The roads outside my home are white. Not with snow, but with salt from combatting all the ice, and snow we have had recently. Just a week ago I was enjoying a great vacation in Spain where we didn’t see snow. Then we came back to reality and one week’s worth of below freezing temperatures with some nights below zero. Yikes!
Maybe we should have stayed just one more week?
Spain is an amazing country. Sure they are going through financial pain and unemployment is a huge problem especially with the young folks, but it’s still a great place to visit. Some of the things I learned on my latest trip are that Spain has the largest wine growing region in the world, with 2.89 million acres. It is the most mountainous wine producing country (this according to the book “Wine”, by Andre Domine). They also have some great beaches on the Mediterranean Coast. Unfortunately I wasn’t there for beach weather. It rained six out of the seven days we were visiting, which was a bit unusual. At least it only rained a little each day. On our one sunny day we made it to the beach in Valencia and had a nice walk in the sand and surf. It was a great respite from the rain. Any country that boasts great beaches, mountains, food and wine is tops on my list of places to hang out.
I also think Spaniards are about the friendliest Europeans I have met compared to the French, Brits or Italians. In Madrid when we got off the metro to go to a flamenco performance we were stumped by the map in the Metro station. A young family of four got off at the same stop and saw us staring at the map with that lost look, and asked if we needed help. They were kind enough to walk with us two blocks to make sure we knew where the Flamenco venue was even though they had a crying two year old with them.
Food and wine are very reasonable at numerous tapas bars and restaurants. Spaniards love to eat out and there are lots of foodie choices in most cities and towns. Madrid has a population of about 3.2 million according to Wikipedia and Tripadvisor.com list 5,930 restaurants. Little ol’ Denver, Colorado(where I’m from originally) has a population of around 2.9 million and sports only about 2,448 restaurants on Tripadvisor.com.
May I be so bold as to say Spain is a foodie paradise!
On our trip we started in Madrid for one day, then went to Granada for two days, then back to Madrid for one night to cue up for the high speed(185 mph!) Renfe train the next day, then Valencia for two days, before retuning to Madrid for one more night before heading home. In all of these places we found outstanding restaurants and tapas bars.
In Valencia I went to the huge Central Market. I wished I had a place where I could have cooked at, but we were in a hotel. I was blown away by the abundance of vegie stands, fish stands, fruit stands, olive and olive oil stands that all sported great looking groceries. The freshness of the seafood and the variety of fish and shrimp had me taking a lot of pictures, as that’s about all I could do with the seafood.
One of the olive oil stands had free samples where I dipped bread bits into many types of tasty oil. I held off buying any as I still had one more train ride to go before flying home from Madrid and olive oil is heavy stuff. I did buy some yummy dried and roasted fava beans as well as Mediterranean pistachios to bring home. I didn’t do much other food shopping until I got to Carrefour a huge grocery/department store from France that has locations all over the world. It was the biggest grocery store I have ever been in, and I bought a bunch of olive oil, rice and saffron to bring home.
In Madrid there was a different type of mercado. The Mercado de San Miguel was an old iron and glass building that housed a bunch of food and drink options. We bought tray full of seafood tapas from one of the stands then got a plate full of olives for just one euro to go with it. There were several wine bars to choose from and we tried the goods from two of those. We bought a nice cod croquette to go with a glass of white wine that was delish! If you are ever in Madrid I hope you can check this place out. It’s just off the Plaza Mayor, and fairly easy to find.
My favorite food stop on the trip was in Valencia where a friend of a friend recommended Navarro restaurant for paella. It was so good we went back on our last day there to have a different type for our last lunch in Valencia. You can see my review on tripadvisor using this link: http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g187529-d993266-r191597981-Navarro-Valencia_Valencia_Province_Valencian_Country.html#REVIEWS
The funny thing was that as good as the paella was we were the only ones eating it both days we ate at Navarro. Everyone else looked like they were locals, and I guess they were there for the other items on the menu like the amazing seafood and salads. We had the vegetarian salad for a starter both days we went there. It had three types of lettuce, several chopped vegies, as well as olives, tomatoes, sliced beets, avocado and grilled tofu. It was the best salad I have had in Europe!
When I got home I was determined to make paella in a way that you my dear readers could make also. Knowing that a paella pan is a rare thing in American kitchens I tested my recipe in a saute pan and a enameled cast iron dutch oven. I think the cast iron cookware worked best and would recommend that type of pot if you have one. This one pot meal is prepped and cooked in less than 45 minutes making it a great dinner item.
To make it easier for you to make paella in your kitchen I’m having a giveaway of:
one bottle of Spanish olive oil, one bag of Bomba rice and a small jar of saffron, all of which I bought in Valencia. One lucky reader will receive all three to make paella in their home. Just leave me a comment of your favorite rice dish and you will be entered in the giveaway. Good luck and happy eating!
Paella, fast and furious style
1 cup of Bomba rice, or Uncle Ben’s original converted will do
2 cups stock, chicken or vegetable see note
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon olive oil
1 teaspoon fresh garlic minced
1/4 cup minced onion
1/4 cup minced red bell pepper
1/2 cup cut green beans
1/3 cup frozen peas
1/2 cup frozen lima beans
1/3 cup chopped tomatoes
1/8 teaspoon ground saffron, see note
1 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon salt, optional
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
In a saute pan or enamel cast iron pot saute onion, red bell pepper, and garlic in olive oil on medium heat for 5-7 minutes stirring until onions are soft.
Add rice and cook one more minute stirring to coat the rice with the oil.
Add the spices, salt if using, lima beans, all but 1/4 cup of the stock and turn heat up to medium high stirring once or twice to distribute the stock. Once it comes to a boil reduce heat and cook for eight minutes uncovered.
Stir in tomatoes and green beans and cook for five more minutes at a low simmer.
Add peas, stirring one last time, and cook about five more minutes at a simmer until all the stock is absorbed and the rice is just barely cooked through. You may need to add the rest of the reserved stock at this time.
Stir to fluff it up a bit and serve with a nice salad, bread and olives for a Spanish type meal.
Serves two, but is easily doubled to serve four.
This is a good vegan or vegetarian meal if you use vegetable stock. If you want meat add 8 ounces bite sized raw chicken at the beginning when the onions, garlic, and bell peppers are sauteeing. Chorizo, shrimp, and rabbit are good with this also.
Saffron is considered one of the most expensive food ingredients in the food world, but you only need a little and a small jar(.7 grams) of saffron threads bought at Trader Joe’s will only set you back $5.99. This small jar would make about three to four batches of paella thus costing you about $1.50 for a paella that serves four. You can also buy it on Amazon.com for about $12.50 for 2 grams plus shipping.
I like to grind my saffron threads in a mortar and pestle like my friends from the middle east taught me instead of buying ground saffron.
In Praise of Soup
It is definitely soup season. With the appearance of real winter this year as opposed to the last two mild winters we have had in Maryland I am willing to bet soup consumption is up here and in most North American households. The great thing about soup is it does well as a starter, a snack or a meal.
I have been on a soup theme for a couple of months now with post like the lamb and dried mushroom stew recipe I developed,(http://www.fastandfuriouscook.com/lamb-mushroom-stew/), Navajo Stew from the Moosewood Cookbook, (http://www.fastandfuriouscook.com/cold-weather-special/0) , and back in October I developed a Beef and Mushroom Chile recipe for my friends at Phillip’s Mushrooms in Kennett Square,PA,(http://www.fastandfuriouscook.com/soup-season/). All three of these are good choices for an entree type soup.
Lets take a look at some other great soup attributes. I suspect I’m not the only one that packs a lunch for a spouse that goes off to work Monday through Friday? My wife loves having a thermos of hot soup for lunch from the previous night’s leftovers,or freshly made that morning. There are several types of thermos bottles out there that will keep soup hot for hours if preheated properly. When your loved one opens up the thermos at work or school that day at lunch time out comes that wonderful aroma of home made soup. A much healthier and tastier way to eat at work, school or play.
Versatility is another great attribute of soup. You can tweak most recipes to your liking. If you want sausage, go ahead and add it t a bean soup, or Italian style tomato soup. If you want a cream soup but want to make it Vegan, just use coconut milk instead of cows milk. Vegetables are great in soups and you can find a soup recipe for just about any vegetable.
Soups can be very healthy too! Since we are coming out of the holiday season where many of us have eaten a fair amount of not-so-healthy foods it’s a good time to put healthy soups on the menu a couple times a week. Most bean soups are very healthy. Vegetable soups without cream are some of the best soups you can eat. One of my very favorite soups is my own concoction called Italian Tomato Soup,(http://www.fastandfuriouscook.com/italian-tomato-soup/0 a soup I posted back in November of 2012 just after launching my blog. This soup has the heartiness of a stew, and the health qualities of a bean or vegetable soup all in one pot. It’s a Vegan soup that can be changed for meat eaters by adding pork or lamb sausage to it, and it cooks in under one hour start to finish!
Soups are ethnic food. Take a Cuban black bean soup, of Chinese hot sour soup for example. Many cultures have their special soups. I love a good bowl of French onion soup when I visit France. When I used to cook in restaurants Portuguese fisherman soup, of French bouillabaisse was one of my favorites. to make and eat. I guess American’s have their chili to represent them on the ethnic soup stage as our best known original soup. Without chili I think the saltine cracker would disappear.
Soups pair very well with salads, and sandwiches for lunch, and many restaurants serving lunch offer such combinations on the menu. Even in the winter I like a soup and salad combo at lunchtime occasionally. Recently I developed a new salad dressing using cranberries in a vinaigrette style dressing. It’s quick, easy and delicious. It could be used on green salad or on chicken salad too. This would pair well with my mushroom chowder(http://www.fastandfuriouscook.com/392/) or my butternut squash and curry soup. So give this a try while fresh and frozen cranberries are still available, and let me know what you think.
Cranberry Vinaigrette Salad Dressing
1/2 cup fresh cranberries, or thawed frozen cranberries
1-2 fresh lemons juiced, about 3 tablespoons
1/2 cup walnut oil, or canola oil
1/2 teaspoon dried tarragon
optional, a dash of Bragg’s Aminos, or soy sauce
optional, 1 to 1/2 package of stevia, or 1 teaspoon of agave
Mix all ingredients in a bowl with an immersion blender, or use a tabletop blender until cranberries are pureed. Makes about 18-20 1 tablespoon size servings.
Walnut oil works very well with this recipe, but it is more expensive than canola.
I like this dressing without the sweetener best.
This would work well with a variety of salads like green, chicken, pasta, or bean salad. Have fun experimenting.
Fresh cranberries freeze exceptionally well without any extra work. Just pop them into the freezer in the bag or plastic package they came in. I have used one year old cranberries from my freezer that had no freezer burn, or other bad taste.
‘Tis the Season to Eat Smarter
Here we are at the start of the new year and already the television and radio campaigns are hitting us with weight loss, exercise commercials and stories. I heard a story on the radio this morning on bariatric surgery for those who just can’t seem to lose weight. That is one serious way to try and lose weight stapling your stomach! Surgery is not something to take lightly. I have watched the television show The Biggest Loser enough to have seen interviews with some of the contestants that had this type of surgery to lose weight. It didn’t work for any of them or they wouldn’t be on the show.
I was over weight(topping out at 190) for about ten years towards the end of my twenty year cooking career and was lucky to be able to figure out what worked for me without having to try something as radical as surgery. I’m no expert on nutrition, but from my experience I can tell you it’s not rocket science to eat healthy. I dropped most of my thirty pounds in 60 days from eating a low fat, low sugar diet of my own design, and ate that way for the next two years. I kept off the weight and felt great!
I’ll share the key points of my current eating and exercise program with you to see if it can help those of you who might want to lose weight and feel better.
Eat three meals a day at the same time each day.
Eat low fat, low processed foods, or non processed foods.
Don’t eat past 6 pm, or whatever time is four hours before going to bed.
Exercise at least thirty minutes per day six days per week. Walking or bike riding is great!
Eat enough that you don’t feel deprived.
Have a splurge meal once every week or two, or splurge snack.
Eat lots of vegetables and beans.
Eat an apple a day.
Consult with a doctor, and or nutritionist.
See yourself as being thinner, and enjoy the ride.
After I got off this strict way of eating about twenty years ago I gained some of the weight back, but kept refining my eating habits until just three years ago fine tuned my eating to where I don’t have to worry about gaining weight again. Now I eat a diet of about 80% vegetarian/vegan meals to 20% meals with meat. Most of the meat I eat is wild salmon from Alaska, a sustainable healthy food source. I also eat chicken, and lamb two to four times per month.
Most of the recipes I have developed here on my blog are to reflect what has worked for me. I believe they are simple, healthy recipes that will work for you too. After all, the recipes reflect 42 years of cooking experience! What’s most important after the fact that they are healthy is they taste great too! Give it a try and see if this is the year you start eating healthier, and feeling better using my Fast and Furious Cook recipes.
Here is one of my favorite soups for you to start the new year right. It’s a black bean soup recipe I developed that takes about 25-30 minutes start to finish that tastes great and is good for you too! Please give it a try and leave your comments. Feel free to share with family and friends too.
Fast and Furious Cook’s Black Bean Soup
1 tablespoon olive oil, or water, see note
1/2 cup yellow onion diced small
1/2 cup celery diced small
1-2 teaspoons minced fresh garlic
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
2 cups cooked black beans
salt and pepper
In a two quart pot saute onion, celery and garlic on medium low heat stirring often for five minutes.
Add cumin and continue cooking on medium low heat for three more minutes stirring often.
Add stock and increase heat to medium high while stirring well. Bring to a simmer and continue cooking for five minutes.
Add beans and simmer for five to seven minutes.
Using an immersion blender puree the soup, or a tabletop blender will do.
Taste the soup and add salt and pepper if needed.
Serves two but is easily doubled.
For a lower fat version use 1/4 inch of water instead of oil when sauteeing the onions, celery and garlic.
Top with a bit of steamed rice or quinoa if you like. I used a quarter cup of cooked quinoa in mine.
Last night was Christmas dinner at our home, and with my in-laws visiting it made it even more special. We spent the day hanging out, and watching a bit of tv. We managed to eat quite well throughout the day as you might expect. The whole wheat waffles I made for breakfast came out great using hazelnut oil in place of melted butter, and topped with home made hot blueberry topping with just a touch of whipped cream.
We all enjoyed the Maitake Mushroom Chowder(http://www.fastandfuriouscook.com/392/) I made the day before for our simple lunch. After lunch came our nice walk in the sun to let our puppy Tucker chase sticks behind the school for some much needed high impact exercise. You got to take advantage of the sunny days this time of year in Baltimore!
Around 3pm I put the leg of lamb in the oven for its three hour journey to tasty perfection. It was simply rubbed with Penzey’s lamb seasoning, fresh minced garlic, salt and pepper. I placed it on top of diced carrots, onions, and celery for flavor. What was real different was surrounding it with sunchokes. This was my first time cooking sunchokes and I went to youtube to find instructions on how to prep and cook the little nuggets. Lucky for all of us Youtube is there when you don’t know how to cook something like sunchokes. For those of you that don’t know about them they are native to North America and are a tuber. Think of them as a little potato with more flavor.
To round out the lamb feast was a nice starter of cauliflower, red bell pepper, sun dried tomato salad on a bed of shredded cabbage dressed with my mushroom salad dressing. We also had garlic mashed yukon gold potatoes, and succotash.
The pecan bars I baked the day before made for a great dessert when paired with a scoop of Keyes Creamery pumpkin ice cream. Mind you that this was not a low fat healthy meal, but well worth the calories!
To wind up the festivities we had bought four party poppers( a British tradition ?) with a reindeer theme. You haven’t lived until you have had in home reindeer races! These little wind up toys were inside the poppers and came with a race course. All four of us received a reindeer for the big race. A practice session was granted to get the feel of the equipment then off we went. My mother-in-law seemed to have the winner in the practice round as it flew straight and true. I had a fast little guy named Prancer, but he didn’t have a great sense of direction. My father-in-law had a confused reindeer that only excelled in running tight little circles. When the smoke had cleared Prancer won the race and the prize bag containing a $20 gift certificate to Trader Joe’s, a fine little note pad and pen set, and a candy cane.
Some of our most memorable Christmas dinner parties have been the ones with poppers. So if you see some while out shopping the day after Christmas be sure and get some for New Years or Christmas dinner parties and party like a reindeer!
I consider myself a master of using leftovers! This comes from years of restaurant, and crew cooking. In the restaurants many places I worked at fed the employees on the leftovers from the night before. Since many of the employees were close friends of mine there was an added incentive to making the employee meal taste good.
In the Coast Guard and on the offshore oil platforms I would often incorporate the leftovers into soup from the previous days meals. One of the best ways I found to use leftovers was in fried rice. There would be leftover steamed rice quite often and it’s perfect for using in fried rice the next day. If there was some roast chicken, pork or steamed shrimp all the better. Many cultures from Asia, and even Ecuador have their own versions of fried rice. The best thing about making fried rice from leftovers is it’s really quick and a one pot meal too!
I got home from a three day trip to New York City late last night and figured I’d post a good one pot/pan meal today for all of you that love to eat well with less time in the kitchen. I had in my fridge 2 1/2 cups of leftover brown rice, 1 cup of cooked lobster claws, and some green onions that all needed to be used soon. The stage was set and off to work in the Fast and Furious Test Kitchen I went. It took all of 5 minutes to get the vegetables cut and ready, then out came the wok. It took less than 15 minutes to whip up the fried rice and sit down to a tasty lunch without making a huge mess of the kitchen I had just cleaned up. Made with brown rice and lots of vegies this is a healthy fast meal that can be tweaked to please almost anyone. Just plan ahead by making extra rice next time you cook it for a dinner starch and plan on using the extra in the next 3-4 days for a yummy fried rice main dish or side. I think you will agree that this is a winner.
Lobster or Shrimp Fried Rice
2 teaspoons peanut, or canola oil
1/2 cup yellow onion diced small,(about the size of a pea) or slice green onions will do
1/2 cup celery diced small
1/2 carrots diced small
1 small clove fresh garlic minced
1 pinch of red pepper flakes, optional
1 cup lobster, shrimp, or tofu cooked or raw
2- 2 1/2 cups cooked brown rice, but white rice will do
2-3 tablespoons soy sauce, regular or low sodium
In a wok or fairly large saute pan on medium high heat add one teaspoon of the oil and the garlic and cook stirring for 1/2 minute.
If using raw lobster or shrimp add now and cook for 3 minutes stirring on medium high heat.
Add celery, carrots, pepper flakes, and yellow onion, and cook stirring on medium high heat for three minutes,see note*
If using cooked lobster or shrimp add now and cook on medium high heat for 3 minutes.
Remove from pan and set aside.
Wipe pan then return to medium high heat.
Add the last teaspoon of oil and rice.
Cook stirring for 3-4 minutes then add the lobster and vegetable mix.
Cook stirring on high heat for, you guessed it, 3 minutes or until everything is hot.
Add soy sauce and stir in well while cooking on medium heat 1-2 minutes or until soy sauce is well distributed and the fried rice is piping hot.
Serves 4 as a side dish.
If using green onions add after the celery, and carrots have cooked for 3 minutes.
Many vegetables go well with this dish. Consider adding with the celery and carrots:
1/2 cup cubed zucchini or yellow squash
1/2 cup peas
1/2 cup corn
1/2 cup fresh shitake mushrooms
Makes a good vegan main dish when adding tofu and extra vegetables.
Halfway through December and I am furiously cooking several things today in the fast and furious test kitchen. I baked two pans of apple bars for Thursday’s meeting of the online meetup mastermind group. I made gingerbread dough for tonight’s class at St Vincent’s Villa where I volunteer teaching the girls basic healthy cooking. On top of that I tested a new original recipe roasting mushrooms with root vegetables for a great tasting side dish. All before the busy weekend approaches.
This weekend has me taking a class at the Intl Culinary Center in good ole’ New York City. The class is on spices, a part of cooking that most struggle with. For example, I heard an interview on NPR with the owner of the little spice box(La Boîte A Epices) shop in New York City describe an experience where as a new chef he was asked by the boss chef “how many herbs, and spices can you name”? He could come up with about 40, but the boss chef knew of, and used over 160! That got me interested in learning more about herbs and spices right there and then. With any luck I’ll come away from the class with lots of new ways to use the herbs and spices I have, and add some herbs and spices to my collection for testing.
With that in mind I give you today’s recipe that will give you a chance to play around with herbs. This recipe can be done with several different herbs to create a lovely side dish. I’ve listed three herbs to consider using in this dish as a combination or just one of them. I also list two seasoning blends that will work well if you want to try either. My favorite seasoning blend is Spike, but I like Lawrey’s and Mrs Dash too. Not that I have a problem with grabbing one or more of the 50 plus herb and spice choices from my cabinet, but sometimes I just love the simplicity of shaking some Spike on a dish I’m cooking and be done with it. There is no hard core right or wrong as long as you are pleased with your results. So give it a try and please leave comments on how your test drive of this recipe came out.
Oven Roasted Mushrooms with Root Vegetables
1 medium sized baking potato, cut into one inch pieces
4-8 ounces fresh royal trumpet mushrooms, or shitake mushrooms
2 cups golden beets, or rutabaga cut into one inch pieces
1 large carrot slice into one half inch slices
1/2 medium yellow or white onion cut into one inch pieces
1 red bell pepper cut into one inch pieces
2 tablespoons garlic infused olive oil with 2-4 cloves of the garlic that flavored it ,http://www.fastandfuriouscook.com/garlic-infused-olive-oil-roasted-garlic/
1 teaspoon of Lawrey’s seasoning salt, or Spike seasoning salt
ground black pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Mix all ingredients in a large bowl until coated with the oil.
Spread onto a baking sheet pan and cook for 25-30 minutes or just until tender.
Do not overcook!
Stir after 15 minutes of baking.
Serves four as a side dish.
Butternut squash can be used in place of potatoes.
Turnips can be used if golden beets, and rutabagas can’t be found.
Several herbs go well with this such as:
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried tarragon
1 teaspoon dried thyme
or a combination of the above.
If using shitake mushrooms remove and discard stems.
Makes a great side dish with roasted chicken, pork or beef.
Makes a great vegetarian main dish when feta cheese is sprinkled on top during the last 3-5 minutes of cooking.
Spelt Spaghetti with Butternut Squash and Pesto
Here we are a week after Thanksgiving and I am hard at work in the kitchen dreaming up lighter, healthier meals for in between holiday extravagances. I’ve been testing several ways to use spelt pasta, and spelt flour since Nature’s Legacy sent me a box of their products to try out. Thus far I am very happy with their spelt products and the recipe development using spelt in my kitchen.
Today I cooked up a dish that came to me last night wondering what would be the best type of dish for this time of year. I wanted something hot and satisfying, but vegetarian.
This dish came out great in testing today and I am happy to share it with you in the hopes that you will give spelt a try.
Why, you might ask should you give spelt a try? Well, for one reason it taste great. For another reason it’s all natural, and not-been-messed-with like its cousin wheat has been. Spelt is non-GMO, high in fiber and vitamins too. More and more people are searching out simple natural foods to add to their diet and spelt is gaining in popularity.
So try one or more of my spelt recipes, and see what you think. To help you try out spelt Nature’s Legacy is giving one of my lucky readers a box of spelt products.
Just leave a comment on this post what your favorite pasta dish is and you will be entered in this drawing. I’ll draw the winner soon and let you know who the lucky person is on my Facebook fan page. Due to shipping costs the winner must take delivery in the US.
Included in the box is:
1 5 lb bag 100% whole grain spelt flour
4 boxes whole spelt rotini
4 boxes whole spelt spaghetti
2 boxes whole spelt lasagna
Spelt Spaghetti with Butternut Squash and Pesto
1 ten ounce package of Nature’s Legacy spelt spaghetti
4 quarts water
1 tablespoon salt
1/2 cup pesto
2 1/2 cups butternut squash cut into 1 inch cubes
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh minced parsley
1 cup roasted walnuts(optional)
salt and pepper to taste
Heat water in a 5 quart pot with a tablespoon of salt.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Toss butternut squash, salt and pepper with olive oil in a bowl and mix to coat. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 20-25 minutes.
Cook spelt spaghetti according to instructions on package fifteen minutes after the squash goes in the oven, see note*
Drain and rinse spaghetti and put in a large bowl.
Add pesto, walnuts and parsley and toss well.
By now your squash should be tender but not mushy. Put hot squash in with spaghetti and mix well.
Serve with a garnish of steamed broccoli, and freshly grated parmesan cheese.
The package says it takes 4-6 minutes to cook the spaghetti in boiling water, but I had to cook it about 8 minutes and it wasn’t overcooked.
I made a basic pesto from a recipe on the Food Network’s website that turned out very well, and only took ten minutes. You can buy or make your own pesto for this dish. Here’s the link for the recipe I used:
Even though I was gifted a box of products from Nature’s Legacy it didn’t influence my opinion.
Thanksgiving is upon us, and definitely one of my favorite holidays. After all how can you not love a holiday that is about family and friends gathering to share good food and conversation? I am always amused by the many new recipes for Thanksgiving standards that come out each year, however I usually stick to the same old roast turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, green bean casserole, sweet potato casserole and cranberry sauce. Why do I stick to the usual? Because I only eat this specific meal once per year and I know from over twenty five years in a row of cooking Thanksgiving meals what taste best to me.
That is not to say I don’t appreciate some new ideas for Thanksgiving favorites, because I do. I just cook up the new recipes I find afterwards, or for Christmas dinner. But to each his/her own and by all means learn new recipes for your holidays if that’s what churns your butter.
What I plan on blogging about over the next several weeks is the healthy meals you should be eating in between these big, rich meals that are coming at us for the next five weeks. I too will be eating the good stuff when it comes my way at parties and family get togethers, and will want to eat light healthy meals in between so I come out the other end of this five week food fest feeling good.
One of my favorite meals growing up in Colorado was a good leg of lamb, and the stew that usually followed the next day made from the leftovers. It qualifies as comfort food in my book. Today I give you my original Fast and Furious Cook lamb stew recipe that is very easy to make, delicious, and fairly healthy too. I have tested it this last week to be made in the crock pot and it came out great! During the next five weeks when you need a hearty, healthy easy to cook stew I hope you give this one a try and please leave comments on how it turned out.
Have a great Thanksgiving!
1 oz dried mushrooms, chanterelles or morel
2 cups water
1 pound lamb stew meat
1/3 cup flour
1 tablespoon oil
1 medium sized yellow onion chopped
3 stalks celery sliced into 1/2 inch pieces
1 clove minced fresh garlic
1 8 oz package white button mushrooms, sliced
1/2 cup of dry red wine(Cabernet Sauvignon)
1 carrot sliced into 1/2 inch pieces
1-2 teaspoons Lawry’s seasoning salt
1 teaspoon dried thyme, optional
*Soak dried mushrooms in water for at least 10 minutes.
Dredge lamb pieces in flour and set aside. In a saute pan or enamel cast iron pot cook onion, garlic and celery in half of the oil on medium heat for five minutes stirring often. Add fresh mushrooms and cook stirring for another five minutes. Pour into crockpot, then wipe pan/pot clean and brown lamb in remaining oil on medium to medium high heat. Add lamb, wine, mushrooms, seasoning salt and carrots to crockpot and cook for 4-5 hours on high, or 6-8 hours on low heat. If you are able to stir it halfway through the cooking time it is helpful but not necessary.
Serve over a cup of steamed brown rice, or your favorite pasta.
Dried mushrooms vary in the amount of grit hiding in the nooks and crannies. One way I have found to reduce the grit is to soak the mushrooms in a 2 cup pyrex measuring cup and stirring them gently before using them to allow the grit to settle on the bottom. I then take the floating mushrooms from the top of the water and add them to the dish I’m cooking and carefully pour the mushroom water into the dish leaving the last couple of tablespoons of liquid on the bottom to throw out with the grit that has settled there.
You can skip the fresh mushrooms and double the amount of dried mushrooms if you like.
If you can’t buy dried mushrooms in your local grocery store consider ordering them online as they don’t cost much to ship and at $5.99 for one ounce of chanterelles most people can afford that price. Here is a link to my favorite source: http://www.thewoodlandsatphillips.com/dried-mushrooms-1/
It’s good to be back home and in the groove. My 10 days in Spain gave me many ideas for recipe development that I’ll work on in the weeks to come. One of my favorite dishes was the ever present breakfast and or tapas dish the “tortilla”. It’s a simple preparation of potatoes and eggs served at room temperature or warm. What I like about it is that you can add so many ingredients to this base recipe to come up with your own favorite way to eat it. At the resort where I was staying they served it with a side of a nice tomato garlic salsa that went great with it. I don’t plan on eating this sort of thing every day, but would like to incorporate it into a special weekend type of breakfast food in the near future.
With the holiday upon us I will mainly focus on healthy recipes to counterbalance the good stuff most of us will indulge in during this feast a plenty few weeks. I do believe in eating healthy most of the time and splurging during Thanksgiving, Christmas, birthdays, etc. I tested a recipe from the Moosewood Restaurant Favorites cookbook I bought while visiting Ithaca, NY last September. For those of you not familiar with Moosewood they are a collective of owners running one of the best farm to table, mostly Vegan, and Vegetarian restaurants in the US. They have been around for forty years, a feat that is difficult to say the least, putting out inventive meals for those who love to eat healthy delicious food.
The recipe I tried out last night was the Navajo Stew, a lovely stew of sweet potatoes, onions, bell peppers, beans and tomato seasoned with ground cumin and coriander.
I don’t own many cookbooks or use them much, but this one is fast becoming one of my favorites.
I actually followed the recipe closely, and only deviated a bit when adding Korean sweet potatoes to come up with four cups total as I was a little short using just regular sweet potatoes.
The result was a wonderful tasting, quite filling stew that was served with a side of whole grain baguette that satisfied and warmed us on a chilly dark night. I suspect one could use delicata, or butternut squash in this stew in place of sweet potatoes with good results. For those of you that want meat in a stew like this I believe it would be easy to add chicken, beef or pork at the beginning while sauteing the onions.
2 T olive oil
2 cups chopped onion
3 garlic cloves minced
1 t salt
1 red or green pepper seeded and chopped
1 T ground cumin seeds
2 t ground coriander seeds
4 cups peeled and cubed sweet potatoes(1 inch cubes)
2 cups water
one 15 oz can diced tomatoes
2 T canned chipolte peppers in adobo sauce
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1 1/2 cups black or red beans rinsed and drained
1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels(optional)
Warm the oil in a covered soup pot on low heat.
Add the onion, garlic, and salt, and cook about 10 minutes.
Stir in the bell peppers, cumin, and coriander and cook for a couple of minutes. Add the sweet potatoes and water, cover, and bring to a boil.
Reduce the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes covered or until the sweet potatoes are tender.
Meanwhile, puree the tomatoes, chipoltes, and cilantro in a blender.
When the vegetables are tender, stir in the tomato puree and the beans. Add corn, if you like.
Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally.
Serving and menu ideas.
Top each serving with Cilantro-Yogurt Sauce(page 310), plain yogurt, or sour cream, or shredded Monterey Jack or cheddar cheese. Serve this stew with cornbread(see pages 283 and 284), flatbread, or tortilla chips. Also nice on rice.
Thanks to Moosewood for letting me share this great stew recipe.
Moosewood Inc copyright 2005 from Moosewood Restaurant Simple Suppers, published by Clarkson Potter.
Portland Oregon, Foodie Town USA
Over the last few years I kept hearing bits and pieces about the food scene in Portland, and decided to go investigate for a day. It had been about ten years since I last visited Portland and that was just for an afternoon before flying out. That was not enough to really get to know Portland. This trip however brief(one day) was just to explore the food scene. I arrived the night before and stayed at an airport hotel with the plan of catching the new Max light rail train to downtown the next morning bright and early. I caught the light rail from the airport to the convention center at about 6 am heading for Petite Provence Bakery and Restaurant. They have four locations in Portland including the airport, but I chose the Alberta St location.I had read the reviews on Yelp for the best breakfast place in town and even though Petite Provence was rated #5 on the list I had a feeling it was the best for what I was looking for. I wanted a place that had extraordinary food with a local flair and found it here. Many reviewers raved about the salmon hash, a dish I would probably like, but I had just cooked up some of my Alaska salmon the day before and wasn’t craving it. What caught my eye was the Risotto Cakes with home fried potatoes and butternut squash. Here’s the description from their menu:
Risotto Cakes & Eggs*
Slow simmered risotto rice with sautéed bacon, asparagus, mushrooms, red onions, and fresh basil, gently formed into patties, lightly breaded and grilled to perfection. Topped with two poached eggs. Served with Provençal Potatoes & Butternut Squash. 8.95
This was one yummy breakfast meal, and even though I didn’t have the eggs it was plenty for me since I ordered a croissant on the side. The risotto cakes were cooked perfectly and the red onions carried a slight taste of red wine. It was one of the best breakfast meals I have had anywhere in the US! The croissant was as good as most I have had in Paris which is rare indeed. It was flakey, fresh, buttery, and served with a little bit of raspberry jam. The other bakery goods there looked great, but I resisted the urge to buy and bite as I had miles to go yet.
As I worked my way back towards downtown by bus I saw a gluten free bakery and decided to pop in and check it out. Tula gluten free bakery has the usual goods you would expect in a bakery. I looked it over and decided to try the Cranberry Pecan Bread. It was good, and I never would have guessed it was gluten free in a blind taste test.
Next on my list was to walk downtown to get oriented on this fine fall day that was forecasted to be sunny and around 70 degrees. Not your average fall weather in rainy Portland. I hopped the light rail again and got off downtown close to Pioneer Square. I had three hours to walk around before lunch and saw they have a lovely riverfront park and walkway on both sides of the Willamette River. I walked the downtown side of the trail for about a mile before heading into the downtown area. It’s hard to beat a nice river walk and this is one of the best I have found in the US. There are many sculptures, benches, fountains etc to this a special place.
At my next foodie stop I was looking forward to eating at a well known Peruvian Restaurant that is highly rated on Tripadvisor.com. The head chef and the owner of Adina travelled to Peru to learn from local chefs authentic Peruvian cooking techniques to further the quality of Adina’s menu. I was interested in eating a vegetarian lunch here as one of the staff at Petite Provence who is a vegetarian recommended it. I ordered the
Hongos Saltados, which if my Spanish is correct means “Jumping Mushrooms”. It was very good and something not found on any restaurant menu I have ever been to. It was presented nicely, and steamy hot. I would love to go back and try some of the squash dishes, and other vegetarian options next time I’m in town as they looked great.
Next up on the list was ride the light rail’s smaller cousin called the “street car” which is just a smaller route, same train style. I hadn’t got far when I spied Powell’s City of Books, and in I went. This is probably the biggest book store I have ever been in, and they say they have over a million books here! It was laid out well with color coded rooms for easy traveling and staffed quite well too. I love to support book stores and this one had the biggest selection of cookbooks I have ever seen, with a special vintage cookbook section. If you are in the area they have six locations including one at the airport.
Next on the list was kill time by hopping a light rail train just to see where it went. I rode the yellow line towards the Expo Center and spied a cool looking grocery store after 20 minutes of riding. Off I went like a moth to a flame into the Arbor Lodge location of New Seasons Market. I noticed two things that I liked right away. One was they had a great supply of fresh mushrooms, both wild and cultivated. The other thing was they had grass fed or grass fed and grain finished beef advertised at their meat department. If you are going to eat beef you would do well to eat the 100% grass fed beef that is becoming more common in grocery stores. I bought an organic apple for my log plane ride home the next day and set off for my final foodie stop the Portland City Grill. This was touted to me by a passenger on the plane to Portland who said go there for the view and the Kung Pao Calamari at happy hour. Portland City Grill is rated #22 out of over 3,000 restaurants in Portland, and is Asian/Pacific Rim type cuisine. Since it was a fine blue sky day it seemed to be a good choice. Most restaurants that have a big view suffer from food quality issues, but this place was pretty good. I ordered the calamari and a glass of Willamette Pinot Noir and settled back to enjoy the view of Mt Hood of in the distance. The calamari was good but had a bit too much batter that was easily peeled of. The flavor however was excellent and calamari goes well with spice and peanuts. I also ordered the Cesar Salad which was pretty good even though it had a bit too much dressing on it. Next time I’m in town I’d consider going back to try dinner if it’s on a clear day in the summer as the view is magnificent.
If you are looking for a totally cool place to visit I recommend Portland for many reasons other than the food. It’s close to the Pacific Ocean, Mt Hood and the Cascades, as well as the Columbia River. I look forward to my next trip to Portland with my wife someday in the future when I can share the experience with her, and taste what she orders too thus doubling the fun!