Sunday, March 4, 2012

Breakfast for dinner - Biscuits with Mushroom Gravy!

As I'm sure you've heard, we had terrible weather in Southern Indiana last Friday. Massive tornadoes destroyed many homes and other buildings and virtually wiped out a few towns. Many people lost everything they had, a school was demolished and the destruction was everywhere.  What you might not know is that Fireman is part of our District 4 Task Force so he was deployed to help.  They spent a couple of days and nights doing whatever they could to help the citizens start to repair and replace what they had lost.  Thankfully, many, many other towns sent help as well, so District 4 Task Force was sent home today.  Fireman arrived home this afternoon hungry and tired so I decided to make him a nice comforting meal.  He loves biscuits and sausage gravy but I gave up meat for Lent so the dilemma began !  I remembered seeing a recipe that used mushrooms instead of sausage and was intrigued.  I found the recipe I was looking for over at The Chubby Vegetarian.  I had picked up some baby bella mushrooms at the store Friday and hadn't decided how to use them until today.  If you love sausage gravy but are trying to eat better (after all it is National Nutrition Month!!), you should try this recipe.  I love mushrooms but Fireman isn't generally all that thrilled about them.  I was a tad on the worried side about trying this recipe but he ended up eating 4 whole biscuits smothered in this amazing gravy.  I'd say it's a winner!!

I served this with fried (gasp!!) potatoes and orange juice but scrambled eggs would also be great with this meal.  I have modified this recipe to meet my taste but am guessing, aside from texture, the gravy's taste remains the same.

Mushroom Gravy

8 ounces of baby bella mushrooms (crimini)
1 T olive oil
1/2 cup onion, very finely chopped
1 t rubbed sage
1/4 t crushed red pepper flakes, or more to taste
pinch of ground cloves
1 T soy sauce
1 T maple syrup
hot sauce, to taste
1 T butter
2 T all-purpose flour
1 1/2 - 2 cups 1% milk, or until desired thickness is reached
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Very finely chop mushrooms and onion.  Saute over medium-high heat in olive oil until the mushrooms begin to brown and the onion is tender.  Add the sage, pepper flakes, cloves, soy sauce, maple syrup and hot sauce.  Cook for 1-2 minutes.  Sprinkle flour over mushroom mixture and stir to coat.  Cook for a few minutes to get rid of the raw flour taste.  Slowly add the milk, stirring constantly. ( Start with the lesser amount of milk, you can always add more if the gravy gets too thick).  Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until desired thickness.  Serve over freshly baked biscuits of your choice with salt and pepper to taste.


Friday, February 17, 2012

The Lenten Season

Butternut squash and spinach lasagna
Will probably be making this one during Lent!
I realized today that Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, is just next week.  It is traditional for Catholics, and some other religions, to make some personal sacrifices and/or add some positive personal growth activities during Lent.  In general, I like to give up one thing and add one thing.  Most years during Lent, I give up chocolate or soda and add a daily rosary.  Since I've already mostly given up soda, I think that would be a poor choice.  Chocolate seems like a good choice, but we'll be in Ireland (have you seen the Cadbury everywhere there??) for part of Lent so this one will be the ultimate torture for me.  I'm not sure I can actually keep this commitment so now I'm left searching for another idea.  Lately, I have been very focused on adding more beans, fish and fruits and vegetables to my daily meal plan so giving up meat might be just the way to go.  This will actually serve two purposes.   One, it will increase the fiber in my diet which can help lower cholesterol, fill me up with less calories, and save money on the grocery bill.  Two, it will force me to come up with some new vegetarian meal ideas!  I'm always on the look out for great tasting, easy to prepare meat-free ideas. I would not classify myself as a vegetarian, but as a Registered Dietitian with a huge family history of heart disease, I understand the health benefits that eating less meat can offer. If you have a meat-free recipe that you really love, send it my way and I'll share some of the tasty ideas I come up with during the next 6 weeks!  Here's wishing all of you a blessed Lenten season.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Today's special letter is "F" - for Falafel and Fatoush !

Yesterday at work my boss was telling me about her sons birthday dinner request from the night before.  She said he had requested Falafel and she was really unsure about it - until she tried it!  She fell in love with those little pillows of garbanzo bean goodness but wasn't so thrilled with the greasy texture that comes with frying.  Now, I know there are some Falafel enthusiasts out there that are going to cringe at the idea of baking a Falafel, but it's a healthier, lower calorie way for some of us to enjoy this delicious dish. 

I thought about those Falafel all day and decided that we just had to have them for dinner tonight.  I have included the recipe that I modified from Hungry Girl Lisa Lillien's 300 under 300 cookbook and the recipe for Fatoush - a mixed vegetable salad. This dinner was crazy good and even the Fireman liked it !  He liked it so much, that no pictures were taken before all the Falafel where a thing of the past !

Baked Falafel
About 4-5 servings

15 ounce can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained and rinsed
4 green onions, thinly sliced, green and white parts
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped garlic
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 tablespoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon paprika
Dash black pepper
Cooking spray
Whole wheat pita pockets

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Place all the ingredients for Falafel except the pitas and cooking spray in a large bowl, and give them a good mash with a potato masher or a fork.  Mixture should remain slightly chunky, not smooth.

Spray a baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray.

Make about 15 balls, approximately the size of a ping pong ball or walnut in the shell, and place them on the baking sheet.  Spray the top of each ball with cooking spray.

Bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes.  Turn the Falafel balls over and continue cooking for 10-15 more minutes or until golden brown and crisp.  Let cool for 5 minutes before eating.

Place 3 Falafel in each whole wheat pita half that has been warmed or toasted and serve with your favorite sauce.  Some ideas include tahini sauce, tzatziki, or ranch dressing.


2-3 cups Romaine Lettuce, chopped
1/2 Orange or Yellow bell pepper, chopped
Grape tomatoes or 1 large tomato, seeded and chopped
1/2 English cucumber, cut in quarters and sliced
4 green onions sliced,
1/4 cup cilantro, minced
1/8 - 1/4 cups mint, minced

2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 clove garlic
pinch ground cumin
salt and pepper to taste

Mix dressing and toss with vegetables.  Traditional Fatoush also has toasted pita chips added to the salad - much like croutons.

The next time you're looking for a quick, meat free, economical dinner, take a trip to the Middle East and enjoy a Falafel and some Fatoush.  You'll be glad you did !!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Slow Cooker Ribs and Sauerkraut Dinner

This morning I woke up to a beautiful snowy day!  Generally, on a day like today, I like to stay home and enjoy the view, read a good book, and drink some hot tea but today I had some appointments that I couldn't miss (including hair cut and color!!) and I needed to go to the grocery store.  While I was there, I decided that maybe we would just stay home for dinner tonight but I hadn't planned anything for the menu.  Then I came across some beautiful boneless, country style pork ribs that were marked down.  Dinner idea solved!  When I got home I placed a jar of drained sauerkraut into a round slow cooker, topped that with one sliced onion, a bottle of beer, and the ribs that I had seasoned with a spice mix from Penzey's called Forward - a blend of pepper, onion, paprika, garlic, turmeric and other spices but no salt.  I then topped each rib with my favorite BBQ sauce, put the lid on the slow cooker and set it for 4 hours on high.  YUM !

Courtesy of

As I was plating this dinner, with roasted potatoes included, I realized that it certainly isn't the most attractive dinner to photograph so I thought I'd just eat it and not blog about it.  The more I thought about how good this dinner tastes and how simple it is to put together, I decided that I had to share it with all of you! I found this photo, and since it resembled our dinner, I decided to include it.  Next time, I promise to take my own photo !! :0)

I happen to be slightly obsessed with my slow cooker and have loads of recipes that I make regularly but I'm always looking for healthy new ones.  If you have any favorite recipes that you make in your slow cooker, I'd love to hear about them. And if you're as obsessed with your slow cooker as I am, try this one - I know you'll love it especially if you're a fan of sauerkraut.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Dinner in a hurry - Chicken sausage, peppers and onion sandwiches

Sorry to have been away for a bit but I hope you all had wonderful holidays with your families.  After all the holiday feasting, I am often asked for quick, yet healthy meal ideas and this one could not be quicker or easier to prepare. The next time you're short on time and need to get a healthy meal on the table fast, give these sandwiches a try.  You could also serve the sausage and peppers mixed with pasta, over rice, or atop a nice salad for a hot/cold meal in minutes!

Chicken sausages with pepper and onions

1-1 1/2 Chicken sausage per person (depending on size of sausage - I used Trader Joe's Zesty Jalapeno)
6 oz. frozen, fire-roasted pepper and onion blend vegetables (I used Trader Joe's)
Shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
Toasted mini-hoagie rolls (I used Aunt Millie's brand)

Slice sausages and saute in a medium skillet; add pepper and onions (no need to thaw).  Saute mixture until heated through.  Meanwhile, toaste hoagie rolls.  Top rolls with shredded mozzarella and sausage mixture and enjoy!