Know your passion

I didn’t start out as a “Foodie”.  In fact, I paid no attention to cooking until I was in my mid-teens. I mentioned this in a previous post, but what started this lifelong interest began with a pineapple upside down cake.
I was about 15 if I recall. Kevin was my “heart throb”.  As teenage relationships go, we started our relationship when I was 13 with a ring from a Cracker Jack box. I can still recall the green ring around my finger it left.
In any case, Kevin loved pineapple upside down cake.  Being the adventurous type (not), I  wanted to make him one for his birthday.  Armed with a package of Betty Crocker (or was it Duncan Hines?...Who is Duncan Hines anyway?) pineapple upside down cake mix and an older brother that was happy to teach me how to break an egg. I baked my first cake.
Kevin never did eat the cake. He went  AWOL for a year….but that is another story.  Somehow in spite of my lack of knowledge, I managed to hook him and we moved in together when we were in college.
Hamburger Helper was my friend along with several recipes from my grandmother (take a little bit of this and a little bit of that) and some from my mom.   
Well that wasn't enough for me so I started cutting out recipes and I haven’t stopped since.  I have been cutting them out for 40 years now.
Have I cooked them all? Not a chance. So why do I do it? As I grow the collection, I often ask myself that same question.
I have a healthy imagination and thinking about food nurtures my creative side. Food isn’t just about taste. It includes all our senses, touch, sight, sound (snap crackle pop) smell all come together to form our taste preferences.
So how do you know your passion? Well, all I have to do is look around my home to figure that out. Years ago a guy I was dating came over and said “Sheila, Sheila, Sheila what is it you want to do in life?”
He looked around my place and commented, “you want to be the best darn cook ever!”   Of course
he missed the closet full of fitness books and exercise equipment. Now that would really have confused him!
What is your passion?
This is what my passion looks like to me:

These are recipes I have cooked
These I haven't yet tried.

Just a few of my magazines
And books
and more books
and then there are the recipes on my computer...




Healthy White Bean Burgers

Being a pescatarian, I have found that I often get into eating phases. Sometimes my meals are more focused on seafood and then I change back to a more traditional vegetarian focus. Rarely I go the vegan route but for me that is experimental.

More recently, I have been in my vegetarian phase. Over the summer, I was grilling a lot, spending time with friends at the pool. Now that everyone is busy, I began making portabella burgers on the stove. I love, love, love them but it was time for a change.

Perusing the internet, I found a recipe in the NY Times for White Bean Burgers. The recipe was developed by one of my favorite cookbook authors, Martha Rose Shulman. I have a number of her cookbooks. She assisted Dean Ornish in developing the diet plan to reverse heart disease so her recipes are oriented toward optimum health.

White kidney beans (and other beans) are high in dietary fiber, both  soluble and insoluble. A 1-cup serving of kidney beans, cooked, meets roughly 45 percent of the Recommended Daily Intake for fiber. Beans are also an excellent source of folate. 

As always, I have made changes to the original recipe to suit my taste. Since I am a single girl these changes included reducing the serving size. You can go to the original recipe if you prefer to make more http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/12/health/nutrition/12recipehealth.html?_r=0 .

The burgers turned out great. I highly recommend you form them and refrigerate them so they hold together better on the stove. A good wide spatula will help you turn the burgers without them breaking apart. I found they stayed together pretty well though.

I mention tomato slices as a condiment. Since my basil is growing leaps and bounds and tomatoes are at their best, I used the slices I had in the fridge which were marinated with basil leaves, slivers of garlic and a little balsamic vinegar. Regular slices work fine too.

As for the basic recipe, you can experiment with different combinations to see what best suits your taste.  Other options I thought of would be using dill, lemon pepper and feta or cilantro, jalapeno, cumin topped with low fat cheddar. Another topping might be sautéed onions, mushrooms and low fat swiss. 

I hope you will try these. 

White Bean Burgers
These should be cooked on a flat griddle or pan; don’t try to grill them on a barbecue.

1 can  white kidney beans, drained and rinsed
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 small onion, finely chopped
Salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste
1-2  large garlic cloves (to taste), green shoots removed, minced
1/3 cup shredded carrot
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tbl finely chopped parsley
½ (or more if you prefer)  tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme (optional)
1/8 cup panko bread crumbs (I like the seasoned crumbs)
1 egg, beaten
Freshly ground pepper to taste
Dash Himalayan pink salt
Small ciabatta buns or wholegrain hamburger buns

Condiments of your choice:
Vine ripe tomato slices, Avocado sliced or mashed, Roasted and sliced green chile (hatch), thin slices of reduced fat cheddar or swiss cheese, sautéed mushroom slices,  tzatziki (http://preview.tinyurl.com/m5pn5xq) or sriracha mayonnaise (mix 2 parts low fat mayonnaise with 1 part sriracha sauce or to taste), pickles.

1. Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a medium-size skillet and add the onion. Cook, stirring, until tender, about 5 minutes. Add a pinch of salt, the garlic and the grated carrot, and continue to cook for another minute or two, until fragrant and the carrot has softened slightly. Remove from the heat.

2. In a food processor fitted with the steel blade, puree the beans with the lemon juice. Transfer to a bowl and stir in the onion mixture, the parsley, rosemary and thyme , the bread crumbs and the egg. Season to taste. Shape into patties, ½- to ¾-inch thick. Set on a parchment-covered baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours.

3. Heat the remaining oil in a large, heavy skillet or on a griddle over medium heat and brown the patties for 4 minutes on each side, being very careful when you turn them over. An offset spatula works well for this. Serve on whole grain buns, with tzatziki or sriracha mayonnaise and the condiments of your choice.

Yield: 3-4 patties depending on the size. I make mine small

Advance preparation: You can make the patties up to a day ahead; cover and refrigerate.

My apologies for not providing a photo. I was too hungry to wait for a photo shoot! :)


Grits, not just for southerners anymore.

I grew up in the South and being a Southern girl (y’all), I love grits.  Nutritionally, grits are not a power house, but most grits you buy today have been fortified to increase the B Vitamins and Iron. They are a natural source of selenium. One cup of yellow grits has about 150 calories and 3-4 grams of protein.

Typically if you order grits in a restaurant they are made in the traditional way, with water.I don’t love grits with water. First, I like to have some protein at breakfast. Second, grits made with water are just….flavorless. I do love grits made with milk. The milk adds a creaminess and mouth appeal and protein too.

One thing I learned from my mother was to treat the grits like risotto, adding  the milk in stages. It makes for a wonderful creamy texture.

Southern chefs favor the organically grown, stone ground heirloom grits from Anson Mills in Columbia, SC.  I have not tried them as yet, but I suspect they are the “premium” grits to buy and eat. Emeril,  Thomas Keller and Tom Colicchio are all fans.

The grits from Anson Mills http://www.ansonmills.com/products/8 must be soaked overnight and cooked for up to 90 minutes. I would love to try Anson Mills grits. I can almost taste the difference in my imagination.

Sadly, I have given in to poor old instant grits due to time constraints. I also may shortcut the stove top cooking by using the microwave.  In that, I feel I really need to trump up the flavor to make them palatable.

Milk is always the base I use for my grits but I branch out from there as my moods change.  Shrimp and Grits to me are more of a dinnertime food (breakfast for dinner) so I don’t make them in the morning.

These are some of the ways I have varied my morning grits. When cooking grits, I add:

Shredded cheddar cheese, roasted chopped green chiles and chopped tomato for New Mexican Style

Pieces of goat cheese and Herbs de Provence for French style grits

Feta cheese and sometimes chopped Kalamata olives for Greek grits

Italian is Parmesan and fresh chopped basil

This week I went to a Parmesan Cutting event at Scardello’s Cheese shop http://scardellocheese.com/.  I brought home a round of Cypress Grove Purple Haze Goat Cheese   http://www.cypressgrovechevre.com/our-cheese/fresh-chevre/purple-haze.html#.U9xiY-OJGRM  It is goat cheese with fennel pollen and lavender. I added some to my morning grits. Deeeelicious!

Other ideas I have thought of or seen online but have not tried are:
Mascarpone and grits
Black bean and cheddar cheese grits topped with avocado chunks
Goat cheese and garlic grits (thanks Bobby Flay!)
Corn and green chile grits
Fried grits (from cold leftover grits…thank you Mom!)

I am not a meat eater but you can also make your grits with some  ham, green pepper, tomato, mushrooms and cheese, like a country omelet without the egg.
Hmmm and now that I am thinking about it, what about meat ball, marinara sauce and grits for dinner?

So you see, grits are not just for Southerners anymore. They are for those of us with a great imagination and the love of variety in our foods.  I hope you will experiment with your own ideas and make the most of your morning grits. I would love to hear about your favorites.


Guiness book of records

We did it! We broke the record! http://www.myfoxdfw.com/story/25351252/fox-4-viewers-help-break-a-guiness-world-record-on-shred-day

Shred Day and Feeding the Hungry

Before I moved to Florida I volunteered often for the North Texas Food Bank.  Since my return, I haven’t had the chance to help them (short of asking for food donations for them during my holiday party),  until today.

It may be hard for those of us that have so much and some of us that struggle with overeating to recognize that hunger does exist here in the North Texas area, but it does.

Hunger has a different face in the US as compared to third world countries. Still there are families that struggle to provide adequate food for their needs. Some that miss meals due to finances and children that fail to get adequate nutrition due to lack of education or money. More recently, pets have also been affected by the economic downturn.

The North Texas Food Bank has expanded its programs to meet the needs of North Texans. Since the economic downturn the need is greater and they have worked to provide services to make a difference in our community. 

I reviewed their present services and was impressed with how much they have expanded their scope. They provide reduced price school meals and  back packs of food for kids to take home for the weekend. They distribute cat and dog food (those that have lost jobs may not have the funds to keep their pets otherwise) and have programs for seniors as well.

In addition, they offer nutrition programs that target low income people educating them on how to provide balanced meals for their children. Food distribution is at the forefront of the role NTFB plays in our community

 Today, I participated in a fun event that raised money for the NTFB. It was Shred Day in conjunction with Comerica Bank, Fox 4 and Iron Mountain.  If you had sensitive documents that you needed to shred, you could come by the bank, offer a donation of food or money (or not if you couldn’t manage it) and Iron Mountain would shred your papers at no cost. We were also vying for the world record in paper shredded, so there was no limit on the amount of paper people could bring.

I arrived at 7am. The event was to start at 8 but already there was  long line of cars and trucks waiting. At about 7:45 the flood gates opened. Some had a few boxes or bags of paper to shred. Others, filled flat beds or U-Haul trucks.

As volunteers we walked from car to car taking their food donations and placing them in bins for the food bank. 

I love this type of event because you really see the best in people.  The donations ranged from 0 to one can to boxes of food. Monetary donations ranged from the change in the bottom of someone’s purse to a 500 dollar check and maybe more.

People not only gave donations but often thanked us for volunteering to help the community. No one was impatient although the line was long and it was fun seeing people pull up with one hand on the wheel and the other holding a bag of food out the window for us to take (sometimes with the car still moving!)

As volunteers we worked together to not only collect the food but to help each other.  At times we worked as a tag team and sometimes with more than two of us it looked more like a relay.  I was there for 3 hours and we all agreed 3 hours seemed like 5. We worked hard and my newly healed thumb was hurting by the time I left and is feeling it now.

Here is the Fox News report and video. http://tinyurl.com/mebtdho

You might see a motley looking blonde tag teaming with another volunteer to take a food donation. That would be me!

I don’t know how much food was gathered or if they made the world record but no matter the outcome it was all good. People helping people. It was a great day!

I hope you will consider donating, food, time or money to help us help each other. http://web.ntfb.org/page.aspx?pid=272

I have signed up for their next event, Taste of the NFL. http://web.ntfb.org/page.aspx?pid=364

I have worked this event in years past and it was first rate. I am looking forward to it. Of course, I would love to see you there too whether as a participant or volunteer. You can smooze with the Cowboy’s and have some great “vittles’ prepared by celebrity chefs, all the while doing your part to feed the hungry.