Cooking my way through a new book

Published January 4, 2017 by microncat

For the new year, I have started cooking my way through a new cookbook called, “Eating Well After Weight Loss Surgery” (Levine, Patt, and Michele Bontempo-Saray. New York: Marlowe, 2004.)  I have had this book for at least 6 years, but haven’t done much with it other than scan through the recipes.  It’s a paperback, and the spine had never been cracked until I started cooking dinner tonight, LOL.

The recipes in the book are designed for folks who have had weight loss surgery, such as Lap Band placement, gastric bypass, and the like.  Each recipe has serving information for Lap Band, Bypass, and one other type of surgery I never heard of, and are designed to be tasty whether they’re pureed for weeks 1-3 post surgery, or eaten whole later on in the process.

The recipes are all designed to be low-fat and sugar free, but if you know me at all, you know I don’t DO fake food.  Artificial sweeteners, egg substitutes, any form of artificial fat (margarine), reduced-fat or fat-free stuff like sour cream or skim milk – they’re all represented in this cookbook, and I refuse to use them for several reasons:  (1)  Artificial sweeteners are gross.  I have yet to find one of any kind, even the so-called “natural” ones, like Stevia and Splenda, that doesn’t have a disgusting aftertaste.  (2)  IMO, they’re not good for your health.  Here’s just one of many articles about that.  (3) When “they” take something out of a food (think reduced fat sour cream), they replace it with something else, which can add carbs and other crap you don’t need.  (Carboxymethylcellulose, anyone?)  Bleh.  (4)  Fat free cheese does not melt.  So just know, where a recipe calls for something fake, I used the real thing.

For my ‘maiden voyage’, so to speak, I decided on a beef main, “Soy Mustard Glazed Beef”, and “Cauliflower, Mushroom, and Cheddar Casserole” for the side dish.  Since the casserole had to cook longest, I started it first.


Ok, this recipe is so easy my cat could make it, if she had thumbs.  Steam the cauliflower, mix it in a bowl with the cheese, mushrooms, and two cloves of mashed roasted garlic (the recipe called for FIVE.  Just, no.  Rather than heat the oven to roast a couple cloves, I put them in the steamer with the cauliflower.)  Spray a casserole dish with olive oil, pour the mixture in, then top with two tablespoons of the seeds and a spritz of olive oil.  Throw it in the oven at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, and boom!, it comes out looking like this:


Note:  The original recipe calls for crushed soy nuts as a topping.  I used the watermelon and pumpkin seed combo because (a) that’s what I had, and (b) soy products have phytoestrogens, which I try to avoid.  When I make this again, I’ll either leave out the seeds, or switch to something else, because the watermelon seeds are more chewy than crunchy in a cooked application.

When the casserole came out, it was time for the beef to go in.  The original recipe called for top round steak, which is a low-fat cut of beef.  Unfortunately, I think if one used round steak for this, one would have a chunk of shoe leather after the broiling was done, so I opted for a Denver cut, which has a LITTLE more marbling.  It turned out not to be super tender, either, but it had good flavor.


1/3 cup soy sauce, 2T stone ground mustard*, 1.5t grated ginger, 1 garlic clove*, 1T lemon juice, and 1/2t each, black pepper, thyme, and rosemary*

Ok, so all the stuff in this picture goes in the mini-food processor to get whizzed into what the authors call a “glaze”.  Where you see a “*”, I deviated from the recipe, as follows:  Subbed for Dijon mustard, FIVE cloves of garlic, and what appears in the picture is fresh rosemary and thyme – the recipe calls for dried.

Take 2T of the glaze and mix it in a bowl with 1/2c low-fat sour cream, 2t of something called “concentrated beef broth” (I used chicken stock), and 1/4t sesame oil.  This is the sauce for topping the steak when it comes out of the oven.

OK, here’s where I tell you I’m a cheater.  The recipe calls for the steaks to be put in the pan and the glaze to be spooned over.  I decided that since I got the glaze done before the casserole came out, I would marinate the steaks in the glaze while we waited.


Ok, so here’s the steaks, marinating in the glaze.  I put them in the pan under the broiler for 4 minutes each side, while simultaneously steaming a few asparagus, et voila!  img_20170104_181456

These are WLS-appropriate portions, as recommended in the recipe:  3-4oz. steak with 2T sauce, 1/2c cauliflower casserole, and just a few asparagus (which weren’t part of the recipe, but I wanted a green veg, so…), all served on a 7.25″ plate thrown by a Greensboro-area potter whose name I can’t remember.  (Other pottery pieces in this post thrown by me.)

My wife and I both liked the steak and the casserole.  You may notice that neither recipe has added salt (not counting what is in the soy sauce and mustard in the steak, and in the cheese in the cauliflower casserole.)  IMO, the casserole needed some added salt, which I did add at the table.  Otherwise, no other seasoning was added.  Ginny had seconds on the casserole.  Both these recipes are winners, and I’ll be making them again (only with a filet next time!)


EveryDay Cooking: Amaranth Cookies

Published October 19, 2016 by microncat



Amaranth grain

What the heck is Amaranth?  I had no idea, but the cookies in the photos of Amaranth Cookies in EveryDay Cook looked delicious, so I had to go find out.

Amaranth, it turns out, is a grain.  The picture I posted here is of Amaranth that I got at EarthFare last week, and it is some really interesting stuff.  First of all, the seeds are T. I. N. Y.  It would take at least two amaranth seeds to make the same size as one mustard seed.  I think even Kosher salt grains may be larger than amaranth.

This is definitely the weirdest cookie recipe I’ve ever made.  The first thing you have to do is make candied orange peel (assuming you don’t keep that around on general principal).  Alton Brown includes instructions for this, and it takes a while, so I did the first part two days ago and finished it up this morning.  Here’s a word of advice.  If you ever make candied orange peels, DO NOT pour it out onto waxed paper, unless you use at least two layers.  <sigh>


Candied orange peel

The ingredient list calls for  75g (aka: 2.64oz, or about a half-cup) of amaranth, which then gets popped, like popcorn.  [I made a video, which I couldn’t post to my page here, but I put it up on YouTube HERE.]  When I saw that in the directions, I thought it would just pop and snap and jump around like mustard seeds do when they’re on a frying pan, and it does, but it also literally pops like popcorn.


Popped amaranth


The volume of amaranth, once popped, is closer to 2.5 cups.  If you’re old enough to remember Sugar Smacks cereal, the popped amaranth has about the same texture and consistency.


Cookie “dough”

The recipe has a very small amount of fat (butter), and only one egg and a half teaspoon of vanilla are the only liquids included, so the “dough”, and I use that term VERY loosely, does not hold together very well.  Amaranth is naturally gluten-free, so that doesn’t help.  I had to really pack the stuff into a small ice cream scoop to get it to stay together.

The finished cookies are kind of fragile, at least on the edges.  There are lots of crumbs, because there wasn’t much in the way of a binder in the recipe, which are gonna be delicious on ice cream later…  The flavor is not super-sweet, which I like quite a bit, and very nutty.  They have a lot of texture, and are very crunchy.  I’m definitely gonna play with this one a bit!


Nomnomnom…  Those orange chunks are candied orange peel.




EveryDay Cooking: “Enchilasagna”

Published October 19, 2016 by microncat

enchilasagna2I’ve really enjoyed cooking my way around and through the new Alton Brown cookbook.  Last week, I made his Italian/Hispanic fusion dish, which he calls “Enchilasagna” or “Lasagnalada”.  It is a layered dish, as you might guess from the name, but instead of noodles, it uses tortillas, and instead of Italian style tomato sauce, it uses a sauce with a more Mexican-style flavor.  The only change I made to the recipe was that instead of using cubed chicken breasts, I ran chicken breasts and thighs through the meat grinder.

This recipe is really good, and my only problem with it is that, like the chicken parm meatballs, it makes enough to feed an army.

Enchilasagna – (plate by Wendy Wrenn)enchilasagna

Fall Cooking: Sunchoke Pickles

Published October 19, 2016 by microncat

Ever heard of a sunchoke?  Also known as Jerusalem Artichokes, sunchokes are the tuberous root of a plant in the sunflower family.  They don’t come from Jerusalem, and they’re not related to artichokes, and I haven’t been able to find a reference that tells where that name originated in the first place, but there it is.

I have been growing sunchokes for several years.  The plants themselves grow taller than the roof of our house, and they don’t bloom until the end of September/early October.  The tubers (roots) can be dug up any time after the blooms die off.   Here’s the first batch I dug up week before last:


Until a couple years ago, I hadn’t done anything with the sunchokes except to cook them whole, either roasted or boiled.  They are really delicious, especially roasted with other “winter” vegetables.  Their flavor is somewhat sweet, and they are still slightly crunchy even when fully cooked.  A couple years ago, my BFF gave me a silicone “chip maker” plate gadget for the microwave, and sunchoke chips are absolutely delicious.

Year before last, I think, maybe a year before that, I had a customer in my booth at Keep It Local who was disappointed to find that I didn’t have Jerusalem Artichoke Pickles among the jams and pickles on my sales table.  She told the story of a woman in her neighborhood whose sunchoke pickle recipe was so loved, people all over tried to get her to share the recipe.  She refused every request to give up the recipe until the day she died – when the recipe was left to someone in her will.  Having never heard of such a thing before, I went hunting online and found several recipes, most of which are very similar.  The next year, I made my first batch of Sunchoke Pickles, and they were a hit.  Since then, I have made pickles each fall, and have always sold out.


This year, I got enough sunchokes to make two batches of pickles, so I made one with the regular recipe and the other with more spice.  They are a sweet pickle, with sunchokes and onions, and the sunchokes are very crispy.

EveryDay Cooking – Thanksgiving Salad

Published October 19, 2016 by microncat

Continuing on in the new Alton Brown cookbook, EveryDay Cook, last week I made a batch of what Brown calls, “Thanksgiving Salad”.  This consists of sweet potato, quinoa, parsnips, pepitas, onions, and various other things, tossed in a vinaigrette dressing.


In the recipe description, the author states, “This is what Thanksgiving tastes like.”  I have to disagree.  I’m not much of a fan of vinegar, except in certain places, like pickles, or sardines, and I was not a fan of this recipe.  It looks lovely in the bowl, and has great texture, but the vinegar is just too strong.  I think it would be great, if it were made with lemon juice instead of the vinegar in the recipe.

EveryDay Cooking

Published October 5, 2016 by microncat

Last week, Alton Brown‘s new cookbook, EveryDay Cook, hit the shelves, and Ginny and I everydaycookwent to Asheville for the book signing event sponsored by Malaprops, which was held  at at Diana Wortham Theatre on Pack Square.  No idea how many people were in attendance, but it’s a good bet that all of them were in this line, which wrapped the entire lobby area, twice.  Ginny and I were in the first third of the second layer.  I stood in line while she went to White Duck for tacos, LOL.


IDK how long we were in line, but eventually, we got within sight of the man himself.

Finally, we got to the front of the line.  The girl in the plaid shirt in the pic above is the person who did all the pix in the cookbook, with an iPhone 6S+, and she used fans’ phones to take pictures of them with our cooking hero.  I don’t know if she did this to most folks, but she took something like 9 pictures with mine, showing me walking up and talking with Alton Brown while he was signing our book.  Here’s the best one.


I kinda felt sorry for the guy.  I mean, if you are subscribed to his Facebook page, you know he’s been on the book tour, at least one stop a day, sometimes two, depending on the city, for the last week, and he’s not even halfway across the country yet.  He’s been on several of the national morning TV shows, too.  The man has GOT to be exhausted, even though he is a leading consumer of caffiene (in the form of coffee).

So we got back home with the cookbook on Sunday, and I have started cooking my way through it.  Well, not THROUGH it exactly – that implies a straight line, LOL.  The book is laid out oddly, in terms of cookbooks, which are usually divided into sections by type of food (i.e. separate chapters devoted to meat, fish, vegetables, beverages, desserts).  EveryDay Cook is laid out by time of day (Morning, coffee break, noon, afternoon, evening, etc.)  This means there are various types of food in each section, which leads to hopping around from section to section, not necessarily making things in the order in which they are presented.

weeknightspaghettiI started on Monday with “Weeknight Spaghetti”(page 139).  The recipe makes enough sauce for four people, maybe five, and it’s so simple, you wouldn’t believe it.  Four ingredients, that’s it.  (I won’t post the recipe, since the cookbook is only a week old.)  SO DELICIOUS!!!  I have never been able to make a tomato sauce recipe that I liked better than “Classico” from a jar, no matter what recipe I’ve tried – and I’ve tried a lot.  This will be my go-to recipe from now on.


Monday night, I made “Salty Chocolaty Peanut Buttery Crunchy Bars”(page 172).  Six ab-candyingredients.  Absolutely amazeballs!  I wouldn’t call them “bars”, exactly.  The recipe makes a half-sheet pan size batch, and the directions call for you to cut the recipe into 120, 1-inch pieces.  Unfortunately, I forgot to cut the stuff up in the first phase, until it had already cooled off.  Talk about hard to cut!  I ended up wrecking one of the SilPat sheets I inherited when Mom died <le sigh>.  Since the batch is so huge, I took plates full to three other houses, sent a box of the stuff to work with Ginny, and took a box with me to my Tuesday night class.  We still have 10 pieces or so in the kitchen.  Everybody who’s
eaten it has loved it!  It’s sort of like a Butterfinger bar, with a twist.


Tonight, I made  “Chicken Parmesan Balls” (page 76).  It chickenparmballshas more than six ingredients,
but is pretty easy to do.  It says, “feeds 4”.  It lies.  It SHOULD say, “feeds 4 FAMILIES”.  I put half the meatballs in one pan and made a batch for us, which fed both Ginny and me, with enough left over for her lunch tomorrow, and dinner for both of us on Friday.  I put the other half in a casserole, which will be someone else’s dinner for a couple days.

Next up will be Roasted Thanksgiving Salad (page 70), and Amaranth Wafers (page 42).  Had to go to EarthFare for ingredients for those!





On the Road again

Published October 4, 2016 by microncat

Last weekend, Ginny and I went to Asheville, NC for a short vacay.  I got tickets to see Alton Brown at the book signing sponsored by Malaprops Bookstore Cafe.  Alton Brown has a new cookbook out, called EveryDay Cook, and since I missed the Edible Inevitable Tour and the Eat Your Science Tour, I was totally stoked to finally see one of my cooking gurus in person.

As always, one of the best things in Asheville is the food.  There is a lot of variety here, but we almost always go to Avenue M, because it’s really good eats!  We went there Friday night for dinner after we checked into our Air B&B in West Asheville.  I got the “It’s Fall, Y’all” salad, which had apples, fennel, pistachios, and the dreaded Kale (blech) – which I had switched out for real lettuce, y’all.  Ginny also got a salad, with tempeh for protein, and I got one of their starters, which was beef “medallions” in wine sauce with mashed potatoes.

On Saturday, we got up late and decided on Tupelo Honey for brunch.  We’ve never been there before, because they’re always crowded as crap.  This time was no different – they took our cell number and said they’d text when it was time to come back, maybe 45 minutes.  Wow.  So, we went to Woolworth Walk to check out the metal work while we waited.

There are several metalsmiths whose work I liked at Woolworth Walk.  There was some really nice enamel on sterling, some mokume gane, and other techniques to which I aspire.  Someday.  Maybe.  The jeweler whose work was most amazing was Harriet Smith.  Only, the work wasn’t metal.  It was polymer clay, of all things!  Really beautiful color blends and patterns – quite lovely.  Here are a few of her pieces.

So, they called us to come eat brunch.  Ginny got something called the “Shoo Mercy Pancakes”, which was enough food for three people.  I forgot to take a picture of it.  For myself, I picked the Salt Roasted Beet Salad, with a side of Goat Cheese Grits and bacon.  The grits and bacon were awesome, but the salad was disappointing, because I was expecting a bowl of salt roasted beets, pecans, goat cheese and pecan dressing.  What I got was a bowl of the dreaded KALE, a small scoop of beet cubes, some pecans, goat cheese and pecan dressing.  Everything but the kale was good, but I had to pick it out with a spoon.  😦


After wandering around downtown a bit more (we went back and finished seeing Woolworth Walk), we went back to the B&B for a nap, stopping at a taqueria that was recommended by the B&B hosts.  On their list of local eateries, it said, “Taco Munoz – No English”.  They weren’t kidding.  I got a Sope al Pastor, which is marinated pork on a thick handmade tortilla, with vegetation and sour cream.  Delish!  They don’t have tea, so I tried one of the Jarritos sodas I have seen my Hispanic students drinking.  That, I don’t recommend.  It’s like a lime-flavor hard candy, with fizz – WAY too sweet.  Here’s my Sope!


Other yummies of the day included tacos from White Duck after the Alton Brown show, but that’s another post.

%d bloggers like this: