Monday, June 30

Somehow enchiladas make saying goodbye a little bit easier

As most of you know, moving to Norway has been challenging at times. All in all, I love this place, but sometimes I really LONG for home and for my family and my friends. One bonus of working for a HUGE international company is that I am always guaranteed to be surrounded by people who look, think and sound different than me. Yet, there are also times when you meet people who are alot like you and it makes you feel not so alone in this really big world.

Cassie was one of those people. She is also a Texan, the life of a party, and just an all around really cool girl.

Cassie makes me smile.

Well, as is also common in HUGE international companies, people move around alot and suddenly Cassie is heading off from Norway to Australia.

Cassie shares my love for cooking and she makes a mean macaroni and cheese and can bake a wicked banana bread. Cassie also has a REAL mexican grandma who can COOK. So you can imagine how nervous I was the first time I ever made tex mex for her. One of the first things I made was enchiladas, and she LIKED them!!! The gravy was different from what she was used to, but she ate it and gave it a thumbs up!!

And now, we fast forward 2 years later and it's our last supper together. What should we have, we wondered. We settled on enchiladas. It just seemed right. Two Texas gals in a kitchen in Norway, far from home as one prepares to move even farther. Yes, enchiladas would do nicely.

Of course there are no corn tortillas in Norway, we're kicking it old school:

About 2 cups of Masa and 1 cup of warm water mixed together:

Cassie uses her dainty hands to make walnut sized masa balls:

Put the ball in the press between some parchment paper:

Press the HECK out of it:

Peel it off the paper and slap it onto a cast iron skillet:

Repeat til they are all done and you have a pretty stack:

Next we make the sauce. I didn't take pictures of the entire process, just the ingredients, Penzey's Ancho Chili powder, cumin, salt and mexican oregano:

It's really simple to make tasty enchilada sauce. I use 2 Tablespoons of flour, (here's a hot diabetic tip, use GRAM flour, which is ground chickpeas, and your sauce is carb FREE!!) and some olive oil and make a basic roux. To that, add the spices above, mix it all together, and add chicken broth while stirring constantly. (Don't you hate when directions tell you to stir constantly? I NEVER do)If you find the sauce a bit pungent, add a squirt or two of tomato paste!

For the filling of these enchiladas, I cooked some lean ground beef and grated some white cheddar and chopped some white onion. We then started the assembly process. I LOVE the Sonoran style of enchiladas, they don't roll, they FOLD, which in my opinion, makes things so much easier and keeps me from cussing. I also DO NOT fry my tortillas in oil first, cuts out more fat and calories so we can save it for more important things like the CHEESE!! So put some sauce in the bottom of the casserole dish and put the the corn tortilla down and then flip it over so both sides are covered in sauce. Put in a spoonfull of meat and some cheddar:

Fold it over and repeat til the pan is full:

like so:

Top with the extra cheddar and ground beef and pop in a hot oven for about 20 minutes until it's all melty and bubbly:

When they are done, top with chopped onion and you are good to go:

Friends, there is truly nothing better in this world than good Tex-Mex. One bite can cure my homesickness. I will NEVER tire of anything that looks like this:

Earlier in the day I made a pot of chicken alphabet soup. Another hot tip for you, one cup of alphabet pasta will give you quite a big pot of slime, trust me.

Anyway, Cassie was playing with some pasta and really summed up the evening quite nicely:

Good food. Good friends. Good memories.

Sunday, June 29

We have FRUIT, people!!!!!

So, this morning I went out to peruse the garden and see if anything needed plucking or staking and imagine my total and utter SHOCK when I saw these little beauties!!!!

Here's a close up:

I have PEAS!! I thought they were the kind that you shell, but they look alot like snowpeas to me! I can't believe things are actually bearing FRUIT! I find this whole thing fascinating!!!

Then I started inspecting the tomato plants and spied this:

I have 3 tomatoes that I saw and 1 bell pepper!! I just can't believe it!! I am really excited!

In sad news, something seems to be ravaging the jalepeno plants and I don't know what it is:

The carrots are growing beautifully and it takes EVERYTHING in me not to pull one out and see what it looks like! I wonder if I have baby carrots in that pot?? I REALLY want to yank one out. Christopher talked me out of it, but I may just have to.

I am a curious gal.

Ok. So that is the balcony garden update!!!

FRUIT!! I have actual, alive, organic vegetables growing from SEEDS that I planted and loved and grew!!!


Amazing. Simply amazing.

Friday, June 27

Chicken Tenders, Hushpuppies and BlueCheese Dressing

So, I have been working out and trying to drop a few pounds cause we are going to the Maldives next Saturday for a fabulous beach vacation. I have been somewhat successful and have dropped about 12 pounds or so!

Great news for my brittle self confidence that will be bikini clad for 15 days!

The not so great news is that I am a bit of self sabatoger! Everytime I make some headway, I end up eating something that is firmly in the category of 'non diet friendly foods'.

I had a wonderful visit with my mom and dad who came from Texas to Norway for a week and maybe I was a little depressed that they left yesterday. Yea, that's it. (It is always nice to find something to blame destructive habits on.)

So, today, in a clear effort to easily gain back some of my hard earned weight loss, my cravings drove me blindly towards chicken tenders, hush puppies and homemade blue cheese dressing!


Recipezaar is my enabler!

I started with Paula Deen's recipe for fried chicken. I made it somewhat ok by using skinless, boneless chicken breast. The thing I loved about this recipe is that it called for a cup of Louisiana Hot Sauce in the egg mixture! Now, I LOVE me some Louisiana Hot Sauce!!! It didn't make the tenders hot, but gave them really good flavor and they were really juicy:

Oh my goodness they were good!

Now, I have NO IDEA why I would suddenly crave hushpuppies!! But crave them I did, so I made hush puppies Justin Wilson style.

I have no idea who this Justin Wilson is, but his hush puppies had good ratings, so I whipped them up. Maybe I was having flashbacks from the Catfish King in Nacogdoches, Texas. I remember eating and LOVING fried catfish and hushpuppies, but I haven't thought about them in YEARS. Decades really, but they turned out nicely:

And then, because the chicken was made with Louisiana hot sauce giving them that 'buffalo wing vibe', I thought that celery dipped in blue cheese dressing would be really good. Problem number one is that there is no blue cheese dressing in Norway.

No problem. I'll just make that as well. Enter in a good basic blue cheese dressing recipe, and voila:

Problem number 2 is that I forgot to buy celery, so I sliced some tomatoes and just put it on them!

So, all in all, it was a delicious, but fat inducing, evening. Here is a picture of my plate of sin:

Not a green vegetable in sight.

Sad. Just sad.

Oh well. In a week I will be on a deserted island in the Indian Ocean and I have a feeling that what I ate today will be the last thing on my mind.

Friday, June 6

Where the Wild Things Are

Well, the wild things are apparently on my balcony!!!

Many of you have been on this whole 'I'm gonna grow a garden from seed' journey with me from the beginning! All I can say, is that I am simply STUNNED at how well everything is doing.

I think I may have some sort of magical powers. Or a REALLY green thumb. Or maybe I'm like the horse whisperer, but with plants.

I make these wild claims ONLY because, as I have been on this journey, I have had so many people tell me, 'I have tried so many times to grow from seed and nothing ever makes it!' Or, 'Don't get your hopes up, it's really difficult!'

EVERY single seed I planted germinated! And EVERY single one grew up! I have plants coming out my ears! I have given so many away (not counting the ones I accidentally stepped on and killed). So, I don't know what to think.

It comes down to this: either I have been incredibly lucky, or I am just gifted.

I prefer to think it's a gift. A rare one.

So, here are the kids!!!!

The peas and the beans:

Once these popped out of their little pea and bean cases, there was no stopping them! I am NOT kidding when I say that they grow about 3 to 4 inches over night!

And this is really FREAKY, their little pea arms just grab onto ANYTHING and wrap right around:

When the little arms are wispy, we just kind of train them towards the balcony grating and within a few hours, they have wound themselves around it. AMAZING!

Next, is our box of tomatoes:

I am pretty sure I chose the WRONG kind of tomato to grow on a balcony. Apparently 'Outdoor Girl' puts out some pretty large fruit and is a LARGE plant. So, I am going to have to start 'pinching it off', which is another way of saying that I will forbid it grow any larger than I want it to.

Now one of the things that I have worried about is that, who cares if the plants grow if they don't flower?? So, I have been anxiously looking out for flowers and just TONIGHT, I saw these!!!!

I may have to pollinate them, but I am pretty sure we have lots of bees on the balcony, so we will see if they can't get their pollen spread on their own.

Then we have the carrots:

Next we have what my friend Lola calls the 'Tater Bag'. I read about how some people grow potatoes in plastic bags and I thought I would give it a try. So, I started with some new potatoes from the store and left them out for about 2 weeks until the eyes began sprouting. Once they did, I took a bag that soil comes in, because it is thick and black, and rolled down the sides, put a layer of soil in it, put the potatoes in, eyes UP and covered them and waited.

And waited.


In theory, once you cover the potatoes, they will push their leaves through the soil. When the leaves appear, you roll the sides of the bag up a little and cover it with soil again. The leaves will turn into roots and grow more potatoes and more green leaves will poke through the soil in another few weeks. Every time sprouty leaves come up, roll up the bag, cover with soil and repeat. When the bag is full, let the sprouts grow, flower and die, and come september, slice the bag open and gorgeous new potatoes will come tumbling out!!!

Well, wouldn't you know it...a few days ago, I suddenly had my first green tater sprouts appear!

I'll put more soil on top on Sunday!

This pot has bell peppers and one yellow tomato plant in it. Clearly it is overcrowded. Also in this pot is plucking lettuce and basil as companion plants. I am going to have to thin this pot out, but how do you choose who to let DIE?? It is very difficult. They are all growing like mad and I have flowers coming on the bellpeppers!

Here are the gorgeous jalepenos:

And finally, the 'what in the hell am I doing in NORWAY' tomatillo plants!! They are thriving!!!

So friends, that is my garden! It is going very well and I can't wait to see what comes out of it!!!

Tuesday, June 3

Healthy Fettucini Alfredo for Kindel!

So, I got an email from my darling little sister Kindel last night. I consider Kindel to be a fledgling chef. When I was in Texas for my whirlwind trip last month, I taught her how to make Shrimp Diablo. A super easy, super tasty marinara based dish.

Well, Kindel took off like a FLASH and has made it ALOT over the last few weeks and in her email last night, she wanted, and I quote:

"what’s another good sauce that I can make? Something with shrimp because I have a lot of shrimp. And one that tastes creamy and fattening but isn’t. LOL!"

Now, one thing that absolutely SUCKS about living in Norway is that I can't just go buy ingredients and spend the evening with my little sister teaching her how to make a fabulous, low fat pasta sauce. That makes me sad! Can you tell I really miss Kindel??

But, what I CAN do, is make the dish here in Oslo and then blog about it and send the link to Kindel, so that she has a step by step recipe to follow with the bonus of pictures!!

So, let's just call this the first in the Kindel cooking series, shall we?

Ok. Yes. Low Fat, but DELICIOUS, totally CREAMY fettucini alfredo! I know! It sounds crazy! But it is absolutely possible to make a really creamy, rich sauce that is low in both fat and calories!

I know a lot of people are scared of FAT! But you NEED some fat and I really try to avoid a lot of fat free stuff, plus it isn't available in Norway! If you use LOW fat ingredients, you reduce the caloric and fat content by over HALF! That is alot! So don't go fat free, go low fat!

Here are the ingredients for the alfredo sauce:

So, 1 percent milk, reduced fat margarine, a clove of garlic, a tablespoon of flour, parmesean cheese and low fat cream cheese! That's it!

Start by melting 1 Tablespoon of low fat margarine in a pot:

Chop up your garlic and add it too the butter when it's melted and saute it for about 30 seconds:

Next, you're going to add the flour:

When the flour, butter and garlic mix together it is going to form a crumbly, pasty mixture called a roux:

Now, you are going to add the milk. You will probably need about 2 cups. So, start by adding about half of your milk:

Take a whisk and just start stirring until you get the lumps out. The flour will make it thicken, so when it starts to get thick, just add more milk. You are going to have it on Medium High heat here. So, just stir, stir, stir, stir until you have a good creamy consistency:

Time to add the cream cheese. You want 2 to 3 tablespoons, or about half the container. Slap it into the pot:

And stir until it is melted in. It should be really creamy now:

Time to add the parmesean cheese. And NO, you CANNOT use the stuff in a can!!! Use FRESH! Here in Norway, we can't buy it already grated, so I grate my own:

The good thing about parmesean is that it is a very FULL flavored cheese and you don't need ALOT to taste it! But parmesean is also one of those cheeses that is not as high in fat as others! Just buy a bag of parmesean, regular or low fat and throw in about 2 or three tablespoons:

Again, stir it in and just taste it. If you want to add more cheese, add it. Now add some salt and pepper to taste. Lots of pepper:

So, set the sauce to the side. Time to prepare the meat! Kindel wanted shrimp, but I didn't have any, so I used chicken! BUT, where I used chicken, just substitute shrimp! I think chicken with blackening spices is great, so that is what I did:

Christopher slapped it on the grill, but you can cook it in a skillet or in a George Foreman. Be it chicken or shrimp, cook it til it's done:

Here is the seasoning blend I use. It's Tony Chachere's! I don't know how popular Tony is in your neck of the woods, but in Texas and Louisiana, Tony is KING! He goes on everything, and my mom always makes sure that I have a good supply on hand here in Norway:

Plus, look how CUTE Tony is! I have never really looked at him before tonight, but in the close up, he is just so SWEET! You would never guess that he would set your mouth on FIRE:

Now, I like my alfredo with veggies! You certainly don't have to have them, but don't underestimate the importance of a well rounded meal! If you decide to have veggies mixed in, you MUST buy some Ziploc steamer bags! SOOOOO simple! Chop some veggies, I used asparagus, zuchinni and snowpeas, seal the sucker and pop it in the microwave for 3 minutes! That's it!!! And they are PERFECT:

Now at some point in all of this, put some water on to boil for your pasta! I use whole wheat pasta. It's just better for the blood sugar and this IS the beautiful diabetic after all:

That's it! Your chicken or shrimp is DONE! Your healthy alfredo sauce is DONE! Your perfectly steamed veggies are DONE! Your pasta is DONE! Time to throw it all together! Just get a bowl, put in the pasta and follow with all of your other ingredients:

So, I wish I could have eaten this with Kindel, but my company was good with Christopher and the dogs! We ate on the balcony in this gorgeous weather:

That's it! Totally simple and DELICIOUS alfredo sauce! I promise it is not fattening and you will LOVE the way it tastes!

I know I did: