Tag Archives: community

Memoirs! Laughter in the Kitchen!





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/








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



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.


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

A Quickie: Simply Sensuous Sweet Potato Supper


Sweet Potato SupperI am a member of a wonderful Irish Set Dance group that meets on Monday nights for dancing and fun. Often on that day, when it is time for supper but I don’t have time to prepare and linger over a meal before leaving for our class, I make this sensuous Quickie. Even tho a “quickie” I need something delicious, sustaining but light for my evening of waltzing, jigging, hornpipe-ing, spinning and reeling around the dance floor. This is delicious, delightful and just perfect! (and sensuous as well, meaning color, flavor and texture that is pure pleasure–as a quickie should be..)

This recipe was created with ingredients that are always on hand in my kitchen..For me, creating luscious food is a form of artistic expression!: (and healthy! Check after the recipe for the health benefits of these ingredients)

Ingredients:Sweet Potato Ingredients

1 med/large sweet potato (organic if possible), butter, a touch of honey if necessary, a sprinkle-to-taste of cinnamon or apple pie spices, a small splash of half-n-half, slivered almonds, dried cranberries.


Sweet potato potPeel and chop/dice sweet potato. Put in pan and cover with  lightly salted (or not) water, bring to a boil and simmer until soft. Drain. Mash with a small pad of butter to taste (I LOVE butter..like “Julia and Julia”), a sprinkle of cinnamon/apple pie spices-to taste (go easy, taste, adjust. You can always add a little more, but you can’t fix “too much”) mix with a little splash of half-and-half or cream. Mix. Top with slivered almonds and dried cranberries. Mix again and eat (savor) your “quickie” slowly. And then go forth and fling yourself into dance or whatever is your passion!  ***Video of Irish Set Dance Class!  

note: be sure to check out my greening spirit site to find out why there is a sprouting onion on my spring altar rather than a pot of forced narcissi or paperwhites  “http://thegreeningspirit.wordpress.com/2013/03/07/spring-sprouting-in-praise-of-the-greening-spirit/

Health Benefits for this Recipe:

Sweet potatoes: a wonderful source of vitamin A, vitamin C, and digestible dietary fiber. A “grounding; energy.

Cinnamon: regulates blood sugar (important for pre-diabetics), anti-microbial (reduces cold and flu suffering), arthritis relief and more: http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=68

Honey: a natural sweetener, communing with Nature! Anti-microbial and more! http://www.benefits-of-honey.com/health-benefits-of-honey.html

Almonds: heart healthy, vitamins/minerals/flavanoids and more: http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=20

Cranberries: anti-oxidents, vitamin C, anti-microbial (urinary tract). Sweetened dried cranberries however are high in sugar, however. But the little sweet and tart is very nice, as ingredients in a quickie tend to be. 🙂

Irish Set Dance Class: Cardiovascular exercise, muscles workout, laughter (great for the heart), anti-alzheimers, friendship, community