Sunday, March 29, 2009

Simple Soups

In a hurry? Don't open that can of soup. Take a few minutes more out of your day and serve yourself and your family a nutritious and delicious soup you make yourself.

Don't be intimidated by recipes - you don't need one!

You know what you like don't you? You know what your family and friends like don't you?

Be daring - using fresh ingredients and leftovers you can make a fast meal that will satisfy most appetites.

I like doing quick soups because I like my vegetables bright colored and just cooked.

One of my favorites is a vegetable noodle soup.

I begin with one small onion sliced thin and two cloves garlic minced.
In a 2 quart pan
Saute in olive oil (or butter if you prefer) until onions are translucent or if you prefer, caramelized. (If using dried herbs - add them here)
Add 1 to 1/2 cups fresh chopped vegetables (except tomatoes, summer squashes, asparagus) of your choice.
(I like carrots, celery, broccoli, colored peppers)
Saute these items briefly - then add 2 cups cold water.
Break angel hair pasta into the pot - (amount depends on whether you prefer a noodle soup or a soup with just bit of noodles!)
Continue heating and stir (keeps the pasta from sticking)
Once the pasta is cooked to your liking - then you may add chopped tomatoes and summer squashes. Putting these items in near the end of the process keeps these tender vegetables from cooking to much. Preserves the shapes and colors.
Now - add salt and pepper to your liking as well as fresh herbs chopped finely. Add water as needed for style of soup preferred - thick and hearty, or brothy, or somewhere in between.

I love fresh cilantro - so that is my favorite herb for this soup - but choose the one or combination of herbs that you like.
Heat through until veggies are where you like them, pour into bowls and serve.

If you like (and I like!) add shredded cheese. Yum!
If you use flavored cheeses - such as Cabot's Tuscan Cheddar, or Chipolte Cheddar - you may not have to add the herbs (or not so much) at the end - your flavoring (other than salt and pepper) is in the cheese.

You can jazz this soup up by adding left-over meats from a prior meal - chicken is good.

Cooking at home should be fun and easy. Often the cost of soups in a can are actually more expensive then using items you already have on hand. Canned soups are convenient (and many are wonderful additions to other recipes). But in today's economy, why not use what you have on hand?

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Just Cakes

Here are some cake pictures just for fun!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Simple pleasures

Simple things in your fridge can be combined to create an easy sauce that works well with fish, chicken, beef, eggs... I think you understand.

Lime-Cilantro Aioli


1 cup Mayo

1 cup Sour Cream

1 Lime - juice and zest

(to get the most juice out of it - first zest the lime and set aside -prick with a small knife several times and pop in microwave for intervals of 25 seconds until warm - then juice)

6 cloves roasted garlic

salt and pepper to taste

1 small bunch fresh cilantro chopped

Combine the garlic, zest, mayo and sour cream in a blender - blend well. Add cilantro. Blend shortly. Now slowly add lime juice a bit at a time - tasting between additions. Add salt and pepper to taste. This should be a pretty thick spread. If using as a sauce just thin out with a bit of water.

You now have a versatile item that can be used as a spread on sandwiches or used as a  sauce on baked, sauteed and grilled items or as a dipping sauce for friend snacks.


Ciabatta Veggie Sandwich:

Spread spilt roll with spread, add hummus, sliced tomatoes, shredded carrots, shredded cheese.

Fried Spring Wontons:

Fill wonton wrappers with combo of shredded cabbage, carrots, green onions. Fry and dip in Lime-Cilantro Aioli

Baked Fish:

Using any favorite fish from Tilapia to Salmon and bake with a little olive oil and white wine.

Top with Lime Cilantro Aioli before serving......

I use this on so many things ... well I love garlic and limes and cilantro. Its good on mashed potatoes too! Hmmm.... I think I'm going to make this for dinner tonight. :)

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Egg, eggs, and more eggs

I love eggs. They are so versatile - you can eat them for breakfast. lunch and dinner. 

At breakfast, one of the favorite items for people to eat here at Frog's Leap Inn, is a baked egg.

Talk about simple! And the variety... well, let's just say that you are only limited by your imagination and the ingredients you have on hand when you go to bake an egg.

You will need a few of those oven-proof ramekins - I use a 4-ounce  (I think. Mine are so old the size has worn off the bottom). Any way - its the perfect size.

First set your oven to 425 degrees. Spray or brush the inside of your cups with oil (canola is what I use.) Break one large egg into each dish. Sprinkle a pinch of salt and cracked pepper over each egg - then add you spices (again about a pinch). I like to use fresh lemon thyme from my garden. 

Pour about a tablespoon of heavy cream (you can use sour cream or plain yogurt if you prefer) over the egg ( I know, I know, the calories... the fat... but it tastes so good.)

Then shred about a tablespoon of your favorite cheese over the top (I often use Cabot's Hunter Extra Sharp Cheddar). Put them on a tray and place it in the oven - depending on how well your oven is calibrated - and how you like to eat your eggs - soft, medium, hard - this step takes 8 or more minutes.

Have fun with this - these are fast, simple and delicious. If you use flavored cheeses such as Cabot's Tuscany Cheddar, Graft Cheese's Sage Cheddar, Taylor Farm's Caraway Gouda, West River Creamery's Feta and Spice blend (I think you get the picture) - then you don't have to add any spices other than pepper and salt.

Of Course, when I am baking these for guests, I don't have time to stop and take a picture of them. These are my daughters' favorites though - so maybe I should invite them over and make them and take a picture for this post. When I do, I'll add a photo. 

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Furry Angels

It is amazing how a little purr and snuggle with a kitty, a lick on the face by a dog - the happy dance from furry friends when you return after a trip away for all of 15 minutes (!) can brighten your day.  

Our furry angels enrich our lives. They, along with good friends and wonderful family keep us grounded and aware of the important things in life. After all, at any moment we may not be here. It is important to greet those you love every day with the joy of seeing them - because that will not always be possible. 

All too often in our lives we get caught up with the future and forget to relish the present. 

One of the greatest gifts my oldest daughter, Alanna gave me was Charlie.

She always wanted a little dog and I did not care for little dogs. A country girl, I was always surrounded by large dogs. To me, if you wanted a little dog - well, get a cat! (As you can see I love cats too.) The morning of Alanna's 18th birthday, I woke up, went in and washed my face and while looking in the mirror, came to the realization that because I didn't care for little dogs, I had not listened to my daughter and I had dismissed her desire for a little dog - just because I didn't like them. How selfish I was and how arrogant and how careless I was of my daughter's feelings - not a pretty thing to realize. I, who was (am) always so concerned about my children's future, had not listened with my heart.

Needless to say, we went that day to find a little dog. Alanna settled on a long-haired chihuahua puppy. He was adorable - she named him Charlie. Who can resist baby animals? Not me that's for sure. 

Funny thing  - a puppy is a lot of work. Even for an 18 year old. And especially for an 18 year old in her last year of high school who had a part-time job, a lovely boyfriend and a social life. More and more often Charlie was left with me. Day-by-day, minute-by-minute that little rascal destroyed all my negative feelings about little dogs. 

Another funny thing - he wasn't a purebred long-haired chihuahua after all. He kept growing, reaching 22 lbs. He looked more like a schipperke with a funky tail and tiny legs. To me he was adorable. He made me laugh. In fact he made me laugh so hard one day, that it woke me up. Made me realize that I hadn't laughed so hard in years. Caught up in the seriousness of life and raising teenagers in an increasingly difficult world, I had forgotten the simple joys and pleasures that are there every day for us to experience if only we stay aware. 

After Alanna graduated, she went out on her own. As she left, she gave Charlie to me. She'd learned two important lessons:

1. That raising a baby is not as easy as it appears and is not always the fun that you imagined.

2. That some things you may think  you want and desire may not be the best thing for you - and may not be what you really want and need after all.

She now has two American pit bulls ( and they are the sweetest things you could ever have, gentle, loving and lots of fun). I guess she's a big dog person after all!

I learned  lessons too. To listen with a deeper heart. To laugh with joy. To live now.  I still forget. But I have Charlie here to remind me.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Preparing for spring

March is here in Southern Vermont. Although the snow is still deep and temperatures fluctuate between 2 degrees and 50, you can smell spring coming! 

Can these be far behind? 

I love spring with all its mud and browns and grays and earthy smells. My heart sings while tramping through the fields, searching for these moments to treasure and keep.