It all started out gloriously. A beautiful Fourth of July brunch on the deck. Husband cooking one of my egg “recipe” favorites. Big ol’ hot sun in the true blue sky. Coffee in the tall mug, thanks. Unleaded Bloody Mary in the frosty pint glass. Dog next to us and a whole New York Times to read with all the time in the world to do it. Dinner, and making what would come to be known here as “Grilled Broccoli Potato Salad,” was light years away.
A few weeks back, while doing my monthly Trader Joe’s run, I scored a package of fresh chicken Italian sausage. Upon returning home, I stuck it in the garage freezer and promptly forgot all about it. Ok; it’s my MO. Finding myself with most of a pot of polenta leftover from Friday night’s bœuf bourguignon dinner and wondering what to do with it (there are myriad uses–no worries), I remembered that sausage and easily pictured it with a simple tomato sauce along with a cascade of sautéed mushrooms. A little garlic, of course–but not a lot. How about some fresh asparagus, I thought? It is asparagus season, after all. (Here in Colorado Springs –and I know this because of a longtime faithful reader, thanks–, we have wild asparagus that should just about be coming on. Take a peek around.) While it did dirty a few pans (hello wonderful DACOR dishwasher– ours was made by Asko, the Swedish company–and is still running perfectly without mishap after 9 years/knock on wood), within 45 minutes we had an easy-scrumptious dinner on hand with which to watch a couple of episodes of Netflix’ addictive new series “Transatlantic.”
If you’re like lots of other folks come January, you might be cutting back on this or that–maybe carbs, red meat, fat, sugar, or alcohol. Or did you make a commitment to increase your veggies? Sigh. Same here; I’m watching what’s going in with the hope of making up for the few extra pieces of bread and glasses of wine I enjoyed during the Mexican cruise. But there’s no need to suffer and every reason to adore the meals meant to increase health and decrease the waistline. This Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Broccoli Bean Bowl (how do I name these things?) is a new favorite at our house and because it’s made up of mostly pantry and colorful vegetable bin ingredients, it goes together pretty quickly and fills you up. While the Brussels sprouts and broccoli roast, there’s time to chop the rest of the vegetables and grab the last few ingredients that serve as a dressing. Garnishes of juicy cherry tomatoes and perky olives top the whole thing off and, while I didn’t think hard about it at first, this vegetable-heavy meal scores at the checkout, too at about $4 or less per serving (depending on how you make it or which sales you hit.) And if that’s not enough, you’re getting about 15 grams of protein in each 2-cup serving! Between the tender-crisp roasted sprouts and broccoli, the crunchy fresh vegetables, the creamy beans, the bright lemon, and the briny high notes, my bowl sings of balance, textural difference, and colorful vibrance. Since the ingredient list isn’t terribly short (chop, chop, chop), I offer a quicker option without a few of the fresh vegetables. (Perhaps as a side for a game day spread? Add feta for fun.) Many home cooks look at long ingredient lists and quickly move on, so I offer this option if that’s you. I keep any number of vegetables at one time because I like God’s own garden in my salads and a mixed variety of choices for dinner without making another grocery run. And, as a mostly retired person, I don’t mind lots of chopping. I know not everyone is like that. Ti piace, as my choral conducting professor at University of St. Thomas (St. Paul, Minnesota) used to say. You like it! Do as you please. Make it just the way you want it. (Or, as we Americans might say, “do it your way.”) Ti piace always sounded better!
Every once in a while, it’s time to cook up an old recipe on the blog, take new photos, and tweak the dish up to today’s standard. That’s exactly what happened the other day with the blog’s very first pumpkin soup from way back in November, 2009. With my book club meeting in my living room last Thursday, I thought I’d move away from the same-old, same-old cheese and whatever….and make a soup I could serve in coffee mugs along with the glass of wine we enjoy. Change = good. I looked at the not few pumpkin soups I’ve blogged and settled on the simple, but fun 12-year-old version that is finished off with peanuts and grated Parmigiano-Reggiano. As I sometimes will, I tried making it right from the original recipe, which is so old it’s not even printable. While good, it needed perking up, thickening, and expanding. I was amazed, though, to see how readable the recipe was even then. That’s not to say it didn’t need editing and redoing. It did.
One day last week I went out to the garage refrigerator for carrots. It’s a common occurrence at our house as I typically buy and store a 5-pound bag of carrots in the produce bin of that fridge. While it sounds like a lot of carrots, they’re cheap in that quantity ($2.99 for 5 pounds–what else is less than 60 cents a pound?) and they last a long time. Even better, I’m never out of them for soup, stew, or just for a vegetable. It’s also not terribly unusual for me to make carrot soup as it’s lovely, healthy, fast, and can be made in several different flavor profiles. I didn’t start out with carrot soup in mind on said day, but I certainly got there pretty fast as my carrots were growing white hair— sprouting, getting ready for planting! I peeled and used the carrot I needed, but knew carrot soup, cake, bread, soufflé, salad, or gratin was in the offing. Because I wasn’t throwing away 8 or 9 carrots no matter how little they cost.
I’m reminded of a simple meme that says volumes. It goes something like, “A single carrot doesn’t seem too awfully important. Unless it took you 3 months to grow it.” And, by the way, if you’re lucky enough to get carrots with all the green frills on top, the green part is edible, too. A little carrot top pesto might be good for the soul. VEGETABLES ARE AMAZING!
Thanksgiving is definitely my favorite holiday. There’s no gift buying or wrapping, little decorating except the table, and it’s all about the food and wine. I’ve cooked for two times twenty and I’ve cooked for two, loved both and everything in between.
This year, with distanced or small Thanksgivings on tap for many folks, it could be the time to pull out all of the stops for a dinner-party style meal complete with several small courses and wine pairings. What if you dig out grandma’s china and crystal, throw on a table cloth, light the candles, and go big? It’s not something easily possible when there are 15 of you including 2 toddlers who eat nothing, a newly-vegan teenager, and aging parents (low sodium, please), but it is doable and entertaining for four who might share the cooking. Yeah, so that’s one idea.
There are simply days when it’s time to eat lightly or cut back a little. Even if you’re not on WW (Weight Watchers) or following some other sort of weight-loss program, a few bowls of colorful all-vegetable soup might be just what you need today or even exactly as the doctor ordered. (“Eat more fiber!”) Maybe you overdid it at the restaurant Saturday night or at the neighbor’s brunch on Sunday; you could have skipped your workouts last week. Whatever…I’m guessing this could be your soup this week–great for dinner tonight and lunch tomorrow.
I have made this easy potful for years and it’s even been blogged before. Today it was time to rewrite the recipe and add its second-day version (baked in a bowl with an egg in the middle!) right here in the same post.
A stocked pantry is something like a gold mine when you’re hungry and you have no idea what’s for lunch. A peek into one big drawer of mine includes several kinds of dried beans, at least 5 kinds of rice, bulgar, barley, polenta, oats, couscous, farro, quinoa, a variety of dried fruits, and usually a couple of kinds of lentils. (A big bank account makes a lot of people feel secure, but I’m rich when my cabinets are full.) When I have no idea what’s to eat, lentils are my go-to. They’re easy, fast, filling, healthy as can be (see below), pair with nearly anything and in many a direction, and they’re even pretty darned inexpensive.
Looking for something to take to friends or family for Thanksgiving? Crunchy dried apples, chewy sweet cranberries, toasted nuts, and warm spices (all the usual suspects plus a tad cayenne pepper) make this the perfect little take-along, especially if you’re traveling for the holiday. And, you know what? Granola doesn’t go bad, won’t melt, smell, crack, or crumble (much), is fine at room temperature, goes in suitcase or tote bag, and is the quintessential snack if you get hungry on the road. And really easily, (see recipe for changes and notes), this adaptable food makes a hearty vegetarian, vegan, and/or gluten free breakfast. It also solves the, “What’s for breakfast?” that everyone except the cook asks on Thanksgiving morning. Add yogurt, fruit, milk, or top a big bowl of oatmeal or other cereal with this crunchy goodness. In fact, it’s great on ice cream! Sorry, we were talking breakfast. Have time to get fancy? Make my Bacon-Granola Pancakes with Fried Egg.