Monday, May 20, 2019

Setting the Meal Backdrop

It's part of the master meal plan-providing a clean and inviting scene for eating. Plate arrangement, food safety and sanitation, orderliness of surroundings all contribute to the enjoyment of a meal. Whether eating at home or in a food service establishment, the environment is as important as the menu and the service. Take a seat and enjoy the meal with me:
  • Start with a pretty plate, basket, tray or lunchbox to place the food. Add cutlery as necessary with napkin and cup.
  • Trust that the food was prepared in a clean kitchen where food was stored and prepared at proper temperatures. Was hand washing frequent? 

  • Find a spot free of clutter, with a view that avoids piles of papers, boxes, dishes and garbage. 
  • Enjoy a meal without a screen or even a "to do" list in front of you.
  • Try to allow at least 20 minutes of actual eating time.
The plate or lunchbox can help in planning the meal components and portions. Think vegetables and fruit in half the compartments, whole grains in a quarter and lean protein in the rest. A 7 inch plate can make the portions appear larger. Adding a beverage of milk or plant based dairy contributes calcium, Vitamin D and B vitamins to the diet. 

The picture above was a picnic meal, served cold in a park setting. The plate base is covered with two whole grain tortillas, then topped with colorful vegetables and fruit. The roasted flank steak, seasoned with cumin, coriander and chili powder, was sliced thin and kept cold between ice bricks in transport. Shredded cheese provides some calcium to the meal in lieu of a calcium rich beverage. 

Eating outside, whether on the meal break or a picnic may be the perfect setting. Fresh air and sunshine is good for the soul.  Hiking is exercise and an appetite builder.


Monday, May 13, 2019

Second Time Around Chicken Tagine

While the weather on Mothers Day was cold and rainy, my spirits lifted when my husband said we could take a picnic to a park with a shelter. There were plenty of leftovers from the scrumptious Moroccan stew I'd made the night before.  I cut up and heated the vegetables with the infused spices-put those in a thermos and served the chicken cold. This was a meal where seconds are a must!

Chicken Tagine

(Serves 4-6)

Grease pot with olive oil spray.  Place assorted vegetables in bottom of pot.  Add water.

3/4 cup red peas, cooked

(red peas are a legume similar to black-eyed peas)

1/3 cup onion, cubed

1 lemon, quartered

6 carrots, peeled and quartered

6 new potatoes, halved

1/4 fennel bulb, sliced

1/2 cup sugar snap peas

1/3 cup green pitted olives

2 mini sweet peppers, cut in 2 inch chunks

1/4 cup cilantro, snipped

1 teaspoon fresh mint, snipped

1 cup water

Mix spices in a ziploc bag.  Cut chicken in pieces to fit the remainder of the casserole dish.  Place chicken pieces in bag and shake to coat with spices.  Place chicken breasts skin side down in casserole dish.  Add lid.

1 teaspoon paprika

1/2 teaspoon caraway seed

1/4 teaspoon coriander

1/2 teaspoon cumin

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

1/4 teaspoon cardamom

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/8 teaspoon cinnamon

1-4 pound roasting chicken, backbone removed

Bake at 325 F. for until internal temperature of chicken breast reaches 165 F. Test the temperature of the chicken beginning  1 hour after placing in the oven. The chicken may reach temperature before the vegetables are of preferred doneness. For this meal, I removed the chicken 30 minutes before removing the vegetables.
Today's picnic was at Mason Dixon Park near Core, West Virginia.  The grass is green and cut.  There are bathrooms with running water and several shelters to take cover. Even the birds nesting in the shelter did not mind our presence!

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Spring Rain and a Picnic

A quaint park with a shelter and sixty degree temperature is just fine for dining outside with my husband.  Today's menu highlight was the homemade focaccia bread, made with half spelt flour.  We sliced the individual rolls and filled with tuna salad and locally grown leaf lettuce.  That's diced tomatoes in an oil-vinegar dressing on the side and homemade applesauce for dessert.  

Spelt Focaccia

(10 Servings)

In bowl of electric mixer with dough hook in place, mix 1 cup flour, yeast and sugar.  Slowly add warm water.  Beat at medium speed for 2 minutes.
1 cup spelt flour
2 1/4 teaspoon dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
1 1/4 cup warm (125F) water

Add rest of spelt flour, olive oil and salt.  Beat on low speed for 2 minutes.
3/4 cup spelt flour
2 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt 

Slowly add all purpose flour, 1/2 cup at a time.  Knead at slow speed for 8 minutes, scraping down bowl every 2 minutes until dough leaves the side of the bowl.
1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
Turn out dough into bowl greased with olive oil spray.  Turn to coat.  Cover and let rise for 45 minutes.

Punch dough down.  Divide into pieces, allowing a heaping 1/4 cup dough per portion.  Flatten into pans sprayed with olive oil spray.  I used mini pie pans and 7 inch pizza pans.  (2 scoops dough in the pizza pans) 

Brush each dough with olive oil and add toppings.  Allow to rise about 30 minutes.
1/2 cup each assorted shredded cheese (2 varieties)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 finely minced green garlic stem and bulb
2 tablespoon finely chopped parsley
Mrs. Dash seasoning 

Bake at 400 F for 12 minutes, rotating pans at 6 minutes.

Our picnic today was at Morris Park in Fairmont, West Virginia.  It was once home to retired horses that pulled fire trucks.  There are no horses there today, but we did watch a family of deer nearby.



Friday, May 3, 2019

Wild Wonderful Whole Grains

For the third year in a row, I recognized Whole Grains Sampling Day (the last Wednesday of National Nutrition Month) by teaching a 2 hour class, complete with samples and lunch.  This year I repeated the class in April.

The March class was at West Virginia University in the Agricultural Sciences Kitchen, where Dietetic Interns helped prepare samples and lunch.  It was attended by 28 interested dietitians, life long learners, farmers and providers.  The farmers brought one pound bags of assorted flours for each of the attendees.  Recognized Dietitian Nutritionists obtained 1.5 hours of continuing education credits.

The April class was held at Valley WIC in Charleston, West Virginia for 28 staff members.  While not all whole grains can be purchased with WIC vouchers, the goal of the class was to encourage attendees to try a new whole grain at home.

What's new this year?  I visited and photographed a local farm, learning what five different whole grains looked like on the plant.  I toured their mill and saw the various stages of cleaning and processing.

Students learned how to use a countertop flour mill when I demonstrated how to make Ezekiel flour.  The university purchased a flour mill for use in their kitchen. 

I devised an availability chart, where students could learn where to purchase the various whole grains and flours in 12 sites (11 stores and 1 farm) up and down the I-79 corridor. 

Over the past year, I've tested many new recipes, gluten free and gluten containing.  In testing gluten free items, I avoided nutrient void starches and binders.  Last summer I taught a class for life long learners on preparing whole grain bread and egg dough with various seasonal fillings.  For the past two years I've practiced making whole grain pasta meals weekly and while still challenged, the task no longer "wears me out".

Since retirement in 2015, this has been one of my professional challenges where I've learned much and appreciate being able to share with the community and state wide.  I think my husbands' colleagues at the "shop" enjoy the extra samples as well!

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Having Good Wholesome Fun with Apple Carrot Muffins

There's no denying my senior friends love to have fun, and after a noon water aerobics class, they're ready to eat.  These pretty "carrot" treat bags filled with a zipper bag of mini-muffins might do the trick and bring a smile.  They are 100% whole wheat, have 1/2 the sugar as the original recipe, with extra virgin olive oil as the fat.  Here's how I made them:

Apple Carrot Mini Muffins

(Makes 72)

In a large bowl, mix together dry ingredients:
2 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cup wheat germ
2 tablespoon cinnamon
2 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 tablespoon 1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

Shred peeled carrots and cored apples (with peel) in a food processor.  Squeeze out excess moisture.  (I place the shredded carrots and apples on clean absorbent towels, roll them up and squeeze to remove the moisture).  
1 cup shredded carrots (took 3 medium)
4 cups shredded apples (took 4 medium apples)

In bowl of electric mixer, beat eggs until starting to froth.  Add sugar and honey and beat slightly.
8 eggs
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup honey

Add apples, carrots and oil to mixing bowl and beat slightly.
1 cup olive oil

Add dry ingredients to bowl, mixing only until combined.

Drop by 1 tablespoon scoops into mini muffin pans greased with olive oil spray.  Bake at 375F. for 12-14 minutes.  Cool in pan on wire rack for 5 minutes.  Remove from pan and finish cooling on wire rack.


Sunday, April 7, 2019

Picnic Launch 2019

Friday's Stuffed Flank Teriyaki leftovers transformed into a perfect spring picnic entree Sunday.  Today's picnic menu included:
Beef Teriyaki Soup
Onion Bread
Pear Cobbler 

The Stuffed Flank Steak Teriyaki is a family favorite.  I cut a pocket in the flank and stuff with a rice and vegetable filling prior to baking.  The meal features two whole grains (brown and wild rice) with carrots and mushrooms.

Stuffed Flank Steak Teriyaki

(Serves 6)

Cut pocket in flank steak.  Combine soy sauce, oil, molasses, mustard, gingerroot and garlic.  Place meat in shallow dish;  pour marinade into pocket and over meat.  Let stand at room temperature 30 minutes, turning occasionally.
1-1 1/2 pound beef flank steak
1/4 cup reduced sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon molasses
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger root
1 garlic clove, crushed and minced

In a saucepan, combine water, rice, carrot, mushrooms and parsley.  Bring to a boil.  Cover; reduce heat and simmer 8 minutes.  
1 cup water
2 tablespoon wild rice
6 tablespoon brown rice
1 carrot, peeled and shredded
1/3 cup mushroom, chopped
2 tablespoon parsley, snipped
1/4 cup onion, diced

Drain meat, reserving marinade.  Stir 1/4 cup marinade into rice mixture.  Place flank steak in a foil lined baking dish.  Fill steak pocket with rice mixture.  Pour rest of marinade over steak.  Cover entire pan with foil.  Bake in 350 F. oven for 2 hours, turning steak over after 1 hour.

With an electric knife, slice meat across the grain.  Serve with juices.

The onion bread recipe makes 2-8 inch round breads.  To make the individual bread rounds, I portioned 1/4 cup scoops of dough into rounds and baked on a hot stone.  The recipe makes 10 individual rolls.

Onion Bread

(Makes two 9-inch rounds)

Mix dry ingredients in mixer bowl.  Heat water to 115 F.  With dough hook in place, gradually add water to dry ingredients in bowl.
1 cup warm water 
2 1/4 teaspoon dry yeast
2 teaspoons sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour.
Beat 2 minutes at medium speed.  Scrape down sides of bowl.  Beat 2 minutes at low speed.

Gradually add remaining flour, kneading with electric mixer on a low speed.  Mix until dough leaves the sides of the bowl.
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
Turn dough into a bowl sprayed with Pam.  Cover and let rise until double, about 1 hour.  Punch dough down.  Divide in 2 pieces.  Pat each piece into a 9-inch cake pan sprayed with Pam.

Melt buttery spread.  Brush on top of each dough round.  Pat diced onion into tops of dough.  Sprinkle with salt and paprika.
3 tablespoons Earth Balance Buttery Spread
2/3 cup onion, diced
Dash salt
1/8 teaspoon paprika
Let rise until double, about 1 hour.

Bake at 450F 20 minutes.

Our picnic today was at Watters Smith State Park near Lost Creek, West Virginia.  They added several new picnic tables to ring in the new season.

Saturday, April 6, 2019

Cookbook Review: Gluten-free Instant Pot

The recipes include a nice variety of whole grains and protein foods (meat, poultry & seafood) and some vegetables (though not a lot).  The recipes taste good, the appearance of the finished products were "fair".  I am now convinced-there are some items better baked in the oven or on stove top.  (Meatballs and grits, for example).  And the overall timeliness of foods cooked in the "instant" pot are average and do not always take less time.

Millet cooks fine in the instant-pot.  The Greek Millet Salad is pictured above.  (Though millet cooks is the same amount of time on stove-top.

I enjoyed the Maple Millet Porridge (pictured above).

The grits mixed in a dish and lowered into the pot did not work, yet the seafood tomato mixture in this Shrimp and Grits recipe was very tasty.  (I'll stick with cooking grits on the stove-top).

The recipe for the Teriyaki Meatballs was very tasty.  I cut the soy sauce, salt, sugar and honey back as the original recipe contained more than the recommended amounts of sodium and added sugar for adults.  

The Beef Sorghum recipe worked just fine. It's good to encourage this whole grain in lieu of gluten containing grains or refined pastas used in many other recipes.

Finally, I did not like how the recipes were often printed on the front and back of the pages in the cookbook which meant turning the pages while hands were busy preparing the product.

For recipe ideas and finding new whole grains-this is a good reference.

Thank you Quarto Group for the complimentary review copy.  The above post and pictures are my own.  I received no other compensation for this review, other than the pleasure of an enjoyable read and eating experience!

The Gluten-Free Instant Pot Cookbook

Revised & Expanded
The Gluten-Free Instant Pot Cookbook, Revised & Expanded (Harvard Common Press / March 26, 2019 / US $24.99) brings you 100 creative and colorful ways to cook gluten-free meals with a maximum of speed, convenience, nutrition, and flavor. the millions of people who, by doctor's orders or by choice, must exclude or limit gluten in their diets, finding Instant Pot recipes has been a huge challenge. This timely book, now in an expanded edition with 50 new recipes and color photographs, solves the problem. Its recipes focus on dishes that are the most problematic for gluten-sensitive cooks, such as main-course dinners that typically have a grain component, as well as breakfasts and desserts, which also usually have wheat or gluten. In their place, The Gluten-Free Instant Pot Cookbook offers up tasty and creative gluten-free alternatives that cook up fast and delectably in the pressure cooker. Everyone in the household will love these dishes, even those who are not eating gluten-free.

From hearty breakfast dishes like Creamy Poblano Frittata or Caribbean Breakfast Burritos, through substantial and warming soups like a Creamy and Spicy Butternut Squash Soup or a Pumpkin Black Bean Chili, and crowd-pleasing dinner dishes like Mom's Old-Fashioned Pot Roast, Gluten-Free Lasagna with Meat Sauce, and Pork Tenderloin Marsala with Wheat-Free Pasta, these are spectacular recipes that cook up lightning-fast in the electric pressure cooker.

The Instant Pot and its cousins are also surprisingly powerful tools for making desserts, and the offerings here—all completely gluten-free—including Apple Cinnamon Bread Pudding, New York Style Cheesecake, Double Chocolate Fudge Cheesecake, and a scrumptious Mexican Chocolate Pound Cake.
Jane Bonacci is the founder and author of The Heritage Cook food blog and coauthor of The Gluten-Free Bread Machine Cookbook. She is an expert in gluten-free baking and cooking, as well as a professional food writer and recipe developer, editor, and tester. She lives with her husband in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Sara De Leeuw is a culinary instructor, professional recipe tester/developer, and a freelance writer. She is the founder of the food blog My Imperfect Kitchen, where she shares that while life isn’t perfect, it should always be delicious! When not in the kitchen, Sara teaches private cooking classes and hosts live public cooking demos. She lives with her husband near Los Angeles, California.
The Gluten-Free Instant Pot Cookbook, Revised & Expanded 
By Jane Bonaci & Sara De Leeuw
Publishing: March 26, 2019 | ISBN: 9781558329522
$24.99 US · $32.99 CAN · 224 pages · Trade/Paperback
Harvard Common Press, an imprint of The Quarto Group