so starving that they skipped grinding the wheat and simply boiled it till soft and ate it.Traditionally on this day, no bread or pasta is served in Sicilian households. Granted, they would not have taken three days to make a pudding, but instead simply boiled it and ate it. The dressing up came in later years obviously.

Monday, December 13, 2010

While visions of Sugarplums danced in their Wee Little Heads...

It's getting closer and closer to Christmas ! Parties, errands, commitments... all of which I have been able to say no to this year because of my recovery. I am walking a lot more stable, but it takes very little time for my muscles to become taxed and really wobbly. Does not make for a good situation to wander through stores at this time of year, so I have been giving Bob and Nick lists and they do the errands. Stairs are still a no go  as well  as other things, so we have canceled any party invites we have, including the annul gathering with my family. I am being super cautious ! A fall could mean more serious damage, and it has only been slightly more than 3 weeks. 6 weeks is pretty much the normal time table for serious injury healing, so it's just a mater of time and patience.

This has been a huge blessing, because it allows complete control over our eating ! We have specific dietary guidelines that we follow ( it must be food that our primitive ancestors would have been able to create) and properly prepared grains and nuts ( soaked, sprouted or fermented before cooking), and absolutely no fat free anything.Regular meals are very easy , but when you come to things like cookies, a little more thought provoking. Many recipes can be adapted to these guidelines, but some things get a little difficult to know how much water to soak the flour in and not compromise the quality of the final product. Happily there are several very creative women out there doing this for their families and are happy to share their knowledge. I visit their blogs and learn about how to nourish my family , even when it comes to treats. I decided for my first attempt into this healthy holiday baking would be Sugarplums. Did you know that they are an actual food substance and not a made up literary device ? In days gone by, they were sort of the go to sugar cookie because they contained no sugar beyond fruit. Spices, dried fruit and nuts that are properly prepared.

Sugar Plums ( adapted from The Nourished Kitchen, found here)

In a mixing bowl , place
 1 cup shelled walnuts ( or other nuts of your choice)
1/2 teaspoon unrefined sea salt
enough war water to cover plus an inch

Cover and let soak at room temperature 8-12 hrs ( this removes phytic acid from the nuts, making them more digestible and nourishing). Then when ready to make, drain, pat dry and place in a food processor. Add:
 zest of 1 orange ( or 1/2 tsp dried orange peel )
 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
 1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1 cup chopped pitted dates
1/2 cup chopped unsulphured apricots
1/2 cup chopped pitted prunes

Pulse for a minute, till well combined. Transfer to another bowl, roll into small bite sized balls .( be prepared to rinse your hands often, as this gets really sticky !) To make less sticky for serving, roll in unsweetened coconut flakes. Makes about 3 dozen.
How do they taste ? Like a cross between a Lara Bar, a truffle and a good fruit cake. No wonder children had visions of these dancing in their heads- they are yummy ! News of my creating them sent Nick into a spontaneous recitation of  Twas the Night Before Christmas- it made me smile ! After dinner , as we were watching a DVD in John Adams and making mention that tomorrow was St Lucy's Day I brought them out, curious to see how the guys would like them. They were inhaled ! I felt really good that these were something that tasted good and was good for you . Can't wait for the next experiment !


Friday, December 10, 2010

Fear without loathing in the Kitchen

Many years ago I had a garden and I did a lot of caning of the bounty. Hot water bath method for those items that had a high acid content ( pickles) , and everything else done with a pressure canner , and scrupulous hygiene for both processes. Botulisim was the demon that lurked under every doily, and one step in error could result in a toxic stew for me and mine. Lots of ultra clean equipment, surfaces, tools  and product gave you good odds from escaping this beastie, but even with being vigilant, botulisim could sink in.  Bacteria was a big bad wolf and cleanliness and attention to food temperature were the weapons of choice, and hey were my constant companion. Long after I gave up canning, those weapons remained in my holster.

Recently, I have been severely challenged in this department . The concept of lacto-fermentation( soaking grains at room temperature with a lactic acid starter solution) is at first a terrifying idea. "All foods must be kept at ____ temperature or food borne illness could result". You hear stories of salmonella outbreaks everywhere on virtually every food stuff, and the idea of doing something to encourage bacterial growth is terrifying ! Yet, to do this step means to break down the phytic acid in grains, nuts and beans means getting a resulting product that is better digested. It also means a method of introducing beneficial bacteria to your intestinal tract, which will further boost your absorption and disease fighting ability ( probiotics). One must be brave about these things. The grain products were one thing- I consoled myself that the heat in the cooking process would save me from some kind of evil, killer bacteria. However, there was a bigger fear to conquer- drinking beet kvass !!

Beet Kvass is made by placing peeled and cut beets in a salt or whey solution and letting them sit on a counter , covered, at room temperature for 48 hours, and then refrigerating another 48 hours before drinking the juice without any further processing. Benefits are one of the most healthful foodstuffs on the planet  that is used as a daily tonic, afternoon pick me up, aid in cancer treatment and more. I argued with myself that many people drink this and live, and have done so for many , many years. To take this step involved un-learning everything I had previously had ingrained about food safety. Preciously held beliefs would have to go away in order to try this health step for myself. I rationalized that this is what happens with yogurt making, cheese making, sourdough cultures and saurkraut making, so it is not s new thing. I started my own brew. It sat on the counter for two days, reminding me of my mental battle and then moved into the fridge for two more , where it leered at me every time I opened the door. Then on the 5th day, it was time to face the music. Time to pour off a small cup and drink it. Reason  for a small cup  is that it seems some people have found this stuff to be a little too powerful on their intestinal tract and cramping happens. Another reason seemed to be if I ingested a botulisim slurry, less would be easier to have cleaned out of my system  ( not really, but it sounded logical).

I opened the jar and sniffed- what resulted was a pleasant aroma. Good sign ! Nature has ordered that if it smells  pleasant, odds are very good that it is edible, and if it is bad it will smell bad. No cloudy liquid, no bulging lid, nothing that looked in the least dubious. So only thing lest was to actually drink the stuff. Over the lips, through the gums, look out stomach, here it comes !. The taste was  sort of like a very mild pickled unsweetened beet , with a base of salty and an overtone of earthy beet flavor. Not something that you would expect from a cold liquid, but not unplesant. I drank it down and watched how it preformed in my body. Within 25 minutes I felt a short , small burst of energy. Seems that it was agreeing with my body. The next afternoon I found myself actually craving the taste again. Strange, as I had never tasted this before. I blame my Ukranian DNA for this ! Nick disliked it, but Bob found it to be "interesting". I suspect that the health claims behind this might be true, and I intend to drink this daily for a month to see if it improves anything.

So another step taken towards a more nourishing diet. So far, I  have loved them all and found them to benefit the taste and texture of foods as well. Saturday I will be trying another step- making and eating sourdough noodles. It is another form of Russian/Ukrainian "peasant" cuisine. Noodle dough is made with eggs, whole wheat flour and whey and left to ferment at room temperature for 3 days and then rolled into noodles or dumplings and cooked. I have a batch currently working on the counter, ad I am reminding myself that salmonella is not found in the eggs themselves but rather on the shells. I am also reminding myself that for years, eggs were commonly stored at room temperature in baskets and no one got sick. Butter was also kept out at room temperature for that matter  and no one became ill. It's another leap of faith !

Thursday, December 9, 2010 :: Autism :: Fatty Acid Metabolism

More evidence that we NEED fat- and saturated fat for that matter. Saturated fats naturally have high levels of essential fatty acids. Plant based fats such as corn and canola oil are high in Omega 6 fatty acids, which arm our health :: Autism :: Fatty Acid Metabolism

The Truth About Saturated Fat and Cholesterol - Associated Content from Yahoo! -

Did you know that low fat foods make it harder for your body to absorb calcium ? Then add the fact that phytic acid, which happens when grains are not soaked, further inhibits calcium absorption, is it any wonder osteoporosis is such a problem ? Yet another reason to toss out the insanity of high fiber low fat diets. They do more in the long run to injure health than a high number on the scale will.

The Truth About Saturated Fat and Cholesterol - Associated Content from Yahoo! -

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Saint Ambrose would approve

Yesterday was another feast day- St Ambrose, and he is celebrated in the Catholic Liturgical Calender.  He was Bishop of Milan at one time and for reasons I am not certain , became the patron saint of beekeepers. Where there are bees and beekeepers, there is honey, so a dish to celebrate his feast should involve honey in some form. of those things that is avoided by weight loss people because it is a "bad" food ( bad meaning calorie dense). It is often replaced with a frankenfood like corn syrup or some low cal thing like splenda. In doing so you miss out on a tasty opportunity to consume a food that is a natural germicide and anti oxidant. ( Better to shoot for that magic number on  the scale because that will guarantee you are healthy and develop hardening of the arteries, stiff joints and a higher risk of cancer in the process, don't cha know ?) It is obvious that nature designed our appetites and foods to fulfill them, and then somewhere around 100 years ago slipped a mickey into our gene pool and everything that was naturally beneficial to the body suddenly became an evil substance. I see. Was it nature making the change, or bad science ? Or bad science that could be used to increase several peoples profits ?

So on to searching for a dish to mark this feast. Hmmm- here's a chicken dish featuring honey. And chicken with skin on. And perhaps the most evil substance of all- butter ! Three badies together-the horror ! We have all been told of the "evils" of butter , saturated fats and fat in general . "It promotes heart disease !"  " It will make you fat !" Truth is, butter and saturated fats will do neither. In fact, there are  lot of health benefits to butter. Consider the following :
   1. Butter is rich in the most easily absorbable form of Vitamin A necessary for thyroid and adrenal health.
   2. Contains lauric acid, important in treating fungal infections and candida.
   3. Contains lecithin, essential for cholesterol metabolism.
   4. Contains anti-oxidants that protect against free radical damage.
   5. Has anti-oxidants that protect against weakening arteries.
   6. Is a great source of Vitamins E and K.
   7. Is a very rich source of the vital mineral selenium.
   8. Saturated fats in butter have strong anti-tumor and anti-cancer properties.
   9. Butter contains conjugated linoleic acid, which is a potent anti-cancer agent, muscle builder, and immunity booster
  10. Vitamin D found in butter is essential to absorption of calcium.
  11. Protects against tooth decay.
  12. Is your only source of an anti-stiffness factor, which protects against calcification of the joints.
  13. Anti-stiffness factor in butter also prevents hardening of the arteries, cataracts, and calcification of the pineal gland.
  14. Is a source of Activator X, which helps your body absorb minerals.
  15. Is a source of iodine in highly absorbable form.
  16. May promote fertility in women.Eating butter also prevents vaginal dryness.
  17. Is a source of quick energy, and is not stored in our bodies adipose tissue.
  18. Cholesterol found in butterfat is essential to children's brain and nervous system development.
  19. Contains Arachidonic Acid (AA) which plays a role in brain function and is a vital component of cell membranes.
  20. Protects against gastrointestinal infections in the very young or the elderly.
Yes. An evil "must be avoided for your health" substance indeed.I could follow all of the current health guidelines ( which actual scientific data , as opposed to bad observation, is doing more to make us fat and sick than anything else), or go with things the way nature intended us to eat them ( very low tec methods that were stumbled upon by real people doing real things and not in a laberatory). I opted for the latter, and here is what we ate

  Honey Curry chicken with soaked brown rice ( cooked in chicken bone broth) topped with butter and a mix of kale and chard sauted in coconut oil and seasoned with garlic. Yummy !

Chicken parts, bone in, skin on,in a sufficient quantity to feed your family.
mix the following:
4 TBSP butter, melted
1/2 Cup honey
1/2 tsp curry
1/4 cup mustard
1 tsp salt
2 cloves garlic
Soy sauce to taste (about 1-2 TBSP)

Place bone in, skin on chicken parts in a 9x13 casserole. Pour or brush on the mixture, cover with foil and bake in a 350 oven for 1 hr. I tossed out the pan drippings, but you could pour them over rice.

Saint Ambrose was a passionate man who people either loved or hated. He had a way of standing for the truth, no matter who or what rallied against it. I think he would be pleased by the real food offerings that I chose to serve in remembrance of him on his feast day

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

St Nicholas Day

It is common knowledge, by just about everyone under the age of 8 or 10, that Santa Claus creeps down your chimney sometime between December 24-25th. It is the day of days , if you will. But in many places in the world  December 6th  is when he comes around to check out the surroundings , so to speak. It is the feast of one of the many figures who came to make up Santa, St Nicholas. Bishop of Myrna  and patron saint of Children, sailors and a few other things. Wooden shoes are placed out the night before in some countries , and are filled with small gifts for the good and coal for the naughty. In the Roman Catholic church ( as well as a few other denominations) , he is celebrated with a feast on the anniversary of the day of his death . Normally in our home we celebrate the day in some fashion- my son is named after the Saint in a thank you gesture for bringing him ans I safely through a high risk pregnancy. This year, while inspired by a few other bloggers ( and a desire to help my husband keep his focus through this season- he is Catholic and I am not) I have decided to celebrate the Saints through Advent at the dinner table.

A lot of the traditional foods that come with Saint Nick's day involve sweets. Could be done in a healthy fashion using soaked or sprouted flour, natural sweeteners and so forth, but if you rely to much on the sweet expressions , you can get into trouble. I chose instead to do something simple, nutritious and kind of sort of cute- Open Faced Bishop Sandwiches

Okay, I need help in the food styling department ! They are supposed to look like Bishop Miters. On a slice of whole wheat soaked bread place a slice of cheddar cheese and then cut a slice of Swiss into a sort of elogated wedge. Top with a strip of red pepper and place in a 350 oven for 10 minutes. Serve with a salad and a bowl of soup.

Soup is one thing that is no longer being used from a can. In the days long ago, grilled cheese would be accompanied by either a can of tomato or mushroom soup for a quick, go to meal that left you feeling peckish about 2 hours later. Reason being, canned soup is NOT food. It is a lab experiment in a can.  If it was lunchtime I would opt for minestrone or spit pea soup, but my husband really prefers cream of mushroom soup or clam chowder. What better reason  to try out  a recipe for universal real food cream of whatever soup  ?? This recipe was designed for once a month freezer cooking, so the leftovers freeze very well on their own , or in casseroles

Katie’s Real Food Cream of {X} Soup
 makes the equivalent of 4 cans of soup It freezes well inside a casserole but can separate if you freeze it alone

    3/4 cup butter ( yes, butter- margarine is a posion)
    3/4 c. whole wheat flour (can add more if you like a really thick base)
    4 cups whole milk ( or 3 cups of heavy cream and one cup whole milk for a richer soup
    2 cups homemade chicken bone broth
    Optional:  Chopped onions


Melt butter over low heat.  If using onions for extra flavor, saute in butter until limp.  Add flour and whisk together until smooth.  Cook 1 minute.  Do not let it brown!  Gradually add milk and chicken stock, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat when sauce has thickened.  This may take up to 15-20 minutes.


    * Cream of celery: Saute a stalk or two of chopped celery with the butter before adding flour.
    * Cream of mushroom: Saute chopped fresh mushrooms in butter.
    * Cream of broccoli: Add chopped steamed broccoli to the soup after it thickens.
    * Cheesy sauce: Add shredded cheese (sharp cheddar gives the most flavor) after removing from heat.  Stir to melt.
    * If you want to make a big batch of soup and have different flavors, you can always saute mushrooms or celery separately and simply add to the finished soup, one can-equivalent at a time.

Th result ? Move over Campbells. It's been fun, but I prefer real food ! The resulting simple supper of grilled cheese, soup and salad was incredibly satisfying, nourishing. Not only did I wind up with dinner, but extra to freeze and use in things like Tuna Noodle Casserole or simply soup for lunch or dinner. A little gift to rely on in the future- real food, fast and convenient. A red and white can replaced by something healthily made on the day that honors the man in the red and white suit !

That's me and my next in line sister, visiting the figure the good Bishop was morphed into , back in 1961. I was 3 1/2 and my sister was 2. Such visits were of great importance ! Santa delivered ! And years later , the ma behind the iconic figure would help to bring about the greatest gift I have ever received- my son. It's good to say Thank You.