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Minestrone, Dean, and Grandpa

feed me January 15, 2022

Last weekend, fueled by the power of resolutions, I was going to take down Christmas, knit a blanket, and create the perfect pasta Fagioli. I was going to sit calmly on Sunday night, with a bowl of the most perfect soup, and look around my perfect house, that went from Christmas craptacular to Wintery Joy. But none of that happened. None of it. And that’s ok. Much like my weekend didn’t go as planned, my soup didn’t either. Last weekend, I got sucked into a series of documentaries about the Rat Pack (Frank & Dean) and my brain can’t seem to move past them. 

My mind keeps going back to my Grandfather. Bubba. Big Jim. He has been gone since the mid-1990’s, but the memories stay freshly rooted in the now, especially when it comes to his love of music. 

My Grandfather, the son of an Italian immigrant, was a middle-class maestro of bullshit. He told great stories, was highly exacting, and loved music more than anything else. My best memories of Bubba were sitting in the basement with him, listening to records over and over of his favorites. Frank, Dean, Al Martino. Gene Krupa, Peggy Lee, Jo Stafford. Those musicians filled my young head with sound and my grandpa’s narratives of the songs and why he loved them propelled me into a lifelong love affair with music. It was probably odd to have a young child be able to tell the difference between Tommy Dorsey, Glen Miller and Benny Goodman by the drum riffs and whomever was singing at the front of the big band, but it was a tight bond that held us. I remember clearly my grandfather recording songs and providing me insights as to why he loved them on his complex stereo system. 

My grandfather loved Sinatra, Detroit Tigers, General Motors, and his family, in no particular order. He filled the small house with songs of his youth, eschewing most modern-day music. He routinely listened to baseball games, providing colorful armchair commentary along with his “friends” the announcer’s Al Kaline and Ernie Harwell. He consistently had a cigarette hanging from his mouth, a Kangol hat on his head and a matching cardigan sweater stretched across his belly. Every day he would go to the drug store to buy fresh cigarettes for my grandmother and him, something chocolate, and whatever tchotchke was at the counter at Andrew Drugs. His routine was a comfort to me, less stringent than what I had at my own house, my mother his only daughter. 

I bonded with my grandfather over so many things- a love of musical movies, Detroit Sports, good food from the local Italian restaurant. I remember him teaching me how to pronounce the words from Dean Martin’s “Volare”:

“Volare, oh oh

E contare, oh oh oh oh

Nel blu, dipinto di blu

Felice di stare lassu

E volavo, volavo felice piu in alto del sole ed ancora piu su”

I can’t do a perfect translation of this, but I do remember my grandfather teaching me that it meant “so happy to be here that he could walk on air” and yes, I was always so happy to be there with him, learning, absorbing second-hand smoke and sneaking treats away from my mother’s watchful eyes. 

I oftentimes wonder what he was really like, out of the haze of my adoration. Was his love of music as charming to others as it was to me? Was his endless trivia knowledge as cool to his children as it was to me?

Instead of lamenting that my weekend didn’t go quite as planned, I’m so happy to be here, embracing the memories of the past as I prepare for the new week.

As the weekend didn’t go quite as planned, neither did my soup plan for the week- I really truly wanted to make pasta Fagioli as a semi tribute to both Dean Martin and my grandfather, but alas, I could not get my hands on the *right* pasta to use for today’s meal prep. Instead, I’m going to save that recipe for later and instead make a hearty vegetable minestrone- still Italian in nature, and nourishing as well. 

In case you are wondering about the origin of Minestrone – It is from Italian minestrone, the augmentative form of minestra, “soup”, or more literally, “that which is served”, from ministrare, “to serve”. So this week, I serve you, Low Fodmap Minestrone. I used the Minestrone recipe from the book Laurels Kitchen as inspiration, but tweaked a bit based on what i had in the kitchen and to make it as low Fodmap as possible. 


Low FodMap Minestrone

Ingredients

2-3  tablespoons garlic-infused oil

½ cup chopped leeks

1.5 cups celery

½ cup (8 tablespoons) tomato paste

Total of 2 cups additional chopped vegetables

½ cup each of your choice:

I used carrots & zucchini

Spices: (so here, I just kinda eyeballed it)

  • dried oregano
  • dried basil
  • Dried parsley
  • 2 bay leaves
  • salt and pepper to taste

16 ounces canned diced tomatoes, with their liquid (ensure no high-FODMAP additives)

4 cups (32 ounces) low-FODMAP vegetable broth

2 cups water

1 cup pasta- use legit whatever makes your heart happy

1 can of black beans (drained and rinsed)

a big ole handful of baby spinach, chopped kale, or chopped collard greens

2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

Optional garnish:

2-3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Fresh chopped parsley

Directions

Warm 3 tablespoons of the oil in a large Dutch oven or stockpot over medium heat

Once the oil is hot, add the celery, leeks, and tomato paste

Cook, stirring often until the celery & leeks have softened, about 7 to 10 minutes

Add the 2 cups of your choice of vegetables, as well as the spices

Cook until fragrant while stirring frequently, about 2 minutes

Pour in the canned diced tomatoes and their juices, broth, and water

Season generously with freshly ground black pepper and salt to taste

Raise heat to medium-high and bring the mixture to a boil, then partially cover the pot with the lid

Reduce heat as necessary to maintain a gentle simmer

Cook for 15 minutes, then remove the lid and add the pasta, beans, and greens

Continue simmering, uncovered, for 20 minutes or until the pasta is cooked al-dente and the greens are tender

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52 Weeks of Change. I mean, 52 weeks of Soup

feed me January 4, 2022

The following is mostly a true story about the genesis of my latest project. If you are here for the recipe, bear with men while I figure out how to add that “skip to recipe button.”

I sat in my recliner, with the Christmas tree lights, the only light in the room, listening to the silence. In front of me, an obscenely sized television that I turn on once a week. To the right of me, is a window that looks out into my backyard, cold and dark with the leafless limbs whipping back and forth. To my immediate left, is George, my constant canine companion of almost seven years. Rarely is he quiet, but for this moment, his boredom equates to blissful silence. On my lap is my laptop, recently closed from my last work call of the year. I start humming Auld Lang Syne and realized that this year has absolutely been a whir, beginning and ending with this laptop that is never far out of reach. I take a spoonful of warm turkey chili, spiced with cumin, cinnamon, leeks, and garlic olive oil. I breathed deeply the smell of the dish, this damn chili that I make over and over and over, and realized some things need to change. 

My name is Kate and I work too much. This is a well-documented fact and over the last few years, I’ve lost touch with the concept of work/life balance. 98% work, 2% life is not a blend I’m content with any longer. This past year was both personally and professionally challenging and to be honest, I hide behind my work to avoid the sheer wasteland that is my personal life. There, I said it. 

A little bit about me. I’m hurtling towards my forty-fifth year on this planet. I share my home with one dramatic basset-lab combination named George, Jorge if he is being sassy. I live in a seventy-year-old mid-century modern house in North Texas. Arlington to be specific is a city that is smack in between Dallas and Fort Worth. We are the middle child between our bold, sassy sister Dallas and our hat-wearing, gun-toting brother Ft. Worth. As I type these words, I realize that I’m in the middle of just about everything- middle-aged, middle metroplex, and frankly living in the middle of my story. 

I’ve always been a hard worker, a trait instilled by my parents at a young age, “if you aren’t busy, you aren’t doing good work. Idle hands are the work of the devil. If you are bored, I’ll give you some work to do.” You get the idea. For most of my career, unsatisfied by a simple forty-hour workweek, I’ve picked up projects/part-time jobs/freelance work to fill my hours. 

Until, that is, this year. When life gets really insane, I truly believe that we are forced to slow down, whether we want to or not. In July of 2021, I broke my leg, shattered my ankle, and was forced to spend 11 weeks at home, off my broken leg. Homebound. Stuck. Might as well, just work. As I type these words, I realize how crazy I was, taking minimal days off after my surgery, working through the pain of the unfixed broken leg and really only waving the white flag when the pain, 4 weeks post-surgery was too much to bear. I think it was mid-August when I first started to suspect that I needed to make some changes. 

Fast forward through to the end of the year. Work again consumed my days, but there was a niggling thought in my brain that kept thinking “there has to be more, different, better ways to spend my days.” 

Like many others, this year’s holiday season was different for me, in part due to the recent spike of the Omicron Variant, as we head into year 3 of the Covid-19 Global Pandemic. (I type this as if this is new information, but perhaps, 50 years from now, as my great godchildren read through Crazy Aunt Cakes (that’s me) diaries, they will wonder what the hell Covid-19 was.) I stayed home more than I went out, and half-heartedly poured myself into the holiday spirit and my primary goal was to just make it through each day. Recovery from the summer surgery was drawn out, and at times, I felt like I was never going to be back to normal, but somewhere, along the end of December, I realized that I was actually getting stronger, walking better, and able to stand for long periods of time. This was key to hitting one of my biggest goals for the year. 

I love to cook. I mean, I LOVE to cook. I’ve been baking since I could remember, side by side with my mom in the kitchen. I stood next to my grandmother’s pressure cooker at an early age, learning about searing meat and making sauce. I minored in Food Science in college and by the time I was in my early twenties, I was baking professionally in pastry kitchens. Cooking was life. Cooking was love. Cooking was a joy. When I’m in love, I cook. When I’m sad, I bake. When I’m bored, I can whatever I can snatch up at the Farmers Market.  As I grew older and found myself more focused on the job that pays the bills*I found myself cooking/creating/making less and less. I was eating easy foods, lazy foods, the type of foods that could be easily microwaved or cooked on the stovetop in less than 10 minutes. Gone were the days of pouring over recipes, planning, and executing, instead, the primary goal was to find whatever I could dump into a bowl and eat at my desk. 

So, back to my goal.  Somewhere between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, I made a pot of turkey chili and decided that I needed to tackle my cooking problem, much like I tackle work problems- with a plan and a goal. My goal? Get back in the kitchen every week. Why? To make delicious healthy food that can sustain my quest to quickly grab food in a bowl and go. When? Every week. What? Hell, I don’t know. What goes in a bowl and can be microwaved? SOUP! That’s it- 52 weeks of different soups. I’m going to leverage my 200+ cookbook collection and a vast internet filled with soups and make something local, seasonal, and different each week, for fifty-two weeks. If I had to guess, some are going to be delicious, some are going to be less than stellar. Let the cooking begin.

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Week 1/52: Julia Child’s Potato/Leek Soup

If you are going to start a food quest, how do you not start with the epitome of recipes, the base of so many soups? Julia Childs brilliant POTAGE PARMENTIER soup is simple, requires a handful of ingredients, doesn’t require much skill, and also, is Low FODMAP, which for this middle-aged, GERD/Reflux sufferer, is key to making foods not hurt. 

Ingredients:

1lb potato, peeled and diced- take 3 minutes and peel the potatoes, it won’t kill you. 

3 cups leeks, thinly sliced (tender green parts only- to make this Low Fodmap). YOU MUST WASH THE LIVING HECK OUT OF LEEKS- they are dirty, dirty, dirty. 

2 quarts water (aka, 8 cups- you should know this, but math is hard)

1 tablespoon salt (ok, I probably used more, and I gave it a healthy grind of pepper towards the end.) 

4 -6 tablespoons whipping cream or 2 -3 tablespoons softened butter (You could use both, but don’t- just pick one) 

2 -3 tablespoons minced parsley or 2 -3 tablespoons chives (I chose parsley and regretted it. Chives all the way)

Directions

In a large pot, put potatoes, leeks, and water – bring to a high simmer and let cook for 45 minutes. Once potatoes are soft take the pot off the heat, give it a swirl with the spoon, and taste for seasonings. Grab your immersion blender and quickly mix up potatoes and leeks. Season until your hearts are filled with spice and sodium. Just before serving, put 4-6 TBL of Heavy Whipping Cream in the pot and swirl with your spoon. It’s ok to feel fancy. We all do. Serve in a bowl and top with either parsley or chives. Make sure to mince the bejesus out of the parsley otherwise, it will overpower the delicate flavor of the soup.

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oh say can you see (my butt from space?)

things that will make you fat January 3, 2016

the size of my intergalatic-plantetary ass?

It’s large and in charge.

The boot made me eat all of the food in Texas. Ya, that’s the ticket.

If I do ONE thing this week, and one thing only, I am going to figure out a way to abstain myself from ending up looking like Jabba The Kate. If I can make it through the week without pretending that I’m eating for triplets, I will consider that a win.

If I can GET OFF THESE EFFING STEROIDS THAT MAKE ME WANT TO EAT EVERYTHING IN REACH, life will be better.

In the meantime, I would like to find a dentist that will please, for the love of Cheese, WIRE MY MOUTH SHUT.

 

 

 

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guilty pleasures (or a ranking of the 7 sins)

feed me, things that will make you fat February 11, 2015

While some people are getting ready for 50 Shades of Whatever, I sit here this morning, feeling extremely guilty over last nights gluttony.

gluttony, 7 sins

Some people get their rocks off with tie me up-tie me down Mr. Grey stuff, whereas I get feeling good with a plate of fresh pasta and homemade spaghetti sauce. Oh yea baby. Fresh crusty garlic bread? Keep talking dirty to me baby… mozzarella and tomato salad? YES YES YES.

I will never be thin. I could be healthier. I could work harder to make my ass less planet like, but dear sweet baby Cheesus, I love food. I admit it- a glass of wine and a bowl of pasta is my idea of happy. I eat not to live, but to enjoy it.

I enjoy food. All of the food. Except for salad. I really don’t enjoy salad and it shows.

I probably need to work on this.

I probably need to get off my ass this morning and either go for a long walk OR press play on Tracy Anderson to atone for last nights gluttony.

Speaking of gluttony, I realized that gluttony is my favorite of the 7 Deadly Sins. Here s a ranking of the rest of them (Yes, my inner Catholic pops out when it suits.)

7 sins- Gluttony

Sloth? Yeah, in theory it’s ok, but not quite there. I mean, I feel kinda sloth like when I eat all of the pasta.

Greed? Not really. I mean, I greedily shove balsamic sprinkled mozz into my mouth. Is that greed or gluttony?

Lust, probably a close second for gluttony. Right now, I’m sitting here lusting after Tim Hortons. Sigh. It’s all about the food. It’s all about the food.

Envy- I envy people that don’t have to get off their asses and work out.

Wrath- I pity the fool that eats my last box of Girl Scout cookies. Um, did I just channel Mr. T?

Pride- Clearly I have none, otherwise, I wouldn’t have big ass and talk about it!

So, there you have it. I guess I will get up and do the video. I need to be able to wear short sleeved things in a near future, and I would prefer not to have my arms sway in the wind. Oh, wait…there is pride. Ok. Wrath is the bottom bitch. I’m so not a wrath like kinda person.

Aren’t you glad you read this today?

 

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Oh The Food- Peach Cobbler & Tomato Pie

feed me, things that will make you less fat July 17, 2014

Yesterday, I got my ass in the kitchen, and cooked. Barefoot and in the kitchen. I can happily report that I am not barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen. That would be scary and well, somewhat of a miracle, but I digress. I cooked. I cooked because I could. I cooked because I wanted to.

It’s summer, the produce is amazing, everything is fresh and the eating is happy. Royal Vending Machines Newcastle & Central Coast is the leading supplier of vending machines in the area.

I can’t claim any of the recipes as my own, but then again, I rarely follow a recipe 100% unless I’m baking. Well… even then, it’s questionable.

Here’s what I made and links to the recipes.:

Tomato Pie, by my favorite Internet cooking website in the whole wide interwebs. Simply Recipes has been the source for so much food over the years for me. Her recipes are thoughtful, tested and most of all, speak to my way of eating. Not too fussy, not to “dump a bunch of shit in a crock pot”- simple foods, simple ingredients, SO good. Anyways- here is the recipe for Tomato Pie. Heaven. I didn’t really follow the recipe exactly- few tweaks along the way, including a change out of cheese (I used what I had), and I feel strongly that Dukes mayo would be a thing of beauty in this particular recipe.

Tomato Pie IMG_20140716_172943 20140716_182137

And then there was cobbler. Delicious peach cobbler.

I used a Southern Living Recipe. BTW- this is not at all carb friendly, gluten free and/or clean. It’s old fashioned, peach cobbler. Rumor has it that it’s good. Really good. Might even be up there with a southern mama good. But I didn’t say that…nope, not me 🙂

Quick Tip- In my lazy opinion, peeling peaches are a bitch. Seriously, a bitch. Here is a well known way to make it suck a little less: throw a big pot of water on the stove. Bring to a boil. With a paring knife, make an X in the peaches. Blanch the peaches for a few minutes until the skin starts to soften. Take peaches out of boiling water and dump into an ice bath. Skin comes off easy peasy, or rather peachy keen. (See what I did there?)

Ya…check this out

Because we were embracing health and all that crap last night, the peach cobbler was served with Blue Bell Vanilla. Why not? Might as well dive all the way and embrace your inner fatty once in a while.

I also did chicken & green beans, but that will have to be another blog post.

Seriously though, I forget how fun it is to just create. To plan, to putter, to dig in and make some new food.

That being said, for the rest of the week, I’m determined to eat clean, and work off the calories from the deliciousness.

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What not to eat if you are diabetic, or Rhubarb Cake.

feed me, things that will make you fat July 10, 2014

rhubarb, rhubarb cake

 

 

I’m going to put this out here right away- this is NOT a healthy, “clean” recipe. No where even close. In fact, it would be the opposite of clean based on the jello and mini marshmellows. Still with me? Good.

I was at dinner last night at my  friend Crystals and I brought her a few bags of Rhubarb. I scored a major case of it earlier this summer, chopped it up and froze for me and my northern friends. I probably need to tell you about Crystal before I go any further. One, she is an amazing cook. Two, she exercises like a freak show with four babies is in better shape than I ever hope to be in my life. Three, she eats clean.

ALL of that being said. she made for me her Grandmas Famous Upside Down Rhubarb Cake. This is so freaking delicious and not at all healthy. I mean, just plan on strapping on your running shoes, because you are going to have a hard time just eating one piece.

Instructions (more or less as I was hanging out with her kids while she was tossing this together)

Ingredients:

1 Box of White Cake Mix plus all the crap for the cake mix.

2 cups chopped rhubarb

1 box strawberry jello

few handfuls of mini marshmellows.

 

Ready for the incredibly complicated assembly?

Preheat your oven to the temp that your cake mix requires. (Crystal says 325 for 35-40 minutes ish)

Spray a 9*13 pan with whatever spray mix of choice

Toss the 2 c of rhubarb on the bottom of the pan

Sprinkle entire box of jello over rhubarb

Cover mixture with a layer of mini marshmellows.

Make cake mix according to directions.

Pour said cake mix over concoction

Toss in oven.

Set timer. Don’t go out to the pool and forget about the cake like we almost did.

Let cool.

Slice cake

Shove your face in the goodness.

If you are really into living on the edge, I could see that cool-whip would be rather sassy on top of this.

Enjoy.

 

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