Monday, May 31, 2010

Not Just Another Weekend...

Today is Memorial Day. It is a day of reflection, though its meaning has become more and more obscured by the excitement of a three-day weekend, and a break from work and our everyday routines.

But as we revel in the parties, picnics and vacations, we must remember the meaning behind today. This isn’t a free holiday. It came with a price, and we must never forget those that paid it and the ones they left behind.

In all likelihood, someone, somewhere today will get a knock on the door informing them that their husband/wife/son/daughter/father/mother/sister/brother will not be returning home. And for them, Memorial Day will never be just another party, picnic or vacation.

So in honor of Memorial Day--and in honor of the heroes who are the reason for this day--I wanted to share two of my favorite poems. The first was written by a Canadian surgeon in May 1915. The second was written by a high school senior in 1981. Though separated by decades and different wars, the words still resonate today as we send our friends and family members, a new generation, off to war...unsure if they will ever come home.

In Flanders Fields
by John McCrae

In Flanders fields the poppies blow

Between the crosses, row on row,

That mark our place; and in the sky

The larks, still bravely singing, fly

Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,

Loved and were loved, and now we lie

In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:

To you from failing hands we throw

The torch; be yours to hold it high.

If ye break faith with us who die

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow

In Flanders fields.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Awesome & Easy (and Healthy!) Cobbler

I am not a cobbler person. If offered some sort of cobbler and any other dessert, I’ll choose the non-cobbler option. However, shortly after moving to our home here in Germany, our neighbors invited us over for dinner. As a dessert, she made a phenomenal blueberry cobbler. I was hooked! So while I will reject just about any other cobbler, every now and then I would crave that one! I got the recipe from our neighbor...and proceeded to play with it until it bore very little resemblance to the original. I don’t improvise recipes, I mutilate them.

Here’s the problem...I HATE following recipes. I have concluded that it is truly impossible for me to follow a recipe to the letter. It’s an inherent compulsion. I have to play and substitute and alter! Sometimes I will do so well....get to the end of the recipe, everything by the book. It’s time to cook or bake it. And then the urge kicks in...Must.Change.Something. So I add something...maybe a little chocolate cream liqueur or vanilla rum to cakes, cookies and brownies. Maybe a dash of thyme or garlic to the meat. Maybe I’ll use wine instead of water. Maybe I’ll throw in a dash of rice vinegar or sesame oil. I just have to do something different.

Needless to say, this has led to some very, um...interesting...and uh, well, downright horrible experiments! There were the spearmint brownies (they were supposed to be peppermint, but apparently I didn’t read the extract label closely enough). Yeah, spearmint brownies=Fail! Don’t try that one. Trust me on this. There was the tofu fondue. Also a major fail. There was the slow cooker BBQ chicken that, after nearly 24-hours in the crockpot (on high...whoops!), had a nice crispy coating that was NOT part of my original plan.

The good news, is that there have also been quite a few successes! Like the healthy vegetarian chik’n pot pie, semi-healthy red hot brownies...and this one! My Healthy Berry Cobbler, which my husband and I both enjoy, despite being non-cobbler people. One of the things I love best about this recipe is its flexibility! At the end of the recipe, I’ve made suggestions for changing it up and adding your own flair!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

A Few Easy Recipes...

Well, it’s been quite a while since I updated this thing. I’m going to blame it on a combination of making a trip back to the States and sheer laziness! :)

I’ve got another post in the works, but in the meantime, I wanted to share a couple of my favorite recipes. The first is one I stumbled upon accidentally a few years ago. As usual, I had put off going to the grocery store until we literally were down to scraps. Neither of us felt like braving the commissary, so I scavenged through our cabinets looking for anything I could throw together to get us through one more meal. It was total improvisation born out of desperation, but this turned into one of our favorite meals! It’s a great standby...I always keep the ingredients on hand in case we want something quick and easy to make! It is super easy to throw together and offers a great deal of flexibility in terms of portion size and ingredients. It makes a quick, simple meal for just the two of us, but the ingredients can easily be increased to feed a larger family. You can add or subtract ingredients easily, and substitute lower fat, healthier ingredients for those watching their diets. It also incorporates most of the major food groups in one fast meal!

Ranch Rice Wraps

  • Flour Tortillas (can use low-carb or whole wheat tortillas as healthier options)
  • Chicken Breasts, sliced into strips (I usually calculate 1/2 large chicken breast per wrap)
  • Lettuce, shredded (spinach can be substituted, if desired)
  • Tomatoes, diced
  • Cheese, shredded (I usually use a low-fat Mexican blend, but swiss is another good choice)
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • White or Brown Rice, cooked (I usually allow for 1/4-1/2 c. rice per wrap)
  • 1 Large Ranch Salad Dressing/Dip Mix Packet
  • Salt & Pepper

Cook rice per package instructions. Once rice has been cooked and drained, stir in 1/2 of the ranch seasoning packet. Set aside. Pour wine into a large skillet. Add chicken. Season chicken with the remainder of the ranch mix and salt and pepper, to taste. Cook until chicken shows no pink in the center and is tender.

Heat flour tortillas in the microwave for about 20 seconds. Fill wraps with chicken, rice, lettuce, tomatoes and cheese. Fold in two opposite sides of the wrap, then roll from the bottom up. All done! :)

This recipe can easily be given a Greek twist, with just a few variations.

Greek Rice Wraps

The ingredients and directions are essentially the same, but with a few substitutions and additions.

  • Substitute spinach wraps for flour tortillas.
  • Substitute feta cheese for the shredded Mexican or Swiss cheese.*
  • Don’t season the rice with the ranch mix, leave it plain.
  • Cook the chicken in the white wine, but add a little bit (about 1-2 tsp) of lemon juice. Season with 1/2 the packet of ranch mix.
  • Add sliced olives, if desired.
  • Once all the ingredients have been prepared and are in the wrap, add Greek sauce to taste (recipe below) before rolling wrap. The Greek Sauce can also be used as a dipping sauce.

Greek Sauce:
1 c. plain Greek yogurt (can use low-fat or fat-free Greek yogurt)
1/2 - 1 tsp. lemon juice
Remaining ranch seasoning packet
pinch of salt and pepper
*Due to its strong flavor, a little bit of feta goes a long way! Use less feta than you would of the other cheese(s) for the original Ranch Rice Wraps.

A few other suggestions/variations for the original recipe:
  • Grill the chicken, rather than cooking it in a skillet on the stove.
  • Add cooked bacon or turkey bacon to the wrap, or wrap the chicken in bacon prior to cooking
  • Substitute shrimp or strips of tofu for the chicken (Morning Star Farms fake chik’n strips also work well)
  • For a vitamin boost, add bean sprouts
  • For a bit of a kick, add a dash of crushed red peppers or a few jalapenos