Sunday, August 31, 2008

Hurricane Prep....

We are staying for Gustav. According to the most current path, it should make first landfall a few hours east of here, and we're about 60 miles inland, so it should "theoretically" be only a Cat 1 by the time it gets here.

Even so, we're fully stocked up and prepared should we lose power or living room looks like we're preparing for a camping trip. :)


So maybe I'll be inspired for some more great recipe ideas while riding out the storm! :)

Friday, August 29, 2008

"Healthy" Hurricane Drink: Gustav Edition.

You might have been wondering if I would do a special edition post for our dear friend who's now hovering around the Caribbean, causing everyone such a tizzy. And those of you who live here in LA or DID live in LA might be able to see where this is going. :D


Food Background:

Dish type: Drink (alcoholic)

Method Utilized: Pretty traditional

A typical hurricane, depending on the size and bartender, can range from 400-800 calories!

When dealing with alcohols, there really aren't many ways to cut back on the calories--and they're all (sadly) empty calories. However, the lower the proof of the alcohol, the lower the calorie count.

And we can easily make BIG cuts in mixers, and we can ADD more of the original flavor by using flavored rums--suprisingly, calorie counts for flavored hard liquors aren't much higher than regular varieties, because of the lower proof. And adding fresh fruit & fresh fruit juice adds nutrition!

Shopping list:
1 oz. Pineapple flavored rum
1 oz. Passion fruit flavored rum
1 oz. Dark rum
3 oz. Crystal Light Sunrise Classic Orange
3 oz. South Beach Living Tropical Breeze Drink (available in singles packets so you only have to prep 16.9-20oz at a time
2 oz. fresh pineapple (or freshly frozen--bagged fruit from the store sometimes has added sugar & preservatives. I used chunks that I'd frozen earlier.)
1 oz. grenadine
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
crushed ice


I used about a tray of ice cubes (because it's all I had--sad face) and added the pineapple, combined in my blender to crush. Then add the rest, and give a quick blend again to get a good mix.

Pour into a hurricane glass (if you have one) and add a straw...

I didn't have as much ice as I'd have liked, that's why it separated a bit. But the taste is still AWESOME!

...then kick back and watch the storm creep slllllllooooooowwwwwwlllllllyyyyy towards you. :D

Makes (2) 16 oz servings (if you have the right amount of ice)

Calories per serving: 160

Plus the added benefits of the lemon juice and fresh pineapple!

Recipe can easily be multiplied for parties & gatherings. So drink up--it's time for a Hurricane Party!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Entry Deux: Sweet Potato Mini-Muffins

Food background:

Dish type: Dessert/Snack

Method Utilized: "Quick & Simple"

When I first moved to New Orleans, I worked for a wine shop/gourmet deli called Martin's Wine Cellar. During the holiday season, my good friend who worked in catering would bake loaves of pumpkin bread & sweet potato bread, to which I became mildly addicted. Sweet potatoes are a common staple down here, as we have our own Louisiana sweet potatoes. However they're typically dished out in the form of greasy, salty sweet potato fries, or the marshmallow & brown sugar-laden dish we all know from holiday dinners. Even mashed sweet potatoes down here tend to be doused in maple syrup.....delicious, no doubt, but not exactly healthy.

Sweet potatoes are an excellent alternative to traditional side dishes as they're highly nutrient dense (but you probably already know that, and are about 10 seconds from saying "shut your yup, woman and just get to the darned recipe!!!) Okay, fine. *pouts* :)

I DO have in my possession my dear friend's recipe for her famous sweet potato bread--however it's for a yield of about 40 loaves...and since I have no fish, and no followers to feed, just wee lil' me, I don't need quite that many. It's also a slightly labor intensive process that involves baking the delectable orange starch-vessels, blending the dough base....let's just say it's an all-day thing.

However, there are ways around that. And they're called "bread mixes". I find delicious-sounding bread mixes at Big Lots, Marshalls, & Ross all the time for cheap. This time, I had one that's actually for "pumpkin bread", but if you examine the box, you see that it requires you to ADD canned pumpkin. This can EASILY be swapped for an equal amount of cooked sweet potatoes. Cooking potatoes yourself = less processed additives in your food. Baking works great, so does cubing and steaming them. I don't recommend boiling them because they get too waterlogged.

And if you want to save even MORE time, check out your local farmer's market--ours has frozen bags of sweet potato rounds that just need to be reheated. Each round is approximately 1/4 c.

Shopping List:
- 1 box bread mix (a mix that specifies pumpkin, sweet potato, or "spice" bread is ideal, and keep an eye out for one that uses wheat flour if you can for extra nutrients)
- Egg Beaters "All Whites" (equivalent of 2 Large eggs--it's on the side of the package. Wanna say it's 1/3 cup)
- applesauce (plain or cinnamon)
- 1/2 tbsp butter (half a pat), melted
- 3/4 cup pureed sweet potatoes
- 1/3 cup water
- mini muffin pans (I got some of the silicone ones and they're AWESOME)


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

This is not a toughie. In fact, all I really did was modify the instructions on the box to cut the fat & calories. Replace the eggs with egg whites (if you don't have EggBeaters, you can simply use 4 egg whites instead), and replace the oil with the applesauce. I add the half tbsp of butter for the flavor boost it gives to the bread (use REAL butter, and not margarine--butter is less processed, and margarine breaks down into some rather devious chemicals when heated. Besides--this recipe will make (12) 3-muffin servings. That's a MINISCULE amount of butter in each muffin.)

If you can find the sweet potato rounds, I defrost them in the micro (takes about 2 minutes on the defrost setting--add 1/2 tsp of water to the bowl you defrost them in) and then just whip 'em up and add them to the wet ingredients. Blend thoroughly, then add in the powdered bread mix and blend till smooth.

Lightly spray your muffin pans w/ Pam (I use the Olive Oil version, though I like the Pam for Baking especially well too) and add in the batter to 2/3 full. If you use the silicone trays like me, place them on a cookie sheet for easy handling.

TIP FOR ELECTRIC OVEN READERS: I've noticed my electric oven does not bake things as evenly as gas stoves do (dastardly landlords...grrr...) so I put these on the middle rack, and bake these for 10 minutes on the "Bake" setting (bottom coil heated), and then switch it to "Broil" (top coil) for 5 minutes. You get a gorgeous even color and baking this way.

Prep time: 5 minutes
Bake time: 15 minutes per rotation (I had two pans that fit 6 muffins each, so I did 3 batches)

Yield: 36 mini-muffins, or (12) 3 muffin servings

Original Nutrifacts from the box: 248 calories per serving (if prepared as instructed), 12 servings

New Caloric: 150 calories for 3 muffins, still 12 servings.

Sadly my Nutrifacts calculator doesn't have a "boxed bread mix" option, so I can't give the rest of the details. :(

What would I do differently next time? I might consider adding the equivalent of one more egg white to "fluff" it up a bit--the end result was a wee bit denser than I like. Otherwise, the flavor was FANTASTIC. In fact, I brought a serving in a baggie to have for my mid-afternoon snack--I put them in the microwave for 10 seconds, and now the smell has permeated my office. It's like Christmas in here! YUM!

I also might consider making some with chopped pecans mixed in--pecans are a staple around here, and they're very good for you. Plus--my boss gives everyone a 5lb box of shelled pecans for Christmas every year, so I always have some laying around. :-)

I promise I WILL, at a later date, do a "traditional" baked version of this recipe as well, doing everything from scratch.

First entry: Red beans & Rice

Dish background:

Dish type: Entree

Method Utilized: "Quick & Simple"

Red beans & rice is traditionally a slow-cooked dish, however, I got a last-minute craving.

Shopping List:
- 1 box Tony Chacheres (pronounced "sash-er-ies") or Zatarain's Red Beans & Rice box mix (I used Tony's as it was on sale at the store, however, Zatarain's offers a low-sodium version and is typically more readily available throughout the country)
- 1 can dark red kidney beans, drained
- 2/3 cup quick barley (I chose to use quick barley because it cooks faster than brown rice, I don't typically keep white rice around the house, and it's a very healthy grain that can lower bad cholesterol, provides an excellent fiber source, and is said to be a natural antioxidant)
- 1/2 lb lean smoked turkey sausage (whatever brand/flavor you prefer), sliced into 1/2 inch pieces
- 1/2 bell pepper, diced
- 1/2 white or yellow onion, minced
- Garlic Infused Olive Oil (I keep this around the house--the spritzer makes it easy to control the amount of oil you use, it adds a wonderful flavor to things, and a little goes a long way--even just having a small bottle, it seems to last forever.  It's an excellent investment if you have to get it from a gourmet store--though I DO frequently see them on the shelves at Marshall's or Ross.)


As I broke my last large saucepot in an unfortunate "Dishwasher vs. Cheaply Made Big Lots Cookware" battle last week, I decided to go for the microwave option listed on the box.  From personal experience, I know that the amount of water the box recommends causes a rather soupy result, which is why I add the extra beans & the barley.  I used a large microwave-safe casserole dish (which has a lid--very important), added the igredients as stated on the box, plus my dry quick barley & canned beans.  Stir thoroughly, cover, & microwave on full power for 5 minutes.

While that's going, put a frying pan over medium heat and squirt two spritzes of oil into the pan.  Add peppers & onion, and sprinkle w/black pepper and salt.  Saute over medium heat until the onions are slightly translucent. (if you heat the pan & dice your veggies BEFORE you start anything else, your saute should be close to done around the time the microwave beeps.)

Add the peppers & onions into the casserole dish, stir again, recover, and microwave for 25-30 minutes on 50% power.

Let sit for 5-15 minutes before serving--the sauce will thicken the longer it stands.

Prep time: 5 minutes

Cook time: 30 minutes

Set time: 5-15 minutes

Dinner on the table in: 40-50 minutes

Makes approximately (6) 1.5 cup servings

Nutritional Info: 

  Total Fat1.3 g
     Saturated Fat0.1 g
     Polyunsaturated Fat0.3 g
     Monounsaturated Fat0.3 g
  Cholesterol0.0 mg
  Sodium940.1 mg
  Potassium315.1 mg
  Total Carbohydrate58.1 g
     Dietary Fiber11.6 g
     Sugars1.9 g
  Protein11.4 g
  Vitamin A0.7 %
  Vitamin B-120.0 %
  Vitamin B-65.6 %
  Vitamin C17.0 %
  Vitamin D0.0 %
  Vitamin E1.0 %
  Calcium7.0 %
  Copper11.4 %
  Folate13.1 %
  Iron15.9 %
  Magnesium10.5 %
  Manganese25.1 %
  Niacin6.9 %
  Pantothenic Acid    2.1 %
  Phosphorus    13.1 %
  Riboflavin6.1 %
  Selenium12.4 %
  Thiamin9.3 %
  Zinc6.2 %