Archive for December, 2008

Happy New Year’s Eve!

julia-cookieI made my weekly trip to the supermarket this morning. I went early and stocked up on food for the weekend and the upcoming school week starting January 5th. It was a little bit of a challenge thinking about food for New Year’s Eve, New Year’s day, football bowl games, and school lunches all at the same time but I gave it my best shot. 

I hope your Christmas season has been filled with family, food, and memorable times. Grab your camera and take some pictures – for you’ll never pass this way again. Happy New Year’s Eve to all and thanks for visiting my blog. Knowing you’re out there reading my posts makes my day. I hope you’ve enjoyed my recipes, tips, and bits of kitchen wisdom all in hopes of making us all healthier through food and cooking.


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Mad About Nuts

Research supports that nuts are all they’re cracked up to be. The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) has an approved qualified health claim stating, “Scientific evidence suggests eating 1  1/2 ounces of most nuts, including almonds, hazelnuts, pecans, pistachios, walnuts, and peanuts as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease.”  That’s some news I can live with. Walnuts also contain the plant form of omega-3 fatty acids  and are rich in MUFA’s (monounsaturated fatty acids).  My favorites nuts, walnuts and almonds, along with the other seven varieties of tree nuts, Brazil nuts, cashews , macadamia nuts, pecans, pine nuts, pistachio nuts, and hazelnuts hit the right flavor profile with cooks and snackers alike. 

Nuts are crunchy, rich in flavor, sometimes salty, promote satiety, and with respect to nutrition they are terrific packages of protein, fiber, and as discussed above, healthy fats.No wonder the FDA deemed nuts healthy and snacking on a handful of nuts every day good for the heart. Here are some creative ways to include more nuts in your diet:

Breakfast– Sprinkle chopped nuts on yogurt, hot or cold cereal, or mix in cream cheese to spread on a bagel. Add chopped macadamias or pistachios to your favorite bread, pancake, waffle or muffin recipe.

Snacks – Nuts are perfect as a tasty snack between meals, and research has shown that they may keep you full longer. For better portion control, divide your favorite nuts into 1  1/2 ounce portions and store them in individual bags. Grab a bag of nuts on your way out the door, or keep several bags in the car or our desk for easy snacking. When snacking at home, mix toasted nuts with popcorn or trail mix to boost the nutrition content.  A bowl of whole nuts in the shell becomes an edible centerpiece or table decoration. Place a nutcracker and a dish for the shells nearby and soon you may find your family, or guests, sitting around the nut bowl, cracking and eating away.

Appetizers – Top softened Brie or Camembert cheese with chopped pistachios for a simple, elegant treat. Add your favorite nuts to any cheese and cracker platter, or as above, simply serve them straight up in a bowl.

Soups – Sprinkle chopped nuts on a bowl of soup for added flavor and texture. For example, garnish potato soup with finely chopped pecans or hearty split pea with hazelnuts.

Salads – Restaurants often serve creative salads with various nuts and fruit. Do the same at home by adding whole, sliced, or chopped nuts to your favorite salad recipes. For instance, toss pecans or walnuts with blue cheese or Gorgonzola to add zip to a spinach salad, or garnish chicken salad with slivered almonds.

Vegetables – Nutty vinaigrettes made with chopped hazelnuts or Brazils add pizzazz to steamed vegetables… even the pickiest of eaters may give vegetables a try when dressed with nut vinaigrette.

Pasta – Pine nuts have always been the secret ingredient to a tasty pesto, but other nuts, such as walnuts, can add protein and flavor to pesto. Sprinkled on top or mixed in with a sauce, nuts give a special flair to any pasta dish. Fettuccine with toasted walnuts is always a hit.

Homemade GiftSpiced nuts make a tasty homemade gift. They require no special handling or refrigeration and can be made ahead and stored until gift giving time. Wrapped in a cellophane bag with a festive bow, the gift of homemade spiced nuts will surely please.

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Monday –  Smoky Chile Con Carne, Spinach and Colby Jack Quesadillas

Tuesday – Homemade Pizza with Mushrooms, Spinach, and Goat Cheese

Wednesday – Bison Burgers, Vegetable Soup, Mixed Greens Salad

Thursday – Country Ham, Baked Cheese Grits, Green Beans with Bacon and Shallots, Chopped Winter Salad, and Christmas cookies – lots of cookies

Friday – Ohio Farmhouse Sausage Chili, Chile Cheddar Cornbread, Spinach Salad

Saturday – Grilled Flat Iron Steak, Roasted Potatoes, Brussels Sprouts

Sunday – Southwestern Breakfast Casserole, Fresh Fruit Salad

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Merry Christmas!


dscf7582Merry Christmas to all my loyal readers. May the peace and joy of Christmas fill your hearts with love and your lives with the fruits of a loving heart.  I’ll return next week with my weekly recap of What We Ate This Week along with more recipes, more stories, more tips, and more fun all designed to promote good health through food and cooking.

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Creamy Surimi Dip

Make about 3 cups

I back with another surimi recipe and I’m pretty convinced surimi is one of the least expensive, freshest tasting alternatives to canned tuna or salmon. It’s rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, too, which is a good thing. Remember my first recipe using surimi?  This “crab” dip proves quite tasty with sliced fresh vegetables, whole-grain crackers, and pita or bagel chips.

One 12-ounce package surimi chunks
One 8-ounce package reduced-fat cream cheese
1/2 cup reduced-fat sour cream
2 green onions, thinly sliced
1/4 cup capers
1 teaspoon creole seasoning
1 teaspoon dried dill

Place all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Pulse about 5 times. Use a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Continue to mix until well blended but remains slightly chunky.

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Arugula Pesto

Makes enough for one pound of pasta


In the middle of winter fresh basil gets a titch hard for me to find. There’s none in my garden and small plastic boxes filled with basil cost a bit more than I want to pay. Plus, in my opinion, fresh basil is one of those herbs best picked and used on a hot summer day and it’s anything but summer right now. The outdoor temperature hovers around 14 degrees F and I’m sipping hot tea.


With that in mind, I’m heading to my kitchen to make a batch of pesto with some baby arugula I found at my local supermarket. Ground to a paste and seasoned with the ever-popular, heart-healthy walnut, and a small amount of garlic, arugula adds the bright green color and peppery bite of basil, without the licorice overtones. Served over hot pasta this quick and easy pesto should make a filling meal on a cold winter night.


1/2 cup grated Parmesan, plus more for garnish

1/2 cup walnuts, lightly toasted

1 clove garlic, peeled and roughly chopped

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 cup walnut oil (or 3 tablespoons canola oil plus 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil)

3 cups lightly packed arugula

A few wedges of fresh lemon


Place the Parmesan, walnuts, garlic, salt, olive oil, and walnut oil in a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Process for about 30 seconds or until the mixture is finely ground. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the arugula. Process again until the arugula is incorporated. Serve over hot pasta with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and more grated Parmesan, if desired.


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Double Ginger Cookies

Makes about 4 dozen cookies


Again, a thankful nod to Bob, my favorite brother-in-law baker. He baked these cookies a few years ago and brought them to our family Christmas gathering. I loved the flavor and texture, not to mention the extra bits of crystallized ginger mixed into the dough. On another note, this recipe uses canola oil and no butter for those of you who may be looking for a butter-free cookie. The use of oil also makes the mixing much easier – all you need is a bowl and a spoon.


2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/4 teaspoon salt

2/3 cup canola oil

1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar

1/3 cup dark molasses

1 whole egg, lightly beaten

3/4 cup chopped crystallized ginger

1 egg white, lightly beaten and set aside, for garnish

about 1/2 cup coarse sugar crystals, for garnish 


Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. In a bowl stir together with a whisk flour, ground ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, and salt. Set aside. In a large bowl stir together the oil, brown sugar, and molasses until well blended. Add the whole egg and continue stirring until well blended. Stir in the flour mixture and the chopped ginger.

With a small cookie scoop or dampened hands, shape the dough into 1-inch balls. Brush each ball lightly with egg white and roll in the sugar to lightly coat. Place the balls of dough 1 inch apart on the prepared baking sheets.

Bake until the tops of the cookies are set and crackled, 15 to 18 minutes. Let cool for at least 5 minutes and then transfer to wire cooling racks to completely cool. The cookies firm as they cool. To store, place in an airtight container with a piece of wax paper between the layers of cookies.


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