Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Anticipation

Today we had our first taste of Fall. It was in the low 60's this morning ending up in the mid 80's this afternoon and blessed with little humidity. I want it colder. I'll have to wait.

I hope to open the windows and let out the stagnant summer air from the house. It's time for warm baked pies, hot tea and Fall decor.

I actually found a small farm located not far from home that has a pumpkin patch, corn maze, arts, crafts, games and plenty of organic produce. I'll be taking the children there this month so they can take off, run free and explore the farm. Finally, a pumpkin patch that's not located on a busy intersection in the middle of the city (also known as a pumpkin stand). I seem smitten like a child just thinking about selecting a pumpkin in a field. Reminds me of my childhood when I truly believed Charlie Brown and the Great Pumpkin.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Something for everyone

This weekend I made the time to get some pizzas put together. I was making pizzas just about every Sunday for a while there. I have so much fun making them, perhaps I'll put them back up on the weekly schedule. I just want to make sure I don't tire of them. As long as I keep it interesting, I'm sure I won't.

Dough resting before I top with goodies.

Basic Pizza Dough

Using Kitchenaid mixer with dough hook attachment. You can mix and knead by hand of course.

  • 6 cups flour
  • 1 tablespoon yeast
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups warm water

In a bowl warm up water and put in yeast and let sit for a minute then add the sugar and olive oil and stir until incorporated. In your mixing bowl add the flour and salt and mix until incorporated. Add the water mixture and process until dough is soft and springy. On floured surface knead dough until smooth and form into a ball. Place ball in a large bowl rubbed with olive oil. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise at least two hours.

The dough should rise almost double in size. Punch down dough and tear off amount you need per each pizza. With your dough (on floured surface) press with your fingers to spread in a circular fashion and lift gently to stretch out the dough. Do this until it forms the size you are looking for or to fit on your pizza peel or pizza pan. While the dough rests (about 15 min), preheat oven to 450 degrees. Top pizza and bake directly on stone or in the pizza pan approx 14 minutes or until done.
Caramelized onions
This pizza was topped with caramelized onions, sliced and sauteed portabello mushrooms, goat cheese and a little red sauce. I sometimes use home made sauce or just pop open a jar and spoon as needed. A jar of red sauce I can use for all sorts of dishes. There's usually always an opened jar in the frig for one thing or another.

After baking. This pizza was made to order for Chris.
I was in the mood for something else. For this pizza I cubed up a few slices of eggplant and quickly sauteed them to get them cooked down, I then sliced up a small green bell pepper and 4 cloves of garlic and tossed them about in a pan for a few seconds. On the pizza I then topped with red sauce, feta cheese, diced ham, eggplant, green pepper and garlic.
Out of the oven and wonderful.
Bella's pizza is always easy and only has red sauce and shredded mozzarella cheese. That's it.
Her pie is a smaller one and she still has leftovers to munch on the following day. I have been temped to make it larger because Chris and I always take little sample slices while we wait for the others to bake. Now, if we could only get the little man to eat a pizza pie.

Next time I want to try out my friend's technique. She forms the dough but then browns it on both sides in a large pan with a little oil before topping a baking to make a lighter, crispier crust.

A fight to the end

Toddlers have this passion to live every moment of the day with full gusto. So napping and bedtime is something to fight tooth and nail when there is playing to get accomplished.

Kris was in a mood; crying and clingy, wanted to eat, yet didn't. Just wanted to fight that urge to afternoon slumber. Put him in the high chair for a snack and suddenly, things got quiet.

Here we have final submission to the afternoon nap.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Cabbage toss about

I really seem to like making these things I call "toss abouts" because, that's exactly what they are. A blend of ingredients added little by little and tossed together. I think the term has already been taken...stir fry anyone? I may invest in a wok one day. I have an electric stove and I've always thought a wok worked far better on a gas burner. Of course stir frying is a much faster process than what I am doing. I still let things simmer a little bit.
One small head of cabbage coarsely chopped.
About 3/4 cup of chopped cilantro.
1 medium onion, 1 green bell pepper, 2 carrots, 1 celery stalk and 5 cloves of garlic. All vegetables chopped coarsely with the garlic being sliced.
4 links Italian spiced chicken sausage cut in 1/4 inch slices.
With a little olive oil cook the carrots, onion, pepper, celery and garlic until onions are translucent.
Add the sausage, salt, pepper and 1/4 teaspoon (large pinch) of crushed red pepper. Yes, I like a little heat! Cook stirring occasionally about 8 minutes.
Add the cabbage, cilantro and 1 cup vegetable broth. Cook about 15 minutes or so stirring to make sure the cabbage is getting cooked. We want to wilt the cabbage before adding the final ingredient.
Add 3/4 cup red sauce or marinara sauce and simmer another 10 minutes. Again, I like my vegetables to still have some crunch to them. If you prefer mushy, cook longer. Serve over brown rice.
Cabbage with chicken sausage over rice.

I'm working on my menu for next week. I still have some vegetables in my frig and pantry to use. I know I'll be getting some more cauliflower to roast again. I'm hooked. I've been craving mashed rutabaga madly and plan on making that very soon. Just need to come up with great accompaniments to it. I'm also craving some fresh seafood! I think I'll invest in some tuna if I can find some. Grilled tuna steaks with loads of garlic and parsley or with pesto. I know! Served with mashed rutabaga!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Yummy yummy

I should remember to buy more beets from the market this weekend. I sometimes forget how much I love to eat them.

Roasted Beets

4 large beets
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt and pepper

Bake your beets (pricked with fork a few times) for about an hour and a half or until they are easily punctured with knife in a 475 degree oven. You want them to have some stiffness, but not mushy. Remove and let cool on rack. Peel and dice beets and place in bowl with the remaining ingredients. Stir well and serve at room temperature. They are great added to a salad or just by themselves.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

It truly is SAD

SAD stands for the Standard American Diet. A diet filled with nutrient-deficient, high calorie food which is causing unprecedented problems of obesity, diabetes and cancer. I'm reading another book on diet and nutrition (Eat to Live, by Joel Fuhrman, M.D.) and discovering some chilling data on the subject. Americans are consuming large amounts of meat, highly refined and processed foods and larger than life portions.


This graph shows the consumption of calories in the US of dairy and animal foods, refined and processed foods and fruits and vegetables. Not looking good for the produce.

Over fifty years ago the USDA started their promotion of the four basic food groups with meat and dairy products being the two most prominent spots on the list. This of course was financed by the meat and dairy industry and backed by nutritional scientists on the payroll of the meat and dairy industry. This program was taught in every classroom in America, advocating a diet loaded with animal protein, fat and cholesterol.

The results were evident as people began consuming more and more animal foods. This program sparked the beginning of the fastest growing cancer epidemic in history. The rates of heart attacks also soared. Political pressure and lobbyists have blocked any change even though the evidence is clear and documented that this diet is a killer.

This is why we see false adds that milk should be your primary calcium source and meat your protein source. Both of these elements are found in most plant foods. Where do you think the cow got their calcium? From the grass. Except now, thanks to factory farms and their inability to eat grass, calcium is fortified into the milk because they are no longer getting enough in their diet of corn, antibiotics, hormones and chicken by-products alone.

Here's something you'll never see advertised on television. Did you know that steak only has 5.4 grams of protein per 100 calories and broccoli has 11.2 grams, almost TWICE as much.

Nutrient chart showing broccoli, steak, romaine lettuce and kale. I think that famous beef add should change to"Kale, that's what's for dinner".


This chart made me stop and shake my head. Look at the correlation between whole plant food consumption and disease.

Here's another fun fact. Our government spends over 20 billion on subsidies that benefit the dairy, beef and veal industries. Fruits and vegetables grown for our consumption are excluded from the USDA subsidies. This includes marketing strategies. We see commercials all day long promoting meat and dairy products....we never see adds promoting the cauliflower.

I'm not advocating the banishment of all meat and dairy. I love a good steak and I'd die without my cheese - every once in a while. I try to consume them moderately. I don't believe that with every single meal I need a slab of meat or a hunk of cheese. I know that I can get plenty of protein, calcium and other minerals from vegetables, nuts, legumes and beans.

This book along with others I have read are instilling in me the importance of whole and fresh foods and how dangerous the standard (SAD) diet really is. Especially for people like me with high cholesterol. I'm starting to wonder, is it really heredity or diet? I plan on finding out.

Delicious revelation

Um, let me just say that my mouth had another flavor explosion when I first tried the roasted cauliflower that I made last night. Holy cow! I had no idea that this vegetable could go beyond the usual creaminess that you get when you just lightly steam it or mash it. This was completely different. It had a very nice caramelized flavor that sweetened the vegetable. It's sweet and savory combined. Just delicious!
I'll get back to how I cooked these tasty babies in a bit. I'll make sure to next time cook two heads instead of one because one is just not enough!
Dinner was another quick toss but this time I used sweet potato as a base instead of pasta or rice. I chopped up 1/2 a red onion, 1/2 a red bell pepper, 1 large tomato, 1/2 an eggplant and 4 cloves of garlic. I also used 4 sweet potatoes and pulled the rest of the leftover game hen meat I had to add a little meat texture to the dish. I first set the oven to 450 degrees and put the potatoes in (punched some holes in them with a fork) for about 30 minutes before I added the cauliflower.
For the cauliflower I cut them into smaller sized florets and spread them on a baking pan. I sprinkled on some dried herbs (Italian seasoning), black pepper and salt. I then poured on some olive oil and tossed them about with my hands until well coated. You may have to add more oil depending on the amount. Just make sure they are coated well (don't drown them either!).
I placed them in the oven along with the potatoes. After about 13 minutes I tossed them about and put them back in another 13 minutes. I kept an eye on them to make sure they got browned well on most sides.
While the potatoes and cauliflower where baking I heated some olive oil in a pan and sauteed the garlic, onions and peppers until the onions where translucent.
I added just a tad more oil and then the eggplant, 1/2 cup vegetable broth, some salt, black pepper and crushed red pepper. Cook stirring moderately at medium heat until the eggplant is a little darker in color and softer.
Added in the chicken and tomato, cooked for about 10 more minutes.
After 10 minutes I added 2 tablespoons red sauce and another 1/2 cup vegetable broth and simmered about 5 more minutes.

I removed the sweet potatoes when they were done (toothpick enters in smoothly) and cut them in half lengthwise and plated them, poured the chicken mixture (ragu) over the potatoes and the cauliflower on the side.
Roasted cauliflower with a chicken ragu over baked sweet potato.

It turned out very well! The cauliflower was amazing and the sweetness of the potato with the heat of the semisweet of the sauce (thanks to the crushed red pepper) really came together well. This recipe should work with or without meat. I know it seems a bit odd of a combo, but it's worth a try. I know I'll be making it again.
Another revelation: My little baby is turning into a little boy! I can still remember my little 6 pound infant rolled up into a little ball. Now he's getting so tall, just like his sister. I have a feeling they will both tower over us one day. When Bella falls asleep on the couch or our bed and we have to carry her to her bed, it's a chore. She's so very long now. Pretty soon our backs aren't going to be able to handle it anymore. They will have to carry us to bed instead.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Warm fuzzies

I get warm and fuzzies when I see how cute my kids are. When I have the chance to just stop and look at the greatness around me. Times when I'm not chasing them for getting in trouble that is. I also noticed that since he got his little hair cut, he looks more like daddy now. Actually, he looks almost exactly like Chris when he was the same age. Kristjan likes to look at animals on the computer. Technology is so cool. You want to see a cow? Ok, I'll pull up a cow then. Look! Look at all the cows.

This is Cate. She's so adorable, I can't stand it. Beautiful blue eyes and that golden hair. She's Kristjan and Bella's cousin from Tennessee.
Big sister Emily showing Cate the ropes on her DS along with their cousin Jett looking very comfortable.
Pineapple upside down cake for Ninnie's birthday party along with other delicious snacks. Wish I could have been there.
Beautiful floral arrangement for Ninnie made by Chris's sister Caroline. She loves to arrange flowers and hopes to someday be able to start a business of her own. It seems to me that if you have a passion for something and are good at it, then there's no question that's where life will lead you. I hope that someday her dream will come true.

The food of Fall

It's the first day of Fall and even though it won't feel that way for us until mid November (if we are lucky) I can still embrace this season in the kitchen. I love Fall and Winter vegetables and stock up on them whenever I can find them fresh at the produce store. Especially those leafy greens, cabbage and squash. The produce stand I go to grows a lot of their produce on site with some of it being hydroponically grown. They grow their kale, greens, Swiss chard and some spinach that way. It's wonderful when they are in season.
Last night I conjured up the idea to make a quick toss about. I have here 3 cloves of garlic sliced, 1 thick slice of pancetta diced, 1 small onion chopped large, 1 pound brussel sprouts cut in four ways or in half (depending on size) and 1 green pepper largely chopped.
I first cooked up the pancetta in a tad of oil until slightly crispy. Added the garlic and brussel sprouts and tossed until some were golden and then reduced the heat and added a little vegetable broth and crushed red pepper, black pepper and salt. Cooked about 8 minutes and then added the onions and peppers. Simmered a bit more with the addition of a little broth and served it over brown rice. I like my vegetables to still have some crunch to them.
I had some leftover of mom's eggplant Kapunata that I set out to get room temperature. This stuff rocks! I can't wait to make a tub of this stuff for us. Makes a great snack or side dish.
I baked a loaf of wheat bread to go with the Kapunata. I think I may be getting closer to a successful wheat bread recipe. Turned out sweet and smooth instead of a heavy shot put.
I didn't have a regretful feeling about this dish at all. Full of vegetables and fiber, that's what I was looking for. The Kapunata was attacked and quickly consumed. It didn't stand a chance once Chris got a taste of it.

Monday, September 21, 2009

All out of whack

That's me. I have been missing in action for a few reasons. Last week I got my seasonal flu shot while I was at the doctors getting my cholesterol checked and had a reaction to it. I basically got a mild flu for a few days. It was a treat, let me tell you. I'll remember to get my shot on a Friday and use the trick that the nurses use (thanks Ninnie) where you take two Tylenol just before the shot and then two 4 hours later. I'll be getting the kids their shots when they become available. It scares me with the Swine flu going around and the kids in school with all those other children....just passing the germs from one another.

Then I had Chris in Tennessee visiting family and celebrating Ninnie's birthday so I didn't have the camera. Mom and dad fed me very well while he was away. Friday, Saturday and Sunday as a matter of fact. Very nice of them to do that for me and the kids loved seeing them too. Dad made some more game hens and I have some leftovers to add to a dish this week. I also have a new batch of bones and such for more broth. I made some broth this Saturday from last week's hens and shared it. Mom made some scrumptious Kapunata and we had that with some fresh bread. I have some of that leftover to savour too. I borrowed one of her Maltese cook books and I can't wait to try some recipes.

I didn't make a menu for the week or even plan any recipes. This time I just raided the produce stand and got essentials from the grocery store. The only meat I picked up was some pancetta which I will use to flavor a lot of the vegetable dishes I plan to make. I always browse the seafood section, but as usual there is nothing fresh to be had. I don't want farm raised salmon or previously frozen grouper that is sitting there smelling something awful and costing way too much a pound. Considering we live in a state surrounded by water, it's pitiful we never can find any fresh seafood. I would have to travel closer to the coast to find some.

I'm in need of a cleansing period. This flu thing I had also left me with a sour stomach kind of bloated and just irritated. I think it's time for some nutrient dense vegetables and fruits along with some clean-you-out brown rice and quinoa. I picked up some rutabagas, cabbage, brussel sprouts, summer squash, broccoli, cauliflower, eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, spinach, lettuce, rocket, beets, sweet potatoes, garlic, bananas, peaches, plums and pears. Time for some improvising in the kitchen.

Here are a couple of pictures of Bella and her great-great grandmother Mama Ruby who turned 102 this August. There's also a picture with her cousin Emily. They both look like sisters. These photos are a treasure to me. Thank you Ninnie!
The rest of the pictures where taken with my cell phone. Here's Kris having a soak near the pool. I just dumped out his block bin and filled it with water. He just likes to sit there and throw toys in the pool for us to fetch for him.
Bella and I made some cupcakes yesterday. I made some creme fresh for the icing. Kris just ate the creme fresh and then destroyed the cupcake which ended up everywhere. This picture is post hair cut. It looks a little rough because he was thrashing about during his haircut. He's not a fan of the salon quite yet.

On Friday we enjoyed some strawberries with balsamic sauce with ice cream. Man was it dreamy! I'll have to remember that combo for future treats.

Tomorrow I should have some pictures from Tennessee to share. I have so much to get caught up on. Between cleaning up my house, greatly needed cleaning out of bags and purses, and just general organizing. I feel lost and out of sorts at the moment. I actually need a couple of weeks and weekends so that I can get my little life back on track. I gotta get my head straight before the holidays come rolling in or I'm in trouble.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The secret to longevity

Being able to slow down and enjoy food and family together is a treasured thing. Something that is far more prevalent in Europe than here in hectic America. Most of us rush through the day, grabbing processed food from drive through windows, scarfing it down on our way to our doctor's appointment to get a refill on our blood pressure medication.

I hate to say that we don't always get to eat together as a family for dinner and that irritates the hell out of me. Not just eating together, but being able to do so without having to rush through it because there are 10 more things to accomplish before bedtime. I hope someday to be able to change our schedule so that we can still eat healthy and eat together as a family during the week.
Another secret in the Mediterranean to longevity is the freshness of their food. From the earth, not from a box.

Here are some pictures of some fresh delights from my mom's visit to Malta.
Red prawns
Fresh fish
Razor clams I believe
Yummy fresh tuna. I am drooling as I type this...
A beautiful spread.
Some delicious Matlese bread. Man, I wish I could grab my screen right now.

Some more pictures that make me swoon...



I'm wishing I were there right now. Such a difference than where I am now, I'm without words.

Last night I threw together a dish that Chris really enjoys and it's pretty easy to make. Dad grilled up some more of his super delicious Cornish game hens last Saturday and I had one leftover. I heated it a bit and pulled the meat off to add to this dish. I also saved all the bones and skin from Saturday and will be making another batch of broth hopefully this weekend

Farfalle with beans, walnuts and arugula

1 package farfalle pasta, cooked al dente
1 shallot minced
4 cloves garlic minced
1 package arugula/rocket (about 6 cups)
1 can white beans rinsed and drained
3 tablespoons butter or alternative
1 cup white wine
1/3 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
1/2 cup pasta water

Cook the pasta until al dente and drain, set aside. In the same pot with 1 tablespoon of butter and a little olive oil cook shallots and garlic until fragrant about a minute. Add beans, pasta and wine and cook another 3 minutes tossing to prevent from sticking. Add pasta water and arugula and toss until liquid is mostly absorbed. Toss in remaining butter and walnuts. Serve with Parmesan cheese.
What a beautiful fairy princess! Thank you to my cousin Lorraine.