Archive for April, 2010

Picture stacks of thinly sliced potatoes that have been roasted to perfection – the edges are crisp and brown, but the insides are still moist and tender. Do I have your attention, yet? Here is a no-fuss recipe that my children have always loved. It is a wonderful accompaniment to almost any entree, but goes particularly well with roasts – roast beef, roast chicken, and roast lamb to name a few. This recipe comes from a cookbook that I purchased at a library book sale. I needed another cookbook like I needed a hole in my head, but I rationalized that I could always pass it on to whichever child of mine displayed my pack-rat tendencies! Sorry, my darling Caitlin, but you seem to be the prime candidate right now. The Loaves and Fishes Party Cookbook by Anna and Sybille Pump has served me well through the years and I’m happy to pass this simple recipe onto my children and you.

My Adaptation of Baked Potato Slices:

1/2 cup olive oil

4 pounds (approximately 6 large) potatoes, peeled

1-1/2 teaspoons coarse Kosher salt (or season salt can be used for a tasty variation)

3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Fresh herbs, optional

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Brush a 17 x 13-inch pan with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Make sure you are using a shallow baking pan, so that the potatoes roast instead of steam.

Slice the potatoes 1/8 inch thick. Place them in a mixing bowl, add the remaining olive oil, salt and pepper. Toss to evenly coat the potato slices. At this point I sometimes toss in some minced fresh herbs and toss again.

Place the potato slices, slightly overlapping, in rows on your baking pan.

Bake for 20 minutes, or until potatoes are crisp on the outside and tender on the inside.

Serves 8.

Anyway you slice them, these potatoes are good! Enjoy!

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Are you feeling like you overate yesterday? Holiday meals have a way of making us eat twice as much food as usual. That’s exactly how I’m feeling, so tonight I’m yearning for something hearty, yet healthy. I decided to try making California Pizza Kitchen’s Dakota Smashed Pea and Barley Soup. The thick texture and savory flavor of this soup are reasons why I order this soup whenever I dine at CPK restaurants during the cooler months.

While quickly reading through the recipe, my eyes did a double-take when it came to an ingredient listing that read “3 tablespoons of salt.” Wow, that’s a lot of salt! According to an article on salt in the current edition of Nutrition Action, the health letter published by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, by cutting 1,200 milligrams of salt a day out of the average American’s diet, we “Could prevent up to 92,000 deaths and 66,000 strokes every year. It could keep up to 99,000 Americans from having a heart attack and up to 120,000 others from getting heart disease every year. And it could save $10 to $24 billion in health care costs every year.”

The article lists the sodium levels of favorite menu items at popular restaurants. Lists like these are good for us to read because of the shock value associated with learning that some of our favorite “healthy” foods are really laden with sodium. According to CPK’s website a bowl of Dakota Smashed Pea and Barley Soup has 368 calories, 26 grams of fiber, and 0 grams of saturated fat. That’s not too bad. Here’s the kicker, though, it has 2100 milligrams of sodium! Another CPK favorite Miso Salad – has a whopping 2654 milligrams of sodium for a full serving and 1346 milligrams for a half serving! Recommended sodium levels for most people are less than 1,500 milgrams per day!

When trying the Dakota Smashed Pea and Barley Soup recipe at home, I attempted to eliminate some of the sodium by enhancing the flavor as much as possible by using the freshest and most flavorful ingredients possible. I used organic carrots (the leaves still attached), thyme from my herb garden, and in lieu of water I used two cartons of low sodium organic vegetable broth. I went with the low sodium broth because I figured I could always add salt as needed, but couldn’t take it away once it’s been put in the pot! I also added more onion, celery, and cumin than was called for in the recipe.

Here’s my adaptation of CPK’s Dakota Smashed Pea and Barley Soup:

1 pound dried organic split peas, sorted and rinsed
1/2 cup organic pearl barley
2 quarts low-sodium vegetable broth
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme (or 1/2 tablespoon dried)
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon rubbed dried sage
1/8 teaspoon ground cumin
1-1/2 cups diced organic carrots
3/4 cup minced onion
2/3 cup diced celery
1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions

In a large pot combine the split peas, barley, broth, bay leaves, salt, soy sauce, thyme, garlic, sage, and cumin. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to a bare simmer, cover, and cook for one hour, stirring occasionally.

Stir in the carrots, onion, and celery. Cover and simmer until the vegetables are tender, about 30 – 40 minutes more. Discard bay leaves.

If you do not like your soup chunky, you can remove a third of it and puree small batches of it in a blender and then add it back to the soup pot or you can use an immersion blender to puree some of it while it’s still in the pot.

Ladle into warmed soup bowls and garnish with green onions.

Makes 6-8 servings

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Quick, how many words can you think of that contain the word “size”? I’ll get you started with capsize, apotheosize, emphasize, downsize, supersized, fantasize, hypothesize, oversized, sizeably, synthesized . . . Okay you take over!

#1 – Calorie Counter
At Calorie Lab you can type in almost any food and it will pull up different calorie counts for that item, depending on restaurant or manufacturer. Alternatively, you can look up a restaurant and search the menu for calorie counts. For example, I typed in lasagna and it pulled up a long list of frozen and restaurant prepared lasagnas and their corresponding calorie counts.

#2 – Making Sense of Portion Sizes
Here’s another site that helps you to make good choices. Meals Matter is a website that has a wealth of information on nutrition, healthy living, meal planning, recipes, creating a cookbook, and personal fitness planning. I read an article called Making Sense of Portions Sizes which has suggestions to help you remember portion sizes:

If you are confused when reading a food label, try relating the portion size of a serving to everyday items. It is an easy way to visualize what a true portion size looks like.
  • Woman’s fist or baseball—a serving of vegetables or fruit is about the size of your fist
  • A rounded handful—about one half cup cooked or raw veggies or cut fruit, a piece of fruit, or ½ cup of cooked rice or pasta – this is a good measure for a snack serving, such as chips or pretzels
  • Deck of cards—a serving of meat, fish or poultry or the palm of your hand (don’t count your fingers!) – for example, one chicken breast, ¼ pound hamburger patty or a medium pork chop
  • Golf ball or large egg—one quarter cup of dried fruit or nuts
  • Tennis ball—about one half cup of ice cream
  • Computer mouse—about the size of a small baked potato
  • Compact disc—about the size of one serving of pancake or small waffle
  • Thumb tip—about one teaspoon of peanut butter
  • Six dice—a serving of cheese
  • Check book—a serving of fish (approximately 3 oz.)

#3 – Mattress Fit for a King
Do your bed sheets never seem to fit? My main issue is that when I am shopping for sheets, I can never remember which king-sized mattress I have. So here’s a little refresher course on mattress sizes for anyone who gets as confused as I do.

King = 76″ wide by 80″ long

California King = 72″ wide by 84″ long (narrower and longer)

Queen = 60″ wide by 80″ long

Full (double or standard) = 54″ wide by 75″ long

Twin = 39″ wide by 75″ long

Okay, my mattress measures 72″ wide by 80″ long – so what size is that?

#4 – Expand Your View of the World
Cool Things In Random Places has great photos of fascinating things in the world. If you need to unwind, just spend a couple of minutes looking through some of these photos!

#5 – A Sizable Quote
“You can’t do anything about the length of your life, but you can do something about its width and depth. ”
– Shira Tehrani –

Hope you find all your Easter eggs this weekend! And remember, not to put all your eggs in one basket!

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