Archive Page 3

Mango and Cucumber Salad

I have a new cooking toy – a mandoline.

Don’t ask me why a person who is constantly and lovingly cooking never purchased one of these extremely useful tools. With a mandoline, slices are uniform, and can be made very thin, much thinner than you can make them with a knife. The reason I bought one at this time, besides a buy one get one free gadget sale, is to do this:

And the reason I wanted very thin cucumbers (and red onions) was to make a mango and cucumber salad that came from Dash recipes in one of those newspaper inserts.  The original recipe called for a little bit of lemon-flavored olive oil, but I didn’t have that, so I left it out. It also called for finely chopped Serrano chile. I left that out because I was taking it to a “celebration of life” for a recently deceased neighbor. I knew most of the attendees would be elderly and probably not like the extra heat. I think it would be even better with the chile.  The leftovers were very nice with lunch for a day or two.

Mango and Cucumber Salad

3 mangoes, peeled and diced into one inch pieces
1 seedless (English) cucumber, unpeeled and sliced very thin
1 small red onion, cut in half and sliced very thin (about ¾ cup)
1 Tablespoon finely chopped Serrano chile pepper (optional)
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper

Combine all ingredients in a serving bowl, mixing well. Chill at least one hour. Makes 8 servings at 0 grams of fat/serving.

The cilantro is from my garden. It makes me happy.

In Memorium

My beautiful dog Hoover died today. He was 14, and his back, which had been ailing, finally gave out. He could no longer move his legs. At 125 pounds, he still thought he was a lap dog.  Hoover appeared in this blog several times, so today there is no recipe, just a memory.

Lentil Soup with Greens

My garden has gone crazy. The tomatoes and corn are making progress but the various greens have grown faster than I can eat them.

I have been picking them daily, and giving away sackfuls.

I have salad greens – mixed lettuces growing at the foot of the corn:

I have escarole:

I have Pak Choy:

But most of all, I have a forest of turnip greens.

I need to thin them and eat them so the turnips can grow without being squished,

I decided to make soup to put in the freezer for lunches.  This soup is rather plain. When I ate the first bowl, I wound up adding some ground horseradish to give the soup a bit of kick. You might want to add some hot pepper sauce to the mix – although I think that having it a little plain lets me doctor it to suit my tastes when I eat it.

Lentil Soup with Greens

1 3/4 cups dried brown lentils
2 quarts water
1 cup diced carrot
1 3/4 teaspoons sea salt
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 parsley sprigs
2 bay leaves
3 cups chopped onion
1 teaspoon ground cumin
6 cups torn turnip greens (or chard or any other greens you like)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Plain nonfat yogurt  (to garnish)

Sort and wash the lentils. Combine lentils, water, and next 7 ingredients (water through onion) in a large Dutch oven; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 45 minutes or until tender.


Add the cumin. Discard bay leaves and parsley. Add the greens to soup; simmer, uncovered, 10 minutes or until greens are tender. Remove soup from heat. Stir in juice and pepper. soup into each of 6 bowls; top each serving with yogurt. Makes 6 servings at about 1 gram of fat/serving.

Sunshine Muffins

The weather has blissfully cooled off after several 90 degree days. There is a gentle breeze that makes you want to lie in a hammock. Instead of the hammock, however, I decided to take advantage of the break in the weather to bake up a storm before it got hot again. After working in the garden a bit, I hauled out the mixing bowls and baking pans and made breads, muffins, and other goodies to put in the freezer. Of course, I made my traditional banana bread, that staple that tucks in the lunch bag or goes with a refreshing cup of tea (or a glass of iced tea).  But I made other muffins and breads to go with salads for lunch.
These muffins, from Relish Magazine, were already very low in fat, as well as high in fiber. I reduced the fat a bit because I used non-fat yogurt (the only thing I have in the house), egg substitute, etc. I personally think that the granola on top of the muffins is superfluous. The crunch they add is not that appealing on a tender muffin.


Sunshine  Muffins
Cooking spray

1 cup all-purpose flour

½ cup old-fashioned oats

½ cup flaxseed meal

¼ cup sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

½ cup honey

1 egg, lightly beaten

¼ cup egg substitute

1 cup plain non-fat yogurt (I used Greek yogurt, but any would do)

½ cup orange juice

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 teaspoons finely grated orange rind

1 cup chopped dried apricots (about 5 ounces)

1/3 cup granola

Preheat oven to 375F. Coat 12 muffin cups with cooking spray.
Combine flour and next five ingredients (flour through salt) in a mixing bowl. Combine honey and next six ingredients (honey through orange rind) in a separate bowl. Whisk well. Make a well in the center of dry ingredients. Pour wet ingredients into the well and stir until just combined. Gently fold in apricots.

Fill muffin cups two-thirds full. Sprinkle with granola. Bake about 20 minutes (mine took 25 minutes), until centers spring back when touched. Makes 12 muffins at about 1.5 grams of fat/muffin.

Smoked Trout Cups

There have finally been a few days dry enough for me to put my smoker out in front of the garage and have at the smoking. I will try to smoke almost anything! On this sunny morning I stoked the smoker with alder chips and I smoked 4 lamb shanks (more about them in a later post), a small pork tenderloin which I ate on sandwiches, and two fat trout. I admit, I “caught” the trout in the grocery store, but they were mighty tasty nonetheless. The first evening I shared the smoked trout with a friend, on crackers with cream cheese. The next morning I had it on a bagel. I decided to use the rest of the trout to make smoked trout salad, which I planned to have on crackers. Then I came upon these adorable little corn chip cups, called scoopers. I originally bought them to use with fresh salsa – the baked cups only have 3 grams of fat for 14 cups. Be sure you get the baked ones, though. The regular scoopers have a lot more fat.

At any rate, I proceeded to make the trout salad and fill the little cups. What a nice, easy, impressive little appetizer. I am going to experiment with more fillings for these little cups.

Smoked Trout Cups

4 ounces of smoked trout, bones and skin removed and chopped
2 Tablespoons finely chopped onion
½ teaspoon dried dill
2 Tablespoons non-fat sour cream
sea salt to taste
14 baked corn “scoops”

Mix trout, onion, dill, sour cream and salt thoroughly. Divide evenly among the scoops cups. Don’t fill the cups too far ahead of time; they get soggy.  You might also decorate each cup with a sprig of parley, sliver of radish or another garnish.  Makes 14 adorable and tasty smoked trout cups at just under 1 gram of fat/cup.

African Sweet Potato Stew with Red Beans

Whilst cleaning out my potato storage drawer (note the “whilst” of procrastination) this is what I discovered:

Yams Gone Wild

Sweet Potatoes (not actually yams, which are grown in Africa, but rarely here) make lovely plants.  Once, I put sprouting sweet potatoes out on the kitchen counter where they grew into pretty little trees. I cut out the sprouting section and planted it in a pot, where, much to my then child’s delight, it grew and grew and grew.

But admiring the random growth of sweet potatoes does not put food on the table – or in a bowl to take to a potluck.  I rescued the remaining sweet potatoes, and went in pursuit of an idea to use them that 1) could be cooked in advance in a crock pot, and 2) could be hauled in said crock pot container to a picnic potluck.

This recipe originally came from Cooking Light, with some fat lowering alterations.  I had great plans to take home the leftovers to bring for lunch, but there was nothing left. The crock pot had literally been scraped clean. So be forewarned.

African Sweet Potato Stew with Red Beans

Cooking spray
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
1 garlic clove, minced
4 cups  (1/2-inch) cubed peeled sweet potato (about 1 1/2 pounds)
1 1/2 cups cooked small red beans (I used a 14 ounce can of red beans, drained)
1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
1 cup chopped red bell pepper
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon grated peeled fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2  teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained
1 (4.5-ounce) can chopped green chiles, drained
3 Tablespoons peanut butter (I used chunky, but either would work)
6 lime wedges (or ¼ cup lime juice)

Spray a nonstick skillet with cooking spray and heat over medium heat. Add onion and garlic; cook 5 minutes, adding water to “steam-fry” the onions as needed, until tender.

Place onion mixture in a 5-quart electric slow cooker. Add sweet potato and next 10 ingredients (through chiles). Cover and cook on low 8 hours or until vegetables are tender.

Spoon 1 cup cooking liquid into a small bowl. Add peanut butter; stir well with a whisk. Stir peanut butter mixture into stew. Serve with lime wedges or sprinkle with lime juice if you are taking it to a buffet. Makes 6 servings, at about 5 grams of fat/serving.

HINT: Serving sizes are usually a dinner size portion if the recipe is a main dish or side dish. But at a potluck or buffet, people usually take a scoop of each of the dishes offered, meaning that the number of servings you bring usually at least doubles. So don’t necessarily double or triple the recipe to bring it to a buffet unless you anticipate a large number of people.  Oh, and the fat grams per serving are proportionately lower, although most people at a potluck aren’t counting fat grams – they just want to eat good food.

Experiments with Arthichokes Part 1: Steamed Artichokes

I have avoided cooking artichokes for a several reasons. They’re kind of scary looking – I mean in a strange and beautiful way.

I always wonder who ever discovered that they are at all edible, I mean looking at them, you don’t actually see something obvious to eat.  I can imagine the first hunter-gatherer’s conversation “trust me dear, it looks weird but its edible.”  In fact, there isn’t very much edible on the mature artichoke.  Which brings me to the other reason I haven’t made artichokes recently. My memory of making them many many years ago has to do with copious amounts of butter – or perhaps butter with a bit of lemon juice.  After cooking the artichoke, you sat around delicately peeling off each petal and dipping the fleshy end in melted butter, and then stripping each petal of its bit of edible flesh with your teeth while butter dripped down the chin, until you reached the soft, delectable heart. This was a rather lengthy and erotic activity to be shared with a friend, the details of which, for propriety’s sake, I shall not share here.

Artichokes, however, were bargain-priced at the supermarket, and they looked lovely in their weirdly beautiful way. So I bought two to see what could be done with them, sans copious amounts of butter, or necessarily, a friend.

Steamed Artichokes

Wash artichokes by plunging them up and down in cold water. Cut off the stem end, and trim about 1/2 inch from top of each artichoke. Remove any loose tough-looking bottom leaves. With scissors, trim away one-fourth of each outer leaf so that the sharp, often yellowed part is gone.

Rub top and edges of leaves of each artichoke with a lemon wedge to prevent discoloration (I more or less squeezed a quarter of the lemon over the artichokes.) Place artichokes in a large Dutch oven or other heavy pan with a tight-fitting lid. Add about 1 inch of water. Bring to a boil; cover and reduce heat. Simmer 40 to 45 minutes or until leaves pull out easily. Remove the Artichokes from the pan. Spread leaves apart; remove fuzzy thistle center (choke) with a spoon. Count on one artichoke/person – the artichokes themselves have no fat. The fat is in any dip you use.

This what the inside of the artichoke looks like. The purple insides, tiny inner leaves, and fuzzy “hairs” are what needs to be removed.
This is what the inside looks like with the choke removed. The sturdy-looking part on the bottom is the heart, which you may have purchased canned or frozen as a separate vegetable.

Alternatively, you can eat your way around the artichoke, pulling off each petal, dipping it, and stripping off flesh with your teeth until you reach the choke, then cut away the fuzzy innards, leaving the sturdy artichoke heart at the bottom. Cut up the heart to dip and eat.

As a dipping sauce, I mixed ¼ cup of low fat mayonnaise with the juice of a lemon, garlic, and herbs, for about 2 grams of fat/serving. I think they would be good with a curry mayonnaise, too. I even think melting a couple of tablespoons of light butter would be good, and give you the butter dripping down the chin feeling. Just count the fat grams accordingly.

Jam Bars

These are the perfect last minute cookies. You know, your child announces that cookies are needed at school in the morning, or you need something for an unexpected event.  They are bar cookies, always my favorite because they don’t require dropping, rolling, or shaping. And they use ingredients you commonly have in the house – nothing exotic here. In fact, one of the great things about these cookies is that they can use any jam you happen to have around. The first time I made them for an unexpected potluck, I used bits of leftover jam – a few spoons of blueberry, some leftover currant jam, and even the rest of a jar of red wine jelly opened for use as a glaze on chicken. The mix worked out great – generic jam.

Jam Bars

¾ cup butter
1 cup packed brown sugar
1¾  cups all purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1½ cups rolled oats (old fashioned oatmeal will work)
1 cup jam

Preheat oven to 400. Spray a 9 x 13 baking pan with cooking spray.

Beat butter and sugar together thoroughly. In a separate bowl, stir flour, soda, and salt together. Stir into butter mixture. Stir in oats, blending thoroughly. Melt jam slightly in microwave (I didn’t do this once, and it didn’t spread well enough). Press half of flour mixture firmly into prepared baking pan. Spoon jam evenly over bottom crust. Evenly sprinkle remaining flour mixture over jam and press down slightly.  Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until lightly browned.

Cool for about 10 minutes, and cut into bars. Remove from pan while still warm.  Makes 3 dozen cookies at about 3.7 grams of fat/cookie.

The True Adventures of Mock Chopped Liver

Each year my congregation has a community seder at Passover. About 80 people attend. We hire a caterer for the main course, but members are assigned traditional foods, such as the haroset or the matzoh balls to put in the soup.  This year they requested that I make my famous chopped liver, using my mother’s age-old recipe. But they also asked if I could possibly make a “mock” chopped liver for the vegetarians among us, or those who don’t like liver in any form.

Now I’m not sure why anyone would mock chopped liver. It is a high fat food of the gods, which should be treated with utmost respect.  And, I am not going to include the recipe for chopped liver as if it were healthy and low fat, although I’ll tell you the secret formula at the end of this post.  Just so you know the difference:

The chopped liver is to the left – the mock is to the right

But what would mock chopped liver consist of? I decided it should be essentially like chopped liver – braised onions lending their caramelized sweetness to the same mix of hard boiled eggs, chicken-flavor broth crystals and …what?  I decided to use mushrooms in place of the chicken livers, in the exact same proportion as the chopped liver.

The recipe is:

For each pound of mushrooms, sliced (I used ordinary button mushrooms) use
1 hard boiled egg
1 fairly large onion, sliced vertically
1 Tablespoon canola oil
Chicken-style (vegetarian) soup mix or bullion cubes (crushed) to taste

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Sauté the onions until golden brown and somewhat caramelized.  Remove to a bowl. Add mushrooms to the same pan. Sauté  until soft and somewhat browned. Put onions, mushrooms, and egg through a food grinder. If you use a food processor instead of a grinder, pulse so that the mixture is coarse. Add soup mix to taste, mixing it in thoroughly. Makes 6 servings at 3 grams of fat/serving.  I actually thought the mock chopped liver, which is actually a mushroom pate, tasted better than the real thing – oh sacrilege! And I plan to make it again just to eat with crackers.

I actually think I could make this without any oil – just sauté the ingredients in a non-stick pan coated with cooking spray, adding hot water periodically to “steam fry” the onions and mushrooms. This is how I usually cook onions – without oil. You get the same rich caramelized taste. Then the mock chopped liver would only be about 1 gram of fat/serving.

But wait, I said there was an adventure. I made the mock chopped liver the day of the seder (the chopped liver had been made 2 days before). This meant I got up early and sautéed 6 onions and six pounds of mushrooms. This took several hours, because while I have a very large sauté pan, I still had to cook them in several batches. I confess I was working with some haste, so that I would have time to take a nice hot shower before driving to the seder location. I ground the mushrooms, eggs, and onions into the large metal bowl of my mixer. The bowl was very full. I then set the bowl aside while removing the grinder from the mixer so I could use it to mix the seasoning into the mock chopped liver. In my haste, I bumped the full bowl and it crashed to the hard kitchen floor. Miraculously, it landed upright, with most of the food in it. But the impact shot some of the contents out of the bowl …

Onto the floor
(I had already cleaned it off the wall, which was coated)

Onto the ceiling

On the wall above the refrigerator, which was across the room.

There was mushroom mix on cabinets, walls, random dishes, and other locations that reveal themselves daily. I hastily cleaned and headed for the hot shower.  I still haven’t figured out how to get it off the wall above the refrigerator.

So what am I – chopped liver?

There is no way you can make chopped liver low fat (I’ve tried), so you should make it once a year, eat it and enjoy, and give the leftovers to deserving people so it doesn’t tempt you from the refrigerator.

The reason it isn’t low fat is not only because it is made with chicken livers and eggs, but because the onions and livers are cooked in Chicken Fat! I render my own chicken fat. To render chicken fat (an ancient art practiced by my mother and grandmother) remove all the skin and fat from a large raw chicken. (Use the naked chicken for something else.) The skin and fat from one chicken makes enough fat for about 3-4 pounds of liver. Place the skin and fat into a large sauté pan, and cook slowly over a medium low heat for several hours until there is golden liquid fat in the pan, and crisp bits of skin, known as gribenes. Wikipedia says that gribenes are crisp chicken or goose skin cracklings somewhat similar to pork rinds. Gribenes are a byproduct of schmaltz (the Yiddish term for chicken fat) preparation.

When I was young, my mother would fish these bits of skin out of the pan onto a paper towel to drain, and then sprinkle the hot gribenes with salt for anxious children to grab as snacks. My advice is to nibble one…and then speedily put them in the garbage or feed them to your dogs, or whatever it takes to get the addictive little bits out of the house. I rendered enough chicken fat to freeze some for next year.

Once you have the chicken fat, follow the same proportions and procedure as for the mock chopped liver, substituting the liver for the mushrooms. I usually use the same pan I rendered the fat in, and cook it all in one day.

Sweet Potato Salad

Two weekends ago was our community clean up day. We resourceful residents rise early of a Saturday, don our sweats and gloves, pick up our big white trash bags, and get to work cleaning the roadsides up and down the hills of our semi-rural community. Usually, it’s a crisp sunny spring day, but this has been a soggy April and the day dawned with a steady cold drizzle. My neighbor, who is in her 70s, and I questioned our sanity as we shivered along picking up the beer cans and bottles that had been strewn along the mountainside road in front of our homes. Since our road overlooks the city, weekend nights see cars parked along the road, with people looking at the lights…or whatever else people do in parked cars on weekend nights, and tossing their beverage containers out their windows.  At any rate, by the time we dropped off our filled bags at the designated corner, we were both ready to go home and warm up before we picked up the salads we made for the post clean up potluck.

This salad originally appeared in the AARP magazine. I thought it would be a little different than ordinary potato salad, and have a bit more color.  The instructions said to bake the sweet potatoes for an hour, but in my opinion, that made them too mushy. The pieces did not maintain their shape well.  I think 45 minutes is more than enough. You could even microwave them until just soft.

I made a double recipe because I was taking it to a potluck. But the rain kept a lot of people away, so I had lots of leftovers. As an experiment, I reheated one serving as a sweet potato side dish. It worked very well, although the celery remained crisp, and that texture was a little different – but still good.

Sweet Potato Salad

4 small sweet potatoes
1/4 cup low fat mayonnaise
1 Tablespoon mustard (I used Dijon)
4 celery stalks, sliced 1/4-inch thick
1 small red bell pepper, cut into 1/4-inch dice
½ of a 20 ounce can of pineapple tidbits, drained
2 scallions, finely chopped
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup coarsely chopped toasted pecans
Chopped fresh chives (optional)

Preheat oven to 400˚F. Wrap each sweet potato in foil and bake for 1 hour (see above for my cautions). Unwrap; let cool. Peel; cut into 3/4-inch chunks.

In a large bowl, mix mayonnaise and mustard. Add sweet potatoes, celery, red pepper, pineapple, and scallions; toss gently. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate about 1 hour (I actually chilled mine overnight, since I wanted to make it ahead of the clean up day.)

Fold in pecans and sprinkle with chives if using. Makes 8 servings at 5 grams of fat/serving.

NOTE: Anticipating a desire to take this to work for lunch, I removed 2 servings and put them in separate containers before I added the pecans. Without the pecans, the salad has less than 1 gram of fat/serving.

Packed up and ready to be taken to the potluck.


I have lost 200 pounds. I did not do it through surgery – I don’t like knives and needles – or by joining a club, vigorous exercise, or rigorous dieting. I did it by gourmet cooking. To be precise, by cooking low fat, really delicious food. I love to cook as much as I love to eat. Food magazines are some of my favorite reading. I would feel deprived if I couldn’t have the sensuous experience of good food crossing my lips. This blog is about my perpetual feast, my passionate love of food, with recipes, photos, and occasional advice and principles that I have learned along the way.

More about me.

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