Mushroom and Shallot Chicken

Mushroom and Shallot Chicken
Serves 6

6 chicken breast, boneless/skinless, approximately 5-6 ounces each
1 pound fresh mushrooms, sliced
5 large shallots
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
Your preferred seasoning (Italian herbs work well.  I use Penzey’s Sunny Spain.)
4 ounces dry white wine

1.  Place chicken between thick sheets of plastic or in a large freezer Ziplock bag. Pound breasts flat (to less than 1/2 inch) with mallet. Sprinkle with your seasoning. Drizzle 1 tablespoon olive oil over each breast, return to Ziplock bag and let them rest in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.
2.  Heat non-stick skillet.  Add 1 tablespoon olive oil.  When hot, lay chicken breast in and cook over med-high heat for 5-6 minutes.  Remove from skillet, cover and keep warm.
3.  While the chicken is cooking, slice the shallots the long way into thin strips.
4.  In the same skillet, add remaining olive.  When hot, add shallots and mushrooms.  Saute until the mushrooms get soft (5-10 minutes.)  Remove from skillet, cover and keep warm.
5.  Add wine, and using a plastic scraper/spatula, loosen all crusty bits.  Cook down for 5-10 minutes. Return mushrooms/shallots to skillet, toss to coat.
6.  Serve chicken breasts topped with the mushroom/shallots, with a side of wild rice (cooked according to directions) and steamed broccoli (with 1 tablespoon olive oil over the broccoli) and some cherry tomatoes.

Nutritional data:
Calories:        225
Fat:                 8.7g
Sat fat:            2.2g
Chol:               65mg
Sodium:          47mg
Carbs:            6.9g
Fiber:             0.3g
Protein:        26.8g

Knees and Naproxen

A month ago, I reported that my left knee pain was bad enough that it prevented me from jogging more than three minutes. I decided to rest it for 10-14 days and then resume my training. Well, even after 14 days of rest, the knee still really hurt, even just walking. And this wasn’t muscle pain, this was pain in the bones of the joint. (I know the difference.) So last Monday, I saw my doctor and told him. He took some xrays, and reported “degenerative changes to the bone” (I knew that from just feeling the joint move, there is bone-on-bone in the joint) and some spur development under the kneecap (and I knew that, because the type and location of the pain is the same as when I torn my right meniscus seven years ago.)

He asked me, “Which would you prefer, an appointment with a orthopedist or a stronger anti-inflammatory?”

My response: “Yes. Both.”

So, now I have an appointment with an orthopedic surgeon in five weeks. And I have a prescription for naproxen. Not OTC Aleve, but prescription strength stuff. I started taking it on Tuesday, and my knee is almost pain free. Not 100%, but at the level where it really is only there when I think about it.

Unfortunately, pain reduction comes with a price. Since Tuesday, I have gained 3.5 pounds. Now, I know that weight is not fat stores. That would have required 12,250 excess calories since Tuesday, and I was within budget all those days. (For comparison, that would mean I ate the equivalent of two of these.  Not two pieces. Two entire pizzas. AND three of these.) It is fluid retention. I can accept that. But I don’t have to like it. And if it keeps up, I will call my doctor to ask for either an anti-inflammatory with less water retention (I don’t think there are any) or a mild diuretic to help get rid of the water.

But I also want to see if the fluid retention is worth it. In other words, is the extra water a necessary evil that will enable me to return to training for the Bellin 10K Run? There is only one way to find out.

“Test run” (literally) of my knee while using naproxen:
Time:  11min 15 sec
Length: 1.0 mile
Average speed: 5.33 mph

Music: A little Karl Jenkins (Palladio, Dies Irae) and Springsteen (Born to Run.)

Result: Knee pain is minimal during and after the run, and certainly did not inhibit my jog distance or speed, in fact I could have gone further, but I had forgotten to use my inhaler, and I was getting very winded.

Conclusion: The knee is stable enough to jog on, but I will use a more balanced approach.  I will jog one day and then take the next day off, but if the pain comes back more than the current levels I will stop jogging completely. And I will use my inhaler about 5 minutes before starting my workouts.

Pan-Fried Shrimp and Asian Slaw

I found this recipe in Cooking Light “5 Ingredients, 15 Minutes” from October, 2010.  I linked to the Amazon site, simply so you can see the book, not buy it. Whoever is “selling it” must be not living in the real world. (Why do I say that? Check out the price.)

Cooking Light produces a lot of good cookbooks, and periodicals. We use this one frequently (and it is selling for a realistic price!) If you need new ideas for meals, Cooking Light is a reliable source.
As usual, I modified my version a touch from the written recipe. I used only the egg white and not the entire egg, and I added the spices to the breading. The end result tasted as though the shrimp were deep fried in  vat of oil instead of a skillet with 1 teaspoon of olive oil.

Pan-Fried Shrimp
Makes 2 servings (8 ounces each)

1 pound shrimp (if you can buy them P&D–peeled and deveined–that will save you some work)
1 tsp olive oil
1 cup panko bread crumbs
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1 tsp lemon pepper (I used Penzey’s Sunny Spain)
1 egg white
1 tablespoon water

1.  Put the bread crumbs and parsley in a food processor or blender and process until smooth.  Set aside.
2.  Put egg white and water in a medium sized bowl, and whisk together.  Set aside.
3.  Place the bread crumb mix in a 9×13 pan.  Add the lemon pepper and mix together.
4.  Put the shrimp in the egg wash, and mix well, ensuring all shrimp are coated.
5.  Place shrimp in the crumb mixture and toss to coat.
6.  Heat a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add olive oil.  When hot, place the shrimp in a single layer in skillet.  Cook for 2-3 minutes per side. 
7.  Remove and serve immediately.

Nutritional data:
Calories:     368
Fat:              9.5g
Sat fat:            1g
Chol:          280mg
Sodium:      388mg
Carbs:        19.1g
Fiber:              1g
Protein:      42.8g

Asian Slaw
Serves 10 (1 1/2 cup portions)

1 head of Napa cabbage, shredded (approximately 10 cups)
1 bag broccoli cole slaw
6 ounces snow pea pods, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 bunch scallion (green onions), sliced thinly, whites and green of the onion

Juice of one lime (2-3 tablespoons)
3 tablespoons sesame oil
8 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 tsp fish sauce
5 packets sweetener (I use stevia)

Mix all ingredients together.  Allow to dwell before serving, overnight is best.  Toss together frequently.

Nutritional data:
Calories:       76
Fat:               4.3g
Sat fat:          0.6g
Chol:               0mg
Sodium:         74mg
Carbs:           8.6g
Fiber:            3.7g
Protein:         2.2g

Onion-Mushroom Tart and Roasted Asparagus

Yesterday’s dinner was a new recipe, which I modified from the Best of Cooking Light 13 book. (More recipes will be featured in this blog from that magazine, so keep coming back here.)  The original recipe was a simple Onion Tart, but I added garlic (because when I use onion, I need to use garlic, too!) and crimini mushrooms (also called baby ‘bellas because they are actually immature portabellas.)

Onion-Mushroom Tart
Serves 6 (or cut larger pieces if you want)

This recipe looks long and difficult, but in reality it is very simple to make.  Most of the time is spent waiting for the onions to caramelize and then for the tart to bake. The only real work is slicing the onions, crushing the garlic and grating the Swiss cheese.
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 pounds onions, sliced (a blend of sweet Vidalia and sharper yellow onions is excellent)
3 cloves garlic, crushed and minced
8 ounces of your preferred fresh mushroom, sliced
Black pepper to taste
1/2 to 1 tsp  of your preferred herbs (An Italian blend is nice here.  I used Penzey’s Bouquet Garni.)
1 ounce (2 tablespoons) crumbled Feta cheese
1 ounce (2 tablespoons) shredded Swiss cheese
1 prepared pie crust (I used a store-bought crust.)
1 egg, beaten

1.  Preheat oven to 425F. 
2.  Heat oil in a non-stick skillet.  Add onions over med-high heat.  Stir/toss occasionally.
3.  When some of the onions start to brown (about 4-5 minutes), add garlic, mushrooms, pepper and herbs.  Reduce heat to medium.  Stir/toss occasionally, until the onions are fully caramelized, and the mushrooms are fully cooked.  This will take 15-20 minutes.
4.  While the filling cooks, remove the pie crust and unroll it onto a sheet of parchment paper, or onto a cooking sheet sprayed with cooking spray (spray is not needed when using parchment paper.) With a rolling pin, gently roll it out to a 12 inch diameter circle.
5.  Spread Feta over the middle of the crust, leaving about a 2 inch border without cheese.  There will not be a lot of cheese on the crust. That is okay.
6.  When the filling is done, pour over feta and spread evenly, maintaining that 2 inch border. Top evenly with the shredded Swiss.
7.  Gently fold the pie crust over the filling, making pleats as you move around the crust. You do not need to press the pleats together to make a tight seal.
8.  Brush the beaten egg over the crust.
9.  Bake for 25-30 minutes (or until golden brown as above), remove from oven, and let rest for 5 minutes before serving.

This was a delicious vegetarian meal, and I will make this again, but with further variations (not all changes will be in the same batch):

Bleu/Gorgonzola cheese instead of the Feta
A wedge of Laughing Cow cheese instead of the Feta
Smoked Gouda instead of the Swiss
Adding 2 ounces of wine (or beer) to the onions when I add the mushrooms (which is enough time to completely cook away, leaving all the flavor behind)
Adding sun-dried tomatoes to the filling
Adding sliced olives (probably green Spanish)
Shiitake and oyster mushrooms instead of crimini

Nutritional data, for 1/6 of the tart:
Calories:        252
Fat:               15.4g
Sat fat:            5.7g
Chol:               53mg
Sodium:         288mg
Carbs:           26.4g
Fiber:              1.5g
Protein:           5.5g

Roasted Asparagus
Served 3-4

1.5-2 pounds fresh asparagus, woody ends trimmed off
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons minced onion (I prefer to use dehydrated onion for this recipe, but fresh would work)
Black pepper

1.  Preheat oven to 425F.
2.  In a 9×13 pan, lay the asparagus and drizzle the oil over it.  Top with pepper and onion.  Roast it uncovered for 25-30 minutes.
3.  Roast this at the same time you bake the tart, and they will both be done at the same time.

Nutritional data (for 1/3 of the recipe)
Calories:         130
Fat:                 9.3g
Sat Fat:           1.3g
Chol:                 0mg
Sodium:             5mg
Carbs:              10g
Fiber:                 6g
Protein:              6g

It’s the Common Question … and a Urgent Suggestion

I’m starting off with something that many of us have experienced:

“Wow! You’ve lost a lot of weight!”

My response now? “Thanks for noticing.”  And then I stop and go on with what I was doing. I used to start a speech on how and why I lost the weight. (My wife, Tammy, calls those “Trev-itorials.” If you REALLY want to experience a true “Trev-itorial” ask me which American beer is my favorite!) But eventually I realized that if people want to know, they will ask me.

And many do ask the Common Question:  “So.  What’s your secret?”

And my answer is still the same. “I count my calories. I eat the correct amounts, and I walk more. I keep my eaten calories less than my burned calories.” 

And the typical response to that is, “Oh. Yeah. I thought you did something special.”

That’s when I respond with, “Something special? You mean other than losing more than 75 pounds in eight months and then keeping it off the past for seven weeks? Other than working my butt off by walking everywhere, and making the right choices, and weighing/measuring my food, and logging it all on Well, no, I guess I didn’t do anything special.”

(Okay. That’s not how I really respond. That’s just what I would like to say. But I try not to be so openly snarky.)

But it is a little frustrating. People want an easy and fast method to reach their goal weight. They want the “silver bullet”, the magic pill.  They watch The Biggest Loser and expect the same results in the same time frame as shown in television time.

But almost everyone reading this knows that the silver bullet of weight management is the same silver bullet for success in school, or on the job, or on the sports field. Focus, determination, and some hard work. You need to know what you want. You need to know why you want it. And you need to be willing to do what it takes to get it.

It’s just that simple. It’s just that hard.

Now for my urgent suggestion:

Yesterday I donated platelets at the Red Cross. The Red Cross (and many other organizations) collect whole blood, plasma and platelets for use in your local hospitals. Of the three blood products, platelets have the shortest shelf-life.  Packed red blood cells (PRBC) can last for 42 days after donation; plasma is frozen and used for up to 1 year. Platelets need to be used within 5 days of donation. Platelets are most commonly used for cancer patients, and the need is always great. If you are healthy, please consider donating platelets (or whole blood or plasma.) Call your local Red Cross or other blood bank to see if you qualify for donation, or go this link to read the Red Cross eligibility requirements. I have relatives with cancer, and others with heart disease. All needed blood cells and platelets during the course of their treatments. I gave then, and I continue to give.

It’s relatively painless, and a very good thing to do.

Come back in a little while for a look at last night’s meal (Onion-Mushroom Tart with Oven Roasted Asparagus.)

Wild Rice, Cheddar and Spinach Pie

 Wild Rice, Cheddar and Spinach Pie

Serves 6

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup onion, minced
3 cloves garlic, crushed and minced
1 box frozen, chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
3 cups cooked wild rice
1/2 cup sharp cheddar cheese
3 whole eggs, whisked together
Cooking spray

1.  Preheat oven to 425F.
2.  Heat a non-stick skillet, add the oil. Saute the onions until beginning to brown (about 4-5 minutes.)
3.  Add garlic and spinach. Stir together for 1-2 minutes.
4.  Remove from heat, and put onion/spinach in a large bowl.
5.  Add 3 cups cooked wild rice and cheese.  Stir to mix.
6.  Add eggs, stir until evenly mixed.
7.  Spray a pie pan with cooking spray. Spread mixture into pan, smooth and place in oven for 25 minutes.  When baked, remove from oven and let rest for 5 minutes before serving.

My suggestions for improving/adding flavor:
Replace the cheddar with an equal amount of feta or bleu cheese.
Add Kalamata olive (especially if using feta cheese.)
Add green Spanish olive (especially if using bleu cheese.)
Add bacon or diced smoked ham.
Add jalapenos (especially if keeping the cheddar cheese.)
Increasing the cheese to a full cup.

Nutritional data for the pie as I made it:
Calories:         295
Fat:                  8.7g
Sat fat:             3.1g
Chol:              115mg
Sodium:          114mg
Carbs:            41.7g
Fiber:               3.4g
Protein:          13.2g

Sometimes It’s a Home Run …

… and sometimes “it’s a swing and a miss!” (We are 17 days from the start of baseball season. Go Brewers!)

You’ve seen many recipes on this blog. They were all very good. I hope that you have tried some in your kitchen. But I hope you don’t have the idea that the recipes that I use are all excellent, or that my execution of the recipes is perfect.

They aren’t, and I’m not.

A case in point was today’s meal. My wife and I took our dog for a nice walk on a beautiful river side path this afternoon, and that ate into my cooking time. I wanted to make something relatively quick and easy. The main course was a simple salmon patty, with a salad on the side. For a carb dish, I found a new recipe using brown rice, spinach and cheddar cheese, put together to make a baked rice pie. I modified it to use wild rice instead of brown rice. It’s a simple recipe.  Nutritionally, it is a good choice.

But it just didn’t work. Oh, I ate a piece, but the best I can say for it is that it made the salmon patty even more flavorful in comparison.

I’ll post the recipe here. Maybe it will strike someone’s fancy. I will also give a few ideas on how I would modify it further if I were to make it again (but I probably won’t.) But this is an example of trying new dishes, expanding you horizons of my meal options, and running into a brick wall. To be honest, this doesn’t happen often, because I am pretty good at anticipating how the flavors and textures will blend together, but every once in a while … well, no one bats 1.000 in the kitchen! (I’m not normally this enthused about the start of baseball season, but the beautiful summer-like weather we are having is making me excited about it.  Maybe this summer I will actually go to Miller Park and watch the Brew Crew play a game there.)

Individual Chocolate Souffles

Individual Chocolate Souffles

Make 2 servings

Cooking spray
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
3 tablespoons low-fat chocolate milk
1 large egg white

1.  Preheat oven to 350.  Fill an 8×8 pan half-full of water (water bath), and set in the oven to preheat.
2.  In a small saucepan, place the cocoa, flour and 2 tablespoons of sugar.  Add the chocolate milk, and set over medium heat, stirring constantly until smooth (about 2 minutes.) Remove from heat and let cool about 5 minutes.
3.  When you remove the chocolate sauce from the heat, whisk the egg white until soft peak form. Slowly add the remaining tablespoon of sugar and continue beating until soft peaks are present again.
4.  Fold in cooled chocolate sauce, a little at a time, until the egg whites and chocolate are completely incorporated together.
5.  Spray baking ramekins with cooking spray. Pour batter into each.  Place in water bath and bake until the tops look slightly dry (14-16 minutes.) Do not open the oven until you are ready to take them out.  A sudden burst of cold air can make them deflate.
6.  Remove from oven and top with whipped cream and instant coffee granules (or espresso powder.)

Other possible toppings are powdered sugar, cinnamon or shaved dark or white chocolate, or a raspberry or strawberry sauce. 

Other options are adding the instant coffee or cinnamon to the chocolate syrup, or making this a Mexican chocolate souffle by adding a touch of cayenne pepper to the sauce.

Nutritional data:
Calories:      123
Fat:               0.8g
Sat fat:          0.3g
Chol:            1.9mg
Sodium:        43mg
Carbs:           26g
Fiber:           0.8g
Protein:        3.4g

Too Busy to Enjoy the Moment?

Have you ever felt so busy that you can’t enjoy life? Or that you feel if you stop and relax for a moment, life will run away from you? Or that you are juggling a dozen flaming logs while pedaling a unicycle, and people are tossing you more and more?

It happens to everyone at times. But we need to remember that while we can not always control the exact situation in which we live, we can control how we react to these situations. When we are overwhelmed with deadlines and demands on our time, we need to find a way to sit back and recapture a little “me time” and “us time.” And dinners are a great way to do that. Especially dinners that are a little out of the ordinary. Tonight, we were all home for dinner (a rarity). My wife Tammy and our son Ethan (as well as our pug Ozzy) were home and I wanted to have a special dinner with the family.

The meal was partly an old favorite (grilled flank steak, rubbed with crushed garlic, rosemary and black pepper, with bleu cheese mashed potatoes, sauteed mushrooms and onions, and a side salad) but then I decided to throw in a nice dessert.

Normally, dessert around here is a small bowl of ice cream, or maybe a strawberry shortcake in the summer. But I wanted to go outside the ordinary, and I wanted to make it myself rather than buying something at a bakery. I am more of a grill chef than a pastry chef, but I have some skills making baked goods, too.

I decided to make individual chocolate souffles based on a recipe that my wife gave me (just a subtle hint, right?) topped with fresh whipped cream and powdered espresso granules. I hope it does not sound too immodest, but this dessert was to die for. I don’t make a lot of souffles (they are rather painstaking) but every time I make them, it turns an average to good meal into a meal worth remembering.

The dinner table is the heart of almost every home. Take time to enjoy your meals with family and friends. And take time when you sit there. Enjoy their company. Have good conversations. Laugh a lot. This is not where you “spend time” as if you are squandering a precious resource, but rather this is living in the moment, relishing a time that can never be regained once it is gone. And good food can help draw together the people that are most important.

A quick and easy meal for one

It helps to keep a moderately well-stocked pantry and refigerator. I got home from work today. Yesterday I was at the clinical site until 8:30pm, back at the site at 5:30am, and finally got home after lecturing about the economics of health care at 5pm.

I did not want to cook anything.

So, I poked my head in the fridge, and started pulling stuff out. I ended up with a salad. A nice, robust, flavorful salad. I built it with a sense of fun, thinking what ele can I add that will make it tasty and still healthy.  I started with a base of mixed lettuces, and then halved about eight cherry tomatoes.  Then I weighed out an ounce of walnut and an ounce of Gorgonzola (crumbled) cheese, and 1/3 cup of fresh blueberries. I layered each of those on top, and then made an ounce of balsamic vinaigrette.

Delicious! This is what I looked like:

Make it easy for yourself to make a quick meal. Unless you live next door to a grocer, keep some basic essentials in the kitchen. I always have lettuce on hand. Never iceberg (far too bland) but usually some romaine hearts (for crunch) and mixed greens (for color and flavor). A bag of baby spinach works well, too. When in season, I have fresh blueberries, blackberries or strawberries on the bottom shelf of the fridge. If you want to use raspberries, that would work, too, but that is one fruit that I don’t like. Grapes would also be a nice salad addition, as would an apple, mandarin orange wedges, or dried fruit such as cranberries, raisins, cherries, or mango. (Dried fruit tends to add a LOT of sugars, to use sparingly.)

Walnuts are my favorite nut to add to a salads, but pecans, cashews or slivered almonds would be tasty. Remember, you are building this salad to your preferences, so use what you like. I like cherry tomatoes for their texture, but any tomato would be okay to use. Diced onion would also be a good addition, but I didn’t chop any tonight.

If you want to avoid sodium, skip the cheese, but I was able to budget for it, and I like aged blue cheeses. An aged Parmesan or cheddar, or even shredded Swiss would be good. You’ll need a robust cheese with the fruit and nuts or the cheese will get lost (so no mozzarella.)

Top it with your favorite dressing, or make my vinaigrette. It is a simple recipe.

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp sugar (or 1/4 tsp stevia or other non-sugar sweetener)
1/2 – 1/2 tsp of your favorite herbs

Stir together, pour over salad immediately.

The nutritional data, for the salad I have in the picture, and with the vinaigrette:

Calories:          489
Fat:                  41.5g
Sat fat:               8.8g
Chol:                  25mg
Sodium:            315mg
Carbs:                21g
Fiber:                6.3g
Protein:           16.1g