Tag Archives: Cook

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?

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Seasonal Ingredient Map [via Epicurious]: Feature Fridays

Epicurious Seasonal Map

THIS is cool!
An interactive map from Epicurious showing what is fresh and grown locally in your area, by month.  Ever wonder when you can expect local strawberries or winter squash?  Want to be more purposeful about buying locally, but not sure what is available?  Just click on a state and there it is, along with ingredient descriptions, shopping guides, recipes, and tips.  Pretty neat, huh?!  Well, I liked it, though on Fridays I can be easily entertained. 😀  Enjoy!

Tuscan White Bean Soup with Broccoli Rabe: One Last Stirring of the Pot

As our One-Pot Blogger Party ends, we conclude with a hearty pot of Tuscan White Bean Soup—with soup, there is always enough for everyone.  Thank you for joining me over the last three weeks in reviewing Emeril’s newest collection of recipes in Simmering Skillets and Other One Pot Wonders.  I am honored Savoring Today was chosen to be part of this project it has been a privilege.

Special thanks to William Morrow Cookbooks, of Harper Collins Publishers, The Secret Ingredient, Emeril, and his team for inviting such a terrific group of bloggers to the party. Their team has been supportive, encouraging, and delightful throughout. If you haven’t already, please visit the other 19 One-Pot Bloggers, I think you will enjoy their culinary adventures very much.

Now for the final stirring of the pot…

Tuscan White Bean Soup with Broccoli Rabe is one of the recipes we are allowed to share in full, so I couldn’t pass up making a pot at home too. In a house full of carnivores it was hard to imagine making bean soup without ham or smoked turkey, but I wanted to stay as close to the original as possible.  Uncertain as I was about the lemon component of this soup, it worked!  It subtly blended into the background of the broth brightening other savories as well as the broccoli just a bit.

With the absence of meat, it seemed only appropriate to serve it with Bacon Irish Soda Bread, which proved a worthy companion.  I highly recommend cannellini beans—a larger, plump white bean with a creamy texture—and as with any soup, homemade stock is ideal for the base.  I hope you’ve been saving your Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese rinds (I have extra if you live close-by) it is a wonderful flavor boost. Of course, shaved Parmesan to top it off is good too!

Tuscan White Bean Soup with Broccoli Rabe

Emeril's Tuscan White Bean Soup with Broccoli Rabe

This is a comforting, hearty soup with flavors reminiscent of northern Italy. We used baby lima beans because we just love their tender, creamy consistency, although in Italy it would likely be made with cannellini beans or great Northern beans. Use whichever beans you love or have on hand; just take note that the cooking time will vary slightly.

Yields 13 cups, about 6 servings
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups small-diced onion
1 cup small-diced celery
1 cup small-diced red bell pepper
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 teaspoon dried Italian herbs
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper
8 cups chicken stock or canned low-sodium chicken broth
2 pounds dried white beans (cannellini, baby lima, or great Northern), rinsed, picked over, soaked overnight, and drained
1 piece Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese rind, about 1 × 3 inches
1 bay leaf
4 cups water
1 ½ pounds broccoli rabe, tough stem ends trimmed, chopped into bite-sized pieces
1 sprig fresh rosemary
Grated zest of 1 lemon
2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
6 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, finely grated (about 1 ½ cups)
Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling

1. Heat the olive oil in an 8-quart soup pot or stockpot over medium-high heat. Add the onion, celery, bell pepper, 1 teaspoon of the salt, and ¼ teaspoon of the black pepper and cook, stirring, until the vegetables are tender, about 6 minutes. Add the garlic, dried Italian herbs, and crushed red pepper and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the stock, beans, Parmesan rind, bay leaf, and water and bring to a low boil. Reduce the heat to simmer gently and cook, partially covered and stirring occasionally, until the beans are tender, 45 to 60 minutes.

2. Using a slotted spoon, transfer about 1 cup of the beans from the pot to a small bowl and mash them with the back of a spoon. Return the mashed beans to the soup and add the remaining 1 tablespoon salt. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat and continue to cook, uncovered, until the broth thickens slightly, about 15 minutes. Add the remaining black pepper, the broccoli rabe, and rosemary sprig and continue to cook until the broccoli rabe is just tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in the lemon zest and lemon juice. Remove the Parmesan rind, bay leaf, and rosemary sprig and discard them. Serve the soup in wide, shallow bowls, garnished with grated Parmesan and a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil.

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Emeril’s Sizzling Skillets and Other One-Pot Wonders is now available!
Cajun Shrimp Stew,
Spicy Vegetable Coconut Curry, Turkey Club Casserole, Wok-Seared Duck Salad, Rigatoni with A Beefy Mushroom Gorgonzola Sauce
,
“BTL” Risotto and more than 130 other delectable recipes are compiled in this great cookbook.  Just click on the link or the photo to order yours and start enjoying them today.

Meet Emeril at “Sizzling Skillets” book tour! Check Emeril’s Newsroom for details and cities.  Also, check out ‘EMERIL’S TABLE’ on the Hallmark Channel.  He describes it this way, “Food brings us all a little closer together and I hope that as we’re gathering around my table each day everyone will invite us in to their kitchens and be inspired to cook along.”  I couldn’t agree more!

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:
21st Century Housewife Hearth & Soul
Real Food Forager Fat Tuesday
SS&GF Slightly Indulgent Tuesday
EKat’s Kitchen Friday Potluck
Mom Trends Food Friday
Real Food Whole Health Fresh Bites Friday
The Healthy Home Economist Monday Mania
The Nourishing Gourmet Pennywise Platter Thursday


Emeril’s Turkey Club Casserole: One-Dish of Delicious

Turkey Club Casserole

I read a plethora of magazines, cookbooks, newspaper articles, and blogs about food, so there has to be some way to keep tabs on what I hope to create in my next kitchen adventure.  For cookbooks or magazines, there is always a stack of post-it notes nearby to mark pages. Emeril’s new cookbook, Sizzling Skillets and Other One-Pot Wonders is flagged all over; each pot has a fantastic recipe waiting to fill it. On this occasion, it was the casserole dish doing its rotation with Turkey Club Casserole.

When reviewing the recipe, I immediately thought of Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner leftovers.  Many families prepare both turkey and ham during the holidays and this recipe incorporates both. Imagine the layers of a turkey club sandwich—bread, turkey, bacon, cheese, ham—layered in a deep dish, covered in an egg royale, and baked golden brown. The egg-soaked bread forms a crust over the oozing cheese and meats, reminiscent of the favorite lunchtime club sandwich, yet warm and satisfying.

We went one step further to make it gluten-free so our daughter could enjoy it too.  A good loaf of brown rice bread, sweet rice flour for the Béchamel sauce, gluten-free meats, and the recipe easily converted to a gluten-free meal.  One daughter who was absent from dinner, enjoyed the leftovers so much the next day, she came into the office to proclaim, “I don’t know what you made last night, but it was GOOD!”  I told her it was Emeril’s Turkey Club Casserole, which didn’t mean much to her, she just knew it was delicious.  Ah, music to our ears, the unsolicited delight of those we serve.

Turkey Club Casserole with Roasted Asparagus

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Order a copy of Emeril’s Sizzling Skillets so you too can enjoy this and more than 130 other delectable recipes!

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. 

This Appetizer Sails: Curry Chicken Salad Boats

Luncheon, appetizer, or light summer dinner, Curry Chicken Salad is refreshingly simple.  The original recipe calls for halved grapes, which are wonderful and juicy, but easier to eat with a fork.  Serving this classic salad with dried fruit in crisp lettuce boats eliminates the need for heavy breads or unwieldy utensils.

I prefer the contrast in color of dried cranberries, though currants and golden raisins are a great change-up.  Romaine hearts or Belgian endive can be used for the boats—Romaine hearts are less expensive, endive is a little more elegant. Perfect for casual gatherings, baby or bridal showers, guests can easily mingle while noshing.  A beautiful presentation, simple to make, deliciously light—this appetizer sails!

Curry Chicken Salad Boats

Yields 12-14 appetizers
1                head romaine lettuce hearts or 2 heads of endive — separated, washed
2                cups  cooked chicken breast — cut into 1/2″ pieces
1/2           cup  celery — chopped
1/2           cup  carrot — chopped
1/4           cup  green onion — finely chopped
1                cup  dried cranberries, currants, or golden raisins
1/2           cup  walnuts or cashews — coarsely chopped

Dressing
1/3           cup  mayonnaise
1                tablespoon  soy sauce
1                tablespoon  lemon juice
2               teaspoons  curry powder
1                teaspoon  honey

Trim the end from the Romaine head and wash and dry the leaves. Use the smaller leaves in the middle first as they are already close to the size and shape needed to make the “boats”.  For additional boats, trim the larger leaves to approximate size of the smaller ones (see photo).

Prepare meat, fruit, nuts, and vegetables as indicated; toss gently in a bowl. Mix dressing ingredients until well blended. Add to the chicken mixture to coat. Salt to taste.

Spoon 1-2 tablespoons of salad into the lettuce boats and arrange on a tray. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

NOTE: This is a great way to use leftover roasted or grilled chicken. Boats can be prepared several hours in advance and refrigerated.

Posted on the following Blog Hops:
EKat’s Kitchen Friday Potluck
Real Food Whole Health Fresh Bites Friday
The Healthy Home Economist Monday Mania
Hearth & Soul Hop

Scampi-Style Tenderloin Steak: Casual Friday or Valentine Feast

Scampi-Style Tenderloin Steak

When Colorado weather hits the 60’s in January, it is time to take a break from the comfort foods of winter and grill a steak.  Inspired to take it up a notch, I decided to accent the steaks with Shrimp Scampi—AMAZING!  Grilled first then finished in the pan of scampi, the butter, wine, and garlic was the perfect accent to the smoky, tender beef.  I love surprising my family with a special dinner on an average Friday night; we savored every bite!

If you are still wondering what to do for Valentine’s Day, treat your Valentine with a romantic dinner for two at your own chef’s table.  Set out the linens, light the candles, and serve this exquisite dish.  Your sweetheart will appreciate the fuss you make over them; you will both appreciate the more intimate setting.  Create a meal together to make the afternoon and evening that much better!

Scampi-Style Tenderloin Steak

2        beef tenderloin steaks (filet mignon)
1/4   cup Lawry’s Mesquite Marinade
1        recipe Shrimp Scampi
Charcoal or propane grill

Pour marinade over steaks and allow to rest in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.  Light charcoal. While coals are getting hot, prepare Scampi recipe up to the point of cooking the shrimp.  With the sauce ready, the meal will finish quickly once the steaks are done.

Once coals are ready, arrange the coals to one side of the grill to allow for indirect heat, this will enable you to cook the steaks based on preference—rare, med, or well done.  It is important to put the steaks directly over the coals to sear the meat initially.  Sear each side for 2-3 minutes, then arrange the steaks over less direct heat until just about done—the steaks can finish in the scampi sauce.  Check out this site for help with how to tell when steak is done.

When the steaks are removed from the grill, bring the scampi sauce up to a simmer in a large skillet and place shrimp in the sauce along with the steaks.  Cook shrimp for 2-3 minutes on each side and finish the remaining steps of the Scampi recipe.  Serve steak with 2-3 shrimp and sauce drizzled on top.

It is heavenly!