Fight-Frost-with-Fire Zen Soup or Ginger Wild Rice Chicken Soup

Fight-Frost-with-Fire Zen Soup or Ginger Wild Rice Chicken Soup

Winter has certainly dragged her huge feet on our Georgia front porch this year… For better or worse, this has inspired me to become a huge fan of soups. So I am experimenting and adding and subtracting and have basically been able to create about 20 different soups just by adding something or taking something out.
They have all turned delicious so far, so I am trying to keep a record of all of them so I can duplicate them, and of course, share them with friends.
So here is my Ginger Wild Rice Chicken soup in honor of the crazy catastrophic ice-storm that has paralyzed the South.

Ingredients for a large Dutch Oven pot
1 large onion
2 Organic free range chicken breasts
½ head of celery root
2 large parsnips
4 medium or 2 large Idaho potatoes (the ones you would use for mashed)
4-6 medium carrots
3-4 inch ginger root (depends on how much you like ginger)
1 stalk leek
2 small jalapeno peppers
4 boxes chicken broth (or 2 boxes chicken and 1 box veggie broth)
Spices:
Pink Himalayan salt to taste
Black Pepper
Turmeric
Curry
Cayenne (for later or while cooking IF everyone enjoys a little zing)
Coconut oil
Cook Separately:
½ cup of black wild rice in 3 – 4 cups of water
Optional:
1 cup mushrooms
¼ cup heavy cream
1-3 garlic cloves
Curry, salt and pepper to taste
Garnishes to serve:
1 bunch Parsley
Organic Apple Cider Vinegar
Or Lemon juice

How I do it:
I’m all about the Martha Stewart cut-up-your-ingredients-and-place-in-separate-bowls before I start. I just like the neatness of it, and the peace of mind, that I am not forgetting anything
So I start with the onions – chop the whole head finely (do not use a food processor! That thing mushes the onion into a paste… Put in a bowl and cover with a plate or clear wrap. Its vapors will flavor your kitchen, as opposed to your soup. Cover it to preserve taste, and aroma.
Chop in rugged tiny chunks the carrots and put in another big bowl. I like to take the carrot from its wider side, and cut a small diagonal piece off the end, then turn the carrot and cut again, and turn and cut… until it’s all done. That way they are not the boring perfect round circles and just give more chunkiness to the soup
If you haven’t used celery root before, you should. It’s much more flavorful than the stalks and doesn’t have the stringy texture. Peel and chop it like the carrots. Chop the potatoes and the parsnips. Peel and slice your ginger as well
Add all the ingredients from the carrots to the parsnips in the same bowl. You will dump them in the soup together, so no need to use more little bowls.
Put the ginger separately. You want to keep its flavor strong until you use it.
Use a paper towel to dry your chicken breasts and chop them into small bitesized chunks.

This is a good time to put your rice to cook. Just don’t forget to stir it every once in a while. Burned to the bottom of the pan rice tastes yuk! You don’t want to have this happen to you.

IF you have opted to add the mushrooms, clean and chop them in quarters and throw them in a pan with some melted coconut oil. Let them wilt, add the cream, spices. Keep a couple more minutes while stirring to let everything incorporate. Turn off heat and set aside.

The Main Event:
In your Dutch Oven, melt the coconut oil (or butter if you must) and drop the chicken chunks to brown on all sides. This is not to cook them thoroughly, but to give them a bit of a sautee before you cook them with the rest of the ingredients. After you have flipped them around a few times, take them out of the Dutch oven, one by one, and place into a bowl for later.
In the same oil that is now already hot, drop the chopped onions. Let them become translucent. Stir to incorporate the chicken fat into this.
As soon as they are soft and translucent, drop the bowl with all the root veggies (my experience shows, this is where you may find yourself needing a little more butter (try saying it with a English accent and it will make you feel less guilty – A li-uhle moh bu-her!)
After a few stirs, add your spices (good time for the salt as it will release the water in the veggies and the sautéing will be easier)
Now comes the time of the chicken stock and/or the veggie stock or broth. I like Pacific brand, but there are others that are equally organic and delicious. I don’t fill the Dutch oven all the way yet. I just pour enough stock to cover the veggies.
Cover the pan, and let it reach boiling. Once it does, reduce temp to say half or even less.
Take your handheld mixer and mash up some of the veggies at the bottom (this can be done as much or as little as you like – the point is to create a little thickness to the soup so you don’t have to use thickener, i.e. glutenous substances)
After you’ve reached the desired consistency, add the chicken, the rice (which by now should’ve cooked) and optionally – the mushrooms.
Stir well and cover. Leave everything to incorporate for at least another 10 minutes on low.
Prepare your plates (bowls) and garnishes (parsley and lemon juice)
SERVE HOT! Bon Appetit!

Ridiculously Easy Mediterranean GlutenFree Frittata

Ridiculously Easy Mediterranean GlutenFree Frittata

There are some weekends that I Just wanna linger in bed and if I had the choice I’d rather stay longer in bed, than make time for a healthy breakfast.
But with this super easy frittata I can have it all!

Here are all the products I use:
(all these ingredients are easy to prep the night before – chop some of your scallions and jalapeños and keep in containers ready to use)
2 eggs, or 1/4 cup egg whites (if you don’t want the yolks)
A handful of fresh baby spinach
A handful of cherry tomatoes halved
1 jalapeño pepper seeds removed, chopped
3-4 scallions – chopped
1-2 oz crumbled feta cheese
1 tsp ghee (or coconut oil or olive oil)

Take a nonstick pan and melt the ghee (clarified butter) or whatever other fat you decide to use.
Crack the eggs in a mixing bowl and whisk with a fork until homogenous
Add all your veggies and the feta in, stir to coat as much as you can
Remember, we are not aiming for the perfectly shaped frittata, so don’t worry if stuff is sticking out of the mixture, it’s sort of like an omelette with a salad built in…
Pour everything in the melted ghee, and turn a couple of times in places where you see it needs to cook a more.
When the eggs stop being runny and the spinach has this bright green wilted look, your frittata is ready.
Throw into a plate of your choice, and sprinkle with spices of your choice. I personally go for the caliente cayenne and the tasty turmeric, but you can go wild with whatever rocks your palette!
Enjoy and share with someone special! just double the quantities 🙂

Pork Kebap Bulgarian Style

Pork Kebap Bulgarian Style

This is Pork like you’ve never had it before! I cooked it with my mom and insisted on writing the recipe down, so I remember every detail of the way she and my grandmother before her used to make it.

Every time I start this dish, the aromas transcend my kitchen walls and I time travel to me being 4, sitting in grandma’s kitchen. It’s still dark on a cold January morning. I couldn’t sleep, I heard some noises in the kitchen, so I went to check it out. Grandma was already up for hours. She gave me a cup of warm milk, tucked me in a huge throw in the couch and told me to nap some more. .. I did, and dreamed a delicious dream……

So you can see why I love everything about this dish.
The beauty of it is, that it’s simple to make, and makes the house smell so cozy, you’d be able to close your eyes and imagine a mountain cottage and pure white snow falling peacefully outside, while the fire is quietly crackling…

This is a great recipe to utilize that type of pork that you may deem too fatty to grill or cook in any other way. But especially because it’s fatty, it makes perfect kebap material!
So here is my Grandma and Mom’s recipe:

Products:
1 lb of shoulder pork meat
5 onions (medium) chopped
1/2 lb canned tomatoes
1 cup red table wine
3 jalapeño peppers chopped
1/2 cup olive oil
2 tsp black pepper crushed
5 tsp paprika
1 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tsp salt
3 tsp turmeric
1 tsp nutmeg
4 tsp savory
1 bunch of chopped fresh parsley

Chop the onions
Cut the meat in cubes
Heat the oil in a Dutch Oven and drop the meat to brown on all sides
Add the onion slices, then the jalapeno peppers
While the onions and the meat are simmering, use a hand held mixer and roughly crush the tomatoes. You don’t need to juice them all the way. .
Add all the spices to the meat, onions and jalapenos, and mix well.
Add the tomatoes to the pan and mix all together.
Let it simmer for about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat the oven to 375F
Put the Dutch Oven in the oven and bake for 1hr.

Dutch oven is the easy and effective way. I personally like to use a clay pot with a lid that I have from Bulgaria. I transfer the mixture from the Dutch Oven into the clay pot and put in a COLD oven, rather than preheated. (However tempered your clay pot is, I would rather not chance it and have it crack in a hot oven with all that food in it. .. It may make a mess much bigger than you can imagine.)

The only difference between baking it in a Dutch oven and a beautiful clay pot, is that the presentation is more authentic, but the taste is pretty much the same.

Serving options:
Best way to serve this is while it’s still warm, on top of either warm polenta, or rice or quinoa, with sprinkled fresh parsley on top.

All of the above make good gluten free additions.

Optional Polenta recipe:

1 cup corn meal
1 cup cold water
4 cups cold fat-free milk
Mix well and put on the stove
Keep mixing pretty much the whole time while it’s cooking
Mix until it becomes a thick mixture and the boiling resembles molten lava
Then turn it off.
Take an oven proof dish
Melt one stick of butter in the microwave
Pour half of it in the oven proof dish (it’s good to have a narrow dish so that the liquid butter can form a deep layer.
Pour the cooked polenta in it on top of the butter.
Then pour the rest of the melted butter on top and bake in the 375F preheated oven for about 20-25 min. It only needs to get slightly brown on top. As soon as you take it out of the oven, cover it with an aluminum foil and a towel on top, so it stays soft and juicy.

Goes great with a robust red wine – a Chilean Cabernet or an Argentinian Malbec of your choice will complement it very well!

DOBUR APETIT!
ENJOY!

From the Love Boat to a Courchevel Chalet

A new hot spot has emerged in Atlanta Georgia: St. Cecilia. Taking the place of the old tungsten lights, chrome and neon lights, fur coats and big hair glory days of BluePoint, St. Cecilia has gone through a dramatic makeover, that shows her age, but in a new fresh, kind of way. All the way down to her wood trimmed bar with beautiful sky high wall of wine and liquor, lean table styles with a variety of seating arrangments, heights and chair mismatches, to the soft color pallet, it indulges your Ohm senses without overpowering them, so your focus can be on the art of conversation.
St. Cecilia’s extensive wine list includes a good mix of old and new world choices, enough to satisfy the pretentious tastes, but not to overwhelm or intimidate vino novices (and first daters) with books the size of War and Peace.
The dinner menu features a good variety of dishes in primi and secondi piatti. I only tried the mushroom risotto and some of the salami selection and both were quite good, but I did hear friends complain about the overpriced and undersized hamachi. Two coin sized slices for $13? Yeah, I’d say…
As it was before when it was Bluepoint, St. Cecilia seems to attract an affluent crowd of 34 plus (give or take a few botox years) and maybe it should be a consideration of the owners that some of these paying customers, albeit looking like they are in their late 20s, are still human and are in need of reading aid when it comes to the menu. So, perhaps a little larger and less fancy fonts will do the trick and keep the guy who forgot his readers, but not his fat wallet… happy. Just a suggestion.

The ambiance is what will keep this place full especially in the winter months, as it has this cozy Courchevel chalet kind of feel. You can almost imagine the slopes on the other side of Peachtree road and the models turned snow bunnies flocking in straight from the runways of London and Paris (these are actually in abundance here)

The interior structure is very similar to the Bluepoint layout, so plan your bathroom breaks early. A couple of drinks later, climbing up dimly lit staircase all the way to the top in four inch heels, and getting into a corridor with no lights, can result in either a sprained ankle (God forbid!) or getting into the men’s room by mistake. They are so close together and at some point in the night going left or right may sound exactly the opposite to the ambidextrous, and mishaps can easily happen. Also, it’s a long way to the top of the mountain (staircase) and through the dark woods (corridors) to add an additional dextrality test – do we really need to wonder how to close these double doors with a little hook, only to find out that there is a gap between the them?

All in all the establishment at this point is at 4 stars: all perfect sans some kinks that we should attribute to being so young and still finding its perfect style. 20140118-120055.jpg20140118-120108.jpg20140118-120119.jpg

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The Hulk: a lean mean cleansing energizing juice

I had a craving most people wouldn’t identify with. On the way home today I was suddenly dreaming of fresh vegetable and fruit juice. So I made me a Hulk:
2 Golden Delicious apples
3 stalks of celery
2 kiwis
1 lemon (peeled)
1 2″piece of ginger
3 handfuls of chopped up kale.
Dill

Just threw everything in my Breville and voila!

Enjoy!

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Positively Radiant [Orchid] in 2014

Positively Radiant [Orchid] in 2014

It’s official! The color of the year is “Radiant Orchid!” The soft enigmatic magical lavender purple replaces last year’s Emerald, which in turn pushed the Tangerine Tango off its plushy 2012 throne.
Regardless of how pointless you think this may be, there is a lot of hard work and many people and influences behind this decision.
Pantone, the world’s leading authority on color and its “Color of the Year” has influenced product development and purchasing decisions in multiple industries, including fashion, home and industrial design, as well as product packaging and graphic design.
And it’s not like they just pick a color from a box of crayons.
The color of the year selection requires careful consideration. To arrive at the selection, Pantone quite literally combs the world looking for color influences. This can include the entertainment industry and films that are in production, traveling art collections, hot new artists, popular travel destinations and other socio-economic conditions. Influences may also stem from technology, availability of new textures and effects that impact color, and even upcoming sports events that capture worldwide attention.

“While the 2013 color of the year, PANTONE 17-5641 Emerald, served as a symbol of growth, renewal and prosperity, Radiant Orchid reaches across the color wheel to intrigue the eye and spark the imagination,” said Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute. “An invitation to innovation, Radiant Orchid encourages expanded creativity and originality, which is increasingly valued in today’s society.”

What Radiant Orchid item will you wear?
How will you incorporate Radiant Orchid in your decor?
I know I will start with a gorgeous Radiant Orchid lip color to brighten up my Holidays! How about you?

Cooking My Heart Out: On pumpkins, fall, fashion, school and Grandma

It’s Fall, my favorite season! Just look at its brilliance, abundance and color! There is nothing like fall! It’s like the Goldilocks of all seasons.  I love it!

pumkins

Pumpkins are about as close to the top of my list of favorite things about fall, as a round heavy shapeless and hard to cut vegetable can get. Besides the fact that they are so good for you, they are also a fashion inspiration. I can pretty much find all pumpkin colors in my closet.

PumpkinColors

But my favorite thing about the pumpkins, is the desert that my grandma used to make for me.

Many years ago, I’d come home from school, and the intoxicating aroma of pumpkin and cinnamon would fill the house. My grandma’s pumpkin rice walnut pudding was my favorite treat in the fall. She made it frequently; mainly to indulge me. And also to make good use of the enormous pumpkins we had in the yard.
Today, when I was freaking out my dogs, chopping pumpkin and making the dessert I grew up with, I wasn’t aware that it was my grandma’s birthday….I always thought her birthday is on Oct 15, until my dad asked me if I made it in her honor. I guess I did…

I posted a photo of my dish with the memory snapshot above on Facebook and several of my friends asked me for the recipe.

So here it goes:

The best pumpkin to eat is either the Green Hubbard (pictured below) or the butternut squash. Both work well. I sometimes even use sweet potatoes. They have pretty much the same consistency.

GreenHubbard1

This slicing job isn’t for everyone. You MUST find either someone qualified who has done this before, or have it sliced at the store… Better yet, just find pre-sliced pumpkin, or just do it with sweet potatoes.

Or if you are like me and think that you absolutely must do it yourself, you may proceed AT YOUR OWN RISK! I do NOT recommend it for several reasons.

1. I have had friends rushed to the emergency room because they almost sliced their fingers off, trying to slice a pumpkin!!!

and

2. The process is extremely noisy and may scare the living daylights out of your pets. As it’s evident in Exhibit A. (“We might be next!)

Scaredy Dogs

This is what the Hubbard pumpkin looks like inside. (I like to gather these seeds, dry them on a paper towel and throw them in the garden in spring. And then wait for pumpkins come Halloween time. )

GreenHubbard2

Once you’ve chunked your pumpkin, you can prepare the rest of your ingredients and begin:

Pumpkin/ Rice/ Walnut pudding

My Grandma’s recipe.

WHAT YOU NEED

2lb Green Hubbard Pumpkin ( or butternut squash or sweet potatoes) This is the weight you need after it’s been cut and cleaned. So look for a pumpkin that’s heavier. If you have leftovers, you can make a delicious pumpkin soup.  Recipe for that will follow soon.

1 cup of Arborio rice (the one you buy for risotto, you can also use a japanese rice called Kokuho )

1 tsp of vanila

4 cups of milk

cinnamon

1 cup ground walnuts

5-6 TBS brown sugar

2 TBS butter

HOW IT’S DONE

Once you’ve established who will be cutting the pumpkin and have it chunked, (the flesh of the pumpkin is easy to cut.) you can proceed with slicing the flesh in 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick slices. They can be in any of shape the bigger chunks came out to be. There is no rule about that.. 

Get your baking dish and put a few pieces of butter at the bottom of it.

With your hand, sprinkle the dry rice to cover the bottom of the dish. Liberally, but not more than a layer of grains

Now arrange a layer of  the pumpkin slices

Sprinkle sugar, cinnamon, ground walnuts

Now again

Rice

Pumpkin

Sugar, cinnamon, ground walnuts

Continue like this until you finish all your ingredients.

You need to top off with sugar cinnamon and walnuts and leave some of these toppings aside..

Take the milk and carefully pour on top of everything, just below the rim of the dish

Sprinkle again with Sugar, walnuts and cinnamon.

Place the baking dish on top of a cookie sheet covered with aluminum foil (you want to minimize the damage to your oven. who wants to clean burnt on milk!)

Bake in preheated oven on 350 for 45 min or so… If your oven is temperamental, cover the dish with foil for 30 min at 400, then take the foil off, switch to broil on 450F to brown the top.

I am really bad with measurements. I hardly ever measure anything.. unless I bake a cake or bread. This is a very relaxed recipe. If you like rice, then put some more. I personally prefer more pumpkin.

Bottom line about the rice and the milk is that it’s 1 part rice to 4 parts liquid – this gives the rice a nice plump feel with a little crunch in the center. and it is not too dry.

so if you take 1/2 cup rice, then you need 2 cups milk

if you go for 1 cup rice – 4 cups milk

2 cups rice – 8 cups milk

etc. you get the drift.

Since I wasn’t sure where I was going with the baking, I did it a little differently.

My Impromptu Recipe (Pumpkin Rice Walnut Pudding 2)

Armed with my knife and meat tenderizer, I chopped the  green Hubbard pumpkin in chunks.

Arranged it on a cookie sheet sprinkled with brown sugar and baked it for 30 min.

Meanwhile, I boiled 1 cup rice with 4 cups milk, 3 tbs sugar and 1 tsp vanilla extract (but not all the way… i.e. I didn’t let it absorb all the liquid)

Then I put little chunks of a tbs of butter on the bottom of a baking dish

Poured the whole milk-rice mixture in the dish

covered it with the “pumpkin puzzle” (once it was baked it was even easier to slice it in little squares and trapezoids)

Put all the ground walnuts on top, sprinkled with the rest of the brown sugar, added cinnamon, some more milk to fill the dish, and baked it for about 20 min (until the liquid got absorbed and the top was browned)

Now that I’ve done it both ways, I still prefer the original recipe. The one I made today is very good , but I’ve done it the original way, and I will go back to doing it like Grandma. It is a more incorporated taste and I guess I am just partial to the sentimental value of a layered look and taste.

I miss you Grandma. Happy Birthday! You would have been 98 today.

PUMPKINPUDDING