Monday, June 22, 2009

The Skinny - How to fit into your little black dress forever and a healthy breakfast to start your day

The Skinny – How to fit into your little black dress forever by Melissa Clark & Robin Aronson. I just finished reading this fabulous little bright fuchsia book with the sexy LBD (little black dress) on the cover and it will change the way you eat forever, at least it has for me. It’s filled with practical, no nonsense advice on how to eat so you can lose weight, keep it off and still enjoy all of the foods that you love.

They say very simply “don’t eat what you don’t want.” I know you’re saying to yourself - I don’t eat anything I don’t want. Well, think about it. I know I do. Sometimes I find myself mindlessly eating the cheeseburger, or whatever, even though it’s too well done, dry and tasteless. Thanks to this book I’ve begun to take a good look at what’s on my plate and only eat the things I truly find tasty and enjoyable.

Portion control is stressed. When it comes to your waistline and that little black dress, you can eat what you want, but you can’t always eat all of what you want. Slow down, stop eating when you’ve had enough, and leave at least a little bit on your plate. Incorporate more fruits and vegetables in your diet and learn to recognize when you’re full.

This delightful book brought back wonderful memories of our Haitian gardener Fifi that worked for us when we lived in the Bahamas. Fifi’s morning snack was a small bag of peanuts. He would sit down and carefully eat a peanut, one at a time. When he completely finished chewing the first peanut, he would carefully pick up the next one and eat it very slowly, savoring each bite. I’m learning to do the same thing. Now instead of standing in the kitchen and eating what I want straight out of the jar, I carefully measure out a portion, put it in a bowl, sit down in a quiet spot, and slowly eat each nut, one by one, savoring each bite - “Fifi style.”

Rebecca Subbiah of Chow and Chatter shared the Friendship Award with me. Rebecca is a dietitian, writer and personal trainer who lives in North Carolina, where I also live. She’s a Brit who enjoys food and travel and has a wonderful blog devoted to her passions of healthy living. I wanted to thank Rebecca for this award and I thought it would be fun to honor her with this book review and a healthy breakfast to start the day. Here’s to you Rebecca.

I’ve adapted this recipe for Yogurt with Apples and Nuts from Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food magazine, which I dearly love. The original recipe called for the apple to be grated, which I found made it watery and diluted the yogurt. I diced the apple and substituted toasted walnuts for the almonds and added strawberries and blueberries on top. We’ve used a variety of different apples with good success and, although the almonds were good, it’s fun to substitute different nuts, such as Georgia pecans, for a change of pace.

Yogurt with Apples & Nuts
Adapted from Everyday Food – Serves 2

One Granny Smith apple, cut into dice
1 ½ cups plain yogurt, preferably Greek
1/4 cup raisins
2 tablespoons honey
1/4 cup walnuts, lightly toasted
Fresh blueberries and sliced fresh strawberries

Combine the diced apple, yogurt, raisins, and honey in a small bowl and stir to blend. Divide equally among two bowls. Top with nuts and fruit. Serves 2.

What's your favorite healthy breakfast?

Friday, June 12, 2009

Savory cornmeal pancakes with warm tomato salad and organic greens

I enjoy adapting recipes to suit my taste and needs. I was flipping through an old Gourmet and saw a wonderful idea for lunch – Corn Fritters with Arugula and Warm Tomato Salad. Corn meal pancakes, slathered with butter and maple syrup or honey, are a favorite breakfast in my husband’s family and he frequently asks for them in the mornings. He loves to reminisce about Gramps, his grandfather, and how he loved to cook. But after Gramps finished, the kitchen would look like a bomb went off. The first time I made corn meal pancakes I messed up every bowl in the kitchen and, when we sat down to eat, I said, “Don’t go in the kitchen, it look like Gramps was there.”

The idea of turning sweet breakfast pancakes into savory ones and having them for lunch intrigued me. The fritters in the magazine recipe turned out dry and had a raw cornmeal flavor. We critiqued them, which we often do with meals, and decided to give a new twist to our old stand-by cornmeal pancake recipe from Joy of Cooking. In Joy’s recipe the cornmeal is covered with boiling water for 15 minutes and looses it raw taste.

The most important addition we made was to add freshly cooked corn kernels, which was not in the Gourmet recipe. The addition of the corn lifted the pancakes to a whole new level. Grilled corn would have given it even more depth of flavor. Since we were making a savory pancake I also reduced the sugar in the original recipe and also substituted canola for the melted butter in the batter.

We served the pancakes for lunch with an organic green salad mix tossed with my house mustard vinaigrette and roasted grape tomatoes that I salted and peppered and baked in a 400 degree F oven for 10 minutes, then sprinkled with chopped fresh basil right before serving.

Our new savory cornmeal pancake version came out terrific, but we had leftovers. We could have eaten the entire dozen between the two of us, but decided to watch our waistlines and experiment with saving the leftovers similar to how we save crepes. The experiment was a success – yielding great left over pancakes. I cut small pieces of wax paper, placed it between each cake and refrigerated them in a covered airtight container. The next morning we reheated the pancakes on a sheet pan in a 250 degree F oven for about 10 minutes until they were warm. They were every bit as good as the originals. Now we have a new savory recipe converted from an old sweet favorite and a great new way to save the leftover pancakes for another meal.

Cornmeal pancakes
Adapted from Joy of Cooking
Yield: Twelve 4” cakes

1 cup yellow cornmeal
1 teaspoon salt
¾ teaspoon sugar
1 cup boiling water
1 large egg
½ cup milk
2 tablespoons canola oil
½ cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup cooked yellow corn kernels
Sweet butter for serving, optional

Combine the cornmeal, salt and sugar in a large bowl. Pour boiling water over the mixture, stir well, cover and set aside for 15 minutes.

In a separate bowl beat the egg, milk and oil until combined. After 15 minutes, add to the cornmeal mixture and stir until smooth. Meanwhile in a small bowl, combine flour and baking powder. Stir into the hot cornmeal mixture, then add corn and mix well.

Heat a pancake griddle or 12” lightly oiled skillet until hot. Drop the batter by spoonfuls onto the griddle. When the pancakes begins to bubble in the center and start to dry around the edges, turn and cook until done. The second side takes only about half as long as the first side and never browns as evenly, so serve them first side up.

Remove the cakes and keep warm in a 200 degree F oven while you make the remaining cakes. Do not stack or they will become soggy. When all pancakes are done, serve immediately with sweet butter if desired. Save leftovers as described above.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

New England Clam Chowder

Clam Chowder is one of those things that we associate with summer. It may not quite be summer yet, but we're ready. My husband grew up in the northeast and he and his family summered at the end of Long Island on Shelter Island. Nestled between Long Island’s two forks, Shelter Island is a tiny, sheltered spot that is still a popular get-away for busy New Yorkers. One of their favorite pastimes was to dig for clams and have big pots of steamers with plenty of melted butter for dinner. I, on the other hand, grew up in the landlocked deep south, but the first time I tasted clams I couldn’t get enough of them.

We no longer live near the seashore and about the only clams we see in our market in the mountains are in cans. Lately I’ve had a painful time chewing, so to make life easier for me and satisfy our craving for summer clams at the same time, we made a batch of New England Clam Chowder for dinner. Many restaurant chowders are thick and flour based, but we prefer the rich, creamy variety and therefore skipped the flour.

This recipe is adapted from The Beach House Cookbook by Barbara Scott-Goodman. Barbara used fresh clams and pureed her chowder in a blender or food processor until very smooth and creamy and served it cold. Although we didn’t blend our version and we served it hot, I agree with Barbara that it would be excellent brought to the beach in a chilled thermos for a picnic. In her recipe she uses a bay leaf for seasoning, which I skipped, and she saves the bacon for another use, using only the rendered fat. There is no “saving bacon” in our kitchen. If cooked bacon stays on the counter past the count of ten before anyone eats it, it’s rare. I have to hide it (from both of us) if I plan to use it later. Besides, we like bacon in our chowder. This serves 6 as a soup course or appetizer, or 2 – 3 generous servings as a main course.

New England Clam Chowder
Adapted from The Beach House Cookbook

2 slices bacon
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium yellow onion, finely diced
1 cup bottled clam juice
1 cup dry white wine
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 Idaho potatoes, peeled and diced
Dash of hot sauce, such as Tabasco
1 (10oz) can whole baby clams with juice
1 (6.5oz) can chopped or minced clams with juice
1 cup whole milk
1 cup half-and-half
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons dry sherry
½ cup chopped fresh Italian flat leaf parsley
Pats of unsalted butter for garnish

Fry the bacon in a large soup pot until it’s cooked but not crispy. Drain bacon, chop and reserve (or hide if need be). Discard all but a tablespoon of the bacon fat. Add the butter to the bacon fat and melt over low heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 10 minutes.

Add 1 cup of water, the clam juice, wine, thyme and potatoes and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the potatoes are tender, about 20 to 25 minutes. Add the canned clams and their juices, the hot sauce, and the chopped bacon and simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in milk, half-and-half, and salt and pepper to taste. Raise the heat to medium and, when the soup is just barely boiling, stir in the sherry and let it heat through. Add chopped parsley, stir, and serve hot. Add a pat of butter to each bowl for garnish if desired.