Thursday, February 17, 2011

Rhode Island Johnnycakes and Sweet Maple Brussels Sprouts With Walnuts

This was our Valentine dinner!  

Yup, sometimes I'm just an odd duck. Let me explain.
Valentine's Day was coming and I was planning to make Steak Diane over the weekend but that was before I found out, at the last minute, that everyone in my family had other plans. My husband and son were going off to a fencing tournament and my daughter was going to a friend's 16th birthday party. That was Saturday. Then Sunday I was going be busy attending a NephCure kidney-friendly pot luck dinner.

So Monday comes along, Valentine's Day, and I still had brussels sprouts in my fridge that I bought the week before. I started thinking, Valentine's Day or not, they must be cooked or they'll go bad. What can I make with them? Pork tenderloin might be nice. . .  But, oh no! I had just made a commitment that I'd go meatless on Monday so I didn't want to use meat.

Since the recipe I found for the brussels sprouts called for maple syrup I finally thought of pairing them up with Johnnycakes! I don't know why I thought of this since I don't remember ever eating a johnnycake. The closest I've come to eating one growing up is when my dad put corn in his pancakes, and that's a stretch.

In the end, the Johnnycakes were delicious. The joking and laughter brought about by this memorable meal were just as great as the exchanged kisses, chocolates, and flowers. And while acknowledging it's really a Hallmark card holiday anyway (a discussion brought about by my pragmatic daughter) we enjoyed ourselves at the dinner table.

Sweet Maple Brussels Sprouts
1/4 cup organic canola oil
2 1/4 lbs baby or regular Brussels Sprouts, ends trimmed and halved (I just used an unmeasured bunch of regular)
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 cup unsalted butter
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 1/2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 cup vacuum-packed roasted chestnuts or 1 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped (I used walnuts, unchopped)
1 tbs walnut oil or grapeseed oil
Method: Once oil has been heated over medium heat, add sprouts and season with pepper to taste, salt if you want. Cook sprouts until nicely browned, gently stirring occasionally, about 2 minutes. Add butter, brown sugar and cook until sugar melts, then add maple syrup. Stir gently some more until sprouts are just crisp-tender, about 5 to 7 minutes. Be careful not to overcook - you'll notice an unpleasant sulfur smell if you do. Stir in vinegar, add chestnuts or walnuts until heated through.
Transfer sprouts to a bowl and boil the liquid until it slightly thickens, pour over sprouts and serve.  (I skipped this part because the liquid was already very thick.)
Use a nice cast iron skillet if you can:

Rhode Island Johnnycakes
1 cup Johnnycake meal or cornmeal (A nice local brand in Rhode Island is Kenyon Gristmill cornmeal).
1/2 ts salt
1 tsp sugar
1 1/3 cup boiling water
Method: Place cornmeal in a bowl and add water, salt and sugar. Mix well. Use milk to thin down to the consistency of mashed potatoes. Drip by spoonfuls onto a hot griddle or frying pan. Cook for about 5 minutes then turn and cook about 5 minutes more or until heated through. Serve with butter and real maple syrup.

My favorite maple syrup is Fadden's. We buy it at Fadden's General Store in North Woodstock, NH

These are just products I love; no compensation was paid.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

I Hope I Can Find The Words

"Butternut squash is a study in contrasts.  Its neck might swoop elegantly away from a gentle swell of belly, or the two parts might squat solidly together like a thick-waisted snowman.  The exterior, a restrained buff to pale apricot color, belies the bright sunset hue of its sweet flesh.  Raw, it's so hard it fights the knife - but cooked, it can yield a puree as smooth and soft as silk."

Did you just think that you entered someone else's blog?  Did you think, what, this can't be Linda?  Well, you're right!  It's not me - it's not my quote.  It was written by Melissa Pasanen in Vermont Life magazine.  I think it's a beautiful description of butternut squash.

In hopes of improving my food writing skills and learning more about culinary history, I'm taking my first food writing class tonight.  I've never taken a writing class before.  Heck, I don't even like writing.  I've never been a good writer, or reader.  But since it's about something I love, food, I'm up for the challenge.

And I figure if it's not meant to be, I can always stick to painting butternut squash.

Wish me luck! 

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Snow Pea-Radish Slaw And A Great Sandwich

I had the vegetables.
I wanted an idea.
I searched and found a slaw recipe.
It looked easy.
Sounded tasty.
So I chopped and tasted.
It looked beautiful.
But then it dawned on me . . .
What the heck do I do with it?!

The recipe didn't give any suggestions.  I guessed it should just be used as a salad or side dish.  But I thought it tasted too oniony for that.   I put the slaw away and gave it some thought.

Reuben sandwiches kept coming to mind.  So today, even though I didn't have reuben ingredients, I made a great sandwich with what I had in the fridge.  What a treat.  The slaw gave this warm sandwich with pastrami, muenster cheese, mustard and mayonnaise a healthy kick.

And, yes, there is a side dish to this . . . what falls off can be picked up and eaten.

Snow Pea-Radish Slaw

After trimming and washing the vegetables, I thinly sliced 1 bunch of radishes and soaked them in ice water for about 5 minutes then drained off water with a salad spinner. Then I thinly sliced 8-10 ounces of snow peas and thinly sliced 3 shallots and set aside.

For the marinade, I whisked together 4 teaspoons of rice vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon each of dijon mustard and sugar in a bowl and whisked in 2 tablespoons sunflower oil and 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil.

When mixed well, I added the snow peas, shallots and radishes. Seasoned to taste with salt.

For nutritional information, click on:  radish and snow pea

Monday, February 14, 2011

Renal-friendly Stuffed Green and Red Peppers

Last night I went to a NephCure Team New England meeting to talk with other parents of children with FSGS Syndrome and Nephrotic Syndrome and to listen to a terrific guest speaker.  We were asked to bring a renal-friendly dish for the "Love Your Kidneys" potluck dinner.

The recipe is from the Davita website, an online source for kidney disease and dialysis treatment, which they adapted from the cookbook, Cooking for David.  

It's not suprising that peppers are a healthy food for kidney disease.  A half cup serving has only 1 mg of sodium, 88 mgs of potassium and 10 mgs of phosphorus, which is important for those approaching end-stage renal failure or on dialysis.  Peppers are also an excellent source of vitamins C, A, B6, folic acid and fiber.  And red peppers contain lycopene which is an excellent antioxidant.

Here is a link to a great article about the connection between superfoods and chronic diseases and inflammation and lists 15 top healthy foods for people with kidney disease,

Onions have terrific health benefits too.  I like to cook with red onions if I don't want too much onion flavor, which weakens when cooked. Freshly grated cheese of your choice is always nice.

Stuffed Green Peppers

  • 3 green bell peppers
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 2 tsp unsalted margarine/butter or olive oil (use will be divided)
  • 1/4 cup onion, chopped
  • 3 tbsp thick and chunky mild salsa
  • 1 tsp Mrs. Dash® onion herb seasoning
  • 2 cups cooked rice
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup soft white bread crumbs
  • 1 tsp poultry seasoning
  • 1 tsp paprika
  1. Cut peppers in half, remove seeds and parboil for 4 minutes. Cook rice according to instructions.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large frying pan start cooking ground beef. When done, remove from pan, drain in strainer to remove drippings and set aside. 
  3. Sauté onion in 1 teaspoon margarine, butter, or olive oil until translucent and soft. Add salsa, Mrs. Dash® herb seasoning, cooked rice and meat, combine by stirring.
  4. Stuff green pepper halves with meat and rice mixture, and place on a baking pan or shallow baking dish. 
  5. Combine bread crumbs, poultry seasoning and remaining margarine/butter, melted. Sprinkle over the tops of the stuffed peppers. Add 1/2 cup water to pan or dish to keep peppers moist.
  6. Cover and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, then uncover and bake 5 minutes more until browned.

    A few changes I made:  after tasting, I thought it needed a little more salsa, so I adjusted to my taste. I used organic long grain brown rice and organic whole wheat bread crumbs, which I made, I added an egg to help hold it all together and sprinkled on a little grated cheese at the end.  Since I doubled the recipe, I used 1 lb ground beef and 1 lb ground dark ground turkey meat because it has more nutrients. I was a little surprised that salsa was an ingredient but it did add good flavor and made it easy. I used a low-sodium organic brand.

    Recipe is from  Please go to for a printable version of this recipe and for kidney related nutritional facts. And, of course, consult your renal dietitian or physician.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Crisp Cauliflower, Pear and Radicchio Salad With Ginger Sesame Vinaigrette

Well, I didn't hold a hosting party for TEDx Manhattan's live webcast yesterday of "Changing the Way We Eat", but I had a lot of fun playing with my food while watching it.  

The Salad
There was really nothing to making this salad except tearing up a few radicchio leaves, breaking up a few cauliflower florets, slicing an Anjou pear and topping it with delicious Ginger Sesame Vinaigrette.

My palette of gorgeous colors:

Ginger Sesame Vinaigrette
1 small shallot
1 tbs grated fresh ginger
2 tbs tahini
1/4 cup toasted sesame oil
1/4 cup organic brown rice vinegar
1/4 cup organic canola oil
1 tbs freshly squeezed orange or lime juice (I used orange)
2 tbs toasted hulled sesame seeds (I omitted for this recipe)

Place all ingredients except sesame seeds in bowl and emulsify with handheld blender (I made it in a small food processor).  Stir in sesame seeds.  Makes about 1 cup.  Recipe from Clean Food cookbook.

The Ginger Sesame Vinaigrette, oh so fresh.

Here's just a picture that looks so fresh and pretty.

Makes a nutritious snack.  Cauliflower is not only an anti-inflammatory food, but is loaded with antioxidants and is a very good source of omega-3 fatty acids.

Squeeze a little lemon over the pears to keep them fresh looking if packaging leftovers for later.