The path to this recipe was short but sweet–Jim and I have butter on our toast every morning, and to limit the cholesterol, have been using a commercial spreadable mixture of butter and olive oil. It was okay, but a bit on the flavorless side. Shouldn’t butter taste better? The Old Hippie in me, who was in the process of making a bristly, uncomfortable twine bracelet with overhand knots, looked up and said, “Fran, get out your Laurel’s Kitchen cookbook and look up the Better Butter recipe. It’s a recipe for spreadable butter.” I slapped my forehead. Of course! The Old Hippie did an eye roll, and went back to knotting.
So I looked up the Better Butter recipe and mulled it over. As well as butter and oil, it contained lecithin and powdered dry milk. Now why would that be? Turns out that the added ingredients keep the Better Butter solid at room temperature, and that some people, for reasons that escape me, keep their butter on the kitchen counter all day, but since I keep our butter in the fridge, I decided not to add them. So here’s my version of Better Butter, which is light and tasty.
1/2 pound butter (2 sticks)
1 cup oil
Soften the butter, and beat in the oil with an electric mixer until the mixture is smooth. Store in a covered plastic container. Here are the particulars:
Bottom Line: The butter I used was a bit of a luxury and cost more than the brand we usually use: it was $3.95 for two sticks. On the other hand, it tastes better than the brand we usually use, and for entertainment value alone, the package can not be beat! I like to think of the pasture-raised cows as having a good life, and if you have concerns about animal welfare, this is a way of putting your money where your heart is. Here is a photo from the Vital Farms website, which is worth stopping by for recipes and tips. Peace to you. Fran
A circuitous route (as usual) brought me to this recipe for Dutch Celery Apple Salad. I was riffling through “Dutch Feast,” by Emily Wight when I came across a recipe for Celery Salad. Aside from the rather mundane title, It sounded crisp and interesting, what with the inclusion of a sliced green apple. But it also included fresh tarragon, and the thought of going to the grocery store in the snow and spending $2.99 for some limp and bruised tarragon tightly packed in a little plastic container did not appeal. So I went online and found a version at myrecipes.com that sounded doable, made it, and my husband Jim loved it. This doesn’t always happen. But the combination of crisp celery, sweet apple, tangy onion and fresh lemon juice with the green note of parsley is delicious and a bit surprising. So here is the recipe, including some of my own twists and turns.
Dutch Celery-Apple Salad
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
the juice of one lemon
finely grated peel of one lemon
1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated black pepper
2 cups peeled and thinly sliced apples
2 cups sliced celery
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1/3 cup thinly sliced red onion
Combine the first five ingredients in a bowl, and then add the remaining ingredients. Toss; taste, and adjust seasoning if needed.
Making notes: There are a number of versions of this salad on the Web–some include Dijon mustard, others include dried cranberries, some use celery root instead of celery–which may be the way it was made originally–and one adds in green grapes. I think it would be interesting with chopped cilantro. The bottom line, though, is the simpatico flavor combination of celery, apple, onion and parsley. This would be good served with the Chili Soup I featured in my last blog. Or with baked chicken. Or sautéed pork chops. Hope you enjoy!
It was 24 below last week, or was it 27 below? Either way, I found myself bundling up and thinking about soup, chili soup, to be exact. I had seen the recipe in Low-Carb Slow & Easy (a crockpot cookbook) by Frances Towner Giedt recently, and it was filed away in the back of my mind ready for just such chilly, or is it chili? weather.
I love using my crockpot–there’s that smug feeling you can have all day that dinner is ready–and I’m always on the lookout for good crockpot recipes. So I made the soup, and it was good, but a bit on the bland and weak side, and chili soup should not be bland! So yesterday I went to work and beefed it up, so to speak. It burbled quietly all day, I felt smug, and we had it for supper. Even though the temperature had soared to 43 above, its spicy warmth really hit the spot. Here is the recipe.
one pound ground beef
1 onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 8-oz. can tomato sauce
1 14-1/2 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 15-oz. can kidney beans, drained
4 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
one teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 cups beef broth
Brown the ground beef in a skillet, and then add the chopped onion, green pepper and garlic. Cook until vegetables are softened. Transfer mixture to your slow cooker. Stir in the tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, the beans, chili powder, oregano, cumin, salt and pepper. Then pour in the beef broth and stir. Cook on LOW for about six to eight hours.
To serve, ladle soup into bowls and top with any or all of the following: sour cream, grated cheese, sliced limes, sliced carrots, chopped cilantro.
Making notes:I wish this could be made without browning the beef and vegetables first, but I think the beef would end up as lumps in the bottom of the pot, and it just tastes better browned first. With the chili powder, this is a slightly spicy chili, but you can add hot pepper, as well. I also sprinkled the soup with a Turkish red pepper, which adds heat and flavor. By the way, the Muir Glen organic tomato products were noticeably fresher and tastier than other brands. I was a little surprised, to tell the truth. Definitely would purchase them again.
I hesitated to offer this recipe, because it’s just a humble chili soup. But it’s the kind of thing that can go into your regular recipe rotation–it’s delicious, easy, inexpensive, and works all year round, not just on cold days. In the summer, you could keep your kitchen cool with this, and serve with cold beer. And you can add your own creative toppings!
Meanwhile, I’ve been keeping busy with nature journaling. Here is my latest page, all about hairstreak butterflies. I invite you to please stop by my blog, called My Illinois Nature Journal, for more pages! Peace to you. Fran
I’ve gone the low-carb route, and the sailing has been pretty smooth. I’ve found that the fewer carbs (bread, potatoes, rice, etc.) you eat, the less you want. It’s a bit mysterious, but that’s how it has worked for me. I can look at a basket of warm bread set on the table at a restaurant, and remain unmoved. Potatoes? Don’t need them. Rice? Nope. Pasta? A dim memory.
There is one thing, though, that I have been craving, and that’s pizza. A nice crispy crusted pizza with mushrooms, stringy melted cheese and sausage. I thought having such pizza was impossible until I discovered this recipe for Donald’s Deep-Dish Pizza Quiche in “The Low-Carb Gourmet,” by Karen Barnaby. A rich egg custard layer serves as the pizza crust, and then the cheese, mushrooms and sausage are layered on. It’s so good!
I have, though, with apologies to Donald, lightened the recipe up considerably. It called for whipping cream and a ton of cheese, and the first time I made it, it was almost too rich. My version here is still delicious, but way more digestible.
Deep-dish Pizza Quiche
4 ounces neufchâtel cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup milk
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon finely chopped green onion
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
dash of salt and pepper
1 clove of garlic, put through press
2 cups grated “Italian” cheese
1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
1 4-ounce can sliced mushrooms
1/2 to 3/4 pound of Italian sausage, cooked
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 13 x 9-inch Pyrex baking dish.
In a medium-size bowl, with a hand mixer, blend together the softened cream cheese and eggs until smooth. Add the milk, Parmesan, green onion, garlic, oregano and the salt and pepper.
Scatter one cup of the cheese in the prepared baking dish. Pour the egg mixture over the cheese, and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until firm.
Turn the heat up to 425 degrees. Spread the baked egg custard with the tomato sauce. Scatter the cooked sausage and mushrooms over the top. Cover with the remaining one cup of cheese. Return to the oven and bake for another 10 to 15 minutes, or until cheese topping is melted and browned. Let it set for 5 to 10 minutes before cutting.
This recipe for Black Bean Brownies–bear with me for a moment–popped up as I mulled over what to eat for dessert when eating low-carb. Dessert is a surprisingly important part of a meal, at least for me, as a good meal with dessert can be an oasis in the workaday world.
Black Bean Brownie recipes have been floating around for years, as they really surprise people as to how good they are. This recipe is an amalgam of a number of recipes. How does it qualify for low carb eating? The protein and fiber of the beans slow and lessen any insulin spike after eating. And honey has a lower glycemic rating than sugar, meaning that it raises your blood sugar more slowly than sugar. So the calorie count of one of these brownies is not lower than a “regular” brownie, but it’s way easier on your health.
The proof is in the pudding, and I can say that these are absolutely delicious–no discernible bean flavor and with a wonderfully light, moist almost mousse-like texture. So that is why I called this post “Delicious Brownies,”–because they are! And healthy, but don’t hold that against them. Here is the recipe:
Black Bean Brownies
1 15-ounce can of black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup honey
1/3 cup cocoa powder
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon instant coffee powder
pinch of salt
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Butter an 8 x 8″ metal baking pan, or line with parchment.
Combine all the ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. (To do this, blend the mixture for 30 seconds, and then pause to scrape down the sides of the blender. Then blend another 30 seconds.) The batter will be thin. Pour into the prepared pan, and bake for 20 minutes, or until just set. Allow to cool in the pan before cutting into 16 squares.
Baking notes:If you are looking for a cake-like brownie, this may not be for you, since the texture is like a very light, moist fudge.
By the way, my husband Jim, who was diagnosed with diabetes last April, has to test his blood every day, and after eating one brownie and clementine, his test showed no insulin spike. Through eating low carb and exercising, he has brought his numbers below diabetic level. Yay!
Just a side note: To make the knitted doily shown in the first photo above, use instructions from my post on April 24, 2015. It’s fun!
Also, you are invited to check out my new blog, called My Illinois Nature Journal. Latest post: Keeping a Nature Journal. Learn how to begin nature journaling! I offer a post full of examples from my own journal to help you begin. See a page below. Peace to you. Fran
This being December 28, a day that dangles listlessly from the calendar, being neither here nor there in the old year or the new year, and this being that I’m in Illinois on a grey day with cold drizzling rain that falls remorselessly, I’ve decided to travel to Morocco. Not really, of course, but in my mind’s eye, floating on a cloud. I’ll be traveling by way of a wonderful cookbook called “Orange Blossom & Honey,” by John Gregory-Smith. (I also recommend his “Mighty Spice Express,” cookbook, to learn about exotic spices.) He had stopped at a little roadside cafe in a mountain pass in the Atlas Mountains (they extend across northwest Morocco), and had this salad along with lamb cutlets. The thought of the little cafe in the mountain pass fired up my imagination, and soon I was back from the store with the salad ingredients. It really is a good Middle Eastern-type salad sparked with the crunch and sweetness of glistening ruby pomegranate seeds. Here is the recipe, which includes a few of my changes:
Atlas Mountain Salad
1 red onion, finely chopped
juice of a lemon
2 tomatoes (see instructions for preparing these)
1 “hothouse” cucumber, peeled and finely chopped
1 red pepper, seeded and finely chopped
seeds from one pomegranate
3 tablespoons of olive oil
small amount of chopped parsley or cilantro
Put the chopped onion in a small bowl, and add the lemon juice with a pinch of salt. Stir. This will wilt the onion a bit. Put aside while you prepare the other ingredients.
Put the tomatoes, cucumber, pepper and pomegranate seeds in a serving bowl. Add the prepared onions with their juice, olive oil and a pinch of salt. Mix well. Garnish with the chopped parsley or cilantro.
Making notes: There is a lot of peeling and chopping in this recipe and you may wonder if it’s worth it. It all depends on your point of view. From my standpoint, assembling the vividly colored vegetables, immersing myself in the fresh smells and textures during preparation, and taking a mental trip to Morocco was fun. It’s my form of meditation. And, we had a delicious, fresh-tasting salad, which I served for dinner with homemade baked sweet potato chips and grilled chicken sausages. We had peaches for dessert (purchased frozen peaches that microwaved until warm). And wine. So it was a good meal, and the otherwise grey afternoon flew by.
Baking is always an adventure, but some recipes provide more thrills and chills than others. Case in point in this recipe for Cheese Straws that I ran across in the Fannie Farmer Cookbook. I had been invited to a Christmas gathering, and had been mulling over what to bring. The Cheese Straws in the Appetizer chapter sounded good–there would be lots of Christmas cookies to eat at the party, so something not sweet sounded like a good idea. And, they could be made ahead. Cheese Straws it was!
Minutes into the recipe I was sweating. It called for 1/4 pound of butter, and the dough was not coming together. It would never come together. I did a Google, and, sure enough, found another blog regarding this recipe–the unfortunate baker added water to the dough to help it come together. I know that in baking, water + flour = glue, so instead of water, I tossed in another stick of butter. Couldn’t hurt! This did come together, perfectly, and I realized there had been a typo. But all’s well that ends well! The straws were crispy and sharp with the Cheddar cheese. So good, that I’ve made them again–they will be perfect for an upcoming bake sale, and will make nice small gifts. Here is the (updated) recipe.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Cream the butter until light; add the flour, cayenne, cheese and salt. Roll out on a floured surface, and cut into strips 5 inches long. Place on the prepared baking sheet and bake for 6 to 8 minutes, or until golden.
This little sparrow seems to be saying “Merry Christmas,” and that is my wish to you. Peace to you. Fran