Monday, November 17, 2014

Menu: Nov 17-23

What's on the menu?

Breakfasts: Bagels & cream cheese; breakfast sandwiches

Lunches: Chinese/Indian leftovers; chicken pasta salad; burritos

Snacks: .

Monday: Curry (using leftover pumpkin-squash soup, paneer, and tofu; ginger honey rice in the rice cooker).  [vegetarian; leftovers; curry; rice]

Tuesday: Nachos (we're actually going out with friends hours before our usual dinner time, so we planned something that will entice us to eat at home, but won't be wasteful if we decide not to. [beef]

Wednesday: Stromboli (capers, banana peppers, pepperoni, ricotta) [vegetarian; Italian]

Thursday: I... have no idea. [ ]

Friday: Creamy Penne Bake (with fresh mozzarella, ricotta, artichoke jalapeño dip that's too salty to eat straight, chicken) [chicken, pasta]

Saturday: Out [ ]

Sunday: No clue. Gonna wing it. Ooh, maybe chicken wings. [ ]

What's on your menu this week? Need planning ideas? I'll be linking up at, if you need other ideas!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Recipe: Loaded baked potato soup

Okay let's be entirely clear here, this is one of those "this is what *I* did" moments that you aren't expected to follow this recipe. But it was fun, so let's go through it!

First, we chopped the bacon into roughly half-inch chunks. Like, over a pound of bacon. Go for it. Turned on the dutch oven and rendered the fat out; once it was about half cooked, it was obvious it wasn't going to brown in the puddle of lard going on so I scooped out the bacon & put it in the cast iron pan that most needed some more seasoning, topped that bacon with black pepper, and finished frying it up.

We only had a half an onion in the house, so Mr. Moon chopped that up and we got it sweating in the dutch oven with the rendered bacon grease. A whole onion would have been nicer, but you take what you can get.

Then it was time for roughly 3 lbs of potatoes. Peels on. Now, I had Mr. Moon cut these up SMALL. Like, small dice, 1/4 inch squares. I SHOULD have in this case had him start with half inch dices, to get the first half in the pan quickly, but so they wouldn't cook quite as fast while we awaited the second half of the potatoes being diced. Anyway. We didn't. 1/3 of the diced-tiny potatoes went in the pan first.

Tried to brown up those bad boys a bit, and when the pan was getting a bit too brown from the starches, I deglazed a bit with some turkey stock. The starch, the fat, a little moisture, and those potatoes started breaking down into a beautiful creamy base. Then we added the second third of potatoes.

Then it was a matter of adding some garlic, pepper, a bit of salt. Make sure those potatoes were nicely seasoned. As soon as the last batch of potatoes went in, the first batch was really creaming up while the second absorbed a bunch of steam; it was getting a bit dry in the pot and I was ready for it to simmer down.

I poured in the rest of the (16 oz) box of turkey stock. I didn't have any celery on hand, but I had cream of celery soup, so despite my reservations about putting cream in this early in the process, I decided I'd just get that going & keep the temperature kind of low. I started pouring, and this stuff was broth & green--so I checked the package again. CREAMY celery soup. Ingredients: blah blah, almond milk, potatoes. Oh. Not cream that's going to break, but stuff that tastes creamy & can handle a little simmering. Awesome. Poured that whole box in there, added a giant spoonful of leftover carrot-pumpkin soup (which I hadn't been happy with as soup but is good as carrot puree), and left that pot on medium heat to bubble. {Substitution: Use 1 carrot, grated in here or chopped and put in with the onion. If you don't have the celery soup, put a chopped stalk of celery in with the onions & add another 32 oz stock of choice.}

It was surprisingly easy to differentiate between the three batches of potatoes. As soon as the third batch was cooked enough to not be crunchy, I pulled out the immersion blender & creamed that soup up. Not all of it, I left a bunch of chunks, but enough to really thicken it. Adjusted my seasonings, and yummy.

By now it was 1:45am, and we were hungry, but I was worried about cream breaking if I added it to the boiling soup. We turned off the heat, threw in 6 ice cubes, and I stirred very carefully not letting the ice cubes hit the walls of the dutch oven lest the heat differential crack something. When the ice cubes were done, the soup was back to a nice soupy consistency, as opposed to a runny-mashers consistency.

We served a good 3 ladles (at 8 oz each!) into bowls, added an ounce or so of cream and stirred it in. I was worried about the cream breaking if we had any leftovers being reheated later, so I didn't want it in the full batch of soup. Topped with cheese, bacon crumbles, and sour cream; chives if we's had any.

Voila, loaded baked potato soup. And it only took an hour and a half to make. It really wouldn't have taken that long if we'd done the potatoes in 2 batches of 1/2 inch dice & then 1/4 inch dice, because it would have taken less time to cut the first half which would have had plenty of time to cook properly.

Oh honey it was soon good though.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Menu: Nov 10-16

Mr. Moon has a busy week ahead, only one day off work and it's for a metal concert. I had to pull him back from saying we'd just eat out at least three different days this week, not just because our budget is a little uncertain at the moment, but also because we did agree to reduce those temptations a bit and get back to good, home cooking now that our wedding is over and done with. Still, with my health, there's no way we will ever get away from convenience foods completely, and since we have been selective about which ones we keep around for just these occasions we might as well utilize them.

What's on the menu?

Breakfasts: .

Lunches: .

Snacks: .

Monday: Chicken & Rice [chicken, rice, leftovers, fast]
We just got a new rice cooker, and wanted to try one of the recipes in it. Originally this was going to be a rice cooker meal, but the fact is that we have leftover rice we decided not to use today. So I think instead it's going to turn into a skillet meal where we dump in the leftover rice, pre-roasted chicken, and some tomatillo salsa, sprinkle some fresh cilantro on top and call it a day.

Tuesday: Wonton soup [fusion, soup, fast]
This is a quick & easy meal we've been making for about a year now. It started as a phó craving when we didn't have the cash to go out, and morphed from there. We have wonton dumplings in the freezer that hang around like ravioli until we want them, and then craft a frothy soup around them. Honestly this soup does not even always have wontons or noodles of any kind. One of these days I'll post a methodology on it.

Wednesday: Ginger pumpkin carrot slow-cooker soup [slow-cooker, vegetarian]
I picked up a giant pumpkin last week for $2 and we roasted it off with just a little salt, pepper & nutmeg. So now I have 5 meals' worth of pumpkin bits awaiting inspiration. I made a pumpkin curry with one, this soup is the second one. We'll throw it in the crockpot before he goes to his concert, and have a nice warm meal ready when he gets home with a sore throat.

Thursday: Spaghetti [pasta, italian, vegetarian]

Friday: Tuna mac [ ]

Saturday: Baked potato soup [slow-cooker]
Again, a nice easy meal in the crockpot to be ready & waiting at dinner time. Saturdays are always a late night, and with an 8am shift the next day we have a habit of picking up either Wendy's or Subway on the way home. But both make me pretty sick the next day, and I'm done sticking my head in the sand about it. To resist the temptation, I've found that including bacon in the meal for Saturday nights, no matter how simple, is a guaranteed way to get Mr. Moon excited about coming home even if it still means a little cooking. This is a lovely dish that we can throw a box of cream of celery soup in the crockpot, toss in some potatoes or even some of these boxed mashers I've got that I'll never use, some more broth, garlic & onions, and let it simmer for a little while. He can fry up the bacon bits earlier in the day, have cheese grated, scallions chopped, and when it comes time for dinner it just means serving it up. Heck, now that I have a rice cooker with a delay timer, I could have him set it up before he goes to work & be able to ignore it or nap without worrying about what time I need to start dinner.

Sunday: Tortellini [pasta, italian]
I love ravioli. Like, a lot. But I find that the tortellini make me a lot happier to keep around, and we're much more experimental with it, despite still being ricotta-stuffed eggy pasta. I'm not sure if we'll make tortellini soup, throw some fresh moss & marinara on it, or even tortellini piccata two Sundays in a row. But I do know, it will be delicious.

What's on your menu this week? Need planning ideas? I'll be linking up at, if you need other ideas!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Recipe: Sausage Stuffing

This is a recipe I cobbled together back when I was low-carb. While I'm certain I used a number of recipes as inspiration, as I always do, I always seem to throw specific recipes out the window in favor of making my own, and I so rarely measure unless proportions matter. Much of the time, this results in having no idea what I did or being completely unable to recreate the genius. This is not one of those times!

What you need:

  • 2 lbs bulk sausage of choice: I like a good sage sausage, or a breakfast sausage, but even a spicy hot version has some appeal. 
  • 2 stalks celery
  • 1 large yellow onion
  • Fresh, hearty herbs: Sage, rosemary, thyme, stuff like that. Avoid softer herbs like basil & oregano, even parsley I think doesn't hold up. 
  • 1 butternut squash
  • 1-2 apples
  • a handful of nuts: walnuts, almonds, mixed nuts, hazelnuts, all good. 
  • seasonings to taste
What to Do:
  1. Peel the butternut squash and dice it (1/2 inch cubes). You can rinse the strings off the seeds & throw them in as nuts if you want. 
  2. Dice the onion, and slice the celery. Core the apple, and dice.
  3. Sauté the onion, celery & sausage together. 
  4. Mix the onion, celery, sausage, squash (yes, uncooked), apples, nuts, and herbs in a large mixing bowl. Toss in some seasonings; salt, pepper, garlic, anything else that sounds good. Pour the mix into a casserole dish and cover with foil or lid. 
  5. Bake in oven until squash is cooked. Times & temps vary. I'd say 350 F for 45 minutes is about right, but if you're putting it in with other things that need different temperatures, it's pretty forgiving. The biggest thing is cooking the squash & in the process you're steaming the nuts so they're sort of soft. 
  6. Serve as a side dish at a Thanksgiving meal, or even as a main & veg next to a starch. Maybe add some rice & call it pilaf. 

Filed under: [low carb, gluten free, paleo?, no added sugar, meat, squash, nuts, fall flavors, holiday meals]

Monday, November 3, 2014

Tricks for managing blood sugar crashes & low appetite

Content warning: Brief mentions of ED and I don't mean the penile kind. Some discussion of Feels and their relation to food choices, with some coping mechanisms that work for me.

Everyone can suffer through blood sugar crashes, and there are some doctors who believe that our modern society's abuse of our pancreas is the number one reason for diabetes that shows up later in life. Whatever your opinion on this topic is somewhat immaterial for the purposes of this conversation. However, if you are dealing with a diagnosed medical issue and not simply bad habits, do ensure you speak to your doctor before taking the advice of random people on the internet.

My blood sugar crashes are due to so many issues you could write a book. Eating disorder, chronic nausea, lack of appetite, chronic dehydration, medication side effects, and sheer bad habits, just to name a few. What this looks like in my daily life seems simple: I wait too long to eat. Now, as you may have already gathered, I don't always get normal hunger signs, and sometimes even get signals from my body that the last thing it will accept is food. I've learned the hard way that forcing myself to eat even when I know I need to is a recipe for disaster. At the very least, I have to be careful about smells, tastes and textures when I'm forcing the issue. And if I get in a bad state, literally anything with nutritive properties I can get in my mouth and keep down is A DAMN Good Thing.

We have so much guilt wrapped up with food in our society, and my own history doesn't make that easier. As a nutritionist, chef, foodie, nurse's daughter, and poor, fat, disabled woman, there are a LOT of Emotions wrapped up in eating & food choices. Separating those from what my body NEEDS will likely be a war I'll be fighting my whole life.

So when I "let" myself forget to eat, when my lack of appetite or bad hunger signals or migraines or chronic fatigue kick in, it's easy to reach for what a lot of people would consider junk food. One thing I've been working at reminding myself this year is that

Any Food Is Better Than No Food.
Seriously, just put it in my mouth. We can work on Better choices after I'm eating somewhat regularly.

But here are some ways I have been able to make sure I get food when I need it:

  • For some reason, V8 doesn't repulse me most of the time even when I'm feeling really sick to my stomach. I had a lot of Feelings wrapped up in this for a while, because I bought some of these tiny cans for in case of blood sugar crashes, and therefore if I was drinking them then it meant I'd Lost Control of my blood sugar again. Then I realized something: THEY'RE FREAKING VEGETABLES. Yeah okay so the low sodium ones taste like... we're just going to stick with GROSS, and the regular ones are probably a salt bomb. But they're VEGETABLES! We all need more vegetables! Make your own if it helps, maybe the fruity ones are less sodium-tastic but they're high sugar so that isn't a great solution. Point is, if I'm feeling hungry and like I can't wait to eat long enough to get somewhere or cook something, then I drink a V8. If I'm feeling queasy, I drink a V8. It's not a solution, it's not a meal, but it's a stop-gap. Settles my stomach, gives that bile something to gnaw on, and steadies the blood sugar a bit so you have some time to get some real food in you. 
  • Dips. I can usually stomach anything that qualifies as Stuff With Dip. Veggies and hummus, chips & salsa, that sort of stuff. It has a lot to do with not having a lot of food in my face at once. It's just one bite at a time, and I can pretty much stop whenever I'm feeling satisfied instead of trying to finish a whole plate of something. 
  • Convenience foods: Yes, a lot of pre-packaged foods are loaded with crappy fillers, sodium, sugars, wood pulp even. I'm talking about a combination of those and home-made conveniences. We grate our own cheese, but we buy wonton dumplings. Pre-canned V8, but I make my own smoothies otherwise. We used to do a lot more in the way of prepping and freezing soups in individual serving sizes, but apartment living without anyplace to put even a small chest freezer means tiny apartment freezer space; so we buy some canned soups to have on hand. The biggest one is that we buy frozen burritos. In reading ingredients, unless I was willing to make my own tortillas, most of the less-pronouncable ingredients are in the wrapper. It helps to have some foods on hand that are quick to make when I'm hungry, on my own, low on Spoons, low on time, what have you. I'd love to get around to making my own frozen burritos, but at 25-50 cents per burrito it's hard to justify doing so when I can't beat that price making them at home. Anyway, we have made our own yogurt before and will get back to doing that, we make a lot of our own quick breads from scratch so we have fast breakfasts or snacks, and quick coffee/tea/cocoa at a moment's notice helps keep us (ahem, me) away from the coffee shops. I'd stock bagels more often if there were any good ones around. 
  • Fat & Protein: Carbs are the first thing to be digested, even complex ones. Protein is next, and fats are last along with the insoluble fiber (you know, the broom of your digestive tract). If your blood sugar crashes, eating sugary & carby foods sometimes sound good but they help you crash again later and it's an awful roller coaster of nausea. Sometimes, I give into the craving because it comes back to GET FOOD IN ME AT ALL COSTS and because carbs aren't evil. But I try to balance that with some good protein and fat so that I don't crash again later, and slowly come back down. I make sure that when I choose my fats at the store I choose them carefully so they have nutritive properties, and then don't worry about skimping on them. All discussions of my weight aside, this is the surest way I've found to get back to what I understand are more "normal" progressions of hunger signals and less of that roller coaster feeling. 
I know it seems like a short list, but it's mostly conceptual. Oddly I've found that a lot of tips about getting kids to eat also apply to me. Which makes sense, because their tiny tummies and speedy metabolisms mean they have to eat a lot more often than adults do, and since the whole world is still new and interesting but food seems like sustenance rather than enjoyment it can seem like they're both constantly vying for food having waited until they're starving to eat, but not willing to spend the time waiting for or eating it. So, if you're having trouble finding ways to get your grown-adult self to eat before your tummy is mad at you for forgetting, try suggestions for kid foods. It works for me! And just becomes something is targeted toward one group doesn't mean you can't still use it if it works for you. 

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Harvest Sangria: The wine-lover's answer to grape allergy

Given my grape allergy, you can imagine I miss out on a lot of delicious things. Chicken Marsala. Boeuf Bourguinon. Cinnamon raisin buns. Sangria. I do alright with most things, but every once in a while I feel a little deprived. Especially on the Sangria.

Now, every place I've worked that made sangria used vodka in it, but my brother (whom I do trust as an expert in the field of alcohol's history) informs me that sangria is intended to be a low-alcohol version of wine, hence juicing it down. So, this is more of an exploration of sangria than a true recipe, but we're going to go for it. The important thing to note is, make the flavors work together. This recipe was intended to be a seasonal-foods recipe, hence the name. In effect, this is basically a party punch.

Things You Need:

  • Wine! You can use grape wines, obviously, but here we're using mead/honey wine. Because I had a 3/4 bottle of mead that I couldn't drink straight. Make the wine about 50% of your total volume, if you want to retain any of the effects of the alcohol--that will bring it down to the ABV of your average beer. 
  • Fruit! You need fruit cut into chunks. Make themes! Use citrus, stone fruits, pome fruits (those would be apples & pears), even squash! Make this about 25% of your volume when steeping. 
  • Juice! Obviously, your juice choice will reflect your other choices. You don't have to use oranges and orange juice, though. Maybe have orange chunks and lime juice, or even oranges and cherry juice. Use your imagination and experiment a bit! And if you want this lower in alcohol, go ahead and add more juice. 
  • Sugar: OPTIONAL. I did use a tablespoon of sugar to macerate the fruit a bit, since it was pears and I was only steeping overnight. Most sangria recipes I found had a ton of added sugar, but fruit wines are a LOT sweeter than most grape wines you'd use for sangria (which I get the impression is a way to get rid of wines that have gone a little sour or aren't of the best quality).
  • Liquor! Totally optional. I'd say that adding liquor takes it from "sangria" into "punch" category. Vodka is often a nice neutral flavor, but explore a bit here too. 
  • Bubbles! This gets added later, after you strain the fruit, so it's 25% of your finished volume or about the same as the juice. You can use champagne in regular sangria, but for a grape allergy the options are a little more limited. Some recipes I saw use lemon-lime soda, so clearly the bubbles are for bubbles, not strictly for adding more alcohol, and this might be a nice spot to tone down the alcohol a bit. Sparkling cider, even a flavored one that meshes with your other selections, might be a way to go. 

Things We Used:
  • Wine: 1 bottle dark mead, 1 bottle light mead; I think it would have been better with all dark mead, but we couldn't find it again. 
  • Fruit: Pears & pumpkin; the pumpkin was dry, stringy, and very disappointing. I sprinkled garam masala & nutmeg on it before I roasted it (and kind of wished I'd roasted the pears with it too), and the pumpkin did add a small amount of flavor to the batch that if I'd had a quality product would have been even nicer. 
  • Juice: Apple cider & sweetened cranberry juice; I think this would have been even better with Unsweetened cranberry juice! 
  • Sugar: I used a little sugar (wished I'd used brown or maple) to juice up the fruit a bit before I mixed it in, and that had nice results. Again, make sure you pick something that meshes with your fruit selection! White sugar is always a good neutral flavor, but if you have options that will add a depth of flavor, use them!
  • Bubbles: 2 bottles Sparkling apple cider; I didn't want to overpower the rest of the flavors with apple, but options were limited. I'd have gone for a pear cider in this, just for a little more depth of flavor. 

How to Make It: 
  1. Chop the fruit! Roast off anything that won't be good raw (like squash). Make sure you take out any peels that will be too bitter. We did peel our pears, but I've seen plenty of sangria having citrus with peels still attached. 
  2. Sprinkle about a tablespoon of sugar onto your fruit, and let rest 1 hour at room temp. Cover with a shower cap, lid, or tea towel if you have fruit ties. 
  3. Steep the fruit in the wine overnight. We also added the juice, but here's my thoughts on that: If you just bury the fruit in wine, you can let it steep overnight on the counter which is going to get you better flavor extraction because of both temperature and acidity. You might not be happy about the results of doing that with fruit juice as well though, because it will start to ferment but not finish and that can give very unpredictable results on flavor (besides you know, alcohol content). 
  4. If you have two overnights to steep, go ahead and add the juice to steep overnight in the fridge. If not, add the juice, let it steep on the counter for a couple hours, and then strain the solids out. If the solids look nice, you can use some of them as garnish. Here we strained the pumpkin strands so they wouldn't clog the pour spout, and left the pear chunks for fun. 
  5. Add the bubbly! Right at service. Slowly so as to not lose the bubbles. Stir gently & serve. 

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