Category Archives: Weight Loss Journey

Gourmet Dressing and Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms

There are lots of awesome-sounding recipes for stuffed mushrooms out there, but I was looking for a vegetarian recipe that might cater to my son’s Lenten fast of “no meat,” and I didn’t see anything that looked completely veggie and still really awesome. That’s when it occurred to me to look in my fridge. What was there? I still had the remains of some gourmet dressing and gravy, although the turkey and mashed potatoes from our dinner party the other day had already disappeared. Shall I? I wondered. In truth, I’m forever experimenting with recipes, but not all of my experiments are successes. Did I tell you about the time I pureed some leftover fajitas to make chicken fajita soup after my son’s oral surgery? It turned out like baby food, and my husband couldn’t get past the look to even figure out that the flavor was still just fine! He stuck out his tongue and turned the bowl over on the table. (Well, he pretended to, although he didn’t really). He ate chips and cheese that night… At any rate, I thought I’d try using the leftover stuffing, and if it failed, I’d just not mention it. However, it passed inspection by both my culinary connoisseur husband (for whom a major priority in travel is experiencing great, new food), and my twenty-something son, whose appetite is still  hale and hearty. Of course, it starts with really great stuffing:

Really Great Stuffing 
(
serves 6-12)

Sauté the following (one at a time) until tender with 1/4 c. butter:
1 smallish onion3-4 stalks chopped celery (about 1.5 cups)  (Don’t add the leaves until you add the final seasonings, so they stay green)1/2 yellow (or red) pepper
2 tablespoons fresh garlic4 oz. sliced mushrooms
1 small can sliced water chestnuts  (Of course, you can leave out any of the above ingredients that you don’t like; it’s all about flavor and personal taste.)

Once all the veggies are tender, add:
1 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon sage
1/2 teaspoon seasoning salt (I use Lawry’s, but whatever you like works)
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon basil
1/4 teaspoon oregano
The celery leaves. (You can also add 1/2 teaspoon of celery seeds if you like.)

Stir thoroughly, and then add:
1/4 c. (1/2 stick) butter (I didn’t say this was going to be fat-free 🙂  )
1/2 cup rolled oats (secret ingredient I learned from my brother-in-law; holds everything together nicely)
12 oz. stuffing mix (Or, you can make your own by cubing dried bread…if it’s not moldy.  🙂  If you make your own, you might need more seasoning. Test it.)
2-3 cups turkey broth (or broth from whatever meat you’re roasting; enough to make everything damp).

Heat and stir lightly until everything is moist, then scoop into a covered baking dish and pop in the oven at about 350° (or whatever temperature you’re using for your roast) for an hour (or less if the temp. is higher. A half an hour could work; check it to make sure it’s browning but not burning. The dressing is in the center of this picture.)

From there, it’s not hard to make first-rate stuffed mushrooms!

First-Rate Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms
(Serves 4)

1. Wash 4 Portobello mushroom caps and place them in a large frying pan.
2. Sauté with 1/4 cup butter on both sides until starting to brown. Turn off heat.
3. Mix 2-3 cups of leftover stuffing (or whatever you have left) with
1 cup gravy (or howmuchever you have left) and
4 ounces grated pepper jack cheese (or whatever you have on hand). (Also, if you have leftover turkey and are not intentionally trying to avoid meat, a little chopped turkey would definitely add to the flavor and protein content.)
4. Heat the dressing, gravy, and cheese in a separate pan until they’re starting to mix well. (Gravy runny and being absorbed, but the cheese doesn’t have to be completely melted.)
5. Ladle the stuffing into (and on top of) the caps (gill side up).
6.  Add 1/4 cup water (or just enough water to keep the mushrooms from burning; they should be producing their own juice at this point, but you can add a little more water if needed).
7. Top liberally with grated cheese (I used cheddar, because that’s what I had)
8. Cook with the skillet lid on, at very low heat, for about 10 minutes, or until everything is well steamed and the cheese is melted.
9.  Serve immediately with a few of your favorite sides. (You could also serve it in a bun like a hamburger, but it would probably take both hands to handle it.)

I will praise the name of God with a song,
and will magnify him with thanksgiving
” (Psalm 69:30).

 

 

 

Tangy Salad: Mozzarella Balls and Cherry Tomatoes

Sometimes simple is as good as it gets, and if you’re looking for a quick and healthy side or snack, few are easier to make, yummier, or more nutritious:

1 pound mozzarella cheese balls (or cube your own)
1 pound cherry tomatoes
1 tablespoon sugar (can be left out, but it really adds)
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar (great vinegar is key, so get the best you can)
2 tablespoons olive oil (second key, so ditto; if you can afford it, get first press)
1/2  teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2  teaspoon basil
1/2 teaspoon parley
Salt and pepper to taste

Mix altogether and let it rest for a few minutes before serving to blend the flavors. (Or, if  you’re starving, eat it ASAP! )

God “giveth food to all flesh: for his mercy endureth for ever. O give thanks unto the God of heaven: for his mercy endureth for ever” (Psalm 136:25-26).

Savory Shrimp and Artichoke Pasta

Do you have a favorite pasta? Here’s a recipe for shrimp pasta, but it’s very flexible, so I think it would taste just as wonderful made with chicken. In truth, I simply chose several of my favorite veggies, so I think you could use this recipe as a template but try whatever veggies, meat, and cheese you like. Just be sure to start sautéing with the firmest veggie and then add them one at a time, depending on how dense they are. (The denser, the longer cooking time needed.) Green veggies need a very light touch, so throw them in last or they’ll lose some of their glorious color (and nutrition) before you’re done cooking everything.

Savory Shrimp and Artichoke Pasta

(Serves 4-6, depending on how much you eat! The older we get, the less we eat!)

Sautée together until tender (adding in the order listed):
2 Tablespoons butter
One finely chopped onion
One chopped red pepper
1 clove minced garlic (or 1 tablespoon minced garlic)
12 oz. sliced mushrooms
8 oz. chopped asparagus
1 pound cooked, deveined and peeled shrimp (or cooked, cubed chicken)

Blend together the following ingredients and add to the sauté. Turn down the heat to low. Stir gently until everything is hot, smooth and starts to bubble:
1 cup light cream (milk works too)
3 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon seasoning salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon crushed oregano
1 teaspoon chopped parsley
8 oz. shredded cheese (I used cheddar, but mozzarella or whatever is fine)

Add and heat for 2-3 minutes, stirring gently until heated through:
1 can quartered artichoke hearts (if you need more liquid, you can use part or all of the juice in the can of artichokes; it just depends on how thick you like it)

Serve while hot over your favorite cooked pasta. I used spaghetti squash, but any type of pasta works well.

Sprinkle liberally with grated Parmesan cheese.

I have esteemed the words of his [God’s] mouth more than my necessary food.” (Job 23:12)

African Food and a Recipe for (Gluten-Free and Vegetarian) Stuffed Acorn Squash

             What do you think of when you try to imagine African cuisine? I’m embarrassed to admit that I was preparing for pots of stew filled with unrecognizable chunks of whatever lurking beneath the surface and threatening to cause indigestion or worse…parasites?…the three D’s: diseases, dehydration, and death??!

I’m sure in remote areas or without using precautions, American stomachs might have trouble with some of the cuisine, but our trip had nothing less than spectacular, exotic and gourmet food every day! Grilled ostrich competes favorably with a good beef steak, and warthog is succulent and tender! Our resorts served first-class meals (including the “Full English” plus). Museum cafeterias offered classic favorite like burgers, fries, and cokes.The specialty dishes at our hotels were always appealing and most often bursting with flavor! (If you like seafood, try kingclip [fish].)If not to your taste, at the least the foods are fun and interesting to test!

It is in this frame of mind that I’d like to offer you a recipe for my own adaptation of something that I found in a Spar Deli in Capetown, South Africa. (Spar stores are a national chain like Tesco in the U.K. or Kroger in the U.S.) It’s Lent right now, and my son Joel has given up meat, so I’ve been trying to find vegetarian recipes that have lots of protein and flavor. Although I’m giving you the recipe for what I did, my theory is that  you could do the same thing with any variety of “stuffings,” including chicken salad, tuna salad, or your own unique concoction based on your personal palate of tastes. The unusual aspect is that it’s served in a cup of acorn squash, which is actually sweet, filling but not too caloric, and can be easily scooped out and blended with the other ingredients as you eat. It was a hit with my family.

Stuffed Acorn Squash
(4 servings)

Halve and clean (scoop out the fibers and seeds) 2 acorn squashes. Roast them in a covered roasting pan with 1/2 cup water at 350° for an hour. Cool.

Filling:
2 cups cottage cheese
1 jar grilled, mixed vegetables (or make your own and let them cool)
5 oz. Greek yogurt dip with Spinach and Parmesan
5 oz. Artichoke and Jalapeno dip (you could substitute your favorite dips)
1/2 c. chopped walnuts 

Mix until blended, and fill the cups. It’s remarkably easy and surprisingly good! I think it would be best on a warm day, but I was almost shocked by how much I liked it. (Not all of my creations have been so well received, but I won’t pass along the duds!  🙂  )For the earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof. If any of them that believe not bid you to a feast, and ye be disposed to go; whatsoever is set before you, eat, asking no question for conscience sake” (1 Corinthians 10:26-28; this verse does not refer to issues of health and safety, it’s talking about receiving hospitality without worrying about where the food was purchased or processed).

Savory Cream of Mushroom Soup

After a fabulous buffet one night at the Rosen Shingle Creek Resort in Orlando (where Alan’s conference was held), Alan and I both agreed that our very favorite dish had been the creamy mushroom soup. “Shocking!” I thought to myself. How could something so simple be so delectable?  Well, after talking to the waiter, doing a little online research, and experimenting a bit, I’ve come up with a recipe that Alan and I think is at least a worthy competitor. Here it is:

Savory Cream of Mushroom Soup
(serves 2-4)

2 T. (Tablespoon) butter (Melt in an iron skillet.)
1 chopped onion (Choose your size depending on your love of onions.)
1 T. fresh garlic (or dried; saute with onions until starting to caramelize.)12 oz. sliced mushrooms (any type you prefer; saute until starting to brown.)
3 cups water
1 T. chicken bouillon powder
1 T. rosemary (fresh or crushed)
1/4 teaspoon basil
Pepper to taste
1 bay leaf  (Add all ingredients and simmer for 15 minutes.)3 T. flour (easiest if whisked together with cream first; I failed!)
1 cup light cream (Heat entire mixture until it’s simmering but not boiling.)                             Serve immediately, while it’s still piping hot.

Better is a dinner of herbs where love is, than a fatted calf with hatred.” (Proverbs 15:17, NKJV)

Lenten Special: Ahi Tuna with Super Simple Aioli Sauce

I first experienced how delicious Ahi tuna is while visiting my son Michael’s family in Hawaii. Hawaiians make what must be the world’s best Ahi tuna sandwiches, bursting with flavor and smothered with grilled onions, lettuce, and an amazing sauce, which they called “aioli.” I was determined to learn how to imitate this succulent dish after we returned to the mainland.However, I was disappointed to discover how expensive Ahi tuna can be here in the middle of America far from ocean shores. At  our downtown “World Market,” it costs $20 per pound. 😦  To my delight, I’ve now found a source for fresh-caught Ahi from Vietnam at my favorite store: Meijer, and I can get it on sale for $6 a pound, which isn’t bad if you consider that 4 oz. can make a reasonable serving.  I guess technically aioli sauce is defined by garlic and mayonnaise, but at our house we’ve improvised with a recipe that my son Stephen developed.  First, just a word on cooking the fish. Ahi tuna is a very meaty fish and tastes great seared on your grill just like a beef steak. In the winter, try searing it in a hot pan for 2-3 minutes on each side with some sauteed garlic, salt, and pepper. If you overcook it, the steak becomes tough, so stop while it’s pink inside.If you really want to “go healthy,” Ahi can be served over a salad, although I prefer topping it with aioli sauce to bring out the flavor and add moisture.

Simple but Scrumptious Aioli Sauce (serves 2-4)

1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 Tablespoon sesame seed oil
1 Tablespoon soy sauce
(In honor of my research, you might want to add some garlic powder or fresh minced garlic. Experiment. I prefer grilling garlic cloves with the fish.)
      Stir everything together until it’s smooth. It takes just a minute to make!Use it to top your tuna, add a few fresh fruits and veggie sides, and you’ve got a Friday night Lenten Special dinner that’s very healthy and full of flavor. (Or, of course, you can always go out for a fish fry!  🙂 )

And Jesus said unto them, Come ye after me,
and I will make you to become fishers of men
” (Mark 1:17).

Saturday Recipe for Lent: How to Satisfy Your Hunger Cravings

mushrooms-onions-and-peppersUsually on Saturday I’ve been sharing recipes for food, but today I thought I’d rather share a recipe for satisfying hunger generally, which came to me from reflecting on a recent message referred to as “A Theology of Food.” sauteeing-veggiesThat sounded like a crazy title to me, but by the end of the message, I understood what our pastor meant. “Pastor Jim” is working his way through the book of Romans, and we’re on Romans 14 now, where the Apostle Paul discusses eating. basket-of-fruitIt had never occurred to me that man’s first prohibition concerned food, and that both Adam’s and Christ’s first temptations had to do with food. cauliflower-fresh-headAlthough Jesus taught in Matthew 15 that it’s not what goes into our mouth but out of our mouth that can defile us, still, eating food can be sinful if it’s done to please ourselves without respect to what God wants for us. chopping-up-cauliflowerGod intended food to be a blessing and to enable us to enjoy fellowship with one another and with Him, but we can make food into an idol when we allow eating to become an end in itself and use it for personal pleasure rather than for health and fellowship. spinach-salad-with-strawberries-and-pecansI am not making the ascetic suggestion that we shouldn’t enjoy food, or that we should only eat as little as necessary to survive, or that we should never enjoy the abundant array of foods that are available to us, but (as our pastor reminded us), overeating as a form of therapy or as a fattening reward we don’t need is just plain wrong. All too often (and I’m totally guilty of this), we eat because we’re bored or lonely or tired, or feel overworked or underappreciated, or because our friends are eating…the list goes on. steamed-cauliflowerWe train our brain to get an immediately gratifying buzz from the pleasurable sensations of hot chocolate or popcorn (or whatever), and we feel a little perk from the sugar or fat, with the net effect of feeling better in the moment but fatter in the morning…which is no different from any other addictive process! frying-steak-and-veggiesWhat we really need to do is train our brain to acknowledge need when we sense it, but to take that need straight to God, asking him to fill it with Himself or show us what He wants us to do to fill it. apple-pearInvite Him into the conversation: Why do I feel this way? What is it that I really need? What should I do? apple-pear-slicedI think if we all employed that strategy, and really listened for the still, small voice within our heart (God’s Holy Spirit), we’d quickly learn to let God fill us with just what we need…and probably most of the time (unless it’s actually meal time), it would not be more food!

steak-dinner-with-vegetables-and-fruits-2I am the Lord thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt: open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it” (Psalm 81:10).

But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4).