Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Cabbage Rolls like my Mother Used to Make - Vegetarian

When I crave the taste of cabbage rolls,or holubchi,  I make the lazy version - as outlined in an earlier blog. For special occasions I will make the authentic kind - rice actually rolled into cabbage leaves and simmered in a low oven for several hours. This is the kind my late mother used to make. Only hers were dainty and petite and of uniform size. Mine - not!

They are picky and time consuming to make so it is a rare occasion indeed that I deign to make them. On Dec.25th we were going to my nephews home for dinner, so I volunteered to make cabbage rolls to take along.

The pickiest part is preparing the cabbage for rolling. I use the steamer basket of my stock pot to prepare the cabbage. I get an early start so there's plenty of time to get each stage done.
Because the job tends to be messy and wet, I like to spread a nice clean towel on my work surface and get started. I'll be using the towel to separate the cabbage leaves from the head and allow them to cool on it.

Cabbage Rolls

1 med. cabbage
2 cups long grain rice
1 large onion
3 tbsp. vegetable oil
2 cans tomato soup

Stage 1: Preparing the cabbage

1. Cut the hard bottom off the cabbage and make slits around the base of the core. This is to allow steam to get in and make the leaves easier to remove. Remove any imperfect outer leaves and save. Wash thoroughly.

2. Place the cabbage in the steamer basket , core side down, and allow to steam for a good 10 minutes before checking to see if the outer leaves can be easily removed. After 10 minuted, remove steamer basket. You should be able to remove a few of the outer leaves. I got 5 on the first go and that seems to be all I could get per round of steaming.

They must come off the cabbage easily and be removed without tearing. As soon as you feel resistance, it's time to put the cabbage back into the steamer for more steaming. Deepen the slits around the core - being careful not to cut too deep in order not to damage leaves. You may have to cut away a little more at the base of the leaves in order to free it from the cabbage with each removal round.
 Continue with this process until all leaves of a size that will be suitable for rolling have been removed. The closer you get to the inside of the cabbage, the thicker the leaves. Return the loose leaves to the steamer for several minutes to soften. They'll collapse into the steamer and lose stiffness.
Trim the thick center ribs as thin as possible without making a hole in the cabbage.

Stage 2: Preparing the Rice

1. Partially cook the rice. Normally water to rice is a 2:1 ratio. For par-cooking, I use a 1:1.
2. Saute onion in vegetable oil until soft.
3. Combine onion, remaining oil, rice, salt and pepper and allow to cool so that it can be handled.

Stage 3: Rolling, rolling, rolling.....

1. Place a spoonful of rice on each leaf, and roll.Tuck in the side edges as you go.

2. Place into a roasting pan that has been sprayed with vegetable spray and lined with remaining leaves that were too small to use for rolling or with the outer leaves that were removed earlier. (If no leaves are available, not to worry!)
3. Salt and pepper each layer.
4. Dilute 2 cans of tomato soup with 1-1/2 cans of water, mix well, and pour over the cabbage rolls.
5. Cover with foil or remaining leaves and roaster lid and bake for 3 hours at 325°. Check to make sure cabbage is done, and increase cooking time if necessary.

Alas, they were gone too quickly and I neglected to get a picture of the cabbage rolls once cooked.

I'm told that I can save a lot of hassle preparing the leaves if I freeze the head of cabbage, and thaw before rolling. Then I can eliminate the steaming step. I have not tried this, but I will for the next time. It will certainly make the preparation a much quicker process!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

And yet another Bran Muffin Recipe

This is another recipe that originated from the little cookbook "Just Muffins®" compiled by Gaye Hansen. My recipe, however, bears little resemblance to the original which was titled "Delicious Bran Muffins".
Once again, I dip into my frozen banana stash. It also allows me to use up the yogurt (plain or fruit) that is a few days past its prime. I think it's the cinnamon and nutmeg that make these muffins so appealing. They are currently my favorite bran muffins. They smell wonderful while baking and taste yummy warm or cold! To cut back on the sugar, I substitute half of it with Splenda®.

'Bran'ana Muffins

1 cup yogurt (plain or flavored) or 1 cup buttermilk
1 cup natural bran flakes
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
1/2 cup brown sugar (or 1/4 cup brown sugar and 1/4 cup Splenda®)
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp. cinnamon (or more if you like it.)
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
2 mashed bananas
1/2 cup raisins (optional)

1. Soak bran in yogurt (or buttermilk) for 15 minutes.

2. Add the oil and eggs and stir well
3. Add the remaining dry ingredients. (Probably best sifted, but I don't usually bother! Maybe that's a mistake!)
4. Stir in the mashed banana.
5. Spoon into muffin pan that has been sprayed with vegetable spray.
6. Bake at 350 for 25 to 30 minutes. Makes 12 moist,delicious muffins.

These muffins don't keep their height once they cool - and I'm not sure why. Perhaps sifting the dry ingredients would help. Any seasoned bakers out there might know the reason and let me know....
Regardless, they quickly disappear.

In terms of WeightWatcher® points, they work out to approx. 3 points per muffin.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Potato Latkes - Definitely not low-fat!

At this time of year, all thoughts of watching calories goes out the window. It's Chanukah - and time to enjoy the annual treat of Potato Latkes. My husband and I are crazy for these - and we can easily eat 5 lb. of potatoes worth between us. BAD!!!  Luckily, it's infrequent.

I don't follow a recipe, and so far I haven't had any failures. I did jot down measurements (sort-of) for the purpose of this blog,

 A few things I have learned over the years of making these (and tasting the latkes made by others).
- They taste just as good if you use the food processor to shred instead of doing it by hand. (It took me at least 10 years to learn this one.)
-  Rinsing the shredded potato helps to eliminate the unsightly "greying" caused by the starch exposure to air.
-  Processing the onion in a mini chopper instead of the processor eliminates big chunks of onion in the mix
-  No amount of onion is too much
- Finishing on cooking parchment on cookie sheet in the oven ensures that the latkes are cooked through - and maintains the crispiness

Potato Latkes

5 lb. russet potatoes
3 med. onions - finely chopped in mini-processor
3 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup flour
Salt and pepper to taste
Vegetable oil

1. Peel and shred potatoes in food processor. Coarse or fine shred - your choice.
2. Rinse the starch out of the shredded potato, and press out as much water as possible. I find that this process keeps the potato nice and white. I use the strainer part of my salad spinner, and it works just fine!

3. Process the onions and combine with the potato in a large bowl - big enough to get your hands into for mixing!

4. Add the eggs and flour and mix thoroughly with your hands. (It almost like making bread dough!)

5. Start a couple of large frying pans on med-high heat with a couple tbsp. oil in each. When the oil is hot, make patties out of the potato mixture and gently place in the hot oil to fry. Flatten with a spatula.

Keep an eye on them, and flip when golden. You may have to add a little oil for the second side.
(You also have to keep watch for latke snitchers as the first batch may not make it to the next step.)

6. When golden brown on both sides, transfer the latkes to a cookie sheet lined with cooking parchment and continue by baking in the oven at about 325° while you fry the rest. The timing is not an exact science - and they'll be delicious!

7. Keep on frying until you've used all the potato mixture. You may need more cookie sheets, and employ "FIFO" when serving. (First In - First Out).

8. Enjoy! Serve with sour cream or applesauce. (In my house, ketchup is the condiment of choice).

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Pumpkin - Bran Muffins

I can never follow a recipe straight out. It seems that I always have to make a substitution here or there. Whether it be Splenda® for part of the sugar, or cut back on the oil - or whatever, there is always some variation.
Today's Pumpkin Muffins are no different.

I popped into our neighbourhood Superstore (Loblaws) yesterday, and was greeted by large crates of pumpkins on the way in the door. I was inspired to make something with pumpkin. I love the spices that enhance the flavour, and it seemed like just the thing for a fall day. But did I want to bother with fresh pumpkin? Not today - so I headed for the canned products and bought a can of pure pumpkin.

This recipe is a variation of my Bran-Banana Muffin recipe which is a variation of a Bran Muffin Recipe from my "Just Muffins" booklet by Gaye Hansen. It in no way resembles the original - but served as the springboard for the creation of the new recipe.

Pumpkin Bran Muffins

1 cup Fat Free Yogurt
1 cup bran
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
1 cup pumpkin puree
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup Splenda®
1 cup flour
1 tsp baking soda
1-1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg or allspice
1/4 tsp. cloves
1/2 cup raisins (optional)

1. Soak bran in yogurt for 15 min.
2. Add oil, eggs, pumpkin puree and mix well.
3. Add dry ingredients and mix well. Add raisins at the end if using.
4. Spoon into muffin pan which has been sprayed with vegetable spray - or into paper baking cups.
5. Bake at 350 for 25 - 30 min, until toothpick inserted comes out clean.

These make a moist and tasty muffin. The nice thing about the pumpkin puree is that it does not add any point value to the recipe if you are a Weightwatcher®. When I make these again, I will likely bump the spices a bit as they were a little too subtle in the muffins, but on the whole this recipe was a success.
My husband is not a fan of pumpkin recipes, so his opinion is still to come!

I calculate the Weightwatcher® point value to be approx. 3.25 per muffin for this recipe.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Relish the Thought of Overgrown Cucumbers (or How I lost my Home Canning Virginity!)

My husband and I have just returned from a week in Chicago ( business, unfortunately - not vacation) and my cucumbers used the opportunity to grow into blimps. Giz of  Equal Opportunity Kitchen http://eatfordinner.blogspot.com/ suggested I toss them into the composter, but I didn't have the heart. I nurtured those cucumbers, fertilized them, watered them, provided them with beautiful coloured cages to climb - how could I resort to such an undignified end for their brief lives?

After googling and a bit of research, I decided to try my hand at preserving cucumber relish. I remember the delicious relish my mother used to make when I was a youngster, and wondered if I could pull it off. I have never in the almost 60 years of my life ever canned anything, so this would be a new experience.

Off to Canadian Tire® to buy supplies:

and a book:

Bernardin® are the folks that make the jars. They were the resource I counted  to hold my hand through the process. This recipe is from Bernardin® Guide to Home Canning and makes 6 - 500 ml. jars of relish.

Cucumber Relish

7 cups peeled, finely chopped cucumbers
4 cups finely chopped green pepper
4 cups finely chopped red pepper
2 cups finely chopped celery
1 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 cup pickling salt
2-1/4 cups granulated sugar
3 cups white vinegar
3 tbsp. celery seed
3 tbsp. mustard seed

 1.  Peel the cucumbers and seed them. The recipe I used did not say to seed them, but when using watermelon sized (well, almost) cukes, the seeds are undesirable.

 2. Chop all the vegetables and combine in a large glass or stainless steel bowl. Little did I know that this process would take well over an hour! Once all the vegetables are combined, add the pickling salt, mix well and allow it to sit for 4 hours.

(I found it necessary to alter the recipe. I under bought peppers and over peeled cukes, so my cucumbers took up the slack for my pepper shortfall. Also I had red and yellow peppers and no green ones, so that was another deviation from the original recipe. I'll know in 2 weeks if my changes were a good idea or not. That's the suggested wait time before using the relish in order to allow flavours to blend.)

3. Line a salad spinner basket or sieve with cheesecloth and scoop the relish mixture into it to drain.
Rinse it well and drain several times as it's pretty salty. Very salty! Squeeze out the excess liquid.

4. Combine sugar, vinegar, celery seed and mustard seed in a large stainless steel saucepan. Mix well and bring to a boil. Add the vegetables and return the mixture to a gentle boil for 10 minutes.

Jar preparation:
At some point near the end of the 4 hour wait time, prepare the mason jars for use. The clean jars need to be placed on a rack in a canner and covered with water. Heat the water to a simmer (180° F/82° C.) The snap lids need to be heated also in the same temp water - not boiling. Keep them hot until ready to use. Remove  from the hot water with a jar lifter. Tilt to drain all the hot water out.

5. Ladle the relish mixture into the jar to within 1/2" of the top rim. This is the headspace. Using a non-metallic utensil, poke around in the mixture to remove air bubbles. Wipe the rim of the jar to remove any stickiness and centre the SNAP Lid on the jar. Apply the screw band securely until resistance is met. Do not over tighten.

6. Place the jar in the canner. Repeat with the remaining jars and relish mixture.

7. Cover the canner and bring the hot water to a boil. Process by boiling the filled jars for 15 minutes. Remove jars from boiling water without tilting and cool upright, undisturbed for 24 hours. After cooling, check the jar seals to make sure the lids have sealed properly and curve downward. Remove the screw band, wipe dry and replace. Do not tighten firmly.

8. Label and store in a cool, dark place.

The recipe was supposed to make 6 - 500ml jars. I only got 5 out of it. The way I figure it, with the canner, jar lifter, jars and book I had to purchase to make it, each 500 ml. jar is worth $7.41 not including tax! . (That's not including the  non-cucumber vegetables I purchased.) Maybe Giz's idea to pitch the cukes wasn't such a bad one after all!  I should listen to her more often!

However, my mother would be proud of me if she was here to see it! My first preserves! Ever!  The experience - Priceless!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Cauliflower-Carrot Soup

This soup doesn't look much different than last week's "Anything you want it to be " soup. Lighter and not green in color - but because it's pureed with a hand blender, it has that same look and texture. I was a holdout against pureed soups - I thought that keeping the vegetable in chunks would make it more filling, but I`m gradually coming around. There`s more of an elegance to them - and you can hide all kinds of nourishing stuff in them and your family will be none the wiser!

This one is really easy - and makes use of minimal fresh ingredients: onion, cauliflower, carrot, dill. Add to that a litre (or quart) of vegetarian stock, some water  and 1 tbsp. vegetable oil and you have a very nice practically ZERO point soup if you are on the Weight Watchers® program.

Cauliflower-Carrot Soup

1 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 large diced onion (1-1/2 cups)
6 cups finely chopped cauliflower
1 cup diced carrot
1 liter (Approx.4 cups) vegetable broth
1 cup water
3/4 - 1 cup fresh dill, loosely packed
fresh pepper

1. In a soup pot, saute the onion in the vegetable oil to soften.
2. Add the cauliflower and carrot and saute a little longer.
3. Add the vegetable broth and water and simmer until the carrot and cauliflower are soft.
4. Add the chopped dill for the last minute of cooking time.
5. Remove from heat and puree with a hand blender.

This recipe makes 8 cups of soup. All items are "point free" except for vegetable oil - which is 3 points for the entire soup.  That's less than 1/2 a point per cup serving.


- Make the soup creamy by adding 1 cup skim milk. That would bump the point value per cup slightly.
- Instead of dill, season with curry - 2 teaspoons. This should be sauteed with the onions.
- Omit dill and stir in 1 tsp. pesto when serving the soup.
- Omit dill and add a dash of nutmeg when serving.
- Add 1 cup of shredded cheese after pureeing (and the appropriate point value per serving.)

Monday, August 2, 2010

Anything You Want it to be Soup

I recently returned from a 4 day vacation trip to Las Vegas with my sister-in-law. We had a wonderful time - saw "Jersey Boys" and "Donny and Marie", played the slot machines, shopped and partook of many appealing buffets. The money I spent in Vegas stayed in Vegas, but the extra pounds adhered and came home with me. So, it's back on the WeightWatchers track for me. And here's a soup to get me started!

I was shopping in our neighbourhood Superstore (Loblaws in other parts of the country) a few days ago. Normally, the fresh produce in this store looks very tired and unappealing, but that day was an exception. There were bunches of fresh spinach that looked outstanding! Clean and perky and irresistable. I had to buy a pound of it!

 Part of it would go into a salad, and part of it would be for a soup recipe that I got from my sister-in-law who got it from her mother. I do not know the original source of the recipe. The original title of the soup was Broccoli-Cheese Soup, but the vegetables can be anything you want them to be. I used spinach and broccoli this time, but I would try cauliflower, carrots, leeks, turnip, and even potato if I wasn't trying to cut back on the carb calories.

Broccoli Cheese Soup (or Anything You Want it to Be Soup)

1 tbsp. canola oil
small chopped onion (I used the white part of 3 leeks that were about 1-1/4" in diameter)
2 diced carrots (approx. 1 cup)
1 stalk chopped celery (approx. 1/2 cup)
4 cups of water
4 tsp. of chicken bouillon flavouring
(I used vegetable broth in place of the water and bouillon flavouring
2 pinches of kosher salt (1 tsp. if you're not watching salt content)
freshly ground pepper - a liberal amount if you like pepper
1/2 lb. chopped broccoli including the stalk
1/2 lb. fresh spinach including stems
1-1/2 cups skim milk
1 cup shredded cheese - preferably low fat

1. Saute the onion or leek, carrots and celery in the canola oil until softened.
2. Bring liquid to a boil. Add the bouillon flavouring if using water.Add salt, pepper.
3. Add the sauteed vegetables and the fresh vegetables and simmer until all the vegetables are cooked - approx 15-20 minutes.

4. Toward the end of the cooking time, reduce the heat and add the skim milk.
5. Add the cheese and allow it to melt into the soup.

6. Puree with a hand blender while it is still warm.
7. If desired, garnish with some fresh dill or any suitable herb of your choice, and serve!

This recipe made 7 cups of soup. With low fat shredded cheese, that would work out to approx. 2 points per cup serving. With regular cheese, it would be closer to 3 points.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Devilishly 'Dilly'icious Potato Salad

Potato Salad has a very short life in this household. Both my husband and I can make a meal of it if we don't ration ourselves. In fact, as soon as it's made it MUST be sampled to see if "it's fit to eat". It always is....
I suppose it's pretty traditional potato salad - much like my mother used to make. But my 2 key flavor boosters are Keen's® Dry Mustard and fresh dill.  The "Devil" in the name comes from the dry mustard which is commonly added to the egg yolk mixture in deviled eggs.

I don't usually measure - so consider these quantities as guidelines and adjust to your personal taste.

Devilishly 'Dilly'icious Potato Salad

8 cups cooked cubed potatoes
8 hard boiled eggs
1/2 cup green onion
1/2 cup sliced radishes
3/4 to 1 cup light Miracle Whip®
1 - 2 tbsp. Keen's® Dry Mustard (the stuff in the yellow can with the red label)
1/2 c. loosely packed chopped dill
Salt and Pepper to taste

1. Boil potatoes (approx. 5 lbs. worth). To cool them quickly, I spread them on a platter to expose them to air. I am never organized in advance, so this works for me.
2. While they are cooling, I sprinkle the Keen's® Dry mustard on them. It makes it easier to distribute the mustard flavor throughout.
3. Hard boil the eggs. They can be cooled quickly by letting them sit in cold water prior to peeling. Using an egg slicer, cut up 5 of the eggs and place in a large mixing bowl. Reserve 3 of the eggs for a garnish if desired. Or chop them all up and include them in the salad.
3. When the potatoes are sufficiently cool, dump them into the large bowl with the eggs and combine with all remaining ingredients.
4. Thoroughly mix the salad to distribute the Miracle Whip® and all other ingredients throughout. Transfer to a serving bowl and garnish with the sliced egg. Sprinkle with paprika and refrigerate.

This recipe serves 6-8.
I calculate the Weight Watcher point value to be approx. 3 points per half cup.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Banana Bread

It seems that there are always tired, over-ripe bananas sitting in the fruit bowl. I have 3 choices - bake with them, toss them into the freezer to add to my growing collection of frozen bananas with the intention of using them for baking - or throw them into the composter. Today is another one of those days where guilt for my over-buying gets the best of me and I have to bake yet another banana recipe. Perhaps I should change the name of my blog to "Bananas 'R Us!"

This recipe is from my girlfriend Kim who got the original from a cookbook called "Lick the Spoon" by Marilyn Smith. I do not own the cookbook, so I can't comment on the book overall, but we have enjoyed this recipe numerous times. I did change it a bit - cut back on the sugar and oil from the original.

The recipe calls for wheat germ which I couldn't find in my freezer. (That means it's time to clean out the freezer or put wheat germ on the shopping list. I wonder which I'll pick.....)
I used ground flax instead. I think it should be a good substitution since I cut back on the oil from the original recipe.

Instead of 3/4 c. of brown sugar (original recipe) I cut it back to 1/2 c. - and used a blend of 1/4 cup brown sugar and 1/4 cup Splenda®.

So here's the recipe - and it's an easy one.

Banana Bread

Dry Ingredients:

1 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup Wheat germ (or 1/4 c. ground flax)
1/4 cup bran
1/4 cup All purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda

Wet Ingredients:
2 large eggs
1/2 cup canola oil ( I cut back to 1/4 cup)
1 cup mashed bananas (approx. 3 bananas)
3/4 cup brown sugar. (I cut back to 1/2 cup - and used 1/4 cup Splenda® and 1/4 cup brown sugar)

1/4 cup chopped nuts. (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°. Lightly spray a 9' x 5' loaf pan with vegetable spray.
Mix together dry ingredients.
Mix wet ingredients separately. A few pulses with a hand blender works beautifully.
Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir until moistened.
Add the nuts if using.
Pour into 9' x 5" loaf pan.
Bake at 350 for 40 - 45 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
Cool for 10 minutes, remove from pan, and continue cooling.

The flax meal was the perfect substitution. The banana bread is delicious and moist - and the easiest recipe to make as long as you have the ingredients!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Banana - Oatmeal Muffins

I have a frozen banana collection. Instead of tossing out the bananas that are past their due date, I toss them in the freezer and add them to my stash. When I have plain yogurt to use up, I dip into my frozen banana collection and make my favorite muffins - Oatmeal. This recipe is a variation of the Oatmeal Muffin recipe from the booklet "Just Muffins" by Gaye Hansen. I've removed the oil and substituted bananas, and use Splenda® instead of the sugar to make it more diabetic friendly.

Banana-Oatmeal Muffins

1 cup rolled oats
1 cup plain fat free yogurt ( or fruit yogurt if desired)
1 egg
1/2 cup brown sugar or Splenda®
3 mashed bananas
1 cup flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 c. raisins or dates (optional)

1. Stir yogurt into oatmeal and let stand for up to an hour in refrigerator.

2. Add egg and mix well.
3. Mix in sugar or Splenda® and mashed bananas.
4. Blend in sifted dry ingredients and raisins.
5. Spray muffin tins with vegetable spray and fill with mixture.

Bake at 400° for 20 minutes. Yield - 12 muffins.

In Weight Watcher point value, each muffin made with Splenda and Fat Fee Yogurt is worth about 2 points.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Pina Colada Muffins

As many of my baking or cooking ventures go, I'm motivated by items I have that I want to use up. Today it was some coconut left over from Passover. I usually end up throwing it out at some point when it is no longer usable (usually the next Passover.) Along with some crushed pineapple, I had the makings for

Pina Colada Muffins


2 cups all purpose flour
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1/4 cup Splenda® or sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
2 eggs, well beaten
3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup to 1-1/4 cup crushed pineapple, drained
1 cup coconut

1. Sift dry ingredients into large bowl.
2. Beat eggs and add to dry mixture along with milk and oil. Stir until moistened.
3. Add coconut and pineapple and mix well.

4. Spray muffin pan with veg.spray and fill with mixture approx.3/4 full.
5. Bake at 425° for 20 minutes. Makes 12 muffins.

The inspiration for this recipe came from a recipe for "Hawaiian Muffins" from a little red booklet called "Just Muffins" compiled by Gaye Hansen.
Her recipe called for sugar - I substituted Splenda® to make it a little more diabetic friendly for my DH. It also called for only 3/4 cup of crushed pineapple - I used 1 cup - and if I make them again, I'll increase that to 1-1/4 cups in order to add a bit more moisture.

We liked them - especially when warm out of the oven and spread with margarine.

The weight watcher point value - to be advised!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Root Soup

Where did the time go? My last post was during my Passover cleaning. Since then I have barely given a passing thought to this or any of the other 2 work related blogs I help administrate. I'd like to say it's been a very busy time (it has) but I think it has been because of poor time management. And along with the poor time management, I have neglected tracking weightwatcher points and have had some serious misdemeanors in food choices. So far, no weight gain - but I'm flirting with danger.Time to get back on track.

I looked in my fridge this morning to see what would make a good zero point soup. I had parsnip (left over from chicken soup prep at Passover) carrots, and beets. All root vegetables. I was curious to find out if the 3 together would make an interesting soup. Thus, my "Root Soup" was created.

Root Soup

2 cups carrot coins (about 3 large carrots)
1-1/2 cups parsnip coins (about 3 med.)
2 cups julienned beets (3 medium)
1 L. vegetable stock
Bay Leaf
1/4 tsp. fresh pepper
1/4 cup fresh chopped dill
2 1/4" sized chunks of sour salt
1 tsp. sugar

1. Spray the inside of a soup pot with vegetable spray.
2. Sweat the vegetables.

3. Add the stock and simmer until all the vegetables are soft.
4. Add the seasonings while the soup is simmering. Taste and adjust seasonings as required.

I don't think I have ever made a soup without onion. I realized once this soup was finished that I could have used onion since it qualifies as a "root" which was my criteria. Potato would also be an option (but it would add points).

It resembles borscht because the beets colour everything, but the parsnip adds a distinctly different flavout.
I like it well enough to make it again - perhaps with the additions of onion and potato for variety.

and After

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Preparing for Passover - Up Close and Personal

Blu Greenberg quotes her mother in "How to Run a Traditional Jewish Household". She says her "mother used to say that the Jewish housewife was the only one who didn't go out of bondage on Pesach" (Passover). I think of this expression every year when Passover approaches and it's time to start the cleaning preparations. Ideally, every drawer - every pocket - every nook and cranny should be vacuumed or washed.
I am not a "traditional Jewish housewife" and I would far rather spend my time in other pursuits. But get the cleaning done I must, for Passover comes - like it or not - and in our household we observe.

This year I had cleaners come and do the major cleaning in the rest of the house. What a blessing! We do not go to the extreme that some folks do - but what we do works for us. Extreme dusting and vacuuming suffices.

The kitchen is a different story. This is the one opportunity each year in which I am "forced" to go through cupboards and fridge and ruthlessly clean.

The whole goal of preparing for Passover is to rid the home of leavened products, called chametz, for the eight day period. This includes all breads. cookies, cereals, pastas, cakes - any products where grains will have made contact with water for 18 minutes or more - which would be enough time to start the leavening process. For most families, this would create a financial hardship, so any of these items that might remain in the home are packed away and not used for the eight day period. Instead, we eat matzah - which, although made with wheat, is prepared with supervision so that flour and water are mixed and baked within the 18 minute time frame. Which is why matzah is flat and hard. During the biblical exodus, there was no time for the Jews to bake bread to take with them in their hasty retreat out of Egypt. So we commemorate that exodus by eating matzah or products made with matzah meal.

Back to my kitchen - or, to be precise, my fridge. There are pitfalls to having a big fridge. It hides all sorts of sins!  Salad dressing - best before June 2009. A brand new cream cheese - best before January 2010. Tofu - best before December '09.  Past dated yogurt. This is a small sample. All get pitched. A shameful waste of money. I resolve not to buy so much in the coming year. The items that will still be good after Apr.6 are packed up and taken to the downstairs fridge. The shelves and drawers are washed and replaced, and the new foods - purchased specially for Passover - are removed from their bags and ready to use when Passover begins. A small area in the fridge contains the foods we will try to use up before Monday.
I still need to buy more groceries - primarily the fresh fruits and vegetables and other kosher for Passover groceries we will need for the coming week.

We do not use the same pots and pans and dishes during Passover that we use every day. Because they have been used with chametz, we will pack them away or tape up the cupboards in which they are housed.
Instead, we bring out of storage the several tubs containing the dishes, pots and pans that we use at Passover only. It's a little like "moving" every year at this time. Some of the cupboards are emptied, washed out, contents put into boxes for temporary storage to make room for the Passover items.

For a couple days the house looks like it has been ransacked. I think if a burglar broke in, he would leave because he would think someone beat him there. But as Passover draws nearer, order is gradually restored.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Clean Out the Fridge Suey

I've heard that good food takes a long time to prepare. Well, so does mediocre food! It wasn't bad, really - but it wasn't "have a second helping" great - which can be good if you're a weight watcher!
I shopped last week with the best of intentions - stocked up on vegetables and had every hope of using them throughout the week. It seems that my intentions exceeded the available time, and I ran out of week before I ran out of veggies. So, it was "sell 'em or smell 'em" - or in my case, "use 'em or lose 'em"!
What were my choices? Tonight -  either soup or a stir fry.  I opted for the stir fry so as to use the lean ground beef I took out of the freezer this morning as the meat in my dish.

Among my veggies starting to grow tired in the crisper were baby bok choy. They were so cute, I had to buy them - without the slightest idea of how to prepare them. They should be good in a stir fry. The bag of cole slaw mix with a best before date two days ago.  Still looked fine. This would do. The large mushrooms, the broccoli crown, some baby carrots, a couple stalks of celery - all good for a stir fry. Oh - and that 1/2 pound of asparagus that I didn't use earlier in the week - that would add a touch of sophistication.
Wash, wash, wash, chop chop, chop.....all the prep for a stir fry certainly takes time!

I precooked the ground beef with a large chopped onion and 4 cloves of crushed garlic along with pepper and Mrs. Dash for seasoning. I precooked it and then drained it and measured how much I had so that I would be able to calculate the WeightWatcher point value of my dish. I reserved 3 cups of the ground beef for my stir fry. (The remaining 3 cups will become spaghetti sauce tomorrow.)

Time to sir fry the vegetables. Some vegetable spray into my non stick pan - and then the carrots (quartered lengthwise), celery and the stalk of the broccoli - all chopped into bit sized pieces. A splash of vegetable stock to help them cook - then the asparagus (cut into thirds), and the package of cole slaw mix.
Once wilted, I added the broccoli. After a few minutes - the baby bok choy and the sliced mushrooms went into the pan.
It really did look very pretty - all bright and colourful!

As seasonings, I used 3 tablespoons of Soy Sauce and some Victorian Epicure Stir Fry Seasoning . I added more vegetable stock and allowed it to steam.

The final addition was the ground beef - back into the mix to warm up. And then it was ready to eat - served on rice.

I would have preferred more spiciness to it - it was a little too bland. My DH added ketchup (he thinks if it's ground beef, adding ketchup is a given). I added soy sauce - but it would have been better if I had put some hot pepper flakes into the mix as I was cooking it - or something with a little kick!

However - I did reduce the vegetable inventory - which was, to quote Martha Stewart, "a good thing". (Does she still say that?)

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Not My Mother's Cabbage Rolls

My late mother used to make the most wonderful, delicious, dainty cabbage rolls - or holubchi.
She would patiently par-boil the rice, prepare the cabbage leaves by trimming the veins and steaming (or even freezing) the cabbage leaves in advance to make the rolling easy. Her holubchi were a work of art. They were all of uniform size and they lined up smartly in the roaster as they waded in a tomato soup sauce.

I have made REAL cabbage rolls a few times. They were often irregular in shape and often had rice spilling out of the ends that I had not managed to tuck in properly. I don't make them anymore. Instead, I make - you guessed it - Lazy Holubchi! They taste the same - but they are half the work and they don't highlight my incompetence as a cabbage roller!

Here's my version. My husband loves them.

Lazy Holubchi (Cabbage Rolls)

2 cups uncooked rice
3 cups water
1 large onion, finely chopped
1/2 tsp pepper
1 tsp. salt (optional - if you are trying to avoid salt)
1 tbsp. oil
Approx. 1 pound coarsely shredded cabbage (8 cups raw)
1-10 oz. can of tomato soup. (Alternatively, use 2 cups tomato juice or canned tomatoes.)

1. Par cook rice in the salted water. Remove from heat while it is still underdone.

2. Spray a non-stick pan with vegetable spray and add 1 tbsp  oil. Saute the onion until transparent.  Add a little water or vegetable stock to the pan if it starts to stick. I keep the amount of oil at a minimum to reduce the calories.

3. Microwave the cabbage to partly cook. (I like to use the sensor cook for fresh vegetables on my microwave. Alternatively, the cabbage could be steamed long enough to soften it a bit. I found the 8 cups of raw cabbage reduced to 6 cups partly cooked.

4. Spray a roasting pan with vegetable spray and combine the cabbage, rice and onions. Pepper it and mix it well to distribute all the ingredients.

5. Dilute a can of tomato soup with an equal amount of water and pour it over the rice mixture. Poke the mixture with a spoon in several places to allow the liquid to penetrate.

6. Cover and roast at 325° F. for 1-1/2 - 2 hours. Check part way through - and if it appears to be dry, add some liquid - either tomato juice or water.  Mine took 1-1/2 hour, but if the rice had been par-cooked less to start with, it would have needed longer. Best to test. If cabbage and rice are soft, you know it's ready to eat!

This recipe makes about 10 cups of lazy holubchi.  In WeightWatcher points®, it works out to 2.5 points per cup.

We had it with veal chops and salad, but I can easily make a meal of it on its' own.