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


This is my new book, published last week.  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.

Italy–Spaghetti with Lemon Cream Sauce


My favorite pasta dish in Italy was like none other I have eaten anywhere.  The first time–and the best dish–was in a little restaurant along the side of a narrow street in Amalfi.  The Amalfi Coast is famous for its lemons and where they create the best limoncello.  Therefore, it is not surprising that they created a pasta dish featuring lemons.  When I returned home, I experimented to recreate it.  First, the spaghetti–yes, they called it spaghetti–was considerably thicker than spaghetti in the US.  I guess it was homemade.  I did find a reasonable substitute here, bucatini from Italy.

Here is my recipe for two people:

1/2 lb. bucatini made from durum wheat semolina

1 lemon

heavy cream or half and half

lemon essential oil

butter

Cook the pasta as directed on the package.  While the pasta is cooking, using a potato peeler, peel strips from the rind of the lemon and cut into small pieces. If not using lemon essential oil, juice the lemon.  After the pasta is cooked and drained, place back in the pot with a couple tablespoons of butter and stir until butter is melted.  Add the lemon rind and lemon juice or essential oil to taste.  Add the cream carefully–just enough to make a little sauce.  Serve and grate parmesan or asiago cheese on the top.

Serve with a nice green salad.

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Farther up this street just below the school, we found the restaurant where I ate the spaghetti with this sauce.

 

 

Pasta with Sardines, Walnuts, and Figs


pasta of your choice–I use conchiglie

5 dried mission figs, coarsely chopped

4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

olive oil

1/2 cup broken walnuts–I used black walnuts tonight

1 can sardines in olive oil

1 Tbs. balsamic vinegar

Saute garlic and walnuts in just enough olive oil to cover bottom of pan until garlic is lightly browned.  Add figs and sardines.  Do not drain olive oil from the sardines. Add balsamic vinegar.  Stir and heat through.  Add to drained pasta.  Stir to combine.  Serve with grated pecorino cheese and a simple salad.  This recipe serves 2-3.

 

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Note:  Why sardines?  There are good reasons to add sardines to your food choices.  First, they are near the bottom of the food chain and have little to no chemical residue as a consequence, e.g. no mercury. Second, small amounts have lots of protein and omega oils.  One little can has 22 grams of protein.  1/2 cup walnuts has 12 grams of protein.  I use pasta from an ancient Italian monastery.

Dinner Parties and Commitments


When I committed to writing daily and then blogging, it never occurred to me that this might entail writing in the middle of the night after hosting a dinner party and then cleaning up.  Some people just go to bed and clean up in the morning.  Yuck!!!  Who wants to wake up to a big mess with bits of food solidified to plates and remnants of red wine looking like dried blood in the bottom of wine glasses.  No me.  So here I am fulfilling my commitment to write daily.

Usually, I invite a lot of people over and work like crazy or give up and do potluck. This time I decided on something simple for six friends (three couples).  One friend is a vegetarian so everyone ate vegetarian.  The menu included homemade refried black bean casserole–the favorite of two of these friends.  The recipe for this dish is on a previous blog post.  In honor of my former exchange student son, Gaston Luis Zulaica del Sueldo, I made one of my best salads ever.  When he lived with me, he made salad almost every night, spectacular, colorful salads.  I made a mixture of Jasmine and several other kinds of rice and the following casserole which has no name so guess I will need to invent one.

Vegetarian Casserole with Soyrizo

Pour enough olive oil into the bottom of a heavy casserole dish to cover it.  Thinly slice purple potatoes (I think they are called blue, but they look purple to me), and cover the bottom with a layer of these.  Cover the potatoes with a layer of chopped onions, then a layer of coarsely chopped poblano peppers–I added a few halved and seeded jalapeños.  The next layer is soyrizo crumbled to completely cover the previous layers.  If you are not vegetarian, use chorizo.  Repeat the previous layers.  Combine 3 T of flour and 1 cup milk.  Pour over the top of the casserole.  Bake until the potatoes are done.  You can make all this several hours in advance and pour the milk mixture over it just before it goes in the oven.  I actually used the grill outside on low to bake it this time–warm day and did not want to heat up the house.  We finished off dinner with chocolate chip mint ice cream with Chambord poured over the top.  We also enjoyed a while dessert wine called Electra.

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Salad a la Gaston

 

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Good friends.

 

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Pretty ladies

Pasta with Kale and Portabello Mushrooms


Earlier I took a hike across my little canyon and up the hill where I plan to build a fence so people will not drive where they are not supposed to drive.  Driving there causes rather bad erosion.  Walked back to the barn, fed the horses, and returned to the house, then noticed hunger.  This afternoon I bought some Tuscan kale and wanted to try it out.  Here’s my creation:

Extra virgin olive oil

1/2 medium onion, coarsely chopped

3-4 medium size portabello mushrooms, sliced

3 large Tuscan kale leaves, center stem removed and chopped

Pasta–your choice.  I used rigatoni but my favorite is conchiglie from Montebello Monastery in Italy which has been doing this since 1388 or so they claim

Greek oregano

Ricotta cheese

Cover bottom of a skillet with the olive oil.  Add the onions, mushrooms, and chopped kale stems.  Saute until the onions are translucent and the kale stems are cooked but still crunchy.  While this is cooking, tear the kale leaves into bite sized pieces.  Take two dried oregano stems and lightly remove and crumble the leaves and florets into the skillet.  Discard the stems.  Add the kale leaves to the onion mixture and saute.  When done, kale leaves will be tender but still a bright green.  Pour over the pasta and place a dollop of ricotta cheese on top.

Note:  I grow my own Greek oregano and dried a bunch on my counter top this week–I live in a dry climate so this works.  I took two stems with the dried leaves and flowers still attached and stripped off the leaves and flowers and crushed them with my hands directly into the skillet.  Greek oregano is very mild.  You might want to use less of other oregano.  Without the ricotta, this recipe is vegan.  I used whole milk ricotta; I never buy low fat anything.  I tried to learn to like whole wheat pasta but gave up.  Quinoa and corn mixed pasta is ok, but give me the real thing from Italy.

 

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This photo illustrates the dried Greek oregano.  I will have to decide whether to store like this or take it all off the stems and crush it.

Summer Salad: Garbanzo Beans and Corn


The first Sunday is potluck Sunday at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Amarillo, Texas, about 14 miles from where I live.  Usually, for years, I have made a certain pie that many like.  This morning I neither felt the inclination nor the had the time because I went out to feed horses and work on my steep drive.  Plus, the forecast predicted a quite hot day, 98 degrees Fahrenheit, making me disinclined to heat up the oven.  I opened my pantry door, viewed the canned goods and created this recipe.  Several asked how I made it; apparently my experiment met with success.

2 15 oz. cans garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed

1 15 oz. can whole kernel corn, drained

1/4 medium size purple onion, finely chopped

1 medium size red bell pepper, chopped

1/3 cup medium size black olives, sliced

1/4 cup (or amount to suit your own personal taste) red wine vinegar

1/2 cup olive oil

2 tsp. ground cumin

2 tsp. coriander seeds, ground

freshly ground black pepper to taste

Mix all the above.  Chill and serve.  Personally, I think this might have been even better if allowed to marinate to blend all the flavors.  This is easy,  nutritious, and vegan.

Red Snapper with Chorizo and Mixed Rice


Last Sunday evening I invited three friends over for dinner.  They come to my house all the time so I decided to try something different.  Red snapper was on sale at the market so I bought one big fillet and one smaller one, thinking they would fit perfectly in the heavy cast iron fish pan I have.  I use this particular cast iron pot because I can put it on the grill in the summer and avoid  heat in the house.  In my refrigerator I also found some soyrizo–chorizo made from soy instead of pork.  Since one of the friends is Muslim, I make sure never to feed him pork–he does not want me to go to hell, he says.  Since the fish and the chorizo made for rather sizable servings, I did not expect all of it to totally disappear.  Wrong.  They ate all of it and asked for the recipe.

Approximately 1 1/2 pounds red snapper or similar firm fleshed fish

Enough soyrizo (or chorizo) to cover the fish in a thin layer sprinkled over the fish

1 onion finely chopped

1 large poblano pepper, seeded and chopped

Olive oil

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1 small can tomato sauce

Pour enough olive oil into a heavy pan to cover the bottom

Lay the fish in the bottom of the pan and cover with chorizo

Saute the onions and poblano pepper in olive oil until onions are translucent

Spread the onion/pepper mixture over the top of the chorizo

Stir the cinnamon into the tomato sauce

Pour the cinnamon/tomato sauce mixture over the top

Place a lid on pan and bake on the grill at medium heat.

It takes the cast iron a long time to heat up so once it was heated, I baked the dish for approximately 20 minutes or until the fish was done and everything was bubbling.

I served this with my favorite rice:  1/3 Jasmine red rice, 1/3 Jasmine white rice, combined with 1/3 black rice.  I used one half cup each, sauteed with 1 TBS. finely chopped garlic in enough olive oil to cover the bottom of a large sauce pan.  Saute until the rice appears to be sticking slightly, then pour water double the total amount of rice.  Stir in 1 tsp. bouillon, cover with six paper towels and then the lid, turn down to low, and cook approximately one hour.  The red and black rice take at least twice as long to cook as white rice.

This easily serves four.  I served it with a salad:  romaine, red cabbage, dried cherries, yellow pepper, diced radishes, and feta cheese.  Bon appetit!!