Monday, April 22, 2013


All of us will agree that this has been a week of tragedy and loss; in Boston, Texas and the upper Midwest. Man and nature have tried our forebearance. And as we bury and mourn our dead and our horribly injured and suffer tragic loss we seek a way to understand and comfort each other. In my world food nourishes and calms the injured, grieving soul. Recovery can take many forms and a good meal can always help.

This recipe came to me as I watched our diverse people come together to help each other; making a delicious amalgam of support for the suffering. It is what I do when there is hurt and sadness. I offer a nourishing meal.

Try this for comfort and to share...It is a dense sauce, rich and thick with healthy vegetables and fresh herbs.

Vegetable Ragout with Pasta and Basil
(makes 4 cups of rich sauce)

  • 2-3 TBS good olive oil
  • 3 medium carrots, diced
  • 3 stalks of celery (green leaves also), diced
  • 1 leek, white part only, diced
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 medium sweet red or yellow bell pepper, diced
  • 1 large or 2 small Roma tomatoes, seeds removed and diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, mashed
  • 1 can organic tomato paste (Muir Glen if you can)
  • 1/2 cup dried mushrooms (shitake or crimini)
  • 1/2 cup full bodied white wine
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 4-5 TBS fresh basil, cut in chiffonade
  • Kosher salt and fresh pepper to taste 
  • Shaved Parmesan
  • Your favorite pasta 

Heat a 3 quart pot over medium heat. Add the olive oil, carrots, celery, leek, onion and sweet pepper. Stir and season with a healthy pinch of salt. Turn the heat to low and partially cover the pot. Cook the vegetables for 1 hour.

While the vegetables are cooking, put the mushrooms in a microwave safe bowl. Add 1 cup of cold water and cover with cling film. Microwave on high for 3 minutes. Set aside to soak. (Keep covered). After 1 hour, remove the mushrooms, squeeze our their liquid and give them a rough chop reserving the soaking water.

At the same time, raise the heat under the pot to medium high and add the tomatoes, garlic, chopped mushrooms, tomato paste, sugar and wine. Stir and gently bubble over medium for about 5-10 minutes or until everything looks thick.  Add the mushroom soaking liquid and simmer another 5 minutes or until thick again. 

Check seasonings, add S&P to taste and remove from the heat. Stir in the basil, saving a bit for garnish. Toss the sauce with your favorite paste and garnish with the reserved basil and shavings of Parmesan.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Portion me please

If history holds true,  many of us will be thinking about our waist lines right about now. Cold weather is slipping away along with the need for the bulky clothing that hides bellies and extra pounds. Bathing suit season is about to hit. Yikes, we need to DIET!

But weighing food, counting calories and dining exclusively on lettuce doesn't work for most of us. Drastic deprivation is not a solution. I've got a few better ideas....
Slow down. It takes a few minutes for your stomach to notice you've sent down food, relay that to your brain which in turn will tell you if you've had enough. Put your fork down between bites and chew your food well. Give the 'I'm full signal' time to travel.         

Size matters. (Well, it does). Many of us suffer not because of what we're eating but because of how much. Make a plate for yourself, put away and freeze the leftovers, then go sit down and eat. When you're shopping, you don't have to buy the package with 6 chops. Ask the market to repackage just what you need. Buy less. Less food, less temptation. Believe me, your waist line will thank you and so will your wallet.

The color of your dishes matter. Studies show that food presented on a plate of contrasting color will cut your eating by nearly 20%. The higher contrast between food and plate makes you more aware of your portion size. If you're having a steak use a white plate. If you're having pasta with tomato sauce use a white bowl. Mashed potatoes...think about red or green or blue. Salad? Unless it's drowning in dressing, doesn't matter. Eat all the raw veg you want.

Your Mother was wrong. You do not have to clean your plate. Parisians are notorious for their long time at table drinking wine and dining on all kinds of rich buttery food. When they were asked how they stayed so slim with that kind of diet, they answered that they stopped eating when they began to feel full.

Water yourself. Drink a full glass of water before you eat. Water is filling and also aids in proper digestion. Another glass during and after is better. But if you do only one, before meal is best.

Eat from a plate. Never eat from a package. Always present your food to yourself from a dish so you can see how much you're eating. We'll consume 20% or 30% more when eating straight from a package. And, the bigger the package, the more we'll eat. 

Live by the movie-munchie rule. Movie goers who ate popcorn from a larger bucket ate more of the popcorn than those who bought a medium size. Choosing the smaller bucket means you'll eat 50% less. Less popcorn, on average, than a person who chooses large. Give yourself a lot to eat and you'll eat a lot. 

Get in the habit of being Portion-Aware. Chose and serve yourself just a little less. If you can cut back by just 20% a day, by the end of the year you could be 30 pounds lighter.

Source credits: Cooking Light Magazine, October 2012

Warm Comfort...Rice Pudding

Inspiration for blogging left me months ago and I expected that would be it. But life is funny and stuff happens and today I found motivation in a bubbly pot of cold rice, cream and a bunch of sugar. I was cooking rice pudding. Who'd a thought?

There's something comforting in these old fashioned recipes. I like the sentimentality of them. They conjure memories of Mother and Aunts and dishes of creamy sweets with raisins served up after dinner. This is not for the waist watchers or those opposed to cooking foods that need a little attention. But if you want to turn out something to warm your soul, here's a recipe you'll enjoy.

Rice Pudding with Raisins

  • 3-4 cups cold cooked rice (Basmati, Jasmine or long grained)
  • 1 quart of half and half (or 2 cups whole milk & 2 cups of cream)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 3/4 cup raisins plumped in hot water
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
Use a deep heavy pot. Add rice, 1/2 and 1/2 (or cream and milk) sugar, salt and nutmeg. Stir and set over medium heat. Bring to a gentle boil and cook for 25 minutes, stirring frequently.

Stir 1/4 cup hot liquid (from the pot) to the beaten egg to temper it (so it won't curdle) and return everything to the pot. Cook, stirring, for another minute.

Remove from the heat and add the cinnamon, drained raisins and vanilla. Stir well.

Turn into a bowl and cover with plastic wrap that is pressed directly onto the pudding. Cool to room temperature then refrigerate, covered.

May be served warm or chilled. I sprinkle a little cinnamon on top for color. Enjoy!