Honeyed Fig

honeyfigWe are on the verge of having French child #3 come to stay with us.  Our house is so lively, almost all the time. The ratio of munchkins to mommas in this house for the past several years has been 5:1. This summer however, that changed! At times it was even 2:2!  Our latest Eurochild bubbled with excitement as his mother made ready her preparations to come.

We had such a lovely time!  We visited Flavorspot, Hot Lips, and Horsetail Falls (close enough to slip over to Multnomah Falls for the ice cream afterwards.)  The munchkins lounged on the bench while we sniffed every flower in the entire Portland International Rose Test Garden. We shopped, got bread at Grand Central, ate chocolate at Moonstruck, and sampled flavors at Jamba Juice.  When it all wound down, we were so sad to part. I do, however, have some lovely gifts that will make the memories last!  A fig tree, blueberries bushes, and brambling berries!  A toast to France! and especially, to Dominique.

Honeyed Figs

  1. Fig
  2. Honey
  3. Water crackers
  4. goat cheese (cream cheese can be used in a pinch)

Slice the fig from top to bottom, into eight slices. Slip the knife along the curve of the white center to remove the skin.

Spread the cheese on the water crackers carefully. (They crack so easily.) Top cheese with the fig slice and drizzle with honey.

Repeat for each slice of fig.

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Lasagna

Lasagna by Rosemoor



Lasagna by Rosemoor

There are some foods that instantly bring joy and depression. The thought of consuming a wonderful piece of pasta, sauce, cheese and magic balanced by the overwhelming amount of work to create that moment is the catch-22 of Lasagna.  One of the munchkins requested this dish for a birthday dinner, so there was no getting around the deed.  To make your day shorter than mine, I’m going to suggest several steps to do ahead.

  1. Pre-spice your meat the night before.
  2. Pre-mix your ricotta the night before.
  3. Pre-make your sauce the night before.

If all these steps are done beforehand, the actual time to assemble and bake becomes reasonable.  If not, you’ll spend all day, like I did Monday, cooking a dish that in this house, is gone in 30 minutes. (I usually make two pans and put one up, but both pans were completely gone within 2 hours.)

I finally got frustrated by not being able to find a sugar free, free range, hormone free mix of Italian pork sausage.  Thanks to Grace I can make my own now.

Lasagna

The Meat:

  1. 2 lb finely ground pork
  2. 1 1/2 teaspoons rubbed sage
  3. ½ teaspoon thyme
  4. 1 teaspoon ground pepper
  5. 1 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  6. 1 1/2 teaspoon parsley flakes
  7. ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  8. ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

Cheeses:

  1. 1 bunch fresh Italian parsley
  2. 8 oz. ricotta
  3. 1 egg
  4. pinch of salt
  5. 12 oz mozzarella

The Sauce:

  1. 1/2 white onion
  2. olive oil
  3. 2 cloves garlic
  4. 6-8 mushrooms
  5. 2 tsp. Oregano
  6. 2 tsp. Basil
  7. 1 tsp Fennel
  8. 6oz. tomato paste
  9. 28 oz. diced tomatoes
  10. 1 cup red wine
  11. 2 jars of premade unsweetened tomato sauce

Noodles:

1 box not precooked lasagna noodles

Other optional vegetables:

  1. fresh chopped spinach
  2. 1/2 bell pepper
  3. additional onion
  4. black olives
  5. 1 small eggplant or zucchini
  6. 1 large slicing tomato

Steps that can be made ahead:

In a medium bowl mix together the meat and the spices for the meat. This should marinate for several hours or overnight.

Roughly chop parsley and mix in a medium bowl with salt, ricotta and egg. Cover and refrigerate.

Chop the onion into medium dice. Finely dice the garlic. Remove the stems from the mushrooms and slice them into 1/8th inch slices. Saute the onions in the olive oil for 5 minutes, then add the garlic and mushrooms. Cook for  3 minutes, then add oregano, basil, and crushed fennel seeds. Warm spices and then tomato paste, diced tomatoes and red wine in pan. Cook the tomatoes for 5 minutes, then allow to cool a bit before pureeing in a food processor. This can now be refrigerated ahead for tomorrow if desired.

To Assemble Lasagna:

Bring water to boil in a large stockpot, as per package instructions for the noodles. I break them in half as they are easier to deal with and it makes no difference in the taste.  Add a pinch of salt to the water while boiling and stir gently at intervals. These puppies like to stick together and make a big mess. Don’t let them.  Once they’ve boiled for 10 minutes, pour them out into a colander.  Add oil to the bottom of the stockpot and refill it with warm water.  Stir the water and pour the noodles back in. You don’t want them to cook, stick, or be too hot to handle.

Brown the pork while the noodles are boiling.  Pour off any fat and make sure the pork is in very small pieces.  Once the pork is cooked, add all of the red sauce and stir.

Grate all of the mozzarella.  Slice any fresh vegetables you may be using. Arrange all of the pots to where you can move easily between them and your 9×13 pans. You will be needing two 9×13 baking dishes. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

Begin by layering red sauce in the bottom of the 9×13 pans. Cover these with a layer of pasta noodles. Using a spatula, coat the noodles with the ricotta cheese mixture.  Top with a layer of mozzarella. If you are using fresh vegetables, layer them in now.

Repeat the entire layer process, starting with the sauce, continuing with the noodles, the ricotta, the cheese and then vegetables again. Do this a third time if there is enough room in the pan. Top the layers with cheese.

At this point, you can cover one pan with plastic wrap and then with foil and freeze it for a second dinner. If you have a horde like I currently do, stagger them in the oven. Place one pan on a rack in the middle of the oven on the right and one on a higher rack to the left.  Set your timer to switch them in 20 minutes, at the halfway cooking mark.  They should be cooked all the way through at the 45 minute mark.

 

 

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Pink Grapefruit Salad

This gallery contains 3 photos.

This is a quick, simple, and light lunch salad. I was concerned at first because I didn’t want to eat any fats in my dressing today, but the flavor was perfect without them. When the husband ate his bowl in … Continue reading

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Cravings: Avocado, Tomatoes, Berries

Simple Tomatoes



Simple Tomatoes

Simple Berries


  Simple Berries

We all crave something, affection most of all. I love to snuggle down with a warm bowl of berries, my love, and a good movie. I’ve been trying to watch my sugars as diabetes runs in my family and it’s easy for my blood sugars to run high. Berries have a low glycemic impact and are high in antioxidants, and are yummy, so all around, they are a good pick. They taste like cardboard if I get them “fresh” at this time of year or cost $6 a pint, so I’ve had to make do with frozen, and wait for them to thaw.

I’ve also included two of my mid-day craving snacks here. The tomato is light on your system (as long as you don’t have an allergy to nightshade produce) which means it won’t give you a stomach ache like a bag of potato chips could. The avocado dip is my favorite recipe from Heidi Swanson’s book super natural every day. I’ve paired it with Food Should Taste Good multi-grain chips (which I wish had no sweetener) and a slice of peeled grapefruit.

Simple Tomatoes

  1. Heirloom or vine ripened tomato (don’t waste your time with anything else)
  2. 1 clove garlic
  3. 1 pinch of salt
  4. 1 pinch of dried basil or 1 large fresh leaf

Wash tomato and remove stem. Slice into 8 equal pieces and arrange on a small bread plate. Peel garlic clove and crush by laying your knife flat side down and pushing down on the knife with the flat of your hand. Mince the crushed garlic and scoop half of it into a tiny spice bowl.  Add the pinches of salt and basil to the garlic and smash together in bowl.  Sprinkle garlic mix over the tomatoes.  This is so good you’ll want to lick the plate.  However, you’ll need to brush your teeth before you talk to anyone after making your breath this garlicky.

Simple Berries

  1. 1/4 pint of your favorite mix of berries
  2. 2 Tbls. unsweetened coconut flakes
  3. 10 tiny fresh mint leaves

Turn your oven broiler on to 500. Wash mint leaves and tear them if they are not tiny.

Heat a salad bowl either by filling it with boiling water for 5 minutes or in the microwave for 2 minutes (with water in it). Dry bowl and rinse berries and place in warmed bowl. Sprinkle mint on the berries.  Cover with a kitchen cloth to keep warm.

Scatter coconut flakes on a baking sheet and place in oven. Do not leave the kitchen! These things toast very quickly. After about a minute, open the oven and stir them with a wooden spoon. Remove them as soon as they are golden and toasty. Top the berries with the flakes and eat immediately.

Avocadoes and Mustard Seeds



Avocadoes and Mustard Seeds

As recipes go, tweaks happen for each family. Heidi tweaked this recipe from Julie Sahni’s Classic Indian Vegetarian and Grain Cooking.  I have a few tweaks of my own.  I’ve substituted olive oil for the clarified butter (so it will have to be roasted at a slightly lower temperature) and I like it better with a red onion than the white she uses.  I admit, I’m scared to buy chilies.  I’m afraid I’ll get one that’s too hot and ruin a good recipe. One of these days I’ll become braver, but for now, I use chili powder.  Lastly, I think the flavors need a little nutty crunch, so I add roasted peanuts or pecans to the top. These work great as hors d’oeuvres because all the flavors are best at room temperature or warmer. I always make sure there is as little bitterness as possible in my grapefruit, so I note how I remove all the membranes and pith here as well.

Avocados and Mustard Seeds for the less brave

  1. 1 pink grapefruit
  2. 1 small bunch fresh cilantro, washed
  3. pinch of salt
  4. 2 tsps. fresh lemon juice
  5. 2 ripe avocados
  6. 1 small red onion
  7. 2 cloves garlic
  8. 1 Tbls. olive oil
  9. 1 tsp. black or brown mustard seeds
  10. 1 tsp. Indian curry powder
  11. 1 tsp. chili powder
  12. 1/2 cup raw peanuts
  13. 5.5 oz bag of Food Should Taste Good multi-grain chips

Slice a thin piece off the top and bottom of the grapefruit.  Set the grapefruit on a cutting board with a stable cut side down.  Slice from top to bottom in a curved line to remove the peel, working your way around the grapefruit until all the skin has been removed. Working over a medium kitchen bowl, use a paring knife to remove each section from the remaining membrane. (All of the membrane should be removed.)  Break each section into bite sized pieces. Set aside.

Finely chop the cilantro, removing all the stems. Mix cilantro in a medium bowl with the salt and freshly squeezed lemon juice. Slice the avocados in half and twist to pull apart. Use a butcher knife to cut into the seed with a swift chop. Twist butcher knife to loosen the seed and remove. Score the avocado with a grid pattern cutting all the way to the skin.  Scoop the avocado into the bowl with the cilantro and stir to coat.

Finely chop the onion and mince the garlic cloves. Heat olive oil over medium heat in skillet and pour in the mustard seeds. Cover with a lid. Do not leave the stove! These will only take a minute to pop and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve turned around and left them to smoke!  Once they’ve popped, immediately add the onion and sauté until softened, about 3 minutes.  Add garlic and sauté 1 minute more and then add the curry and chili powder.  Heat for another minute, until fragrant. Remove from heat and pour over the avocado.

Return the skillet to the heat on medium high for 1 minute.  Add the peanuts and stir occasionally with a wooden spoon until you smell them roasting. Remove from heat.

Stir avocado mixture gently to incorporate spices, then open chips and arrange on a platter. Top each chip with a bite of grapefruit, a teaspoon of avocado mixture and a peanut.

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Two Chili’s

Chili con Carne over Baked Potato



Chili con Carne over Baked Potato

Veggie Chili



Veggie Chili

Last week I had nine hungry males in my house. I opted to make a heavy meat dish that would fuel their workout at the gym and stave off sugar low monkey business.  I served it over a baked potato with butter, salt, and cheddar cheese. They chowed down, were satisfied, and my house was still in one piece when they left for the gym.

This week I opted for a meatless version of a dish with the same name to reset their internals.  It seems that after topping off a week of meat filled dishes with low quality food picked up hastily while working hard over the weekend, their bodies are complaining. (I wonder why…)  Usually, I only serve a dish as heavy as this beef chili on the weekend, and that’s when I’d recommend you make it too.  The vegetarian chili is the workhorse for the rest of the week.

Lewis’ Chili con Carne

  1. 4 Tbls. canola oil
  2. 3 lbs. beef chuck, in 1 inch cubes
  3. 1 Tbls. ground cumin
  4. 1 tsp salt
  5. 4 Tbls. chili powder
  6. 1 Tbls. oregano
  7. 4 cups beef/vegetable broth
  8. 2 cups red wine
  9. 2 onions
  10. 6 cloves garlic
  11. 28 oz. diced tomato in sauce (organic Muir Glen fire roasted)
  12. 2 Tbls. tomato paste
  13. 1 1/2 cups cooked black beans
  14. cayenne pepper to taste
  15. 1 fresh tomato
  16. chives for garnish
  17. sour cream

Heat canola oil in oven proof stockpot, add beef in small batches to brown removing to a bowl when done.

Pour off all but 4 tablespoons of the drippings and turn the heat to low.  Heat spices in the stockpot for five minutes, stirring to prevent burning.  Return meat to pot and stir to coat. Pour in the broth and red wine and slow simmer meat partially covered, for about 2 hours.

Chop tomato and chives for garnish.

During the last 10 minutes of simmering, sauté onions and garlic. Add onions, garlic, tomato sauce, tomato paste, and cooked black beans to the stew. Stir and taste test for spiciness, adding cayenne pepper and salt as needed.  Chop Serve in bowls garnished with tomato, chives, and sour cream as desired.

——————————

I had some corn and tomato sauce frozen from the garden last summer, so I used those in this recipe.  However, it did affect the taste in making it very sweet. (They were processed at the height of the season.) So I did have to adjust and use extra salt and chili powder to balance the flavors.  Be sure to always taste before you serve, so you can adjust!  I served this over steamed wild rice for those who needed the carbs and by itself for those who didn’t.

Adapted from Emeril Lagasse’ Vegetarian Chili

  1. 2 Tbls. canola oil
  2. 2 cups yellow onions
  3. 1/8th cup sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil
  4. 2 Tbls. garlic
  5. 2 cups (3 ears) fresh or frozen corn
  6. 8 large button mushrooms
  7. 2 Tbls. chili powder
  8. 1 Tbls. ground cumin
  9. 1 1/4 tsp. salt
  10. 1/4 tsp. cayenne
  11. 15 oz diced tomatoes in sauce
  12. 1 cup vegetable stock
  13. 3 cups cooked black beans (rinse if using canned)
  14. 1/4 cup chopped cilantro

Chop onions and mushrooms, then mince the sun-dried tomatoes and garlic. Heat oil in a large stockpot.  Saute onions, tomatoes and garlic for a few minutes in the oil.

Add the sun-dried tomatoes and cut the corn off the cob directly into the pot. Add the mushrooms and stir, cooking until mushrooms release their liquid and the corn has begun to soften, about 5 minutes.  Stir in the spices to coat everything in the pot.  Allow spices to warm to highlight their flavors.

The tomatoes and vegetable stock should go in and simmer for 20 minutes before adding the black beans. (beans can slow or even stop the cooking of the tomatoes, so add last.)

Stir and taste, adjust spice and serve in bowls, topped with cilantro.

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Mango Salsa

I saw a site with a simple way to cut mangos that has made all the difference for me. I knew there had to be a better way! The site also has good information on ripeness and availability.  It did bother me that it slightly suggested that you could tell when a peach is ripe by pushing on it.  (This, by the way, just bruises peaches.  You can tell whether peaches are ripe by scent in the store or by the way the fall into your hand when you are picking them.)

Mango Salsa



Mango Salsa

Naturally, watching the video made me crave mango salsa something intense.  My favorite way to eat mango salsa is warmed on top of brie. It’s so good. I’ve had store bought mango salsas, but they are usually so sweet that you lose the mango flavor.  The tricky part about mango salsa is that the mango needs to be perfect or otherwise it has a slightly sour or earthy, muddy flavor, depending on its degree of ripeness or over ripeness.  I like my mango salsa rather mild, due to the strong brie flavor, but you can make a heat substitution if you like yours with more kick.

Mango Salsa

  1. 1 mango
  2. 4 Tbls. fresh chopped cilantro
  3. 2 Tbls. fresh lime juice
  4. 1/8 tsp honey
  5. 1/4 tsp. chili (mild version) 1/4 tsp chili pepper flakes (hot version)
  6. 1/8 tsp garlic
  7. pinch of salt
  8. wedge of brie

Cut mango as per video, slicing the mango into very tiny dice in a small bowl. Rinse and chop leaves of cilantro into a chiffonade (very fine). Discard the stems and add to the mangos.   Squeeze and pour the fresh lime over the mangos.

In a very small bowl, mix the honey, chili, garlic and salt.  Pour over the mangos and mix everything together gently.  (If over mixed, it will become puree quickly.)

Slice a wedge of brie and remove the rind with a sharp knife. Place it on an oven proof plate and top with salsa.  Bake at 350 for 10 minutes (or cheat and put it in the microwave for 45 seconds.)

Vanity therefore it is, to seek after perishing riches, and to trust in them. Vanity also it is to hunt after honours, and to climb to high degree. Vanity it is to follow the desires of the flesh, and to long after that for which thou must afterwards suffer grievous punishment. Vanity it is, to wish to live long, and to be careless to live well. Vanity it is to mind only this present life, and not to foresee those things which are to come. Vanity it is to set thy love on that which speedily passeth away, and not to hasten thither where everlasting joy abideth. - Thomas A Kempis (1380-1471)

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Curry Spiced Chicken and Wild Rice

Curry Spiced Chicken



Curry Spiced Chicken

The original method for this dish comes from a rustic “beer can” chicken recipe.  The bird is propped upright by the full can of liquid and is kept moist throughout the cooking process by its evaporation while in a closed pot.  I’ve put together a rub that spices the outside of the meat while the flavored moisture cooks the inside.  The poultry, combined with a fruity sauce, carrots, and mushrooms balances well with the quiet wild rice.

Curry Spiced Chicken and Wild Rice

  1. 1 whole 3-4 1/2 lb chicken
  2. 1 lb carrots
  3. 3 stalks celery
  4. 2 red onions
  5. 2 Tbls. olive oil
  6. 1 tsp. minced garlic
  7. 1 cup orange juice
  8. 1 Tbls. lime juice
  9. 1 Tbls. cherry or blackberry jam
  10. 1 20 oz. can pineapple with juice

Mushroom Sauce

  1. 1 Tbls. butter
  2. scant 1/4 cup white wine
  3. 1 tsp. minced garlic

Spice Rub

  1. 1 Tbls. ground cumin
  2. 1 Tbls. curry powder
  3. 1 Tbls. chili powder
  4. 1 1/2 tsp. ground allspice
  5. 1 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
  6. 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  7. 1 tsp. salt

You will need an empty glass jar that can fit inside the chicken cavity.  (I used an empty jelly jar with a narrow mouth.) You will also need a very tall pot with lid. (I used my canning pot.)

Spiced Chicken

Preheat oven to 350 F and move the rack to the bottom of the oven. Remove all other racks. Rough chop 1/2 of a red onion and 1/2 tsp garlic. Move these to a food processor and add list of spices for the spice rub. Process into a paste.  Remove bowl of processor and set next to your sink.

Open pineapple can and pour juice into glass jelly jar.  Set pineapple chunks next to the stove for later.  Set tall stockpot and jelly jar next to spice rub by sink. Reserve 1 tsp. of the spice rub paste and set in small bowl by stove top.

Open chicken and drain. Remove anything left in top or bottom cavities. Lift skin away from the body, carefully to avoid tearing, and break any tendons connecting skin to bones. Use spice rub paste to coat the meat of the chicken under the skin, including down into the legs and around the back of the bird.

Insert the glass jar full of pineapple juice into the base of the chicken and stand it up it the tall stockpot.  Now scrub your sink and your hands and place the bird on bottom rack in oven. Cover with lid. Don’t rinse the food processor bowl, just set it back on the food processor.  Set timer for 1 hour. Relax.

After an hour, you will need to start the rice in the rice cooker and begin on the sauce.

Pineapple Carrot Sauce

Wash and chop carrots into 3 inch pieces. Start steaming the carrots now.  Remove stems of mushrooms and wash tops.  Slice mushrooms 1/4″ thick and set aside.

Finely chop celery, second onion, and 1/2 tsp garlic. Warm oil in a quart pan on medium.  Add onion and celery for two minutes stirring occasionally, then add 1/2 tsp. garlic and cook for 1 more minute, then add reserved 1 tsp. of the spice paste. Stir to coat the onions and celery.

Add 1 cup orange juice and 1 tablespoon of lime juice and continue to cook for 5 minutes, stirring often. Incorporate the 1 Tablespoon cherry jam, then remove from heat. Pour mixture into the food processor and blend until smooth.

Pour pineapple chunks and raisins into the now empty saucepan and return pot to medium heat. Set strainer with a long handle over the pot. With a wooden spoon, stir puree through strainer into the pot until all liquid has returned to the pot.

Discard the thick chunks and rinse out strainer. Add the carrots to the mix.  Move the pan to a back burner turned on low and cover.

Place medium to large sauté pan on stove top and melt butter and stir in white wine over medium heat. Add 1/2 tsp. garlic and cook until sauce is reduced by half before adding mushrooms. Cook mushrooms until tender, then salt and pepper to taste.

The bird is done when the legs and other meat starts coming loose from the bone. If you cook it too long the whole thing will fall apart.  Be careful when you lift the chicken out of the pot to the serving dish.  The wings of mine sometimes stick to the sides and the chicken must be disengaged from the glass jar as well.

Plate with rice on the bottom, mushrooms with sauce over the rice.  Layer the carrots and pineapple next and top with slices of chicken.

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