Monthly Archives: November 2009

Someone Needs to Invent Smell-o-Vision on the Internet

You need to be in my house right now, because the aromas coming from my cozy kitchen are divine. I am preparing my Spaghetti Bolognese, in preparation for my half marathon race tomorrow. But even if I wasn’t running 13.1 miles tomorrow, this meal would hit the spot.

The ingredients are easy and basic. The most important part of this sauce is the simmering time, which needs 2 hours. The greatest thing about this dish is that is gets better after a few days in the fridge.

So when you have a few hours to hang around the house (the weekends are perfect for this), give this recipe a try. It freezes beautifully too, so make it now, serve it later.

I doubt however, that you will be able to prepare this sauce without at least serving up a small portion before chilling the rest for a future meal. Because my household is small, I offer this version. Feel free to double the recipe to serve 6 to 8 people.

Spaghetti Mise en place

MIlk in spaghetti sauce? Yes.

As I mentioned in this post, this is not your traditional spaghetti and meat sauce recipe. The tomato ratio is rather small. The addition of beef broth creates a rich, hearty and robust sauce, and the variety of meats lends more richness to the dish.

The traditional recipe calls for 4 types of meat; ground beef, pork, veal and pancetta. It’s lovely for sure, and a real splurge on the calorie/cholesterol charts. I have found that reducing the meats to only 2, either a very lean ground beef or turkey, along with the pancetta in smaller quantities and the elimination of butter for sweating the vegetables still produces a lovely, well rounded sauce. If you want to try the original version (because you just need to have it at least once, I assure you) email me and I will hook you up.

Otherwise, give this a try. Serve it with a lovely red wine of your choice and some crusty bread. A token salad is probably a good idea too. But tonight I’m saying no to the greens. I can’t risk filling up on salad and forgoing my carb loading plan.

I’m smart like that.

Spaghetti Bolognese

Makes about 4 cups of sauce.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 large stalk celery, finely chopped
  • 1 carrot, peeled, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
  • 3/4 pound lean ground beef, or ground turkey
  • 2 ounces pancetta, finely diced
  • 1/2 cup milk (you can use whole, skim, half and half; whatever is on hand)
  • 1 – 8 ounce can chopped tomatoes
  • 2/3 cup dry white wine
  • 1 1/4 cup beef stock
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Shadow and his winning number

Shadow is holding my running number hostage for a taste of the pasta. Smart puppy.

 

Directions:

In a 6 to 8 quart saucepan, heat the olive oil and butter over medium heat. Add the onion, celery, carrot and garlic and sweat over medium heat until the vegetables are translucent. Add ground meats and pancetta to the vegetables; increase heat to high and brown, stirring to avoid meat from sticking together for about 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add the milk; reduce heat and simmer over low heat until milk is absorbed, about 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes and simmer 15 minutes. Add the wine and beef stock. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for about 2 hours, stirring occasionally until flavors develop and sauce thickens. Taste for seasoning and adjust if needed.

You can opt to add oregano, basil or parsley. All are good. None are necessary. Serve with your favorite noodles and a grating of fresh parmesan.


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My Pace or Yours?

Half Mary, full of Grace.

Why are the runners naked? No wonder they're blue. They are freezing.

For all of you who know me, you are probably aware that I am going to run my first half marathon on Saturday.

I’m pretty anxious about it, but at the same time I’m trying to remain calm and not obsess about the whole thing. But it’s difficult when the past several months have centered around the training.

There are many training schedules one can follow when preparing for long distance runs and races. They all have a common thread however. Build up mileage slow and steady, week by week. Never increase your distance more than 10% per week. That said, in order to train up to a half marathon which is 13.1 miles, it takes an average of 16 weeks of  runs (5 miles), alternated with walks (2 miles) and rest days (huh?).

The five day run/walk schedule averages 8 miles the first week and after the 12th week, you’ve trained up, and running on average 25 miles per week. After the 16 week period, you’ve put about 400 miles on your body. And soul.

When you put it into logistical terms, 13.1 miles tomorrow is doable. Even sounds pretty tame compared to several hundred miles I’ve already logged. But add an excess of adrenaline, spotty nerves and a buzzing brain, all of a sudden things aren’t so calm and collected.

Which is why on the eve of my first Half, I will try and keep myself busy, but not harried. I will water my garden and sit in the sun. I will pack up a bag for the post race, which Dirk and my Mom will bring up to me after I cross the finish line. I will putz around online and finish up a bit of work. I’ll lay out my favorite running shirt. Nano playlists will be at the ready.

But what I hope will settle me down the most will come later when I head to my cozy kitchen to prepare dinner. After much thought, I decided to make Spaghetti Bolognese, a favorite of mine, and especially Dirk. It’s a familiar dish, one I’ve made dozens of times, and after tweaking the recipe over the last year, I think it is a fine dish indeed. A common dish in Italy, it’s not to be confused with the Americanized version of meat and red sauce. Both are great, but this Bolognese, prepared with tomatoes and meat, is more complex and deep in its flavor, helped along with some surprising add-ins, such as carrots, beef stock, milk and pancetta.

I’ll post the recipe later today and I hope you all give it a go. The meats used traditionally in the recipe are ground beef, pork, veal and pancetta. But in order to keep it a bit lighter on this runner’s belly, I’m using ground turkey. Oh, but don’t you worry. The pancetta stays.

Served with some crusty bread, a bit of red wine (to settle the nerves of course) and a light salad, I think I’ll be ready to face the morning. Fingers crossed and all that.

I love new challenges and adventures in life. It keeps things exciting, different and vibrant. But I also love the familiar, and the comfort it offers. This weekend contains a bit of both which suits me just fine.

I think I can do this.

I picked up my runner’s packet yesterday, which consists of my number tag, a cool t-shirt and a chip which I have to install on the top flap of my running shoe. (Wow, I guess this is official now!) The tag is a GPS system, which tracks my time for the duration of the race.

And the winning number is...

I'm number one! Okay, number 650. Whatever.

When I picked up my package, I couldn’t help but notice the endless files awaiting the participants. I think there may be a thousand plus runners out there this weekend. Yikes! That is another first.

Okay, steady as she goes. Don’t forget to breathe. The course I’m running is stunning. It starts at Leadbetter Beach, and goes north along the coastline, around a lighthouse, back down the coast heading south along West Beach, East Beach, The Santa Barbara Zoo and Bird Sanctuary. A quick pass along Butterfly Beach, home of the world class Biltmore Hotel and Ty Warner’s mega mansion, and then back to Leadbetter we go. A recap of the race will follow this weekend.

I want to take this time to give thanks to all of you, friends and family who have given me endless support during the last several months. I would also like to thank you all for sticking by me when it has taken center stage for most of my time and thoughts. I will take you all along with me on the course, your enthusiasm and well wishes will keep me going, mile after mile. And most of all, I wish to thank my wonderful husband for his endless patience and support as I struggled to train, work and keep things going without becoming a complete and total hag. (I know I failed on multiple occasions, so bless you for sticking by me.) You are the best Dokie. I love you so very, very much.

Life really is a kind of race when I think about it. Sometimes it’s effortless. And other days, it kicks us hard. But if we keep moving, one foot in front of the other, fueling ourselves with the encouragement and strength offered by the ones we love, victory is ours.

Game on.

All you need is love. And cookies.

cookies in the making

Sugar, butter, vanilla. Love.

Another heavy day over here. My dear friend and his family are deep in grief with the loss of their Dad. Plans have been forth coming. Tough, tough times.

As anyone knows who has lost a beloved, it is a process. One can choose to ignore the process, or one can choose to meet it head on.

Both options suck, although I would recommend being proactive during this trying time. It hurts for sure, straight up, but then the sting only has one way to go. Down.

Oh, and then up again. Damn grief. I still recommend seeing it eye to eye. Sometimes you have to let life know you are in charge. And life is your bitch. And more important, you need to be holding hands with the ones who are meeting this beast dead on, no matter what. You are the warriors. Good for you.

A couple nights ago, I gave into the fact that life was in charge, and  I was the bitch. I succumbed.

And I baked cookies.

Luckily, you can be the beneficiary of my weakness. The recipe follows. I hope the results give you a moment or two of joy and peace. After this however, we go back to real life.

Battle. Warriors. Good on us.

Bowl of love

Love in a bowl. Sugar. Check. Butter. Check.

Oatmeal Raisin Chocolate Chip Cookies

Makes 2 dozen.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground mace
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 cups rolled oats
  • 3/4 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips

Yumba!

This would pair perfectly with scotch. I mean milk.

Directions:

Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla extract. Mix dry ingredients in bowl. Add to butter mixture by hand. Stir in raisins and chocolate chips.

Chill dough for 15 minutes, or up to 2 days. Scoop chilled dough onto greased baking sheet by 1 heaping tablespoon and bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from oven;  let cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes. Remove from baking sheet and allow to cool completely on rack.


Love. Loss. Food.

One of my best friends lost his dad this morning.

My heart was heavy with the news. Having lost my own dad, I know there are no magic words I could give him to make the pain go away. After several minutes on the phone, we were somehow able to conjure up some silly moments and have a couple of cathartic chuckles. But, for the most part, our voices were thick with grief, heavy with tears.

After we hung up the phone, promising to talk more tomorrow I headed into the kitchen. Along the way, I took a moment to light some candles in honor of Dale. I prepared a simple meal of pasta, bread and red wine.

Nothing special, but the common movements and surroundings gave my hands a purpose, and my mind gladly followed. The music playing through our speakers, Pearl Jam, U2, Ben Harper and others allowed me to dance, cry, scream and cleanse.

Grief is powerful, a circle of emotions which repeat and renounce themselves over and over again. The hardest thing about grief is riding it out. Just when you think you have it figured out, its rogue wave hits you from behind and under the surf you go.

My grandmother used to heal all wounds with food. I guess I get that from her. I remember her words…

“Are you hungry? Eat!”

“Are you sad? Eat!”

“Are you happy? Eat!”

And she would cook for me. While I sat at her tiny kitchen table, she would tell me a story, a song perhaps would pass between us, music playing in the background.

And I ate. And I was fed. And I was nourished. And then I could rest.

Love is bittersweet. It means we have experienced a love and connection so deep that when it is gone, we are forever changed. Sadness weighs deep. Our hearts bruised in a way we are certain we will never laugh again, unable to enjoy our day to day lives. A shift in the light, the balance disappears.

And perhaps that is true. But I know that at least for me, when I am in my kitchen, my Dad and my Grandma are usually close by, eager to see my latest endeavor, they lead me along.

Most often I am vaguely aware of their presence, too caught up am I in the present. They wait patiently in the background until the right moment comes, and then they are there to comfort me and make me aware.

Love.

Loss.

Food.

And then we eat. And we are nourished. And we rest.

When in Doubt… Cook.

Sometimes I am just at a loss. At a loss for peace. At a loss for reason. At a loss for something brilliant to say. At a loss to comfort someone in need.

At a loss.

Most of my days are spent in comfort, emotionally content. But sometimes I feel like I could crawl right out of my skin. I don’t sleep well. I have dumb mind games I play all on my own. Really. It’s not fun.

So, is it any wonder that cooking gives me comfort during this whole uncomfortable process? Absolutely not.

Finding peace of mind in a kitchen has always been my saving grace. With my life full of deep concern and consequence, tonight I needed to hunker down as the sun sets quickly due to the recent time change. With the warmth of the oven, it sets the house aglow. A few candles lit early lend some light. I finally feel at peace. Warm and safe.

Bring me coffee!

Shadow lives to serve. Coffee.

The aromas of oven baked chicken and potatoes lend themselves well. Throwing a quick salad together as Dirk walks in the door from a victorious round of squash at the club, we are ready to eat. We pour ourselves a glass of wine as we sit down to our simple dinner and toast our day.

We speak little this night, noshing on a crisp chicken flavored with oregano and parmesan. Fresh chives from the garden, butter and sour cream cradle the potatoes. We both have endured high fueled days of late. The early evening sky, paired with the warm foods and candlelight set us both just right.

We leave our cozy kitchen to fetch a ball with our beloved dog Shadow, yet even he senses the quick darkness, the need to venture back inside to the warm lights and smells of a lingering meal. As I gaze into the living room from my kitchen table, I see my two golden boys. One, settling into his spot on the couch, his brown eyes content, ready to drift into his evening dreams. The other, finishing a few tasks online. Our favorite songs pouring out of the stereo and fill the air.

My daily rituals of food continue. Shop. Plan. Cook. Feed. Nourish.

And I don’t doubt, the importance of it all.