Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Buffalo Chicken Salad

Buffalo Chicken Salad, originally uploaded by Sweet Sugarplums.

Here's another use for Buffalo chicken. This is a Rachael Ray recipe. It makes a lot of dressing; you can probably use only half.

Serves 4

2 hearts romaine lettuce, chopped
1 cup shredded carrots, available in pouches
2 ribs celery, chopped
1/2 cup ranch salad dressing
1/2 cup blue cheese, crumbled
3/4 pound chicken breast or tenders, cut into bite size pieces
1 tablespoon vegetable oil, 1 turn of the pan
2 tablespoons butter
Salt and black pepper
1/4 cup Frank's hot sauce

Preheat a skillet over medium-high heat.

Combine lettuce, carrots and celery in a salad bowl. Combine ranch dressing and blue cheese crumbles in a small bowl.

Add oil and butter to hot pan with the chicken. Season with salt and pepper and sear for 2 or 3 minutes, then add hot sauce. Reduce heat a little and cook 5 minutes more.

Top salad with chicken and drizzle on the dressing. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Per Serving: 493 Calories; 32g Fat (57.2% calories from fat); 38g Protein; 16g Carbohydrate; 8g Dietary Fiber; 99mg Cholesterol; 1136mg Sodium. Exchanges: 4 Lean Meat; 3 Vegetable; 5 1/2 Fat; 0 Other Carbohydrates.

Quick French Toast

Quick French Toast, originally uploaded by Sweet Sugarplums.

It's always a challenge to cook something that Brandon will eat. French toast usually works. This is what I throw together on the spur of the moment. When I have more time, I like to use a thick egg bread, like challah, or Hawaiian bread sliced thick.


6 slices buttermilk or egg bread
6 whole eggs
1/3 cup evaporated milk
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. cinnamon

Combine liquid ingredients and seasonings in a pie plate. Dip each slice of bread in the egg mixture, turning to coat. Place the bread in a baking pan or baking sheet - don't stack. Pour remaining egg mixture evenly over the bread and into the pan.

If you're in a hurry, omit this next step. If not, let the bread soak up the egg mixture. After at least 30 minutes, turn the bread over to soak up some more egg.

Heat a griddle pan over medium heat. Spray with non-stick spray. Cook the bread in a single layer until golden brown, turning to brown the other side. The bread should cook for 10 minutes to thoroughly cook the egg. If it gets too brown, finish the bread in the microwave.

Bob makes a fantastic French toast. One of his secrets is to cook the bread in a skillet with lots of butter. He steams the bread by covering the pan. The bread cooks, puffs, and is delicious.

Slice the bread into triangles or halves. Arrange 4 halves on a plate and sprinkle with powdered sugar. Serve with maple syrup.

Serves 3

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Cowboy Chili Omelette

Cowboy Chili Omelette, originally uploaded by Sweet Sugarplums.

This seems to be the boys' favorite omelette. It's simply a cheese omelette with some canned chili con carne added to the filling and over the top.

I'm not going to post a recipe for an omelette; there are several great recipes on RecipeZaar, Allrecipes, Food Network, etc. Here's how to modify a cheese omelette recipe


2-3 whole eggs
cheese (cheddar, jack, or combination of the two)
canned chili con carne

Pour eggs into an 8-inch buttered non-stick skillet. Cook until partially set. Sprinkle with grated cheese. Spoon on about 1/4 cup of the chili con carne down the middle of the omelette. Cook over medium-low heat until cheese is melted. Sprinkle with salsa, Tabasco, green onion if desired.

Fold omelette in thirds on either side of the strip of chili. Slide out of the pan onto a plate. Spoon more chili over the top. Sprinkle with more cheese, if desired.

Sweet and Sour Pork

Sweet and Sour Pork, originally uploaded by Sweet Sugarplums.

I usually make this with chicken breast, or sometimes use pork cubes that have been battered and fried. I tried it with some browned pork cubes, and it turned out okay. I only used half the meat and half the tofu, and it could have used more - next time I'll try 3/4 of a pound of each.

The recipe is adapted from Madame Wu's Art of Chinese Cooking,. Madame Wu's is a famous Chinese restaurant in Santa Monica, California which was frequented by movie stars and the like. The recipes are traditional Cantonese-style.


1 pound pork loin, cubed
1 pound firm tofu, cubed and drained
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon low sodium soy sauce
1 cup catsup. no salt added preferred
1/4 cup white vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/3 cups pineapple juice
1 1/2 carrot, cubed
2/3 cup onion, cubed
1 1/3 cups green bell pepper, cubed
1 1/3 cups canned pineapple chunks (1 large can)
4 teaspoons cornstarch combined with 4 tablespoons water

Stir pork and tofu with cornstarch and soy sauce and let sit for 30 minutes.

Cook carrot in sherry or water until almost cooked. Add peppers and onions, add more liquid, and cover. Steam for 3 minutes until desired doneness is reached. Remove from pan.

Brown pork cubes, half batch at a time, and remove. Do the same with the tofu until browned . Return pork to the pan. Add vegetables and pineapple. Add sauce and heat to a boil.

Stir in cornstarch mixture until thickened.

If preferred, create a batter for the pork: Combine 1/2 cup of flour, 1/4 cup of cornstarch, 1/4 tsp baking powder, 1/4 tsp salt and 1 cup of water to make a smooth, thin batter. Dip chunks of pork in batter and deep-fry for 5-10 minutes.

Per Serving (non-battered): 283 Calories; 6g Fat (19.0% calories from fat); 17g Protein; 43g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 24mg Cholesterol; 609mg Sodium. Exchanges: 1/2 Grain(Starch); 3 Lean Meat; 1 Vegetable; 1 Fruit; 1/2 Fat; 1 Other Carbohydrates.


Jambalaya, originally uploaded by Sweet Sugarplums.

Here's another Frugal Gourmet recipe. It's pretty much as printed in "The Frugal Gourmet Cooks American". Feel free to use whatever leftover meats are on hand.

"Originally this dish, like so many dishes that have become classics, was designed to use up leftovers. The dish stands in that great tradition of frugal cooks who could not afford to throw anything away, or, in the more profound tradition, that good community of cooks who refused to throw out any edible leftovers. This bit of Cajun ingenuity is now common all over New Orleans, and there are as many variations on this dish as any one I know. I think I love them all!" - Jeff Smith, "The Frugal Gourmet Cooks American"


1/2 pound bacon, sliced
1/2 pound cooked shrimp
3 tablespoons oil
1 large yellow onion, peeled and chopped
1 1/2 green peppers, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 stalks celery, chopped
6 green onions, chopped
28 ounces canned tomatoes, crushed with your hands, then drained, juice reserved
3 cups chicken stock, use a total of 3 1/2 cups liquid including tomato liquid
1/2 pound sausage links, Hot links, sliced into 1/4-inch pieces
1 cup ham, diced
3 tablespoons chopped parsley
1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
3 teaspoons thyme
salt and pepper
2 cups long-grain white rice

Cook the bacon until crisp. Drain and set aside.

Pan fry the sliced sausage until it just begins to brown. Remove the sausage. Saute' the rice in the drippings and remove from the pan.

Add a tablespoon of oil. Saute the ham, onion, green peppers, garlic and celery until the vegetables are tender. Add seasonings and liquid and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes.

Add the rice and sausage and simmer for 25 minutes. Stir in the bacon, shrimp and green onions and adjust the seasonings.

If using cooked rice, use 4 cups of cooked rice. Heat it in the pan. Use 16 oz tomato sauce and about 1 cup of chicken broth.

Per Serving: 609 Calories; 33g Fat (49.8% calories from fat); 26g Protein; 49g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 108mg Cholesterol; 1980mg Sodium. Exchanges: 2 1/2 Grain(Starch); 3 Lean Meat; 1 1/2 Vegetable; 5 Fat; 0 Other Carbohydrates.Grain(Starch); 3 Lean Meat; 1 Vegetable; 1 Fruit; 1/2 Fat; 1 Other Carbohydrates.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Catching up and Cupcake Ramblings

Well, it's been over a week and I've been lazy about posting blogs. I've been cooking and taking pictures, but they're backing up in my folders. Time to catch up.

I bought a couple of new cookbooks (couldn't resist) - "Crazy about Cupcakes" and "The Barefoot Contessa". I'm a bit obsessed about cupcakes for the moment. I know it won't last, but for now, I'm fantasizing about cupcakes. I'm not so crazy about the elaborate decorations and add-ons that seem to be common on the cupcake websites - not to dis these very artistic and talented ladies, just that's not for me.

What I do like is the fluffy toppings, made with fancy star tips and round tips attached to a pastry bag. Sprinkle with some nonpareils, sprinkles, and so forth, and I'm pretty happy with the results.

I'm trying to decide on the next cupcake to try. I like being able to be able to eat a couple of them, and then send the rest to the office with Bob. That way, they're not sitting there for me to nibble on (so they won't go to waste, of course!) Barefoot Contessa's Coconut Cupcakes look inviting - white cake with white icing and flaked coconut topping; Billy's Vanilla, Vanilla Cupcakes with either Vanilla or Chocolate Buttercream; Carrot with Cream Cheese Frosting and chopped walnut topping (more like individual carrot cakes); Chocolate with Espresso Frosting (Linz wouldn't touch these if she was around!); Apple with Cream Cheese Frosting (maybe use the Captain Morgan recipe). That's it for now. Knowing me, the interest will burn itself out. I may or may not ever get to these recipes, but it's fun to make a list and fantasize a little.


Cupcake, originally uploaded by Sweet Sugarplums.

Speaking of cupcakes, I was reminded of another Cupcake. Isn't she just the cutest thing? She looks like a cat, with the pointy ears. She has a fluffy tail that curls over the top of her back.

Mich and I were shopping and we saw this little darling at the mall pet shop. We like to play with the dogs and found her waiting. We play a game of naming them, too.

She's a pomipoo - part pomeranian and part toy poodle. They said she had just arrived and had never really played before outside of the box.

She was a bundle of energy and actually bounced up and down as she played like she had little springs on the bottom of her paws In fact, we played and she would chase our hands by bouncing/pouncing. She was like an overwound toy; she started bouncing and then couldn't stop for a few more bounces even when she had nothing left to chase. We were laughing so hard.

Of course, she was gone by the next week. Mich and I still talk about "Cupcake" and it's a great memory for us.

Spaghetti with Meat Sauce

Spaghetti sauce is one of those dishes that is closely connected to memories of mom and family. I didn't inherit a spaghetti sauce recipe from Mom. I remember it being bland and rather watery. But, it was familiar and tasted good at the time.

I tried a couple of recipes after leaving home, but wasn't cooking too much until I met Bob. My second general cookbook I bought as an adult is the New McCall's Cookbook, published in the 70's. I adapted the lasagne meat sauce as my basic meat sauce after trying 3-4 different recipes. I always come back to it.

Now the girls are on their own and Linz makes this as her "mom's spaghetti sauce". That makes me feel really great.

I usually serve this on angel hair pasta. I've been cooking with Barilla Plus, a multi-grain pasta with 7 grams of fiber in a 100-gram serving. It has a mild, nutty taste that's not overpowering. They only have the basic shapes, but it's an easy way to get fiber into our diet.

Makes 12 cups

2 onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 pound ground beef, 95% lean
1 pound ground turkey
2 28 oz. cans tomato puree, or Italian tomatoes, crushed and undrained
2 12 ounce cans tomato paste
1/4 cup parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon dried basil
1 tablespoon oregano
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Heat large stock pot over medium-high heat. Brown meats, breaking up with a spoon. When almost cooked, add onions, then garlic. Continue cooking until onions are softened. Pour off grease. If desired, remove meat mixture with slotted spoon and drain on paper toweling set over newspapers.

Return meat to pan. Add tomatoes. You can use whole canned tomatoes, just break them up with your hands as you add them to the pot.

Add remaining ingredients. Simmer for 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally. Makes 12 cups.

Per Serving: 270 Calories; 5g Fat (19.4% calories from fat); 15g Protein; 28g Carbohydrate; 6g Dietary Fiber; 40mg Cholesterol; 1024mg Sodium. Exchanges: 0 Grain(Starch); 1 Lean Meat; 4 1/2 Vegetable; 0 Fat; 0 Other Carbohydrates.

Chocolate Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Icing

It seems cupcakes are all the rage these days. Target has a whole display of cupcake tins, decorations, totes, etc. Bed, Bath, and Beyond had a similar display, and several cupcake cookbooks. I'm susceptible to the power of suggestion. Several blogs specialize in cupcakes, and the photographs and recipes sounds great.

Of course, I've made my share of cupcakes for the kids when they were growing up, usually for bake sales or a quick snack. Usually I use a mix and canned frosting. I don't think I've ever made a homemade batter or a homemade frosting to use for cupcakes. I save the energy for a decorated cake.

For whatever reason, the thought of chocolate and peanut butter struck me as the first scratch cupcake I'd like to try. Barefoot Contessa made these on a recent show, and I was intrigued. She talked about how peanut butter is her very favorite frosting. I've never had peanut butter frosting and wanted to see if it was really as good as she said.

I didn't have time to make the cupcakes, but I had a chocolate cake mix in the pantry. I used Ina's suggestion and added a tablespoon of coffee to the mix. I didn't notice much of a difference of chocolate taste, but then I didn't make a test batch without the coffee.

Well, then I did the frosting. WOW!!! I thought I had gone to heaven when I tasted the first little bit. It reminded me of peanut butter cookie batter when I was growing up - maybe it was using the Skippy peanut butter we have hanging around the house.

So, here are pictures of my semi-homemade version of Ina's recipe - I'll make the chocolate cupcakes one day to see how they taste.

I thought it interesting that she calls it icing instead of frosting. I read up and it says that the use of the two terms are fairly interchangeable - frosting is always icing, but icing is not always frosting. It has to do with the thickness and I think the terms used in that particular part of the country. It was always called frosting in my house. Icing is more of a thin glaze, in my mind.

Makes 18 large cupcakes

12 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk, shaken, at room temperature
1/2 cup sour cream, at room temperature
2 tablespoons coffee
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Peanut Butter Icing:
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 1/2 cups peanut butter
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup fat free half-and-half

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line cupcake pans with paper liners.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and 2 sugars on high speed until light and fluffy, approximately 5 minutes.

Lower the speed to medium, add the eggs 1 at a time, then add the vanilla and mix well. In a separate bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, sour cream, and coffee.

In another bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt.

On low speed, add the buttermilk mixture and the flour mixture alternately in thirds to the mixer bowl, beginning with the buttermilk mixture and ending with the flour mixture.

Mix only until blended.

Fold the batter with a rubber spatula to be sure it's completely blended.

Divide the batter among the cupcake pans (1 rounded standard ice cream scoop per cup is the right amount). The tins should be 2/3 full - too little and the cupcakes will be flat; too much and the tops spread out over the top.

Bake in the middle of the oven for 20 to 25 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes, remove from the pans, and allow to cool completely before frosting.

Peanut Butter Icing:

Place the confectioners' sugar, peanut butter, butter, vanilla, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment.

Mix on medium-low speed until creamy, scraping down the bowl with a rubber spatula as you work.

Add the cream and beat on high speed until the mixture is light and smooth.

Frost each cupcake with Peanut Butter Icing and sprinkle with chopped peanuts, if desired.

Per Serving: 463 Calories; 32g Fat (58.9% calories from fat); 9g Protein; 40g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 76mg Cholesterol; 347mg Sodium. Exchanges: 1 Grain(Starch); 1 Lean Meat; 0 Non-Fat Milk; 6 Fat; 1 1/2 Other Carbohydrates.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Helen's Nut Snowballs

Helen's Nut Snowballs, originally uploaded by Sweet Sugarplums.

Stephanie from Joy of writes, "These melt-in-your mouth, shortbread-like cookies go by many names; a Russian Tea Cake, a Mexican Wedding Cake, an Italian Butter Nut, a Southern Pecan Butterball, a Snowdrop, a Viennese Sugar Ball and a Snowball. They are very popular, not only during the Christmas season, but also at weddings, christenings, and other festive occasions. Looking at these cookies you may think they were Melting Moments, but the two differ in that Mexican Wedding Cakes contain ground nuts (ground pecans, hazelnuts, almonds, or walnuts). The secret to making these cookies taste their best is to use a high quality butter and pure vanilla extract."

These make an appearance every year on the cookie platter. Helen is a good friend who gave me several of her cookie recipes - each is simple to make and always so good.

Makes 48 cookies

2 cups butter, softened (1 pound)
1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
4 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups pecans, oil-roasted, finely chopped

Cream the butter. Beat in the powdered sugar until light and fluffy.

Add flavorings and mix well.

Stir in flour and nuts and mix well.

Form dough into small balls. Arrange on ungreased baking sheet.

Bake for 15-20 minutes. While cookies are still warm, roll in powdered sugar.

Per Serving: 142 Calories; 11g Fat (68.4% calories from fat); 1g Protein; 10g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 21mg Cholesterol; 78mg Sodium. Exchanges: 1/2 Grain(Starch); 0 Lean Meat; 2 Fat; 0 Other Carbohydrates.

Potato Salad

Potato Salad, originally uploaded by Sweet Sugarplums.

My mom would make a wonderful potato salad. I've been making it since I was girl and it never seems to fail to get compliments. People like their salad either with or without mustard and with dill or sweet pickles. This salad has a nice tang with mustard, and dill pickles.

Serves 8

1 russet potato
8 red potato
5 hard-boiled eggs, minced
3 egg whites, hard boiled (discard yolks from 3 eggs)
4 stalks celery, strands removed and minced
4 green onions, chopped
16 dill pickle slices, minced
2 1/2 cups mayonnaise
1/4 cup mustard
dill pickle juice
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon paprika

Cook potatoes until tender but not overcooked. Chill and peel skin. Cut into small cubes. Combine with remaining ingredients. Cover and chill for several hours or overnight. Adjust mayonnaise and flavorings, if necessary, when ready to serve.

Grilled Chicken Breast Strips

We enjoy the convenience of ready-cooked chicken breast strips for salads and for a quick protein snack. The cost of the packaged breast strips they sell at Costco is the same as two whole chickens. I tried my hand at making my own strips and was much more satisfied with the result - the breasts were tender, less salty, and meatier.

Serves 8

8 boneless skinless chicken breast halves
2 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
1 cup fresh parsley
1/3 cup fresh oregano, chopped, or 1 1/2 tablespoons dried oregano
1/4 cup fresh chives, or 1 scallion, chopped
3 tablespoons fresh rosemary, or 1 tablespoon dried rosemary
1/3 cup Dijon mustard
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup dry vermouth, preferably Martini and Rossi
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Rinse the chicken under cold water and pat dry with paper towels. Place in a large bowl.

In a food processor fitted with the metal blade, combine basil, parsley, oregano, chives, rosemary, and garlic; pulse to chop. Add mustard, lemon juice, vermouth, salt and red pepper flakes. With the machine running, slowly pour oil through feed tube until marinade is smooth. You can also combine all of the ingredients in a blender, in batches, and run until smooth. (The marinade can be prepared up to 3 days ahead, covered and refrigerated.) Add to chicken and mix well until coated. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 4 hours and up to 8 hours.

Build a hot fire in a charcoal grill. Lightly oil grill rack. Grill chicken in center area of grill, turning once, until barely beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Arrange chicken in a circle around outside edges of grill. Cover with grill lid (or fashion a dome out of a double thickness of heavy-duty aluminum foil) and cook, turning once, until the juices run clear yellow when pierced with the tip of a sharp knife, about 15 minutes. Don't overcook, especially if planning to freeze as reheating will cook meat further.

Allow chicken to rest at least 15 minutes. Cut diagonally into 1/2-inch wide strips. Arrange on foil-lined baking tray in a single layer. Flash-freeze for about an hour. Place about 6 ounces of strips in a sandwich-size plastic bag and return to freezer. I've also simply used dry-rub.

Recipe by Rick Rodgers

Per Serving: 215 Calories; 9g Fat (38.8% calories from fat); 28g Protein; 3g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 68mg Cholesterol; 252mg Sodium. Exchanges: 0 Grain(Starch); 4 Lean Meat; 0 Vegetable; 0 Fruit; 1 1/2 Fat; 0 Other Carbohydrates.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Egg Flower Soup

Egg Flower Soup, originally uploaded by Sweet Sugarplums.

Jeff Smith, The Frugal Gourmet, focused on the role of food in preserving culture and family history. His PBS shows would entertain with stories of his travels and his colorful comments as he would cook.

I made the Chinese chicken broth he published in his book, The Frugal Gourmet Cooks Three Ancient Cuisines. He urged viewers to use half pork bones for a truly flavorful base for all sorts of Chinese soups. I'd suggest a trip to the Chinese market to buy the turnip ball for a truly authentic experience.

Makes about 4 1/2 quarts

5 pounds chicken backs and necks, or use 2 1/2 pounds of chicken parts plus 2 1/2 pounds of pork neck bones
2 slices fresh ginger, each the size of a 25 cent piece
2 pieces Chinese preserved turnip or preserved radish, in balls,coarsely chopped and rinsed with fresh water

Place bones in a 12-quart stockpot and cover with water. Bring bones to barely a simmer without boiling. Foam and scum will form.

Drain the bones of the water and rinse with fresh water

Add 1 quart of water per pound of bones (5 quarts for 5 pounds of bones). Add ginger and dried turnip.

Bring to a simmer and cook for one hour, uncovered.

Chill overnight and remove layer of fat.

Served 4

4 cups Chinese chicken broth
1 carrot, minced
1 green onion, sliced
2 eggs, beaten

Bring chicken broth to a boil with the carrot. Simmer for 10 minutes or until the carrot is tender.

Bring the broth back up to a low boil. Stir the broth with a spoon in a circular motion. While the broth is still moving, pour the egg in a steady stream. The egg will form strands (flowers). It's important that the broth is moving for the flowers to form.

Turn off heat and stir in green onion. Serve with soy sauce.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Asparagus with Egg, Lemon, and Garlic

Fresh asparagus is now available year-round and not just in the spring. This is one of the recipes that usually finds its way to our holiday dinner table year to year. I've never actually tried it with the tarragon.


1 teaspoon unsalted butter (or use all oil if serving with meat)
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil (original recipes says 5 tbsp butter)
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 pounds fresh asparagus
1 hard-boiled egg, finely chopped
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
salt and pepper
2 teaspoons fresh tarragon, finely chopped )optional)

Heat the butter and oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic; saute gently 1 minute. Add some liquid if needed. Remove pan from heat and reserve.

Steam the asparagus until cooked. Remove to a serving platter.

Stir egg and lemon into reserved garlic butter; pour over the asparagus. Season with salt and pepper and garnish with tarragon.

Serves 4-6

Published in the San Diego Union-Tribune, from Please to the Table: The Russian Cookbook by Anya Von Bremzen and John Welchman.

Per Serving: 96 Calories; 4g Fat (31.3% calories from fat); 7g Protein; 12g Carbohydrate; 5g Dietary Fiber; 56mg Cholesterol; 21mg Sodium. Exchanges: 0 Lean Meat; 2 Vegetable; 0 Fruit; 1/2 Fat.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Cottage Garden

I have a great job that gives me the opportunity to meet people at their homes. Today I went to a house in Del Mar, a well-established affluent community on the coast. The famous Del Mar racetrack is nearby. The neighborhood I was in was tucked in the hills and very secluded. I went down a narrow 100-foot driveway to get to the house, and found a lush garden in the front patio area. It was modest house, but the owner clearly spent a lot of loving hours tending her plants and flowers. I complimented Patricia on her artistic composition of the potted plants. She was pleased at these words, but modestly apologized for being "addicted" to flowers. She had English primrose, snapdragons, cineraria, fuchsias, ivy, and many others that I can't remember. Everything was in clustered pots and the plants tended to overflow from one pot to the next. She had a potting bench with running water and a painted iron table and chairs. It was so charming and restful. I guess you could call it more of an English garden than anything. I wish I had had my camera and could have asked her if I could take some pictures.

Our house has evolved to a Mexican colonial / Mediterranean style. English cottage gardens don't really go with this style. Cacti and succulents in pots are probably what I'm going to need to deal with, as well as some flowering tropical plants like hibiscus and bougainvillea.

Each type of garden has its charms. I'm inspired to create an oasis in our courtyard where we can relax after a long day at work.

Albondigas Soup

Albondigas Soup, originally uploaded by Sweet Sugarplums.

I love soup. There's nothing more comforting than a pot of soup simmering on the stove, creating wonderful smells wafting throughout the house. This is one of the best albondigas soups I've had; better than most restaurants. The chorizo and cilantro give it an authentic flavor. If desired, add some chopped zucchini during the last 10 minutes.

This recipe was posted on RecipeZaar by RuizA. It has a 5 out of 5 star rating based on 19 reviews.

Serves 8

2/3 pound ground beef, 95% lean
1/3 pound chorizo, casing removed
2 egg whites
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 carrot, minced
1/2 cup cooked white rice
1/2 cup cilantro
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin

6 cups low sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup onions, chopped
3 stalks celery, cut in chunks
2 carrots, sliced
2 roma tomatoes, 2-3, diced
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon oregano
1/2 cup cilantro

Make the meatballs first: Combine everything and mix thoroughly. Form meatballs and roll between your palms (Otherwise, meatballs will fall apart in the soup). You should make around 20 to 24 meatballs, set aside.

Combine chicken broth, onion, celery, celery, tomatoes and their liquid, cumin, oregano and cilantro leaves in a large pot. Bring to broil, and reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.

Drop meatballs in the soup (Make sure the soup is slightly boiling, the meatballs need to be cooked quickly). Return to simmer and cook another 20 minutes.

Season with salt and pepper.

The broth becomes a little greasy from the chorizo. If possible, strain the broth, degrease, and return all to the pot.

You could top the soup with cooked rice, or serve it just by itself.

Per Serving: 319 Calories; 9g Fat (31.7% calories from fat); 21g Protein; 23g Carbohydrate; 5g Dietary Fiber; 27mg Cholesterol; 841mg Sodium. Exchanges: 1 Grain(Starch); 1 1/2 Lean Meat; 1 Vegetable; 1 Fat.

Clubhouse Sandwich

Clubhouse Sandwich, originally uploaded by Sweet Sugarplums.

According to The Food Timeline, this sandwich was originated by accident. A man arrived home after his family and servants had already retired. Being hungry, he rummaged through the ice box and concocted a sandwich consisting of toast, mayonnaise, chicken, bacon, lettuce, and tomato. He spoke of the sandwich to friends at his club, and they made one then and there as an experiment. It was then referred to as the "club sandwich." It's name went out to other clubs, restaurants, and individuals. The first published recipe appeared in the Good Housekeeping Everyday Cook Book, Isabel Gordon Curtis [Phelps Publishing:New York] in 1903 (p. 224).

This is a great quick-fix dinner when I'm stumped about what to make. It's not diet food, even without the avocado. I use mustard instead of mayonnaise and have always used turkey instead of chicken. Regardless, it's a tasty meal. One sandwich can easily feed two people, or one hungry teenage boy.

Makes 1 large sandwich

3 slices bread, use good-quality sandwich bread, such as buttermilk or sourdough
3 ounces deli-style sliced fat-free turkey, or sliced roasted turkey breast
3 slices turkey bacon, cooked
1 small tomato, sliced
romaine lettuce leaf, or iceberg lettuce
1/2 avocado, sliced
1 tablespoon brown mustard, 1-2

Toast bread. Spread mustard on each slice.

Create 1st layer: Layer avocado, bacon, and turkey on one slice of bread.

Create 2nd layer: Layer tomato and lettuce on another slice. Place this layer on top of the first layer.

Top with third slice of bread, mustard-side down.

Slice into 4 triangles. Insert toothpick into each triangle to hold the sections together.

Per Serving: 583 Calories; 28g Fat (41.3% calories from fat); 32g Protein; 57g Carbohydrate; 6g Dietary Fiber; 77mg Cholesterol; 1922mg Sodium. Exchanges: 2 1/2 Grain(Starch); 3 Lean Meat; 1 Vegetable; 1/2 Fruit; 5 Fat.