A Couple of Dark Chocolate Recipes

April 18th, 2011

First I tried this recipe for White Cocoa Oatmeal Lava Cake from the Truvia website. I used Scharffen Berger Bittersweet Chocolate, and Bakers White. I also halved the amount of Truvia, since I find it to be really sweet if used in full amounts. Oh, and I don’t have a hand mixer, and didn’t want to haul out the KA stand mixer for just 3 egg whites. The whisk attachment on the immersion blender works much better than the blender attachment!

A couple of faults with the recipe. The size of ramekins was not specified, so I used my Emile Henry soup ramekins, knowing the shape wouldn’t allow me to turn them out. Oh well, I wasn’t making it for company or presentation anyway. The recipe only filled 3 of them less than halfway. I should have used my smaller straight sided ones. The other thing, is that it appears that the oatmeal should be cooked ahead of time. I tried a bit while it was still warm and was confused at how chewy it was. I then realized that the rolled oats were still completely uncooked.

Other than being super-chewy, these tasted really good.

Update 4/24/11: These were far easier to eat after reheating in the microwave. However, the sugar content in the white chocolate was far too high for my body. Next time, aside from cooking the oatmeal, I’ll use all really dark or unsweetened chocolate with a touch of Truvial.

While they were cooling, I decided to try this recipe for Spiced Hot Dark Chocolate using Bakers Unsweetened Chcolate and a few pinches of Truvia. It turned out incredibly thick, rich and filling. I couldn’t taste any of the spices over the dark chocolate, but there was a slight heat from the cayenne. I had about half a cup and refrigerated the rest.

Update 4/22/11: To reheat this, I thinned it down half and half with soymilk and nuked it. The cayenne has definitely strengthened with time! It makes my ears tingle the way a bloody mary used to!

Crispy Duck Breast with Cherry Sauce

April 17th, 2011

OK, I meant to take pictures, but didn’t remember until we were half-way through eating it. Next time!

I picked up a whole duck breast at Fitt’s Seafoods and looked at tons of recipes and cooking techniques online to come up with a preparation. Since I had a party to go to mid-afternoon, I gave Norm a list of things to cut up while I was gone, and I made the cherry sauce ahead of time to reheat for serving. And nothing got cut up while I was gone, but I got home a bit early, so it didn’t matter.

Cherry Sauce
8 oz. Dried Bing Cherries
2 Tbsp. Good Balsamic Vinegar
½ Tsp. Salt
½ Tsp. Fresh Orange Zest
3 C water (more or less, depending on cherries and desired texture)

Put all ingredients except water in a small saucepan. Add 1 cup water. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Continue to cook, adding water as needed, until cherries have re-constituted and softened. Carefully blend in blender or use immersion blender (mixture is hot) until mixture is chunky and no whole cherries remain. Return to heat and cook until thick – it shouldn’t be much longer. If preparing ahead of time, set aside to reheat while duck is cooking.

Duck and vegetables
1 Tbsp Vegetable Oil
1 C diced carrot
1 C diced onion
1 C diced celery
1 whole Duck Breast
3 Tbsp minced fresh Thyme
salt and pepper

1. Preheat oven to 350F.
2. Put oil in a pan with carrot, onion, celery, thyme, and salt and pepper to taste.
3. Sautee vegetables over medium heat until they start to soften
4. Rinse and pat dry (separate halves if necessary) duck breast
5. With a sharp knife, score the duck skin in a cross-hatch pattern
6. Sprinkle salt and pepper all over breast, and pat lightly to adhere
7. Heat a heavy oven-proof skillet to medium heat.
8. Put duck breast in skin-side down and cook on stove until breasts are dark and crisped
9. Remove duck breasts from pan and pour off rendered fat. Strain the fat and put in sealed container in the fridge for use in other dishes.
10. Pour the vegetables into the pan the duck had been in.
11. Place duck breast over vegetables, skin-side up
12. While duck is cooking, reheat the cherry sauce, if made earlier
13. Place pan in the oven at 350F and bake duck for 40 minutes until a slice off the end of a piece shows the desired amount of doneness. A smaller end might be done a bit more than a larger end, so take that into consideration
14. Let duck rest for 5 minutes or so
15. Slice duck thin on the bias and place on a platter
16. Serve with vegetables and the sauce in a bowl on the side so everyone can sauce the duck themselves

Enjoy! And hope it doesn’t smell of burnt sweet potatoes that Norm had cooked up directly on the oven rack, missing the baking sheet that I put in specifically to catch that kind of thing.

Happy Curry Shop and a Chicken Curry Dish

April 15th, 2011

OK, when I was growing up, Mom would use grocery-store yellow curry powder in some dishes, and I really didn’t like the smell or taste of them. Occasionally, a restaurant will have a curry dish on the menu, and I get that same smell if I pass by a dish.

One evening at wine.woot.com , there was an offer of 4 spice blends from Mohini Indian Fusions, and knowing Norm’s penchant for spices and curries, I decided that I could live with the smell and bought them. I’ve smelled every one of them dry in the jars, and do not get a single whiff of that smell that I associate with curry. So I looked up recipes for yellow curry and found that fenugreek plays a pretty heavy role in the powder, but the Mohini blends list it last. I used the tandoori blend on sweet potato fries, and when the blend was dampened by the oil, I got the faintest whiff of fenugreek. I smelled it alone in the spice aisle, and it’s definitely the offending seasoning.

So, I read about Happy Curry in the paper, and it’s on the way home from my Chiropractor’s office in Keizer, so I had to stop by. After carefully reading labels, I picked up a couple of boxed blend for different foods, a box of garam masala, some “healing incense”, light coconut milk and a spicy snack mix called Hara Chiwda. An older gentleman explained that they also had frozen foods and took me to the back area where there were two household-type upright freezers. He pulled a tub out of one, and since I had already explained my aversion to fenugreek. I chose a tub of yellow curry paste, which is actually orange-ish and a little over a pound of frozen paneer. I was ready to roll!

So Norm sauteed his veggies in a separate pan, while boiling water for rotini pasta. In my cast iron skillet, I sauteed some garlic in peanut oil and a dollop of butter. I emptied a drained package of white chicken chunks (I know, but we didn’t have any “real” chicken on hand) and cooked until heated through. I added a heaping soup spoon of the curry paste which had thawed and mixed well. Then I poured in about ½ C of coconut milk and stirred until all was combined and hot throughout. I mixed mine with pasta, Norm did the same but with his veggies. I was absolutely thrilled with the flavor of the dish!

The gentleman at the shop described using paneer in curries, and it sounded very much like using firm tofu – sautee in oil, remove and set aside, cook veggies and sauce and add the cubes of paneer just to reheat through and serve.

We also picked up a couple of packages of chicken thighs today to experiment with.

This is going to be a very exciting journey of not-so-authentic, but definitely tasty curries!


Easy Mayonnaise: Immersion blender method

April 13th, 2011

When I discovered this after years of using immersion blenders (yes, I’m hard on them) my friends said: “Well, yeah. That’s been one of their selling points forever!” OK, so I’m slow. I use it in my Wild Rice Salad, chicken salad, sandwich spreads and as a base for fried seafood such as breaded spicy calamari rings.

If you’re concerned about raw egg, you can use pasteurized eggs in a carton, but make sure it has whole eggs, since the yolk is important here.

Choose a blender container that is just wider than the blender head, but not much wider. I use a big plastic tumbler.

You can easily double this, but unless your blender is very long, I wouldn’t triple it, or it might come up above where the blade head connects to the motor part. If you need more than 2 cups of mayo, make multiple batches.

1 egg
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
juice from ½ lemon
salt to taste
1 C light flavored oil, such as vegetable or canola (I found olive oil overpowering)

1. Put ingredients in blender container in order (it’s very important to have the egg on the bottom and oil on top
2. Put the immersion blender all the way to the bottom of the container
3. Turn on the blender and slowly raise it to the top of the mixture. Mayonnaise will be created from the bottom up
4. Blend around and up and down a few times to make sure the oil is incorporated (or the salt, since I seem to forget it every time)
5. Store in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to a week.


Tried Truvia in baking = success!

April 11th, 2011

OK, sugar doesn’t agree with me. Even the fig spread I made last week with no sugar at all didn’t work – too much natural sweetness in the figs….grrrr. I’ve really been wanting something sweet, since Norm has something to munch on every evening, and I can only watch!

I’ve got stevia liquid, but there are very few recipes out there that call for liquid, and it does taste pretty off.

So, after tons of web research and pricing, etc… I broke down and bought a jar of Truvia Spoonable sugar substitute. Truvia has a number of recipes on their website, but many still call for sugar. I used this recipe for Pumkin Cheesecake. I used just graham crackers and butter for the crust, and used full-fat dairy, since losing weight is not an interest at the moment – if anything I need to gain! Well, I had a slice for lunch today, and it was absolutely delicious! There was a faint aftertaste for maybe an hour, but not as strong or offensive as many of the substitutes out there, and it didn’t have the side effects of the other sugar alcohols!

On to ponder the next dessert!

Sweet Potato, Sausage and Cheese Empanadas

April 9th, 2011

My acupuncturist recommended eating more sweet potatoes (since it’s something I do eat). So we’ve been keeping them on hand and using them in a variety of ways. This recipe has a few steps that need to be done ahead of time, so I’ll write it in order of preparation. Oh, and again, your amounts of crust to sweet potato may vary. The seasonings in the mix can be altered to your taste, and the sausage can be omitted if you want a vegetarian version. For me, this recipe made 13 empanadas that were 4-5 inches long.

To cook Sweet Potatoes:
1. Preheat oven to 350F
2. Wash 2 medium sweet potatoes and prick skins all over with a fork
3. Place sweet potatoes on a foil-lined pan and bake at 350F for 30 minutes or so, or until the skin starts to look shrivelled or sunken
4. Allow to cool and store in the refrigerator

Cook Sausage
1. Remove the skin from 3 maple breakfast sausage links
2. Crumble the sausage in a skillet heated to medium-low
3. Cook until browned through
4. Reserve any fat rendered off and let cool

¾ Cup All Purpose Flour
1 tsp Salt
½ egg (mix in custard cup and reserve other half for later in the recipe)
6 oz chilled butter, cut into cubes
¼ – ½ C cold water

1. In a small food processor (or by hand, if you’re so inclined) mix flour and salt
2. Add the ½ egg and butter and process until incorporated
3. Add water a couple of tablespoons at a time and pulse until the dough comes away from the sides of the bowl and can be shaped
4. Knead the dough a couple of times and press into a disk
5. Wrap dough in plastic wrap
6. Chill dough for at least 20 minutes

Now for the main event!


2 medium Sweet Potatoes, cooked
1 tsp Cumin
salt and pepper to taste
½ tsp Todd’s Crabby Dirt
3 Maple Breakfast Sausage links, meat cooked
1 ½ C shredded Cheese (I used Queso Cotija)
1 recipe Empanada Dough
½ Egg

1. Preheat oven to 400F.
2. Remove the skins from the sweet potatoes (it should slip right off) and mash the innards in a medium bowl.
3. Mix in cumin, salt, pepper, Dirt and sausage until evenly incorporated.
4. Remove a piece of dough about the size of a walnut and re-cover the remaining dough.
5. On a floured work surface, roll the dough out until it’s a circle about 1/4” thick – should be about 6 inches across
6. Place a heaping 2 Tbsp of sweet potato mix across the center
7. Place a Tbsp of shredded cheese on top of the mix and press to keep them together
8. With your finger tips, moisten outer edges of the dough with warm water (I moved the whole thing to a separate place for this, to keep my work surface dry)
9. Fold the dough in half, keeping the filling away from the edges
10. Press the edges together and crimp with a fork
11. Placed on a foil-lined baking sheet
12. Brush the top crust of the empanadas with the remaining ½ egg
13. Bake the empanadas at 400F for about 30 minutes or until they start to turn golden on top and around the edges


Wild Rice Salad

April 2nd, 2011

This was a huge hit at a family dinner last night – yeah, I should have taken a picture! Next time I grab a serving, I’ll take a pic.

I used hand-harvested wild rice bought from Northern Minnesota. I had this dish once on a drive to Duluth – yummy! For this, I also made my own mayonnaise with my immersion blender, using Dijon mustard and lemon juice. It made a looser mayo than store-bought, so you could probably thin store-bought down with milk or buttermilk or something.

4 cup wild rice (cooked)
¼ cup onion
½ cup celery
1 cup cashews
1 ½ cup green grapes (cut in half or quarters if really big)
1 lg. Apple (diced)
1 ½ cup of cubed turkey breast (cooked)
1 cup of real mayonnaise
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
Toss all together, chill for 2 hours. Serves 6-8

My Fast Food Guilty Pleasures

March 29th, 2011

As I believe I mentioned, I don’t get hungry, although in the last few days, that may be coming back – Yay! I get occasional cravings, but usually for something I can’t eat, like cheesecake. Other times, it’s fast food of the meat variety. My digestive system sometimes rebels against it, but at this point, it rebels against just about everything, so what the heck, why not indulge. I need the protein and calories. So I’ll list those things I’ll go out of my way (but not very far – it is Salem, after all) to get when on sale, or are cheap to start with. I go through the drive thru so I don’t get caught eating the junk!

1. McDonald’s Cheeseburgers: Back when I had a whole stomach, these were a 3 bite snack. Now, one is a whole meal. I get them home, remove the pickle slice(s) and about half of the onions, re-wrap and nuke for 20 seconds. I usually hate hate hate onions, but this just wouldn’t be the same without those re-hydrated bits. (note to self: look for dehydrated onions to add to my own burgers) And at $1 each, I can pick up one for immediate consumption and one for later.
2. McDonald’s Hot & Spicy Chicken Sandwich: This isn’t currently listed on their website, and I usually only notice it when they’re showing on sale on the readerboard. These days, I have some issues with spicy foods, but for some things (like fried calamari), the discomfort is worth it.
3. Arby’s Beef and Cheddar: Again, this wouldn’t be the same without onions. The combination of meat product, cheese product, Arby’s Sauce, and onion bun is just what I need some times!
4. Taco Time Crisp Meat Burrito: Crunchy fried tortilla around seasoned ground mystery meat. I usually get a couple of these. I eat one in the car on the way home and eat the second with Taco Time Original Sauce at home.
5. Taco Time Soft Combo Burrito: That seasoned ground mystery meat, refried pinto beans and shredded cheese. If I’m feeling especially naughty (or if they offer), I get it with sour cream inside. This requires Taco Time Original Sauce poured over every bite. These days, one of these makes two meals.

McDonalds and Arby’s are pretty close to me, so they can be a little out of the way, or on my way home.

Unfortunately (or fortunately!) the last remaining Taco Time in town is on the other side of town, on Lancaster, a high traffic (for Salem) area, so usually I need to be there for other things before I’ll stop in. They don’t have the bottles of Taco Sauce, or participate in the Day of the Week sale items, but maybe none of them do anymore. Mom and Dad got me a Taco Time Gift Card for Christmas, but the one time I tried to use it, the phone line was busy with someone inside using a debit card, so I still have it in my wallet. I found the one in Stayton after it moved, so at least I can stop there twice a year after my dentist appointments in Sublimity.

Almost Sugar-Free Pear Tart

March 25th, 2011

Pear Tart

Pear Tart

Almost Sugar-Free Pear Tart

If you’re very sensitive to sugar, the pears add natural sweetness that may be too much.

1 C All-purpose flour
½ C cold butter, cut into small pieces
1 Tbsp Granulated Sugar
1 Egg
1 Tbsp Water

1. Preheat oven to 350F.
2. In a food processor (I was able to use my mini one). Pulse flour and butter until evenly distributed.
3. Add sugar and pulse until mixed
4. Gently mix egg with water and add to flour mixture and blend until mixed and a bit sticky.
5. Remove dough from food processor and knead to bring together.
6. Wrap in plastic and chill at least 20 minutes or until ready to use.
7. Before filling, roll out to fit a buttered or sprayed 9” or 10” cake pan, coming up the sides to the top (will shrink when baked).
8. Poke holes in the bottom of the crust with a fork and blind bake for 10 minutes.

10 dried pears (or fresh pear halves)
2 Tbsp dark molasses
1 pinch salt
1 pinch cardamom
1 pinch ground nutmeg
1 pinch ground cloves
2 Cups water
1 ½ C cornstarch
1/3 C lightly sweetened granola

1. Bring everything but pears to a boil in a large sautee pan then reduce to a simmer.
2. Place pear halves in a single layer in the pan
3. If using dried pears, simmer until pears become soft and expand a bit, turning occasionally. If using fresh pears, simmer until cooked and spices are soaked in. (I used dried, so I’m not sure of the timing for fresh). If necessary on the dried pears, add more water.
4. When pears are done, carefully remove with tongs or a slotted spoon and place in a single layer in the cooled tart shell.
5. If necessary, add water to what’s left of the simmering liquid to make about ½ C liquid.
6. Mix together 1 ½ Tbsp water and 1 ½ Tbsp cornstarch in a custard cup and slowly mix into pan liquids.
7. Keep simmering, turning up heat if necessary and cook until thickened
8. Pour sauce over pears evenly
9. Sprinkle granola evenly over top
10. Bake at 350F for 25-30 minutes until edges are browned and sauce bubbles a bit
11. Cool on rack


Breakfast Quinoa

March 19th, 2011
Breakfast Quinoa

Breakfast Quinoa with Dried Fruits

My acupuncturist suggested that I eat quinoa. I don’t think I really have eaten it since living in Ecuador. I read up on recipes and cooking instructions, and all of the add-ins I was thinking of pointed to something on the sweeter side.

1 ½ C Quinoa, rinsed and drained a bit
3 C water
1 C dried fruit – I used dried bing cherries and raisins
1 Tbs orange zest
2 Tsp grated ginger
1 pinch cardamom

(again, I didn’t measure as I mixed everything but the quinoa and water in a bowl, so I’m guessing at relative amounts)

1. For a nuttier taste, toast quinoa in a large skillet until it starts to turn golden (the rinse water will dry out here).
2. Mix all of the add-ins together in a bowl.
3. Bring water to a boil in a pot.
4. Drop in quinoa and add-ins
5. Reduce to a simmer, partially cover with a lid, and let simmer for 20 minutes.
6. Fluff with a fork and serve!

Leftovers can be reheated in the microwave.
If the fruit is sweet enough, no additional sweeteners are needed. Mine was plenty sweet.
Quinoa varies in it’s water absorption. I’ve read that at 2:1, people end up with mushy or wet quinoa, so I started with ½ Cup less than called for and added more at about the half-way point.


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