Getting some fresh air time with my two Corgis--Tripper and Twinkie.

Quick announcement: I’ve started a new project. While I’m undergoing cancer treatment, I’m blogging about my experiences at The Peachfuzz Chronicles. Today’s post has sort of a foodie theme so I’m sharing a link on this site. Click on over for a visit to see how I’m surviving chemo.


Chicken Lettuce CupsHappy new year to all my Asian friends! It is the year of the rabbit and Plucky finds that she will be attending–not one–but two lunar celebrations this week.

To celebrate, I’ve developed a lighter version of one of my favorites. Since I am thousands of miles away from my favorite Chinese food place (Gary Lee’s Asian Star in Salt Lake City), this quick recipe for chicken lettuce cups comes pretty close to the “real deal.”

For my friends at Weight Watchers: This recipe serves 8 entree portions and much, much more as an appetizer. Figure on about 6 points per each entree-sized portion. To keep the calories down, I have made it with chicken, but you could also try it with a pound of ground pork.

Chicken Lettuce Cups

In the morning: Wash and core one head of iceberg lettuce. Let drain and store in refrigerator until ready to use.

2 oz. rice sticks, fried until golden, drained on paper toweling and set aside.

Whisk sauce together in small bowl and set aside:
1 tablespoon Mirin (Chinese rice wine) or sherry
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
3 tablespoons hoisin sauce

Prepare as directed and set aside:
3 scallions, minced
4 oz. mushrooms, rough chop
2 oz. bamboo shoots, rough chop
2 oz. water chestnuts, rough chop
1/4 cup roasted peanuts, rough chop

In wok or fry pan, heat 1 teaspoon peanut oil on high heat until just smoking. Add 1 pound ground chicken and stir until halfway cooked. Add mushrooms and keep stirring until mixture is cooked through and liquid from mushrooms is nearly evaporated. Reduce heat to medium. Add scallions, bamboo shoots, water chestnuts and heat through. Add sauce and stir to thoroughly incorporate. Just before serving, add salt and pepper to taste, add peanuts and rice sticks (crumbled). Serve on platter with lettuce cups and extra hoisin sauce.

I know I’m ten days early, but I wanted to share this foodie valentine with you. If you are not familiar with Anthony Bourdain, you should pick up a copy of his latest book, Medium Raw. Billed as, “a bloody valentine to the world of food and the people who cook,” Bourdain does not disappoint his readers, who know him as a bold writer that does not know the meaning of soft-serve.

After penning his best-selling Kitchen Confidential, which, among other things, instructed us as to why we should never order fish on Monday, Bourdain has spent the past decade as a television personality and food writer. I had recently finished Medium Raw when I happened to be watching a Top Chef marathon with my daughter. In one particular episode, Bourdain appeared with Justo Thomas, a Dominican seafood butcher of whom he writes about almost reverently in chapter 18.

Thomas is a virtuoso with a fish knife. I read with fascination as Bourdain described the machine-like precision in which Thomas cut between 750-1,000 pounds of seafood a day at New York’s acclaimed Le Bernardin restaurant. According to Bourdain, when Thomas takes a vacation, it takes three men to accomplish the same task while he is away. I had recently taken a cooking class where we saw a 20-minute demo of a 28-pound halibut sliced, filleted and portioned. Thomas can zip through a fish the same size in roughly eight minutes.

After the Top Chef segment was over, I encouraged my daughter to read (at a minimum) Bourdain’s homage to Thomas. She was immediately hooked. Like me, she couldn’t put the book down. When I could hear her laugh out loud, I knew it wasn’t just me; this book was a winner.

Bourdain isn’t for everybody. He has what my mother calls a “potty mouth.” For those with “clutch-my-pearls” sensibilities, I have to warn you; this book is laced with F-bombs. That’s just the way he rolls. For those who can get past that, Bourdain does not disappoint. His stream of consciousness style is deliciously descriptive–bordering on food porn. His opinion never fails to entertain. Bourdain is one of those writers who is blessed with the ability to write without filter. He freely gives his opinion on a variety of subjects ranging from the bastardization of the hamburger, why Alice Waters is out of touch, the villainous James Beard House, and a cootie-infested Ronald McDonald. Oh, and don’t disrespect your server…

It’s a can’t-put-down read for foodies. Bourdain, now the father of a two-year-old daughter, has mellowed. Like most of us who woke up wondering how the hell we got on AARP’s mailing list, Bourdain’s life experiences have given him a unique perspective on his passion and on those who are industry “leaders.” He’s shaken the demons of youth and is here to tell us exactly what he thinks about it. Bourdain’s latest is not merely Medium Raw, it’s well done.

Cannellini Dip

If you are like me, you are thinking ahead to Super Bowl. What to bake? What to serve? What to make and take? For those of us trying to stick to our New Year resolution, the Super Bowl ritual can be a veritable caloric minefield. So many dips–so little Weight Watcher points.

One of the tried and true dips at my place is hummus. There are some Greek ladies who work in the kitchen at the place I used to work and they make the best hummus. Both named Eleni; they were cagey about giving out the recipe (probably because it is in their heads–not written down anywhere) but I kept asking for hints. I made many a batch until I got it right.

So now that I trying to cut back, what is a girl to do when she has a schmeck for hummus?! Answer: Cannellini dip!

My husband and I were over at Damon and Terri’s for the New Year and were served (among several yummy things) a simple cannellini dip with the antipasto. The next day, as I was journaling my food intake, I discovered that cannellini beans have almost half the points as chick peas. When you figure you aren’t adding the tahini, the following recipe I developed has about 27 points in total. If you exercise restraint and eat in teaspoon increments, the cost in calories is very palatable.

Cannellini Dip (makes 1 cup)

One 15-oz. can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
2 cloves garlic
3 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice, (from 1/2 a lemon)
salt and pepper to taste
1 Tablespoon minced flat leaf parsley, plus extra for garnish
1 Tablespoon minced fresh oregano (can use dried in a pinch)
1/3 Cup extra virgin olive oil
2 Tablespoons pignoli (pine) nuts, toasted

Drain and rinse beans. Place in bowl of food processor or blender. Add garlic, herbs, salt and pepper and lemon juice. Process until completely pureed. Stop once or twice to scrape down sides of the bowl. While processor is running, add the olive oil in a steady stream. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary.

Place in serving bowl, garnish with pine nuts and a pinch of minced parsley. You can serve with crudites or go with pita wedges.

Today is one of those miserable weather days. Mother nature can’t decide whether to snow, sleet or rain. Gloomy skies dictate a cheerful touch to this week’s post. The color of this butternut squash soup is sure to cure to winter doldrums.

This soup is really easy to make. I discovered it a few years ago in the New York Times food section so I can’t take credit for its development. But if you are looking for lighter fare, this soup is sure to make it to your go-to recipe collection. I’ve made minor adaptations to make it even more calorie-friendly.

This year, I’ve started my new year’s weight loss resolution. I joined hubby and now attend Weight Watchers. He’s lost mucho poundage and I am playing catch up. This soup is my first discovery in low point recipes. The recipe contains no butter or cream although you would swear that it does. According to my calculations, each cup has only four points per serving! You can substitute a rich chicken stock, but this may add more points (fat) to the recipe.

Butternut Squash Soup

1 tablespoon canola oil
1 onion chopped
1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger, grated with a microplane
1 pound butternut squash, peeled and diced
1 pound southern yams, peeled and diced
8 oz. russet potato, peeled and diced
6 cups boiling water
6 chicken-flavored bullion cubes

Set your tea kettle to boil. Add 6 cups boiling water to 6 bullion cubes. Stir until dissolved. Set aside.

In a heavy soup pot, heat the oil, add the onions and saute until tender. Add the grated ginger and stir briefly. Add the chopped veggies and chicken bullion mixture. Bring mixture to simmer and cook until veggies are tender (about an hour).

Working in small batches, puree the veggies and liquid in the blender, or use an immersion blender right in your soup pot. Season with salt and pepper to taste and enjoy! Serves 6.

Final grades are in. I’ve finished my first semester as an adjunct professor. It was much more work than I anticipated, but the ride was fun. I enjoyed working with the students and they’ve asked me to do it again next semester.

After my professorial hiatus, Plucky’s back. But I have to admit that it might be more apropos to call me the Plumpy¬†Gastronome, as the months have taken their toll on my waistline. There’s a whole lot more of me to love and I’m gonna’ have to do something about it. The trick is to not let my weight loss aspirations throw a damper on my work here on the blog.

So suffice it to say, I’m back and plan on blogging without interruption now that I have the hang of grading papers and such. Thanks to those of you who pestered my mother for updates on my return to the blogosphere. She faithfully relayed all your words of encouragement.

It’s 2011 and time for a new culinary joyride!

Well it’s been too long since I posted last. My teaching has proved to take up more of my time than I thought it would. This first semester is going to be a heavy load but after that, I’ll be able to do more cooking and photography.

In the meantime, I’ve opened up a Twitter account so I can still keep in touch, albeit more briefly. You can view my Twitter feed on the right side of this web page. I’ll post when I can, but in the meantime, I’ll be tweeting.

In other news: Mom’s coming for Thanksgiving! I’m gearing up to make the Faworki. Will we get it right this time? Stay tuned.