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.
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.
Cold Winter Weather always makes me want something hot and hearty – today it is Vegetable Soup. When I was teaching High School Culinary Arts, one of the things I taught my students was to make ‘Clean Out the Refrigerator Vegetable Soup. Now, that may not sound too great, but how many times have you had small amounts of many Vegetables that you really did not know what to do with? Making Vegetable Soup is the best way to use up these odds and ends and at the same nourish your family and keep them warm. So, here we go with ‘CLEAN OUT THE REFRIGERATOR VEGETABLE SOUP’.
The Vegetables that I had on hand were Celery, Carrots, Red Cabbage, and Onions. Small amounts of Red Cabbage or any other color for that matter are good for Vegetable Soup. You do not want to use too much or it will overpower the other Vegetables in your soup.
The Vegetables that I purchased for the Soup were Golden Beets and Mushrooms.
The Golden Beets are pictured before being peeled and the Onions are pictured with the
Mushrooms. I also used Frozen Peas, Crushed Tomatoes and Turkey Broth.
The Turkey Broth was my hold-over from Thanksgiving. It is a waste to just throw out the carcass because there is always some pieces of meat clinging to it and the bones themselves do provide some flavor and of course gelatin. To make the Broth, I placed the Turkey Carcass in my largest pot along with Onion, Celery, Carrots, Bay Leaves, Peppercorns and Parsley. Just cover it all with water, place a lid on the pot (offset) and bring to a boil. Once it comes to a boil, remove the lid and turn the flame down to a simmer and just let it cook until the liquid has cooked down to at least half. Even more is better. Shut off the flame, let it cool to room temperature and then pour through a colander into a clean container. Refrigerate if you are going to use within a day or two or freeze until you are ready to use it.
Before starting to cook the Soup, wash and towel dry your Vegetables and then prep them.
- Onions -peel and dice
- Celery – remove any loose strings and then cut into 1/4 to 1/2″ thickness.
- Mushrooms – Cut up your cleaned and dry Mushrooms (how you cut them depends on the size and type tht you have. Mine were small brown Crimini so I mostly quartered them. Cabbage – cut into pieces about 1/4″ to 1/2″ thick and about 3/4″ long.Beets – Peel and then quarter and then slice the quarters into smaller pieces. (The beets are actually easier to peel if they are par-boiled first or microwaved. If you do par-boil them, Scrub them clean first and then save the water to add to the soup.
- Carrots – either scrub or peel and then slice in half lengthwise and then cross-wise into about 1/4 to 1/2″ pieces depending on how small you want them or on how large your carrots are. Generally, the smaller carrots have more flavor and are sweeter. The larger ones are older and tend to lose flavor as they age – also they are less tender
To cook, start with the Onion -by sautéing in a small amount of Olive Oil. Add the Mushrooms to the Onions and add a little Salt. The Salt not only seasons them but helps them to release their water and cook down faster. Add the Cabbage and Celery and then the Carrots and Beets. Adding some dried Basil (fresh is best, but mince and add at the end so the flavor is not lost) After all the Vegetables are in the Pot, add your cooking liquid and a couple of Bay Leaves (dried or fresh – remove them before serving). You can also add some garlic to the vegetables while they are sauteing, but this would be a personal choice. Not everyone likes garlic. After the soup has cooked for a while, taste for seasoning and add more Salt and some freshly ground Pepper. Oregano is also good added to Vegetable Soup. If you are using canned Tomatoes, Tomato Sauce or Crushed Tomatoes, add it now and then thoroughly mix in. If desired, you can add some tiny pasta at the end or cook it first and then add. Add the frozen peas and or corn if desired at the very end. They need only minutes to cook.
The soup does not need to cook for a lengthy time – one hour is more than enough – 30 minutes will probably suffice. This soup can be eaten right away or you can cool it and refrigerate it – the flavors will intensify if held overnight in the refrigerator.
Serve and enjoy – this will easily make a delicious and hearty one-dish meal. Serve with Garlic Bread or Croustades.
Time for another ‘Make-over’. When cooking for two people, it is often difficult to cook just the right amount of food. Especially when making Fried Chicken! Whoever heard of frying just half a Chicken? And who gets what? So, I always make a whole one and use the leftovers for lunches, salads, sandwiches and even a dinner.
This time I made Fettucinni with the Fried Chicken leftovers and Garden Fresh Vegetables. Yes, from our backyard Garden. The Vegetables that came from our yard were Tomatoes, Japanese Eggplant and Basil. The rest of the Vegetables that I used were Onions, Mushrooms, Red Bell Pepper and Garlic.
Start with the Chicken by boning and removing most of the skin. Next slice the Chicken against the grain into bite-sized pieces. Set the Chicken aside and prepare your Vegetables. Wash and dry all the Vegetables before prepping them. Peel and crush or mince the Garlic. Dice the Onion and clean and slice the Mushrooms. Mince the fresh Basil and set aside. The Eggplant I used was Japanese Eggplant and they are slender to begin with so I just sliced them into 1/4″ slices. (Thicker if you prefer) Dice the Tomatoes and Bell Pepper and set aside.
Cook the Pasta in Boiling Salted Water per package directions. (DO NOT OVERCOOK!) Drain in a colander and set aside.
In a saute pan, heat a small amount of Olive Oil and start sauteing the diced Onion, minced Garlic, sliced Mushrooms and sliced Eggplant.
Once the Vegetables have softened add the Chicken Pieces along with the prepared Tomato. Add Salt and Pepper to taste.
Just before serving combine the Cooked Vegetable/Chicken Mixture with the Cooked Pasta. Add the diced Red Bell Pepper and Basil. Serve immediately.
Serve immediately and enjoy!
The other day my husband said “you know what you haven’t made in a long time and I would like to have”. No, what? “Creamed Chipped Beef on Toast’. Now, quite honestly, I have never ever made this particular dish for him. However, I did make it once or twice for my sons’ Father. Well, I don’t like it now and I didn’t like it then. But I do know where their desire for this dish came in. This is one of the few dishes that they both remembered from their Navy days. Why, I don’t know.
So, I told my husband that I would make it for him for dinner the next night. “Dry Chipped Beef” anyone? I don’t think it exists anymore except maybe in ‘camping stores’. I went to three markets and no one had anything close. Then, I figured that if I am going to make this dish, I would make as close to a Gourmet Version as possible. So I purchased some Rare Roast Beef from the deli and went home and made Creamed Chipped Beef on Toast for dinner.
I sautéed some diced Onion and Celery and some sliced Mushrooms in a combination of Olive Oil and Butter.
While the vegetables were cooking, I cut up the Beef into small pieces. Once the Vegetables were done, I added 3 Tablespoons of Flour to the pan and stirred it all around until the Flour had absorbed the Fat and coated the Vegetables. Next I added 1 ½ cups of Milk and Half & Half and stirred and cooked until a thick Sauce (Béchamel) had formed.
Next I added 1 cup of Petit Pois (baby peas) and the Beef. I seasoned this mixture with my ‘Basil Salt’ and White Pepper. I kept this mixture on low heat while we made the toast and put together a salad.
Since I had just made a ‘Country French Bread’ the day before we decided to use it for the toast. This was dinner, one of my least favorite ones, but Ev loved as did Arnold before him. I did tell him though that he would have to wait a long time before I made it again – at least one year. I can’t think of anything that I would like to eat less.
The Roast Beef would have been so much better as a sandwich with olive spread, mustard, mayo and tomatoes! Actually I did save a few pieces and that is what I will have for lunch tomorrow while Ev eats the leftover Creamed Beef!
Stir Fry is one of my favorite dishes to cook and to eat. You can literally clean out your refrigerator and almost always come up with enough items to make a delicious Stir Fry Dinner. Beef, Pork Chicken or Fish or even Tofu will serve as the Protein. Vegetables such as Cabbage, Celery, Carrots, Onion, Spinach or Broccoli will complement your protein items. Asian Condiments such as Soy Sauce, Bean Sauce, Hoison Sauce and even Oyster Sauce will add the flavor enhancements. A Stir Fry Dish can be served with either Rice or Noodles.
The Noodles that I prefer with Asian Stir Fry are Rice Noodles which only need to be cooked or soaked for a short time. (This will depend on the manufacturer and the directions on the package they come in)
This particular night we had decided that we wanted Stir Fry Shrimp. While I had the Shrimp in the freezer I did have to go out and purchase a few of the Vegetable items for the Stir Fry. The Vegetables that I did have on hand were:
Broccoli Stalks – I love the crunchiness of the stalks – peel the stalks and then slice thinly.
Green Cabbage –
Orange Carrots – Carrots can be had in a variety of colors these days – Red, Yellow, White or even Purple.
Garlic – an absolute necessity when it comes to Stir Fry
Eight Ball Zuchinni – an interesting shape – this is a round zuchinni just about the size of a pool table ball ‘8’ ball.
Ginger Root – adds amazing flavor – a little zing! Cut off the amount you need (usually a piece about the size of a quarter) and peel. This can be done with a teaspoon as the skin has a contrasting texture to the Ginger itself. Then mince before using.
Maitaki Mushrooms – these are also known as Beech Mushrooms which also come in a white variety. They grow together in a cluster which you can cut apart at the base leaving tiny mushrooms on a slender stem.
The Vegetables that I purchased for this dish were:
Bean Sprouts – I usually use Mung Bean Sprouts – just add them at the very end – these also need very little or no cooking
Chinese Pea Pods – wash and remove the strings – they need very little or no cooking
You will want to marinate whatever Meat you are using in your Stir Fry; Shrimp or any other Seafood should not be marinated for more than about 20 minutes. Chicken, Beef Pork or Lam on the other hand can be marinated for several hours or even overnight. For our Stir Fry this night I did use Shrimp. For the Marinade I used:
Hoison Sauce – 1-2 Tbsps.
Black Bean Sauce – 1- 2 Tbsps.
Fish Sauce – 1 Tbsp.
Peanut Oil – 2 Tbsps.
To make your Stir Fry start with the Onion; sauté in a wok or large sauté pan just to soften and then add the Garlic. Next add the Vegetables that would need the most cooking, starting with the Cabbage and then the Carrots and lastly the Zuchinni which needs very little cooking.
Once these Vegetable are almost done (about 2-3 minutes) remove them to a covered dish and then Stir Fry the Shrimp. Stir Fry the Shrimp in the same vessel as the Vegetables were cooked in – Shrimp should take 3-4 minutes to cook. Add the Noodles (if the Noodles have stuck together, just rinse them with some warm water) and combine with the Shrimp Mixture.
Once the Noodles have warmed and been coated with the Sauce, add the cooked Vegetables along with the Pea Pods, Bean Sprouts and the Bell Pepper.
Once everything is combined and hot serve immediately. This is a great one-dish meal or can be served as a second course after a soup or salad starter.
Oh my gosh! It has been at least three weeks since we have had Pizza! The last time we had it was the first week we were on Maui and we have been almost two weeks now. So, what did I make for dinner tonight! Pizza, of course! If I do say so myself (and everyone else says so too) I do make the very best Pizza and my husband doesn’t like anything like he loves Pizza! I made the dough this afternoon around two o’clock, put in a greased plastic bag and stuck it in the refrigerator. Then I went out and did some errands. Around 4:30 I took out the bag of Dough to allow it to warm up and the prepared the toppings for the pizza. Then I shaped the Dough and dressed it.
Pizza Dough shaped to fit the Peel
Crushed San Marzano Tomatoes
Dried Oregano & freshly ground Pepper
Bulk Sweet Italian Sausage Meat – cooked with diced Onions.
Shredded Whole Milk Mozzarella Cheese
Sliced Crimini Mushrooms & Sliced Black Olives
Dinner is served.
To make the Pizza follow the recipe at /dinner/cheese-pizza/
Then just add any toppings you wish.
Tuesday we lunch at a Storefront Restaurant called Coconuts Fish Cafe. Even though it was storefront restaurant, the food quality was excellent and the décor was very attractive. In the photo above, the car is reflected in the door’s windows. (Not great photography, but the only photo I have) The tables and benches were all made in the shape of Surfboards as were the recipe boards. The fish was all very fresh and prepared quite well. Ev wanted Fish and Chips; these were not your ordinary Fish & Chips that one would get Stateside. The meal consisted of Ahi and Mahi and the Fries were skinny and crispy. I ordered their signature dish which was Fish Tacos. Again these were no ordinary Fish Tacos – the Fish was not breaded, just grilled and good and was again Hawaiian Fish. Diced Mango, Lettuce and Tomato were also on the Tacos. The order consisted of two Tacos and each was served on a separate plate. This meal was so good that we visited this Restaurant again before we left for home.
Tuesday night, since lunch was sufficient to call dinner we decided just to stay in and cook a simple meal for ourselves. Dinner or Supper consisted of Bacon and Eggs, Grilled Pineapple and strips of Baby Jicama. If you have never had Baby Jicama do try it during the summer when the Farmer’s Markets Vendors are bound to have. It is tender and sweet and the skin is much thinner than in the more mature varieties.
The next day was Wednesday and we spent most of the morning at Hosmer Grove in Haleakala National Park. The object of course, was to look for Native Birds and we did see the birds we set out to see – the I`iwi, `Apapane, `Amakihi and Maui Creeper as well as the Red–billed Leiothrix. On our way back from the Mountain we stopped and picked up lunch of Roast Beef Sandwiches and Potato/Mac Salad. The Potato/Mac Salad is an Hawaiian traditional side dish. Potato/Mac Salad is as it sounds: Potato Salad with cooked Elbow Macaroni in it – in this way you get two salads at once – Potato and Macaroni.
After exerting a lot of energy on the Mountain we went back to the Condo and spent the afternoon resting. I tried out the Hot Tub at the poolside and treated myself to a Shave Ice – another favorite specialty in the Hawaiian Islands. For dinner we went to a Restaurant called Pizza Madness and had a Pepperoni/Vegie Pizza. Even though it was only a medium it was so large that we had enough to take home for lunch the next day.