Sunday, March 24, 2013

Pasta Salad

This may be vegetarian, but it is not exactly low fat or low calorie.  Not high calorie, but not diet food.

I put this together as a side/vegetarian option for a family dinner.  I know - vegetarians hate salads as their dinner option - nothing says we really don't care about you like making great food for the meat eaters and foisting off some dreck to the non meat eaters.

Well, sometimes life makes you salad.  This one is pretty good, and satisfied our vegie.

Salad Fixings
1 Red pepper - sliced
1 Yellow pepper - sliced
1 can black olives, drained and sliced
1 can artichoke hearts, drained and rinsed
1 can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
2 cups fresh green beans, cooked and cut in half
12 oz cherry tomatoes, halved

16 oz cooked pasta - my preference is whole grain/high fiber - be sure to not overcook - whole grain pasta overcooked is very unpleasant

1/3 cup olive oil
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tsp mixed seasoning - basil/thyme/marjoram
3 garlic cloves minced
1 tsp dijon mustard
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 ground pepper
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (1 large or 2 small lemons, juiced)
2 tbs honey

Mix all dressing ingredients, whisk.  Let sit at least 1/2 hour
Pour over all salad fixings except pasta
Let marinate for at least an hour, mixing vegies and dressing several times
Mix in Pasta, toss repeatedly

Saturday, March 9, 2013

The New, The Improved, The Complete Review of All Mexican Restaurants in Eau Claire, Wisconsin

Link to Yelp -

Three good places to go in Eau Claire, plus ratings of the rest.

#1 Taqueria Sandova- 1  La Luna Misma -  New Owners, New Name, Same great food.  Located in the back of Eau Claire's largest Mexican Grocery, this is pretty much just what its name is - Tacos, plus Tortas, Burritos and Soups, The environment is low end tables and chairs, but if you're lucky you will be able to watch soccer in Spanish. Not a date place, unless your date loves the best Mexican food in the Chippewa Valley. Always amusing to see employees from other "Mexican" restaurants eating their before their shifts.

#2 Taco's Juanita - close behind is a slightly more upscale place, with a little more atmosphere and a few more fancy meals as well as some of the more traditional Mexican as well as some Amer-Mex fare 

#3 Casa Mexicana - Chippewa Falls contribution to the top three, Casa houses some of the wildest wall fresco's, chairs and tables you will see. The food tends more towards Amer-Mex, but still good enough. Full Bar, so that is something not available at the top 2. The quality starts falling fast after the top 3, although there are plenty of choices. The order is basically which would I go to first (or last, as the case may be)

For all the rest, click on the above Yelp link

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Butternut Squash and Shrimp Pasta

You know what happens when your internet goes down?  You lose all your recipes.

Since I have basically packed up all my books and now use only the internet for recipes, it’s a little odd to cook when you just can’t look something up immediately.  So last night when I was trying to cook dinner and the internet went out I was stuck going, how is this going to work?

It worked pretty well.  Low calorie, low fat.  Good Tasting.  Serves four.

1 lb shrimp, thawed and peeled
1 butternut squash, peeled, small dice
1 can diced tomatoes (not drained)
1 onion, fine dice
4 cloves of garlic, diced, two piles
½ lemon
1 can white beans, drained and rinsed
4 oz whole wheat pasta, variety your choice
1 can vegetable or chicken stock
1 tbs Italian Seasoning
Salt and Pepper to Taste
Fresh grated Parmesan, 1 oz
2 tsp olive oil

Toss thawed, peeled shrimp in bowl with juice of ½ lemon, 1 tsp olive oil and 2 cloves of garlic crushed.  Let marinate.
Boil squash till almost tender, drain
At same time boil pasta till almost cooked, drain
Sauté onion in 1 tsp olive oil
When onion is translucent, add garlic and Italian seasoning, sauté for 3 minutes
Add squash, tomatoes, beans, pasta, stock to onions, bring to low boil
Stir in shrimp, cover, cook for 5 minutes
Season with salt and pepper to taste
Serve with fresh parm grated on top

No need for the shrimp if you don't want to.  If you wanted to throw some fresh spinach in when you added the shrimp, that would be good to.  Frozen peas would be a fine addition also.  To make it a more complete meal I served it with roasted cauliflower.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Low Fat! Peanut Stew – HMR Diet Worthy! (a.k.a. Maafe)

One of our favorite dishes – Peanut Stew.  Usually attributed to West Africa, I have no reason to doubt that is its original home.  Fairly simple, comprised mostly of root vegetables stewed, it is flexible and easy to make vegetarian.  Basic idea is that this is a vegetable stew, with peanuts and/or peanut butter. If you keep that in mind, you are free to add or drop ingredients as you have them or are available – don’t worry about having the “right” ingredients

However, it is hard to make low fat, vegetarian or not.  Why, you ask? Have you checked out the calorie count for Peanut Butter?  Some recipes call for a full cup!  That’s 1,500 calories.  And that is way too much if you’re on a calorie restricted diet.

So, what’s the solution?  How do you make Peanut Stew low cal/low fat while still using peanut butter?
Why, it’s the perfect time for Bell Plantation PB2 PowderedPeanut Butter – which has 85% less fat than regular peanut butter.  PB2 is peanut butter protein – you get the flavor, not the fat – just reconstitute with water.  PB2 has 45 calories for 2tb, peanut butter has 190 calories for 2tb.  All of a sudden, cooking with peanut butter (or PB2) is great for low cal!    

Making it even simpler is the use of Penzey’s Sate Seasoning – Peanut stew calls for ginger, a little cayenne, a bunch of other spices.  Rather than tracking all of that down, I just use the Sate seasoning.  Buy it online or at their stores.  Penzey’s Sate seasoning includes coarse flake salt, brown sugar, garlic, white onion, coriander, purple shallots, ginger, turmeric, sweet paprika, Ancho pepper, galangal, cayenne red pepper, lemon grass, so it has everything you need.  Feel free to use it fairly heavily even if you don’t like hot – it is not that spicy.

Ingredients for the Stew
1 medium onion, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
2-6 garlic cloves, minced (adjust based on level of vampirism in neighborhood)
1 lb chicken thighs, diced
2  medium sweet potato, peeled diced
2  medium potatoes, diced
14 1/2 ounces diced tomatoes with or without green chilies (or use fresh)
1 lb total of butternut squash or acorn squash or carrots or other root vegetable, diced
1 can garbanzo beans or other bean – I like using Black Eye Peas
8 tbs PB2
2-3 tbs Sate Seasoning -start with two and add more if you like
2 cans (small, not the big honking ones) vegetable broth (or chicken). 

For the garnish – prepare and serve on the side for people to spice as they like
·         cilantro, chopped
·         green onions, chopped
·         jalapenos, fresh, chopped
·         lime quarters
·         unsalted dry roasted peanuts

Serve with Brown Rice or for even lower calorie - cauliflower rice!

 Brown onion and celery (and chicken, is using).  Use 1 tbs olive oil
Add garlic, cook for two minutes
Add vegetables and garbanzo beans (what ever you are using) (but not PB2), broth, spices
Cook for about 30 minutes, or until root vegetables are soft
Add PB2
Cook for five minutes
Adjust seasonings

Serve over Rice and have the garnishes on the side for people to add as they prefer.

Banrock Station 2010 Merlot - the review -

Banrock Station is one of those Australian Wines - cheap, generic, generally drinkable, seldom memorable.  Banrock's claim to fame is their support of conservation.  Really, I don't care about your green washing.  Just make some decent wine.

Some of their wines are blech (2010 Shiraz comes to mind), some are not.

The 2010 Merlot is definitely in the not blech category.  In fact it is quite drinkable.

Purchased at closeout prices from Gordy's at $2.99, I figured why not.

Result - pretty good, really good considering I got it for three bucks.  Would be a good deal at it's more normal retail price of $6.99.

Good fruit, not much tannins, fairly easy drinking but enough body to make it pleasant.  Fruity, but not sweet.  Decent for cooking and drinking.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Talk about a Vacation...

I managed to miss February.  Not sure how that happened.  Well, I will be getting back at it, including reviews of every Mexican(ish) restaurant in Eau Claire.