Category Archives: Recipes

A Christmas Eve recipe

A Christmas Eve recipe


As I tend to do every year, I made presents for everyone in the office.  This year, it was caramel corn with nuts.  I pulled bits from a couple of different recipes and put it all together, so I thought I would share it with you.

Winter Solstice Caramel and Nut Popcorn


Large sauce pan
Silicone spatula
paper bags
2 large disposable pasta trays


1 cup or more each of pecans, almonds and cashews (use other nuts as you will.  You want about 4 cups total)
2 cups light brown sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1 cup unsalted butter, melted
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons vanilla

Start by popping the popcorn.  I did this in the microwave, but you can use whatever method you prefer.  For the microwave, add 1/3 cup of kernels to a paper lunch bag.  Spray well with cooking spray, then fold the top over twice and place on its side in the microwave.  Run the microwave on full power for 2 minutes and 30 seconds, depending on your microwave.  When it’s done, measure the amount of popcorn you have.  For me, this was consistently making 8 cups.  Then dump this into one of the pasta trays.  Repeat as needed until you have 12 cups in each of the two trays.  Then scatter the nuts over the top of the popcorn.  It doesn’t have to be perfect, but this helps even out the distribution through the caramel corn.

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees.  On the stovetop, add the brown sugar, corn syrup, butter, cream of tartar and salt to the saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly.  When it boils, turn it to medium low and let boil for 5 minutes.  Take the pan off the heat and add the baking soda and vanilla, stirring quickly for one minute.  Then pour half the mix over each tray and stir it through the popcorn and nuts until everything is coated.

Put both pans in the oven for one hour, stirring and rotating them every 15 minutes.  You’re trying to break up the big clumps and even out the caramel a little more.  After an hour, remove to cool (if you can resist it that long!)

I packaged this up in cellophane gift bags in about 2 cup portions.  You could also add toffee pieces, dried fruit or bits of peppermint to the cooling popcorn, or drizzle chocolate over the whole mess.  Go nuts!

In the soup

In the soup

This time of year is dangerous for me, eating-wise.  Not because of the holidays, but because of the hibernation instinct.  I want to eat myself into a four month long coma, especially on baked goods.  I’m currently in a vicious war with donuts, and the donuts are winning.  Thank the stars that cider donuts have a very limited season!  And I want soups.  Lots and lots of soup.  Thick, hearty, chunky soup.  Yes.  So every one that’s come across my computer screen has been evaluated, tallied, tweaked and possibly added to my routine.  Old reliable beef stew is great (and I just put a bunch in the freezer), but some of those recipes have bad habits associated with them, usually involving bread.

I found a really good recipe for spinach tortellini soup the other day and tried it.  It was really good, but the portion sizes were HUGE and the protein levels were kind of puny.  So I’ve been tweaking and playing with it to fit my own needs.  It doesn’t have the protein punch of the beef stew, but it’s a nice change when it gets cold.

Margherita Soup

Makes 16-18 1 cup servings

2 T olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, rough chopped
1 large (28 oz) can tomato sauce
1 medium (14 oz.) can tomato sauce
2 large (28 oz.) cans diced tomatoes
1 T Italian seasoning (or more to taste)
4 C vegetable broth
2 C water
2 12 oz. package frozen or vacuum sealed cheese tortellini (I like the tri-colored)
10-12 oz. baby spinach, shredded
4 C rotisserie chicken, shredded or diced
1/4 C grated parmesan cheese

Saute onion in olive oil until translucent.  Add garlic and saute 2 more minutes until soft.  Add tomatoes, tomato sauce and Italian seasoning and bring to a boil.  Add vegetable stock and water, and bring that to a boil.  Add the pasta and spinach.  Cook over medium heat for 5-8 minutes.  Stir in chicken and parmesan cheese and heat through until the pasta is tender and the chicken warmed, about 5 more minutes.

My calculations, using MyFitnessPal, is 178 calories per 1 cup serving and 8 gr of protein.

This would be great with cinnamon rolls.  But cinnamon oatmeal muffins work, too, and they’re better for me (with a little extra protein!)

World Cup (or Plate!)

World Cup (or Plate!)

I love the people I work with.   In our broader group, we have a lot of creative people with a lot of different backgrounds and interests.  You wouldn’t know it walking through our area, as all the cubes are dull gray and the whole place is silent.  But you’re dealing with librarians and writers, so quiet is the name of the game.

But when we party, ti’s always a good one!

We do theme food events a couple of times a year.  Every winter holiday season we have a baking contest, each year with a different challenge from pies to cupcakes to cookies.  At Super Bowl time, we have the Souper Bowl, where folks brings in a different kind of soup for everyone to sample.  We have a Phillies opening day picnic.  And this year, one of our brilliant folks came up with the idea for a World Cup potluck.  When the sign-up sheet went out, each line had a different country, and you chose which country you wanted to bring food from.  Of course the easy ones went fast, so by the time I got to it, I had to actually think and research.

What I ended up with was Portugal.  I found an interesting, supposedly very authentic recipe for vina dosh on  Vina dosh is a traditional Portuguese pork recipe.  You marinate the pork in red wine, vinegar, garlic, bay and cloves for 2-4 days and then bake it and fry it.  Sounded good to me!

vina dosh 1

So on Sunday I chopped up a 3 lb. pork roast and dropped it in the bag with a couple of bay leaves and 8 cloves that I had to pick out of my jar of pickling spice, since I only had three whole cloves left.  Then I mixed up the liquids and all that garlic and dumped that in as well.

vina dosh 2

Yummy, right?  That went into the fridge to get a massage and turn every morning and evening until last night.  I had the oven on anyway to make quiche (another recipe to come later), so I drained the meat dumped it into a baking dish and in the oven for the requisite 20 minutes.  It came out just before the quiche did.  Perfect.  It looked good enough to eat then, but I still had to fry it.  I say fry, but it’s fried in a way I’ve never heard of.  You have the pan on medium low, and fry it in batches for 10-15 minutes.  Very interesting.  But it looked good.


For all of that, I had expected it to be a bit more succulent.  It’s not dry, but it’s certainly not like fried chicken.  More of a shish kebob texture, I guess.  The wine flavor is very overpowering, but as I’ve never had the original, I don’t have a comparison.  Which is not to say it’s bad, just not what I was expecting.

The potluck is this afternoon, so I’ll report back on its reception and all the other international goodies!

(Oh, and for anyone who cares, Portugal lost their first match against Germany, play the US tomorrow and Ghana next Thursday to determine if they move on.)

Recipe the First

Recipe the First

An off-shoot of yesterday’s post.  One of the things I’ve had to learn post-surgery is a different way of eating.  Which isn’t surprising.  But I’m not always sure what is going to sit right in my tiny new stomach.  Just for comparison, my pouch (the remains of my stomach) can now hold a half a cup of food.  Go ahead, get out your measuring cups.  Now compare that to how much you eat.  Yeah, I don’t get to eat a whole lot.  What does surprise me is how quickly I came to change how I viewed that amount of food.  Before my surgery, I’d look at the contents of a frozen dinner and think, “Well, I’ll need three of those.”  Now it’s “I hope I can finish all this!”  You know those estimated serving sizes on the labels of food?  Yeah, they’re actually right on the money.  If you could eat to the labels, you’d be in good shape weight-wise.

But some foods have been really hard to give up.  First and foremost among those is pasta.  I love pasta.  I don’t care what shape, what kind, it’s all good.  But now when I eat even the quarter cup sized portion I’m allowed, I get very uncomfortable and a bit nauseous.  So no more spaghetti, lasagna, ravioli, mac and cheese, pasta Caesar salad… Oh, god, I just realized I can’t eat my go to summer dinner of tuna pasta salad!!  So I’ve had to come up with other ideas.

A couple of weeks ago I was coming home from my brother’s and needed to get something to eat on the road.  I stopped at his local grocery store looking for anything ready-made that I could eat on the road.  I found this interesting turkey club salad that had chopped up turkey, cheese, lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise.  I was hungry and probably not making the best choices, so I got it.  It was pretty good, and the essence of the elements were well within my diet requirements, so I decided to try to pump it up myself.  This is what I came up with.

Turkey Club Bean Salad

1/4 pound deli turkey (get it in one slab at the deli counter)
1/4 pound medium to mild hard cheese (I used Colby)
3 strips thick cut bacon
1 tomato (you can use more.  I’m not crazy about raw tomato in my salads)
1 cup shredded romaine lettuce
1 can cannellini or white beans, well drained
Mayo (I used light.  No fat isn’t worth it.  Go for full fat if you like.  I won’t judge.)

Dice up the turkey, cheese, bacon and tomato fairly small.  They should all be about the same size.  Dump it in a bowl (yes, that’s a technical term) and add the lettuce and beans.  Then add mayo to taste.  I used about 3 tablespoons, but that was a little dry.  Add a pinch of salt or so to taste.  I didn’t my first time around, but might the second time.

All in all, it was pretty good.  A bit bland, so it might have benefited from a little salt.  Made to this recipe, it makes 4 servings at 266 calories, 27 grams of protein, 10 grams of fat and 23 carbs, depending on what you’re tracking.  You could do it without the beans, but they do a nice job of pumping up the protein, and since I need to eat protein-forward, it works great for me!

I’ll add pictures the next time I make it!