Garlic and Rosengarten

My uncle sent me a link to a wonderful e-zine he enjoys reading, and I’m sure many of you will love it, too.  David Rosengarten’s Tastings. (I am probably the last person to know about it, as is often the case.)   One recent mailing included an ode to garlic, which is definitely one of my top five favorite foods  ( have lost lovers over my passion for garlic, but it seems to me to be a lack of lustiness to dislike the heady smell of garlic. Still, CR and I have a pact to eat it together.) 

Thinking this cold misty day of a roasted garlic soup that I ate in New Orleans.  I have been longing to reproduce it for years, and have not yet done so.   (New Orleans is one of the great food cities, or was.  How is it faring these days, does anyone know?) It might have been an Emeril restaurant, but time blurs these things, and at any rate, I’m betting some of you have good recipes for a roasted garlic soup.  I have a pile of beautiful organic garlic and the idea of the scent of it wafting through the house while I put up the Christmas tree is richly appealing.   So, recipes?

Food is such a powerful memory maker.  I’m thinking of my grandmother’s recipes a lot lately.  Her icebox cake.  Her macaroni and cheese.  Her Waldorf salad and the holiday celery, stuffed with grated cheese, Miracle Whip, and onions.  I’m also shipping recipe cards to my ex so he can write out his special recipes in his handwriting for our boys, so those recipes are not lost to time.  (Many of them do show up in my books, of course, but better to have them in his handwriting.)

Do you have a food memory connected to a recipe that’s lost, a recipe you haven’t been able to reproduce, or one that you finally did get right after trying for a long time? 

And don’t forget to give me roasted garlic soup recipes you love!

Health(ier) macaroni and cheese

As promised.  I wanted a macaroni and cheese recipe that was healthier and lower in fat, and this is what I came up with.  Really nice.

Macaroni and cheese
Serves 4

2 cups (dry measure) whole wheat corkscrew pasta (Barilla and Rotini both have good flavor and plenty of protein and fiber)
2 T olive oil
2 T flour
1-1/4 cups skim milk
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese
1 slice low fat American cheese
3 T grated full-fat, strong-flavored cheese (Cheddar will do, but play around and use what you have in the fridge)
3 T. grated low-fat Mozzarella
1/3 cup Parmesan-flavored bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 375 and spray olive oil on a square 8-inch baking dish.

Boil pasta, being careful to avoid overcooking.

Heat milk until hot but not boiling, and add the Parmesan, the American cheese, and 1 T each of the strong cheese and the mozzarella, stir to start the melting.  Have this ready to add to the skillet on the next step.

Heat the olive oil in a heavy skillet over medium heat (careful to keep it from getting too hot) and lightly brown the flour.  (I burned it the first time, which always irks me, and had to start over.)  Add the milk/cheese mixture, stirring continuously as it thickens to a good consistency.  Add salt and pepper to taste.   

Drain the pasta and settle it into the baking dish, and pour the sauce over it.  Top with the remaining cheese and the bread crumbs and back for about 30 minutes.  Let stand for a few minutes before serving. 

Here’s the happy part: divide into four hefty servings and get away with:  387 calories; 13 gms fat; 18 gms protein; 46 gms carbs; and a lovely 6 grams of fiber.

Compare that to a regular serving of homemade mac and cheese:  548 calories,  34 grams fat;  1 gram fiber.  (The full version is a little higher in protein, but worth the trade off, no?)

Three greens lasagna

CR loves lasagna, a dish at which I am quite skilled, and all that pasta and fat are great for his very lean runner body.  My own body would just turn into a big round ball if I ate it, so I’m always on the prowl for healthier versions I can freeze for myself. 

In honor of my vegetarian day this week, here is one I made when craving that depth of tomato taste we found in Naples.  Because our tomatoes were only a pale imitation of theirs (I am going to grow a million tomatoes next summer), the sauce didn’t quite match the Naples version, but it is quite fine, nonetheless.  Adapted from a recipe in Shape magazine and one for tomato sauce I had stuck in a book.  Highly flavorful, very healthy lasagna.  The sauce takes a bit of time, but really worth it.


Tomato sauce

6 T. extra virgin olive oil
2 onions, diced
8 garlic cloves, slice thinly or crushed
1 cup fresh basil
1 cup good red wine
salt and fresh pepper
10-12 good tasting fresh tomatoes (the blander the tomato, the blander the sauce)

Blanch the tomatoes in boiling water until the skin is loose, then cool in cold water and remove the skins.  Dice and set aside.

Saute onions and garlic over low heat (the idea is to infuse the oil with flavor while releasing the flavors) lightly, then add basil and saute for five minutes, stirring gently.  Add the wine and reduce by half.  Add the tomatoes and salt & pepper, then let simmer until tomatoes are tender and liquid is again reduced by about half.  If you let it cook for about two hours, you will lose some color, but the flavor is stunning.


12 oz crumbled goat cheese
2-3 T. skim milk
1 T each  fresh thyme, fresh basil, fresh oregano, chopped
Tomato sauce, above
6 whole wheat lasagna noodles, cooked
1 10-oz box of kale, collards, or mustard greens (I only like collards, which I find to be much less bitter than the other two, but it’s your choice)  or use 4 cups fresh collards, well scrubbed, if you can find them
4 cups fresh spinach
4 cups fresh arugula
1 cup roasted red peppers, drained and diced
1 cup sun-dried tomatoes, cut into julienne strips
1/4 cup shaved Parmesan cheese

Preheat over to 375

Boil noodles.

Mix milk and cheese, thyme, basil, and oregano.  Combine red peppers and sun-dried tomatoes. On the bottom of a 9 x 13 baking dish, spread a layer of tomato sauce and cover with three noodles.  Layer on the greens in alternating layers (and you can scatter some more fresh basil through it if you like), then scatter a layer of peppers and tomatoes, top with a layer of tomato sauce, then cheese.  Repeat, ending with cheese and sprinklings of Parmesan cheese. Bake for about 40-50 minutes, and let stand for 5 minutes before cutting into eight generous slices.     Freezes and reheats beautifully.

Rough nutrition estimates (I have to figure this out for various reasons, but I’m NOT a nutritionist, so don’t hold me to it):  Calories 397, fat, 22 grams, fiber, 4.2, protein, 14, carbs, 19.   Not bad as lasagnas go.

Happy weekend to you. 

Little bitty steps to change the food world

We lost the Safeway nearby our house about four or five months ago. There was some sort of scuffle over the lease, and Safeway moved out.  It was sudden–and for me–dismaying.  I am a Safeway customer, and have been for many years.  Not that any other store is better or worse, but once you are used to a particular market, it saves time (and money) to shop there.

But mainly, I loved Safeway’s fairly recent Organics brand.

As I live in Suburbia, there are many other supermarkets within a very short distance, two within a mile. There is also, if I want to drive an extra couple of miles (and spend a lot more money), a Whole Foods, which I enjoy visiting, but don’t enjoy shopping regularly since they are so MUCH more expensive.  It’s not that I can’t afford it–I can.  It’s just that it goes against the grain for me, raised by a mother who could feed a family of six for a week on seven cents, to spend twice as much on groceries.

That said, I am a big believer in organic food, and in supporting that industry as much as possible.  ItGirlscoldframe makes a difference–organic eggs are more expensive, but imagine how many more chickens are living reasonably decent lives.  I’ve discovered I’m quite sensitive to the hormones added to milk and meat, and eating cleanly there is worth it.   Safeway made that quite possible, and for a reasonable rise in cost. 

There are cost issues in eating organically, even in eating whole foods.  One of my side-jobs stints was as a residential aide in boarding homes for functional schizophrenics (which is where a lot of the material in Lady Luck’s Map of Vegas came from). The food budget for the houses was small and had to last a month, so the group meals relied heavily on trash meats like pressed lunch meats, white pasta, white bread, sugary drinks that can be mixed with water, lots of coffee.  At least there was a lot of milk, and some eggs.  As a whole-foods person, I was shocked at the poor (practically non-existent) nutrition available in that food–and I couldn’t help but wonder how much better the residents would function if they consumed whole grains and organic meats and lots of fresh fruits and vegetables. I’d still be interested in studies that examined the functionality of schizophrenics eating whole foods vs those eating that old-school cafeteria style mush.

But it was an issue of cost. The homes were always struggling to stay afloat and house as many clients as possible (to save them either from the state hospital or living on the street–not great alternatives), so eating whole, highly nutritious foods is a long way down the list of priorities.   

The same is true of feeding a family on a budget–whole and organic foods cost more.   It takes a lot more time for a busy mother to get to the farmer’s market than to stop by the supermarket on the way home.  If the organic meat is $7 and the regular is $4, most budget minded mothers have to choose the $4 version. 

Which brings us back to Safeway and their much more affordable Organics line.  Bulk organics creates a standard for the food industry–if we as consumers say we want whole, organic produce and a meat supply that’s unpolluted with chemicals and harvested from animals who have been treated humanely through their lives, then the price comes down.  We change the world by changing little bitty things, one at a time. 

So, here’s today’s food challenge: pick two or three things you will commit to buying organically for now. Milk is insanely expensive at the moment, so if you haven’t started that, choose something easier for awhile.   Eggs are a good place to start.  There are lots available in most grocery stores.   And then choose two other things–peppers, maybe, or onions, or adding one pound of natural chicken to your usual week’s shopping.   If you are raising children, I highly recommend either skipping beef entirely or choosing natural, antibiotic and hormone free.

Who has other tips for whole and organic eating on a budget?   Have you tried adding organics to your food cart?

Watermelon salad


In the summer, I eat a watermelon every week.  This started when I was a young married and my ex brought home watermelons every Friday.  He had a knack for choosing the sweetest melon on the pile, and when he found an especially fantastic one, he would call his mother.  I’m not as talented as he is, but I look for the heaviest melon, one that has a yellow patch on one side, and "sugar marks," which are jagged little brown marks on the shell. 

Mostly, I just eat the melon, because it’s so cooling (and diuretic, for those who find hands and feet swelling in the humid summer).   This is a fast, simple salad I made for lunch this week–all cooling foods and a slightly different mix of lunch ingredients:

Spinach Watermelon Salad

1 c watermelon, cut in small triangles or cubes
2 cups fresh spinach leaves
1/4 c crumbled feta cheese
1 tablespoon Parmesan cheese (I used shaved, because it’s prettier, but grated is fine)
1-2 T. olive oil
1 T lemon juice or vinegar
1/4 tsp chile powder

Lay the spinach leaves as a bed, and arrange the watermelon on top.  Sprinkle with cheeses.  Blend oil, lemon juice and chile powder and shake well.  Pour over the salad.

Luciousness, sicilian-style

Earlier this week, I shared some travel blogs I like to visit.   I saved this one for a special highlight for our foodie fix: 

Pinch My Salt, which has won a plethora of awards from all kinds of sources, so it’s not just me telling you to go wander around.   It’s the food and recipe blog of a woman living in Sicily.  I love it for the recipes, but even more for the absolutely mouthwatering photos of thing like strawberries and the bread and cinnamon below.  Lots of earthy recipes, too.   Go, but be careful–it will make you hungry!


Rosalie’s tacos

As children, we always got to choose our birthday dinner, and this was my choice, year in year out. The year I was fourteen, I ate seven.  It was rarely less than five.  Mmmm, mmm, mmm.

My mother’s recipe–simple and fantastic, especially excellent if you want to impress a guy.  Not fancy and he’ll feel very well-tended. They are, without question, my favorite tacos in the world, thanks to addition of the beans, and the soft, not crisp, tortillas.

1 lb ground beef or turkey (or tofu, I’m sure)
1 onion, chopped
1 15 oz can chile beans (pintos)
1 taco seasoning packet (I’m partial to Lawry’s)
1/2 head shredded iceberg lettuce
2-3 chopped tomatoes
Shredded colby cheese
12 corn tortillas
Vegetable oil

Brown the meat with the onions. Add the beans and taco seasoning packet according to directions.  Let simmer.

Shred the lettuce, chop the tomatoes.  Set the table.  Turn on the oven to 200.

To fry the tortillas: get an oven-proof plate or pan ready and cover the botton with a paper towel.  In a heavy skillet, heat about an inch of vegetable oil until very hot but not smoking. Test with the edge of a tortilla–the oil should bubble around it.   Using metal tongs, dip a tortilla in the oil for just a few seconds and turn it over, then pull it out and drop it flat on the paper towel.  Repeat, layering new paper towels on top of the tortillas. (It takes a little bit of practice, but don’t lose hope.) 

Serve with whatever condiments you like–guacamole or sour cream or pico de gallo.  I like them straight—and there is a particular layering system I like: cheese, meat, lettuce, tomato so the cheese will melt, but CR likes to put sour cream on his and that goes first. 

Did you have a birthday dinner ritual when you were a child?

News bites


I’ll be attending the New England Chapter’s highly regarded conference this weekend, teaching a two hour voice workshop.  There will be a booksigning, too, and I’ll have copies of both Barbara Samuel and Ruth Wind titles.

NEC Book Fair for Literacy
Saturday, March 31, 2007
4:00-6:00 pm
Crowne Plaza Hotel
Route 9
Natick, Massachusetts

NEW BOOK OUTDesisrescue_2

Desi’s Rescue, by Ruth Wind, is now available.  This is the second in the Sisters of the  Mountain series for Romantic Suspense, and it features wolves, mountain hot springs, and a sexy New Zealander with green eyes. 

Read more about it.


A few spots are left in the Girls in the Basement class that begins May 7. 


April 14, Los Angeles area
Orange County RWA
Topic: "Layering in Lusciousness"

Call for papers: New Approaches to the Romance Novel

From Teach Me Tonight, the blog collective of a small and intelligent group of romance writers/readers who are also academics:

Sadly, academic criticism and theory of the romance—whether literary criticism, sociological analysis, editorial theory, or feminist scrutiny—has not kept up with the changes in the genre. Janice Radway’s sociological evaluation of romance readers and literary analysis of the romance genre is more than twenty years out-of-date, written before any of the changes that define the modern romance had evolved. Dangerous Men and Adventurous Women, edited by best-selling romance author Jayne Ann Krentz, is an invaluable tool for the romance critic, but is now more than ten years old and never claimed to be academic. It is well past time for a volume of sophisticated, rigorous, and romance-positive academic analyses of romance.

For more, go to Teach Me Tonight.