Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Good White

Several years ago, I remember Oprah lambasting white foods. White flour, white sugar, white bread, white tortilla chips, pastas. White represented anything processed and too much was killing us. Yes, of course, when you eat a whole bag or bowl. And I agree, there is zero nutrition in these, and much better alternatives: whole wheat flour, pastas, multi-grain tortilla chips. But the gift of bariatric surgery is that I can eat so little at a time, I'm not fretting about overeating any of these bad whites; I'm just sampling them.

But onto the good whites.

I used to be a huge red wine and tomato fan. But since surgery, the acidity of these really bothers me, causing serious heart burn. I take omeprazole daily, which is typical for bariatric patients, but of course learning to eat the things that don't make me uncomfortable is part of the journey. So, I've been experimenting with turning red dishes into WHITE ones...

I'm trying pizza again. For many months, the crust was just too much space in my new stomach. Each time I make it, I try for thinner and thinner crust. But always homemade crust. I usually add garlic, olive oil, and a pinch of salt to the white flour dough. I cook just the dough on the pizza pan for about 15 minutes on 425. Then pull out, let cool a bit, and squeeze on some honey. For the sauce, I use an Aldi brand alfredo sauce. Chop some butter and garlic rotisserie chicken and sprinkle on. Top with sliced fresh mozzarella or shredded chunk mozz and some fresh parmesan. Put back in oven until cheese is melted. Top with fresh basil.

Next time around I'm making it myself. I'll use this recipe from the great Gimme Some Oven by Ali Ebright: Skinny Fettuccine Alfredo Ali is a friend of my sister's. She started a blog from scratch, and is now a powerhouse of food blogging and more. Get addicted to her site. Hers is one of my first stops if I need a fresh, easy recipe.

I'm a big chili fan. I make it differently every time. With red chili, I started using fire roasted tomatoes and three beans. Meat became superfluous. But the acidity thing led me to white chili. This photo is a bit thin; one day in the fridge melded the flavors and thickened it up. I started by sauteing a sweet yellow onion and some garlic in the bottom of a pot. Added a small can of green chillies. Added two cans of drained cannellini beans. Salt, cumin, and bit of cayenne for some heat. Add chopped butter and garlic rotisserie chicken. Stir carefully as to not bust the beans. Add chicken stock to just below coverage. Simmer for 45 minutes. Let cool a bit before adding greek yogurt and some heavy cream. Top with cilantro or basil and some corn chips.

Wine. Oh, cheap great wine. How I adore you. My intro to cheap was three buck chuck from Trader Joe's. I never liked it, even pre-surgery. Yellow-tail cabernet-shiraz blend was my standard everyday wine for years. Then surgery happened, and most red wine went out the window. But moscato, brilliant. Slightly sweet, light, goes with everything including my nightly popcorn snack. And 2.99 a bottle from Aldi's Winking Owl brand. 

I'm looking forward to trying some new white recipes; like white bean hummus or a bechamel sauce over ham and cheese crepes. Or white gazpacho. I already make a mean tzatziki. Cheers!

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Canned Soup Experiment

So, I was exhausted this weekend. Did get a good casserole made for my boyfriend and I that we ate all weekend. But then Sunday came, my usual day to cook for the week, and I just couldn't do it. So as I was shopping for brushes, paint tray inserts, spray paint, glass scraper, etc. I got the idea to just get several soups for the week, some multi grain crackers, and some cheese. I have fresh basil on the counter, so was hoping to spruce up the soup with fresh herbs. I knew some of the soups would not have much protein, so I bought some pork chopped for stews to cook up and add if needed. Another way to add protein would be to add a dollup of plain greek yogurt. Each can has two servings. So I got 14 meals out of the following. At 1.68/can, that was only about 85 cents/meal. There is a ton of sodium in bought soups, but again, with as little as I eat, I'm not too concerned. But if there is a low-sodium option, I get that and just add my own salt if needed.

6 grams protein

The results? Thumbs DOWN on the beef pot roast. I don't mind that it's 'light', whatever that really means. Less fat? Less salt? It has zero seasoning, the meat was tough. Not good. I'm just not a fan of beef pot roast at all; my Mom fixed it occasionally on a Sunday with huge carrots and potatoes, and I just remember it being juicy and tender and almost caramelized. Yes, I dumped ketchup on it; I was a kid and even used ketchup with fish sticks. But this pot roast in this soup? Nope.

9 grams protein

Thumbs DOWN.  Lentil soup is tricky. This is one I haven't made myself; now I feel like I need to at least try. Lentil soup can taste too earthy, actually like dirt. This one tasted like dirt. And the broth was too thin. I like lentil soup that's almost as thick as chili. My favorite canned lentil soup to date is this from Aldi:

2 grams protein

Thumbs DOWN. I do make this one, and I love my version. The broth had no richness here, barely tasted of beef, and the onions were just slimy and translucent, not caramelized. They were too thick. I like mine more thin. And of course, if you don't top with toasted baguette and a creamy white cheese, it's just wrong.

5 grams protein

Thumbs UP! Noodles, chicken, and carrots are in perfect proportion, and are the right bite size. Broth is just seasoned enough. Found that I didn't need to add more salt. Good news. Sometimes I added some fresh basil or cilantro to give it a fresh push. Either way, super comforting and satisfying. 

4 grams protein

Also tasty. Thumbs UP. But I would always go for the previous since it has one more gram of protein.

4 grams protein

Thumbs sideways. Not quite creamy enough. But who doesn't want dumplings?!

3 grams protein

Thumbs DOWN. Tiny bits of potato and clams. Not chunky enough. If I remember correctly, Chunky soup's version is much better. But after having the real thing on the Oregon Coast (see below) this past summer, I can never do canned again. I'm in Missouri; that's how it goes.

Clam Chowder at Waves restaurant in Waldport, Oregon.
Had some at South's Fish Market in Newport, OR. Even better. 

Sunday, October 30, 2016


Soup season is coming. Warm, blended goodness. All of these dishes can be blended to the texture you like best. I put my actual blender away a long time ago. I don't do smoothies. To blend I use an immersion or hand blender. Much cleaner, and you really get to control how much is blended. Here is the one I have. I've never used the plastic blending cup or the whisk attachment. 

But before the soup round, just wanted to post this because it's SO PRETTY. Blended dishes take a lot of dressing up to look tasty for the camera, but this fiery redness is beautiful with the cilantro topping. I just blended jarred roasted red peppers and peeled zucchini. Salt, pepper, lemon or lime juice and a bit of zest. Keep adding to your liking, but keep it simple. The hard part with spreads anymore, including my favorite hummus and tzatziki, is that you need something to dip. Raw veggies hurt my stomach these days, and too much baguette fills me up too fast. I should slice them even thinner and toast for some crunch. I can digest woven wheat crackers. Multi-grain works. Pure flour crackers seem to turn to undigestible dough. Gross.

Roasted red pepper and zucchini spread

It's not quite mashed potatoes, but I've become an occasional cauliflower fan. Boiled or steamed like broccoli and drained. Then I added plain greek yogurt, a dash of half and half, butter, and salt and pepper. I don't skimp on taste, even though the calories would be lower. I eat so little, it has to taste good. So the BUTTER. I don't use sour cream anymore. Plain greek yogurt tastes very similar, has a similar texture, but has lots of protein. Great choice! I was craving a dash of heat, thus the dash of hot sauce.

Creamed cauliflower

I honestly don't remember how I made this. It's not on my Best Dishes notebook on Evernote, so it might not be my favorite. I just remember being impressed with myself that I toasted coconut! I needed the soup to be creamier. I'm trying this one again.

Coconut, Cauliflower and Carrot Soup 

This is my all time favorite the last year or so. So simple and stunning. My great friend Natalia introduced me to this recipe when I stayed with her in Brooklyn one winter. Brown some sweet Italian turkey sausage in a skillet.  In a pot brown some chopped onions and garlic in butter. Add a couple peeled diced sweet potatoes. Add chicken or veggie stock to cover. Simmer until potatoes are cooked. Insert the hand blender and blend potatoes to desired consistency. Add sausage and lastly add chopped fresh spinach. Add salt and pepper as desired. Perfection. And only gets better the next days as the flavors really meld.

Sweet Potato and Sausage Soup

I love this soup. I usually just add a can of pumpkin, a can of light coconut milk, and some brown sugar to taste. That's IT. Simple goodness. The side was just a bonus that day.

Pumpkin Thai soup with pork and tofu topped with basil, bean sprouts and Greek yogurt with side of roasted sweet potatoes, red onions and chopped walnuts topped with feta and parsley.

I like the sweet flavor of the corn with the bland but filling potatoes. I want to experiment with this to get some good protein blended in. Perhaps just some bacon. Bacon makes everything better!

Potato corn chowder.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Favorite Friday

Before surgery, any occasion or emotion would be an excuse to pig out. TGIF happy hours were no exception. I had gathered some lovelies for my Friday evening on a gorgeous October day. The store bought items turned into making my french onion soup. A perfectly tasty end to a long week.

Getting this into my kitchen has been a long process. Bought my first cocktail shaker from Amazon. Found the olives at TJ Maxx. I love popping in there every couple months for fun gourmet food, kitchen ware, and all kinds of yummy lotions and soaps. I made an IKEA run this week and came across martini glasses. All I needed was the booze, which I picked up on my way home Friday, and we're off to the races! Bad analogy; I just needed to unwind. And gin is my favorite way to do it. It's the only liquor that I can digest well, and that I really enjoy. I can't drink much post-surgery, so I need to be picky with beverages just as much as my food.

The best pretzels ever. Everything. Perfect crunch. They are so thin, they don't fill me up. I still try to limit my intake, of course. But these are a great go-to for dips. 

I will be returning to the Joplin Greenhouse/Marketplace often for this hummus. Sure, I could make my own for a fraction of the cost, but it's happy hour for pete's sake. I didn't want to make anything but the martini! They had several other flavors, but I usually return to the original. 

Fantastic complement to the hummus, this spinach and artichoke spread was creamy and divine. Again, I could have made this myself and have several times, but the texture was perfect and all I had to do was rip the top off and dip, baby, dip.

So far, no protein on this afternoon delight with the exception of a tad from the garbanzo beans. So I had a serving of the french onion soup I made earlier in the week. I don't each much beef, but beef broth is a delish, comforting experience as it gets chillier outside. I topped with toasted sourdough and fontina cheese. Still not much protein, but I tricked myself into thinking there was!

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Stir Fried

Stir Fry. Fun, hot, fast. Key is to have all ingredients chopped, sauces made, noodles cooked before everything gets thrown into the wok. The wok has higher sides than a skillet, so you can stir things around without dumping out ingredients. I use a wooden fork for this process. 

Cold peanut pad Thai with yellow peppers, cilantro, basil.

Balancing textures is important. You don't want everything cooked, especially overcooked and mushy. It only takes 5-10 minutes for stir fry. Start with some oil in the wok. Get it hot, until you see it smoke. I use a combo of sesame and canola. Add chopped veg and move around, about five minutes. Then add raw meat: shrimp, chicken, beef, pork. All bite size. All seasoned with salt and pepper before adding. Another five minutes. Lastly add cooked rice/soba noodles. Stir around a minute or two, then add your sauce.

Shrimp and snap peas over rice noodles with peanut sauce.

I have only perfected the peanut sauce. I usually use a couple of tablespoons of creamy peanut butter, soy sauce, rice vinegar, splash of fish sauce, brown sugar, and a teaspoon of this yummy stuff:
I was hoping to use this as is, but it's TOO hot for me. So a spoonful in the peanut sauce is divine.
Whisk all these ingredients, and add warm water to desired thickness. This is all mixed before you dump into the wok, and stir through all ingredients.

Chicken, broccoli, cauliflower stir fry with spicy peanut sauce, cilantro and toasted almonds.

To serve,  add other chopped and ready ingredients once the stir fry is in the bowl. And do use a bowl, a shallow one is best. It's messy. But a shallow bowl will allow it to cool a bit since it is super hot coming out of that wok. To top, I need some crunch and freshness. Toasted sliced almonds or other nuts are great. Or bean sprouts. Sometimes some torn fresh herbs of your choice. I always go for cilantro or basil for these dishes. A must is a squeeze of acid; lemon or lime. Just brings a brightness to it that you will miss if you forget!

Green beans with sesame seeds

My first attempt. Didn't pay enough attention, some got scorched. Too much oil. Bite size would have been easier to eat, but whole they look more pretty.

My first shrimp rolls with peanut sauce. Delish, but very labor intensive.

Definitely NOT made in a wok, but I had so many extra chopped veggies after preparing these, I used them in a stir fry. Peanut sauce is the same version I use in stir fries. The rolls are fresh and cold, great for summer snacking. I get the rice wrappers at Fox Farm or Walmart. Super cheap and last forever in the pantry. You just soak them in warm water to get them spongy and flexible for folding, like a burrito. 

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Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Body of Work 2016

Scarab Iris 3x3'

Blue Iris 2x2'

Arch 3x3'

Arch II 2x2'

Calla Lillies 3x3'

Calla Lillies II 2x2'
Caramel Apple 3x3'

Eclipse 3x3'

Eclipse 2x2'

Jack in the Pulpit 3x3'

Mandala 34x36"

Mandala II 3x3'

Mandala III 2x2'

Ode to Georgia 32x38"

Poppies 3x3'

Wave 3x3'