Category Archives: Life

Life includes all we pour ourselves into – marriage, children, career, dreams, seasons, etc.

Stir a Pot, Feed a Soul: Real Comfort Food

Chicken & Dumplings -- click on photo for recipe

When we hear someone say, “comfort food” thoughts drift to dinners from childhood imagining something warm, full of carbs, or sweetly satisfying. We dream of flavors and textures to feed our emotional funk or exhaustive schedule to quench and satisfy.  The focus is inward, self-gratifying.

What if our focus shifted outward instead?

This is not intended to make you feel guilty about surrounding yourself with good food or savoring a favorite meal, simply to think about comfort food differently.  Food not only soothes our moods and maladies, it brings comfort to those hurting, recovering, or overwhelmed. Of course, it fills a practical need, but so do restaurants and pizza delivery. Taking a meal to someone invests in community with a personal touch that goes far beyond the food itself.

When someone notices our need and offers to lift our burden for a moment we feel valued, encouraged, and less alone.

Our family has been the beneficiary of meals arriving at our door after a major car accident, sudden illness, and crisis.  The concern and kindness of friends, as well as others we didn’t even know, created emotional margin and physical relief when doctor appointments, decision-making, and grief consumed daily routine.  They were life-givers, every one, with encouraging words and reassurance they were there to do whatever they could … taking care of one of the basic needs like dinner or groceries was a vital part of the help we needed.

According to 1 Peter 4:10 (NIV) Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.  When we serve others, it is a blessing no matter how big or small the gesture.  It doesn’t have to be a whole meal, if you bake amazing bread, make an extra loaf to give away.  I believe good food is one of the various forms of God’s grace we can use to meet someone’s need—real comfort food.

So what does that really look like?

You can start by responding to needs in your own sphere of influence at church, school, work, club, or neighborhood. It doesn’t have to be someone in crisis, it can be a single mom with a maxed schedule, a college student missing home, or a co-worker trying to finish a big project who would be grateful to know you care. Yes, it might feel weird to be the first one to do something like this, but caring for others is worth feeling a little awkward.

10 Tips for Stirring a Pot and Feeding a Soul:

1. Simple food is best. Make what you know and do well; this is not the time to try new recipes.  Check for allergies and strong dislikes. For food sensitivities and allergies, think outside the casserole. Casseroles are great comfort food for many, but are more apt to contain common food allergens like corn, wheat, milk, or soy.  Braised meats, steamed vegetables, soups, and salads easily accommodate those with food restrictions or strong dislikes of certain foods.

2. Use disposable containers.  Unless it is a neighbor or someone you see regularly, deliver meals in containers that do not need to be returned.  Keep it as simple as possible for those you are trying to bless.

3. Deliver the meal at dinnertime, if possible. If not, make it as close to ready with clear instructions. If delivering food to a family with a new baby, don’t ring the door bell.  Arrange a specific time and arrive with a gentle knock at the door in case the baby is sleeping.

4. Consider everyone in a family. Crisis, surgery, new babies, grief, affects everyone within a family. Try to include at least one thing everyone will like with the meal. If the family has small children, make sure you show up with ice cream or something specifically for them if you can.

5. Customize the meal for the event/purpose. Bereavement, nursing mothers, recovering from surgery or illness can each pose a different need.
New moms
, especially nursing moms, eat often so snacks and easy breakfast foods are great too.  Avoiding spicy, acidic food is helpful to prevent adverse reactions from the baby.
Surgery
is hard on the body, when someone undergoes general anesthesia the entire digestive system shuts down. Provide a gentle and nourishing meal like chicken soup made from homemade bone broth. Consider foods that are soft, nourishing, and easy to digest. If you know they like smoothies, provide a few pre-packaged frozen smoothies easily assembled at home.

6. Offer to coordinate the meals.  Major crisis, trauma, accidents can be overwhelming and having an infant with the phone constantly ringing is no picnic either.  Having one person collect primary information and receive questions regarding meals is truly helpful.  Organizing a handful of suppers for a friend is pretty straight forward, but when a larger group or longer-term need is part of the equation, there are services to help.

Care Calendar
Meal Baby
Food Tidings
Lotsa Helping Hands
Take Them A Meal

7. Providing a meal is not the time to impose your nutritional agenda on someone else or “teach” them how to eat.  Try to understand what would bring comfort to them, even well-meaning advice can be overwhelming when someone is stressed.

8. Include the recipe. This can be especially helpful for those with food sensitivities or allergies too—they can have a little more confidence when they can review the recipe.

9. Include a note of encouragement, which mentions what you brought. This is helpful when a number of meals are provided. It can be difficult to remember and sort out who brought what when writing thank you cards. (Yes, I know, you didn’t do it to be thanked.)

10. Even if you don’t cook or have time to prepare a meal, you can help. Offer to run errands, clean, babysit, carpool kids, or provide a gift card for take-out.

What is comfort food to you? 

Have you comforted others with food or received this kind of comfort food from someone?  If so, what was your experience?

Shared on the following Blog Hops:
Gallery of Favorites Holiday Edition

Wild West Dining Tour Offers Tidbits and Tales in Old Colorado City

Take a walk down Colorado Avenue in Old Colorado City and its charm invites you to relax and stay awhile.  Sprinkled among the shops, select restaurants welcome neighbors and visitors stopping-in on a Wild West Dining Tour guided by Samantha Bruner of Colorado Springs Food Tours.  Samantha provides historic anecdotes of the brick and mortar, the boom and bust, and threads of the past, now woven into the fabric of Old Colorado City’s tourism and community.

Food is plentiful, each establishment serving choice samples of their menu, and some include wine, if desired.  The VIP service is friendly and efficient to ensure you stay on schedule with 5-7 restaurants on the agenda. Of course, the tours are wisely arranged on weekday evenings and Saturday afternoon—ideal times to meet the owners and managers who take great pride in their business.  Even with fickle Colorado weather, the walking tours are scheduled year round embracing the weather as part of the unique experience.

Gertrude’s

In our group of six (there can be up to 12), was a mix of locals and vacationers, the tour appealed to each in a different way.  Accustomed to dining in Old Colorado City from our 14 years living on the Westside, my husband and I were pleased to see some of our favorites on the tour.  We enjoyed meeting the owners of familiar haunts and noshing at new places too.  For those visiting from out-of-town the culinary sampling provided insight for dinner plans during the rest of their trip.


Gertrude’s
was our first tasting with Coconut Shrimp and choice wine, followed by wood-fired oven pizza with freshly made mozzarella at Pizzeria Rustica.  Next, we were on our way to Jake and Telly’s for traditional Greek fare including Spinach and Feta Spanakopita. With a toast of ouzo, our send-off was as warm as our welcome.  Just a few doors down, a select scoop of ice cream (I had black walnut!) at Colorado City Creamery was quite refreshing to the palate, Samantha’s storytelling accompanied each delicious stop.

Jake and Telly’s

Paired with each choice sampling of food, all but one restaurant included an alcoholic beverage so be sure to pace yourself.  Strolling between restaurants is a nice stretch for the legs and respite for the stomach.  Upon arrival at Meadow Muffins, we were escorted to their new upstairs lounge to relax with chicken wings and a pitcher of Fat Tire while gaining insight about the mingling of the city’s past and present.  We concluded our outing at Garden of the God Gourmet with a mousse filled double chocolate cup and a bright Two Rivers Riesling.

Samantha creates a delightful experience to the last bite whether you are venturing through Downtown Colorado Springs, Manitou Springs, or Old Colorado City.  Colorado Springs Food Tours is a fun way to get to know these unique cities. Visit her website at www.ColoradoSpringsFoodTours.com or call (719) 322-5731 for more information or to book a tour.

Shared on Gallery of Favorites.

Emeril’s Wok-Seared Duck Salad Recipe: Romantic Sizzling Skillets

When the email arrived from The Secret Ingredient with three recipes we could share from Emeril’s Sizzling Skillets and Other One-Pot Wonders, I admit, there was a hint of skepticism when I saw this one.  Not really a big fan of duck, but I knew I could not recommend something I hadn’t tried.  Although there was no requirement to use these recipes (see Cajun Shrimp Stew here), it is the ideal “try before you buy” kind of experience. With this in mind, I decided to give duck another chance and Wok-Seared Duck Salad was on the menu.

Oh, man, I am so glad I did not pass this one up!  We loved it! Emeril’s inspiration for this salad marries citrus, ginger, fresh herbs and Thai chiles—and as you might have guessed the seared duck breast tops it off superbly. While it is lighter fare, it is a satisfying main-course salad.

Friday night was dine-in date night, so I served it on one large plate for us to share.  We could not stop talking about the deep heat of the red Thai bird chili, the luscious duck breast, or the playfulness of the fresh herbs with citrus-ginger sauce (okay, maybe that was the one-plate effect). Let the spice in this salad bring a little spice to life and plan a special evening with your sweetheart—yes, salad can be romantic. As it turns out, Wok-Seared Duck Salad is great date food … like me, you might even see duck in a whole new way. 😉

Wok-Seared Duck Salad

This recipe was inspired by a Thai dish called laap, which is made with minced or ground chicken, fish, pork, or duck and seasoned with the wonderful flavors of chiles, ginger, fish sauce, and citrus. I decided to use the same flavors with a seared duck breast and make it into more of a main-course salad. This is a refreshing take on northern Thai street food.
Serves 4

2      tablespoons uncooked jasmine rice
1      tablespoon minced fresh red Thai bird chile
2      magret duck breasts (about 12 ounces each) or 1 ½ pounds other domestic duck breasts
1/3   cup minced shallot
1 ½  tablespoons peeled and minced fresh ginger
¼     cup fish sauce (see note below)
¼     cup freshly squeezed lime juice
¼     cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1 ½  teaspoons palm sugar or light brown sugar
½     cup fresh cilantro leaves
½     cup fresh mint leaves
½     cup fresh basil leaves
1       medium head of red leaf lettuce, washed and torn into bite-sized pieces
2       cups bean sprouts
1       cup julienned red bell pepper

1. Heat a wok over medium-high heat and add the rice. Toast the rice, shaking the wok constantly, until all the grains have turned golden brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer the rice to a mortar and set aside to cool. Once the rice has cooled, grind it using a pestle until it reaches a sandy consistency. Alternatively, grind the toasted rice in a clean spice grinder. Place the rice in a large mixing bowl and set aside.

2. Place the chile in the wok over medium-high heat and cook, shaking the wok, until lightly colored and fragrant, 30 to 60 seconds. Remove the chile from the pan and add to the bowl with the rice.

3. Using a paring knife, score the fatty side of the duck breasts by making shallow cuts in a diamond pattern; this allows the fat to render more easily. Place the duck breasts in the wok, fatty side down, and cook over medium heat until the skin is golden brown and slightly crisp, 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer the duck breasts to a cutting board, slice them into thin strips, and return the strips to the wok. Add the shallot and ginger and stir-fry over medium-high heat until the duck is just cooked through, about 2 minutes. Transfer the duck from the wok to the bowl with the rice and chile and set aside.

4. In a small bowl, combine the fish sauce, lime juice, orange juice, and palm sugar and mix well. Pour the mixture over the duck and toss until well coated. Add the cilantro, mint, basil, lettuce, bean sprouts, and julienned red pepper and toss to combine.  Serve the salad immediately.

Notes: Fish sauce can be found in Asian markets and sometimes the international food aisle of the grocery store. There are many brands of fish sauce, but we (Emeril) prefer Three Crabs, Golden Boy, and Tiparos brands.

Additional Notes from Savoring Today:
I recommend Red Boat Fish Sauce based on my own taste test and because it has so few ingredients, just anchovies and sea salt.

If you cannot find fresh red Thai bird chile, dried will work, however be careful when heating the dried chiles in a wok or skillet so the area is well ventilated.  The dried chiles can cause lung irritation when heated in a dry skillet (learned from experience 😉 ).  Also, 1/4-1/2 teaspoon of the dried chile will give a lot of spice, so use sparingly unless you are familiar with it (or have a fire hydrant nearby).

Pre-order a copy of Emeril’s Sizzling Skillets and Other One-Pot Wonders here.

Disclosure: For my participation in The Secret Ingredient’s One-Pot Blogger Cooking Party, I received a copy of Sizzling Skillets and Other One-Pot Wonders, a jar of Emeril’s Essence seasoning, and a set of Emeril – by zak! Table Art 7-piece. Once the party concludes, upon my successful completion, I will receive a $50 grocery reimbursement and a set of Emeril’s cookbooks.

Shared on the following Blog Hops:
EKat’s Kitchen Friday Potluck
Real Food Whole Health Fresh Bites Friday
Premeditated Leftovers Gallery of Favorites

Labor Day Eats: Feature Fridays

Labor Day became a federal holiday 117 years ago, marked by parades and parties recognizing trade and labor organizations.  Today, families enjoy one last vacation before school starts, NFL and college football seasons begin, and backyard parties abound.  If entertaining or creating a dish for a potluck is on the agenda for this three-day weekend, here are a few ideas to get your creative juices flowing.  Instead of featuring just one site this week, there is a whole list—Enjoy!

Menus:

Barbeque Menu – Savoring Today
10 Labor Day Menus – Ezra Pound Cake
Labor Day Gourmet Grilling Party Menu – Recipe Girl


Main Dishes/Meat:

Grilled Thai Ginger-Garlic Pork Chops – Fine Cooking
Grilled Chicken Kebabs with Roasted Red Pepper Dip – Family Fresh Cooking
Sausage Kebabs – Bell’ Alimento
Jamaican Jerk Chicken – Kayotic Kitchen
Pancetta-Gruyere Burger with Grilled Vidalia Onions – Savoring Today
Vegetarian Recipes for Barbecue Season – New York Times

Appetizers & Sides:

Melon & Mint Salad – Shutterbean
Roasted Garlic and Dill White Bean Dip – How Sweet It Is
Roasted Carrots with Goat Cheese – Jungle Frog Cooking
Sauteed Corn with Chile Peppers, Ginger and Garlic – Cinnamon Spice
Grilled Summer Sweet Corn – Simply Sugar & Gluten Free
Romaine Salad with Hatch Chile Dressing – A Communal Table
Goat Cheese Balls with Herbs, Pecans, & Bacon – The Kitchn
Parmesan Rice Crisps with Roasted Tomato Salsa – Gluten-Free Goddess

Desserts:

Brownies for Grown Ups – The 21st Century Housewife’s Kitchen
S’mores Pie – Foodess
Chocolate Caramel Peanut Bites– Sweet Pea’s Kitchen
Limoncello Cheesecake Bites – Bitter Sweet
Rustic Peach & Plum Tart – Eyes Bigger Than My Stomach
Honey Cinnamon Peach Pie – My Kitchen Addiction

Lemon Poppy Seed Cupcakes 2-Ways: Gluten-Free & Lactose-Free

While planning the menu for the bridal shower I was hosting, I used a couple of different recipes to accommodate those gluten-free and lactose intolerant guests. (I am reluctant to describe guests by their food sensitivities, but using their names on-line is even less appealing.)  Lemon Poppy Seed Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting anchored the dessert table at the request of the Bride-to-Be.  I was thrilled to see Meyer lemons already available in stores and picked up the first of the season.

Although, I had a companion gluten-free cupcake in this same flavor for my daughter (recipe below), it seemed too confusing to try to do both for the event, so the cupcakes shared the dessert table with Cheesecake Strawberries with Chocolate Accents (also a crowd-pleaser).  The Lemon Poppy Seed Cupcakes were lactose-free, the Cheesecake Strawberries were gluten-free, and so there were safe dessert choices for everyone.

You will love these tender, citrus infused cakes with flecks of poppy seeds, topped with velvety cream cheese frosting. They are perfect for showers, parties, or as a treat with afternoon tea.

Lemon Poppy Seed Cupcakes with Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting [Lactose-Free Options]

Source: Recipe adapted from original recipe by Guilty Kitchen
Yields 12 cupcakes
1/2       cup  butter, coconut oil, -or- Meyenberg goat milk butter
— room temperature
1 1/2    cups  cake flour
1/2       tsp  baking powder
1/4       tsp  baking soda
1/4       tsp  sea salt
1          cup  sugar
2          large  eggs
1           large  Meyer lemon, or 2 small — juiced and zested
1           tsp  vanilla extract
1/2      cup  buttermilk -or- lactose-free milk + 1/2 tablespoon lemon juice
1           tablespoon  poppy seeds

Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting
1/2      cup  butter, coconut oil, -or- Meyenberg goat milk butter
— room temperature
8          ounces  cream cheese – or – Tofutti® Better Than Cream Cheese
— room temperature
1           tbsp  vanilla extract
1 1/2    cups  powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line cupcake tins with paper liners. Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt into a small bowl.   In bowl of a stand mixer, beat butter and sugar until fluffy, about five minutes. Incorporate eggs one at a time until well blended. Mix in the zest, lemon juice and vanilla.

Add flour and buttermilk to batter in two separate additions, until well mixed. Fold in poppy seeds.  Fill cupcake liners 3/4 full, bake for 25-30 minutes, rotating half way through baking time. Remove from oven and cool completely before frosting.

For Frosting:
Beat butter and cream cheese together until fluffy.  Add-in the vanilla and stir to combine.  Mix-in powdered sugar on low speed until incorporated. Pipe onto cupcakes and serve immediately.

Note: Since lactose intolerance was the concern and not a milk allergy, goat milk or butter is often a fine substitution.

Lemon Poppy Seed Cupcakes with Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting (GF)

Yields 12 muffins
Source: Recipe adapted from Gluten Free Gobsmacked
8         tablespoons  butter
1          cup  sugar
2         eggs
3         tablespoons  lemon zest — 1-2 lemons
4         tablespoons  lemon juice — 1-2 lemons (of those used for zest)
1 1/4   cups  King Arthur Gluten-Free Flour Mix
1/2      cup  almond flour
1          teaspoon  xanthan gum
1          teaspoon  baking powder
1/2     teaspoon  salt
2         teaspoons  poppy seeds
1/2     cup  buttermilk

Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting
1/2      cup  butter — room temperature
8          ounces  cream cheese — room temperature
1          tbsp  vanilla extract
1 1/2   cups  powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350°.  Cream together butter and sugar.  Add the egg, lemon zest, lemon juice, and buttermilk, and mix well.

In a separate bowl, whisk together flours, xanthan gum, baking powder, salt, and almond flour until combined.  Add the dry ingredients to creamed mixture and stir just until moistened–do not over mix. Gently fold-in poppy seeds.

Fill muffin cups 3/4 full and bake for 16-20 minutes until lightly golden. A toothpick inserted in the muffin should come out clean. Once removed from the oven, allow to cool in pan for 5 minutes. Remove from pan and cool on wire racks. Cool completely before frosting.

For the Frosting:
Beat butter and cream cheese together until fluffy.  Add-in the vanilla and stir to combine.  Mix-in powdered sugar on low speed until incorporated. Pipe onto cupcakes and serve immediately.

NOTE: If using another flour mix, check to see if it already has the xanthan gum. If so, omit adding it separately.

Shared on the following Blog Hops:
Mom Trends Friday Food
EKat’s Kitchen Friday Potluck
SS & GF Slightly Indulgent Tuesday

Bacon, Leek & Cheddar Mini Quiches: Test Kitchen Tuesday

This weekend I am hosting a bridal shower for a friend’s daughter, who is really more like family. Do you know what it’s like having neighbors or friends that have been through thick and thin with you and you consider their kids, your kids? Well, that is what makes this bridal shower so special.  I love cooking, but cooking for a gathering of friends rates at the top of my favorite things list.

These Bacon, Leek & Cheddar Mini Quiches at FineCooking.com will be a tasty addition to the list of light lunch ideas—and a great excuse to buy a new pan.  To accommodate all of our guests, I will adjust this recipe for a gluten-free and lactose-free menu, I like that I can make them in advance.  Who doesn’t need more recipes for make-ahead hors d’oeuvresI hope you join me in this delicious adventure!

In the next week or so:

1.  Make the recipe (posted below)
2.  Leave a comment describing your experience, opinion, adjustments, etc.
3.  Subscribe to comments if you want an update to see what others have done.
4.  If you are especially please with your creation, send a photo to savoringtoday@comcast.net, or include a link to your site.

Bacon, Leek & Cheddar Mini Quiches

Source: by Kate Hays, Fine Cooking
Yield: 4 dozen
3/4     lb.  bacon — cut into medium dice
3       cups  medium-diced leeks — washed and drained
(about 3 leeks, white and light green parts only)
1 1/4   cups  half-and-half
1        cup  grated extra-sharp Cheddar (4 oz.)
2        large  eggs
2        large  egg yolks
2        tablespoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
1        teaspoons  kosher salt
1/2      teaspoons  freshly ground black pepper
1/4      teaspoons  ground nutmeg
Cooking spray
2        1.1 lb.  packages frozen puff pastry sheets — thawed according to package directions (preferably Pepperidge Farm brand)
Flour as needed for rolling out the dough

In a medium skillet over medium-high heat, cook the bacon until browned and crispy, 6 to 8 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to a plate lined with a paper towel. Pour off all but 1 to 2 Tbs. of fat in the skillet. Set the skillet over medium heat and cook the leeks, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Let cool slightly.

While the leeks cool, combine the half-and-half, Cheddar, eggs, egg yolks, thyme, salt, pepper, and nutmeg in a medium bowl. Add the cooled leeks and the bacon and stir to combine.

Assemble the mini quiches: Lightly spray four mini muffin tins (or two if your tins have two dozen cups) with cooking spray.

Working with one sheet of puff pastry dough at a time, use a floured rolling pin to roll the dough on a lightly floured work surface into a 10- by 18-inch rectangle. Stamp out 3-inch circles of dough with a cookie cutter and gently press the rounds into the mini muffin tins, making sure that each round is centered and that the dough extends up to the top of the tin. Fill each with about 1 Tbs. of filling-you can fill right to the top of the dough. Repeat with the remaining dough and filling until all the filling is used. You may not need all the dough; save leftovers for another use. You can bake the quiches immediately or freeze and bake them later (see Make-Ahead Tip, below).

To bake: Heat the oven to 400°F and position racks in the top and bottom thirds of the oven. Bake the quiches, switching the position of the tins halfway through baking, until the filling is puffed and the crust is golden brown, about 20 minutes.

Make Ahead Tips: Unbaked quiches can be frozen for up to a month. Freeze the quiches in the muffin tins for about 2 hours, or until set. Remove them from the tins and transfer them to an airtight container, setting parchment or plastic wrap between layers, or seal them in a plastic bag. To bake, transfer the quiches back to the tins and bake immediately, without thawing. Baking time for frozen quiches will be about 30 to 35 minutes.

NOTES: You’ll need four mini muffin tins for this recipe (or two if your tins have 24 cups). If you don’t have enough muffin tins, you can assemble the quiches in batches, storing the remaining egg mixture and dough in the refrigerator until you’re ready to use it.

It Won!

THIS …

Pancetta-Gruyere Burger with Grilled Vidalia Onions

WON THIS … for Burger and Brat Week

Looftlighter Grill Lighter

AND THIS …  The Grand Prize

COMMERCIAL SERIES™ QUANTUM® INFRARED URBAN GRILL

Thank you, Fine Cooking for hosting the Grill-lympics Challenge and all the sponsors, especially Fire Craft and Char-Broil for sponsoring terrific prizes. There were a lot of delicious entries in this challenge, you’ll want to see for yourself.

I love sharing good food, having someone like it is what it’s all about—so grateful!