Thursday, January 27, 2011

Turkey Cranberry Meatballs Recipe

Three years ago, my husband and I flew from Maryland to Texas to choose a place to live in the Houston area.  Having never stepped foot in Texas prior to this excursion and having always had a Maryland address, I was just a bit overwhelmed.  We spent our time riding around with a wonderful Realtor checking out communities in Katy, Sugarland, and Cypress.  Although I don't remember much from that trip, I do recall that our Realtor kept pointing out HEB's.  Finally I said, "Excuse me, but what is a heb and why do I care?"  He replied, "H-E-B is a local grocery store that you will surely love when you become a Texas resident."  My first thought was it better be just like Trader Joe's or I'm not going to like it at all.  Yes, I was resisting change and was having a wee bit of a bad attitude.

Now, of course, after living in Cypress for the last two and a half years, I love Texas and I love my H-E-B!  It's not similar to Trader Joe's but, it is my favorite place to buy groceries.  I enjoy the variety of products that they sell including many healthy and organic choices. Once I was in Wal-mart searching for dried cherries when I bumped into an acquaintance.  "If you were a dried cherry, where would you be?"  I asked her.  "At H-E-B!" she replied.  In addition to fresh produce and quality meats, H-E-B also has pleasant and knowledgeable employees.  At the check-out there is always a checker, a bagger, and sometimes a cart unloader.  I wish I had lived near a H-E-B when I used to grocery shop with a preschooler, two toddlers and an infant.

My very favorite thing about H-E-B, however, are the samples.  You know the old adage "never grocery shop hungry".  That doesn't apply here because there are little tasting stations with fresh pineapple, cheese, hummus, chicken salad, and sushi.  In addition, each side of the store has a cooking area where a chef prepares a hot dish and serves it to the shoppers along with a recipe card.

The recipe for these Turkey Cranberry Meatballs comes from the H-E-B monthly magazine that has coupons, articles, and recipes.  I made these for my family on Sunday and we were all impressed.  These meatballs are lighter than my usual ones because they are made with ground turkey instead of beef or pork.  Also, they call for an egg white instead of a whole egg.  I love the flavor that the cranberry sauce and orange peel add to the meatballs.  Although these would be perfect as an appetizer, we had them for our Sunday dinner.  Along side them I served H-E-B brown rice which is sold in the frozen foods section, orange wedges, and steamed broccoli.   In addition to having plenty for our dinner, there were enough leftovers to package in containers for weekday lunches.  This is one of the benefits of portion control.

Even though grocery shopping is not one of my favorite household chores, I do enjoy my trips to H-E-B.  I look forward to picking up the monthly circular to find some new, seasonal, and often healthy recipes.  I don't call it heb anymore and now I understand why my Realtor saw "being close to an H-E-B" as a selling point for a community.

Turkey Cranberry Meatballs
     adapted from the H-E-B recipe

1 can (15 ounce) whole berry cranberry sauce (divided)
1 can (15 ounce) jelly cranberry sauce
1 cup barbecue sauce
1/4 cup buttermilk
3/4 cup whole wheat bread crumbs (or regular bread crumbs or panko bread crumbs)
1 large egg white
1 pound ground turkey
1 teaspoon Italian Herbs or Herbs de Provence
1 tablespoon grated orange zest
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with foil and lightly spray with cooking spray.
  2. Combine 1 cup of the whole berry cranberry sauce and the entire can of the jelly cranberry sauce with  barbecue sauce in a saucepan.  Simmer over medium low heat and stir to combine. Taste and add salt and pepper as desired.
  3. In a small bowl beat the egg white with a wire whisk until it is foamy.
  4. Combine 1/2 cup whole berry cranberry sauce, foamy egg white, ground turkey, herbs, orange zest, bread crumbs, buttermilk, salt, and pepper.  Mix lightly to combine, but do not over mix.
  5. Form into 48 half inch balls (about 1 tablespoon each) and arrange on coated baking sheet.
  6. Bake meatballs for about 15 minutes or until browned.  
  7. Add cooked meatballs to simmering sauce and lightly stir to coat.
  8. Serve with brown rice, steamed broccoli, and orange wedges.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Carrot Cake Recipe

One of my favorite things about turning 42 year old is that I have a child who is mature enough to independently bake me the cake of my choice.  My almost 14 year old daughter approached me a few weeks ago and inquired about my perfect birthday cake.  Last year she made me an Oreo Cookie Cake, but this year she wanted something a bit more challenging.  After considering The Smitten Kitchen's Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake which I've been drooling over for two years and The Cake Mix Doctor's Classic Yellow Cake with Chocolate Fudge Marshmallow Frosting which is featured in my favorite cake cookbook, I remembered that I love carrot cake.  I had pushed this fact to the outer recesses of my mind because none of my kids thought that they liked carrot cake and I often make the family friendly choice, but not this time.

The conditions for my daughter preparing me a fresh Carrot Cake for my birthday were that I had to stay out of the kitchen and resist all urges to control her baking.  ("Seriously?  As if!")  My daughter gathered her ingredients and I headed to my bedroom where I had set up my own personal scrapbooking retreat.  I turned on the 80's music channel and tried to ignore the discussions between my husband and the teenage chief baker and pay no attention to the crash that I heard about twenty minutes into the birthday cake baking process.  I later discovered that my daughter chose the microplane grater or great grater, as she calls it, to prepare the carrots.  My husband suggested the box grater but they couldn't find a cutting board and the box grater slipped causing a mess.  She then went back to the great grater.  She grated carrots for 35 minutes!  Can you feel the love?

The recipe that my daughter was following comes from The Fisherman's Inn Cookbook which my husband had given to me upon returning from his recent trip to Maryland.  It is filled with good old Eastern Shore recipes as well as memories and history of one of my favorite restaurants, Fisherman's Inn.  The Carrot Cake recipe from page 332 calls for not only carrots, but also shredded coconut, chopped walnuts, and crushed pineapple.  It also includes my very favorite, Cream Cheese Frosting.

After a few hours of baking, a little bit of tidying, and only one minor catastrophe, my daughter presented my family and I with a beautiful and delicious Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting.  I was already impressed with her confidence and poise in the kitchen, but after tasting my birthday treat I was overwhelmed by her skill.  My daughter can bake a cake!  It was luscious!  In fact, I would say it is the best Carrot Cake that I have ever had.  The cake was moist and flavorful with just the right amount of texture.  It turns out that the great grater was a wonderful choice for preparing the carrots.  Although my daughter's arm was sore for days, the finely shredded carrots were so delicate that they added nice carrot flavor without being tough and were palatable to even the youngest members of our family.

So far, being 42 years old is outstanding!  I have a family that loves me, a new cookbook that connects me to my home state of Maryland, and a daughter that can bake me any cake I desire, including homemade Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting!

Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
closely adapted from the Fisherman Inn's Cookbook by Betty Thomas Shulz

2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups oil
3 eggs
2 cups grated carrots
1 cup crushed pineapple, drained
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup shredded coconut
1 teaspoon vanilla
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Whisk together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt.  Set aside.
  3. Beat sugar, oil, and eggs with an electric mixer until well blended.
  4. Gradually add flour mixture to egg mixture, until flour mixture is fully incorporated.
  5. Fold in carrots, pineapple, coconut, walnuts, and vanilla.
  6. Bake in two 9-inch round pans or one greased and floured 13 x 9 inch pan.
  7. Bake for 30-35 minutes (round pans) or 44-55 minutes (rectangular pan).  Cake is ready when a toothpick comes out clean.
  8. Cool for 15 minutes in pan on wire rack.
  9. Remove from pan and cool completely before frosting.
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 box (1 pound) powdered sugar
1 stick butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
  1. Mix all ingredients until smooth.  Add a tablespoon or two of milk if frosting is too thick.
  2. Spread over cooled carrot cake.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Lime Coconut Cake

On New Year's Day I declared myself officially sick of cooking.  I had no plans of ever preparing food for fun again, but just nine days later I found myself peering into my cupboards searching for something to bake.  As is often the case, I was a bit over zealous in my purchasing of holiday baking supplies for December.  Now I am the proud owner of random bags of butterscotch  and dark chocolate chips, blocks of white melting chocolate, and a plethora of nuts.  Not being one to waste, I will put these items to good use in the next few weeks.  A bag of  freshly grated coconut in the pantry and a few limes in the crisper reminded me of a delicious Lime Coconut Cake that I made last winter, just for the sport of it.

I acquired this recipe from the entertaining and informative blog Smitten Kitchen.  The author and creator of this online cooking extravaganza, Deb, briefly declares that Smitten Kitchen is about, "Fearless cooking from a tiny kitchen in New York City."  I learned about Smitten Kitchen and about blogs in general from Martha Stewart on "The Blogging Show" in January of 2009.  If I remember correctly, Deb was perched in the front row with her laptop on her knees.  She shared about when her post on Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake, which I have requested for my birthday on Monday, crashed her server.  As soon as the show was over I logged onto and have been drooling over its gorgeous photographs and quality recipes ever since.

This recipe for Lime Coconut  Cake is perfectly suited for recreational cooking because it involves zesting, squeezing, whisking, and mixing.  It also provides the wonderful aromas of coconut toasting and cake baking.  It produces a tender cake that is perfect with a cup of hot tea or a glass of cold milk.  The toasted coconut adds flavor and texture when perched atop the gooey citrus icing.  My family is so glad that I got my zeal for cooking back and so am I.

Lime Coconut Cake

(closely adapted from Smitten Kitchen which acquired it from Gourmet, March 2009)

1 cup sweetened flaked coconut
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 tablespoon grated lime zest (key limes or standard limes)
2 large eggs
1 3/4 cups self-rising flour (or 1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour + 3/4 teaspoon salt + 1 3/4 teaspoon baking        powder whisked together)
3/4 cup whole milk
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice, divided
1 cup confectioners sugar
1 tablespoon coconut rum (optional)

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Generously butter or spray a 9 inch round cake pan and line the bottom with a round of parchment paper.
  3. Spread coconut on a baking sheet.  Toast coconut at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes, stirring twice. Cool coconut.
  4. Beat together butter, granulated sugar, and lime zest with an electric mixer until fluffy (about 2 minutes).  Beat in eggs one at a time.  
  5. Whist together flour and 1/2 cup toasted coconut (reserve remainder for topping).
  6. Stir together milk and 2 tablespoons lime juice.
  7. At low speed, mix flour and milk mixtures into egg mixture alternately in batches, beginning and ending with flour.
  8. Spoon batter into prepared pan and smooth top.  Bake for 35-40 minutes or until top of cake is slightly golden and a wooden pick inserted into the center comes out clean.  Cool slightly, then turn out of pan and discard parchment.
  9. Whisk together confectioners sugar, remaining 2 tablespoons of lime juice (add more if icing is too thick), and rum (if using) and spread on cake.  Sprinkle with remaining coconut.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Healthy Turkey Chili Recipe

A cloudy and cold Sunday in Texas is reason enough for me to make a big pot of chili for my family.  For years when I was in the mood to make chili, I turned to my tried-and-true Crock Pot Chili Recipe that I shared last year on Go Texan Day.  Since reading You:  On a Diet by Dr. Oz and Dr. Roizen, however, I have been using the recipe for Spicy Chili from this book.  This chili is cooked on top of the stove, takes less than an hour to prepare, and is full of vegetables.  It also has only 2. 9 grams of saturated fat and 10.7 grams of fiber per serving, but most importantly it tastes great.

Since following the eating plan outlined in Dr. Oz's book, my husband has lost 30  pounds and I have lost 15.  We feel great and are loving all of the healthy recipes that are included in the book.  On Sunday, my husband or I make a big pot of soup or chili and then package it into one cup containers for lunches the next week.  Although one cup doesn't sound like much, it is perfect for lunch and is key to our healthy eating plan.

Another reason that I love this Healthy Turkey Chili Recipe is that it helps me clean out my vegetable crisper so that I waste less.  I learned from Jamie Oliver that vegetables can be added to many stews and sauces in order to increase nutritional value and flavor.  Today I had finely diced carrots, yellow and orange peppers, jalapeño, and a cup of black beans leftover from tacos that we had a few nights ago.  I added them to the recipe and it was delicious.  I love a rainy Sunday and I love a pot of healthy chili!

Healthy Turkey Chili Recipe

inspired by "Spicy Chili" from You: On a Diet by Dr. Oz and Dr. Roizen

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 white onion, chopped
1 jalapeño, finely diced (optional)
1/2 cup peppers, chopped (red, green, orange, or yellow, or a combination)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 pound ground turkey or ground meat substitute such as Boca Crumbles
1/2 teaspoon chili powder ( or more to taste)
pinch of cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (or more to taste)
1/4 teaspoon black pepper (or more to taste)

1 can (28 ounces) crushed tomatoes, undrained
1 can (16 ounce) pinto beans (or another bean of your choice such as kidney or black, or a combination)

1 teaspoon maple syrup
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar

  1. Heat olive oil in a large heavy bottomed saucepan over medium high heat.
  2. Add onion, jalapeño, peppers, garlic, and any other vegetable you are using.  Cook a few minutes or until vegetable are beginning to soften.  Stir often.
  3. Add ground turkey or meat substitute.  Cook, stirring frequently, until meat is no longer pink or until meat substitute is warmed.
  4. Add all spices (chili powder, cayenne pepper, cumin, ground coriander, turmeric, kosher salt, and black pepper.  Cook about a minute, stirring well.
  5. Add crushed tomatoes, beans, maple syrup, and vinegar.  Mix well.
  6. Simmer uncovered for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. 

Miz Helen’s Country Cottage

      Monday, January 3, 2011

      Old Bay Shrimp Salad Recipe

      Serving steamed shrimp on New Year's Eve is a tradition that my grandmother started before I was born.  Throughout my childhood while my mother and father went out on New Year's Eve, I stayed with my grandparents on their farm in Millington, Maryland.  We would eat steamed shrimp, cheese and crackers, and chips and dip.  Then we would play card games like Crazy Eights or Rummy.  Sometimes if we got tired before midnight my grandmother and I would go to sleep, but set the alarm for 11:55 to watch the ball fall in Times Square on their large console television.  On New Year's Day my mother would come pick me up from my grandmother's house and we would make shrimp salad for lunch.

      I don't think my grandmother added lemon juice to her shrimp salad and I know she never deveined a shrimp in her life, but other than that, the recipe that is found on the Old Bay website is very similar to hers.  In addition to mayonnaise, lemon juice, Old Bay seasoning, and shrimp, chopped celery can also be added.  The finished shrimp salad is delicious on a sandwich or with crackers.  It is the perfect lunch for a hard day of undecorating.  Happy New Year!

      Old Bay Shrimp Salad Recipe
      adapted from the Old Bay website (

      1/3 cup mayonnaise
      1/3 cup celery, finely chopped (optional)
      1 1/2 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
      1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
      1 pound cooked shrimp, peeled and diced

      1. Whisk together mayonnaise, lemon juice, and Old Bay seasoning until smooth and creamy.
      2. Fold in shrimp and celery.
      3. Serve on a bed of lettuce, a sandwich, or with crackers.