Saturday, November 22, 2014

Recipe: Sugar-Free Hot Cocoa Mix (Dry)

Quick!  Post it before you forget!!!

Folks who know me will readily acknowledge that what *I* consider to be coffee, really doesn't resemble coffee. At. All.

First, I like super-wimpy "Breakfast Blends."  Then I add so much crap to it, that it's really more of a coffee-kissed mocha-breve-latte.

My morning coffee consists of 1 TBS of Fat-Free/Sugar-Free Hot Cocoa, 10 oz of wimpy, watered-down coffee, a splash of Sugar-Free Coconut Syrup, a packet of Sweet 'n Low, and a couple TBS of cream.

I *used* to like Nestle brand Fat-Free Hot Cocoa - when you could find it in a big tub, for relatively-cheap.  Now I can only find it in Individual-serving envelopes (in a box), and it ain't cheap.

Plus, Nestle is one of the "Baddies" in the fight against GMO-labeling.

Ghirardelli is GMO-free.

Okay, gonna make my own Sugar-Free Hot Cocoa Mix using Ghirardelli unsweetened cocoa, then.  So there!

Sugar-Free Hot Cocoa Mix
Adapted from

1 cup Nonfat Dry Milk (Yeah, probably not GMO-free. Oh well!)
2/3 cup Splenda (Also not GMO-free.  "Baby steps!")
1/2 cup Ghirardelli unsweetened cocoa powder

Mix it all together and store in an airtight container.

To use it as hot cocoa, put 1/3 cup of the cocoa mix in a cup, stir-in 1 cup of hot milk. Enjoy!

Notes: I buy Nonfat Dry Milk in a package that contains 3 envelopes (that make 1 quart of milk, apiece).  1 envelope = 1 cup.

Sorry, no pics (I suspect you know what a cup of coffee - or cocoa! - looks like!).  I just wanted to type it out so I don't lose the recipe!

Oh, and it's quite tasty!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Thanksgiving Day Battle-Plan

Now I have NO clue why I'm publishing this "for all the world to see" - but I *do* reference my own blog (with alarming frequency, actually), when I want to reference old recipe ideas...

So, today I decided to start my "Plan of Attack" for Thanksgiving, this year.

Now, it's not like I'm freaking Martha Stewart or anything (Good GAWD), planning a Thanksgiving Feast for 250.  Nor am I June Cleaver (Bwahahaha! *SNORT!*).

It's really just Hubs and me (and the dogs!  Mustn't forget the hounds!).  But I figure a little forethought never hurt anybody.  Plus, I know I need to do the Grocery Store Thang...  And I *want* to do the Farmer's Market Thang (realizing that the FM probably isn't gonna have everything I need, veggie-wise)...

So there's all my "Justification!"

Now, I'm just gonna post the Thanksgiving Menu, and the proper-order of Execution.  And I *may* even include a SHOPPING LIST (Woooooooooo!)

(Yeah.  I'm weird.  Deal with it!)

* * * * *
Okay, here 'tis:

Thanksgiving Battle Plan

Weds Morning – Turkey Brine and Pumpkin-Pecan Pie

Turkey Brine
- 1.5 C Apple Cider
- 1 Quart Water
- 2 TBS Fresh Rosemary
- 1-2 TBS Fresh Sage
- 3 Cloves Minced Garlic
- ¾ C Sea Salt
- ½ C Splenda Brown Sugar Blend
- 1-1/2 TBS Whole Peppercorns
- 3 Bay Leaves
- Zest from 2 Oranges

Combine in medium pot, medium heat. Stir until salt/sugar dissolve. Bring to a boil. Turn-off stove and allow to cool.

Reserve ½ cup of brine (for injection marinade).

Pour brine into 2 gallon Ziplock, add 3 quarts water, mix well.   Add turkey. Put in fridge for 18-24 hours.

Pumpkin Pecan Pie

-          ¾ cup Truvia Baking Blend
-          2 tsp Pumpkin Pie Spice
-          ½ tsp Salt
-          2 Large Eggs
-          1 Can (15oz) Pumpkin
-          1 Can (12oz) Evaporated Milk
-          1 Unbaked Deep-Dish Pie Crust

sugar, cinnamon, salt, ginger and cloves in small bowl. Beat eggs in large bowl. Stir in pumpkin and sugar-spice mixture. Gradually stir in evaporated milk.

POUR into pie shell.

BAKE in preheated 425° F oven for 15 minutes. Reduce temperature to 350° F; bake for 40 to 50* minutes or until knife inserted near center comes out clean. Cool on wire rack for 2 hours. Serve immediately or refrigerate. Top with whipped cream before serving.

*Pecan Topping:
-          ½ C Pecan Halves
-          ¼ C Butter
-          ¼ C Brown Sugar
Chop about 1/2 cup of pecans and add them to a sauce pan with 1/4 cup butter and 1/4 cup brown sugar. Over low to medium heat, let the butter sizzle and caramelize the sugar, but be careful not to let the butter burn! remove from heat and set aside.  Pour on top of pie about 15 minutes before it’s done (when it’s firm, but looks soft/wet in center).

* * * * *
Thanksgiving Day

àAllow appx 2-1/2 – 3 hours for cooking the bird.

Rinse the bird under cold running water.  Then let it soak in plain water for 15 minutes.

Turkey Injection Marinade

-          ½ C of Reserved brine (from yesterday)
-          ½ C No/Low-Sodium Chicken Broth
-          ½ C Unsalted Butter, melted
-          3 TBS Lemon Juice
-          ½ tsp Garlic Powder
-          ½ tsp Onion Powder
-          ½ tsp Finely Ground Pepper
-          ½ tsp Rubbed Sage
-          1 T Splenda Brown-Sugar Blend

Melt the butter in a small saucepan and add the rest of the stuff. Stir ‘til well blended.

Reserve 1/2 cup  of marinade (for stuffing)

Inject the bird about an hour before cooking.  Let it rest in a foil pan for an hour.  Then, into the cooker!

Southern Style Candied Yams (1 hour)
-          4 large sweet taters
-          1 stick unsalted butter
-          2 cups Stevia/Sugar Blend
-          ¼ C Cream
-          3 tsp Cinnamon
-          ½ tsp Nutmeg
-          2 dashes Ground Cloves
-          1-2 TBS Maple Syrup
-          ½ TBS Vanilla Extract

Wash, peel, slice yams appx ½” thick rounds. Place in 12x9 baking dish. Melt butter over medium heat. Add sugar, stir til blended.  Add cream, stirring constantly.  Add spices and maple/vanilla.  Taste-test.

Pour over yams, cover with foil, bake @ 350* for 40 mins. Remove foil, stir, then bake add’l 20-25 mins. Plate and spoon syrup over yams.

(Hubs doesn't seem to care for yams, and I'm kinda "mediocre" about 'em - but dammit! - they're "traditional!" So I haven't given-up yet!)

Green Bean Casserole (30-35 mins)

-          2 Cans (15oz) French-cut Green Beans (drained? Reserve – just in case)
-          1 Can (10.75oz) Cream of Mushroom Soup
-          Handful of Fresh White Mushrooms, sliced
-          ¾ C Sour Cream
-          ½ C Chopped Onion
-          ¾ C Shredded Cheddar
-          ¾ tsp Garlic Powder
-          1 tsp Soy Sauce
-          1 Can (2.8oz) Cheddar/French-Fried Onions
Dump everything except FF Onions into medium casserole dish.  Blend well.  Bake at 350* for 25 mins.  Stir, then add FF onions. Cook add’l 10 mins ‘til brown.

(Oddly, we *never* had green-bean casserole when I was a kid - but I now consider it "mandatory" for Thanksgiving!) (How long has green-bean casserole been around, anyway?  Curious...) 

Stuffing!!! (20-30 mins)
-          ½ C of Reserved Marinade
-          1-1/4 C Apple Cider
-          1-1/4 C Unsalted Chicken Broth
-          ½ C Butter
-          2 Boxes Stove-Top Stuffing Mix
-          Chicken-Apple Sausage (4 links – chunked/chopped)
-          1 Medium Red Onion, chopped
-          2-3 Stalks Celery, chopped
-          ½ C Craisins (appx)
-          ½ C Chopped Pecans (appx)
-          Couple of Granny Smith Apples, peeled and chopped (New addition – curious to know how it works out)

Heat up marinade, cider, broth and butter in a medium saucepan.  *Check the Salt Level* - Adjust, if necessary
In separate small frying pan, brown the sausage and saute onion and celery ‘til limp.  Add sausage, onions, celery to marinade stuff.  Dump in Stuffing mix and toss in the Craisins, Pecans and Apples.  Mix well.  Dump into an 8x8 aluminum cake pan (or two!).  Bake at 350* for 20-30 mins.

(Stuffing is THE BEST part of Thanksgiving!)

Mashed Potatoes and Gravy

Stove-top, maybe 15-20 mins?  

Pretty self-explanatory.  

Salted, boiled, peeled 'taters, water drained.  Mash.  Add cream and salt + white pepper.

Gravy: Boiled, chopped giblets (no liver!), canned gravy from store, add some de-greased turkey drippings, chicken broth and (optional) thickener (if needed)

Thickener: either flour+butter roux or corn-starch+ water (whatever you've got on-hand)

(Mashed 'taters are like the "plain cousin" to stuffing!)

Crescent Rolls

Yep, from a can!


Cranberry Sauce or Relish
I'm going to use my Cranberry-Apple Jam for cranberry sauce, this year.  Maybe toss-in some finely chopped pecans and some orange zest and mix it up.

* * * * *
Now, prepare to be frightened (I know *I* am!), but here is the Master Shopping List for this year's Thanksgiving Extravaganza (bearing in mind, that I already have most of this stuff!)

1 box
Brown Sugar

12oz can
Evaporated Milk

Flour or Corn Starch

1-2 bags
Splenda Brown Sugar Blend

1-2 bags
Stevia/Sugar Baking Blend

Small bottle
Maple Syrup

10.75 can Cream of Mushroom Soup

15 oz can pumpkin

15 oz cans french-cut green beans

2.8 oz cans of French-Fried Onions ("Cheddar")

2 cartons
32 oz low-sodium (or no salt) Chicken Broth

2 boxes
Stove Top Stuffing Mix - Turkey Flavored

1-2 cans
Turkey Gravy

1 quart
Heavy (Whipping) Cream

1 pint
Sour Cream

1 box
Sweet Butter (reg butter)

1 box
Unsalted Butter

Big Bag
Pecan Halves

1 bottle
Soy Sauce 

9" Deep-Dish Frozen Pie Crust

1 gallon
Apple Cider

16 oz.
Chicken Apple Sausage

Giblets (if avail)

Organic Turkey Breast (or 10-12# Whole)

1-2 pkgs

1 head

Granny Smith Apples

Head Celery


Medium Onions


few sprigs

few sprigs

4 large
Sweet Potatoes/Yams

8 oz
White Mushrooms

White or Red Potatoes (I "eyeball" it)

1-2 cans
Crescent Rolls

Bay Leaves


Garlic Powder

Ground Cloves

Ground pepper (fresh ground is better)


Onion Powder

Pumpkin Pie Spice

Rubbed Sage

Sea Salt

Small bottle
Vanilla Extract (the REAL stuff!)

White Pepper

Whole peppercorns

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Recipe: QT's "Cures-What-Ails-Ya" Lemon-Garlic Chicken Soup

Okay, so I'm kinda fighting-off some sorta mild plague right now.  I'm not "down for the count" or anything like that, but I've got the whole sluggish, achy, "my face feels tired," can't-decide-if-I'm-hot-or-cold thing kickin'...


I headed out to the grocery store, last week, and loaded up on "Comfort Foods" (krep my momma used to feed me when I was sick): Chicken and Stars Soup, Tomato Soup, White Bread and American Cheese ('cause ya GOTTA have grilled-cheese-sammiches with Cream of Tomato Soup!), Goldfish Crackers, Chicken-in-a-Biskit Crackers and Spray Cheese! (Do NOT read the ingredients list on this sh*t - unless you really want to make yourself sick!)

In short:  All of the overly-processed, mega-sodium krep that my body *really* hates!  I "binged" for a couple of days - but now my body is saying "WTF?!" (and skin is starting to flare-up - Oooops!) so I gotta dial-it-back to more "NATURAL" stuff.

Okay, so here is a DELICIOUS soup that I threw-together this afternoon.  It's "mostly" home-made (with some cheater-additions - to keep it simple).

QT's "Cures-What-Ails-Ya" Lemon-Garlic Chicken Soup

Ingredients and Instructions are all crammed-together for this one:

- 4 stalks celery, chopped (include some leafy-tops)
- 1 cup onion, chopped
- 4 carrots, chopped
- 5 cloves fresh garlic, minced
- 2-3 TBS Olive Oil

Grease your dutch oven with olive oil (I had Lemon-infused and Lime-infused, I used 'em both - appx 2 TBS worth) (Or you could use Garlic-infused) (Or use whatever-the-hell-you've-got!).  Saute on medium-low, 'til the onions and celery are limp and translucent.  Next up:
- Baby Spinach - couple fistfuls
- Fresh white mushrooms, sliced
- Poultry seasoning

Rinse about a cup (or two) of baby spinach
Slice a few fresh, white mushrooms (maybe a cup's worth - after they're sliced).
Add spinach and 'shrooms to the other sauteed veggies, stir until soft.  Dash in a few shakes of Poultry seasoning (I used Grill-Mates Montreal Chicken Seasoning).

- 32 oz low-sodium chicken broth
- 1 regular can of cream of mushroom soup
- 3 sprigs of fresh rosemary

Add a carton of chicken-broth, a can of cream of mushroom soup (+ a can of water).  Toss in the rosemary sprigs.

- 1 Grocery-store Rotisserie chicken (mine was "Lemon-Pepper" seasoned - but that's a moot point since I strip the skin off of it), discombobulated/chopped
- 2 fresh lemons, juiced.
- Couple-three dashes of Tabasco sauce (optional - if you're into the whole "Hot 'n Sour" vibe)

Dump the chicken chunks in, add the fresh-squeezed lemon juice and tabasco (I tried it without the pepper-sauce and it was good.  I liked it a squee better with the added spice).

Bring to a light boil, then reduce heat to low.  Simmer for 30-45 mins...

Remove the rosemary sprigs (the leaves may have fallen off and become part of the soup - it's fine, either way, but you don't want the woody stems in there).

Enjoy!  It's quite "aromatic" - which is perfect when you've got a cold.

Guaranteed to cure what ails ya!*

*I am not a doctor, nor do I play one on TV (Nor did I stay at a Holiday Inn Express), so it might not cure EVERYTHING :-P  But it does taste damn good!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Not quite a Recipe: Crustless Cauliflower-Bacon Quiche

Dont'cha just hate it when you start throwing sh*t together - with absolutely no regard for "measuring" (or paying attention) - only to discover that you just made The World's Greatest Quiche and now you have no clue how to replicate it?!

World's Greatest Quiche!

Well, it's a problem around here!

Yesterday I set-off on a culinary adventure, hoping to eliminate my excess-stock of eggs (from the Farmer's Market - no, the Vegas Showgirls are NOT laying yet!) and cauliflower (also from the FM, but I believe I did plant some cauliflower this year).

As noted above, I really didn't pay attention to quantities, but I want to type-out my best recollection of what I did so that - in the future - I can replicate it (and maybe even keep better track of what I did!).

First, I pulled down my glass quiche pan.  I wasn't sure what it was really called, but Google tells me it's a 9.5" Pyrex Scalloped Pie Plate, and you can order one here, if you're so inclined.

Then I ransacked the fridge.  I pulled out an organic cauliflower (medium-sized head); a handful of fresh baby spinach; 4 large-ish mushrooms (sliced); 6 slices of thick-cut applewood-smoked bacon (YUM!); the remains of a chunk o' Jarlsberg* cheese; the remains of a chunk o' Mozzarella cheese, and a tub of shredded parmesan.  Oh, and heavy whipping cream and half-a-dozen eggs.

Non-refrigerated items:  Half a small red onion (finely chopped), some Lawry's Seasoned Salt and some smoked paprika (for sprinkling the top).  Oh, and garlic-infused olive oil (to schmear on the pie-plate to minimize stickage).

Now's the part where it gets tricky:  Trying to remember what the hell I did!

I only used about 1/4 of the head of cauliflower (1 cup?  2?!  No idea!) and chopped it into bite-sized chunks.  I put the cauliflower chunks in a steamer basket on the stove; sprinkled with garlic sea-salt and let 'em steam until tender.  Set aside to drain and cool (I think I may have put 'em on paper-towels to make sure they got good and dry!).

Next I fried-up the bacon 'til almost-crisp (well, mostly crisp - but not super-dry).  Set that aside - definitely on a paper-towel - to drain all of the grease.

I poured off most of the grease, but used a little bit of bacon grease to lightly saute the spinach and sliced mushrooms and chopped onions.  Just 'til they're limp.

Dump the shroom/spinach/onions into the oiled pie-plate.  Double-check the cauliflower to make sure it's plenty dry - then dump that in, too.  Chop the (now cooled and not-greasy) bacon into tiny chunks and dump those in, as well (okay, I admit it may have only been FIVE slices that made it into the quiche).  Now give it a good shake or three of Lawry's Season Salt and stir it around in the pie plate 'til everything is mixed well.

Grate your cheese (again - no clue how much of each.  I'm guessing about a cup of Jarlsberg; 1/3 cup of Mozzarella and - maybe 1/4 cup of shredded Parm).  Dump about 2/3 - 3/4 of the cheese into the plate of veggie/bacon chunks and stir it again.  Keep the last 1/4 - 1/3 of grated cheese for the top of the quiche.

Whisk your eggs and cream together 'til well blended.  I'd started out with 4 eggs and ??? cream - but quickly determined that wasn't enough.  This is where "tweakage" is necessary (and measuring would have been helpful!).  Pour the egg/cream mixture over the veggie/bacon/cheese pile and smudge-it-around - as needed - to ensure even coverage.  If you come-up short (too much dry veggie matter sticking up on top), whisk some more eggs/cream.

You don't want the pan overflowing with gooze, but you don't want a quiche that's only 1/4" thick!  And, of course, you want the "innards" to be covered - otherwise you'll end up with burnt, dry chunks of cauliflower - ick!

Top the whole thing with the rest of your grated cheese (it'll give it a nice cheesy-chewy "crust!"), and a few shakes of paprika for added color.  Pop it in a pre-heated 350-375* oven for... 45 mins, maybe? (mine was 375* in a convection oven and it took 45 mins).  Cook 'til golden brown on the top (and maybe a little darker around the edges).  Test for done-ness by inserting a knife or toothpick in the center.  If it comes up clean, you'r'e good-to-go!  If it's gooey, then give it a few more minutes.

Prepare to be impressed!

Al fresco dining at the TiKi BaR!
*Notes on cheese selection.  Gruyere is generally the "accepted" cheese for quiche-making, but I find the aroma to be less-than-pleasing ("Smells like Old Peoples' Feet" - as my dear old dad would say!).  Swiss is a good alternative, but I (personally) find the sharpness to be a bit overpowering.  Jarlsberg is a semi-soft cheese that is similar to swiss (IMHO) without the "bite."  So I went with Jarlsberg and "toned-it-down" with Mozzarella. Whatever I did - the balance was *perfect* for this particular quiche, so I really hope I can do it again!!!

One final note on quiches, in general.  They freeze and re-heat quite nicely!  Dear Hubs has made it clear that he is a non-quiche-eater.  Leaves more for me - :-D!  I find if I slice it up, cold, then wrap carefully in aluminum foil, then pop it into a ziplock baggie, it freezes quite nicely.  The key is to "seal" it with foil, but not let the foil get folded *into* the quiche - you want easy removal!


View my page on Meet the Phlockers