Sunday, August 28, 2011

Stuffed Mushrooms and Self-Challenges

I love stuffed mushrooms, but the recipe I grew up with requires breadcrumb.  These don't, and they're delicious.  For my daughter, who doesn't like mushrooms, I just didn't add the stems in the mix and made "invisible" mushrooms for her- blobs of the filling on the pan.  I got this recipe from my cousin, Meredith, who got it from

Stuffed Mushrooms

  |    |    |  


  • 24 ounces, weight White Button Mushrooms
  • 1/3 pound Hot Pork Sausage (or ground beef)
  • 1/2 whole Medium Onion, Finely Diced
  • 4 cloves Garlic, Finely Minced
  • 1/3 cup Dry White Wine
  • 8 ounces, weight Cream Cheese
  • 1 whole Egg Yolk
  • 3/4 cups Parmesan Cheese, Grated
  • Salt And Pepper, to taste

Preparation Instructions

Wipe off or wash mushrooms in cold water. Pop out stems, reserving both parts.
Chop mushroom stems finely and set aside.
Brown and crumble sausage or beef. Set aside on a plate to cool.
Add onions and garlic to the same skillet; cook for 2 minutes over medium low heat.
Pour in wine to deglaze pan, allow liquid to evaporate.
Add in chopped mushroom stems, stir to cook for 2 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Set mixture aside on a plate to cool.
In a bowl, combine cream cheese and egg yolk. Stir together with Parmesan cheese.
Add cooled sausage and cooled mushroom stems. Stir mixture together and refrigerate for a short time to firm up.
Smear mixture into the cavity of each mushroom, creating a sizable mound over the top.
Bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden brown.
Allow to cool at least ten minutes before serving; the stuffed mushrooms taste better when not piping hot.
So, the insurance at the university where I work has issued a challenge for six weeks: 
-walk 10,000 steps a day
-drink 64 oz. of water a day
-talk to a friend every day (easy)
-eat a healthy snack every day (easy)
-use technology (computer, tv, games) for 2 hrs or less, besides for work  

I didn't realize how hard it is to get 10,000 steps in unless I'm going to the gym.  I did park at the far end of the parking lot the farthest distance from my office for half the week, but even with that, I had to do something more than that to get my time in.  Three days of the week I have an extra hour between classes, so one of the days I just went for a long walk around the neighborhood adjoining the university.  That was nice, but it won't be practical every day.  During the summer, I was a gym junky, but I find it very difficult to get a routine going during the school year- my work load builds up, I have less time with my daughter (so I don't like taking evening time to go to a zumba class), and I don't do well early in the morning, and the classes they do have don't mesh with when would work for me.   I can go walking on the track at the PE building, but that gets boring and I give up when I'm bored. I wish they had zumba and such at the university itself, but it's a small campus, so there aren't classes like that, the same way they have it at a gym.  And each part of the university gym is a la carte; I find it a bit confusing, honestly.  I have some Wii games, like Wii Fit, but I'm inconsistent on my own.  I need to come up with a solution this week!

As far as water, I did find out that 20% of the water goal can come through foods.  Whew.  Also, I was somewhere recently and dying of thirst and bought an Aquafina- I never had that brand.  I love it!  It almost tastes sweet.  That has helped me down more in a day.  I still have a hard time believing someone 5'0" needs the same amount of water as someone 6'0", though!

The technology one has been hard.  I've been fatigued lately, which justifies me being on the computer more (of course it does), and my daughter and I like to watch Bones episodes while we're doing other things.  We're on a Bones' kick, in fact.  We watch it on Netflix, so we're behind, like in most series.  We just watched the one that explained who Gormogon and his assistant were.  We both cried.  Wow- devastating.

The point is, having the goal helps me at least have a clue what I'm doing, even if I'm not reaching the goal all the time. 

Well, that's me, checking in.  I don't know how often I will write now that the semester has started, although I am better organized during the school year, sadly, than during the summer. I did find a couple of good recipe books that I will look through soon, so I can add some more recipes on here.  

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Artichokes and Hollandaise Sauce

Not everyone eats artichokes regularly, or at all, or at least at home.  Artichokes are a Sicilian thing.  Really, they're giant thistles with serious spikes on the end of each leaf that hurt like a *bleep*.   I often wonder what made someone decide to try to eat a visibly dangerous, tough exteriored weed for the first time.  I have mentioned in passing on this blog that this is one of the things I love to eat, but as I was enjoying one yesterday (my daughter and I ate them for breakfast- that's a first), I thought that many people probably don't know how to  prepare them.  Here's how I do it:

But, how do I pick one at the store, first?  It depends.  I know what I look for, but here's a concise explanation from

In spring and winter, look for artichokes that are compact, firm and heavy for their size; summer and fall artichokes tend to be flared and conical in shape. Choose spring and summer artichokes with an even green color. Fall and winter artichokes may be touched by frost — winter-kissed with a whitish, blistered appearance — and show light bronze to brown on the outer leaves. These are often tender and tasty, and considered to be premier artichokes.

Ok, so first, I cut the stem off the bottom, so it can sit nicely on a plate when it's done.  Then, I cut the other end off the whole artichoke, maybe 1/2- 1 inch; I do this for two reasons: 1.  It gets most of the spikes off.  2.  I can then set it, balanced, upside-down in a steamer.  I find that cutting the tips off with a knife is actually rather hard to do- I likely just have cheap knives.  I often just use my kitchen scissors.

Usually, I cut off the tips of all the outlying leaves with spikes at this point.  Yesterday, I waited until it was cooked, and it was a lot easier!

Another thing I learned recently was the best thing to steam them in (by the way, I tried boiling them once- they turned out soggy and gross).  I used to use the shallow, hangs out at the top of my pot-type steamer.  This is fine, but it takes a lot of water in the pot- at least I would put a lot in- and sometimes, they just wouldn't fit with the lid on.  My mom came this summer, and she used the stock pot with the strainer in it instead.  I was amazed at this idea- mostly that it had never occurred to me.  They all fit with room to spare, and I don't need very much water in the pot.  Some water does go over the strainer "line" onto the artichokes, but it is very little and on the tougher part of the leaves anyway.  I leave them in for about 40 minutes- those suckers are really tough!

When they're done, I typically just yank open the leaves a little to let the steam/heat out and serve them with butter or hollandaise sauce- the latter I hadn't tried with artichokes until I watched Julie and Julia, then I had to try it!  I found Julia Child's recipe, or at least one of her recipes (I think I tried a harder version of hers once, or I just botched this one up somehow) that is super easy to make and tastes great.  The little powder packages at the store are gross, and likely they have flour or something in them anyway.

So how does one eat an artichoke?  Pull off a leaf, dip in sauce, etc., and scrape your teeth along the leaf to get all the soft meaty parts off (if this doesn't work, it's undercooked or occasionally, the outer leaves are just stubborn, so try another, more internal leaf).  As you get more to the center, some of the leaves may break at about halfway because they are so tender- that's the best thing!  Once you've eaten the leaves, take a spoon and scrape the "fur" (the choke, which will make you choke if you get any in your mouth) off- if you're doing this right, it will kind of peel off in parts, making it easy.  What is left is the heart, which is a giant mass of what you've been scraping off the leaves... heaven.  I'm really not a fan of marinated hearts from a jar, which is what most people eat.  Fresh is my favorite.

Julia Child's Hollandaise Sauce
from Julia and Jacque, Cooking at Home

  • egg yolks
  • tablespoon water
  • tablespoon fresh lemon juice, if needed (or more)
  • 6 -8 ounces very soft unsalted butter
  • dash cayenne pepper
  • salt, to taste
  • fresh ground white pepper, to taste


  1. 1
    Whisk the yolks, water, and lemon juice in the saucepan for a few moments, until thick and pale (this prepares them for what is to come).
  2. 2
    Set the pan over moderately low heat and continue to whisk at reasonable speed, reaching all over the bottom and insides of the pan, where the eggs tend to overcook.
  3. 3
    To moderate the heat, frequently move the pan off the burner for a few seconds, and then back on. (If, by chance, the eggs seem to be cooking too fast, set the pan in the bowl of cold water to cool the bottom, then continue).
  4. 4
    As they cook, the eggs will become frothy and increase in volume, and then thicken. When you can see the pan bottom through the streaks of the whisk and the eggs are thick and smooth, remove from the heat.
  5. 5
    By spoonfuls, add the soft butter, whisking constantly to incorporate each addition. As the emulsion forms, you may add the butter in slightly larger amounts, always whisking until fully absorbed. Continue incorporating butter until the sauce has thickened to the consistency you want.
  6. 6
    Season lightly with salt, pepper, and a dash of cayenne pepper, whisking in well. Taste and adjust the seasoning, adding droplets of lemon juice if needed. Serve lukewarm.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011


A frittata is an Italian dish that is kind of like an omelette, but the ingredients are mixed all together and then cooked, instead of folding the filling in the center.  Frittatas can be served warm but are often served at room temperature and can be served at any meal, so they're a lot more versatile that way.  Because they can have infinite variations, they are a good option for meals, especially when I find that I'm repeating recipes too much and on the verge of ordering pizza.  Here are some variations I found on; there are a lot more, or you can be brave and just experiment with what's already in the house:


1 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. butter
1 shallot, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp. chives or scallions, chopped
1 lb. fresh mushrooms, sliced
6 eggs
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 tbsp. fresh Italian parsley, minced
1/2 cup cheddar or Provolone cheese, grated

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 10-inch round baking dish or flan pan.In a large skillet, heat olive oil and butter over medium heat. Sauté shallot, garlic and chives or scallions for several minutes, or until softened. Add sliced mushrooms and sauté over high heat for another few minutes. Remove from heat.
In a bowl, whisk eggs only until blended; add salt, pepper, parsley and mushroom mixture. Pour into baking dish and sprinkle top with grated cheese (almost any kind of hard cheese may be used).
Bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes, or until a thin knife inserted in center comes out clean.
May be served warm or at room temperature.


1 c. sliced onions
1/2 c. julienne strips red pepper
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tbsp. butter
6 eggs
1/3 c. half and half
1/2 tsp. basil leaves
1/2 tsp. seasoned salt or lemon pepper
1 to 1 1/2 c. coarsely chopped broccoli, cooked crisp tender
4 oz. shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese

Heat oven to 425 degrees. Generously butter a 2 quart shallow casserole dish. In large skillet, saute onions, pepper and garlic in butter until tender. In large bowl, beat eggs, cream and seasonings until combined. Stir in onion and pepper mixture, add broccoli. Pour into prepared dish. Sprinkle with cheeses. Bake uncovered at 425 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving. 


6 eggs
1/4 c. skim milk
1/4 tsp. salt
Dash of nutmeg
2 tbsp. butter
1/4 c. sliced green onions
1 c. fresh or frozen cut-up asparagus, cooked and drained
1/4 c. shredded carrot (These are only on the liberal diet)
2 oz. shredded Swiss cheese

In medium bowl, combine eggs, milk, salt and nutmeg; beat well.In 10-inch skillet over medium heat, melt butter. Saute onion until tender. Reduce heat to low; add egg mixture to skillet. Cover; cook over low heat for 6 to 8 minutes or until mixture is set.
Arrange asparagus in center of frittata. Sprinkle carrots around edge. Sprinkle cheese over asparagus, cover; cook 2 to 4 minutes or until cheese is melted. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.


6 eggs
1 c. milk
1 green onion, chopped
2 tbsp. butter, melted
1/2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper
4 oz. shredded Cheddar cheese
Crumbled cooked bacon

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease 10 1/2 inch round au gratin pan or 9 x 9 inch baking dish. In medium bowl with wire whisk, beat eggs, milk, onion, butter, salt, and pepper until well blended. Pour mixture into baking dish. Sprinkle cheese and bacon bits over top. Bake 20 minutes or until set.A tablespoon of vinegar added to water before poaching eggs helps to keep the whites from spreading.


2 Italian sausages, crumbled [Be careful to read the label and find one without sugars]
1/4 c. olive oil
10 oz. pkg. frozen spinach, thawed and drained
1/3 to 1/2 lb. fresh sliced mushrooms
1 med. onion, chopped
6 eggs
1 c. grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp. dried garlic
1/2 tsp. basil
1/4 tsp. marjoram
1 c. grated Mozzarella cheese
Salt and pepper

Brown sausage; heat oil. Add spinach, mushrooms, and onions (saute). Preheat oven at 350 degrees. Butter 2 quarts casserole. Combine eggs, 3/4 cup Parmesan, garlic, and seasonings in medium bowl. Mix well. Stir in sausage and vegetables. Pour in baking dish. Sprinkle with rest of cheese. Bake until set, 25 minutes. If chilled, bake 30 to 40 minutes. Can be made the night before and refrigerate.


6-8 eggs
1-2 pkg. frozen artichoke hearts [I have never seen these, but I'll look for them now- you could just boil some artichokes and cut out the hearts- ooh, how piratey sounding]
1 c. Italian cheese
1 c. grated mozzarella cheese
1 bunch finely chopped green onions

Beat your eggs well with a hand beater. Add salt and pepper to taste. Then add Parmesan cheese and beat well again. Add mozzarella to eggs and other ingredients. Put your artichokes in teflon skillet. Pour eggs and oil ingredients over artichoke. Place in heated oven, 350 degrees cook until done.


1 pkg. frozen spinach
1 tbsp. butter
1/4 c. sliced onions or chives
6 beaten eggs
1/3 c. milk or cream
Salt and pepper
1/4 tsp. marjoram
1/2 c. (2 oz.) shredded Swiss cheese
1 sm. tomato, chopped

Microwave and drain spinach. In 9 or 10-inch pie pan, melt butter 45 seconds, coat pan. Add onions and saute. Spread spinach over onions.Combine eggs, milk and seasonings and pour over vegetables. Cook uncovered 4 to 6 minutes, stopping and lifting edges a few times. Sprinkle with cheese and microwave 1 minute. Add tomatoes and serve.


1 (7 1/2 oz.) can crab meat
2 tbsp. butter
1 clove garlic, crushed
2/3 c. chopped onion
1 c. chopped asparagus
1/2 c. sliced mushrooms
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
3 eggs
1/2 c. nonfat milk
1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese

Drain crab. Melt butter in large skillet. Add garlic, onion, asparagus and mushrooms; saute until tender. Add salt and pepper, cook, covered, 5 to 7 minutes. Beat together eggs, milk and cheese. Combine crab with asparagus and egg mixture in buttered 1 quart casserole. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until firm. Garnish with parsley. Serves 6.


1 diced tomato
1 diced green pepper
1/2 chopped onion
Dash of taco seasoning
2 tbsp. oil
2 eggs, beaten

Saute first four ingredients in oil until tender. Pour in eggs. Turn when set and brown lightly. Top with salsa to taste.


3 tbsp. olive oil
1 red onion, sliced thin
2 garlic cloves
3 yellow squash
1 yellow bell pepper, cut in strips
1 red bell pepper, cut in strips
6 eggs
1/4 c. heavy cream
1 tsp. saffron
3 tbsp. fresh basil
10 oz. Boursin cheese (found in dairy section in packages)
1 lb. cooked lobster meat
2 c. grated Gruyere cheese

Butter bottom and sides of springform pan. Heat olive oil in pot; add onion, garlic, squash, pepper; cook for 10 minutes or until soft.In a bowl, whisk the eggs and cream, saffron, basil, boursin cheese. Add the lobster meat and then cooked vegetables. Add the Gruyere cheese and pour into the springform pan.
Place pan on tin foil or cookie sheets in case of leaking. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour. Serves 8 nicely.


1/4 c. chopped onion
8 eggs
1/4 c. water
1/4 c. chopped green pepper
2 tbsp. butter
1 med. tomato chopped
1/2 tsp. Italian herb season
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 c. Mozzarella cheese
1/2 c. sliced pepperoni [be careful to read labels to avoid sugars- Boar's Head is probably the best bet, but I haven't checked it myself- or just skip this ingredient]

In a 10-inch ovenproof omelet or frying pan, cook onion and green pepper in butter until tender but not browned. Beat together eggs and remaining ingredients except cheese. Pour egg mixture over onion and green pepper mixture in frying pan.Cook without stirring over low to medium heat until eggs are set but still runny in center, 7-9 minutes. Sprinkle with cheese. Broil 5-6 inches from heat until cheese melts and browns lightly, about 3 minutes. Cut in wedges to serve.

And now, in honor of frittatas, a few lines from the Lion King 1 1/2:

Timon: The monkey was right.
We found it-- the perfect life.
He had the perfect name for it, too.

Pumba: I'll just whip up a little something.

Timon: Such a wonderful phrase. It had this rhythm. Laduda Ladada.

Pumba: Come and get it. Try this hot tuna frittata.

Timon: Quiet, Pumbaa. I'm trying to think.

Pumba (still trying to serve food): The spinach armada.
A spoon of ricotta.

Timon: Two words.

Pumba: A wormy piccata.

Timon: Six syllables.

Pumba: Kahuna colada.
A blue enchilada.

Timon: Twelve letters.

Pumba: Legumes on a platter.

Timon: Think... Rhymes with...

Pumba: This ought to be hotter.

Timon: I forget.

Pumba: I gotta lambada!

Timon: I'm dying here!
How can you dance at a time like this?
Ooh, sorry about that, pal.

Pumba: Hey, Hankuna Matata.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Stress-Eating and Prayer

Well, it's been a stressful summer at our house.  Not all of it, of course, as we've had a lot of fun, too, but without going into detail, it's been a really rough summer for my daughter, and I've been beside myself not only trying to protect her but to figure out the right things to do in regards to the situation.  I've gotten really good at handling stress (for the most part), when it is just mine, but when it's hers, it still completely throws me.

So, I've found myself allowing more and more slip-ups in my eating.  I've always liked to eat out or take her out when things get too tense, but they've stayed tense for a long time, and this created a bad pattern over the last few weeks.  Then, of course, even though I felt terrible- not guilty so much as felt like garbage- my body went nuts on the carbs and wanted more.  It became harder to get back on track.  It's really irritating that my body reacts to carbs and sugars like some do to alcohol.  How unfair is that?!

I had several days of better but not perfect eating, which doesn't actually help a lot.  Even one cookie or piece of bread in say every two days will still get my body reacting, which makes eating well the rest of the time a major task.

So, I went back to what got me on track at first over a year ago.  Yes, it was agony and fatigue that prompted the start of my new permanent diet, but willpower alone wasn't enough.  I realized back then that in every other facet of my life when I am struggling, I pray for help to know what to do or to have the strength to do it.  I think that for those of us who pray, this is common.  But, I think it might also be common to only pray, "Please let me just heal or feel better or lose weight!!!" wanting God to just fix it for us, especially when it has to do with something as emotional as food is for most of us.  And He can, obviously, but he usually doesn't work that way.  He will help us help ourselves.  I was very specific in my prayers over the last few years asking for help to find what I needed to in order to help ease my fibromyalgia symptoms, then I went to work studying out what I could find.  When I found the diet, I asked for strength to change how I ate and to stick to it, a prayer I had to repeat a lot!

So, after my hiatus this summer, I realized I needed to pray for strength again.  To someone not attached to foods (or one who doesn't have to worry about what he or she eats), this probably sounds weird.  It might sound weird anyway.  But, getting and staying relatively healthy is important, so why would I not ask for help?  I finally remembered to do that again yesterday, and I suddenly had a change of heart from "Yeah, I need to get it together again; I know.  I know." to "I can't eat another thing that will make me sick!  What was I thinking?"  The main thing I've decided through this experience is how little my accomplishments are actually coming from me when it really comes down to it- and I'm okay with that.

So, yesterday I planned out the meals for the whole week, bought me some cheese and Boar's head cold cuts for when I'm in a pinch, and this morning I boiled a bunch of eggs and put them in the fridge (and ate two of them).  This afternoon I sauteed zucchini and onion in butter.  And I already feel tons better than I did two days ago.  I'd like to say I'll never rationalize a slip-up again, but I know myself better.  For now, though, I'm back on track.