Thursday, August 20, 2015

Bran Muffins

Bran Muffins can be a great start to the day or a treat anytime.  Of course, these are not for people who need gluten free but they are a good choice for daily whole grain with lots of healthy fiber that your body needs!
 I have been limiting carbs for a while but my cholesterol went up so I am adding carbs that have a good ratio of fiber to carbohydrate starch and sugar. For me, the jury is still out on how to lose weight and keep healthy while doing it but I don’t think the high protein low fiber diet is as great as I hoped it would be. I did lose six pounds but my blood tests did not look so good so back to the drawing board!
This recipe does have a decent dose of sugar in it, and you can cut it back, but I want to make something people will actually like to eat and these bran muffins are so good that I am often asked to make them. Sweetness does help. But feel free to dial back the brown sugar to 2 or 3 TBSP and the molasses to 1/3 to ½ cup and leave out the dates if you are trying to keep these lower in calories or with less sugar.

Bran Muffins

¾  cup flour, unbleached
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/4 cup wheat  bran*
3 TBSP flax meal
1/3- ½ cup brown sugar
½  tsp salt
1 ¼ tsp soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1 cup milk or buttermilk and 1 cup yogurt OR 2 cups buttermilk
1 egg
3 TBSP melted butter or oil
2/3 cup molasses
½ cup applesauce
½ cup crushed pineapple, well drained
1/3 cup dates, finely chopped, optional

Preheat oven to 350
In a large bowl combine flour bran, sugar, salt, and soda. Mix well. In another bowl add buttermilk, egg molasses butter or oil, applesauce, pineapple and dates. Add the wet ingredients all at once and blend together just until well mixed but don’t over stir.
Grease or line muffin tins and fill about 2/3 full. Bake about 20 minutes.
This makes about 24 regular size muffins.
*It can be a little hard to find wheat bran. I found it at Natural Grocers so perhaps you will need to look at more natural type stores.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Meatballs with Sauces for Appetizer or Main Dish

Here is my favorite recipe for meatballs with various sauces.   This recipe makes light and tasty little meatballs that are great appetizers especially in a favorite sauce. They are also delicious additions to spaghetti or soup. These are good served  over rice and veggies drizzled in a sweet and sour sauce too! I like making these for appetizers with an easy sauce. I have included a couple different ways to serve these tasty meatballs at the end of the recipe. My favorite is the simple Saucy Meatball Appetizer. This is easy to make a usually a hit. I know that grape jelly seems like an odd inclusion but it really does work. If you want it even simpler just use the jelly and chili sauce, which is a popular recipe found many places.

I have been hesitant to put this recipe up here because it has so many optional ideas but if you are okay with making some choices I think you will enjoy the basic ideas here!  :-) 

This recipe is meant to be a guideline, feel free to adjust and play with it.  It makes a large amount but it can easily be cut down or increased. The recipe calls for 1 lb of meat and 1/3 of each of the other ingredient so it is easy to adjust the amount. These freeze very well, both cooked and uncooked! So it is a good idea to make the full recipe and keep some on hand for a quick meal later!

Meatballs with  Sauces for Appetizer or Main Dish

3 lb. ground meat I prefer ground beef, 90% lean (It is optional to substitute ½ to1 lb or more lean turkey or chicken or sausage in mix.)

2 -3   eggs -- well beaten
1-1 ½   cup panko bread crumbs, dried or fresh bread crumbs* or cracker crumbs,--Whole grain choices work great!
2 TBSP water
 2- 3    cloves garlic, pressed or minced, or 2 tsp crushed garlic paste
1 onion, minced, ( skip if you hate onion J )
½  cup or so  ketchup
  2 -3  tsp  salt or seasoning salt (less if you add salty cheese or soy sauce or if you want lower sodium)
 1 ½ - 2   tsp ground pepper
  2 tsp dried herbs, thyme and marjoram, or any desired  herb blend (Greek, Italian, Asian whatever flavor you need) or use 3 TBSP fresh herbs if desired
Optional add-ins---Choose one or more of these if you like, but make sure they are go well together and compliment the flavor you are hoping to achieve and the sauce you use.
1/2   bell pepper, minced – optional
3 TBSP Fresh parsley mint or basil, minced
 1- 2   tsp onion powder
            1/2 tsp Nutmeg, freshly grated
           3 tsp+ Worcestershire sauce
3 tsp +soy or teriyaki sauce
1-2+  tsp, crushed red pepper
1-2+ tsp of hot sauce or Sriracha
3 tsp ginger paste
            2-3  tsp. balsamic vinegar

    Mix all ingredients except meat in a very large bowl. As soon as everything is well blended, mix in meat and blend thoroughly but gently. It is best to use your hands rather than a spoon for this. I put on food service gloves but clean hands are fine. Do not over mix or mixture will be tough.

 Preheat oven to 400 degrees or use convection oven at 375 F,  

Using small scoop or spoon, gently form 1 to  1  ½ " balls.  The size can be adjusted to how you are using them. Scoop half to full scoop and slightly press it into scoop and move it around a few times.  Keep it light, don’t smash or press too firmly.

Cover a baking sheet in foil or parchment paper. Place the meatballs on baking sheet; they can be close but not touching.

 Bake about 15 minutes until browned and firm but, not too dry.  Check inside one or use thermometer to make sure they are done.

You may also cook in a fry pan with a bit of olive oil to prevent sticking. Over medium heat add oil and meatballs.  Don’t overcrowd pan and don’t turn often, just let them brown and then turn.

 Generally this will make somewhere around 60 meatballs.

Once they are cooked you may place them in whatever sauce you choose or you can serve these with a warm barbeque or sweet and sour sauce to dip in.


ITALIAN VARIATION- Try 2 lbs. beef and 1 lb. hot or sweet Italian sausage.  If desired,  add and 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese, an extra tsp. of Italian seasoning, 1-2 extra cloves of garlic, and perhaps a 1 tsp. crushed fennel seed , optionally, to the meatball recipe.   I use these with a marinara or other tomato based sauce.  I like Italian style with spaghetti or other pasta or as a nice sandwich with melted mozzarella.

   SAUCY MEATBALL APPETIZER- This recipe can be increased just use 1 lb. of meat or one third of the total recipe per this amount of sauce. If using the whole meatball recipe then triple the sauce amounts.  Combine the following in large pot or a slow-cooker and cook until bubbly---    - 1/3 to ½ cup chili sauce, 10 oz. grape jelly, ¼ to 1/3 cup barbeque sauce, 1/2  tsp smoked paprika and ½ tsp garlic powder or 1 tsp of garlic paste. If you want it spicier you could use 1-2 tsp of Asian garlic chili paste or 1 tsp or a few drops of Sriracha . Heat cooked meatballs in sauce. Serve warm from crock pot or pan.

CRANBERRY SPICY- SWEET MEATBALLS- Make a batch of meatballs but use only about half  or less of the onion, herbs and garlic in the meatball mix. These are nice with plenty of parsley in the meatball mix. Then use half of the meat balls for this dish and freeze the rest. Combine the following in large pot or a slow-cooker: 1Tbsp. brown sugar, 2  tsp. lemon juice, 1-2 tsp. balsamic vinegar, 1 16 oz. can jellied cranberry sauce, 1 cup chili sauce, 1-2 tsp Sriracha,  1 tsp or more ginger paste, optional.   Serve as appetizer or over rice.

Dried Bread Crumbs --To make dried bread crumbs, use French, Italian or other bread that is slightly stale. Slice and cube. Heat in the oven until fairly dry or toast carefully under broiler. Break into fine crumbs in food processor or by hand. You may wish to add a couple tsp. of dried herbs to season them. Store cooled crumbs in air tight container. You may freeze them.

TO FREEZE MEATBALLS- Place cooked or raw meatballs on a cookie sheet lightly cover them with plastic wrap or clean foil. Place on freezer shelf until frozen. If using foil you may wrap them up in foil (which you could later use for reheating)  and then package in Ziploc freezer bags  and store for up to three months. To Thaw, unwrapped and lay uncooked meatballs on a tray in fridge and then bake. Allow cooked meatballs to thaw partially then heat them in sauce or for a few minutes until hot in oven . 

Recipe By Denise Birdsall

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Make-ahead Baked Peach French Toast

Colorado palisade peaches are in season so it is the perfect time to make this Peach French toast. What a delightfully sweet and satisfying brunch dish! This Baked French toast is extra nice because it is a make ahead recipe that is put together the night before and left in the refrigerator so that the flavors meld! It is awesome to have a delicious breakfast ready without having to prepare it in the morning.
 There are two ways you can make this French toast. I sometimes make this with the bread on the top like I did today. But this recipe is also great with bread as a bottom layer with the egg mixture and then the peaches placed on top.

Make-ahead Baked Peach French Toast

5-6 peaches
2/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup butter, unsalted
½ tsp vanilla
1 tsp cinnamon
2-3 tsp. corn starch blended into 1-2 tsp of water

9-12 slices of French bread, about 1 “ thick, enough to  cover the 9x 13 baking dish. Alternatively, bread may be torn into cubes.

6 eggs
½ cup whole milk
½ cup half and half
1 TBSP  sugar
1 tsp vanilla
¼ tsp nutmeg
½ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp salt

First peel the peaches by washing them, and place them in a pot of boiling water for 1-2 minutes and then transfer them to a bowl of ice water. Remove the peaches and then slip the peach skin off.  Slice peaches into about ½ “ slices.

Heat butter in pan, add brown sugar and stir until dissolved and then add peaches, spices and vanilla. Add corn starch to water and mix before stirring it into peach mixture.
Pour peaches into 9 x 13 inch baking pan.

The bread slices may be torn into pieces or left in slices.
Press bread slices or pieces on to peach mixture.

Beat eggs and mix in milk, cream, sugar and vanilla and pour over bread. Sprinkle with spices. Cover tightly and place in refrigerator overnight or for about 8 hours.

In the morning, remove the pan from the refrigerator and let it come to room temperature while preheating oven to 350.   Bake uncovered for 30 to 35 minutes until puffy, toasty  and golden brown.

Serve immediately with maple syrup or whipping cream if desired.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Creamy Easy Lemon Curd

    Lemon curd is a delight!  It is a creamy, tangy, sweet, custard-like topping or spread. It can be used in tarts or pies, on cakes or scones, with fruit, or just eaten up by itself!!


       As I am writing this I am spooning up the last remnants of a batch I recently made for my daughter’s bridal Tea. This batch was simply perfection. But I must confess, I have made many batches that were indeed less than perfect. I want to share with you ( and to remind myself as well) what I did this time that seemed to work so well in creating silky, sweet-tart, creamy lemon goodness!

       I have most often used lemon curd recipes that I found from Ina Garten and more recently one from Alton Brown . Both of these are on and I look to both of them often when I need a recipe!  The recipes each has for lemon curd are rather different from each other.

      Ina Garten’s recipe found on  makes a wonderful light, tart curd that has a nice body and is fairly easy to make. She begins with processing lemon zest into sugar and then transferring this to a mixing bowl and creaming with butter before adding whole eggs then lemon juice. She then cooks this all up in a saucepan over low heat.

       Alton Brown whisks egg yolks and sugar over a double boiler then adding juice and zest and finally removing from heat and adding cut up butter.

        I have had pretty good luck with Ina Garten’s recipe and it often turns out perfect but there have been times that some of the egg white cooked into bits that ruined the smooth texture. However, I think I like the method of creaming the butter and sugar and then adding eggs and lemon before cooking it in a pan rather than over boiling water. I think it comes out creamier and is less inclined to separate. Ina’s recipe is easy to make but I wanted to try some other options.

        I like how Alton Brown’s recipe uses egg yolks. So I wanted to try Ina’s recipe with all yolks or 4 yolks and 1 whole egg. I also wanted to strain the curd after it was done because as fine as I get the lemon zest, it still added a bit of graininess to the finished texture and I wanted the curd to be velvety smooth.

        So here is my latest recipe for super creamy, not too tart lemon curd born from the blending of the lemon curd recipes from two of my favorite chefs.

         While searching for how all yolks or all whole eggs effects lemon curd recipes, I came across this article just now and it has some good information in it about making a fool-proof lemon curd--

Check it out!!

       It says that eggs whites cook at a lower temperature and so are more prone to coagulation. This is the science behind using all yolks and some people also think that the flavor is better with yolks. I also like to use yolks because I can then have the whites to make something else that can go along with lemon curd like meringue or angel food cake!

Creamy Easy Lemon Curd

About 3 large lemons (or 4 smaller ones)
1½ cups sugar
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature
5 large egg yolks
½ cup lemon juice
pinch of salt

Zest the lemons.  I like to use a fine plane grater or a small zester and grate just the yellow outer peel, not the white pith. If the pieces of zest are too large you may chop with a knife. I large food processing bowl add sugar and lemon zest and pulse until well blended.

Pour this lemon sugar into the bowl of a mixer and add butter. Cream together until light and fluffy. Add egg yolks one at a time and mix well. Add salt and lemon juice and beat until everything is well mixed. It may look grainy or even curly but it is okay.

Pour into a saucepan over low heat and cook while stirring often until lemon mixture reaches around 170 degrees using a candy thermometer or just below a simmer. The curd should be thickening, creamy and shiny smooth.  This will take around 20 minutes. Remove from heat .

Place a sieve over a glass bowl; the sieve does not have to be too fine. Press lemon curd through the sieve. If you don’t need it to be too creamy you could skip this step.

Store covered in refrigerator for up to a week or it can be frozen for a month or two.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Quick and Easy Chicken and Veggie soup

I think that Chicken Soup is the best medicine! I was sick this weekend and I really wanted some homemade chicken soup. But I did not have the energy to be up trying to cook a batch of my famous chicken soup that takes hours to make and lots of effort!

I knew I had a package of Red Bird organic lean ground chicken in the fridge that needed to be used so I decided to make a quick Chicken Meatball soup. I put on a mask and scrubbed my hands ( so my family could have some soup without my cold germs :-)  and put this together  in just a few minutes! It simmered a bit and was wonderful! I even sent my sweet husband off to buy a box of organic, free range low sodium broth and he came back so happy that he found it! Anyway, this soup was delicious, even without homemade broth and helped me feel so much better.

I love the Redbird brand of chicken that is organic and their ground version is great for making this fast. I did not have to cut up chicken so this could come together easily and quickly. I did not even form the meatballs, I just used a spatula to cut the ground chicken into little squares and gently turned them to brown. You could form the meatballs for a prettier soup but this was just great and fits with the whole idea of quick and easy!!

I added all of my healing foods for a sore throat, congestion and cough....ginger, garlic, rosemary and lemon. I also included good nutrition with some sweet potato and hearty kale with the fresh goodness of parsley. Since I trying to limit carbs, I just added a little bit of pearl or Israeli couscous.I thought the round balls of couscous would go well with the meatballs.   I am normally all about the noodles in chicken soup I left them out because, I am so excited to say,  I am finally losing weight by limiting carbs and eating more protein! I could have skipped the couscous but since this is all I ate that day, I thought it would be okay to include it!

Quick and Easy Chicken Meatball Soup with Kale, 
Sweet Potato and Parsley

1 – 1 ½ lb. ground lean organic chicken, red bird preferred
1 TBSP ginger paste
2 tsp garlic paste or 3-4 cloves garlic pressed
1 tsp red pepper blend or other spice
1/2 tsp each of garlic powder and onion powder

½ tsp crushed rosemary
1 sweet potato, cut into thin, small pieces for quick cooking…   plus any other vegetable you prefer.
5-6 cups chicken broth, homemade or boxed, organic, low sodium
1 cup white wine or water
1-3 TBSP lemon juice, optional
6 large kale leaves, de-stemmed and chopped into bite size pieces
2/3 cup or more chopped parsley, flat leaf preferred
Salt and pepper to taste
½ cup cooked Israeli or pearl couscous or other small pasta or rice
garnish with extra parsley when serving

Brown ground chicken, breaking it into little square “meat balls” and gently turning occasionally to brown evenly. You may of course form meat balls but this quick method works for quick,easy soup J
Add ginger, garlic and spices.
Add sweet potato or any other vegetable that take a longer time to cook (carrots, potatoes, etc.). Sauté for 4 minutes.
Add broth and wine or water and lemon juice
Simmer till sweet potato is tender, about 15 minutes or so
Add kale; cook 1 -2 minutes until kale is tender. Add parsley or fresh herbs and remove from heat. Serve!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Oatmeal Pecan Lace Cookies--Delicious, Flour-less,Gluten-free and lower calorie cookies!!

These light, thin, lacy and chewy, crisp cookies are flour free so they can easily be made gluten free by using gluten free oats. They are best with butter but if they need to be lactose free they can be made with other oils. 

On top of that versatility, they are whole grain, high fiber and lower in calories than other oatmeal cookies because they do not have flour. This recipe is adapted from one my friend got from Weight Watchers, but I am not sure exactly where she got it. But I have adapted this and really love these chewy light cookies that are pretty and delightful! 

Best of all, the texture and flavor of these cookies are wonderful!!! 

Oatmeal Pecan Lace Cookies

2  1/3 cups uncooked rolled  quick oats (choose GF if needed)   *
1/3 cup old fashioned oats*
1 TBSP ground flax seed, optional
 1 cup dark brown sugar, packed      
 2 tsp baking powder    
¾  cup pecans, finely chopped or any other nuts ** 
½ tsp table salt      
2/3 cup unsalted butter, melted***    
2 large eggs, beaten    
1 tsp vanilla extract   

Preheat oven to 350ºF and cover 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper or silicon mats (Sil-Pats)

Mix oats, sugar, baking powder, pecans and salt together in a large bowl until well incorporated.

Add butter, egg and vanilla to oat mixture; mix well.

Refrigerate dough for at least 45 minutes or overnight.

Drop teaspoonful of batter onto prepared cookie sheets and slightly flatten each out, leaving at least 2-inches between each cookie.

Bake cookies until beginning to brown and edges turn golden brown, about 10 to 14 minutes. Leave them in the oven util nice and brown but they do go from perfect to very done quickly so keep an eye on them.  

Let cookies stand on cookie sheets for 2 minutes then carefully place on  cooling rack until completely cooled. These cookies are best eater soon after baking but may store in airtight container with layer of wax paper between cookies if needed. Be gentle with these cookies, they are delicate.

Yields 2 cookies per serving.

*For the oats I like to use mostly quick (not instant) oats. These are chopped a bit. If you only have larger old fashioned type oats put 2/3’s of them in the blender for a quick chop. I also add old fashioned oats for texture. You could add up to ½ cup or so if desired.
If you like the cookies denser, you could put half of the quick oats in the blender for a few seconds.
If you don’t have old fashioned use all quick oats.
**You can substitute any kind of nut for the pecans. I leave almond slices whole if I use almonds. Make sure to chop other nuts finely.
*** For dairy free use  2/3 cup of non-dairy margarine like smart balance or coconut oil Or a mix of one of these with a bit of shortening or olive oil.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Crispy Beer Battered Fish

Do you ever get a craving for light and crispy, delectably fried food?  Sometimes I feel like eating perfectly fried fish-- firm, tender, moist fish nestled in a golden brown crispy crust.
I don’t often fry things but I tried out a new recipe for battered fish that was just so very good!!!  If I am going to fry fish I want it to be crunchy and crispy and this recipe creates fried fish that is golden, light and crispy.

The other day, I saw a TV cooking show, called Cook’s country, which showed how to make delicious fish tacos. I learned some things about frying that I could try on other things too, like chicken, shrimp,  veggies or tofu. They used a beer batter which was a big part of why this fish turned out so well.

I recommend looking at this recipe
 because we made the fish tacos and 
they were awesomely good!  

Today I want to share the cook’s country method of frying up perfectly battered fish, just slightly modified, because it was amazing how well this turned out. I think the batter is a big reason why it turned out so well. I love the inclusion of corn starch because it makes the fish nice and crispy. The batter is just thick enough to form a protective barrier around the fish, keeping it moist. The beer gives everything such a nice flavor! I also think that allowing the oil to get very hot (350°) and stay at that temperature kept the fish from getting greasy or heavy.  This fish is great as fish and chips, fish sandwiches or fish tacos.

I was thrilled that I was able to fry up something that was not greasy or heavy and that tasted so good. I might not make this too often, as I don’t eat much fried food, but every once in a while this is a perfect comfort food.

Crispy Beer Battered Fish

1 ½ to 2 pounds firm,white fish such as cod, haddock, halibut, unfrozen,  skinless*

Salt and pepper
¾ cup flour
¼ cup corn starch
1 tsp baking powder
Salt, pepper, pinch of cayenne or Cajun spice
1 cup beer, dark porter works well

About a quart or so of peanut or vegetable oil.

If desired,  cut clean, fresh or thawed fish into smaller serving size pieces and dry each piece with paper towel. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Pour oil into a Dutch oven or deep  pan to the depth of at least  1 inch or more . Heat on medium high heat until oil is 350° or so.  (Use an electric skillet with programmable  temperature or use  a thermometer)

Blend the flour, corn starch, baking powder, salt, pepper and spice in a large bowl. Mix well and whisk in beer until batter is nice and smooth.

Drop the fish in to batter. Once oil is hot enough remove fish from batter, one piece at a time, letting  excess batter drip back into bowl.

Gently add fish to hot oil, one piece at a time with tongs, briefly dragging it through the top of the hot oil to set the batter. Let it drop and add next piece. Adjust the burner to keep temp at 350°—this is very important.

As fish is nicely browned, remove it to a wire rack placed on a baking sheet in a warm oven, about 200 degrees. Continue cooking fish until it is all done.

You may use this for fish tacos, fish and chips, fish sandwich…so much better than frozen and no preservatives or additives!

* Try this with chicken, tofu or veggies, etc