Sunday, January 18, 2009

Party Doings

No food posts...just family.

This weekend I decided it was time to get out of Dodge. For about the last 6 months the only thing we have had to look forward to was doctor and hospital appointments. So we headed for parts north to meet up with a great deal of family. Hubby comes from a very large family. He is one of eight progeny, so you can imagine the myriad of nieces, nephews, greats and so on. Even one of our own offspring made it to the fun family dinner that hubby's awesome bother and sister-in-law hosted. We had a great time sharing food, tales of misspent youth, and holding a couple of adorable members of the newest generation. Here's a few pics to get a couple of chuckles from.

Our hostess(and host who is also hubby's brother) with the mostest

A couple of hubby's sisters

The proud hubbies of the beauties above

And lots of cousins!

Oldywed cousins

And newlywed cousins

Sister cousins

Like mother like daughter.

And like father like son.

When I saw these two pictures I was taken slightly aback. I didn't realize how much my son and hubby resembled each other. When I pointed this out, hubby asked if he was where our son also got his brains. My reply was, " Sure, because I still have mine." I am not sure the humor was appreciated.

My son's lovely girlfriend

The next generation

I'm not totally sure, but I think at last count there were about 20 biological great grandchildren and about 7 added by marriage greatgrand children. That is quite the progeny and much for Grandma and Grandpa Bell to be proud of. These pictures represent only a portion of the extended family. It is really wonderful to be part of such a huge loving supportive group, especially at a time like this. We really love all of these people and are so thankful for them...and hope they all know this.

And this was the end of the party!!
We really did have a wonderful evening and it was great to get away. Sorry if this makes any of the Utah family jealous. And, Nalani, sorry about no pictures of your hubby and sweet little guy. I handed my camera to some one else to take pics kind of late into the event and so missed them. But they were there and totally enjoyable. Jed had some great stories about his notorious youth! Fun! We also shared tales of shoplifting, spankings, fights and various other great family times. You had to be there. And for those of you that wanted the jalapeno popper thingies recipe, go here.

And, of course, it's always great to get home again. This is the view hubby and I have everyday as we come home from work...OK, everyday that is clear. Today was one of the those incredibly clear days when you feel all is right with the world. Lately, we don't get enough of those. So this was a gift.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Braggin' Rights

This has nothing do with cooking, but who cares. I just had to share pictures of my little one and only grandchild. I may be prejudiced, but then, so what. I waited a long time for him, so deal.

I was feeding him oatmeal and applesauce and couldn't resist taking some messy pics. I am totally in love with the little guy...but then you couldn't tell, could you?

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Mac and Cheese...The Ultimate Comfort Food

This is definitely NOT low carb. But sometimes one just has to indulge. There is nothing better, as far as I am concerned, when all the world seems to have gone to hell in a hand basket, than piping hot homemade mac and cheese. The stuff from the box is just pathetic when compared to the real stuff. When I was growing up my mom would make mac and cheese as a side dish to go with baked fish, usually perch or cod, and I really looked forward to the mac and cheese. The next day I would even eat it cold right out of the fridge. You certainly can't do that with the boxed mac and cheese. Now, I have to admit that for convenience sake I would use the boxed kind for my kids and to make into casseroles. But these days, I don't even buy the stuff. And you really have to love the versatility of mac and cheese. You can use just about any type of cheese, add meats, make it cheap or expensive. It's just a great dish to have in your repetoire. And so here's my version.

Mac and Cheese

8 oz. any short pasta cooked to just shy of al dente I used rotini
4 TBS. butter
4 TBS. flour
2 cups milk
4 oz. sharp cheddar grated
4 oz. Velveeta cubed
4 slices Swiss (I was adding ham so I thought "why not some Swiss." I had some for sandwiches)
1 tsp. dry mustard
dash of hot pepper flakes
salt and pepper to taste
2-3 cups cubed ham
1 cup dry bread crumbs
3 TBS. melted butter
a palm full of smoked paprika

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 2 quart casserole dish with Pam. Melt butter in a large saucepan. Whisk in flour and let cook for 3 or 4 minutes. Add the milk, whisking to break down any lumps. Stir constantly until the sauce thickens. I usually do this over a medium heat. Don't be tempted to increase the heat or you run the risk of scorching the milk. Once the sauce has thickened stir in the salt, pepper, pepper flakes, and mustard. Then stir in the cheese. Turn heat to low and keep stirring until all the cheese has melted. Remove from heat. Mix the cheese sauce, pasta and cheese together either in a large bowl or, if your casserole dish is big enough, you can mix it together in that.

Now, for a crunchy topping! At Christmas, I bought loaves of French bread that I let set out to get stale. Then I cubed them and let them get even more stale. I used this for my stuffing and froze what was left. I pulled outt enough to make a cup of bread crumbs and pulsed the cubed bread in my processer. I then added the melted butter and paprika and sprinkled it over the mac and cheese. Bake for 30 minutes until bubbly. Mmm, mmm, mmm. Comfort food! Enjoy!

Monday, January 12, 2009

CrockPot Pulled Pork with Bar-b-que Sauce

Who doesn't like a warm, succulent, tasty bar-b-que pork sandwich? I love them in the winter because they remind me of summer. And considering how winter has been so far, I need all of the summer memories I can gather.

This is really a fairly simple recipe that can be started early and finished off when you're ready for dinner. When I was explaining how to create this yummy dish to a family member, she thought it sounded like a great deal of work. But trust me it isn't. And some of the prep can be done the night before if you wanted. It really is worth the work...if you think this is a lot of work...which I don't.

CrockPot Pulled Pork

3-4 lb. boneless pork picnic or pork butt
sea salt, fresh ground pepper, bar-b-que grill seasoning
3/4 cup water
1 TBS. Kitchen bouquet
1/4 cup prepared coffee or cola (it's the acid in these liquids that tenderizes the meat)

Rub the pork with the seasonings and put in the crockpot. Add the liquids. Cook on low for 8 hours. Now, honestly, can that be any easier?

Here's what you need to finish it off.

1 medium onion thinly sliced
1 red pepper thinly sliced
2 TBS. butter or olive oil
3 cups barbque sauce or however much you feel gives you the desired consistency

When the pork is done remove it from the pot and let cool for a few minutes. As it is cooling, melt the butter in a large skillet or saute pan. Add the sliced onion and cook on medium to medium low for about 15 minutes. Don't forget to add salt to the onions as they start to cook. This speeds up the caramelization process. Then add the peppers and cook for another 5 minutes or so.

While the veggies are cooking, thinly slice the pork.

Add the pork to the veggies along with bar-b-que sauce. I use the low carb sauce that I make myself, but you can use any you prefer. If my body could tolerate the sugar, I would totally use Sweet Baby Ray's. I love that stuff. Anyway, after you have mixed all together, cover and simmer on low for 30 to 60 minutes. See, not so hard and totally delicious.

Serve this on hamburger buns or kaiser rolls or whatever your bread of choice is. Since I can't have the bread I just ate it from a bowl. Still delish! Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Cheese Crackers...Sort of

We all need to have crunch in our lives. Me, I live for crunch....peanuts, potato chips, pickles, ice cubes. Eating low carb can present a problem in that area. I crave the crunch of potato chips, but, alas, they are verboten. Thank goodness, one of my low carb/diabetic cookbooks has offered an amazing solution. Cheese crackers...literally. These crunchy morsels can double (or triple) as crackers, chips, and even bread. Just be aware that these do not necessarily have the same concistency as the afore mentioned yummies, just as spaghetti squash does not taste like its namesake pasta. But they are a good substitute. And, even better, they are so simple to make it's ridiculous. So here goes.

Cheese Crackers

1, or as many as you want to make, slice of American cheese....NOT American processed cheese or cheese food.You want the thick sliced stuff, not the thin individually wrapped stuff. I buy the big package of it at Costco. It is not always the easiest cheese to find. Just be sure to read the label. The cheese food will not work. Trust me on this.

a piece of parchment paper or freezer paper. I think in the long run freezer paper is more economical. The piece needs to fit in the microwave.

That's it, that' all you need. Crazy, huh.

Place the slice of cheese on the parchment paper or freezer paper (freezer paper needs to be shiny side up.)

Place in the microwave and cook on high for approximately 1 minute. My microwave runs pretty high, o for me 1 minute is perfect. Keep an eye on your cheese so that you don't cremate it. This is what it should look when it's done.

This is 2 full size pieces of cheese. Prior to cooking, these could be cut into smaller cracker or chip sizes. I used these to make a chicken salad sandwich. When using these for sandwiches, the crackers will be crumbly so hang on tight to your food! These are quite tasty and help to satisfy that crunch that we all so craze. Try these and Enjoy!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Three Bean and Brat Soup

This is just a filling, stick to your ribs, want it in the middle of winter, type of soup. Oh, did you know it was winter? Speaking of which it's SNOWING again! I know winter just got started, but that last go 'round was enough for 10 winters in this area. Sheeesh!

OK, back to soup. This not low carb, but it is full of fiber and protein and flavor. Really great in the dark dead of cold winter. I ate it without any bread or crackers, but my husband indulged in both. He's allowed. Either way, it is delectable.

Three Bean and Brat Soup

1 lb. dry navy beans
1 cup dry baby lima beans
1 cup dry red kidney beans
2 TBS. olive oil
2 TBS. butter
1 medium onion chopped
1 medium red and 1 medium green bell peppers chopped
2 cloves garlic minced
1 quart chicken broth
3 TBS. brown sugar (I use the Splenda blend)
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1 29 oz. can or 2 15 oz cans diced tomatoes
2 6 oz. cans tomato paste
1 package brats (I use Johnsonville uncooked)
salt and pepper taste

In a large, at least 6 quart, pot prepare the beans either by an overnight soak or a quick soak. I prefer the quick soak, then rinsing the beans really well. It seems to reduce the gassiness. After the beans are soaked and rinsed, add enough liquid to cover the beans well. I use about half chicken broth and half water. Heat to boiling and reduce to simmer. While the beans are simmering, cook the brats and then cool while sauteing the onions, peppers and garlic in the the oil and butter. You can also substitute precooked brats, smoked sausage, kielbasa, or any turkey type sausage. The cooking police will not be there to check. After the sausage is cooled chop it into bite size pieces. Add the sausage, onions, peppers, garlic, brown sugar, and cloves to the beans. Heat to boiling, cover and simmer for an hour. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, salt and pepper, cover again and simmer for another 30 minutes or until the beans are tender. And there, you have a seriously yummy soup. I put all self control aside and had two bowls. Oh, and if you are like my hubby and I, this is way to much soup to eat at one time. So we freeze part of it for later. Great time saver for crazy days! Enjoy!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

New Year and Resolutions

As far as years go, 2008 was pretty much a dismal time for our family. We have dealt with and continue to deal with some life threatening illnesses. The economy is pretty much in the toilet for just about everyone I know. The weather to end the year with was a nightmare. I could go on and on, but I won't. Everyone has their own tales of woe. These are the things that build our strength of character. I have discovered that I am a pretty strong woman and able to handle (for the most part) most things that life throws at me....and without drugs or drink....although sometimes I am tempted. I am learning to look at the good things that have happened this year and count those blessings: our first grandchild, my oldest son getting through his health crisis with grace and dignity, the continuing love and support from so many corners of our lives during my hubby's health crisis, especially from both sides of our family. I could go on and on, but I won't. Just know that at this point in my life I am choosing to "see the glass as half-full." And if it becomes empty it is because I drank it up. Let's drink to a better year in 2009!

Now, in considering resolutions, I try not to make them, mainly due to the fact that I don't keep them. But this year I am making two. The first one concerns my health. I am resolving to make a concerted effort to eat very low carb. It is really the only way to keep my blood sugar under control. My other resolution is to do all I can to build my in-home tutoring business. Between the economy and caring for ill family members it has taken a bit of a hit. I know that I can work it and build it, because if it don't get it functioning well, it's back to substitute teaching...which I really hate. So, there you have it. My only two resolutions.

The first resolution will be fairly well documented here with my cooking. This posting really was going to be about low carb meatloaf, but I digressed as I started writing. to the meatloaf.

This is a meatloaf from my favorite low carb cookbook..."Carb Wars." I don't feel comfortable giving out Judy's recipes from her book when that is how she makes a living. So I'll just give some descriptions of what I did to make it low carb. You basically could take your favorite meatloaf and make just one little change to make it low carb. Instead of adding bread crumbs or cracker crumbs, just grind one Wasa cracker (very low carb/high fiber) in the food processor and add. I also used some of Judy's sugar free bar-b-que sauce and grated cheese. After I formed my meatloaf I drizzled more of the bar-b-que sauce over it and covered it with 3 strips of bacon. Hey, bacon works for everything! Then I baked it at 350 degrees for roughly an hour. It was very moist and flavorful and held together well.

Now, if you all read the last post you know that I have to bulk up food for hubby. So this is what he had as side dishes.

And this is what I had....I see a great deal of brown and green in my future.

Stay tuned for some easy cheese crackers that can double as bread and some fascinating ways to have no carb coatings for fried foods. Occassionally, I may cheat and do a good old fashioned comfort food dish. Enjoy!