Sunday, September 26, 2010

Fall Stew

Today was the first time in a while I actually felt like have having cold weather comfort food. I watched Julie and Julia today and tossed around the idea of making Julia's Beef Bourguignon. However, then I noticed the recipe had 43 steps! Wow.... that must be some pretty awesome stew. Unfortunately, my family will not get to try it tonight because I was not feeling that ambitious. I'll save that for when I am snowed in. Instead, I dusted off my green Cuisinart cast-iron dutch oven and made my favorite... 5 Hour Stew from Penzey's. In case you are not familiar with Penzey's, it is an exceptionally cool spice store. They have a large variety of spices and rubs. But, I really love the catalogue because it has tons of really good, fail-proof recipes that are simple. We have a store on Chagrin Rd. on the eastside of Cleveland, but you can also mail order products from the website at

In case you are worried that beef stew doesn't actually fall under the healthy eating category... I beg to differ. This recipe has 250 calories and 3.5 g of fat in a 2 cup serving. I did not have to add any additional fats or oils in the cooking process. This makes this dish great for heart health as well as weight loss. To determine if your meal or product is low-fat, follow the rule of thumb which is 30% or less of the food's calories coming from fat. Fat has 9 calories per gram, so if you multiple the stew's 3.5 g by 9 calories, you get about 35 calories coming from fat. This definitely weighs in under 30% of the 250 total calories. Hope I didn't lose you there. Believe me, I am no wizz in math. But, overall this is a healthy meal and if you pair it with a salad and some red wine, you'll be in good shape.

5 Hour Oven Stew

1- 1/2 lbs stew beef

6 cups peeled and cubed potatoes

2 medium onions cut into chunks

4 cups peeled carrots cut into 3 inch rounds

2 cups cut celery

1 -15 oz can of petite diced tomatoes

1 to 2 tsp of salt

1/2 to 1 tsp of pepper

1-2 tsp of oregano

1/4 to 1/2 garlic powder

In a large oven-proof pan combine all of the ingredients with the lesser amount of spices. It is not necesary to brown the meat. Cover and bake at 250 degrees for 4 to 5 hours. 30 minutes before serving, taste the stew and add the remaining spices to your taste. It doesn't get easier than that!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Crop Bistro.... Sunday Supper.

Well, its been weeks since I started talking about going to Sunday Supper and I'm happy to announce that The Wellness Warrior(Tina) and The Caring Foodie(me) finally made it to Crop Bistro! Yeh! And, yes, it was well worth all of the built-up anticipation. You can get an idea of how cozy and inviting the dining room is from the picture above. I loved the blown-up images of random vegetables which hang above the notty-pine woodwork on the wall. Its a cool mix of modern and traditional. The images are also on each of the tables set under a plate of glass.

As I mentioned in my previous post, The Idiot's Guide to the Sustainable Plate, Sunday Supper is a weekly event that takes place on Sunday's from 5:00 to 9:00 at Crop Bistro. Chef Steve, creates a last minute menu using the foods which he has on hand from the week and his imagination. I love the spontaneity of this concept! Dinner includes a salad, side dishes, entree, and dessert. You select your entree and the rest just appears, family-style. The cost of the entire meal is only $25 which is a great value! Of course, we managed to blow the budget on our wine.... but, you only live once.
My tastebuds were dazzled immediately from the time the bread and butter arrived. This was no ordinary butter. It was light, fluffy and infused with honey and pepper. Sounds like an odd combination, but, somehow it worked. The salad below was also a great combination of every summer fruit you can imagine tossed with some baby greens. Thus, the name, Summer Salad. The beets were a great addition.
Next round was the entrees.. I chose the chicken parmesan at the recommendation of the chef. The fresh tomatoes and balsamic were a nice change from the usual heavy tomato sauce. I had to apologize to Tina at this point for not speaking. I was totally engrossed in my meal.

Tina ordered the seared tuna with heirloom tomatoes and quinoa salad. I think the picture speaks volumes!

Our side dish.

Under that cloud of whipped creeam is our dessert which was a warm berry, dark chocolate tart .

This group next to us was having a blast!

The Sunday night blues don't exist here. What a great way to start the week!

The End...

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

It Really is All Good, Even Washing Dishes

Well, I've no new recipes or food pictures or festivals to share with you tonight. I just have a lot of thoughts brewing and felt like sharing.

An old friend contacted me today with great news! She is in love! This is extraordinary because she is an older women who has had a lot of pain and difficult relationships in her life. She got divorced rather abruptly, after a 25 year marriage, when her husband came home one day and announced that he was in love with someone else. Then, she entered into a difficult marriage with an alcoholic who died from alcohol-related complications a year after they were married.

I became friends with her sometime during the second marriage. We worked together and I came to respect her a great deal professionally as well as personally. It's amazing what some of us are able to endure without going completely mad! The human spirit really is a resilient thing. Although, I admired her for her strength, I could tell there was a part of her that had been damaged. You know? I could sense that wall of protection that she had built around herself which kept everyone at arm's length.

Her happy announcement really caught me off guard because lately it seems like there has been a lot of bad news going around in my circle of friends(divorces, affairs, illnesses, etc.). How sad is that that I have come to expect bad news? Anyhow, it turns out that she is seeing someone that was a childhood friend that she has known for 50 years! All this time he has been right there, but, the circumstances were never right. Now, 2 marriage (for both) later, something has inexplicably changed and they are head-over-heels in love. She told me that he has brought to her a joy she hasn't felt, maybe ever. She said that there was piece of her that had died, but, is back and thriving. She said, I know this is an overused and cheesy saying, but, "It's all good".

You know, I've always hated that saying.... I've always been annoyed by the people that have said it. Usually they are shallow celebrity types that don't have the first clue what suffering and pain means. But, when my friend of 60 years said it tonight, I really felt like it was true.

I have been reading a book by Thich Nhat Hanh called Peace Is Every Step. This book teaches that in this hectic, goal -oriented society we live in, peace can be found in each moment. It has introduced me to the concept of mindfulness and finding joy even in the most mundane of daily activities. This is key in practicing yoga as you probably know. But, I have been able to experience this concept mostly in taking the time to cook a great meal and in enjoying it slowly. It's rejuvinating for me to slow down and really look at, smell, and taste the food I've prepared. Now mind you, with a family and career this doesn't even happen daily. But, for the times that it does happen, I am grateful.

As foodies, we all know that the worst part of cooking is DOING DISHES. Well, Thich Nat Hanh even has this covered in the book. He describes the act of doing dishes in a way that has revolutionized the way I feel about this chore(I mean moment). Now, that is one powerful feat! So, with that I leave you with an exerpt(about washing dishes, mindfully) from Thich Nat Hanh's Peace Is Every Step:

"To my mind, the idea that doing dishes is unpleasant can occur only when you aren't doing them. Once you are standing in front of the sink with you sleeves rolled up and your hands in the warm water, it is really quite pleasant. I enjoy taking my time with each dish, being fully aware of the dish, the water, and each movement of my hands. I know that if I hurry in order to eat dessert sooner, the time of washing dishes will be unpleasant and not worth living. That would be a pity, for each minute, each second of life is a miracle."