Saturday, December 24, 2011


yes, truffles. Easy peasy way to enjoy a fancy treat or a great gift for a friend.


The list of ingredients is so long, you had better print this page out:

1/3 cup whipping cream
8 oz semi sweet baking chocolate
1/3 cup butter
cocoa and powdered sugar

Directions that are complicated but worth every difficult step:

In a medium sized pan over low heat, melt the chocolate into the cream. Remove from heat and stir in the butter until it melts and the mixture is creamy. Refrigerate for an hour or two until it is firm enough to handle but not overly hard - if it gets hard, just let it come to room temperature.

Dust the palms of your hands with either powdered sugar or cocoa. Work fast and scoop small blobs of truffle mix and roll into balls. Roll them in more powdered sugar and cocoa.

Now wasn't that hard? Nope! My son used to make these for his teachers in elementary school for his annual gift. All I had to do was help with the stove part. It turned out his hands were the perfect temperature for rolling. Some people have too high a body temperature which makes the truffles melt instead of roll. If your hands are too hot, try rinsing them in cold water before rolling (dry thoroughly).

Refrigerate the pretty things until you want to eat them. Before serving, let them come to room temp (doesn't take as long this time because the little balls warm up fast).

They will be incredibly creamy and wonderful. Put them in pretty containers for gifting.

Eating one of these is the most incredibly mindful experience. Take your time. Do not rush. Let the chocolate melt in your mouth until the goodness spreads completely throughout you. Repeat. Enjoy.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Horseradish Cream

Make this early in the day and refrigerate to be served with a standing rib roast. One of my nieces actually prefers the cream to the roast itself, it's that good.

Now, when I eat this I don't worry about the calories as this is an annual treat. But if you just gotta know, you can find the nutrition facts here.

Horseradish Cream


½ c  heavy whipping cream
1/8 c  mayo
1/3 c  horseradish, drained
1 T  mustard, Dijon
1/8 t  sugar
1/8 t  salt
¼ t  pepper


Whip the cream in a cold bowl with cold beaters until soft peaks form. In a separate bowl, combine mayo, horseradish, and mustard. Using rubber spatula, fold in the whipped cream. Add sugar, salt, and pepper to taste. Stir well and transfer to serving bowl.

Easy to alter to taste - more or less horseradish, mayo cream etc. I used more horseradish and a little more mayo tonight and a little less cream. 

Yum is an understatement for this dish. It is impossible to eat without going through a remarkably mindful moment. Enjoy.

Standing Rib Roast

My favorite Christmas cookery tradition is standing rib roast served with horseradish cream (insert swoon here).

One nice thing about this tasty tradition is that the roasts are often on sale at this time of year. Another nice thing is getting to eat the most fantastic roast beef sandwiches in the world ever the next day. The best thing is that prime rib roasts are dratted easy to make!

Make sure you get excellent high quality meat and let your butcher guide you - get prime, not choice or any other such thing no matter how alluring the price difference. If you make this only once a year, do it right. It's not very mindful otherwise. Check out a variety of store and see who has a decent price, you may be surprised.

Standing Ribs of Great Majesty and Tastiness

If you are a calorie counter, you can check on the nutrition facts here.

What you need:

one 3 rib Prime Rib Roast - Each rib will do well for 2 regular appetites, and 3 per rib for light eaters. So, a three rib roast is good for anywhere from 6-9 people. Another way to determine how much to buy is to allow 12-15 oz per person - remember there's bone there too so you really are not giving people 15 oz of meat.

Get the roast from the butcher counter at your favorite store and ask for help in your choice. Ask for the small end of the roast as it is more tender. See pic above to see what a good roast looks like. The fat is necessary so don't trim it. Bone in is essential for flavor, so don't go boneless to save carving work...besides, picking up the rib and nibbling is the best thing ever.

Bring the roast to room temp by letting it sit out of the fridge for a couple hours. This is necessary because of the fast cookery time. Your roast is dratted cold in the middle. You want it to cook? Set it out. If you have cats, put it in the microwave or the unheated oven...just saying.

at least 3-4 t of freshly minced garlic
a good sprinkle of coarse ground sea salt*
about a t or so of fresh ground black pepper

What to do:

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

With the tip of the paring knife, make small slits, oh, about an inch long and 1/2 inch to an inch deep, all over the roast. Stuff the little pockets full of garlic.

Sprinkle on the salt and pepper and rub it in good all over. If it looks insufficient, sprinkle on some more. Insert an oven safe meat thermometer in the thickest meatiest part to near center if possible - and it is best to position it so you can see it without opening the oven. Remember, every time you open the oven, you lower the temperature in the oven and increase the time it will take to cook your roast.

Place the roast on a rack in a shallow pan fatty side to the top - the ribs will act as the roasting rack if you don't have one. Roast for 25 minutes on a lower rack in the oven.

Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees and roast til the meat thermometer registers 130-135 for med rare or a little higher if you want it more medium and it's best not to go beyond 145. The roast temp will rise while it sits so don't roast it to the point of doneness or you will have an over cooked roast. If you let it go to 145 it will be medium indeed. It should take about 1 3/4 - 2 hours for the meat to be done once you have lowered the temp. About 2 - 2 1/4 hours for a 4 rib roast. Remember, a larger roast will take longer to cook. Temperature is the important thing, not time.

Remove the roast from the oven and allow to sit quietly and rest with the sound of Gaelic Christmas music in the background before slicing and serving. Rest at least 10 minutes but 20 is better, assuming you didn't let the internal temp get too high in the first place.

The picture to the left is not a pic of my roast, but it's pretty. I'll post a pic of my roast later, I forgot to take a pic when it was done last year.

If you are a gravy maker, this roast makes the most awesome gravy in the world, guaranteed. Drain off most but not all of the fat (leave a couple tablespoons and the good browned bits in the pan. Set the pan over a burner set to medium. Then add either some flour or cornstarch and stir it up a bit. Add some beef stock and stir making sure to scrape up and loosen the browned bits. Allow to simmer and stir a bit til it thickens. It will only take a few minutes. If you have some of that great instant granular roux that Tony Chachere makes, and the gravy needs thickening, use that.

To really send this roast over the top and make your guests swoon in mindful appreciation, make my Horseradish Cream.

*now, there is a vigilante group of cooks that swear that salting the roast before baking will ruin it by making it less tender and juicy. I've not seen any reduction in the tenderness or juiciness of my roasts because of salt. But if you want to make sure, then by all means do not use the salt! Me, I'm salting the thing.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Renee's Hors d'oeuvres

I have been making these since the early 1980's when my friend Renee gave me the recipe. They are not a health food. They are made with many things that I would otherwise never eat. They are also incredibly tasty and a marvelous hot treat for a party. Make sure there is a party as it makes 50 of the things. If you try to eat them all by yourself, I am not responsible for the extra pounds you gain.

If you are interested in calories and such, click here.

The ingredients are all required. Do not make a cheese substitution or they will be a fail. Just pretend you are buying the Velveeta for a friend with dubious taste. Roll your eyes a bit and say things like "I'm glad this is not for MY family, but my friend has broken legs and cannot get to the store, you know." It helps to wear a jacket with a large hood and maybe a scarf to hide your face. You could also make your purchase late in the evening or right when the store doors are thrown open in the morning and the employees are too tired to care about your health. Enjoy.

Renee's Hors d'oeuvres


1 pound of the Hot Jimmy Dean Breakfast Sausage
1 pound of very lean hamburger - Yea! you can have one item be not too bad for you!
2 T minced onion (ok, a little more is good but make sure that they mincing is teensy tiny)
2 T tiny minced parsley or use dried flakes
1/2 t ea - oregano and basil
1 t garlic powder (needs to be the powder and not the actual garlic or you won't get the flavor spread evenly throughout.
1 pound cubed Velveeta
50 slices of that great little cocktail rye bread


Brown the meats with the onion and drain when cooked. Keep the pan on the burner and stir in the seasonings, then add the chunks of Velveeta and stir til it's all melty.

Divide evenly on the rye bread and place on cookie sheets which you then place in the freezer. Once frozen, transfer all to ziplock bags til the party.

Once the guests arrive, remove them from the freezer and pop into the oven on cookie sheets and broil for about 6-8 minutes.

Be mindful as can be with these, they are worth it.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Baked Bacon Wrapped Dates

Ok, repeat those words - Baked Bacon Wrapped Dates. OMG. No, they are not all that good for you, but fortunately, you can be most satisfied with one or two which makes them extremely mindful if you take your time and focus on the incredibly delicious combination of savory bacon and the sweetness of the dates magically transformed to a near candy state through the magic of mindfully applied oven heat. If you are a calorie counter, click here for the per date information. I'll post a pic next time I make them.

To make 12 bacon wrapped dates you will need:

12 pitted whole dates
4 slices of good quality bacon such as meaty applewood smoked bacon

All you have to do is:

Cut the bacon into thirds* and wrap each third around a date. Secure with toothpicks.

Place them in a casserole dish sprayed with Pam, and put them in an oven that has been preheated to 350 F. Bake for about 20-25 minutes. They will be most brown and lovely.

Cool a little bit because the melty hot dates will burn you if you taste too soon...but don't wait too long, maybe 10 minutes. You want to eat these little guys while the date is warm and gooey. They reheat well, so if you are taking them to a party go ahead and bake them at home. Then nuke a minute or two when you get to the party.

Some people like to stuff cheese of a creamy nature inside the date, but I think that is overkill and removes the element of mindful balance from the sweet savory experience. Do it if you must.

Obviously, you can adjust this recipe very easily to increase or decrease the amount you make.

*If the dates are large, you may need to use 1/2 a slice of bacon to each date. Just make sure that the date is entirely wrapped so it doesn't permanently melt to the casserole when it cooks. Too much bacon does not improve the experience, so use whichever length wraps once around the date with just a smidge of overlap. Also, I prefer the smaller dates, in order to keep the ratio of sweet to savory correct, so if you have a choice, pick the smaller dates.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Why on earth do you add salt to boiling pasta water?

Ok, in the post on Pepperoni Pasta, I told you to add salt to the water that you were bringing to a boil for the pasta. I admitted that I had not a single clue as to why but that you were to do so anyway.

Well, one thing about me is that I really do not like Not Knowing Stuff. So I searched the interwebz for the answer. Turns out there are two. Answers that is.

Answer #1 - because a little of the salt is absorbed into the pasta and it enhances the flavor. I am glad it's just a little because I really do not like to salt my food unless it's absolutely necessary.

Answer #2 - this is the more interesting answer because it means I have learned a Scientific Fact! Salt actually increases the boiling point of water which means that when you stick the pasta in there the water is hotter and it cooks faster which is dratted good for the flour and such.

Debunking Answer #2 - unfortunately, you would have to add so much salt to the pot to raise the temperature, the pasta would be most inedible. Here's a link where it is all explained for you with links to actual science and math.

Thus the winner is Answer #1. Salting enhances the flavor of the pasta. But, remember, if you are one of those that uses the pasta water in your sauce (I do that for some sauces), don't add too much salt. I think this is going to have to be one of those "to taste" things.

The next time I am feeling brave, I will boil two pots of water, one with salt and one without. Then there will be a taste comparison by the professional eaters that reside within my home. So, one of these days (not this weekend as I am going on a trip), I'll talk about the results and let you know if it really is important to salt the pasta water.

This sounds like one of those things that will start a Culinary War.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Pepperoni Pasta

Did you know that you should never use hot water when filling the pot to boil pasta? Well, if you've been doing that, stop right this minute. The problem stems from the rust and crud that coat the insides of water heaters. You don't want to eat that.

Last night I made a family favorite, the oft praised Pepperoni Pasta. Everyone loves it because it's seriously tasty. I love it because it is fast and easy to make even on a week night.

What you need:

1-2 T pure olive oil
1/2 an onion, chopped
2 t fresh chopped and smashed garlic - this dish is one of the few exceptions to my rule that you cannot ever use too much garlic, because here, it is quite possible. So just use either a couple nice sized cloves or four smaller ones.
4-8 oz Good quality pepperoni with the pieces sliced in half (like half moons) - I like Wilson's brand as it has lots of flavor and does not taste greasy or salty to me. Really do not like Hormel. The best pepperoni comes from a great Italian Deli in Pittsburgh called Parma Sausage. I often order their delicious meat. It's worth every penny of the shipping charge. Use four ounces pepperoni if you are counting calories and eight if you want a more substantial meal.
2 cans diced tomatoes - You can use plain, roasted, or the one with oregano and garlic.
Anywhere from 1/2 to 2/3 of one of those pint sized heavy whipping cream things.
black pepper to taste
1 pound pasta - preferably something like penne. This does not work well with the longer pastas. 

What you do:

Prep your onion, garlic, and pepperoni.

Fill the pot with cold water, with some salt added (I have no clue why I do this. Always have but if I remember right, it does help the pasta achieve a state of perfection and you do drain it off), and place the pot on a burner set on high to bring the water to a boil.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat and when the oil starts shimmering, add the onion. Saute til the onion is clear or even a little browned if you have the patience. Add the garlic and saute for two more minutes.

Add the pepperoni and saute for two more minutes. Add the tomatoes and bring the thing to a nice simmer.

Once the pasta water is boiling, add the pasta. While the pasta is cooking, add the cream to the tomato sauce. Add and stir in batches until it looks lovely to you. Grind some black pepper into the sauce. Taste and determine if you need to add more cream or pepper. Simmer on low while the pasta is cooking.

When the pasta is al dente, drain it well in a colander. Then return it to the pot and dump in the pepperoni sauce. Stir well and serve with some fresh grated Parmigiano Reggiano and a loaf of crusty chewy hot bread to help push the pasta onto your fork and to mop up the remains of the sauce.

Friday, November 25, 2011

It's all in the Minestrone

Minestrone is one of those kitchen sink sort of soups. It's really all in there. It was one of the first soups I ever made - once I found out that meals don't just magically appear at the table and are not always supplied by restaurants. Back in the day, I used to make this from dried Great Northern beans. Since I started working, though, it's canned. Maybe in retirement....

Stuff that goes into Minestrone:

 If you are interested in nutrition facts, click here.

4 stalks celery, sliced
1 large onion, diced
4 carrots, peeled and sliced
1 zucchini
3 T pure olive oil
4 garlic cloves smooshed up good
8 sprigs of parsley, rinsed and chopped (either curly or flat Italian is just fine)
4 cups or more of the stock of your choice - veggie is best and keeps this recipe vegetarian, but you can use beef or chicken if you prefer.
28 oz hand crushed tomatoes - peeling is up to you, or just get a large can of whole tomatoes and you save some work and still get to crush them up!
3 red potatoes, diced, I like to leave the nutritious skin on 
2-3 cans of Great Northern white beans, rinsed and drained
at least 1 teaspoon dried oregano (or a tablespoon of fresh)
1/4 cup fresh rinsed and torn basil
fresh cracked black pepper to taste
Tabasco sauce - to taste, but if you are a non-salter like me, you will want several shakes as the Tabasco seems to act as salt and finishes the flavors beautifully

1/2 - 1 cup little bitty soup pasta (depends on how much you love pasta in soup)
2 cups rinsed and torn spinach


a drained and rinsed can of chick peas. I love this, but the Spousal Unit hates chick peas so....

Also, you may be a salter. Hopefully not, but you might be one. If so, taste near the end of cooking and add in only just enough. If you used salted stock though, do try to avoid adding the extra salt.

Add in any other veggie you love such as green beans are awesome, broccoli bits, or sweet red pepper. 

What to do:

Prep all your ingredients first. It's fun and organized and you can feel like Julia Child on her cookery show.

In a large pot, heat the oil over medium heat until it shimmers. Then add the celery, onion, carrots, and zucchini. Saute for several minutes until the onion is softened a bit. Then add in the garlic and parsley and saute for another couple minutes.

Add the liquids, potato, beans, oregano, basil, pepper and Tabasco sauce. Bring to a near boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for several hours...or until you are ready to eat and it tastes great. You can simmer it long or short depending on how long it is til dinner (I generally start soup early and just let it go on the stove). Just be sure the soup has the time to complete the marriage of flavors and makes you smile when you take a taste.

About 30-40 minutes before dinner, taste and adjust the seasonings to your preference. Then add the soup pasta and allow to simmer until they are tender.

Add in the spinach and stir, simmering, for another five minutes or so.

If at any time the liquid seems reduced too much, add either more stock or tomatoes as you prefer. It's fine for the reduction to take place as the flavors are concentrating. You are the judge as to how thick it should be. Taste and think. You may like a more tomatoey soup or a more brothy soup. This is also a good time to taste and adjust the seasonings.

Enjoy this very mindful thought provoking nutritious soup often.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Roasted Beef Stock

Roasted Beef Stock

5 pounds or so of Beef Soup Bones – meaty bones with marrow, adding a few veal bones gives a wonderful thick consistency
Your favorite veggie scraps (if you save the scraps in your freezer, you can make stock once your bag is full)
Or you can cut up: 2 carrots, 1 onions, 2 celery stalks with leaves, 6 garlic cloves smashed with skin on, sliced leeks, or mushrooms, etc. Use your favorites. Don’t use beets or cruciferous veggies in beef stock though. I never have, but have seen several chefs note that it throws off the taste of the stock. And as there seems to be a consensus I thought I’d best comment right along with them.
2 T Cider Vinegar
2-3 Bay Leaves
Optional – black peppercorns


Rinse and pat the bones dry.

Roast them at 400 ° F for about an hour until they are well-browned. If you used big chunks of veggies instead of scraps, roast them with the bones.

Drain the fat from the pan and deglaze with a little water. Add the deglazing water to the stock pot with the bones, and your veggies or scraps.

Add water to cover and bring to a simmer. It’s best not to boil beef stock. Add the vinegar and bay leaf and simmer for 4 – 12 hours. It’s up to you. Longer is great for beef stock, but it will be delicious after four hours.

Skim the scum that rises to the top every now and then – about every 30 minutes - and if you need to add water if it is evaporating too quickly, do so. If you are suspicious because there is no salt, taste it right before straining and add a little if you absolutely have to.

Strain the stock through a fine mesh colander lined with cheesecloth. Set the pot or bowl in the fridge to cool so the fat rises to the top and is easy to remove and discard.

Ladle the delicious stock into the container of your choice – I like freezer containers. If you like to put things up in jars, that will work well for stock.

It will thin as it is reheated. Try caramelizing some onions and mushrooms. Then heat them in a cup of stock for a nourishing meal.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Talking Turkey Stock

At some point, many of us will be faced with the sight of a turkey carcass, all that remains of a delightful meal. Lots of people pitch it, but hey, economy is a very good and mindful thing. Besides it's a cinch to make a great tasting stock that will serve as a delicious starter for the soup you planned to make with all the lovely bits of turkey meat you removed from the carcass after dinner.

This is a pretty basic stock method that also works great for chicken.

Start with a very large pot that has a lid. Place the left over bones in the pot (leave on the pieces meat and some of the skin - not JUST the bones, ok?). You may want to break it into a few larger pieces so it fits better. If you still have it, you can also add the neck. I never add the livers. I have no reason for this except that once I read a cookery book by the Great Julia Child and she said "no livers." Therefore, no livers will be added to your stock.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Mindfully Pie

Yes, I know you can go to the store and get pre-made pie crusts - and yes, they are a great thing for working people. Nice to be able to make an almost homemade pie when you don't have time for a completely homemade pie. Wouldn't surprise me if a lot of young people have never tasted an actual home made pie crust and I think that is a shame. Really doesn't take that much time and it tastes so much better. Far more of a mindfully pie experience.

Here's my recipe for a double pie crust that has never failed me:

3 cups flour
1 t salt
1 cup shortening
1 egg
1 t white vinegar
5 T very cold water

Mix together the flour and salt. Then cut in the shortening with a fork continuing until you have a nice coarse meal appearance. Under cutting is one reason a pie crust or for that matter a baking powder biscuit will fail. So do this mindfully and well.

In a separate bowl, beat the egg, vinegar and water with a fork. Add it to the four mixture and blend thoroughly.

Press into two balls and allow to rest for about five minutes.

Then using a rolling pin and a clean well floured surface, press one ball fairly flat and as circular as you can. I like my Tupperware surface which has circles in the design for you to follow as a sizing guide. Wax paper will do in a pinch, just invert the pan over it periodically to find out if you've rolled it out enough. Sprinkle liberally with flour and roll from the center to an edge, turn about 1/4 of the way, repeat, in fact, repeat the entire thing repeatedly (:D) until the circle is large enough to overhand the edges of your pie pan.

Carefully lift onto your pan gently press so there's no trapped air underneath. If there are places that were too thin, just remove a hunk of the overhanging crust, lightly dampen the piece with water and press into the offending area.

Prepare the top crust in the same way. After you add your pie filling, top, crimp the edges together with your fingers, cut off the excess crust, and finally make some decorative yet functional air ways for steam to escape with a very sharp knife.

You can get fancy and cut the top crust into 1/2 inch long slices and weave a basket looking design on the top - pretty and very festive for a holiday gathering.

Fill it with whatever pie filling you like. I really like this crust for apple pie. Or, use the crusts for two pumpkin or other open top pies.

One taste and you'll be hooked and unable to eat those un-mindful prepared crusts...well, at least you'll know the difference.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

The Real Leggett Corn

So, my daughter wanted me to blog my most requested Thanksgiving side dish...well except for the five layer butterflake rolls. I thought I had done so already and performed a quick google for Leggett Corn - named by my son after my Dad's corn raising and eating side of the family. I was most surprised when up popped a few recipes from bloggers that had the nerve to post recipes called Leggett Corn - and that no, I had not blogged it. So, appalled at the potential besmirching of my maiden name with recipes that could never be the most wonderful of all forms of corn deliciousness I checked the recipes out. They were so very near to my own cherished family "recipe" that I wondered if, in fact these were relatives. But, due to the use of Profile Names there was no way to verify that. I will proceed here on the assumption that there could be some confusion out there on how The Real Leggett Corn is made and thus entitle the dish and this blog accordingly.

This sign proves that I am in fact an original Leggett - please note that this Illinois farm was certified in 1987 by the Governor himself as a Century Farm - a farm owned and operated by the same family for 100 years. As my Uncle and Cousin still farm there, we are well into our second century.

My Leggetts go back to pre-Constitutional America. Thus, I win the right to name and own the recipe for Leggett Corn. *neener neener, as they say*

Here's some of the Leggetts that made the Original and Real Leggett Corn.

They don't look too happy. Perhaps they heard about all this upstart Leggett Corn stuff going on and available over the internet for anyone that does not know better.

Well, as a dutiful descendent, I am about to set the record straight.

I present to you, The Real Leggett Corn (TM) in all its rich complexity.


2 large cans of Green Giant creamed corn
1 small can of the Niblets extra sweet corn
A lot of Premium Saltine Crackers all crumbled up by hand just like the people above did - do not use any labor saving devices or it will not be Real Leggett Corn.
Milk - NOT skim
paprika - only if you are having guests for a formal eating party that uses real plates and need to fancy it up.

Difficult to follow instructions, but for the dish to work please perform all steps with precision:

Dump the creamed corn and drained regular corn into a bowl. Stir in crumbled crackers until it's real thick.

My Dad is the scrawny one front left
Thin a bit with milk and then add more crackers and keep this up until the crackers are absorbing the milk and the mixture looks kind of like a thick pudding of corn. Sorry, but there are no measurements. This is an intuitive recipe and you just go on adding crackers and milk til it looks dratted good. Sprinkle in some pepper once you've got a nice texture that is not too thin - here is where I will diverge from the original a tad because I do not add more salt but please don't tell the Victorian Leggetts that.

Pour into a buttered casserole dish and sprinkle a nice layer of crumbled crackers over the top.

Sprinkle paprika over crackers if formal dining is to be had.

Bake at 375 until the crumbs are just starting to brown and the whole is a bit bubbly.


you really can over bake the dish, so just slightly browned, ok? Maybe 25 minutes or so.

If you are eating this and interested in calories, you can find a reasonable estimate using low fat milk here.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Peace and Pappardelle

Any day that promotes peace should include a peaceful offering at the table. On this most excellent day (November 4, 2011), when bloggers world wide are writing BlogBlasts for Peace, it struck me that if the entire world could sit down together and enjoy a purposefully mindful and peaceful meal, world peace could be achieved in one evening. Mindful and peacefully prepared, served, and consumed food is a balm for mind and soul, so today, I will prepare Peace and Pappardelle. Please join me and serve a peace-filled meal tonight.

Pappardelle is perfect because its luscious wide ribbons offer a comforting texture with a substantial and satisfying presence on the plate. Fresh tomatoes - carefully peeled and hand crushed (with apologies and thanks to the plant) - will be combined with handfuls of fresh basil and parsley from my garden along with excellent thin ribbons of zucchini, a few cloves of garlic, red pepper flakes, and thin slices of either leek or onion gently sauteed in pure olive oil. The warm mountain of healthy goodness will be liberally sprinkled with freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.

I declare world peace with my offering of Peace and Pappardelle.

If you are interested in nutrition facts, I've set them here.

8 oz pappardelle 
1-2 T pure olive oil
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 cup chopped onion (or 1/4 cup chopped leek)
2 medium zucchini
4 cloves garlic
2 1/2 cups hand crushed tomatoes (peeled or not as is your preference)
1 handful fresh basil (approximately 1/4 cup but this is really to taste, I like a mix of regular and purple basil)
1/4 cup fresh parsley leaves do not pack (or to taste)
black pepper to taste
freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

I like to prep all the ingredients before beginning to cook. This is mindful in so many ways. I don't forget to add a critical ingredient, I don't have to put things on hold while I quickly and thoughtlessly chop that parsley, nor do I have to try to do too many steps simultaneously.

Make lovely long thin ribbons of zucchini and place them in a bowl - cut them as thin as you can or use a mandolin (I don't have a mandolin and will just use my best knife and pay particularly mindful attention so I do not slice me which would not further the peace).

Mince the garlic, chop the onion or leek, and prepare the tomatoes (you could use a couple cans of crushed or chopped tomatoes if you prefer). Place all in their very own little bowls. Harvest, rinse, and chop the parsley and basil. I like to leave the basil pieces a little larger than the parsley and usually just tear the leaves into two or three pieces. These can be mixed together in the same bowl. Save a few whole basil leaves to use as a garnish for each plate.

Once you have the ingredient preparation completed, fill a large pot with water and set it to boil - yes I do that separately from the chopping as that removes all pressure and allows me to be mindful as I chop.

While waiting for the water to boil, heat the olive oil in a large skillet set over medium heat. When the oil thins and shimmers, add the onions and crushed red pepper flakes. Saute, stirring every once in a while until the onion softens. Add the zucchini and saute another three minutes. Then add the garlic and saute one minute. Add the crushed tomatoes and simmer until the pasta is ready to cook. Turn off the heat and stir in the fresh basil and parsley and allow to sit. Taste after a minute or so and adjust seasonings.

When the water comes to a boil, add the pappardelle and boil only just until it is firm to the tooth (al dente) according to package directions. Drain the pasta, add the tomato sauce, and toss peacefully.

Plate and top with a few whole basil leaves. Very mindful with a good Chianti and pretty salad. Crusty chewy bread is also an excellent addition for those that have no need to be mindful of waistlines.

You may want to add a splash of red wine or a tsp or two of brown sugar if your tomatoes are acidic or if you've used canned tomatoes. Salt and pepper are always optional. I often use pepper, but never salt and some of you will need it. Those that like more of a kick from the crushed red pepper may want to add more at the table with the cheese like I did.

Join I Declare World Peace today.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Totally Stuffed

Lots of people complain about stuffing cooked inside the turkey for holidays, but I love it! All you need is a good basic recipe and you can mess around and change it up year after year. The main trick to inside the birdie stuffing is to not get it too wet because the bird will baste the stuffing as it all cooks, well, that and not stuffing the stuffing in too tightly. If you get wet stuffing, those are the reasons why. As with all recipes, you are in charge. That means you can change the liquids, fats, veggies, breads, and seasonings to suite you.

I don't really cut such perfect cubes.
We love cornbread and sausage stuffing. So, I'm going to give you directions for that here. I do hope that nobody just measures the seasonings and pops it into the bird. For stuffing and a lot of other recipes it is critical to use your nose. Mix and sniff. My way may not be your favorite way seasoning wise, besides, I've given you options. Use your nose and choose your favorite(s).

Here's what I use to make basic Cornbread Stuffing:

One 16 oz packet of Jimmy Dean's Sage Sausage

2 T butter if needed...oh, just go ahead and use it, it's tasty there

1 medium sized onion, chopped

3 stalks of celery, chopped

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Cooking the Big Bird

Here's how I do my Thanksgiving turkey. I buy a fresh organic free range turkey. They are more expensive. They are also, in my opinion, more than worth the price. I order it at the butcher counter in my regular grocery store and ask that it be ready for pick up the day before Thanksgiving. One nice thing about this is that I don't have a humongous thawing bird sitting in my fridge for days. Just has to sit there overnight.

Basic Big Bird Cookery 


preheat the oven to 325 F

one big ole fresh oganical free range 16-20 pounds of turkey prepped in the way described below
at least 6 slices of thick applewood smoked bacon cut into chunks
the stuffing of your choice freshly prepared and still warm
softened butter
2 cups chicken stock
a t or so each of fresh cracked black pepper, thyme, and dried parsley
you may use salt to season but don't tell me about it, it's not good for my blood pressure.

Lots of Directions with Warnings and Reasons:

Monday, October 10, 2011

Awesomeness with Chicken

Chicken Stew is one of my new faves. I've been making Aline's Cajun version (here at Mindful) for a while, but recently tried a more standard Central USA version...well, I did make a few changes cuz that's what I do. Just can't stop changing spices or in this case the entire finish and presentation. Here's a link to the original version by Rachel Bilson, I'm sure it's great as is too.

I began my changes with subbing in white wine for the dry sherry, not because I thought it would taste better but because it was Sunday in Houston and that meant that I could not buy any sherry. If I had cognac in the house I would have used that instead because I'm not a sherry fan...I'm not a cognac fan either, but I think I don't mind that as much. We always drink the red kind of wine so I still had to go out and buy a bottle of white (after trying to buy the sherry and finding out that they would not sell it to me).

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Have a nice bit of cauliflower with that cheese...

I like cauliflower. I like it simply steamed with a bit of fresh Pecorino Romano grated on top. Unfortunately, the husband and son do not see the pretty white floret in the same light as I do, so I usually end up only eating it when we are Not At Home. I don't like buying the frozen packages of cauliflower in a "cheese" sauce, which is one way they will eat the thing. So I searched about and found that a traditional English dish called Cauliflower Cheese was often used in the same way that Americans use Mac n' Cheese - either a side dish or as a main dish. So, by focusing on a high quality mature cheese instead of a "cheese product" sauce, I thought maybe I could make it the way they like it AND make me happier.

Here's what I did to make Cauliflower Cheese.

If you want to know things like nutrition facts, click here. If not, just eat and enjoy.


1 large cauliflower - make sure you get a nice looking fresh one, organic if you can
1 1/4 cup milk - I used fat free, but you can use low fat or whole fat as you choose. I set the nutrition facts for low fat.
8 oz good aged cheddar cheese - I used Tillamook brand
3 T flour
4 T butter

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Spectacular Almost Swedish Meatballs!

My Grandmother came over from Sweden when she was a young teenager. Life was amazingly difficult for them here, but it sure beat living in a barn and using a cave as a refrigerator in Sweden. Because of her I got to taste a great many Swedish foods such as the glorious potato sausage and the most wonderful Limpa Bread. I never tried making the sausage, but I do make a variation on her meatballs...a very off the mark variation because I never did want to cook when young and failed to secure the proper recipe. :(

This is comfort food, not diet food - unless you want to make it a side dish as then it is just fine no matter that you are trying to reduce a bit. We don't have it often and when we do, it's the star on the plate. If you like to know calories and nutrition, click here. I hope you enjoy this Americanized version of a tasty dish.

Spectacular Almost (but not quite) Swedish Meatballs


1 cup soft whole wheat bread crumbs - do not use the dried crumbs of stuff that comes in cans, tear into some fresh whole wheat bread and make tiny pieces (you can always pretend the bread is someone you are not fond of)
2/3 cup milk - you can use low fat or whole or 2% or whatever you prefer
1 pound ground beef - I prefer grass fed organic beef because nothing beats it for flavor
1 egg

Thursday, September 29, 2011

I'll Have a Bowl of Corn Chowder.

This is just about my most favorite soup ever, well, it's not a soup, it's chowder! Those that read my ramblings on Food I Eat know that there will never be a fish that makes it all the way past my lips with the exception of heavily spiced or sauced shrimp, preferably grilled. So, don't even begin to talk to me about how corn has no place in the real New England Chowder. You people that eat clams need to come round to the real chowder - corn chowder.

If you are into calories and nutrition facts, click here.

my chowder as a side dish
New England Corn Chowder

Ingredients with variations on the theme and options for your enjoyment no matter how you eat:

6 strips of the meatiest bacon you can find. If you can get applewood smoked bacon do it, because it is the best ever. Trim off any ends that are particularly fatty...yes a bit wasteful, but it's better. Trust me. If you are a serious bacon eater add more...or cook up some to sprinkle on when it is served.

Sunday, September 18, 2011


I make these biscuits a lot. They are simple, there's just a few ingredients, and they can be varied a lot. We have them with soup, stew, roasts, and any time there is a good reason to bake up a good biscuit. You could just buy the frozen ones, but why do that when these are so easy to do? Besides, it's fun to mess with the flour, it's fun to decide how to make them, these rise a whole lot better and it's fun to watch that, and they taste better. How mindful is that! I did the nutrition facts for you too in case you are one of my calorie counting friends.

these got a little too brown, but you get the idea!
Baking Powder Biscuits

Ingredients and later on some options to make these even more super yummy:

2 cups all purpose flour, measure this by very lightly spooning the flour into the cup. do not pack at all.
3 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
1/2 cup shortening (or butter)
2/3-3/4 cup milk

Options for making these absolutely even better:

if you change the baking powder to 2 t and add a bit of baking soda - about 1/4 t, you can swap out the milk with buttermilk and these biscuits bake up incredibly moist.

Most of the time, I add about 1/2 cup shredded extra sharp cheddar for fabulous cheese biscuits!

Add some diced jalapenos with the cheese for fantastic jalapeno cheese biscuits.

Directions and where the messy fun begins:

Preheat the oven to 450F - now if you oven runs hot, lower it a bit, you don't want these to brown before they are done on the inside.

For a lot of breads and stuff like that you usually start by mixing together the dry stuff and that's what you do here. Mix the flour, baking powder, and salt. Then use a fork and "cut" in the shortening - yup, use a cutting motion and keep on incorporating the shortening into the flour. This is the only real important part of making biscuits. You need to keep on cutting the shortening in until you have all these nice teeny tiny coarse meal balls.

Add the milk - use the smaller amount and stir, add more if you have to only just until the dough is soft and forms. Wait, I guess there is a second most important part. Don't over stir the dough...ok, third most important part is not to make them soggy with too much milk. The biscuits aren't as tender if you do either - this is not hard, just takes practice and practice is delicious.

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead very gently about 10-12 times only just until it is no longer sticky. Then pat it out pressing with your fingers until it is reasonably even and 1/2 inch thick. Use a drinking glass or cookie cutter to cut the biscuits - cut as close as possible. At the end you will likely have enough bits and pieces to gently press together into a sort of kind of biscuit shape and that is the special biscuit that the cooker gets to eat "just to make sure" they are good enough for everyone else.

Don't grease the baking sheet, just put the biscuits on it about 1/2 inch apart and bake about 8 minutes or until they are a pretty light brown. Do not let them get as brown as I did in the picture. They were still tasty as could be but I don't like them that brown. In other words, remember they only take like 8 minutes to bake so don't go off and check you email or start watching music videos that your friends post at FB. :(

Enjoy these mindfully and quickly!

ps - I'm going to try weighing the ingredients next time and using the ratio method of cooking so I can experiment with using different fats to replace the partially hydrogenated fat. In case you want to try it, here's the ratio for biscuits: 

for each 9 oz of flour, use 3 oz of fat, and 6 oz of liquid. 

Your choice as to what each main ingredient is – your fave flour, your fave fat, and your fave liquid – all weighed in the proper ratio. I'll report in after I've tried this out with different fats.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Beef Bourguignon

Julia Child's version is the most famous of all the Beef Bourguignons. There are also about 500 million variations on her classic recipe offered by an equal number of chefs. Why so many? If you asked that, you have never had a good Beef Bourguignon and I think it's way past time for you to stew up a nice pot this weekend. I was asked for the calories in this dish, so here's a link to the nutrition facts for one fairly good sized bowl.

Beef Bourguignon

Ingredients with some options based upon what I prefer, but indicating that you may prefer something else, or noting that our preferences simply may not be available in your area so you may need some entirely different ingredient:

2 1/2 pounds of lean stewing meat, trimmed and cut into cubes of about 1 inch - here you can use the classic beef chuck, a flatiron steak, a round steak, a good sirloin (my fave), or any other cut of beef that you love and think has the most flavor

to taste fresh cracked black pepper (most recipes call for salt, but I am used to meals without salt and don't use it or if I do I use only a very tiny bit - add salt here if you use it)
2 T all purpose flour

1/2 pound of the best lean bacon you can find cut into nice sized chunks - preferably Applewood Smoked Bacon. Trim this of some of the worst of the fatty parts, but leave some fat. If you prefer, you can use that pre-cooked bacon, but you'll need to add more olive oil (see below) and it won't be as tasty.

1 T pure olive oil - do not use extra virgin because you will be browning the meat in it and extra virgin will burn and smoke on you

1 large onion, chopped, now how big an onion is totally up to you. All depends on just how much you like onion. You may like sweet onions or yellow or white, use the one you like.

a no carrot variation!
4 nice big organic carrots cut into chunks, non-organic is ok, but your stew will only be as good as your ingredients.

1 celery stalk cut into chunks - don't forget to add some of the pretty and wonderfully flavorful leaves!

3 garlic cloves, sliced thin

1 bottle of a good Burgundy wine - do not get cheap wine, get good drinkable wine but not the high end wine that costs the Earth. Never ever cook with wine that you wouldn't drink.

beef stock - optional amount determined by need, you don't want the stew to be too liquidy so only add it when specified and ONLY if it needs it because you added a huge amount of veggies or beef.

2-3 tomatoes - depends on the size, squish these by hand or chop. You could use a can of tomatoes, but I think I'd drain it first.

2 Bay Leaves - if you bay leaves are old, please buy fresh ones.

1 t thyme - or more if fresh

2 T fresh parsley, chopped - fresh please.

2 T butter - salted or unsalted as you prefer.

8 oz frozen pearl onions - more if you love them

10 oz button or cremini mushrooms, quartered...or any mushroom you like. Portabellos work very well indeed, but the more dainty thin structured mushroom may not unless you only add it at the very end and don't caramelize it.


Preheat the oven to 350 F

Mix the salt and pepper with the flour and then toss with the chunks of beef.

 Heat the oil in a large heavy pot over medium heat, add the bacon and cook til crisp, remove from the pan to a bowl or plate. You want to have a couple tablespoons of fat in the pot. If there's more, drain a bit out.

Return the pot to medium high heat and brown the beef. Do not crowd the meet in the pan because what will happen is that the meat will steam and not brown. It's the brown that makes the stew extra delicious so brown your meat in batches, removing the pieces as they brown to a bowl.

Add the veggies to the pot, lower the heat to medium, and saute until they are softened - about 10 minutes or so. Stir so they don't burn. Add the garlic and saute another minute or two. Deglaze the pan with a small splash of beef stock.

Put the beef and bacon back in the pot with the entire bottle of wine and the chopped tomatoes - you may need to add some beef stock here. The liquid needs to only just barely cover the beef. Remember, the beef will exude some juices and add it to the pot. Add the bay leaves thyme and parsley. Bring to a simmer. Cover and place in the preheated oven for about 1 1/2 hours. The meat should be tender and the liquid reduced a bit.

Saute the mushrooms over medium low heat until well caramelized and drop dead gorgeously brown (about 20-30 minutes) and add them with the pearl onions to the stew, return to the oven for another 1/2 hour.

Taste and adjust the seasonings.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Do Not Ever Salt the Eggplant Parmigiana

Sometimes we do a thing the way we've always done it just because, well, that's the way we've always done it. That doesn't make it right, it just makes it a habit. Lots of us have the habit of salting eggplant to draw out the moisture and then rinsing the salt before prepping it for Eggplant Parmigiana. Today, I discovered that the practice of salting the eggplant (actually called degorging....doesn't that sound unpleasant) is not the traditional and proper way to work with eggplant, it's just a modern habit. Also discovered that I was slicing the eggplant all wrong! So, with those two lessons (plus one other) from Benny the Chef, using the recipe from his wonderful new cookery book as a starting point, adding a few of my own preferences and inserting one convenient item that would appall Benny, I made the following fabulous sweet not bitter at all Parmigiana.

Do Not Ever Salt the Eggplant Parmigiana

(a rather Americanized version of the Roman classic. If you want to see how Benny made it, Like him on Facebook and you can see a series of pictures where he makes this in the totally Roman way!)

Serves 6-10 depending upon if it is the main dish or a side veggie or what you consider a serving. Here's the nutrition facts on the recipe based on 8 side servings which are very interestingly good given the fact that I allowed for a full 1/4 cup of oil to be absorbed and that there is a ton of cheese! But then, the eggplant itself only adds 49 calories to each serving. What a Mindful Win!

My Ingredients and my apologies to great chefs like Benny along with an accompanying warning:

3 young eggplants with firm skin and a beautiful green stem
2 cloves of garlic skin on
Grape seed oil for frying
16 oz fresh mozzarella
*****1 (24 oz jar) of Newman's Own Roasted Tomato and Roasted Garlic Pasta Sauce (I'm sorry, Benny, really I usually would make fresh sauce, but this time I was in such a hurry... and I have to admit, mine would be a little different from yours anyway, oh dear, I'm in big trouble now...)
2 eggs
3 cloves of garlic minced (or pressed if you have one of those presses and don't have arthritic hands which makes it dratted difficult to do) and added to the sauce because I LOVE garlic
a T of brown sugar because I had never used this brand of sauce before and it was a tad acidic
a big handful of fresh picked basil from my garden - both purple and green
4 oz Parmigiano Reggiano
2 oz grated Pecorino Romano
fresh cracked black pepper to taste

*****warning, because I ran out of time and tomatoes and did not make my homemade sauce, I consider this recipe unfinished but adequate, although I do know that even if I put my sauce in here many of you would use a jar anyway so I'll post some of my sauce recipes separately.

Three Things I Have Learned and Directions noting some things I did Benny's way and some things I did my way because I'm stubborn.

The first thing I learned was how much oil to use. Benny uses 2 cups of extra virgin olive oil to bathe them in deep oil. He has far better fry pans than I, and is more skilled, knowing just when it's hot enough to cook the eggplant and not burn the oil. Besides (yes, I always have excuses) I had a mental block with using excess oil so instead I experimented. In one batch I hot bathed the eggplant in 2 cups of oil seasoned by adding the two skin on garlic cloves. I found that those slices were a just a tiny tad greasy and had to press them repeatedly with paper towels. I really think it was not all my fault, it's because I need to get one of those 2.5mm copper fry pans and besides, my stove is having even heat distribution issues (see? many many excuses!). For the second batch of slices, I used enough oil to coat the pan well, seasoned it by adding two more garlic cloves skin on, and quick fried the eggplant slices in batches to a beautiful golden brown. Still had to press between paper towels, but only briefly. Both ways of frying worked. One just used more paper towels and more oil. So, until I get a better fry pan and a new stove, I learned that I must use less oil.

The second thing I learned is that one should never cut the eggplant into slices while laying it on its side. Cut off the ends and stand it up to make the slices. The reason for this is that it changes the way the flesh presents and makes it less inclined to soak up all the oil when it fries. Slice off one slice of skin and discard. Then make 1/2 inch slices without peeling so that all your slices have a bit of skin around the edges.

The third thing I learned was that you MUST fry the slices right away after they are cut to a point of being golden brown and that this will help make them not bitter and soggy. After frying, remove them to a paper towel and blot well. I sliced one eggplant at a time and fried.

What to do to get it all ready for the pan:

Vertically slice and then fry the eggplant in just a tad of oil to which has been added a couple skin on garlic cloves. Do not slice all the eggplant ahead of time. Slice and fry, slice and fry.

After the frying, slice the mozzarella and put it on a handy dandy plate, rinse some fresh picked basil leaves, and dry them off. If you don't grow basil, do give it a try. It is such a simple forgiving plant to grow and nothing is better than heading out to the garden for fresh basil.

Next, mix the eggs with the the Pecorino Romano and 3 oz of the Parmigiano Romano (reserve one oz for topping). Warm the sauce in a medium sized pot.

Stir the egg/cheese mixture in to the warmed tomato sauce. Stir quickly to incorporate the eggs before they curdle.

Now you should have assembled the following on plates, a pot, and few bowls:

golden brown eggplant, thick sauce, basil leaves, and pepper....I did not use additional salt. I rarely add salt, but if you are used to it you may have to use it here as you layer ingredients. I will avert my eyes as you do so.

ready for the oven
Layering the thing:

In a large baking dish spread some of the tomato sauce on the bottom (no, I did not treat the pan w/Pam or anything else), top with a layer of eggplant (add salt if you must use it), grate some pepper over it, add a few whole basil leaves, and top with chunks of mozzarella. Then, repeat until you run out of everything but the sauce and spread that on top and sprinkle with the Parmigiano Reggiano. In this large 8 x 11 pan, I had three layers. I also like my Parmigiana rather saucy. In Benny's recipe the delectable sweet eggplant is quite obviously the star of the dish!

Bake at 400 F for 40 minutes, raise the temp to 500 F and bake until the Parmigiana is browned. While waiting, make salads. If you are making pasta, start the water a little before the Parmigiana is done so that the pasta can cook while the eggplant sits a bit.

Let the beautiful Parmigiana rest for 10 minutes, it is hard work to change from a purple skinned plant to a layered work of art. Enjoy it mindfully with a small side of whole wheat pasta seasoned only with your best extra virgin olive oil, garlic, fresh cracked black pepper, and well browned mushroom slices. A beautiful salad of mixed greens with carrot bits rounds the meal out perfectly.