Sunday, August 28, 2011

My Thoughts on The Pioneer Woman and Her New Show


I still can't believe people keep commenting on this nearly two-year-old post.  I keep thinking everything that needs to be said has been said by both me and by my fellow detractors as well as her fans. 

Enough already.

For those of you who wrote supportive and encouraging comments, thank you.  I appreciate them all.  You rock. 

I have said it before. If you want to make a complaint about this post and what a terrible person I am for writing an anti-Pioneer Woman post, please go here.

For those of you who take issue with my complaints about the lack of safe headgear on the Drummond ranch, please grow up and get real.  Do you really think I'm wrong?  Do you really think it's a bad idea to be safe, particularly around large, unpredictable animals who have their own minds?  Really?  How about I use this post to show you all of the statistics insurance companies put out showing how many fatalities come from non-helmet use?

No matter how many times you say it, I really don't care if western riders/ranchers/country kids/or "good" riders just "don't" wear helmets.  Just because it's not commonly done or traditional doesn't make it right and it doesn't make it smart.  I would beg, yes get on my knees and BEG, any adult who refuses to wear a helmet because of vanity or tradition to please take up golf or tennis.  Any parents studpid enough to think their kid doesn't need a helmet because they ride western or are just really good riders, or because other kids don't wear helmets to PLEASE sign their kids up for ballet or soccer or chess club or tiddlywinks tournaments and don't put your kids on a horse. 

I have been riding over 30 years.  People tell me I'm a good rider.  I still fall. I have owed my life to my helmet on more than one occasion.  Just recently I took a horrible fall after my pony unexpectedly spooked (this can happen to ANY rider no matter how good he or she is) and she accidentally kicked me in the head when she tried to get away from my crumpled body on the ground. 

Have your ever heard of Courtney King-Dye?  I won't make you Google it if you don't know the story.  I'll tell you all about it.

She was an Olympic level dressage rider.  I don't think you can be a much better rider than an Olympic dressage rider.  Dressage riders have excellent seats and balance. They have independent hands and legs.  They exercise an amazing level of control over their horses.  It takes an extraordinarily well-trained rider and equally well-trained horse to perform advanced dressage moves. 

King-Dye was schooling and not wearing a helmet.  Her horse tripped.  Horses trip all the time.  I doubt I ever get through a ride without my horse having a little trip now and then.  She wasn't jumping 5' fences.  She wasn't riding on a spooky trail.  She wasn't barrel racing.  She was in the ring, and her horse tripped and tripped badly so that he fell on his side.

Her horse fell and so did she.  Her head injury was severe.  She survived, but she ended up seriously brain damaged.  This rider who was headed for the Olympics now rides in the Paralympics.  This wasn't a child.  This wasn't a green horse.  This wasn't an inexperienced yahoo who was doing everything wrong.  This happened to someone whom one might think of as fall-proof.

If this can happen to an Olympic level rider, what makes you think it can't happen to you or your child?  What makes you such a special snowflake that you're immune to life-threatening falls?  You say that neither you nor your child have had such injuries, so you think you never will?  How about you were just lucky?  Tell all of the parents of children who weren't so lucky that helmets don't matter.  Just because it didn't happen, doesn't mean it never will. 

While you're at it, get rid of the seat belts in your car, trash the bike helmets, throw away the car seats, and buy your kid a pack of Marlboros. 

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Temporary Cookie Satisfaction

The problem of being on a sugar fast is that sometimes you just want some sweets.  You feel as if you would kill your own uncle for a cookie.  (Killing your mother would be too extreme for a cookie, but uncle would probably be okay.) 

One afternoon last week someone brought a box of store-bought gluten-free cookies to the office.  They were chocolate pecan and they were tempting.  I took a look at the box and saw that they were meringue cookies.  If it hadn't been for the sugar, I would have considered taking one.  I know that meringue cookies, when done in a certain way, can be chewy rather than crispy, which would make them a bit more like traditional cookies.  How could I make a similar cookie without sugar? 

I thought about chocolate meringue cookies mixed with fruit purees.  Fruit is sweet!  Maybe I could do something with a fruit puree.

Inspiration came.  How about bananas?  Bananas are very sweet when very ripe and go beautifully with chocolate.

I wasn't sure how it would work.  I have made chewy meringue cookies with peanut butter in the past.  Could the same be done with bananas? 

I started with whipping 4 eggs whites till nice and stiff. 

I mixed banana pulp with cocoa powder.  I used a very ripe banana hoping it would be sweet enough, but sadly it wasn't.  I had to break my sugar fast just a bit and added a tablespoon of agave syrup.

I baked them at 300 degrees for 40 minutes and hoped for the best. 

Hard to make a really pretty photo out of them, but here they are.  I was eating them as soon as they were cool enough to come off the sheet.  They weren't terribly sweet, but had nice subtle chocolate and banana flavor.  The texture was very light, but not chewy or crispy.  It was more like a very light delicate sponge cake.  I could eat a few of them guilt-free because I knew all I was eating was four egg whites and one banana - hardly a caloric overload.

Banana Chocolate Mergingue Cookies

  • 4 egg whites
  • 1 ripe banana, mashed into a smooth pulp
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 Tbl agave syrup
Heat oven to 300 degrees. Lay a sheet of parchment paper on a cookie sheet.

Whip egg whites until stiff. 

Mix together banana, cocoa, and agave syrup together until well combined.  Gently fold into egg whites until well combined.

Drop by spoonfuls onto prepared sheet.  This should make about 12-14 cookies.

Bake 40 minutes or until they look set and dry.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Curry Meatballs

I was finding myself having one of those black holes of recipe inspiration.  It's a viscious cycle sometimes.  I can't think of any new ideas for recipes, I panic that I will have nothing for the blog, then that makes it even harder for me to come up with new recipes.

I thought it was going to be particularly difficult these days because I'm on a bit of an austerity diet.  Vacations and birthdays and visits from friends have caused me to indulge in a bit too much gluttony and it was starting to show on the scale.  I knew I had to take some drastic measures. It was time for another 3-week sugar fast.  Usually sugar fasts are also wheat fasts (that's one way to enforce the gluten-free lifestyle in this house).  I can lose a few pounds nicely this way.

These sugar fasts have caused me to become more interested in the whole "Paleo" diet even though I'm a bit of a skeptic about diets.  It's a pretty tough idea for me to follow through with since it requires abandonment of all grains and sugar and even dairy products.  However, I am trying to keep my diet as natural and fresh as possible and the Paleo eaters, while a bit "out there" in their thinking, are nothing if not natural. 

Surprisingly enough it was a paleo website that provided me with inspiration for a new recipe.  I found a recipe for meatballs in a coconut sauce that sounded delicious - sort of.  It needed a little TERP treatment to make it truly delicious, but once I knew what I wanted to do, a recipe came together.

I seasoned meatballs made from turkey and chicken sausage with mint, cumin, and cinnamon.  The sauce was made from fresh tomatoes, carrots, onions, garlic, ginger, spices, and coconut milk.  I served it over cauliflower puree, but rice will do just fine. 

One issue I have with meatballs is that since I have started to cut the gluten, I haven't found a good substitute for bread or breadcrumbs.  I hate the taste of rice breadcrumbs.  Nut meals haven't been much improvement either.  Paleo eaters just leave it out.  I don't think the elimination of bread was detrimental to the taste or consistency of my meatballs.

Fresh tomatoes are good and abudant this time of year, so if you have them, use them.  You can experiment with canned during other times of the year.

Like the photo?  I took the trouble of setting up the light box and then realized my camera battery needed charging and ended up taking this with my phone.  Not the prettiest dish in the world?  That's okay.  It tasted pretty good.  It was a lot of work though, so I'm not sure how worth it the whole thing was.

Curried Turkey Meatballs

For Meatballs
1 pound ground turkey
2 large links chicken sausage (avoid fancy flavors - mild Italian will do) removed from casing
2 tsp chopped fresh mint
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt
1 egg

Mix together all ingredients.  Shape into balls and fry in a little olive oil until browned on all sides.  Place in curry sauce and cook for about 20 minutes or until cooked through.

For Sauce
5 cloves garlic
1" piece of ginger
2 tsp salt
1 onion, diced
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground cardamon
2 tsp garam masala
2 carrots, cut in small pieces
6-8 ripe red tomatoes (depending on size), cored, seeded and diced
1 cup coconut milk
2 Tbl olive oil for cooking

Mince garlic and ginger.  Then mince them together with the salt, smooshing them up with the flat of your knife.  Set aside.

Heat olive oil in a large frying pan or saute pan.  Add onions to the pan and then add the cumin, cinnamon, cardamon, and garam masala.  Stir till onions are well coated and cook until onions are soft.  Stir in ginger-garlic mixture and cook until fragrant.  Add tomatoes and cook until they are soft and start losing their shape.  Stir in coconut milk.  At this point you can add the meatballs to simmer.

Monday, August 8, 2011

A Weekend with Abbey

Life is all just ups and downs lately.  First I had my birthday and that fancypants dinner. Then I got the news about my impending job loss.  Then my husband booked our trip to Italy for our anniversary in October.  Then we went to Chincoteague for the week.  Then, unfortunately, we came home from Chincoteague.

I did have one thing this past weekend to help me get over post-vacation letdown. I had a visit from one of my BFFs, my former college roommate Abbey just one week later. That cheered me up immensely. 

In college Friday nights consisted of eating dinner in the cafeteria with friends, then heading to the weekend movie on campus (they always showed cheap, second-run movies in one of the auditoriums on campus).  Next we would retreat to our room where we would put on some Roxy Music (Street Life: 20 Great Hits) and play mixologist with what was in our fridge.  We were good girls and generally didn't drink much, but once it was legal, we took advantage of the ability to create concoctions in our room that would make Sandra Lee cringe.  Our most infamous drink was the FLD - Fuzzy Lemon Driver (peach schnapps, lemonade, and vodka).  My boyfriend and his best friend would come over and make fun of us for a while until we would all go off to the weekend dance, where we would see the true drunks in action.

Good times I tell ya.

I thought that perhaps for Abbey's visit, I should try to be somewhat more adult and provide food and beverages a bit above the level of bizarre cocktails and the offerings of "The Caf."  We tend to go out a lot, but I thought I'd save everyone a few dollars and cook in for us the night she arrived.

We began with a chilled avocado and corn soup.  This was a very simple recipe inspired by a soup I saw at my favorite lunch stand in Chincoteague.  The recipe I used can be found here.  I didn't include much in the way of garnish as the recipe calls for except for the cilatro-infused olive oil.  I also used a seeded poblano instead of a serrano with seeds.  I wanted to make the taste a bit milder.  This soup was beautifully creamy and I definitely achieved the mild flavor I was going for.

Then some chicken saltimbocca with a tomato gratin on the side.  My recipe is a very basic one.  I just use chicken, sage, prosciutto, and wine. I believe there are times that keeping the flavors simple will make the best dish.  The tomatoes were just tomato slices layered with (gluten free) bread crumbs, pecorino, basil, salt, and thyme and baked at 400 degrees for about 25 minutes.

Dessert was dulce de leche and coconut ice cream.  I still had a bit of homemade ducle de leche left and and I wanted to try one more experimental recipe with it.

The next morning I made an easy, but rich breakfast of a tomato, bacon, and cheddar quiche.

We then went to the city to have lunch and watch a production of War Horse.  It was an excellent show and I highly recommend it to anyone who lives in or near NY or plans to visit any time soon.  I understand they are making a movie out of it.  I'm not sure how I feel about that.  Seeing puppet horses die on stage was tough enough.  I don't want to see that with real horses, or even realistic CGI horses.

Anyway, on with the recipes.

Chicken Saltimbocca

Note: I used a package of thin chicken cutlets here to save time.  You can save money by buying a package of whole breasts and just pounding them thin.

  • 4 thin chicken breast cutlets
  • 4 slices prosciutto
  • 20 sage leaves
  • Flour for dredging
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 Tbl olive oil
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 2 Tbl butter
Lay 5 sage leaves across each piece of chicken.  Then lay the slice of prosciutto over the top of it.  Secure with toothpicks. 

Lightly salt and pepper the cutlets and dredge in flour.

Heat olive oil in a large pan.  Place chicken pieces prosciutto-side-up in the hot oil.  Brown well on that side about 5-7 minutes and flip.  Cook another 5 minutes or so until cooked through and prosciutto is a bit crisp.  Remove from pan and keep warm.

Pour wine into pan and bring to a simmer and allow to reduce for a minute or two.  Swirl in the butter.

Pour sauce over chicken and serve. 

Coconut Dulce De Leche Ice Cream

Note: I was using my rather thin homemade dulce de leche.  You may need to make adjustments to your amounts of dulce de leche and milk or cream when making this recipe if you have dulce de leche of normal thickness

  • 1 cup cream
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 1 cup dulce de leche
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 8 egg yolks
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp coconut extract
  • 1 cup shredded coconut
Set a bowl on top of a large bowl filled with ice water.

Bring the cream, dulce de leche, and coconut milk to a gentle simmer in a medium saucepan over medium heat.  When the bubbles begin to form, remove from heat and let cool for about 5 minutes.

Beat the eggs, sugar, and salt together until thick.  Quickly stream in the milk mixture and whisk briskly.

Return the entire mixture to the saucepan and cook over medium-low heat, gently stirring until thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon and you can draw a line through it with your finger.

Strain into the chilled bowl and stir in coconut extract.  Cotinue stirring until cooled to room temperature.  Chill in refrigerator until completely cold.

Freeze in ice cream maker according to your manufacturer's directions.  When ice cream is still soft, stir in shredded coconut.

Bacon Tomato and Cheddar Quiche


  • 1 unbaked pie crust
  • 4 eggs
  • 3/4 cup cream
  • 1 pinch nutmeg
  • 1 pinch white pepper
  • 1 tomato, cored, seeded and diced
  • 8 oz. cheddar cheese, grated
  • 2 scallions, sliced
  • 4 pieces of bacon, cooked to crispy and crumbled
Heat oven to 375 degrees.

Combine cream,eggs, nutmeg and pepper. 

Carefully stir in remaining ingredients.  Pour into pie shell.

Bake 45 minutes or until set.  Allow to cool before cutting as all of the melty cheese will make it kind of drippy and hard to cut.