Saturday, February 26, 2011


My sister-in-law gave me this great recipe for vegetable soup.  She says it is the best soup she has ever made.  The soup is quite a thick soup, that is likely why the name of the soup includes the word casserole.  I think what gives the soup extra flavour is adding horseradish and balsamic vinegar.

I made a few variations to the recipe provided below.  I used my food processor for chopping all of the vegetables and I used the julienne blade.  I added a bit more quantity for the celery, carrots, sweet potatoes and cabbage.  According I had to add more water, a bit more horseradish and balsamic vinegar. I also used small pinwheel pasta.  I didn't have canned diced tomatoes so I used whole canned tomatoes. I decided instead of adding shredded cheddar to the pot of soup, I would add the cheese to the individual soup bowls.  I do agree with my sister-in-law.  This is a very tasty soup and it will be one of my favorites to make.

The julienne blade I used in the food processor.

I filled the bowl with vegetables

The soup is cooking away and just about ready.

Soup is ladled out into a bowl.

I added shredded cheddar cheese to the individual bowls.

Vegetable Casserole Soup

4 cups low sodium vegetable or chicken broth 
28 oz canned diced tomatoes           
1 small chopped onion
1 or 2 sliced or julienned carrots           
1 small sweet potato, julienned
1 large stalk celery, sliced           
1 cup sliced cabbage
2 cups baby spinach           
1 cup radiatori or other small shaped pasta
1 tbsp prepared horseradish           
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar 
½ cup shredded cheddar cheese           
1½ cup rinsed, drained red kidney beans (a 19 ounce can works fine)
pepper to taste           
water as required to thin soup

In a large soup pot, bring the broth and tomatoes to boil; then add the onion, carrot, sweet potato, cabbage and celery.  Cover and simmer for about 30 to 45 minutes.  

Add the pasta, bring it back to boil and simmer another 10 minutes.  Add the horseradish and vinegar, then add the spinach and kidney beans, bring back to boil and simmer for about 1 minute or until spinach is wilted.  Add the shredded cheese and pepper.   Serve with warm crusty bread for a delicious meal.  Serves 4 to 6. 
Recipe is adapted from Winter Casserole Soup by Linda Gassenheimer.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011


When I get a craving for caesar salad, I like to make my own caesar salad and dressing versus ordering this kind of salad in a restaurant.  I find these restaurant salads usually have too much dressing coated on the romaine lettuce and are overpriced for what you get.  

The dressing I make has seven ingredients.  I don't add croutons to my salad and I will use a variety of grated cheeses depending on what is in the fridge.  I usually use parmesan or asiago cheese.  I also like to chop the romaine lettuce into small pieces.
Worcestershire sauce, minced garlic and Dijon mustard.

Lemon juice, olive oil and mayonnaise.

Dressing mixed in a small bowl.

Chopped romaine lettuce with grated asiago cheese. 


Romaine lettuce, chopped
asiago cheese, grated

1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup olive oil
1/8 cup lemon juice
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1/4 tsp Dijon mustard
ground pepper to taste

Mix the dressing in a bowl.  Into a serving bowl or single portion bowl, add the lettuce and sprinkle grated cheese on top.  Add dressing to taste and mix together.  Store unused dressing in the fridge for future salads.

Monday, February 21, 2011


We are all different, each of us have different stripes.  Yet we all at times have similar challenges.  Some of the challenges relate to what we eat, how we exercise with the result of how we look.  At times in your life, you are comfortable about how you look and feel inside.  At other times you are not pleased with how you look and feel.  I was ready to make some tweaking about how I look and feel.  I follow a pretty good diet and in previous posts I have written about eating food that matters; the food industry and the layering of sugars, salt, fat and protein in processed food; the corn industry and how corn is used in many different products; and, the benefits of eating more plant material.

I want to look more like a cheetah - lean, muscular and in great shape.

 I don't want to have the shape of a gorilla - but I do want to be strong like a gorilla.

With the objective of wanting to feel less chunky, I enrolled in a 12 week challenge with a local company owned by a dietician and certified fitness trainer.  One of the features of enrolling with weight control programs is the accountability component.  Being accountability and having to report each week is a great motivator.  The accountability aspect is important for me to be successful.  This company designs an individual program that focusses on losing fat and increasing your muscle mass.

Some diets are designed with the results that besides losing fat mass you also lose muscle mass.  The program I am on incorporates a well balanced, clean eating diet with strength training and cardio.  Following the diet has not been hard, I am actually eating more than I had been before starting this program.  Doing the strength training has not been difficult either.  I am following a strength training program and I am doing pilates twice a week.  From my running days, I know I am built for endurance, not speed.  It is not hard for me to add lean muscle mass.  What is harder is losing fat mass.  For me to lose fat, I need to increase my cardio.  It is as simple as that.  Walking every day, strength training and pilates does not increase my heart rate enough.  During these past several weeks, I have had to make friends with the elliptical trainer and the rowing machine.  Come spring, I may be doing some of this again

but I won't be doing this -->

After five weeks on the program, I have lost 2.4 pounds of fat mass and gained 1.8 pounds of lean mass.  I am pretty close to the top of my target of lean muscle mass but have work to do to lose at least 12 to 13 pounds of fat mass.  For the first two weeks of the program I was on holidays and I had a goal to not gain weight which I was able to do.

I will post over the next number of weeks on how I am achieving my goals.

Sunday, February 20, 2011


Last year I bought a quarter side of bison.  I had various cuts packaged from ground meat to roasts to  steak.  All that was left after a year in the freezer was a package of bison sirloin steak.   I decided to make a chili using the steak.  I mostly use ground meat to make chili but for this occasion I decided to chop the bison into small bite size pieces and used it to make southwestern chili.  One different ingredient used in this recipe is dark cocoa.  I have used cocoa before to make chili but you don't see it in many recipes.  After making this recipe, I think I prefer using ground meat to make chili.  Having small pieces of meat in chili seems to close to being a stew.

A variety of vegetables added to the pot.

The finished product.

1 large onion, chopped
1 green or red bell pepper, cored, seeded and chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 stalks celery, chopped
8 mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 tsp chili powder, or to taste
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp dried oregano
1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef or bison
5 to 6 whole fresh tomatoes or a medium size tin of tomatoes
2 tbsp tomato paste
1/2 cups beef broth
1 tbsp cider vinegar
1 tsp unsweetened cocoa
1 (19-oz) can kidney beans, rinsed and drained or 2 cups cooked kidney beans

In a large pot, saute the onions, peppers and garlic in the oil over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Add the chili powder, cumin and oregano and cook, stirring, for 3 minutes. Add the beef and cook, stirring occasionally, until no longer pink. Add the tomatoes, broth, the vinegar and chocolate and bring the mixture to a boil, crushing the tomatoes with the back of a spoon. Simmer the chili, covered, for 1 hour, adding additional broth, if necessary. Add the kidney beans and simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes more. Ladle into bowls and serve with rice and desired toppings.  Serves 4 to 6.  Adapted from the

Friday, February 18, 2011


I like buckwheat soba noodles and use them in a variety of dishes.  They are especially good to use for noodle salads.  This recipe can be used as a side dish or a main entree by adding cooked fish or meat.  You can use whatever vegetables you have in the fridge and is a very versatile.  The recipe is so simple that I will provide the ingredients within the photo captions.
I use this brand of buckwheat noodles and will cook two small bundles of noodles with the expectation that I will have leftover noodles.

After cooking the noodles, they are drained and I run some cold water over them to cool them off and make them less sticky. 

In a small bowl, mix 1 tbsp each of sesame oil, sweet red chili sauce and rice vinegar. Add a squirt of agava or honey.  Mix well.  This sauce is enough for two cups of cooked noodles and about 1 to 2 cups of cut up vegetables.

Chop up two mushrooms, half of red pepper, one quarter of an english cucumber and a handful of snow peas.  Quantity of vegetables will depend on personal taste.

Into a bowl, add one cup of cooked noodles.

Add the cut up vegetables and sauce.

Mix the sauce and vegetables and the dish is ready to eat.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


I think we have all different ideas and images when one asks "what is your comfort food".  People will seek to eat comfort food for different reasons.  Some is based on nostalgia, feeling under the weather, feeling 'blue', feeling cold inside, missing family or feeling stressed.

I did an informal survey of friends and what they call their comfort food.  I got a variety of responses and to my surprise a similar food group - soup.   When I asked friends about their comfort food, some provided a description on how to make it or key ingredients.

Here are the results of my short survey on comfort food:

  1. Homemade scalloped potatoes, ham and a side salad.
  2. Chicken pot pie.
  3. Soup, and in particular clam chowder.
  4. Earl's fries (restaurant).
  5. My mom's homemade buns with butter and jam.
  6. Mashed potatoes and gravy.
  7. My mom's homemade chicken noodle soup, made from scratch including using a real chicken to make the stock, and my grandmother's homemade noodles.  Simply paradise.
  8. Mashed potatoes, Swedish meatballs and vegetables.
  9. Sardines (from the can) warmed.
  10. Chili - black beans, corn, lean meat, cilantro
  11. Root soup - bake in the oven to caramelize carrots, regular and sweet potatoes, onion and parsnips.  Then put them a stockpot, add stock cayenne pepper, hint of cinnamon and cook.  Use an immersion blender when cooked to puree the soup. 
  12. Lentil soup - brown or red lentils, carrots, onions, garlic, curry powder, salt and pepper, shredded apple, stock and a can of cream of chicken soup.
  13. Homemade macaroni and cheese.
  14. Chili - cubed sirloin, lots of chili powder, kidney beans, corn, onions, garlic, mushrooms (variety of mushrooms), a can or two of beer and tomato paste.
  15. Homemade apple pie.
  16. Grilled cheese sandwich.
  17. Ice cream.
  18. Potato chips.
  19. Lastly, my comfort food is bowtie noodles and cottage cheese.  After you cook the noodles (serving for one), you drain them, put them back int the pot and add about half a cup of cottage cheese, a little bit of milk and ground pepper.  Cook until the cheese starts to soften and melt.
What is your comfort food?


Saturday, February 12, 2011


I likely eat salmon or steelhead trout more than any other fish so I am always willing to try new recipes in order to not use the same recipe over and over again.  I found this recipe in one of my Bonnie Stern cookbooks.  I made a few small changes in preparing this recipe.  This recipe is good to use for a variety of fish - salmon, steelhead trout, halibut, sea bass or other thicker fillets.  I wouldn't use this recipe for fish such as sole.  The salmon turned out really well and I will definitely make this recipe again.
A Le Creuset large ovenproof skillet that is great for cooking on top of the stove and baking in the oven.  I will use this skillet to cook the salmon. 

I cut the skinless salmon fillets into three pieces.

I mixed up the marinade in a small bowl.

Marinade has been poured over the fish and ready to go into the fridge.

Fish has been browned on each side for one minute and is now ready for the oven.

Just out of the oven and ready to be served.
1 tbsp honey
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 clove of garlic, minced
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp paprika
pinch of cayenne
dash of salt
1 pound of salmon fillets or steaks, skin removed
1 tbsp oil

In a small bowl, combine the honey, lemon juice, garlic, cumin, paprika, cayenne and salt.  Mix well.  Pat the fish dry.  If you are using a large long fillet, cut the fillet into three or four pieces so that it can fit into a large skillet.  Put the fish into a plastic base and pour the marinade into the bag, seal the bag and turn the bag over several times so that the marinade is distributed over the fish.  Put in the fridge for one to two hours.

Pour the oil into an ovenproof skillet and heat on high on top of the stove.  Take the fish out of the plastic bag, let the marinade drip off the fish and then put the fillets into the hot pan.  Cook on each side for one minute on medium to high heat.  Place the skillet into a preheated 425 degree F oven.  Cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until the fish is cooked through.  Serves 3 to 4 people depending on serving sizes.

If you don't have an ovenproof skillet, cook the salmon in a frying pan on top of the stove and then transfer to a baking sheet that has been lined with parchment paper.  Using this method might lengthen the cooking process for a few extra minutes.  

Wednesday, February 9, 2011


Several weeks ago I had a wonderful outing to the San Diego African Safari Park.  It is part of the San Diego Zoo but it is located north of San Diego.  This safari park is also special because of the breeding programs being done at the park.  Wonderful work on helping preserve endangered species has occurred here.  
I don't know if I will ever get to take a safari in Africa so I leaped at the chance to take a safari in the back of a 3/4 ton truck to view both African and Asian herbivores in an open large area but of course fenced in.  There are a series of double gates to go through to get into the compound.  The African herbivores are in a separate compound from the Asian animals.  I have included some pictures of the animals we saw on the tour and other photos taken while walking through the park and seeing animals in their large enclosures.
The 3/4 ton truck that we travelled in.  There were ten people on this tour. 

A black rhino we saw on the tour.  We fed the black rhinos cut up apples and were able to pet them on the head.  Of course we stayed in the back of the truck while feeding and petting them.

This king of the jungle was lying on top of a frame of a jeep.  He is a massive cat and has quite a mane on him.  I wonder who brushes him?

I always like to watch the cheetahs.  A bit bigger than the cats I have at home.  My cats at home stretch out like this one here. 
One of my big cats stretching out in the sun.

In the lowland gorilla compound, an impressive silver back showed his size.  He is a  big boy and I could smell a musky smell from him when he first appeared.

We fed the giraffes a certain kind of leaf that they love while we were in the back of the truck.  The giraffe would take the leaf out of your hand.  We were not allowed to pet them and that was hard.

There was a colony of meerkats in a large penned area and they were interesting to watch.  This guy was doing guard duty.

Saturday, February 5, 2011


Recently I had the opportunity to visit San Diego.  One of our excursions was to take a two hour boat tour around its harbour.  We saw some very interesting things and the tour was a great way to learn about this city. Several things on the tour captured my attention and imagination.  I saw both the art of being lazy and enjoying oneself and also doing demanding and physically training.  These two extremes were being done by Seals.  Both are mammals but operate a bit differently.  These pictures tell the story.

These first two pictures display the art of being lazy. These Seals appear to have no cares in the world.  Seals are fin-footed semi-aquatic marine mammals.  These mammals include the walrus, seal lions, fur seals and earless seals.  There are colonies around San Diego and I am sure there are many stories about these animals from the locals.

These two pictures show SEALs who are doing demanding and physically work.  The water around San Diego offers a playground of training.  I was told that these SEALs are out training every day.  In these particular pictures, the chopper was bringing up SEALs from the water.  It was fascinating to watch.
The United States Navy Sea, Air and Land (SEAL) Teams, also known as Navy SEALs, are the U.S. Navy’s principal special operations force and are also part of the Navy Special Warfare Command as well as the maritime component of the United States Special Operations Command.  The first SEAL teams were commissioned in 1962.  Their reputation as reliable individuals, individual and collectively disciplined and highly skilled, are considered by many to be the toughest individuals in the world.  Training begins at the Naval Special Warfare Center in San Diego.  To become a SEAL, individuals must complete a demanding six month basic training course, three weeks of parachute training and fifteen weeks of advanced training prior to successfully earning the right to be called a navy SEAL.  And I thought training for a marathon and half marathons was tough at times!  You can read more about the Navy SEALs at their official website (Navy Seal Link)

Wednesday, February 2, 2011


When I cook salmon fillets there are usually leftovers.  An easy recipe to make with the leftover salmon is to saute vegetables, add the salmon and place on top of an individual bowl of rice.  The vegetables can vary depending on what you have in the fridge.


cooked rice
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp minced ginger
1 stalk of celery, chopped
4 mushrooms, chopped
wedge of cabbage, shredded
1/2 zucchini, chopped
1 cup of snow peas
2 tsp soy sauce
2 tsp sesame oil
sweet chili sauce (to taste)

In a large frying pan, heat the olive oil,  add the ginger, celery and mushrooms and saute on medium heat for about 3 to 4 minutes.  Add the rest of the vegetables and continue to saute until the vegetables are softened.  If the vegetables are sticking to the pan while cooking, add a little bit of water.  Then add the soy sauce, sesame oil and sweet chili sauce.

Into individual bowls, place about 1/2 to 1 cup of rice, add the saute vegetables followed by the salmon.  You will probably need to add about 2 ozs or more of salmon according to appetite.  You can also add some more sweet chili sauce or soy sauce if required to the bowl.