Thursday, August 30, 2012

Quick & Easy Meals - Dirty Potatoes Breakfast Skillet

Dirty rice is supposed to be good, but I have never eaten it!  I think it was about the little bits of stuff in it that I did not know where it came from…  I am a picky eater from way back!

I really love the ‘Golden’ or ‘Gold’ potatoes because they seem to not get mushy as quick as the other yellow or white fleshed potatoes.  Since I shouldn’t eat potatoes every day, I look for ways to ‘season’ without lots of sodium.   Although this dish has more sodium than normally added, it is a side dish, rather than the main.

Everyone tend to have little bits of this and that in the fridge.  Some just dump everything the night before ‘trash’ day! 

My little bits tend to be things like chopped peppers, chopped bacon, mushrooms, spinach, chili peppers…    I will add all of those to an omelet, except the chili peppers.

Last night was the time to prepare for ‘trash’ day, so I quickly went thru the fridge to see if I would be throwing anything.  Nada.  But I had placed four small ‘golden’ potatoes on the counter by the sink and realized that I now had a potato dish recipe!  In “Minnesotan”, that’s ‘hot dish’!

This is probably not the dish to have ‘man-sized’ servings, because it is loaded with carbs and sodium in larger quantities.  It is meant to be a side dish with another food item to complement it such as egg or small steak.

The chili peppers gives this dish that little ‘kick’ that some of us love!  It’s not hot, just a little ‘kick’.

Dirty Potatoes Breakfast Skillet
Dirty Potatoes Breakfast Skillet - ready
4 small golden potatoes, sliced, as if for French fries, cut to 2-inch lengths
1/4 cup   sweet peppers, finely chopped
1 thick slice bacon, cooked, chopped (used baked)
1 link sausage, cooked, diced (used Bistro Sensations - GF)
1 tbsp dehydrated onions or 2 tbsp raw, diced
1/2 can (4-oz) chili peppers
1 tsp Southwest savory seasoning, sodium free
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp dried herbs seasoning, sodium free
2 tbsp olive oil for cooking
Heat the olive oil in the skillet to medium high, place the potatoes in the skillet and stir to coat the potatoes.  Add remaining ingredients except the chili peppers. Sauté and stir, scraping the bits from the skillet for about 5 minutes. 
Dirty Potatoes Breakfast Skillet - beginning of cooking
Stir in the chili peppers to mix.
Dirty Potatoes Breakfast Skillet - adding chili peppers
Reduce the heat to low, cover and allow to steam about 5 minutes. Scrape the skillet as you stir to mix everything.
Remove from the heat. The potatoes should be crisp with a soft center, not mushy.
 Dirty Potatoes Breakfast Skillet - final cooking
Serve, scraping bits from the skillet so each serving has some of the 'dirty' mix.
Dirty Potatoes Breakfast Skillet - served
served with spinach omelet..
No additional salt is needed as the sausage and bacon has sufficient amounts
Servings: 4 (4 to 6)
Nutrition (per serving): 221 calories, 9g total fat, 5.3g monounsaturated fat, <1g polyunsaturated fat, 0g trans fatty acids, <1g linoleic acid, 1.7g saturated fat, 15.9mg cholesterol, 219mg sodium, 54.8mg calcium, 738.6mg potassium, 14.1mcg folate, 18.2mg phosphorus, 15mg phytosterols, <1mcg lycopene, 1.3mcg selenium, <1mg thiamin, <1mcg vitamin b12, <1mg vitamin b6, 46.2mg vitamin c, <1mg zinc, 28.9g carbohydrates, 2.8g fiber, 26g net carbohydrates, 1.9g sugar, <1g fructose, 0g galactose, <1g glucose, 0g lactose, 0g maltose, 0g sucrose, 8.3g protein.

© 2012

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Almond Milk - Easy To Make With No Additional Ingredients

I have seen several posts about making ‘nut’ milks, but never thought about making one until I read a post by  Healthy Blender Recipes .

I do not have one of those higher-priced blenders or food processors, so It probably took me longer to make it.  I used a Ninja 1100. I did not want a large quantity, just wanted to see how easy and how it tasted compared to the grocery store version.

I simply soaked 1 1/2 cups natural almonds for about 4 hours.  I had to put them in hot water to get the skins removed.   I used blanched almonds, whereas some use the whole almond.

I didn’t want any bacteria growing in the almond milk in case I kept it more than two days, so I boiled some water to use, even sterilized the container I planned to use.

Along with the 1 1/2 cups blanched almonds, I added 3 1/2 cups water and 1/4 tsp Kosher salt. I did not add any flavoring.

Almond milk - ready to refrigerate

It was strained using a coffee filter fitted in a strainer.  The solids  were returned to the Ninja and pulsed again about 2 minutes to finish pulverizing the remains. It was strained again to remove any additional liquid.  Either I did not have cheese cloth or simply could not find it.

After making the almond milk and straining it, had to decide what to do with the remaining solids.The remaining solids were more like ricotta cheese.

Almond milk solid remains 3

Well, decided to substitute some for part of the flour in a chocolate chip cookie.  Mis-measured and added 1/2 cup instead of 1/4 cup, so the cookies came out very soft like a muffin. Finally, I added 1/4 cup chopped walnuts and a cup of oatmeal that I ran thru the food processor.
After trial and error, ended up with a chocolate chip breakfast cookie.  

Almond milk solid remains - added to cookie

Since I used palm shortening, I needed to shape the cookie before freezing the extras as the shortening goes solid when cold.

Almond milk solid remains -  freezing cookies

Pure palm shortening is like coconut oil without the coconut taste. It is sold mostly online and is shelf stable like coconut oil.  This is not the white container seen on most grocery stores.  The only ingredient in it is palm oil.

I also used some of the almond milk in a smoothie.  This is great for those who want ‘milk’, but aren’t supposed to have calcium early in the day.

Don’t you just love frozen smoothies? Would you believe there is even some broccoli in there?

Almond milk - added to smoothie

Basically the remaining solids do not have much taste.  So just use in muffins, cookies or smoothies because there is still some nutrition and fiber left.

© 2012

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Easy Meals - Vegetarian 'What's In The Fridge' Casserole

I love vegetables of all kinds and prefer vegetarian meals.

We were accustomed to making meals based on what we had on hand.  There was no meal planning!  If it was during the growing season, we had fresh vegetables, if the Winter months, it was dried beans and peas.  My mom canned lots of vegetables and fruits, so we had those thru a portion of the Winter months.  When you were from a large family, most home canned goods ran out before the next growing season.

We never had food to throw out as there were never left-overs.  It was basically everyone ate until the food prepared was gone.  Everyone was served and any additional was eaten basically by who wanted it.

The past week, I have been creating recipes or more like ideas of making meals with what is on hand rather than going grocery shopping.

I first made a  vegetarian (vegan) stir-fry dish that included peppers and corn.  I ate two meals with about two left.  I threw the left-overs into the food processor, along with some spicy seasoning and a can of diced tomatoes.  This was placed in a slow cooker with a 16 ounce can of lite coconut milk to make a spicy corn-tomato-sweet pepper based soup. 

The stir-fry dish was good, the soup was good.  I had about 3 cups of soup left.   I used a cup of the soup in this dish and threw the remainder out.

So now you can see, there are ways of using left-overs.

Vegetarian 'What's In The Fridge’ Casserole
Vegetarian What's In The Fridge Casserole - served
2 small green zucchini, julienne cut, inch in length
2 small yellow zucchini, julienne cut
1 large bell pepper cut into cubes
1 large red pepper cut into cubes
1 large egg plant cut into thin slices and halved
1 1/2 cups cottage cheese
1 tsp sodium free savory seasoning
2 tbsp fresh basil, chopped
3 tbsp olive oil, to cover dish, spray dish
1 tsp Bragg's Organic Sprinkle (or other dried herb seasoning or Herbes de Provence)
additional Italian type spices to season
Sauce Ingredients:
1 cup creamy vegetarian or creamy tomato soup
1/2 jar Alfredo Sauce (used Bertolli) - plus enough water to rinse jar
1 tbsp roasted garlic cloves (or 3 fresh finely diced)
1/2 cup cooked portabella mushrooms
1 tbsp dehydrated onion
1 tsp fresh grated ginger (squeeze tube)
1 tsp basil (squeeze tube)
1 tbsp fresh diced lemon grass (squeeze tube)

Prepare all of the vegetables.
Prepare the sauce.
Heat and whisk the sauce ingredients to mix.
For the creamy soup, if you have vegetable vegetarian soup, puree  a cup in a food Processor with a 15-oz can of diced tomatoes along with a spoon of Italian type or Herbes de Provence spice.  The type of soup to use is anything that will complement a vegetarian dish containing zucchini.  Taste the soup for seasoning.
Prepare the Baking Dish
Spray or coat the baking dish with olive oil sufficient to coat the bottom.  The olive oil is also used to flavor the dish.
Assemble the Dish
Place half of the eggplant over the bottom of the dish.  Lightly spray with olive oil.  If you do not have a sprayer, lightly drizzle oil over the dish.  The eggplant does not have to be completely covered with oil.  This is just to disperse the oil over the dish.
Next, place about half the yellow and green zucchini over the eggplant. 
Vegetarian What's In The Fridge Casserole - continuuing to layer
Continue with the green pepper, then the red pepper.
Vegetarian What's In The Fridge Casserole - added peppers
Next spread the cottage cheese over the dish.
Vegetarian What's In The Fridge Casserole - added cottage cheese
Place the remainder of the eggplant and again lightly spray or drizzle with oil.
Sprinkle spices over the eggplant
Vegetarian What's In The Fridge Casserole - added last layer of eggplant
Place the remainder of the zucchini over the dish.
Sprinkle the basil over the dish
Vegetarian What's In The Fridge Casserole - added final layer of zucchini
Spread the sauce over the dish
Vegetarian What's In The Fridge Casserole - added sauce
Bake and Serve
Cover with aluminum foil.  Place one small slit in the top of the foil.
Vegetarian What's In The Fridge Casserole - covered and ready for oven
Bake in pre-heated oven at 350F for about an hour.  Remove foil, press down top of dish.  Sprinkle with topping.  Return to oven for about 10 minutes.
Remove and allow to rest about 10 minutes.
Vegetarian What's In The Fridge Casserole - out of the oven and ready to serve
Serve with crusty bread, if desired.
Vegetarian What's In The Fridge Casserole - serving
Vegetarian What's In The Fridge Casserole - enjoying it
Seasonings used includes Braggs Organic Herb Mix
Vegetarian What's In The Fridge Casserole - additionals
Servings: 6
Yield: 6 - 8
Nutrition (per serving): 277 calories, 16.8g total fat, 5.9g monounsaturated fat, 1.1g polyunsaturated fat, 0g trans fatty acids, <1g trans-monoenoic fatty acids, <1g trans-polyenoic fatty acids, <1g linoleic acid, 6.6g saturated fat, 28mg cholesterol, 500.8mg sodium, 75.8mg calcium, 827.3mg potassium, 73.5mcg folate, 243.6mg phosphorus, 22.4mg phytosterols, 0mcg lycopene, 14.8mcg selenium, <1mg thiamin, <1mcg vitamin b12, <1mg vitamin b6, 73.9mg vitamin c, <1IU vitamin d, 1.2mg zinc, 20.4g carbohydrates, 4.8g fiber, 15.6g net carbohydrates, 6.1g sugar, 1.4g fructose, <1g galactose, 1.3g glucose, <1g lactose, <1g maltose, <1g sucrose, <1mg stigmasterol, 14.1g protein.
This is a nutritional approximation of this dish as the nutrition can change depending on ingredients.
This was very filling, yet did not make me filled ‘stuffed’ like meat does.

Instead of bread crumbs, sprinkle a small amount of shredded cheese over the top after cooking the dish.
Instead of cottage cheese or in additional to cottage cheese, sprinkle 2 ounces of pasta shells or penne over the first layer of eggplant.
© 2012

Monday, August 20, 2012

Non-Medicare Retirement Medical Insurance - Giant Rip-off? Depends on the Provider.

For those of us who were fortunate enough to have medical insurance coverage under COBRA (Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act), so many of us have found it very beneficial.

Originally, my coverage as a retirement benefit was to be provided ‘free of charge’ when I retired from a company at 51 years of age with 31 years of service.   Yes, I had to work thru college to pay the tuition!
The company was in sound financial shape, but was beginning a merger with a company that I did not think was financially sound.  The company was relatively new, around 5 years and appeared to be growing exponentially.  I have always been one to review companies looking at the past 5 years before investing in their stock.  This company had no history as such.  I decided to relocate to another job for the next ten years.

I made a decision to leave, take a cash value of my retirement fund and roll it into an IRA.  The 401k was performing well, including the current company stock, as I was invested in about 60%.   As the merger neared, I started moving from stock to other investments.  Since the stock was still climbing, as I finalized retirement, I left about 20% in the stock. 

After the merger, I also noticed that the board and the new CEO was dumping as much stock as allowed. It became a daily stock watch to see what was happening.  I moved all but about $15,000 out of the stock.  When I reached $10,000, I dumped the remaining stock.

That was the beginning of a long fight of the CEO and upper management being charged with fraud.  The merged stock went from a high $59.00 to about  $.50.  It even stopped trading.

My ‘at no cost’ insurance was now about $100.00 a month.   Over the years, it gradually climbed to $591.00 a month.   I tended to have very good insurance coverage, even at high prices.

Last year, the merged company merged again with another company after the insurance premium had gone down a bit.   I still had very good coverage.  This year the new company changed the coverage from Health Partners Open Access to MEDICA, which did not reduce the cost from last year, but reduced coverage to 80%.  Luckily, I only had to keep them for 6 months.  I would never voluntarily choose that company for insurance.  Those six months had prescriptions filled without the correct prescriber listed and my card used to pay for the medications was compromised on their site. Credit card was cancelled and reissued.
Also this year, I had to enroll in Medicare, and of course, MEDICA is one of the companies bombarding my mailbox with junk mail.  They even had the nerve to start calling me on my cell phone, which I never give to any business.  I had to threaten filing a complaint with the Do Not Call office to get them to stop.

I have always supported COBRA, because it usually provides reasonable coverage to people who leave a job, whether voluntarily or involuntarily.

I finally retired in 2009 from the company that I accepted employment with.  I chose to continue with my former employer’s insurance, because it offered better coverage and I preferred the insurance provider.
This company also merged with another company, which reduced their insurance coverage to employees.
I was offered ‘retirement’ insurance from this company, but declined. Basically the price and coverage could best be described as ‘a joke’!

Advice to all young people (late 20 somethings or 30 somethings who may read this post….
  • Plan on how you would like to live. If you like the 'bling' you must have the skills and education to get the salary to support that life style.
  • It is not necessary to have the latest gadget or latest fad.
  • Buy good quality merchandise, shoes, and clothing.
  • Save at least 10% of your earnings; half in tax deferred and half in after tax.  Tax deferred means you do not pay tax on that money now and cannot use it until you are at least 59 1/2 without tax and a tax penalty!
  • Stop trying to keep up with the Kardashians, they are doing what they can to earn a living.   Why try to impress people who have no real meaning to you?
  • Impress yourself by knowing that come hardship, you will have a nest egg
  • Buy medical insurance, you could go broke without it!
  • Pay attention to what Suze Orman says!

© 2012

Friday, August 10, 2012

Gluten Free Desserts - Peach Cobbler Cake

I remember my mother making peach pies, as we called them.  There was always lots of crust and with fresh peaches!  And she loved adding nutmeg….

Either my mother bought peaches or there was a nearby peach tree at the edge of the ‘woods’ that everyone nearby took turns getting peaches. Most of my earlier years were in farm country, so wild fruit trees were far and near that did not really seem to be owned by anyone. We used to walk thru the  ‘woods’ looking for berries as they grew wild almost everywhere.   There were grapes(the size of wine grapes), raspberries, muscadines (grapes), persimmons, black walnuts, pecans all growing in the wild!  I remember having a hazelnut bush in our yard once!

Oh, the ‘good old days’!

Peach Cobbler Cake - Gluten-free

Peach Cobbler Cake - out of oven


Dry Ingredients

1/2 cup Whole Grain Mix II - Self- Rising (Bob's Red Mill Biscuit mix will work, add a couple tsp sugar)
1/4 cup almond flour (or almond meal)
1/4 cup potato starch
2 tbsp coconut flour ( or 2 more tbsp baking mix)
1 tbsp Coconut palm sugar (or brown sugar)
8 pkts Pure Via Stevia  (or 1/3 cup sugar)
1 tbsp buttermilk powder, optional
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp vanilla powder   (= to1 tsp vanilla extract)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg

Liquids and fats

2 tbsp Canola Harvest Margarine(70% fat) or butter
1 tsp grapeseed oil or other neutral oil
1/4 cup liquid egg white product or 1 egg
1 cup low-fat (1%) buttermilk

Peach mixture

4 large peaches, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch slices ( about 3 cups)
1 tbsp raw honey ( or 1 1/2 T liquid)
3 pkts Pure Via Stevia   (or 2 tbsp sugar)
1 tbsp Coconut palm sugar (or brown sugar)
2 tbsp Canola Harvest Margarine
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp nutmeg, ground
1/3 cup water
1/2 tsp lemon juice


1 tbsp Turbinado sugar (coarse grained sugar) - gives a little crunch


1. Simmer the peach mixture until it begins to thicken just a little, about half an hour.  You may also dissolve 1 tsp cornstarch in a tbsp water to thicken.

Peach Cobbler Cake - Peach Mixture

2. Taste the Peach Mixture to see if the additional sugar is desired. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature.
3. Combine Dry Ingredients in a food processor and pulse until smooth like a purchased biscuit mix. Set aside

Peach Cobbler Cake - Dry Ingredients

4. Spray a 9-inch baking dish with oil spray or coat with shortening. I wiped shortening over the domed cake pan used with a paper towel.
5. Preheat oven to 350°F.
6. Beat the Liquids and Fats except, the buttermilk until creamy.
7. Pour the Dry Ingredients into the mixing bowl and mix until combined, gradually add milk, mixing to combine.

Peach Cobbler Cake - batter

Peach Cobbler Cake - batter close-up

8. Dollop about 1/3 of the batter into the pan. use a fork to spread it out.  dollop about 1/3 of  the Peach Mixture  over the batter,  spread out about evenly.
9. Repeat until all Peach Mixture and batter is in the pan, leaving a small amount of batter for the top. Use a fork to spread it around leaving some open areas.
10. Make sure the batter is not any thicker in areas than others. Using a fork or knife swirl the dish  to mix just a little.
11. Sprinkle  the top lightly with the Turbinado sugar.

Peach Cobbler Cake - before oven

12. Bake for about 45 minutes or until top is lightly browned.   This could take less or more depending on the gluten-free flour mix used

Peach Cobbler Cake - Served

Servings: 8

Nutrition (per serving): 213 calories, 8.7g total fat, 3.3g monounsaturated fat, 1.8g polyunsaturated fat, 0g trans fatty acids, 0g trans-monoenoic fatty acids, 1.3g saturated fat, 1.9mg cholesterol, 175.1mg sodium, 86.5mg calcium, 247.2mg potassium, 7.1mcg folate, 89.3mg phosphorus, 9.1mg phytosterols, <1mcg lycopene, 1.1mcg selenium, <1mg thiamin, <1mcg vitamin b12, <1mg vitamin b6, 5.7mg vitamin c, 0IU vitamin d, <1mg zinc, 29.8g carbohydrates, 3.1g fiber, 26.6g net carbohydrates, 15.8g sugar, 1.2g fructose, <1g galactose, 1.5g glucose, 0g lactose, <1g maltose, 3.7g sucrose, 4.6g protein.


I do not like really sweet pies, so add additional 2 tbsp sugar to the peaches after tasting them if you wish.
I used minimum sugars in this recipe to reduce the sugar content, of course you may add more Turbinado sugar or increase the sugar in the peach mixture, but that will increase the number of calories and CARBS.  By doing so, you may also serve smaller servings to offset the increase.
For the vanilla powder, substitute 1 tsp vanilla extract in the Liquids and Fats mix
If you do not have almond meal, throw about 1/3 C almonds in food processor until no hard bits, do not over pulse or you will get butter.  Sift to remove any hard pieces.   Measure out the 1/4 cup. Save those for  topping ice cream or dessert bars.
Almond meal lightens the batter, I do not recommend flax meal as it will make it heavier since there is extra liquid in this recipe.
I formulate my mixes to have more fiber, is the reason for the coconut flour.
I have never made this with canned peaches as they seem too mushy for me.

© 2012