Tag Archives: mushrooms

Breakfast in Scotland

27 Jun

Breakfast.  What does it mean?  When we sleep, we are fasting, meaning we do not eat.  Breaking the fast, or breakfast, is the first meal of the day.  We are often told that breakfast is the most important meal of the day.  This is a topic of great debate in nutritional circles and beyond.  As for me, well, it’s not a meal that I skip.

There really isn’t uniformity with breakfast.  Depending on lifestyle, culture,  socioeconomic status, and time constrains, breakfast food varies.  If I have a morning workout, a protein packed breakfast is my go to choice.  If it is a lazy weekend morning, a chewy toasted bagel and some fresh fruit can be wonderful.  And, of course, if there are leftovers around, those also work at times.

Since I like to eat regionally, I enjoy all meals that reflect the personality and culture of the surroundings.  Recently I was in Scotland.  The food was spectacular.  And the breakfast was not only filling, but a very interesting combination…and one that I would not have put together.  But I loved it nonetheless.

As my beloved partner Denis and I steeped ourselves in the people, history and food of Scotland, we noticed that this breakfast was pretty much a staple in every region of the country.  The flavors varied slightly, reflecting the region of the food, but when we ordered the “standard” breakfast, it was consistent.

Breakfast consisted of bacon (it looked and tasted like ham to me, but it was called bacon), potatoes, an egg, a roasted tomato, sautéed mushrooms, and a sausage. A basket of breads also accompanied the plate.  Sometimes beans and back pudding were present too.  This meal started us off on the right foot.  Daily breakfast left us with a full belly of warm food on which to set out for the adventures that each day held for us.  Breakfast was sustaining, culturally reflective, and delicious.

So the next time you are off on travels, depart from your comfort zone.  Be open to local culturally rich experiences, including culinary.  Break your fast in the way that is right for you, but notice local flair. Scotland held many delights along our travels, and breakfast each morning started our day off just right.  Go out there and have fun. Let me know what you find.

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This and That Pasta

9 Mar

What’s for dinner on a Friday night when everyone is a bit low on energy from the long week?   Something easy for sure! Here is what I did on a Friday when the family was just worn out.  It is important to eat healthy in our family.  Sure we cheat every now and again, but for the most part we all make an effort to eat food that is natural and wholesome.  So how to solve this Friday night conundrum?  We did it in a snap.

I roasted some vegetables, Denis put a pot of water on to boil, and then pulled out a loaf of crusty bread.  There were salad fixings in the fridge, but the veggies with the pasta seemed sufficient, so that was left for another meal.   Dinner in a snap was the goal du jour.  It was so easy to get ready, and dinner was on the table quickly.  Let me share it with you.

I call this recipe Amy’s This and That Pasta.  It’s a little of this, a little of that.  Whatever you have on hand will do.   Here is what I did.  I pulled out a glass oblong pan.  Into it went:

  • 1 bunch of asparagus, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 2 packages of fresh assorted mushrooms (I have also used canned mushrooms.  Drained, these work just fine.)
  • 1 large jar pimento drained (or a jar of roasted red peppers, drained and chopped, will do just fine too)
  •  A few handfuls of fresh spinach
  • 1  28 ounce can diced tomatoes in sauce

I mixed these veggies together with a rubber spatula.  I drizzled olive oil over the top and sprinkled on:

  • 1 T. dried basil
  • 1 T. dried parsley
  • 1 t. dried oregano
  • salt, pepper and dried red pepper flakes to taste.

Again I mixed this up and placed it in an oven that was preheated to 400 degrees.  The timer was set to 30 minutes.  On went a pot of water for the pasta.  Then I changed out of my work clothes, and sat down for a few minutes to chat with the family.

When the vegetables were nearly done, frozen tortellini went into the boiling water for about 4 minutes.  The children set the table for dinner.  The sliced loaf of crusty bread was taken to the table.  After draining the pasta and putting it in a large shallow bowl, I poured the hot roasted vegetables over it.  Lastly, I grated some fresh parmesan cheese over it and on to the table it went.

It was a simple meal, and so easy to toss together.  The vegetables imparted what I call “vegetable liquor”, meaning they juiced up a bit while roasting.  The roasted pasta sauce was a snap to make with the oven doing all of the work.  It was a nutritious dinner for a Friday night. Most vegetables work in this recipe except starchy ones (like potatoes), so use this recipe as a base and substitute with what you have in your kitchen.

Toss your favorite veggies together, let them roast in the oven, have a seat and wait for dinner to practically make itself.  Easy, quick, nutritious.  Perfect for a family meal.  Weeknight meals do not have to be grand, time consuming, or fussy.  Remember the true focus of family meals.   Connecting.  Conversation.  Togetherness. Meals can be easy, yummy and nutritious, but more important, a happy social time to reconnect.  Bon appetite!

Just Squash it!

30 Oct

It is fall and time to cook up some squash!  And I am not talking about the little summer squash.  I am talking about the big honking fall squash, like acorn squash and my all time fav…spaghetti squash!

Squash is budget friendly, especially this time of year, so it is time to make the most of our food dollars!  Spaghetti squash is pretty big, and there are lots of ways to cook it.  I just plop it into a big soup pot, cover it with water, get it to boiling, toss the lid on, and then figure out what I am going to do with it while it simmers.

Spaghetti squash has a pretty neutral flavor profile, making it perfect to use in a million different ways.  It is packed with nutrition. low in fat, (if you allow it to stay that way) and wonderfully versatile!  Tonight I am making spaghetti squash bake with roasted vegetables.  You need a little time to do this because cooking a big squash cannot be rushed.  So pour a glass of Pinot Noir, and lets figure this out.

As I mentioned, I just boil my squash.  While that squash is simmering, I cut up 2 green zucchini. I had a package of precut mushrooms and some grape tomatoes too.  I placed the veggies on a parchment covered baking sheet, then added the mushrooms and tomatoes.  I doused this with a little olive oil, some vinegar, (true confessions…I love acidic food!), and dusted it with salt, pepper and herb de Provence.  The veggies cooked in a 350 oven for about 30 minutes.

When the veggies were done, so was the squash.  It was out of the water, on the counter, and cut in half cooling.  I spooned out the seeds, much like cleaning out a pumpkin.  Only the flesh remained.  I raked it into strands and put that into a baking dish.  A little tomato sauce went on top.  Then the roasted veggies.  And here is when I got a bit naughty (sorry mom!). I sprinkled it with cheese.  Back into a 350 degree oven it went.

It baked for about 25 minutes, with lightly seasoned chicken breasts in the oven too.  The squash and chicken were ready at the same time.  Dinner was delicious!  Look at my story in pictures.

The strands of spaghetti squash.

The strands of spaghetti squash.

The roasted vegetables!  Yum!

The roasted vegetables! Yum!

spaghetti squab went into a baking dish and was topped with tomato sauce.

spaghetti squab went into a baking dish and was topped with tomato sauce.

Roasted veggies topped the tomato sauce, and cheese was sprinkled to finish it!

Roasted veggies topped the tomato sauce, and cheese was sprinkled to finish it!

In the (Cal)zone

27 Oct

I grill my home made pizza.  I just feel that my grill is more like a pizza oven than my kitchen oven, and I have had great results with this method.  The exception, of course, is in the winter when I make my home town Chicago Style deep dish pizza.  That goes into the kitchen oven and is strictly a winter treat when weather socks us in for an extended period of time.

Home made pizza was a topic of conversation recently when my daughter was home from college for fall break.  When college kids come home, they want moms home made dishes to nosh on, food they missed at school.  My grilled pizza is a family favorite.  It came up when my daughter was rattling off the food she was craving.  But then our conversation took an unforseen twist.

Her: I am hungry for a calzone.

Me:  I haven’t made that in a long time.

Her: I really have a taste for one.  Please…..

(Cue the lightening strike…)

Me: Wait!  How about we try grilling a calzone like my grilled pizza?

And off we went.  A new journey emerged, one in which grilling a calzone became the destination.  Our stops along the way to our destination included technique discussions, filling options, and recipe timing.

Plans were finalized, the roadmap was taking shape.  The destination-grilled calzones-was coming into focus.  The first run down this path was going to be technique focused first, ingredient choice second.  Fine tuning would come after that.

Next stop.  The filling, it was decided, would be caramelized onions and mushrooms.  The cheese would be a combination of ricotta, mozzarella, and parmesan.  Off we went.  As the succulent aroma of onions and mushrooms sizzling in a pan filled the kitchen, the dough was rolled out.  Nervous chatter about if we could really get this to work added to the cacophony of the popping onion mushroom mixture.

The dough was slathered with the cheese.   The onions and mushrooms went on as the  next layer.  The dough was folded over and pinched closed.  It glistened with an egg wash to give it a shiny coat.  Onto the grill it went.  As it grilled, excitement built…it hadn’t flopped yet.

The table was set, bowls of marinara sauce for dipping the calzone was placed on the table for that final stop before the anticipated bite.   Off the grill and onto the table it went.  Suffice it to say that our little experiment worked like a charm.  The outcome was delicious!  Fantastic!  A new family favorite is emerging!

 

Grilled Calzone!  Fabulous!

Grilled Calzone! Fabulous!