Friday, August 19, 2011

Quick Hint: Eating Light

Ever have those days where you just can't bear a heavy, calorie-laden meal?  Maybe it is the summer's heat, or the fact that you've eaten out four times this particular week.  Whatever it is...sometimes lighter is just better.  And in this world of super-sized portions and everything drenched in butter, I find that, for me and family, quite often we prefer the simple, lighter dishes.

Not that you would necessarily know it to read this blog.  But quite often, particularly during the summer months, this is how we eat:

This whole meal was right around 250 calories, it was satisfying, filling, and just what we needed.

(What's on the plate: about 1/3 cup brown rice lightly buttered with Brummel and Brown spread then a little salt and pepper; about 1/3 cup boiled green beans, yellow zucchini sauteed - using cooking spray - with red and green bell peppers and canned tomatoes; and a small tilapia fillet, lightly brushed with olive oil, seasoned with kosher salt and cracked pepper, then wrapped in foil and grilled.)

Friday, August 12, 2011

Quick Hint: Buttermilk

I used to hate it when a favored recipe called for buttermilk.  Who wants to buy a big, ol' container of buttermilk when all you need is a cup?  The rest inevitably would always go to waste. 

Sure, there is always the "sour milk" substitution - to substitute for one cup buttermilk, add one tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice to your measuring cup, then fill up to one cup with milk.

But sour milk isn't a pure substitute.  And when the recipe is really a favorite, you want the real thing.  Or, at least, I do.  However, in a Taste of Home magazine a few months ago, I saw this tip that I couldn't wait to try.  And once tried, I knew I had to share.

There is such a thing as powdered buttermilk.  How awesome is that?  It works great! Just add the powder to your dry ingredients, then replace the "buttermilk" in the recipe with the equivalent amount of water.  Easy peasy.  You keep it in the fridge, and it lasts a long time.

Who knew?!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Andean Gumbo

We had a small grilling disaster.  Not a big disaster, no one was injured and the only casualty were the potatoes.  We had plenty of other food, so their loss was not really felt.  It wasn't the type of disaster one would normally imagine.  There was no smoke or charred mess.  Instead, the potatoes were woefully underdone.  Almost crunchy.  Not suitable for the intended meal, but my husband and I were determined to find some sort of use for them.

Digging through the fridge and freezer, we found that we had some Andouille sausage, some non-descript white fish, probably Tilapia, and a variety of other veggies and spices.  We decided to do some experimenting and came up with this - Andean Gumbo.  (Because potatoes orginally came from the Andes mountains.  We could have gone with the name "Irish Gumbo," but we wanted something slightly more obscure - and historically accurate - than that.  That's just the kind of dorks that we are.)

We started with a basic recipe for Seafood and Okra Gumbo from an old Williams-Sonoma Kitchen Library cookbook "Soups" that I bought a loooong time ago.  Perhaps as long ago as high school.   This is my ultimate, go-to book for soups.  Everything I have tried from the book is amazing.  So we were pretty sure that we wouldn't be led astray.

And we weren't.  The soup turned out delicious.  One caveat - I burned the onions in step one and was too lazy to start over.  So...everything after that took on the color of the char on the onions and gave the soup and ugly, muddy color.  This is yet again one of those soups that tasted far better than it looked.  Since I don't like to get caught up on looks, I'm OK with that.  All-in-all, it was a great experiment, and we can add another meal into our rotation.  (Which isn't really a rotation, as usually I'm trying so many new things that I rarely make the same thing more than a couple of times a year.  Something that is kind of a bummer when it is really good.)

Andean Gumbo

1/3 C. vegetable oil
1 onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
3 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
4 C. stock or broth (we used some home-made chicken stock that we had in the freezer)
1 can diced tomatoes
6 small white fish fillets (tilapia, cod, etc)
1 small package frozen okra
5-6 cooked Andoille sausages
1 green bell pepper, diced
2 bay leaves
1 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. dried thyme
1 tsp. dried oregano
1/4 tsp. cayenne (or more, if you like it hotter)
about 4 or 5 medium potatoes, mostly cooked, diced.

1. In a large soup pot, warm oil over medium heat and saute the onion and garic until translucent (don't let them burn like I did and make your soup ugly).  Reduce heat to low and add flour, stirring occasionally until golden brown (this is your roux, or thickener).
2. Whisking constantly, stir in the stock.  Then add everything else but the fish and let simmer for about 35 minutes.  Add the fish and continue to cook until fish is done, about 10-15 minutes.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Lemon Cake with Raspberry Filling

In about a week I'm moving to a new house across town. One of the things that I will miss the most about this house is my raspberry patch.  I got these raspberries from some unwanted volunteers that came up from my grandma's patch the spring after we moved into this house.  Our untouched-for-over-100-years soil here has been good to the raspberries and they have flourished.  I'm trying to figure out if I can sneak a few out and onto my new property, or if that would be unethical. 

This year I was very much looking forward  to these raspberries and brainstormed all the ways that I could use them.  As soon as I had enough - and it didn't take long, I only needed about a pint - I decided on this lemon cake with raspberry filling.  I got the inspiration from I am Baker, but decided to put my own spin on it.

I started with this lemon cake recipe from, except I skipped the lemon syrup over the top part.  This makes a very light, moist cake with a nice, strong - but not too tart or overpowering - lemony flavor.

I made the cake in two 9-inch layers. I really need to invest in some 8-inch cake pans, I think it would have turned out better.  Then I cut each layer in half, so I had four thin layers.

For the filling, I made one package of raspberry jello according to package directions.  However, I didn't want the texture all jello-y, so about an hour and a half into the chilling process I mixed in about 1/3 to 1/2 cup of applesauce to make the jello, well, less jello-y and more sauce-y.

After jello and cake were both appropriately chilled/cooled, I got to the assembly.  On a cake stand, I put one layer of cake, then a thin layer of the jello - being carefull not to get to within a 1/2-inch of the outer edge so it wouldn't smoosh through when I stacked the other other layers.  Next came a layer of cake.  Then a layer of Jello.  Then I covered the jello with about a pint of raspberries.  Then a little bit more jello.

Next came a layer of cake, then jello, then the final layer of cake.  I frosted it with some Cool Whip.  I put a very thick layer on, then used a pattern that I cut out of some cardboard from a cereal box to "comb" the side of the cake to make the design.

This cake was gooooood.  Good enough to make me think about digging up half my raspberry bushes and hauling them to the new house, despite the August heat...and the potential ethics of the situation.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Rhubarb Dessert

You can't truly appreciate summer in Iowa unless you are appreciating it with some sort of rhubarb dessert.  This delicious, tangy vegetable (yes, rhubarb is a vegetable, I just looked it up) wasn't really available growing up in New Mexico - I suppose you could probably have gotten some poor quality rhubarb that was ripened on methane gas as it rode 1,000 miles to the grocer's shelves...but that just doesn't compare to rhubarb straight from the garden.  One of the things I would look forward to every summer with our annual trip to Grandma and Grandpa's farm was the guarantee of some sort of rhubarb dessert.

 This particular dessert is absolutely delicious.  A flaky shortbread crust, covered in a gooey layer of tangy-sweet rhubarb.  Practically perfect in every way.  Except maybe looks.  I don't think this one will win any beauty contests.  But don't let that discourage you, underneath that rough exterior lies a great deal of inner beauty.

Rhubarb Dessert (yes, it is really just simply called "Rhubarb Dessert")
Recipe comes from the kitchen of Barb Petersen (my mother-in-law)

1 C flour
5 Tbs. powdered sugar
1 stick butter, melted

Spray an 8-1/2 x 11 inch pan with cooking spray (spray very well, or it will stick).  Mix together ingredients with a fork or pastry cutter.  Put dollops into pan and press down to cover the bottom with your fingers.

Bake 15 mins at 350.

2 eggs, beaten well
1-1/2 C. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 C. flour
3-1/2 C. rhubarb (cut into about 1/2 inch cubes)

Mix together the sugar, salt and flour.  Add to eggs and mix well.  Add rhubarb and toss until coated.  Spoon over hot crust.

Bake at 350 for 35 minutes or until lightly browned and topping is set.