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Thursday, January 29, 2015

Thursday Recipe - Ginger Shrimp Coconut Soup

This is a good soup; quick and easy. Feel free to mix up the vegetables.

Ginger Shrimp Coconut Soup

1 pound medium shrimp
2 T. soy sauce
1 T. finely minced fresh ginger
1/4 c. lemon juice
2 T. oil
1 T. honey

2 T. butter
1 small onion, finely diced
1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into chunks
1 stalk of celery, sliced
1 c. mushrooms, sliced
1 can water chestnuts, sliced
1 12 oz can coconut milk
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. black pepper

lime wedges for garnish
Hot sticky rice

Peel and devein shrimp, set aside. Mix soy sauce, ginger, lemon juice, oil, and honey. Toss with shrimp. Cover and refrigerate for 2-3 hours.

Melt butter in large heavy saucepan. Sauté onion, bell pepper, and celery until tender. Stir in shrimp with marinade and mushrooms. Cook on med high heat until shrimp is done, about 5 minutes. Add water chestnuts and coconut milk, stir in one can of water, cook just until heated through.

Using an ice cream scoop, mound rice in center of soup bowl. Ladle shrimp sauce around rice. Sprinkle with parsley or green onions if desired. Garnish with lime wedges. Serves 6-8.  

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Thursday Recipe - Stuffed Acorn Squash

I had a couple of little acorn squash on my counter and some hamburger in my fridge. So of course I went straight to the idea of making meatloaf and stuffing it into the acorn squash. It turned out very tasty.

Acorn squash is a variety of winter squash - it has a hard rind and pale yellow to dark orange flesh depending on which variety you buy. Look for hard squash with no soft spots. They should be heavy for their size and shouldn't rattle when you shake them. If it does, it means the squash is old and the seeds have come loose.

To pick a good meatloaf, look for ones that are not green on the outside and are firm to the touch. Ha! You don't buy meatloaf in the produce section, you should know that. You make your own.

Stuffed Acorn Squash

2 small acorn squash
1 lb. hamburger, low fat is preferred for this recipe
1/2 c. oatmeal
1/4 c. chopped onions
1/4 c. chopped bell pepper
1/4 c. barbecue sauce
1/4 c. ketchup
2 eggs
salt & pepper

Cut the squash in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds. Cut a small sliver off the side of the squash so it will sit flat and not roll. The seed cavity should be facing up. Set the four squash halves in a baking dish. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Mix hamburger, oatmeal, onions, peppers, sauces, and eggs until blended. Scoop the meatloaf into the acorn squash. Don't mound it too high. You should only need about the half the meatloaf mixture. Pile the rest of the meatloaf in a mound in the middle of the dish. You'll have four stuffed squash halves plus a small meatloaf in the pan.

Bake at 375° for 45-55 minutes, until squash is tender and meatloaf is cooked through.

Makes 4-6 servings.

This goes great with mashed potatoes and a green salad.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Perspectives on Writing

I recently read Quiet, by Susan Cain. It was very enlightening. Susan Cain explores what it means to be an introvert in a world that rewards extrovert behaviors. I've realized I am very much an introvert. I need my alone time, my quiet spaces with no social interaction. My husband, who for years has claimed to be an introvert, is really an extrovert. He likes crowds. He thrives on social interactions. He gets energy from these where I am just drained afterwards. Understanding these differences is helping us better understand each other.

As part of the book, Susan Cain explores different occupations that introverts tend to be drawn to. No surprise that writing is one of those. She quotes Kafka on what it is like to be a writer. He's speaking to his wife:

"You once said that you would like to sit beside me while I write. Listen, in that case I could not write at all. For writing means revealing oneself to excess; that utmost of self-revelation and surrender, in which a human being, when involved with others, would feel he was losing himself, and from which, therefore, he will always shrink as long as he is in his right mind . . . That is why one can never be alone enough when one writes, why there can never be enough silence around one when one writes, why even night is not night enough."

Someone else, I can't remember who but I would love to know the source of this quote, said: Sharing your writing is like walking around naked in front of everyone.

I know I have a very hard time writing if anyone else is sitting near me. It's an intensely private and personal endeavor. I struggle to scrape away the distancing words and phrases and let the raw emotions onto the page.

And then what do authors do? We put those naked screaming emotions out in public for everyone to read.

If you want to understand introverts and extroverts better, go read Quiet. It's worth the time.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Thursday Recipe - Au Gratin Potatoes

Here's the creamy original version, lightened up just a bit. In Utah, these are commonly made with frozen shredded hash browns and called Funeral Potatoes, because they're traditionally served after funerals. They mostly use canned cream soups, too. Google "funeral potatoes" and you'll find plenty of recipes.

Au Gratin Potatoes

4-6 medium potatoes
1/3 c. butter
1/2 c. flour
3 c. milk (use skim or 1% for a lighter version)
1 t. dried onions
1/2 t. garlic powder
1 t. dried parsley
1 t. salt
1/2 t. black pepper
3 c. shredded cheese (sharp cheddar is best, but you can use a pizza or nacho blend, too)

Slice potatoes into 1/4" thick slices. Place in a saucepan. Add enough water to barely cover them. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer. Cover and let cook for 15-20 minutes, just until tender. Drain.

Meanwhile, melt butter in a saucepan. Stir in flour. Cook until bubbly and hot. Add milk a little at a time, whisking smooth between each addition. Add spices. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Boil and stir for one minute. Remove from heat. Add 2 c. of the cheese. Stir until cheese is melted.

Layer potatoes in a 2-quart casserole dish. Pour the cheese sauce over the top. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes, until hot and bubbly. Sprinkle with the remaining 1 c. of cheese. Bake another 5-10 minutes until the cheese is melted and slightly browned.

For an even lighter version, reduce the cheese to 1 c. in the sauce and none on top.
If you leave the peels on the potatoes, it boosts the fiber content just a little.
You can add chopped ham, diced onions, diced bell peppers, diced green chilis, or crumbled cooked bacon, if you want this as a main dish instead of a side.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Anyone interested in an ARG?

I'm involved in this and it should be great fun. The game launches on Jan. 26. It's aimed at teenagers. If you've got kids that age or you are that age, go check out the website and sign up.

The team is working hard to get all the finishing touches in place.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Thursday Recipe - Gluten-free Dairy-free Au Gratin Potatoes

Or all rotten potatoes, as my family likes to call them. The non-GF non-DF version is coming next week.

And yes, I know au gratin potatoes are supposed to have cheese in them. These are technically scalloped potatoes. I could have added goat cheese to them, but I can't stand the stuff.

Gluten-free Dairy-free Au Gratin Potatoes

4-6 medium potatoes (Yukon Gold or Red potatoes work really well)
3 c. rice milk (or unsweetened almond milk, or coconut milk)
1 t. salt
1/2 t. black pepper
1 t. dried onions
1/2 t. garlic powder
1 t. dried parsley
1/2 t. thyme
2 t. dried celery
1/4 c. cornstarch
1/2 c. cold water

Slice potatoes into 1/4" thick slices. Place in a saucepan, add warm water just until slices are covered. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat. Cover the pan and let simmer for 15-20 minutes, until potatoes are tender. Drain.

Meanwhile, pour rice milk into a saucepan. Add all the spices. Bring to a boil. Add cornstarch. Cook until thickened.

Arrange potatoes in a 2-quart casserole dish. Pour the sauce over the top. Bake at 350° for about 30 minutes, until it's hot and bubbly.

Monday, January 5, 2015

New Year's Resolutions

Since this is the first Monday of 2015, it must be time to post a list of resolutions and goals for the year. So here's mine:

  1. Post something here every Monday.
  2. Post a recipe every Thursday.
  3. Collect all my recipes into a cookbook and get it up for sale for those who would like it.
  4. Finish my Master's degree - just a project and thesis left to go.
  5. Write the first book in Blue Mage. I'll post more about that next Monday. It's a middle-grade story my daughter and I are cooking up together.
  6. Write something new every week. I'd love to get another novel done this year, but I'll settle for some short stories, flash fiction, poetry, anything that isn't just academic.
Those are my writing/professional goals. We'll see where the year takes me career-wise. That's still wide open although I do have ideas about where I want to be by the end of the year.

My personal goals:
  1. Work on my relationship with my husband. After almost 29 years of marriage, we still need date nights and time to just have fun together.
  2. Keep in touch with all of my kids. We're looking at only two left at home next fall. The nature of the relationship changes as they become adults and move out on their own, but it needs just as much work to keep it strong and more work to keep the lines of communication open.
  3. Enjoy my grandkids. I've got two now.
  4. Eat healthier. I'm on at least three different diets for health reasons. Figuring out how to combine them all gets beyond frustrating some days. I'll share what I learn on Thursdays along with good recipes.
  5. Exercise more. This is also tricky considering all my health problems. But I'm sure I can find time for a couple of hours of low-impact exercise each week.
What are your goals?

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Thursday Recipe - Scrambled Eggs Super-dee-Dooper-dee-Hooper

Well, not quite, but close. Instead of lots of different kinds of eggs, this has lots of add-ins to spice it up. Feel free to personalize it however you want.

I've found eating protein for breakfast helps me feel better during the day. Since one of my goals for 2015 is to eat healthier so I can feel better, I'm working on breakfast first. Skip the sugary cereals and pastries, cut back on the carbs in general, beef up on the protein and veggies and fiber.

I also ran across a life hack that suggested cooking scrambled eggs/omelets in your waffle iron. I haven't been brave enough to try it yet. If anyone does, please let me know how big of a mess it made and how well it worked.

Scrambled Eggs Super

For one serving:
2 eggs
2 T. milk
1/2 c. assorted mix-ins
1/4 t. salt
pinch of black pepper
2 T. grated cheese

Using a non-stick frying pan, spray it lightly with cooking spray. Put over medium heat and let it get hot while you mix up the eggs.

Beat eggs and milk until smooth. Add mix-ins, salt, and pepper. Stir until mixed. Pour into hot pan. Let cook for 1-2 minutes, until it starts to set up around the edges. Stir gently with a spatula. Continue to cook until eggs are set and as dry as you prefer. Sprinkle with cheese. Eat as soon as the cheese melts.

finely diced onions
diced bell peppers
diced hot peppers
diced celery
diced ham
cooked crumbled sausage
diced pepperoni
cooked crumbled bacon
diced tomatoes
minced garlic
sliced olives
shredded spinach or kale
sliced mushrooms
shredded zucchini
sliced green onions
sliced radishes (not kidding)
sliced daikon
diced tomatillos
shredded carrots
steamed broccoli or cauliflower, chopped small
shredded cabbage
bean sprouts
water chestnuts
diced raw eggplant

Herbs and Spices (just a pinch will do):
chili powder
celery salt

Toppings and Garnishes (add after the eggs cook):
fresh tomatoes
fresh peppers
cheese, any kind
fresh parsley
tortillas (roll the eggs inside and eat like a burrito)
BBQ sauce