Christmas 2009 Last blog of the year

Gosh I can’t believe the year is over and this will be my last 2009 blog post! I have to admit, I am ready for a New Year. This year has not been my best ever but somehow I have hung in there and kept a good attitude. I had an unexpected change in my holiday plans due to a family emergency. Instead of making Peach French Toast for my mother and her friends, I found myself in Dallas having a Christmas eve dinner and a New Mexican Christmas breakfast then heading home.

So Christmas had its share of joy and sorrows this year. I was happy to be there for my family member and they are doing better. I was also able to spend time with some special people while I was in Dallas and as life has it, one of those people I will never see again, so I am glad I had that experience while I could.

I must admit, given the rush job and having to grocery shop on Christmas Eve, I managed to make some pretty tasty meals. For Christmas dinner I made a lightened up version of Coconut Shrimp with Pineapple Salsa http://www.foodreference.com/html/coco-sh-ov-72406.html and an Orange Raspberry Sauce (my Florida roots showing through during a snowstorm!), Brussel Sprouts with Lemon Butter and toasted almonds,a roasted sweet potato and sparkling cider. No dessert this time. I think I have had enough sweets for a lifetime already.

If you make the shrimp, I would recommend you don’t put too much flour on the shrimp as it will get gummy. Also, make sure you have a hot oven. Ours was under temperature and we had to adjust it to get the best browning. The amount of flour stated in the recipe is too much. I probably threw more than half of it away unused, so start with less and add more if you need it.

The pineapple salsa was incredible, but I was lucky enough to find a really good fresh pineapple at Whole Foods Market. I had to shop around to find the Pineapple Preserves, but that added a nice sweet contrast to the tangy salsa. The Orange Raspberry sauce was also really good. Most of the time when you order Coconut Shrimp you get an orange sauce. The raspberry was a nice addition.

Here is the sauce recipe. The original called for a lot more hot sauce, I think 2 tablespoons but that is way too much so I just used a few drops to taste:

Zesty Raspberry Marmalade
2 tablespoons orange marmalade
1 tbl seedless raspberry preserves
1 tbl Dijon mustard
Few drops of hot sauce

Combine ingredients and serve with hot coconut shrimp.

I made my absolute favorite breakfast, Pasquales Huevos Motulenos. When I first looked at the recipe, the combination of ingredients sounded pretty funky, but trust me, it is delicious. I made a smaller version and instead of the corn tortillas, I used blue corn taco shells broken in half so they were flat. I made the black beans from a can of Whole Foods brand Spicy Black Beans then added some jalapenos, chopped cilantro, a bit of cumin and a good squeeze of lime juice. For the green chile sauce, I bought a can of Hatch Green Chile sauce at Wholefoods and used it as is. The best. If you ever have a chance to visit Santa Fe, go to Pasquales for Breakfast or Dinner. You will have a memorable meal, guaranteed. Here is a link to the recipe: http://www.recipelink.com/msgbrd/board_14/2005/MAR/16478.html

I promised you the Sangria Flora recipe in a previous blog, so here is a link to that recipe as well. http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/sangria-flora St.Germain Elderflower liqueur is a bit pricy but it adds a wonderful floral aroma to the Sangria. I didn’t use Cointreau as the recipe called for. I substituted Grand Marnier because that is what I had on hand. I didn’t hear anyone complaining about it..HA!

I wish you all a very Happy New Year and an incredible, healthy, happy and prosperous 2010 full of love, friends, family, laughter, great food and……don’t forget to exercise!!



Anyone that has read my blogs for awhile will know that I promote/support charitable organizations. I had  recently posted a link on this site about a film documentary on Doctors Without Borders. It played on the 14th and I went to see it.

I wish I could urge you to see the film in your area, but I think that was the only day it was shown. It was a great show and the Doctors and Personel that volunteer for this organization are really incredible people.  I could tell you more about them and the movie but I would rather you see for yourself, so here is a You Tube link about Doctors without Borders/MSF (Médecins Sans Frontières. They are a based in France). http://www.youtube.com/msf

The day before I saw this film, I had my annual tree trimming party. I looked at my table when all the food was put out and had to admit, it was a lot of food. Seeing the documentary made apparent the contrast in others needs and my own.

Two years ago, a friend and I volunteered to work for Meals on Wheels Christmas day. It was really a memorable experience. Seeing the cars lined up to pick up and deliver food early on Christmas day was really touching. The volunteers were young and old, singles and whole families all there to help make a Christmas for those less fortunate.

I had volunteered many years earlier for this program and I will always remember delivering meals to an elderly couple in North Dallas. They were only a half a mile from the most affluent part of Dallas, but they had no heat, no electricity and were eating food out of cans. Hunger does exist in America and with the economic situation, it is more critical that we help our neighbors to survive.

There are many of our organizations focused on helping people in other countries. Of course, I dont want to minimize what they are doing, but sometimes I want to focus on our people, our country as there are people who need us here too.

In Dallas I volunteered for the North Texas Food Bank which partners with Share our Strength, a national organization. There are food banks all over the country that are in need of food this year. Here in Florida, I had heard on the news back in February that 40% of the children in West Palm Beach were on the free lunch program. A teacher I know that works in one of the low income schools told me for some of his students that meal is the only meal they will get all day.

So here are some programs you might want to help out:

Meals on Wheels:MOWAA Member programs throughout the country provide nutritious meals and other nutrition services to men and women who are elderly, homebound, disabled, frail, or at risk. These services significantly improve the quality of life and health of the individuals they serve and postpone early institutionalization.

Share our Strength: Share Our Strength® is a national organization that works hard to make sure no kid in America grows up hungry. http://strength.org/

America's Food Partnership: AFP has provided over 2 million servings of food to over 200 different organizations in 42 different States.

Feeding America, formerly Americas Second Harvest: Feeding America is the nation's leading domestic hunger-relief charity. For every $1 you donate, Feeding America helps provide 7 meals to men, women and children facing hunger in our country.


Holiday Party Food and Fun

As mentioned in an earlier post, my annual Tree Trimming Party was this past Sunday. I must admit although it was a blast, I am happy to get back to some semblance of a normal life. I am never one for asking people to bring food. You always end up with too many chips and dip. I am not a big chip lover so that wouldn’t work for me.

I plan the party on a theme, although I don’t stay rigid to it. This year the theme was Italian. Now, for those of you “true” Italians, this is not the Christmas eve feast party. One of the guys I have been dating is Italian and he had all kinds of great ideas for me to make Baccala (salt cod…yuk), Fish salad and who knows what else.

Well fish smells up the house and I wanted it to smell like the holidays, cinnamon and ginger and nutmeg, cookie dough, those kinds of smells. So it wasn’t traditional Italian. It was Sheila’s idea of Italian. By the way, my Charlie Brown tree looks very pretty after my friends trimmed the tree for me!

Here is a rundown of the food and drink:

Sangria de Flora: White Sangria with Grand Marnier and Elderflower Liqueur (My mother said it was pretty potent!)

Mulled Cider: Non Alcoholic but with Rum for those that wanted to partake

Beer, Vernon’s Ginger Ale (love the vanilla in it), Diet Coke and Water

Italian Liqueurs included Limón cello, Amaretto and Sambuca Café

Food: Rosemary Walnuts

Candied Pistachios

For the Vegetarians I included Spinach Mozzarella Ravioli and Spinach Artichoke Hummus with Pita Chips (these were store bought, not homemade. I bought the Ravioli at Costco and the Hummus is Cedars brand from Wholefoods)

Antipasto platter with an assortment of Italian cheeses (Provolone, Fontina, Parmesan and a wine soaked cheese)and meats (Genoa salami, Sopresetta, Capicolla), Marinated Artichokes, Raw veggies, Roasted Red Pepper, Pepperoncini which was “HOT”, and an assortment of Green and Black Italian Olives

Italian style Deviled Eggs

Kebabs with Mozzarella balls, sun dried tomato and basil

Florentine Meatballs and Hot Italian Sausage with Marinara Sauce

Tiramisu dip with fresh strawberries

Shortbread Cookies, Anise Cookies, Chocolate Shortbread Cookies dipped in Chocolate and topped with Peppermint stick, Molasses Cookies, Pannetone (Italian fruit bread) and Amaretti (yes, I made all but the last two!)

Dark Chocolate and Grand Marnier Truffles

White chocolate and Ginger Truffles with Toasted Coconut

White Chocolate Truffles with Cranberries and Cointreau

Dark chocolate bark with ginger, dried cherries and walnuts

One of my guests brought some wonderful Gingerbread men also.

That’s a lot of food but everyone ate well and hopefully went home having enjoyed themselves.

I hear the meatballs were pretty good so I thought I would share the recipe and a secret with you. The secret is that I tasted them before serving them, so I can attest to them being good!

I was able to make a double recipe pretty easily by using an ice cream scoop

(http://shopping.yahoo.com/p:OXO%2021291%20Good%20Grips%20Trigger%20Scoop:2001865730;_ylt=AhuRyjA354nea5pOd3QhoAf_nbsF). I bought mine at a Pampered Chef party I think but they are very handy to have around. Anyway, the good thing about the ice cream scoop is that you can make meatballs of consistent size but also it doesn’t compact the meatballs which make them lighter and tastier.

I don’t recall where I found this recipe, but it was online. The original recipe called for a beef sauce which I didn’t make. For the sauce, I took some good store bought spaghetti sauce and added the sautéed Italian Sausage, some Italian spices, Bay leaf and sautéed onion to it.

Here is the meatball recipe:

Florentine meatballs


• 1 (10 ounces) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and moisture squeezed out

• 3 eggs

• 2 slices bread, crumbled ( I used Italian breadcrumbs for flavor and because I was taking shortcuts. If you do, just use enough to bind the mixture)

• 1 tbl chopped fresh parsley

• 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

• salt and pepper to taste

• 1 clove garlic, minced

• 1 1/2 pounds ground chuck

• 1 small onion, finely minced

• flour

• 1 tablespoon olive oil

Beat eggs and mix with bread, parsley, cheese, salt, pepper, and garlic. Add meat, spinach and onion, mixing well. Shape int 1-inch meatballs, roll in flour and brown in skillet in hot olive oil. Remove meatballs.

Heat sauce then add meatballs and cook until warm. Serve as an appetizer or over some whole grain pasta.

I hope you enjoy these. Have a great week!



It’s warm here in Florida. There is only one day of the year I wish for cool weather and that is the day of my Annual Holiday Tree Trimming party. I have been having the party each year since 1992. The original party was inspired by a Christmas I spent in London with my ex-husband and his parents.

At the time his parents had a “flat” in London overlooking the Thames River. We had a great time, visited Harrod’s for some holiday shopping, ferried to France and spent a couple of days in Paris. I will always remember the holiday lights on the Champs d’Elysse.

I brought home two of the English traditions. We had dinner one night at Leed’s Castle. The castle, as expected, is surrounded by a moat. There is a restaurant inside that is a lively place during the holidays. Leed’s Castle dates back to 1119. Some of the more famous residents of the Castle were Richard II and his wife Anne of Bohemia, Henry VIII and his wife Catherine of Aragon along with King Edward I.

The English traditionally enjoy popping Christmas Crackers and wearing the Hats that are inside. During dinner at Leed’s we watched the festivities and all the people in hats. This tradition has been carried on at my parties, to the enjoyment of some and the dismay of others.

I still laugh at one of my neighbors, Jerry who was hair challenged. He just loved his hat to the point he wore it on his walk home! I will also remember my step father with his shock of white hair and a yellow hat that he wore during our Christmas dinner. He looked like Mr. Chicken…but of course I didn’t say that to his face!

The second tradition was inspired by Kevin’s parent’s English neighbors. They had invited us over for Christmas Eve and the husband served us Mulled Wine. It was a blustery day in London and the hot spiced wine really hit the spot. I asked him for the recipe and as family recipes normally go, he suggested I use a bit of this and some of that and any liquor I had on hand added to it! I still have the original recipe he wrote for me and have continued the tradition at my holiday parties.

Last year the wine wasn’t as popular as it was during winter in Texas since the weather was warm. This year, I am going to retire the Mulled Wine and make a special White Sangria with Elderflower Liqueur. I would love to make Glogg. One of my good friends is Swedish and when I lived in Texas she used to invite me over for Glogg. Wow, that’s even better than Mulled Wine and we had some deep conversations after sipping it (so deep, I can’t quite remember them!). Still, it will be too warm for Glogg, so I am committed to Sangria. I will share the recipe next week.

Since the rest of the nation appears to be in a deep freeze, some of you might enjoy a bit of Mulled Wine. Here is the recipe. I will give you the original, and then attempt to translate it into something you can understand. I am also including Mulled Cider for the Non drinkers.

Mulled Wine:
Spices-Cinnamon, cloves, allspice, ginger. Take the spices and boil in water then sieve into main drink. Add brown sugar. Add this as desired.
2x Red Wine
1x White Wine ½ Sparkling Wine (or Cider)
A good slug of Brandy or anything else going spare.

That’s the original. What I normally do is make simple syrup using the brown sugar, water (1part to 1 part) and the spices tied in cheesecloth or in my case in a tea ball. I heat the wines, add the sugar mixture to taste then when it gets closer to serving I add the Brandy. I don’t normally use the Sparkling Wine but sometime put a little of the Mulled Cider in. (I make the Cider for non drinkers. Drinkers can add rum if desired) Finally, I float slices of orange on top.

As mentioned, for teetotalers I make Mulled Cider. I used to go all out adding spices individually. One year I bought Knudson’s Cider and Spice and it is so good, I use that now and people love it. I may add some regular cider to it and always throw in some cinnamon sticks.

Stay warm, enjoy your friends and family and have a great week!


Update on the kitties and Cranberry Compote

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The holidays are around the corner. I have had mixed feelings this year about them. I am sorry not to be seeing my Texas friends and also missing the trip to Costa Rica with my sister! Still I am happy both my children (ok they are cats) are managing well and are still healthy.

For those of you that know us, Rusty is hanging in there. He has put on weight and gets his medications and fluids daily now. Zia is also getting fluids but not as often. She has been a bit more of a challenge since she was never much of a lap cat. We have worked things out though.

Once she figured out the reward would be food or catnip, she has resigned herself to it. Rusty’s reward is going out on the patio and sniffing the fresh catnip I am growing. They both have a new addiction beyond the catnip. It is the heating pad. It has become a bit of a competition but Rusty seems to be the winner most days.

Although I will miss my Texas friends, it is nice to know I have some very good friends in Florida now. I hope to build on those friendships and our history together as I did when I moved to Texas. Since I am a pescatarian, I am not looking forward to Turkey dinner but the trimmings are the best part anyway.

I thought today I would share with you an easy recipe that is wonderful to have on hand for the holidays but also could make a great hostess or holiday gift. Back in the days when I was the special diets cook for a health food café, I often had to come up with ideas to use any excess fruits or vegetables we had on hand. I came up with a fresh fruit compote that I served with blue corn flakes on top.

I must admit I was amazed how many people ordered it regularly for breakfast. Honestly, I don’t really remember how I made it since I used whatever we had on hand. A few years later I was given a handout of holiday recipes from The Container Store. One was for a Cranberry Compote to be spooned into a clear jar as a gift or to be served with a holiday meal.

I was a bit averse to the amount of sugar in the recipe and the amount of ingredients so I came up with my own variation, which I must admit I really like. It’s a cinch to make, tasty and very pretty.

I haven’t used it as a side for a holiday meal but I have used it in other ways. I have put some on top of lowfat cream cheese and served it with crackers. I bet it would also be good with Brie Cheese. It is also great heated as a topping for some high quality vanilla bean ice cream. You could add a touch of Grand Marnier to make it even more special. This also would taste good with pancakes, waffles or crepes.Of course, I still top it with Blue Cornflakes when I have them and eat them for breakfast. 

I am going to give you both recipes, mine and the original.

Sheila’s Healthy Holiday Cranberry Compote

1 Medium Orange

12 oz package of fresh cranberries

1 ¼ cups all fruit orange marmalade

1 cup of golden raisins

1/2 tsp salt (or just a pinch if you are worried about sodium!)

¼ teaspoon ground allspice

¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

16 oz can of pineapple chunks in juice (drained) or an equal amount of fresh pineapple chunks which I prefer

Grate one teaspoon of orange peel and squeeze ¼ cup of fresh orange juice.

In a 3qt saucepan over high heat, heat the orange juice, orange peel, cranberries and the next 5 ingredients (marmalade through cinnamon)

Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer for 10 minutes or until cranberries pop and mixture thickens slightly. Add pineapple and heat through. Prepare at least an hour before serving to allow flavors to meld.

May be served warm or cold.

Cranberry Compote from Container Store

1 medium orange

12oz package cranberries

1 ¼ cup sugar

1 cup golden raisins

1 teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon ground allspice

¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

16 oz can sliced cling peaches, drained

16 oz can sliced pears, drained

16 oz can sliced apricot halves,drained

Grate 1 teaspoon of orange peel and squeeze ¼ cup fresh juice. In 3-qt saucepan over high heat, heat orange juice, orange peel, cranberries and next five ingredients (sugar through cinnamon). Boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer 10 minutes or until cranberries pop and the mixture thickens slightly.

Add peaches, pears and apricot halves. Heat thoroughly. Compote mixture may be served warm or cold. Should be prepared at least an hour before serving and may be made days in advance.

Makes about 4 cups

May be stored in the refrigerator up to 4 weeks

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When things don’t go as planned, charity and a healthy fast food alternative

Miso SoupImage via Wikipedia
Have you ever had a day where you thought you must have gotten up on the wrong side of the bed? Well today was that day for me. I was up late last night but in spite of that I woke up early this morning. I was actually quite pleased about it because I had a lot to do before I headed over to West Palm Beach this afternoon. I had offered to volunteer for the United Cerebral Palsy, 21st Annual Great Chefs Tasting Party charity event.

I thought I was one step ahead of things but that wasn’t the way it worked out. The dress for the event was Palm Beach Business Casual so I pulled out a pair of slacks and went about finding a top to go with it. The first top I found was perfect. Well it would have been until I noticed it had some spots on it. After a futile attempt to take them out, I went hunting for another choice. Ah, the silk sweater set. That was always a great choice. I pulled that out ….spots again. What’s with these spots? Where are they coming from anyway? I haven’t worn either of these tops since they were at the cleaners. Did they do that or just fail to clean them properly? Top number 3 was ready to go, ironed and I put it together with a linen blouse. I was ready.

Off to the gym, now a little late. I figured I could still get a good ½ hour of spin in and an arms workout. I arrived at the gym and found a class in process in the spin room. No problem. I could do arms first then spin. I headed for the locker room and before I could make my way out, the electricity went off. Have you ever been in a locker room with no lights? It’s “very” dark. I managed to find my way out and did most of my arm workout in the semi-dark (they turned some lights on with a generator).

Actually it was kind of nice for a change to work out in a silent gym with soft lighting. People usually talk more to each other when there has been an event, so I tried to strike up a conversation with the guy working out next to me. That was probably a bad idea. He spoke very broken English and although he tried 3 times, I didn’t have a clue what his response was. Finally I just smiled, shook my head and made a bee line for the spin bikes. The electricity went on and off about 5 times during my workout. Of course along with the lights, the air also is off. I lost a pound or two of water weight on the spin bike!

I arrived home, showered, grabbed a quick lunch then dressed for the event only to realize top number 3 had a spot on it too and in a very prominent place, ahhhh! Luckily I was able to fix it and running late now, headed to West Palm Beach. When I was about a quarter of the way there, my gas light came on. I was now running out of gas. No problem I had just passed a station less than a mile behind me. I wouldn’t be that much later. I made an illegal U-turn (don’t tell anyone) and headed to it. Go figure. It was closed, under some kind of construction. I did manage to find a station a half mile of so after that.

The UCP event was very nice. I and another girl sold the raffle tickets and did pretty well raising money for them. I bought some tickets myself, hoping to win the Premier Wine tasting for ten in your home, but someone trumped me on that one!

It was a long day and although there was some great food at the event, when you are working you don’t eat much. I was hungry when I headed home. Most people I know wouldn’t have thought twice about stopping at a fast food joint, but I am not a fast food joint girl. Since I don’t eat meat, it further limits my choices. I decided to come up with something at home (yes, you can exist on this planet without ever eating at a fast food restaurant! It’s a choice.)

I fell back on one of my favorite home “fast food” dinner. I filled a saucepan with 2 cups of water and brought that to a boil. Then I threw in some vegetables. This time I chose some carrots that I grated and fresh baby spinach. I will give you the recipe sometime later, but I had previously made a bunch of vegetarian pot stickers with tofu and had frozen them. I took a few out of the freezer and threw them in the water (you could used store bought dumplings. I know you can get them at Whole Foods, Central Market or Trader Joes) and let them cook a bit. I had gotten some Kikkoman Instant Miso Soup with Tofu at World Market (http://www.amazon.com/s/?ie=UTF8&keywords=kikkoman+miso+soup&tag=googhydr-20&index=aps&hvadid=1104165341&ref=pd_sl_18k8zzw9ru_b), so I took 2 packets out, turned down the heat (Miso shouldn’t be boiled) and added the contents to the pan. After heating a few minutes and opening up a package of Nut Thins…Voila, dinner!!!

Ok maybe that doesn’t seem like enough food for you. Steam up some edamame. Munch on them while you heat up the soup. That should do it.

So that’s my recipe for the day…Sheila’s easy Instant Tofu Mushroom Soup with Vegetables ( a long story for a short recipe!). I have also tried the Red Miso instant soup. It is good, but I prefer the White Miso and Tofu. I have also used Chinese cabbage in place of the Spinach and I prefer it. It is more authentic and has some crunch to it. In a pinch, I have also used Romaine strips.

I like the Pot stickers because I get a little bit of protein from the Tofu in them. With the ginger in the dumplings you add additional flavor to the soup. Alternately you could use Soba (Buckwheat) noodles. I have also thrown in some chunks of fresh salmon and cooked till done, then added the soup mix. That is very good and you get those important Omega 3's.

There are many variations, so use your imagination but don’t make it too complicated or you won’t be able to compete with the fast food joints!

One last thing, and I know I have said this before, but it is especially important now. The non-profits have been hit pretty hard by the down turn in the economy. If you can help out, please do, whether in donations or volunteering your time. Either way, it is very rewarding to know that you may have helped some people that may not be as healthy or well off as you are. It may also help you appreciate your health and the things you have you may take for granted.

Have a healthy, happy and joyous week and be grateful for the gifts you have been given.

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Fru Fru Drinks

I was never much of a hard liquor drinker. The taste is too strong for me and I am a lightweight when it comes to alcohol in general. Still I do like to have a drink sometimes. My interest in alcohol is similar to my interest in food. I like to try different flavors.

When I was a teenager one of my favorite uses for alcohol was putting Green Crème De Menthe over Lemon Ice Cream that had lemon candies in it (They don’t make ice cream like that anymore!). Being ultra mature for my age, I was able to impress people with my green tongue!

While in college in Florida and then when we lived at the beach, I switched to Pina Coladas, the tropical drink! I often wonder how many calories I took in drinking those Pina Coladas.

You might get the idea that I like sweet drinks. I do. Back when I travelled more, I collected liqueurs from the different places I visited. I bought Pear William in Switzerland and Calvados in France Jamaica makes a number of good liquors. I bought Rumona Rum liqueur in Jamaica, Tia Maria which was originally made with Blue Mountain Coffee beans and another liqueur, Pimento. Pimento was actually an Allspice liqueur and fun to add to eggnog during the holidays. ( Note:Pimento is not available in the States. I read a note from a NY Bartender about a substitute he came up with. If you take white rum and steep allspice berries in it, then add simple syrup and strain when the flavor is strong enough, you will approximate the product).

In the Virgin Islands I bought a locally made liqueur. The label says it is “The Best Christmas” GuavaBerry Liqueur around the world. It also says, “Taste it. You’ll love it. It makes you frisky,happy and loving”. Needless to say, I save it for special occasions!! It does make me happy, frisky and loving !

From Hawaii, I brought back Keoki Kona Coffee liqueur. Eventually my friends jumped on the band wagon too. Mr. Capers brought me some Herradura Tequila from Mexico, Paula brought me some Rum Raisin and Curacao Liqueur from Curacao and an old boyfriend brought me some rum from South America that was so strong I couldn’t drink it. I gave it to a friend when I moved. Another liqueur I collected while here in the states was made by the makers of Grand Marnier. It is called La Grande Passion. It is no longer available. I bought the stores last 3 bottles before it was off the shelves. It is a nice, delicate liqueur, similar to Grand Marnier but better, I think.

It was years before I developed a taste for wine and many more before I could appreciate Red Wine. During my country dancing years in Texas my drink of choice was a tequila sunrise without the sunrise (no grenadine). That wasn’t quite as sweet as my earlier choices and I knew how much was too much and when to stop. I did drink Margaritas but the combination of sweet with the lime gave me a headache. The OJ worked better.

Today, outside of my enjoyment of Margaritas and Mojitos, I am generally a Fru Fru drink lover. I like the pretty drinks that they make, Chocolate Martinis with the glass decorated with Chocolate Sauce, Key Lime Martinis rimmed with Graham Cracker and Coconut Lime Martinis rimmed with Toasted Coconut As mentioned earlier, Roy’sTropical Martini was my summer drink this year.

I sound like a lush, but really I am not. Most of the liqueurs I collected 20 years ago are still on my shelf. I take them out during parties and on occasion. This weekend I tried a new drink recipe that I found in Health Magazine (I guess it has to be good for me, right?). The original drink is from the Tides Hotel on South Beach. If you ever get to South Beach, check out the Tides. It is a gorgeous, first class hotel and I hear they have a great Sunday Brunch.

The drink is called Tides Royale. Not only is it really good, but it is really pretty too. Amazingly, I had all the liquors that are called for in this drink and the pineapple juice too. I would like to share the recipe and some other warm and cold weather favorites with you.

One cautionary note, if you are out drinking, make sure you have a designated driver (that isnt drinking with you!!). If you don't have one, don't drink and drive. Also, if you are on the wagon....stay on it. Drinking isn't right for everyone and drinking should be done responsibly. If you are over the age of 65 be very careful with alcohol. In 2005 nearly 16,000 older adults died from falls.

Tides Royale

2 oz coconut rum
1 oz Midori
3 oz pineapple juice
1 tablespoon Chambord
Edible flower for garnish (optional)

Combine rum,Midori and pineapple juice in a shaker with ice. Shake and strain into 2 chilled glasses. Add ½ tablespoon of Chambord to each glass. It will sink to the bottom. Garnish if desired.
2 servings

Hot Apple Pie
This reminds me of sitting by the fire on a winter day with someone very special.

• 2 oz Tuaca
• Hot apple cider
• whipped cream
• cinnamon stick for garnish

1. Pour the Tuaca in an Irish coffee glass
2. Fill with hot apple cider.
3. Top with whipped cream.
4. Garnish with a cinnamon stick.

Peppermint Patty

1 ½ oz Godiva Chocolate Liqueur
½ oz Peppermint Schnapps or Rumple Minz

Stir over ice in a rocks glass.
For a hot drink you can make a Hot Peppermint Patty by putting this in a Irish coffee glass without the ice then adding hot chocolate

Frankfurt Froth
This is a very strong, more manly drink!!
4 servings

At Restaurant Eugene, Greg Best makes a version of this drink with custard sauce and a small- batch bourbon he has infused with warm spices. Just before serving, he grates a roasted peanut over the top, which gives your nose a delightful surprise. Warmed ice cream makes a fine substitute.

1 pint Haagen-Dazs vanilla ice cream
6 ounces spice-infused bourbon
4 peanuts (optional)

Heat the ice cream in a small saucepan until very warm to the touch. Pour into a stainless steel bowl and whisk until it turns frothy.

Divide the bourbon among four warmed mugs. Top with frothed cream. Grate the peanuts over the top using a micro plane zester.

To infuse bourbon: Open a 750 milliliter bottle and add 3 whole cloves, 1 cinnamon stick and 1/2 teaspoon Sichuan peppercorns. Close and wait 2 1/2 weeks for the flavors to infuse.

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Macro photograph of a pile of sugar (saccharose)Image via Wikipedia

I admit it, I love sweet things. Over the years this has presented a challenge for a health oriented and weight controlling person. The American Diabetes Association gave me a lift many years ago when their research concluded that sugar could be included in a Diabetics diet. Then came the low carb diet guru’s and the idea of sweets in a healthy weight controlling diet went down the tubes. I must admit, I found that disappointing!

I am not an extremist when it comes to cooking and eating. For the most part I am a pescetarian, but I usually eat a piece of meat once a year to make sure I am not a purist. I have an aversion to rigidity and extremism when it comes to food, exercise or life in general. I am happy there are people out there with passionate beliefs, but personally I think life is too short to live in a box.

I have two sweet indulgences to share with you. One is on the healthy end of the spectrum, Frozen Yogurt with Honey Rum Glazed Bananas and Grape Nuts. The other is a true indulgence with a surprising ingredient, Ancho Chile Fudge Pie.

At one low point in my life, I gained a lot of weight for a girl that was normally slim. My normal weight was in the 110-112 range but my weight shot up (ok it didn’t shoot up, I ate my way up to it!) to 123 lbs (I am 5'4"). That may not seem like a lot to many of you, but I come from a very slim family. In my world I was a fatty!!

I made up my mind to take care of myself, hired a personal trainer (my inspiration to later become a trainer!), put myself on a low fat (not low carb) diet and limited my portion sizes to almost an extreme. In hindsight, it wasn’t really that healthy to lose weight the way I did. Part of it was triggered by a major stressor in my life (divorce). Within one year I went from a chubby 123 without much muscle to 103 with muscle.

As life stabilized and I realized I couldn’t maintain such a rigid lifestyle, my weight came up to a more realistic number but this time with more muscle not fat, 112. I have maintained my weight in the 112-115 range for 18 years now.

You are probably asking what that has to do with frozen yogurt and pie! Well I created the frozen yogurt idea during my rigid low fat diet period. It is cold, sweet, crunchy and satisfying, a great dessert for those of us in the South that seem to live in perpetual summer.

The Ancho Pie, I hate to tell you came from the” eating my way to 123” period. Still it is excellent . I suggest you limit the Ancho Pie to a special occasion. Halloween or Thanksgiving may be good excuses to make it.

The chef's name that created the Ancho recipe was Nancy Beckham. She had opened a Southwestern restaurant named Brazos, on Lower Greenville Avenue in Dallas. It is no longer in business. I met her at a Les Dames D’Escoffier benefit. The pie is rich, deep and fudgy with a hint of spice from the chile. It is definitely worth the effort to make.

Frozen Yogurt with Honey Rum Glazed Bananas and Grape Nuts

This is quick and very easy to prepare

4 teaspoons honey
4 teaspoons dark rum
1 teaspoon butter or a lighter butter substitute that melts well
4 bananas, not overly ripe
2 tablespoons each Grape Nuts and Toasted coconut for garnish.
1 cup coconut or vanilla nonfat yogurt frozen or put into the freezer until icy cold or a store bought low fat frozen yogurt

Warm butter, honey and rum over medium low heat in a 10 inch skillet. Add the bananas and cinnamon sauté until caramelized and coated with the honey mixture.

Serve over yogurt topped with the Grape Nuts and Toasted Coconut
4 servings

Note: I used to just freeze the yogurt but the texture is a bit grainy and the yogurt may be too sweet for the carb conscious. Another option is to make your own vanilla yogurt mixing plain yogurt and honey to taste. Take a vanilla bean and split it. Scrape the seeds into the yogurt. If you are very carb conscious, look at the plain yogurt ingredient list. I have found that most of them contain added sugar. The cheaper store brands often don’t add sugar, but keep in mind, they are more sharp in flavor. Rather than freeze the yogurt until hard, I would just freeze it until it is really cold but still soft and serve the bananas over it that way.

Ancho Chile Pie

2 eggs
½ cup sugar
½ cup packed brown sugar
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons Ancho Chile Puree (see recipe below)
1 cup butter melted and cooled
½ cup chopped walnuts (roasted in a 400 degree oven for 3-5 minutes)
½ cup chopped pecans (roasted in a 400 degree oven for 3-5 minutes)
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips (use a good quality brand like Ghirardelli)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 (9inch) unbaked pastry shell
Fresh whipped cream or vanilla ice cream for garnish (remember this is an indulgence!!)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. In a large bowl, beat eggs until foamy; add sugar and brown sugar and beat until well blended. Beat in flour and Ancho Chile Paste. Then blend in melted butter and mix until thick and smooth. Fold in roasted nuts, chocolate chips and vanilla.

Pour into pie shell; bake 1 hour or until firm and set. Serve with a dollop of whipped cream or scoop of ice cream. Makes 6-8 servings

Ancho Chile Paste:

Roast 4 to 5 large ancho chilies in a large iron skillet or on a griddle, turning frequently until the dry chilies puff slightly. Drop into a saucepan filled with boiling water, cover and remove from heat. Let steep 20 minutes. Remove chilies from water and discard stems and seeds. Blend in a food processor until smooth and thick. Use some of the soaking liquid to thin puree, if needed. Paste will keep 1 month in the refrigerator in a tightly covered jar.


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Exploding soup and stuffed potatoes

Gonna Buy Me A CuisinartImage by Tracy27 via Flickr

I was asking my mother, “When will fall start in Florida?” It will take me some time to get used to what they call “the seasons” here. I am starting to get bored with the same temperate days. People here think it’s hot. Obviously they haven’t lived in Dallas or Phoenix!

We are supposed to have a cool front tonight. At least that is what I heard. The 60’s!! That sounds terrific. It also sounds like great running weather. Unfortunately, I just found out I have a torn meniscus and had my joint injected with cortisone. No running for at least a week! I am bummed but hopeful the injection will “fix” the problem. If not, its arthroscopy for me!

There is always a silver lining I guess. I will make soup! I love making soup. I like baking bread too, but I don’t manage that as easily.

I am not sure how I came to enjoy making soup. My mother was a great soup maker, but some of her adventures in soup making were enough to scare me away from soup for life. Remember the old pressure cookers? You know the kinds where the valve often got clogged and the steam had no way of releasing. Yes, those were my mother’s adventures in soup making. Memorable was the time she was unable to free the valve, realizing she was hitting the danger zone; she called out a warning to protect the family. If I recall it was something like “It’s going to blow!” Yes, it did explode. I think it was beef vegetable soup. It was everywhere, counters, floor and ceiling. Hot soup.

Still we all survived without a trip to the hospital burn unit. I don’t make soups in pressure cookers. Never have, probably never will.

I do love soup making though. In fact, I worked at a Health Food Café in the 90’s. My title became “The Soup Lady”. I was in charge of creating 2 Soups of the Day for the Café. I took requests too. There was a gym above the store. I met my first personal training clients by fulfilling their soup of the day requests.

So the silver lining is that if we do get cooler weather, this would be a great week for soup. Enough about soup. Let’s talk about potatoes. Baked stuffed potatoes that is.

My mother used to make potatoes stuffed with sour cream and chives. They are pretty tasty, but my favorites are Monterey Stuffed Potatoes with Salsa. The recipe came from a Food Processor cookbook that was written by Abby Mandel (Meyer). Abby was a La Varenne trained cook that trained in some of the best restaurants in Europe.

When she returned to America, she wrote articles for the Chicago Tribune Home and Garden Section and eventually became a writer for Bon Appétit Magazine.

When Food Processors were first introduced, Abby wrote a Food Processor Column for Bon Appétit. That was my first introduction to her recipes. Subsequently, Cuisinart hired her and she wrote a number of cookbooks for them. This recipe comes from one of those books, “Fast and Flavorful”.

Mandel was the former President of the Chicago Chapter of “Les Dames d’Escoffier” and served as the President of “Les Dames D’Escoffier” International for several years. Les Dames is a professional organization for women in the culinary profession. I was a supporter of the Dallas Chapter for several years. She died last year at 75. (Am I getting old when my favorite cookbook authors are dying?)

Using a Food Processor makes this recipe a synch, but even if you don’t have one, you can make this by hand easily. You will just have to do more chopping and grating. I like to make a batch and freeze them individually, taking them out for a lunch or dinner side dish.

Truth be told you can make as many or as few as you want and just use the recipe as a template, adjusting the amounts to your needs. . You can substitute low fat dairy products for the full fat versions. I do and it is just as good but lighter.

Obviously, the recipe suits my Tex-Mex cravings I hope you will try them.

Monterey Stuffed Potatoes with Salsa

6 medium Idaho potatoes (3lb total)
¾ teaspoon safflower oil
8 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, chilled
1/3 cup cilantro leaves
1 medium garlic clove, peeled
1 jalapeno or Serrano pepper, halved
2 large scallions (1 ½ oz total) including green tops, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 cup sour cream or plain yogurt
½ cup milk
1 teaspoon salt
Fifteen minutes before baking, place rack in cento of oven and preheat to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

Brush potatoes with oil and bake until tender, about 1 hour. Remove them and reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees. Slit tops of potatoes and carefully spoon out pulp (I hold the potato with a pot holder. They are hot!), leaving shells intact; reserve pulp and shells.

Medium Shredding Disc: Use light pressure to shred half of the cheese; remove and reserve

Metal Blade: Put cilantro in work bowl. Turn on machine, drop garlic and hot pepper through feed tube and process until minced. Add scallions and remaining cheese, cut into quarters. Process until minced.

Mash potato pulp with mixer or potato masher. Add sour cream or yogurt, milk and salt and mix until smooth. Add contents of work bowl and stir to combine. Fill potato shells with mixture, mounding slightly in center and sprinkle with reserved shredded cheese.

You can make this a day ahead and store in fridge, covered airtight. Bring to room temperature, place on baking sheet and bake in a preheated 350 degree oven until heated through, about 23-25 minutes. Serve immediately with Salsa.

These can also be grilled over very hot coals. They will take about 20-23 minutes to heat through.
6 servings

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Silver Palate and Lemon Herb Chicken

Lemon Chicken PacketImage by sweet mustache via Flickr

I was reading a bio on Sheila Lukins who recently died from Brain Cancer. If you are a foodie, you probably know her name. She has been the food writer for Parade Magazine for 27 years. If you are not a foodie, you may not realize it, but she and partner Julie Rosso were front runners in the now popular pre-packaged, gourmet, take home meal business.

Together they opened the Silver Palate http://www.worldpantry.com/cgi-bin/ncommerce3/ExecMacro/silver/home.d2w/ in NY in 1977 offering Gourmet Takeout to busy New Yorkers. They opened a few years before Dean and Deluca’s and long before places like Eatzie's existed. After great success, they started a line of gourmet food products that you still see on the shelves today. This included vinegars, salad dressings, mustards and sauces.

Contrary to what it may appear today, I was not always into cooking. My mother, grandmother and aunt were all excellent cooks, but as a child I had other things to do than spend time in the kitchen cooking. I was a tomboy, busy climbing trees, seeing how many blocks I could ride my bike without touching the handlebars (early balance training) and important things like that.

My first attempt at cooking was when I was 16 years old and dating Kevin, my future husband. Since I was so smitten by him, I decided I would make his favorite dessert for his birthday, Pineapple Upside Down Cake. It sounded like a great idea even though I didn’t have any experience in the kitchen.

I remember buying a box of the cake mix, then asking my brother Robert to show me how to break an egg so I could make it. I don’t remember if it turned out any good, but Kevin went AWOL for about a year (that’s another story) and never had a piece of the cake. Looking back the disappearing act may have stemmed from an intuitive desire to live past his birthday! He might have gotten salmonella from the pieces of egg shell I probably left in the cake.

In college, Kevin, who I will now refer to as “the saint” put up with my continued attempts at learning to cook. Hamburger helper was the order of the day and he managed to down a serving once he figured out that it might be more edible with lots of chopped green olives on top. The great thing about Kevin is that he always said “Thank you” after a meal, even if it was just doctored up Hamburger Helper. Of course that just fueled my desire to learn more and use him as a guinea pig for my future cooking adventures!

My point is, I learned to cook and developed an interest in cooking by the need to cook for myself (and for “the saint”). Since that time, my hobby has been reading cookbooks. I would say it is almost a sickness at this point, but I have learned a lot along the way. I have the added benefit of being the “go to” person for questions my sisters or friends have about cooking.

The Silver Palate Cookbook by Sheila Lukins and Julie Rosso has been one of my favorite cookbooks through the years. I have had my copy since the early 80’s. I was reading another blog tonight about Sheila Lukins and the author asked their readers to share their favorite recipe from the cookbook.

I realized I had not cooked many recipes from the book. A lot of the recipes are a bit too sophisticated for my everyday life and often way too rich for my taste. Cream and butter were not yet on the don’t eat list when the book was written. Still I have used the book for ideas and technique information.

Back in the 80’s I became interested in making my own flavored vinegars with ingredients from my garden. Purple basil vinegar was one of my favorites. In the Silver Palate cookbook, they use a Raspberry Vinegar. Back in those days, this wasn’t a vinegar you would find in the stores. The Silver Palate did have a Raspberry Vinegar for sale and I remember reading the ingredients list which included fresh raspberries and cinnamon. I made my own vinegar using the same ingredients and it was wonderful (and a lot easier on the budget).

So Sheila Lukins had an impact on my life and interest in cooking. Other interesting facts are that she helped develop the menu for the food served on United Airlines flights and was honored with an award of distinction by the airline. The Silver Palate Cookbook was named to the James Beard Foundation Hall of Fame and one of her other cookbooks, The USA Cookbook was nominated for a James Beard award.

In thinking about my favorite recipes from the Silver Palate Cookbook, three recipes come to mind. There is the Pasta Sauce Raphael with artichokes and a whole heck of a lot of black pepper. Three tablespoons of whole black pepper to be exact. I must admit, I never used quite that much.

The second recipe is not all that healthy unless butter comes into favor as a health food. It is the Shortbread Heart cookie recipe. Butter and sugar, Now you have the picture!

Finally, there is a recipe I no longer make but prior to my vegetarian conversion, I made it quite a few times and it was great, Chicken with Herbs and Lemon baked in foil. I varied the herbs depending on what I had fresh in the garden. Since I have been posting a lot of vegetarian recipes, I will include this recipe today (from reading about Lukins, I learned that her Chicken Marabella recipe was wildly popular. I have never tried it though).

In any case, if you have any interest in cookbooks, I would recommend you take a look at Sheila Lukins books (http://www.amazon.com/s/?ie=UTF8&keywords=sheila+lukins+cookbooks&tag=googhydr-20&index=stripbooks&hvadid=3400785761&ref=pd_sl_80wd6pauvu_e). My two favorite are as mentioned, The Silver Palate Cookbook and also “New Cooking Basics”.

Chicken with Lemon and Herbs

1 cup mixed chopped fresh mint, dill and parsley in about equal proportions or to taste.
2 garlic cloves peeled and minced
6 skinless boneless chicken breast (about 4 ½ lbs)
Salt and Fresh Ground Black Pepper to taste
2 lemons cut into 6 slices each
4 tablespoons (½ stick of unsalted butter) you could probably mix it half and half with Smart Balance or Olive oil

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees

2. Mix the herbs and garlic in a bowl. Flatten the chicken breasts by pressing them gently against the work surface with your hands (ok I would recommend you lay the chicken on a paper plate or foil, cover with another plate or piece of foil and press so you don’t contaminate everything!)
Arrange each breast on a large piece of aluminum foil and season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle the herb and garlic mixture over the chicken.

3.Arrange 2 lemon slices on top of each breast. Dot with butter and seal the packets. Set on a baking sheet.

4. Set the packets on the center rack of the oven and bake until done, 30 minutes.

Transfer the packets to serving plates and allow the guests to open the packets at the table (I would check one for doneness before serving so there are no surprises when they open them!!).
This makes 6 portions

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San Diego and Sandwiches

San Diego sunset over the beachImage by San Diego Shooter via Flickr

I was in San Diego for a week, celebrating my Mother’s birthday with family. I haven’t done much cooking, but San Diego is a great “food” city. The food is fresh, often locally grown or produced and the chefs are very creative.

I always come back inspired with ideas for new twists on old favorites. Years ago I ate at a Café called Zinc in Solana Beach(http://www.zinccafe.com/cafe.htm). It is a small place with a few outdoor tables. I believe they do more catering and take out than dine in business. Still, the food was good and I got my first idea for a grilled veggie sandwich from them. I don’t think the original sandwich is on the menu today.

I bought some freshly baked Kalamata Olive Bread, Manchego Cheese which I sliced and some fresh vegetables. My favorite combo included very thin vertical slices of fresh eggplant and or zucchini which I lightly grilled, slices of heirloom tomato, avocado and red bell pepper. I like to think of it as a Ratatouille sandwich. I lightly toasted the bread on the grill, rubbed it with a cut clove of garlic, then layered the vegetables and cheese, topping with the second slice of bread. I then grilled the whole thing until the cheese melted. It was my favorite sandwich for many years.

This trip one of my sisters and I did a long beach walk, while my mother and other sister had coffee at a nice local café, The Stratford Café in Del Mar(http://www.stratfordcourtcafe.com/). It is a great place for a leisurely breakfast with Gourmet Coffees, Smoothies and simple but interesting breakfast (and lunch) fare.

After our walk we had brunch there. My sister ordered a sandwich they called the Vermonster. It consisted of smoked turkey, apple, cheddar and a cranberry mayonnaise on mixed grain bread.

I thought it was a great idea. The Cranberry mayonnaise would be easy to make using canned cranberry sauce and a good quality low fat (of course) mayonnaise. I would add some toasted chopped pecans to it (and maybe some finely chopped candied ginger). We weren’t thrilled with their Squaw bread. It had garlic and cilantro in it which was not a good mix with the cranberry. A good wheat or grain bread would be best.

For a vegetarian, the sandwich could be made with a good sharp cheddar, granny smith apple and fresh lettuce or even red onion thinly sliced. I tend to want to make fresh cranberry sauce with some grated orange zest to add to the mayonnaise, but canned would work too.

Carnivores can include the slices of turkey. It doesn’t even have to be a post Thanksgiving treat! This would be a great sandwich any time of the year!

I ordered a breakfast sandwich at The Stanford which was also good. It was a croissant sandwich with scrambled egg, yellow pepper (the best part), fresh pesto and a slice of smoked Gouda. I enjoyed it but if I were to make it myself, I would leave out the pesto and use regular Gouda rather than smoked. I would also melt the cheese. I am not big on croissants so I would probably use a sourdough roll instead.

One of my favorite summer sandwiches is very simple. I made it yesterday in fact. Lightly toasted sourdough bread (can you tell I love sourdough?), slices of a big ripe tasty tomato, avocado slices, red bell pepper slices, a few basil leaves or fresh oregano whichever I am in the mood for, chopped green or black olives, low fat mayonnaise and slices of reduced fat sharp cheddar cheese (feta is good with this too). Sometimes I may use cucumber in place of the avocado if I want to lower the fat content. If you need to add meat, a juicy slice of chicken breast would be a good choice.

Zinc has a sandwich on the menu that I haven’t tried yet but plan to this week. It includes finely sliced fennel, celery, radish, sweet peppers, tapenade, aioli, arugula, hardboiled egg and vinaigrette. I probably won’t include the celery or the vinaigrette but it sure sounds like an interesting combination.

We really were on an eating adventure for the week. There are too many places to mention but another great dinner we had was at Bertrand’s at Mr. A’s(http://www.bertrandatmisteras.com/menus/dinner.htm). It is in a building overlooking San Diego with a terrific view of the Western sunset. The food is first class as was the service. Sunset was incredible and it was fun overlooking the city. If you get to San Diego, I would highly recommend it. Our choices included a fresh Multicolor Young Beet Salad with Goat Cheese which was my favorite, Escargot, Pan Roasted Sole with Lobster Mousse, Grilled Kobe Style Wagyu Rib Eye Beef and a Black Sea Bass with Seafood Sausage combination.

I have included some pictures from the trip to entice you to visit the city sometime and enjoy the culinary diversity. Right now, I am going to take a reprieve from eating and get some exercise!!

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Cover of "Fast Vegetarian Feasts"Cover of Fast Vegetarian Feasts

Since I have been spending so much time studying and not cooking, I don’t feel like my meals have been too balanced for the last few weeks. I thought I would make a couple of dishes that will last for several meals and get back to my vegetarian roots with veggie focused recipes.

Yesterday I made Potatoes Simmered with Sage, Tomatoes and Peas. The recipe came from “Fast Vegetarian Feasts” by Martha Rose Shulman. It is a wonderful combination of colors and textures and the scent of Sage reminds me of cooler days. Somehow I like that reminder in the heat of summer!

Today I made Asparagus Soup with Arborio Rice which I found in the May 1999 issue of Veggie Life (yes I liked it enough to keep the recipe all these years!) I love Cream of Asparagus soup, but in the summer it is nice to keep the focus on the freshness of the vegetables. This recipe uses thyme and sage so I guess I am enjoying the thought of fall and Thanksgiving with family and friends.

Both recipes take a little chopping but not too much. All and all they are pretty easy to put together. If you are a vegetarian the potato dish can be either a main course or side dish. Being a pescatarian (I hate that label!) I baked a small piece of fish to go with it. You could probably add some cooked shrimp or to keep it strictly vegetarian add tofu to the dish. I thought about substituting edamame for the peas to add protein, but I love baby peas, so I left it “as is” this time.

Like most stews, this tastes better the second day after the flavors have had a chance to meld. If you are a carnivore, this dish would be wonderful with baked chicken.

The asparagus soup is just fine the way it is. Only a few suggested changes, I use fresh sage and thyme if I can get it and Vegetable broth or Chicken broth in place of the water.

Potatoes simmered with Sage, Tomatoes and Peas
6 Servings

1-2 Tablespoons butter, safflower oil or olive oil
1 medium onion , sliced
1 tablespoon fresh sage leaves torn into pieces or 1 teaspoon whole dried sage leaves
2 pounds potatoes unpeeled sliced ( I always use red potatoes but Yukon gold would be great too)
1 pound tomatoes, fresh or canned (with liquid) peeled, seeded and sliced ( I use canned diced tomatoes, but not with added herbs or garlic in it)
½ cup vegetable broth (omit if you used canned tomatoes with their juice)
2/3 cup dry white wine (have a glass too, it makes the cooking more fun!)
2 cups fresh shelled peas or 1 package frozen
Salt and Fresh ground black pepper to taste
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan Cheese (the good stuff!)

Heat 2 tablespoon of the butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan or Dutch oven and sauté the onion with the sage until the onion is tender. Add the potatoes and toss with the onions for 1 minute, then add the tomatoes, wine and broth or liquid from the canned tomatoes and bring to a simmer.

Cover and cook slowly over a low flame for 1 hour, or until the potatoes are tender, stirring occasionally.

Stir in the peas and continue to simmer until the peas are tender and bright green, 5-10 minutes. Add salt and freshly ground pepper to taste and stir in the Parmesan. Remove from the heat and serve.

Asparagus Soup with Arborio Rice

8 servings

4 tablespoons margarine or butter
2 large sweet onions (preferably Vidalia) finely chopped
2 ½ pounds asparagus, tough bottoms removed cut into ½ inch pieces
1 teaspoon dried thyme (or a couple sprigs of fresh thyme)
½ tsp dried sage (or 1 tablespoon torn fresh sage)
1 bay leaf
3 quarts of water, vegetable or chicken broth. (I use vegetable broth from Whole Foods and I only use about half the amount of liquid the recipe calls for)Salt and Pepper to taste
1 cup Arborio rice (the kind that cooks in 15-20 minutes)

Melt margarine in a medium pot over low-medium heat. Add the chopped onions, cover and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until onions are softened.

Add asparagus, thyme, sage, and bay leaf. Stir to mix. Cover and continue cooking for another 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add water or broth, salt and pepper. Stir to mix. Raise heat to high, bring to boil, then reduce heat to low and cook at a low-medium boil for 30-35 minutes stirring occasionally.

Stir in rice after the first 10 minutes cover and continue cooking , stirring frequently (or the rice may stick) until the rice is tender and broth is rich. Remove bay leaf. Taste for seasonings.

Note: If you use water this is only 156 calories and has only 12 mg of sodium. The broth will add calories and sodium to the soup. You can use a low sodium broth instead of water if you want to limit the salt. It will have more flavor than plain water.

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Sheila's Favorites

NutellaImage via Wikipedia

I have no new recipes this week. I was studying for an exam so I haven’t done much cooking with the exception of the Salmon Dill Chowder I mentioned earlier. It was delicious, but I think I am the only one that likes to bake bread and make soup in the heat of summer. I will save the recipe for the fall to share with you.

Since I have no new recipes, I thought I would do something different and share with you some of my favorite products. I don’t eat a lot of processed food, but like everyone else, I don’t make everything from scratch.

So here are my favorite products:

Red curry paste: Taste of Thai Red Curry Paste http://www.atasteofthai.com/index.php?page=product&action=viewcat&id=1

I have mentioned this before in my recipe for Mahi Mahi in Red Curry Sauce. This is a mild curry. I find the other brands too hot for my taste.

: Blue Diamond Nut Thins all flavors but Hazelnut is my favorite http://www.bluediamond.com/index.cfm?navid=34

Ok, this is my addiction. Most people snack on chips, I snack on Nut Thins. The only down side is trying not to eat the whole box at one sitting.

Bittersweet Chocolate Chips:Ghiradellhi 60% Cacao Chips http://www.ghirardelli.com/products/chips_bittersweet.aspx

Make Chocolate Chip Muffins to die for with these. They are also great in Chocolate Chip Banana Bread. They are not waxy like the popular brands. They are creamy and gooey when warm.

Green Tea: The Republic of Tea, Green Tea Honey Ginseng http://www.republicoftea.com/

My morning fix. You just have to try this.

Black Tea: Bigelow Vanilla Carmel
I drink this in the evening to help me relax.

Flavored water : Metromint Spearmint or Peppermint flavored water..http://www.metromint.com/

You will either love this water or hate it, but I find the mint very cooling and refreshing. The Lemonmint tastes like the water you clean your hands in so skip trying that flavor. I am not a fan of the Chocolatemint either

Peanuts: The Peanut Shop at Williamsburg http://www.thepeanutshop.com/category/27

These are the absolute best peanuts I have had. They aren’t greasy and they are crunchy.

Hazelenut spread: Nutella http://www.nutellausa.com/history.htm

My German friend Susanna got me started eating Nutella. Actually I have never bought a whole jar. I buy little 99 cent samples at World Market and that is enough of a treat for me. Spread on Carrs Crackers.

Cajun coffee and Beignets: Café du Monde http://shop.cafedumonde.com/originals.html

Well if you have been to New Orleans, you know Café Du Monde is the place to go for chicory coffee and beignets. You can order the coffee and mix and feel like you are in New Orleans at home.

Salad dressing : Newman’s Own Lighten up Low fat Sesame Ginger Dressing http://www.newmansown.com/product_detail.aspx?cat_id=7&prod_id=14

I usually make my own dressings but when I am in a hurry or need to bring a salad to a party, I use this dressing. It goes great with a simple salad of baby spinach, toasted slivered almonds, mandarin oranges and bean sprouts

Pretzels: Newman’s own salt and pepper pretzel rounds http://www.newmansownorganics.com/food_pretzels.html

I love the pepper in these. They pack a lot of flavor so you don’t feel like eating too many and the profits go to a great charity.

Cocktail Sauce: Golden Dipt Cajun Seafood Sauce.

A little spicy but not hot. Great with boiled shrimp or crab claws

Pierogies: Mrs. T’s Potato and Onion Pierogies http://www.pierogies.com/retail/products.asp?ProdID=2

These Pierogies make a great easy meal. You can sauce them many ways, but I boil them and then brown them with some sliced onion and a little butter and that’s it.

Vegetarian Italian Sausage: Boca brand but it is hard to find. Second choice, Tofurkey Italian Sausage with Sun Dried Tomatoes http://www.tofurky.com/products/sausages.htm

Boca brand tastes the most like real Italian Sausage to me, without all the fat. I use them to make Sausage and Pepper Sandwiches in soups and in a pizza quiche. Since I have had trouble finding boca sausage in Florida I have used Tofurkey. It’s great in soups, but I wouldn’t use it in Sausage sandwiches.

Feta cheese: Vigo brand http://www.vigo-alessi.com/products/itemView.php?id=177

You see Atheno brand a lot, but I find it dry and tasteless. This is closer to traditional feta that is kept in brine. It is slightly salty and creamy.

Swiss cheese light: Tine Jarlsberg Light http://www.tine.no/page?id=185&key=9099

This is the only light cheese that actually has a cheese, not a processed flavor. It is found in most groceries but can be expensive. I have found it at Wal Mart for a better price.

Favorite cat food: Ok just joking. Rusty put me up to it. His favorite is Venison and Pea but sometimes he prefers Lamb and Rice.

Favorite Chips: Garden of Eatin Sesame Blues http://www.gardenofeatin.com/products/product/1078.php

As I mentioned, I am not a chip eater, but if I was these would be my choice. Made with all natural ingredients and the sesame adds a nice nutty flavor.

Favorite cookie mix: Toll House Slice and Bake Chocolate Chip Cookies.

This is my favorite mix, only because I can slice one at a time, controlling my cookie addiction. They are really a bit too sweet but who cares when they come out of the oven hot and gooey and you don’t have dishes to do.

Favorite premixed Chili Powder: Gebhardts http://www.mildbills.com/p-105-gebhardt-chili-powder.aspx
The taste of Texas, what more can I say

Favorite Everyday Wines:
Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc, Liberty School Cabernet Sauvignon,Ravenswood Zinfandel

I would love to hear about some of your favorite ingredients. So feel free to share your favorites with us.

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Hatch Chiles are here!!!

Chilli peppersImage via Wikipedia

Well it’s that time again, Hatch Chile Season! If you know nothing about Hatch Chiles, you might think, “What is the big deal?” For those of us that have experienced Hatch chiles, it is a much awaited time.

The Hatch Chile festival is scheduled for Labor Day weekend. There are many events, a parade, the crowning of the Chile Pepper Queen and roasting of the chiles using gas powered roasters, either hand cranked or motorized.

Hatch is known as the Chile Capital of the world. The village of Hatch is located in the Rio Grande Valley. The high desert climate, low humidity and rich soil make it an ideal location for growing chiles. The green chile harvest has started and continues until the red chile harvest or until the first frost of the year.. The chiles are grown on family farms, not commercially and interest in Hatch Chiles has grown through word of mouth, not through marketing campaigns.

Location, soil, the long growing season and altitude in Hatch, New Mexico account for the quality and unique and much sought after taste of Hatch Chiles. The village only encompasses 3.1 square miles with just under 1700 people. The people of the area make a modest living. The 2000 census showed the median income for a family was $23,819.

Hatch chile refers to varieties of chile grown in the area. There are a number of chile varieties ranging from Mild to Extra Hot. Big Jim, a popular variety is considered mild to medium but there are many variations of heat within the heat range. Hatch chiles are those that are grown in the town of Hatch. During the Green chile season Mexican chiles are often marketed as Hatch chiles, so it is important to choose a reputable organization that sells authentic, Hatch grown chiles.Whole Foods and Central Market in Texas carry Hatch Chiles during the season. I believe they are reputable sources of the real item.

Capsaisin is what makes the chiles hot. It is found around the stem, membrane and seeds, the most potent heat is in the membrane. Water will not quell the heat from a chile. Yogurt and Milk are the best heat neutralizers, so if you are unsure of your reaction, keep some around.

Interesting to note, Capsaisin is found in many pain relieving products. There is evidence that capsaisin can deplete Substance P in sensory nerve terminals. Substance P is associated with initiation and transmission of painful stimuli. Studies have shown a benefit to those with Diabetes Neuropathy, Arthritis, Psoriasis and other conditions.

Chiles have excellent nutritional value with loads of B Vitamins, Vitamin C, Calcium, Potassium and Vitamin A. The chiles are best used roasted and peeled. You can either buy them this way or roast and peel them yourself. If choose to do it yourself, remember to wear gloves and “DO NOT”…and I mean “DO NOT” rub your eyes!!! Now that’s a hot tamale!

I can think of a million uses for roasted green chiles. I just love them. Add them to a grilled cheese sandwich. Include them in your homemade guacamole. Add some chopped green chiles to your mayonnaise with a squeeze of lime juice and use on sandwiches (chicken or veggie sandwiches are good choices). Make a green chile sauce to go over breakfast burritos. A grilled cheeseburger (meat or veggie) can be topped with some strips of roasted peeled Hatch chiles. Green chile pesto has many uses, over pasta, on crackers or used as a topping for burgers. Central Market makes some wonderful pesto. I have included their recipe if you aren’t in a place where you can visit the store.

Of course there are some traditional uses, Green Chile Stew with Pork (or the non-traditional Vegetarian Green Chile Stew with Tempeh) Green Chile Cornbread and Green Chile Enchiladas.

I hope you will check out the stores in your area and try a few dishes with the Hatch Chiles. If you can’t find a store that carrys them, you can order the Chiles on line. Usually you have to buy them in bulk but I found a supplier that offers them in smaller 5lb packages. They will roast and freeze them for you too. That way you can use them year round http://www.newmexicocatalog.com/html/fresh_green_chile.html .

Hatch Chile Pesto
recipe courtesy of Central Market in Dallas:

Six mild to hot Hatch chiles, or a combination to suit your taste
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup packed fresh cilantro leaves
2 large garlic cloves
1/4 cup roasted chopped pecans
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice (or more to taste; I use a whole lime)
1 teaspoon salt, or more to taste
1/2 cup olive oil

Roast the chiles first, and de-vein and de-seed them. Combine the chiles and the cheese, cilantro, garlic, pecans, lime juice and salt in a food processor until everything is finely chopped. Add the olive oil slowly until all the ingredients become a smooth paste. At this point you can use it right away or you can freeze it for later use.

Hatch Guacamole
The bacon makes this guacamole unique. I suggest you try it if you are a meat eater. You can use pork or turkey bacon.

4 Haas avocados Halved, Seeded and Peeled
Juice of 1 lime
½ tsp ground cumin
5 slices of bacon cooked and crumbled (Optional, Vegetarians can substitute either imitation bacon bits or toasted pine nuts)
2 Hatch Chiles Roasted, Peeled, Seeded and Chopped
1 tbl chopped cilantro
Salt to taste (optional)
Blue Corn Chips

Mash avocado with lime juice and cumin. Add bacon or pine nuts, green chiles, cilantro and salt. Mix to combine. Serve with Blue Corn Chips.

Brunch Burritos

1 10 oz Package fresh spinach, washed, stems removed and chopped
½ package mushrooms cleaned and sliced
½ cup chopped onion
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
¾ cup Monterey Jack Cheese, grated
Juice of ½ a lime
1 Tablespoon toasted Pinion (pine) nuts
4 medium flour tortillas (lowfat, lard free preferred)
1 Cup Homemade "Green Chile Sauce" (http://www.recipezaar.com/Chuys-Hatch-New-Mexican-Green-Chile-Sauce-40666 Vegetarians will have to use substitutions) or Hatch Green Chile Enchilada Sauce (available in some groceries and at Whole Foods market)

Sauté’ onion and mushrooms in the oil until onion is translucent. Add the fresh spinach and cook until it is just wilted. Add the pinion nuts and lime juice.
Divide mixture among the flour tortillas and fill them. Top with ½ a cup of the Jack Cheese divided. Roll the tortillas then wrap each in aluminum foil. At this point you can put them in a crock pot set on warm until ready to serve your guests.
Heat Green Chile sauce and when ready to serve pass out the Burritos and top with Chile Sauce and extra Jack cheese. A Mango Margarita would pair well with this.

4 servings

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