High Cholesterol Blues

       Been away for awhile because I've had some things to think over - like my health.    OK, so my lipid panel looks not so good. Cholesterol is high and lipids are high. So I need to be more careful of my diet and loose some weight. I already know I can loose quite a bit with just some "minor" life style adjustments. Still, it's just the idea of it all. I guess I'll start this new life-phase tomorrow. (Sound really excited, don't I? Can't be good for long term success, but then, that's probably why cholesterol and triglycerides and weight are still too high - I've never stuck to a healthy eating style) And what will I do? EXERCISE mostly. Nothing great, some strength exercises and lots more walking. Eating? Cut way back on sweets and breads, milk and starches. Otherwise I do not intend to change much - except salt, that needs a good cut. More salads and "raw" foods are in order.
     Instead of sweets before I turn in at night, I will limit myself to an occasional one - which means no more baking unless the boys are home. I think I will substitute a hard candy and see how that goes. And I need to drink more water....eight glasses a day, you know ( I'm lucky to get 2 in).
     Encouragement, please - and hopefully, I can encourage you!!    


Acorn Squash with Indian Spices

     What to do with half of an acorn squash? Many choices, but what flavors an I hungry for? Texture is very important - nothing mushy. Let's see, I have some onion naan in the freezer, so I think Indian will be the country of choice. My source of recipes this time? 1000 Indian Recipes by Neelam Batra. My recipe is a combination of several of the authors.

                                         Acorn Squash with Indian Spices

serves 4

1/2 medium onion finely minced
1 quarter sized piece ginger very finely mincd
2T oil
1 small green bell pepper
1 or 2 hot chili pepper, seeded and veins removed for less heat, if you wish
1tsp ground fenugreek
1T ground coriander
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
1/2tsp kalonji seeds
1/4tsp tumeric
1tsp salt, or to taste
1 acorn squash, halved, seeded, peeled and cut into 1" cubes.
1/4c yogurt, whisked smooth

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Oil a baking pan and preheat 5 minutes. Spray a bit of cooking spray on all sides of the cubed squash and add to hot pan. Return to oven and roast until caramelized, about 20-25 minutes. Stir and turn every 5 minutes. Don't let squash get mushy. Baking time may need to be adjusted so squash caramelizes rather than steams and gets too tender. You want it fork tender only.
carla5 058

About 10 minutes before squash is finished, cook onion, ginger and peppers in a bit of oil in a skillet about 5 minutes.

Add ground spices and mix well. Cook about 5 minutes over medium-high heat. Stir in squash.

Add yogurt and cook over medium heat until squash is done to your preference.
*I added about 1/4c diced, cooked pork as an afterthought. Very good.

Serve with and Indian bread (or use pita bread that has been warmed and buttered with a spice butter made with a little garlic powder, onion powder, ground ginger and a hint of garam masala) and

                                                   Cilantro-Lime Chutney

makes 1/4c
1/8tsp toasted cumin seed, ground
1/4tsp Chat Masala - Found at Asian stores (--this is great with coriander on sweet potato fries)
1 hot pepper, chopped
1 quarter size piece ginger
1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
2T finely chopped onion
1clove garlic, minced
2/3c chopped cilantro, packed
2T dried mint leaves
1T fresh lime juice
1/4tsp sugar
1/4tsp salt

Process all in a food processor until smooth. Or chop very finely, which is what I do - adds a bit of texture.


Chickpea Stew with Ham - Cazuela de Garbanzos

     I had cooked some chickpeas the other day for my vegetarian son to use for Hummus. They were not used for that, tho I did make a version of Hummus using garlic, onion, coriander, parsley and just a bit of ginger. Not bad, but I am not a huge fan of garbanzos. So of course, having cooked beans in my 'fridge that I did not want to go to waste (and having no spare freezer space, and even tho I'm not crazy about them), I started searching for recipes using these wrinkled beans. I settled on a South American recipe, with a few changes. It turned out quite well, even I liked the dish, garbanzos and all.
                                                 Chickpea Stew with Ham
recipe from The South American Table by Maria Baez Kijac
2T oil
1c onion, minced
1/2c chopped green pepper
4 cloves minced garlic
2 large, ripe firm tomatoes - I used paste tomatoes that I had frozen
(2T tomato paste, if your tomatoes haven't much flavor)
1 bay leaf
1tsp salt
1/2tsp black pepper
21/2c cooked chickpeas - or 2 15 oz can
2c water - i used less, for a thicker stew
2 medium potatoes, cubed
8oz winter squash  peeled,seeded,cubed
8oz well washed spinach leaves - I don't like cooked greens of any kind, so i served these on the side, plain
8oz ham ( polish sausage would also work, the recipe says. I think the ham is way better)
2T fresh parsley for garnish

In a heavy pot or casserole, heat oil and add onions, peppers and garlic. Cook, with occasional stirring, about 5 minutes until onion is soft. Add tomatoes, tomato paste, bay leaf, salt and pepper. Cover and simmer until the tomatoes have formed a sauce, about 10 minutes.Add the chickpeas and water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, add potatoes and cook 10 minutes. Add squash and cook until fork tender, about 10 minutes more. Add spinach and ham, mix well and simmer about 5 minutes. This stew should have some sauce, but not be too soupy. Discard bay leaf, taste for salt and pepper. Serve hot.

     I hope to make some hot pepper sauces to go with the leftovers from this stew. I'm shooting for making them tomorrow. I'll post them when I taste them.

Please excuse more for now, my cat is fishing and needs rescuing before the fish get him! Bye.



     I love gyros with the garliky cucumber sauce and fries. I have several recipes for "gyros" made with cubes of meat and a few for grinding your own meat and pressing it into a loaf and cooking. Any gyros worth their weight are cooked on a spit so the juices and fats run down the meat to baste it. Unfortunately, I don't have a spit to turn meat, so I have been baking it. It is not the same, but the flavor is there and I prefer it to the cubes of meat.
     I offer this recipe in case you, like me, do not have access to a really good gyro place, and my local grocery does not carry any prepared products.
                                            Homade Gyros

2/3 # ground lamb (Cubes if you grind your own)
1/3# ground beef (cubes if you grind your own)
4T onion powder - or use very finely minced onion - about 1/2 c
1T garlic, finely chopped
about 1 tsp salt
1/2tsp marjoram
1/4tsp rosemary
1/4tsp pepper
1/8tsp oregano
1/8tsp basil

I prefer to grind my own meat. If you do this - be sure to have a good food processor or use a Kitchen Aid mixer with meat grinder attachment. Grind the meats separately, then add all seasonings, mix and grind a second time. Press meat mixture together and place in a close fitting pan or casserole.  Let rest at least 1 hour, preferable more like 2 or 3 or 4. Be sure to keep in refrigerator. When ready to cook, heat oven to 325 degrees. Bake about 1 hour. Watch the meat - turn it to baste it about 1/3 of the way through cooking, and again about 2/3 way through. Meat may take a little longer than an hour to cook. It should be a bit on the dry side when done. Slice very thin when serving.

I serve my gyros with a cucumber sauce made of:
1c yougurt, slightly drained
1/2 grated cucumber, salted and drained
3 cloves garlic, minced
1rsp minced onion
1/2tsp salt
pinch sugar
Mix all together and serve with meat.

     When I made these last night, I burned the motor out on my old machine. So my meat is not as smooth as I would have liked. Flavor was there, just not the texture. And when I made my lunch for work today, I found my package of pitas torn apart - some animal was HUNGRY I guess. I guess I can't really call these gyros when they have no accompanying bread and chips instead of fries. Oh well. they were still good, none the less.



Refrigerator Bread Dough

     I am soo excited about this bread dough. I have long wanted a bread recipe that would keep in the 'fridge, that I could bake a bit at a time. I really did not think such a thing was possible. From another point-- I have seen ads for a book called Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Discovery that Revolutionizes Home Baking . I found the basic recipe for this bread on the web and decided to try it. I am so pleasantly surprised.
It is simple, easy, fast (except for the rise time), and does not need to all be baked at once. Oh yeah, and it can be refrigerated for up to 2 weeks! Sounds like that recipe I was looking for! The taste is nice and texture good. It is fine for what I was looking for in a recipe that I can make ahead and bake with very little planning. I think I'll take a look at the authors book and see what variations they offer.
 carla5 049

                                          The Artisan Bread Made in 5 Minutes

11/2T granulated yeast ( about 11/2 packets)
11/2T Kosher salt
61/2c unbleached flour, plus a bit more
3c warm water (near 100 degrees)

In a large bowl (5qt) or re-sealable (not one with a tight fitting lid - it is important for the gases to be able to expand) container, mix the yeast, salt and water. Stir in the flour using a large spoon. This can also be accomplished with a mixer and dough hook or food processor. The dough should be uniformly moist, but DO NOT KNEAD. (I found the dough a bit stiff using a wooden spoon. Use wet hands to incorporate remaining flour, if necessary).

Allow dough to rise until it begins to collapse back on itself. Rising should be accomplished within 5 hours. Dough can be used at this point or refrigerated. Refrigerated dough is less sticky and easier to work with.It is recommended that dough be refrigerated at least 3 hours before shaping.
carla5 046

When ready to bake, remove the amount of dough you wish to bake from bowl. Place remainder back in 'fridge. Sprinkle a bit of cornmeal on a pizza peel. Place baking stone in oven and preheat to 450 degrees for at least 20 minutes. Shape dough with lightly floured hands into a round loaf  that has a nicely rounded top.
Place dough on prepared peel and let rest 40 minutes. At end of the 40 minutes, make 2 parallel slashed across the surface of the bread. When ready to bake, put about 1c water in an oven-proof container and place in bottom of oven. Slide bread from peel onto baking stone sprinkled with a bit of cornmeal. Bake for about 30 minutes - but watch bread - bake until top is browned and firm to the touch. Remove from oven and cool completely on wire rack - this will give best texture for slicing.
carla5 048carla5 050

I had this with blackberry jam - delicious!
(PS - I made only a tiny loaf, since there was no one to eat this with me. And if I made a large loaf, I would have been tempted to eat it all myself - sorry to say).


Black Bean Soup with Lime Sour Cream Garnish

     Black Bean Soup. How many recipes are there? Hundreds, probably. A few I have liked, most are just so-so. When I saw this recipe at King Arthur Flour, I hesitated to try it. Still, it looked interesting since it uses prepared salsa and lime sour cream.And so I thought, oh well, once won't hurt. And if nothing else, I'll cook it down for refried beans and put it on nachos. I am pleased to report that this IS a good recipe. And I still think I may cook down leftovers, mash them and use them as refried beans on nachos - definite potential, I think.
                      King Arthur Flours' Black Bean Soup with Lime Sour Cream

serves 12

1# dried black beans
3qt water
1 ham bone or 2 vegetable bouillon cubes
2 bay leaves
3T oil
21/2 c onion, diced (2 medium)
1c celery, diced (3-4 stalks)
11/2c red pepper, diced ( 1 medium pepper) - I assumed this to be red bell pepper
11/2c green pepper, diced (1 medium pepper) - I assumed this to be green bell pepper
11/2c prepared salsa (16oz jar - your choice of mild, medium or hot)
3 cloves garlic
2tsp cumin
2 tsp chili powder - I assumed this to be ground red chili powder. I used New Mexico chili powder.
1T salt
2tsp pepper
1c diced ham

1c sour cream
1T lime juice - please, use fresh if possible
1T lime zest
3tomatillos, peeled, finely diced and drained - if using fresh, same applies, except I "toast" them, like you
         would peppers.
3T dried minced onions - I used onion powder, 11/2T, because I had no dried ones.
1/8tsp salt

To Cook Soup:
Wash beans according to package directions. Put them in a large pot and cover them with the 3qt water. Bring to a boil, then remove pot from heat and set it aside for 1 hour. After one hour, add the ham bone and bay leaf.---- I did not add ham or ham bone. I did replace some of the water with an equal amount of left-over french onion soup I had .

Bring soup to a slow simmer over medium heat, and simmer it for 1 to 11/2 hours, until the beans are tender. Remove ham bone, if you use it. Remove about 2c beans, and either mash or blend them into a paste. Return the beans to the pot, and continue to simmer, uncovered, until soup has thickened.

While the soup is simmering, saute the diced vegetables in the oil until the onions are translucent. Add sauteed vegetables, salsa, garlic, seasonings, bouillon cubes (if using), and ham to the soup, and bring it to a boil. It will be quite thick; add a small amount of water if needed to thin slightly. Simmer the soup 30 minutes to allow the flavors to meld.

Lime Sour Cream:
While soup is simmering, prepare the garnish. Mix sour cream, lime juice, lime zest, tomatillos, minced onions and salt together. The mixture will be quite runny due to the liquid remaining in the tomatillos, but will thicken after sitting for an hour or so. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Ladle soup into bowls and top with a dollop of sour cream, more salsa, avocado slices and a sprig of cilantro, if you like.


Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies

     A favorite childhood memory is going to my aunts' house and having "Frosty" cookies. That's what they are called in our family, but they go by many names. They are a no-bake chocolate peanut butter cookie and they are great. Best of all, they can be whipped up in no more than 20 minutes, including getting ingredients ready and 1 minute of boiling.  We think they are best served with a tall glass of very cold milk....
                                Frosty Cookies (Chocolate Peanut Butter No-Bake Cookies)
Have all ingredients ready to go before cooking.

2c sugar
1/2c milk
1/2c cocoa
1/4# butter
pinch salt
Bring the above to a boil and boil 1 minute, stirring frequently. Do not over cook or the cookies will be too dry (see photo below). Remove from heat.

At 1 minute, add:
1/2c peanut butter - smooth or chunky, your choice
1tsp vanilla
Stir until peanut butter is incorporated.

Pour all over 3c quick rolled oats and stir until well mixed.

Drop by teaspoonfuls onto waxed paper. Let cool and snack.
carla5 037

As you see above, the very dry looking cookies were boiled too long ( that's what happens when a cook does not pay attention!!. Also, sorry the photo is a bit blurry). If this should happen to you, add a bit of warm water to the "dough" and stir well. Continue forming cookies.  When properly cooked, the cookies should be shiny, but not wet, nor stiff, like cookies on the right.

     I'm also making bread tonight. It is a no-knead refrigerator bread. Just 3 ingredients - yeast, salt and flour.
Dough is refrigerated up to 2 weeks(!) and can be used any time after the initial "rise". Below is a photo of just mixed dough. It is pretty wet at this point. Tonight it will rise and fall back on itself, then go into 'fridge. It is recommended to refrigerate at least 5 hours before using all or a part of dough. I'll have a full post and report next week.
carla5 039