My Favorite Recipes
I don't really like to cook
It's too time-consuming. If I can pop something into the microwave and read while I'm waiting on it, that's my style. That said, there are some things I like to eat that are quick and easy to prepare, and I do them now and then. Since I like ethnic food, I have learned some kinds I can make myself.
Interestingly, a few years ago when I visited my mother and sister, I offered to do my part to prepare meals because it seemed only fair. So I selected four days from the two weeks, and served one of my favorites on each day. They really liked what I fixed. My mother said, "I didn't know you knew how to cook." Well, thanks, Mom. That can be considered a compliment, depending on how you look at it. But the fact was, the only thing my mother ever asked me to do toward meal preparation was peel potatoes. That's hardly a way to learn to cook. What I know is stuff I learned on my own.
My style of cooking is seriously lacking in precision in the sense that I don't tell you to mix a cup of this and a teaspoon of that. If you are going to bake, it's important. For other things, not so much. In some cases, I will simply tell you how to make an existing recipe more interesting, or even just repeat a recipe I learned from observation. These aren't REALLY recipes in the traditional sense, then, just some cooking tips and suggestions for combining ingredients.
Some of these things take longer to fix than others, and some are super-quick.
I strive always never to use unhealthy ingredients. This includes ingredients that MIGHT be genetically modified. Among those are the oils: canola, soy, cottonseed, and corn. I also am very careful that if I am going to serve corn in another form, it's organic, or from a source guaranteed to be non-GMO. High fructose corn syrup is also very damaging to health, and is usually derived from GMO corn. Sugar isn't so good for you, either, but it's better than HFCS. Beet sugar is GMO. Honey is a good substitute because it's full of wonderful minerals, and you can get some really healthy forms of honey. If you want to avoid caloric sweeteners altogether, use Stevia or Xylitol. Xylitol has the advantage that it actually helps prevent and cure tooth decay! But use it sparingly; I understand some people can have GI upset from it. Most of the time, you don't really NEED sweet, so I usually omit it altogether.
I see a great need here at Squidoo to offer recipes that are strictly designed to be totally healthy, and still taste good.
All photos are either Creative Commons or in the public domain. This photo is by Arne HÃ¼ckelheim.
East Indian - Palak Paneer
I love the Indian food that involves spinach and cheese. So I found a REALLY quick way to make it, and sometimes I have it for lunch.
I take one can of spinach, mix in cottage cheese to taste, and a dollop of Garam Masala sauce. You can make your own sauce, but I have good ethnic grocers here, so I just buy mine. This takes about five minutes. You can heat it if you want. I don't bother. Cottage cheese is similar enough to the customary Indian cheese that it tastes right. At least to me.
You can also use meat instead of cheese. It has a different name, then.
They sell Garam Masala on Amazon. I like Pataks. No bad ingredients, tastes good.
The photo is by Magnus Manske.
I happen to like fried eggplant. I learned how to make it from watching my mother. Start with a sliced eggplant. Beat an egg or two. Put each slice into the egg and then into some kind of flour. Fry in the skillet in butter.
Here's where I changed the recipe, and my family really liked it. I pour about a half tsp or full tsp of dried oregano flakes (from a spice bottle) into my hand. I use the heel of the other hand to rub over it, crushing it into tiny pieces. This releases the flavor. Mix it with your flour. Also good are crushed Italian herbs.
Some people are sensitive to wheat. So don't use wheat. There are other kinds of flour out there, and they ALL taste good.
Frying should be done either in real butter or coconut oil. No other oil is healthy, and can be used for frying, that is readily available. Butter is actually good for you. Margarine is plastic butter. It is not healthy. Margarine might be made from corn oil or canola oil, and it's a good bet these are genetically modified. Unfortunately, they're still feeding GMOs to cows, but you can get organic butter if you like. It costs more and is harder to find, but it's available.
Fried okra will work with this idea as well. I could eat a whole bunch of that!
Eggplant is similar to some fairly deadly plants, though I don't believe in them being "related". Nevertheless, some people don't do well with eggplant. For those who do, it has some surprising medicinal properties.
The photo is by rdesai.
Chicken and Broccoli Casserole
I do this one often. It's almost as quick as popping an entree into the microwave. I take a large can of white chicken meat that I can get at Costco. I select some frozen organic broccoli and cook that in the microwave until it is crisp-tender. To that, I add the chicken, some canned mushrooms (which you can first brown well in butter for better flavor), and a huge quantity of shredded cheese. Mix well. You can also add walnuts or palm hearts; they're very good. Finish heating everything in the microwave, until the cheese is melted. This one is very healthy for people who are trying to cut down on unhealthy carbs. If you want to add carbs, quinoa is probably the healthiest alternative. It needs to be cooked first. In some cases, it hasn't been washed and the saponins are still on it. Such quinoa will need to be washed first.
Some people say cooking in the microwave isn't healthy. Maybe not. Cooking on a regular stove takes more time, and the extra time is lost from my lifetime for pursuits I prefer. Cooking in a microwave is said to change the structure of the food. So does cooking on the stove. If you prefer to cook on the stovetop, go ahead. You can do it with this recipe. Cooking in the oven takes a lot more energy, and a lot more time.
I use ordinary broccoli in this dish, but recently I ran across the kind of broccoli shown in the picture. It is said to be called a cultivar of cauliflower, and shows a distinct fractal image. They call it Romanesco broccoli. It is also quite good. I get it in a cauliflower-broccoli mix with a basil pesto, at Trader Joe's. The photo is by Jon Sullivan, and is in the public domain.
Black-eyed Peas and Mushrooms
Black-eyed peas go with mushrooms incredibly well. My husband can scarcely eat them without the mushrooms. Fresh mushrooms usually taste better, but canned can be used. In either case, brown them well in butter. Cook the black-eyed peas, but not to the point of mushiness. Add the mushrooms and stir.
The photo is by Toby Hudson.
Would you believe tuna fish tastes really, really good on pizza? When I was a freshman in college, I would take a can of tuna fish to the pizzaria and ask them to add it to my veggie pizza. They were most obliging. Try it!
I personally like the following veggies on pizza: green pepper, black olives, mushrooms, artichoke hearts. I can no longer put onions on my pizza because I am allergic to onions. You can buy a prepared pizza in the store, put on your tuna fish and some extra cheese, and then cook.
Spicy Hot Dogs
I first ran into this at a party. Someone sliced hot dogs and added barbecue sauce and grape jelly in equal proportions. Grape jelly isn't really that good for you; it is loaded with sugar, often high fructose corn syrup, which is REALLY bad for you. So I substitute raspberry chipotle. This is a Mexican salsa I can get at Costco. It adds a little zip, and it's much healthier. It tastes fairly similar.
I slice the hot dogs into about half inch slices, mix in a LITTLE of this mixture of sauce, and heat in the microwave until the hot dogs have plumped out. I serve it with a favorite vegetable or potatoes.
I get uncured hot dogs at Trader Joe's. They taste very similar to the cured ones, but are much better for you. They also keep fairly well, at least in my experience. I usually use them within a couple of weeks.
Trader Joe's guarantees that all their house brand foods are GMO-free. The only exception I have found is that they use a lot of canola oil. Canola comes from a plant that was originally genetically modified, but with some fairly primitive techniques and it does not include anything from another species. Canola isn't good for you. It's not a healthy oil anyway. I have been round and round with Trader Joe's about using this oil, but they continue to use it. If you want to yell at them about it, too, please do!
The photo is cropped from a photo by Jersyko.
Greek - Broiled Chicken
My folks originally got this recipe from a Greek family that we were friends with. It's traditional. I haven't modified it.
I like to use Cornish Game Hens. I leave the skin on. Prepare a baste with equal parts lemon and butter, and add some crushed oregano. Baste the chicken with this (you can soak white meat chunks in this as a marinade, too, and cook on a skewer). Broil. I think this is the only recipe I do that uses the oven.
The photo is a crop from a photo by Hoyabird8.
Liver in Beer
I got this idea from a friend. It's really simple, and sometimes people who don't like liver will be willing to eat this.
Cook the liver in the usual way, in the skillet, but add beer to it as you cook. The alcohol in the beer will evaporate, and it leaves a nice flavor, and changes the texture a little. I prefer chicken livers to beef liver, and it works with them, too. For the best flavor, I like the dark German beers.
Chinese - Meat Mo Shu
This is a Chinese dish someone taught my mother. What she fixed is not the same as what you get in a Chinese restaurant.
First, I'll tell you how she made it. She used pork, but chicken and shrimp will do as well. The meat is cut up into chunks and cooked until done. Stir-fry some cabbage, add the meat and a beaten egg or two, and stir fry a little more. Serve over rice with optional soy sauce.
In the restaurants, people add julienned carrots, bean sprouts, onions (which I have to leave out), mushrooms, and wood ears. Wood ears are a type of fungus, and they are VERY good for you. You can get them dried at the ethnic grocer. They will require some soaking before you use them. Don't forget the beaten eggs! These are all stir-fried together, and served with very thin wheat pancakes and what I THINK is plum sauce (though I am not positive). So adding other vegetables makes it even better. The stir-fried mixture is placed in a strip on the pancake, and some sauce is added, and it is wrapped and eaten.
Hey, I'd eat this one just for the wood ears! I happen to like them.
The photo is mu xu rou and it is in the public domain. This dish is with pork.
French - Real Omelets
The things they serve in most places they call omelets aren't the real thing. The real thing is made by beating eggs until they are positively frothy, and then cooking in butter in a skillet with the lid on. They will swell up light and fluffy. The trick is knowing when they are done. Probably the only way to guarantee it is to have a glass lid.
After the eggs are cooked, you can add your favorite stuffings. That may or may not be the French thing to do. I don't know. I just know I like it. I like the usual: green peppers, mushrooms, artichoke hearts, baby spinach, broccoli, and slices of avocado on top (not heated) are good.
Always eat whole eggs. The yolk is the MOST NUTRITIOUS part, and it actually increases good cholesterol and cuts down on bad cholesterol. The egg-white substitutes are virtually devoid of nutrition.
I read about a man who was kept prisoner in a concentration camp for several years. All they served him was eggs. When he was freed, he was quite healthy.
If you can get eggs from free range chickens, so much the better. Their yolks will be dark orange. They are rich in beta carotene, and they are a source of Omega-3 fatty acids.
If you are a vegan, you're looking at serious malnutrition issues. Eating some egg and cheese, as well as occasional fish, will help a lot. There is also an important substance in red meat that helps control body fat. The older vegans I have known have either been skinny as a rail, or obese. A vegan can develop a SERIOUS Vitamin B12 deficiency, because there is NO absorbable source in any vegetable or fruit. This will lead to Alzheimer's. I actually knew a vegan who ate his way into Alzheimer's. So eat your eggs!
The photo is in the public domain.
Carrots in Ginger
I got this idea from some prepared frozen carrots Trader Joe's used to sell. They no longer do. Mine is without sugar, but you can add a little if you want.
I like to use the little round French carrots. See the photo. I put the frozen carrots in a microwave-safe dish and nuke them until they are somewhat tender. Then I take them out and while they are still hot, sprinkie a heavy layer of ginger powder on them (to taste), put a pat of butter per serving on them, and stir well. When the carrots are evenly coated with the butter-ginger mix, serve.
Julienned carrots will work well, too. Do not use margarine. It is not healthy. Butter is excellent for your health.
The photo is creative commons, but I don't know who took it, or what license it's under.
Hungarian - Goulash
Goulash is a Hungarian idea, which originated with the folks there who herded cattle, though I have also seen a Czech recipe, so I think it's regional. My personal theory is that it is a catch-all stew to which you add all your leftovers. I like to make it from scratch. Beef or other red meat as an ingredient is required.
I brown some ground beef, breaking it up completely. To that I add some spaghetti prepared al dente (I think this is the only dish I make where I think the carbs are necessary or it doesn't taste right). Potatoes also work and are more traditional. To this I add canned tomato chunks, diced green peppers (optional, and the less they are cooked, the more they have of Vitamin C, and raw, they're LOADED, much more so than any citrus fruit). The thing that makes it special is that I add mushrooms sauteed in butter. That was my own touch, something my mother never thought of. Heat and eat.
I used to make a stew which had beef and potatoes (but no tomatoes), and to which I added brewer's yeast (the kind you get in the health food store), oh a tablespoon or so, if I recall correctly. I also added mushrooms and oregano, and thickened it with wheat flour (though you can use some other flour). Even though most brewer's yeast tastes pretty icky, at least in my opinion, when you mix it into the stew, it makes the flavor really nice! You can also add onions if you can tolerate them.
Speaking of green peppers, I gotta tell you a story. Several decades ago, I went to the dentist. At the time, my gums weren't in the best of shape, so she said, "I can't work on your teeth until your gums improve", recommended I get some vitamin C, and set another appointment three weeks away. I went home, and ate one raw green pepper a day, and went back, and she looked in my mouth, and her eyes got big, and she said, "What did you DO to improve your gums like that?" I said, I ate a green pepper every day.
Which reminds me of another story. Different place, different time. The doctor measured my cholesterol and it was 220. That was before they worried about things like high density and low density cholesterol. Although that is NOT HIGH for a woman, the doctor thought I ought to bring it down. So I ate Mexican salsa twice a week for a few weeks, went back, and my cholesterol was at 165. Why did this work? Because the cayenne in the peppers lowers cholesterol and unclogs arteries.
The moral to these stories is that there is a natural remedy, and if you do just a little research like I did, and figure out what it is, you can bring about some pretty dramatic change in your health.
The photo is by Ralf Roletschek.
There are several different plants called Tumbleweed, but the one I use is one that grows in the American southwest, also known as Russian Thistle. Salsola tragus. You will have to harvest your own. Choose plants that are away from traffic (because of pollution from car exhaust) and that are young, green, and crisp, not brittle.
Boil the plants in water until they are tender. Drain and add butter. They taste somewhat like spinach, but have a more defined texture, more crisp, and with shape.
Mexican - Nopalitos
Nopalitos are cooked prickly pear. Choose only plants that are standing upright, not recumbent along the ground. They are the young pads harvested in the spring, before the thorns form along the edge (margin). At this stage, they just have tiny leaves around the edge. To remove any thorns or glochids, rub the pad in sand. Before the thorns are removed, it is best to handle it with ice tongs. Use a knife to trim off the outer edge, and then julienne the pad. Boil in water with salt added for ten minutes. Drain. Repeat twice. (This is called "boiling in three waters".) Mix with your favorite chili. I like a plain beef chili with it, no beans. You can also eat them by themselves. I like to buy nopalitos in jars at the grocery store.
Prickly pears grow all over the world. They are the most common cactus. The fruit is also edible, and is used to make cactus jelly. I also like to nibble on the raw flower petals. They would probably make a nice addition to a garden salad.
The photo is mine. This is later in the season, before the fruit is completely ripe, as shown here. The fruit turns dark purple when ripe. The juice is used to make punch, but I like it straight. To obtain the juice, cut open and remove the fruit pulp, and then squeeze it through a filter (I used filters that I also used to clean goat's milk). I also like it frozen, popsicle style. The juice has a strong flavor, and I think punch tastes wimpy.