I love fall except for the part where it turns into winter. In the meantime, I am going to enjoy this wonderful and light creamy porcini mushroom soup because it taste nothing like winter.
Ingredients
  • 3 Oz Dried Porcini Mushrooms (Re-hydrated)
  • 1 Chopped Onion
  • 1 Chopped Carrot
  • 3-4 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 2 1/2 Cups Mushroom Liquid Reserved
  • 17 Oz Chicken Stock
  • 3 Teaspoons Chicken Better Than Bouillon
  • 1 Tablespoon Tomato Paste
  • 1 Can Light Coconut Milk
  • 1/4 Cup Cream
  • 1 Large Tablespoon Dried Parsley
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Tumeric
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Salt
  • Pepper To Taste
Preparation
  1. Re-hydrate the mushrooms, drain and reserve the liquid in a bowl. The sediment should fall to the bottom of the bowl.
  2. Lightly pat dry the mushrooms with a towel.
  3. Chop the onion and carrot into fairly small pieces.
  4. Add the olive oil, mushrooms, onion and carrot into a large pot. Cook on medium high until onions and carrots begin to soften.
  5. Add the stock, 2 1/2 cups of the reserve liquid (skimming off the top so the sediment stays out of the soup), the Better Than Bouillon and the tomato paste.
  6. Bring to a boil and cook about 15 minutes. 
  7. Reduce heat and add the remaining ingredients. Bring to a light boil and simmer another 5 minutes.
  8. Remove from heat and use an immersion blender until smooth. Return to heat on low for a few minutes.
  9. Cool slightly and serve with sour cream.

Hints
  • This has a light mushroom flavor. If you want more depth, I would suggest doubling the amount of mushrooms or using a couple of different varieties. I think just about any dried mushroom would do.

  • Can also be made with vegetable stock.
 
 
Disney's Frozen
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Mostly what I remember about meals when I was young is my parents' saying: "Children in (insert an impoverished nation of your choice) are starving, so clean up your plate and don't let this food go to waste." I'm convinced that sitting for hours trying to finish food that I could barely stuff into my mouth because I was so full is a big part of why I struggle with weight issues. 

I didn't raise my kids that way. I let them leave food at the table and on their plate. I wanted them to understand how to feed their bodies appropriately and be healthy. However, when you have dancer/athletes like I do, you never know when they are going to eat a super huge meal or a very tiny meal. So I always have leftovers - lots of leftovers. What do I do with them?

I make soups, casseroles, savory pies and eggs. I make lots of left over egg dishes. This is one of my favorites. I combine my love of roasting vegetables with a simple steamed egg and a bit of cheese. And while I'm at it, I imagine I'm helping to not waste food for starving children somewhere. Oh, and let's all give to Action Against Hunger while we are at it.
Ingredients
  • 1-1/2 Cups Roasted Vegetables
  • 2 Eggs
  • 2 Tbl Shredded Cheese
  • Olive Oil
  • 1/8 Cup Water

Preparation
  1. Drizzle olive oil into a pan that has been heated to medium high.
  2. Add the roasted vegetables and cook for about 1-2 minutes.
  3. Crack two eggs directly on top of the vegetables.
  4. Cook another 2 minutes. Lower heat to medium to medium low.
  5. Add water to pan and cover until eggs are steamed done and whites are set. About 2 minutes.
  6. Sprinkle with cheese and cover until melted. About 30 seconds. Season with black pepper.
  7. If you want a crunchier bottom on your vegetables, keep the lid off after adding the cheese so the water evaporates and a crust forms on the bottom.

Serving
This makes one hardy serving or two smaller servings.

Nutrition
Large hardy serving is about 300 calories.
Smaller half size serving is about 150 calories.
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I first tasted hummus at a Middle Eastern restaurant in Minneapolis called Jerusalem's several decades ago. It was delightful; all buttery and lemony. So I decided it would be a good thing to have at home. I tried several versions of store bought hummus including a local variety made by Holy Land in northeast Minneapolis. It is quite good, but none of them really seemed to be the right flavor for me. Perhaps it is the Scandinavian boy from the prairie who grew up on blandness? Not! I think it really is that I wanted something smooth with a little tang that could be spread on bread as a sandwich or used as a dip for chips or pita. Something versatile and yummy. So, for years I made batches of hummus. Unfortunately, my kids really don't like hummus, so I've had to eat a lot of it on my quest for perfection. Today, I got it and I'm going to share it with you: My Perfect Hummus!
Ingredients
  • 1/4 cup tahini
  • 1 large lemon juiced (little less than 1/4 cup)
  • 1 15 oz can drained garbanzo beans
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 T olive oil

Preparation
  1. Put the tahini and lemon juice in a food processor and turn on for at 1-2 minutes until very smooth. You may need to scrape down the sides of the work bowl at the half way point.
  2. Add the drained garbanzo beans and the finely diced or crushed garlic. Blend another 1-2 minutes until smooth.
  3. While the food processor is on, slowly drizzling the olive oil into the mixture.
  4. Spoon out and garnish with a bit of olive oil and paprika. (Cumin and other spices can be added at the end if you wish.)

Nutrition
1 Tablespoon = 25 calories.
Notes
The two secrets to this hummus are:
  • The initial tahini lemon juice mixture.
  • The blending order of the ingredients. We are treating it like we are making mayonnaise or a dressing by emulsifying the olive oil slowly at the end into the acidic mixture.

Try it on our Honey Wheat Bread toasted. You will love it!
 
 
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Sochi! Olympics! Putin shirtless! O.k., well at least two out of three ain't bad. I cringe after every skater as NBC pans to a stoic Putin in the crowd. Honestly, NBC should just rename themselves the Putin Television Network. There has to be more about Russian than just Putin sitting in a crowd or hanging half naked in a hotel room - his portrait, I mean. That and the stories of uniquely unfinished hotel rooms and bathrooms drove me to think about how I could share more about the culture of Russian to my family instead of the mismanaged hype. 

The Russian people are known for many great things including unique food due in part to their climates and topography. In particular, they are known for pickling certain foods including cucumbers, tomatoes and cabbage. Their pickling brine is almost as holy as soy sauce to some Asian cultures. Almost as holy as vodka! So, I decided we'd celebrate a bit of the culture of Russian outside of the NBC/PTN mockumentary experience by having a bit of pickled foods and a few shots of vodka for the adults with a proper Russian toast of course.

Here are two great quick pickle recipes I developed for the occasion. One recipe is for tomatoes with pepperoncini and the other is for cooked Brussels sprouts. Vashe zrodovye! - To your health! Half naked or not.

Ingredients
TOMATOES
  • 10 medium small vine-ripened tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • 6 small jarred pepperoncini
  • 1 clove garlic sliced thin
  • 4 small bay leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried dill

BRUSSELS SPROUTS
  • 18-20 Brussels sprouts halved
  • 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried dill
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1-2 cloves garlic sliced thin

BRINE
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar (you could use red wine vinegar for a different flavor)
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 tablespoon sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar

Preparation
  1. Bring the brine ingredients of water, vinegar, salt and sugar to boil until dissolved.
  2. Steam the halved Brussels sprouts in a bit of water in the microwave for about 2-3 minutes.
  3. Fill a quart jar with the tomato ingredients.
  4. Fill a pint jar with the Brussels sprouts ingredients.
  5. Pour the brine into each jar. You will probably have a tiny bit of brine left.
  6. Seal jars, cool, and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.

Nutrition
Calories are pretty small, probably about 10 or so for each tomato and 10 for about a quarter of the Brussels sprouts.

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Tips
You can serve the Brussels Sprouts within an hour or so, but I'd wait a day at least for the tomatoes.

This is a refrigerator recipe. Please do not use for long term storage canning.
 
 
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We have some wonderful friends that we love to share time with at a great little restaurant called Black Sheep Pizza in Minneapolis. They have a dish of warm olives that is absolutely fabulous to munch on while you down a cold local brew or a lovely glass of wine. But be careful as the olives are hot and you could burn your tongue. So take your time, let the olives steep in the oil, mind your tongue and share them slowly just like you would a great friendship! Here is my version inspired by good friends and Black Sheep.
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Ingredients
  • 2 Cups Mixed Olives (Castelvetrano, Nicoise, Kalamata)
  • 1/8 Cup Good Quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 3 To 4 Garlic Cloves
  • Rosemary Sprig
  • Pinch Of Salt

Preparation
  1. Combine all ingredients in pan and heat over medium until boiling.
  2. Serve warm in a dish that will retain heat.
  3. Enjoy with cheese and cold beer or wine.

Servings
Multiple 1 oz servings.

Nutrition
About 10 to 12 calories per olive.

Tips
  • You can use pitted or unpitted olives, but the olives with pits will take longer to cool which could be a plus if you want to savor them.
  • Other herbs work well too.
  • Alternatively, this recipe can be cooked in an oven. They will take about 15 minutes at 425 degrees. Longer at a lower temp.
  • Stuffing the olives with small rectangles of cheese after cooking is a superb addition. I used a light Gouda in this photo.
 
 
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Just stop with the craziness of standing over a stove stirring onions for over an hour or two on low while you wait for their golden brown decadence to develop. Seriously, I do not need any more time to contemplate weight loss. Plop them in a crock pot, a little olive oil, salt and 7 hours later on high with occasional stirring or 12 hours later on low with no stirring, you'll have the most delicious sweet onions ever. And I promise they'll help you lose weight. Wink.
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Ingredients
  • 4 Large Yellow Onions
  • 4 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Salt

Preparation
  1. Peel onions in half and slice. Place in crock pot.
  2. Drizzle olive oil over onions and toss while in crock pot.
  3. Salt and toss a bit more.
  4. From here you have two options. You can cook them on high for about 7 hours stirring every hour or so just a bit so they don't burn, or you can cook them on low for about 12 hours. Overnight is best.
  5. They will reduce to about 1/8 of what they were and will be dark brown and sweet to taste.

Servings
Multiple 1 oz servings.

Nutrition
20 calories per 1 oz.

Tips
  • You can refrigerate in a tight closed container up to 10 days or you can freeze them in smaller individual containers. We usually eat it too fast to freeze.
  • Try them in fish tacos. Yum.
 
 
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Growing up in a small prairie town in the hot summer with not much to do, one tends to remember very specific childhood aha moments. My older brother was a bit of a mystery to me as he was 16 years older and either in college or married ever since I could remember. When he came home, we had loads of fun. Especially when he cheated at playing cards, but that's another story. One day while outside we were eating watermelon and he started to put salt on his. I thought, whoa! Who puts salt on fruit? He said try it, you will really love it. Well, he was right. Salted watermelon was just like putting salt on raw potatoes or tomatoes or cucumbers right from the garden. It helps the flavor dance on your tongue. So I was inspired to combine a few salty ingredients with some watermelon. Perhaps this salad will become your aha dancing tongue summer moment.
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Ingredients
  • 1 Large Cucumbers
  • Salt To Brine Cucumbers
  • 1 Tablespoon Light Mayonnaise
  • 1 Tablepoon Skim Milk
  • 1 Teaspoon Vinegar (Apple Cider Or A Fruit Flavor)
  • 1 Teaspoon Sugar
  • 6 Cups Seedless Watermelon
  • 2 Thin Slices Prosciutto
  • 8 Tablespoons Goat Cheese
  • Salt & Pepper For Seasoning

Preparation
  1. Slice the cucumbers using a mandolin. Salt and set aside in colander to drain. Preferably about an hour.
  2. Place cucumbers on paper towel and dab remaining water off.
  3. Mix  mayonnaise, milk, vinegar, and sugar. Add cucumbers and place in refrigerator. It is best if they sit for another hour, but if needed you could use after about 10 to 15 minutes.
  4. Cut the watermelon into rectangles. Really, any shape will do. Stack the slices in a bowl.
  5. Spread cucumber slices on either side of the watermelon. You may have cucumber left over.
  6. Chop the prosciutto and place it around the watermelon and cucumber.
  7. Crumble goat cheese over salad.
  8. Spoon a bit of cucumber dressing over the salad.
  9. Season with salt and pepper.

Servings
4 servings.

Nutrition
About 140 calories per serving.
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I can count on one hand the number of times I had seafood growing up. (Canned tuna doesn't count.) My father really didn't like seafood. I'm not sure if it was because he had to endure lutefisk or if it was because my mother couldn't cook seafood or that seafood wasn't really plentiful in the 60's and 70's on the prairie, essentially the geographical center of North America and a long way away from either coast or the gulf. I didn't start having seafood on a regular basis until I met the Trophy Wife who hails from Door County, Wisconsin. (Yes, God's Country! I know. I've heard it a million times.) With two large bodies of water on either side, they were practically swimming in seafood. Well, at least really large lake food. So I have learned to both eat and cook seafood. I try not to overcook it and I try to serve it in a light way just like it came from the ocean or swam in the really large lake or was inspired by the light blue summer sky of the North Dakota grasslands. The prairie never knew what it was missing.
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Ingredients
  • 10 Medium Sized Carrots Sliced
  • 30 Brussels Sprouts Cut In Half
  • 1/2 Cup Finely Diced Fennel
  • 1/2 Cup Finely Diced Onion
  • 2 Pounds Tail On Shrimp (You Could Use Prawns)
  • 2 Garlic Cloves
  • 10 Tbs Butter
  • 3 Tbs Olive Oil
  • Juice Of Two Lemons
  • 1 Cup White Wine (Pinot Grigio If You Have It)
  • Salt & Pepper

Preparation
  1. Melt the butter with olive oil over medium heat in a large pan or pot.
  2. Add the Brussels sprouts cut in half with the cut side down so they brown a bit.
  3. Use a mandolin to slice the carrots consistently. Add them once the sprouts are cooked about half way. Maybe 5 minutes into the cooking. Add the garlic, fennel, and onion. Season.
  4. Cook until the carrots just start to get soft, about 5 -8 minutes.
  5. Add the drained and rinsed shrimp, lemon juice and the White Wine. Season.
  6. Toss and cook about 8-10 minutes. Be careful not to overcook the shrimp. They should be pink. You may need to cover the last few minutes. Adjust seasoning as needed.
  7. Serve over whipped potatoes. I prefer whipped to mashed in this dish because I like the smooth summer texture. You could also serve alone or with rice or pasta.

Servings
8 servings

Nutrition
About 375 calories per serving without the potatoes or starch.

Tips
For a low carb alternative serve this without a starch.
You could cut the butter out and reduce calories, but trust me, it isn't worth it.

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Tapanades usually have anchovies and capers. But I really don't like either of those. Neither do most kids. But I do love olives and so do my kids. The bonus is that for the most part they are really good for you. So I have developed a number of olive tapenades that are perfect for snacks. You can use them as a dip with vegetables, or spread on thinly sliced baguette or crackers. My one piece of advice is get good olives. I buy Kalamata and Castelvetrano in big jars at Costco and get specialty olives at the olive bar at Whole Foods. Here is the first in many tapenades.
Ingredients
  • 1 Cup Kalamata Olives
  • 1/2 Cup Castelvetrano Olives
  • 1 Small Sweet Red Pepper
  • 1/8 Cup Sweet Pickles (I Do A Quick Pickle Of My Own, But Hamburger Slices Work Well)
  • 1/2 Tablespoon Olive Oil
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Red Wine Vinegar
  • Small Splash Of Sweet Pickle Juice
  • Whole Wheat Baguette
  • Low Fat Gouda Cheese

Preparation
  1. Place all ingredients into a food processor.
  2. Pulse scraping down the sides until a chunky paste forms.
  3. Dip or spread.

Servings
About 7 servings

Nutrition
About 90 Calories Per Tapenade Serving Only - Extra For Cheese And Bread

Tips
I served this on a whole wheat baguette thinly sliced with a low fat creamy Gouda cheese from Wisconsin. But you could use other ingredients such as crackers, vegetables, tomatoes or even serve it with eggs or steak. It is very versatile.
 
 
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It is a rainy day in Minnesota as the senate debates the marriage equality bill. It seems to me that the human condition to struggle through the hunger of morality is a powerful, thoughtful, and emotional journey. Here is hoping that after this vote we will come together as a state in a soulful and meaningful way. So here's to a dish with lots of very different ingredients that comes together in a warming and soulful way to satisfy everyone's hunger. It is one of the best chili's I have ever made. I hope you agree.