Digging Deep

Been digging deeper and deeper these days to channel my inner Pollyanna. This brutal winter seems like it’s never going to end. So far, it’s been the coldest winter here in New York in 38 years. And, with a few days left to go to put an end to February, it’ll go down as  the 3rd coldest February, the 8th coldest month, has seen 6 nights with temperatures in the single digits and has only offered one day above normal.

It gets harder and harder to find the bright spots. But here’s a try:

•Spring is 28 days away.

•Daylight savings time starts on March 8th, 11 days away.

•The next season of House of Cards is just 2 days away.

March 1st is Sunday. Invite friends in for a celebratory dinner. Found a good one on Food52 today…

Chicken Gratín

Enjoy!…and hang in there.

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Breakfast in Bed

I love breakfast in bed…actually lunch and dinner too. Bon Appétit recently ran an article about it, so of course I was interested. While I’d be the first to focus on the food, like they did, they missed badly by not going much further.

Like a good restaurant, ambiance is important. Taking notes from my Bed Camp strategy, an uncluttered room is important as are lots of pillows to lean against. A soothing playlist also helps set a relaxing atmosphere.

A good bed tray, big enough to hold the plates, sturdy enough not to tip over and big enough to stand over your legs is an absolute must. I even have a set of plates just for the bedroom. Don’t forget to bring in a carafe of coffee with cream and sugar, to avoid having to get up for refills.

Most important, leave yourself lots of time, to relax and recline after you’ve enjoyed your morning treat. Let the peace and contentment linger as long as you can.

See the article for the Bon Appétit suggested recipes —

http://www.bonappetit.com/entertaining-style/holidays/article/breakfast-in-bed-isnt-cheesy?mbid=nl_02132015_Daily&CNDID=24316568&spMailingID=11628886&spUserID=NzUzOTA3NzU5MjYS1&spJobID=443564364&spReportId=NDQzNTY0MzY0S0

Yes, I’m Whining.

Just weeks after daylight saving time ended and I’m already pining for more light. The days are still getting shorter, and will until December 21st, the thought of which doesn’t help my head right now. Less light, less sunshine, less heat and my favorite fruit and vegetables are out of season. Blueberries are blue, without that cast of gray that celebrates freshness, strawberries aren’t close to summer-sweet and tomatoes and peaches are done. It was a fabulous summer and we had a good start to fall, but that seems all over now. The early cold wave is just fueling my misery.

I’m whining for the next 24 hours and then I’m going to get my head back on straight. I’ll start my countdown to the shortest day of the year when I can begin to celebrate the beginning of adding minutes at a time to sunlight. I’ll toast the season with another dozen jars of my favorite chunky cranberry jam, before putting away the canning equipment. I’ll take out my winter recipes and invite friends in for dinner. On gloomy days I’ll be sure to have a soothing pot of stock simmering on the stove, to freeze for fast and easy soups later on. I’ll make more pumpkin pies to make the house smell like the holidays, and I’ll step-up my Christmas shopping, before the stores get too crazy.

It’s okay to grieve the end of a season and the easy lifestyle that went with it. But I’m not going to waste too much time on it. Look forward, find things to celebrate in the today and move on. That first pot of winter chili or stew or pot roast is going to be something to celebrate. And who doesn’t like a slice of fresh pumpkin pie?

Click for my favorite Chunky Cranberry Jam recipe.

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I Just Don’t Understand This

August is National Ice Cream Sandwich, Watermelon, Oyster, Root Beer Float, Zucchini, Soft Ice Cream and Peach Pie Month. There are also days that celebrate Brownies at Brunch, Catfish, Panini, Peaches and Sandwiches, among many many others. But no tomatoes. NO TOMATOES?!!!

Actually, October is National Tomato Month. That hurts, since the best of the season is over and we’re all searching for that lost fried green tomato recipe, hoping to prolong the season just a bit longer. It’s good but just not the same.

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For me, August is my tomato month. It is on my daily menu at some point during the day – good at breakfast, lunch, dinner, or a mid-day snack. There isn’t a better time of the year to enjoy a delicious ripe tomato. Low in calories, rich in vitamins A and C and folic acid and an excellent source of nutrients and antioxidants. Fancy recipes aren’t needed. Eat them raw, mixed with other vegetables, in a fresh summer salad or cooked in a morning omelette. Slice and top with olive oil or basil or blue cheese or just salt and pepper. Rinse and just bite into one. Make your own mayonnaise, or not, bring your best bread to the table and make a sandwich, seasoned with just of bit of salt and pepper and maybe a few slices of crisp bacon. And what’s more refreshing on a hot day than a bowl of Gazpacho?

Having a bowl of ripe tomatoes on the counter will help make your summer meals healthy and delicious and you won’t believe how much time you’ll save. Take it easy in the kitchen. Keep it healthy, light, simple and tasty. No heat required…just lots of tomatoes!

T-Time

T-Time. Not the kind you need clubs for. I’m talking about refreshing tea that is flavorful and iced and always seems to be in my hand during  the hot days of summer. We need to drink lots of fluids but water doesn’t satisfy the taste buds. Tea has enormous possibilities, as I’ve learned over the years. Look beyond the household staples and find a good decaffeinated tea to start with and be creative.

To my basic decaf tea, I’ll sometimes add a sprig of fresh rosemary to the brew. It’s savory and holds up to summer meals. Or, for a bit of citrus flavor, instead of adding a lemon or orange slice, I’ll pick a few leaves of lemon verbena – pictured below – from a plant in my courtyard and add it for a subtle bit of flavor. So delicious for a mid-afternoon respite. Mint, rose hips, lavender with chamomile…the choices are endless.IMG_3004

Lately, I’ve been brewing mint tea in bags. What a burst of flavor! This morning, I added green tea to the mint bag. I find green tea a bit bland, but appreciate its healthy attributes. Putting green tea in the mix is like hiding vegetables in the lasagna for the kids! It’s good for you, it’s in there, but it’s overshadowed by the primary flavor.

A good decaffeinated tea with lots of character won’t keep you up at night or dehydrate you and will eliminate or diminish the need for sweeteners. Who needs sugary soft drinks?

When I put the kettle on for my morning coffee, I fill it to the top to have enough boiling water to make the day’s iced tea. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to make it.

Visit your farmers’ market and local tea shops, or grow your own herbs and spices, and open your taste buds to some new and interesting combinations. Enjoy your T-Time. No clubs needed.

Easy Easy Mid-Week Dinner Lemon Pasta

It doesn’t get much easier than this simple pasta dish. Only the pasta gets cooked and the sauce, made from just a few ingredients you probably already have in your kitchen, comes together in less than five minutes. Serve with good crusty bread and a light white wine. It’s perfect as is, but also generous about sharing the serving dish with other ingredients you might choose to add.

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Ingredients:
2/3 cup olive oil
2/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
1/2 teaspoon salt, more or less to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper, more or less to taste
1 pound dried elbow macaroni (spaghetti also works well)
1/3 cup chopped fresh basil
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest (from those two lemons)

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Preparation:
Put a big pot of salted water on the stove to boil.
Zest the 2 lemons.
In a large bowl, whisk together the oil, grated cheese, lemon juice, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Set aside.
Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook to al dente, usually about 7-8 minutes. Before draining, scoop out a cup of the pasta water.
Drain the pasta and add to the lemon sauce. Add the basil and lemon zest to the bowl and toss well.

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Add the pasta water, 1/4 cup at a time to moisten. You might not need all of it. Taste and adjust salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy.

The sauce can be made up to 8 hours ahead. Cover and refrigerate, but bring it back to room temperature before using.

This dish is delicious as is, but I’ve also substituted kale or mint for the basil. For some more substance, you can add cooked peas and/or cooked diced chicken. It’s the perfect recipe to play with. Enjoy!

 

You Have to Check Out this Food Site

I love the freshness of summer meals. Living in New York, it’s hard to accomplish light summery meals in the middle of winter. So, I take advantage of every summer day to use the best of the season. Simple meals that let the flavors and colors shine, and that don’t take much time away from being outside, are my favorites. Over the years I’ve saved scored of treasured recipes, but that doesn’t stop me from looking for more.

Recently, I found a new web site chock full of my ideal summer foods. And, to make it even better, each recipe features the most delicious pictures in it’s step-by-step directions. Needless to say, it’s been bookmarked. So far my favorite is the Rocket Pizza, though there are many many runners-up.

These aren’t meals just for the summer. Cooler (and outright) cold weather will be here soon enough and there are many I’ve got on my list to make. I already have visions of making the Drunken Noodles. What all have in common is how good they look and how easy to prepare….and those wonderful pictures.

Here’s the web address. Bookmark it for a source of great, easy, tasty beautiful meals!

Bon Appétit!

Hungry & Tired

A Guide for Quick and Delicious Dinners