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Heather’s Homemade Pizza

Middleton Co-op’s September/October publication has some great coupons and recipe ideas. Their Autumn Harvest Pizza was a definite winner. This past Sunday, Heather and Bruce rolled up their sleeves, tossed some dough and baked up a nice pizza pie. As always, changes were made to the recipe to suit our palettes and what ingredients were available. And guess what? It turned out great! As a matter of fact, our two older boys, Kyle and Bruce, said it was better than any take-out pizza they had before.

Ingredients
3 cups cubed and peeled sweet potatoes
1 6-ounce boneless, skinless chicken breast, chopped
1 tsp olive oil
1 tsp poultry seasoning
1/2 tsp sage
1 6-ounce can tomato paste
1 tbsp Italian spices (marjoram, oregano, rosemary, thyme, basil and savory)
1 1/2 cups smoked mozzarella cheese (instead of smoked Gouda)
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1 tbsp dried parsley (instead of 2 tbsp fresh)

Directions
Instead of drizzling olive oil and salt on the cubed sweet potatoes and baking them in an oven, they were microwaved minus the oil and salt. Also the day before, a few chicken breasts were coated with poultry seasoning, sage and olive oil, then baked in the oven at 400 degrees for 40 minutes. After the chicken cooled, one was set aside for the pizza recipe. It was then chopped. What about the other pieces of chicken? One went into my quinoa salad. The other two hadn’t made up their minds yet :-)

The original recipe called for a pre-baked crust. Instead Heather and Bruce followed a pizza crust recipe from Food Network’s Tyler Florence.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Into a small bowl, mix tomato paste and 1 tablespoon of Italian spices. Place pizza crust on a sheet pan and spread tomato paste mixture evenly on the crust. (We did not want it to be dry.) Next top the crust with chopped chicken and cover with mozzarella, walnuts and parsley. Bake for 20 minutes. Just a reminder, every oven is different so be sure to check that the cheese is bubbling and crust is crisp. Slice and ready to serve. Total prep time approximately 1 hour.

Heather’s Homemade Pizza2018-09-20T10:25:29+00:00

Buckwheat Soba Noodle Salad Recipe

Can you say delicious? This was a spur of the moment creation. I referred to the recipe on the back of the noodle package and also borrowed ideas from a few soba noodle recipes online. As always, I modified the recipe to suit my family’s tastes as well as what ingredients we had in our kitchen. Made for a light and tasty side dish. Enjoy!

Ingredients for dressing

2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon ginger powder
1 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon peanut oil

Ingredients for vegetables and noodles

1 teaspoon peanut oil
1/4 cup red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1/4 cup mix of yellow and orange carrots, diced
1/4 cup snow peas
1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds
12 ounces buckwheat noodles

Directions

Heat 4-5 quarts of water in large pot. Once boiling, add noodles and cook according to package directions. I like my noodles to have a little more chew to them, so I cooked them al dente. Noodles were then drained in a strainer and rinsed under cold water.

Heat peanut oil in a saute pan on medium-high heat. Once oil is hot, add the chopped red bell peppers and yellow and orange diced carrots. Stir frequently for 1-2 minutes. Then add snow peas. Continue to stir and cook for approximately one more minute. Remove skillet from heat and plate vegetables to stop cooking process.

In a small bowl mix together the vinegar, ginger powder, honey and sesame oil until combined. Slowly whisk in the peanut oil until the dressing is emulsified.

In a large bowl add the noodles, carrots, peppers and snow peas. Pour sauce over noodles and vegetables and gently mix to combine. Garnish with toasted sesame seeds. Ready to serve and eat.

Buckwheat Soba Noodle Salad Recipe2018-09-13T12:58:50+00:00

Deviled Eggs and Brussel Sprouts Recipe

Making food fun, eye-catching and appealing isn’t always about the recipe but about the presentation and the platter on which the food is served. Recently Heather bought a chicken-shaped platter with indentations around the edges and a depression in the middle. With a tiny chip on it, the price was reduced by 80%. A good find. The indentations were intended for deviled eggs (or at least we hoped so), but we weren’t quite sure what food would go in the middle. Crackers, a dip, veggies? Ah, yes! Vegetables. Heather had just gone shopping at Willy Street Co-op and picked up some organic Brussel sprouts. They look like little cabbages and have somewhat of a similar taste. So that’d what she prepared. Deviled eggs and Brussel sprouts. Very simple, healthy and delicious!

So the next time you’re entertaining guests or are invited to a party or just want to make a family dinner more fun, serve up some whimsy with a clever platter or tray.

Ingredients for Deviled Eggs
6 hardboiled eggs
1/4 cup total of Greek yogurt and mayonnaise mixed
1 tsp white wine vinegar
1 tsp yellow mustard
salt and pepper to taste
sprinkle with paprika to garnish

Directions
Cut hardboiled eggs lengthwise. With a spoon, gently scoop out yolks and place in bowl. Mix well with yogurt, mayonnaise, vinegar and mustard. Then refill egg whites with mixture.

Helpful tip: Do not set your filled eggs on serving platter until after you sprinkle them with paprika. Less messy.

For the Brussel Sprouts, we simply boiled them in salted water until tender. We let the flavor speak for itself.

Deviled Eggs and Brussel Sprouts Recipe2018-06-21T19:42:34+00:00

Spicy Peanut Tofu and Bok Choy Rice Bowl

Willy Street Co-op’s monthly publication features many healthy and easy-to-prepare meals in their recipe section. This Spicy Tofu and Bok Choy Rice Bowl makes for a wonderful side dish or as a meal in itself. As always, me made changes according to our palates and what ingredients were available. Enjoy!

Ingredients
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup rice vinegar
2 tbsp Sriracha sauce
2 tbsp brown sugar
1/4 cup peanut butter, plus 1 tbsp
1/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp sesame oil
16 oz firm tofu, pressed and cut into 8 slices
1 large bunch bok choy, trimmed, roughly chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
4 cups cooked brown rice (we used white)
1/4 cup crushed peanuts
1/4 cup chopped scallions

Directions
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line baking sheet with parchment. In a small bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, rice vinegar, Sriracha, brown sugar, peanut butter and salt until combined. (We left the Sriracha sauce out at this step since we were preparing this for the whole family and my boys can take only so much “heat”. So I added a little bit to my own bowl at the end. Also we halved the amount of brown sugar and omitted the salt since I felt that the soy sauce was salty enough for the dish.) Brush both sides of the slices of tofu with sauce. Some will be left over. Set the tofu on the prepared baking sheet and bake for 35 minutes, flipping halfway through the cooking time.

In a large wok or saute pan, heat the sesame oil over medium heat. Stir in bok choy and garlic. (We halved the amount of sesame oil since a little goes a long way. But we did add a couple more cloves of minced garlic. Yum!) Add the remaining peanut sauce and toss to coat. Saute about 5 minutes, or until greens are wilted and stalks are still crisp.

Scoop about one cup of rice into a bowl. Top with bok choy, two slices of baked tofu, crushed peanuts and scallions. Ready to eat!

Spicy Peanut Tofu and Bok Choy Rice Bowl2018-02-05T06:53:53+00:00

Heather’s Healthy Blueberry Muffin Recipe

Healthy recipe ideas often come from friends, family members, cooking magazines or just doing searches online. Yesterday my wife read Little Red Riding Hood by Lisa Campbell Ernst to our 4 year-old, Roy, for the umpteenth time. It’s a fun adaptation of the story I remember as a child. In this version, muffins play a significant role. And as luck would have it, there is Grandma’s Wheat Berry Muffins recipe conveniently placed at the end of the book. Heather and Roy took to the task of following the recipe while making some changes along the way. Primarily reducing the amount of sugar and fat. As Official Taste Tester of the Foxman household, I had to try one as soon as they came out of the oven. Fantastic! Unlike so many muffins you get at the grocery store or even some bakeries, these were not super sugary. The fresh blueberries offered the perfect amount of sweetness. The wheat flour added a nice hearty flavor and what I like to call “chew factor”. The sunflower seeds were the biggest surprise. They gave the muffins a nice texture and buttery flavor as I thoroughly chewed each bite. Very satisfying. Lastly, what made this muffin recipe a success for me was that my GI system did not react negatively. No bloat and no gas. Fortunately or unfortunately, my system is quite sensitive to oily and fatty foods. I guess that’s helpful for weight management. Another lastly, is that these muffins were the perfect size. When it comes to treats, don’t you just want a taste anyhow? Not an entire bowl or plate full. This recipe gets two thumbs up and I hope you give it a try!

Ingredients
2 eggs
1/4 cup melted butter
1/4 cup organic applesauce
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp almond extract
1 cup wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose white flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups organic blueberries
1/4 cup raw unsalted sunflowers

Directions
Turn oven to 350 degrees F. In a large bowl, mix together the eggs, butter, applesauce, sugar and almond extract. In another bowl, mix the flour, baking powder and salt. Add dry mixture to wet/egg mixture and stir just until combined. Gently stir in the blueberries and sunflower seeds. Fill oiled muffin tins 3/4 full and bake for about 20 to 25 minutes. These muffins taste best when shared. Makes twelve.

Heather’s Healthy Blueberry Muffin Recipe2018-01-19T12:32:35+00:00

Walnut, Chicken and Cherry Quinoa Salad

Quinoa Salad

The July 2017 magazine The Costco Connection featured a healthy and delicious quinoa recipe that reminded me of Thanksgiving stuffing. Since we had just picked up a 4.5 lb bag of organic quinoa, I thought we should give it a try. Why quinoa? It has nice flavor, it’s easy-to-prepare and is high in protein. To suit our palettes and to feed a ravenous family of five, I modified the recipe. So here you go!

Ingredients
2 cups quinoa
4 cups water
1 lb grilled chicken, chopped (I used boneless thigh meat which was grilled with poultry seasoning and dried thyme.)
1 cup dried cherries
1 cup celery, diced
1 small red onion, minced
1 cup toasted walnuts, coarsely chopped
garnish with fresh thyme (optional)

Dressing
1/3 cup olive oil (extra virgin if you have some)
1/3 cup white wine vinegar
Fresh ground black pepper, to taste

The recipe also called for 1 tsp of sugar and minced garlic which I omitted. I felt that the white wine vinegar and cherries would add enough sweetness (which they did) and raw garlic has a tendency to make me burp.

Directions
Rinse and drain quinoa in a strainer. Bring water and quinoa to boil in medium/large saucepan. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 12 minutes. Then add chicken pieces, cherries, walnuts, celery and minced onion. [This is a change from the original recipe that calls for adding the chicken, cherries, celery and onion after the quinoa has cooled. I wanted to slightly rehydrate the cherries and warm the celery and onions so their flavor was milder.] Mix well and let stand for 10 minutes. Fluff with fork and let cool.

Place the cooled quinoa mixture in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together olive oil, white white vinegar and black pepper. Pour over salad. Toss well to coat.

Ready to serve, eat and enjoy!

Walnut, Chicken and Cherry Quinoa Salad2017-09-21T11:11:14+00:00

When in Doubt . . . Exercise

Eric and Kyle doing lat pulls

Boy, my clients keep getting younger and younger. Just for fun, I thought I’d share a pic from 2008 of my oldest son and me. Now Kyle, 12 going on 20 years old, wears a men’s size 8 shoe. Half a size to go and he’s caught me. Ugh!

Now back to our regularly scheduled program.

Feeling tired? Then exercise.
Stressed from work? Exercise.
Muscles stiff? Exercise.
Feeling bored? Exercise.
Bad night’s sleep? Exercise.
Want to get in shape? Exercise.

Yes, the answer is exercise. Sure there are times when you want to crash on the couch and veg or just go to bed early. I totally get it. I’ve been there myself. If you are tired, though, you should ask yourself if your fatigue is physical or mental or emotional or a combination of the three. If it is physical fatigue, is it because you are in construction and worked on a roof all day or were installing hard wood floors or laying concrete? Or is it physical due to inactivity from siting all day in an uncomfortable chair, practically motionless, dehydrated with your muscles shortening from lack of movement. If it’s the latter, that’s when you should get to the gym, go for a swim or spend time doing yard work. Now let me clarify, if you have sustained a serious injury or are wiped out with pneumonia, then see your doctor, rest and have some of mom’s chicken soup.

Think for a moment when you’re feeling your best. Do you feel your best when you’re working on a project with your boss emailing you every hour? Or is it going for a walk, stretching your muscles, getting blood flowing, feeling warm and enjoying the fresh air? If you haven’t figured it out by now, your body isn’t meant to be in a sitting or standing position for too long. It’s meant to move. And in a variety of ways. Not just sitting there behind the wheel of your car or staring at a screen and assuming what I like to call the T-Rex position. You know? Head forward, neck bent, upper back rounded and fingertips resting on your keyboard or hands close together cradling your phone.

Of course, there’s different kinds of exercise: from walking to running to hiking to cross country skiing to cycling to surfing to paddle boarding to stretching to all types of sports to lifting weights to . . .you get the idea. How do you feel when you’re done exercising? Energized? Ready to take on the world? Totally spent? I have had countless workouts where I have exercised to the point of exhaustion, barely able to walk . . . but feel like I have better mental clarity and that I have cleansed my body and soul of anything negative.

People have talked about Nike’s “Just Do It” slogan ad nauseam. And I’m not the last. To me the slogan is about moving forward, getting your head in the game, overcoming fear, looking at the big picture, achieving your goals. When it comes to living a healthy lifestyle, I believe it’s about doing something. Just exercise. Unless of course you are training for a very specific sport or have specific lifting goals. Otherwise, all you’re really trying to do is strengthen muscles, increase flexibility, reduce body fat, improve your coordination and enhance blood flow. And that can be accomplished by any number of activities and/or workout programs which include light weights or heavy weights, high intensity training or low intensity training, workout machines or stretch cords, free weights or your own body weight, low repetition or high repetition, short duration or long duration. At the end of the day, it all depends what you like to do and will do consistently.

So, as luck would have it, the other day my back was screaming at me. Quick reminder, I’ve been in a couple car accidents and have had some serious sports related injuries. Boo-hoo. Okay, for whatever reason, my back started tightening up on me first thing in the morning. Very uncomfortable. When I was done with my personal training sessions at 7pm, I downed a cup of coffee and headed out the door to the gym. As always I started with some light cardio and calisthenics. My back was talking to me but shouting a bit less. I moved on to some core and resistance exercises. By the time I was done, in under an hour, I was feeling much better. My big concern was how I’d feel the next day. The answer? Well it is the next day and I feel waaaaaay better. Was it a particular exercise that I did? I don’t think so. It was more about moving around and doing something for myself. It’s called exercise. So when you’re feeling a little crappy, don’t grab a cold beverage, don’t marinate on FaceBook and don’t sit on the couch. EXERCISE! Your body will thank you for it.

When in Doubt . . . Exercise2017-05-24T14:44:07+00:00

Serious Seafood Supporters Swoon for Succulent Sashimi

Hopefully my attempt at alliteration grabbed your attention. Did it work? Then let’s get down to business. How do you roll when it comes to Japanese sushi? Nigiri, maki, temaki or sashimi? For me it’s sashimi every time. Why? What’s the difference? Let’s start with nigiri sushi. From the word “nigiru”, which means “to grasp/grip”, nigiri sushi has a block of vinegard rice on which the raw fish sits. The formed rice makes it easy to pick up with your hand or chopsticks. Maki sushi, from “maku”, which means “to wrap/roll”, is wrapped in seaweed (called “nori”). These rolls don’t always contain raw fish. Vegetables (raw or cooked), tofu, avocado, cucumber, grilled egg and cooked chicken are common ingredients. Temaki, meaning “hand-rolled”, is generally cone-shaped with the same ingredients as other sushi. My personal favorite is sashimi. Meaning “sliced body”, sashimi is the fish from nigiri sans rice. It’s pure, clean, unadulterated and simplistic. And just to let you in on a not-so-secret secret, sashimi is considered the finest dish in Japanese formal dining by many Japanese chefs.

Sashimi is not masked with competing or overwhelming sauces and marinades. And this might sound like something you’ve heard from a food blogger or TV travel host, but you can really taste the ocean where the fish once swam. Plus I always leave satisfied. Never bloated. Compare that to a Friday fish fry? Sorry folks, but it’s not even on the same spectrum. Without getting too personal, my body was clearly not meant to ingest fish, or any food for that matter, that’s been battered and deep fried. Why? Gas, gas, gas. If I am going to eat fish from the Great Lakes (like perch, whitefish, salmon or walleye), then lightly sautéed or a quick grill is the way to go.

For you foodies who like to be filled, I’ve noticed that some sushi chefs slice larger pieces of fish for sashimi than for nigiri. Or maybe it’s just because I often sit at the bar watching intently and intensely, drooling and generally looking really hungry. Over the years I have developed a greater appreciation for fish. Some fish are firm, flaky or soft. If you have had sushi that smells or tastes fishy, then the fish is not fresh. Get your money back. Same thing if the fish is overly chewy, stringy or tough. It’s old. Clearly not all fish have the same chewiness. Take squid, for example. You definitely need to use more of your molars.

Omakase or “chef’s choice” is by far the best way to go to experience sashimi. Why? You are asking the chef to show off his talent and do his best to give you the freshest fish of the day. A good bet is the sushi chef was at the fish market that morning and personally hand-picked the seafood.

Sushi Platter

Eric, what about the health benefits? You haven’t talked about protein or Omega 3s. Click here for Sashimi Nutrition Facts. If you’re too lazy to click on the link, I can sum it up by saying that the majority of fish served contain 6-7 grams of protein per 1 ounce serving. So yes, Ken, we have ingested over 150 grams of protein from fish in a sitting before. And it was all delicious.

What are your favorites? Blue fin tuna? Yellow fin tuna? Albacore? Mackerel? Spanish mackerel? Salmon? Shrimp? Clam? Yellow tail? Sea eel? And for dessert? Freshwater sea eel. You know what I’m talking about.

So where should you go for excellent sushi in Madison? The answer is easy. Muramoto at Hilldale Mall. The fish quality is top notch. Always fresh. Try to avoid busy times if you can. They do a huge business when it comes to take-out, so your order will be competing with a lot of pick-ups. Their service is good too. The servers are knowledgable and friendly. Although again when it is busy, they can become a little frenetic. But what do you expect at 6pm on a Saturday right? The last time I was there, I sat at the bar ordered a Sapporo and some edamame. It might feel a little intimidating at first to sit at the bar, but part of the whole gastronomical experience that most people miss, in my opinion, is watching the chef prepare the food followed by the presentation. Watch how the chef slices and prepares the fish, lays them gently and precisely on sliced Asian white radish and/or single leaves of the Shiso herb. If you want to show your appreciation to the chef, buy him a beer or some sake. Wasabi and pickled ginger (both are antibacterial) are a must. In between the different fish, eat some ginger. It cleanses the pallet and soothes your stomach. If you feel a little carbohydrate-deprived, don’t worry. A bowl of white rice very often accompanies the meal.

Are you getting hungry? I sure am. So the next time you’re thinking fish on Friday, think seafood and think sashimi.

Serious Seafood Supporters Swoon for Succulent Sashimi2017-03-21T10:47:14+00:00

Stuffed Crookneck Yellow Squash Recipe

Stuffed squash is one of my favorite dishes, especially on a cold winter day. A great thing about squash is their hardiness. They will last quite a while indoors in a cool, dry place. So your fall squash harvest can be feeding you well into the winter.

The Crookneck Yellow Squash is similar to my Zuccanoes Recipe except that the skin is tougher. If you’d prefer, you can use the squash just as a serving vessel, or depending on how you prepare it, you can eat the skin as well. I did. It was a little fibrous but tasted good.

Stuffed Crookneck Yellow Squash

Ingredients
1/2 yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound lean ground beef, grass-fed (you can also use ground turkey, chicken, lamb or pork)
6 white mushrooms, sliced
1 8-ounce can diced tomatoes, fire roasted
flesh of one yellow crookneck squash, chopped (you can also use straight neck or a zucchini)
1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, grated (or your favorite melting cheese)
1 tsp dried rosemary
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried thyme
salt and pepper to taste
2 tsp olive oil

Directions
Slice one squash in half lengthwise. Scoop out insides, leaving 1/4″ rim so canoe stays intact. (You don’t want your canoe to sink in the oven. Very messy.) Dice the squash innards and set aside.

Set stove top to medium-high heat. To heated skillet, add olive oil then sauté ground beef. Once browned, add onions, garlic, mushrooms and squash innards. Sprinkle with rosemary, thyme, basic, salt and pepper. Cook 5 minutes stirring frequently. Add diced tomatoes and lower heat. Simmer for additional 5 minutes. Remove from heat.

Set oven to bake at 350 degrees. Take meat/vegetable mixture and spoon into canoes. Do not overfill. Top with 1/4 cup mozzarella cheese. Bake for 45 minutes.

Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup grated cheese and serve.

Preparation time: 1 1/4 hours, including baking. Serves 6

Stuffed Crookneck Yellow Squash Recipe2017-02-23T09:51:59+00:00