Monday, August 31, 2009
Sunday, August 30, 2009
-- David Gayson
Friday, August 28, 2009
“Think what a better world it would be if we all, the whole world, had cookies and milk about three o'clock every afternoon and then lay down on our blankets for a nap.”
-- Robert Fulghum
Thursday, August 27, 2009
“At a dinner party one should eat wisely but not too well, and talk well but not too wisely.”
-- William Somerset Maugham
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
I remember as a kid my mom would make and bake Stuffed Bell Peppers filled with a mixture of ground beef, rice, and tomato sauce. But when I stopped eating food with eyes (mainly meat) that killed my days of these special meals in one. Today, I got the idea of recreating these adorable individual peppers and tweaking them with an Italian flair...
Come autumn I vow to make homemade tomato sauce like my mom did on Sundays and let it simmer and fill the air in my mountain home. I might add fresh fish, too. But today, it's a busy one. The pool at 1:00--I must get my swim. And, of course, the galley of my book The Healing Powers of Chocolate is calling out to me to proof so I'm not working too hard during the Labor Day Holiday. And the pooches. Ah yes, walking the boys is on today's agenda. Teeth cleaning for me? Tomorrow afternoon. Keeping healthy takes some work...So sometimes, cutting corners in the kitchen is a hot thing to do if you want to keep your cool.
Speaking of cool...The special store bought sauce Barilla Marinara "With Imported Olive Oil" had me with the words "olive oil." And the words on the label "Founded Parma, Italy 1877" wooed me, too. Plus, this sauce contains plenty of good for you nutrients (i.e., vitamins A and C, iron, and calcium), and less than more sodium than other ready made sauces. Yes, today will be a busy one but I will have a hot, healthy dinner tonight. It won't be a frozen or canned dinner. It will be created with a homestyle TLC spirit. Paired with a tossed green salad and whole grain French bread dipped in warm herbal olive oil will make it right. No worries. It will be perfetto as the good life goes on.
Mom's Tweaked Italian-Style Stuffed Bell Peppers
2-3 large bell peppers, red and gold
2 cups brown rice, whole grain, cooked
1 1/2 cups marinara sauce
1/4 cup black olives
1/2 cup black raisins
1 cup Provolone or your fave Italian cheese, shredded
1/2 cup mushrooms, chopped
1 tbs. Italian seasoning
2 roma tomatoes, diced
Wash bell peppers, slice off tops and save. Core. Steam peppers in boiling water till al dente, a few minutes. Set aside. Combine brown rice, 1/2 cup sauce, mushrooms, tomatoes, olives, raisins, cheese, seasoning. Stuff each pepper. Put remaining sauce on both the bottom of a baking dish and top of each. Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes. Top with Parmesan cheese. Enjoy!
The roots of gingerbread are from the United Kingdom but it's got a French thing going on, too. French gingerbread pastries come with spices and honey--the things that make me smile and want to bake when I shouldn't be like now. Instead of falling victim to "writer's block" I'm suffering from "proofer's block." Read: You find yourself doing anything (i.e, cleaning, exercising, shopping, washing the dog, and baking) to avoid scrutinizing words like analyzing a frog and its inner parts on a slab in Biology 101. Ugh.
Yep, I want the lingering scent of gingerbread to permeate the entire house. How romantic is that? So, today I'm going to put this spicy gingerbread together fast and easy. But, but, but you can make it more creative. First, I'm turning to olive oil, of course, for the vegetable oil the box calls for. (Actually, for soft ginger cookies 2 tablespoons of butter can be replaced with olive oil. For the cake, it calls for 1 1/4 cups water--I'll use 1/8 cup olive oil (less 1/8 H20) and a large brown egg)...
The best part, I'm including sweet 'n' spicy stuff, like dark chocolate pistoles (64 percent cacoa content) into the batter (sorry, no time for exact measurements) with a crumbly mixture of chopped walnuts, brown sugar or honey (never put quality honey in the fridge!), and cinnamon should do it. It's the nuts --like olive oil--that contain the healthy fats that are good your body from head to toe. Plus, you get the crunchiness of nuts to chill and that chocolate feel-good energetic buzz so you're ready to go during mental tasks that must be done. If you try this chocolate health nut recipe, once hot and baked (it does contain protein, a healthy portion of iron, potassium, folic acid, and other good nutrients) sprinkle plenty of nutrient-dense walnuts (toasted in the oven 4 minutes if you've got the time) on top (like the picture above). I am toying with topping it off with a dollop of fresh, cold French vanilla ice cream (for the calcium boost and creamy texture) with dark chocolate orange shavings for taste... OK. It's not "homemade" but hey. Sometimes you can make it happen in the kitchen with a touch of creativity and while you don't slave over the stove--its doable. Oh, oh, oh. You've gotta team this warm, spicy treat with a healthful cup (or two) of iced herbal tea with lots of ice cubes (it's warming up at Lake Tahoe). Black tea or green tea (for the caffeine) may be the perfetto trick since I've got a lot of words to digest.
Sunday, August 23, 2009
"Do you know on this one block you can buy croissants in five different places? There's one store called Bonjour Croissant. It makes me want to go to Paris and open up a store called Hello Toast.” -- Fran Lebowitz
I woke up this A.M. to the sound of rain--it's not real common at Lake Tahoe. Listening to the chirping birds right now is a sign to me that I didn't put together a politcally correct Continental breakfast. As I watched a fat squirrel munch on a pine cone it hit me. I forgot to include warm and fresh croissants!...
Friday, August 21, 2009
On the upside, I will use extra virgin olive oil (it calls for vegetable oil). I will serve the warm dark, chewy chocolate brownies (yes, nuts will be included for the crunch) with fresh, juicy late summer strawberries.
And instead of using sweet white chocolate frosting (very tempted to turn to Ghirardelli's white chips) I will open up the new container of lowfat vanilla yogurt. This all natural yogurt is healthy. It boasts plenty of potassium (great to keep your blood pressure in check), protein, calcium, and other essential nutrients--and it tastes natural, creamy, and is my fave. No artificial junk.
The best part is, I just did a quick google check and it turns out this concoction of mine has Italian roots. Yep. Neapolitan ice cream was derived in Naples, Italy. It was one of my favorites as a kid. And look, I gave this Italian treat a healthy twist.
Thursday, August 20, 2009
"When they didn't give him boiled mutton, they gave him rice pudding, pretending it was a treat. And saved the butcher.”
-- Charles Dickens
Rice pudding has been in my eating thoughts for the past week. I find this odd since it's more of a fall dish but maybe it's because the leaves on the trees are beginning to turn golden, there's a crisp feel in the late night air, the squirrels are busy, and locals are beginning to prepare their wood piles. So these could be the hints that I'm tasting autumn and wanted to go back into yesteryear and eat creamy rice pudding...
This pudding is oh so popular around the world. Long grain rice, milk, sugar, cinnamon, and raisins are just some of the common ingredients used. Rice pudding can be baked or cooked on the stovetop. And this cooking version cried out to me. After all, it is warm (again) at Tahoe and last night at 8:00 P.M. I didn't want to have the oven making the air any hotter.
When I've made this dish in the past, I've always used brown rice, eggs, sugar and baked it. This time around I tried different sweetners--maple syrup and sweet consensed milk (on the stove when I tasted it cook I knew I was on track with its creamy sweet flavor). Also, I found one Web site where a chef said you cannot use brown rice. Huh? But I broke the rules and did what some others do--for the health of it. (I used white rice only when the dog or cat get sick. Or, it can be okay for homecooked Chinese rice and veggies.) I used Mahatma brown rice--and it is rich in plenty of nutrients and contains no fat, sodium, or cholesterol. It doesn't get much better than that. Whole grains are truly the way to go...more fiber, more healthy for you inside and out.
And walnuts? Wow. These little guys contain the good for you monounsaturated fat like olive oil. Not to forget their protein, fiber, and so much more in the perks department for you as well as the awesome crunchy texture. Nuts and fruit make this pudding extra special.
Health Nut Rice Pudding
3 cups whole grain cooked brown rice
2 cups low-fat 2% organic milk
1 cup (14 ounce) sweetened condensed milk
1 1/4 cups raisins
3/4 cups walnuts, chopped
3 - 4 tablespoons premium maple syrup
1-2 teaspoons cinnamon
Mix cooked rice and milk in saucepan. Over medium heat bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium. Cook about 20 minutes, add syrup, stir frequently till creamy and before it will stick to the pan. Use the cinnamon last not during to preserve its flavor. Add nuts and raisins when you take it off the stovetop. Pour into 8" by 8" pan. Let cool and serve immediately or refrigerate. I suggest warming up when you indulge.
This morning I woke up to a tasty dish (like in the glasses in the picture above) of rice pudding. I warmed it up first in the microwave (it's creamier that way), put it in those pretty parfait glasses I rarely use, and topped it with cinnamon sticks and fresh raspberries to give it a touch of late summer. That chef who said you couldn't do it with brown rice? It's a lesson to do what you sense will work for you. It works. The pudding is both creamy and chewy, the nuts are satisfyingly crunchy, and the juicy berries make it perfect. Come fall I'll do it again and add cranberries and golden raisins.
P.S. Don't forget the Outdoor Dinner Party Contest. It's simple. Just name your fave fantasy dishes and you may win a free copy of The Healing Powers of Vinegar, Olive Oil, Chocolate--your choice.
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
"And above all...Think chocolate!" -- Betty Crocker
It's Tuesday and I am craving comfort food. I got the word. The chocolate book galley will indeed be on my doorstep Thursday. I'm excited. I'm nervous. I'm excited. I want a healthy, creamy, chocolatey treat to get me through these next few days. And I found just the perfect recipe(s).
Sunday, August 16, 2009
The other evening I watched the film City of Angels with Meg Ryan. I simply love the scene at Lake Tahoe when she is in a comfy cabin amid towering trees, preparing a beautiful breakfast fresh fruit salad. She puts her heart and soul into it. You can almost taste it as Maggie did the pear and described the sensory details (like Ernest Hemingway does in his fine works of art) to Seth (played by Nicholas Cage). Ah, falling in love and tasting fresh produce are two pleasures in life.
Back to Tahoe present-day in the summertime of 2009. So, this afternoon while I was enjoying the breaststroke (my favorite, backstroke second), lap after lap for 30 minutes, I got vivid images of fresh fruit of the season. And now, after a store stop, I'm looking at the pineapple on top of my fridge. There are apricots, bananas, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, red grapes, and fuji apples--waiting for me to wash, slice and put into a half of a cored pineapple (you can get a gadget to do this chore). I am excited. Why rush fall when summer is still at its best. And this fruit salad is oh so healthy...
Apples: Crunchy, full of fiber, no fat and one apple contains only 81 calories.
Apricots: Apricots are water-rich, so they're filling for only a few calories and are fat free.
Bananas: Great tropical fruit and high in potassium, B vitamins.
Blueberries: These gems are full of vitamin A and C.
Raspberries: You get flavor, potassium and more than the recommended daily requirement for vitamin C, not to forget its fiber.
Red Grapes: Full of disease-fighting antioxidants such as resveratrol which is heart healthy.
Strawberries: Rich in the anti-stress vitamin C, low cal and delicious.
Combining it all together--the bright splashes of colorful summer fruits--into a pineapple--is the fun part and the perfect fruit to include in a fat-burning plan or for a summer delight. Not only does this sweet carb satisfy your sweet cravings, it contains no fat or sodium. It contains fiber, postassium, and a trace mineral, manganese, which aids the body's metabolism. I almost went with a coconut (health perks, too) but decided to go with this exotic juicy fruit...
Next step. A dash of cinnamon, the juice of an orange, and a bit of honey is all that it takes. Oh wait. A few dark chocolate shavings on top. Perfect for one. I can almost taste it now.
But hold the phone. Isn't that how the bittersweet film City of Angels ended up, too? No salad for two. Surprise ending this time around. I named one of my Brittanys after the character Seth (I was finishing a Barnes and Noble book tour in Southern California and it seemed appropriate) so I can eat my salad in real life tomorrow morning, noon and tonight next to a canine angel. How sweet is that?
P.S. But remember, NO grapes or apples for dogs. And to be on the safe side keep the fruit salad for you and give the pooch(s) an all natural gourmet doggie biscuit and walk.
Saturday, August 15, 2009
During a Barnes and Noble book tour, I remember one time waking up in downtown Seattle at a posh hotel before the lecture/signing. I ordered breakfast. Sure, I could have had anything--French toast to Belgian waffles. But I chose another route. I called in for fresh grapefruit juice, oatmeal with strawberries, brown sugar, low-fat milk, and a cup of coffee...
And this morning, at Lake Tahoe, I turned on the tube to the Hallmark channel: Benji the Hunted (my two Brittanys love to watch the go-getter mutt with a heart of gold). And at the same time, this nature-lover prepared and savored the same hot oatmeal as I enjoyed in Seattle but with a different touch--iron-rich raisins sprinkled with dark chocolate chips. No need for brown sugar. This is so delicious.
Friday, August 14, 2009
“How I wish that somewhere there existed an island for those who are wise and of good will.”
My bags are packed and I'm ready to go. Ever notice we sometimes wish we were somewhere else--even stranded on an exotic island for one week with room service. The glitch is, in this fantasy which I dreamed up for The Writing Gourmet's contest, you only get drinking water (of your choice), all the fresh fish you can eat (cooked the way you like) and five gourmet foods...
I thought about this hypothetical scenario. To make it work I'd be demanding with my orders. Think Sally (played by Meg Ryan) in the classic film When Harry Met Sally in the scene when she orders her meal. She gets it the way she wants it...
Thursday, August 13, 2009
“My therapist told me the way to achieve true inner peace is to finish what I start. So far today, I have finished...a chocolate cake. I feel better already.”
-- Dave Barry
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
Monday, August 10, 2009
Friday, August 7, 2009
No recipes today. Imagine: You are stranded solo (or with friends) on an isolated island for one week--you can order in five fine foods of your choice... Think Cast Away or The Beach. You've got water and fish. No worries. So now choose five more foods that you would love to have with you. That's it--only five.
Thursday, August 6, 2009
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
Here, take a peek at one of my fave chef's creations--it includes wine, olive oil, and wine vinegar. What's more, if I were to have a dinner party, I can see me (yeah, The Writing Gourmet who hates to cook) making this dish and serving it over rice, chopsticks, green tea (and offering the perfect wine of choice) and gourmet fortune cookies for dessert. It's a perfect creative and fun dinner for six or two (or even solo) with leftovers to share with that special someone. (I'm not sure if Chef Sal would be pleased that I turned his Sicilian dish into an Asian delight but knowing him as I do--I feel he'd give me a thumbs up. Gosh, I miss his former restaurant--once a hot spot in the San Francisco Bay Area--and the generous portion-sized meals I'd take home and love the following day.)
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
"Chocolate is a perfect food."
Juicy Watermelon 25%
Veratile Strawberries 0%
Pretty Plums 16%
Today I'm thinking "Why bake? I love fresh summer fruit--as is." Why not celebrate the two winning fruits--apples and apricots--and dip them in chocolate? So I purchased Ghirardelli white chocolate and dark chocolate chips: Classic White Chips and 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate Chips. I love the idea of dipping sweet and tart sliced fiji apples (fiber plentiful) and chewy, plump dried apricots (rich in potassium) into chocolate--white and dark.
1. Pour chocolate chips into a bowl and microwave till melted. Don't overcook! About 30 seconds or less does the trick.
2. Dip fruit pieces--washed and sliced apples and dried apricots or fresh halves into the chocolate.
3. Place each coated fruit on a piece of foil. Refrigerate for about 20 minutes or until the chocolate hardens. Serve on a plate of your choice.