Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving, Continued

Here are a couple of other things I made for Thanksgiving, in addition to a nutritarian-friendly dressing of whole-grain dried breads, lowfat homemade cornbread, celery and onions, dried cranberries, currants, sage, marjoram, and thyme, plus stock:

Orange-Apricot Glazed Brussels Sprouts
4 cups fresh brussels sprouts
1/2 cup orange juice
4-6 dried apricot halves, snipped into small pieces
2 teaspoons crumbled rosemary leaves

Steam brussels sprouts and set aside. In a saucepan large enough to hold the sprouts, boil orange juice until reduced by half, adding the apricots and rosemary during the process.  Once the apricots are softened and the juice reduced, add the sprouts, stirring to coat with the glaze.

Verdict:  Very Good.  I had some of these cold when others were breaking out the leftovers in the late evening.

Crisp Asparagus Spears
1 bunch slender asparagus, tough ends cut or snapped off
1/3 cup Amazing Creamy Garlic Dressing (see previous post)

Lightly steam asparagus, leaving still very crisp, then plunge into cold water.  Arrange in serving dish and provide dressing on the side as a dip.

Verdict: Very Good.  You just can't go wrong with this condiment.

Clear and Elegant Gravy
3 cups high-quality stock, defatted
1/2 cup white wine
2 teaspoons cornstarch and a little water to dissolve (may use more for thicker consistency)

Cook down the stock until 1/3 to 1/2 the original volume, then add the wine and cook down a bit more, adding the dissolved cornstarch near the end to thicken a bit. The idea is not to have a thick and gloppy gravy but to give the naturally-thin stock a bit more body for serving over potatoes, dressing, etc.

Verdict: Excellent.  The trick is in the stock, no doubt. It must be a high-quality thing, never bouillon or (horrors!) canned stuff or sloppily-thrown-together vegetable or meat water.  It is beyond my expertise to explain stock well myself, as I do it by instinct and taste and sight. I'll have to leave you to your own instincts or investigations.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Here's To A Healthy Thanksgiving!

Having begun the 2011 Holiday Challenge of Dr. Joel Fuhrman this week, I am committed to making Thanksgiving as healthy as possible.  So here are a few things I'm doing for our feast.

Most important of all, I am alert and aware of all the things for which I am thankful, not being in a food coma already this week--I mean, to get in all the treats that are available for Thanksgiving, you really need a week!  Pumpkin rolls, egg nog, cute frosted cookies, pies of every sort, chocolate treats (though I associate chocolate with Christmas instead), an enormous turkey, creamed this and that, dips and cheese balls and punches and sauces . . . it's all too much!

First strategy: Avoidance - purchase or make less-tempting-to-me versions of favorites. For example, I purchased brown-and-serve rolls from the grocery instead of making the heavenly ice-box rolls that are a family tradition. Yes, we love them, but why not put off having them until maybe Christmas, when one missing family member will be here?  Also, I'm skipping making a pecan pie because that's my favorite. We'll have pumpkin and apple, and I'm going to find or dream up a date-and-pecan kind of treat that will keep me happy--I'm thinking a ball/truffle kind of thing.

Second strategy: Indulgence - purchase the nicest versions of fully nutritarian items, like unsweetened coconut, fresh pineapple, gorgeous pears, brussels sprouts on the stalk, and nuts and dried fruits for special treats.

Third strategy: Creativity - make dishes nutritarian-friendly to begin with or make my own versions to serve alongside the versions the family will have.  With that goal in mind, I share a few of the things I've made today . . . (no verdict yet on the ones I haven't tried beyond initial tasting)

Mashed Potatoes
2 cups boiled white potatoes
1/4 cup Amazing Creamy Garlic Dressing (see below)
2 tablespoons dried chives
pepper to taste

Mash the potatoes, mix in the other ingredients, and serve. I put mine in a small casserole dish to reheat for Thanksgiving and after.

Amazing Creamy Garlic Dressing
1 cup raw cashews
3 cloves garlic
juice of one lime
1/2 - 1 cup water

Whirl all in a high-powered blender until completely smooth, and store in a jar in the fridge.

Verdict: Excellent.  I have enjoyed this on salads this week, and when I put it on steamed collard greens last night the family was sure it was butter.

Simple Skinny Sweet Potatoes
1 cup baked sweet potato
1/3 cup minced fresh pineapple
dash each cloves, ginger, and cinnamon, with more cinnamon for the top
1 tablespoon chopped pecans

Mash sweet potato with the pineapple and mix in spices, then put into a non-stick-spray-coated custard cup and top with pecans and more cinnamon

Elegant Ambrosia
3 quarts Valencia or Navel oranges (make that about 6 pounds oranges, which yields 3 quarts of sections)
2/3 cup unsweetened flaked coconut, toasted or not, as you prefer
1/3 cup Cointreau (optional)

Peel and section the oranges, then tear each segment in two, to release the juice somewhat. If you're really OCD, remove all the membranes, but I think they include important nutrients. Add coconut and toss, then pour Cointreau on and toss again.  Refrigerate at least overnight to let the flavors meld, stirring occasionally.

Verdict: Excellent!  This is one of my all-time favorite holiday dishes (especially for Christmas), even without the Cointreau, though I've traditionally had it with sweetened coconut. I usually serve it at the table with the meal, but for Thanksgiving this year I'm serving it as a dessert, so I won't notice the pie I'm not eating!  It's better as the days go by, so that's why I make so much to begin with.

To be continued . . .

Friday, November 18, 2011

Jewel Salad

My lunchtime salads are pretty routine for me, and if you search through "salad ideas" from the tags, you'll see a lot of the same things going on: base of lots of dark green lettuce, assorted other veggies for crunch and variety, a cup or so of beans, a half ounce or so of nuts or seeds (or some blended into a dressing), and some canned beets or diced fruit or occasionally dried fruit.  Yesterday I made a "micro salad" of all of that kind of thing, including some kale, and everything was chopped very small.

In an effort to simplify and to quit being dependent on the lazy answer of SAD dressings (as I have resorted to in recent weeks months), I'm working to make sure that the salad is moist enough (without seeming just soggy) and flavorful enough. Yesterday's salad was just right with diced pear and a sprinkle of balsamic vinaigrette.  And here's what I did today, a beautiful salad that reminded me of rubies:

Jewel Salad

4 - 6 cups red leaf lettuce and romaine, torn in small pieces
1/2 cup diced canned beets
3/4 cup black beans
1/3 cup red grapes, halved
1 green onion, chopped (or red onion would work, too!)
1 clove garlic, pressed or minced on top
1/3 - 1/2 oz. sliced or chopped nuts (I used pecan meal, lightly toasted)

Carefully toss all ingredients together and enjoy a 400-or-so-calorie giant and filling lunch.

Verdict:  Excellent.  And beautiful, too!  I realized one of the things I miss from bottled dressings (or from the blended nut/seed ones) is a strong bite of garlic, and I thought I'd experiment with just putting pressed garlic on top to mix through the salad, and it worked beautifully.  Garlic provides a deep, rich flavor and fullness to a salad.

Quick and Satisfying Supper

Last evening I made a quick and satisfying supper I wanted to share:

Sherried Peas and Mushrooms

1/2 onion, chopped
8 oz mushrooms, sliced
16 oz. bag frozen peas
Tablespoon of sherry

Water-saute the onion and mushrooms until softened, then stir in the bag of peas and cook on medium until the peas are done, stirring occasionally--no need for additional liquid.  Just before serving, stir in the sherry.

Verdict: Very Good.  This was a hearty and satisfying flavor, keeping me from missing the creamed tuna and noodles the rest of the family had with it. :-)

Clementine-Fennel Green Beans

1 pound fresh green beans, trimmed and broken or cut into 2-inch pieces
juice from 3 small or 2 regular clementines
1 tsp. fennel seeds, crushed

Steam the green beans and then dress with the clementine juice and fennel seeds. I ate this at room temperature as a salad, but it would be good warm, too.

Verdict: Very Good.  I like the citrus combination with fennel seed--it's a "bright" flavor

I had about a cup each of these dishes, and an apple with sliced almonds, for my supper.

Friday, November 11, 2011

My Salad Today

I love the concept of Pinterest but don't dare delve into it just now.  But sometimes I just want to share great stuff. So here's the salad I'm enjoying for lunch today . . .

Essentials Pear Green Salad

4 cups packed mixed baby greens
1 cup broccoli slaw
1/4 small red onion, sliced
1 large red pear (green will do!), diced
1/2 oz lightly toasted raw cashews
1 T. bleu cheese crumbles (optional for vegans)
a few shakes red wine vinegar

Toss all ingredients together and enjoy the luxury.

Verdict: Excellent!  This is such a bright, fresh combination, and yes, it would still be good without the cheese, if necessary.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Leftovers Surprise

Today I launched into grading for my first quarter of my writing class with 64 online students, and with hubby away at suppertime and some easygoing kids in the house, I didn't need to do more than paw through the leftovers to figure out what to make us for supper.  Here's what I wound up with, presented with the hope that it will give you hope for your leftovers!

Middle-and-Far-Eastern Bowl

Assembled from:
Brown rice
Tasty Bite Madras Lentils (1 pouch)
Cooked cauliflower (2 cups)
Black beans (1/2 can)
Falafel dough/batter (which is it, really?)
Asian Green Pepper Salad* (see below)

First in the bowl goes some brown rice. I combined the lentils, cauliflower, and black beans and microwaved them, then browned little "patties" of the falafel mixture in a skillet to kind of crumble on top.  And on my serving I put some of the pepper salad, which made a beautiful garnish.

Verdict: Pretty good. This made enough to serve four generously. The falafel part could easily be left out, or substituted with hummus. The peppers on top were great.  Now for the peppers recipe . . .

Asian Green Pepper Salad

4 large green peppers, cut into matchsticks
1/4 onion, minced
1 stalk celery, diced fine
1 T. rice vinegar (I used the kind with sugar)
1 T. sesame oil
1 T. roasted sesame seeds (in the spice aisle at an Asian grocery)
1 T. snipped cilantro

Combine all ingredients and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Verdict: Excellent. I really like this combination of flavors, and it makes a great garnish on the above leftovers even two days after making it.

While I'm on surprises, I'll share a great salad I enjoyed today:

Black Bean and Pineapple Salad

Mixed baby greens and romaine lettuce (I used about four cups packed)
1/2 small onion, sliced
1/2 can black beans
several chunks fresh pineapple, cut into small bits
1-2 tablespoons creamy dressing of your choice (optional)

Combine and enjoy!  Verdict: Very Good.  This would be nice more dressed up, but it was just a quick lunch for me today.