February 26, 2015

5 Easy Ways to Stretch The Menu When You’re Snowed In

Over the past week or so, I’ve had a chance to use these 5 Easy Ways to Stretch the Menu when you’re snowed in. We’ve been hit with three successive waves of ice and snow. Since I’m still hobbling on an injured knee, I haven’t been willing to brave even slightly slick stairs. This has kept me at home on the few days that I otherwise might have ventured out to the grocery store.
snow porch

In order to have satisfying meals, I’m having to dig deep into the pantry. Some of you can probably pop open the freezer and have lots of choices. I, unfortunately, am not a good freezer of meat, soups, or casseroles. I know that if I freeze them, I’ll never get around to thawing them out and they’ll just end up being thrown away. Because of this, I use my freezer to store specialty flours, raw almonds, emergency coffee, an occasional batch of biscuits, and a couple of bags of frozen vegetables.

If you’re like me, you can use these simple ideas to stretch the menu when you can’t leave home:

1. Be inventive with seasoning.
If you run out of onion, use shallots and garlic, or take a look on the back porch. The rosemary may still be peaking out of the snow.
rosemary
If you have dried beans handy, but no meat or chicken stock around to add flavor, use water, salt, pepper, a couple of tablespoons of butter, peeled onion or shallots, a couple of cloves of peeled garlic, and a potato or sweet potato cleaned but with the skin still on. This is a great use of a sweet potato that’s been around too long. If the ends have dried up, just cut them off. That will flavor the broth even more and you can eat the sweet potato separately when you serve your meal.

You can also use leftover pot likker (either the official version from collard greens and fatback, or a more generic version of vegetable broth from boiling green beans or carrots or potatoes) to flavor beans or rice. Pot likker is also a great soup base.
chard stems
Since fresh vegetables and herbs will be the first thing to disappear from your pantry, use them thoroughly. Instead of discarding the ends of greens of celery, stems of chard, stems of rosemary or cilantro or sage, greens from beets, stems of mushrooms, or even peels from potatoes, throw them in an airtight container in the refrigerator and use them to infuse flavor into soups, vegetables, pasta, or sauces. Remove the actual stems and peels from the broth before using it in your dish.

2. Stretch fresh or preserved protein by using vegetables, grains, starches, and pasta.
Rather than waiting until you’ve run out of chicken, make it last longer by adding rice. There’s no need to stop there, you can make it go even further by cooking some small white beans along with the rice. Adding the beans not only increases the number of portions, it also increases the protein in the dish.
rice with beans
Sauté onion, cubed chayote squash, cubed potato, and shredded Granny Smith apple in a cast iron skillet until the vegetables and fruit are soft. Season with salt, pepper, and Vietnamese cinnamon. Add left-over rotisserie chicken and continue to cook until chicken is hot. It’s not a particularly attractive dish, but it tastes great and is very filling.

Turn a can of tuna into a meal for 4 by creating a simple sauce made of butter, milk, garlic, and a blend of cheeses, add some frozen green peas and pasta, then top with cheese and bake.
tuna
Don’t forget to have fun with this ’cause snow days should be fun! Serve fried chicken tenders with almond flour pancakes and real maple syrup or go the whole way and break out the waffle maker for a more traditional version of chicken and waffles. Pull open a can of sardines and eat them along with some saltine crackers as though you’re on vacation at your cabin in the mountains.

3. Focus on proteins other than meat.
When you’re eating every meal at home it doesn’t take long for all the steak, pork chops, roast beef, tilapia, salmon, or chicken breasts to disappear. Once they’re gone, other protein options have to take precedence.

Eggs, peanut butter, almond butter, other nuts and seeds including mixed nuts, milk, soy milk, yogurt (especially Greek style), cottage cheese, Mozzarella cheese, Swiss cheese, Cheddar cheese, Parmesan cheese, Romano cheese, paneer, tofu, lentils, edamame, green peas, quinoa, and a combination of beans and rice are all substantial sources of protein.

Baked goods can also provide protein. For instance, muffins made with almond, cashew, or hazelnut flour are high in protein as are cookies made with peanut flour or brownies made with black bean flour.

4. Keep an open mind about condiments and snacks.
It’s one of Murphy’s laws that you’ll only discover your mayo is outdated when there are 10 inches of snow outside. Don’t fret too much. Hummus can be used as a spread to add exotic flavor to your sandwich, or skip the spread altogether and use a few slices of avocado or leftover guacamole for that little extra somethin somethin.

Don’t let a lack of mayo trip you up when making tuna salad. You can always use plain yogurt and lemon juice instead or sour cream and sweet pickle juice if you prefer.

Create a delicious marinade for steak using nothing but a mixture of balsamic vinegar and soy sauce.

Make balsamic vinaigrette with a mixture of balsamic vinegar, water, olive oil, a pinch of salt, and a peeled clove of garlic. Instead of using equal parts vinegar, water and oil, I cut the oil in half for fewer calories. It’s just as delicious once you shake it all up in a jar.

Curb your salty snack craving with dill pickles or a handful of olives.

Need something sweet, crunchy and really easy? Make two minute trail mix using raw almonds, golden raisins, and semi-sweet chocolate chips then follow the trail right back to your recliner. You’ll probably have a minute left over.
muffins
5. Substitute quick breads, tortillas, or cheese for breads and crackers.
It is the rare household that doesn’t have corn meal on hand, so cornbread is a universally good choice to fill the gap when a before-the-snow rush leaves the store shelves bare of bread. If you don’t keep shortening on hand, fry some bacon and use the renderings instead. You can also use butter or olive oil. If your recipe calls for buttermilk, just splash a little vinegar in regular milk and voila, you’re good to go.

Muffins, biscuits, or pancakes can take the place of toast for breakfast or a roll with dinner. A corn tortilla will hold a breakfast taco better than just about anything.

Small piles of shredded Parmesan cheese turn into crunchy cheese crackers when baked for 6 minutes at 350º.

Sometimes I enjoy the disruption of weather or an injury (not the pain) because it reminds me that I can think about things differently and solve problems in fun ways. There’s a special feeling that comes with that. It’s better than the feeling of regular accomplishment.
arbir
I hope you find these tips helpful. With all the snow that’s falling this year, you may have even better tips than these. If so, we’d love to hear them!

February 18, 2015

Travel Tip #11 – Buy on Location

It’s time to bring you Travel Tip #11. As I begin the countdown to my next trip, I’ve been waylaid by a knee injury. Three days ago, I could put no weight on my right leg. Of course the pain began on a weekend which has been followed by two days of icy roads. Rather than attempting to slide down my stairs and to the ER, my solution has been to put on a brace, take pain medication, and use my desk chair as a makeshift wheel chair. Of course it’s much cuter than the average wheel chair and coordinates well with my kitchen cabinets.
WheelChair
I’ve been thinking that the timing of this injury is fortuitous because the swelling has lessened on its own and I am in much less pain – as long as I spend most of my time in the recliner being still that is. Being stationary goes against my general nature, but it’s given me lots of time to complete Pre-washed list of the groceries I intend to buy once I arrive at my condo hotel. It’s also given me plenty of time to play 2048, but I still haven’t managed to beat that darn game!

As you may remember from Travel Tip #10, I’m going to carry a miniature bottle of olive oil and a multiple spice container full of paprika, curry, cayenne, garlic salt, salt, and black pepper along for the ride. These small containers will give me plenty of flavoring options while eliminating the waste that would be created by purchasing full size containers on location. And they’re small enough to carry even if I were flying rather than driving.

Once I arrive at my destination, I’m going to purchase the following:
Coffee
Plain Greek Yogurt
An Onion
Pre-washed Greens like Spinach, Kale, or Mache
Frozen English Peas (especially if the fresh greens aren’t available)
Potato or Sweet Potato or Rice
Baby Carrots
Bananas
Apples
Ground Turkey or Ground Beef or Boneless/Skinless Chicken Breasts
Cheese – whatever looks good to me at the moment
Hummus
Eggs if they have half dozens available

With these ingredients, I will most likely eat yogurt and fruit for breakfast some days and eggs with the frozen biscuits I’ve carried from home on other days. I’ll snack on carrots and hummus and apples and cheese, and create a one pot meal with the onion, greens, potato or rice, and a protein that I’ll either eat for lunch or dinner when I happen to be in the condo at meal time. My other mealtimes will be spent exploring local restaurants.

One Pot Meal

One Pot Meal


Sitting in this chair has also given me time to consult with my sister who typically follows a similar plan of eating some meals in and some meals out when she’s traveling. Since you don’t have the benefit of Travel Tip #10 from her, let me first tell you what she carries in the car: String cheese, Go-Gurt®, gluten-free pretzels, Welch’s Fruit Snacks®, gluten-free donuts, chili seasoning, salad dressing, and gluten-free protein bars.

Because she doesn’t like one pot meals, my sister’s vacation meal plans typically include crustless quiche bowls, rotisserie chicken, quesadillas, and chili. Here’s what her typical onsite shopping list looks like:

Onion
Baby Carrots
Apples
Bag of Salad
Eggs
Bacon
Ground Beef
Pouch of Tuna
Rotisserie Chicken
Canned Beans
Canned Diced Tomatoes
Frozen Tater Tots
Frozen Chopped Broccoli
Cheese
Corn Tortillas
Microwaveable White Cheese Dip
Corn Chips

Much like me, my sister’s crew prefers to eat breakfast in their pjs instead of going out. They usually eat lunch savoring local cuisine and then cook dinner in the condo or cabin. This is an even more budget friendly plan than mine.
tomatoes
Because I love shopping at a good farmer’s market, I may substitute some fresh local farm purchases when I travel in the spring and summer months. While I’m not sure that it plays well in the US, I’ve shared communal kitchens at RV parks in New Zealand with friendly strangers cooking silverbeet from a local vegetable and fruit market. If we had managed to catch any trout, we’d have prepared those for our newfound friends as well. Nonetheless, it was fun to fish in a snowmelt stream lined with tropical vegetation. It’s the kind of juxtaposition I love and the kind of experience I can’t have at home. That’s what makes a trip so appealing!

trout

The trout we wish we’d caught!


Or maybe a trip seems more appealing because I’ve been stuck in the recliner for days. I don’t know, but I know I’ll be prepared when I set out next month. I can’t wait!

http://www.gogurt.com/
http://www.welchsfruitsnacks.com/

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

February 11, 2015

Show Me Some Heart Healthy Love With a Valentine’s Day Frittata!

eggshells

With Valentine’s Day looming, it’s time to show me some heart healthy love! How? Well, first let me sleep late in my favorite pjs, then bring me some coffee and the newspaper and tell me how adorable I am. Now, get in the kitchen and make me some eggs.

Wait a minute, I said heart healthy and then I said eggs. What’s up with that? Well, it seems that the US government is about to withdraw its warnings about consuming cholesterol. The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee which provides the scientific basis for published Dietary Guidelines has recommended that the warnings be lifted. While the final report has not yet been filed with the Department of Heath and Human Services and the Department of Agriculture, it is rare for the guidelines to vary significantly from the recommendations of the committee.

This new stance will likely result in some confusion because many of us have been taught consuming cholesterol is DANGEROUS for everyone, but it appears that the science to support that conclusion was weak at best from the very beginning. About 25% of the population on average will experience detrimental effects from consuming cholesterol. The rest of us can enjoy our Valentine’s Day frittatas with total peace of mind.

Speaking of frittatas, I like them for brunch and for dinner whether it’s Valentine’s Day or not. They’re quick, easy, and a perfect delivery system for lots of yummy, fiber-filled left over vegetables. I can throw one together in a heartbeat when guests arrive tired and hungry. If I’m low on leftover veggies, I use frozen English peas which I always have on hand. Okay, I’ll admit sometimes I sauté onions, shiitake mushrooms, and red bell pepper rather than using leftovers. They make one of my favorite delicious combinations in a frittata or alongside a slice roast beef.
veggies
I don’t limit the ingredients to vegetables. Country ham and asparagus; bacon and cheddar; sausage, feta, and kale; salmon and dill are all flavor combinations I love encased in fluffy eggs. Just like the traditional one pot meal, you can throw in anything that you think will taste good.

So what’s the formula for a successful Valentine’s Day frittata? Use an oven safe skillet, get the broiler hot, coat your skillet in oil or butter, choose fully cooked meats and/or vegetables with complimentary flavors and enhance them with herbs or cheese, salt and pepper. Warm the meat, vegetables, and herbs in the oil coated skillet over medium low heat. Add a splash of water to 6-8 eggs for fluffiness before you lightly whisk them along with the salt and pepper. Add the eggs to the skillet, sprinkle with cheese and cook until the eggs set and only a tiny layer of liquid egg is left in the center on top. Finish under the broiler causing the eggs to rise and lightly brown.
frittata

Most importantly, don’t forget to include the love. It’s the most important ingredient for heart health every day!

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2015/02/10/feds-poised-to-withdraw-longstanding-warnings-about-dietary-cholesterol/

http://www.health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015.asp

February 1, 2015

5 Simple Solutions – Last Minute Gluten-Free Super Bowl Snacks

Need some last minute gluten-free Super Bowl snacks? I have a five simple solutions ’cause goodness knows, I need some.

I didn’t plan ahead for tonight’s event. In fact, it was just this morning that I decided to join the party frenzy that is the Super Bowl. In my state, the fact that it’s Sunday eliminates the possibility of grabbing some beer to take along, so at my regular Super Bowl party, I am required to bring food.

I didn’t wake up early. I don’t really want to cook anything. I don’t want to spend a fortune. I want to just run in my neighborhood grocery store on the way to the party and grab some food that everyone will enjoy and that is gluten-free…for me!
Herdez salsa

Here are 5 simple solutions:

1. Salsa and chips
I can grab some HERDEZ® Salsa Verde and a bag of my favorite tortilla chips. Made with freshly harvested green tomatillos, savory onions, spicy serrano peppers, salt and fresh cilantro, the HERDEZ variety is delicious.

While I prefer the green salsa, HERDEZ also makes red salsa. It’s sold in several varieties in small cans at my local store. I can grab a variety so everyone can enjoy their preferred flavor.
guacamole

2. Guacamole and chips
For added pizazz, I can pick up a container of Wholly Guacamole® ready-made guacamole. It may be prepackaged, but it’s made from natural ingredients and does great in taste tests.
hummus
3. Hummus and baby carrots
If it turns out I’m not in the mood for Hispanic flavors, I may opt for hummus with a large bag of baby carrots. Like the salsa, hummus is often stocked in several varieties in addition to the original – roasted red pepper, garlic, black olive, artichoke garlic, etc.
nuts
4. Nuts, or Nuts and M&Ms
While I’m on the chip aisle, I will walk past jars and cans of mixed nuts, bags of pistachios still in the shell, and bags of roasted cashews. I’m careful about dry roasted nuts that may not be gluten-free, but there are many options that are just fine as an addition to my party contribution. I might even throw in some M&Ms in the color of my favorite team’s jersey.
peperoncini
5. Pickles, peperoncini, and olives paired with cheese
If I’m in a real hurry (very possible today), I will take a serving plate out of my cupboard and then head straight for the pickle aisle at the store. My usual choices are a crispy dill pickle, a sweetish bread & butter pickle, some peperoncini peppers, and almond stuff olives. If I have an extra minute, I’ll get some white cheddar cheese too. Once I arrive, I’ll arrange it all on my serving plate and call it good.

Even if you live in a remote area, most of these items will be available in your local grocery store. You don’t have to worry about searching for the words gluten-free on the label. Just make sure to glance at the ingredients to make sure there are no questionable items included.

Thank goodness, I have these simple solutions because I’ve got to get back to the laundry or I’ll be wearing dirty clothes all week.

I’m sure you have some great simple solutions for Super Bowl food as well! Share them with us. We’d love to hear them.

Now, go…have fun!


Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”