Category Archives: Great Food Pictures & Stories

Excited About Food!

To stay excited about eating, I save up my pennies and go out to eat once in a while in places that know how to make really good food.  It helps me remember to be a more creative cook, and it helps me remember how incredible food can taste from the hands of a really good chef. Friday I took a trip to Kansas City with a friend for a birthday celebration. We went to a good vegetarian restaurant on The Plaza called Eden Alley, to the Nelson Atkins Museum for the Frida Kahlo exhibit,  and then to a nice restaurant afterward.

photo (2)At Eden Alley I had gazpacho and I remembered how fresh and wonderful a gazpacho tastes in the summer.  So, I went to the farmers market this morning and picked up the ingredients I didn’t already have at home and made a gazpacho for lunch.  I didn’t look up a recipe but just used what I thought would be great and what I had handy.  I chopped up cucumbers, zucchini, tomatoes, onion, and garlic. I squeezed the juice of a lemon over it and cut up some basil to throw in as well.  I put a good splash of olive oil on it and some sea salt and pepper and I was done. I also put some chunks of goat cheese on top when I served it.  This would qualify as one of my “healthy fast food” recipes.  It tasted great; wasn’t expensive; didn’t take long to make; was great for my body; and had local, organic, seasonal ingredients!

At dinner I had ordered smoked duck empanadas on black beans and avocado.  The first bite was so filled with flavor I actually had to stop and warn my friend phototo really pay attention or he might miss how wonderful the food was.  Well, he didn’t miss it.  He actually had tears in his eyes over how good his lamb tasted.  He is more sensitive than most men, but it was really amazing.  For dessert, we ordered the German chocolate cake.  OMG! That’s all I can say.  The last bite was as good as the first and I savored every one.

I know that every meal can’t be a gourmet event, but perking up your taste buds once in a while can help re-inspire your delight in food.  Find a new restaurant to try, buy a new type of  food to cook, or get out some of those old favorite recipes that you love.  I was also reminded that when food is really good you don’t need a lot of it to satisfy you.  That’s good for your taste buds and your waist line.

Enjoy!

 

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Cooking with Martha – A Spring Green Garden Lunch!

photo (19)I recently had the good fortune of spending a Saturday morning cooking lunch with my good friend and fabulous chef, Martha.  I’d asked her if she would cook up something with me once a month that I could share with my readers.  So this is my first “Cooking with Martha” blog and I hope there will be many more to come—both for you and for me.  I get to eat great food and hopefully you will be inspired to cook something different and tasty in the near future.

Martha, of course, doesn’t cook from one recipe but combines a number of different ones and adds her own little twist on them depending on her mood and what the local farmer’s market has in store for her each week.  The dishes we prepared were: Asparagus Braised with Peas, Mushrooms, and Spring Onion; Carrots cooked in butter; and Polenta with grated Parmesan Cheese.  What a feast!

You don’t have to make them all together, although it was quite a nice meal.  Think about how you can use polenta more, how you can throw in some sautéed carrots for an extra vegetable at any meal, or cook together a bunch of vegetables for a beautiful presentation and tasty meal of what’s fresh and in season.

Here are the recipes.

photo (21)Asparagus Braised with Peas, Mushrooms, and Spring Onion
1 pound asparagus (snap off the hard part at the bottom and and slice into lengths about 1”)
2 pounds frozen peas or shelled fresh peas (can you also use edamame or any kind of cannellini or fava beans)
3 Tb. Unsalted butter
5 spring onions, or other small fresh onions, thinly sliced
1 head green garlic, thinly sliced (this is the new garlic that you can only get in the spring, so you can use regular garlic during other times of the year)
½ c. white wine or vegetable broth
Mushrooms (as many varieties as you’d like—we used shitake, oyster, and cremini)
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
A few basil leaves or chives, chopped

Prepare the asparagus and peas for cooking.  Melt 2 TB. of butter  in a skillet.  Add onions and garlic and cook over medium heat until they are starting to soften.  Add the mushrooms, season with salt and pepper, and sauté a few minutes longer. You don’t want them to get very brown or crispy. Add the wine or vegetable broth and let it cook down a little. Add the asparagus and about ¾ cup water, and season with salt and pepper.  Simmer until the asparagus is almost tender (about 5-7 minutes, depending on thickness).  Add peas and cook until done (about 2 minutes).  Taste and add salt and pepper if needed. Add the last TB. of butter and remove from heat.  Add the basil or chives and serve over polenta or pasta.

photo (16)Carrots cooked in Butter
Cut up your carrots, sprinkle with salt to taste, and cook slowly in butter in a skillet until tender. They might get a little golden but should not brown. If they are starting to brown before they get tender, add a couple of tablespoons of water to help them steam a little. Add chives on top. VERY EASY!

photo (13)Polenta with Parmesan Cheese
If you buy a package of corn grits (polenta), here are the instructions: Use 4 cups of water to 1 cup polenta. Bring water to a boil in a deep saucepan, then pour polenta in slowly. Stir vigorously for a couple of minutes with a whisk to make sure there are no lumps. Then cook over very low heat for about 30-40 minutes, stirring every few minutes with a spoon. However, I was informed by Martha that you should only stir the polenta in one direction (this is what she learned from great Italian cooks a couple of summers ago). Do not let the polenta splatter as it is very hot and can burn you. You will know the polenta is done when it begins to pull away from the sides of the pan when you stir it. After you cook the polenta you can stir in as much grated parmesan cheese as you’d like.  Yum!!! And also VERY EASY! Note: An even easier way is to buy instant polenta and follow package directions. This will only take a few minutes to prepare.

Let me know if you try any of these recipes by commenting below!

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Let’s talk kale!

Every time I mention kale to my mother she groans and rolls her eyes saying “I don’t like kale.”  Talk about a role reversal. I tell her (like a mother would), “I just don’t think you’ve given it a chance or had it prepared the right way.”  Personally, I’ve just learned how to massage my kale and it has made kale easy, quick, and delicious.

Of course, every time I’ve told people I’ve been massaging my kale they look at me like I’m crazy, except my niece in Oregon who is the one who actually inspired me to do this. She credits me with inspiring her to explore the world of good food many years ago.  Now she’s returning the favor and turning me on to her favorite ways of making things.  She and her husband have the flair for the creative when it comes to cooking.  You wouldn’t believe the number of vegetables they can put in a blender and get their kids to eat! Continue reading

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The metabolism of gratitude

For a few months now, every Monday night I have been getting together with a couple of girlfriends to have dinner.  We meet at one of our houses and everybody brings something to share.  It is a wonderful way to cut down on how much cooking one person has to do, you get a fabulous meal, and share great company.  Before the meal this week I read an excerpt from A Grateful Heart: Daily Blessings for the Evening Meal from Buddha to the Beatles with Bookmark” by M. J. Ryan.  This is not something I normally do with others and my friends were so moved at the reading that we stopped and talked about the idea expressed before beginning to eat.  This book has brought back the beauty of stopping to give thanks before eating (something we always did when I was a child) and to reflect on what has heart and meaning.  I encourage you to notice what happens if you pause before eating, even when you’re alone, and remember how much there is to be grateful for.   The slowing down will help your metabolism kick in even before you eat.  I call it the “metabolism of gratitude.” 

By the way, an omelette, green salad, and potato salad make a superb summer dinner.  The omelette had shitake mushrooms, goat cheese, zuchinni, swiss chard, garlic, and onion.  The green salad had tomatoes, zucchini, pumpkin seeds, and avacodo.  My friend brought the potato salad so I don’t know all of the ingredients.  However, everything was from a local garden or business and tasted like heaven.

An excerpt from A Grateful Heart: Continue reading

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Having a peak experience with food!

This week in my Eat for Life class I asked people to explore the world of food in order to so have more pleasure in their eating experiences.   You know how you can get in a rut with food–eating the same thing for breakfast, lunch, dinner day in and day out.  This week I implored them to really find out how much pleasure food can bring.   Try some new food.  Try a new restaurant.  Try a new recipe. Set the table with placemats, real napkins, flowers, candles, etc.  Do anything to shake it up a bit.

For myself, as luck would have it, the summer farmers’ market just opened up last Saturday and the Troutdale Farm folks were there with their unbelievably luscious fresh trout.  I invited a friend over and I grilled trout on the grill (only takes 6 minutes).  I grilled asparagus in the broiler (only takes 3 minutes).  And, I prepared a salad with fresh spinach and mixed greens (that I got from the market) along with avocado, tomatoes, carrots, red pepper, and pecans (topped with my favorite homemade salad dressing).  So first of all, we are talking about a QUICK meal and not expensive.  I bought four pieces of trout (skinned and filleted) for only $11 and change.  We only ate two pieces so I still had more left over for the next day.  QUICK and INEXPENSIVE but INCREDIBLY DELICIOUS and my dinner guest was duly impressed.  Not with me, necessarily, but with the quality of the food and the taste.  I had commented on how everything was bursting with flavor and he said, “except the carrots.”  This person has pretty refined taste buds and could tell that the carrots were a little old.  (Kind of embarrassing for me, but that’s okay).   I thought it was amazing that he noticed.  Talk about a mindful eater!

Anyway, I waited a little while to let our food settle and I remembered I had the most delicious chocolate in the world sitting in my kitchen.  I had ordered it for Valentine’s Day to give to all my favorite people and I still had some left over.  I pulled it out and offered it to my friend.  The expression on his face was priceless. He was almost moved to tears and described it as a  “peak experience.”  I almost fell over in my chair laughing.  What a pleasure to give someone else that kind of delight in food.

So the two things that you might be asking are:  (1) what is your favorite homemade salad dressing? and (2) what is the name of that chocolate?

Here you go:

(1) Favorite Homemade Salad Dressing

3 Tb. Orange juice, 2 Tb. Balsamic Vinaigrette, 2 Tb. Olive Oil, 1 clove pressed garlic, salt, pepper, and other herbs to your taste (I often use basil or herbs de Provence)

(2) The “Chocolate” – Olive Oil and Sea Salt Chocolate Bar by Poco Dolce, handmade artisan chocolates from San Francisco.  You can order it online.  Seriously—it is a “peak experience.” http://www.pocodolce.com

Come to think of it, I think there is just a little bit left in that chocolate bar and I’m going togo  mindfully savor it right now.

Go out and have your own “peak experience” with food!

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More $5 meal ideas.

The Slow Food Movement has had people blogging on their website about how they accomplished the $5 meal challenge. 

Please check out their page for sharing recipe ideas (and pictures) here: http://5challenge.tumblr.com/ and let your own creativity about meal planning grow and prosper.  When I looked a little further for $5 meals I came across the $5 dinner website that is chock full of ideas about meals to cook on the cheap and easy.  http://www.5dollardinners.com/recipes

Eating cheap, fast, easy and healthy is definitely doable!   To increase your pleasure, invite some friends over and make it fun.

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$5 Meal Challenge Report

As I promised earlier, I would report to you the results of my own $5 challenge (cooking a fresh, local, healthy meal for $5 or less and sharing it with others that was initiated by the Slow Food Movement).  As it turns out, I cooked my own meal and shared it but I also participated in the Katy Trail Slow Food Movement $5 meal challenge fundraiser for Centro Latino. 

The meal I made falls into my category of “healthy fast food.”   Just as a reminder “healthy fast food” has the following requirements.  Has to be EASY!

  1. Doesn’t take a lot of time.
  2. Not expensive.
  3. Tasty and delicious.
  4. Good for you (loosely defined on purpose)
  5. When possible, it includes ingredients that can be found locally and are seasonal.

I prepared organic polenta, black beans, and goat cheese and served it with an organic spinach salad topped with tomatoes.  Talk about healthy, quick and easy.  All I did was get the polenta that comes in a roll.  I cut the roll in pieces and sautéed them in olive oil until they were lightly browned.  I placed them on a plate, poured the warmed up black bean soup over it, and topped it with goat cheese.  I love the “black bean soup” by Goya and definitely prefer it over their can of “black beans.”  The black bean soup is much more flavorful and I use them just as I would black beans.  I can usually find it at World Harvest and always ask them to order it if I don’t find it on the shelf.  For the salad, I just bought organic spinach.  Spinach is one of those foods you really want to buy organic.  I had prepared so many tomatoes at the fundraiser the night before, that I was able to take some home to use for my meal the next day.  They had been prepared for the pasta that was served, so they had been lightly sautéed in olive oil with garlic.  I’ve broken down the cost of the meal below.  It is approximate on the tomatoes because I borrowed them, but I’m close enough.

Per person cost:

Organic Basil Garlic Polenta – (Food Merchants) (bought at the locally-owned health food store) –  $1

Black Bean Soup (Goya) – $.45

Fresh Goat Cheese (Goatsbeard Farm) – $1

Organic Spinach and Local Fresh Tomatoe Salad – $1.50

TOTAL = $3.95

This is just one simple suggestion for having a cheap, healthy, fast, locally-produced meal.  Get to your farmers market this weekend and pick up some fresh squash, green beans, sweet potatoes, or anything else that strikes your fancy.  A sweet potato with some black beans and goat cheese makes a meal.  Cut a squash in two and bake it in the oven.  Fill it in the middle with your favorite toppings.  I love brown rice, feta, and raisins inside.  Be creative! Taste the goodness of fresh and easy.

Have a glorious fall weekend!

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“We have to eat to live, so why not enjoy food to its fullest?” (Cooking Wild in Missouri, Bernadette Dryden)

I am honored to be able to send you this press release about the new cookbook created by a friend and Slow Food companion, Bernadette Dryden, called “Cooking Wild in Missouri.”  I’ve seen the book and it is a “must have” even if you don’t cook.   It is a book put together with love and bursting with love for food, for life, and for all things Missouri.  I hope you avail yourself to it! 

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) has published a colorful new cookbook that emphasizes local and seasonal ingredients in a tempting collection of appetizers, fresh salads, savory stews, elegant entrées and delectable desserts.

 “Cooking Wild in Missouri,” created by author Bernadette Dryden, presents more than 100 kitchen-tested recipes that will inspire beginner and advanced cooks to savor Missouri’s game, fish, nuts, fruits and mushrooms. The 200-page book also features color photographs on nearly every page and tips to make time in the kitchen easy, efficient and fun. Continue reading

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The Happy Meal Art Project

Someone recently sent me the link to the Happy Meal art project by New York artist, Sally Davies.  I couldn’t resist sharing it with you—people I care about—in hopes that I can convince more of you not to eat at fast food restaurants.  I had heard anecdotal reports about the fact that McDonald’s food doesn’t decompose over time, but this art project documents it once and for all.  Continue reading

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Slow Food is Good Food

I recently had the pleasure of eating at The Harvest, a restaurant that is also a member of the Slow Food Movement. Located on the Capitol Square in Madison, WI, Harvest is, as their website notes “passionately devoted to bringing Madison a unique dining experience, and a menu enhanced by seasonal locally-grown, and organic ingredients.”  Continue reading

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