After last week’s experience with the kids in Mankato making one-dish meals, I went home and came up with one of my own. I like the idea of cooking a meal in one pot and having only one pot to clean. Although, I have to admit that I love to clean dishes. I don’t know when this started; but, I enjoy it. I think it would be difficult to love cooking as much as I do and not also appreciate the cleaning part. It is something about the finished project and a feeling of accomplishment after we are all full and everything is clean and put away. It’s satisfying.
I am calling this dish a Mediterranean Hot Pot. I cannot take all of the credit for it as the inspiration came from a recipe in my cookbook, “Vegetarian: tasty recipes for every day” edited by Helen Aitken. Also, Daphne, my daughter, helped me decide what vegetables we should add. She wouldn’t let me include eggplant, which I would have put in this dish. She isn’t fond of eggplant. I knew only she and I would eat this in my house, so I went with her ideas and added extra red bell pepper instead. She loves sweet red peppers. I wanted the dish to be heart healthy, so I kept a Mediterranean influence in mind when choosing these ingredients.
The Mayo Clinic website suggests that a heart healthy/Mediterranean diet includes, but is not limited to, these components:
Meals eaten with family and friends
A generous amount of vegetables
Consuming olive oil
Using herbs and spices instead of salt
Drinking red wine
So, I poured myself a glass of red wine and poured a glass of orange juice into a martini glass for Daphne and we began creating this dish.
Lately, I have been limiting all of the white carbohydrates from my diet, like potatoes, white flour pasta, and white rice. Instead, I have been using brown rice and absolutely loving it. Brown rice takes a few minutes longer to cook, but I find the flavor to be superior. It’s richer and fuller whereas white rice has no flavor at all. Whole brown rice is rice in its original form with the bran intact. White rice is brown rice that has gone through at least one of several processes, including polishing, parboiling and/or pre-cooking.
When the rice comes in from the field, the hull is removed and the result is whole brown rice. In this unprocessed state, whole brown rice offers a natural concentration of vitamins and minerals, including potassium, riboflavin, niacin and thiamin, and it still has its bran, which is a natural fiber.
Brown rice is also better for the environment because it requires less processing. The less processing of a food, the less energy required. There’s also the issue of the synthetic vitamins added back into the white rice. These are produced in laboratories and factories from a variety of chemicals; and these sorts of processes are well known for their negative impact on the environment. Therefore, brown rice is not only better for your health and tastes better, it is also good for the planet. So, I have made the switch. I’m also eating the whole wheat pasta which I have surprisingly grown to love.
I am not suggesting that we all go out and convert to only olive oil and brown rice. I will be the first to admit that I love butter as I have mentioned in this column several times. I will still be cooking dishes with butter and cream and potatoes. In fact, just last week, the kids and I made salmon with a hollandaise sauce, which defeats the entire purpose of eating heart healthy salmon. I was shocked to discover that to make the sauce for the three of us, we needed eight egg yolks and two sticks of butter. I made it anyway and it was so delicious. I smiled with every bite. There may have even been a few moans of satisfaction throughout the meal. Sometimes the benefit you get from being so joyful with each bite, like the joy butter brings to me, is just as good as eating healthy. Happiness too is good for the heart. I just want to make that kind of cooking the exception and not the rule.
These changes are helping me to stick with my goal of being in the best shape ever by the Fourth of July. I did include cheese in this recipe; but it is low fat. Cheese has been my downfall in trying to eat healthy and I never used to buy the low fat cheese. I believed that low fat meant low flavor. I was wrong; low fat cheese is really good. I am so happy about this. If you are interested in trying to add some low fat, high fiber, nutritious meals to your diet, give this one a shot. It is delicious.
Mediterranean Hot Pot
Time: one hour
3 Tbsp. olive oil
1 onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 stalks of celery, chopped
2 large sweet red peppers
1 yellow squash, sliced
1 can sliced button mushrooms
1 can artichoke hearts
1 can garbanzo beans
1 can tomato sauce
3 cups vegetable or chicken stock
2 cups brown rice
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup fresh cilantro
1 cup skim mozzarella cheese, shredded
Heat the olive oil in a stock pot. Add the onions and cook for ten minutes, until translucent. Add the garlic, celery, peppers and yellow squash and saut for ten minutes more. Add the artichoke hearts, garbanzo beans, tomato sauce, and stock. Add the brown rice and bring to a boil. Turn the heat to low, cover and simmer for 45 minutes. Make sure rice is tender and add salt and pepper to taste. Ladle into bowls and top with mozzarella cheese and fresh cilantro.
When you were young, do you remember there being a mother who always wanted to feed you when you walked through her front door? Was there a mother whose first question as you entered was, “are you hungry?” or “have you eaten?” Well, I am pretty sure I have become that mom. I don’t know what it is but when someone comes over, young or old, I feel the need to feed them. I don’t even really think about it. It has become a natural instinct. Sometimes I don’t ask any questions and just start whipping up some chips and salsa, cheese and crackers, or just a bowl of olives or almonds. I feel like there should be food offered. It makes me happy to feed people.
When it comes to dinner, I really want to make sure everyone who sits around my table has something to eat that they will enjoy. I absolutely love to cook but I think I love pleasing the appetites of my friends and family more. It’s not so much that I want to hear that what I cooked was fantastic. I want my family and guests to be satisfied, full and happy.
Sometimes I am presented with a variety of tastes that need to be addressed. I have a daughter who is a pescatarian, friends who are vegetarians and flexitarians, my husband likes every meal to include meat, and my son really only likes cheese burgers…and pop tarts. I have a sister who is a vegan and doesn’t eat eggs, milk or cheese. I can’t even imagine living like that. I pretty much like everything, except pop tarts. It can be challenging to satisfy all of these varieties of tastes in one meal; but, I am usually up for it.
Last night, our friend Rachel was over for dinner and she is a vegetarian. We were talking about what we would make for dinner. She enjoys cooking too. We always have so much fun cooking together. Somehow our conversation led to Hare Krishnas and how they eat a vegetarian diet. I remembered that I have a Hare Krishna cook book called, “The Higher Taste: a guide to gourmet vegetarian cooking and a karma-free diet.” We both thought it would be fun to make a dish for dinner from this book. As we drove to New Ulm to pick up my kids from school, Rachel read aloud some of the recipes. They had recipes for stuffed tomatoes, stuffed eggplant, spring rolls, vegetable quiche, and minestrone soup (to name a few). We finally decided on stuffed peppers.
I had never had vegetarian stuffed peppers and thought this was an interesting idea. I wondered if Claud would like it and I knew Jack wouldn’t come near it. There was one ingredient I didn’t have. It was a plant called hing. Well, I didn’t know it was a plant until I looked it up. We learned that onions and garlic could be a substitute for hing. Rachel and I didn’t understand why they didn’t just put onions and garlic in the recipe, so we looked further into it. You may know that onions and garlic are botanical members of the alliaceous family (alliums) – along with leeks, chives and shallots. According to Ayurveda, India’s classic medical science, foods are grouped into three categories: sattvic, rajasic and tamasic. These are foods in the modes of goodness, passion and ignorance. Onions and garlic, and the other alliaceous plants are classified as rajasic and tamasic, which means that they increase passion and ignorance. Apparently, Hare Krishnas do not eat onions and garlic because they are in the mode of passion and cannot be offered to the Lord Krishna. Again, I was amazed by how much I learn from cooking.
Personally, I couldn’t live without onions and garlic. So, we added them to the dish. We also changed a few other things to make the recipe our own. We used brown rice in place of white. We added almonds instead of pine nuts and baked the peppers instead of frying them.
The finished dish turned out delicious. The brown rice with vegetables and cheese combined with fennel seed was so flavorful that Claud didn’t even miss the meat. Jack ate a ham sandwich. Daphne and I had a nice piece of seared salmon with the stuffed pepper. I also included a small simple salad. In the end, everyone was full and satisfied and I was pleased. You could make this same recipe and add some ground beef or ground turkey if you don’t have any vegetarians eating with you and it can be a meal in itself. However you wish to prepare it, I am sure you will enjoy it.
Time: 45 minutes
4 red peppers
2 C. cooked brown rice
2 Tbsp. olive oil
½ yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 ½ tsp. fennel seed
½ tsp. black pepper
1 C. zucchini, chopped
½ C. black olives, chopped
1/3 C. almonds, chopped
1 tsp. salt
1 C. ricotta cheese
½ C. parmesan cheese
Cook the brown rice and set aside. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut the tops off of the peppers and wash out the seeds. Steam the peppers for about ten minutes. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet or sauce pan. Add the onion and garlic and sauté for ten minutes. Add fennel seed and pepper and heat for five minutes. Add the zucchini, and black olives. Cook for another five minutes. Add the almonds, salt and ricotta cheese. Pour in the rice and mix everything together for one minute more. Stuff this mixture into the peppers and top with the parmesan cheese. Place in the oven for twenty minutes.
This dish is low fat and full of vegetables. While the chicken poaches, you have plenty of time to steam vegetables and make a delicious sauce. Poaching chicken is so easy because you don’t have to worry about turning it or even thinking about it while it cooks. You just stick it in the water and do other things. The entire dish takes about 30 minutes to make. It looks beautiful and tastes even better. Please watch the video at the end of this post of me making this dish.
Poached stuffed chicken breasts on a bed of zucchini with a creamy Dijon sauce
Time: 30 minutes
Poached stuffed chicken breasts:
4 chicken breasts
2 C. spinach
2 cloves garlic, sliced
2 C. mozzarella cheese
4 Tbsp. Philadelphia cream cheese
4 Tbsp bread crumbs
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Butterfly cut each breast. Cut through the breast, but not all the way through, so they lay flat. Place plastic wrap on top and bottom of each breast and pound flat with a wooden spoon. Set aside.
In a food processor, combine spinach, garlic, mozzarella cheese, cream cheese and bread crumbs and blend well.
Place chicken on a new piece of plastic wrap about 2 feet each. Divide the stuffing into each breast and roll up in the plastic wrap. They should look like fat sausages. Tie the ends of the plastic together. Place in the boiling water to poach for 20 minutes. Take out of water, remove plastic wrap and place on top of the bed of zucchini.
Slice the zucchini and place on a wire steamer, in a pot with one inch of water. Cover and steam for 15 minutes. Take out of steamer and place on each plate as a bed for the chicken to sit on.
Creamy Dijon Sauce:
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Onion, sliced
1 clove of garlic, chopped
¼ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. pepper
1 Tbsp. rosemary
3 C. chicken broth
3 Tsp Dijon mustard
6 Tbsp. cream cheese
While zucchini and chicken are cooking, heat olive oil in a skillet. Sauté the onion and garlic until the onion becomes translucent. Add the salt, pepper and rosemary. Let this brown with the onion and garlic (about 3 minutes). Deglaze with the chicken broth. Add the Dijon and cream cheese. Simmer for about ten minutes. It will be ready when the chicken is finished. Pour the sauce over the chicken and zucchini.
Another weekend and another birthday party at the Monro’s. This frugal phase I have been forced into has brought many blessings. We have instituted a family game night at our house and have been watching tons of movies because we don’t have sattelite right now. We decided that the satellite bill was an expense we could afford to toss for the moment. I have found that movies and games are so much more interesting and fun. The kids might fight me on this, but I think we don’t need satellite television anymore. With the new warm weather and the need to get out of the house, but not much money to go anywhere, we have been taking long walks to the park with our kids and friends. I love these walks and have taken some amazing pictures of the scenery. I am still impressed with the landscape around southern Minnesota. It is beautiful in every season. Also, instead of taking people out to dinner to celebrate their birthdays, we have been celebrating right here at home. I can’t think of anything more fun than throwing a dinner party.
This weekend we celebrated Kathy Grothem’s and Lanna Raatz’ birthdays. I decided to make an appetizer to get things started. Inspired by spring, I decided to go with artichokes as my main ingredient. Artichokes are a perennial thistle originating in the Mediterranean. My family loves to eat them steamed and then dip the leaves in butter and garlic. The “meat” at the bottom of the leaves and the hearts are so good in melted garlic butter. However, for this recipe I, once again, integrated Philadelphia cream cheese so I can add it to my videos for that contest. Claud said I am getting obsessed with the competition. I don’t think so, but I am going through a lot of cream cheese. I bet Philadelphia is having a huge month for sales. I have been buying the reduced fat so I don’t balloon up. I haven’t forgotten about my quest to be in the best shape ever before the fourth of July or my obsession (I’ll admit to this one) with cheese. Please visit my blog to watch me making this dish at www.simplyfoodify.com.
The appetizer I made for Lanna and Kathy’s special evening is artichoke and spinach dip served in an artichoke bowl and surrounded by cut vegetables to dip into the creamy mixture. Most artichoke and spinach dip recipes I have seen use chips or bread as the dipping “tools”, but I tried to make this version low fat. I used carrots, celery and broccoli to serve with it. Also, I created this version to be served chilled which allows the ease of preparing it in advance.
Using the artichoke as a bowl is a really easy way to make the platter look beautiful. If you make the artichoke bowl, the whole thing takes an hour to make (you can put it in the refrigerator until you are ready to serve it). If you choose not to make the artichoke bowl, it takes about ten minutes to prepare and will taste just as great. You could also substitute the fresh spinach with frozen; although, fresh is best and only adds about ten minutes to the process. I used the reduced fat garden vegetable Philadelphia cream cheese. I had already tested the recipe out on my cooking class and they seemed to like it. Hopefully, you will too. It really is tasty and an affordable way to make a delicious and beautiful appetizer for your family and friends. You can have your guests nibble on this while you grill your meal. After all, it is grilling season again.
Artichoke and Spinach dip
Time: one hour
1 large artichoke
4 Tbsp butter
1 bunch of fresh spinach
1 clove garlic, sliced
1 8oz. container of Philadelphia reduced fat garden vegetable cream cheese
1 14oz. can artichoke hearts
1 14 oz. jar roasted red peppers
½ C. reduced fat sour cream
½ C. parmesan cheese
¼ tsp. salt
¼ tsp pepper
¼ tsp. red pepper flakes
3 large carrots, peeled and chopped into 3 inch sticks
5 celery stalks, chopped into 3 inch sticks
6 broccoli florets, cut into bit sized pieces
Cut off the step of the artichoke so it sits flat. Then, cut off the top of the artichoke to make the top flat too. This will look better as a bowl. Fill a pot with 1 inch of water and place a metal steamer in the pot. Place the artichoke in the steamer and turn the heat on medium high. Cover with a lid and allow to steam for 40 minutes. The artichoke is ready when a leaf pulls out easily.
Cut the stems off of the spinach and wash the leaves very well. Spinach leaves tend to be gritty. In a skillet, melt the butter and sauté the sliced garlic for five minutes. Add the spinach and allow to wilt in the butter for five minutes.
In a food processor, combine the garden vegetable cream cheese, artichoke hearts, and spinach. Pulse for four or five times. Then, add sour cream, parmesan cheese, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. Pulse four or five times more.
Chop up your vegetables and arrange on a platter, leaving a space in the middle for the artichoke bowl. Now, your artichoke should be finished. Let it cool for a couple of minutes so you can work with it without burning your hands. Start pulling out the inside leaves, leaving the outer leaves to form a bowl. Once you get down to the “hair” of the artichoke gently remove with a spoon (see my video). You will be left with the outer leaves and the bottom heart of the artichoke. Spoon in the dip and place in the middle of your vegetables. You will have left over dip to refill as needed. Enjoy.
You can really make a meal magical by adding a coulis. Sauces bring any dish up to a new level of greatness by adding another layer of flavor. In this dish, there is a creamy tomato coulis. A Coulis is a form of thick sauce used from strained or pureed fruits and vegetables. They are great over meat and vegetables. Here, it provides the foundation on which the polenta and vegetables rest. Once you break into the tower and everything falls in the sauce, the result with fill your mouth with flavor.
You can find polenta at your local grocery store. Polenta is pretty bland on its own. However, if you cut it into slices and grill it, the crispy outside and the creamy inside provides a perfect texture to so many dishes. Here, it is layered with cheese and vegetables.
Polenta and vegetable tower with a creamy tomato coulis:
Creamy tomato coulis:
3 C. tomato sauce
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
1 Tbsp. Sriracha hot chili sauce
½ bottle beer
½ tsp. thyme
2 Tbsp. cream cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
In a sauce pan, combine the tomato sauce and paste with the chili sauce. Mix well over medium heat. Add the beer and thyme. Allow to simmer for ten minutes to cook the alcohol out and leave the flavor in. Add the cream cheese and mix in until blended well. Add salt and pepper to taste. Form a layer on the bottom of the plate with this sauce.
Polenta and vegetable tower:
4 wooden skewers
1 package of polenta (in a tube), sliced
Tomatoes, sliced in half
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 C. mushrooms, sliced
1 C. onions, sliced
1 C. celery, chopped
1 C. peppers, sliced
4 slices of cheddar cheese.
A few sprigs of parsley
Grill the polenta for about ten minutes each side. For the last ten minutes, grill the tomatoes. In a sauce pan, over medium heat, pour in the olive oil. Sauté all of the vegetables until the onions become clear (about ten to fifteen minutes). Place four slices of cheese on four slices of polenta and let the cheese melt.
Place one slice of polenta on the sauce. Layer on the vegetables. Place another layer of polenta (with the cheese on top). Top that with a tomato half. Add another layer of vegetables. You will want to place the skewer into these to keep them from falling down. Add another polenta and you are finished. You can add a sprig of parsley on top to make it pretty.
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Today is day 19 of my challenge to be in the best shape ever by the 4th of July and I have 141 days to go. So far, I am feeling really great. I am still sore every day. I wonder if that goes away? It feels good though because it reminds me that I am working really hard. Here is my article for the New Ulm Journal and a recipe for a really easy and delicious salmon salad. There is a video at the end of the post where I show you how to make this salad.
“Eternal spring in your heart”
You are probably tired of hearing how much I appreciate the cold or even how I keep writing about the weather. But, I write these articles about what is happening in my life and right now, it is winter. Winter is happening. I have only lived through a few Minnesota winters and this one seems to be the coldest, the whitest, and the longest. The snow pushed up alongside my driveway is higher than I ever remember seeing. My front steps are missing completely. Oh, logic tells me they are down there somewhere nestled in their snowy blanket; but, I can’t see them. I was so excited for the first, the second, even the third snow day. Now, they are getting a bit commonplace.
Victor Hugo (French poet, 1802-1885) wrote, “Winter is on my head but eternal spring is in my heart.” I still look out at the frozen branches glistening in the sunlight and smile. The stark contrast of the bright red cardinals against the white backdrop takes my breath away. The powdery untouched snow covering the fields where no farmer has been in months looks smooth and peaceful. The most impressive winter sight I have been blessed with is the sunrise as I take my children to the bus. Some days we wait in the dark but on other magical days, the sun is beginning to rise and the sky is a cascade of blues, pinks and oranges. Last week, my car broke down at the bus stop and I had to walk home. It was this gorgeous sunrise which made me feel happy with each step.
Don’t get me wrong, I long for spring. I love the sunlight and the warmth from the sun. I’m dying to work in the garden. Our heating bill is killing us this winter. My kids little faces look red and chapped from the harsh winter wind. My entry way is never clean due to the snowy muddy boots traipsing in and out. I don’t enjoy driving in the night with icy roads beneath my tires. I don’t look forward to having to push up on my icy garage door because it has frozen closed overnight. I’d like to stop having to take vitamin D pills daily due to my lack of sun.
But, even in the winter, it’s important to keep spring in your heart. It’s necessary to appreciate the good that is around you no matter what season you are living in. I laughed out loud the other day when I locked myself out of the house and had to walk around to the back door to make my way in. I tucked my jeans into my boots and began trekking through the snow. Before I knew it, the snow was past my knees. I looked ridiculous. There was no need to have tucked in my jeans as the snow was caked inside my boots by then. All I can say is that this is what winter is supposed to be. This is what you read about when you read about winter. I just have to love it. Think about ice skating, hot cocoa, warm fires, hot coffee in the late afternoon just to warm your bones, happy squirrels and rabbits when you leave some food out for them, snow ball fights, hot tasty soup, stews, and chili, hot bubble baths at the end of a long cold day, snow days when you don’t have to leave the house, sledding, tubing, and icicles. I have never seen such huge icicles before this winter. Decide that the snow and ice doesn’t affect your mood in a negative way and you will feel the difference. And remember, there are only thirty two days until spring. We are in the home stretch. It is almost over. I know Punxsautawney Phil says there will be six more weeks of winter; but, we can’t believe everything that groundhog says. He doesn’t even really speak.
In the meantime, we can eat like it’s spring just to get us ready. Go out and find yourself some delicious wild caught salmon filets and make a hearty and appetizing salad.
A reader reminded me recently of the importance in buying wild caught salmon versus farmed. Doing so will benefit your health as well as the environment. Furthermore, it has been said that the nutrients in salmon my boost your mood and decrease feelings of depression. Salmon may assist in creating eternal spring in your heart. I already knew that salmon was a low fat food. However, looking into the nutrients found in salmon and other fish with high levels of Omega 3 fatty acid, I realize it’s crazy not to eat more of it. Not only may it lower your risk of heart disease, salmon can reduce blood clotting which may lead to strokes and it could lower your chance of getting cognitive problems such as Alzheimer’s disease. It’s like a miracle food. A food which may make me happier, healthier, smarter and slimmer? Yes please!
Salmon salad with balsamic glaze dressing:
Time: 30 minutes
4 salmon filets
2 Tbsp. olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
6 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
2 Tbsp honey
1 head of Romaine lettuce
2 lemons, quartered
Pour olive oil into a skillet and heat on medium high. Sauté onion and garlic in pan until onion is clear. Set the onion and garlic aside. Place the salmon in the skillet and sear for four minutes on each side (until opaque in the center and brown on outside). Set salmon aside. Pour vinegar and honey in skillet and heat on high until reduced to glaze. Tear up the lettuce and place on plates. Set the salmon on the bed of lettuce. Put the sautéed onion and garlic on the salmon. Drizzle the glaze over everything. Add lemon wedges to squeeze.
It is day 18 of my challenge to be in the best possible shape by the 4th of July. I have 142 days to go. So far so good. I found a new dvd which I love. It is called Red Hot Salsa II. At first, it was way to fast and I was very uncoordinated. But, I discovered a portion of the dvd which slows down the steps and teaches you what they are doing. This was so helpful. Now, I have completed the dvd about five times and I am getting really good. I don’t think I have rhythm quite like the ladies in the movie, but I am getting better every day. It’s really fun and it really makes you sweat.
Also, I found an amazing app for the iphone which is called lose it. It’s a free app. It allows you to input your goals and then it sets up a plan for you to reach the goal based on calories. You punch in what exercises you are doing and what you eat and it keeps you on track on a daily basis. I really love it and believe it is helping me. It also motivates me to complete all three of my exercises daily so I can eat more food and drink more wine.
I taught another cooking class this week. My students learned how to make salmon in foil.
Click here for the recipe. It was a lot of fun. I also made a couple of low fat appetizers: bean dip and cheese stuffed cherry tomatoes. Here are those recipes:
Time: 15 minutes
2 C. cherry tomatoes, cut in half and remove pulp
1 C. fat free cream cheese
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
¼ C. parmesan cheese, grated
2 Tbsp. parsley, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
Set cherry tomato halves aside. Combine all other ingredients in a food processor and mix well. Spoon into the tomatoes. Chill until ready to serve.
Pinto Bean Dip:
4 C. pinto beans
½ C. jalapeño peppers
¼ tsp. salt
¼ tsp sugar
1/4 C. onion, finely chopped
¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
¼ tsp paprika
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
Combine all ingredients into the food processor and mix well. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Serve with tortilla chips.
George’s Fine Steaks and Spirits: an ideal restaurant for anyone and any occasion
When I first began writing this column, I considered writing about George’s Fine Steaks and Spirits, located at 301 North Minnesota St. in New Ulm. But, I thought, writing about George’s was too obvious. Everyone I know loves George’s. Everyone has at least heard of it. So, writing about George’s was predictable. Lately, however, I wondered how sad it would be if someone in New Ulm, or nearby, didn’t know about George’s? Maybe I could reach out to that one person who may have just moved here or lives in a cave or hides under a rock and open their eyes and mouth to some truly amazing food.
Claud and I stumbled across George’s a few years ago. It was early evening, before the dinner crowd came in. We were impressed by the open kitchen and long wooden bar. Everything was so clean. We sat at the bar and George Cottom served us. Instantly, we felt like one of his good old friends. George has a way of making every customer feel like he or she is the most important person in the room, and it’s genuine. I don’t see how he could fake his warmth and hospitality every single time I have been in the restaurant. He seems to enjoy the company of everybody who walks through the glass doors. In fact, I have never been to George’s and not been greeted by George.
Maybe George loves the restaurant and his clientele so much because he gets to work alongside his wife, Karen and his two daughters, Erin and Sarah. I know George values family, as well as food, because he told me his and Karen’s concept for this restaurant is, “good fresh food with family in mind.” I believe this is true because I have seen small children nestled in the booths with their parents enjoying “Pssghetti” or ribs from the children’s menu. At the same time, a couple on a romantic date will sip wine and eat lobster tail and filet mignon. I have witnessed anniversaries celebrated with large groups of people of all ages upstairs in a room that is designed for private parties. We sat upstairs one night when the restaurant was crowded and it was really just as pleasant as sitting downstairs. One night, just before Christmas, Claud and I were at the end of the bar, near the entrance, and we couldn’t believe how many people were coming in to buy gift certificates. This place is so special that you will want to give the experience as a gift to someone you love.
Now, let’s get to the food. The cover of George’s menu reads, “’There is no love sincerer than the love of food’ –George Bernard Shaw.” It’s wonderful to have a charming family greet you and make you feel comfortable, but the food is really what you are coming to enjoy, right? You will not be disappointed. Karen and George buy the highest quality meats and locally grown produce. Their recipes come from Karen, George or George’s mom and they are unbelievable. I think I have tried almost everything on the menu and, because everything is so good, I don’t know where to begin.
First, you start a meal with bread and honey butter. You will have to control yourself so you don’t make this your entire meal; it’s that good. The appetizers are to die for. My mouth waters on the drive to George’s when I think about “Erin’s ‘Shrooms” which are beer battered fresh mushrooms served with hot sauce and ranch. Sometimes, when the kids are at Rock on Ice on a Friday night, Claud and I will go into George’s for a date. We belly up to the bar and order a glass of wine for me and a Shell’s Firebrick for Claud and we each have an appetizer. We always have so much fun meeting new amazing people.
Whenever we have family out from California, we take them to George’s for dinner. In fact, when my mom is here, she insists we have at least one meal there. The entrees at Georges are so tasty and start at $13.95. However, I would be remiss not to say that the soup which precedes the meal is good enough to stand on its own. The lamb chops are seasoned to perfection, the baby back ribs are tender and messy, and Claud says the steaks are the best he has ever tasted. There is an Italian section of the menu featuring shrimp scampi and pasta with meatballs.
If you are steering clear of large meals, George’s also offers a lighter option to his dishes. He tells me that customers are encouraged to ask their server to suggest light options to the entrees. For example, you may substitute a Newman’s Own light dressing on your salad or have them replace the butter with olive oil. Also, the menu offers George’s salad with steamed fresh veggies or Bob’s Salad with a fresh cut wedge of iceburg lettuce. You may even want to try the chicken breast sandwich which is boneless and skinless. If you aren’t counting calories, you will want to end the meal with one of “Karen’s Dessert O’da day”. Go to www.georgessteaks.biz to view the entire menu.
I didn’t want to pry any of George’s traditional family secret recipes out of him; but, he did say that if anyone was trying to adapt something they were making at home, he or she could call him for advice or information on how to cook it. He is happy to assist.
George’s is open Monday through Saturday at 4 p.m. and for private parties anytime. Also, they are open for Valentine’s Day which is on a Sunday this year. You can make a reservation at 507-354-7440.
George did share his recipe for the creamy delicious honey butter:
1 lb butter
1 lb honey
1 C. heavy cream
Blend together and serve on warm fresh bread.
I had my first cooking class on Thursday. I had the best time. This one was held at my house. I served cocktails and wine with bruschetta and quacamole with chips as people arrived.
I think there were about ten people who attended and we made beef bourguignon. CLICK HERE FOR RECIPE
I let them choose ahead of time which recipe they would like to make.
It was surprisingly easy and fun. At the end we all sat together and enjoyed the meal which I prepared ahead of time. Next week, I will be teaching how to cook salmon in foil at the high school Home Ec room. So, no wine will be consumed in that class. I wonder if it will be as much fun?
Also, today is day 13 and I have 147 days until the 4th of July to be in the very best shape I have ever before been in. I can’t say that I have noticed a physical change in my appearance, however, there is a definite change in my energy. I feel fantastic. My mood may also be attributed to adding vitiman D to my diet. I think the lack of sunshine here in Minnesota may have been draining my energy and this vitiman has really helped. I have not missed a day of working out in 13 days and that in itself is a miracle.
It is now day 6 and I have 154 days to complete my getting in the best shape ever by the 4th of July. I am well on my way. I have uncovered a lot of great workout dvds to get me going. My next post will have links to the dvds I am using. I wanted to get a bunch so I wouldn’t get bored. I can’t wait until it is warm enough to go on a walk. Today, it is seriously snowing. I am aslo really amazed at how easily I have stuck with my drinking less wine. I admit I had more than one glass last night while watching the Grammys. Here is my article for the Journal which comes out tomorrow:
“Be fit by the 4th of July, starting with quiche”
I blame these articles for my new unwanted pounds. My jeans are not fitting right. I’m bulging out in all the wrong places. I got on a scale the other day and couldn’t believe the weight. I do know why this is happening. I have been cooking and eating everything in sight. Then, I spend most of my day writing and researching on the computer. What did I expect?
Then, yesterday, Claud told me his entire family will be flying here from England to spend the summer with us. I was really excited about having everyone visit. Until I thought, I could be huge by then if I don’t do something drastic. I found a calendar and decided that I will be in the shape I am comfortable with by the Fourth of July. That’s 153 days away.
My plan is detailed on my blog (www.yovia.com/blogs/simplyfood). I even posted a before picture. I thought if I told everyone I was doing this, I would have to stick with it. The plan is to eat a light breakfast and a salad for lunch. However, dinner is going to be my treat. I’m no expert on keeping fit, but, common sense tells me that if I cut my calories and move my body more than I have been, I should expect some results. I am adding three small workouts into my day. I’m going to cut the calories before dinner but keep dinner as my special treat for me and my family. I love our big dinners together at the dining room table. I can’t give that up. That would be like giving up love or happiness or joy. Besides, my dinners aren’t ALWAYS fattening. If you are interested, you can follow my progress on my blog and join me if you are feeling like a change is needed. I believe we can still enjoy delicious food and get in shape.
I have never made a quiche before. My mom makes them. She makes them with bacon and goat cheese, with sun dried tomatoes and feta or with mushrooms and spinach. I wished I could make quiches myself. I was afraid. They look too difficult and French. Why is it that I always think anything French will be difficult to cook? I am learning that French cuisine is actually very simple. Furthermore, quiche is not even French. Quiche originated in medieval Germany in Lothringen which the French later named Lorraine. The word quiche comes from the German word kuchen meaning cake. Who knew?
I called my mom and we discussed quiche making. She assured me I could do it. I was extremely brave and made my first quiche to bring to my friends Dan and Kathy’s house. That first quiche was the Lorraine. I made that crust with a low fat recipe I found online which didn’t taste exactly right. However, the creamy eggs mixed with the smoky bacon made up for it. It was still pretty tasty. I talked to my mom again and asked her to send me detailed information on how to make the crust the way she always makes it. She obliged and this is the recipe I am presenting you with today. I made a mushroom and onion quiche with this delicious buttery crust and it was so much better than the low fat version.
Sure, you can buy a store bought crust. If you do, this recipe becomes almost as easy as scrambled eggs; although, if you do have time, making the crust yourself will create a far superior dish. Have a look at my blog to see a movie of me making the crust and the filling. If you aren’t a fan of mushrooms or onions, be creative. You can use any vegetable and cheese combination you prefer. Enjoy!
Quiche crust (pate brisee):
1 ¼ C. flour
8 Tbsp . (1 stick butter), cut into small cubes and very cold
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. sugar
5 Tbsp ice cold water
Place the small ½ inch cubes of butter into the freezer for at least fifteen minutes. Mix the flour, salt and sugar together. Add the butter and pulse a few times in the food processor. Add in water one Tbsp. at a time and pulse. It should look like bread crumbs.
If it clumps together, pour it out on a counter and form it into a ball. Wrap in plastic wrap and place in refrigerator for an hour.
Take it out and roll it out. I find that it doesn’t roll out into one sheet. You can place pieces into the quiche dish (9 inch round) and mold it in to where you want it to be.
Once you have the dough in the dish, place back in the refrigerator for a half an hour. Place a piece of wax paper over the dough and fill the dish with beans to weigh the dough down.
Bake in oven at 350 degrees for ten minutes. Take beans and wax paper out. Place a few holes with fork in dough and return to oven for ten more minutes. Remove and let cool while you make the filling.
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Cups mushrooms
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1 C. heavy cream
2 C. gruyere cheese (or cheese of your choice), shredded
Salt and pepper to taste
Pour olive oil into a skillet and heat on high. Add onions and reduce heat to medium. Saute onions until clear and slightly brown. Add sugar and continue to cook for five minutes more. Add the mushrooms and sauté them for another five minutes. Spread 1 C. cheese into bottom of quiche crust. Add the mushrooms and onions over cheese. Beat together the eggs and cream. Add salt and pepper and beat some more. Pour egg mixture over the mushrooms. Add last cup of cheese. Place in 350 degree oven for 30 minutes.
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