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Archive for January, 2009

dscf75661. Let someone cut in front of you at the grocery store.
2. Send an edible thank-you note – enclose a dark chocolate bar.
3. Take some groceries to an elderly neighbor or a neighbor with a newborn.
4. Volunteer to serve a meal or cook chili non carne for the homeless.
5. Give a larger tip than normal when you eat out.
6. Open a door for someone when they ride in your car.
7. Visit a lonely neighbor.
8. Send chocolate chip cookies to kid away at college for the first time.
9. Invite a widow or widower to a steak dinner.
10. Be polite to the employees at the deli counter.
11. Take a neighbor flowers for Valentine’s Day.
12. Bake sour cream coffeecake for a friend.
13. Listen to your kids talk while you eat a dinner of arugula pesto on pasta.
14. Watch someone’s children during lunchtime and have an indoor picnic.
15. Ask, “Can I bring you some vegetable soup for dinner?”
16. Invite someone new for coffee and scones.
17. Make a new coworker feel welcome. Celebrate with smoky spiced nuts.
18. Smile at strangers everywhere you go.
19. Help with the dishes without being asked.
20. Compliment five people everyday.
21. Offer to pick up a neighbor’s mail.
22. Donate to a nonprofit organization that feeds hungry children.
23. Volunteer to work in the school cafeteria.
24. Visit a nursing home.
25. Send a gift of chex mix anonymously.

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2007_0714farmersmarket0034I just have to share a bit of information with you guys (and gals) and it’s not about this butterfly, or spring, or warm weather.  It’s about something food related:

About a month ago I posted several recipes for goodies I traditionally cook/bake around Christmas. This might seem rather odd, but homemade Chex Mix made the cut. We ALWAYS stir together a double batch of Chex Mix to nibble on during the holidays. Chex Mix is the perfect blend of salt, garlic, nuts, and crunch. I like to pick out the corn Chex first, then the rice Chex, then the wheat Chex, and all we’re left with is a bowl of lonely peanuts whose Chex Mix friends have been eaten one by one.

OK – so why am I blabbering on and on about Chex Mix? Well, my blog stats went through the roof back in December when I posted the recipe. Seems that General Mills had modernized their recipe by “baking” the mix in the microwave oven. They did this to all recipes on their boxes of cereal and their website. Can you imagine Chex Mix made in the microwave? Well, not me. Here on this blog you’ll find the old-fashioned oven-baked recipe. According to key search words many, many of you also want to make the oven-baked version, not the new fangled microwave-baked recipe.

This past week we were iced and snowed in by a massive storm which cut a swath of downed trees and power lines from Texas to New York. My state of Kentucky was particularly hard hit. Coinciding with this ice storm I’ve watched my blog stats go through the roof, again, due to searches for “oven baked” Chex mix. I mentioned this to the best male cook I know after dinner last night. “Do you think the ice storm is driving this search for oven-baked chex mix?” He looked at me as if I had two heads and replied in sort of a flat voice, “Ice storm? No, that’s not what it is. It’s the Super Bowl.” THE SUPER BOWL – I’m pretty sure he’s right – it’s the Super Bowl! Oven-baked chex mix and the Super Bowl are a perfect match. Salt, crunch, nuts, touchdown!

I say welcome if you’re here looking for the recipe for oven-baked Chex mix. Be sure to come back and visit from time to time. Better yet subscribe to my RSS feed and you’ll automatically be alerted to updates. But since you’re here, take a few minutes to read some other favorite posts and recipes:

Why Do I Share What We Ate This Week

Exploring Health In A Whole New Way

All I Need Is A Kitchen Table

and a few favorite recipes:

Quick Vegetarian Vegetable Soup

Winter Wheat Berry Salad

Sour Cream Coffee Cake

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The Zen of Real Food

dscf7811I love Google Reader and how it presents my RSS feeds. I’ve learned a secret to keeping up with posts from my favorite blogs: use Google Reader smartly. Smartly I say because Google Reader can inadvertently keep me from doing something that might be a tich more important: work, write, cook, relax with my family, etc. My kids, and the best male cook I know, don’t enjoy looking at the back of my laptop lid anymore than I enjoy looking at them with a remote control or Nintendo DS in their hand. During times we’re together that is.

Lately, one of my favorite blogs is Zen Habits. A few days ago, guest blogger Scott Kustes (from Louisville, KY – yeah!) wrote about Keeping Eating Simple. Here are a few of my favorite quotes from his writing:

1. When it comes to healthy eating, you just can’t beat your own kitchen. In fact, I’ll guarantee that the more you cook at home, the healthier you will be. Obviously though, having healthy foods on hand is imperative.

2. Here’s another aspect of cooking that seems to scare many people off: you don’t have to be competing for the title of Iron Chef to cook delicious, healthy meals.

3. Pick a few smart vices (like dark chocolate, good beer or wine, chips and salsa, ice cream, probably not Dunkin Donuts) and pepper them throughout your life to make things enjoyable. Frankly, life is too short to give up everything, but by being good 90% of the time, you’ll find that the other 10% doesn’t really hurt you and is far more enjoyable.

 We’re “iced in” here in my part of the world, with another 3 to 6 inches of snow predicted today to top off the ice. I’m hunkering down, not reading Google reader, but working with 2 cookbook authors on their cookbook projects.  Have a good day!  I’ll be back soon with another tasty recipe or more food for thought. If you have a minute, click over to Zen Habits to read more about Keeping Eating Simple.

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Monday – Roast Chicken, Olive Oil Mashed Potatoes, Chicken Gravy, Green Beans

Tuesday – Spaghetti and Quick Italian Meat Sauce, Green Peas

Wednesday – Lentil Soup, Silver Dollar Corncakes, Applesauce

Thursday – Crabby Patties, Kelp Fries, Sliced Pineapple

Friday – Cooked dinner for a friend whose son had surgery. (Roast Chicken, Honeyed Parsley Carrots, Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette). We ordered pizza (we’d already had Roast Chicken this week.)

Saturday – Birthday Party away from home. Mediterranean White Bean Soup, Pork Tenderloin Sandwiches, Fresh Fruit, Baked Macaroni and Cheese (for a crowd).  I took a Mixed Green Salad with Pears, Walnuts, and Goat Cheese

Sunday – Portuguese Greens Soup

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Tasty Lentil Soup

lentilsoup-21

Hardly a week goes by that I don’t make some variety of soup for dinner. Because I love meals I can cook on the stove top, I certainly don’t mind standing and chopping the veggies… when all is chopped, the soup cooks itself, and doesn’t require my full attention like a stir-fry or making doughnuts.

Progresso Lentil Soup has long been a favorite. When the best male cook I know and I lived in Michigan we ate our weight in Progresso’s soup. Now, with several more mouths to feed, more attention paid to ingredient lists, more awareness about sodium in processed foods, and more thermoses to fill (does a thermos scream geek or not when packed in a lunchbox? Post your comments) making Lentil Soup from scratch is a nutritious, and economical choice.

The lens or button-shaped lentil is a cousin of a dried bean, and both are a part of the legume family. All legumes are seeds that grow within pods. In fact, lens is the Latin word for lentil. The size and appearance of lentils varies depending on the variety. The outer seed coat can be mottled or speckled, and ranges in color from reddish-brown to grayish-brown to green. Look for lentils sold in a bag, or a box, in the aisle of your market where rice and other dried beans are sold. Lentils are loaded with fiber, complex carbohydrates, and folic acid. Folic acid is a very important nutrient especially for women of childbearing age. One cup of cooked lentils provides 90% of the recommended daily allowance for folic acid, and lentils provide more folic acid than any other unfortified food. Lentils are also an important source of iron, especially for women whose iron needs are greater during childbearing years.

Lentils are relatively simple to prepare. Begin by placing the uncooked lentils in a colander and raking them with your fingers, removing any debris or dirt. Rinse the lentils with cool water and cook as instructed in the recipe. Do not add salt to lentils until after they are soft and cooked.

Serves 8

Easily doubled – just be sure to use a large Dutch oven or soup pot. Extra portions can be frozen, thawed and reheated when a quick meal is in order.

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 cups chopped onion (about 2 medium)
3 carrots, peeled and grated
1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
2 teaspoons dried marjoram or oregano
One 28-ounce can diced tomatoes (do not drain)
8 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 1/2 cups dried lentils, rinsed and picked over
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
fresh ground black pepper to taste
6 ounces (3/4 cup) dry white wine (optional)
1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley

Heat oil in a large saucepan, and cook the onions, carrots, thyme, and marjoram, for about 5 minutes until softened. Add the tomatoes (and their juice), broth and lentils. Bring the soup to a boil, reduce the heat, cover the pan and simmer the soup for about 1 hour or until the lentils are tender. Add the salt, pepper, wine and parsley, and simmer the soup for a few minutes longer. Serve hot.

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Mark Bittman Posts Food Diary

This week Mark Bittman, on his blog “Bitten“, started keeping an online food diary called “What I Ate Last Week”. I personally believe an online food diary is a terrific way to show you that eating “well” is possible. I wonder where he got the inspiration? See my What We Ate This Week dating back to October 2008 for a menu of the evening meals we eat around here.  Mark, if you or Kate (hi Kate), are reading my blog, I applaud you for being open about what you eat!

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Quick Italian Meat Sauce

quick-ital-meat-sauceWe eat a fair amount of spaghetti, baked ravioli, and sometimes even stuffed shells on our pasta night. This sauce is quick and easy to make, plus I like my list of ingredients better than the laundry list of additives in most jarred sauces. My favorite canned crushed tomatoes are Hunt’s, Red Gold, or the brand Dei Fratelli (which has no added salt by the way). For a meatless option, use 1 pound of sliced fresh mushrooms instead of the beef.

Makes 7 cups

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound lean ground beef
6 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tablespoons dried basil
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
Two 28-ounce cans crushed tomatoes

Crumble the ground beef into a large skillet and place over medium heat. Cook until no longer pink. Drain off any moisture or fat from the beef. Stir in the olive oil and the garlic. Cook for about 3 minutes to soften the garlic. Add the basil, sugar, salt, thyme, and crushed red pepper flakes. Stir for about 1 minute to combine. Stir in the crushed tomatoes and let cook over medium-low heat for about 15 minutes to blend the flavors and thicken the sauce.

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