Thursday, February 28, 2013

Don't knock it until you've tried it!

     I'm sure some of you have heard about a new healthy food snack...baked kale chips. I like kale. It isn't always available in my small town, but when I find it, I often buy it and throw it into soup, much like fresh spinach. I just couldn't imagine making "chips" out of it.
     Last weekend, we went to a food co-op that I had heard of in Champaign-Urbana. Common Ground felt to me like a small Trader Joe's. It had a wonderful produce section, a salad bar, fresh pizza, organic meats and wonderful packaged foods...many of which are being grown locally. I bought 2 kinds of kale, a curly leaf and what I think was Dino kale. I decided I was going to give the "chip" thing a try.
     You can find several recipes for this process, several different temperture settings and several people who will claim the kale was bitter or burned. I used a bit of trial and error with both kinds of kale and had no bitterness with either. I also didn't burn a single leaf. We both actually really loved the finished product and at only 56 calories a makes a great snack. I actually made my second batch last night and wanted to see how it would hold up overnight before is fine in a ziploc bag, still very crisp.
     I had friends ask what this tastes like. Well, it isn't Lay's Potato Chips with good old fashioned onion dip. But, how many of us can afford those calories and fats? The kale chips are very light, slightly salty and crisp. You could easily eat an entire bunch of kale (which makes about 2-3 cups) in one sitting. It doesn't taste at all "green" or grassy, and certainly not bitter.
     To make one batch of kale chips you only need three ingredients:
one bunch kale, olive oil and season salt
     Tear the kale leaves off the stalks. I found that if I just pulled from one end it stripped most of the leaves off. Discard the stalks. Tear the leaves into pieces. Wash the kale leaves and dry them. Mine were not completely dry when I made the chips. Put the leaves on a cookie sheet and drizzle with 2 T. of olive oil and toss to cover leaves. Sprinkle with a little season salt (or seasoning of your choice). Put the cookie sheet in a 250 degree oven for 25-30 minutes. I found that 30 minutes was good with my oven. Remove from the oven and toss the chips. You will notice if they are all dry and crispy or if some are still soggy. Mine were still a bit soggy both times, so I put them back in the oven, turned off the heat and let them remain there until the oven cooled (about 45 minutes). At that time they were all dry and crispy. That's it. Just watch them closely as they will burn if your oven is too hot or you forget them! Enjoy!
     I am joining Michael @ Rattlebridge Farm for Foodie Friday

Monday, February 25, 2013

And the colors are...

     Most of you know about my color "themes" at Christmas, but I confess that I also seem to do the same thing for spring/summer too. It usually starts with a piece of ribbon (I love ribbon) and I just go from there. It certainly doesn't mean that I buy all new things for the changing of the season. Part of the reason I write this blog is to help others realize that you can use things you already have without buying anything new...or at least spending very little money. This year, it was the blue burlap and the green check that called my name. More to come!
     The photo below has nothing to do with the post, I just thought it was interesting. I wanted to take a picture of the full moon tonight and this is what I ended up with. Don't you just love polka dots?

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Light, Fluffy and Oh, So Good!

     You are seeing a "theme" in my cooking style lately. It is all about eating healthy without giving up dessert! Valentine's Day we decided to avoid the crowds and have dinner at home. We had filets, salad and baked potatoes for dinner. I wanted to make something special for dessert and I found a recipe online from Taste of Home that was just perfect for us. I made a few minor adjustments and put it through a calorie counter. Each slice of 1/12th of the torte has 151 calories without whipping cream. I added 2 T. of Reddi Whip real whipping cream for an additional 15 calories.  
     Strawberry Schaum Torte
8 egg whites
1 T. white vinegar
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. salt
2 cups sugar
2 cups sliced strawberries
whipping cream (optional)
Preheat Oven to 300 degrees
Grease a 10 inch springform pan (I used Pam)
     Place egg whites in a bowl and let them stand 30 minutes to room temperature. Add the vinegar, vanilla and salt and beat until soft peaks form. Gradually add sugar and beat until glossy and stiff peaks have formed. Beat long enough for the sugar to be almost completely dissolved. See picture below.

Spread into the greased springform pan.
Bake at 300 degrees for 50-60 minutes or until lightly browned.
Remove from the oven and put on a wire rack to cool.
The meringue will come out of the oven very puffy and pretty.
Then it falls to smashed and ugly!
When cool, remove the sides from the
springform pan and place on serving plate.
     At this point, if you are serving a could put the berries and whipped cream on the entire top of the torte. We were only using 2 slices, so I decorated each piece and put the rest in a container in the refrigerator. It was perfectly delicious for a couple of days after it was made. It is very light and soft. It was the perfect ending to our meal without making us feel stuffed.
     I'm often asked if we really use the tablescapes that I set. The truth is...not often. Last week I showed the table set for a Valentine brunch. That table wasn't used. The picture below shows how the table really looked for the two of us on Valentine's Day.
I am joining Susan @ Between Naps on the Porch for
Tablescape Thursday and
Michael @ Rattlebridge Farm for
Foodie Friday

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

These Are a Few of My Favorite Things...

     Since I'm not really changing any decorations around the house (although I'm very ready for spring), I decided to share a few of my recent discoveries with you. Feel free to tell us about some of your favorite things in the comment section.
     You may have seen my post a few days ago with a recipe for Crab Rangoon made with wonton wrappers. You can click here for that recipe. Each piece had only 56 calories. I also mentioned in that post that you can take a wonton wrapper and put 1 T. of chocolate chips in the middle, fold in half and bake until brown for a 90 calorie sweet treet. Well, a package has a lot of wrappers in it, so I started getting creative. I'm trying to eat in a more healthy way and watch my portions. I also can not give up some of my favorite things that have flavor, sweetness or crunch!
     Above you can see what solved my Mexican food craving. I sprayed a muffin tin, put in 4 wonton wrappers, each with one Kraft cheese cube in the center and baked until browned around the edges. I used 1/2 a diced avocado and 2 T. of salsa and created little wonton nachos for 64 calories each piece.

     For a sweet treat, I sprayed 4 wonton wrappers with Pam. Mix 1 tsp (yes, only 1 tsp) of sugar with cinnamon and sprinkle on top. Bake until lightly brown and crunchy. All 4 have only 96 calories and make a great dessert or snack. Yes, wonton wrappers are becoming a staple at my house. You can find them with the produce at your local grocery store.

      A new toy came to my house during the holidays. I had never heard of Apple TV until one of my friends mentioned she was getting it for Christmas. When I was in Florida, my dad and I went into the Apple Store and we both came out with one. In case you have never heard of it is a small box that connects to your television set. It works with your iPhone or iPad and your iTunes account. You can watch movies directly streamed from Netflix (which I finally got and I love it too) or from the iTunes Store. Any music you have in your iTunes account, on your phone etc. can be played through your television. You have access to hundreds of free radio stations of all kinds that broadcast through your telelvision. You can watch YouTube videos on your television and even mirror your iPad and see it on the screen exactly as you see it on the iPad. It sells for $99 and I use it several times a day. Love it!
     From food and techy stuff...I'll move right into cleaning my house! Maybe you have all heard of Norwex products, but I hadn't until everyone I know started having home parties. Well, I gave up going to home parties years ago. I always seemed to end up with things I didn't really want at expensive prices. I kept reading about how great everyone thought the glass cleaning cloth was and I was desperate for a way to get the streaks off my front door and my patio doors. I had tried everything from Windex to vinegar and newspapers and I still had streaks. So, I ordered the cloth without going to a party. IT WORKS! I use it on glass, mirrors, my computer screens and even my stainless appliances. No chemicals, no effort and no streaks! It is the only thing I have from Norwex and I may try something else at some point, but for now...I love this ugly purple cloth.
So, have you made any discoveries lately that
you wouldn't want to live without? Please share!

Friday, February 15, 2013

Trying Something New From Country Living

     We brought home quite a few citrus varieties from Florida in December. I also got a box of Honeybell Oranges from my Dad in January and we started eating the Honeybells instead of what we brought home (they are the best). I didn't want to lose any of the fruit, so when I saw a recipe in last month's Country Living Magazine for Quick Tangelo Marmalade, I decided I would try it with my leftover tangerines.
     Other than strawberry freezer jam, I had never attempted anything quite like this before. Notice how the tangerines straight from the Florida groves aren't all perfectly orange. The ones in the store are...makes you wonder doesn't it? I washed 10 tangerines and cut them in half.
You have to juice these by hand (not with a juicer)
and I used this "vintage" Tupperware juicer.
     Using the juicer, squeeze out all the juice from the tangerines and strain out the seeds. I ended up with 2 1/2 cups of juice. Set the juice aside while you prepare the peels.

     Remove all the remaining pulp from the tangerines. I found this was very simple if I turned the halves inside-out. My husband came in for lunch and was snacking on the segments I removed.
     Next, you want to cut the peels into 1/4 inch strips. I cut out the stem section and threw it away (see above) and then I sliced the remaining peel into strips.
     In a large Dutch oven, combine the juice, rinds, 4 cups of sugar, 1 tsp. of real vanilla, 1 cup of water and half an apple. Country Living said to use a Granny Smith apple and a split vanilla bean with seeds, I didn't have either of those. I used a Honeycrisp apple and liquid real vanilla and it was fine.
      Bring the mixture to a boil and then reduce the heat to low. Stir occasionally and simmer until the rinds are tender and the liquid has slightly thickened, about 1 hour. Remove the apple and the vanilla bean if you used one. Discard. My husband ate the apple and said it was wonderful!! Allow the mixture to cool completely and put in clean glass jars and store in the refrigerator up to 2 weeks.
     This made a delicious marmalade/sauce. It is thinner than I expected but it doesn't have any thickening agent in it, so that might explain it. It might be that I did something wrong, but I don't think so. It would work on pancakes, waffles, ice cream or toast. We have been having it on English Muffins and it is perfect. I also think this would be a wonderful sauce to pour over chicken before cooking.

I am joining Michael @ Rattlebridge Farm for
Foodie Friday. Please stop to see the wonderful recipes.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Valentine Brunch

     Well, the day has arrived when we think about pink, red and chocolate! I decided to do something different this year and set my table for brunch. I found the polka dot egg cups in Florida at Christmas and I used them as the inspiration for my table. I don't actually have a lot of Valentine decorations, so I'm sure you have seen most of these things on other tables I have done.

     I actually had white coffee mugs on the table and I decided to get a little "tacky" and put a Valentine mug at each place setting. After all, Valentine's Day is a fun holiday.
     Both plates are from Crate and Barrel, paired with sterling flatware. I rolled the napkins into rosettes and placed them in the egg cups.

     I really wanted to show you my beautiful new tablecloth (the napkins actually match, you just can't tell with them rolled). It was a Christmas gift from my Dad. He bought it on some island when he took a cruise in last fall. The photos really just don't do it justice. It is gorgeous and would have looked even better if I hadn't been too lazy to go get the leaf for the table!

I've had this cocoa pitcher for many years.
It wouldn't be breakfast without a little cocoa...

...and of course, heart shaped marshmallows.

     I used small cordial stemware as juice glasses. I get a kick out of mixing the sterling and crystal with the silly coffee mugs. I think you should always have a little something unexpected on the table.


     I did put pink and red candles on the table,
 but I'm not sure they were needed for brunch.

This photo is to show you just how lovely the tablecloth is.
As I pointed out, it would be even prettier if I had made the table larger.

I am joining Susan @ Between Naps on the Porch
for Tablescape Thursday. Please stop and say hello.
I'm also joining Kathleen @ Cuisine Kathleen
for Let's Dish!