Thursday, January 31, 2008

Super Bowl Snacks - Bacon Horseradish Cheese

I thought I was finished with snacks for the Super Bowl, but you just can't have too many snacks!

Here's an easy thing to do with cheese. Scoop it into a bowl, pack it into a crock or mold it into a football shape. Serve with your favorite hearty crackers, crusty bread or bagels.

This is yummy stuff!


Bacon and Horseradish Cheese

Makes 2-1/2 cups cheese spread

3 tablespoons butter (margarine or oil not recommended)
1 onion, finely chopped (about 1/2 cup)
1 (12-16 oz.) package bacon (cooked, drained and coarsely crumbled)
2 (8 oz.) packages cream cheese (regular preferred but low fat or neuchatel will work, too)
2 teaspoons horseradish (or to taste)
Salt and pepper (to taste)

Melt butter in a frying pan over low heat. Add onions and cook till soft and transparent - about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and cool mixture to room temperature.

Meanwhile, using an electric mixer, beat cream cheese till fluffy. By hand, fold in cooled butter/onion mixture (scrape out pan well), crumbled bacon and horseradish. Taste. Stir in additional salt and pepper if desired. Refrigerate to blend flavors.

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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Super Snacks for the Super Bowl

Hot and Sizzling Off Sides Onion Bagels

This is the easiest, cheapest, most impressive snack you'll ever make.

The recipe many sound strange but put these mundane ingredients together and you have a great snack! You probably have the fixings around right now!!

Makes 2
(Adjust the quantities for a crowd)

1 bagel (any type except sweet bagels - cut in half)
2 teaspoons yellow or brown mustard
2 teaspoons Miracle Whip
Onion slices to cover bagel (cut slices 1/4 inch thick)
1/4 teaspoon Mrs. Dash's Original Spice Blend
2 tablespoons mayonnaise (not Miracle Whip)

Position broiler rack so bagels will broil 2 inches from heat. Preheat broiler to high.

Spread cut side of each bagel half with 1 teaspoon mustard then 1 teaspoon Miracle Whip.

Cover entire top of each bagel half with slices of onion (overlapping a little is OK but don't pile).

Spread onion (and any parts of the bagel that the onion didn't cover) with mayonnaise. Use 1 tablespoon per bagel half even if you think it's too much.

Sprinkle 1/8 teaspoon spice blend over each half.

Broil, onion side up, 2-3 minutes or until mayonnaise sizzles and lightly browns. Watch carefully they'll burn quickly! The onions should be semi soft.

Serve immediately.

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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Super Snack for The Super Bowl - New York Pizza

Laura Ruby, Editor of the Fauquier Weekender Newspaper, came up with the most marvelous idea for Super Bowl refreshments. She orders in food from the cities the teams represent and has it shipped Fed-Ex.

For this year's game, she's ordering pizza from New York and clam chowder and lobsters from Boston. Not cheap, but what great fun!

Here's a very easy recipe for a New York pizza that you can whip up in a flash for a fraction of the cost of having pizza flown in....

Karla's True Grits New York Style Pizza
Make 1 (14-16 inch) pizza

3 tablespoons old fashioned (coarse) grits (not quick cooking or instant)
1 batch dough (recipe follows)
2 cups thick pasta sauce (your favorite - about 20 oz.)
1 teaspoon dried oregano
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups shredded, whole milk mozzarella cheese (or to taste)
Pizza toppings (as desired)

Grease pan. Sprinkle grits evenly over bottom. Press dough over grits to fill pan bottom.(Dampen hands will cool water to prevent sticking. Do not use flour. It's OK if dough shrinks back from edges.) Lightly rub 1 tablespoon of oil over dough.

Spread sauce to within 1/2 inch of edges. Sprinkle with oregano. Top with cheese.

Toss toppings in remaining oil and distribute over cheese. Use a plastic scraper to get all the oil.

Let rise in a warm place until edges have doubled - about 1 hour.

When dough is risen, position over rack so pizza will bake in center. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake 40 minutes or until edges are lightly browned and cheese has melted.

Dough
Using a bread machine makes this a snap!

1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 cups warm water
1 tablespoon Kosher salt (or 2 teaspoons regular salt)
4 1/4 cups bread flour (not all purpose flour)
2 1/2 teaspoons dry yeast (or 1 package)

Put ingredients in order into a bread machine. Set on "pizza dough." Continue with recipe after dough cycle is complete.

By hand: Mix all dry ingredients together. Stir in water. Knead 10 minutes or until elastic. Cover and let rise in a warm place until double - about 45 minutes then continue with recipe.

Karla's tip: Large pizza pans (disposable or reusable) are available in most grocery stores.


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Thursday, January 24, 2008

Super Snacks for the Super Bowl

Super Bowl Sunday is the day when we pay homage to the snack food industry.

Or as my husband says, it's the day guys wait for all year long.... non stop T.V. and everything you eat is on a chip.

Here's some quick to make (but hearty to eat) snacks to help feed hungry guys.

Peanut Butter Hummus

Makes about 2 cups

1 (15-16 oz.) can chick peas (drained but not rinsed - also called garbanzo beans)
4 cloves roasted garlic (or to taste - recipe follows)
3 tablespoons peanut butter (natural, no sugar added)
6 tablespoons lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt (or to taste)

Pulse everything in the food processor till smooth. Refrigerate to blend flavors. Serves with chips, pita bread or raw veggies for dipping.

Roasted Garlic

Rinse a whole head of garlic (or several if you want extra to keep in the freezer for other uses)
and wrap in foil. Bake in the oven till soft when squeezed - 1/2 hour to 1 hour depending on the temperature of the oven.

The temperature of the oven doesn't matter - any where from 250 degrees to 400 degrees. The most efficient way to roast garlic is to roast it when you have meat, something Italian or something Mexican cooking in the oven at the same time.

Leave the soft, roasted garlic in the foil to cool. Use immediately or keep frozen in a wide mouth canning jar. Do not use a plasic bag or container. The garlic smell will work it's way through and make EVERYTHING in you freezer (including the ice cream) taste of garlic.

Great Bowls of Garlic

Makes 2 1/2 cups dip

1 (15-16 oz.) can kidney beans (drained but not rinsed)
3/4 cup salsa (any heat)
3 cloves roasted garlic (or more to taste - see previous recipe)
Salt and pepper to taste

Pulse everything in the food processor till smooth. Refrigerate to blend flavors. Serves with chips, pita bread or raw veggies for dipping.


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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Karla's Cooking Made Easy - Gravy 101

Whether or not you realize it, soup and gravy are very similar (and both very easy) to prepare.

Gravies are thickened liquids prepared in the same way as cream soups.

Home made gravies (including white and cheese sauces) are so much better tasting than anything you can buy and much cheaper plus commercial gravies have way too much salt.

The gravy liquid can be stock, pan juices plus water, vegetable juices or milk - even a combination.

A thickener is a starch like flour, cornstarch, arrow root, finely ground bread crumbs or dry, instant mashed potatoes.

Other ingredients are added for flavor.

Here are the three basic ways to make gravy.

1. Starch is mixed into a bit of cold liquid (to dissolve it and separate the molecules) then whisked into the remaining liquid and the whole thing brought to a boil.

2. Starch is whisked into warm, melted fat (butter, chicken fat, bacon drippings or oil) to separate the molecules (this is called a roux) and cooked a minute or so before the liquid is whisked in and the mixture is brought to a boil.

3. Bread crumbs or dry, instant mashed potatoes are stirred into the bubbling broth of a finished recipe. The crumbs or potatoes absorb some of the liquid thickening it.

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Friday, January 18, 2008

Karla's Cooking Made Easy - Soup 101

I spoke to a group of health professionals recently about the power of food as medicine for the body, mind and soul.

During our question and answer period, I was asked if chicken soup really had health benefits. "Yes !" I most enthusiastically responded.

I was shocked to learn that no one in the group ever cooked home made soup or even knew how to make it. The universal reason was that making soup was "hard".

Soup is probably the easiest, most healthful, most economical and most widely loved food you can cook! Just browse the canned soup aisle the next time you go grocery shopping. All those companies wouldn't be making soup if they didn't make a hefty profit off it.

So here's the basics:

1. There are two kinds of soup: broth based and milk based.

2. There are no real rules.

3. It's the best place to use up left overs.


Let's begin.

Basic Broth Based Soup
Put some broth into a pot. Use bouillion cubes and water, canned chicken broth or home made broth (recipe follows). Add fresh, frozen or canned (with their liquid) vegetables, canned tomatoes, rice, noodles, potatoes, canned beans, cooked meat, chicken, sausage or shrimp (leftovers are perfect). Bring to a boil partially covered. Reduce to simmer and cook until everything is tender and hot. Stir in salt and pepper to taste. Add a little thyme, Chinese red chili garlic or cinnamon, if desired.

Easy Home Made Broth
Put a chicken into the slow cooker and cover with water. Add 1-2 teaspoons salt. (Salt may be omitted.) Cook on high (covered) 4-5 hours or low 10-12 hours. Cool. Use broth and some of the chicken for the soup. Save the rest of the chicken for another use.

Basic Milk Based Soup
Melt 1/2 stick butter in a large pot. Whisk in 1/4 cup flour (all purpose or whole wheat). Cook 1 minute. Whisk in 4 cups milk. Heat to simmer. Stir in vegetables, pasta, rice or whatever you'd like. Add additional milk, if necessary for desired consistency. Add salt and pepper to taste.

So what are you waiting for?

Let's get into the kitchen!


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Thursday, January 17, 2008

Karla's Cooking Made Easy - Curds, Custards, Creams and Puddings

When you understand how ingredients effect a recipe's outcome, cooking is easy.

Curds, custards, creams and puddings are all made from similar ingredients except for the thickener. It's the thickener that makes the difference.


Curds (think lemon curd) are thickened with an acid and eggs.
Citrus juice (orange, lemon or lime) is mixed with sugar, butter and eggs. The acidic juice interacts with the protein of the eggs making the mixture thick. Generally made only on the stove top.


Custards (think coconut custard pie) are thickened with eggs, only.
Whisking eggs with milk or cream, traps the milk or cream in the viscous egg. Baking "hardens" the protein part of the egg keeping the milk or cream trapped. Custards can be made on the stove top or in the oven.


Creams (think chocolate cream pie and pastry cream filling) use a starch and eggs to thicken.
You might mistakenly call these puddings but if the recipe is made with both a starch (like corn starch, arrow root, potato starch, tapioca or flour) and eggs, it's really called a "cream". Creams use less starch in preparation than puddings because eggs do part of the thickening. Creams are generally made on the stove top.


Puddings use starch, only.
A starch (like corn starch, arrow root, potato starch, tapioca or flour) are stirred into cold milk or juice then cooked. Puddings can be made stove top or in the oven.


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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Learn the Basics of Cooking and Baking

Question: How can I tell if a recipe I haven't tried before will come out well?

Answer: It's easy, once you learn the basics of cooking and baking.

1. Study basic preparation techniques.
You'll be able to tell at a glance if what the recipe is asking you to do is consistent with proper cooking or baking methods.

2. Bone up on spices and flavorings to learn what goes with what.
Learn the classic taste combinations and you'll be able to tell if what the recipe is calling for makes sense.

3. Develop an understanding of ingredients and what function they perform in a recipe.
Salt, for example, is added for more than just taste.

In yeast doughs, salt helps regulate the speed at which the yeast grow so the resulting dough is nicely textured.

In pickling, salt draws out moisture so the pickles become crisp.

When cooking pasta, salt is added to the cooking water to slightly change the boiling point so the cooked pasta comes out firm and not mushy.

With a basic knowledge of ingredients, you'll be able to tell if what the recipe is calling for (and the amount) sound right.

4. Sometimes you just have to experiment.
That's part of the fun of cooking. You may get disappointed occasionally but often you get a great result!


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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Saving Money On Food

Question: Help ! My grocery bill is going through the roof!! How can I save money?
Answer: It's easier than you think plus with these easy tips, you'll be eating better and getting better nutrition!

1. Buy less prepared food.
No need to go cold turkey but if you cut down (and hopefully cut out) convenience foods, take out and deli items you'll be saving a bundle.

2. Shop the perimeter.
Dairy, eggs, meats, fish and produce are located around the edges of grocery stores. That's where you'll the best value for your food dollar.

3. Learn to make the basics.
Soup, salad dressings, sauces for vegetables or pasta, cakes, muffins and cookies are all high profit items for the manufacturers which means you're paying more than you need to. These basic foods are easy to make for a fraction of the cost. They'll taste better, too!

4. Make your own pizza.
Use premade crusts (like Bobolli). (And maybe someday learn to make your own dough.) Home made pizza is easier than you think. Your results will be DELICIOUS and you'll save a fortune!

5. Learn to make bread
No need to over do. Start off with one loaf once a month. Besides tasting great, you'll feel incredibly accomplished! When you're ready, get a bread machine. You'll never buy another $5.00 loaf of bread again!


6. When buying frozen vegetables or fish, buy them without sauce.
The only frozen foods you should be buying are plain vegetables and plain fish. Add your own sauces for a fraction of the cost.

Frozen meals, entrees, side dishes, breakfast foods and similar items are expensive versions of better quality food you can prepare yourself.

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Wednesday, January 9, 2008

How Can I Loose Weight?

Question: I've tried EVERY diet on the market and I just can't seem to loose weight. Help!

Answer: Keeping your weight under control is frustrating but can be easier than you think.


1. Watch your carbs.

Carbohydrates are every where and carbs are readily stored as fat when we get more than we need for our life style.

Choose regular, natural and old fashioned foods not low fat or fat free.

Low fat and fat free foods have fat removed but carbohydrates are put in to replace the fat that was removed.

Convenience and prepared foods often have carbs added. Shredded cheese, for example, is dusted with a invisible film of starch to prevent it from sticking together.

Read the ingredient labels of the foods you buy and choose ones without added carbohydrates.


2. Move, don't exercise.

Regimented exercise (like jogging, hitting the tread mill or working out in the gym) is not for everyone.

But movement is and if you move your body a little bit more than you are right now, you'll drop pounds effortlessly.

Walk the dog five minutes more. Climb a flight of stairs instead of taking the elevator. Cook dinner instead of picking it up at the drive through. Dance around the house. Pull out a few weeds or dig in a plant.

Movement does not have to be hard, complicated or regimented. You don't need special clothes, equipment or a trainer. Just move your body. All movement counts and it adds up fast.

When you move you stimulate body, mind and soul.

When you don't move, you hybernate, pack on the pounds and feel blue.


3. Don't diet.

Eat healthy, clean foods (natural foods without additives) and eat until you're just full.

Give yourself an occassional treat.

If you crave something, have a bite or two and really savor the flavor before swallowing.

Dieting is punishment. You body has only done what you've asked it to do (store the food you've fed it) and that's nothing to be punished for!

Embrace and love your body by doing right by it. Give it what it wants in the amounts it needs.

You'll feel so great you'll want to keep it up and feel great everyday!


4. Breath deeply.

Burning calories is no different than burning logs in your fireplace. Both need oxygen to get the fires going.

Breath in through your nose slowly, counting to ten. Let your chest expand as you take in the breath deeply.

Exhale slowly counting to ten again.

Start with one or two complete breaths (in and out) and work up to a few more every now and then but not so many that you become light headed.

The increased oxygen will help you burn calories. As a bonus, deep breathing helps you feel calm and focused, too!

5. Keep at it.

You didn't gain you extra weight overnight so don't expect it to drop off in a few days.

If you follow these four tips faithfully, your pounds will melt away and not come back.

But the key is "faithfully" follow the tips.

You are at the weight you are because of the life style choices you've made.

Make different choices and you'll have a different result.

It's really that easy!

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Monday, January 7, 2008

How Can I Save Money On Food?

Question: Food is getting so darn expensive. Help!

Answer: Food is not getting as expensive as you might think.
What's gotten expensive is the convenience of our food.

Instead of cooking from scratch, we're paying others to do it for us.

This doesn't mean you can't take advantage of convenience foods - just be aware of what convenience costs and plan accordingly.

Companies are in business to make a profit so items that are abundantly available are those that yield the highest profits for the manufacturer. Salad dressings, cake mixes, gravies and sauce mixes are only a few examples. Foods with a low profit margain are not as abundant.

Learn to make the foods that cost more than they're worth and you'll be on your way to big savings plus you'll be eating better!

Use conveneince foods when you really want them but understand that you're paying a premium for someone else doing the cooking.

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Saturday, January 5, 2008

What Should I Eat To Be Healthy?

Question: There's so much confusion as to what to eat or not eat to be healthy, how do I know what's good for me?

Answer: It is incredibably confusing!

Each of us has similar yet totally unique needs for foods that give us good health.

You already know what a healthy diet should be so build on what you know.

Here's how:

1. Choose foods that are healthier.
Eat seafood more often. Have red meat occassionally but make it lean. Fill in with poultry, eggs and a little tofu.

2. Have some soy.
Sprinkle soy bean nuts on your salads. Have a glass of chocolate soy milk as a bed time snack. When you eat Chinese food, choose a dish with tofu like Buddha's Delight or Hot and Sour Soup.

3. Eat many colors of fruits and vegetables.
Fruits and veggies are colored according to the nutrients they provide. The darker the color, the more you get. By choosing many colors, you're getting a broad range of nutrients.

For example, red and pink fruits or vegetables (like beets and strawberries) provide similar nutrients. Not the same, of course, but close enough to count as a rule of thumb.

Orange and yellow (like squash or oranges) are also similar. As are broccoli, green beans and green apples.

4. Eat what appeals to you.
Assuming you eat a healthy diet, the foods you like are the foods your body needs. Our taste buds guide us to good health. Don't force down foods that don't taste good to you just because you're told they're healthy.

5. Broaden your horizons.
Be adventurous! Every once in a while try a new food or a new preparation method. There's such a big delicious world out there it's a shame to miss out!

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Wednesday, January 2, 2008

How Can I Be Healthier?

It's a new year. A new beginning. A new adventure as we journey through life.

I get so many e mails with questions that might be of interest to others so I thought I'd take some time and answer them here.


How can I be healthier in 2008?

You already know the basics: eat right, exercise, get enough rest. You mother taught you that.

That should be enough but sometimes it isn't. Sometimes no matter what you do, you get sick.

The health information we receive is constantly changing (eat this, don't eat that, do this, don't do that) and ALWAYS seems to contradict itself so it's hard to know what to do to stay healthy.

Simply put, being healthy means having your body, mind and soul in balance.

That's a tall order!

By our very nature, we are continually in flux. We're NEVER in perfect balance. The ebb and flow of our external and internal tides effects our health moment by moment. When you are in balance, your health is optimal. When you are out of balance, you get sick.

Can you ever have perfect health?
Probably not.

Can you have better health?
Most definitely!

To have better health, strive for a balance between body, mind and soul by first following your mother's teachings then expanding your knowledge. Put into practice those things that add value to your life.

Feed your body, mind and soul with the very best and continually search for more.

That's all it takes to be healthy!

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