Monday, March 28, 2011

Just loafin' around...

Meat is primal - altho you can buy it in plastic wrapped packages in your local grocery store, or in white paper packages from a real butcher, you can also head out into the wild and kill you some before it eats you. Just stay far away from petting zoo's...not good form to bag a bunny in front of Mrs. Jeffries kindergarten class while they're on a field trip. And if you do, for GOODNESS sake, DON'T gut and skin it there. Mrs. Jeffries is spunky as hell and will take you OUT.

We were city folk growing up, but I think we ate some weird stuff - altho Handsome Stranger just scoffs when I say that. He grew up on a farm, who's mission statement is "Waste not, want not" and ""Why yes, I WAS born in a barn, why do you ask?" They ate everything, including the oink....and I believe it after reading the Little House series compulsively over a 40 year span. I was grossed out, but intrigued...I would still love to eat a pig's tail roasted over a fire - to me that IS the oink! I told him we had to eat cans of salmon that were full of bones and what a pain it was to pick out all the vertebrae so you didn't get a wayward "crunch", and he just laughed in my face - his mom just drained the whole can and smashed it all up with a fork and made crunchy salmon salad with mayo *hork, gag* OK, WIN!!

They were poor, but so were we, and we didn't have animals wandering around just begging to be eaten, so my parental units had to make do with whatever was cheap and plentiful. They had a few weird stores they would go to occasionally, and one time they scored on Majesty Luncheon Meat. MLM is actually generic Spam...frankly, I don't know that you could tell the difference without the can - chopped ham is chopped ham. At first we loved it sliced and fried, and ground up with raw onion, pickles, mayo and a little mustard in a sandwich, and I always dreamed of growing up someday and making the creation on the back of the can where you sliced it not quite all the way through and stuck half pineapple slices in between and baked it in the oven. It looks so ELEGANT. Luckily I came to my senses when I turned 11 or so - they bought a LOT of it and I finally could take no more - PBJ was never a fave, but I learned to love it during the MLM fiasco.

My kids worst food memories center around the humble turkey wiener - good source of cheap protein, comes in a convenient shape for easy eating, and so cheap you wonder why they're practically giving them away...until you ate about 400 of 'em. Disguising the dread TW was an art, and I apparently flunked finger offspring were smart so you could only trick them a couple times before they caught on. "Mmmmm....chees - HEY, is this what I THINK it is??!!" Smart aleck kids. I cannot, I will not, EVER eat a turkey weenie again - if it's that or starve, I will bid you adieu for eternity. Especially since I now read labels and would never willingly put anything in my body that is made from "mechanically separated" anything - BAH!!

Wasn't planning on doing this, but a recent facebook post is sure to trigger a landslide of requests for the BEST MEATLOAF EVER, so I figured I'd get a jump on it. I know a lot of people refuse to eat anything in loaf form unless it's bread, and that it's unnatural to form a loaf of anything else. No more unnatural than your Great Gramma's titan red hair or that flap of fiber that twists in the wind on your Uncle Manny's previously bald head...just not something you would bring up in polite conversation. I think meatloaf is an art, and I have uncovered a Picasso that he painted before AND after he cut off his ear. But there is no ear in it...promise.


I am going to share this with the original ingredients in (these things) - that way if you don't give a rip how many points you eat and you want meatloaf that will make your head spin like Regan in that very bad movie we were not allowed to watch, you can do so. I highly recommend both versions - I just can't eat the bad one anymore. And have some trust - I wouldn't shit you, the turkey version is wildly delicious, and will someday be on the menu in my own restaurant. So no fair putting it on yours, you know who you are (Lynn).

Olive oil or butter Pam spray (2 T. butter)
1 carrot, diced
1 large rib of celery, diced
1 small onion, diced
2-4 cloves garlic, minced
2 lbs. ground turkey, 93/7% (1.5 lbs. lean ground beef & 1/2 lb. ground pork*)
1 cup fine, soft bread crumbs from two slices of bread
1 egg & 1 egg white (2 eggs)
1/3 C. milk
2 T. Worcestershire
1 T. cider vinegar
2 T. prune juice (2-4 prunes, minced)
1/2 tsp. allspice
2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. fresh ground black pepper
2 T. BBQ sauce

Spray large skillet (or melt butter) and saute veggies until soft. In large bowl, put bread crumbs and milk, then add turkey, egg, Worcestershire, vinegar, prune juice, and spices and mix well with your hands or a potato masher. (I use gloves - no matter how much I scrub under my nails I am sure there is raw turkey under there and altho I used to eat raw hamburger, that's just gross) Throw in the soft veggies and mix quickly so it cools off fast, divide into two loaf pans and smooth tops, put 1 T. BBQ sauce on top of each and spread over top evenly. Bake at 350 for about one may be done before then - you can temp it to 155 if you want. Drain off as much of the liquid as possible and let cool with a hot pad under one end so the fat/juice doesn't suck back into the will still be nice and moist. Let cool at least 15 minutes so it won't fall apart, serve with mashed potatoes and some peas for a traditional fave - I made some brown gravy I just invented and it was da BOMB. (2 tsp. butter, 2 Tbsp. flour, 2 C. hot water, some onion soup mix, a little beef bouillon, a dash of Worcestershire, a dash of dark soy and the drippings from the meatloaf...boil until it reduces into a gravy that will be thin but coat a spoon) I got 12 slices from each loaf, which works out to 2 points plus per slice - suh-WEET.

My all time favorite sandwich is....duh, MEATLOAF. So tomorrow, I will be happier than a pig in mud, and everyone will be sooooooo jealous...and no tradesies. What's mine is mine, and what's yours is pitiful. Oink.

*Note about original recipe: It also contained 1/4 lb. bacon, cut in 1/4" strips, and you put them in the food processor with the prunes to chop it all finely. It was VERY good, but you really don't want to lick the spatula after cleaning out the bowl.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Nut House

So when I was growing up, in the 60's (yes, I know, you weren't even born yet), things were less scary out in the world - we were basically turned loose to wander our surroundings, explore, play, and find our way back when we had exhausted all possibilities of fun to be had, AND it was getting dark and we were hungry. Sometimes we'd go back out in the dark after dinner and play some more until Mom noticed we weren't cleaning our room/doing homework/washing the mountain of dirty dishes and holler at us that it was time to come in. Mom's are NO FUN.

The same went for when we went shopping - I loved it because it gave me new and different places to explore - her regular haunts were Portland and Beaverton, and besides every Goodwill, Union Gospel Mission and Salvation Army in a 50 mile radius, our doctor's office was upstairs at Lloyd Center, so we went there a LOT. Five kids can keep you in tongue depressors and hypodermics (remember when they used to take the needle out and give it to you to play with?) continually - I think for the entire 60's at least one of us had strep at any given time. And we could recite 10 years of Highlights by rote...I always had a secret crush on Goofus, the original "bad boy".....Gallant was such a Momma's boy.

I LOVED Lloyd Center...Mom would take child "D" to the doctor, and the rest of us would scatter in the mall - we fought over who pushed the elevator buttons, would check for security and try to run up the down escalator all the way to the top before someone boarded at the top or suspicious and un-fun loving adults would start paying too much attention to us, or we simply collapsed part way up from running in one place too long and laughing hysterically at how stupid we looked. It was also fun to watch the ice skaters, especially from the bridge. Skating looked like fun, but I wanted to drive the Zamboni - I would've cleaned up that ice in record time, AND popped a few wheelies in the process.

My most favorite thing to do, however, was to go to Morrow's Nut House. The same every time, but like it was the first time EVERY time - it was a candy store like no other, because it also sold nuts. EVERY kind of nut, kept in a heated display case lined up neatly, the smell unbelievable - WOOF. We would occasionally have some pocket change, and would irritate the hell out of the salespeople asking for 1/8th or 1/4 lb or 37 cents worth of whatever we could afford - the bbq peanuts were cheap and delicious, but my favorite was the chili pepitas - pumpkin seeds are possibly the greasiest nut known to man, but SO good...and they were also dangerous because they were quite pointy on one end and could stick in the roof of your mouth if you weren't careful. The gold standard was pistachios, but they were too dear - but there is nothing like the memory of eating a tiny handful of them, and having pink stained fingers, lips and tongue from cracking the shells open. They always used to be dyed red...probably until they determined that kids were falling like flies to whatever cancer that dye caused. #3. But to this day, the memory of a warm sack of nuts...stop your giggling, I'm SERIOUS!! FINE...maybe when you GROW UP...

They also made candy, and had a huge glassed in kitchen where they cooked caramel in a huge copper bowl over a flame, stirring with a big wooden paddle, and sometimes you'd get to watch while they dipped apples on a stick into that bowl and come up with them dripping in thick, creamy caramel and line them up on the counter to set. Some they would dip in a big tray of chopped nuts - I think the signs to "DO NOT touch the glass" were there because of us....and I NEVER got one of those damn caramel apples - if she had to buy one for me, she'd have to buy one for ALL of us...WHY couldn't I have been born of a single-child PROTESTANT family??!! I don't think I've ever bought a caramel apple in my 50+ years....guilt and poverty run deep I guess.

So yeah, this has nothing to do with anything, I just went to Lloyd Center today, and the only nuts there were people actually talking to the guy at the card table next to the Chevy Cruze...which is a decent looking car, but it ain't no Camaro. And now I am going to perform a magic trick, and pull a recipe right outta my arse...voila!

Chocolate No-Bake Cookies

Once again, I am dissing a very old family standard for an upstart newcomer I got a few years ago from a co-worker. Can't help it, they're just better, and there is no "Will it/won't it set up?" every time! Thanks nurse Michelle....since I got this from a medical professional, I also firmly believe they are quite healthy...if you disagree, SHUT IT.

In a large bowl, combine:
3 C. QUICK oats (what did I say about subbing? Don't make me get the wooden spoon...)
3/4 to 1 C. peanut butter - creamy, chunky, I do not care
2 tsp. vanilla

Set aside.

In medium saucepan, combine:
1 cube margarine (yes, killer margarine, NOT butter)
2 C. sugar
4 T. cocoa powder
1/2 C. milk (see? Milk is healthy...)

Heat over medium heat stirring often until well mixed. Turn up to med high, stirring constantly; when it comes to a full, rolling boil (that means it still keeps boiling even if you blow on it until you turn blue and pass out, narrowly missing the corner of the island with your noggin) and count to 15...."One thousand one, one thousand two, one thous..." Just do it. After you get to 15, pour hot mixture over contents of large bowl (remember the oats?) and mix well. As quick as you can, start dropping by spoonfuls onto waxed paper or foil, let cool and harden as long as you can stand.

They actually look like something you might find in a barnyard, something possibly created by an animal that eats oats, but don't let that fool you...they are too good even to throw in the community swimming pool mid August as a joke that will clear the pool and force the hunky lifeguard to don a bunny suit and glove and fish it out with a long handled net and make all the neighbor kids find some other form of entertainment for the next couple days while they empty, sanitize and refill the pool. Not that I know anything about that kind of shenanigans....

Monday, March 21, 2011

He who smelt it, dealt it.

I AM AWESOME. Just wanted to get that out of the way. My first non-work day of Spring Break (I work within the Education Sytem, therefore I get approximately 200 paid days off a year AND I don't even have to work with booger eaters) and I have already achieved greatness. This morning after I made coffee and took a shower, I packed a healthy lunch for Handsome Stranger, sent him on his way because SOMEONE has to work, then proceeded to commence with my list O' tasks for the day:

Clean house
Do taxes
Make soup

I'm sure you are scoffing...."No way is she gonna do all that on a day off - I bet she'll be on fb all day, probably eating peanut butter from a spoon that she dips in the open bag of chocolate chips the whole time". HA. The peanut butter was in Son #2's room, therefore no longer safe as I did not notice a stock of clean butter knives or spoons nearby, leading me to believe he either uses his finger or possibly a screwdriver to satisfy the passing pb urge. GROSS. Also, I used up all the chocolate chips making cookies for someone...I forget who, but you can be sure it wasn't me. I used up all MY points on Skinny Cow ice cream sammiches - they are low fat, and if you eat 4 and can't have your dinner, so be it....don't judge me.

And since the intranet was down this morning, and my calls to Frontier went unsatisfied (found out later about 10 thousand of us were out), I set to the tasks at hand. I cleaned, I vacuumed, I dusted, I put everything away that all the slobs in my house apparently think magically find their way back to their homes so they can find them when needed...I even did the dishes - WOW. Which was somewhat backwards Karma-ic since I was about to make a whole bunch more dirty ones. I cleaned out the produce drawers, went into chop-o-matic mode and got a big pot of beef barley on to simmer for a couple hours. Then I make a quickie turkey/veggie/orzo soup for my lunch, and had a nice lunch break, determining that daytime TV is a total wasteland and that there was a kleenex I missed under the couch.

Moved on to some paper shuffling, finding all the pieces needed to do my taxes, some more cleaning and bed-stripping and laundry, and then back to the kitchen to check on the soup. PERFECTO...I am lovin' beef with barley! And since it's still early, I decide to throw caution to the wind and whip up some chili - Handsome Stranger loves it too, and fiber is so good for him! Not so much for the rest of us tho....I try to direct him to face TOWARD open flame for a day or so after a big bean fest. That and I buy tons of stock in Diamond Matches and Yankee Candle. Came out marvelous, as usual, and I even got a good part of the taxes done while it cooked! Too bad it looks like I'm paying this year...Uncle Sam must need something REALLY important if he's asking ME for money, I tell you. Wonder if he'd accept chili in trade??

This is a nice and healthy chili - and it is MADE FROM SCRATCH. You need to learn how to cook beans in case there is ever a national emergency and you have to stand in line to get rations of stuff like dry beans, rice, and vodka. Or in case you go on Survivor. And it is frightfully low in fat - you will have to add some to it if you want a grease stain on your Sunday-best flannel.

Turkey Chili

Step 1 - Bean soak:

2 lbs. PINK BEANS They are pink, and medium sized...don't use pintos, they are not right for chili, trust me. If you're really anal, go ahead and check the beans for rocks/pebbles...I never do, I just tell the kids it's a prize, and they get a new toothbrush, dental floss, and a shiny new filling if they find one. In a large pot, cover 2" above level of beans with cold water, bring to a boil and boil for 2 minutes. Take pan off burner, cover and let stand 1 hour.

Step 2 - Cook beans:

Dump beans in a colander, rinse pan and beans until they drain clear, dump back in pan and cover with cold water again to 2" above bean level. Add:

1 very large onion (3 cups chopped)
4 jalepeno peppers, seeded and chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped

Stir and bring to boil, turn heat down and simmer covered, 1 to 1.5 hours, or until beans are tender. Make sure they're fully cooked...adding salt before they're done can make for hard beans. I don't make this crap up, it's happened to me...then you have to cook it FOREVER. Once the beans are nice and tender, you're ready to chili it up!

Step 3 - Chili it UP!:

To the cooked beans (and liquid), add:

1 lb. ground turkey, browned (don't drain it - that is your only fat in this)
15 oz. can tomato sauce
6 oz. can tomato paste
28 oz, can diced tomatoes, blended or processed (I HATE big chunks of tomato in chili)
4 oz. can chopped green chilies
1/3 C. chili powder
1 tsp. hot chili powder (optional)
2 tsp. cumin
1-2 tsp. dried oregano
2 tsp. salt
Fresh ground pepper (optional)

Bring to a boil, stirring constantly, turn down to simmer and let cook at least 30 minutes to develop the flavors, or longer if you want to make it even thicker. This would be good with big slabs of cornbread and butter, or like when I was a kid, a big stack of saltines to smash up over it, or you could ladle it over a bowl of fritos, top with cheese & sour cream and call it good. It's great in an omelet, on an open-faced burger or a hot dog (altho I don't put chili with beans on hot dogs anymore...try the coney sauce recipe and you'll know why), not to mention a few scoops mixed with your mac and's a soup, it's a sauce, it's a topping - and only 5 points plus per cup! And for entertainment later, you can go outside with a lighter and an ice pack and light up the night sky....I would not recommend it for the uber hairy, however.

Thursday, March 3, 2011


I am soooooo sick. I went for like two years without getting so much as an occasional allergy attack, then decided it was time to stop my clock from getting ahead of itself and started to eat more healthy...BAM! I am on my second cold since January, or it's one really long one with an almost healthy couple of days to lull me into a false sense of wellness. It's also quite odd....head cold, but it hurts mostly below my ears, and my back teeth are hyper sensitive - what's up with THAT?? I also don't have much of an appetite since yesterday, which if you know me, means I must be REALLY sick.

I had to go to the store for reinforcements, ie, food that would make me feel better, so I decided to go to my meeting and weigh in too. Hallelujah and Saint's be praised, I dropped a load in the last two weeks, and that was all the encouragement I needed. Pecan Praline ice cream (light...I'm not crazy), some KFC chicken (once again....grilled), and a half dozen Noah's bagels (fine, I'm certifiable) and I was speeding back home to my next dose of cold meds, a full warm tummy (it's still big enough to call it a belly, but tummy makes me feel like I've progressed) and a date with Pride and Prejudice. I quickly totted up the points plus values of my little splurge, and found that I was still within my daily means...and it's really after dinner time so I feel quite good about myself right now, even if I feel like crap.

Sick food is very personal - it's what YOU like and ONLY what you like....when you feel icky, and especially when you aren't all that hungry, what you want is something to make you feel better, even if it's not the best thing for you. For me that changes...I like lots of things, so it can be the craving of the month that gets me through, or something I've seen on a commercial or that someone ate at lunch last week...quite random. And son #1 and my DIL in waiting (sorry Andrea, that's your new nickname) were rear-ended last week, and he insisted that his doctor told them the best prescription was a sweet-potato pie and some of son #2's chocolate chip cookies. I made both, and was not tempted...I ate one cookie, they gave me a bite of the pie and that was enough. I am sure I drive Handsome Stranger up the wall when I'm real sick...he has to find or make something that will make me happy, but if I don't know what it is, his chance of hitting it on the head is comparable to Hugh Hefner scoring with a woman with self-respect (or a brain...).

So what's my offering today? Hmm.......soup is too obvious, and I still have some left from Sunday's soup-o-rama. Cookies? Nah, too much work and rather points intensive. OK, how about that "Breakfast for Dinner" thing? Hmmm....OK, along with the turkey sausage links, a couple eggs over whatever-you-call-em-when-the-yolks-are-runny-but-the-whites-are-NOT, I think a few nicely browned potato latkes are in order....Oster style! One of the things we did NOT receive for a wedding gift was a blender, so we took back some of the repeat items and purchased a lovely harvest gold blender with a glass jar. Which didn't last long, but my Mom had a spare stainless one she gave us, so we were able to get by with it. For 31+ years....that sucker is a workhorse. My lovely daughter bought us a fancy schmancy Kitchenaid a few years ago, and we switched it out, but I swear that old Oster could kick it's arse, at least with margaritas. But the circle of life, yadda-yadda-yadda, and it moved on with Son #1, then came back when he got a girlfriend and a better lookin' blender and now it's back - we have smoothies almost every day for breakfast, so it's nice to have 2 in case the parts are still in the dishwasher. And this recipe came from the Oster cookbook that came in the box 31+ years ago...that makes it a keeper!

Potato Pancakes

I don't think you can call them "latkes" because they aren't shredded - but they have the same ingredients, it's just not the same texture. And I always thought of latkes as just hash browns...these are quite different!

2 eggs
1 small onion
1 tsp. salt
2 T. flour
1/4 tsp. baking powder
3 cups raw cubed potatoes, skin on

Put eggs, onion, salt, flour and baking powder and half the potato cubes in blender and process on LIQUEFY until smooth. Add remaining potatoes and process a couple cycles on GRIND, or until there are no more BIG chunks. Pour onto a hot, well greased griddle and fry until nicely browned, flip and press gently to flatten out and cook until golden brown on side 2. Drain on paper towels, keep warm in oven. Makes 12 pancakes.

That's it - super easy, no peeling (unless you want to be all pale and sickly), and minimal cooking skilz required....they have a nice oniony flavor, quite a different texture, and will make you feel all warm and comfy inside. And if you're sick and can get someone else to make them for you, all the better....that is my evil plan for dinner tonight, "koff, koff". Have it with a side of applesauce...because you know what they say about apples!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

6-pack up to the bowl....

I know, you don't want to hear it - this is not really where you go to find healthy, good for you want comfort, butter coming out of your pores, a whipped cream moustache and chocolate that takes 10 minutes to lick off your fingers. So do I, so do I.....but it's new world (possible WW infringement) and like I commented on fb yesterday, I someday want to be able to scramble in and out of a race car with the doors welded shut without getting stuck. It's all about speed, baby....

Even though this is good for you, it's also delicious and filling, and will give you so many of your daily vegetables you'll be good for 12 of your usual "isn't the pickle in my McDouble a veggie?" days. And it's not one of those ZERO POINTS soups...gross. I'm sorry, but I gotta have some heft in my liquids, otherwise I feel like the waterbed we had in the 70's...and 80's....and.....nevermind. Sloshing does not feel full to me, and it reminds me that I will shortly be required to stop whatever I'm doing and find a bathroom FAST or suffer the taunts and jeers of those who have a bladder larger than a pea. And by the way, if you see a woman heading purposefully to the can, and beat her to the door, be aware that if you don't let her go first, the plants in the hallway may start to wither and die....just saying. One time a lady actually "front ended" me in a parking lot, throwing it into reverse and slamming into me for a last second parking spot...I was annoyed, but when she whispered "As a woman you understand...I have diarrhea..." I only lectured her about driving like a maniac and didn't go postal on her, because I've been there.

Sorry, got off track there - hope I didn't just ruin it for you. I have been eating this soup since Sunday, and it's so bloody good I will never get sick of it - sure it's 7 points for 2 cups, but you will be so full for so long you may not even need 2 cups....and one cup is only 3 points! The broth doesn't just lie there, it sits up and says "Howdy!", without being obnoxious and spicy hot. I've used recipes, but decided to go the "do-it-yourself" route - I find that culminates in some of my very best recipes. And it's CHEAP too....nothing fancy, and it makes a nice big pot - if I wasn't so anal about points, I would toss a nice heavy loaf of artisan bread, possibly filled with roasted garlic cloves, in the oven to get all warm and crispy and delicious...then I would slather it with butter and never get in that damn race car. Hmph. Winter is still dragging her butt through my life, so it's still soup time....get some while the gettin's good!

Checkered Flag Minestrone

1 tsp. olive oil (REALLY, you only need a tiny bit)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped ( I like to use the centers including leaves...use more cause they're little)
4 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 C. frozen corn
1 lb. ground turkey
1/2 head green cabbage, chopped
1 C. macaroni or other small pasta (you can break up spaghetti too...whatev)
2 cans diced tomato (I like the fire roasted with black bits)
1 can white kidney (cannelini) beans, with liquid
8-12 C. hot water (start with 8, then as pasta soaks it up add more to your pref)
2 T. beef base (bullion, but I use the paste kind)
3 T. ketchup
1 tsp. dried thyme leaves
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat oil in large stockpot, add garlic, onion, celery and carrot and saute until it starts to soften. Add corn and stir, then add turkey, stirring and breaking into small chunks until it's no longer pink. Add cabbage and macaroni, cook a few more minutes, then add rest of ingredients, bring to a full boil, then turn to medium low and cook at a low boil for 10-12 minutes or until pasta is tender. I think you should come out with about 14 cups, and it will be a nice thick soup...if you like it more brothy, you can add more water, bullion, ketchup and seasoning - but I prefer it nice and thick. I think traditionally you would grate some Parmesan over it, but that adds points unless you use like a teaspoon of that fakey powder what you have to.

That is 3 points plus per cup, 7 for 2 cups (.points are measured by full number increments, so it's a high 3), and you will be happier than a pig in mud with a big steaming bowl of this. And remember, if you eat the bread with it really so important if it also requires you to butter your arse to get in that car?? Vroom-vroom....