The Cookbook Challenge! Comfort Food!

The Cookbook Challenge!  Comfort Food!

The winter months always seem to have us yearning for all the yummy comfort foods that help make us feel warm and cozy as we come in from the cold, snowy weather…unfortunately, those same recipes don’t often abide with healthy eating goals we set for the new year!

The Cookbook Challenge!

This newest cookbook challenge comes from a beautifully illustrated cookbook published by Williams-Sonoma, titled Comfort Food, written in collaboration with the award-winning cookbook author, Rick Rodgers.  (We discovered it one night while browsing our local Williams-Sonoma store in search of some gifts for my husband’s secretaries.)  While some of the mouth-watering recipes featured in this cookbook are indeed made with calorie-rich ingredients, for that occasional splurge or fancy dinner party, there are plenty of fresh and light options that are sure to cure your homemade, comfort food cravings!

"Comfort Food" cookbook.

Mr. Rodgers tells some entertaining personal stories throughout the cookbook and offers helpful tips for making seasonal variations to many of the recipes shared; and just like the introduction page promises, we’ve found this cookbook to be a favorite “go-to” for making tasty, comfort food any time of the year!

Ramen noodle food trucks and restaurants have become a big trend lately.  My husband and I find that it’s a great way to get a quick bite to eat that’s fairly healthy, as well as flavorful and satisfying, on a chilly evening after work.  Recently, we made a version of this popular dish from a recipe in the Comfort Food cookbook.

Beef and Broccoli Ramen Chow (Serves 4)

Slice a 12 oz. flank steak into 1/4 inch thick pieces and about 2 inches long.

In a large bowl, whisk together: 1 tbsp. soy sauce, 1 tbsp. Chinese rice wine, 2 tsp. cornstarch, 1 tsp. dark sesame oil and 2 tsp. brown sugar.

Add flank steak to mixture and toss well.  Let stand for about 15 minutes.

Soak an 8 oz. pkg. of dried brown rice noodles in hot tap water for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until they are almost tender.  Then drain and rinse them with cold water and toss them gently with 1 tsp. dark sesame oil.

Rice noodles.

(I used this brand of noodles that I found at Target.)

For the sauce: in a small bowl mix: 2 tbsp. oyster sauce, 1 tbsp. black bean sauce, 1 tbsp. water, and 1 tbsp. Chinese rice wine.

Beef and broccoli ramen.

Heat wok over medium heat, then add 1 tbsp. peanut oil, swirl to coat bottom and sides of wok.  Add marinated steak mixture and cook until meat is slightly browned–about one minute.  Add 2 cloves minced garlic (or to your taste preference) and 2 tsp. fresh minced ginger.  Stir with steak and cook for another minute until steak isn’t pink.  You don’t want to over-cook meat. 

Transfer the meat mixture to a platter.  Add another 1 tbsp. peanut oil to your wok to brown 1 small chopped yellow onion.  Add 1 cup small broccoli  florets (I added more) and stir fry until it’s tender but crisp-about a minute.  Add rice noodles and steak mixture and keep stirring until noodles are hot.  Continue stirring as you add sauce mixture and coat all ingredients well.

The Cookbook Challenge! Comfort Food!

 Serve hot in a deep bowl for a fun, easy meal!

My beef and broccoli ramen chow doesn’t look as posh and fancy as the one pictured in the Comfort Food cookbook, but it’s sure yummy!  One of the things I really like about this cookbook is that the ingredients are listed in a separate column which makes it easy for writing your grocery list!  There’s also instructions for recipe variations, such as adding shrimp instead of beef, or making a vegetarian adaptation.

What are some comfort foods you’re enjoying during the cold months of winter?

–Happy eating!  Mary

The Cookbook Challenge! Garden Pasta!

The Cookbook Challenge!  Garden Pasta!

If you’re like me, you might be feeling a little overrun with all the fresh veggies you’ve picked from your garden before the fall freeze gets to them.  This month’s Cookbook Challenge came partly out of desperation to find creative ways to use up some of our abundant tomato harvest.

The Cookbook Challenge!

“My green thumb has come only as a result of the mistakes I made while learning to see things from the plant’s point of view.”  H. Fred Ale

At Home With Ina Garten!

One of the ways my hubby  likes to unwind after a long day at work, is to kick back and watch a good cooking show.  (I know…funny!)  If you were to ask me who his favorite Food Network chef is…hands down, it would be Ina Garten, better known as the Barefoot Contessa.  I think it’s her homey meals served without a lot of fanfare to family and friends, including her congenial husband, Jeffrey, who has become a celebrity of sorts, in his own right.

While it’s true that we own several cookbooks, we have collected more of Ina Garten’s than any other chef…and her “Barefoot Contessa At Home” is a favorite, because like it states on the cover, it truly is great recipes you’ll use over and over again…so it just made sense that in searching for a fun, new recipe to use some of our tomatoes in, I reached for this cookbook.

Ina Garten cookbook.

“My extravagance is my garden, it’s the first thing I look at every morning, it gives me such pleasure.”   Ina Garten

We’ve made quite a few recipes from this cookbook, but this was the first time trying this one…it’s the perfect recipe trifecta; simple, healthy and delicious!

Garden Pasta

Ina Garten explains that she got this recipe from a good friend, Jean Halberstam, who had a cookware store in Nantucket where they both lived.  She also states that the recipe is the essence of summer lingering into fall–that sold me!

4-6 cups cherry tomatoes, halved 

Garden pasta recipe.

This year, we planted a fun variety of tomatoes in our garden…from heirloom, to assorted cherry tomatoes, as well as the popular red celebrity tomatoes.  I cut all the tomatoes I used to about the same size as the halved cherry tomatoes.  

1/2 cup olive oil

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. ground pepper

2 tbsp. minced garlic 

Since we like garlic on the lighter side, I sprinkled garlic powder to taste.

1/2 small red onion, minced

1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes

Freshly chopped basil leaves

1 pound angel hair pasta  

Garden pasta recipe.

I like a little more substantial pasta with this recipe, so I used the Al Dente brand fettucine noodles.  They have a great, fresh taste and cook up quickly too.  

1 1/2  cups freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving.

Combine the cut tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, onion, red pepper flakes, basil leaves, salt and pepper into a large bowl.  Cover bowl with plastic wrap and set aside to let marinate.  You could also do this the night before too.  

Right before serving, bring a large pot of water with 2 tbsp. salt and a splash of olive oil to boil and add pasta.  Cook according to directions on the package.  It usually takes only 2-3 minutes if using angle hair pasta. 

Drain cooked pasta well, then stir it into tomato mixture.  Add parmesan cheese and toss well.  Garnish with more basil leaves if desired.  I added some toasted pine nuts too; they give the recipe a tasty crunch factor.

Serve in large bowls and enjoy!

The Cookbook Challenge! Garden Pasta!Recipe!

“It’s hard to have anything but pleasant thoughts while eating a homegrown tomato”  Tribute Journal  

Now, more than ever before, we find ourselves yearning to gather with family and friends around a good meal, sharing laughter and expressions of love!

I’d love to know the fresh veggie recipes you enjoy this time of year.

–Mary

Oh September!

Oh September!

After a busy summer and record breaking heat where I live in Utah, I’m more than ready for the cooler temperatures and the fall lull of September.

Oh September!

“Life starts all over again…when it gets cool and crisp in the fall!”      F. Scott Fitzgerald

I’ve often heard the statement that autumn is mother nature’s second spring…if that’s the case, then it’s all the more reason to make the most of September!

Making It A September To Remember!

I love that I live where I get to experience all four seasons!  For me, September is that ideal mix of lingering summer activities that converge with the rich colors and mild weather of fall.mSeptemberQuoteHere are a few of the things I look forward to this month–as I try to make it a September to remember…

• Fall Harvest!

Come early fall, my husband and I are always excited to pick some of the fresh vegetables from our small garden, but we also love visiting some of the fun fruit stands that pop up along some of the back roads around our hometown.

Fall fruit stands.

“Autumn is the mellow season–where what we lose in flowers, we more than gain in fruits.”  Samuel Butler

I don’t think there is anything quite like the taste of fresh fruits and vegetables, eaten fresh or grilled to perfection, as you enjoy those last family BBQ’s of the season.  (We buy corn at a local family farm stand where the kids raise and sell the corn to earn money for college tuition and extracurricular school activities; how great is that!) 

Grilled corn.

“You don’t have to cook complicated masterpieces, just good food from fresh ingredients!”  Julia Child

• Pumpkin Spice and Everything Nice!

Speaking of yummy fall foods…how about all the warm, pumpkin spiced, comfort foods we love to eat this time of year!  This simple recipe for Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Cake that my daughter came across, is a fall staple in our family.

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Spice Cake recipe!

This recipe is great for cookies or muffins too.  I’ve seen people drizzle it with a powdered sugar glaze or frost with cream cheese frosting.  I sprinkle on a few extra chocolate chips before putting it in the oven. 

recipe.png

This recipe is easy to make and so moist and delicious!    

• Back To School!

While I thoroughly love summer…my father instilled in me a great love for going to school and getting a good education!

Back to school.

Come the first day of school…my dad would often crank up the old Gene Autry cowboy song, “Back In The Saddle Again” –whenever I started a new school year; while I didn’t think it was very funny at the time…traditions die hard, and I ended up doing the same to my kids!  (They are following suit and play it for their kids going to school too!) 

• Beautiful Earth Tones!

I’m a 70’s hippie throw-back of sorts–so the deep earth tone colors of fall definitely speak to my heart!

Fall mums.

(J & J Garden Center)

Mueller Park leaves

(Mueller Canyon Park)

Whether you are just making a stop at a local nursery, or going on a hike at a nearby park, you can’t help but feel that all is right with the world, even for a brief time, as you view all the gorgeous fall foliage.

• Sweater Weather!

Believe me, I love the casual days of capri’s and flip-flops, but come summer’s end, I have to admit, I kind of get excited to pull on a comfy knit sweater, maybe a plaid scarf and some fun leather boots.

Fall is sweater weather!

I know, it’s still 90+ degrees outside…but it’s never too early to start planning ahead for cooler weather; my fall “go to” is usually a great cable-knit sweater in a fun fall color and some leggings.

(I bought this sweater on sale last year at Miss Iny, but I’ve seen some darling sweaters recently at local stores like H & M and Gap.) 

Fall plaid scarf.

…and yes, please give me all the pretty plaid scarves for fall!

(You won’t be surprised to hear that Target has a great selection of scarves.)

• Anticipating the Holidays!

I always look forward to my annual Halloween Festival with my grandkids…and since Halloween décor and trinkets make their debut in stores with the back to school supplies, it’s easy to get a head start on the items needed for my party in September.  My grandchildren love to start planning their cute costumes now too!!

Halloween costumes.

“I love the spirit of Halloween and the energy that comes with it!”  Katharine Hepburn

• Helping Texas!

I also want to express my deep heartache at all the devastation Texas has had to withstand this past week…may September be a month of recovery and new beginnings for them!  I hope we can all try and find at least one way, however small, to help out.  If you scroll to the end of this article, it lists a variety of resources available to offer assistance.  You’re in our thoughts and prayers, Texas!

Help Texas!

“We rise by lifting others!”  Robert Ingersoll

I hope it’s a fall of sweet surprises for all of you!

What are some of the things that make fall a magical time for you?

–Mary