Mis-Matched Plates

Standard
Mis-Matched Plates

plates

It was,  and still is, a tradition for young women who are going to marry to pick out their set of  dishes and cutlery with the romantic vision of many fine dinners with family and evenings entertaining guests. If one had the means…the language wasn’t “dishes” but “fine china” and not cutlery but “silver” in a padded wooden chest.

My first set was one for 12 people and it was fine china by Noritake. Absolutely lovey…white with a colored rim of delicate flowers. My new Italian mother-in-law fancied  and collected several different sets of the very finest china like Mitterteich from Bavaria, Lenox,  and Wedgewood which were all proudly displayed in a oversized Henredon china cabinet in the dining room, and only used on holidays like Easter or Christmas.

I very seldom, if ever, seated 12 people at my table over the years so a set of 12 served as back-up replacement plates for our usual table of 4-8. Eventually, after several moves and lifestyle changes, that set dwindled and new colorful dishes took their places instead. In time, I inherited the Mitterteich dishes from my mother-in-law but to tell the truth they are still in the box of them that she gave to me one Christmas 20 years ago! Complete with serving platters, coffee server, gravy bowl etc. No place to store them in my kitchen (they are packed away in the basement) and no 12 people or Sunday dinners with family,  who live in other states.

Brides these days are more practical and lifestyles are somewhat frenetic for the 30 year-olds, so often it’s Pottery Barn designs or tableware from Target, often bought by the piece rather than a whole set. And from what I know in my own family of busy professional daughters and their busy professional husbands…no one seems to be cooking full meals or sitting down together as a family on a regular basis anyway. Sunday dinner is periodically attempted in between weekend kiddie birthday parties, quickie play dates with peers and their kids, or just organizing and getting ready to once again catch a train on time for work in the city on Monday morning.

Over the years I have moseyed at flea markets and yard sales and I must admit, I fall in love with pretty dishes with interesting or cheerful designs that stimulate my imagination with mental images of happy family around the table, deliciously cooked specialties displayed on a lovely plate, serving hors d’oevres  on a unique platter, to fun and interesting guests for the evening or afternoon. A dish here, a plate there. Always I have insisted on at least two of a pattern, usually four and occasionally six, which serves my actual lifestyle. Once in a while, a solo plate will join the mélange with the vision of serving some wonderful appetizer to a small gathering of good friends.

plates 2

I host women’s circles which of course always include food so I do love to set a table where things match, but after this essay, I think I am going to surprise everyone at our next gathering and do a total mix-up! If you got it, flaunt it! My bargain mismatched set of dishes from everywhere!

In a nearby town, there is a “tea room” in which there are tables and chairs of all different styles mixed together and dishes that are all mismatched. The charm is un-mistakable, comforting and cheerful.

Matched dishesIs it also about letting go of the need for “perfection” ..? ( Altho there is aesthetic appeal and pleasure in co-ordination and beauty of things that match)

Are there times for perfect co-ordination, but also times for complete and random experimentation, inclusion or blending of differences? Kind of like a healthy society or culture…preserving unique and indigenous traditions, and yet allowing for a community that is open to differences and exchange of ideas.

The next phase of my life this upcoming year or two will be about moving, or downsizing, deciding what stays with me and what will be released for others to enjoy… the years of “collecting and adding” are giving way to simplicity and the elimination of all that needs to be tended and taking time away from passions and interests that have replaced earlier concerns…but for now…I enjoy my dishes, all of them, matched and now mis-matched and I intend to fill them with good food..sensuous, comforting and nourishing to share with friends and family around the table…

From Christine, The Cook

 

Cranberyy 2    I have other blogs of mis-matches topics and themes too!

For seasonal and spiritual inspiration: http://thegreeningspirit.wordpress.com

For the power of words and word magic for a happier life:http://wordmagicandthelawaof attraction.wordpress.com

For “in praise of music” and music memoirs as a music teacher: http://pianomistress.wordpress.com

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Pure Comfort Food! Gnocchi with Peas, Asparagus and Gorgonzola Sauce

Standard
Pure Comfort Food! Gnocchi with Peas, Asparagus and Gorgonzola Sauce

 

IMG_3885[1]Well, yes it is true that so many of us grow weary and discouraged on FB these days given the chaos of our present political challenges. Taking time out from posting alarms and alerts, some of us eventually resort to alternating posts between our opinions and activism, with Comic Relief (funny cartoons or snarky wit), Beauty (flowers and scenery), Cutsies (kittens, puppies and babies) and  FOOD! (WHAT WE ARE HAVING FOR DINNER!).

Last night I fled to my kitchenette (only 6 inches away from my tiny apartment living room) to free my mind and heart from stress, and to dive wholeheartedly with my hungry tummy into pure comfort and creativity with an awesome Italian recipe inspired by Lidia Bastianich,  I say “inspired by” because she started the whole thing off in her recipe book, but I, Imdependent  and renegade Cooker myself, always have to tweak a recipe to make it mine, ALL MINE! So to be fair, let’s maybe say it was a winning “collaboration”,

When I posted the above picture on FB for good cheer, it must have provided some much needed comfort as more people jumped into my post with comments about this than about anything  elseI have posted all week. Several even sent me private messages asking (begging) for the recipe. Which of course I promised to do…what else are friends for? So wipe your chins dear salivators !…here we go… feel free to make it yours too with your own tweaks.

Ingredients:

1 box/pkg of gnocchi

1 10 oz pjg of frozen peas, defrosted)

5 thin stalks of asparagus, steamed and cut into thirds

4 or 5 small cocktail tomatoes, seeds squeezed out and quartered

1/2 heavy crème OR half n  half OR evaporated mil

1 cup of chicken broth

2 tablespoons of butter salted or non salted

6 oz of crumbled gorgonzola

a dash of garlic powder, a dash of Italian herb blend (I used Penzys Tuscan blend)

a little squeesze..drops really to taste…of lemon. Go very easy on this to taste

salt and pepper to taste

A BIG SOUP MUG and a BIG SPOON

**(Don’t forget a glass of rose (not red! not white!) wine to accompany. (Red is too strong, white is too “white”…I cook with complementary colors..there is enough white in this sauce)

*** Put on some nice music. Preferably by Josh Groban singing in Italian. Shut off the news on tv!

IMG_3887[1]

Preparation:

Boil the gnocchi according to the instructions of the box (Lidia makes her OWN gnocchi from scratch. Not me…one of my ingenious creative tweaks). Drain and set aside

Saute the butter (you can add a little more if you want.) in a large frying pan with  higher sides. When melted, add the combined milk and broth and dash of herbal blend and bring to a boil, then lower heat and let it cook for about 8 minutes to thicken a bit..sort of..stirring often. DO NOT burn or rapid boil and bubble (trouble!).

Add the gorgonzola and stir to melt. Taste and season to your liking.,, salt and pepper, a tiny squeeze of lemon (be careful here) and a dash of garlic powder.

Add the peas, asparagus and cocktail tomatoes and stir.

FINALLY,  add the gnocchi to coat completely.

IMG_3886[1]

IMPORTANT ! Take a picture and post it on FB so your friends can drool, leave lots of comments and then send them the link to this recipe on my blog!

Enjoy!

From Christine, the Greening Spirit a la “The Cook” on https://sensuoussoupsandsuppers.wordpress.com

***Picture with my granddaughter Giana who is now 11 years old. ( I am the same age as I was then).

264613_10151085786018396_17473576_n (2)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Flemish Beef Stew with Beer and Vegetables

Standard
Flemish Beef Stew with Beer and Vegetables

IMG_6875

July 6, 2o15

I originally posted this in 2013 but since it is going to be “real feel” heat index today of 90 degrees, I brought out the crock pot to keep a cool kitchen and still have something wonderful to eat for dinner!

This is forever one of my favorite recipes …most delicious with memories of one of my many former lives. How we grow and change in the various chapters of our stories. This is one of the threads that runs through all of them, this recipe altho ingredients change depending what is in the fridge, on he shelf  or in the garden.

Today the herbs were all fresh from the garden, except the bay leaf and astragalus, which most definitely was not part of the original recipe. The fresh herbs today were basil, lemon thyme, parsley and sweet marjoram, the sprigs of which will be fished out of the broth at the end.

(To read about the love affair with my garden this year, please check out the series “My Garden, My Soul” on my http://thegreeningspirit.wordpress.com blog)

Now on the recipe and the story that goes with it!

Many years ago when my former husband and I were first married, we followed his dream of becoming a marine biologist, relocating from inland New York state to the coast of New England so he could attend graduate school and the Colleges of Oceanography and Zoology at the University of R.I. Neither of us had traveled afar in our young years (nobody of our ages did much traveling abroad in those days except to Vietnam under orders from the “Draft”). Being an oceanography/zoology major was kind of romantic,  and later offered him the opportunity to travel the high seas  as a research scientist/oceanographer. But graduate school also offered both of us…all of us.. the opportunity to meet people from other cultures who came here to study as well.

In those years, our closest friends became a couple from Belgium..a country we really had not studied much in earlier school days. She, Anne Marie, and I met a few days before the semester started,  hanging our laundry in adjacent rented apartment backyards. Delighted to find out, over the clotheslines, that both of our husbands, my Jack and her Thierry,  were going to be in the same department at the university, we became fast-friends and colleagues sharing many meals, holidays, daytrips as well as babyclothes and babysitting as graduate student families do,  for many a year. We each learned much about each other’s cultures and perspectives on life ie The American way vs. The European way. From us, Anne Marie and Thierry experienced their first American Thanksgiving (Thierry was aghast that Americans pile all sort of foods on one plate, eating them all mixed up together on that day, he being used to separate courses in more elegant style) and I learned how to make this wonderful stew from Annemarie.

Americans at that time were into “a large portion of meat”,  a starchy food like potato, rice or pasta and maybe a  small salad or token green vegetable on the side. The meat was kind of low cost…hamburger, or a lower quality cut of beef to barbecue  or roast, as the portion was larger than any one ingredient in the meal. The Belgique way, even as graduate students on a stipend, was a small medallion of a more costly cut of beef or meat, surrounded..and I mean surrounded ..by a variety of deliciously and carefully-prepared vegetables and a salad. Our Belgian friends got “Thanksgiving” from us…and I got this Flemish Beef Stew.

The traditional way that Annemarie made this was with stew beef, and onions only, browned in butter, seasoned  and braised in beer, served with potatoes. It is delicious that way, but as always, my creative spirit has enlarged on that recipe and I cook this with other vegetables as well as onions, and season it with bay, dried marjoram and basil. Served with potatoes.

This is a most hearty and delicious stew and I hope you enjoy it. I do not eat much meat, but when I do, I now use only grass-fed beef froma local and known farm. Grass-fed beef, be aware, is leaner and tougher in texture than supermarket beef, fattened and flavored with corn and which, after having sat through a showing of the documentary “Food Inc”, I will never ever purchase commercially in a market again.

As always, when eating meat…I give a blessing and a special thanks for the animal that sustains me in that meal.

Ingredients:

1 lb of stew beef (local grass-feed preferred if possible),  several tablespoons of butter ( The Belgians love butter and like Julia Child, use it with abandon) 1-2 large onions sliced thin (I use a sweet onion like Vidalia), 2 cloves of garlic chopped small, 2-3 carrots sliced thin, 1-2 ribs of celery chopped, 1-3 parsnips (optional) sliced thin, 1  (24-oz) can of beer (I use Bud..can use a fancier one if preferred), I small can of beef broth, 1-2 thinly slices of bread slathered with honey mustard ( a tuscan olive bread is good if you have it), 1 large or 2 small bay leaves,  a dash of dried basil and marjoram (go easy at first..adjust  and add a little more if suited to your taste..you can always “add” but your can’t “take away” once something is too much!), salt and pepper. Boiled potatoes on the side to add to the stew at serving. (a couple of options for the stew while cooking…a small squeeze of  anchovy paste, or several chopped kalamata olives..go easy..and taste along the way)

IMG_6874Preparation:  

Cut the stew beef in small one inch chunks, and saute in butter, browning on all sides. Add the onions and stir to soften onions, add garlic, saute but do not burn. Add other vegetable and saute gently for several minutes for flavors to blend. Add 3/4 of the can of beer to cover the meat and vegetables, and 1/2 of the can of beef broth. Stir. Add the bay leaf, and dried basil and marjoram, and a little salt and pepper. Meat and vegetables should be covered with liquid. Lay the slices of bread which have been spread with a thin layer of honey mustard on top of the meat and liquid, bring to a gentle boil, lower heat to a simmer and cover, with a little opening. The bread will eventually dissolve and in stirring, will thicken the broth. Do add the rest of the beer and broth as needed while cooking. The stew is done when the beef is tender.

I do not give exact ingredients because I cook with basic ingredients and experiment and taste taste taste along the way in the cooking process.. For me it is like an art project, requiring small adjustments and assessments all along the way, to create a meal that will be delicious and a favorite to repeat many times in the future!

Good luck and good eating to you!

Christine, The Cook

Tempting Tomato/Eggplant/ Basil Teasers (orig. 2013)

Standard
Tempting Tomato/Eggplant/ Basil Teasers (orig. 2013)

IMG_3443Sometimes (often) my culinary creations are a project which I oversee for an evening, or for several hours in preparation..cooking, writing, listening to music, staying between the table where I work and the stove. At those times, I linger and taste and savor and adjust..playing with my food as it were.

But on other nights, it has to be a little quicker but still…sensuous, savory, satisfying and delicious.  And sometimes it has to be a “light” meal as well..simple and without a lot of other accompaniements.

This is one of my very favorite creations. It is is actually a kind of an appetizer, but I would not have too much patience making up 50 of them for a party. But for a light supper for one or two, perhaps a cup of broth, a little crusty bread and a plateful of these are just perfect. Oh, and don’t forget the wine..a lot rose is my preference.

Ingredients

1 small-medium  narrow eggplant sliced in rounds, fresh basil leaves (or dried basil if necessary), a soft mozzarella sliced in rounds, cocktail tomatoes seeded and opened up, or small plum tomatoes seed and cut in thin rounds, black pitted olives cut in half lengthwise,  1-2 finely minced garlic gloves or garlic powder,  a sprinkling of finely-grated parmesan cheese, salt and pepper.IMG_3440

Preparation:

Lightly spray heated indoor grill with olive oil. Lightly cook eggplant rounds until just a touch soft/translucent. Set them aside in baking dish, place a tomato slice on each eggplant, a LITTLE minced garlic or a sprinkle of garlic IMG_3441power, then a fresh basil leaf (sprinkle with dried basil if no fresh basil is possible..but fresh is the BEST), top with a mozzarella slice, olive pieces, a sprinkle of ground pepper and a sprinkle of finely grated parmesan.

IMG_3442

Broil until cheese starts to melt and brown..serve.

I like this with a light rose wine. Or the light Gallo Paisano Wine...not fancy..just friendly and simple.

 

 

**** I know I have established that I am not Italiano. However, tomorrow I do start a series at the University in Conversational Italian. I have been listening to the practice cd in the car and repeating musical Italian phrases while I drive..Of course I have read and loved the book “Under The Tuscan Sun” which had me longing for the simple life…but for now my reading/handbook is:                                                                     

IMG_4619

CIAO! 

***If this looks good, don’t forget to click “Like”!

I also invite you to check out my blog   http://thegreeningspirit.wordpress.com and see what a magical world we live in!

From Christine, The Cook

 

                           

Mug Shots: The Day’s First Decision (Coffee)

Standard
Mug Shots: The Day’s First Decision (Coffee)

 

One seven

I always have had an odd relationship with MUGS. I don’t like drinking from them…too bulky in the hand, too thick on the rim against the lips. It has always been a challenge when visiting family or friends to be offered my choice of mugs for morning coffee, which is as much as a sensuous experience as a wake-up ritual for me.

When necessary where there is no other choice, I will drink from the mug, but not happily so….and never EVER a mug for tea which remains perpetually hot and almost undrinkable. (Only a china cup with the right kind of thin rim for my tea).

I know this initially upsets some of my readers who have a love-relationship with their favorite mugs..even with the tender little chip on the rim…but I will now reveal that in the past several years, I have come to new and personal relationship with several carefully chosen mugs that have special emotional meanings for me because of how they feel to the hand and lips, how they allow the coffee to please me temperature and taste wise, where they came from and represent as I drink from them, and how they stimulate my imaging for beloved things I treasure in their glazed artwork.

This morning, on the Solstice 2014, my MUGS asked to be acknowledged as they gear up to brings me comfort and joy in the now cold sleepy mornings of Winter when I brew my only coffee of the day. They lined up for their Mug Shots photo shoot most proudly each with their stories of why they are now treasures in my first morning ritual.

IMG_8794

My mug from the beautiful St. Edmunds Retreat Center on Enders Island and the delicious Mystic Monl coffee from  the Carmelite Monks in the state of Wyoming.

St. Edmunds Retreat Center is on an island in Connecticut and it is where I go to take beautiful pictures of the church, the sea and the rocks, and the beautiful gardens filled with dahlias and other flowers in the summertime. This mug reminds me of a lovely place of sanctuary away from the chaos and noise of day to day life….I love it’s shape and smoothness, and I love holding the island of Enders in my hands in the morning.

 

One eight It is delightful to be both a student and a guest instructor/lecturer at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at the University of Rhode Island. This mug was presented to the guest faculty upon the presentation of our first course offering. I love it’s reminder that learning IS a lifelong adventure…This is a heavy sturdy mug reminding me that there is strength in wisdom and knowledge…

one ten The University and the Garden Girls. When I want to remember the beauty of the flowers and plants in my garden and the gardens of friends and the world, I choose one of my flower mugs..sunflowers or peonies, these two mugs are more feminine in feel, a finer weight and smooth and slim on the lips…occasionally tea will find their way into these temporary wells which cool down more quickly than a full-bodied mug, allowing the fragrance and delicacy of the tea to escape…into me!

 

IMG_8795My newest mug is just from the market…it was the curved open sweep on its rim and its greenness that caught my eye…just the right weight, a big open handle for balance and invitation to sit with its sense of the feminine and nature’s green-growingness. It reminded my of my other blog, http://thegreeningspirit.wordpress.com where I record many things of nature in word and photography and of the greening spirit within our souls…

From Christine, The Cook (and the The Greening Spirit)

dreams  You are invited to visit my other blogs here on WordPress!

For Inspiration and Beauty: http://thegreeningspirit.wordpress.com

For Music and Music Memoirs/Piano Teaching: http://pianomistress.wordpress.com

For the power of positive speech and life satisfaction: http://wordmagicandthelawofattraction.wordpress.com

For lunch and learn seminar lectures: http://lunchandlearnseminars.wordpress.com

 

 

 

Roasted Cauliflower with Curry and Turmeric

Standard
Roasted Cauliflower with Curry and Turmeric

IMG_8744

It is COLD in the Northeast USA now and I find that cooking with the WARM spices like curries, turmeric, cayenne keep the bodily  “fires” burning from the inside out for a feeling of warmth and comfort. One of my favorite fast and easy recipes for inner heat and delicious eating is this one. There are many variations on this with an added ingredient here or there but this one so far is the one that works for me, allowing for culinary creativity as I am so inspired.

The price of cauliflower varies widely. Yesterday at Belmont’s it was $4.99 for a head, and $2.99 a head at Shaw’s. Both beautifully fresh and white. Shop wisely and economically!

Although a white vegetable, cauliflower is nutrient rich and the powerful brown/red/orange spices in curry (turmeric, cumin, cinnamon, cayenne etc) are warming to the body and digestion, protective and anti-tumor as well. This recipe is a winner…good to prepare ahead and take to a potluck also, serving warm or hot.

Basic ingredients:

1 head cauliflower, cut into flowerettes, olive oil, curry powder and preferred extra spices like turmeric, cinnamon, cumin. IMG_8742

Extra ingredients as desired:

tahini, honey, a good chutney (I use Major Grey’s)

Preparation:

1. Cut cauliflower into flowerettes, place in a large bowl and drizzle with  a tablespoon + of olive oil, tossing to coat well. Sprinkle with curry powder to coat as desired and add a sprinkle of one of the extra spices if preferred. I do ot have a measurement here but go by eye, to color the vegetable. Just remember: you can always ADD but you cannot SUBTRACT an ingredient…be discerning…a little at a time. Sprinkle with a little salt (fingertip-taste…do not overdo!) Toss to coat everything evenly.

IMG_87412. Place on a cooking pan. Bake/Roast at 400 degrees for 15 -20 minutes depending on your oven… turn the flowerettes after that time and bake/roast until done…I like them to turn a slight golden color but do not burn!

3. Serve as is, adjusting for flavor   OR….

4. MY Special touches:

~ when in the serving bowl, I add a teeny bit of honey to taste

~ when in the serving bowl, I add a teeny bit of tahini to coat very lightly

~ when in the personal dish, I add a little bit of mango/raisin chutney if desired

This recipe is open for adjusting to your personal taste and preferences but I assure you, it is delicious and won’t last long in the serving bowl.

Stay warm, inside and out!

From Christine, The Cook

Cranberyy 2

A delicious life has many ingredients! Check my other blogs..

For inspiration: http://thegreeningspirit.wordpress.com

For music/the arts: http://pianomistress.wordpress.com

For the power to create a good life: http://wordmagicandthelawofattraction.wordpress.com

 

Crunchy Cranberry Relish, Pie Filling or Simply Scrumptious Snack!

Standard
Crunchy Cranberry Relish, Pie Filling or Simply Scrumptious Snack!

Crunchy Cranberry Relish

Every year at Thanksgiving whether we are cooking for a home celebration or for a communal celebratory pot-luck, our favorite and most-requested recipe cards come out of their safe places tocreate specialties that grace our tables, dazzle our eyes and tickle our taste-buds. But really, why only at the holiday? There are some foods that are so delicious, so healthful and nutritious that we might consider NOT filing the recipes away in that for-holidays-only envelope.  Some are more than worthy to keep front and center and to have ready as a condiment, snack or “wellness-while-eating” food throughout the year.

This recipe for my Crunchy Cranberry Relish is requested each holiday and it is simply splendid! This year I have purchased and frozen a number of bags of fresh cranberries to be able to make this on a regular basis as a treat, a side, a pie filling AND for the wonderful healthful benefits that cranberries offer us, along with the orange, orange peel, cinnamon and nuts, even though it does require a fair amount of sugar to sweeten the tartness of the cranberry, which is significant. In my recipe, I do not give andexact amount for the sugar, for I add it cautiously, tasting along the way until I get the proper balance of sweet and tart that pleases me, which is WAY less than standard recipes for cranberry relish  ie TWO cups of sugar per 1 12-oz bag of cranberries! NO WAY!  Taste, taste, taste  as you prepare to counteract the tartness of the fruit but you don’t need to overdo the sweetness.

I also do not cook this relish, but use the berries raw (after a good rinse, picking over and spin-drying) and chopped fine in my little cuisinart chopper/grinder which works beautifully.IMG_7026  Raw cranberries are exceeding healthy and full of nutrients (articles below), and the nuts, if they are not forbidden to you, raisins and cinnamon as well are nutrient rich as well.

Make this as a crunchy relish to eat alongside other foods, either with meat or vegetarian. I will include a recipe in another post about using it as a pie filling, or keep a bowl of it in the fridge, snacking on a tablespoon or two of it when you get a craving to eat something sweet or crunchy that are full of empty nutrients and calories. I do believe your will LOVE this!!

Ingredients: 1-12oz bag cranberries, rinsed, picked over and dried, 1 large seedless navel orange, cut into 1 large wedge with rind and the rest without rind in small chunks to fit in the chopper, golden raisins, chopped pecans or walnuts, cinnamon, 1 cup (more or less to taste) of sugar to taste (I use an organic sugar that has a light tan color) and for a special sparkle, a dash of cointreau or triple sec, if desired. I ask forgiveness for the lack of definitive measurements, as I prepare and cook as I go along..rather like an art project..creating as I taste. So far in my long cooking career, what tastes good to me, taste good to others.. The best I can do, is to encourage you to experiment..add things with a VERY light hand and taste along the way always until you are pleased with the result. You can always add, but you CANNOT subtract…just remember that! Creative and cautious all along the way!

Preparation: Chop washed and dried cranberries somewhat fine in the chopper. Set aside. Chop one large wedge of the navel orange finely, add to the cranberries, and chop the rest of the orange wedges fine and a little soupy in the chopper  There shouldn’t be mushy orange chunks) and add to the cranberries. Stir..slowly sprinkle 1/2 cup sugar into the mixture…stir and taste…add slowly…stir and taste , add more sugar until it is a right balance of sweet and tart that pleases you…add a handful of raisins, sprinkle with cinnamon or pumpkin pie spices (start with 1 teasp), stir, taste adjust..add a small pouch chopped nuts (I prefer pecans) stir gently, taste…adjust. Add a dash of cointreau or triple sec..careful, they are VERY sweet.

I prepare this a day in advance of eating to let the flavors blend and mellow. I cover it and keep it in the fridge. Before serving, stir, taste and adjust ingredients again if necessary. Serve  cold or at room temperature. ENJOY! SAVOR! AND BE HEALTHY! (links for cranberries and nutrition below the picture)

IMG_6987

http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=145

http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=dailytip&dbid=226

 

 

Snow Forecast! Need Heat! Get out the CURRY!

Standard
Snow Forecast! Need Heat! Get out the CURRY!

 

 

IMG_8599

Last night the forecast was for our first snow showers of the season and COLD and whoa! Not quite ready with beautiful multi-color Autumn leaves still on the trees, but the cold and the chill was arriving making the impending approach of winter very clear to the senses.

I was still so busy last night after facilitating a centering meditation circle in the afternoon and preparing for an all-day retreat (having nothing to do with cooking) coming up this Sunday. Things to do here at the computer but you can’t concentrate when tired, hungry and chilled. I needed sustenance, comfort and it had to be fairly quick and easy!

Bring out the CURRY! And a most delicious supper of pure sensual delight and deep-healing comfort! Diced chicken breast, a jar of prepared mild curry sauce, white or basmati rice, 1 package of frozen mixed veggies, honey, unsweetened coconut flakes (optional), a splash of cream or half n’ half and you have a feast!

Instructions:

Dice chicken into small-ish pieces. Saute unttil lightly golden in a combination of olive oil and butter. (I find that a pad of butter rounds our the flavors).

When golden, add the box of mixed veggies, which have been un-frozen by running cool water over them in a colander. Shake to drain. Stir with the chicken  a bit to warm them.

IMG_8600

 

Place the chicken and veggie mixture in a baking dish, being sure to include the sauteeing juices in the frying pan to the baking dish mixture.

IMG_8601Pour your preferred jar of curry sauce over the mixture. Stir. Sprinkle with about 2 teasp of  shredded coconut, sweetend or unsweetened.

I have used “Kashmiri Curry (Indian Sumer Sauce) by Maya Kaimal…”MILD”.  There are so many brands and one must experiment with what is available where you live.  NOTE: It is important to know that Indian Curries are warm to hot even if “mild” so I recommend that you always start with “mild”. I have had to toss away meals that were simply too fiery to eat. You can always add a little more dried cayenne pepper powder to your “mild” curry if you need more heat for your adventurous taste…but you can never backtrack the heat of “too hot”!

Bake at 350 degrees for about 30-45 minutes.

IMG_8602

  When finished, add to taste 2 teasp-1 tablesp honey…stir into to mix…taste and adjust. Add a touch…just a touch!… of cream or half n’ half to lighten..stir…

 

 

 

Serve over cooked white, basmati or whole-grain rice.

I am told that this Sanskrit word  “AsvAdavat” means “delicious”.  If I need to be corrected, don’t hesitate to do so!

IMG_8603

This is very comforting and SENSUOUS food with the elegant and exotic spices that make up varieties of curry powder: cinnamon, turmeric, ginger, cardamom, cloves, fennel seed, fenukreek, nutmeg, black and cayenne pepper. The most wonderful thing is that all of these spices and herbs are powerful healing herbs and strengthen the body’s immune system, cardiovascular system, especially during the cold season.

Sensuous,  Fragrant, Warm and Healthy is the way we go with CURRY!

Be daring and enjoy!

From Christine, The Cook

220727_10151282433958396_866733424_o  Want some good reading material when captive inside the house during bad weather?  (or any kind of weather actually!) Check out my other blogs:

For positive thinking, talking and positive life experiences:  http://wordmagicandthelawofattraction.wordpress.com

For inspiration, beauty and lovely photos: http://thegreeningspirit.wordpress.com

For love of music and music memoirs: http://pianomistress.wordpress.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Recipe List! Update!

Standard

Eat

 

Hi there! Now you can find what’s on this blog more easily. Click on the “Recipe List” page in the header  or link below  to find something good to prepare!

 

https://sensuoussoupsandsuppers.wordpress.com/recipe-list/

 

There is also a new  page  for cooking  stories and memoirs

https://sensuoussoupsandsuppers.wordpress.com/memoirs/

From Christine, the Cook  (organizing this blog. Now to clean and organize the fridge)

220727_10151282433958396_866733424_o Other wonderful blogs of mine:

Music and Piano:  http://pianomistress.wordpress.com

Law of Attraction:  http://wordmagicandthelawofattraction.wordpress.com

Inspiration and Beauty: http://thegreeningspirit.wordpress.com

 


“Hot” wines/ “Cool” Wines and Tender Tummies

Standard

Wine

Ah, yes, I do love wine. And in my country neighborhood we have an elegant wine store (called “package stores” here in New England) with an awesome array of the finest wines from around the world, and extremely knowledgeable owners who wax poetic over the virtues of their inventory. Friendly wine tastings too on Friday afternoons with customers chatting and sipping and enticed by the deliciousness to carry home at least one, if not several, bottles of their favorite new (expensive-but-worth-it) variety.

But alas! I of delicate digestion over the past several years have had to limit my choices of such delights and choose lighter fermentations. One of the situations for me has been the noticeable difference between “hot” and “cool” wines based on the percentage of alcohol in the wine. Tho I am no wine connoisseur, it seems that vintners have been brewing up higher percentages of alcoholic content in their vats of grappa..sometimes as high as 14.9 % altho  12.9%-13,9% seems about average now but is literally too “HOT” for me and irritating to my digestion causing discomfort.

If the alcohol content is too low, the wine is too sweet, too many calories and like juice…too “cool”.  Yet I love to choose a lovely  glass goblet, and pour the wine into it, swirling it around and inhaling the fragrance, sipping slowly and savoring a beverage as ancient as the gods…

WineSometimes I think I love a glass of wine because of the beauty of the goblet and the way the shape of the  glass feels in my hand and against my lips.

 

 

Well, in life we can’t always have things the way we think we would have liked…but then again maybe something comes along that is just perfect for where we are. That “perfect” glass of wine for me is a delightful pink vino verde from

Portugal, the label, Casal Garcia, ALC 10% but with the teeniest fizz making it fun and very digestible. Also the price is right for casual imbibing.. $6.99 a 750ml bottle.Vinho Verde This wine is always disappearing from the shelves, constantly re-ordered and replaced so I must not be the only non-elite connoisseur around town.

Lifting a glass of “cool” wine to you in the first days of the coolth of Autumn!

From Christine, the Cook

264613_10151085786018396_17473576_n (2)

 

*****There are many things to savor in life!!

Please check my inspirational blogs:

http://thegreeningspirit.wordpress.com  (beautiful photos and ponderings)     AND

http://pianomistress.wordpress.com (for music people and pianists)

 

 

 

Tasty Tuscan Kale and Potato Supper

Standard

This was originally published in June 2013..but its worth the repost. Tuscan Kale is a beauty… a textured, rich dark green packed with nutrients and flavor…summer’s ending now so we want to savor and enjoy that fresh goodness now as often as possible….

Well it has been a while since I have been here..but don’t think for a minute that I have not been cooking! Life has called me to turn my  attention elsewhere momentarily and write in alternative venues but still cooking and eating and savouring the experience continues, althugh without documentation…. until tonight, when taking delight in the fresh produce of  early summer, I have been inspired to share another in-the-moment culinary creation that was satisfying, sensuous, simple and simply delicious!

Tuscan KaleThe “Star” ingredient tonight was kale, and specifically a variety called Lacinato, or “dinosaur” or “Tuscan” kale, distinguished by its ‘ knobby (not curly) leaves and more delicate taste. Mine was organic as well, and admittedly a bit pricey, but actually as I am committed to eating deliciously for pleasure AND for good health, it is something I factor into my life and budget whenever  can.

“Tuscan” Kale is quite pretty..green leaves with a hint of blue, and a plant that was favored by Thomas Jefferson in his beloved gardens in Monticello. I must say that I will look for this on a regular basis from now on and will grow it as an heirloom in next year’s garden.

Tonight’s dinner was impromptu on a very warm night, when I wanted something sustaining and “green” with a healthy carb or starch. A one-pan dinner. You will note in many of my recipes that I use some of the same ingredients on a regular basis in my recipes but I assure you that as you focus on a variety of main ingredients and use these as supports, that each delicious dinner/supper will have its own unique flavours and textures and it will taste new and original!

So here we are..Tuscan Kale and Potato Supper, with some flavorful surprises, and packed full of nutrients and good vitamins and fiber for you!

Ingredients  *note: I use what is available in my kitchen. Feel free to substitute what is available in yours!

1 small bunch of Tuscan kale, washed and chopped in thirds, 2 gloves of garlic chopped, 3-5 large basil leaves torn, 2-3 cocktail tomatoes seeded and chopped, 3 thin slices of canadian bacon chopped, 2-4 green or black deli olives chopped, a large diced cooked potato set aside, several small chopped chunks of soft mozzarella cheese, a squeeze of lemon, olive oil, salt and pepper to taste.

Preparation in one large frying pan

Heat pan, add some olive oil for saute-ing (not “frying”), add chopped kale and stir until softening, add garlic and continue to stir (do not burn garlic,  add diced canadian bacon to brown a little, add a little more olive oil as needed and a little water or canned chicken broth. Cover and steam to soften, add chopped tomato, stir..salt and pepper to taste, a squeeze of lemon, add torn basil, cover and simmer gently..there should always be a IMG_5340little broth…add chopped olive..taste along the way, always! for your own personal pleasure.Adjust seasonings. In a separate bowl..a deepish one…place cooked diced potatoes, add the chopped soft mozzarella and top with the hot kale mixture. I also added a little finely-grated parmesan cheese and mixed.

A TOTAL Sensuous Supper with incredible flavour to savour! Enjoy!IMG_5341 (Never accept a boring meal!)

Memoirs! Laughter in the Kitchen!

Standard

 

 

IMG_6964

Well first off, I have to say it’s a good thing my children don’t read most of what I write as their lives with full time jobs, marriages and small children keep them too busy to even answer e-mails. They would both kill me for posting this picture. But it makes me smile, if not laugh out loud with them when I remember one of our rare times together, which only happens a few times a year, with the three of us each living in a different state.

It is our way though, when planning time together..a quick weekend before everyone has to get back to work..to decide the all- important question “What are we going to do for dinner?”. When they were growing up, even with full-time working parents, meals were a non-negotiable nightly ritual at the table, with a variety of food lovingly prepared from favorite recipes, at a table set with dishes, knives and forks and chairs set around so that we actually ate together, looked at each other and talked! Those were simpler times then…everyone so busy now with complicated work and school activity schedules.

IMG_6961When we get together now, it is..at least for one meal… an attempt to capture the communion of mealtime but at this time  with small, lively and giggly children it is hard to look across the table adult-wise and eye-to-eye to finish a conversation, let alone a sentence! Where the REAL communication takes place is in the kitchen..a bottle of wine, veggies, meat, desserts…chop, chop. dice, saute, bake, season and lots of laughter. Did I say wine?Wine (or a Mike’s).

 

 

 

On this visit, daughter Lisa who used to be a vegetarian determinedly took on the sectioning of the chicken…daughter Melissa, our craftsperson and baker did the desserts, and  I, the Greening Spirit,  prepared the salad and vegetables while the kids wove their energetic persons in and around all the prep amusing themselves cousins-style. The REAL visit for myself and my IMG_6967 daughters took place right here in the kitchen.. working, talking, laughing and trying to contain the children’s energies of up/down, in/out and numerous requests for other more amusing forms of entertainment.

I don’t always actually remember the meal at the table as I drive back to my home state because by the time we get to the table,  the children and we, rushing through a short weekend trying to fit everything in, are tired and the meal is a blur. But always, I remember the times in the kitchen with my daughters, talking, telling funny stories and laughing in the kitchen.

Over the years things will shift and change and things may be calmer and slower and we will miss the chaos. But always the time together is precious… and yes, I think the kitchen in the Heart of the Home.    IMG_6976

 

From Christine, the Cook (aka “Mom”and “Noni”)

 

****  New post on my Greening Spirit site: http://thegreeningspirit.wordpress.com/2014/09/09/kissed-sensual-spirituality-and-hildegarde-of-bingen/

**** New post on my Piano Mistress site: http://pianomistress.wordpress.com/2014/09/09/memoirs-creative-listening-and-art/

 

 

 

 

 

 

Using Packaged Foods: Cheating without (too much) guilt

Standard

Packaged Foods

I live in a seaside community clogged with tourists in the summer and  with a University nearby with college students hanging out at local eateries and pubs in the winter.  It is interesting to see what is in the grocery carts of fellow shoppers at different times of the year. In summer, the tourist guests with money to spend frequent the upscare shi-shi market here in town filling their baskets with pricey organic foods, delicious cheeses and pate’ for entertaining, lobsters for a barbecue. In the winter, passing students in the aisles of the market is a whole other scene.

Constrained by limited finances, tight quarters, campus food and college life of work and PLAY the focus is not on nutrition for the students. The tourists went back home last week and the college kids rolled in. It was impossible to pay my cell-phone bill in person yesterday due to the snakey long line almost out the door at Verizon Wireless…students eager to update their cell phones, ipads and the latest keep-in-touch  hand-held technology. Some of them gave up the waiting  line as well, and moved on to the market where we wove our shopping carts around and past each other in the crowded aisle. Groups of two or three young people…future Rhodes Scholars hopefully…standing in front of shelves of snacks, pretzels, chips, SODAS, canned pasta and ramen noodles trying to come to a corporate consensus on what was the best buy. Yikes!

Fortunately they are still young and if not pre-diabetic already from living in this culture of packaged foods and fast-food stops they probably will make it to full adulthood reasonably healthy.

So that brings us to the whole question of packaged foods…especially on a food blog dedicated to delicious recipes that are bursting with flavor, nutritious and truly satisfying and pleasurable. Is it okay to use them in our kitchens and ESPECIALLY is it okay to include them in the recipes on our lovely food blogs here where some people do have the time and passion  to create a masterpiece in food preparation from growing their own heirloom veggies, to freshly grinding their whole grains when making bread, to simmering bones and peelings for REAL broth for soups?

I have done most of those things in my cooking experience at one time or another, but not all at once in the service of a singular master creation. I don’t have the time anymore while I spent hours committed to other creative passions and work.

At times, I do use carefully selected packaged foods as a base, adding fresh vegetables and wholesome ingredients to personalize my recipes. For instance, there are times when an invitation will arrive for a pot-luck get together later in the evening or the next day. I may be quite busy with work and other commitments, low on funds or no time to go shop, chop, stir and prepare something in a pretty dish that takes several hours. I may have a tight end-of-the-week budget. Having a few packaged items on the shelf to be turned into something delicious as well as suitable quickly is a necessity in my pantry.  A box of risotto with spices, dolled up with diced sautéed portabello mushrooms, onions, chopped olives and fresh halved grape tomatoes in a covered dish is a hit! A good jar of your favorite pasta sauce with freshly broiled chopped sweet Italian sausage, sautéed Belgian endive or rappini and added dried basil, marjoram and crushed fennel seed brings accolades of satisfaction..no time to simmer a sauce for hours in a busy life.

There are a few guidelines that I faithfully follow if I am going to cook  using packaged foods on occasion and they are:

I. I do like the flavor of salt but I look for LOW sodium .  Most packaged foods are extremely high in salt 480-850mg is WAY too high. (I don’t like No-salt…the flavor is too flat for my tastes)

2. NO high fructose corn syrup…EVER. Certain brands of pasta sauce and canned veggies use this sweet poison.

3. Always add fresh veggies..celery,greens, carrots, parsnips, onions, garlic, shallot, potatoes, a squeeze of fresh lemon, sea salt or pink Himalayan salt if needed, local honey or organic brown sugar if needed, fresh or dried herbs to taste,

4. No MSG

5. Packaged foods that contain healthy grains and a label that lists limited ingredients, most of which are pronounceable!

6. And most importantly… Do not rely on packaged foods on a regular or daily basis for your meals!!!! Using packaged foods whether in boxes, cans or those frozen or microwaveable entrees in bags are most often not even FOOD, but mixtures of chemicals to imitate food or preserve poor quality foods. Choose carefully, read labels,  and then be creative and adventurous when you occasionally need to whip up something on the spot that can pass for “real cooking“. Check out my recipe for a luscious lentil soup when on a shoestring budget at the end of the month

Remember also: Good company around the table is even more nourishing that the food, although having both at the same time is a FEAST!

From Christine, the Cook

ps. Do you like gardens, creativity, and using your imagination?..all part of life whether in the kitchen or the world at large. Check out my Greening Spirit blog and my latest post on http://thegreeninspirit.wordpress.com

 

 

Memoirs: The Treasured Spatula

Standard

IMG_8154 For many of us who love to cook, our kitchen tools hold stories for many years. Some of those tools…utensils, pots, pans, and cookbooks come and go as we come and go ourselves to different houses and places,  moving into and through different phases (and crazes) of our lives experimenting with the new along the way. One thing that stays the same probably is that no matter where we go, we most likely always have a “kitchen”…either our own or someone else’s and the things we use in that room can be very personal and important in the success of our creative culinary efforts.

I remember my very first cookbook given to me by a college friend at my wedding shower: A hardbound copy of Betty Crocker’s “Dinner for Two”, which at that time sounded very romantic…visions of long, lingering dinners by candlelight with my new husband. (Well the book had a picture of a table set for two with flowers and candles and very easy and basic recipes  taking little time to prepare as it was assumed that the kitchen time had to be divided between itself and that other important newly-wed room). Cookbook That book served us well for the first year or so, making me feel very accomplished and grown-up. (I married quite young..)

 

I just looked up that cookbook this morning on Amazon. It seems that it has increased in value over the years as one can order a used copy for $41.36 and a NEW copy (they still print it? Copywrite 1964) for $992.28! And that .28 doesn’t go towards the shipping! Do people still give that as a wedding shower gift????

How many sets of “the perfect”pots and pans have come and gone? Blenders, food processors, toaster ovens, potholders of different patterns, towels and wipers, sets of dishes, crockpots of various sizes, innumerable Tupperware pieces (many with missing lids), wine stoppers with the artsy top decoration broken off, fizzle makers, wooden spoons, glass measuring cups with chips…? They have come and gone and been replaced and the cooking goes on.

Except… Except for each long-time, long-term cook, there are one to several kitchen tools that can NEVER be replaced! A culinary tool or utensil that has been with us from the beginning.  A kitchen companion hat has been with us through all our travels..the different houses and kitchens and life situations ongoing… one without which we could quite possibly never cook another meal again successfully.

It, for us, has the patina and magic of the years, the familiar feel and unique shape that has been used in all kinds of situations and which is irreplaceable for our creations and the comfort of familiarity that is necessary for our grounding!

Sounds silly? Once is a great while over the years panic set in when for one of those crazy un known reasons, my special utensil disappeared…diving deep into a drawer hidden by other less saavy tools. I would feel myself go white…WHERE IS MY SPATULA??????

Not just any spatula. THIS spatula that has been with me from the beginning, a wedding gift as part of a set of cooking utensils from our friend Mike Corn. The rest of the set has gone…but this…THIS spatula has always been with me and it is special. The weight of it, the feel of it, the sturdiness of it and most importantly the unique and unusual slight tilt to the blade of it that allowed me to work certain flips and stirring in the pot that other ordinary totally straight edge spatulas wouldn’t do.

Spatulas are very different from each other. How often I have been SO frustrated when visiting others and needing a spatula for something I would be cooking as a guest, I would be fighting with a soft and floppy blade or a thick plastic blade that pushed food around the pan rather than slide under to pick it up or flip it over. “I can’t cook with this thing!!” I would groan. “I should have packed and brought MY SPATULA with me!!”, but never thought about it, packing eye makup, slippers and my vitamins instead.

Well, this is a cooking blog and our cooking is FILLED with the nourishing ingredients of MEMORIES, making the act of preparing food very personal and intimate. No recipe today, but I invite you to think about the treasured utensils that have been with you forever and which help you to create your best culinary magic. Thank them for their good service!

My special spatula has been with me for 46 years now, can you believe. I would be lost without it. The friend, Mike, who gave it has passed on many years ago..but I wouldlove to have him know that his gift is still here and treasured.

What is your favorite cooking utensil?

Christine, the Cook 

Tomato, Basil and Cheese Pie (Quiche)

Standard
IMG_8128

The Gardener’s Community Cookbook- Victoria Wise

As promised, following yesterday’s post “Foodie Flops-Behind the Scenes on Cooking Blog”  here is the delicious recipe for Tomato, Basil and Cheese Pie from the Smith and Hawkins Community Cookbook compiled and written by Victoria Wise. The book is a delightful collection of tales and  favorite recipes from various gardeners and farmer’s market people using the generous bounty of the earth and summer’s harvest. This recipe can be found in the book on page #172. As I had mentioned in the original article above, this book was a special overstock deal for $2.99  at JOB LOT many years ago and I bought extra copies of this treasure to give as gifts to friends. I hope you can still find it on Amazon or ebay  ( or in your library system) It was published in 1999.

This is a wonderful recipe! Just remember to make the pie crust first!

Tomato, Basil and Cheese Pie

Ingredients:  One 10 inch pie crust…3 large tomatoes, sliced 1/8 in thick…salt…1 cup firmly packed basil leaves…1/2 cup small curd cottage cheese…2 large eggs…1/2 coarsely grated or chopped mozzarella cheese…1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese…dried garlic powder and dried sweet marjoram (optional, my addition)…olive oil to brush on top

Prepare

1. Prepare crust, set aside (I baked it slightly first to harden it just a bit)

2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees (I had to lower it to 350 degrees as my countertop oven was running too hot)

3. Lightly sprinkle tomato slice with salt, both sides. Set aside on paper towels top and bottom to absorb the liquid. Pat dry before using.

4.Place basil, cottage cheese and eggs in a blender (I used my nutribullet) and blend until well combined. Add the mozzarella, parmesan, a little salt and pepper, a sprinkle of the optional garlic powder and or the sweet marjoram..just a sprinkle..) and continue blending until mixed,

5. Assemble pie: Pat tomato slices dry, line bottom of pie pan with the crust with the end pieces of the tomato slices, spoon cheese mixture over the tomato slices, arrange the remainder of the tomato slices on top of the cheese/basil mixture. Brush top layer with olive oil. Place in heated oven.

6. Bake until edges of crust are crispy and golden (watch for burning and lower temp if necessary) and the cheese mixture is firm enough for an knife inserted in the center comes out clean…about 50-60 minutes. Remove from oven. Cool for about 15 minutes before serving. Serve warm, at room temperature or cover and refrigerate to serve later or the next day.

This is also a hit at pot lucks! Disappears fast! (Make two- one for everyone, one for you!)

Enjoy!  (And remember, even if it looks like mine did in the Foodie Goof post…it is still delicious!)

Happy Eating from Christine, The Cook

ps. If you’d also like Food for Your Soul and Nature’s Beauty check my Greening Spirit Blog as well

http://thegreeningspirit.wordpress.com

 

 

Foodie Flops: Behind the Scenes on a Cooking Blog

Standard

IMG_8081  Well, an important word these days in presentations is “staging”. In getting ready to sell your house, for instance, there is now a whole lucrative business set up to “stage” your home hopefully  enticing prospective buyers in FEELING that this place is a must-have. New paint, new rugs, candles, scents, lighting and WONDERFUL and artsy photography to highlight the beauty of your space and create that illusion of perfection. Who wouldn’t want to live HERE!

It is the same way with our blogs..especially cooking blogs with their lovely kitchens (or so it appears in carefully cropped photos) with decorated plates, lovely crystal goblets, spanking clean pot-holders or tablecloths, and mouth-watering close-ups of delicious, delectable entrees, appetizers, soups, stews and delicacies. Beautifully staged to create the illusion of culinary perfection or display expertise and finesse beyond the abilities of a mere ordinary kitchen cook in a small, humble or multi-purpose kitchen space.

HA! Guess what? Those are the culinary creations and photos that “made it” through the sometimes messy and goofed-up experiments at the stove, ktchen counter or oven! SOMETIMES, behind the scenes, we have magnificent flops that will never appear on a decorated table for guests or in public on our cooking blog!

Last week, I had such a goof -up with a recipe I make every summer using the bounty of garden tomatoes that are shared amongst friends. I couldn’t wait to prepare this, and carefully selected the tastiest sun-ripened heirloom tomatoes, shopped for the best mozzarella and parmesan, and searched for small curd cottage cheese and the freshest, most aromatic home-grown basil. I cheated on the pie crust and purchased one of the frozen rolled logs of dough that can simple be defrosted and rolled open and laid into the pie dish because pie crust simple takes too much time and effort for me right now.  Oh so deliberate, careful and lovingly anticipated!

With beautiful music in the backround for mood, I sliced the tomatoes to perfect equal thickness, salted and drained them on paper towels. I prepared the cheeses, the basil..the filling… and blended them to  smooth perfection as well in the nutribullet. Laid the tomatoes in the pie dish, layered with the filling, topped with the rest of the sliced tomatoes, sprinkled with olive oil and parmesan, placed it in the pre-heated oven and then.

And then, after about 10 minutes, I realized with dismay, that I had not lined the pan with THE PIE CRUST FIRST!  In fact, the pie crust was not even un-rolled.

What’s a cook/chef/kitchen witch to do??? Certainly can’t take it apart and start all over, can’t toss. Well, the only solution was to un-roll the crust, line another pie pan and bake that separately on the oven shelf under the tomatoes.

At the end of this kitchen time…we had one pie plate of browned baked tomatoes and cheese filling, and one separate plate of crust. This one was NOT a winner visually after cooling the crust, breaking it into pieces into a serving dish and spooning the tomato/basil and cheese mixture on top. And it was really not a show-off candidate to impress you on my Sensuous Soups and Suppers blog here.

But… it still was delicious and offered me more than a few dishes for lunch over the course of the week…and yes, the flavors were nevertheless, sensuous and satisfying.

This recipe comes from a wonderful book that was found on sale at JOB LOT for $2.99 years ago…one of those amazing “steal deals” that appear once in a while for an alert shopper. I bought perhaps five copies extra to give away for gifts. Perhaps you can find it still on Amazon or ebay. The book is: Smith and Hawkin “Gardener’s Community Cookbook” ,  compiled and written by Victoria Wise.

The recipe will be posted shortly in the next day or so…check in again for “Tomato, Basil and Cheese Pie”.  (A tease. I’d love for you to come back to my blog).

IMG_8082

Ribolitta! Tuscan Bread Soup (Fare for Peasants AND Kings)

Standard

Ribolitta

A couple of days before Christmas, a friend lent me a wonderful book ” The Wisdom of Tuscany: Simplicity, Security and the Good Life-Making the Tuscan Lifestyle Your Own” by Ferenc Mate’.

Often conversations with friends these days include  laments about the state of our U.S. economy, the fast-paced frantic lifestyles that have often destroyed the community, conversation and lingering celebration around the family dinner table, if it even exists anymore. We lament that even at tables in the home and in restaurants, while waiting for food to be served or orders taken, cell phones and hand-held gaming devices have supplanted the open waiting time that used to be a lovely opportunity for conversation, sharing, and EYE-CONTACT with companions.

It is for this reason, following such several talks with friends on this topic, that I received, read, and relished this wonderful book of another way to live, to savor life and to go about relationships with people, the land, and food based on a whole other set of values that seem to have dissolved here in mainstream commercial, materialistic, consumeristic America.

TuscanyThe book, like others of similar genre, includes recipes native to that culture. And what a celebration they are. Italians are passionate people. And so is their cooking. As close to nature, fresh, whole and un-adulterated as possible. The burgeoning grass-roots movement here amongst those who are choosing to live more gently and more enthusiastically on the planet, is now witnessed by the growing and vociferous awareness of poisonous and deadening practices of mass industrial farming practices. As a result, many of us have been forever or starting to support local farms, farmers markets, artisan bread and cheesmakers, grass-fed beef and small well-maintained and humane poultry producers and it is good for us to do so, not only for our health, but for passion, celebration and our spiritual/psychological selves as well. And for those of us who can, growing our own food is the best of all!

It is good to live simply and it is possible to live with sensuality and celebration as well. This is why I love this book, and I highly recommend it, both for its memoir, its stories and its simple recipes of good WHOLE food fit for Peasants and Kings alike.

I chose to make a Ribolitta..Tuscan Bread Soup. Over the years I have been given a number of recipes for this but never made it. Yesterday was THE day since I am homebound recouperating from a winter cold and virus. What I needed was a soup for nourishment and healing…and reading this book inspired me to put a peasant pot of culinary richness together for well-being and delight. This recipe is a composite of traditional recipes and using what what was in my own fridge and cupboard. I invite you to follow the basics, and create your own soup with what you have on hand! And that is the way it is in Tuscany…use what is available at any moment, and the way it is in my own kitchen as well.

Ingredients:

Olive Oil ~ a large can of whole tomatoes smashed in their own juice (not in puree) ~ 1 (15.5 oz)can of canellini or chick peas, drained and rinsed ~ 1/2 cup diced carrots ~ 1/2 cup diced celery ~ 2-3 cloves garlic chopped (I get my garlic from a friend’s garden), 1/2 vidalia onion diced, 1 small zucchini diced ~ 2 small red potatoes peeled and diced ~ four large leaves of swiss chard torn or cut into short ribbons ~ 1/2 cabbage sliced/chopped ~1 Italian mild sausage, cooked separately and chopped ~1 32-oz package/can of chicken broth/stock (organic if possible) ~ diced fresh mozzarella or queso blanco ~ grated parmesan ~ dried basil, parsley and marjoram unless fresh is available ~ a nice artisan Italian bread with crust, cut into cubes.

Preparation:Gently saute diced carrots and celery for about five minutes, stirring. Do not brown. Add onions and stir for several more minutes..do not brown. Add garlic and stir to release flavor and scent. Do not burn, but saute until everything is slightly softened.

Add the smashed tomatoes and juice, fresh vegetables (zucchini, cabbage, potatoes) but not the chard.. Cover with the chicken broth and simmer, adding salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with 3/4 to 1 teaspoon of dried herbs Go lightly at first and taste. I cannot give you an exact amount because it depends on the other ingredients and what I like. You can always add but you cannot subtract a flavour! Taste taste TASTE along the way and adjust to your pleasure.

Add beans, cooked sausage when the potatoes are cooked. Simmer for five minutes. Add the swiss chard..simmer until it softens into the soup.

Add the cubed bread on top of the soup. Simmer gently. And stir.

Put some chunks of mozarella or queso blanco in the bowls. Ladle soup over the cheese.. Add a sprinkling of fresh grated parmesan (or packaged if that is what you have) on top.

A glass of beer, or a red wine is the perfect complement to this.

*** Please note that soups and stews ALWAYS taste better on the second day and following days as the ingredients mellow and blend into more complex flavours. (If it lasts that long)

Let’s live well, with celebration, creativity, conversation, and companionship in the kitchen and around the table!

Support your local farmers and farmer’s markets, local beef and poultry farms, buy your eggs from friends who have chickens, tend to your own window herb garden, and best of all if you are able…grow your own food.

With love from Christine, Greening Spirit/ The Cook

Sweetly Spicy Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

Standard

Cookies

Soups, stews, delicious veggie meals can all be both satisfying and sensuous with their various textures, colors and creative seasonings. But desserts can be absolute heaven as well in the same ways…textures, colors, seasonings and the taste of “sweet”.

For myself and many others, sweet can be problematic health wise and so when I am baking, I usually cut the sugar in a recipe WAY down to maybe half or even just under that, and find that they taste better and are just as delicious, filling that place of comfort that a little sweetness can bring.

So I have three secrets here to my personally successful baking of cookies. One is: I always use an oven thermometer. Two: I have invested in a professional sturdy heavy-weight cookie pan with high edges, rather than those flimsy aluminum sheets that flip and bend in the heat, are uneven in heat distribution and hard to clean.         IMG_7068 And three: CUT (way) BACK on the sugar!

Also because at this time, I live in a household of one, I make smaller batches of cookies, and I make small cookies. That way I enjoy the delights of “sweet” when desired without eating the whole batch at once or over the course of a day or two! I also add this “baking cookie hint” that those of you who bake cookies already know. Cookies must be “watched” while baking and removed from the oven when they turn the light golden brown. Often they still look a little soft and we over-bake…cookies tend to harden up in the cooling process so be aware of this and experiment to have a cookie with just the right softness or crunch for your own pleasure. Be aware so you don’t end up with a hard “biscuit” instead of a “cookie” !

Yield: 36 small cookies
Whisk together and set aside
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt  and  1/2-3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
Cream wet ingredients
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup sugar (or a little less. Experiment with your next batch if still too sweet)
1/3 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed  (or less. Experiment with your next batch if still too sweet)
1 large egg
1-1/2 to 2 tablespoons sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
Then stir in
1/2 cups oats (not instant)
3/4 cup golden raisins
1/3 to 1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped pecans (optional)

Directions:
***Preheat oven to 350°.

***Whisk dry ingredients; set aside.

***Combine wet ingredients, stirring vigorously or use a hand mixer, beating until creamy and lighter in color

*** Add the flour mixture carefully into the creamed mixture. Mix until no more flour is visible, all blended. Do not over mix after this or cookies will be tough.

*** Add the oats, raisins, chocolate chips and nuts.. stir, and blend evenly into mixture.

*** I use a  rounded tablespoon of dough to make each cookie, dropping them on to the baking sheet sprayed with non-stick spray.
***Bake 11-13 minutes (on center rack), until lightly golden on top, but still a little soft
.*** Remove from oven; let cook for about a minute…transfer cookies to a wire cooling rack. They will harden slightly. Cool COMPLETELY before storing in a container.
NOTE:  Dried sweetened cranberries can be substituted for golden raisins. Also a tablespoon of finely shredded un-sweetened coconut can be added if desired, or as an ingredient substitute. EXPERIMENTING is part of creative cooking! (Just remember what works and what doesn’t).
NOTE #2!  Cooking and sharing are important. Put a few of these cookies on a little paper plate with a special teabag, wrap with clear wrap, and bring to a friend or neighbor. Loving kindness is part of the experience of “sweet”.

Sensuous Snowfall Tea!

Standard

Tea-001

YES! Today was our first official snowfall, and white covers garden, yarden and woods around my house. In honor of the this first real sign of winter, I wrote an essay on my Greening Spirit blog entitled “Oh Whole-y White” in which I mentioned celebrating this day’s blanketing event with a special pot of herbal tea.

Usually on a day such as this, a warming tea of roots, ginger or spices would certainly be an option…but because it is so lovely outside and because I have a day now to do nothing but “drift” like the snow, I feel like celebrating both the white, and the wonderful promise of scent and color that lies waiting underneath for the next season of growth in about 4 months time. And so I sorted through by cache of herbal treasures, and put together my “Sensuous Snowfall Tea” for today:  a blend of organic milky oat tops, red rose petals, spearmint, a slim wedge of orange and honey.

A crystal teapot, a tablespoon each of these three herbs, cover with boiling water, filling pot, add orange wedge…steep..pour into cup, add honey to taste. Snowpost 2

I know it may be disturbing for me to not give specific directions..but really I never do it the same way twice, adjusting as necessary..I offer you a gentle nudge to be brave and adventurous, with a spirit of curiosity and creativity to experiment! tasting along the way.

***My Sensuous Snowfall Tea Ingredients and their Virtues are:

Milky Oat Tops (or Oatstraw):  A nervine, good for grounding and very nourishing.  Red Rose Petals: delicately delicious, for LOVE magic and openheartedness. Spearmint: Gentler, milder and slightly sweeter than peppermint, and full of good cheer, uplifiting. Orange: a slight (naughty) tang and vitamin C. Honey: an awesome treasure of sweetness from our little bee friends…

Now sip, put your feet up and read a good book! (I’m reading Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince)

With Love from the Cook, Christine (The Greening Spirit)

Check the post” “Oh Whole-y White” that goes with this tea on my Greening Spirit blog!  http://thegreeningspirit.wordpress.com/2013/12/10/o-whole-y-white/

Snow pos

Simply Sensuous Spicy Indian Stew: cold weather heat!

Standard

IMG_7029

It is cold and damp here on the New England coast..the kind of cold and damp that gets up under your clothes and makes your nose feel chilled, even when indoors! Altho I use spices in my cooking all year long (sprinkling cayenne on many things for inner heat and good digestion), in this season certain spices used judiciously and consciously in cooking have the added benefits of increasing circulation,  stimulating good digestion, and protecting you from colds and winter-related maladies.

We are lucky where I live to be home to the the ORIGINAL Job Lot store and New England has a number of them now with wonderful good food products not found in market chains, and priced less than if found in specialty food shops. One of the culinary treasures I have found at Job Lot is this line of Indian cooking sauces, and this one, “Rich Cashew and Cumin” is one of my favorites. I have created a delicious warming, grounding SENSUOUS chicken stew and am loving to share it here with you. Mind you, Indian foods are often HOT and this is quite spicy…but it is wonderful and certainly a nourishing source of energy and comfort on a cold night!

Ingredients:

IMG_7028

1 lb. organic chicken breast, 1 jar Kitchens of India Rich Cashew and Cumin Cooking Sauce, 2-3 organic carrots, peeled and sliced thin, 1-2 parsnips peel/sliced thin, 1/2 -1 med onion, preferably sweet, chopped, 1-2 stalks celery sliced, 1 cup medium brown rice,  ( condiment toppings, optional as desired one or all: golden rasins/shredded coconut/mango chutney)

Preparation:

Dice chicken in cubes.  Sir and lighly brown in olive oil and butter. IMG_7030

Add sliced vegetables, stir and saute with chicken for several minutes till vegetables are just slightly softened, add onion and saute for 4-5 minutes to release flavours..IMG_7031

Add a small amount of golden raisins.

Add cooking sauce over all, and a little water or chicken broth if necessary. Cover, cook gently until vegetables are softened (not mushy). Taste..adjust for salt (you will NOT need pepper).

Serve: Serve this over cooked brown (or white) rice, top with one or all: golden raisins, shredded coconut, a good chutney. For a beverage: Indian lassi or kefir.

ENJOY!  (Tastes even better a day or two later!)

IMG_7033

NOTE: You are invited to check my latest post on the Greening Spirit Site: “Oak Maiden” http://thegreeningspirit.wordpress.com/2013/12/07/oak-maiden/

A-Maizing CORN CHOWDER!

Standard

Heirloom “Glass Gem” Corn

It’s getting COLD! How about a nice warm pot of CORN CHOWDER!!!

Americans love corn….fields of it, on drives through the countryside, fat husks of it promising exquisite crunch and sweetness in personal preferences of white, yellow or a mix of both at roadside farm stands summer until early fall, large festive tied stalks of it to purchase and decorate lawns and light posts at home in the spirit of Autumn. At farms with mazes to get lost in, a favorite addition is now the corn box, in which adults and children alike lay down in the abundance of golden kernels to make “corn angels” rather than “snow angels in the medium, or with which to pretend they are sifting endless bounty of golden wealth like fine gems.

 

Indeed, corn is a symbol of bounty in today’s modern world…but it is a very old cereal grain dating back thousand and thousands of years. Data varies but archeological research puts corn’s ancestor…a grass called teosite..as being present on the planet for 80,000 years and cultivated by humans in its ancient to modern forms for at least 7,000 years.

Over that span of time..vast experiments with and improvement in that a-maiz-ing plant has made it one of the most well-known and useful crops on the planet today, used for a variety of food and commercial products.

There are SO many kinds of corn grown for different purposes. The most well known varieties grown today are Flint Corn (sometime called Indian Corn) used for decorative purposes with its many colors of red, gold, orange, brownish and white kernels. Dent Corn (“field corn”)  is what we see mostly along road-side fields and in huge tracks of plantings (and I suspect in the corn mazes), it’s main uses as livestock feed, bio-fuel, and commercial food additives and industrial products. Sweet corn is the one we use as food, bringing us delicious flavor and brightness during our warm summers and early fall. Varieties of sweet corn have their champions…some love the yellow sweet corn, or the Silver Queen white sweet corn, or..my favorite… butter and sugar sweet corn  with it’s combination of pearly white and pale yellow kernels.

I think one of the reasons we so love corn is because it is an old food, with stories and myths around it that connect us to our common ancient roots as humans inter-facing with the natural world. It is a REAL food that is sacred to indigenous peoples of both North and South America (it’s first natural home). It is NOT a Pringle. It is FOOD…and food is what sustains all of us no matter where we live, or what political party or religion we belong to.

For this reason, corn is a symbol of the playfulness and imagination of the natural world, its evolving co-creation process with humanity, and the blessings of the gods, Mother Earth and the Great Spirit. It is a Holy/Whole-ly Plant. And we do give thanks for its a-MAIZING-gifts to us.

Let’s now celebrate its goodness to us with a big pot of corn chowder, prepared with gratitude and love!

The Greening Spirit’s  Favorite Corn Chowder

Recipe from Red Rooster Chef Norman J. LeClair in his wonderful book of foodie memoirs “Culinary Expressions” (Dome Publishing, 2002) Italics are my own adjustments. Preparation is my own way of doing it, apologies to Norman LeClair.

INGREDIENTS: 1 teaspoon olive oil, 4 oz.salt pork sliced (I substute bacon when necessary) 2 cups chopped onions, 4 cups chicken broth, 1 lb potatoes, pealed and diced, 1 bay leaf  (and pinch lemon thyme or sweet marjoram), 1 15-oz. can of cream corn (avoid that sweetened with corn-syrup), 2 cups of corn kernels, canned, frozen or fresh, 1 cup of evaporated milk or half-n-half.

Preparation:

1. Saute pork or bacon in olive oil until crisp..don’t burn. Add chopped onions, saute untiol onions start to turn color. Add chicken stock, potatoes, bay leaf and marjoram. Bring to a light boil, cook about 20 minutes until potatoes are tender. Remove bay leaf and salt pork (leave bacon if you used that.) Add cream of corn and corn kernels. Simmer for about 10 minutes. Add evaporated mile or cream. Ladle into bowls…top with oyster crackers. Serves 6-8

Re-printed from my http://thegreeningspirit.wordpress.com  BLOG (check it out!)

***Note: if you enjoyed this essay,  might you click the “LIKE” button so WordPress takes notice?? Thank you!