Sweet, Sweet Sunday

It’s Apple Pickin’ Time

Okay, now that we’ve established the fact that in order to take care of an awesome type 2 diabetic husband, “resident four year old,” and whoever else may be surrounding our tables or grabbing whatever food they can find to eat in surplus===such as my college daughter….

…we’ve also decided that one way that we can start converting all of our collected Southern Living and Paula recipes into healthier alternatives is by baking with applesauce…

And now that another goal of mine is to start slowly weeding out all processed foods from our diet, I’ve also decided to make and can my own applesauce…and apple butter…

Wait, did I say that I was gonna actually “can” something?!

My mom will be so shocked—kinda like the day that I told her that I had bought my very first sewing machine and she thought to herself that I’d never sew a straight stitch in my life…(now quilting is my favorite hobby…more on that later)…

But if I’m ever going to actually make applesauce or apple butter, there’s obviously one very important ingredient that I’m gonna need…

APPLES!!

Big Deal…So go get you some apples…

Wish it were that simple…wish apples came with two options—red or green…

But it isn’t?

If I send my daughter out to get apples, she’d soon be calling me to ask which ones…

If I order apples from Instacart, ,I’ll have to first surf and see which apple variety to order.

So my goal in these three upcoming posts are to show…

  1. How to select apples
  2. How to store apples
  3. Which variety to choose for what

…,and then share a few of my very favorite apple recipes…

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Getting Healthy, Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Baking with Applesauce

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Being the wife of a type 2 diabetic makes you reconsider the old ways that you have learned to cook, not only in WHAT you cook, but also in HOW you cook.

You become more aware of the amount of saturated fats, sugar, and calories contained in your baked goods.

For example, check out these facts about the nutritional value of Paula Deen’s Sour Cream Pound Cake found in my last post. I’ve been making this cake for about thirty-five years my self and eating it for about fifty, but never stopped to really think about the ingredients until here lately.

But still, being from the Deep South, I absolutely love to bake and would gladly put my sour cream pound cake in competition with anyone else’s at any upcoming state fair this fall.

But how do I still manage to make moist, delicious baked goods that will rival any competitors while also keeping my type 2 diabetic husband’s blood sugar and cholesterol levels in line?

One way is by replacing some of the fat called for in cookie and cake recipes with applesauce.

So this holiday baking season, I plan on making at least some of my traditional recipes using applesauce so that at least some of my offerings will contain less sugar and perhaps even healthy(?!)…since apples have been shown to have great health benefits.—such as helping to prevent cancer, reducing your risk of cardiovascular difficulties, acting as an antioxidant, and diminishing the effects of bad cholesterol.

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Sorry, Paula Dean…But…

Now that our family is having to change our eating habits and stop cooking like the Southern Baptists from the deepest of the Deep South, all in the name of middle age and type 2 diabetes, are we to live the rest of our lives totally without the Trinity of Deep Southern Cooking—cream cheese, powdered sugar, and butter?!

 

So not happening!!!

Nothing makes my husband smile nearly as much as a Sour Cream Pound Cake fresh out of the oven.

But we have been trying to limit how many caloriess and how much added sugars and saturated fat we consume since becoming more health-conscientious.

Thankfully there are a few suggestions out there that will make your baking supposedly healthier, while keeping it delicious…techniques that will help cut heart-harming fats, refined sugars, and empty calories.

So just in time for the upcoming holiday season, and in time to start completing this year’s Christmas Notebook, here are some ideas…

 

But first, the recipe for Sout Cream Pound Cake, the one and only recipe that I have actually memorized after my thirty-plus years of having my own kitchen, not to mention my very own KitchenAid miser.

Three cups of sugar, six eggs, one cup of sour cream…perhaps a type 2 diabetic from the Deep South’s greatest temptation ever…

 

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Sour Cream Pound Cake

  • 3C flour
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 6 eggs
  • 1/2tsp baking soda
  • 1C sour cream
  • 3C sugar
  • 2C butter

Preheat oven to 350 °F….Cream the butter and sugar together…Add sour cream…Sift the baking soda and flour together…Add to the creamed mixture alternating with eggs, beating in each egg 1 at a time…Add vanilla…Pour the mixture into a greased and floured loaf pan…Bake for 1 hour.

Now taking all of the ingredients in this cake, let’s see if and how we can hopefully make this cake a little less deadly, while keeping it delicious…

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Flout

Time and time again, I have read to simply replace the white flour called for in a recipe with the same amount of whole wheat flour. While whole wheat flour is not as heavily refined and processed as regular white flour, I just don’t want to end up with a sour cream pound cake that tastes like rye bread.

Honestly, I don’t even know that I could replace up to half, or even a spoonful of the all-purpose flour in this recipe with whole-grain flour, That almost sounds like the ultimate kitchen sin.

If you are willing to start using whole grain flours instead of white flour, try first substituting whole gtrain flour for only half of the flour originally called for in the recipe.

Another option is to try  experimenting with flours that are a little more our of the ordinary—such as chickpea or almond flour.

But perhaps the best way to reduce the amount of fat in baking recipes is to use high-quality, low-gluten flour—whole wheat, oat, brown rice––such as King Arthur Brand.

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Sugar…So many baked goods contain completely and entirely way too much sugar in the first place. So as a general rule, you can typically go ahead and reduce the amount of sugar called for in a given recipe by about 25% right out of the bat.

Two other options to help reduce the amount and impact of sugar in your baked goods would be to…

Increasing the amount of other spices—such as ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg—to make up for any sugar that you may be taking out of the recipe will often allow the finished product to still taste good.

Try other sweetener alternatives—such as honey, maple syrup, agave, coconut sugar, pitted dates, or molasses.

 

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Butter…A few substitutes for the “bad fats” often called for in recipes—such as butter, stick margarine, and shortening—would include

  1. Canola oil or any other type of “heart-healthy oil”
  2. Greek yogurt
  3. Ground flax seeds
  4. Ground nuts
  5. Low-fat sour cream
  6.  Prepared all natural nut butters

 

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Egg

Eggs…As far as eggs go, try one of the following ideas…

  1. Replace one whole egg in any given recipe with ¼C zero-fat, zero-cholesterol egg product substitute, such as ConAgra’s Egg Beaters.
  2. Use two egg yolks instead of one complete egg.

 

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Beet Green, Almond, and Cranberry Salad…(Beet Greens—The How)

There are several ways that beet greens can be prepared, but right now let’s take a look at the following four…

  1. Salad
  2. Saute
  3. Soups and Stews
  4. Lasagna and Pasta Dishes

 

 

Salad…Enjoy beet greens by themselves as a salad or with other leafy vegetables.

 

Beet Green, Almond, and Cranberry Salad

1 tablespoon butter
3/4 cup almonds, blanched and slivered
1 pound spinach, rinsed and torn into bite-size pieces
2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
1 tablespoon poppy seeds
1/2 cup white sugar
2 teaspoons minced onion
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup dried cranberries

 

  1. Toast the almonds…Melt butter over medium heat in a medium saucepan.  Toast almonds lightly in butter,
  2. Make the dressing…Whisk together all remaining ingredients.
  3. Assemble the salad…Combine the toasted almonds, salad dressing, and beet greens, and cranberries just before serving.

 

 

Saute…Another option would be to sauté the beet greens  with onions—and assuming that you are not from the Deep South and absolutely refuse to give up the almighty bacon—bacon…

 

Beet Green, Onion, and Bacon Saute

  • 1 pound beet greens
  • 1 strip of thick cut bacon
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 1 large minced garlic clove
  • 3/4 cup of water
  • 1 Tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • .3 Tbsp of cider vinegar

1.Prepare the beet greens…Rinse the leaves under cold running water. Do not soak the leaves in the water as water-soluble nutrients will leach into the water. Cutt leaves off at the stem where the leafy portion end. Cut into ½” slices. Set aside.

2.  Cook the “other stuff”…Sauté the bacon, onions, and garlic in a large skillet over medium heat 5 to 7 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add water to the hot pan, stirring to loosen any particles from bottom of pan. Stir in sugar, vinegar, and red pepper flakes. Bring mixture to a boil.

3. Add the beet greens…Add the beet greens gently into the onion mixture. Cover. Simmer ten minutes, or until the greens are tender.

 

 

 

A third option in using your beet greens is to make a soup or stew such as this one…

 

Beet Green and Vegetable Soup

  • 2Tbsp butter
    1 bunch spring onions, chopped
    1 leek, sliced
    2 small sticks celery, sliced
    1 small potato, peeled and diced
    ½ tsp pepper
  • 1lC chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1-1/2C beet greens
  • 1-1/4C sour cream

1.Cook the vegetables…Cook the spring onions, leek, celery and potato in butter. Cover with lid, Wait ten minutes, stirring a couple of times.

2,  Add the stock…Pour in the stock. Cook 15 minutes.

3,  Add the spinach…Add the spinach. Cook for a couple of minutes until wilted.

4,  Blend together…Use a hand blender to make a smooth soup. Stir in the sour cream. Reheat. Serve.

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Arugula…The How?

 

Okay, I’ve just added arugula to my grocery list, but what should I do with it once I get it home…

 

First of all, how do I know which bundle of arugula to stick into my grocery cart?!

Choose arugula that is fresh and crisp, particularly at the stem. Look for plants that have dark green leaves, not yellow. Refrain from buying arugula with leaves that are wilted, have dark or slimy spots, or yellow or brown edges.

 

Next, how do I store it, and how long will it stay fresh in my food rotter?

Arugula leaves will spoil quickly, so some care must be taken to help keep them as fresh as possible for as long as possible.

Wrap the roots of the arugula in a damp paper towel, then store in a plastic bag in the refrigerator.

Another option would be to place the arugula upright in a glass of water, as you would a bouquet of flowers, and then cover the leaves with a plastic bag before storing in the refrigerator.

Another point to remember is to not store arugula beside pears, apples or bananas, as this will cause its leaves to decay faster.

Plan on using within a couple of days after buying them.

 

So what should I make with my arugula?

One thing to remember when deciding how to use the arugula that you have purchased, is that older and larger leaves have a more intense peppery flavor than the younger and smaller leaves.

 

The tenderness and milder taste of the younger leaves make them a great choice for salads such as this one…

Arugula, Avocado, and Olive Salad

  • 3 bunches arugula
  • 1 sliced avocado
  • 1C sliced kalamata olives
  • 1/2C pine nuts

Dressing

  • 1/2C olive oil
  • 2 minced cloves garlic
  • 1tsp red pepper flakes
  • 2Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 2Tbsp white wine vinegar

Roast the pine nuts in a shallow pan at 325 degrees F until brown. Combine the arugula, avocado, and olives. Whisk the dressing together. Pour the dressing over the salad. Top with pine nuts.

 

 

The larger, older leaves are better for steaming or using in sauces.

Arugula tends to sauté faster than kale and collard greens, and adds more flavor to a dish than spinach or Swiss chard. Often arugula is used along with milder greens such as watercress and romaine.

 

For example, try making your own version of the following pasta dish…

Sauté arugula in a small amount of extra-virgin olive oil. Season with freshly ground black pepper and freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Cook and drain pasta. Combine arugula, pasta, and whatever else you choose, such as grilled chicken.

 

Pesto…great served with pasta, burgers, sandwiches, or roasted and grilled meat

Blend arugula with the following ingredients…

  • 1/2C basil
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1/4C walnuts
  • 1/2C grated Parmesan or Parmigiano Reggiano
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup olive oil

 

A few more final ideas on how to use arugula…

  • Add a handful of fresh arugula to an omelet or scramble
  • Add arugula to your wrap, sandwich, or flatbread
  • Throw a handful of arugula and blend into a fresh juice or smoothie
  • Top your pizza with fresh arugula…this is very popular in the Mediterranean region.
Getting Healthy, Sweet, Sweet Sunday

What’s Next?

When I started this blog, I had no intention of turning this into yet another food blog. There are enough of those out there already.

Instead I wanted to talk about my journey to take our family to a more minimalistic and healthier lifestyle, especially since my husband was recently diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.

Some of the topics that I have learned more about so far in this journey have included…

  • How to deal with insomnia
  • Which cruelty-free products in my daily so-called “beauty” routine
  • What clothes to include as you switch to a minimalistic capsule wardrobe
  • How to read nutritional labels
  • What foods you can eat on a Raw Foods Pyramid

Even so, changing our lifestyle from the typical “Deep South” menu where everything is deep-fried or has lots and lots of cheese and heavy cream on it has taken priority right now.

So in these next few posts I’m going to be looking at the next rung of the Raw Foods Pyramid…

Leafy Greens…

Growing up in the Deep South, I never thought that I would actually enjoy eating, much less, cooking…things like turnip greens or collard greens. But now I actually enjoy eating them…especially when they’re served with lots and lots of bacon.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends that adults consume at least three cups of dark green vegetables each week.

Thankfully, there are several varieties of leafy greens out there…I find the idea of eating three cups of mustard greens or collard greens still repulsive, but my Mom would be so glad that I actually do eat them now instead of feeding to the dog while she wasn’t looking.

So which ones should you choose and how do you use these before they sit too long in your food rotter, if you’re anything like me…

All leafy are packed with important and powerful nutrients, and most can also be found year round. This makes adding them to your menu for the week quite an easy task.

As far as nutritional value, all leafy greens are typically low in calories and fat….and high in protein per calorie, dietary fiber, vitamin C, pro-vitamin A carotenoids, folate, manganese and vitamin K.

Studies have shown that eating leafy greens may lower your risk of type 2 diabetes by 14 percent, a fact that I wish that I’d known when I first got married 32 years ago. Leafy greens have also been shown to improve your eyesight, bone health and skin elasticity while helping your blood to clot normally.

And even better, there are so many more varieties that can keep you from feeling like you are simply eating the required bowl of bagged salad every single night, night after night…

Some options that we will be taking a look at are…

  • Arugula
  • Beet Greens
  • Bok Choy
  • Boston (Butterhead)
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Collard Greens
  • Edible Green Leaves
  • Endive
  • Iceberg
  • Kale
  • Microgreens
  • Mustard Greens
  • Rapini (Broccoli Rabe)
  • Romaine
  • Spinach
  • Swiss Chard
  • Turnip Greens
  • Watercress

 

Making Dinner Plans

Labor Day Layout

 

This weekend is Labor Day weekend…a holiday strangely positioned in the school year calendar...Let’s start school for a week or two, and then give the kids a long weekend to re-mess up the schedules that their parents have been trying so hard to get them used to over the last few weeks.

Anyway, Labor Day is a great time for a last-ditch effort at a “summer” picnic or barbecue, so this post is going to be about how to have a “politically correct” yet delicious meal…

 

Prepping Your House for a Labor Day Bas…(Or Ay Other Bash for That Matter)

1.Use disposable plates, utensils, and so forth. This is not Christmas or Thanksgiving. Don’t risk the chance of one of your wedding gifts from thirty years ago being broken…Just make sure that the products that you use are recyclable.

  • Each year in the U.S. alone, an estimated 40 billion plastic utensils are used.
  • Each day 500 million disposable plastic straws are tossed away, in the United States alone.

Even though it might be convenient and easy to entertain using Styrofoam plates, plastic cutlery, and plastic cups…eating outdoors shouldn’t mean leaving a trail of litter in the form of disposable plates and cutlery.

 

The Three R’s

Instead of contributing to these statistics, we should all consider the three R’s of helping to protect the environment…

 

1. Reduce…Buy only what you need….The most eco-friendly option is always to use whatever cups and plates you already have at home. If you have a large crowd to feed, consider renting plates from a local church or community center.

 

 

2. Re-use…If you must buy something, plan on using it and re-using it.
It does take more effort to use reusable items, but choosing dishes and glasses that can be washed and used over and over again–instead of paper and plastic–saves not only on what goes thrown into landfills but also on having to buy those items again and again.

Reusable items can also add a touch of class and decoration to a party. Eating with sturdy cutlery is much less frustrating than cutting food on a Styrofoam plate with a flimsy plastic knife. So consider buying a second set of cheap, lightweight plates and cutlery at a local thrift store.

Serving iced juice or water in a beverage dispenser is not only practical and elegant, but eliminates the need for a cooler full of dripping wet plastic water bottles or soda cans.
Serve drinks in small mason jars. Write guests’ names on the side in permanent marker, or tie a ribbon around to differentiate.

 

3. Recycle…If you must use disposables, look for paper plates made from 100% recycled paper. This should be considered only as a final option.

There are several companies who make good quality re-useable, eco-friendly paper and plastic picnic-ware..as well as companies that make environmentally-friendly products from cork, bamboo, coconut, palm, and stainless steel.

 

Here are a few great examples…

1. Bambu Home Veneerware® 

  • Available…in a package of 8 plates, or in a case of 100 plates.
  • Cost…$70 per case
  • Made from…100% certified organic bamboo
  • Sizes…7″, 9″, or 11″ round…square sizes too

2. Eco-Friendly Cookware Bamboo Square Plates – Chartreuse 

  • Available…set of 4
  • Cost…$29.95
  • Made from…bamboo fiber and corn powder
  • Size…8″

3. Preserve Products Large On The Go Plates

  • Available…sets of 8
  • Cost…$7.25
  • Made from…100% recycled lightweight but sturdy #5 dishwasher-safe plastic that can withstand hundreds and hundreds of uses without cracking, warping, or breaking
  • Size…10.5” large plate

4. Stalk Marketplates

  • Available…420 plates per case
  • Cost…$55.70
  • Made from…sugarcane bagasse, a material which breaks down into natural soil in approximately 50-100 days in properly maintained compost facilities
  • Size…7″ classic round plate

5. To-Go Ware

  •  Available…sets of five
  • Cost…$9.99
  • Made from…dishwasher-safe bamboo

6. VerTerra

  • Available…packs of 25
  • Cost…$22.00
  • Made from…fallen palm leaves
  • Size…extra-large 10” recyclable plates

 

More Pointers About Setting Up Your Labor Day Party…

1.Setting Up the Buffet Table…Any flat surface-a desk, a coffee table, a piano top, a card table, a kitchen counter, or a patio table-can be used to set out a buffet meal…but allow yourself at least five linear feet of surface space.If this much space isn’t available, use three or four smaller tables—one for tableware, another for the main course, a third for dessert, and a fourth for beverages.The placement of the buffet table is determined by the dimensions of the room. Position the buffet table in the center in a large room to allow for service from both sides or both ends of the table and reduce congestion in the room….against the wall Ia small room to allow space for the flow of traffic.Set any dining room chairs against the wall.

  • Put most plentiful or cheapest types of food at the beginning. Push the scarcest or most expensive to the end.
  • Arrange food in groups of related temperatures, such as hot foods together.
  • Allow enough room beside each dish for guests to rest their dinner plate while they help themselves to food that requires two utensils to serve, for example, a tossed salad…as well as the serving utensils near the food they are to be used for, and any sauces and condiments that accompany a given dish.
  • At the exit end of the table, lay the flatware and napkins. Set flatware in a row on the table, if space permits. When flatware is placed in a stacked position, the top utensil is difficult to remove.

 

2.Setting Out Additional Table(s)…Do not make people pick up anything else-forks, knives, spoons, or cups-at the beginning of the line that they will have to juggle while scooping or picking up food during their voyage down the buffet table. That’s just rude.
If using “real” dinner plates, stack them in groups of eight…higher stacks of plates make your buffet almost seem like a cafeteria.

Set paper napkins with the seam facing outwards. This will help guests pick them up from the table easier.

 

3. Setting Out the Food…If you can, arrange the food in stations…

  • Plates, and Forks
  • Main Dishes
  • Side Dishes
  • Desserts
  • Beverages

Start with a clean house, especially the kitchen, before guests arrive….Make sure your dishwasher is empty. Having a full dishwasher is guaranteed to ruin your clean-as-you-go party plan even before guests arrive….Take out the trash. Line wastebasket bottoms with newspaper to soak up grease and liquids before putting a garbage bag back in.

Use tablecloths….Food and drink spills can destroy good tables..and card tables are plain out ugly. Use tablecloths that are fun and carry out the theme of the party. At the end of the party, you can simply pick up the cloth, shake it out and throw the tablecloth in the washing machine.

Don’t serve messy food…The less messy food served, the less mess you’ll have to clean….Stick to bite-sized, grab-as-you-go foods. People will pop them into their mouths and continue to mingle, giving little opportunity to make a mess.

Make as much as you can ahead of time. Doing the bulk of your cooking the day before keeps your kitchen cleaner the day of.

Find a way to identify each person’s glass. That way each individual does not end up using six in the course of the evening. Find a way to identify beer bottles. Use wine charms.

Have plenty of coasters around for guests to set their drinks on. Disposable coasters can be purchased in packs of fifty or more.

Pour glasses as guests arrive instead of having glasses already poured for everyone when they arrive.

If you will be setting up a bar, put the bar outside…assuming it’s warm outside. This keeps spills outside instead of inside on your floors, carpets and rugs. If it’s the dead of winter, roll your bar cart to a non-carpeted surface that’s easy to clean and away from high-traffic areas.

If you will actually be serving wine, choose a white wine. Dark-colored wines and liquors can create tough-to-clean stains.

Use a glass drink dispenser. This makes it easier for people to choose their own drink and prevents glasses that aren’t actually needed clean.

Be prepared for the inevitable something being either broken or spilled by keeping the following close at hand…

  • spritz bottle with cool water and a clean cloth
  • portable stain removers, like Shout Wipes or Tide to Go
  • hand vacuum
  • small dustpan and broom.

Make it easy for people to leave their dirty dishes all in one spot. Set out a few large dish bins filled with soapy water in an out-of-the-way spot on the kitchen counter. This creates a spot for guests to place dirty dishes and helps you avoid stacks of dirty plates later.

Keep trash bags in plain sight. Have plenty of trashcan and garbage bags located throughout your home so people can throw away their stuff away themselves. If guests don’t know where to throw their stuff away, they simply can’t.

Keep spare trash bags close at hand.…For big bashes, you’ll likely have to take out the trash at least once.

It’s okay to keep certain areas of your home “off limits.” Keep certain doors locked or spaces decoratively blocked off. Otherwise you’ll spend all night hunting down half-empty wine glasses and dirty dishes…not to mention passed-out guests.

Do a final “walk-through” before guests arrive, imagining yourself as a guest who is going through the buffet line to fill her plate. Make sure that there’s enough room for people to get through and that the traffic flow makes sense…and that the buffet is as organized as possible.

Cleaning up while guests are still there makes them uncomfortable and keeps the party from being fun for yourself.

Send leftovers home with guests….Make sure you have plenty of plastic containers, aluminum foil, and large plastic bags on hand.
Avoid disappearing into the kitchen until all of your guests have left.

 

Once your final guest does leave, it’s time for the serious cleanup to begin…if you sit down now, nothing will get done and you will regret it later.

  • Quickly go through the house with a garbage bag to pick up any trash or disposable items.
  • Next gather up any dishes. Unload and reload the dishwasher. Rinse off plates and stack them if the dishwasher is full.
  • Use ziploc bags to store any leftovers.
  • Empty and rinse out any coolers or bins that were used.
  • Use a dust cloth to clean off wood surfaces.
  • Wipe down kitchen surfaces with an all-purpose cleaner and paper towels.
  • Pre-treat stains on linens. Toss them into the washing machine to soak overnight.
  • Quickly vacuum in the open areas to clean up all the crumbs so that you avoid attracting any bugs.

 

THE FOOD

Now let’s look at the more exciting part of this event—the food….keeping the following points in mind…

  • Have a lot of small, easily packaged finger foods that travel well.
  • Offer something more exciting than the expected picnic fare.
  • Serve foods that will not spoil if left out for an hour or so.

 

Dips and Spreads

 

Salads

Salads–specifically pasta salad, potato salad, coleslaw–are also pretty typical standard picnic fare.

The hearty ingredients in pasta salads and and potato salads hold up well even if they suffer a bit of battering in transit, but leafy salads with dressing can wilt and turn really ugly if left out too long. Wait until the last minute before serving to add dressings and any other final touches to these salads.

Now for a few great ideas…

 

Main Entree

Labor Day menus typically consist of lots and lots of meat…so in light of the fact that my dear husband and almost everyone else who will be gathered at my house laughs at my idea of eventually switching to a complete Raw Foods diet, I will actually be committing the cardinal sin for these carnivores…yes, I’m serving meat…

Actually I’m making sandwiches that we can prep ahead of time, so that MDH(my dear husband) does not have to spend all day over the grill in this 100-degree Texas heat…

Here are a few ideas of the sandwiches that I am considering, along with a recipe that has become a favorite of everyone related to me in my necks of the woods…

 

Sandwiches

The sandwich is typically lord of both the lunchbox and the typical picnic…which is appropriate because the modern “sandwich” as we know it was actually named after the real Lord Sandwich.

Supposedly Lord Sandwich, a very conversant gambler, would ask his servants to bring him a piece of salt beef between two slices of toasted bread during his long hours playing at the card table…when he refused to take the time to actually sit down and have an actual meal.

Soon others that gambled at the tables with Lord Sandwich would also order “the same as Sandwich”, and thus the “sandwich” as we know became standard fare.

Sandwiches that I am considering for this year’s Labor Day “It’s Too Damn Hot in Texas Even Though It’s September” meal are…

 

Wraps

A wrap is a type of a sandwich, similar to a burrito or gyro, but differs from the typical sandwich mainly because one piece of soft flatbread–such as a wheat-flour tortillas, lavash, or pita–completely surrounds the contents–as opposed to a typical “sandwich,” which has both a top and bottom piece of bread.

Legend has it that a waitress in Stamford, Connecticut served the first wrap in the mid-1990s after the restaurant had run out of bread, but today wraps have become ordinary menu items at such establishments as McAlister’s Deli, KFC, and even McDonald’s.

Here are a few wrap recipes that I am considering…

 

Now for the promised recipe…

 

 

Italian Beef Sandwich

  • 2Tbsp cooking oil
  • 2# beef chuck roast
  • 2 packets Good Seasonings Italian Salad Dressing & Recipe Mix
  • 2 bell peppers, chopped
  • 1 large sweet onions, sliced
  • 5-6 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1-1/2 cups beef stock
  • ¼ cup sliced pepperoncinis plus ¼ cup of the juice
  • 2 bay leaves

Giardinara (optional condiment)

1. Prep…Heat the oil the pressure cooker post over medium high heat.

2. Prep the meat…Trim 2#roast. Cut in fourths. Season with salt and pepper.Brown meat of both sides. Add to the pot.

3. Make the au jus…Add onion, 2 bell peppers, garlic to pan used for browning the meat. Sauté five minutes. Add to pot…along with red pepper, Worcestershire Sauce, beef stock, pepperoncini, and dressing mix.

4. Cook the meat…Raise heat to high. Bring to high pressure. Adjust the heat to maintain high pressure. Set time for 40 minutes. When time is up, let the heat come down on its own for ten minutes. Then do a quick release.

5. Shred the meat…Remove the meat to a plate or cutting board.Let it rest for ten minutes. Use two forks to shred the meat.Add the meat back into the juice. (Chilling the meat overnight in the refrigerator makes the meat easier to thinly slice.)

6. Serve the sandwiches…Spread deli French or sourdough roll with butter. Sprinkle with garlic powder. Toast, face side up, until slightly golden. Serve with provolone cheese and giardinara.

 

Finally…(perhaps the best part of the meal)…Desserts

Being a true typical Southerner, you can never have enough dessert recipes in your collection…so here are a few options…

  1. Watermelon Pie…The Chew
  2. Chewy S’Mores Bars…Bakerita
  3. Lemon Cream Icebox Cake…The Kitchn
  4. Pecan Pie Brownies…Mr. Food

 

Oh Yeah, By the Way—Beverages

As important as food may be, drinks can be even more important on a hot summer day in Texas…

As far as serving beverages…Placing beverages on a separate table from the food will make it easier for guests to refill their drinks, without pressing through the buffet line and also help guests spread more evenly throughout a large space.

Also be sure to offer an assortment of kid-friendly and adult beverages, such as bottled water and juice….

Here are a few ideas of super sippers for a sensational summer setting…

 

 

Getting Healthy, Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Acacia Honey—The What?! Why?! Which?! and How?!—July 2018 Honey of the Month

Acacia honey is one of the most popular honey varieties. It is widely considered one of the best kinds of honey in the world, provided it is authentic….and is.highly sought after around the world.

Acacia honey is made from the nectar of Robinia pseudoacacia, what we here in America know as the black locust tree, or “false” Acacia…

This tree is not only native to North America, but is also found in Europe—from Northern Italy to the Ukraine, especially in Hungary—where the tree is known as the acacia, even though the honey does not actually come from true acacias.

As far as color, acacia honey is a very pale, light golden colored—much like liquid glass. Acacia honey is often jarred with the actual honeycomb visible in the jar beause the honey does have such clarity and a pale color.

As far as taste. acacia honey is one of the lightest tasting honeys in the world, having a clean, light and mildly sweet, floral taste with delicate vanilla tones and no aftertaste..

Why?!

Adding acacia honey to your diet can provide many health benefits, including…

  1. Dealing with diabetes…Acacia honey has a very low sucrose content and a high fructose level, making it the best choice for diabetics. In addition to being a good choice for diabetics, acacia honey is known for its therapeutic qualities, including…
  2. Helping boost the health of your skin…The rich supply of minerals found in every type of honey, including iron, zinc, potassium, calcium, and copper, as well as vitamin C and other antioxidants, can help reduce the appearance of wrinkles, soothe inflammation, and decrease the appearance of scars, blemishes, and burns when topically applied
  3. Helping you lose weight more quickly...Honey mixed with water or milk can help satisfy your sweet tooth and make you feel full. This will possibly keep you from munching out while vegging out in front of the TV and stimulate your metabolism.
  4. Lowering your blood sugar…Although most people worry about their blood sugar being too high, acacia honey can help lower the blood sugar. Also, hypoglycemia is a dangerous condition, and eating acacia honey can deliver a concentrated burst of carbohydrates to your system that will balance your blood sugar levels
  5. Helping you deal with allergies…Acacia honey, like almost all other honeys, is great for helping you deal with allergies and other respiratory problems because of the antibacterial properties, rich nutrients, and antioxidants that it contains.
  6. Preventing chronic diseases…Acacia honey contains antioxidants that are able to seek out free radicals throughout the body and reduce the negative impacts of oxidative stress…in turn, lowering cellular mutation and reducing your risk of chronic diseases—such as cancer, arthritis and heart disease.
  7. Supporting your immune system…Acacia honey naturally contains hydrogen peroxide, a powerful antibacterial agent that can help prevent infections throughout the body and relieve strain on your immune system.

Which?!

When buying acacia honey, or any other honey, make sure that you are buying a honey that is pure, organic, authentic, raw, unprocessed, unheated and unadulterated from a responsible source with a reputation for producing “clean” honey that hasn’t been processed, heated or pasteurized in any way.

There are many processed products claiming to be acacia honey. Avoid these. After all, our goal in this “What Now?!” segment of Muffins and Magnolias blog has been to start eliminating processed foods from our diets and replace these foods with healthier alternatives.

Obviously, the best place to buy your acacia honey is directly from a beekeeper, who sources the honey directly from the beehive.

But you can also find sources of acacia honey from sites such as Organic Acacia Honey.comOlive Nation, and Savannah Bee.

How?!

Acacia honey is an excellent choice for cooking because of its mild flavor and the fact that it mixes easily in liquids and batters. Other ideas for using acacia in your kitchen include…

1. Berries…Acacia honey is a fantastic topping and the perfect complement to the natural taste of any berry—such as blueberries, blackberries and strawberries…

2. Beverages…Acacia honey is a good choice for mixing with beverages—such as tea—because it sweetens your beverage, without actually changing the taste of the drink

3. Bread…Acacia honey and creamy butter makes an excellent topping for toast.

4. Cheese…Acacia honey is great when served with hard cheeses such as Grana Padano, an Italian cheese made from unpasteurised, semi-skimmed cow’s milk that has been aged for about two years.

The word “grana” means “grainy” in Italian.

This cheese is a “grana” cheese—a fragrant, dry, crumbling cheese with a firm, thick and deeply straw-coloured rind and intensely sweet flavor…very similar to Parmigiano Reggiano, but much less expensive because more areas actually produce this type of cheese. Grana Padano is also less crumbly, milder and less complex than Parmigiano Reggiano.

5. Wine…The best wines to pair with acacia honey are

  • Barolo…such as this Aldo Conterno Barolo Bussia 2013 Nebbiolo
  • Zinfandel…such as this Rombauer California Zinfandel 2016
  • Gavi…such as this Principessa Gavia Gavin 2016

6. Yogurt…Finally, acacia honey is great paired with Greek yogurt…in recipes such as the following Kiwi Smoothie.

Getting Healthy, Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Book Review—The First Mess by Laura Wright

The book The First Mess by Laura Wright is a book about the accessibility and joys of plant-based wellness.

This book first appealed to me because lately I have been looking for healthier ways for our family to cook and eat…especially since my husband has been diagnosed as a type 2 diabetic.

This book will be especially of interest to people who are interested in learning how to prepare simple, seasonal vegan and plant-based meals that my family will enjoy

The central themes carried out throughout the book are the love for fresh ingredients, a respect towards the process of prepping and cooking them, and an overall approach to keeping it simple.

The author of the book is Laura Wright, the blogger behind the Saveur award-winning blog The First Mess.

Laura grew up working at her family’s local food market and vegetable patch in southern Ontario, where fully stocked root cellars in the winter and armfuls of fresh produce in the spring and summer were the norm. After attending culinary school and working for one of Canada’s original local food chefs, she launched The First Mess at the urging of her friends in order to share the delicious, no-fuss, healthy, seasonal meals she grew up eating, and she quickly attracted a large, international following.

The book features more than 125 whole-food recipes that showcase the best produce that each season has to offer.

The book begins with a guide for stocking your pantry and buying kitchen equipment, and then features over a hundred recipes organized into the following categories…

Mornings & Breakfast, such as Fluffy Whole Grain Pancakes

Soups & Stews, such as Garlicky Winter Vegetable and White Bean Mash with Mushroom Miso Gravy

Salads & Dressings, such as Romanesco Confetti Salad with Meyer Lemon Dressing

Hearty Mains & Big Plates, such as Butternut and Pesto Cream Lasagna

Vegetables & A Couple of Grains, such as Burrito-Stuffed Sweet Potatoes

Energizing Drinks & Small Bites

Desserts & Small Treats, such as Earl Grey and Vanilla Bean Tiramisu

Each seasonal, wholesome, and delicious recipe includes a photograph…gluten-free, sugar-free, oil-free, and nut-free options…and the amount of time that recipe will require.

 I didn’t find the recipes too complicated or too “extra.”  These plant-centric recipes will allow you to use up what you already have, encourage you to try something new, and create your own basics instead of buying them.

I found this book to be very organized, especially because it contains an easy-to-use index and informative table of contents.

I also found the book to be encouraging and fun to read because Laura shares interesting stories about specific ingredient and dishes, memories from childhood about harvesting and preparing it certain foods, and her decision to become a vegan.

The book is beautifully designed and laid out. The fonts are easy to read, and the ingredients and instructions are listed side-by-side in a very user-friendly way.

Each and every recipe has a beautiful color picture (almost always full-page)…a series of icons at the top for nut-free, sugar-free, gluten-free, etc….and the amount of time that the recipe will require.

Getting Healthy, Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Vegan Chocolate Mousse Pie

Now that my husband has been officially declared as a type 2 diabetic, one of my priorities as far as our family meals has been to start cooking healthier than my Mississippi ancestry and love for foods such as Paula Dean’s Sour Cream Pound Cake have always taught me.

I have started exploring options to ordinary cane sugar, such as agave nectar and coconut sugar. Lately I have starting experimenting with date sugar.

But how do you use date sugar to make an awesome dessert…especially on holidays such as Father’s Day and the 4th of July?

So I have started my quest for new desserts to put in my recipe box to replace my recipe repertoire…such as this chocolate mousse pie made with a homemade vegan pie crust and coconut whipped cream.

Vegan Pie Crust

  • 1-3/4C flour
  • 3/4tsp salt
  • 3/4tsp sugar
  • 6Tbsp cold vegan butter, cut into 1/2″ cubes
  • 6 Tbsp shortening
  • 5 Tbsp ice water

Instructions

  • Fill a small bowl with water and a couple of ice cubes.
  • Combine flour, salt, and sugar in a large bowl.
  • Add the cold butter. Use a pastry blender to cut the butter into the dough.
  • Add the shortening to the bowl. Use a pastry blender to cut the butter into the dough until the butter and shortening pieces are about the size of peas.
  • Incorporate tablespoons of additional water as required for the crust to stick together when pressed between your fingers.
  • Dump the pie dough out onto a sheet of plastic wrap. Shape the dough into a disk. Wrap in plastic wrap.
  • Refrigerate at least thirty minutes.
  • Place the wrapped disk on a large smooth surface. Unwrap. Sandwich the dough between two pieces of Saran wrap. Use a rolling pin to roll the dough out into a 13″ diameter circle.
  • Generously grease a 9″ pie dish. Remove the top piece of plastic wrap. Invert the crust into the pie dish. Carefully remove the other piece of plastic wrap. Fit the crust into the pie dish. Lightly press the dough around the edge of the pie pan. Use scissors to cut excess dough from the edge, following the edge of the pan. Fold the dough over to make a double-thick rim of the crust. Use a fork to crimp the edges.

Chocolate and Date Mousse…This chocolate mousse has a delicate sweetness, an incredibly smooth texture, and best of all—it’s healthy for you.

  • 1/2C Hershey’s Cocoa…(Cocoa can actually be good for you because, depending on how the cocoa has been processed, it often contains a high concentration of antioxidants)
  • 1/2C Sunsweet pitted dates…(In a previous post, I shared the health benefits of dates and date sugar…so not going to reiterate…look here at this post instead).
  • 1-1/4C coconut cream
  • Optional ingredients…(use one or more of the following if desired)…a pinch of sea salt, vanilla extract, some cinnamon, more cocoa, cayenne pepper, a few drops of peppermint extract or fresh mint, finely chopped pineapple, rum, orange zest or extract, chocolate chips, chopped nuts, coffee, Kahlúa, raspberries

Instructions

  1. Refrigerate the can of coconut cream overnight. This allows the cream to solidify and separate at the top of the can, leaving a clear liquid at the bottom. Once you are able to shake the can and no longer feel liquid moving, the coconut cream is ready.
  2. Carefully turn the can upside down. Open and discard the transparent liquid.
  3. Stir the dates with 1Tbsp water in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave one minute. Drain. This allows the dates to not be as dry and helps your mousse to have a smooth consistency.
  4. Blend ingredients together until smooth.
  5. Taste and add any optional ingredients until you get the “flavor of the day.”
  6. Spread the mousse into a pie crust.
  7. Refrigerate for a couple of hours or overnight.

Coconut Whipped Cream

  • 14oz can coconut cream
  • 1Tbsp sugar substitute
  • 1tsp vanilla

    Chill the can of coconut cream for at least one day to allow it to separate and harden. Refrigerate your mixing bowl and beaters for thirty minutes.

Take the can of coconut cream out of the refrigerator. Scoop out only the hard coconut cream that should has settled at the top of the can.

Whip ingredients together until fluffy. Add any additional extracts, spices, and/or cocoa powder as desired.