For Sofia B.

photo(2)

There are four Sophias in my third grade daughter’s class.  FOUR out of less than 60 students.  When Josie started kindergarten with Sofia B., Sophia D., Sophia P. and Sophia T., I think even the four Sophias’ mothers wondered how in the world we’d ever keep them all straight!  Of course it didn’t take long for each of their endearing personalities to emerge–each one unique and precious in her own way–and suddenly nothing could be more clear than which Sophia is which.

“Michelle” was the “Sophia” of my class.  If you are a girl and you were born near the late 1960’s/early 1970’s, you had a very good chance of being named Michelle (or Lisa or Jennifer–just ask my good friends Lisa and Jen.)  Or, if you weren’t named Michelle, you likely know a Michelle or did back then.  In fact, I dare you to find someone who doesn’t know a Michelle… but I digress… (but seriously, we are everywhere.)

I used to wish for a more unique name when I was a child, but looking back now I guess I just did what today’s Sophias do: I made my way and soon nobody confused me for Michelle S. or Shelly B.

Any-hoo… Sofia B. (the only one who spells her name with an “f”) was over for dinner recently and she really liked my Yellow Rice.  I adore all four Sophias and am so grateful for each of their contributions my lovely little corner of the world, but this recipe is dedicated to one Sofia in particular: Ms. Sofia B.  🙂

Tumeric Rice with Vegetables (with Chicken if you like)

Ingredients:
2 tbsp. olive oil
1-2 tbsp. butter (optional)
1 cup basmati or jasmin white rice
2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1/4 diced onion
1 clove fresh garlic, minced
1-2 cups chopped mixed vegetables (for this recipe I used chopped carrots, bell pepper and kale.  Other options include celery, zucchini, cauliflower…)
1/2 cup diced cooked chicken (optional)
1-2 tsp. tumeric
Salt/pepper to taste

Directions:
In a pan, medium heat, brown the onions in olive oil (approximately 5-10 minutes.)  Add garlic and rice.  Stir together for a 3-5 minutes until rice has a chance to get to know the first flavors.  Then add vegetables, chicken and butter and stir for another 3-5 minutes for another quick layer of introduction.  Then add broth, tumeric and a dash of salt and pepper.  Cover and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and cook for another 15-20 minutes or until all liquid is absorbed.  Add more salt and pepper if desired.

Unsolicited Tips: I make my own chicken broth, which accounts for some of the color and, I must say, some extra yummy flavor.  Boxed/canned broth can obviously also be used.  Brown rice can also be used, but it won’t absorb as much color or flavor.

If you haven’t used tumeric before, you may want to start with 1 teaspoon.  We love the flavor but it is new to some.  Besides being yum-ola and beautiful, tumeric is known to be anti-inflamatory, an antioxidant and tons of other current healthy buzz-words.  But you don’t have to take my word for it.  Google it and see!

Finally, in case you’re new to my blog or my life: the day I make a one-cup-of-rice recipe is the day I serve Poptarts for breakfast.  Girlfriend, I doubled this ‘thang of course!

p.s. Once Mike–in a show of defiance over my over-zealous approach to nutrition–bought some Poptarts.  Everyone hated them, even him!

 

Winter Cole Slaw

cole slaw 2 OK.  Yes.  I have posted my recipe for cole slaw before.  I just had to do it again because delicious fresh cabbages  literally abound at local farmer’s markets right now!  The high vitamin C and sulphur content in cabbage gives it strong detoxification properties.  High in vitamins and fiber, low in cost and de-lish make it a winter winner at our house.  This recipes forgoes the all-too-common-and-very-unhealthy ingredient of mayonnaise.  Fear not! After you taste this cole slaw you’ll never reach for a jar of that white stuff again.

Ingredients: 1/2 head cabbage (green, red or a combination), chopped; 1-2 carrots, shredded; few slender pieces red onion (don’t need to much); 1/4 cup cider vinegar; 1/4 cup olive oil; 2 tbsp sugar; few dashes salt and pepper

Directions: While you are prepping the veggies, bring the vinegar, olive oil and seasonings to a boil on the stove top.  With the sugar in there this will happen in about 2 minutes, maybe less.  Mix your now kinda-syrupy and warm vinaigrette and pour it over the top of your naked veggies.  Toss all this yummy stuff together and you’re pretty much there, my friend.

Kinda important tip: This recipe tastes great after hanging out in the fridge over night.  This month’s photo includes a double batch of the recipe above.  Why?  Because it gets even better after a few more days… leftovers = YES!!

Not as important tip: I usually give a big batch a stir after several hours to make sure all the vinegar-oil mixture doesn’t rest on the bottom.  Pairs well with chicken, burgers, tastes great on tacos–have fun!
Final thought.  Still with me?  Doesn’t this salad look absolutely gorgeous!?  OK.  Now go get something else done.  Seriously.

Happy Thanksgiving

carrot slaw Recipe and then a few thoughts for ya’ today.

OK.  So first a recipe (and yes, I’ve posted it before.  Get off my back!  This is a reminder for you, K?)  Rather than the dish of warm, cooked carrots that I have personally never been a fan of :(, consider this gorgeous, carrot slaw as an alternative!  Not only will it be gobble-gobbled up in a jiffy, it can be prepared one or two days in advance.  In fact, it tastes better when prepared in advance.  So, like, you might want to prepare it in advance.  I’m just sayin’.

Michelle’s Carrot Slaw

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
  • 1 pound grated carrots, or 1-1/3 pounds carrots, peeled and grated (if you wash them well, don’t have to peel)
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest and 2 tablespoons lemon juice, from one lemon
  • 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice, from one orange (or a splash of orange juice)
  • 1-2 tablespoons honey
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • a little bundle of green onion, white and green parts, diced
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • dash of salt
  • dash of pepper

Directions:

Bake walnuts at 350 for about 5-7 minutes.  Set aside.  Throw remaining ingredients into a bowl and toss it up a bit.  This salad will keep well in the fridge for a few days, but don’t add the walnuts until you’re ready to eat.

And now for those thoughts I mentioned.  I L-O-V-E Thanksgiving.  Since food, family and friends are my favorite things in the whole universe, this coming Thursday is tailor made for moi. No shopping for gifts, decorations can be minimal or maximal, depending on your mood, and then you just gather with a bunch of people you love (or have to tolerate for a few hours, whatever) and eat delicious food.  OK.  Yes.  And drink wine.  Ahhh….

My recipe for Thanksgiving sanity is as follows: Welcome to everyone who wants to join us + it’s potluck so what are you gonna bring? + eat around 2:00 so there’s time to really enjoy the meal, take a walk or relax before dessert later in the day + do something un-American and really savor the day.  Take some time to talk, at least for a moment, to everyone at the gathering.  Don’t worry about stuff at work that still needs to get done and for heaven’s sake don’t worry about Black Friday.  Shut the world out, if you can, for that one afternoon and make like Jim Morrison, man… reeee-laxxx…

A note on my pot-luck notion.  I take pot-lucks very seriously.  There will be 35 people at my house (Please don’t rain!  Please!  Please!  Please!) this year for Thanksgiving and there ain’t no way I’m making all the food.  And why should I?  My grandma always said, “If you want to make someone feel like family, they have to contribute something.”  I’m making the turkey and this carrot slaw.  My guests are bringing dressing, potatoes, multiple vegetables, sweet potatoes, wine, pies, everything we need, really, for this to work.  I don’t just assign ornamental after-thoughts like dinner rolls to my guests (now the guy who’s bringing dinner rolls is scratching his head… It’s OK.  He’s bringing other things too.)  On Thursday ALL my guests are family and I’m counting on them to not blow it.  I’m not worried.  They always rise to the occasion.  That’s what loving families do.

Final words: save your turkey carcass!  My family’s post-Thanksgiving tradition is turkey tortilla soup… which I will not be thinking about yet on Thursday.

Savory Rice

Rice with turky broth

So my late-summer turkey craving needed a side kick, or side dish I guess.  Enter: savory rice.

I have read about the many health benefits of both brown and white rice, and I cook same as I vote: straddling the fence with compromise in mind.  We’ve had white rice a few times recently so I decided to go with brown for this recipe.  I chose wisely.  It was super tasty and just the right partner for my September turkey–savory and rich tasting, but not too heavy as it’s still warm ’round these parts.

Michelle’s Summer Savory Rice

Ingredients: 2-3 tbsp. olive oil, 1/4 chopped onion, 2 cloves pressed garlic, 1 cup diced carrots, 2 stalks of celery diced, 3 cups brown rice, 6 cups chicken broth.

Directions: Rinse brown rice and drain.  Meanwhile, place olive oil and onion in pot on stove top at medium heat.  Heat for three minutes or until the onions begin to become translucent– I love when that happens), add everything except the broth to the pot.  Stir it all up till the carrots, celery and rice start to cook a bit/get a tad brown from the heat.  Then add the broth, bring to a boil and reduce hit to simmer until all liquid is absorbed (about 30ish minutes.)

Tip: This is a ton of rice, even for my hungry crew.  All part of my master plan as two days later I put it all together and made turkey soup!  Wanna know more about that?  I’ll tell ya soon.  Promise!

After School Snacks

veggies after school

Yes, you read that title correctly:  It is the 16th of August and I’m writing about after school snacks.

Here in Pasadena, CA our school district has decided to start our school calendar so that it coincides with the absolute-most-unbearably-and-ridiculously hot time of the year, also called mid-August.

Apparently the justification for this has something to do with finishing the first trimester at winter break (which, OK, yes, makes sense) but people, if you’re so smart then tell me this: How are we supposed to go to the beach when school is in session?  Where are your priorities school board!?  Honestly!

But I digress.

I’m teaching three workshops to some super fun (haven’t met them all yet but I just know it’s true) mamas in the next couple of weeks.  I AM STOKED!  Love chatting/chillin’/coaching/supporting parents with their kitchen and table woes.

Here’s a freebie tip and you didn’t even have to pay me.  Isn’t this your lucky day?

A great time for veggies is right after school.  In our neck of the woods ’round this time of year it so dang hot that some cool, fresh snacks are soundin’ pretty tasty after a hard day of addition and capitalizing proper nouns.  Plus, if your kiddos are anything like mine, they are famished when that final bell rings and would eat a cardboard box if it was their only option.

Luckily, my kids do have an option, and it’s called “steamed broccoli, fresh carrots and tomatoes.”

That’s not what you’re hungry for child’o-mine?  Hmmm… get started on that mountain of veggies and then we’ll see what else I might have for you.

What’s that?  Your kids still won’t eat vegetables?  Your day just got luckier: I offer a workshop called “Come to the Table ” which is focused entirely on how to get the food you want into the people you love–without driving you crazy in the process.

If you want to watch your kids eat stuff like what’s in the photo above, let me know.  But that one ain’t a freebie.  😉

 

 

Packin’ It Up!

picnic lunch

Nothing says “summer” to me more than picnic lunches.

There are plenty of things I dislike about living in Los Angeles County.  Housing is ridiculously expensive.  Traffic can be a bear.  Some parts of town aren’t so nice…

There are plenty of things I absolutely love about living in Los Angeles County.  The weather is ridiculously gorgeous.  The crowds are made up of people from all over the world.  Some parts of town are way cool.

If I focused on the dislikes, I’d be frustrated.  Due to big-city-modern-day-life-issues my children will never grow up like I did; roaming the neighborhood freely on bikes without mom knowing their exact whereabouts at all times.   This ain’t southern Minnesota (and it ain’t the 70’s either!)

So I focus on the cool stuff.  My kids have soooooo many experiences at their fingertips that I never even dreamed about when I was a child.  There are free summer concerts (often with big-name recording artists!) and multicultural fairs.  There are free/cheap museums galore.  There parks everywhere and (my personal fave) there are miles and miles of beaches.

When we head out for our various summer excursions–my regular reminders about the positives of raising a family ’round here–I do like to pack some tasty and healthy food for my crew.  We partake in food events, of course, but often I bring along the staples and we splurge on a treat here and there.  This meal planning not only serves the purpose of keeping us healthy, it is the more economical approach to travel.  I know my grandmother is smiling down on me when I say that. 🙂

A typical Calva-Despard lunch-on-the-go looks like what I have pictured above.  Sandwiches containing nitrate free meats are prepared on whole grain bread.  Summer pea pods and fresh carrots are ready for mouth popping fun.  Fresh watermelon awaits our finger tips.  Roasted peanuts are fun and packed with protein.  Kalamata olives are a salty treat, and for our sweet desires I baked homemade oatmeal chocolate chip cookie bars.  These are not “healthy” per se, but as I prepared them myself I control the ingredients and don’t worry about multisyllabic hydrogenated goop.  (They are also sliced into small squares as a little sugar is nice, but we don’t want to go overboard now do we.)

You will also notice a 3/4 bag of Trader Joe’s baked cheese curl things.  Again; not a “healthy” choice, but better than most.  A small portion for everyone brings a smile to faces without too many nasty calories to other places. (plus, I don’t like them so I’m not tempted.  Ha!)

One thing not pictured is our beverage.  Usually water, although I have been known to grab some small cans of apple juice or small carbonated juicey-drinky things.  I’m not big on the waste producing juice box scene, but I will admit that an occasional little something special to drink is appreciated even by me.

Ahhh… summer time!

 

Willy Wonka’s Garden

raddish

If Willy Wonka had a garden, he would definitely grow radishes like these:  multicolored, peppery, crunchy radishes in rainbow hues.  Oh yeah.

green-yellow cauliflower

Next to the radishes Wonka would grow yellow and green cauliflower we are pretty sure.  These colors grow naturally, by the way.  It’s the white cauliflower that has to be specially grown.

red carrots

And what sort of gardener would Wonka be if he didn’t grow red carrots like these?  Unfortunately they didn’t taste all that great by themselves, but it was fun to try’m and I used them to decorate our weekly coleslaw that I still can’t stop making (I may need to seek help soon…) and tossed some into my red sauce.  Worked fine.

My two oldest are revving up for their roles in the Spring Musical, Wonka Jr. next month.  As you can see, theater influences are infiltrating all our brains, which is fun and fine with me!

And by the way, Wonka doesn’t need to plant a magical garden.  All these produce items are available at local farmers markets right now (you know, if you’re lucky enough to live in sunny So-Cal…)

Better than a Fudge-ripple chocolate bar?  Well now… 🙂

SLAW

slaw

I’ve a confession to make.  Lately I’ve been a little OCD about cole slaw.  I know, right?  Of all things…

Since my “mouthy no worky” due to illness early this month, I’ve been slowly regaining my sense of taste.  For a few weeks now, even though my tongue is regaining a purpose in life, I’ve been desperate for foods that tasted like the good ‘ol days.

Enter: vinegar.  So I got a hankerin’ for some slaw one day and this idea turned in a two week long mission to find the perfect cole slaw recipe.  I decided that when I developed the recipe I liked, I’d post about it.

My friends, that day has come.

Michelle’s (and Mike, my girlfriend Lisa and daughter Josie’s) Fave Cole Slaw

Ingredients: 1/2 head cabbage, chopped; 2 carrots, shredded; few slender pieces red onion (don’t need to much); 1/4 cup cider vinegar; 1/4 cup olive oil; 2 tsp sugar; few dashes salt; dash pepper

Directions: While you are prepping the veggies, bring the vinegar, olive oil and seasonings to a boil on the stove top.  With the sugar in there this will happen in about 2 mins, maybe less.  Mix your now kinda-syrupy and warm vinaigrette and pour it over the top of your naked veggies.  Toss all this yummy stuff together and let it sit for a few hours before serving.  That’s it!

Tips: I like unfiltered cider vinegar (but then I’ve been working on jump starting  my taste buds so it could just be me.)  I played around with several cole slaw recipes before I deduced this one.  I don’t mind the mayonnaise type slaws, but they are so darn unhealthy that I figured I’d put my energy into the vinegar based kind.

The real secret with this recipe lies in the heating of the dressing before putting it on the veggies.  It doesn’t blanch the cabbage, per se, but the heat does do a little voo-doo which is nice.  Plus, heating dissolves the sugar and makes for a nice light syrup.

This recipe is pretty mild, actually, but makes for a great side dish for BBQ chicken, tacos, ribs, sandwiches.   I like this slaw because it’s easy-tasty-healthy (my three fave food adjectives!)

There are fancier concoctions that yield some nicely complex slaw situations, but for the effort, cost and taste, this  simple slaw recipe gets my vote.

Finally (seriously, how much can a person say about cabbage!?) I never knew how darn healthy cabbage is for ya!  It’s loaded with fiber, vitamin C, E, calcium, serves as a blood detoxifier… plus it’s cheap as heck and literally lasts for weeks in the fridge.  No wonder it’s such a big staple for so many cultures world wide.

OK.  I’m done.

Salad Recon and Loose Ends…

Mom's salad

OK.  So I popped over to my parents’ house (they’re my neighbors) the other day to borrow something.  Nobody was home but we have the same key (cute, I know.)  While rummaging through the fridge I came across the bucket of salad fixings you see here.

(Sorry Mom!  I may have even neglected to tell you I borrowed something–which I can’t even recall what it was at the moment–much less that I snapped photos of your private produce stash…!)

I, too, prep salad fixings en masse, but holy cow: not like this.  Can you even believe this situation!?  And I thought I was a little overboard with my veggies… seems it may not actually be my fault.  I mean, with genes like this, what real choice do I have?

In this bucket is about the healthiest mixture of  delicious salad fun a person can have on a weekly basis.  Purchased from our local farmers market, in this trough you will find: Swiss chard, cauliflower, carrots, bell pepper, celery… I think that’s it.  Things like onion or tomato should wait till eatin’ time as they don’t keep quite as well.

In case it’s not clear, my parents are pretty darn healthy folks.  This salad chest is but one example of the smart food choices they make every day– choices that are easier to make when whipping up a nutritious salad is as simple as opening the fridge.

Thanks for the positive role modeling, Mom!

Oh–and regarding the loose ends.  Here is Teri’s Baked French Toast recipe from Monday.  I’ll also put it on the recipe page.  Happy Friday everyone!

Teri’s Baked French Toast
Ingredients:
5 cups of whatever bread you have, cut into cubes
4 eggs
1 1/2 cups milk
1/4 cup sugar (divided)
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tbsp. butter (cut into little bits)
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly butter an 8×8 inch baking pan or pie plate.
Line bottom of pan with bread cubes.
In a large bowl, beat together eggs, milk, 2 tbsp. sugar, salt & vanilla. Pour egg mixture over bread (try to cover each piece). Dot with butter bits.  Let stand for about 10 minutes.
Combine remaining 2 tablespoons sugar with 1 teaspoon cinnamon and sprinkle over the top. Bake in preheated oven about 45 to 50 minutes, until top is golden.
Serve as is or with a little maple syrup on top!

Ahh… Kale. I’m Back, Baby!

refrig soup

Refrigerator Soup.  What the heck is “refrigerator soup?” you ask.  It’s whatever you have left in your refrigerator at the end of your shopping cycle which you then chop up and throw into a pot.  With broth.  And wine. 

As promised post-cookie-bar-hangover, today’s post includes kale.  Kale!  Purge my soul (and arteries) my good friend, dark leafy greens!

This is–hands down–my favorite kind of soup to make, in case you’re wondering.  I love to make refrigerator soup for three reasons:

1. It insures I don’t waste.  Anything that grows out of the ground and a few other items that I found in my fridge are in this here bowl.

2. It’s DE-lish and different every time I make it.  Fun!

3. It’s healthy.  But of course.

It’s hard to record a recipe for food items such as this, but I will share what I did yesterday, K?  If you’re a psycho-measurer or to-the-letter-instruction-manual-follower, you are likely to be annoyed very soon…

Ingredients (as I recall…) 3 tbsp. olive oil, 1/2 onion, 2 cloves garlic, two kinds of cauliflower, broccoli, stems and leaves from both as well, carrots, celery, kale (KALE :)!), leftover brown rice, leftover chicken, chicken broth, 1/4 cup white wine, blob of “better than boulion,” salt and pepper to taste.

Directions: Chop up and simmer everything from the beginning of the list until you arrive at the rice.  Cook down until veggies get a bit softer.  Add everything else and bring to a boil.  Leave at a good bubbling place until veggies are cooked.  Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.

Tips: Quantity on the afore mentioned items…?  Yeah… Uh… How does “whatever you’ve got” sound?  Also, timing on this is also absolutely not key.  I didn’t pay a lick of attention to how long any of this took, I’m sorry to say… I was in domestic mode yesterday, cleaning my floors, folding laundry, dusting, etc, so I just popped by every 20 mins or so to take a gander at what was going on.  But hey, that’s me.

So, you know, with absolutely no details of any kind to follow, this recipe prolly won’t make it into my cookbook someday.  But man did we enjoy it last night.