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Monthly Archives: August 2013

Split Pea Soup and Irish Soda Bread

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So, in light of yesterday’s tell-all post, I woke up in a great mood. That is not to say we had a great day; first thing, I see blood on the floor, and I know it’s from the big girl, Lucy (one of the “Two Dogs”). This, of course, freaks me out, because for the past few days, her legs have been going out. I inspect her, and find that it’s a coming from a small sore, so nothing life threatening, but heartbreaking nonetheless. Then I try to get her back legs under her, since she is struggling to stand, and failing miserably.

This does not go as planned.

I put my hands under her hips and lift. I get her legs underneath her temporarily, but pushing on her abdomen before she has had a chance to do her business outside… and a log escapes. She is immediately panicked, because she knows she is not supposed to go in the house, and I have to reassure her that she is, in fact a good girl. I have her lay back down, and wonder what the hell to do next.

First, I call my walking buddy, who I know is on her way to my house. I ask if she’ll help me carry Lu outside once she gets here, and she automatically agrees. I get off the phone with her, and call Mr. Going-To-Ride-the-Height-of-Mt.-Everest. Lu was his dog before she was ours, so I make sure to keep him extra updated on her. I tell him what is going on, and he says, “Can you drag her out on her dog bed?”

Uh, dur. I should have thought of that. But it’s a brilliant idea, and I decide to go for it.

After a few very worried looks from both Lu and Cooper, who is prancing around us like, “Hey, what’s going on? Why are you doing that? Is this play? I am very skeptical of this whole affair”, we finally get Lucy outside.

So far, Lucy has been okay. Just okay, but hanging in there. She’s moving without assistance now that I gave her Tramadol and Glucosamine, but it’s slow, and frankly, I’m not rushing her. She’s almost 14, which is old for a lab, and unfortunately, this is a chronic condition that we have been to the vet for already. There is no cure, except to make her comfortable, and hope she bounces back. She did the last time, so we’ll see.

With all that being said, I am still in a really good mood. I think, in part, because my focus on eating has been twofold today: getting in the right amounts of protein, vitamins, and minerals rather than looking at calories, and getting enough water. Seriously, look up how much water you should be drinking, I think you’ll be surprised.

Now, onto the recipe.

Like I just said, I have been focusing today on my nutritional intake rather than my caloric intake. I had already been planning on making Split Pea Soup, as I am trying out recipes for when Baking Baby gets here. I looked at vegetarian recipes, and found a few that looked promising, but I was after something simple and healthy. I prepped all the ingredients last night, popped them in the fridge, and dumped them into my slow cooker this morning. It really doesn’t get a lot easier than that. This soup is high in dietary fiber (about 19 grams), protein (again, about 19 grams), vitamin A, and Iron. As for the Irish Soda Bread, it seemed a sin to NOT serve this soup with a nice, crusty loaf of bread, and I wasn’t about to go to the store for a loaf, when I know just how dead easy it is to make this bread. Even the bread is high in protein (10 grams), and it is whole wheat.  One serving of both the bread (which is about a quarter of a loaf) and the soup (which serves 6) adds up to about 500 calories total, so you can feel good about having something that is filling and wholesome.

 

Split Pea Soup with Irish Soda Bread

For the Soup:

1 lb (aka 16 oz.) of dried split peas

6 cups water or vegetable broth (or be bad like me and use chicken broth)

Half a large yellow onion, chopped

3 large carrots, chopped

3 ribs celery, chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 tbsp Herbes de Provence

1 tbsp sea salt

1 ½ tsp. ground pepper

1 ½ tsp. chili powder or flakes

 

For The Bread:

4 ½ cups whole wheat flour, plus more for dusting

1 tbsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

4 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into small cubes

1 ¾ cups buttermilk (or just under that plus 1 tbsp vinegar, allowed to curdle for 10 minutes)

1 egg

 

Method:

1. In a large crock pot or slow cooker over low heat, add in all the soup ingredients. Cover, and let cook for 6-8 hours, stirring occasionally. Serve. No, you’re not missing any steps, it really is that easy. You don’t even have to stir it if you don’t want to.

2. About an hour before the soup is done, preheat your over to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Using a fork, cut in the butter, pressing it into the flour until it resembles a coarse crumb. In a separate bowl, add together the buttermilk and the egg, whisking to combine.

3. Pour the wet mixture into the dry ingredients, and stir until it forms a sticky dough. Dust with a handful of flour, and knead until it forms a soft, smooth dough, dusting with additional flour only if necessary.

4. Form the dough into two equal balls, and place both on a baking tray. Press an “X” into the top of each. This is not just for looks, trust me. Bake for 35 minutes, or until the top is golden brown, and the loaf sounds hollow if you “knock” on the bottom. Let cool slightly, and serve alongside the soup.

Ravioli and Kale in Chive Garlic Sauce

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Today has had its ups and downs. A great way to start your morning is not getting on the scale, nevertheless, it’s a ritual now. I figure it keeps things consistent, at least, to have one set time to check these things. Mr. Brings-Me-Jamba-Juice-Because-He-Knows-I’m-Having-A-Bad-Day frequently tells me that you have to look at weekly trends rather than daily fluctuations. Nope, still doesn’t help.

Needless to say, I was not where I wanted to be. I’m trying to gain that perfect amount of weight, but my pregnancy with Monkeybear proved how seemingly impossible that is. The only reason I gained just 35 pounds was because I got the stomach flu at 34 weeks, which is obviously not the right way to go about things. Things like that can induce pre-term labor, which I am decidedly not interested in.

It’s hard to break the cycle of obsession with regards to weight gain or loss. On one hand, you count every single calorie you consume, down to the last single pistachio, because 5 calories makes all the difference (not really). At the same time though, this vicious cycle does by no means bring about happiness. True, you may be at the weight you want to be at the next day, but that doesn’t mean you get to stop. Oh no. That is just confirmation that you need to keep doing what you’re doing, because it is giving you the results you want. And if it isn’t, then it’s your fault, because you were not strict enough with yourself.

As for me, I have not just my life at play, but another’s as well. So every day, I get more panicked as the scale creeps up, though I know logically that it is not only healthy, but normal to gain weight during pregnancy. My mother-in-law has told me about her pregnancy with her oldest, the entirety of which was in Germany. The German doctor told her that she was only allowed to gain 17 pounds total, if I am recalling this all correctly. This was, of course, the 1970s, so things have changed. There are new standards, and more research has been done. I do not want this pregnancy to be like that. Or like it has been, for that matter. Obsessing about how many calories I am consuming, or burning off, just so that I hit that perfect 25 pounds. The agonizing about, “Well, If I eat this now, it means I can only have celery and raisins for dinner” (an exaggeration, but you get the point).

While thinking about tonight’s dinner, I knew I only had about 400 calories to play around with, considering that I took a nap instead of doing my hour and a half yoga routine I usually do while the Little Sir takes his nap. I started with the worrying about which ravioli I should choose; one sounded better, but the other one was lower calorie overall. And then it hit me.

It isn’t about the calories, really. It’s about eating healthy; making sure that the baby currently baking and I are getting vitamins, minerals, protein, and healthy fats we need. While being pregnant does not get me a free pass to eat for two, it does put the responsibility on me to make sure that I am giving both of us the right fuel.

I ended up choosing the lower calorie of the two ravioli’s I purchased, not because it was lower calorie, but because it was higher in protein, lower in saturated fat, and had more vitamins than the other type. I bought the packages of the premade fresh raviolis, but if you have a recipe for homemade, absolutely use it. If you have a brand or flavor you like, use it. A serving of this, as I made it, has about 400 calories, which is great. But don’t stress about it; that is my lesson for the day. If you worry constantly about small things, it makes it harder to recognize the small, everyday miracles. Like sending your son’s kisses to his daddy through the phone.

Ravioli and Kale in Chive Garlic Sauce

Serves 4

Ingredients:

16 oz. ravioli

½ c starchy cooking water, reserved

2 c. kale, ribs removed

2 tbsp unsalted butter

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon chives, minced

Splash of white wine

Salt and pepper to taste

Method:

1. Cook your ravioli according to package or individual recipe instructions. Drain, reserving ½ c of the cooking water for the sauce.

2. In a saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add in the garlic and chives, and cook for 1 minute, stirring frequently. Add the kale, and stir to coat. Cover the pan and cook for 8-10 minutes, or until the kale is fully wilted down.

3. Add a splash of white wine and a splash of the starchy cooking water and cook until it thickens slightly. You may not use all the cooking water you reserved. Stir in the ravioli and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Asian Fish Platter

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Our household has been prepping madly for Ironman Lake Tahoe.

This means that every spare moment of my husband’s time is devoted to getting in as many open water swims as possible, doing as much maintenance on his bike as can be conceived, testing out new gear, nailing down nutrition, roping friends into riding next to him while he runs so that it isn’t so mind-numbingly boring, and, like he did Saturday, riding the Ironman course as much as he can.

After only a few interrupted hours of sleep, Mr. Pre-race Madman and I get up at some ungodly hour, and start getting ready. Now I know what you’re thinking. He’s choosing to get up and do this. Why am I going? Well, dumbass me thought it’d be a great way to spend the day.

So we get up, throw stuff in the car, and head up into the hills with our friend Don riding shotgun, and of course, the Monkeybear. About an hour outside of Truckee, however, we have to stop, because mornings, winding roads, and Monkeybears are NOT, as we say in our household, “an excellent combination.” I won’t go into details, but suffice it to say, we will be driving up Highway 80 to go to Tahoe from now on.

So now I have to wrestle with a pukey Monkeybear, while exhausted and increasingly round-bellied, in a town I’ve never been to, earlier than most normal establishments are open. Joyous.

I park Monkeybear and myself in a hole-in-the-wall diner. I down a few cups of full-caffeine coffee, a bowl of fruit, and the portion of the pancake that Monkeybear didn’t eat. He, his stomach obviously empty, devours two sausages, some pancake, and half a Pemmican bar. The coffee only serves to heighten the rawness from the fatigue, and put me on edge. I have known for years that caffeine and I are not friends, so this is entirely my fault. Thankfully, the waitresses are very friendly, flirt with the Little Sir, and I have a few moments to mentally prepare myself for the rest of the day.

Truckee is a very pretty town, and by mid-morning, I am ably to consciously recognize that. We get to see lots of bike riders, dogs, and a train come into the station. Around that time, Don decides that he is done with his ride, and Mr. Madman continues on.

Don and I talk for a few hours about a wide variety of topics; he is from a Criminal Justice background like I am, so the topics bounce all around there, and head off into his current job, which has absolutely nothing to do with either his bachelor’s nor his almost-master’s degree. We talk recipes, flavor combinations, and meatloaf in a mug (yes, this is, in fact, a thing. Look it up, and be appalled).

I tell him about the current creative rut I am in. I have made a lot of really good things lately, but nothing that has really impressed me, or if it has, it is blatantly not mine. And he encouraged me to write anyway. To write the things that go well, and the things that go wrong. To write to keep people interested. To not let what critics say about my zucchini brownies get me too down.

This blog post is for Don, who encouraged me to keep posting, even if I am feeling less-than-inspired as of late. And for talking food with me for an afternoon.

So, I mentioned in a prior post that I would share my version of the Seared Ahi Platter from Ashland’s Dragonfly restaurant.  I shall deliver now. The reason I am calling it a “fish” recipe rather than an “ahi” recipe is because of the simple fact that fresh, sushi grade ahi is not easy for your everyday Madman’s wife to come by. That, and I’m not supposed to be eating raw fish for another 7 ½ months.

I will warn you: This is definitely not a weeknight dinner. This is very much a special occasion recipe. This is a dish to impress. It may give you a panic attack. It has several different components that have to be prepared separately, but the end result is one of the best culinary experiences I’ve had the pleasure of having. I will also note here that I am writing this for Swai, a nice, mild white fish. If you can get your hands on some sushi-grade ahi, absolutely use it. Marinate it the same way you do the Swai, but sear it on a high heat instead of cooking it all the way through.

I still haven’t QUITE achieved the greatness of the dish that inspired it, but it’s pretty damn close.

 

Asian Fish Platter

Serves 4

Ingredients:

40 Wonton wrappers (homemade are best, but you can and probably should use store-bought for convenience)

2 ripe avocados, peeled, seeded, and halved

4 cups edamame in the pod, steamed

Coconut Rice:

                2 cups rice

                1 13 oz. can full-fat coconut milk and enough water to make 4 cups of liquid

                Salt to taste

Swai:

                ¼ low-sodium soy sauce

                 1 tsp garlic, pressed

                ½ tsp ginger, finely grated

                1 tsp sesame oil, plus additional for cooking

                2 tbsp sugar

                4 Swai fillets

Wasabi Cream:

                2 tbsp unsalted butter

                ½ c. heavy cream

                The juice of 1 lemon

                1 tbsp. wasabi

                1 tbsp low-sodium soy sauce

Sweet Soy Sauce:

                Reserved Swai marinate

                3 tbsp sugar

                ¼ c. water

 

Method:

1.  Start your coconut rice. Add all the coconut rice ingredients to a large pot over high heat. Stir to combine, and bring the mixture to a boil. Immediately reduce to the setting just above the lowest one on your stovetop, and cover. Cook for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally, then remove from the heat and keep covered for an additional 10-15 minutes minimum.

2. Meanwhile, heat a few tablespoons of sesame oil on medium in a large skillet. Cook the wonton wrappers until crispy and golden brown, about 1-2 minutes total. Add more oil as needed. Drain on some paper towel, and reserve.

3. Start on your Swai. Add the soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic, ginger, and sugar to a saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat until it just simmers, and cook for an additional 5 minutes. Let the mixture cool for a few minutes.

4. Place your Swai fillets in a heat-proof dish. Pour the marinade over the fillets, and let them soak while you work on the rest of the platter.

5. Make the wasabi cream. Melt the butter over medium heat in a saucepan. Whisk in the soy sauce, cream, and lemon juice, then bring to a boil. Cook until thick, and remove from the heat. Whisk in the wasabi. Set aside for later use.

6. Place a skillet over medium-high heat. Pour in 1 tablespoon sesame oil. Remove your Swai fillets from the marinade, and reserve the marinade for later use. Place the fish into the hot oil, and cook for 2-3 minutes on each side, or until the fish is cooked through and flaky.

7. Meanwhile, pour the reserved marinade, sugar, and water into a small saucepan to finish the sweet soy sauce. Bring to a boil, and reduce until just thickened. Remove from the heat, and let cool.

8. Final Assembly:

                Slice each avocado half into strips, keeping the shape intact. Place onto the platter.

                Stack 10 wontons into a small tower next to the avocado.

Press the coconut rice into a measuring cup, and then turn out onto the platter, keeping the rice in the shape of the cup.

                Pile one cup of edamame onto the platter.

                Place one fillet of Swai onto each plate.

                Repeat with the remaining platters.

                Serve with generous amounts of sweet soy sauce and wasabi cream.

 

If you have made it this far, I congratulate you. And beg you not to hurt me.