Spaghetti Squash Guilt Free Pasta Alternative

I just heard a big thunk, I guess I didn’t poke a big enough knife holes in the Spaghetti squash. The microwave will need another cleaning tonight. Puncture a spaghetti squash deeply with a fork or knife. Microwave a very large squash for 20 minutes. Steam should be coming out of the holes at the end of this time. If not, microwave for another 4 to 5 minutes. Let squash sit in the microwave for 10 minutes after cooking. I did an extra small for 8 minutes. Pull threads into a bowl, and dispose of seeds, toss with your favorite sauce or butter 42 calories per cup. You can purchase at farmer’s markets for a pretty low price. Yummy Yummy. For  more quick ideas follow us on facebook!

Mcdonald’s Under 400 Calorie Menu

This is the new menu that will appear at Drive ups and Counters at McDonald’s

restaurants. The long and the short, they say that 80% of their selections are UNDER 400.

I know its hard to believe! The one thing missing is the FAT,  If something is 200 calories and mostly from fat,  that will not impact your body the same way as 200 fatfree calories will. Many thanks to Hungry Girl for posting on her website.

Buyer beware. For more Cook Me This, Follow us on facebook.

 

Fresh Corn on the Cob vs Canned-The Cost Myth

Decobbing and freezing is the way to go.  Buy the Fresh Corn on sale throughout the summer. 2012 is the year of the cornfield drought in the Midwest. Currently  the media is saying it will drive up prices on not only corn but other products derived from corn.

All summer long through October’s final harvest, corn on the cob ranges in price as low as 10 cents an ear to $5.99 for a dozen for Farmer’s Market native. Corn is made into Ethanol for fuel, Corn Syrup, Corn Meal, Popcorn, you get the idea.

Will the price of frozen and canned corn go UP?  Definitely! Even if we had a bumper crop, the production costs to harvest, frozen and canned most likely will never drop. Decobbing is the Frugal, healthy way to go.  Buy the Corn on sale throughout the summer. Here’s the reason why? A can of Niblets, drained says it has 3.5 servings, 1/2 cup each or One & 3/4 cups total.  A bag of Steamable vegetables says it contains four  servings of 2/3 cup. The math is hard but its Two and 2/3 cup.
Four medium ears of fresh corn yields just about 2 1/2 cups when taken off the cob.
When corn is  $6 a dozen or below it’s the ultimate bargain. Cheapskate mathematics; 12 ears=7.5 cups or the equivalent to 4 1/4 cans or 2.8 bags of Steamable frozen.  The corn on the cob is the Better choice, its fresher, tastier and Cheaper than prepackaged supermarket items.. It wasn’t so long ago frozen corn was 99 cents and cans were 3/$1.  Last I checked it was $2.19 for frozen bags and up to $1.59 for a can of Delmonte. If you don’t catch it on a weekly sales ad in can really be expensive. Frozen veggies still pop-up on sale from 99 cents and cans often are 2/$1 for store brand. When the pricing is low DO stock-up. .

BUT! Kids love to peel corn!!! Its portable food. Why not have summertime all year round at the table? The USDA  says the average ear of corn is 80 calories 17 carbs 1 gram of fat and 3 grams of protein.

You can freeze ears whole, cob chunks, or de-cob and bag the kernels.  To strip corn off the cob, first peel and rub off the corn silk, use a sharp knife or decobbing tool. Hold the cob upright with the tip in the air, and slice downward. Prepare a large pot of boiling water for blanching and a bowl of ice water for chilling after blanch. It’s suggested that sweet corn should not be salted while preparing. To blanch, plunge the corn in the boiling water for 2-3 minutes, remove corn and immediately place in an ice water bath. Blanch and chill times should be equal. Drain and seal in Ziploc type or a vacuum bag. Portion by your family meal size. Eliminate as much air out of the bags as possible for freezing. To reheat, boil or steam for 5 minutes, or microwave for 4 minutes. The blanching process has already partially precooked your corn. You won’t be just saving money; you will be enjoying the freshest taste and nutrition. If you’re lazy like me, toss peeled corn or kernels in bags without blanching and freeze, it’s still going to taste better than canned.

If you cannot take advantage of freezing from fresh, take advantage of sales on frozen and canned, stock up then. It applies to all veggies not just corn. Also be generous, don’t forget to donate to the local food bank, when the prices are low.

The choice is clear, when the seasonal veggies are abundant, buy fresh and freeze, when the stock-up sales at the grocers pop-up, take advantage.

 

Gluten Free Cornbread or Muffins

This recipe can  be made with regular flour if Gluten Free is not a necessity. Flours are available at most grocers, Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Amazon.com and now Walmart  Online.  I tried this in a Silicone Muffin Pan

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  • Use nonstick spray on large muffin tins, or 8×10 metal, silicone or foil shallow baking pan.

To make Muffin/bread batter

  • 1 cup Gluten Free cornmeal, all corn meals are not created equal
  • 1 cup alternative Gluten Free Flour, Bob’s Redmill Pancake flour adds a lightness. Rice Flour, Amaranth, Quinoa flour, Chick Pea flour will do. A combo flour like Arrowhead Mills Gluten Free has a better than average outcome.
  • 1/2 cup sugar or alternative, Agave and Honey reduce to 1/3 cup
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder-gluten free
  • 1 cup liquid, Milk, soy, almond or apple juice/cider
  • 2 eggs fork beaten or 1/2 cup substitute of egg beaters or whites
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt optional
  • 1/4 cup melted butter or vegetable oil, avoid margarine
  • 1 tsp Vanilla
  • Options can include, Raisins, cinnamon,  dried fruit, pumpkin pie spice,  ginger.
  • Mix all dry ingredients well, for a grainier more hearty muffin  use a 1 1/3 cups corn meal to 2/3 gluten free flour
  • Whisk in wet ingredients, mixture should not be lumpy
  • Add optional spices and fruits

Fill muffin tin equally, or spread into non glass baking pan. Bake 22 minutes, makes 6 large muffins, or one small tray of 12 pieces of cornbread when divided. For small muffins reduce time to 18 minutes

Serve warm, or cool and store. Freezes well.

301 each calories based on using agave method and apple juice.46 carbs  11 fat, 5 protein

******This is a gluten free recipe, not diet friendly

 

 

Diet Changes & Weight Loss Can Help Reduce Hot Flashes

A new study from the Kaiser Permante Women’s Health Initiative has shown that dietary changes and modest weight loss helped significantly ease the occurrence of hot flashes and night sweats in study participants. Of the over 17,000 post-menopausal women studied, those who ate a low-fat diet high in whole grains, fruits and vegetables and also lost weight during the year-long study experienced the highest reduction of their symptoms.

While previous studies had shown that weight gain and high body weight were most associated with increased symptoms like hot flashes, this was the largest survey to date that attempted to answer the question of whether eating a healthier diet could help women reduce the level of symptoms they experienced.

“Since most women tend to gain weight with age, weight loss or weight gain prevention may offer a viable strategy to help eliminate hot flashes and night sweats associated with menopause,” said Bette Caan, DrPH, a research scientist with the Kaiser Permanente Northern California Division of Research and the senior author of the study.

“Weight loss, especially loss of fat mass but not lean mass, might also help alleviate hot flashes and night sweats,” according to the study’s authors.

Other studies have shown similar symptom reductions in breast cancer patients when weight gain is prevented after their initial diagnosis.

 

Heirloom Tomato Salad with Pesto

Heirloom tomatoes are my obsession!

There is nothing better on a hot  summer day than a lunch or dinner with a great tomato salad. This particular picture was an entry for a fundraiser cooking contest. The salad was an honorable mention, and is featured in the Rockville Bank 150th anniversary charity cookbook.

White, striped, pink, & green tomatoes are all represented on this plate. Markets  such as Trader Joe’s and Wholefoods carry heirlooms year round. If you are unable to find in your local market, try summer time farmers markets. Not only will you find colorful tomatoes, but purple potatoes, fresh herbs, local melons, unusual squashes and delicious native corn. The flavors of local summer veggies is outstanding compared to super market fare. A red perfect tomato from the supermarket is grown for beauty and durability for transport, The taste and nutrition had been bred out! Scientific American had a recent report on how taste has become diminished.

What you need

  • 1 lb or more various tomatoes, cherry to beefsteak, caution do not refridgerate
  • Fresh log of mozzarella cheese like BelGioioso cut into 1/8″ slices
  • A Bunch of fresh basil about 4 cups of leaves, washed and all stems removed, you can combine Sweet Italian, purple or Thai depending on taste preference. Save  some leaves for garnish.
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup Olive oil or other neutral preferred oil
  • Salt to taste
  • Optional squeeze of lemon to preserve Basil’s color
  • Garlic  cloves optional
  • Pine (pignoli) nuts optional or Walnuts if pine nuts are unavailable
  • Aged balsamic vinegar

Combine fresh basil and optional garlic and nuts with 1/2 of the olive oil and pulse in a food processor. Add oil as needed to create a paste. If leaves do not grind it is an indication you may need more oil, you may need to use a spatula to move all leaves into the blade. If paste is runny add more basil. The paste should be green and smooth. I do not add salt until after adding cheese. When pesto is smooth add Parmesan and pulse gently.  over processing can COOK the cheese. The ratio should be 8:1, Basil to oil.

Slice  Beefsteaks, slice or quarter all your medium tomatoes, leave cherry tomatoes whole or halve. Remember do not refrigerate fresh tomatoes if it can be avoided.

Just before serving, assemble your platter with larger tomato slices at the base, separate slices with mozzarella. I tiered my salad with 3 layers of  beefsteaks and decorated the platter with  alternating colors and sizes. Garnish with basil leaves.

Drizzle pesto on salad or serve on the size. Serve Balsamic as a side as well.

This salad does not need to be dressed, the olive oil in the basil  combined with balsamic to taste, is the perfect dressing.

This is my Favorite summer time meal!

 

What to do with Squash Blossoms?

All those huge beautiful male squash blossoms go to waste on the plant. Only the female blossoms that already have a squash started on the base will develop into a squash.  Summer or Winter,  both are tasty treats if you think outside of the box.

Pick them either at night before they open or first thing in the morning. Picking them at night prevents  surprise guests from your snack, like bees, spiders and other crawlies.

You can store unopened blossoms for several days if stored gently,  I wrap in paper towel in a sandwich bag or plastic container.

My favorite recipes includes

  • Goat cheese, sundried tomatoes & basil
  • Feta, mint & pine nuts or olives
  • Low fat spreadable herb cheese
  • Ricotta, Parmesan, basil and sundried tomato

Pre-mix the cheese with minced additives

Closed Squash blossoms can be gently blown open to fill, check for critters, some prefer to snip the stamen before filling

Fill each blossom with a tablespoon of cheese, and close by running fingers up from the base of flower. you may fix ahead and cook  later in the day

Preheat oven to 325, make a wash of egg or egg substitute , gently coat with  your favorite breadcrumbs, we use gluten free. Spray a baking dish with Pam, bake 15-20 minutes.

Serve on a bed of field greens as an appetizer, or  as the main ingredient of a salad

You can pan fry or deep fry. When calorie counting baking is best.