Saturday, July 31, 2010

Red, Green, and White

It was around 100 degrees yesterday, and as the temperature at 7:30am today was 88 and rising, I think it is safe to assume that it will do the same today. But I will have to pretend that it is chilly outside because I want soup. Meatball Soup. This wonderful soup includes the colors of the Italian flag – red, green, and white – and makes a beautiful presentation at the table

Red from tomatoes, green from green beans, and white from acini di pepe which is a tiny soup pasta. The spice amounts in the recipe below are estimates as I measure with shakes and pinches, just add ingredients until it smells, tastes, and looks right. People should walk in to the room and exclaim that it smells just wonderful! I do not use salt (the Tabasco takes the place of salt for me), but you may prefer your food salted – so salt away. Always err on the side of more for garlic.

This substantial soup is absolutely superb when served with fresh brioche rolls. However tonight, as my tendinitis is flaring up and I can't knead dough, I will brown a loaf of crispy crunch Pepperidge Farm five cheese garlic bread.

Meatball Soup

Meatball Ingredients:

1 1/3 pound ground beef (more is fine, that's just what I had, if you use much more beef though, add another egg yolk or a T or so of milk to the mixture)
½ C bread crumbs – firm meatballs are best for soup so use the processed crumbs rather than torn pieces
1 egg
½ C Parmesan cheese (or Romano, or 3 cheese, your choice, but do use fresh grated - huge difference in taste)
2 T fresh parsley chopped or 1 t dried
½ t cracked black pepper
1 t oregano
3 t garlic, minced – or about 2 t of dried garlic

Soup Ingredients:

2 T olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2-4 C beef stock basically it depends on how many meatballs you made - now, if you went overboard on the meatballs, you might find that you need a little more stock or canned tomatoes to make it soupy. Taste and decide which would be best.
32-45 oz canned tomatoes - it all depends on the amount of meatballs.
2 t oregano
3 t basil
6 t garlic, chopped and smashed (or use dried)
½ t cracked black pepper
½ – 1 t Tabasco sauce (I use this instead of salt, if you use salt you may want to cut back a tad on the other seasonings, but really - you don't need all that salt)
1 t sugar
2 C cut green beans (I just use one bag of frozen beans)
½ C acini di pepe or other teensy tiny soup pasta


Mix beef, bread crumbs, egg, Parmesan, parsley, oregano, garlic and black pepper thoroughly and shape into tiny bite sized meatballs. Bake in a large pan sprayed with your favorite olive oil or use Pam at 375 about 25 minutes or til done and browned a bit. Set aside.

In a large sauce pan saute the onion in the olive oil til the onion is transparent, add stock, water, tomatoes, spices, and sugar. Bring to a boil then simmer covered 10 minutes. Add green beans and simmer covered five more minutes. Stir in the pasta and meatballs and simmer covered at least 15 more minutes until the pasta is done and plumped up. Taste and adjust seasonings.

Can keep on the stove for more simmering or serve immediately. If the pasta soaks up too much stock, just add more stock or tomatoes as you prefer - and then some more spices for the added liquid.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Savoring Chinese

Had terrific Chinese take-out tonight from a terrific place near us where some time ago I discovered a wondrous thing – steamed vegetable dumplings. Beautiful green packets of deliciousness served with soy sauce. Beats a tired old fried to death egg roll any day.

Have been reading a book off and on called Savor. It's about slowing down and appreciating each mouthful of food and making sure it is all the best you can eat. I am not a Buddhist, but I agree that we far too often live in the past or future rather in the immediate present. This is why we can eat something and have no memory of having done so, or why we are surprised when we find we've eaten the entire container. Some of the book is rather too Buddhist for me, but I am working through it and am thinking carefully about the parts that speak clearly to me. Slow down, pay attention, and enjoy good food thoroughly.

Slowing down is so very hard. I do tend to rush about madly multi-tasking my day away in order to get it all done and then some. Even speech tumbles out of my mouth in a rush and gets a tad jumbled. Sometimes I eat so fast that I doubt I could describe the flavors accurately, should I remember what I just ate.

Paying attention has to come after slowing down or it all goes by in such a blur that everything is unrecognizable. Pause, remember to inhale the aroma, admire the colors, and of course thoroughly enjoy the textures and flavors. The aroma of the vegetable dumplings was slightly tangy, the dough was a little springy and slightly sticky to the touch and a beautiful light pea soup green, the chewy exterior was a perfect textural contrast to the not quite crunch of the lightly steamed vegetables within, and the soy sauce provided the finishing bit of saltiness to complement the tangy sweet vegetables. Superb.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Why this blog?

Mindfulness is a way to approach life by fully appreciating what is happening right now. It is the act of paying attention. When I eat mindfully, I find that I am satisfied with less, but am also more demanding of quality, flavor, aroma, and texture. Real foods appeal when I pay attention, so this makes deciding what to eat a joy – even though I am eating to slowly lose weight.

This blog will be dedicated to discovering, cooking, and eating really good food with an eye to keeping quality high while experimenting with what I can tweak to lower the calories a bit without sacrificing flavor. I will not use sugar substitutes. I will not make anything that is fat free - sometimes fat is a critical element. I will not bother making anything considered dietetic. That is such an antiseptic word and should not be associated with real food. I intend to create food that is a feast for every sense so that it will be satisfying for the soul. Writing about it is just one way of paying close attention.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

I am a Vegetarian today but the rest of the family is not so....

I have officially declared today I Still Get to Eat Like a Vegetarian Day. The following soup is one of my favorites – soothing, delicious, can be made very low cal, and is nicely high in vitamins. I think I'll pair it with a toasted tomato, basil, provolone cheese sandwich made with wheat berry bread. No quibbling as to the vegetarian nature of cheese and evaporated milk, this is my blog and what I say even counts if I decide to use the bacon.

Potato Carrot Soup

For those that are interested in such things as nutrition facts, they have been analyzed at Calorie Count!

Ingredients with special notes:

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 1/2-4 c red potato, diced (peeling is optional)
1 c onion, diced
1 c celery, sliced (include some of the leaves)
1 ½ c carrot, sliced
1 sweet red bell pepper (optional)
7-14 pieces of bacon, cut in to chunks (this is optional and it's real handy to use the precooked bacon so you don't have to drain the fat - sometimes I just cook some bacon and crumble it for the meat eaters at the table to enjoy and have my soup vegetarian!)
3 teaspoons garlic, chopped
1 ½ teaspoon thyme
1 t paprika
4 c Vegetable Stock (you could use chicken stock if you prefer. I like Kitchen Basics brand. You might need a little more if you add too many potatoes!)
2 tablespoon parsley, chopped, or 1 tsp dried
½ teaspoon black pepper, or to taste
12 oz can of evaporated milk (optional for extra creaminess)
shredded cheese (optional)


1. In a large pot, saute the onion, celery and carrot in olive oil til veggies are softened a bit (if you are adding chunks of bacon, you can do that here)

2. add garlic, thyme, and paprika and saute a minute or two

3. Add potato, veggie stock (enough to cover the veggies) - preferably low sodium, and the rest of the seasonings.

4. Bring to a boil and then simmer covered (tilt the lid to vent a bit) til veggies are cooked (approx 30-45 minutes), stir every now and then. You can add more stock if it reduces too much or if it does not look like the veggies are covered.

5. Stir in the evaporated milk and cheese (if you are using them) shortly before preparing for serving.

6. Adjust seasonings to your taste. Let aroma and your own taste buds be the judge of what is right for you. Ditto with what spices and/or herbs to use. Experiment, soup is a wonderful flexible thing.

7. Before serving, mash a few of the potatoes with a fork as this gives the soup a nice thickness yet still retains its rustic chunky character.

8. If you really want it thick, either increase the amount of potatoes or make a roux and add some during the last five minutes. Today I added the roux, but I used a few shakes of Tony Chachere's instant powdered roux which works amazingly well!

9. The bacon is not recommended if you are trying to recover from a carnivorous attack, but can be minimized with a small crumble of them on the top at serving time.

10. Serve with a nice tall glass of locally grown cool water enhanced with a squishing of fresh lemon or lime.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Mixed Grill

It's what we decided needed to be served with our 2004 Gevrey-Chambertin 1st Cru. To be precise, marinated lamb chops, prime rib eye steak, shrimps, pineapple, and corn on the cob (method below) – all grilled over coals.

Grilled pineapple is one of the world's most perfect foods and should be included in as many meals as possible. No need for a dessert when you serve this bit of yummy stuff with dinner.

Grilled corn on the cob is a favorite of ours. I don't use the fancy garlic butter spreads that are so popular, as I find that simple works the best for good sweet corn.

How to grill corn on the cob:

nutrition facts for corn

Trim off the tassle and outer leaves – do not remove the entire husk (you may need to trim a bit at the top end with the tassles). Rinse well. Soak immersed in a large container of well salted water (a couple tablespoons of salt) anywhere from 8 hours to over night.

Remove from the container and shake off excess water. Grill in the husks – the husks and cob soaked up the salty water which lets the corn steams right in the husks.

Grilling takes about 20-30 minutes or so. They are best cooked over "waning" coals or a medium heat. Watch closely so they do not burn, it's the only way to ruin the corn. Turn often. When grilled this way there is no need for butter.

I don't know how much salt actually stays on the kernels, but I truly do not think it is much as it is mostly absorbed by the fibrous part of the plant. It never tastes salty to me.

In order to finish the delicious picture at the table, there should be something green with a dash of red on the table so maybe a simple salad of red leaf lettuce, with a sprinkle of blue cheese or feta topped with a balsamic vinaigrette.

To serve, share with good friends.

Turkey & Black Bean Sanchos

Sanchos are a combo of a burrito and a taco. You can use Pace or Paul Newman's medium taco sauce for good flavor or make up your own! Try a bit of the new chipotle Tabasco sauce as the final added heat before rolling. That sauce is finding its way into a lot of my food. All amounts need to be adjusted to taste, this is a fairly mild starter recipe, so don't be afraid!

slice some of these for an extra kick!
Sanchos My Way
Nutrition facts

Ingredients to prepare and measure before commencing to cook:

1 pound lean ground turkey
1/2 t olive oil
2 t chili powder
1 t cumin
1 1/2 C Salsa
1 1/2 C black beans, canned
8 large whole wheat tortillas
2 C lettuce, torn
2 tomatoes, chopped
1/2 C onion, chopped
Optional: Cheese, jalapenos, more Salsa, or Tabasco

What to do after you have everything ready to go:

In a medium pan, brown the ground turkey in the olive oil. If you used the lean turkey, you may or may not have to drain. If there's more than a couple tablespoons of fat in the pan, drain. Add the chili powder and cumin and stir to incorporate it with the meat. I use about twice this amount as I like more flavor. If you are not used to Tex-Mex flavors, start with the amounts listed above. You can always add more later. Add about 1 C of the salsa and stir it up well. If it looks too dry, add more salsa. Simmer about 10-12 minutes. You'll need to stir a lot because the mixture will be thick. If it is too runny, you'll just have a mess when you put it inside a tortilla. Taste and adjust the seasonings.

Once the meat is simmering, place the drained and rinsed can of black beans in a small pan and add about 1/2 C of salsa. Simmer. You can add more seasonings if you like - pepper, chili powder, cumin, garlic are all great additions.

Put the chopped lettuce, tomatoes, and onion on a pretty plate or in individual bowls.

Let everyone make their own Sanchos at the table. Those that don't calorie count can add cheese, but it really is not necessary for a good flavor. Those that like it spicy can add Tabasco or salsa. Or you could set out slices of jalapeno. A good variation here is to skip the black beans and heat up some frijoles mixed with salsa. Both ways with beans are great inside a tortilla with the turkey.

Serve with a 2006 Clos de Dougent Grand Cru. :D

Red. It's a good place to begin.

Last night I enjoyed a delicious French wine that my husband bought home after a business trip to Paris. Yes, a business trip to France. It's a rough life. Next time I'm going along too.

Serving a 2006 Clos de Dougent Grand Cru, Grand Vin de Bourgogne with a Tex-Mex dinner of Sanchos may not be the first pairing that comes to mind for wines of this quality, but the velvety lusciousness, complexity, and clarity of the masculine pinot was superb. A wine worthy of either a great steak or spicy meats, beans, and tortillas. The elegant burgundy soloist played well with the raucous choir of red hot chiles. Red is definitely my favorite color of the day.