Tuesday, October 23, 2012

MY FAVORITE WINTER SQUASH RECIPES


Butternut and acorn squashes are great, but do yourself a favor.  Buy some hubbard or buttercup squash when you can.  You may pay more, but the flavor difference is so worth it.  Hubbard and buttercup squashes are darker orange inside, and flavors are more defined and intense, making  them perfect for pumpkin pies or pumpkin soups.  If you need ideas for how to use them, or other winter squashes, I've collected 9 of my favorite recipes.  Read more....

Monday, October 22, 2012

LOWER-FAT CRANBERRY-ORANGE MUFFINS WITH WALNUT CRUMB TOPPING



Here's a muffin to make you smile.  It's lower in fat than the original version, and whole wheat flour in the tender, crispy topping adds some whole grains to the mix.  You can make this muffin even healthier if you use a sugar substitute.  The flavors are spot on, and you'll want these for breakfast, dessert or anytime in between.

Lower-Fat Glazed Cranberry-Orange Muffins with Walnut Crumb Topping
Inspired by Food & Wine Magazine, March 2001
Rating:  10 out of 10
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TOPPING:
1/2 cup whole wheat or white whole wheat flour
1/4 cup sugar (or 1 Tbsp. NuNaturals stevia)
1/4 tsp. baking powder
3 Tbsp. melted butter
1/4 cup chopped toasted walnuts

MUFFIN:
1-1/4 cups dried, sweetened cranberries
4 Tbsp. frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed
4 Tbsp. water
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar (or 1/2 cup sugar + 1 Tbsp. NuNaturals stevia)
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
3/8 tsp. Diamond kosher salt, or 1/4 tsp. table salt
1-1/2 Tbsp. finely grated orange zest, packed
3 Tbsp. melted butter
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
4 Tbsp. nonfat plain Greek yogurt + enough milk to make 1 cup (or 1 cup low-fat plain yogurt)
1 large egg
1/2 tsp. orange extract

CRANBERRY-ORANGE DRIZZLE:
1 cup confectioner's sugar
2 Tbsp. reserved juice from cranberries

Prep:  Combine cranberries, juice and water in small saucepan; heat to boiling; cover pot, remove from heat.  Let cranberries sit for 30 minutes to plump.  In the meantime, set out all muffin ingredients to bring to room temperature.  Spray a 12-cup muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray or line with paper baking cups and spray the interior of the cups with nonstick cooking spray.  Heat oven to 350F (325F for dark or coated pans).

Make the crumb topping:  In medium bowl, whisk together flour, sugar and baking powder.  Stir in melted butter with fork.  Add walnuts, pinching mixture into clumps with fingers.  Set aside.

Make muffins:  In another medium bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and zest.  Drain cranberries well, pressing them down slightly in sieve, reserving juices for glaze.  Pat cranberries dry with paper towels, then add them to the flour mixture, tossing to coat well.

In large bowl, whisk together melted butter, applesauce, yogurt/milk mixture, egg and orange extract.  Pour over flour mixture and stir with spoon or spatula just till barely combined. Do not overmix.  Divide batter equally among muffin cups, using about 1/4 cup for each.  Cover with crumb topping, gently pressing topping onto batter.  Bake about 15 minutes, or till a toothpick inserted near center returns with just a few crumbs.Cool muffins on wire rack.  While muffins are cooling, prepare glaze by combining confectioner's sugar and about 2 Tbsp. reserved juice.  Add more juice, if needed, to make a thin glaze.  Drizzle over tops of warm muffins.  Serve immediately.  Yield:  12 muffins




Friday, October 19, 2012

MY BEST STUFFED PEPPERS WITH BEEF, PORK AND RICE


My hubby is a stuffed pepper snob.  He wants them a certain way -- with a moist, tender filling, not too much rice, lots of flavor, a thin sauce and a shell that's not mushy.  It had been more than 20 years since I made stuffed peppers, so it was kind of like starting over.

My first attempt was delicious, I thought.  The flavor was outstanding, but hubby objected to my use of a red pepper instead of a green pepper.  (Red peppers, though sweeter, cook more quickly and get softer (mushier) faster.  If using a red pepper, I discovered, you must precook the meat so you can cook the pepper for a shorter time.) He also wanted a thinner sauce and less rice.

My second attempt turned out more to his liking, but he wanted even less rice and moister, more tender meat filling -- in other words, perfection.   So he presented me with a recipe from Emeril Lagasse that he thought would work.  But after reading the recipe, I found it had tons of rice, and no sauce at all -- the peppers were baked in water.  So I came up with my own recipe, and he has declared it the best stuffed pepper recipe ever.  Adding some ground pork and  tomato sauce to the meat mixture made a major difference.  Hubby said the search is over.

This stuffed pepper is more like a stuffed pepper soup.  Served in soup bowls, the flavorful tomato-beef broth is poured over and around the pepper.



Eat it with a soup spoon because the pepper is tender, and a spoon works best to scoop up the delicious broth.

Though stuffed peppers never really excited me before, this recipe has won me over.  However, after we ate the stuffed peppers, I found out that ground pork must be cooked to 160F.  The filling for my peppers registered about 150F and, blissfully ignorant, we ate the peppers and had no ill effects.  You can cook them to 160F and possibly have a mushy pepper, or you can precook the meat with the veggies to take the worry out.)

MY BEST STUFFED PEPPERS WITH BEEF, PORK AND RICE
Rating:  10 out of 10
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INGREDIENTS:
6 large green bell peppers, tops, membranes and seeds removed
2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup finely chopped sweet onions + 1/3 cup coarsely chopped for broth
1/3 cup finely chopped green peppers from tops + 1/3 cup coarsely chopped for broth
1-3/4 tsp. Morton kosher salt, divided
1 Tbsp. grated or minced fresh garlic
8 oz. lean ground pork
1 lb. lean ground beef
3/4 tsp. black pepper
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
scant 1 cup cooked and cooled Jasmine rice (rinse raw rice in warm water before cooking)
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
2 (8 oz. cans) tomato sauce, divided
1 (14.5 oz.) can low-sodium beef broth
Enough tomato juice to almost cover peppers

Rinse peppers and place, upside down, on paper towels.  Finely chop enough of the tops to equal 1/3 cup; set aside.

In large saute pan, using medium-high heat, cook oil, onions, peppers and 1/4 tsp. salt till softened, about 5 minutes.  Add garlic and cook another 30 seconds to 1 minute, stirring constantly to keep garlic from burning.  (If desired, add the ground meats here and precook to be sure the pork is well done.)  Set aside to cool completely, about 1/2 to 1 hour.  When thoroughly cool, add pork and beef if you have not precooked them already.  Sprinkle remaining 1-1/2 tsp. salt and both peppers over the meat.  Lightly but thoroughly mix meat with onion mixture.  Add cooked rice, parsley and 1 (8 oz.) can + 3 Tbsp. tomato sauce, combining lightly but thoroughly.  Stuff mixture into peppers, dividing equally.  (I make balls of filling and weigh them on my kitchen scale to get the same weight for each pepper.)

In large soup pot or dutch oven, combine remainder of tomato sauce and beef broth.  Add peppers and enough tomato juice to almost cover them.  Sprinkle with coarsely chopped onions and peppers.  Heat to boiling on high heat, then cover pot and reduce heat to simmer.  Simmer for about 45 minutes to 1 hour, till pepper is cooked through and soft but not mushy (if stuffing peppers with raw meats, cook till a meat thermometer registers 160F when placed in center of filling).  Serve peppers in soup bowls with broth ladled over and around peppers.  Yield:  6 servings

TIP:  To reheat, slice peppers in half vertically.  Spoon some broth into a saute pan or fry pan.  Lay peppers, filling side down, onto broth.  Spoon more broth over, as desired.  Cover, heat on medium heat, adjusting to a simmer if mixture boils.  Cook about 10 minutes, or till peppers are hot all the way through.  To freeze, place peppers filling side up in container.  Spoon broth over and around pepper.  Cover; freeze.  Thaw overnight in fridge and reheat as mentioned above.


Wednesday, October 10, 2012

SOUTHERN-STYLE MACARONI SALAD


Southern macaroni salad, I have learned, is different.  Like other Southern salads, hard-boiled eggs and sweet pickle relish are ingredients.  Too much sweet pickle relish can ruin a dish, this coming from my Yankee perspective.  But the amount of relish in this macaroni salad is perfect, and that's because you don't really know it's there, except that it rounds out the flavors.  And, speaking of flavors, this salad has plenty.  Perfect for game day during colder months, or for summertime picnics, or just about any time, this one is a real crowd pleaser.

I guess you can say this is my recipe.  It's a compilation of several internet recipes, plus my own additions.

Southern-Style Macaroni Salad
Rating:  10 out of 10
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INGREDIENTS:
Salad:
8 oz. dry elbow macaroni, cooked according to package directions*, cooled 5 minutes
2 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
2 tsp. rice vinegar (or other white vinegar)
1/8 tsp. Diamond kosher salt (or table salt, if preferred)
1/8 tsp. white pepper (or black pepper if preferred)
2 large eggs, hard boiled, cooled, peeled and chopped
1/2 cup finely chopped ham
1 stalk celery with leaves, finely chopped
1/4 cup finely chopped green or red sweet bell pepper
1 small shallot, minced (about 1-1/2 Tbsp.)
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
*Be sure to salt the water when cooking macaroni.  Do not rinse the cooked macaroni.  Instead, cook for 1 minute less than package states and drain in a colander, then return to pot.  The macaroni will continue to cook as it cools in the pot.

Dressing:
1/3 cup Duke's light mayonnaise (or other mayonnaise, if preferred)
1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
1-1/2 Tbsp. sweet pickle relish (or minced sweet pickle)
2 Tbsp. sweet pickle juice
1 Tbsp. rice vinegar (or other white vinegar)
1/4 tsp. Diamond kosher salt (or table salt, if preferred)
1/8 tsp. white pepper (or black pepper, if preferred)

Garnish:  Paprika

Make the salad:  Toss the partially cooled elbows with oil, vinegar, salt and pepper.  Set aside to completely cool.  When cool, add the remaining salad ingredients (not the dressing) and toss to combine.  Refrigerate.

Make the dressing:  Whisk ingredients together in small bowl.  Pour over salad; toss to combine.  Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours to blend flavors.  Sprinkle salad with paprika before serving.  Yield:  4-6 servings

Monday, October 8, 2012

MY TOP TEN APPLE DESSERTS

This year was not a good one for North Carolina apples.  An early spring, followed by a freeze, damaged many of the apple blossoms.  It's hard to even find any mountain apples.  Parker Farms and the New Bern Farmer's Market both have North Carolina apples.  I'll warn you ahead -- they're not the best apples.  I've tasted several, and the most flavorful are the winesaps at Parker Farms.  They're small, but make good pies as well as eating apples.  At $1.59/lb., they're not exactly cheap, but here's hoping that next year will be better.

In the meantime, I've put together my ten favorite apple recipes.  Some are simple, some are complex, all are wonderful.  Most are adapted lower-fat, lower-sugar versions, but I think you'll find these recipes are plenty sweet.  Get the recipes....

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

RIVER CITY MASSAGE WELLNESS


My massage therapist, Leann, is the "new kid on the block."  Her office on Glenburnie Road is decorated with patients in mind.  I love the waiting room.  Tones of green, blue and brown create an instantly relaxing atmosphere.


Leann even has a tea station in one corner to provide a welcoming feeling.



Your massage room has the same tranquil look and feel.


Leann's friendly personality and gentle, firm touch complete the massage experience here at River City.  I am so happy I've found her.  You can connect with Leann on her Facebook Page.  Oh, and did I mention that her rates are very affordable?

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

BAKED SHRIMP WITH CRABMEAT STUFFING











With crabmeat left over from our last crab party that I froze and thawed, and some big shrimp that caught my eye at the fish market, I made a dinner for two with plenty of leftovers for the next day's big game.  We liked the flavorings in this recipe.  There's just a background suggestion of heat and it's not too salty.  A squeeze of lemon juice is all we added at the table.  Get the recipe....