Archive for the ‘Food and Recipes’ Category

Cheater Pickle Experiments

Tuesday, August 13th, 2013

I love pickles, especially sweet, spicy, cheap pickles.   I like making pickles and relishes, but mostly stick to refrigerator, freezer, and cheater pickles because they’re cheap, easy, and fast.  And they’re perfect for small batch experiments.

A cheater pickle is a pickle made from a pickle.   One popular recipe calls for draining a can of generic, super-cheap dill pickle slices, pouring off the liquid and tossing the drained pickles with sugar – lots of sugar, and then returning the pickles to the jar (you don’t reuse the original brine, as the sugar and pickles create a syrup).  You can use the same process for pickled jalapeno slices.

I tried substituting Splenda for the sugar, with poor results.  The peppers were quite tasty, but had shriveled up and lost all crunch (some pickled jalapenos have no crunch to begin with).

Last night, I decided to try something new.  I drained the jalapenos (reserving the liquid) and tossed the pepper slices with dried minced garlic, which I then returned to the jar.

Into the reserved brine, I added a full packet of  Apple flavored sugar free drink mix.  I used the Walmart brand (which is like apple juice flavor, not the jolly rancher green apple like Crystal Light’s Appletini).

I will experiment with other flavors, if these turn out well (check out youtube videos for KoolAid pickles, which were my inspiration).

I used apple, because it seemed like the least odd, like using apple cider vinegar and sugar in a conventional pickle recipe.

I’ll taste test in a few days, and let you know how it went.

Update (after 24 hours in the fridge): I was relieved to see that no shriveling occurred.  I tasted the peppers, and found the texture unchanged (they weren’t any more or less crunchy than they started).  The flavor was good (and I’m sure will get better).  I’m not sure whether the sweetness level is right, but I can’t decide if they need to be less sweet or more sweet.

The apple flavor is more intense than with apple cider vinegar, which is a bit strange at first.  I think they’d be very delicious on a sandwich or topping for crackers and cream cheese.

Dreamsicle Shake

Thursday, August 1st, 2013

1/2 cup light vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt (80 -100 calories)

20g whey protein isolate, microfiltered (70 calories, 18g protein)

3/4 cup frozen strawberries (about 50 calories)

Diet orange soda or water (about 1/2 cup more or less depending on how thick you want your shake)

1/2 single serve packet orange drink mix (such as Crystal Light), or to taste

200 calories (or 1 shake and 1 fruit on “The Simple Diet”)

Blend all ingredients in personal or standard size blender.

For an even more decadent treat, shave a small amount of dark chocolate before blending.  I allow myself one square of Dove dark chocolate Promises per day.  One individually wrapped square contains 42 calories, and I find half a square perfect for one shake.  If your blender has a strong motor you can put the whole (or half) square of chocolate in, but I use a paring knife to shave the chocolate into my Sonoma Kucina personal blender cup.

Blueberry dark chocolate smoothie

Monday, June 17th, 2013

In a blender, food processor, or mini/personal blender (I used a Rocket personal blender), blend until smooth (you’ll hear the chocolate stop clunking)

140g (3/4 cup) frozen bluberries

1 cup milk or milk substitute ( I used Coconut Dream, 45 calories per cup)

30g (1 scoop, about an ounce) unflavored or vanilla whey protein powder – I prefer undenatured, unflavored whey, Because it dissolves well, even in water.

1 square Dove dark chocolate (it will blend more easily if you chop it into four or more pieces – or you could use a tbs of chocolate chips)

270 calories, 2 protein, 1 fruit, 1 dairy (if the milk you use contains less than 20% daily calcium, count as 2 fats instead of   a dairy)

Gourmet Ginger Ale

Friday, April 9th, 2010

I love ginger ale.  I hate that a good diet ginger ale is so hard to find.

Tonight I had a ginger ale craving, and realized I had a hunk of ginger in the freezer and diet lemon-lime soda in the pantry.  Maybe I could improvise.

I keep ginger in the freezer, because I don’t use it often enough to use it before it shrivels.  I just use a microplane grater (no need to peel the ginger).  I don’t remember where I read the tip, but I think it was in a fancy food magazine.

I just poured the soda over ice, and grated a bit of ginger into the glass using a fine microplane grater.  I tasted it and although it was awesome, I decided I wanted a little more ginger, so I grated a little more.

If you mind the little flecks (looks like orange-ish, tan pepper), you could use ginger juice or maybe slice a piece of of the ginger and toss it in the glass with the ice cubes before pouring in the soda.

If I did that, I think I’d score the ginger slice with a knife several times in perpendicular directions, so that the piece of ginger would leach more flavor into the drink. 

Really though the grated ginger is the simplest, most economical, least wasteful and super yummy.  The fresh ginger flavor reminds me of gourmet (full-sugar)  ginger ales I’ve had.  One was from a bottled ginger ale I found in a health food store  and the other (best ginger ale ever) was from a local restaurant/microbrewery.  They make the syrup and then add plain soda water.  You can order it to taste, so I usually order it extra-light on the syrup.  Now I don’t have to.  I’ll order a diet sprite and make my own (I’m not above stashing a mini-grater and a chunk of fresh ginger in my purse – maybe they’ll get the hint and make sf versions of their rootbeer and ginger ale).

I think I’m going to try other flavors of clear soda.   Aldi and Walmart both have very good sugar free carbonated, flavored waters.  Don’t be fooled, these are really are just diet sodas without artificial colorings (but that’s at least a small bonus).  I’m thinking white grape, lime, raspberry, tangerine all might be good. 

For the lemon-lime soda, I used a cheap store brand lemon-lime soda. “Big Chill,” the IGA store brand.  I think their sugar free sodas are every bit as good as popular brands.  In fact, I think the Big Chill diet orange is the best diet orange soda on the market (better than Crush and Sunkist, I think).

You could also use club soda and sweeten to your taste, with your sweetener of choice.

I don’t know why I didn’t think of this sooner.




Scrambled egg with mustard green pickle, for two

Monday, March 29th, 2010

I recently discovered an odd (to me) treat, when I ordered a dish in a small chinese restaurant.  it was listed on the menu as “pork with mustard greens,” and  I was expecting a pork and greens stir fry.  Which is what I got, but with a twist.

The greens were pickled.  The first bite was so strange to me,and such a shock that I wasn’t sure I liked it, but with each bite I enjoyed it more and more. 

I asked the owner/cook whether she made the pickle her self, and in accented english, she laughed and told me no that she bought the pickled greens.

When I went to one of our local oriental groceries to find the pickle, I found out why the restaurant owner had laughed.  There were so many brands, sizes, and varieities of similar vegetable pickles, that I think a comparable question to an American-style restaurant would have been “do you make your own ketchup?”

I bought a couple in the smallest cans I could find (I was intimidated by the larger jars), and started looking through recipes in asian cookbooks at the library and online, and I came up with my own variation, using American style bacon rather than asian-style smoke-cured pork (which our oriental grocery had, but it was pretty expensive).

Scrambled eggs with mustard green pickle for 2

2 thin slices of bacon (or 1 thick), sliced in small slivers
4 green onions chopped (I use most of the green as well as the white)
4 eggs
1 can of mustard green pickles, drained very well (squeeze out the liquid) and if necessary chopped into uniform pieces (there were a couple big pieces in my can).
 (I used Pigeon brand “Fermented Acrid Sweet Mustard Green” The acrid, means “pungent” in this case.  It’s seasoned with chili peppers so has a little bit of a kick, but no stronger than canned green chiles.  There’s a bit of added sugar in the brine, but it’s not a sweet pickle, it’s just a little less sharp in flavor than the other similar pickles).

Drain the pickle really well.  I squeezed out as much of the liquid as I could). 

In a skillet, saute the bacon for a few minutes, then add in the green onions and cook until the bacon is almost crisp and the onions are soft.  Add the mustard greens and stir fry (it starts to smell really awesome).

Add beaten eggs and cook to your preference (scraping and stirring frequently for small curds,  less frequently for larger curds or omelet style lifting the edge and tilting the pan to make the omelette, with no stirring).

by my calculations

approximately , 240 calories 2 protein, 1 vegetable, 1 fat



Cheap Cheesecake meal or dessert, $1.50

Monday, March 8th, 2010

A couple weeks ago, I bought a 2 lb jar of Pure Protein, Vanilla Cream flavor at Target for just under $20.00.  At 26 servings, it comes out to about 77 cents per serving/scoop.   I’m really lazy when it comes to making breakfast, and with the whey protein handy, I find I’m less likely to skip breakfast, because I always have at least enough time to stir a scoop of protein into a glass of skim milk.

This morning I decided to experiment and made a meal pudding.  It was surprisingly good.  The protein powder thickened the pudding almost to a cheesecake texture, so much so that I’m anxious to try the recipe with the cheesecake flavor sf Jello pudding.   The pudding mix I calculated at .73 per box, but I can usually find it cheaper on sale or in store brands.

This isn’t a practical recipe if you don’t have a use for whey protein.  I certainly wouldn’t run out and buy it just for this recipe, but I’m finding the whey protein handier than I expected.  My next purchase is going to be unflavored whey protein, so I can add it to more recipes to increase the protein content.

I did notice on the jello box that it said the pudding will not thicken if made with soy milk – I don’t know if soy protein would also inhibit thickening, something to consider though.

As a meal, it was very filling and a bit too rich (felt like I needed a hot cup of tea or coffee to go with it).  SO much that I think next time, I’ll divide it into at least two servings for a meal, and four servings for a dessert. 
Custard recipe

1pkg sugar free instant pudding, any flavor (I used Jellow brand white chocolate)
1 scoop (34g) whey protein powder (I used Pure Protein, Vanilla Creme flavor)
1 cup skim milk, cold

Mix all ingredients in a jar or tub (one that won’t leak when you shake it).  Shake until ingredients combine and mixture begins to thicken.

Or you can make with a hand mixer or in a food processor or blender (which would make a smoother custard, when shaken sometimes there’s a couple lumps).

Refrigerate or serve immediately.

310 calories (calorie breakdown: 7% fat, 48% carb, 44% protein)
2.5g fat
34g protein
37g carb

Exchanges: 1 dairy, 1 starch, 2 protein

Shrimp Cocktail and Coctel de Camaron

Saturday, February 27th, 2010

I love shrimp cocktail, but rarely order it in a restaurant because it’s so expensive (and you get so few shrimp).  It couldn’t be simpler at home.   I thaw cooked shrimp in cold water, and I mix up some cocktail sauce (or your could buy bottled cocktail sauce).

My sauce

ketchup (about 1/4 cup per person)

prepared horseradish (about a 1/2 to full tsp per person – or to taste)

optional (dash or sprinkle of any or all: worcesteshire sauce, lemon or lime juice, cayenne pepper, minced onion).

As I said, I rarely order shrimp cocktail in a restaurant, but several years ago I ordered the shrimp cocktail (Coctel de Camaron) in a mexican restaurant as an appetizer (it was in the appetizer section).  It came in three sizes, and since in my experience, a shrimp cocktail had maybe 5 pieces of shrimp, I ordered the medium. 

When my “appetizer” arrived, it was served in a brandy snifter the size of a small aquarium.  It was essentially shrimp served in what seemed like a chunky blend of tomato juice and pico de gallo, almost like a  gazpacho-like sauce (I don’t like gazpacho, but this was awesome).  Not only did I not have room for the main course, I didn’t finish the appetizer (I ate all of the shrimp of course, but left much of the liquid and some of the chunks of avocado behind).

It was so, so very good that I had to learn to make it at home.  At the end of this post I’ve added an online recipe and then my own guessipe (my pet name for recipes without precise quantities – handful of this and pinch of that).

If you decide to order it in a restaurant, learn from my mistake, before ordering, ask about the sizes.   Some restaurants serve reasonable portions and others serve gargantuan aquarium bowls. (I’ve never found a restaurant that served what I would consider small portions of this stuff). 

If you’re not going to eat much of the cold soup/sauce or aren’t going to eat any of the saltine crackers served with, you will probably want to order one size larger than you think you’ll want). 

If you want to make it at home, here’s a recipe and my guessipe…ocktail-310287

Kaplod’s Cotel de Camaron
The amounts of ingredients aren’t really that important.

about 1/4 to 1/2 cup of
chopped green onion, small handful
chopped bell pepper and/or cucumber
chopped tomato (seeds and soft center removed – just the firm parts)
salsa of your choice, about 2/3 to 1 cup
(Ideally I like to use a fresh salsa or pico de gallo, but in a pinch I’ll use Pace. Often fresh salsa eliminates the need for the onion, tomato, and cilantro).
finely chopped cilantro, couple tablespoons
avocado diced in small cubes (optional, If I use it, I only use a little bit of avocado)
cooked shrimp, about a cup
tomato juice (to thin the salsa to your taste – optional)
little squeeze of lime (I don’t use if I don’t have it)
pinch of sweetener if the salsa is too tart (optional)

Just mix everything together (sometimes I don’t thaw the shrimp, I just put them in the salsa the night before and let them thaw and marinate in the salsa – but don’t add the fresh ingredients till right before I’m ready to eat it)


Garlic chive buds: sweet garlicky goodness (and no peeling)

Saturday, February 20th, 2010

Hubby and I were shopping in our local asian market, and I bought a package of what looked like giant chives with little buds on the ends.  The bundle looked pretty, and I was pretty sure they were garlic chives, but figured whatever they were they’d be good, and I’d use them in place of chives or scalions.

Searching online, I found this blog entry and confirmed that what I bought was indeed garlic chive buds.
When I opened the package tonight, I saw that ttems are more solid than chives (not hollow).  I’d describe them as a cross between chives and very, very skinny scallions with no whites (and with a garlic flavor).
Tonight I decided to roast some eggplant,

My standard recipe:  I slice eggplant (or other veggies) and toss in a ziploc bag with canola oil and ranch dressing powder (I make my own with dried buttermilk powder, onion powder, parsley, garlic, dehydrated onion, dried chives, seasoning salt, salt, and dry mustard).  I pour the veggies into a foil lined roasting pan, and bake at 450 degrees until the edges are carmelized and tender.

So tonight I added the tops of the garlic chives (just the bud and about two inches of the green).

It’s impossible to describe just how wonderful this tasted. The little garlic buds tasted like sweet, miniature roasted garlic heads (but each head is only the size of a sunflower seed).

Yum, Yum, Yum.
I’ll use the stems in a stir fry, but I want to run out and get more of the ones with the buds.  I think I’m addicted to them.  I love fresh garlic, but I hate peeling it.  I think i’m going to try the garlic chives in place of garlic in all sorts of recipes.  I bet it would be awesome in a shimp scampi-style stir fry.


My Dreamsicle Smoothie.

Tuesday, February 16th, 2010

I bought some protein powder the other day (Pure Protein, Vanilla Creme flavor) at Target.  Almost $20 for 2 lbs (26 servings in the tub according to the label – but about 80 protein exchanges according to my exchange plan).

Here’s my smoothie

1 cup strawberries, frozen (about 200 g)

about 1/4 cup (60g) of orange sherbet

28 g Pure Protein whey protein powder, Vanilla Creme flavor (or any vanilla or unflavored protein powder)

3 t orange flavored psyllium fiber (I used Walmart’s equate brand, comparable to Metamucil)

1 packet of sugar free tang (the packets you add to bottled water).

8 ice cubes

1/2 can of diet orange soda.

Blended everything in a blender.  Mad about three cups of smoothie.


310 calories; 3 fruit, 2 protein


Results:  Very yummy, but a little too sweet and the vanilla flavor was a bit strong.  Next time I’ll make a few changes.  I’ll omit the sherbet.  I don’t think it added anything to the smoothie.  I’ll cut the protein powder down to half (1 protein, rather than 2).  I’ll only use half the protein powder.  I’ll also omit the Tang, or use only half a tube, and cut the fiber powder to 1 – 2 tsp.


Following the amended recipe, the smoothie stats would be about 140 calories, 1protein, 1 fruit.


Cayenne Lemonade and Spicy jalapeno-chicken broth, Oh My

Monday, January 11th, 2010

For the past five days or so, I’ve had a nasty respiratory virus (either a very bad cold, or a not-so-bad flu).

If there is a positive side to this, it’s been that I’ve not been very hungry.   Usually when I have a cold, it feels so good to have something going down my throat, that I tend to overeat, even if I can’t taste anything. I’ve been quasi-nauseous the whole time, so I really haven’t tried to eat anything very solid.

I have, however;  eaten (more accurately drank) a few gallons (yep gallons) of soup. The first two days, I made and ate little more than my usual cold or flu cocktail – a huge soup pot of chicken broth, bouillon or soup base, and some seasonings, including a lot of garlic and hot peppers (about 10 to 20 calories a mug).

Then I made a real soup in the crockpot (I just added two raw chicken legs into the spicy chicken broth, cooked it overnight and in the morning added assorted veggies).

I make it as spicy as I can handle it (First, I add as many hot peppers as I’d like – and then add a few more). 


Capsaicin (found in hot peppers) is chemically very similar to gaifenesin (the active ingredient in Mucinex and many cough medicines), and hot peppers are a whole lot cheaper (though I’ve been taking Mucinex too).

I haven’t resorted to cayenne lemonade yet (my bronchitis and pneumonia remedy). I didn’t invent the crazy treatment, I read about it in Chile Pepper magazine. Apparently chile peppers have been a folk remedy for respiratory infections for centuries, and there’ve been some research support for it’s healing and preventative effects for respiratory illnesses. I read some of the studies, and figured I had nothing to lose. Although I could not drink it hot as the article suggested, so my compromise is spicy broth and cold cayenne lemonade.

As much as I love spicy foods, I have to be pretty desperate to bring out the big guns of the cayenne lemonade (it’s very effective though, and relieves the pain of a sore throat too – although perhaps by being a counterirritant – the pain of the pepper distracts you from the pain of the sore throat).

I’ve read that capsaicin and other micronutrients in chile peppers can increase metabolism (usually only the most dedicated of chili heads would ever eat enough peppers to see any noticeable effects), but with the round-the-clock pepper-broth sipping, it could be helping.

I’m not sure that I’d want to stay on the chili pepper diet, though.

But after reading this article, maybe I should:…dspice&dbid=29