Monday, August 29, 2011

Are Cooking Magazines Obsolete?

Joining a CSA has been a lot of fun, but I have to confess that I used to be stymied when it came to what I could prepare with such things as Collard Greens, Swiss Chard, Beets, and scads of tomatoes and peaches.  Enter websites such as and  I know there are other recipe-laden websites, but in my opinion, these 2 rock!  You can find recipes for virtually any ingredient out there.  And what I love the most about the sites is that the recipes are given 1 to 5 stars, with helpful comments as to why the recipes were ranked the way they were.  I have made it a rule to only make 5 Star recipes with no less than 20 people rating them.  Using these simple rules, I have made the most incredible Swiss Chard, Beets, and Peach recipes.  I also found an outstanding recipe for lamb burgers - one that a young guest who had never tried lamb before truly enjoyed.  This week I will make a pork tenderloin with cabbage!  Yes, you guessed it - we are getting cabbage from our farm on Thursday. 

So, in the scheme of things, what does this mean?  Well...I have been subscribing to 3 cooking magazines for at least 9 years now and may actually let the subscriptions lapse.  Why?  For one thing, having hundreds of magazines with little bookmarks in them makes it difficult to keep track of individual recipes.  I have listings of which issues have what, but sifting through stacks of what used to be orderly piles of magazines gets frustrating!  I simply do not have the shelf space to properly file and organize them. 

I guess what I am saying is that, along with an e-mail address, a Facebook page, and a Blog, I will now more than likely be using my computer to determine much of what my family eats each week.  Why not?  I've already learned how to navigate around to buy things that I can't find in stores - just ordered A Diary From Dixie, by Mary Chestnut.  And this coming from a girl who used to think that computers meant Big Brother could be watching us! 

I know I am not unique in doing this - with the recipes I mean.  Some of the recipes I have found online have had hundreds of people make and rate them.  One had over a thousand!   Of course, That means finding a new way to categorize and organize those...But hey!  I suppose I can just do that online....

Friday, August 26, 2011

"WhoNu?" Cookie Review

There's a new cookie in town!  And it has as much fiber as a bowl of oatmeal, as much calcium and Vitamin D as an 8 oz. glass of milk, and as much Vitamin C as a cup of blueberries.  The cookies are called "WhoNu?: Nutrition Rich Cookies" and come in at least 3 flavors (that I could find): chocolate chip, chocolate cream filled, and vanilla cream-filled. 

I was introduced to them by a good friend of mine and there were several of us to sample them the evening she brought them out.  We all agreed that the chocolate chip variety had a nice texture - soft and chewy like it says on the box.  And I liked the taste - enough to go out and buy my own box.  My son and his friends, however, felt that they did not have enough taste - not sure what that means, but I'm guessing they weren't buttery enough?  Maybe not sweet enough?  For me, they were just fine.  My sons liked the chocolate cream cookies better - said they almost tasted like an Oreo cookie.  We haven't tried the vanilla creams yet. 

Besides the fiber, calcium, and Vitamins D and C, these cookies contain respectable amounts of Vitamins A, B12, E, and Iron, and about 10% of many other essential Vitamins and Minerals.  Basically, they contain the equivalent nutritional component of a fortified breakfast cereal, which, for a serving of cookies, is not bad.  A serving, by the way, is 3 cookies.  And for the chocolate chip variety (my personal favorite), it contains 150 calories and 5 grams of fat. 

For a number of years now, I just have not eaten many cookies.  Period.  Not unless I made them myself, which meant they were date walnut bars, or unless they were made by My Vegan Baker (see Blog post on her delicious and nutritious products).  It's nice to know that there is a product out there that I can pick up if I am away at a baseball tournament or visiting my older son at William & Mary.  Or if I am shopping and get that urge for something quick and sweet.

Well, it looks like a hurricane is coming our way!  I have stocked up on water, food, paper products, and well, a couple of boxes of WhoNu? cookies.  Really.....

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

We're Finally Home!

Last weekend we moved my oldest son into his college dorm and became familiar with his school, the administrators, and some of the students at William & Mary.  And this momentous event marked the end of our summer travels.  Between baseball tournaments, anniversary celebrations, and family vacations, we have not been home much.  Consequently, I have not had many opportunities to cook this summer.  Until, that is, this week.  This week the last thing I have wanted to do is eat out.  I am tired of restaurant food, whether it is a small deli or an elegant French restaurant.  I don't like having limited control over what I eat.  I ordered a red clam sauce that ended up being flooded with  olive oil.  Even the "vegetable of the day" was all too often bathed in butter.  Egg white omelettes were fried in some kind of fat, probably bacon grease.  And serving sizes were way too large.  Did I gain weight this summer?  Oh yeah.  But like a yo-yo, I would come home from each "trip", no matter how short, with a few extra pounds, meaning I had to really watch it the few days I was home to take them off again.  My weight went up and down, up and down all summer long. 

Well, now we are home for the next, God willing, 30 days, and I plan to get back on track.  And I need your help in doing it.  Here's my problem.  I have about 8 ears of corn from our CSA that I have not been able to cook yet and I want to make something (or some "things") wonderful with them before they are past their prime.  I have an edemame succotash recipe that sounds good, but that leaves me with about 4 more ears of corn.  I am open to suggestions and would especially appreciate foods that can be frozen or that will last in the refrigerator for more than a couple of days.  I also have a glut of tomatoes.  I have made a pasta sauce with the ones that just had to be used or die, but would greatly appreciate suggestions for what to do with the rest of them.   Especially since this week's box will contain more corn and tomatoes!

The past few days I have made some awesome recipes using produce from our CSA, including stewed Greek Green Beans which I served with veggie-laden Chicken Souvlakia; and a "Makeover Loaded Baked Potato Salad" from the August/September 2011 issue of Healthy Cooking magazine (see photo below and magazine link in right column).  I served it with Greek-style turkey burgers.

To shake things up (Yes, I'm making a tacky reference to the quake we had here today), I used the peaches we got from our farm to make a Blueberry Peach Cobbler from Cooking Light magazine.  And my weight?  It is remaining stable.  Why?  Because, even with the cobbler and the potato salad, I am controlling what and how much I eat.  Tomorrow, I plan to use my farm's eggplant to make Eggplant Parmesan from the January 2006 issue of Vegetarian Times.  Of course, I will make it with the home-made pasta sauce I made with all those tomatoes last night.  Yup, it's good to be home! 

Monday, August 15, 2011

Beach Week - Not Just For High School Graduates!

We just got back from spending a week in Duck, North Carolina.   Good-bye reality.  Hello Summer dreamin'.  O.K.  So, the first few days were hot - close to 100 degrees.  But, once the weather cooled off, it was amazing.  The last 2 days were so beautiful that we stayed on the beach from just after lunch until the sun went down.  Think cool breezes, kites flying, dogs frolicking in the surf, and, yes, food - lots of food.  Especially after walking along the beach for an hour or two, (or three? - it sure felt like it!). 

We ate out a few times.  Once at a Japanese steakhouse.  And then at the Blue Point.  If you ever go to the Outer Banks in North Carolina, you have to eat at the Blue Point.  Dinner reservations must be made a month in advance, but the food is A-1, first class, amazing.  Pictured below is a Vegan dinner that the chef invented for us when we were there.

It may not look like much, but every single item was mouth-watering - from the perfectly seasoned zucchini toss to the melon with tomato jam and basil.  I truly believe he invented this meal the night we were there and if he were to feature it on the Iron Chef, he would win for the Veggie Battle.  Not familiar with the show?  It's still on.  Check it out.  It is hilarious. 
When we cooked for ourselves, we weren't quite as creative as the Blue Point chef, but we did pretty well, if I say so myself.  I don't know about the other 7 folks staying at our house, but I only gained 3 pounds the entire week.  That's with 3 meals, snacks, dessert, and a fair amount of Virginia and New York wines.  Just a few days of "watching it", with the addition of some nice long walks through our neighborhood trails and they'll be gone....Yup, I love our trips to the Outer Banks.  But now, as reality sinks its teeth into my unwilling neck, and as I prepare to send my oldest son off to college while I watch my baby get his license and drive his way into independence,  I can dream and cook and share it all with you.  So until next time, happy and healthy eating!!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Are All Bed & Breakfast Inns This Wonderful?

Last weekend my husband and I celebrated our 20th anniversary by spending it in a Bed & Breakfast near one of Virginia's Wine Countries.  I have to confess that it was the first time I had ever been to a Bed & Breakfast anywhere and the experience was wonderful.

The couple who owned Tanglewood, the renovated turn-of-the century mansion were, unbenownst to me, both renowned journalists who now write non-fiction books, one of which I am currently reading.  Their Bed & Breakfast is located on top of a small hill and tucked within some trees, giving it just the right amount of charm and privacy.  The rooms are all tastefully decorated and each has a private bath.  The common areas are filled with original works of art that the couple has collected and are comfortable and inviting.  And the breakfasts at this "Bed and Breakfast"?   Well, they were amazing!

The photo above is of our first morning's feast.  After being served a cappuccino and some tea, we were treated to one of the best banana breads I have ever had.  And I love a good banana bread!  That's it in the bottom right corner.  We were then served a bowl of fresh fruit - my husband's was honeydew melon and blueberries with a light home-made syrup and mine, blueberries and cream.  After that, we were presented with the 4-course main meal, which consisted of  an egg and cheddar souffle, home fries, bacon, and baked tomatoes with oregano and mozzarella.   All of it, of course, was home-made and all of it was outstanding.  I tried to replicate the baked tomatoes with mozzarella and mine fell short of what we had at Tanglewood. I don't know if it was the home-grown tomatoes or the quality of the cheese they used, but, to me, that was the most delicious part of what was a perfectly cooked breakfast.  

The breakfast and decor were only part of what made our stay at Tanglewood an unforgettable experience.  The couple who owns and runs the place are perfect hosts who made us feel like family.  It was quite warm last weekend and they kept a well-stocked refrigerator in the parlor complete with bottled water, beer, sodas, and white wine.  They made reservations for us at a fabulous French restaurant, and were helpful with other recommendations, local directions, etc.  Which leads to my question:  Are all Bed and Breakfasts this wonderful?  If so, I have discovered the way I want to "see America".  

Pictured above is a photo of the baked tomatoes I enjoyed so much - I could have made a meal out of them and the banana bread alone.   Below is a picture of the beautiful stained-glass windows that cover the wall leading up to the second floor where the bedrooms are.
Tanglewood is located in Front Royal, Virginia.  If you are looking for a special place to celebrate a milestone in your life, I highly recommend it.  Heck, I recommend it to anyone who wants to spend a nice weekend being pampered by a truly special couple in a truly special place.  Until next time, happy and healthy eating!!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Still Life With Resveratrol, Fiber, Protein, and Antioxidants or "These are a Few of My Favorite Things"

I get tired of reading articles on all the foods we should avoid.   Last week I actually read one on celery, cucumbers, and iceberg lettuce - the problem with them being that, although they are decidedly low in calories, they are not particularly high in nutrients.  Before that, I read an article on the 13 most unhealthy "health-foods".  Included on the list were rice cakes, sushi, restaurant salads, dried fruit, and granola. 

As for the vegetables we should "avoid", I have a real problem with that.  The three the article targeted, although they are admittedly not vitamin-packed, are rich in fiber, among other things.  And for the fiber they contain alone, if you like them, I would leave them in your diet.  We tend to be seriously lacking in fiber in our diets.  As for the rice cakes, dried fruit, and granola, I have one word for you - "moderation", especially with the dried fruit and granola.  Watch the serving sizes because the calories and sugar do add up.  As for restaurant salads, read my post titled "I Was Good and Ordered a Salad".  I happen to agree with this one!

If you want to play it safe when you are craving a snack, check out the photo above.  O.K., so I would not recommend wine for an afternoon snack, but an occasional glass with your supper (provided you do not have mitigating health issues) can be a real plus.  The resveratrol in it has now been linked to actual weight loss, since it aids in metabolism, acting in your system much like a long walk or a jog.  Summer is the best time to shed extra pounds with the vast array of fruits available.  Our CSA has been providing us with yummy peaches and plums.  This is also a great time for blackberries, apricots, and melons.  A (non-fat) yogurt a day provides you with at least 20% of the daily recommended allowance of calcium, not to mention protein.  The same is true for a "serving" of a low-fat cheese.  Couple that with a handful of TLC crackers and you've got a healthy snack to carry you through until dinner. 

Remember, when it comes to weight loss and weight management, it is all about calories.  It is not about avoiding food groups or completely eliminating your favorite things.  Eat a balanced diet because it is what your body needs and what it craves.  But it doesn't have to be boring, bland, or tedious.   My wish for you all is healthy and "happy" eating.....

P.S.  The wine in this photo was outstanding.  It is from a Virginia winery called Barboursville and is their 2009 Merlot.  I highly recommend it!