An Easy Healthy Dinner


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I wanted to try something slightly different but easy for dinner:

Several garlic cloves, coarsely chopped

1/2 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into cubes

I large poblano pepper, seeded and chopped

7-8 dried mission figs, cut in half

Saute the garlic, sweet potato, and figs in olive oil.  When garlic is slightly carmelized and sweet potatoes are soft, add the broccoli and poblano peppers. Saute until tender but still bright green.  Add your choice of spices.  Tonight I added garam masala and berbere.  Just before serving add 1 cup garbanzo beans (I added them after I took the photo above).  Cook just until beans are warm.  Do not over cook.

This can be served over rice or farro.  This evening I cooked farro.  I do not follow directions on the package.  To add flavor, saute the farro for a minute in avocado oil, add the water — 1 cup farro to 4 cups water.  When it starts to boil, add bouillon of your choice, stir thoroughly, and continue cooking per package directions.

For more recipes like this, see my new memoir/cookbook:  You’re Gonna Eat That!? Adventures with Food, Family, and Friends, at  www.dreamcatcherbooks.com. Angel Editions.

 

 

 

You’re Gonna Eat That!? Adventures with Food, Family, and Friends


This is my new book, published last month.  It is filled with stories, poems, and recipes–healthy food for vegans, vegetarians, pescatarians, and meat eaters with photos and detailed instructions. Currently, it can be purchased at Burrowing Owl bookstores in Canyon and Amarillo, Texas, and online at http://www.dreamcatcherbooks.com, Angel editions.

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Gallo Pinto


Last eve a friend came over.  Both of us have been careful during this difficult time and felt it was safe to see each other. I cooked a dish I ate every day when I visited Costa Rica, gallo pinto.  Usually it is served with platanos fritos.  I did not have platanos so served it with a mixed salad.

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Poblano, red and yellow bell peppers, finely chopped, and  ready to cook.

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Finely chopped onions already sautéed and now the peppers are cooking.

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The finished dish–left over rice, black beans, the pepper and onion mixture, and a little cumin–served with fresh salad. The recipe for this dish and the salad are in my upcoming book.  As soon as I know the date to preorder, I will let everyone know. The book will also be available at Burrowing Owl in Canyon and Amarillo, Texas.

 

 

What’s For Dinner


Thinking up new, healthy, creative dinners sometimes poses a challenge.  Last night I stood in the pantry door, looked around, went to the refrigerator to see what I already had available.  Although the vegetable combination is not unusual for me, I decided to use farro instead of pasta or rice.  Farro, a staple in ancient Rome,  has been called “the mother of all wheat”. I buy pearled, organic farro. It is chewy, a good source of fiber, and high in protein.  I do not follow the directions on the bag. Here is how I cook farro for two servings:

1 cup farro

3 cups water

1 Tsp. Better Than Bouillon

Avocado oil

Cover the bottom of a sauce pan with the oil, pour in the farro.  Turn heat on high, constantly stirring, saute the farro in the oil for a couple of minutes, then pour in the water.  Add the bouillon and stir thoroughly.  Turn the heat down but keep the farro boiling.  Do not cover.  Stir at regular intervals.  Do not let it go dry.  It should take about 1/2 hour for the farro to become tender.  Test and if needed, add more water.  Cook until the water is absorbed and farro is tender.

 

Last night’s vegetable sauce:

Cover the bottom of a pan with olive oil.  Add five cloves garlic, coarsely chopped and one medium sized beet, cut into medium sized pieces.  Saute until tender.  Add five to six sliced Brussels sprouts.  When Brussels sprouts are partially cooked, add one large poblano pepper, coarsely chopped, seeds removed.  Saute until pepper is tender but still bright green. Last night I used berbere, an Ethiopian spice, to jazz up the sauce.  Sometimes I use basil or other Italian spices.  I vary the vegetables, sometimes using sliced carrots, broccoli, kale.  Be creative.  Use vegetables you like.  If you want something non vegetarian, add chopped chicken or cod loins.

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Above is a photo of the cooked vegetables ready to serve.

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The vegetables served over the farro.  If you are not vegan, you can grate asiago or parmesan cheese over the top.

 

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.

Cooking in Italy


After spending most of the day exploring Pompeii, we rushed back to Sorrento for an evening cooking class up on a mountainside above the main part of the city. We made eggplant parmesan and  cheese ravioli. Their take on the eggplant dish was different from any I have seen in the US.  They had sliced the eggplant on the diagonal and already cooked it.  Each person received several pieces of the already cooked eggplant and a bowl of their homemade mozzarella cheese.  We were instructed to place a teaspoon of the cheese in the middle of each piece of eggplant, roll it up, and place it in a small casserole dish with their homemade tomato sauce already in the dish.  Instead of layers of eggplant, sauce, and cheese, this was rolls of eggplant filled with cheese atop a tomato sauce in a casserole dish which they baked while we made ravioli.

For making the ravioli, in front of each person they placed a pile of a couple cups of flour and dishes of water and oil.  We were instructed to add the oil and a little water to make a stiff dough.  Then we were told that the key to really good ravioli dough (and I am guessing any pasta dough) is to knead it a lot.  Yes, to do all this, we had to use our hands.  After the dough was thoroughly kneaded, we patted it out into an oval and then ran it through a pasta maker several times to make it thin.  We laid this rolled dough on the table and then with a ravioli cutter, we cut circles, filled them with mozzarella cheese, but not too much.  The key is to get just the right amount of cheese so you have enough but can still fold it over and seal the edges with the cheese inside.  It must be sealed thoroughly so it does not fall apart when being boiled in the salty water.

The owner asked my grandson to help cook the ravioli.  Here he is working away.

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After the ravioli was done, we all sat down and enjoyed the eggplant, the ravioli with their homemade tomato sauce, and their local wines.  Making both dishes was much easier than I expected.  And fun.  The evening was filled with joy, laughter, and good company.

 

 

 

Italy–the Amalfi Coast


On one of our day trips from Sorrento, we headed down the Amalfi Coast.  For years I have seen photos and told myself, “Wow”.  No photo can do this coastline justice.  The highway is excellent but narrow.  On many of the turns, only one vehicle can proceed.  A large bus cannot travel this highway.  Even with the small ones we took, the driver would often honk as we turned a corner which we could not see around.

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We stopped at one of the few turnoffs along the highway and took a short hike down to an overlook.  This is the town of Positano. I took the following photos while at this overlook.

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I love bougainvillea and all colors grew everywhere.

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Looking across the Mediterranean.

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The land is rugged with both new and ancient buildings hanging off mountainsides and cliffs.

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A closer view of Positano.

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Another view across the Mediterranean.

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The highway, houses hanging off the edge, olive trees, lushness everywhere.

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It was a stormy looking day.  We kept thinking it would rain but luckily it did not.

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The Amalfi Cathedral in the town of Almalfi.  Its design is unique and shows the cultural influence of the Muslim world with whom the town was a major trading center for centuries–arches, gold and green.

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A typical street in Amalfi.  We walked all the way up this street to just below the school, found all sorts of delightful shops, and ate our favorite food of the entire trip.   My favorite was spaghetti with a lemon creme sauce.  Recipe comes later.

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Near the sea looking up into the city.  The large building up on the slopes is now a cemetery but used to be a monastery.

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Same spot as previous photo, just looking the other direction.

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We were supposed to take a little boat trip out into the sea but it was too rough.  Ema, my daughter, walked all the way out to the end of the pier.

The water was so high I thought perhaps it was high tide.  I was told it was not.

 

Today I asked my daughter and grandson what/where was their favorite in Italy.  We all agree, Amalfi. I also loved Capri–more about there later.

Italy-Sorrento


It takes approximately four hours to travel by road from Rome to Sorrento.  To get in and out of Sorrento, the highway goes through three tunnels, one of which is more than three miles long.  Like all cities along this area of coastline, Sorrento is a city where many of the buildings hang off the edge of cliffs above the water.

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This part of the primary street off the main square is full of shops and pedestrian only.  Christmas decorations were already being installed.  From the time we arrived until we left, the giant metal tree in the middle of the main square went from just metal to covered with greenery to the installation of lights.

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A typical side street off the main street seen in the first photo.  Sorrento is the perfect place for those who like shopping in all sorts of little shops or enjoy hanging out in restaurants, many of which are open air along the street, sipping cappuccino.

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From the main street, we walked out to a cliff park overlooking the sea.

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This photo, taken from the same spot as the previous photo, shows Mt. Vesuvius in the distance.  Cities below the mountain include Naples and Pompeii.  Several thousand people also live on the slopes of Vesuvius.

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Again taken from the same spot, looking in the opposite direction, this photo shows the steepness of the cliffs around Sorrento. Houses, vineyards, businesses, olive and lemon groves hang off the edges.  The volcanic soil here is very rich and conducive to intense, successful farming. This is lemon country where limoncello is very popular.

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A few feet from the overlook, we visited a very old church courtyard.  Very old is relative everywhere in Italy.  New can be several hundreds of years old.  I kept thinking about the US and question whether anything we have built now or even at the beginning of the country will last as long as much of what I saw in Italy.

Dinner Tonight


After several days away from home, I made a quick, tasty, vegetarian dinner this evening.

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Since I am leaving for California early Wednesday morning and did not want to buy more food, I used what I could find in the refrigerator:  Brussel sprouts, red bell pepper, poblano pepper, broccoli, onion.  I found a container of pepitas in the pantry and added some of those as well.

1/4 yellow onion, finely chopped

1 small poblano pepper, deseeded and coarsely chopped

1 red bell pepper, deseeded and coarsely chopped

6 Brussel sprouts, sliced

Several broccoli florets

Olive oil

Basil essential oil or dried basil

Pepitas

Pour enough olive oil in skillet to cover bottom and heat on medium low.  Add onions and saute until carmelized.  Add Brussels sprouts.  When sprouts are about half done, add remaining ingredients and six drops of basil essential oil.  Saute until tender but still bright colored.  Toss in a handful of pepitas.  Serve over pasta or rice.

I served this with pasta and grated asiago cheese on top.  Although I frequently use parmesan for grating, I actually prefer asiago.  Without the cheese, this is vegan.