Two Healthy, Easy Dishes for Dinner


Easy Asian Style Main Dish

I rarely measure, I often experiment, try new flavor combinations. To create this dish I sautéed several cloves garlic, coarsely chopped, in oil–I use olive for just about everything. I peeled and cubed 1/2 sweet potato and finely chopped approximately two tablespoons fresh ginger. I added these to the olive oil. When the garlic and sweet potatoes were tender, I added 1/2 coarsely chopped red bell pepper and several handfuls of baby bok choy which I had sliced into large pieces. When the bok choy was tender, I added peanuts and Thai sweet chili sauce. I served this over Jasmine rice.

Purple Cabbage with Poblano Peppers, and Garbanzo Beans

I had some left over cabbage and decided to create a new dish. Once again I coarsely chopped several cloves garlic and sautéed them in olive oil. When they were tender and slightly browned, I added coarsely chopped purple cabbage and poblano peppers, sautéing only until they were barely tender. To this mixture I added basil essential oil. Then I added the garbanzo beans. Do not add them too soon because it makes them mushy. I served this over conchiglie pasta from Italy.

Note: I use several essential oils in cooking–basil, fennel, lemon, cumin, thyme, rosemary, cardamon. However, they are intense so if using essential oils, use only a little, taste, then add more if necessary. It is easy to over do it.

For more recipes like this, see my most recent book, “You’re Gonna Eat That?!” It is filled with many simple pescatarian and vegetarian recipes.

Cooking with Paneer


Although I did know what paneer is–a white cheese originally from India, I had no idea what to do with it. At the last trip to the grocery, I saw it there with all the other specialty cheeses and said to myself, “Why not try this?” I’ve made India dishes of various kinds off and on for decades but never used paneer.

My first experiment resulted in this:

Here is the recipe: sauté 5 to 6 coarsely chopped cloves of garlic in olive oil (I know you should use ghee but I did not have any). Finely chop fresh ginger to equal 2 – 3 Tablespoons. Add to the garlic. Stir in garam masala or curry powder–I used some of both which I had on hand. Add paneer which has been cut into cubes. After the above were adequately cooked, I added coarsely chopped arugula and when it was wilted, I added frozen peas and continued cooking only until they were warm. I served it over basmati rice which I cooked while making the paneer recipe.

I made this a couple of days ago. Today I am experimenting with another paneer recipe I created. This time I will mix what I have on hand, chopped onions, carrot coins, chopped beets, paneer, and chopped poblano peppers. I will use the same spices as before.

Both these recipes are vegetarian.

Quick and Healthy Vegetarian Dinner


This evening I needed to make something quick, easy and healthy with ingredients I had in the house. I covered the bottom of a skillet with olive oil, added some chopped onions and sweet potato. When they were tender, I added chopped red bell peppers, poblano peppers, and arugula. When the arugula was wilted, I added walnuts and great northern beans and basil essential oil. I served this over farro.

I never cook farro like the directions on the package. I find the result boring. Here is my method. Cover the bottom of a saucepan with avocado oil. Saute one cup of farro in the oil for a couple of minutes at high heat. Add three cups of water and some roasted garlic bouillon. Turn down to a lower heat so that it is boiling slowly. Cook for about 1/2 hour. Add more water if needed. I always cook it down so I do not have to pour off any of the broth.

Christmas Baking


Some years I do a lot of baking. Not so much this one because not going to see so many people because of Covid. Today I baked anyway, made pumpkin bread using Mom’s recipe. Many go out and buy new appliances. Not I. In this photo you will see the electric mixer my parents gave me decades ago. Yes, it looks a bit used and rough; it still works perfectly–metal, not plastic, but not heavy like the popular brands now.

Mom always baked her pumpkin bread in cans like this and gave some for presents. One can is just plain pumpkin bread, the other two have chopped walnuts. Mom’s recipe is on page ten in the cookbook, “You’re Gonna Eat That!?” I alter it a bit and here is the general way to make it:

Sift 3 cups flour with 1 tsp cinnamon–I used cinnamon from Ethiopia, 1 tsp grated nutmeg, 1 tsp allspice, 1 tsp baking powder, 1 tsp baking soda. Set aside. Mix 2 cups sugar with 1 cup oil–I used avocado, add 3 beaten eggs and mix in the mixer until thoroughly blended. Add 1 tsp vanilla and a couple drops of clove essential oil. Add I small can pumpkin; mix. Gradually add the dry ingredients. Blend thoroughly. At this point I spooned the mixture into one of the cans. Then I added a cup of chopped walnuts to the rest and spooned that mixture into the remaining two cans. Bake at 325 for an hour or until tester comes out clean. Cool on rack and remove from the coffee tins.

Tomorrow I will make Mom’s pumpkin pie also in the memoir/cookbook.

Happy Holidays to all of you!!!

Wandering the World–Food


My travels have not only enlightened me personally, but also enabled me to create recipes from my food adventures around the world. Due to the recommendations of friends and family worldwide, I created a cookbook/memoir with stories and recipes. Len Leatherwood, new President of the Story Circle Network, says, “This is a cookbook after my own heart, filled with a wide range of healthy recipes from several cultures that will add flavor, color, and variety to any table.” Jennifer Archer, award winning writer and editor elaborated further, “A feast for the senses…combines colorful stories, poems, and mouth-watering recipes that inspire readers to experience new places, new tastes…from Asia, Africa, Latin America, Scandinavia, and America.”

This would make a great Christmas present for foodies and people who want worldwide food adventures. It can be ordered online from: http://www.dreamcatcherbooks.com and go to Angel Books.

Recipes for the food in the photos above are included in the book. More food photos follow:

Lemon pasta with mixed salad topped with grated asiago cheese.

Many of the recipes feature berbere, a spice used in Ethiopian cooking. The book also includes four different recipes for salmon and many vegetarian and vegan recipes using spices from around the world.

More Creative Cooking


Experimentation and creativity while cooking become really important when you are home and going out and about does not seem a very safe option.  Here are some photos of two recent dishes I created for dinner.

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Many people do not like certain vegetables, two of which are my favorites, beets and Brussels spouts.  I remain convinced that people do not like them because no one has ever cooked them in a way they find palatable. These two vegetables keep well in the refrigerator so they are good for buying in this time when many do not want to go to the grocery often.

To create the above dish, I sautéed several chopped garlic cloves in olive oil with the chopped beets.  Cook these until nearly done, then add the sliced Brussels sprouts.  It takes longer to cook the beets and garlic than the Brussels sprouts.  You want the Brussels spouts to be tender but do not over cook.  This particular day I added basil essential oil to taste and served the dish over pasta from Italy.  When I want something more spicy, I sprinkle berbere (Ethiopian spice) over the vegetables instead of using basil or other Italian spices.  Sometimes I serve this over rice instead of pasta, e.g. when I use berbere.  This provides a delicious vegan meal and is easy to prepare.

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One of my favorite dishes includes cod loins.  I create many different versions by changing the vegetables used and the spices. For this one, I first sautéed garlic in olive oil until golden, added chopped beets and sautéed until they were tender.  Then I added the cod loin and chopped red bell pepper and chopped poblano pepper.  At the last minute I added a handful of frozen green peas and sautéed only until they were hot.  Once again I used basil and added lemon essential oil.  The pasta is bucatini from Italy.  If you like cheese, grate fresh parmesan or asiago over the dish.

Covid19–Creative Cooking


This is post number six as I continue to quarantine.  I’ve lost tract of exactly when I last went to the grocery–not for at least three weeks.  In an effort to avoid going unnecessarily, I’ve come up with all sorts of creative cooking by looking to see what I can find in the pantry and refrigerator and inventing recipes, using what I already have.  Here are three of my inventions.

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When I was in Italy last November, I ate pasta with lemon creme sauce in two different restaurants in two different cities.  I have managed to duplicate it using bucatini from Italy, lemons, and heavy cream.  For two servings, cook about 1/2 pound of pasta.  While pasta is cooking, use a potato peeler to peel of strips of rind from one lemon.  Chop these strips into smaller pieces.  Cut the lemon into quarters.  When pasta is al dente, drain.  Turn down the heat and melt 1/4 stick butter in the pan, add drained pasta and lemon rind.  Take the lemon quarters and squeeze the juice into the pasta, add cream to taste–do not add too much. If you do not have cream–this time I had none in the refrigerator, do not worry.  It is yummy without it.

I was out of most salad ingredients so the above salad is chopped cilantro topped with feta cheese, various kinds of olives, and olive oil.

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While scrounging around in the freezer compartment, I found half pound of hamburger. I defrosted that and found a can of kidney beans in the pantry. I sautéed the lean hamburger in olive oil, then added the kidney beans.  I did not have any tomatoes or tomato sauce so I dumped in a little organic ketchup.  After stirring this together, I added berbere, a complex and a little hot spice from Ethiopia.  I served this on top of basmati rice from Pakistan–I buy this in ten pound bags at an international grocery.

The salad ingredients were a gift from a friend who had to harvest all his arugula and lettuce because of freezing weather. While both of us were outside, he handed me a bagful of these goodies.  I added some red cabbage I already had.  Finally, I grated asiago cheese all over the top of everything.  Cheese is a favorite food so I always have lots on hand.

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The other food I always keep in the freezer is fish, usually salmon and cod loins.  For this recipe, I defrosted the salmon and marinated it in teriyaki sauce and chopped up some onions and crystallized ginger.  I sautéed the onions in olive oil, then added the salmon and crystallized ginger.  When the salmon was almost done, I added some chopped, frozen,  poblano peppers (when I knew this stay-at-home order was likely, I bought a lot of poblano peppers and froze them) and arugula.  I served the finished dish over basmati rice.

Sometime in the next month or so–no definite date yet–my memoir/cookbook will come out, “You’re Gonna Eat That!? Adventures with Food, Family, and Friends.” It is filled with recipes using ingredients and methods I have learned in travels and growing up with my mom. Many of the recipes are vegetarian and could be vegan with minor adjustments.

Stuffed Acorn Squash


Winter squash, butternut and acorn, are two vegetables I like and think are under used.  Because I became tired of peeling butternut, I decided to invent something for acorn squash.  Much to my surprise, it is now one of Martina’s favorite foods.  She has even sent photos to her mother in Italy to see if the squash is sold there so her family can try it.  The following recipe is for two. Obviously, just buy more squash and fill if you want to make it for more people.  This is a perfect recipe for vegetarians because no meat or fish is used.

 

1 acorn squash, cut in half, seeds removed

1/2 medium onion, finely chopped

Olive oil

1/2 to 1 teaspoon honey for each half

Pepitas or any chopped nut of your choice

Saute the finely chopped onion in olive oil until translucent.  Stir in approximately one handful of seeds or nuts.  Rub olive oil in the bottom of a small baking dish or pan and cover the flesh of the squash with a thin layer of olive oil.  Place squash in the pan, fill deseeded center with the onion mixture.  Place honey on top of this mixture.  Bake in a 400 degree oven for 30-45 minutes, depending on the size of the squash halves.

For a totally vegetarian meal, serve with salad.

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If you want to add more protein to the meal, add black or garbanzo beans to the salad.  Sometimes we also add chopped hard boiled eggs and feta cheese.

 

 

 

An “Italian” Evening–Two


My daughter and grandson arrived shortly after six.  First course included nuts, cheeses, crackers, blue corn chips and salsa–I know, not Italian.  For the adults, Stella Rosa Black from Italy.  For the non-adults organic apple juice.

While we snacked on the first course, we created two versions of Pasta alla Carbonara, one for my vegetarian grandson and one without much parmesan cheese for everyone else.  Traditionally, this dish requires parmesan cheese; however, my daughter is lactose intolerant so we created the other one for her.  The rest of us just topped off our dish with grated parmesan at the dinner table.

We used conchiglie from Monastero di Montebello in Italy for the pasta and for version two, pancetta cut into cubes.  For the vegetarian version we used Morning Star bacon.  Here is the basic recipe for pasta alla carbonara:

cooked pasta

bacon or ham, cut in cubes or small pieces

whipped eggs, approximately one egg for every two people

finely chopped onions sautéed in olive oil–we used one large onion for four

grated parmesan cheese–1/8 to 1/4 cup per person (you can use half parmesan and half pecorino)

Saute onions until translucent.  If you are using any bacon except pancetta, cook it first but not until too crispy.  Add the bacon and heat through.  Add the cooked pasta and the whipped egg/cheese to the onion/bacon mixture.  Continually stir until thoroughly combined and the eggs are cooked.

When to start cooking the pasta so it is cooked and ready to combine with the other ingredients depends on the type of pasta you use.

We served this with a large salad:  leaf lettuce, shredded purple cabbage, chopped red bell peppers, onions, chopped carrots,  balsamic vinegar and olive oil.  We concluded the evening with three different ice cream choices for dessert.

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In case you are wondering why the Christmas tree is still there, well, Martina and I like the lights so we keep procrastinating taking it down.  I keep telling myself today it will be dismantled and then it is not.  Tonight it will come down–maybe.

 

 

 

 

Mom’s Pumpkin Pie


Mom made fantastic pies of all sorts so much so that when she took a pie to a potluck, people would rush to get a piece even before they acquired any other food.  The only pumpkin pie my grandson likes is Mom’s.  He seems to like the idea that he is eating something his great grandmother created.  Today, I taught him to make homemade pie crust and Mom’s pumpkin pie.  Here he is crimping the edges after rolling out the dough and placing it in the pie pan.

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We made two pumpkin and one pecan today.  Here is the recipe for Mom’s pumpkin pie.  He ground the cinnamon–pieces of bark from a friend’s mom’s tree in Ethiopia–using an old fashioned, wooden grinder.

1 1/2 cups cooked or canned pumpkin

1 1/2 cups milk and cream or evaporated milk  ( I use 1 can evaporated milk)

3 eggs

3/4 cup brown or white sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon nutmeg ( I grated this fresh)

1/2 teaspoon ginger

Dump everything in a blender.  Place your hand on the lid before starting the motor.  Blend a few seconds, until smooth, and pour into pastry-lined pie shell.  Bake at 450 for ten minutes, then bake at 350 for 30 minutes longer or until firm in the center.

Placed with Mom’s original typed recipe is this note:  “Juliana, if you use half evaporated milk it gives a wonderful flavor and I like white sugar best.” I use white sugar.

The finished product looks like this.

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This recipe makes a lot of filling so if you do not have a large pie pan, you will need to bake some of the filling in another pan.  Since we made two today, we baked the left over without a crust in another oven proof dish–pumpkin pudding.