I love to be outside in the mountains in winter. The crisp air, mountains with puffy clouds, bluebird skies, or skies ripe with snow. Truth be told, not a fan of high humidity and horizontal snow. Last week was a day filled with storm riding, wind and one beautiful day with powder. Great time- and with Steve and Lesley!
When you are outdoors all day, I want something healthy and filling. Balanced by something light and bright. So I am feeling Roasted Cauliflower Pasta with Olives served with a Sun-dried Tomato and Butter Lettuce salad. (see the directions under “Plenty”, my post from January of 2018) Delish, vegetarian and totally healthy.
Let’s go skiing!
Cauliflower Pasta with Olives
Serves 4 hearty appetites
2 medium heads of cauliflower cut into florets
1 1/2 cup of castelvetrano olives pitted and chopped.
4 T. creme fraiche (or use full fat sour cream)
3 tsp Zatar (you can find this at Cost plus World Market in the spice aisle)
Extra Virgin Olive oil
1 lb. tagliatelle noodles, dry
1/2 cup shaved Parmesan + some for the table
Putting it Together:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
While oven is preheating, cut cauliflower. Place on rimmed baking sheet. May need 2 pans. Drizzle with olive oil. To fully roast, will take appx. 40 minutes.
Chop and pit the olives. ( I like extra olives, so sue me!)
Heat salted water to boiling. Add pasta. Cook till al dente, about 10-12 minutes.
When cauliflower is done, add to large pasta bow. Quickly toss with creme fraiche. Add hot pasta to bowl. Toss in olives. Drizzle with more EVOO. Stir. Top with Parmesan. Serve with salad and crusty bread if so inclined.
2018 was a tough year. I lost my mom, I lost my dog, I lost my refrigerator. And in that importance ranking. And that year made me realize how important family, friends and pets (aka family), truly are. Sure, its easy to say, of course they are important. And we say that almost daily don’t we? But having them exit your life forever, takes your breath away and makes you sit back on your heels a bit. Or it should.
I am lucky enough to have a great family that supports each other and rallies when times are tough. I am also lucky enough to have those special friends that even though we may be miles apart, can heal your heart with a kind note, quiet dinner or weekend away when you really need it. (And thanks Lois, Marianne and Laurie!)
After having been away from home for 5 months, I am so happy to have my own bed to sleep in, my things around me, friends on the phone, and cook my own meals.
Truly my safe harbor is home.
Here is comfort food to help make your safe harbor a bit more comfy- Creamy baked spaghetti squash with spinach and chicken.
Creamy Baked Spaghetti Squash with Spinach and Chicken.
Serves 2 and quite heartily
2 – 3 lb spaghetti squash
3/4 lb single chicken breast
1 5 oz package fresh spinach
1 10-12 oz package frozen artichokes thawed and large chopped
1/2 large onion large chopped
4-6 oz cream cheese softened and cubed
1/2 c Parmesan cheese, grated + some for browning
2 T minced garlic ( i like to make it with 3, but I love garlic)
1 Tablespoon water
1/2 tsp celery salt
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
salt and pepper
Putting it together:
Turn on oven to 400 degrees. While it is preheating, poke the spaghetti squash multiple times with a fork. Place in microwave and cook for 5 minutes. This will make splitting and coring the squash much easier.
Split the squash lengthwise and remove seeds. Place in oven and roast split side up for about 35-40 minutes. Will depend on the size of squash. Should be fork tender when done.
In a small ovenproof dish, cook the chicken till just cooked through. Or, sear and cook over low heat on your stove top. However you want to cook it, that’s fine. Once its cooked, remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.
While the squash is roasting, make the chicken. Chop the artichokes, onion, garlic. Cube the cream cheese and place all in a bowl.
In a pan, place 1 T of water and heat. Add spinach and cook till just wilted. Turn your spinach often. Remove to colander. Let cool and squeeze out water. Be careful not to burn your hands!
Add the spinach to the bowl of ingredients. Add celery salt, red pepper flakes and Parmesan. Add the chicken to the bowl.
Chiffonade your basil and set to the side.
When your spaghetti squash is finished roasting, remove from oven. Take a fork and shred the squash lengthwise being careful not to break the skin. Add the shredded flesh to the bowl of tasty ingredients. Mix the ingredients well. Make sure to smash the cream cheese into the mixture well. Salt and pepper to taste.
Divide the mixture between the two halves of spaghetti squash. Top with additional Parmesan and bake. I would suggest about 10-15 minutes. Then turn on the broiler for 3-5 minutes to make a delicious brown crust on the top.
Top with basil. And devour.
This is restaurant quality at its finest. Remember, you can leave out the chicken for a delicious vegetarian version.
When people long for something, sometimes its wistful. Other times its lustful. It may be with sadness, hope, desire or remembrance. We long according to what our hearts say or dictate. We are puppets to our heartstrings.
Recently, I lost my mom to an aortic aneurysm. Suddenly, and catastrophically. While I am saddened by her leaving us so unexpectedly, I take comfort that it was quick and not a lengthy death.
My friend Lois Presley, gave me a cookbook at mom’s passing. Ina Garten, “Cook Like a Pro” to be exact. And during this time of longing for my mom’s voice, I turn to cooking for comfort. With a nod to Ina Garten and the Silver Palate cookbook, I give you my variation of Chicken Marbella. Interesting, complex, soothing, wonderful. Just like my mom.
8 lbs chicken thighs, skin on. (Plenty of leftovers. or great for a dinner party)
1/2 C EVOO
1/2 C Red Wine Vinegar (Buy the good stuff-trust me)
1 C Cerignola green olives, pitted (May have to pit yourself. I did. good whack with flat side of a chefs knife and remove the pit)
1/2 C Kalamata olives, pitted
1/2 C capers
6 dried bay leaves
1 1/2 heads of garlic-peeled, cloves separated, minced. (This is the hard part but a true deliciousness)
1/4 c dried oregano
2 tsp Kosher salt
1 tsp Fresh Ground Pepper to taste
1/2 C Light Brown Sugar, lightly packed (Note: I used Trivia Brown Sugar Blend. Or go with your favorite brand of brown sugar.)
1 C Pinot Grigio. Remember-use wine you want to drink. If you won’t drink it, why would you put it in your food?)
Putting It Together:
THE DAY BEFORE YOU WANT TO EAT THIS:
Mix marinade together: red wine vinegar, olive oil, dates, olives, capers, garlic, oregano and bay leaves in large bowl and stir. Add in chicken. Make sure that the chicken is submerged in the marinade. Let it marinade for 24 hours. And stir occasionally.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Pour the marinade into bottom of large roasting pan. (Ina recommends 15 x 18 inch roasting pan. I had to use 2 pans). Then add the chicken, skin side up on top of the marinade and sprinkle with the brown sugar. Top with Kosher salt and black pepper.
(time to clean the oven!)
Pour the wine AROUND the chicken into the marinade. Not over! You want the skin to crisp up with the spices.
Roast for 45-55 minutes. Make sure the internal temp is 145 degrees. Remove from the oven and cover with aluminum foil. Let it rest for 15 minutes.
Remove the bay leaves and place 1/4 C of the pan juice on a serving platter. Place chicken on top. Make to offer the olive and date mix marinade on the side with the chicken.
This is one of the dishes where you just may want to lick the pan!
The weather cools, leaves change to glorious combinations of gold, red, orange, plum. Air seems fresher and the smell of musty leaves is warm and deep. Autumn is one of my favorite times of the year.
Autumn sets the tone for the remaining months of the year-spending more time inside, sitting before a fire, sipping a glass of red wine. And seeking warmth in the food we eat. I begin to eat ‘comfort’ food. For many that means heavy food. And that doesn’t need to be the case. It means full of flavor and depth, spices and unexpected tastes.
When I want comfort food, I often turn to soup. To that end, I give you fall in a bowl.
Pumpkin Curry with Shrimp Soup
1 lb. Shrimp raw peeled and deveined ( I like jumbo prawns feels more luxurious)
1 can 15 oz. Pumpkin puree`
2 cups roasted chopped Butternut Squash
2 Shallots sliced very thin and fried crispy
1 C Vidalia Onion chopped
3 T chopped Cilantro
1 T minced Garlic
1 T minced Ginger
2 T Lime zest
juice of half a Lime, plus Lime wedges for serving
1 Plum tomato, chopped, seeds removed
1 C Coconut Milk (make sure to include some of the cream. I use have cup cream and half cup milk)
2 Cups Chicken Stock
1/4 tsp Cayenne
1 1/2 T Curry Powder
Plain Greek Yogurt for serving
2 C cooked Brown Rice (use the remainder of the chicken stock from a box to cook the rice. Add more stock if needed) Note: If you are doing keto, leave the rice out of serving
Olive Oil for cooking
Putting it Together:
Peel and remove seeds from butternut squash. Chop and place on rimmed baking sheet. Toss lightly with olive oil and place in oven heated to 375. Roast till browned. Personally, I like crispy edges. Do this first- can do the rest while soup is cooking.
In a soup pan, add 3 T olive oil and heat to medium. Add chopped onion and garlic. Cook until onions are translucent appx 8 minutes. Add in ginger. Heat till fragrant.
Add in chopped plum tomato, and can of pumpkin puree`. Cook till pumpkin turns golden- for me, takes about 5 minutes of stirring frequently. Do not let it burn!
Add in chicken stock, curry powder, coconut milk, cayenne pepper. Simmer for 20 minutes. Stir often.
(coconut milk being added)
While the soup is simmering, fry the shallots. When crispy, remove to plate lined with paper towels.
At 20 minutes, add in juice of 1/2 a lime,butternut squash, and shrimp. Simmer again for 20 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste.
Scoop a healthy 1/2 cup of brown rice into a large soup bowl. Ladle in the pumpkin curry over the rice. Top with a large spoonful of Greek yogurt, then chopped cilantro. Add lime zest and finish with fried shallots.
In the late part of summer, the gardens and farms are laden with fruit and veggies. What an amazing opportunity for eating fresh and healthy. And when I eat all these wonderful veggies and fruits, I feel great. And I feel great supporting a local farmer or gardener. Subscribe to your local farmers delivery service and support your local farmers markets.
This recipe IS the freshness of the season. Is there anything better than fresh tomatoes with salt? Still warm from the sun? NOPE. NOTHING.
Gazpacho with spicy citrus shrimp
64 oz. Tomatoe juice (try to use organic and only tomatoes as the ingredient)
1 T. Worcestershire Sauce
2 T. Kikkoman Soy Sauce
1 tsp Celery Salt
5 garlic cloves finely chopped
1 heaping T of Better than Bouillon Beef base
2 Avocados chopped + 1/2 of one for serving
3 Ripe Roma tomatoes chopped
3 Persian cucumbers chopped
1 Yellow Bell Pepper chopped
1 Large Jalapeno chopped
1/2 Large red onion chopped
2 Ears sweet corn charred on grill, kernels cut from cob (if you are doing keto, leave this out)
Small bunch of green onion chopped for serving
Fresh Cilantro for serving
1 T Red pepper flakes
1/4 C EVOO
1 lb Large shrimp or prawns
Red Tabasco Sauce, to taste
Sour Cream for serving
Salt and Pepper.
Putting It Together:
In a soup pot, put all the tomatoe juice, chopped garlic, soy sauce, beef base, Worcestershire sauce, celery salt. Salt and pepper to taste. Heat till just below simmering. Cool the soup base. Drizzle with EVOO.
While soup is cooling, chop the vegetables. When soup has cooled, add the veggies. Stir and add Tabasco. I like it spicy so I add 10 hearty shakes to the soup. Return to refrigerator to allow flavors to blend.
While soup is sitting, prepare the shrimp.
Spicy Citrus Shrimp
2 limes pressed for juice
1 large lemon pressed for juice
1 T red pepper flakes
1/4 C EVOO
1 lb of shrimp (make sure shrimp is clean, patted dry and tails and veins removed)
Grab a large Ziploc bag and add all ingredients. Let marinate for at least an hour. Put the shrimp on skewers for grilling.
Start your grill and cook till done. These can be served warm or cooled. Personally, I prefer cool. Especially on a hot summer evening.
Spoon soup into bowl. Add 4-6 shrimp into bowl as an entree serving. Top with a dollop of sour cream, handful of chopped green onion, avocado, chopped cilantro and additional Tabasco. Top with Salt flakes or Red Salt if desired.
There are things in life that make you appreciate everything or small things. Holding a new puppy in your arms, watching an incredible sunset, turning a corner on a hike and having the world open up before your eyes, seeing your children grow up to be kind and wonderful humans. Each of these makes your heart well up~ And we should have moments like this every day. Go out there and find your happiness!
I love food that’s filling and you can find joy in preparing and eating them. So to that end, I give you marinated steak salad with blue cheese. Get your grill on!
Tasty Beauty Shot:
Wild Strawberries foraged while fly fishing. Such intense flavors! Spent an hour hunting these tasty morsels. Got multiple handfuls.
Marinated Steak Salad with Blue Cheese
2 lbs sirloin steak (You will have leftovers. Yum! Make a french dip the following day for lunch!)
1/2 C EVOO
4 cloves smashed garlic
Juice of half a lemon- large
3 green onions sliced diagonally
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 container baby arugula
2 soft boiled eggs
1/2 cup of crumbled blue cheese
Sliced green onions, 2-3 sliced diagonally
French fried onions (optional)
Lemon Olive Oil Dressing:
3/4 cup EVOO
1 Heaping T of Grey Poupon
Juice of 1 lemon, medium
Salt and Pepper to taste.
Dash of Celery Salt (I LOVE this condiment. I personally add a tsp to dressings)
Putting It Together:
Marinate the steak for at least an hour, preferably 2-3 hours. Then remove from the refrigerator and bring to room temp. Fire up the grill. When the grill is ready, place the steak on the grill and cook till medium rare. Please use a meat thermometer as steak thickness will definitely impact cook times and finish.
Remove steak when cooked to desired level. Cover with tin foil and let rest. While steak is resting, create your salad. Chop romaine and place on platter. Toss lightly with salad dressing.
Add tomatoes and blue cheese. Slice the steak across the grain and arrange steak slices on salad. Cut eggs into quarters lengthwise. Place artistically on salad. Drizzle with a bit more dressing. Salt and Pepper to taste. I love the french fried onions for added crunch. And I use the Kroger Gluten-free brand. tasty!
Yes, I am full. Full of the political wrangling and lack of facts presented daily. Tired of the pontificating. Self-indignation on both sides. Let’s focus on the good things- love, friendship, sunshine, making a difference. I know that my life changes little on who is in the Presidents office. I know many won’t agree. My point is to make a positive change where you live. Volunteer. Mentor. Make someone’s life better for knowing you.
I love salads that fill me up. Salads that have a lot of goodies- not ones that just have two types of lettuce and a dressing. Give me bits & bites- a salad should be an adventure. Every bite a discovery of tastes and combos.
To that end, I give you Loaded Cauliflower Salad.
Loaded Cauliflower Salad
1 medium head of cauliflower, cut into similar size florets Trim off any dark spots.
1 C Mayo (or Veganaisse-Personal Fave!) Use good mayo, or make your own.
3 T Grey Poupon Mustard
1/2 tsp Paprika
1 tsp celery salt
1/2 C Shredded Sharp Cheddar Cheese
1 large Shallot, small chop (or less depending on taste. Some shallots can be intense.)
4 Hard Boiled Eggs, chopped + 1 slice for garnish
1/2 C chopped dill pickles. ( I like to use baby kosher dills for the firmness)
3/4 C shelled cooked Edamame.
6 slices thick cut bacon, cooked and chopped into bite-size pieces.
Salt and pepper to taste.
Putting It Together:
Put a medium sized sauce pan on stove and turn to medium. Add water and cauliflower and cook till al dente. Should take about 10 minutes. Drain and cool.
While cauliflower is cooking, make the sauce. Combine mayo, mustard, paprika, celery salt and stir till well mixed.
In large bowl, add cooled cauliflower, edamame, shallot, pickles, chopped egg and bacon. Stir in sauce. Salt and pepper to taste.
Serve on platter with additional sliced hard boiled egg and sprinkle with additional paprika.
P.S. Top with a bit of Falk Salt too.
P.P.S. Served with Beer marinated Hatch Chile Brats, grilled Ancho Chilies,sauteed mushrooms and onions with Balsamic Glaze.
Sometimes things just hit you upside the head. Like finally realizing your mother DID know most things. Or driving with the windows down and the air conditioning off does NOT give you better mileage. Or, maybe understanding, and appreciating what you have is more important then what you want.
And this time, it was testing a Kung Pao sauce and recognizing I will never buy it again. And it goes on virtually everything. Chicken, shrimp, veggies, pork tenderloin. It will NOT work on popcorn. Not at all. Though I am working on a spice mix that will give the same type of flavor profile.
So, I offer you this recipe. But triple the sauce. And don’t eat the peppers. Unless you are a true daredevil.
Kung Pao Sauce with Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Almonds.
2 lbs. Brussels sprouts
2 cloves Garlic (Hack: use minced garlic in the jar. Drain well. Use 2 T.)
3 Green onions, sliced on diagonal. Use white and bright green parts.
1/4 cup slivered Almonds, toasted
2 tsp Apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp Olive oil
1 tbsp Sesame oil
2 tsp Garlic chili paste
1 T Hoisin sauce
1/2 cup Soy sauce
1 tspBlack pepper, Freshly ground
1 T Swerve granulated. (Note: if you are not making this Keto, use brown sugar)
1 T Cornstarch
1 tsp Kosher salt
3 dried Chile de Arbol, lightly crushed
1 tsp sesame seeds for garnish.
Putting it Together:
Turn on oven to 425F. Clean and thoroughly dry the Brussels Sprouts. Cut off ends and slice in half horizontally. Put on rimmed cookie sheet. Drizzle with olive oil. Place into oven for 15-25 minutes. Should be browned and have crispy bits.
While the Brussels sprouts are cooking, make the sauce.
In a medium sauce pan, add the sesame oil. Add minced garlic to sesame oil and heat till fragrant. Should be 1-2 minutes. In a separate cup, whisk the cornstarch and water together. Be sure to slowly add the water to avoid lumps. Set aside.
Add Soy, vinegar, hoisin, Swerve or brown sugar and chili paste to pan. Stir well. Add the lightly crushed, (big pieces-like 2 or three per chili), salt and pepper. Add the cornstarch slurry to the pan. Turn heat up to medium and bring to boil. It will thicken in about 2-3 minutes.
Remove Brussels sprouts from oven. Put in bowl or platter. Drizzle with sauce. Top with almonds, sesame seeds and green onions.
Sometimes it is important to lighten up. And that could be via commitments, partners, “so called friends”, food, jobs, cities. So many things weigh us down and perpetuate drama that we don’t need.. The energy that is drawn away from elements in our lives that actually add positivity and value often gets lost in the mire of every day life and societal commitments. It’s OK to say no. Or begin to cull what is truly important. Focusing on quality of engagements vs quantity is truly what it is about. Take the time to prioritize your life. Go for what makes you happy. And norms be damned.
I love to eat light in the summer. Quality food that gives me energy and pleasure is where I like to be. I recently came across such a recipe. And I could eat it every day. It is truly a labor of love. And pairs well with glazed salmon. Or a grilled chicken with lemon chive marinade. I say it is a labor of love because it takes a while to prep and slice the snap peas. I wouldn’t want to take this to a party unless I sincerely care about the people I am with. Or family. Or your really want to impress someone. With love.
And one picture for pure beauty’s sake. Because everyone needs beauty in their life.
Sugar Snap Pea Salad with Buttermilk Dressing (Courtesy of Bon Appetit) With adjustments. Ingredients 3 T Whole milk Greek Yogurt
3/4 C buttermilk
8 oz. sugar snap peas, ends and string removed
3/4 c buttermilk
2 T lemon juice (use fresh. Makes such a difference)
Zest of a lemon, split into two equal parts.
2 heaping tsp of minced garlic (can use jarred to save time and effort)
1 tsp minced dill
Olive Oil + some for drizzling.
Salt and pepper. Be generous.
Putting it Together
Start with making the buttermilk dressing. In a medium sized bowl, add buttermilk, yogurt, garlic, and a pinch of kosher salt, whisk together. Add lemon juice and whisk again. Add ½ of zest, dill, salt and pepper and whisk again. Set aside.
After you have cleaned and prepped the snap peas, slice each one horizontally. Should get about four to five slices in each one. This is the labor of love component I was telling you about.
Toss the peas with olive oil and other half of lemon zest. Pour buttermilk dressing onto platter. Place dressed snap peas on top of dressing. Drizzle with olive oil. Salt and pepper to taste.
Lovely, fresh and I could eat it every night. No really. Every night.
Even though it is raining outside and 45 degrees, it is Spring. You can almost watch the peonies grow by the minute. And we definitely need the rain. Come Monday, the desert will be bursting in flowers- dwarf delphinium, tufted evening primrose, lupine forming buds.
I feel the same about eating in spring. Colorful food, light and delish, packed with flavor and nutrients. To that end, I offer Inez Melvin’s Marinated Vegetable Salad. And it’s flexible and can be Keto-friendly. In fact, that is how I make it. Leave out the sugar and use Stevia. No calories, and same contribution to the marinade. And if you prefer other veggies, as long as they are hearty and can stand up to the marinating process, go for it. I love snap peas in this. And sometimes I had chopped salted peanuts just before serving. Great snack, side dish and potential main if you add tofu or grilled chicken. Have fun with it. And let me know what you think.
Inez Melvin’s Marinated Vegetable Salad
1 head of cauliflower, cut into florets
1 head of broccoli, cut into florets
1 can of black olives (change this to other varieties to change the profile)
1/2 lb of mushrooms, quartered
1 bunch of green onions, sliced diagonally. (Use the white parts and bright green parts)
1 container of grape tomatoes
1 C good olive oil (Use the good EVOO here. Makes a world of difference)
1/2 C red wine vinegar
1/2 C sugar (I use Stevia to keep it Keto)
1 tsp Salt (I use kosher)
1 T paprika
1 tsp celery salt
1 T minced garlic
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
Putting it together:
Clean and chop your vegetables. Drain the olives and add to the veggie mix in a large bowl. In a separate bowl or mason jar, add in the marinade ingredients and blend thoroughly. Pour the marinade over the veggies. Mix lightly. Now is the hard part, cover the bowl and put in in the refrigerator for 24 hours. Mix a couple of times over the next 24 hours. And yes, of course i cheat. Every time I stir the salad, I nibble bits of goodness from the bowl.
Enjoy this bright filling salad. Chock full of goodness. And relish this time of year full of promise and freshness.