Sunday, October 23, 2016

HMR Five Bean Casserole - Becomes.... West African Peanut Stew - Maafe!

The HMR Five Bean Casserole is pretty good.

And you can do a number of things with it - my favorite is making it into Peanut Stew.

Peanut stew is, typically, root vegetables with chicken, and of course, peanuts and peanut butter..  Which is not exactly hmr material.  So, what to do, what to do.

Well, this is what you do

The simple adds are

PB2 - yes, that wonder of modern science, freeze dried, defatted peanut butter.
Green Onions
HMR chicken soup

Get to add Vegetables?  Time for some fun

Cooked Sweet Potato or Butternut squash are classics
Sweet corn
Fresh or canned tomato
Garbanzo beans (1/2 cup equals one serving of veg)
Cooked potato
Diced red peppers

This is a delicious stew - really!

Leek and Potato Soup - 100 calories a cup!

I like this soup in the fall when leeks are cheap.  As in 69 cents each.  When they are $2.69 each, I don't like them as much.  Plus, they are cheap when potatoes are cheap also - 50 cents a lb - so a big win on the budget front.

To determine calories, you must of course base it on what you use.  Your calorie count will vary...


Leeks (3 @54 calories each, 162 calories total)
Yukon Gold Potatoes, peeled (18 ounces @ 26 calories per ounce, 468 calories total)
Swanson or Progresso Chicken Broth, low sodium (8 cups, 15 cal per cup, 120 calories total).  Or go with vegetable broth.
1 cup water (free)
salt and pepper to taste (free)
Thyme to taste (free)

Yields 8 cups, so 94 calories per cup with what I used.

Cut the dark green portions of the leeks off, slice in half the long way, then slice fine.  Put in a big pot of water and swish around to get the dirt out of them.  Drain.

Add to big pot and sweat (that is, cook at low to medium heat till they soften).  You don't need oil, butter or anything else.  They will release moisture as they cook down.  Salt with about a teaspoon of salt and a teaspoon of pepper.

Peel and slice potatoes into 1/4 thick slices.  I do it this way because they then cook evenly no matter how big the potato is - every slice cooks at the same speed.

When leeks have gotten soft (10 to 15 minutes), add potatoes, thyme, broth and water.  Cook at medium until potatoes are soft

Put half at a time into a blender, blend till smooth - be careful and put a towel over the blender and don't fill it more than 1/2 way - to much is a good way of blowing the top off, burning yourself and painting the walls with the soup.

When pureed, serve.  Good hot, good cold.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

HMR Lasagna with Meat Sauce - Pump It Up!

The HMR Lasagna with Meat Sauce is fine.  I mean, it's not great, but its ok.

However, it can be so much more....

There are a few things you can add in the no decision phase, for example....

Penzey's Frozen Pizza Seasoning - spices, garlic, it amps it up some

Hot sauce of your preference

and.... not sure what else goes in.

Once you get to add Vegies to your diet....then it can become quite good.

My fave is spinach and mushrooms

Saute the spinach with garlic
Saute the mushrooms with the Penzey's Frozen Pizza Seasoning

Layer with the Lasagna in a microwave dish

Spinach, Mushrooms, Layer of Lasagna, repeat.  Top with Spinach and Mushrooms

Cover and nuke.

Serve with a salad...Pretty good.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

HMR Turkey Chili with Beans - Best HMR Entree?

HMR has about a dozen plus entrees that largely remain the same - they add some, they drop some, but generally there is little change.  Some are good, some ok, all of them are at least edible.  All of them are improved by adding things.

Having said that, I think the Turkey Chili with Beans is the best entree, and certainly better than most packaged chili's.  But it still can stand to be spiffed up some.

Flavors - rule is, must be under 20 calories, or be an HMR product.

HMR Chicken Soup is a good addition to add a little more to the meal.  Makes it more soup than stew, but....

Chili Powder - if you need to amp it up a little.  I recommend Penzeys.  If you just want chili flavor, add some of their chili con carne seasoning (no heat, lots of flavor).  If you need some heat, they have lots of chilis that can bring it.

Chop up and add
  • a jalepeno
  • green or regular onion (keep it under 20 calories!)
  • Some canned green chilis or other peppers
  • Sunday Lunch - with corn, fresh tomato,
    green onion, cilantro, cocoa, coffee, jalepeno
    salsa over power greens.   Really good
  • Cilantro
Fat free sour cream is nice

Salsa is available at this point, as are most hot sauces

PB2 is an interesting addition (hey, don't knock it till you try it)

A half teaspoon of cocoa powder (really!)
A tablespoon of strong coffee (really truly!)

Ingredients - Now we are cooking!

Corn is always a winner
Fresh tomato
More beans (1/2 a cup is one vegetable)
Make a taco salad - serve it over lettuce (with tomato and avocado!)
Sweet potato, butternut squash or even pumpkin (cook ahead of time)
Some people like mushrooms in their chili
Red, green, yellow or orange peppers (or go for others)
Hominy is interesting (or disgusting, depending on your preferences)

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Hacking the HMR Vegetarian Thai Curry with Brown Rice

HMR Vegetarian Thai Curry with Brown Rice - Pumping up the Thai

The HMR Veg Thai is ok.  A little spicy, but not too much. They use Gardein as the meat substitute, and it's actually good.  However, the meal is a little boring.  So, what to do.....

Two questions really - what are the options when you are only using HMR products, and what can you do once you add fruit and veg.


Mixing the Thai Curry with a Chicken soup makes it more like the curry you get in a restaurant, which tend to be quite soup like

To pump up the curry, try Green Curry paste - just watch out for calories.  Some pastes are quite low - some are not so low.  I find green curry paste is often the lowest calorie of the red, yellow, etc. types.

Fish Sauce is an added feature, but it can be salty, and the HMR meal has a fair bit of sodium

Some add Soy Sauce, which is a flavor, but see fish sauce.  I usually skip the Soy Sauce

PB2 (Powdered Peanut Butter, 85% less fat)  makes an interesting addition (but remember to measure accurately).  Makes it more of a pad thai type meal.  Add it to the chicken soup when you are adding the water.  You may need to add a little more water as it will thicken

Chopped Green Onions - one onion is less than 20 calories, and it adds a little crunch and bite

Cilantro - fresh herbs are always free

Coconut extract (1/4 teaspoon) - I am not a huge fan, but some like it since coconut milk is definitely out, although technically a 1/8th of a cup of lite coconut milk would be about 22 calories.....

Lime - half a fresh lime, squeezed over the heated meal

Splenda Brown Sugar - just 1/2 a teaspoon packed is 10 calories

Garlic powder (rehydrate in the chicken soup)

Minced garlic, although I would probably only use it with vegetables when I stir fry them

Thai Basil

Hot sauce, such as sriracha

Vegetable (and Fruit!) add ins

Things get a whole lot more fun at this point.  I still would mix the meal with the chicken soup as the start, add your choice of flavorings above... then you can think about ...

Red Pepper (or green, orange or yellow), sliced thin and stir fried briefly
Onion, sliced thin and stir fried (no oil remember!)
Snow pea pods stir fried
Sugar Snap Peas, just cooked lightly
Bean Sprouts (no need to cook at all)
Frozen Peas (just add to the soup to warm)
Sweet potato - peeled, then sliced or cubed and cooked just al dente, not mushy
Cauliflower rice!
Cooked sliced carrots (or raw for some crunch)
Peeled, cubed, stir fried eggplant (but don't over cook!)
Birds Eye Chili's - if you like it hot!

HMR Pancakes - official version, and oh so much more

HMR Pancakes, in multiple options

The "official recipe" is good, and fits in with the no decision diet well, so long as you take their advice and make it an occasional item.  I have tweaked both the ingredients and the recipe, and I think it improves on the original.

1 HMR 70 Plus Vanilla Shake
1 HMR Multigrain Hot Cereal
1/8 th Teaspoon Baking Soda (this is less than 1 calorie)
½ cup Water
1 Non-Stick Cooking spray

Method to Madness
  • Mix the Shake with Cereal and Baking Powder.  DON'T Blend both packets in a blender until you have a flour consistency. Instead, use the cereal as is, or just pulse one second the cereal after you have taken out the fruit.  If you are cooking for two, pulse one and leave the other as is.  I think this gives a better texture.  And the baking powder gives the pancakes some lift.
  • Add water until a pancake batter is reached
  • Allow to sit for 3-5 minutes (batter will thicken; add more water if needed)
  • Spray skillet with non-stick cooking spray
  • Pour ¼ cup batter for each pancake
  • Cook until bubbles form, pop and stay open, then flip to brown the other side
If your cooking for two, I use three cereals and two 70 plus shake (thus a 1/2 batch is equal to two shakes).  I would also add 1/4 teaspoon baking soda for a double recipe.  And of course you have to increase the water amount.  I add about 2 cups, but vary based on thickness.  The mix should be thick.

Once you start adding fruits and vegetables to your HMR diet, things get really interesting

Favorite things we add include:

  • Finely diced apple, not pre-cooked.  I use one apple for a double recipe
  • Blueberries.  1 cup for a double recipe
  • Mashed Banana (mash ripe banana and mix with water, then add to the pancake mix.  1 Banana for a double
  • Zucchini, finely diced (I spiralize, then chop into rice size pieces).  I also do not precook.  Half a zuchini (med) per double recipe
  • Sweet potato, sprilized, chopped and microwaved with a little water until soft (1/2 cup per double)
  • Apple pie or pumpkin pie spice
  • Pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling) (1/2 cup per double
  • Cooked carrot, diced fine or shredded

There are lots of things you can add and stay in the box - get creative and experiment!

This is our Saturday morning breakfast - that's how we keep it "occasional"

And these freeze pretty well - if you wanted to make them as a treat, just reheat in toaster or microwave.  Pretty good a work when others bring in treats or a pot luck - gives you an in the box option.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Peace and Comfort, a.k.a. Death and Disaster, a.k.a.Joy and Celebration - Chicken and Uncle Bens Long Grain and Wild Rice Casserole

This is one of those family recipes that came from my mother.  Where she got it from, I suspect a Better Homes and Garden cookbook from the 60's.  It has that vibe - you know when beans and wienies with bottle bbq sauce was fine living.  It is the opposite of fine cooking ala Mark Bittman.  It is full of sodium and fat.  It has no fresh vegetables.  But for when it is needed - it is just the thing. My mom always called it Death and Disaster - for when there was a death or disaster in the neighborhood, this is what she made to take over.

I think the habit of making food for your neighbors in time of trouble has become a lost art.  First - do you even know your neighbors?  I don't, not really. Not like when I grew up.  Today we live in a neighborhood, but we don't live life together.  Xbox and Cable, a dozen different churches (or none), with schools so big you will never know your classmates - we don't live life together.  Shame on us.

Later, my sister in law renamed it Joy and Celebration - because it is a fine dish to bring over in time of  Joy and Celebration, and perhaps she is just a little less fatalistic than my mother (and I).  So it became Joy and Celebration.  I made it when we went to visit our new granddaughter.  And visit our daughter and son in law, but lets face it, its all about the bebe.  Joy and Celebration it was.

Recently I had the occasion to make it for a family where the mother of two young children had died. Well, I really did not want to call it death and disaster (although the situation is both), but Joy and Celebration really did not fit.  So what to call it....

In all the events this is shared, it really is about sharing life together.  Sadness and Joy.  Death and Life.  So I have renamed this dish - it shall now and forever more be called Peace and Comfort. Because that is what it is.  It is that family dish that binds together all who share it.  It is, and always has been food made of love.

The recipe is my mothers - with my edits in parenthesis.  This makes a lot of food - it comes from a time when 3 kids was a small family.  Cut the recipe in half or make it in two dishes - one to share and one for your family to eat.

  • 2 chickens, cut up (or just a bunch of chicken thighs - boneless or not, but I do remove the skin.  I think thighs handle the cooking time better than the breasts)
  • 2 packages Uncle Ben's Rice-Wild Rice Mix, but only one of the seasoning mixes.  Mom thinks it is too salty with both. (I agree)
  • 1/4 cup brown rice
  • 1/2 cup white rice
  • 1/2 cup french dressing
  • 2 cans each cream of celery, cream of mushroom, and cream of chicken soup (so that's six cans of soup)- Mom says low fat does not work well - who am I to disagree?
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 soup can water
  • Hazelnuts, a.k.a. filberts (My sister in law omits them - I insist on them)
  • Parmesan cheese (or other)

Mix all ingredients except chicken, nuts and cheese and put 2/3 in bottom of baking pan. Place chicken parts on top. Cover with remaining mixture. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese to coat. Add nuts. Bake at 350 for 75-90 minutes. This reheats well.

May it bring peace and comfort to those who you share it with, in times of death and disaster as well as in times of joy and celebration.