Tag Archives: dinner

Flemish Beef Stew with Beer and Vegetables

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Flemish Beef Stew with Beer and Vegetables

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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

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Snow Forecast! Need Heat! Get out the CURRY!

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Snow Forecast! Need Heat! Get out the CURRY!

 

 

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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.

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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.

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  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!

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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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tasty Tuscan Kale and Potato Supper

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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!

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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/

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

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

Simply Sensuous Spicy Indian Stew: cold weather heat!

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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:

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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!)

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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/