Tag Archives: healthy meals

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

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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.

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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:                                                                     

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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

 

                           

Roasted Cauliflower with Curry and Turmeric

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Roasted Cauliflower with Curry and Turmeric

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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

 

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!)

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

Memoirs: Recipes as Life Markers

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Handwritten Recipe

So the task this afternoon was a baking one. I was  here listening to beautiful bittersweet mellow music on a “new age” Pandora channel, making a pumpkin pie to take to tomorrow’s out-of-state visit with my adult children and their kids, while hubbies go off to the big game in Boston. I chose to make pumpkin pie because it is somewhat easy, and because I am still experimenting with a new countertop oven, in the hopes that when I try to bake something for a pot luck or a desert here, I will know how this oven works and how to adjust the temperature so that things don’t burn.

I was thinking about also making a batch of special oatmeal raisin cookies that I made a trillion years ago when I used to bake occasionally. I have been going through my cooking files looking for the recipe..and…well…kind of curiously it was like going through the various chapters of my life when certain recipes and foods were part of those chapters:  recipes from when I was first married many many years ago trying my “wings’ in the kitchen with Betty Crocker’s  “Dinner for Two” and my mother’s favorite sauces and stews,  followed by recipes enthusiastically whipped up during my marriage when the graduate student community shared styles of cooking from around the world. Then, recipes from the years of single parenting when meals needed to be affordable as well as delicious and nourishing to keep it all together for myself and the growing children,  and  at present, simple and quick recipes for a single lifestyle when the “kids” are long gone,  raising their own families. Now is the time of cooking Sensuous Soups and Suppers for One  usually, or of course doubled or quadrupled when necessary.

As I sorted through these bits of paper and notes, each phase of life seemed so distinct and each had some unique  culinarylessons and adventures to experience in the world of home cooking.

The recipes were clipped from magazines or newspapers, or cut from the backs of ingredient boxes, many tried and enjoyed but many yet to be tried although they have been kept in a large plastic baggie or  stuck in between the pages of cookbooks for all these years..and pretty much forgotten. Some I had written out, some were given to me by others. In several instances, I can remember the exact occasion that prompted the sharing..a dessert bar eaten at the home of a piano student or an orzo salad  I had raved about at a friend’s house for lunch, she graciously sharing the secret ingredients and cooking instructions.

And then… a recipe  in my mother’s handwriting.  How familiar it is. Why did that shake me up a bit? She’s gone now, having passed on last year,  but her handwriting is SO here. So clear. So her.
What is it about the handwriting of a person that though silent is still a Voice, a Presence..un-mistakenly personal?  And real.

I never did make it, tho it had been filed away for “sometime”.

Hi Mom.
ps: I’ll try the recipe: Mexican Potato Cheese Soup.

Can a Simple Supper Be Sensuous? YES!

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I cook (2)There  are so many extraordinary and beautifully photographed food blogs online these day that are so inspiring and tempting and truly I love them because I love good food…one of the truly earthly delights!  I celebrate all the good cooks and writers who so generously share their culinary inspirations and secrets! Thank you, thank you, all you good, adventurous and tasty people!

My own blog here entitled Sensuous Soups and Suppers is not extremely sophisticated and shares simpler, easy to prepare suppers that I cook for family, friends or myself on a daily basis. However, I pair the word Sensuous  with the concept of “simple”  because for me,  if what is on the cutting board, in the pan and ultimately on the dish is not full of color, shapes, scents, textures and flavours..all the qualities that trigger our SENSES… it will never appear at supper time again. Simple does not mean boring, or without daring or imagination.

A quick but flat, tasteless, mushy, colorless dinner is a true disappointment at the end of a day, after “paying our dues” to the larger world of work ..and especially so if the one dining is also the cook who spent a lot of time hoping and planning to enjoy the fruits of one’s labour (and play) in the kitchen preparing a tasty reward at mealtime.

So what is Simple and Sensuous Cooking?

#1. Simple for me means not too many ingredients, and an immediate hands-on experience with them to appreciate their uniqueness in their natural state. I am talking vegetables, fruits, nuts, herbs and spices here. Meat and seafood are other categories and not eaten raw.

#2. Simple usually means that food preparation is not a major project taking up lots of time except for the cooking and seasoning tasting and adjustings in things like soups, sauces and stews that require longer cooking times. I recently attended a wonderful lecture by Dr. Ed Iannuccilli who wrote a wonderful book entitled “What Ever Happened to Sunday Dinners?” in which he told wonderful stories of growing up in an immigrant Italian family with a Grandmother who cooked sauces and a variety of delicious courses of meats, pastas and vegetables all week long in preparation and anticipation for the large family gathering of kids and adults who would gather for Sunday dinners every week at her home. What happened was that that was her role in the family and therefore her good vocation and work in the world but  done at home. Wow have times changed! We no longer have that kind of time, and other roles..many of them all at the same time..make up the hours and days of our lives now for the average family or single person. Simple here therefore means..”it doesn’t take a lot of time to prepare at the end of the day”.

#3. Simple means also that for the most part, a meal has only 2-4 different things on a plate…and simpler still..everything is cooked and eaten layered in one deep dish or bowl..a little salad, or a little bread and a glass of wine as well rounds it all out.

NOW, about  SENSUOUS, the Power and Teaser Word of this blog! Let me explain. I also happen to be an astrologer, so I will use that terminology as a frame of reference for the qualities of cooking and eating that I share here.

I am a Taurus, with a Cancer Rising. Both of these signs are very connected to gardening  for beauty, for food, and nourishment, for natural healing, rest and pleasure . Both of these signs are very indulgent when it comes to food from the garden but for slightly different reasons. Taurus grows things, and when eating , eats for sensual pleasure, celebration and delight, and can be quite extravagant. Because Taurus is an earth sign, earthly pleasures like color, shapes and designs, scents, flavours… eartlhly “temptations” therefore ensuing!.. are primary motivations. Cancer grows things in the garden as well, but as the sign of the “Mother”,  food must provide optimal nourishment, satisfaction, and community around the table, family/community-style. Therefore, a Cancerian cook, want the food to be appealing and serve the purpose of keeping family around the table, hearth and home and to never miss a meal!

The purpose of this blog therefore is to serve  Pleasure, Culinary Temptations and Celebration with  color, texture, scent and flavor on your plate and into your body, as well as to be delicious enough to bring you, family and loved ones back to the table on a regular basis for nourishment of body and the continuation of community.

So ending with this so I can go forth and start to prepare my own dinner tonight..I leave you with this example of a very simple but sensuous dinner from several nights ago. Yes, I usually make everything myself, but on a hot and tired evening, I will bring home from our local prepared foods shop which specializes in delicious vegetarian offerings to help me out when even “simple” on some nights, takes too much time. I’m not at all adverse to having some other cook tempt and satisfy me with their culinary artistry and expertise as well!

Simple Sensuous Supper

One Simple and Sensuous Supper in July 2013 on a very hot night

~Gently sauteed (in a little butter) portabello mushroom slices until a little golden, seasoned with salt and pepper and shredded basil, two sweet organic carrots cut in strips, a scoop of prepared Turkish Farro (with farro, chick peas, slivered almonds and slivered green and red peppers, feta cheese and a mild dressing of olive oil and a touch of balsamic vinegar.

~A glass of Casal Garcia rose’ wine (well two, actually)

~And for desert,  fresh plump blueberries and one square of dark chocolate.Simply Sensuous Supper 2

The textures were varied, the colors interesting, the flavours absolutely delicious and the comfort and satisfaction 100% ! A lovely meal

. A Simple and Sensuous Supper indeed!