About Me

I have been cooking my way through life for over 50 years, beginning with mud pies as a child. I've turned a corner now and feel a Renaissance in my life. Recipes and Random Thoughts is my personal spin in a blog about how to prepare good food and how it prepares you for life. I want to share with you, honest to goodness food punctuated with perspective from the special memories and moments that have marked my journey.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Roasted Salmon with Warm Lentil Salad

I've been on Super Foods for over a week and have tried to enhance the experience with complex flavor.  Lentils haven't interested me before, but they have such great nutritional value, I had to look for a recipe to include them.  Roast salmon with warm lentil salad turned out to be really, really good. The whole grain mustard and sherry vinegar give the bland lentils a lively flavor and complement the salmon.  After studying several versions, I settled on this combination of ingredients.  Note lentils do not require soaking.

For the lentils:

1 cup green lentils sorted and rinsed
4 cups hot water
2 tbls olive oil
1 cup diced onion
1/2 cup diced carrot
1/2 cup diced celery
1 tsp Kosher salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 leek, white and tender green, sliced thin
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup chicken stock
1 tbls whole grain dijion mustard
3 tbls sherry vinegar (red will do)

Pour the hot water over the lentils in a medium sauce pan and bring to a simmer. Cover with lid slightly ajar and simmer for 25-30 minutes.  While lentils cook, heat the olive oil in a large saute pan and add the onion, carrot, celery and leek and season with salt and pepper.  Cook over medium low heat for about 10 min. or until the vegetables are softened.  Add the garlic and cook 1 more minute.  Drain the lentils and add to the vegetable mixture along with the half cup of chicken stock.  Cook, stirring occasionally until most of the liquid is absorbed.  Add the mustard and vinegar and heat through.

For the salmon, simply drizzle each 4 oz fillet with olive oil, season with salt & pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice.  Roast @ 400 degrees for 25 mins. for medium.

Monday, February 25, 2013

A Death in the Kitchen Family

I bought my first piece of Le Creuset in 1990 at an outlet mall in Boaz, Alabama while we were traveling to Huntsville so our sons could visit the NASA Space Museum.  Indeed, it was my first visit to an outlet mall, period.  Forget all the clothes, I made a bea line to Le Creuset..  It was like I'd walked into Fort Knox and could walk out with a bar of gold bullion.  A bit later, I met my husband and sons with my modest purchase, a two cup saucier with a pouring spout.  My husband scoffed at what I'd paid for a "pot" as he put it.  Even at a discounted price it seemed ridiculously expensive to him.  For me, it was a new chapter and inspiration in my culinary life.  It was French and superior to anything else in my kitchen and I couldn't wait to get home and just boil water in it.  This was about the same time renting movies came in vogue.  What videos did I rent, Julia Child's classic "French Chef".

It has served me well for all these years, producing countless sauces with predictable quality.  I've a fine collection of Le Creuset now along with other quality brands.  Each has their own niche in my kitchen.  I even have some cheap cookware that, for various reasons, has its place on the shelf.  They're kind of like family but none has been as dear to me as my little #14 saucier.

A few weeks ago, while keeping my darling little grandson and trying to make a port wine reduction at the same time, tragedy struck.  There are few things in life as captivated as the first gummy little smile of your adorable 3 month old grandchild.  Then the acrid smell hit.  Dashing to the stove, I found a dry and completely blackened little pot.  Now don't think I haven't burned things up before, burned broccoli has occurred quite a few times, but burned alcohol is different.  Since the tragedy, I've tried everything to loosen the burnt and blackened stuff, nothing has revived my little saucier friend.  Soaking, steel wool, baking soda, vinegar, cream of tartar, 20 Mule Team, OxyClean, and nasty oven cleaner.  I've tried a good many things that chipped off the worst of it but I finally realized the kitchen chemotherapy had failed and the enamel has been damaged by my efforts.  Now it seemed to reek of nasty chemicals.  I dashed to one of the kitchen suppliers to check for a replacement and found the model has been discontinued.  It was as devastating as the time I found they had discontinued both my bra and lipstick in one day.  Has the world gone mad?

I've looked on ebay to replace it.  I found one just like it - in Australia.  In the meantime, does anyone have any suggestions.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Green Lemonade

I'm on this two week commitment to "super foods", eschewing sugar, dairy, gluten, red meat and all alcohol but a little red wine- well maybe more than a little.  It seems like I'm consuming more, probably to compensate blood sugar, but all in all tolerable, just inconvenient at times.  I can't stand dietary restrictions but this self imposed one is like taking the sushi class, I need to be enlightened and find out why people would give up bread and butter if they don't have a reason to.  I keep hoping, like in the Woody Allen movie Sleeper, we'll wake up from all this nonsense a thousand years from now and find out Banana Cream Pie was healthy for us.

I shop at Whole Foods a good bit and always note the popularity of their juice bar.  I kept wondering what a "Blue Moon" and a power shot were.  I decided to try their Green Lemonade.  Voila! Tasty and absurdly nutritious.  Kills two birds with one stone.  I'm hooked now and persuaded the bar tender to give me the recipe for  8 ounces.  If you have a juicer, your in luck, other wise you may need to get creative with a food processor and cheese cloth.  I'm just going to stand in line.

1 1/2 sweet apples (not tart)
1 lemon cut in pieces
1/2 peeled cucumber
5 stems of kale
1 handful of spinach

Tuesday, February 19, 2013


I usually buy a magazine or two in the airport before boarding, leaning toward fashion or fine food, but Outside magazine's cover announcing the issue was dedicated to nutrition caught my eye.  I found that intriguing in a publication dedicated to active lifestyles and adventure-travel. By the time I landed in Denver and boarded a van for Vail (talk about the land of active life styles), I'd read it cover to cover. OK, I'm definitely not an athlete, but I do have a trainer, play golf (mediocre)  and do some exercise daily - doesn't that count?  The quote is from an article by Nick Heil on Olympic athletes and how precisely they consume specific foods to fuel performance. I mean they have got every bite and calorie for the individual down to the exact quality and quantity the athlete needs for his or her sport and the amount of energy needed for the amount of time they are doing it.  They are, literally, fueling machines the way they pump gas into a race car. 

Not every athlete embraces this idea, but the recent London Olympic types are pretty hard core and some swear by a magic beet root concoction that made it's way to the Olympic dietitian's recommended regime without causing a doping stir.  I've attended both Summer and Winter Olympics and noted each Olympic Village had a very prominent McDonald's serving up the usual stuff, not beet juice.  Probably had something to do with big $$$$ numbers.  Another article in the issue was dedicated to dehydrated foods that you carry for backpacking and such.  Hard to make that stuff appealing, unless, as the point was clearly made, you are starving with hunger from rigorous exercise and there's nothing else.  Anyway, it was all a very different perspective on food than I usually consider.  Heil posed the question, what would happen if recreational athletes put the same emphasis on nutrition as Olympians do. Hummm?

You hear quite a bit about "super foods" these days. I've complied a list from the Internet of about 100, primarily fruits and vegetables, and decided I will  eat nothing but "super foods" for two weeks and given the fact that I've given up butter and white wine for Lent (groan) maybe I'll see some remarkable improvement in my life. It's easier to note what's not on the superfood list than what is. No butter, sugar, cream cheese or vodka.   As stated earlier, I'm not an athlete, but I like any experiment with food and don't mind being the Guinea pig.  Two week may not be long enough, but I think that's all I can stand.

Here goes, I'll keep you posted.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Valentines Chocolate Cherry Cake

In 1982, I was lonely and house bound with an infant in a strange city. I kept myself entertained during the day between diaper changes with cooking my way through each issue of Bon Appite'.  I came across a recipe in the mail section that wasn't sophisticated enough for the edtorials but it was a hit with me and has served me well over the years.  I make most things from scratch but this is one of those crowd pleasers made by dumping a cake mix and a few other things in a bowl.  The cherries and rich chocolate glaze make this just right for Valentines.

2 eggs
1 tsp almond extract
1 (18 oz.) pkg chocolate fudge cake mix
1 (21 oz.) can cherry pie filling

Preheat oven to 350. Grease a 9x13 in. baking dish with butter. Combine eggs and extract in large bowl and beat with an electric mixer.  Add cake mix and pie fillling. Batter will be thick and lumpy.  Bake 25-30 mins.  Remove from oven and prepare glaze while cake cools.

For the glaze:

5 tbls butter
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup whole milk
6 oz chocolate chips

Combine the butter sugar and milk in a heavy sauce pan bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring contantly.  Boil for 1 minute then add chocolate chips and stir until chips and blend until smooth.  Pour over warm cake.  When cool cut into squares and serve with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

French Onion Soup

I always like to make French Onion Soup when winter is at its fiercest.  With a cheerful fire crackling and the aroma of this hearty classic, the blizzard and snowdrifts makes us thankful to be warm and cozy inside.   I've also served it at holiday luncheons with a grapefruit and avocado salad.  Some recipes call for a stronger onion, like red, but I prefer a milder sweet onion combined with leek.  Spend a little extra on good quality Gruyere or Comte' cheese, the full body flavor and delightful stringy mess is part of the experience.  An inexpensive mandolin make the slicing so much easier, but use the safety handle, those things are sharp!

2 tbls olive oil
4 large sweet onions
a pinch of sugar
4 leeks, white and tender parts, sliced thin
2 cloves garlic minced
8 cups beef stock
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp. minced fresh thyme
salt and pepper
12 slices French bread
4 oz. shredded Gruyere or Comte' cheese

In a large nonaluminum dutch oven over medium-low heat, warm the oil.  Add the onions and saute', stirring occasionally, until wilted, about 15 mins.  Add the sugar and leeks and continue cooking, stirring frequently, until caramelized, 30-45 mins.  Increase heat if necessary to achieve color.

Add the garlic and saute' for 1 min.  Add the stock, wine, bay leaf and thyme.  Cover partially and simmer until the flavors are well blended, about 30 mims.  Season to taste with salt & pepper.  Discard the bay leaf.

To serve, preheat the broiler.  Ladle the soup into individual flameproof soup bowls.  Place 2 or 3 slices of toasted bread on top of each bowl and sprinkle with the cheese.  Slide under the broiler about 6 inches from the heat element.  Broil until the cheese is bubbly and lightly browned, 3-4 mins.  Serve immediately.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Shepherd's Pie

Ah! What to do with those leftovers?   It was a delicious pot roast and now it gets a second life as Shepherd's Pie. I must admit I went all out on the pot roast, a 5 lb chuck, seasoned then lightly floured, browned, cooked with diced onions, carrots, celery, garlic, a can of diced tomatoes, red wine, cognac and bouquet garni, cooked in the oven slowly for a few hours.  I removed the roast, tented it with foil then reduced the sauce by half swirled in a little butter and then pureed it in the processor.  It made a fine sauce for the roast and saving all that lovely extra sauce will make the Shepherd's Pie excellent.  If you don't have the will to go to that much effort.  Here's a shorter version but it still takes two days.

Heat 2 tbls olive oil over medium high heat in a dutch oven. 
Season a 3 lb. chuck roast with salt & pepper and brown it on all sides.

Remove to a slow cooker and add:
1 sliced onion
2 carrots sliced in 1 inch pieces
2 celery ribs sliced in 1 inch pieces
2 garlic cloves
1 sprig each thyme and rosemary
1 bay leaf
2 cups hearty red wine (drinkable)
1 cup beef stock
2 tbls flour
2 tbls butter
2 cups frozen peas and carrots

Set the slow cooker on low for 6 hrs.  Remove the roast and wrap in foil. Strain the juices and skim off the fat.  I use a fat separator and leave it in the refrigerator over night.  Any accumulated fat solidifies on top and is easily removed.  Put the remaining juices in a heavy sauce pan and reduce by half.  Add 1 tbls tomato paste and correct seasoning.  Add beurre manie' of 2 tbls  softened butter and 2 tbls flour mixed together and cook  stirring constantly until thickened and the sauce coats a spoon. Season with salt and pepper.

In the mean time,  Cook 2 1/2 lbs peeled and diced Yukon potatoes in enough cold, salted water to cover until tender. While the potatoes cook, saute' 1 cup diced carrots in 1 tbls butter until just tender, 4-5 mins. Set aside 1 cup thawed frozen peas.

Drain the potatoes and return to the pan, add salt and pepper and mash.  Add 2 cups warm milk and 4 tbls butter and mix until smooth.  Allow the potatoes to cool 10 mins.  Beat 1 egg and add to the mashed potatoes.

To assemble,  heat the oven to 350 degrees, shred the roast into a casserole, add the peas and carrots, pour the thickened sauce over the meat and vegetables then "ice" with mashed potatoes.  Sprinkle with paprika. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until  bubbly and the potatoes are lightly browned on top.Turn on the broiler for a few minutes and watch carefully if you want a browned top.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Game Time Guacamole

It's no secret, I freely admit that I love guacamole. I could bath in it, douse my self with it and trade everything I own for it.  It doesn't have to be on a chip, I'll take it by the spoonful.  I'm crazy for that just right mix of textures, heat, lime cilantro and the subtly of avocado and hey, its not so bad for you as the cheese based dips.  Avocado is a "good fat".  Superbowl Sunday is the obvious occasion to turn my love guacamole loose.  Turn on the TV and dip in.

2 cups mashed avocado
1 small tomato seeded and chopped fine
juice of 2  limes
1 clove garlic finely minced
1 tbls chopped cilantro
1 tsp kosher salt
1 small jalapeno seeded and minced