Portabella “Burger” and “Fries”

Portabella Burger and Fries
Serves 2

1 large baker potato, washed, but not peeled
2 large portabella caps
1/2 Vidalia onion, sliced
1+1 tablespoon olive oil
Mustard (I like a spicy brown)
1 slice of cheese (optional and your preferred variety)
2 hamburger buns (Optional, but it makes for a more enjoyable “burger” experience)

Preheat oven to 450, and turn your grill on high.
Place 1 tablespoon olive oil in a medium sized bowl.
Slice the potato into 1/2 inch thick slices.  Then cut into 1/2 thick fries. (I used a crinkle cutter from Pampered Chef.)
Place fries in the bowl and toss in the olive oil to coat.
Place fries on a baking pan, spread out so they are not touching.
Bake for 18-24 minutes (or until the outside is brown and crispy and the inside is soft and hot), turning halfway.
Remove and sprinkle with your preferred seasoning. I used Penzey’s Sunny Spain.

Take the portabella cap and remove the stem. With a spoon, scrape the gills off the underside. Coat the upper surface with the residual olive oil from the potatoes. Set aside.

While the fries bake, place the remaining olive oil in a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add onions. Saute until soft and caramelized (5-10 minutes.)  Set aside.

After the onions are done, place the portabella caps on the grill (they could also be pan-fried on the stove.) Grill until they are hot and starting to sweat their juices.  Lay the slice of cheese (if using) on the cap to let it melt. (I used a smoked Swiss.)

If you want, place your buns on the grill grate, cut side down, to toast them.

Place the portabella cap on the bottom of the bun. Place half of the caramelized onions on the cheese, and top with mustard. Serve with half the baked fries.

Nutritional data (Portabella Burger with 1 slice cheese and bun):
Calories:        255
Fat:                 11g
Sat fat:           4.7g
Chol:              20mg
Sodium:        381mg
Carbs:         26.7g
Fiber:            6.5g
Protein:       12.7g

Nutritional data for the fries:
Calories:        175
Fat:                3.7g
Sat fat:           0.5g
Chol:                0mg
Sodium:          21mg
Carbs:          32.1g
Fiber:             3.4g
Protein:          3.9g

Other options:
Add fresh or sauteed jalapenos.
A slice of tomato
Sun-dried tomato
Barbeque sauce and bacon (Yum!)


Just a quick thought today.

This morning, I had just finished breakfast with my wife. It was nothing fancy. I fried some leftover polenta, topped it with two fried eggs, half a mashed avocado and some salsa.

As I sat there, contemplating the rest of the day and sipping some coffee, I turned to her and said, “I LOVE eggs!” She looked at me as though I were maybe a bit odd, and I explained: “When I start the morning with eggs, I just feel better. Happier. More satisfied.”

I’m not sure what this means, other than I really, really like eggs. But I know that I will keep eating eggs, because calorie-for-calorie an egg breakfast makes me more than full. It makes me satisfied.

That’s all.

Maybe someday I will raise chickens?

Hoisin Chicken Thighs with Rice and Asian Slaw

Hoisin Chicken Thighs with White Rice and Asian Slaw
Serve 4-8, depending on how hungry you are

8 chicken thighs, boneless/skinless
2 tablespoon sesame oil
4 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
2 garlic cloves, crushed and minced
2 teaspoons fresh ginger root, minced (or 1/2 teaspoon dry ginger powder)

Thaw thighs. Place in a Ziploc bag. Add all remaining ingredients.
Place bag in fridge and let marinate for 1-2 hours. Turn occasionally.
Heat non-stick skillet on med-high. Spray with cooking spray.
Place thighs in pan. Pan-fry until brown and turn (4-5 minutes per side). With finished cooking remover from heat and keep warm.

Nutritional data (for 1 thigh):
Calories:        151
Fat:              10.2g
Sat fat:           2.2g
Chol:           49.4mg
Sodium:         46mg
Carbs:           1.1g
Fiber:               0g
Protein:       13.6g

Warm Hoisin Sauce
Serves 8 (1 tablespoon each)

After removing the chicken, add:
3 tablespoons sesame oil
1 tablespoon Hoisin sauce
2 teaspoons fresh crushed ginger (or 1/2 teaspoon dried ginger powder)
2 cloves of garlic, crushed and minced
4 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup semi-dry red wine

Combine all ingredients, bring to a boil. Loosen any brown bits (fond) stuck to the pan. Stir over med-high heat until the fluid is reduced to about 1/2 cup.

Nutritional data (for 1 tablespoon sauce):
Calories:          42
Fat:                5.2g
Sat fat:           0.7g
Chol:                0mg
Sodium:          26mg
Carbs:            2.3g
Fiber:                0g
Protein:          0.2g

Serve one or two thighs on rice, with one tablespoon sauce.

Asian Slaw
Serves 10 (1 cup portions)

1 small head of Napa cabbage, shredded (approximately 6 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 (2-4 tablespoons)
4 tablespoons sesame oil
6 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 tsp fish sauce
1/4 cup Splenda (or other sweetener)

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

Nutritional data:
Calories:         76
Fat:               5.1g
Sat fat:          0.7g
Chol:               0mg
Sodium:      63.5mg
Carbs:           6.9g
Fiber:               3g
Protein:         1.9g

Easy Complete Breakfasts

Easy Complete Breakfast
Serves 1

Note: This has a dumb name. I’d take any suggestions on what to call this meal. It has a texture similar to a muffin, but without the crispy top.

Take a microwave-safe soup bowl or large (10-12 ounce) coffee mug. Spray with cooking spray.

Into this, add:

1 egg
1 tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon brown sugar (loosely packed)
1 dash cinnamon
1/4 cup regular (not instant) oatmeal
1/4 cup berries (fresh, or thawed frozen berries)

Stir together. Don’t expect it to become completely uniform, you are just trying to make sure it is mixed together.

Microwave for 1.5 – 2 minutes (depending on your microwave.)

Eat from the directly from the dish, or place a plate over the mug/bowl and invert it. I topped mine with a little whipped topping.
Nutritional data: (for the first picture, and for the version served with slices of cantaloupe)
Calories:         194
Fat:                 6.7g
Sat fat:               2g
Chol:              212mg
Sodium:            80mg
Carbs:           24.7g
Fiber:              2.9g
Protein:           9.7g

You can use almost any fruit, as long as it is about 1/4 cup. In the first picture I used 1/4 cup blueberries, and in the second picture (using a coffee mug) 1/4 of a mashed banana.

The other version in the second picture is a more robust version. I started with the basic recipe (above) and for fruit, 1/4 of a mashed banana. But then I added 2 tablespoons milled flax seed, 1 tablespoon peanut butter and 1 tablespoon semi-sweet Ghirardelli chocolate chips.

Calories:         434 (for the more robust version)
Fat:                24.9g
Sat fat:             6.5g
Chol:              212mg
Sodium:       157.6mg
Carbs:           42.6g
Fiber:              8.5g
Protein:         17.3g

My wife noted, and I agree, that using a soup bowl instead of a coffee mug creates a meal that is more visually filling. It looks like there is more food (even though it has the same amounts.) I’d recommend using the bowl just for the psychological factor of feeling more satisfied.

Potato Ham Skillet and Lemon Souffle Cheesecake

Potato Ham Skillet and Lemon Souffle Cheesecake
The Potato Ham Skillet serves 6 and the Lemon Souffle Cheesecake serves 8.

Potato Ham Skillet
3 Medium potatoes, peeled and sliced VERY thin (If using redskin potatoes, wash them well, and leave the skin on, which is what I do.)
3 scallions, sliced into thin slices
6 ounces of chopped, cooked ham
4 eggs, scrambled
1/4 cup shredded cheese (your preference)

Spray a 10 inch non-stick skillet with cooking spray.
Layer half the potatoes.
Sprinkle half the scallions and half the ham.
Black pepper to taste.
Repeat the layers.
Cover and cook over medium heat for 15 minutes.
Pour the eggs, cover and cook another 3-5 minutes, or until the eggs are almost set.
Top with cheese, cover and cook for 3-5 minutes, or until melted.

Nutritional data:
Calories:        167
Fat:                6.9g
Sat fat:           2.8g
Chol:             156mg
Sodium:        88.2mg
Carbs:          16.3g
Fiber:             1.3g
Protein:        10.4g

Other options:
Add bell peppers, jalapenos, mushrooms or tomatoes.
Use zucchini instead of the potatoes.
Add corn or black beans.
Replace the ham with bacon, sausage, pulled pork, taco-spiced ground beef, shrimp or smoked salmon.

Lemon Souffle Cheesecake

1 graham cracker, crushed
2/3 cup boiling water
1 package sugar-free lemon gelatin
1 cup 2% cottage cheese
8 oz low fat cream cheese
2 cups thawed fat free whipped topping

Spray a springform pan or pie plate with cooking spray. Sprinkle half the cracker crumbs on the side of the pan.
Add water to a gelatin mix in  small bowl. Stir 2 minutes or until completely dissolved. Cook for 4 minutes.
Blend gelatin, cottage cheese and cream cheese with electric mixer or blender until smooth. Pour into a large bowl.
Gently stir in whipped topping.
Pour into prepared pan. Smooth the top. Sprinkle remaining crumbs around outside edge. Refrigerate for 4 hours or until set.

Garnish with lemon zest. (We topped it with a bit of whipped topping and blueberries.)

Nutritional data:
Calories:        106
Fat:                5.5g
Sat fat:              3g
Chol:               19mg
Sodium:         268mg
Carbs:            6.8g
Fiber:                0g
Protein:          6.2g

Other ideas:
Use orange flavored gelatin, top with chopped fresh pineapple and whipped topping.
Use fat free cottage cheese and cream cheese (I don’t like the taste of fat free cottage cheese and cream cheese, so I won’t use those.)
Use cherry flavored gelatin, chocolate graham crackers, and top with shaved dark chocolate.

I’m Back! (Again!)

It is the beginning of the school year. Our college starts earlier than most, so I have been neck-deep in school work (to explain my recent absence.)

Friday was a nice day (I define a “nice day” as “a day when I do not need to go to the campus or the clinical site”.) I got a bunch of work done around the house, but I also got prepared for a special meal. We invited both set of parents over for a meal and a viewing of the vacation pictures, both Tammy and my vacation out east and Ethan’s trip to China. (It was a lot more fun that than sounds. Everyone in our family tends to be grandiose storytellers, so it got to be a bit wild and crazy.)

You’ve already seen many of the East Coast trip photos. Ethan is a lot like me, and he took almost 800 pictures over 17 days. I will not post all 800 pictures, but I think there are four that are representative of his trip and his personality.  After I subject you to those pictures, I will tell you about the simple, delicious and healthy meal we served.  But first…

Early in the tour, they went to this pagoda, the Sixth Harmonious Pagoda.
The were able to go inside and explore.  Twelve stories up.

That is Ethan. Doing his own thing, enjoying his life to his own internal drummer.
All while sitting on the edge of a tall building.
And another view. It is a long way down.

He got to walk on the Great Wall of China. I am a bit jealous.

Yesterday was fun, and we all shared laughs and stories. And food, of course.We have a few people in the extended families that are more particular about what they eat, so that makes meal planning a little more work. But we found a meal that satisfied everyone.

This was a simple meal. The main dish was a potato-ham skillet (recipe to follow.) I served it with my from-scratch four bean salad, a wilted lettuce salad with hot bacon sweet-sour dressing, some homemade rye bread, a fruit salad (pictured above) and that light lemon souffle cheesecake (recipe to follow.)

Sometimes–most of the time, actually–the meals do not need to be fancy or elegant to be supremely enjoyable. This was another “breakfast-for-dinner” type meal, but it was easy to prepare while everyone was milling around the kitchen. (Have you noticed that no matter where you want people to go, they always gravitate to the kitchen?)

Anyway, it was a nice afternoon and evening. I hope you give one or both of these recipes a try. They were ridiculously simple.

More recipes will be following over the next few days. Now that the school year has actually started, my life will get back into the routine and blogging will be a bit easier (well, easier than the last week or so.)

Simple Tiramisu

Simple Tiramisu
Serves 12

2 tablespoons instant coffee (instant espresso is best)
1/4 cup boiling water
32 reduced fat Nilla wafers
1 tub (8 ounces) whipped low fat cream cheese
1/4 cup Splenda (or other non-calorie sweetener, or powdered sugar if you prefer real sugar)
1 tub (8 ounces) fat free frozen whipped topping, thawed
Fresh raspberries
1 teaspoon cocoa powder

Dissolve the instant coffee in the boiling water.
Cover the bottom of an 8×8 dish with 16 Nilla wafers. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon of the coffee.
Mix 2 tablespoons coffee to the cream cheese gradually, mixing until blended. Add Splenda. Mix well.
Stir in whipped topping.
Spoon half the coffee-cream cheese mixture over the wafers.
Cover with remaining wafers, and drizzle the remaining coffee over them.
Top with remaining cream cheese mixture.
Refrigerate at least four hours (overnight is better.)
Cut into 12 portions. Top each with raspberries and a dusting of cocoa.

Nutritional data:
Calories:        117
Fat:                  6.2g
Sat fat:            4.2g
Chol:            13.8mg
Sodium:     100.8mg
Carbs:          15.2g
Fiber:             0.9g
Protein:         1.2g

The Godfather Event, Part 1 and 2

Tammy had an idea for a family event. We would find a movie that we were all interested in watching and then create an evening around it. I tossed around the usual things that the boys and I enjoy (Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, super heroes) and she gave me the response that I expected (I made those suggestions as a joke.)
So we started thinking about classic movies that we might all enjoy and we discovered that only Bennett has seen the Godfather, and none of us have seen Godfather II. So that was the theme. We thought we would be able to watch both in a single evening, but that was not going to work. Combined, those movies are almost six hours long, and Ethan has summer classes in the morning and marching band practice in the afternoon. That means we could not start until at least. No worries. That means we get two family nights!
Wednesday evening was the first movie. As a starter, I made another antipasto platter.

I sliced a loaf of French bread, spread a bit of olive oil on each piece and sprinkled garlic powder on each. I baked them at 375F for about 12 minutes (or until golden brown as shown.) The bowl in the lower right is a quickie bruschetta (1 large tomato, diced, with about 1/4 cup finely minced onion, and a tablespoon each of olive oil and balsamic vinegar.) The platter holds stuff that was in the fridge. Some cheeses, pickles, two types of olives, some salami cut into wedges, some pepperoni slices. The red and orange cherry peppers are from my garden.

We all made a plate of that and retired to the TV room to watch Marlon Brando mumble through his role as Don Vito Corleone. It was a great movie and fun to see actors as they looked 40 years ago. The boys and Tammy enjoyed it as much as I did.

At the halfway point, we enjoyed pasta. I filled the pasta pot with salted water before we started the movie. About 45 minutes into the movie, I turned the heat on the water. When it came to a boil, I threw in the fettuccini. At the same time, in a large (12 inch) non-stick skillet I combined 1/2 cup olive oil and 12 cloves of garlic, crushed and minced. I didn’t turn that heat on yet. In a small sauce pan, I put the Alfredo sauce. Again, I didn’t turn the heat on yet. (To be honest, I cut one corner in this meal. I bought a jar of Ragu, low calorie Alfredo sauce. While I am able to make my own, I also wanted to be able to enjoy the evening and movie. That means I needed to minimize my kitchen time. It still tasted very good.)

When the pasta was cooked al dente, I turned the heat on for the olive oil and the Alfredo sauce. I drained the fettuccini and added it to the olive oil-garlic pan, and tossed to coat. I also chopped some chicken breast from Monday’s meal (Beer Can Chicken) and warmed it in a small skillet.

When everything was hot, we paused the movie and everyone made a plate for themselves and went back to the TV room. Normally, when we eat as a family, we sit at the dinner table, but last night was special. (It drive Ozzy nuts that we were eating in the TV room!)

When the movie was done, we enjoyed the Tiramisu that Tammy made.

Note for any people of Italian descent that may be reading this. This is not your mother’s Tiramisu! It is simple, easy and relatively healthy. I will give the recipe in a separate blog post.

Thursday evening was Godfather II, and in my opinion, the better of the two movies. Bennett and I disagree–he feels Brando was better then DeNiro. That’s okay. Everyone can have their opinion!

The evening started with a simple–but large–Ceasar-ish Salad, with basil and Parmesan crusted chicken. (That sounds fancier than it really is. I used the chicken from the Beer Can Chicken, and rolled it in some basil pesto mixed with fresh-grated Parmesan. Then I quickly warmed it in some olive oil in a non-stick skillet.) A pile of romaine lettuce, some Kalamata olives, left leftover crostini from last night cut into croutons, and shaved Parmesan (with a commercially prepared Ceasar salad dressing.) I know, I know. It is not a traditional Ceasar salad. But that is the way it is on our home. We make things the way we like them, and only loosely follow the rules. Hey, the Pasta Police know where we live if there is a problem! 

After dinner, we turned on the movie, and as I said, I enjoyed this one a little more than the first. I made some popcorn (2 tablespoons coconut oil and 1/3 cup yellow popcorn) topped with some unsalted butter for the boys. We did nothing else special in terms of food. The “specialness” was just from sharing time with my entire family.

I hope everyone is able to find special time with family and friends, and if it revolves around food, I hope you are able to make food that everyone enjoys. And if you want to use any of my recipes, I hope you have as much success as I.

Peanut Butter Cup “Sundae”

Peanut Butter Cup “Sundae”
Serves 1

8 ounces (by weight) Fage 0% plain Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa
2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter, divided
1 packet Splenda (or other non-calorie sweetener. Use 2 teaspoon table sugar instead of one packet sweetener if you prefer.)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 scoop whey powder (2 tablespoons)
1/2 to 1 teaspoon instant coffee powder (plus a bit more for garnish)

1/2 cup whipped topping (or more)

Place yogurt into a medium bowl.
Place 1 tablespoon of the peanut butter in a microwave-safe bowl. Warm for 10-15 seconds, or until liquid and pourable. Set aside.
Add vanilla, Splenda, instant coffee and cocoa to yogurt. Stir well to mix completely.
Add protein powder. Stir well to mix completely.
Taste. If not sweet enough, add another packet of sweetener.
Add remaining peanut butter. Stir into the yogurt, but you do not want it to be smooth. (Little pockets of peanut butter is the goal.)

Spoon into a serving bowl. Drizzle the melted peanut butter over the yogurt. Top with whipped topping, sprinkle coffee powder.


Nutritional data (including the whipped topping):
Calories:        450
Fat:                19.4g
Sat fat:             5.9g
Chol:                20mg
Sodium:         266mg
Carbs:           28.8g
Fiber:              5.4g
Protein:        44.5g

I realize that most people will not be able to fit this into their budget. It is a large snack/dessert. But I created this because I needed to find soft foods to eat after having oral surgery. And since the surgery involved drilling into my jaw bone, grafting new bone material, and hoping that my bone integrates with the graft bone, I need a high protein, high fat diet.

And it still needed to be soft. It is two days since the surgery, and my jaw is still very tender. (I accidentally chewed a cherry tomato on the spot–a simple cherry tomato!–and it really hurt and started it bleeding again.)

So, if you are in a position where you need the calories and you need protein and fat, give this a try. It was really good!

Warm Quinoa Vegetable Salad and Grilled Stuffed Cabbage

Quinoa Salad and Grilled Stuffed Cabbage
Salad Serves 8
Cabbage Serves 4-8 (depending on the size of the cabbage)

Quinoa Salad

1/2 cup uncooked quinoa (white or red)

2 cucumbers, peeled and seeded, chopped into 1/4 inch pieces (about 2 cups)
1 cup bell pepper, seeded and chopped into 1/4 inch pieces
1/2 cup pea pods, sliced into thin pieces
1/2 cup onion, diced
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes (diced if not already diced)

4 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon of your preferred herb blend (I used Penzey’s Tuscan Sunset blend.)
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

  1. Prepare quinoa according to instructions on the label.
  2. While quinoa is cooking, prepare all veggies. Place veggies in a large bowl.
  3. Mix vinegar, oil, mustard seasonings and pepper in a small bowl.  Whisk until mixed.
  4. Add quinoa to veggies. Pour dressing, toss to mix and coat.

Nutritional Data (each serving is 3/4 cup):
Calories:          99
Fat:                  4.4g
Sat fat:            0.5g
Chol:                  0mg
Sodium:        75.9mg
Carbs:           12.6g
Fiber:              2.4g
Protein:          2.7g

Grilled Stuffed Cabbage

1 head of cabbage (red or green)
1-3 strips of bacon
1/2 medium onion, diced
2-4 teaspoons brown sugar

The amount of bacon you will use depends on the size of the cabbage.  Mine was small, about 4 inches (10 cm) across. I used 1.5 slices.

  1. Preheat grill on high while prepping the ingredients.
  2. In a non-stick skillet, fry the bacon until it is partially cooked. It will still be limp, but some of the fat will have melted off.
  3. Remove bacon from the skillet and dice. Set aside.
  4. Pour off most of the bacon fat (unless you want to use it all.) I used about 1 teaspoon.  Saute the onions over med-high heat until just translucent (3-4 minutes.) Remove from heat.
  5. Core the cabbage and remove the largest (and inedible) outer leaves, leaving a tight head. With a sharp knife, create a well 2-3 inches deep and 1-2 inches across. Do not cut through the cabbage.
  6. Fill the well with water (I used beer). You can also use wine or fruit juice.) Tightly wrap entire head with plastic wrap. Microwave for 5 minutes. Carefully remove from the microwave. It will be hot. CAREFULLY remove plastic wrap (it will be steamy) and pour off the liquid.
  7. Fill the well with half of the bacon, some onion, the remaining bacon and onion to fill. Top with the 2 teaspoons brown sugar in a mound. (You might not use all the onion.)
  8. Tear off a piece of aluminum foil (12″ inches long.) Shape it into a long roll and fashion the roll into a ring just big enough to hold the cabbage off the surface of the counter. (The idea is to hold the well upright, keeping the cabbage off the grill grates, preventing it from burning.)
  9. Place ring on grill. Over direct medium (300-400F) heat, grill cabbage. My 4″ head cooked in 30 minutes. A larger head will take longer.
  10. Cut into portions. Again, my cabbage made four servings. A large head will make more serving.

Nutritional Data:
Calories:          58
Fat:                  1.4g
Sat fat:             0.4g
Chol:               3.3mg
Sodium:        93.7mg
Carbs:              9.5g
Fiber:                  2g
Protein:           2.4g