Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Experimenting with a white sauce that's low in saturated fat

All my heart doctors, and I have a slew, agree on one thing: keep saturated fat to a minimum. Fats, like olive oil, are not a worry. But saturated fats are another matter all together. In other words, watch that butter.

If you don't believe me, I'm not surprised. Lots of people don't. And that includes friends and relatives. They all quote articles like the one that ran in the local paper. It proclaimed that saturated fat was not bad for you. It was wrong.

Please read: Setting the record straight: It’s best to swap out saturated fats for healthier fats. You will discover that a new advisory from the American Heart Association (AHA) concluded that replacing saturated fats with unsaturated fats will lower the incidence of cardiovascular disease (CVD).

So tonight I decided to try and make a white sauce for my penne that did not rely on cream. I used four ounces of one percent milk and thickened the sauce with 50gr of chopped cauliflower, 1 Tbsp of instant potato flakes, and one minced garlic clove.

First, I quickly browned the garlic in some hot olive oil. This took but 30 seconds. I added the previously microwaved chopped cauliflower and stirred. After a couple of minutes, I added the milk and kept stirring with the heat set to low. I added the instant potato flakes and kept stirring. The sauce was soon thick enough for my purposes. I set the sauce aside in the still warm pot.

I put 150gr of penne in some fast boiling water and while the penne was cooking I heated some olive oil in a deep frying pan. With the oil hot, I added 7 ounces (200gr) of asparagus. The spears were cut into 3/4 inch long pieces. The asparagus was done just about the same time as the penne.

I put the cooked penne into the deep pan with the pan-grilled asparagus, added the warm white sauce, some salt and pepper, sprinkled on a little grated Parmesan and about a Tbsp of basil chopped into long, thin strips. I tossed all until everything was well mixed.

At the table I added some dried red pepper flakes but this is optional. My wife liked the dinner just as served, unless you count the extra grated Parmesan she added. If she were making a change, she said, it would be to add some chopped nuts, possibly pistachios.

This recipe is all my own. If it interests you, try it. But the reason I'm posting this is to encourage readers to strike out on their own. Set some goals and try to meet them. My goal was to serve a filling dinner for two that was not too high in points, my wife goes to Weight Watchers, and that contained very little saturated fat, while delivering lots of flavour.

I think I was successful. My wife agrees.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Even my wife has been liking the fish I cook

My wife likes to say she hates fish. She doesn't. She doesn't realize it but she doesn't hate fish. She hates poorly handled fish. Fish, as a rule, should not taste fishy. If it does, there is a problem.

I got a large bag of frozen sole containing more than two dozen small filets. Each serving works out to about $1.30 for two filets. This is affordable even for a senior.

Would you like to try it? Here's a link to the New York Times recipe I used: Sole Meuniere.

Note: My wife had some basil growing in her garden. I couldn't resist and at the table I sprinkled fresh chopped basil liberally on each serving. It looks a little messy but it tasted just fine.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Getting Kids to Eat

I am always on the lookout for recipes that I think would appeal to my granddaughters. The kids can be damn picky. Tonight I came across a penne with roasted cherry tomatoes recipe on the New York Times Cooking site. I think I might be able to sell this one to my little girls.

What makes this recipe so appealing is that it contains only seven ingredients: penne, cherry tomatoes, bread crumbs, olive oil, pecorino romano cheese or Parmesan, salt and pepper. Note: No spices and no herbs. This is a plus when cooking for kids.

Personally, I have a hate on for pasta with an abundance of sauce. This recipe does not call for any sauce at all. None. Just the fresh flavour of roasted cherry tomatoes and the clean flavour of pasta. This sounds good to me and I think it may also sound good to Fiona and Isla. I'll find out next week.

Another link to a fine New York Times recipe

I'm in a rut. I cook too much pasta.

I like pasta. My wife likes pasta. Pasta is both easy to make and exceedingly malleable. It can be the base of a fine vegetarian dinner one night and the base of a complex meat dish another evening. That said, it is still pasta.

I decided to force myself to make something without pasta. I went with a garlicky chicken with lemon-anchovy sauce recipe on the New York Times Cooking site. Click on the link to discover all the details.

And what did I serve with my chicken? Uh, rice. A pasta replacement.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Use it or lose it: good guidance for cooks

As I work my way through the recipes posted by the New York Times, I find I have lots of great ingredients remaining and begging to be used. Millions of dollars of food is wasted every year. Allowed to spoil and get tossed, this wasted food runs up food costs. I say use it or lose it.

To pare your food budget, a good place to start is food use management. For instance, I bought a bag of frozen cod at Costco. I saved money on the purchase by buying in bulk. I then did a search of my favourite food sites to find a number of recipes featuring cod.

I've been busy. But that big bag of frozen cod fillets is now down to one large piece of fish. Nothing will be wasted and the dinners were great and one was even memorable. Judy was particularly fond of the grilled cod recipe.

Another cod recipe used both olives and sweet red peppers. The picture at the top of this post shows the second time I served this dinner. I had served a warm olive appetizer a few days earlier and with all the ingredients on hand it just seemed reasonable to serve again my roasted cod with sweet peppers. I added some chunks of mushrooms both to add flavour and texture and to get rid of one more lingering ingredient.

So, eat well and keep costs down by keeping waste to a minimum.

Grilled Fish with Salsa Verde

A sprinkle of chopped pistachio nuts added a nice crunch and burst of flavour.

My wife loves using our outdoor grill. Well, actually she loves me using our outdoor grill. Why? Less mess and less heat in the kitchen. The fact that my wife rarely uses the grill, that it is usually me standing in front of the grill, is just one more appreciated perk in my wife's eyes.

I've heard that cod can be difficult to grill. The meat can be too soft, too flaky and possibly too moist. The risk is that the cod will disintegrate on the grill. Flip this fish with care. That said, the recipe called for cod and I had no problem grilling it as instructed.

I used a generous amount of olive oil to prevent the fillet from sticking to the hot grill. It didn't. I used a large, stainless steel flipper for lifting and a smaller one for holding it steady. From the picture, it is clear all went as planned.

Like so many of my recipes, this one comes from the New York Times Cooking online pages. Here is a link: Grilled Fish with Salsa Verde.

And the taste? My wife says she hates fish. I don't believe she does but she is convinced that fish usually tastes "fishy." I argue any off flavour is the result of poor handling after the fish was caught. Good fish should not taste off. And this fish didn't. My wife loved this recipe. She wants me to put fish on the grill more often.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Stir-Fried Sesame Shrimp and Spinach

I am absolutely loving the cooking pages posted by the New York Times. The recipes are often easy to follow and quite delicious. This stir-fried sesame shrimp and spinach served on a bed of brown rice was quick to make, 25 minutes, and wonderful to eat. I microwaved the asparagus right at the end and it was done in 45 seconds. This was an easy meal to get to the table on time.

The only downside to this recipe were the ingredients. I had to buy both the light and the dark (roasted) sesame oil, plus the sesame seeds (I opted for roasted seeds) and I even had to buy some crushed dried red chili. I had some chili in the kitchen cupboard but it was too old and I feared the flavour would have faded.

I spent a lot on those ingredients. I'll have to find stuff to make in the near future that uses these ingredients. I don't want all this stuff to follow the same path as the out-of-date chili that got tossed.

The next time I make this I'm going to make a few small changes. I'm going to increase the amount of minced ginger. I'll use about 1/2 a Tbsp more. Also, I'm going to put a small bowl of crushed dried red chili on the dinner table. My wife thought this dish was hot enough but I didn't. I sprinkled some chili onto the meal at the table. This approach kept both my wife and me happy.

If you didn't notice the link to the New York Times and the posted recipe, here it is again. Enjoy:
Stir-fried Sesame Shrimp and Spinach.