Category Archives: Memoirs

Recipe List! Update!

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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

 


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

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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

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*****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)

 

 

 

Memoirs! Laughter in the Kitchen!

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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/

 

 

 

 

 

 

Memoirs: The Treasured Spatula

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Memoirs: The Treasured Spatula

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)

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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

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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).

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

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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