I recently finished reading In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto, by Michael Pollan.  I found his previous book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, even more interesting, but this book is a relatively brief, eye-opening volume that focuses on the modern “Western Diet”, it’s deleterious effects on our health, and some suggestions for how to “escape” from the Western diet and its ill effects to regain a more enjoyable and healthful relationship with food and eating.  I found it very interesting and valuable, and wanted to summarize the book and recommend that you check it out. Read the rest of this entry »

White Bean and Kale Minestrone

This soup is really good, despite being very simple.  How awesome is that?  I found this recipe on a really cool website that I came across recently, called Cookus Interruptus.  It’s a cooking website from the author of a book called Feeding the Whole Family: Cooking with Whole FoodsThe website features about 100 recipes, many of which come from the book, and best of all, they’re each accompanied by great videos, which are both instructive and hilarious.  Their shtick is trying to cook meals amid the chaos of wacky family members, and it’s a fun way to learn good but relatively simple dishes made from whole foods.  I highly recommend poking around the site and checking out some of their videos.  You’ll enjoy your visit.

This is one of the recipes that caught my eye, for White Bean and Kale Minestrone.  That it was called “minestrone” struck me as odd, since I think of minestrone as a red vegetable soup with kidney beans and little pasta noodles.  So I looked it up on Wikipedia and discovered that minestrone is actually a somewhat generic term for a wide variety of soups or stews, which often feature seasonal vegetables and sometimes pasta.  But the defining feature seems to be that the soup has a bean base (and according to some, those should be roman beans, aka cranberry or borlotti beans to be genuine–but we won’t split hairs).  So I guess this qualifies as a minestrone due to the beans and bean broth that form the base of the soup.  Whatever you call it, it was delicious, despite being very simple and easy to make.  It’s also very healthful, consisting mainly of two highly nutritious ingredients: beans, which are a great source of protein and fiber; and kale, a leafy vegetable full of all sorts of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.  We’ll definitely be making this again. Read the rest of this entry »

Split-pea soup

I need your help on this one, family.  I vaguely remember some story we used to read, or maybe it was a Shel Silverstein poem, that involved split-pea soup, portraying it as something rather gross.  Do any of you remember?  If not, I may have to scour the bookshelf in Kristin’s old room when we’re out there in June.  Anyway, we made split-pea soup for dinner tonight.  It was the first time I’ve had it (that I recall), and it was quite good.  It had a very pleasant, pea-centric vegetable flavor, with a nice bacony smokiness owing to the smoked ham hocks we cooked it with.  

The soup itself was good, but it was made great in delicious sourdough bread bowls.  For the bread bowls, I used the same sourdough bread recipe I’ve posted in the past.  The recipe as posted will make 8 bread bowls (I scaled it to 3/4 of the posted recipe, to make 6 bowls)  Each loaf should be about the 250g if you have a scale, or about the size of a baseball (perhaps a bit smaller) when you form the loaves.  You can let them rise in small cereal or soup bowls (preferably ones with tall sides rather than wide, shallow bowls), lined with flour-dusted cotten cloths (like cloth napkins, scraps of muslin, or whatever you have around).  Instead of making slashes across the loaves, I sliced a circle around the top, which makes it easier to cut out the top for the bread bowl.  Once the loaves are baked and cooled, just slice off the top, then cut around the sides of the loaf and use a spoon to dig out the interior crumb to make the bread bowl.  I’d put these up against Panera, or any other sourdough bread bowls you might find anywhere–they were that good.  Read the rest of this entry »

Kraft's Striped Delight (Sorry, I didn't snap my own picture...we ate it too fast!)

I love Striped Delight.  Ever since Mom discovered the recipe on the side of a Cool Whip container decades ago, it has pretty much been my favorite dessert.  I’ve been wanting to try taking it to the next level by making the various components from scratch, and finally did it Sunday for our Mother’s Day dessert.  It was awesome.  The chocolate pudding had a deep, rich chocolate flavor that Jell-O instant pudding can’t come close to, and the real whipped cream was heavenly.

The idea of doing Striped Delight from scratch came when I was making a filling for Amie and Aubrey’s birthday cakes, and realized that it was essentially the same as the bottom layer of Striped Delight, except that I used real whipped cream instead of Cool Whip.  We had started using real whipped cream recently, when Amie had made a fresh strawberry pie, and we had no Cool Whip on hand but did have some leftover cream from something else Amie had made.  Real whipped cream is sooooo much better than Cool Whip.  The superior taste and texture of real whipped cream was compounded by a question that had been nagging me: we know what Cool Whip isn’t (non-dairy), but what exactly is it?  The answer I found was somewhat disturbing, and since the article pointed out that you can whip real cream yourself for about half the price of Cool Whip, there’s no looking back for us.  Maybe it’s a bit disloyal to cut out Cool Whip when they were the source of the original recipe, and I am certainly grateful for the concept, but the benefits of making it with real ingredients are more than worth it.  Sorry, Kraft. Read the rest of this entry »

Roast chicken on a bed of root vegetables

I made this for Mother’s Day dinner on Sunday night, and it turned out great.  I must confess that this is not my picture–I pilfered it from the blog site where I got the recipe.  But ours looked pretty much the same, except that it was in our 9×13 Pampered Chef pan instead of a cast iron pan as pictured above.  The recipe is from famed chef Thomas Keller, known mostly for his restaurant The French Laundry.  He has another newer restaurant called ad hoc, which serves simple but very good dishes, as opposed to the notoriously intricate and extravagant preparations at The French Laundry.  The dish comes from Keller’s cookbook ad hoc at home, by way of one of my favorite food blogs, Simply Recipes.

This is roast chicken on a bed of root vegetables (click for the recipe), and that’s about all there is to it.  You cut up the vegetables and spread them in the pan, tossed with olive oil and salt and pepper.  Then set the chicken on top, also seasoned liberally with olive oil, salt and pepper, with some garlic cloves and thyme sprigs in the cavity, and roast it in the oven.  That’s it.  It’s pretty simple, but turns out great.  The chicken was moist and tender, and the vegetables were great.  A couple of notes from my experience with it: Read the rest of this entry »