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NEWFOOD FRIDAY FLASH – STRATA

25 Apr

Is it me or does the word “strata” make you think you’re going to see a Fellini movie? Or, is that only if you’re a movie buff?  If you’re a science buff, maybe it makes you think of outer space as in stratosphere? Or, if you’re in the military, maybe it makes you think of strategy as in strategic maneuvers? I have wanted to try strata for a long time but it’s made with leftover or stale bread. When do I ever have leftover or stale bread? Never! So, in order to make this strata, I had to bake extra bread just so I could have “leftovers.”  Since I like to kill two birds with one stone (gee that sounds violent), I decided to make brioche, a French bread that I’ve always wanted to make but didn’t because I thought it was too inconvenient. I didn’t have the right “tools” for the job. But then I found a recipe for brioche that called for a 9 x 5 loaf pan. Now that I had! I made the brioche, I had leftover bread, and then I made strata in time for this month’s New Food Friday Flash.

 

Strata is made with bread, eggs, milk, and cheese. You can add just about anything to it. It’s similar to a bread pudding. I found this recipe for crab strata and I halved it because I wasn’t sure I would like it.

 

I also have a very old recipe I cut out from a magazine for spinach cheese strata but I’ve yet to make it. If you want the recipe, just leave a comment and I will give it to you. Here is the recipe for the crabmeat strata. It can be prepared up to 24 hours in advance.Crab Strata

 

Ingredients:

Butter

6 thick slices white bread cut into cubes

2 (6-oz.) cans crabmeat or 1 lb fresh

1 cup shredded gruyere cheese

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

4 scallions rough chop

6 large eggs, lightly beaten

1 ½ cups milk

2 tablespoons dry sherry or apply juice

1 tablespoon Dijon-style mustard

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

 

Butter a 2 qt. casserole dish. In a large bowl, mix the bread, crabmeat, cheeses, and scallions. Add the remaining ingredients and stir well. Pour into the casserole, cover, and chill for 2 to 24 hours.

 

Heat the oven to 350. remove the cover from the casserole and bake for 45 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.Slice of Crab Strata

 

Variations:

Replace crabmeat with canned red salmon, drained.

Replace crabmeat with ½ cup cooked small shrimp, 2 chopped hard-boiled eggs and 2 tablespoons freshly chopped parsley.

Replace 1 can crabmeat with 1 can tuna, drained.

Omit crabmeat altogether. Substitute 1 cup cooled and sliced mushrooms and ½ cup cooked, chopped leeks.

Replace crabmeat with smoked, chopped mackerel, bones removed. Add 2 tomatoes, seeded and chopped.

This recipe is taken from the book, “500 breakfast & brunch dishes” by Carol Beckerman

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NEW FOOD FRIDAY FLASH – THE COLOR PURPLE, AND ORANGE, AND YELLOW, AND …..

18 Mar

When I think of a stew, I usually think of a stew with meat. This, however, is a meatless stew. It’s unusual in that one of the ingredients is coconut milk. This recipe is taken from the book, “Eating By Color.” It’s a beautifully illustrated book and categorized by the color of the fruit or vegetable. I’ve been trying to increase the vegetables in my diet which is why this is my choice for this month’s New Food Friday Flash.

 

This stew is a curried dish but I didn’t make it very hot or spicy because I cut back on the amounts shown below. Maybe next time I will use the full amounts. This dish makes a generous sauce and I just love a juicy, saucy dish. You can serve it over rice. If you’re worried that it’s going to taste like a coconut, don’t worry. It doesn’t. You won’t notice the coconut flavor at all.

Ingredients

3 T butter

½ cup chopped onion

2 carrots chopped

1 parsnip, peeled and chopped

1 large sweet potato, peeled and chopped

½ head cauliflower, chopped into florets

1 ½ tablespoon flour

Salt and Pepper

1 ½ teaspoons coriander seeds crushed

1 ½ teaspoons fennel seeds crushed

1 ½ teaspoons ground turmeric

1 ½ teaspoons chili powder

1 teaspoon cumin

¼ cup low-sodium chicken broth

1 can (14oz) coconut milk

Chopped fresh cilantro for garnish (optional)

 

Sauté the onion in the butter-2 minutes. Add the carrots, parsnip, sweet potato, and cauliflower and continue to cook-10 minutes. I used a whole head of cauliflower because it was a small one.

 

In a small bowl, mix the flour, coriander, fennel seeds, turmeric, chili powder, cumin, salt, and pepper. Sprinkle all over the vegetables, stirring occasionally, until the flour mixture begins to stick to the bottom of the pan and brown-3-4 min. (But don’t burn it!) Add the chicken broth and stir to scrape up the browned bits from the bottom of the pot, then stir in the coconut milk.

 

Raise the heat to high and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Cover. Place in the oven and bake at 400° until the vegetables are tender – about 25 minutes. Serve hot and enjoy!

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NEW FOOD FRIDAY FLASH – RUTABAGA

19 Feb

You’ve probably heard of rutabaga and you may have even tried it a time or two. Well, it’s time to revisit rutabaga because I found a recipe combining rutabaga and sweet potato and it’s delicious!  So, guess where it’s going? That’s right, in my February New Food Friday Flash post!

 

I came across the creator of this recipe while watching a cooking show on PBS. The chef’s name is Annabel Langbein. She combines foods in a way that you wouldn’t think of and the final product turn out great! I found several books in my local library containing her recipes. Her rutabaga sweet potato combination is uncomplicated, delicious, and good for your health too.

 

Rutabaga can sometimes be confused with turnips but rutabaga is typically larger. If turnips grow as large as a rutabaga, you should not buy them because they will be a bit woody. Not so with the rutabaga. It is a relative to the mustard family. It is sometimes called Swedish or Russian turnip, or swede and is widely cultivated in cool, moist regions of the northern hemisphere for its large, elongated roots, with solid yellow or white flesh, eaten not only by us folks but also enjoyed by livestock. Like the turnip, the rutabaga contains about 90 percent water so if you are on a diet, you can eat as much rutabaga as you like!

 

The rutabaga has a somewhat mildly bitter taste, but when combined with sweet potato, the bitter and the sweet contrast well together. If you want to make this recipe really low calorie, omit the butter and cream. I omitted the cream but not the butter.

 

Ingredients

½ lb rutabaga, cut into 1” slices

1 lb orange-fleshed sweet potato, cut into 1” slices

¼ cup Chicken stock (or more)

1 teaspoon fresh minced thyme

2 Tablespoons butter (optional)

Salt and pepper to taste

Cream (optional)

 

Preheat oven to 350°. In a baking dish, combine the sweet potatoes, rutabaga, and chicken broth. Slice the rutabaga and sweet potato into 1” slices or smaller if you have the time and the patience. The smaller the pieces, the quicker it will cook. The first time I made this, I used less sweet potato and tasted more of the rutabaga. The second time I made it, I used the recipe amount of sweet potato and didn’t taste the rutabaga at all. So, if you like it sweeter, go with the recipe version. If not, reduce the amount of sweet potato.

 

Sprinkle with the thyme, salt and pepper and turn to mix well. Cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake until vegetables are tender, about 1 ½ hours. (I raised the heat so it didn’t take as long.)

 

Add the butter, and cream if you are using it and mash with a potato masher. I used my immersion blender and added a bit more chicken stock. Beat until fluffy. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed. After you taste it, try not to eat the whole thing! It will be a challenge!

 

I can’t wait to make this again. Try it. I think you will like it too!

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NEW FOOD FRIDAY FLASH – BOBOTIE

15 Jan

I was tossing out old magazines and I stopped short when I saw this recipe in a magazine called Journey. I don’t often see a recipe that comes from South Africa but when I saw this one for Bobotie, I knew I had to post it in my blog. I’m not sure of the pronunciation because I’ve seen it pronounced several ways on the Internet, but I’m going with “Bobootie.”  South Africans enjoy spicy Eastern flavors, including Indian curries and Malayan spices, Dutch and English foods, and traditional African dishes. This Bobotie is one of South Africa’s most-loved dishes. It’s a combination of sweet and savory served casserole style. Note that there are no vegetables in this recipe, only fruits! Maybe your children will like it! In any case, it’s my choice for this month’s New Food Friday Flash.

 

Ingredients

2 large onions

2 Tablespoons butter

1 thick slice white bread

1 cup milk

2 lbs ground lamb or beef

2 ½ Tablespoons strong curry powder

1 teaspoon turmeric

2 tablespoons apricot jam

¼ cup sliced almonds

¼ cup lemon juice (or vinegar)

2 teaspoons salt

½ teaspoon white pepper

¼ cup seedless raisins

1 green apple, grated (or substitute carrots)

10 dried apricots, soaked & diced (or ¼ cup raisins)

4 dried bay or lemon leaves

2 eggs

 

Directions

Pre-heat the oven to 350F. lightly fry the onions in the butter. Soak the bread in half the milk and mash with a fork.

 

Mix the meat with all of the ingredients except for the eggs, the rest of the milk and the bay or lemon leaves.

 

Put the mixture in an oven proof dish. Push the bay leaves into the top of the mixture. Cover and bak for about 45-60 minutes, depending on size of dish.

 

Beat the eggs and remaining milk together and pour over the meat. Slightly lift it to allow the egg to run into the bobotie.

 

Bake until brown on top (about 15 – 20 minutes.

 

Garnish with additional bay leaves.  Serves 8 – 10.

 

This recipe is a great way to get more fruit into your diet. Traditionally this is served with yellow rice made with rice, turmeric, raisins, almonds, and cloves. A tasty, different meal that is very good for your health!

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Cooking Tips and Other Tricks

10 Mar Apple Pie with a Cup of Tea

With over 50 years of cooking and baking, I have come up with a few cooking tips that I have not seen mentioned anywhere else. I’d like to share them with you.

 

LEMONS

Here is a tip for fresh lemons that I learned accidentally! You know how lemons turn to mush after you had cut them in half and only used one-half? This happened to me too frequently and I was annoyed at how many times I would have to throw out the remaining half lemon. One day, since I needed a lemon wedge for my tea, I decided that instead of cutting the lemon in half, I would cut a wedge out of the lemon. Guess what? The remaining lemon stayed fresh until I used up every wedge cut from the lemon – well over a week. It helps to twist your plastic wrap tightly around the remaining lemon. Also, if the plastic wrap gets wet, discard it, tear off a fresh piece of plastic wrap, and wrap the remaining lemon. You won’t be throwing out any more lemons! This works with limes too.  I love this tip!

 

I had a cup of tea with honey, a lemon wedge, and a nice slice of homemade apple pie.

Apple Pie with a Cup of Tea

A Slice of Homemade Apple Pie with a Cup of Tea with Honey and Lemon

 

MORE LEMONS

What do you do with the remaining lemon when a recipe calls for nothing but the zest of one whole lemon? You don’t want to throw out the lemon. The chances of saving the lemon without the protective outer layer are not good unless you have plans to use it within a day or two.

 

One lemon without the zest!

What to do with a lemon once you’ve removed the zest

Here is what I do: I get a sharp knife and cut the lemon into wedges, put them in a container and then put the container in the freezer.

Zested lemon wedges in container

A zested lemon cut into wedges ready for the freezer

I use the wedges for hot tea or thaw out a wedge or two and squeeze them over fish. Actually, you can use these wedges of lemon the same way you would use fresh lemon. Another benefit of saving lemon this way is that you can remove all the seeds at the same time you are cutting the wedges. Works great and helps cool off a too-hot cup of tea!

Hot cup of tea with frozen lemon wedge

Squeeze frozen lemon wedge into a hot cup of tea

 

BACON AND EGG(s)

I buy bacon infrequently, but when I do buy it, I cook it all up either in my toaster oven or in a fry pan. I drain it all on paper towels that I line in a glass bowl. I let the bacon cool and store it in the refrigerator or in the freezer depending on how soon I think I’ll use it.

 

Then, when I want bacon and egg (only one egg for me) for breakfast, I get a heatproof plate, cover it with parchment paper, and sprinkle bacon bits on it from my bowl of cooked, cooled bacon slices. I crack an egg on top of the bits. I place the dish in my toaster oven, select Toast, add a slice of bread alongside the dish, and select the highest Toast cycle, which for me is number 3. When the bell dings, I leave the toast and dish in the toaster oven to absorb the residual heat while I’m getting other items ready like tea or coffee, etc. This makes perfect toast and a sunny side up egg with crispy bacon. Clean up is a breeze!

 

Any runny yolk stays on the parchment paper, not on the plate. I get just enough taste of the bacon to satisfy me without overdoing it, limiting my salt intake for the day. You would be surprised at how eating a couple of slices of bacon can make you go over your salt intake! I love this tip!

 

COLD FEET

Is there a woman out there who doesn’t suffer from cold feet? There have been times when my feet were so cold that it would take me an hour to fall asleep because my feet were so cold and no amount of blankets were enough. I complained about it to my doctor and he told me to wear two pairs of socks. That didn’t help.

 

I finally got the idea to wear two pairs of jogging pants or “sweats” around the house. This solved my problem indoors.

 

When I go outdoors, I wear a pair of long johns under my jeans. If you don’t know what long johns are (also known as thermal underwear), they are insulated pants, typically white, and relatively seamless, with matching separate tops that are made of a very stretchy fabric. Mine are 50% cotton and 50% polyester and made in the USA. You can buy them at Meijer and probably Walmart. I’ve had mine a long time and bought them when I first decided to go skiing. They are snug around the ankles and the wrists to keep in your body heat. They don’t show under your jeans. They are comfortable; you won’t know you are wearing them.

With this crazy, dangerous weather, you never know if your car is going to be stuck somewhere or you are going to be hit by a vehicle in a skid, so you want to be sure you are able to withstand the cold just in case you can’t stay in your car or your heater dies. These long johns also help to protect you from the high winds we’ve been having which make it seem even colder. I no longer have cold feet and in fact, I am as warm as toast!

 

Final words: double your pleasure by doubling your pants!

 

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New Food Friday Flash – Passatelli

21 Nov Passatelli pasta

This recipe has been a long time coming because I have wanted to make my own pasta for years and now I have finally done that! Hooray! You know how it is, you have to have the correct ingredients on hand, you have to have the time to do it, you also have to have the right equipment/tools to make the pasta. Everything but the stars and the moon have to be aligned! Having the right equipment/tools was actually the biggest holdup for me. Plus, I wanted a recipe that sounded good. Passatelli pasta was all that I dreamed of and that is why this post is my choice for this New Food Friday Flash.

 

To whom do I owe my thanks for this recipe? Mary Ann Esposito of the Ciao Italia! program on PBS. Thank you Mary Ann!

 

Here Are the Tools You Don’t Need

You don’t need a rack to hang these pastas up to dry.

You don’t need a pasta machine to make the dough paper thin.

You don’t need a rolling pin to roll out the dough

You don’t need to buy a special stamp to stamp special designs on the pasta.

And gloriosky, you don’t need to knead the dough!

 

Here Are the Tools You Need

A Cheese Grater

 

I’m assuming you have a bowl, a spoon, and a pot!

 

Ingredients

½ cup + 2 tablespoons flour

¾ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

1 cup toasted bread crumbs

2 eggs

1 ½ teaspoon fresh lemon juice

zest of 1 lemon

1/8 – ½ teaspoon grated nutmeg

Salt and Pepper to taste

 

Grate the cheese. I ended up grating too much but can you ever have too much Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese? I think not.

 

Add the flour. I made this recipe on a very damp, rainy day and had to add 3 tablespoons more flour to make a “rough” dough.

 

Add the bread crumbs. I grated bread crumbs a few days prior to making this recipe from an Italian artisan boule that I bought at Meijer.

Defrosting Artisan breadcrumbs

Artisan bread crumbs that I froze

It was very good and chewy, just how I like it but I had to sacrifice half the loaf so that I could make breadcrumbs out of it. It wasn’t easy because I wanted to smear it with butter and devour the entire thing! After I grated it, I put it in the freezer knowing that I would use it for something!

 

Add the lemon juice and the zest. I didn’t have a whole lemon to zest so I added a teeny bit more lemon juice.

 

Add the nutmeg. As you can see from the photo, I have enough nutmeg to last the rest of my life.

Grating nutmeg

Nutmeg and nutmeg grater

I bought this nutmeg online a few years ago and this is what they sent me along with all the other ingredients I ordered from an Italian supermarket in Cleveland called Gallucci’s. OK, I lied. You also need a tool called a nutmeg grater. But really, you could get away with using a regular grater or, heaven forbid, buy nutmeg already grated.

 

Add salt and pepper to taste. You don’t need much salt because the cheese is salty (and so is the bread) and we’re watching our salt intake, aren’t we? I only added ½ teaspoon. I don’t remember what Maryanne said was needed for the salt or for the nutmeg for that matter. I used only 1/8 of a teaspoon of nutmeg. (I’m saving them because I want to take some with me when I go. You know, like the Egyptians.) I’m kidding! Nutmeg is a strong flavor and I didn’t want it to overpower the Passatelli.

 

Gather all the ingredients into a ball. It will be “rough.” (Mary Ann’s words.) I took that to mean a shaggy dough. My dough was sticky so I slowly added up to 3 tablespoons more flour until it looked more “rough” to me. Cover it and put the dough in the refrigerator for 6 – 7 hours.

Ball of Dough to make Passatelli

My ball of Passatelli dough

 

After 5 hours I took the dough out of the refrigerator. (I’m sorry. I couldn’t wait.) I got my grater and using the BIG holes, grated some of the cold ball of dough. Now I ask you, how fun is that? I suppose it doesn’t have to be a ball shape. You could probably form it into a rectangle. Whatever is easier for you! When you have a pile of grated Passatelli, slide them into boiling homemade chicken broth and boil 3 minutes OR until the pasta floats to the surface.

 

I had 3 jars of homemade chicken broth on hand but you need 8 cups of broth and I only had 6 cups so I made more.

Frozen chicken broth defrosting

Frozen homemade chicken broth

I had some chicken bones I was saving in the freezer and I also had some meaty chicken backs and bellies, and made another pot of chicken soup. Now I had more than enough broth.

Broth for my Passatelli

Making more chicken broth

 

If you don’t want to cook the grated Passatelli right away, you can grate them and then put them in the freezer. If you do it that way remember NOT to defrost the Passatelli when you put them in the boiling broth. Just dump them frozen into the boiling soup broth and boil for 3 minutes OR until they float to the top.

Passatelli boiling in chicken broth

Boiling chicken broth with my Passatelli

 

Homemade pasta doesn’t need to cook as long as store bought pasta so don’t boil it too long or you will have mush.

 

Prior to putting my ball of dough into the refrigerator, I was thinking how to make other versions, such as:

 

Use other flours like semolina flour

Add other herbs like minced parsley or powdered dry sage

Add one more egg

Use one LESS egg

Add minced prosciutto (is that a possibility?)

Use a different cheese like Asiago

Add cooked, minced spinach or butternut squash

Boil/cook the Passatelli then scoop them out of the broth and sauté them in butter

 

It seemed my luck was holding out for this recipe because the weather was taking a temperature tumble. If I had made it one day sooner, I wouldn’t want to have eaten hot Passatelli in 79 degree weather! Last night cold winds blew all the heat away and today is damp and cold with temperatures expecting to go into the 20’s by the weekend, perfect for a hot bowl of Passatelli! Sometimes being a slave to the weather is a good thing!

 

The Surprises in this Recipe

When I grated the ball of dough, it looked as though it was too soft and that the Passatelli would all clump together in the pot of broth. Surprise! They separate and rise to the top when they are cooking! I was eager to taste the Passatelli and took a spoonful of the broth and pasta. Surprise! I had forgotten there was lemon in the Passatelli! It was a nice, light-flavored surprise taste. I also wasn’t prepared for the softness of the pasta. Surprise! This recipe would make a great soup for when you are sick in bed with a cold. A hot, nourishing chicken broth with soft homemade noodles that slide down your sore throat will make you better in no time! This medium size ball of dough makes A LOT of pasta so surprise! I thought with all the cheese I put in the recipe (remember, I put in too much?) it would taste cheesy. SURPRISE!

 

I think I remember Mary Ann saying that this was an “old” recipe and that she wanted to keep recipes like this alive. I’m all for that. Sometimes the old ways are better. Like heirloom seeds for the gardener, this recipe is a keeper for the cook! Let me know if you make this! Your kids will enjoy watching you grate the round ball of dough into pasta!

I grated all of it then cooked and ate half and I froze the rest.

Passatelli pasta

A delicious bowl of Passatelli pasta

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Authentic Recipes From the Mediterranean

7 Oct https://marcellarousseau.files.wordpress.com/2014/10/1382262_376997511.jpg

You’ve heard of the Mediterranean Diet but exactly what are some of the recipes enjoyed on this “diet”?

There are about 21 countries in the Mediterranean but I can only speak authentically for one: Italy. My mother’s side of the family came from Bari, Italy (southern Italy) and my father’s side of the family came from Arzignano, Italy (northern Italy).

The differences in their cuisine were as different as their dialects! The northern side of the family ate Polenta, risotto, salads of bean, asparagus, and frittatas (egg dishes with vegetables). The southern side of the family ate deep-dish pizzas (no cheese), nuts (hazelnuts, walnuts, almonds), pastas (ravioli, penne, spaghetti, stars, orecchiette), cold cuts (mortadella, prosciutto, ham, capacola – spelled many ways), and osso buco.

Of course, they ate more dishes than those, but those are the ones I remember. Add to this mix the dishes my American-born mother would prepare. I would assume that she learned many of her dishes from her mother.

Let’s talk about the unusual dishes that my family made and get that out of the way first. I won’t point fingers at who prepared/ate these dishes but if you want to guess, be my guest.

  1. Cow’s tongue. I still remember seeing a big, fat cow’s tongue sitting on a plate after it had been boiled. It looked awful. It tasted awful and I’ve never been a picky eater. Was this Italian fare? I have no idea!
  2. Chicken feet. I still remember trying these things. Legs of just skin and bones. This was the Mediterranean Diet? No wonder they were all so slim. Last, but certainly not least:
  3. Birds. Don’t argue with me, argue with them. That’s what they called them: birds. I remember going out in the backyard as a kid with my grandfather and he would kill the birds in the trees with a stone. They never knew what hit them. He was quite a shot. I don’t remember ever eating a “bird.”

And you thought it was just anchovies that were awful! OK, now for the less strange.

Asparagus and Hard Boiled Egg Salad

This salad is delicious and low calorie and chances are you’ve never heard of it. It’s also easy to prepare. Snap off and discard the tough ends of the asparagus and boil the remainders until tender. Boil two eggs until hard-boiled. Allow everything to cool completely. Mash the asparagus and the eggs together. Add a little olive oil and red wine vinegar. Add salt and pepper to taste. Delicious!

Red Kidney Bean Salad

Drain one can of red kidney beans and pour into a bowl. Mince one clove of garlic and finely chop two tablespoons parsley and add both to the bowl. Add oil and red wine vinegar to taste. Add salt and pepper to taste. Easy, delicious, and good for you. I make this often in the summer.

Double-decker Thick Crust Pizza

If I had the original recipe I would share it. This was a two-layer pizza. The bottom layer was thick and the top layer was thin. In the middle were glazed onion slices, big green olive halves, and anchovies (which I used to pick out when I was a kid). The ends of this dough were very high and thick, higher and thicker than any other pizza I’ve ever seen. The crust was the oiliest I’ve ever eaten. It was the best thick crust pizza I’ve ever eaten and ever will eat, guaranteed. Your best bet is to use a recipe for a thick crust pizza dough. Add a good amount of olive oil to the pan and while it’s rising, prepare the onion, olive, and anchovy mixture. I swear, I can still smell and taste this pizza. I came close to duplicating it once.

Risotto

Nobody made risotto like my grandmother. It seemed like she cooked it for hours, occasionally adding more chicken stock and would stir and stir. She also added bits of chicken liver which I picked out when I was a kid. Something about her risotto made it stay hot so I would spread it out on my large plate to the very edges with my fork and eat around the edges which were the coolest parts. I never came close to duplicating it and I never added chicken livers.

Dandelion, Broccoli Rabe, Escarole, Broccoli, Artichokes

These green vegetables are prepared pretty much the same way with chopped garlic, olive oil, salt and red pepper flakes to taste and some water and they’re all delicious. Wash and trim them carefully. Cut into pieces that are comfortable for you. I like to cut my dandelion (yes, the weed but you buy it in the supermarket) in half. For broccoli rabe or rapini, I like to cut the lower end into small pieces since the lower ends are tougher and take longer to cook. For the escarole I cut the leaves in half. Escarole is very versatile. I use it in place of lettuce in sandwiches and I cook it as a green vegetable for a side dish. It is delicious! I’ll give the directions for the artichokes last.

Be careful not to overcook the broccoli. Overcooked broccoli causes the same reaction as eating baked beans. Make sure you have enough water in the pan. If all the water evaporates you will burn the broccoli, the house will smell awful and you won’t want to eat it. So, add more water in the broccoli pan than you do for the other greens. The same is true for the artichokes – more water but don’t cover them with water.

My mother used to quarter the artichokes. (Remember to remove the hairy chokes in the middle and the thorns at the tips because you can’t eat those parts.) I like to stuff my artichokes with seasoned bread crumbs. They take longer to cook that way. Nowadays, every chef I see preparing artichokes on TV removes all the leaves and only prepares the heart of the artichoke. I think they’re missing out on all the fun of scraping the leaves between your teeth. Also, a good chef will know how to prepare a good dipping sauce for the leaves. If you’ve never tried an artichoke before, order one in a restaurant. It’s a delicate flavor, creamy and delicious when artichokes are at their peak of goodness.

Lentils, split-peas, chick peas (Garbanzos, or cici beans), navy beans, cannellini beans, lima beans and fava beans.

My mother made soups out of each of these except for the fava beans although she ate them too. Nothing fancy, just good!

Meats

Sausages, lamb chops, pork chops, spare ribs, steak, veal cutlets, chicken, hamburger. These were all cooked by my mother mostly broiled except for the spare ribs which she put in a tomato sauce. I only remember one dish that my grandmother made with either lamb chops or pork chops. She put the chops in a pan, sliced up about a half cup onion, sliced two potatoes, peeled; quartered a tomato, add spices (probably oregano or thyme, salt and pepper), and about a cup of water and 2 tablespoons olive oil. Bake covered until tender. Delicious. I make this once in a while. Don’t forget to dunk crusty Italian bread in those juices!

So, if you’ve ever wondered what recipes folks from the Mediterranean enjoyed, these are some of them.

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High on the Stress List: Divorce, Moving, Job Loss, and Death (of your Refrigerator) Part II

24 Sep https://marcellarousseau.files.wordpress.com/2014/09/whirlpool-estate-6-shelve-options-crisper-meat-drawer.jpg

When I had bought my Whirlpool Estate eleven years ago, the instructions said to wash the inside of the fridge before storing the food. My new Frigidaire instructions didn’t say anything about washing it but I did it anyway. I hated to take the time to do it, knowing that all my food was melting, but it was easier to do it then than later! Plus, while wiping it down, I found particles of white plastic in the freezer so I was glad I took the time to do it. The outside of the fridge still had some Styrofoam particles on it so I wiped the outside of the refrigerator too. I can’t tell you how many times I wiped and mopped up the floor which was still sticky in spots for days!

 

I was lucky in that I had finished the caramel swirl, chocolate chip ice cream the day before my refrigerator went out on me. Wouldn’t that have been a lovely mess! I was also lucky in that I decided to pull the fridge out from the wall for the umpteenth time Wednesday morning to check the drip tray. It was filled to the brim. If I hadn’t checked, the delivery men would have likely spilled it all over. That would have been a nightmare. I got an old towel and a bucket and drained it dry.

 

The new Frigidaire had tape everywhere! It was worse than a crime scene! The shelves were shrink-wrapped in plastic. What a pain when you’re in a hurry! I was afraid I would break the shelves getting the tape off. Since I was working as fast as I could, I didn’t get every drip off every food item so some things went in the fridge moist. That was a mistake. The next day, I noticed I had water in my crisper drawers. I was hoping the new fridge wasn’t malfunctioning already and thought it might be from the wet items on the shelves so I mopped up the crisper drawers with a paper towel and dried off some of the foods on the shelves. I still had to cook the defrosted meats because I didn’t want to throw them out. Who wants to cook at a time like this?

 

I had some Coho Salmon that defrosted, previously purchased from the fish counter so it was well-wrapped. I just threw that in a frying pan with some butter and ate it before anything else. It was very good! I also made a bag of previously frozen shelled edamame to go with it – the kind you just put in the microwave and steam. Easy and quick was all I could handle Wednesday night.

 

On Thursday morning, I was up early because it was going to be the coolest day of the week and I needed to mow the backyard. It was actually pleasant with a mild breeze. We had been having hot, sweltering, muggy, rainy, humid weather in the high 80’s. Even though I had long pants on and a shirt with long sleeves, and enough mosquito repellant on to make me cough, I still got bitten when I mowed! Only one bite this time though; I am like fillet mignon and strawberry shortcake to a mosquito.

 

Thursday afternoon I made meatballs of the defrosted ground turkey, fish sticks from the cod fish, and chicken nuggets from the chicken breast. I realize I didn’t have to be fancy when trying to save these meats and fish, but I do love to cook and although the flouring, egging, and breading was time-consuming, the end result was worth it and delicious! (I was determined to get something good out of this experience!) I found a great tartar sauce recipe from a Martha Stewart DVD that I got from the library the week before. I ate like a Queen with my newly working refrigerator!

 

Friday morning I mowed the front yard. It began raining so I had to stop after only doing 1/3 of the yard. I went to the library and then the grocery store and picked up some of my favorite things: spinach dip, blue corn tortilla chips, white flesh nectarines, watermelon, bread and butter pickles, and a bottle of red wine. After the week I had, I deserved it! When I came home from the store, I finished mowing. It was the sloppiest mowing job I’ve ever done but I didn’t care! I just wanted it all over with so I could relax!

 

Saturday I forced myself to do nothing. It wasn’t easy but I needed the rest. I was exhausted Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. Today, as I write this, is Sunday the day of rest, but I continued cleaning up and organizing things. The new fridge had caused a chain reaction: items got rearranged in the kitchen, put away, washed and wiped; baseboard trim that had separated from the wall behind the fridge got hammered into place and sealant was squeezed onto spaces between it and the wall and the floor; wall paper that had come away from the walls in the bathroom and the bedroom got re-cemented with wallpaper glue, and so on. It was like I was just moving in! I was stuck in “drive” gear and couldn’t get out! However, now that it’s all done, I feel pleased and I don’t feel exhausted anymore. Who knew a dying refrigerator could be so much work? And it could have been so much worse! All along I kept thinking about people who suffer through flooding disasters. I don’t know how they continue to stay in their home afterwards .

 

So, in all, it wasn’t as bad as it could have been. I learned a few things that could help me if a future catastrophe happens and maybe you could learn from my experience too. None of the food made me sick – I was worried about that. All my yogurt containers were good. Even my homemade meatball calzones that I had in the freezer which defrosted, I ate and they were good! I guess I did a better job with the bags of ice than I realized! I always wondered why some people needed a second fridge in their garage. I’m beginning to see the benefit now! Imagine life without a refrigerator? Do you remember your grandparents having an icebox?

 

I’m glad I am in good physical condition because it helped me to rebound quickly. It also helped me to move my fridge, pack my food in containers and place a 7 lb bag of ice on each one. All the more reason to work out ladies so you can tackle household emergencies without injuries or mental breakdowns! Fitness rules!

 

It’s interesting that all of this happened the week before the Labor Day Weekend. Now I know why they call it Labor Day!

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High on the Stress List: Divorce, Moving, Job Loss, and Death (of your Refrigerator).

22 Sep https://marcellarousseau.files.wordpress.com/2014/09/my-frigidaire.jpg

Good health encompasses stress; some of it good, some of it not so good. You can lessen stressful situations with good planning. A little luck doesn’t hurt either. Exercise can help control stress in most situations, but maybe not this one!

 

Stress denial: On Tuesday, I noticed that the packaging of my store-bought pastry in my freezer seemed a bit soggy. I ignored it. While dozing off to sleep that night, I noticed my refrigerator often making a clicking sound. Uh-oh I thought, and fell asleep. On Wednesday morning I tried vacuuming the refrigerator coils since I neglected them for several months. No change in the clicking noise. I pulled the plug and then plugged the fridge back in one minute later. No change. I turned off the fridge and pulled the plug. No change. The refrigerator kept clicking. By Thursday morning, I realized that all my frozen food was defrosting in my freezer.

 

Full blown stress: I decided to buy several bags of ice to help save my food. I didn’t sleep well Wednesday night because I couldn’t make up my mind if I should buy a new refrigerator or call a repairman. The last time I called a repairman for a refrigerator I learned that he would charge $100 just to come out to look at it! I called the Whirlpool number to get a repairman for my Whirlpool. The gal I spoke with asked me how old my refrigerator was and I told her, eleven years. “Oh!” she said. “If it was me, I would buy a new one.” I asked her how long they usually lasted. She said between 10-13 years. I didn’t have time to do research online to find out if what she said was true and I didn’t have time to research refrigerators to see what would be the best deal for me unless I wanted to let all the food in my fridge go to waste while I did my research. So, I went to H.H. Gregg and asked the saleswoman if the sale coming up included the week before because they were advertising 30% off! Frankly, I didn’t understand her answer but I think I got a good deal anyway!

 

Stress ebbing away: I wasn’t charged a delivery fee or one to cart away my old fridge. I was able to open up an H.H. Gregg charge account for 5% off the cost. The best news was that they could deliver my new fridge the next day!

 

After I left H.H. Gregg’s, I went straight to Meijer to buy ice. One 7 lb package was $1.67. They also had 20 lb packages of ice but that would be too unwieldy. So I bought two of the 7 lb packages and put one in my freezer and one in the refrigerated section.

 

On Thursday evening, I got a call from H.H. Gregg’s telling me the refrigerator would be delivered between 3 – 6 pm on Friday and they would call me 40 minutes before arriving. That was perfect because I would use those 40 minutes to remove everything from the fridge.

 

I had my Rubbermaid container ready for the refrigerated food, and a clean, cardboard box which I lined with heavy plastic for my freezer food. In hindsight, I needed a bigger box. I also learned from this experience to not put foods in plastic bags. They become sloppy wet. All my cheeses which were wrapped in plastic wrap got wet. All my frozen vegetables and frozen cherries in their original plastic bags were soggy, defrosted and I didn’t feel safe using them. I had to throw them away since the bags were opened. Although I previously thought wrapping a rubber band around the plastic bags after I had opened and used them was fine, it was only good like that if your refrigerator doesn’t die! I will be on the lookout for tightly sealed plastic containers.

 

Stress comes in all shapes. If you handle it calmly, you can get through it easily enough. I won’t recommend exercising to get rid of refrigerator stress because just moving food from the refrigerator to other containers is a workout in itself! Not to mention that I had to wash the floor three times due to items dripping and the fact that a piece of thawed fish leaked all over everything due to a small hole in the plastic packaging. Hence, the need for plastic containers!

 

I am enjoying my new refrigerator, a Frigidaire, even though when it runs it sounds like a cross between the boiler room of the Andrea Doria and LaGuardia airport. I don’t care. Sometimes denial is a beautiful thing!

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10 Cheeses You Have Never Tasted or Heard Of – New Food Friday Flash

19 Sep

This New Food Friday Flash I am writing about cheeses that you most likely have never tasted or even heard of. As demand for new and interesting foods is growing in America, we have seen many new cheeses in the dairy case of our favorite supermarkets. As a cheese lover, and a person who watches her calcium intake daily, I am always on the lookout for a new cheese. The cheeses I mention below however, are not at my grocer yet…maybe in the future. Some have strange names as you will see! Some have interesting pairings. All are popular in their native countries. More cheese please!

 

Smetana

Made by Russian dairy workers, this cheese is more of a sour cream and essential as a topping for soups, an accompaniment to blinis and caviar, and mixed hors d’oeuvres called zakuski that are eaten with shots of vodka. (We drink wine with our cheeses, they drink vodka.) Some Smetana are sweeter, some are more sour. Some have a butterfat content of 20%; some 40%. Not surprisingly, the best smetana is artisanal smetana. Skoal!

 

Skyr

We never hear much about Icelandic cooking if ever, but this cheese was introduced to Iceland by the Vikings. Icelanders consider skyr a national specialty. Skyr is similar to yogurt but it is not a yogurt. Skyr is a low-fat cheese made from milk that has been curdled using rennet then drained. It has added bacteria to it similar to what is found in yogurt. It is digested more quickly and easily than milk and considered to be a healthy food as it doesn’t contain stabilizers nor skim milk powder often used in the manufacture of yogurts. Icelanders traditionally eat skyr at breakfast or with dessert. Flavored versions are also made in Iceland. Try some on your next trip to Iceland, the country with no army.

 

Sakura Cheese

I don’t know about you, but I love award-winning cheeses and wines. Sakura is a handmade cheese created by a farmer from a country not known for its cheesemaking: Japan. It is made in Hokkaido, Japan from Swiss Brown cows’ milk and has been winning prizes since 1998, including a gold medal at the Mountain Cheese Olympics. (There’s an Olympics for cheeses? Who knew?) One of the methods of creating this cheese is that it is placed on salted leaves of the Sakura cherry tree and left for eight days to ferment so that the cheese absorbs the fragrance of the leaves. A salted pink cherry blossom flower is placed on top of each cheese before they are packed into boxes. I’ve experimented making my own yogurts but this farmer makes me want to try my hand at making my own cheese!

 

Stinking Bishop

The story behind the name of this cheese is far more interesting than the cheese itself! Apparently, there was a farmer called Bishop with a bad temper who once shot a kettle containing hot water because it didn’t boil! This cheese was developed in the 1990s. The creator, a conservationist, hails from Gloucestershire and is a collector of the Worcestershire pear trees and the main force behind saving the heritage breed of Gloucester cattle. (At least he put his anger to good use.) As you might imagine, the aroma of the cheese lives up to its name. Closepins anyone?

 

Serra da Estrela

This cheese is a sheep’s milk cheese from sheep that may well be on the endangered species list. If it wasn’t for making this cheese, they might have already become extinct! The sheep and the cheese come from the highest region of Portugal called Serra da Estrela. The sheep are predominantly black coated and are known as Bordeleira sheep. How sad if they were to become extinct because this cheese is known as the “king of Portuguese cheeses.”  The milk is curdled with rennet from the cardoon thistle. The Portuguese spoon it onto their traditional cornmeal bread called broa. It has a sweet taste with undertones of burnt toffee. Because these sheep are so rare, milk from other species is increasingly used.

 

Taleggio

Wasn’t there a character named Taleggio in the Godfather? But I digress. This is a cheese from Lombardy, Italy and until 1918 had been known as stracchino (not to be confused with the word stacchino which means toothpick) a dialect word (the last I heard, Italy had 42 dialects) that relates to milk from cattle that were tired after their  seasonal droves from the alpine pastures into the valleys. Taleggio is a full-fat cheese with a powerful aroma for which it is famous. Its ripening process lasts more than a month and its surface is smeared with a brine solution and inoculated with a mold and bacteria. Taleggios from Valtellina, Valsassina, and Valtaleggio (Val meaning valley) have a distinctive taste that can be meaty, beefy, mushroomy, fruity, nutty, and salty, all at once. No wonder it is protected by a DOP (Protected Designation of Origin). Call me biased, but the Italians sure know how to eat!

 

Ardrahan

Foods from Ireland are beginning to make a mark in America, witness by the cooking shows from Ireland and their native popular chefs. Andrahan cheese belongs to the family of modern Irish cheeses pioneered during the 1980s. This cheese appeared in a farmhouse in County Cork from the family’s herd of pedigree Friesians. It is a pasteurized, semisoft, washed-rind cheese using vegetarian rennet (as opposed to animal rennet). Bacteria is inoculated into the brine with which they are wiped during early ripening. Low in fat and cholesterol, it is a popular cooking cheese in its native Eire. It is regularly served at the White House on St. Patrick’s Day!

 

Olomoucke Tvaruzky

If you can pronounce it, you can eat it! OT is one of the Czech Republic’s best-known traditional cheeses. It was first documented in the late fifteenth century, when it was reputed to be a favorite of Czech king Rudolf II and was awarded a prize at the first Austrian Dairy Exhibition held in Vienna in 1872. It even has a museum dedicated to it in the town of Lotice. This cheese is either one of the best tasting cheeses ever or it has one heck of a public relations agent behind it because it was also included in a Czech-Chinese banquet when Olomouc cheese dumplings in ginger sauce were served as a dessert. It is commonly eaten with bread and is a staple ingredient of Czech cuisine. As you might have guessed, it found its way to the bar scene and is a popular bar snack that can also be fried in batter.

 

Churpi

Churpi comes from the shaggy-haired yak found in Tibet, India, Nepal and Bhutan. However, farmers also have made churpi from buffalo or cow’s milk. It is also unusual in the sense that like most cheeses which are cut with a knife, churpi is broken into pieces using a hammer. (Make an appointment with your dentist now!) It is then sucked on or chewed over a long period of time from 10 minutes up to an hour to get the distinctive flavor. For this reason, it is a portable, nutritious, and energy-giving cheese. It is very popular in Nepal where it is chewed like chewing gum. Tibetans fry churpi with young tendrils of a local fiddlehead fern called ningro. You may find this cheese in your dairy case eventually thanks to the Chinese government putting its weight behind yak dairy initiatives.

 

And last but not least…

 

Moose Cheese

That’s Moose Cheese, not Mouse Cheese. Two Swedes in the sleepy community of Bjurholm adopted a couple of abandoned moose. Long story short, they now own more than a dozen moose on their dairy farm. Would you believe it is the only moose dairy farm in Europe. I believe it. Maybe somebody should tell Amy Poehler’s brother (Greg) who stars in the new sit-com “Welcome to Sweden.” Funny show. Greg (Bruce Evans) is unemployed and looking for a job. Working on a moose farm would fit just perfectly into that show. But maybe they’ve already thought of it. Stay tuned! Anyway, this story just gets stranger….People travel to the Algens hus (Moose House) to pat the domesticated moose and to try the unique moose cheese. I have seen a moose up close and personal at a drive through zoo many years ago. The one I saw was a male that was ugly, big, and mean looking! The females, on the other hand, while still no beauty contestant winners, produce about a gallon of milk a day which is similar to cow’s milk but higher in protein and fat. The cheese is extremely expensive and is sold in upscale restaurants and a few exclusive outlets in Sweden. There are three different types of moose cheese, one of which is best described as a feta type and stored in rape oil. How do you get people to eat cheese from a moose? You raise the price to an outrageous level.

 

I don’t know how I’m going to top this in next month’s New Food Friday Flash. I may have to retire while I’m at the top of my game!

 

Happy traveling and if you get the opportunity to travel to the countries mentioned above and try any of these cheeses, please drop me a line in the comment section! Variety is the spice of life. It keeps life interesting and your mind alert. It’s good for your health!

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