The Best Pancake Mix on the Planet

baking-mix_productspage.jpgI make all kinds of thing out of Pamela’s Pancake Mix, however, the pancakes are one our favorites. They come out fluffy, light, a lovely brown, and with a slightly nutty flavor. So delicious with any of your favorite fruits added. This is an amazing gluten free product that you must try, if you have not already. Get out the griddle and smack your lips. You are in for a delicious surprise.

Potato Leek Soup (That Flour stuff most definitely optional)

I made potato leek soup today for the first time in my life. I found some very fresh enormous leeks at my neighborhood produce store. I just had to take them home.I reviewed many different leek soup recipes on the web, and then created my own version. Many of the recipes contained “flour”. Of course being gluten intolerant, I did

Leeks

not use flour. Quite frankly, I questioned the use of this ingredient, as potatoes, as we all know, are natural thickening agents. Just as I surmised, one does not need flour! This soup is gluten free without manipulation. It is pretty simple to put together and the best part is eating it. Delish! And your house is going to smell really wonderful with this one!

Sunday’s Potato Leek Soup

Serves: 6-8 hearty bowls
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 45 minutes

3-4 large leeks
6 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped
2 bay leaves
Freshly ground black pepper
4 sprigs fresh thyme
4 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup white wine
5 cups chicken broth
Salt to taste
1/2 cup Half and Half cream
2 tablespoons chopped chives

Trim off the dark green ends of leeks. Save a small portion of the dark end. Wash and set aside. Discard the rest of the dark green ends. Cut white part of leeks in half lengthwise. Wash under cold running water thoroughly, as there is a lot of sand inside the leek layers. Dry them with a paper towel. Rough chop the leeks.

In a large soup pot over medium heat, melt the butter and add the chopped leeks. Season with fresh ground pepper and salt. Pour over the wine. Bring to boil and then simmer leek-butter-wine combo for 5-7 minutes. Add the chopped potatoes, saved green portion of leeks, thyme, bay leaf, chicken broth. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper, if needed. Bring to boil, then cover and simmer about 40 minutes until potatoes are soft and soup is very flavorful. Remove the green ends and thyme sprigs and bay leaves. Puree soup in batches in a blender or food processor.

Stir in the half and half and adjust the seasoning, if necessary. Serve with chopped chives sprinkled on top and a few more twists of fresh black pepper from the grinder.

 

 

 

Blessed

woodpecker2.JPGMy husband and I took a walk this morning and had the most wonderful opportunity to view up close two beautiful “red-bellied woodpeckers”. They were obviously a couple, and he was courting her. Her plumage was almost as colorful as his. They flitted around just above us in a tree. We were mesmerized. He called out to her with a lovely song. Definitely a fabulous way to start the day! OK, so you ask, what does this have to do with pasta? Well, obviously, we had pasta for dinner. Then we ventured outside to the back of our house which is situated on a small lake. The shadows of dusk were breathtaking on the houses across the way. The breeze had kicked up and it was creating ripples and waves on the surface. Wonderful eye dessert. Suddenly up in the sky, there was an elegant bird soaring over the lake. He kept soaring and circling and then diving into the water for fish. I ran to get my bird book. It turned out to be an “osprey”! He had a white belly, white head and a broad wing span. We just sat there on our swing and gazed up at his majestic beauty. Red bellied woodpeckers in the morning. Then a delicious pasta dinner. Then the osprey at day’s end. As I ran out the back door with the bird guide, I smelled a comforting childhood smell, that is, the smell of boiling pasta on a Sunday afternoon. I miss my mother, butospreyohio.jpg I actually got a little smile on my face, just remembering her at the stove stirring the two pots, one with homemade sauce and the other with the boiling pasta water. She put so much love into her cooking. I am convinced that is why it tasted so good! We are blessed. I wish you the same type of day soon. In fact, I wish you many days like these, filled with the marvels of nature, being in the moment, delicious pasta, and your mind happy with childhood nostalgia.

Cannellini Bean Soup

Cannellini bean = white kidney bean = fazolia bean. You’ve probably already encountered this Italian bean in minestrone soup or a bean salad. It’s prized for its smooth and creamy texture and nutty flavor. If you were brought up Italian, the cannellini bean was an every day staple. This soup is simple, fast, and very delicious. My husband, Wayne, and I prepare it at least once a week after work because of its simplicity. I was given the recipe by a friend several years ago who told me that the original version is from the famous Italian cookbook writer Marcella Hazan. It truly tastes like you spent a lot more time on it than you will. I am much more generous with the garlic and fresh parsley than the original recipe. My friend, Debra, uses fresh marjoram in lieu of parsley and proclaims it to be yummy. I, myself, have only made it with parsley. Of course, you have to love garlic to love the soup!

Preparation Time: 15 min.
Serves 4 (hearty bowls)

  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 5-6 cloves fresh garlic, chopped
  • 2 cans (15 oz) cannellini beans, drained
  • 1 cup beef broth, canned
  • 1 cup chopped fresh Italian flat leaf parsley
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Put the oil and the garlic in a saucepan. Cook over moderate heat, stirring, until the garlic is a pale gold. Add the beans and a pinch of salt and pepper. Pour in the broth. You can add more or less broth depending on how thick you like your soup. Add in half of the chopped parsley. Bring to a simmer. Transfer about 1/2 of the bean broth mixture to a blender and process until smooth. Add it back to the pan with the rext of the mixture. Simmer the soup for 5 minutes, then season with salt and pepper. Swirl in the remainder parsley. Serve the soup with your favorite toasted gluten free bread, or if you are not gluten free, your favorite crusty French bread. (Try Kinnikinnick Tapioca Rice English Muffins toasted with this soup. Very good! Check it out: www.kinnikinnick.com)

Small Marvels

RosedMy week started out on a bad foot. I am sure we all have those beginnings. But here, we are, Sunday night, and about to embark on a brand new week. Life always gives us many, many second chances and opportunities to start over. It is refreshing. I got to thinking about the small yet amazing marvels of my Sunday. I dare to even call them small, for with so many people in the world, and with such a vast world, I am just a minute particle. I was looking down on Orlando the other day from the 18th floor of a building downtown. The houses looked like toys. The cars looked ridiculous. Who would spend almost an entire year’s salary on one of those?! People were not even visible from that height. They were all insignificant in the scheme of things. But each day, we awaken and make it all significant. God cares about every little hair on our heads, so we are very special, and thank God for that! My Mom always talked about “islands of happiness”. She told me that life marches on uneventfully or in a most challenging and uninviting way. Then suddenly, without notice, comes an island of happiness floating along. They are slices of heaven. Today was no ordinary Sunday. Small marvels came to visit me. My miniature rose bushes sat naked all winter. This week they bloomed prolifically. I sit here on my lap top next to a tea cup filled with peach and white miniature roses that I cut just this morning. A mother duck and her brood of ducklings marched up the hill this evening to our swing in the back of our house. I cooked up the most delicious fresh spinach for dinner. Two friends called to say hello. We can just say that this is all very ordinary, or we can look at the islands of happiness with the eyes of a child and be filled with wonder and joy. I choose the path of wonder and joy. I keep looking at these small roses and all of their beauty, and I cannot help to think that one would never see their innate beauty from the 18th floor. Good night and pleasant dreams.

Washing The Rainbow Chard

Rinsing out the sand from beautiful rainbow chard

Wayne and I ate the most delicious rainbow chard yesterday. It is a vegetable to feast your eyes on and so nutritious as well. It features red, white, and gold stems and large, rippled glossy leaves. All the colors make this vegetable look very magical. This particular chard came all the way from a California grower called Lakeside Organic Gardens. Of course, I would buy it locally, if Orlando could grow chard. Florida oranges and avocadoes are more our speed.

Here I am at our kitchen sink painstakingly rinsing out all the sand and lots of sand there was! I remember my Mom washing all the sand and debris out of escarole. I could hear her voice giving directives and see her hands repeatedly dipping in and out of the cold water. She taught me to fill up a large bowl or pot and dunk and soak the greens. Then she would say to let the leaves kind of float to the top of the water and gently remove all the leaves and place them in another container. All the sand would sink to the bottom of the pot. Then she would dump out the water and repeat the procedure until the water was free of sand. It was a lot of work, but well worth it in the end. I sauteed our lovely chard with garlic, olive oil, touch of salt, and a pinch of red pepper flakes. Yummy!

Again, I cannot thank my Mom enough for all of her kitchen knowledge, but most importantly, for all the love she poured into demonstrating this knowledge to my sister and myself. Her love of cooking lives on in “us.”

Afterthought: The little label attached to the twisty tie on the chard had a recipe for pasta with chard, named Pasta Francine. At the end of the recipe, it says “Molto bene!”, which in Italian means “very good.”
“Molto bene” for rainbow chard!

Saturday’s Pasta Frittata

Wedge
Wayne just loves this frittata because it encompasses the best of both of his favorite foods, that is, eggs and pasta. I have substituted gluten free linguine (Quinoa gluten free works well) for the usual potatoes in the recipe. It is fun food and delicious too. It actually tastes better the next day at room temperature. The frittata is a good lunch box or picnic food. A fresh tomato salad is the perfect accompaniment. Enjoy!

Pasta Frittata

Ingredients

6 large eggs
3 oz. cooked and drained gluten free linguine (our choice is Quinoa)
1/2 cup chopped red onion
3 cups fresh spinach leaves
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
3/4 cup cubed mozzarella cheese
Handful chopped fresh basil leaves
3 Tablespoons olive oil
Salt and Cracked pepper to taste

Method

Beat eggs in bowl. Add parmesan cheese, basil, salt and pepper. Set aside. In a 10 inch skillet, saute red onion in olive oil for several minutes until translucent. Stir in spinach leaves until wilted. Place mozzarella cubes and linguine on top of spinach and onion mixture in skillet. Pour egg mixture over all. Turn heat down low, cover, and cook until just set. It sets rather quickly, so keep an eye on it and don’t overcook.
When just set and still a litte moist on top, brown quickly under the broiler for about a minute. Makes about 4 servings.

Presto Pasta al Pesto!

Pesto Pasta

My sister, Grace, loves cooking gadgets. She owns the most impressive collection of kitchen gadgets on the East coast. I also admire the fact that she is so knowledgeable about how they work and uses every single one of them all the time. None of them collect dust. She lives in New England and I live in Florida, and we usually share a wonderful chat together on our cell phones as we both drive home from work on Thursday afternoons. Yesterday, she excitedly told me all about the newest gadget in her life, that is, the Cuisinart Mini Prep Food Processor. She said she had a copious crop of basil growing in her garden and made a batch of pesto using the new processor. She said it came out just delicious and the performance of the mini prep was more than she expected. Grace said she loved the color too, black chrome with a black wire. White appliance wires can look so dingy after awhile. I hung up with her and could not stop thinking about pesto!

Just the day before my sister’s call, I chatted with my dear and wonderful friend, Agi. She moved into her new home and planted purple basil. It is quite beautiful and has suprisingly it has given her a prolific crop. She asked me for my pesto recipe. It seems like everyone has pesto on their mind this week.

Both Grace and Agi have inspired me to share with you my pesto recipe that I have made for over thirty years. Pesto originated in Genoa and the classic way to prepare it is with a mortar and pestle. Pesto literally means “pounded.” But of course, we are all to busy these days for such nonsense, so grab your blender or processor (or you may want to check out the new Cuisinart Mini Prep), and whirl up some delicious pesto to share with family and friends.

Fresh Basil Pesto

Ingredients

2 overflowing cups fresh basil leaves
2 garlic cloves
1/2 cup pine nuts (or some prefer walnuts, or use half and half)
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2/3 cup olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Preparation

Combine basil, garlic, salt and pepper in work bowl of processor and blend to fine paste, scraping down sides of bowl as necessary. Add pine nuts and cheese and process until smooth. With machine running, pour olive oil through feed tube in slow steady stream and mix until almost smooth. If it is too thick, you can add a little bit more olive oil. If you choose to use a blender, put all ingredients into blender except olive oil and pulse chop until it almost paste, then with machine running pour olive oil into mixture through opening in blender top.

Boil your favorite pasta and reserve about a cup of cooking water. Mix your pasta with a lump of butter before adding the pesto. Loosen up the pasta and pesto with some reserved pasta water.

We like this on Tinkyada fettucini with some freshly diced plum tomatoes sprinkled on top. Enjoy!

Pesto tip: When storing pesto in the refrigerator or freezer, add a film of olive oil about 1/8 inch thick to the top to prevent sauce from drying out. Mix it in when ready to use. Always bring chilled pesto to room temperature before serving.

Afterthought: When I used to lived up North, I remember hanging on to the skirts of summer’s fresh bounty. My back yard and every friend’s backyard as well as every farm stand would boast the huge bouquets of fragrant sweet basil. It is surely one of nature’s most precious gifts, and pesto is undoubtably one of the best ways to enjoy its goodness.

Summer’s End and Lady Paula

It is late August and the sun is already casting that certain nostalgic light. There is just something about this entrance into fall. Summer’s end and my heart recalls lovely Donna Paula.

In Italian, Donna Paula means “Lady Paula”. You pronounce Paula like Pow-a-la. I do not know why to this day, but she has left her imprint on my soul.

I remember meeting her when I was a child. She was a friend of my grandmother’s.
My mother always spoke very highly of her. My mother loved Lady Paula very much.
My mother spent summers with her away from her own mother.

Lady Paula was a typical looking older Italian woman. She was short and stout. Her hair was tied into a bun. She wore baggy cotton dresses. She had the biggest and most impressive vegetable garden that I have ever seen in my life. She lived in a small and simple house and the garden on the side of the house was almost as big as the house itself.

My Mom and Dad would take my sister and me to visit her. She would pluck fat, deep orange carrots out the earth, rinse them off under the outside spigot, and hand them to us to eat as if they were cotton candy. Indeed, they tasted as sweet!

We continued to visit her and she grew older and older. She lived alone. It was the summer that I turned 18 and I had just earned my driver’s license. I decided to visit her on my own. I knocked on her door. She opened it and looked right at me and asked who I was. She was losing her eyesight. I announced, ” It is Geraldin-a, Donna Paula, Grace’s daughter”. Her arms were strong as she embraced me at the door. She invited me in. She said she was about to begin making her dinner. On the counter was an opened box of spaghetti half full, a bottle of olive oil, and 1 unpeeled clove of garlic.

She told me that this was an easy dish. She said you could any vegetable. “Come-a with me”, she said with her endearing Italian accent. It was dusk on a sultry August day. I recall the rich smell of the earth that is so familiar as evening approaches. She grabbed two small zucchini off the vine. I was impressed with how well she moved through the garden and back up the 4-5 steps to the kitchen with her limited vision.

She put the pasta on to boil. She minced the garlic and simmered it in some olive oil.
She thinly sliced the zucchini fresh from its source. She quickly moved the zucchini through the garlic and oil. She poured this mixture over the pasta. Then she carefully sprinkled it with parmesan and just a dash of salt and pepper.

“Come-a join me. Mangia!” She stood in front of her stove holding the fragrant bowl of zucchini and pasta and smiled.

We sat together, in silence, eating our small feast. From her kitchen window outlined with crisp white curtains, I watched the beginnings of the sunset over the garden.

Lady Paula would not have been labeled as a beautiful woman by today’s standards, but to me, she was beyond beautiful. Lady Paula possessed the “simple” beauty of a radiant spirit.

To this day, whenever I begin to sauté garlic in olive oil, the aroma brings me back to that summer day in her kitchen. I see her gentle smile. I hear the love in her voice as she says to me, “Come-a. Sit down. Mangia!”.

Saucy! (Basic Delicious Tomato Sauce)

Saucy! (Basic Delicious Tomato Sauce)

I have been making this basic sauce for over twenty years. It is fast and delicious, and once it is made, you can do all kinds of recipe renditions with it. My husband, Wayne, loves this sauce. He affectionately calls it “Saucy!”. In fact, I don’t think that I have ever met another person in my walk on this planet who loves pasta and tomato sauce as much as he does! Amazingly, he is of Scotch and German descent. I am of Italian descent, and I don’t get half as excited. He loves garlic, also, and he admitted that his mother was Southern and did not cook with very much garlic. Well, I decided not to try to figure this out too much. I have a very appreciative audience for my cooking, and that is just fine with me. There is no greater compliment, I am sure you will agree, than when someone leaves a clean plate and made yummy noises throughout the journey. He is also very wonderful about eating gluten free pasta along with me. Every now and then, I boil two different pastas, but again, thankfully, Wayne is easy to please and adventurous when it comes to trying a new type of food.Simple Sauce

Please do pass up that jarred stuff, darling, and try this!

Ingredients:
1 large yellow onion, diced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
¼ cup olive oil
2 Large cans crushed tomatoes (28 oz size)
(I prefer Muir Glen)
Large handful of fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon sugar
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Freshly ground sea salt to taste

In large, heavy saucepan, sauté onions in olive oil over low heat until soft and transparent (about 5 minutes of cooking). Add garlic. Sauté another minute in sizzling onions and oil.

Whirl up crushed tomatoes one can at a time in blender. Leave it somewhat chunky. Pour over onion and garlic mixture in saucepan. Add basil, sugar, salt and pepper. Bring to a strong simmer for about 20 minutes to half an hour.

Some people like to add other herbs such as oregano and Italian flat leaf parsley. You can experiment with different herbs. We like just basil. It adds a certain sweetness to the sauce when left solo. You can also add a skosh more of olive oil, if you would like. It is all according to your taste.

Makes a large pot of sauce. You can have some for dinner and freeze the rest for another meal.

We enjoyed this sauce today over Tinkyada Rice Penne Pasta with freshly shaved parmigiana cheese. Enjoy!