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.
October is ‘National Apple Month’ so I decided to look up and see how many different kinds of Apples there are. Wow, I did not expect to find the number I did – there are literally dozens and maybe hundreds – the only letter in the Alphabet that does not bear the name of an Apple is ”X”. There are numerous kinds of Apples for each and every letter, however most of us are familiar with only a small number of them.
The most common Apples are the Red and Golden Delicious, Gala, Fuji, Pippins and Granny Smith. The best for eating are the Delicious, of course and the Gala and Fuji. The best for baking are Granny Smith and Pippins. The last two are not terribly sweet and have a firm flesh which lends them well to baked goods such as pies and pastries. For cooking and Applesauce the Winesap and Gravensteins are excellent.
My favorite use for Apples is to make Pie and of course, there is nothing as American as ‘Apple Pie’. I also love Apple Turnovers made with Puff Pastry. Puff Pastry is a pain to make but you can purchase frozen Puff Pastry Sheets which work very well. You can also use Pie Crust or even Yeast Dough for your Turnovers Shells.
There are also many other ways in which we can use Apples and so I am going to explore some of them here and reference several really great recipes. The first one is for Apple Bread – what a good way to use up those Apples from your tree or even the ones you bought. You can even use Applesauce. Try the referenced recipe. This recipe makes two to three loaves, depending on the size of the pans you use. You can also make Muffins from the same recipe. If there is too much for your family to consume at one time, these loaves freeze well or you can share them with your friends. www.sylveeeskitchen.com/recipes/baked-goods/breads/apple-bread/
Apple Pie can be made in various ways – there are French Apple Pies with a streusel topping and then there are the traditional ‘American’ type Apple Pies with both a bottom and a top crust. The referenced recipe is for a French Apple Pie which always easy to make because there is only a bottom crust and you don’t have to worry about getting the top crust to fit and look beautiful. www.sylveeeskitchen.com/recipes/baked-goods/pies-pastry/
Apple Turnovers are absolutely my favorite way to go! You can eat them out of hand without utensils; they are good for Breakfasts on the Go or for snacks or Desserts. You can use Puff Pastry or Pie Crust or any of your favorite pastry doughs.
Apple Brown Betty is an old fashioned dish which can also be used for dessert or for Breakfast. There is no Pie Crust to worry about, just a cumbly topping. It is fast and easy to make and is great with Vanilla Ice Cream or Whipped Cream on top. www.sylveeeskitchen.com/recipes/deserts/apple-brown-betty/
Caramel Apples are one of my favorite ways to eat Apples. I love Apples and I love Caramel and nothing goes better together than Apples and Caramel. And since Halloween is this Month what better treat than Caramel Apples to share with the kids. This recipe is simple to make and the Apples are fun to eat. The best Apples to use for Caramel Apples are Granny Smith or Golden Delicious. Pippins are also good, but make sure that they are somewhat ripe or they will be to tart to eat, even with the Caramel. www.sylveeeskitchen.com/recipes/halloween-recipes/caramel-apples/
Remember, October is ‘National Apple Month’ and there is no better time to buy and eat Apples than now. Even better is if you can pick your own, either from your own trees or nearby orchards. Play around and experiment – Apples are a wondrous fruit and don’t forget ‘An Apple A Day Keeps the Doctor Away’. Try a different Apple Recipe for the Month of October – ‘National Apple Month’. And another reason for eating and using them now is that later on, the Apples you buy will all have been in cold storage which makes them mealy and less tasty. So take advantage of ‘National Apple Month.
Here are the photos from Let’s Get Cookin’s Teen Basics Camp held the Week of July 7th, 2014.
Monday, July 7th – BREAKFAST
The Students each made an Omelet for themselves. The rest of the items that were made were: Waffles, Bacon & Sausage, Home Fries, Granola, Breakfast Fruit Shakes and Eggs Benedict.
Tuesday, July 8th – LUNCH
Lunch Items made were: Clam Chowder, Vegetable Soup and Tomato Basil Soup. Salads were Pasta Salad and Grilled Seafood Salad which was made with Grilled Salmon. The students also made Buttermilk Biscuits and Chili Corn Bread to go with the Soups and Salads. Sandwiches were Portobello Mushroom Sliders and Southwest Chicken Wraps. Dessert was Chocolate Brownies.
July 10th – DINNER
Dinner items that were made were: Garlic Dinner Rolls, Baby Lettuce Salad, Caesar Salad, Vegetable Chili, Beef Stroganoff, Chicken Croquettes, Macaroni & Cheese Supreme, Scalloped Potatoes and Strawberry Granita for Dessert. Iced Tea was the Beverage.
July 11th – DESSERT DAY
The Dessert Recipes were chosen from a student request list. The items made were Apple & Berry Pies, Chocolate Chip Cookies, Chocolate Fudge Cupcakes, Coconut Snowballs, Eclairs with Pastry Cream & Vanilla Ice Cream.
July 12th, – MYSTERY BAG DAY
On the final day, each group (4 in all) were given a ‘Mystery Bag’ containing a Protein, a Starch and a Vegetable from which they were to create a meal. The groups were allowed to use whatever they needed from the Pantry and the Refrigerator. The resulting products were quite amazing and delicious.
Group A – were given Beef Steak, Potatoes and Zucchinni. They made Seasoned Grilled Steak which they sliced thinly, Mashed Potatoes and Grilled Zucchini topped with Cheddar Cheese.
Group B was given Chicken Breast, Italian Rice, Snap Peas and Green Asparagus. They made Chicken Parm-Asian, Risotto with Snap Peas and Roasted Asparagus.
Group C was given Pork Tenderloin, Sweet Potatoes, Apricots & Apples. They elected to make Pork Lettuce Wraps with a Fruit Salsa and Sweet Potato Fries.
Group D was given Bowtie Pasta, Fresh Tomatoes, Yellow Squash and Italian Sausage. Included in their Package was Romaine Lettuce, Cucumbers & Carrots. They elected to make Pasta with a Bolognese Sauce and a Green Salad with Vinaigrette & Bruschetta with a Pesto Topping.
Tonight is the Oscard Awards Ceremony and we wanted to have something simple, easy and quick for dinner. The only way to really do this is to either have it sent in or make something ahead. I opted for the ‘Make Something Ahead’ meal. This is my Macaroni and Cheese Suprema Dish. I have a standard recipe on line, but I never ever or hardly ever make it as stated. The recipe is just a guide and I use whatever happens to be on hand, especially if I have leftovers to get rid of.
I am a person who just cannot throw out leftovers until they are really no good to eat. But when I do use them, I can make some really good dishes from them and no one would ever know they were made from leftovers unless I tell them.
Todays leftovers were:
Onion (the only non-leftover item – only used half so it is now a leftover)
Shredded Cheddar/Jack (in freezer)
Fusili Pasta (in freezer)
Orange Bell Pepper
In addition to the leftovers I added some:
2 Tbsps. Flour
I made the Mac and Cheese in this wonderful stainless steel oval shaped stove-top to oven casserole pan. I use it for almost everything and it is perfect for the two of us and if we have company will hold at least enough for 4 people, maybe even six.
- Melt the Butter in the Pan over low heat. While the Butter is melting, dice the Onion and then add it to the melted Butter.
- Stir in the Flour and cook until the Flour is well-blended with the Onions and Butter. Continue to cook for about another minute and then add 1 cup of Cream or Half/Half or even Milk.
- Cook and stir until the mixture thickens and then add about 1-2 Tbsps. of Dijon Mustard along with 1/2 tsp. of Salt and 1/4 tsp. White Pepper.
- Stir in the Brie, in any amount up to 1 cup, (Cream Cheese can also be used) and the shredded Cheese (about 2 cups)
- Stir well to combine; if the mixture is too thick add additional Half/Half or Milk. Taste for seasonings and adjust to your taste.
- Stir in the Cooked Macaroni with a rubber or silicone spatula; be sure to have all the Macaroni covered with the Cheese Sauce.
- Dice the Bell Pepper and add to the Cheesy Pasta; combine well or just leave on top for a garnish.
- Snip the Chives with pair of Kitchen Shears and sprinkle on top for a Garnish. (Green Onions may be used instead or even dill if you like dill with Cheese)
- The dish is now ready to serve. If you are planning on serving it later in the day or even tomorrow, refrigerate until about one hour before serving time.
- If you are using a metal pan like mine, then you can put it in the oven while it is cold, but if it is a ceramic or glass dish, allow it to come to room temperature before placing it in the hot oven. Alternatively, place it in a cold oven and then turn the oven or even better, Microwave it for a minute or two to warm up the dish)
- Serve and enjoy!
For the full recipe please see macaroni-and-cheese-supreme/
Friday night, September 7th was our Teen Cuisine Class at Let’s Get Cookin’.
The theme this month was ‘Fire & Ice’ – grilled Appetizers and Frozen Desserts. The Students made:
Chinese Style BBQ Chicken Wings
Teriyaki Beef Kabobs
Louisiana Style Grilled Shrimp with ‘Dirty Rice’
Ice Cream Sandwiches
Tempura Ice Cream
Shown below are some photos from the class.
Saturday, June 2nd was the day of our Parent/Chlid Pizza Class at Let’s Get Cookin’. Four Teams of 2 parents each made Piizza Dough, their own indivual pizzas and pizzas to share. Everyone was very involved and had a good time. The class ended with everyone enjoying a lunch of Pizza, Salad, Italian Sodas and Dessert.
The items that were made were:
PIZZA DOUGH: Basic, Gurmet and Thin Crust
Chinese BBQ Chicken Pizza with Bell Peppers, Shitake Mushrooms, etc.
Hawaiian Pizza with Portuguese Sausage & Pineapple, etc.
Argentine Pizza with Smoked Spanish Chorizo, Red & Green Bell Peppers, etc.
Artisan Greens Salad with Zest Lemon Dressing
Chocolate Chip Cookie Pizza & Italian Sodas
The Upside Down Pizza shown below was made with a new pan, made especially for making a ‘Deep Dish Pizza’ which is made ‘upside down’. It was fun to do. The pan can be purchased at Let’s Get Cookin’ in Westlake Village, CA.
Everyone enjoyed making and eating their pizza and also had items to take home as there was just too much to eat all at one time. Our next Parent/Child Class is July 14th and will include various items from Europe such as Arrabbiata Pasta from Italy, Roman Salad, Monte Carlo Tea Cookies and Circus Snow Cones.
Friday night, 11/13 was our Teen/Preteen ‘Winter Comfort Food’ Class.
Twelve young people between the ages of 10 & 16 gathered together to learn how to prepare and cook a menu for cold Winter nights.
Creative Vegetable Soup
Jeweled Meat Loaf
Garlic Mashed Potatoes
Cheesy Broccoli Casserole
The students were divided up into groups depending on their skill level. Four students who had never made yeast dough before were put in charge of the Foccacia with of course, a supervising adult to guide them through the process. They made the Dough and then set it aside to rise. The actual Foccacia was made from a risen dough that had been made before the class started. Once the Dough was fitted into the Baking Pans and topped with Olive Oil, Herbs and Tomatoes, and Cheese the Bread went into the oven for baking.
The Dough that the students made was divided up and given to the students that made it to take home and finish. They were told that they could make either Pizza, Foccacia or Breadsticks with it.
Two of the girls made the Apple Crisp. This involved peeling, coring and slicing about 10 Apples and combining them with spices and other ingredients. A streusel topping was made to go on top of the Apples. This dish was baked while the rest of the food was being made.
Two other students started the Soup. This is a wonderful Vegetable Soup that can be made with most any kind of Vegetables and Beef, Chicken or Vegetable Broth. Even though we generally advise the students to mise en place their recipes before they start cooking, the rule was changed for this recipe so that the soup would be done in time for the students to eat it. The Onions and Mushrooms were prepared first so that they could start sautéing them. While the Onions and Mushrooms cooked, the other Vegetables were prepared. After the Onions and Mushrooms were sufficiently cooked to start caramelizing them, the Stock was added and the whole mixture was allowed to simmer for about 45 minutes. Then the seasonings were added along with the remaining Vegetables. Once the Vegetables were almost cooked sufficiently, the tiny pasta was added.
While all this was being done, the Meatloaf was prepared by two different groups of students. One group put all the Vegetables into their Meatloaf and one group who preferred not to have Bell Peppers, put all the Vegetables, except for the Bell Peppers into their loaf.
While the Meatloaf was baking in the oven, the Cheesy Broccoli Casserole was prepared and baked. This dish does not take too long to bake. Once the students were done cooking, the tables were cleared and set with placemats and dinnerware and the soup and Foccacia were served. After the first course, the Meatloaf, Mashed Potatoes and Broccoli was also served and of course, dessert finally came at the end.
The beverages for this meal were fruit juices and water. All in all, everyone had a good time and learned how to make several different dishes. Everyone took home recipes so that they could practice at home on family members. Keep an eye out for our next Teen/Preteen Class at Let’s Get Cookin’. February will be a Dim Sum Menu to celebrate the Chinese New Year ‘The Year of the Dragon’.
The week of August 8th, 2011 was US Regional Foods Camp for the Teen/Preteens who attend the Culinary Classes at Let’s Get Cookin’ in Westlake Village, CA. The camp lasted five days which included Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday. The time was from 11 – 2 making each camp day 3 hours long. Just long enough for the participants to learn and practice new skills without becoming too tired.
The Regions that we visited were New England, the Midwest, Pacific Northwest, the South and the Pacific Rim States.
Monday was New England and different breakfast dishes were prepared; blueberry pancakes, Johnny Cakes (or Journey Cakes), Skillet Apples, Molasses Doughnuts, Cranberry Muffins, Deviled Eggs Florentine and a Broccoli Cheese Fritatata. Since it was breakfast, the beverage that was served was milk. The Blueberry Pancakes were served with Butter and Blueberry Syrup. The Johnny Cakes were served with the Skillet Apples. The Deviled Eggs Florentine were an Appetizer and the Fritata was served with the Cramberru Muffins. The Molasses Doughnuts were dessert.
Day Two was the Midwest and luncheon items were prepared. Since the midwest is known for Beef and Corn, these items were the main focus, but not the only ones. Early in the morning before class I went out to Underwood Farms in Moorpark and purchased a box of corn. Needless to say, corn has been a mainstay of the United States, not just in the midwest but almost in every region. The box contained about 46 ears of corn and by the end of the week, most of it had been used. One of the unique things about Corn from Underwoods is that it retains its sweetness far longer than corn purchased in the supermarket.
The Appetizer was Asiago Cheese Puffs and these were passed around during prepartion time so the students wouldn’t get too hungry. The taste buds can be quickly activated when the aroma of good cooking is around. We made a Corn Chowder and Cheese Stuffed Burgers along with a Midwestern Potato Salad. The Midwestern Potato Salad is very similar to a German Potato Salad and for good reason. Back in the early days of immigration to the US from Europe many German immigrants and Scandinavians settled in the Midwest.
We also made Taffy Apple Salad, Apple Pie and Peanut Popcorn Bars. The beverage that was prepared and served was Blueberry Lemonade, which of course was very popular.