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Posts Tagged ‘food’

One year ago today, my Aunt Muriel passed away. 

I can still hear her voice, and I know that my mom misses her a lot.  They were only 14 months apart…some people even thought they were twins.  I think it was the small stature, the short haircuts and the identical gold-color Toyota Corollas that they each drove.

The two things I miss talking to her about are cooking and cats (but not cooking cats!).  She loved to be in the kitchen and was always clipping recipes and arranging them in binders.  I can only aspire to be as organized as her.  I bought some binders awhile back and organized some of my recipes, but many of them are still in folders, boxes and piles in the kitchen.

One of the recipes she gave me was for Cod and Shrimp Stoup with Salt and Vinegar Mashed Potatoes.  She clipped it out of a magazine, but I have no idea which one.  I finally got around to making it today and it is heavenly!  I especially like the “kick” from the vinegar and the lemon juice.

A light, summery, seafood stoup!

Cod and Shrimp Stoup with Salt and Vinegar Mashed Potatoes

(with a few variations from the original recipe at the end)

3 large baking potatoes, peeled and thickly sliced

Salt

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO)

1 onion, thinly sliced

3 ribs of celery from the heart, chopped

3 to 4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

1 large bay leaf

2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves, chopped

Grated peel and juice of 1 lemon

Pepper

½ cup dry white wine

1 cup chicken broth

One 14.5 ounce can diced or stewed tomatoes

1 ½ pounds thick cod fillets, cut into bite-sized chunks

1 pound large shrimp, peeled and de-veined

¼ cup white balsamic vinegar or white wine vinegar

2 tablespoons butter

In a deep pot, add the potatoes and enough water to cover.  Bring to a boil, salt the water and cook the potatoes until tender, about 15 minutes.  Drain.

I boil my potatoes in the same pot my mom used to use when I was a kid. The pot is older than me!

In a Dutch oven or a large, deep skillet with a lid, heat the EVOO over medium-high heat.  Add the onions, celery, garlic, bay leaf, thyme and lemon peel; season with salt and pepper.  Cook until the onions are softened, 7 to 8 minutes.  Pour in the wine and cook for 1 minute.  Stir in ½ cup chicken broth (see notes below for my quantity) and the tomatoes with their juice; bring to a simmer.  Add the cod in a single layer, cover and cook for 3 minutes.  Gently stir in the shrimp; season with salt and pepper .  Cover and cook until the cod and shrimp are just opaque throughout, about 3 minutes.  Remove from the heat and stir in the lemon juice; discard the bay leaf.

The old and the new working side-by-side

Mash the potatoes with the remaining ½ cup chicken broth, the vinegar and butter; season with salt. 

To serve, mound the potatoes into shallow bowls.  Ladle the soup around the potatoes.

Additional notes:

  • Since this is a quick-cooking dish, it’s best to have everything chopped and de-veined before starting.
  • I used Russet potatoes, but I would try the smaller white potatoes next time.
  • I used 4 sprigs of fresh thyme and threw them in the pot un-chopped.  Just remove them before serving.
  • I wanted the dish to be more soupy, so I added about 2-3 cups of chicken broth to the stoup.
  • They only white vinegar I had was regular, old-fashioned white distilled vinegar (the kind we used to put on our salads before the advent of all the designer vinegars).  It was delish in the mashed potatoes!

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Achin’ for Bacon?

Achin’ for bacon but don’t want to eat the entire slab in one sitting?  Then roll it and freeze it!

 Bacon has a bad reputation.  You can see the fat…about 40% of which is saturated.  And it is loaded with salt, usually due to the curing process.

 But bacon tastes sooooo good!  And one average-width slice contains only about 40-45 calories.  So if your preference is to use a small amount of bacon as an occasional addition to your spinach salad, country potatoes, black beans or scrambled eggs, then just fry up what you need and freeze the rest. 

 The most convenient way to freeze bacon is to roll each piece individually, freeze them on a cookie sheet, and then transfer the rolls to a zippered bag.  Then you can effortlessly grab 1 or 2 rolled slices as needed.

Ready for The Big Freeze

 

 So go ahead…take care of that occasional ache!

 

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My mom is from Madisonville, one of the many small towns that spans the Louisiana landscape.  And it’s just a little bit bigger than my backyard.

 Although I am a city girl (Los Angeles born and bred!), we made several trips to Madisonville when I was young.  On our first trip, I instantly bonded with my cousins, Paula and Lisa.  There is a special bond between cousins, and ours has remained steady for many years.

 One day, while we were playing with our dolls on Aunt Deenie’s screen porch, my mother decided that it would be cute to take a picture of “the girls” next to the corn plants that were taller than we were.  She promptly interrupted our debate about which outfit Barbie should wear on her next date and made us pose in the garden.  Despite the smile in the picture, I was not originally happy about this silly interruption.  Imagine Mom thinking that a picture of us among the scratchy, insect-ridden plants was more important than Barbie! 

 

 
 
 

Children of the corn?

 

Fast forward a few years.  I was about 10 or 12 and my mom came up with another brilliant idea involving corn.  “We should plant some corn in our garden.”  Our “garden” was a slight patch of mediocre dirt next to the clothesline outside of our apartment building.  “I want you to have the experience of seeing how tall cornstalks can grow.”  So, we planted some corn seeds and they blossomed!  Once again, the cornstalks grew to be taller than me.  I remember harvesting the corn plant and peeling back the silk to find a real ear of corn!

The moral of this story is that it’s always a memorable experience to step out of our everyday lifestyle and to try on someone else’s.  I doubt that I would be able to remember that day in the cornfield with Lisa and Paula so clearly if it were not for that picture.

 So, I urge you to plant some corn this spring and see for yourself how tall a cornstalk can grow.

 Go to www.almanac.com/plantingtable and enter your location for local seed-sowing dates for various plants.

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For me, soup is the ultimate comfort food. On a cold evening (that’s anything under 65 degrees for this native Angeleno), a good bowl of soup warms me from the inside out.

Soup is like a renaissance man – someone with a variety of skills and a broad knowledge base. It can be a healthy and filling start to a meal, and it is a lovely “significant other” to a grilled cheese sandwich. It provides a clever way to get some extra veggies into your diet and is easy to make. Even most doctors agree that the heat and steam from a savory broth can provide relief for congested noses and scratchy throats. I don’t know if there is any scientific proof on that one, but a nice bowl of chicken soup has worked wonders for me.

So here is my recipe for basic chicken soup. I like to make up a large batch (you can easily double it) and freeze some for later. You can certainly add your preferred starch (cooked noodles, rice or whatever you like) to the pot after the chicken is cooked; but if you wait and add the starch when you serve it, you can have a different soup every time you defrost a batch.

Basic Chicken Soup

1 small onion (or ½ large onion), finely chopped
3 celery stalks, sliced into ½ inch pieces
1 clove garlic, chopped
2 chicken breasts (with bone and skin on – this is what flavors the soup)
4 cups chicken stock or chicken broth
4 cups water
½ tsp dried oregano
½ tsp dried thyme
½ tsp dried parsley
¼ tsp pepper
4 carrots, peeled and chopped into ½ inch pieces
Salt
Cooked rice, noodles, orzo or couscous

Place onions, celery, garlic, chicken breasts, stock, water, oregano, thyme, parsley and pepper in a large stockpot. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, for 20 minutes. Add carrots and cook for another 10-15 minutes, until the chicken is fully cooked and the carrots are slightly cooked. Add salt to taste (about ½ to 1 tsp). Remove the chicken from the pot, place in a large bowl, cover and let it sit until cool enough to handle. Pull the chicken from the bone and shred or dice. Return the chicken to the soup mixture.

To serve, place ½ cup of cooked rice, pasta, orzo or couscous in a bowl. Top with soup and enjoy!

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