Comfort Food is Food that warms the body and the soul. It makes you feel good and satisfied after eating it. I think Comfort Food is different for different cultures and different people but there are variations within the dishes that we call ‘Comfort Food’. The differences are not so much in the main ingredients but in the preparation techniques and the seasonings used. Here is another great Comfort Food that really warms you inside – Vegetable Soup – it can be served as a complete meal with the addition of some protein and delicious fresh bread. It can also be served as a first course and the leftovers are great for lunch.
I love to make Vegetable and it is one of my favorite ways of cleaning out the Vegetable in my refrigerator. If you have ever wondered what you are going to do with all those vegetables that you just can’t seem to getting around to use or even if like I do, you have little bits and little bits of that, Vegetable Soup is the perfect vehicle for using up those items. So when I taught school, I taught my students how to make ‘Clean Out the Refrigerator’ Vegetable Soup.
What you will need is a large pot and some Olive Oil and whatever you can forage from your refrigerator. If you don’t have items in your refrigerator that you can use, you can always visit your local Farmer’s Market or Grocery Store to pick up whatever you wish to put in your soup. For the last batch I made, I used Onions, (a must), Celery, Carrots, Mushrooms, Tomatoes and Tomato Paste, Frozen Peas and Corn. For the batch before this one I used a Sweet Potato and Spinach. Visit vegetable-soup for the complete recipe.
Saute your Vegetables (starting with the Onion and Mushrooms) in Olive Oil. I always salt the Mushrooms as they do need and it helps to leech out some of the water in their pores. Once they have cooked and started caramelizing add the remaining fresh Vegetables and dried herbs. For the liquid I use either de-fatted Turkey, Chicken or Beef Broth, depending on what is in my freezer. Vegetable Soup does not need to cook for a long time – you do not want really mush vegetables. It is much better to have some texture left to bite into. About 10 minutes before serving bring the soup up to boiling and add about 1 cup uncooked Pasta. Once the Pasta is ‘al dente’ add fresh Herbs (in this case two kinds of Basil), and frozen Peas and/or Corn if you are going to use them. A couple of minutes is all you need for these frozen Vegetables.
To make a complete meal out of your Vegetable Soup, add some Protein such as Tofu (for Vegans), Chicken, Sliced Hot Dogs or Sausage or Turkey. Any one of the above make a great addition to your soup which is also delicious without it. Just serve it with some Hot Fresh Bread.
Comfort Food is Food that warms the body and the soul. It makes you feel good and satisfied after eating it. I think Comfort Food is different for different cultures and different people but there are variations within the dishes that we call ‘Comfort Food’. The differences are not so much in the main ingredients but in the preparation techniques and the seasonings used.
There are also variations in Winter Weather throughout the world and there are not many days that we can call Winter Weather in Sunny Southern California but this year , January is definitely Winter and Cold it is! Wet and Cold that is! Not complaining as we need the rain and cold can be fun for a little while, but all that aside, what do you eat when it is cold. Our normal Salads and Vegies and light meals don’t work when the weather is cold. We have to resort to old ‘Standbys from Childhood and our Mother’s favorites. One of these in our family is Stuffed Cabbage. Put together Green Cabbage, Seasoned Ground Beef and Tomatoes in a Sweet and Sour Sauce and serve with rice or pasta and you have a delicious bone warming meal.
So this is what I did the other night. I made Stuffed Cabbage but cheated a little bit as I had preformed Meatballs in the freezer. Having raised five sons I have a difficult time cooking small quantities of food for the 2 of us who make up our household now, so I usually make large quantities and freeze what we don’t eat for future use. The Meatballs were frozen in a single layer so as to make it easy to remove them and use them as needed. If I didn’t have the Meatballs I would have made the complete recipe from scratch as per the directions in the recipe itself. http://www.sylveeeskitchen.com/stuffed-cabbage/ Here are the step by step directions and photos for preparing this delicious and ‘heart warming’ dish.
First of all make sure you have all the ingredients. If you have to shop for some of them, check your staples and seasonings before going to the market.
In addition to Ground Beef (or Chicken or Turkey) you will also need Tomato Sauce, Lemons, Brown Sugar and Salt and Pepper. Instead of Tomato Sauce as per the recipe, I used ground Tomatoes which have much more flavor and body. Shown below is one of my favorite tomato products.
If you don’t use the whole can place the leftovers in a covered container and refrigerate until needed. They should keep up until a week depending on how cold your refrigerator is.
In order to roll the meat in the Cabbage Leaves you will have to soften them. The best way to do this is to:
1 – Core the Cabbage and remove any bad outer leaves.
2 – Bring a large pot of water (shown belown) to the boiling. Add the whole head of Cabbage, turn the heat down to simmer and leave the cabbage in the simmering water for about 5 minutes or until the outer leaves soften enough to be able to roll them.
3 – Remove the Cabbage from the hot water (I use a colander for this) and remove as many leaves as have softened or as many as you will need if the whole head has softened.
4 – If need be, return the head to the simmering water and remove as needed.
5 – Place the leaves on a cutting board and cut out the hard part that was closest to the core.
6 – Place a scoop of meat on each leaf and wrap the leaf around the meat mixture. Use clean Kitchen String to tie the rolls so they don’t fall apart in the cooking process.
Coarsely slice some of the remaining cabbage and place in the bottom of the vessel you are going to cook the Cabbage Rolls in. This will serve as a bed for the rolls. Next place the rolls on top of the sliced cabbage and then pour the sauce over all.
Bring to a boil over medium high heat and then turn the heat down to medium. Cook for about 45 minutes or longer, depending on the size of the rolls. Use Kitchen Shears to cut and remove the string before the next step.
I like to add an additional Vegetable and in this case I added sliced Carrots. They only need to cook for about 5 minutes or until they are barely fork tender. The residual heat will continue to cook them once the vessel is removed from the heat. If you use peas or corn, the cooking time will be shorter.
Serve with Rice, Pasta or Couscous. This is a delicious heart-warming and body warming dish that is perfect for winter weather. Vegans can also make by using a Barley or Rice in place of meat in the filling.
Thanksgiving is on the horizon and many families will be busy preparing food and enjoying it with their loved ones. If you love to cook and even if you don’t but are going to be cooking listed below are the links to some delicious recipes that you may enjoy for your Thanksgiving Meal. Take a look at them and then try out one or two or three or all. When you do, please let me know how you, your family and friends enjoyed them.
CREAMED SPINACH – Spinach is one of my favorite Vegetables and this version is delicious, even for non-Spinach lovers. It is also versatile and can be turned into a Creamed Spinach Soup just by adding some Vegetable Stock and a little more Cream or Milk. A great recipe for Thanksgiving and the days beyond.
CURRIED FRUIT STUFFING – a little different twist on Thanksgiving Stuffing – the Curry and Fruit give your stuffing additional flavor in a delicious way. This recipe uses Traditional Stuffing Ingredients with the addition of Apple, Apricots and Golden Raisins or whatever you wish to use plus Curry Powder. It is delicious and quite tasty with the addition of the fruit.
GOLDEN SQUASH JUBILEE – is a simple Vegetable Dish made with only 4 ingredients:
2 lbs. Banana Squash – shredded
1 cup dried Apricots – chopped
½ Cup firmly packed Brown Sugar
¼ cup Butter
This dish can be cooked in the Microwave or baked in the Oven.
MASHED POTATOES – be sure to use Russet Potatoes (you need to use a Potato that will crumble when baked so that they will mash easily
TURKEY FRITTATA – this is a great dish to use most any kind of leftover – it is an omelet made with Onions, Potatoes, Tomatoes and Cheese as well as the leftover Turkey. A Frittata is good for Breakfast, Lunch or Dinner.
TURKEY CROQUETTES – these are made with leftover Turkey, Onions and a smattering of other Vegetables – they are breaded and then fried and served with Remoulade Sauce.
TURKEY POT PIE – made with leftover Turkey, Vegetables and a Rough Puff Pastry or purchased Puff Pastry if you prefer. Great for leftover Turkey, Chicken or whatever else you have. Serve with a Salad and you have a complete meal.
i love growing Tomatoes and contrary to the rule of thumb that you only need one plant per person in the household, I like to have many more. First of all, I like variety and second of all, not all plants will produce as they should. This year I planted 6 Tomato Plants and have two left over from last year. Unfortunately, the ones from last year are not producing too well. Probably because they are not in full sun – we only have so much garden space that will get sun.
Even though my larger Beefsteak type Tomatoes produce more and larger fruit, my favorites this year are the Green Zebra and the Lucky Tiger. I don’t think my Lucky Tigers are growing to the size that they should but they are fun – they are shaped like the Romas, but thinner and are green with orange/red stripes that are supposed to be dark purple according to the tag that was on the plant when I bought it. In spite of that, I still love the tomatoes. They are fun to grow and delicious to eat. They have a slightly tangy taste to them in contrast to the red tomatoes which are very sweet.
All this being said, what do you do with Tomatoes when you have an abundance of them? You can only make some many salads and eat so much salsa. In past years I have made Chili Sauce and will probably do that again this year if the plants keep producing like they have. For this batch though, I decided to make a Tomato Basil Soup. This is a tasty soup that can be eaten hot, warm or cold so it is perfect for summer or any time of year. The recipe actually calls for Roma Tomatoes, but not having Roma Tomatoes, I just used what I have growing and that is mostly red round tomatoes. Even though I put the tags that came with the plants in front of the plants, they somehow get lost or covered up so except for a couple of the plants, I’m not really sure what kind they are. Just round, red, sweet and delicious!
The Soup can be served as a first course or as a Vegetable Dish along with a meal – that is what I did last night. We had Meat Loaf, Baked Potatoes and the Tomato Basil Soup which I actually served first, but we had seconds along with the meal. I serve this soup in small bowls but it can be served in larger ones. Another way I like to serve it is in demitasse as a ‘stand-up appetizer’ for company meals.
The recipe calls for 2 lbs. of Tomatoes, 1/2 cup of diced Onion, Chicken Stock (I had Beet Water leftover from cooking Beets so I used that instead thereby making the soup good for the Vegan or Vegetarian Crowd. Of course you also need Basil which I also have growing in the yard. I used the Italian Sweet Basil for the Soup and Purple Basil for the Garnish along with the Lucky Tiger Tomatoes.
After the Tomatoes are washed and cored, chop, quarter or dice them. (It doesn’t really matter too much as they are going to be pureed after cooking)
Saute the diced Onions in 2 Tbsps. of Olive Oil until they are soft – from the photo below, you will notice that mine are slightly caramelized. This add additional flavor as long as you don’t let them burn. If they do burn, discard and start over – the burn taste will ruin the soup.
Once the Onions are sufficiently cooked, add the prepared Tomatoes and Basil and cook until the Tomatoes release their water. Mix as they cook. When the tomatoes are sufficiently cooked, transfer to a food processor fitted with the metal blade. If you don’t have a food processor, use a blender or a food mill.
Run the processor or blender until the Tomatoes are completely pureed and then return to the pot. Add the remaining seasonings -taste and add additional salt or Vinegar, if so desired.
Serve Hot with tiny Meatballs or at Room Temperature or Cold as an Appetizer. Garnish with additional Basil and diced Tomatoes, if desired. I used the Purple Basil and Lucky Tiger Tomatoes which only need to be sliced vertically down the middle. For additional zest add a splash of your favorite style ‘Old Boney Mountain Hot Sauce’.
May 10th is ‘National Shrimp Day’. Shrimp are absolutely one of my favorite seafood in any form or style. Below are a few recipes for you to try – one or all. Enjoy preparing them and then enjoy eating them.
Grilled Shrimp – marinated in Garlic, Basil, Lemon Juice and Olive Oil. These shrimp are delicious as an appetizer, main dish or in a salad. Good for any time, not just National Shrimp Day.
Coconut Fried Shrimp – great for a Backyard Luau or any Summer/Spring Meal. Served with an Orange-Lime Sauce.
Shrimp Fritters – a delicious and different way to eat Shrimp. For those of us who love Shrimp and who Fritters, this is the perfect dish. Shrimp Fritters can be served as an appetizer with Cocktail Sauce or as a main dish with a salad and or vegetable.
Cinco de Mayo will be here in 2 hours or earlier for East Coasters. Here are a few recipes you can use for your Celebrations tomorrow.
We will start with Appetizers including Salsas and conclude with Rice, Empanadas and Lemonade.
Mango Salsa which makes use of fresh Mangoes, Limes, Red Bell Peppers and Jalapenos if you wish.
Nachos – start with good quality chips, Cheese Sauce with Jalapenos (if desired) and serve with Salsa and Guacamole.
Salsa Cruda – incorporates diced fresh Tomatoes, Jalapenos or Serranos, Cilantro, Lime Juice and a little Salt.
Beef Empanadas are more traditionally an Argentine Dish but they can also be found in Mexican Cooking. The Empanada can be filled with whatever you please – diced Steak or Chicken or Ground Beef along with Tomatoes, Onions, Cheese and maybe some Chilies.
Sparkling Lemonade – we first had this in Acapulco and I have been making Lemonade this way every since. It is delicious, refreshing and a great accompaniment to any meal.
Categories: Beverages, Condiments, Cooking for Kids, Dinner Ideas, Family Fun, Food Festivals, Holiday Ideas, Holiday Meals, Holiday Tidbits, Main, Mexican, Tropical, Tropical Food Tags: Appetizers, Avocadoes, Chlies, Cinco de Mayo, family dinner, holiday recipes, kids cooking, Limes, Mexican, National Food Days, Rice, Tomatoes
Update to Homemade Ricotta – In July and September I posted Blogs about making your own Ricotta Cheese. The first batch that was made used Lemon Juice to curdle it. The second batch I tried using Rennet Tables but that did not work so well, so here I am back using the Lemon Juice which works great! This batch of Ricotta like the first batch made was very delicious and on a par (if not better) than the expensive brand I usually buy. When I buy Ricotta I buy a whole milk product which has much more flavor and body than the lower fat one. I usually pay between $5 & $6 for it. The batch I made at home this time, cost:
Milk – $2.99
Cream – 75 cents
Lemon Juice – free (the lemons were given to me – if you have to purchase the lemons you will need 1-2 lemons depending on the size – also the price will vary from store to store and from State to State.
Cheese Cloth – about $2.00 worth (but I was able to wash it and will be able to reuse it again)
So, my fresh batch of Ricotta which tasted delicious and was made right in my own kitchen cost me about $4.00 to make, not counting the gas and the hot water for washing the pot. Maybe it was as much as I pay for the finished product but it was well worth it as it is delicious. For the directions for making the Ricotta, please visit Adventures in Cheese Making
Now, what did I do with this batch of Ricotta. I made Cannelloni for dinner tonight and was able to freeze half of them for another meal. If you have four or more eating dinner, the whole recipe will be sufficient for 4- 6 people, depending on appetites. If teenage boys are involved, then you will have dinner only for four. If like us, there are only 2 people at the meal, then you will have at least 2 meals out of it and maybe more.
While the Ricotta was draining I made the Crepe Batter for the Cannelloni Shells and then refrigerated it. Crepe batter needs to rest for at least one hour after being made. For the recipe see Crepe Batter
While the Crepe Batter was resting, I started the Meat Sauce that was to go over the top of the filled shells. Next, I shredded the Mozzarella Cheese that was to go over the Meat Sauce. If you need a recipe for the Meat Sauce you can just use my Fresh Tomato Sauce but start out by sauteing a pound of ground beef, chicken or veal before you add the other ingredients. Or you can use only Tomato Sauce.
After the Crepes are made and the Sauce is simmering, prepare your Ricotta Cheese by adding an Egg, some freshly shredded Parmesan, Basil and about 1/2 tsp. Salt and 1/4 tsp. White Pepper or whatever your taste buds decree. The Basil that I added was actually a combo of minced Basil and Garlic in Olive Oil.
Set the Crepe Shells out on a flat surface and place 2-3 Tablespoons of the Ricotta filling on each Crepe (depending on the size of the Crepe). Fold in the sides and then the top and bottom.
Place each filled and rolled Crepe in a baking dish that has been lightly oiled with Olive Oil. Place them close together. When all the shells are filled, wrapped and placed in the baking dish top with the Sauce and some shredded Mozzarella Cheese.
Bake at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes or until everything is hot and the Mozzarella Cheese has melted.
Serve immediately with a mixed Green Salad and fresh Italian Bread, if so desired.
This dish will serve from 4-6 people, depending on appetites. We had enough leftover for a second meal and half the Manicotti went in the freezer for a third meal. Of course, we are only two people and so we are lucky enough to have more than one meal out of this dish.
Our ‘Culinary Makeover’ today is a relatively simple one. Mashed White Sweet Potatoes turned into Sweet Potato Waffles which I served with Chili con Carne.
A very delicious meal, but with only 2 people in the household we had Waffles left over which we in turn toasted for Breakfast the next day. They tasted really delicious with melted Butter and Maple Syrup!
The Sweet Potatoes I purchased had red skin and I had forgotten that the Red Skinned Sweet Potatoes are not red inside but White. They were a little more starchy than the gold ones but they still tasted good and were perfect for making Waffles.
For the Waffles I used:
2 cups mashed Sweet Potatoes
1 cup flour
1 Tbsp. Brown Sugar
2 Tbsps. Olive Oil (melted Butter can be used instead)
I had forgotten to put in a leavening agent which would have been maybe 1 tsp. Baking Powder, but the waffles came out very well without it. You can use any type of Sweet Potato or even Russets that had been mashed for dinner the night before. Try your hand at it and see what you can come up with!
Saturday Morning Farmer’s Markets abound in Southern California. Within the distance of approximately 33 miles, extending from the city of Ventura to Calabassas (at the far Western end of the San Fernando Valley) there are 4 markets that I know of: Ventura, Camarillo Old Town, Newbury Park and Calabassas. You can go further South and find quite a few more but of course, it would be difficult to attend all of them in one day. On my foray to Calabassas I also went to Newbury Park and could have hit Camarillo if I had so desired. The market is across the street from the most prominent and probably well-known business in Camarillo and that would be the Sage Brush Cantina. The Cantina opened years ago in a one store front location and soon took over the properties next to it, so that now the whole block (where there used to be a bakery and other businesses) is now all Sage Brush Cantina and their parking lot. It has become a gathering for locals and out of towners as well.
The Calabassas Market is probably the most diverse and exciting of the one that I previously mentioned. The time slot is from 9 in the morning until 1 in the afternoon. You can buy produce, flowers, artisan bread products and foods ready-made to eat on the spot.
The first thing when you walk into the market is a sign for Valet Parking and an attendant to manage it. The fee is only $3.00 which is the same that the parking lot across the street charges. There is very little street parking in Calabassas and since the Market is well-attended the lot or Valet Parking is well worth it. An alternative is to park in the shopping center on Valley Circle – it is about a one block walk but if you are carrying market produce it can be a little tireing.
There are many flower vendors and they are the ones that are most prominent in the front of the market. This is not to say there are no produce vendors there – there are plenty but the flowers are so colorful and beautiful that they do stand out. If you are planning on purchasing flowers as well as produce wait until you are finished and almost ready to leave – that way your flowers will have stayed fresh in water until you pick them and take them home. If you carry them around the market there is a strong possibility that they will start to wilt, especially if it is a hot day.
There are many produce vendors but one of my favorite has produce similar to Underwoods in Camarillo in that they have those beautiful heads of Purple and Gold Cauliflower along with Romesco which is shaped like a castle with little turrets.
One of the ways in which I like to use the Cauliflower is to prepare it with a Cheese Sauce – the simplest Cheese Sauce that you will ever make. Simply shred as much Medium or Sharp Cheddar Cheese and combine it with enough Mayonnaise to make a spreadable mixture. Place the washed Cauliflower in a microwavable dish and spread the Mayo/Cheese mixture all over it. Microwave for approximately five minutes or until the Cauliflower is fork tender.
I love Mushrooms and one of the Vendors has a great variety of Mushrooms and they are locally (in the Conejo Valley just West of Calabassas) raised. Mushrooms grow best in the dark and not exactly knowing I asked the Vendor where he grew them – in a Greenhouse? The answer was no – he actually grows most of them in a warehouse building – probably in raised beds or flats. You could purchase one type of mushroom or a variety pack of different sizes and different prices. I couldn’t resist and did buy a $15 pack which did last me for several meals.
Also at the market were Citrus Vendors, Vegetable Vendors, Egg Vendors, Hot Sauce Vendors and many more. I am pictured below at the booth of a vendor from Central California – at this point in the day (about 1 hours before closing) his products were marked down to 3 for $5.00. An excellent and everything I purchase from his was of excellent quality.
This next vendor sells Cucumbers, Tomatoes and Beans at both the Calabassas Market and the Market in Thousand Oaks on Thursday afternoon. When I visit these markets her stand is always one that I stop at. The Cucumbers are of the Japanese variety and do not need to be peeled. They are always sweet and crisp and delicious.
One of the Vendors at the Calabassas Market was not selling produce but instead he had Pasta and Olives – the booth was called Zona de Italy. Lots of interesting pasta and delicious Olives of various varieties.
So take a trip out to Calabassas and check out their produce, flowers, pasta, etc.