turkey tettrazini in a bowl….

Saturday morning…. with no real plans for the weekend. So that means a leisurely start to the day, with the normal weekend chores like mopping the kitchen floor and vacuuming rugs and cleaning toilets and tubs interspersed with goofing off. One of my weekend routines is cleaning out the refrigerator, finding those forgotten items and trying to use fresh items before they go bad. I realized I had some chicken breasts needing to be cooked, brocolli needing to be used and remembered a recipe I’d clipped out of Cooking Light a few months ago. It was their remake of a reader’s fat filled chicken and brocolli soup. I thought it sounded worth trying, but hadn’t gotten around to it yet. So, despite the heat, I felt like giving it a whirl. I had most of the ingredients, and was more than ready to substitute Tillamook reduced fat cheddar for the light Veleeta. No way am I buying Velveeta in any form! I also used spagetti instead of vermicelli and added some grated parmesan cheese. I didn’t have half and half so just added more chicken broth (a lot more, as it was a really thick soup). And I cut the recipe in half. For two of us, 10 servings is just too many! It really tasted good…surprisingly like the recipe my mother gave me year’s ago for using up the Thanksgiving turkey – a tettrazini. Hmmm. Really the same flavors, just eat with a spoon rather than a fork.


Chicken and Brocolli Soup

Yield
10 servings (serving size: 1 cup)

Ingredients
Cooking spray
2 cups chopped onion
1 cup presliced mushrooms
1 garlic clove, minced
3 tablespoons butter
1.1 ounces all-purpose flour (about 1/4 cup)
4 cups 1% low-fat milk
1 (14-ounce) can fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
4 ounces uncooked vermicelli, broken into 2-inch pieces
2 cups (8 ounces) shredded light processed cheese (such as Velveeta Light)
4 cups (1-inch) cubed cooked chicken breast
3 cups small broccoli florets (8 ounces)
1 cup half-and-half
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3/4 teaspoon salt
Preparation
1. Heat a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add onion, mushrooms, and garlic to pan; sauté 5 minutes or until liquid evaporates, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to medium; add butter to mushroom mixture, stirring until butter melts. Sprinkle mushroom mixture with flour; cook 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Gradually add milk and broth, stirring constantly with a whisk; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low; cook 10 minutes or until slightly thick, stirring constantly. Add pasta to pan; cook 10 minutes. Add cheese to pan, and stir until cheese melts. Add chicken and remaining ingredients to pan; cook 5 minutes or until broccoli is tender and soup is thoroughly heated.

Nutritional Information
Calories:
317
Fat:
12.3g (sat 6.8g,mono 2.9g,poly 0.9g)
Protein:
27.5g
Carbohydrate:
23.8g
Fiber:
1.9g
Cholesterol:
74mg
Iron:
1.6mg
Sodium:
723mg
Calcium:
179mg

Luxuriating in heirlooms (tomatoes, that is)

I was reading that it’s not been a good year for tomatoes on the east coast.  Some kind of blight has affected the crop.  So much so that a food writer for the New York Times ended up substituting plums for tomatoes to make BLTs. While the recipe sounded interesting (and something I’d be willing to try), I don’t have the need this year. We have been harvesting a great crop of tomatoes from our very small garden area. The non-heirloom gold nugget cherry tomatoes have been providing bites bursting with flavor for many weeks. And now the heirloom tomatoes are joining in. The Green Zebras and Tigererllas are ripening. I love them both for not only their taste but also their names. But best of all, the Brandywines have yielded their first ripe tomatoes. The don’t look perfect (if you look close you’ll see the cracks) but they are huge….. and absolutely heavenly in flavor.

DSCF3436

I picked one yesterday and sliced it up at lunch for BLTs.  The bacon was a disappointment (too thick and chewy) but the tomatoes made up for it.  Still warm from the sun and absolutely dripping (both literally and figuratively) with tomato flavor.   We even set aside some of the seeds to make sure we will be growing them again next year (thanks, Carrie, for that push!).

An Anniversary Feast

So, I mentioned that we celebrated our 34th anniversary a few days ago.  I didn’t feel like going out to eat as nothing in Yakima seemed all the interesting at the moment, especially when the stores and produce stands are bursting with good food.  I ended up fixing some USA wild caught large prawns using a recipe I clipped some years ago from Sunset magazine called Garlic Lemon Shrimp.  It was so good I thought I should share.  The photo is from Sunset, not me, although I must say the ones I prepared looked really good also.  I just was too lazy to get out the camera.

shrimp-skewers-su-1076678-l

Here’s the recipe.  I cut it in half so the two of us could be generous with serving size but not ridiculous:
Lemon Garlic Shrimp

Notes: A brief cure in salt and sugar not only adds flavor to the shrimp and makes them more tender but also acts as a mild preservative for transporting them. You can assemble the skewers through step 2 up to 1 day ahead; cover and chill.

Yield

Makes 6 to 8 servings

Ingredients

  • 2  tablespoons  kosher salt
  • 2  tablespoons  sugar
  • 2  to 2 1/2 pounds peeled, deveined shrimp (12 to 15 per lb.), rinsed and drained
  • 1/4  cup  olive oil
  • 1/4  cup  chopped parsley
  • 1  tablespoon  grated lemon peel
  • 2  or 3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1/2  teaspoon  fresh-ground pepper
  • Lemon wedges

Preparation

1. In a bowl, mix salt and sugar. Add shrimp and stir gently to coat. Cover and chill 45 minutes to 1 hour. Rinse shrimp well and drain; also rinse and dry bowl.

2. Return shrimp to bowl. Add olive oil, parsley, lemon peel, garlic, and pepper. Mix to coat. Thread shrimp on metal or soaked wooden skewers, running skewer through the body once near the tail and once near the head end of each shrimp so it looks like the letter C.

3. Lay shrimp skewers on an oiled barbecue grill over hot coals or high heat on a gas grill (you can hold your hand at grill level only 2 to 3 seconds); close lid on gas grill. Cook, turning once, until shrimp are bright pink and opaque but still moist-looking in center of thickest part (cut to test), 5 to 6 minutes total. Serve with lemon wedges to squeeze over shrimp.

Catch a Falling Star

August 16th, 1975….. 34 years ago. That’s when Dave and I were married.  That seems a long time ago, and worthy of a celebration.   It’s free admittance day at the National Parks, and Mt Rainier would be a fun day trip, but we were just there a week ago, and plan on going there next week for a camping trip with Erin.  So I think we’ll stick around closer to home.  We did pick up some wild caught large prawns to prepare for dinner.  And we’ll hope for clear skies for some star gazing tonight, with hopes of seeing some good meteor showers.  It’s a few days past the peak for the Perseid showers, but there should still be some visible.   You just might find me humming this old tune as we watch the dark skies outside of Yakima…..

Catch a falling star an’ put it in your pocket,
Never let it fade away!
Catch a falling star an’ put it in your pocket,
Save it for a rainy day!

For love may come an’ tap you on the shoulder,
Some star-less night!
Just in case you feel you wanna’ hold her,
You’ll have a pocketful of starlight!

Hurrah for Yakima!

Ah, home.  The Yakima Valley.  Home to many apple orchards.  More hops fields (for beer) than any other place in the US.  Lots of vineyards for wine grapes.

And home to gangs.  Violence.  Drugs.  Shootings.  Doesn’t quite sound like Shangri La, does it?

Yet, I read the local paper this morning and discovered (…drum roll please…) that we are also the 13th strongest housing market in the US according to Money magazine!  Wow.

Earlier this week, “Good Morning America” cited Zillow.com in listing the Yakima metropolitan area, which is all of Yakima County, as one of the five best markets to sell a home.

See, it’s not just all bad news.  If you’re looking to move…..

Finally – tomatoes!

Dave carefully planted the seeds.  Brandywine, Tigerella, Green Zebra, Gold Nuggets, Big Rainbows.  A few others I lost track of the names.  Mostly heirloom  (or heritage) tomato seeds (except for the gold nuggets).  Carefully nutured.  Transplanted.  Watered.  Fertilized.  Watered.  Watered. And watered again.  (Yes, in this dry climate watering takes place several times some hot days).  And finally, we are enjoying the bounty of the garden.  We’ve been eating fresh tomatoes daily.  And I have a large bowl on the counter top filled with freshly picked ones just waiting to be eaten.  

Heaven on earth.  This is reason enough to nourish a few seeds.

aphid attack

It’s getting to be prime to for garden vegetables.  Ripe tomatoes every day now (what a luxury!), with gold nuggets and green zebras and brandywines all bearing well.  I can eat them morning (chopped up and spread over scrambled eggs with some salt, pepper and fresh oregano and thyme), noon (sliced for my sandwich) and night (much like morning).  

There is also kale ready to harvest, or so I thought.  It’s kind of funny.  Much as I like veggies, I’ve been a little slow to warm to certain greens.  Carrie introduced me to kale a few years ago out on Lummi Island.  We bought some from a local farmer and it was good.    Carrie sent us seeds this year and we planted them. And they grew.   I finally decided it was time to start eating it.  So Dave picked a bunch tonight, with me planning on using the recipe from Joy of Cooking (cook a few slices of bacon, saute a lot of kale in some of the drippings….).  It sounded good.  I was washing off the leaves and noticed some aphids.  Ewww.   So I examined more leaves.  Eww..   more aphids.  Sorry.  Threw this batch away and got out the insecticidale soap and sprayed all the leaves, front and back, thoroughly.   Try again in awhile, I guess,  to see just what kind of culinary delights I can make with this kale.

thinking about Florida.. or South Beach Blues

My clothes have gotten too snug in the middle.  The mirror tells the story quite clearly.  My winter of comfort foods has not made me any more comfortable, but less.  And the message finally got through to my head a few weeks ago when I decided some desperate measures were needed.  I’ve never been much of person for specific diets.  I always think “oh, of course.  Eat less, exercise more, choose basic, nutritious foods’.  But something just wasn’t working.  Yes, I was choosing good foods  But I was also choosing  lots of bad  foods.    And exercising.   And the dial on the scale kept going higher, and my waistbands kept getting tighter.   

So I decided to give the South Beach Diet a try.  My academic background includes a masters degree in nutrition.  I looked closely at the diet (knowing as a concept I really dislike “dieting”) and decided it wasn’t perfect but desperation sometimes drives you to accept less than perfection.  It’s not an Atkins diet, but it’s still  pretty restrictive of carbohydrates.   I love carbohydrates, all forms.   Whole grain and refined.  The first two weeks were rough.  But I stuck with it.  Now I am adding whole grains and fruits back to my diet (largely lean meats, seafood, eggs, low fat dairy and loads of vegies, although not my beloved carrots!).  And my clothes are fitting better.  The scale shows it’s working.  Hurrah.  And… I’m not even craving the usual treats.  Very odd.

I don’t think I’ll ever be ready to don a skimpy swim suit and frolic on the Florida beaches, but at least I am starting to feel better about putting on shorts to enjoy the central Washington desert.   Wish me well as I continue ……

So, what’s really in my sunflower seeds?

I have not been very good about blogging lately. Summer blahs? Extremely hot weather that just leaves me uninspired? Probably something like that. But not writing doesn’t mean I haven’t been thinking about food topics. I sometimes wish that weren’t true. I never seem to go long without thinking about food.

So, what’s been on my mind? Lots of weight related topics. Carrie sent me a link recently titled “A rambling response on obesity” It really got my attention. Read it if you have some time. Here is one quote from it: “To be sure, even I, the pessimistic libertarian, do not see any actual means for the government to prevent food processors from making their food taste very good. (Thank God). I just suspect that more than one of my interlocutors is casting around for just such a means.”

It goes along with some recent ramblings of my own about “sugar taxes” and “how the food makers captured our brains”. And leads me to the label I was just reading on my jar of Planter’s Dry Roasted Sunflower Kernels that we picked up on our recent camping trip.

 

planters sunflower kernels

It sounded like such a basic, simple snack. Until I read the ingredient statement to discover it wasn’t just sunflower seeds and salt. It also had sugar, cornstarch, msg, dried yeast, gelatin, corn syrup solids, paprika, onion and garlic powders, spices and natural flavors.  So this is what “dry roasting” is all about?  A patented process described like this: ““This invention relates to a process for preparing dry roasted nuts, comprising applying a uniform coating of a starch to raw nuts, applying a uniform coating of a gelatin solution to the starch-coated nuts, applying a coating of a seasoning mix to the coated nuts, and roasting the resulting nuts. The invention further relates to the nuts produced thereby. The process of this invention produces nuts exhibiting increased uniformity of coating, improved flavor, enhanced coating adhesion and reduced clumping and sticking.”

Hmmm.  So that’s why they taste so good.  And have managed to hijack my brain and taste buds.

“This invention relates to a process for preparing dry roasted nuts, comprising applying a uniform coating of a starch to raw nuts, applying a uniform coating of a gelatin solution to the starch-coated nuts, applying a coating of a seasoning mix to the coated nuts, and roasting the resulting nuts. The invention further relates to the nuts produced thereby. The process of this invention produces nuts exhibiting increased uniformity of coating, improved flavor, enhanced coating adhesion and reduced clumping and sticking.”