SIMPLY ELEVATED

Pasta Verde X Dos

Looking for ways to use items that are wilting away in the refrigerator? I found asparagus that I wanted to use in a different way. So I cut them into thirds and blanched them in boiling water for a few minutes until tender, then moved the pieces to a bowl of ice water with a slotted spoon or spider. This stops the cooking and “shocks” the vegetable, saving that pretty verde (green) color. With the heat turned off I then tossed a cup of frozen peas into the same hot water for just a minute to take the chill out before scooping them out and placing them into the bowl of ice water.

Back to the fridge I found a small amount of spinach left in a bag, grabbed a lemon and a bottle of white wine. Light extra virgin olive oil, and a trip outside to the herb garden I cut some spring onions, chives, and mint that all went into my blender. (Cilantro would have been good to brighten the flavor). I whizzed it up adding oil and wine until it resembled a sauce and then added the zest and juice of a lemon (tip: always zest the lemon before cutting it). I then added 1/3 cup of grated parmesan cheese (which is salty so taste before seasoning). Add salt and ground black pepper to taste. If you like heat you could add garlic or jalapeños, but I thought asparagus and peas were such fresh and gentle veggies, I didn’t want to over power them. Be creative and use what you have (celery may have added a nice flavor, parsley might be the only herb you have so use that). Just think green. I bet some green grapes would have added a little sweetness.

I then cooked a half box of tiny shell pasta, imagining the sauce gathering inside their little cups. When the shells were al dente I warmed my verde mixture and using a little pasta water tossed the pasta and sauce together. This wasn’t a formal recipe, just playing around with what I had. All I could think of is all of the great green vegetables I was getting in one bite. I then drizzled the top with a little olive oil and to finish it off, I would have shaved some parmesan over the top if I had a block, but I only had some pre-shredded – so I topped it with that.

Ravioli with Pesto Cream Sauce

What to do with a 10 oz bag of store bought ravioli? Well you need a sauce, but don’t have any in the pantry and don’t have time to make one from scratch. To make this Pesto cream sauce you will need:

A jar of homemade or store bought pesto

1/2 cup heavy cream or half and half

2 tablespoons butter

Garlic and onion powder

salt and pepper to taste

fresh basil (optional)

shaved or grated parmesan (optional)

This dinner took literally less than 15 minutes to prepare. I spotted a jar of pesto I made with basil from my garden in the refrigerator and a carton of heavy cream. I did not measure the amounts I used, so I just had to guess based the pictures what the approximate amounts were.

Begin with preparing the ravioli according to the package instructions. My chicken and roasted garlic version only took 4 minutes to cook once the salted boiling water was rolling so you can either make the sauce first and then prepare the pasta or cook both at the same time. Having all of the ingredients on the counter ready to go will help you work faster.

While the ravioli was cooking, I placed a 10 inch non-stick skillet over medium heat and added about 1/4 cup of pesto followed by about 1/2 cup of heavy cream. (I actually just poured until the cream created a layer the width of the skillet.) I sprinkled a little onion and garlic powder (probably about 1/2 teaspoon of each), added salt and black pepper as I stirred and tasted. Pesto has a lot of flavor so you get a big bang from the one ingredient. I then added the butter and stirred everything together. It’s very yellow at first, and as you stir you can see the creamy white color.

The pasta now ready, scoop the ravioli from the boiling pot of water with a slotted spoon and put directly into the sauce. When all of the pasta is transferred to the sauce, gently toss until the pasta is coated. It’s ready to serve with the options of sprinkling with chopped fresh basil (or other herbs), a little shaved or grated parmesan and a toasted crusty bread like a baguette or garlic bread sticks.

Another option would be to use a store bought jar of sun dried tomato pesto in place of the basil pesto, to create something similar to a vodka sauce. You can make your own homemade pesto with a variety of herbs, any kind of nuts that you have, grated parmesan and olive oil. There are an abundance of recipes available on Pinterest or any cooking magazine website. When you’re low on ingredients and short on time, grab what you’ve got and make it work!

SIMPLY ELEVATED

White Velvet Soup

Many years ago a family member introduced me to a creamy potato soup made from simple ingredients. It was a delicious soup that different family members made their own special version of. My version was a favorite of my daughter’s (making it kid friendly) filled with a variety of vegetables masquerading as soupy mashed potatoes. A comfort food made with very little, inexpensive, satisfying, filling and tasty.

4 to 6 potatoes (I used golden but any potato will do) peeled

2 medium to large carrots (peeled)

2 to 3 stalks of celery

1 small to medium onion (peeled and cut into chunks)

2 cloves of garlic (peeled)

1 15 oz. can of evaporated milk (or 2% or full fat milk)

4 to 6 tablespoons of butter (have a stick available)

Salt

pepper

1/4 cup sour cream (optional)

parmesan or cheddar cheese

3 strips of bacon (or Hormel real bacon bits)

Scallions, Spring onions or chives

Peel and cut the potatoes and carrots. Cut into similar sized chunks. Wash and chop the celery and onion also into similar sized chunks as the potato and carrot. Peel the garlic and leave whole. Place all into a pot and cover with water (as you would to boil for mashed potatoes). Bring water to a boil and cook until the potatoes and carrots are tender in the center. Be careful not to over cook or the final result will be gooey.

While the potatoes are boiling (about 15 minutes), if you’d like to garnish the soup with fresh bacon, use a microwave safe dish and place a double layer of paper towels on top. Line with 3 slices of bacon (I cut mine in half to shorten their length), top with double layer of paper towels, bacon and finish with a double layer of paper towel. Place in the microwave. Start with 2 minutes and check the crispiness of the bacon. Add 30 second intervals until the bacon is crispy and can be easy crumbled. Set aside.

Remove the vegetables from the boiling water with a slotted spoon (or spider if you have one like the one in the picture) and place the mixture of vegetables into a food processor or blender. Depending on the size of your food processor, you may have to make the sour in batches and pour into a pot or bowl to rewarm with finished. Do not overfill and be very careful when working with hot items in appliances. Add some of the evaporated (or other) milk and a couple of tablespoons butter. Pulse to puree the vegetables. I personally prefer a consistency similar to soupy mashed potatoes and use more milk to loosen the mixture; but some of the other family members add some of the boiling liquid from the pot to thin the soup further. Sour cream may be added to the mixture at this point if desired (optional).

Serve in a soup bowl and top with desired garnishes, a dollop of sour cream, sliced or grated cheese of your choice, crumbled bacon and chopped green onions or chives. When my daughter was little, she just wanted cheese.

OPTIONAL : POTATO SOUP WITH SWEET POTATO

Several years ago I found a marbled potato recipe for Thanksgiving where mashed potatoes flavored with sour was swirled with a whipped, buttered cardamon sweet potato. I often tell a story about how my Mom told me she didn’t think she was going to like them. Then the week after having eaten the marbled potatoes, she ran out and bought cardamon to put in everything!

I had one large sweet potato and decided to experiment, creating the whipped sweet potato to either place into the center of the golden potato soup or make the sweet potato the star,

1 large or two small/medium sweet potatoes (peeled and cubed)

1/2 teaspoon cardamon

4 to 6 tablespoons of butter

I recently watched a demonstration on a Martha Stewart site where potatoes were actually “steamed” instead of boiled. The result was a less soggy potato (for mashed potatoes). I decided to use this method for the sweet potato.

To prepare, fill the bottom of deep sauce pan with about an inch of water; the put a steamer basket over the water and layer the chunks of potato evenly into the basket. Bring the water to a slight simmer and cover the pot. Depending on the size of your potato pieces it may take 5 to 15 minutes. Steam until a fork goes into the potato center easily.

With a pot holder or dish cloth lift the streamer with potatoes and place on a plate or bowl on the side. Pour out the water from the pot. Return potatoes to the pot, add cardamon and butter. Whip with a hand mixer until smooth. (As an option, milk can be added to make this mixture smooth like the golden potato soup if you want to swirl some of the sweet potato with that soup).

Above left: I used a small scoop to create of ball of the sweet potato and placed it in the middle of the golden potato soup. Right: I placed three scoops of the whipped sweet potato and poured a small amount of the golden potato soup around the outside. I topped each sweet potato round with a crispy piece of bacon, garnished with chopped green onion and shaved parmesan.

I was a single Mom for most of my daughter’s life and didn’t make a lot o money back then. I know what it’s like to try to stretch a buck, and still present something comforting, filling and satisfying for dinner. I hope this idea will work in your home.

SIMPLY ELEVATED

Veggie Salad and Fruity Breakfast

My own version of the German salad.

Here are two healthy, quick, no cooking required, meals. Last September I had a wonderful opportunity to travel to a small town in southern Germany that was less than an hour away from both France and Switzerland. During my time there I learned about this lovely salad that I call “the German salad”.

This salad is a perfect example of how to “Simply Elevate” items that are a combination of fresh, frozen and canned vegetables. The technique is to chop or slice everything that creates the bottom layer to a similar size. Basically any combination of ingredients you have will work. The first salad I had at a restaurant in a Castle we toured in Germany, contained smashed boiled and butter potato, shredded carrot, finely julienned zucchini, diced beets and radishes; while the version in Switzerland had corn, shredded cheese, red pepper, shredded carrots and cucumbers.

Each version was then topped with mixed greens tossed in a light vinaigrette. When the first salad arrived, it looked like a simple mixed green salad, but as the top layer was pushed away you found all of the lovely colorful surprises just beneath.

When I returned home, I planned a wine club meeting for my friends and recreated some of the cuisine influences I experienced in this little corner of Europe, which included this German salad.

A fun way to serve this would be to create a large platter of prepared vegetables and let everyone choose which items they want for their bottom layer. Then prepare a separate bowl with the tossed greens. to serve on top. My platter above included radishes sliced on a mandolin, diced fresh sugar snap peas, diced red (orange or yellow) bell peppers, shredded carrots (can be purchased in the produce section), diced fresh zucchini, diced English cucumbers (Persian or a regular cucumber are fine), and canned corn that was drained.

Other options: frozen corn, frozen peas, canned diced beets, boiled and buttered smashed potatoes, diced fresh mushrooms, drained jarred artichoke hearts, hearts of palm – whatever you have can work. The more color the prettier it will be.

For the vinaigrette I simply drizzled a little of good olive oil and a little white balsamic vinegar over the greens and toss. You can use rice wine vinegar, white wine vinegar, champagne vinegar – just use whatever you have. This salad is very refreshing and very filling due to all of the raw vegetables.

FRUITY NO COOK BREAKFAST

An easy, healthy and “Simply elevated” bowl of yogurt is as simple as using a wide single serving bowl, placing 1/4 cup of yogurt, sprinkle the top with cinnamon to add flavor (said to lower blood sugar) ; or swirl in a tablespoon of your favorite jam or preserves; sprinkle with a store bought or homemade granola, chopped nuts or toasted coconut; then slice up fruit (banana, a mandarin oranges, cherries, peach, pear, apple; add some berries and if you have it, snip some fresh mint into little strips to sprinkle over the top. I even prepared a version of this while I was in Germany using local fruits.

My France yogurt bowl -homemade berry preserves, museli, figs, mirabelles, banana & fresh mint.
Home: Greek yogurt sprinkled with cinnamon, toasted oat granola, strawberry,
blueberry, banana & fresh mint.

Be creative, have fun and enjoy! Until next time….Bon Appétit !

SIMPLY ELEVATED

Springtime Soup: “Simply Elevated”

Carrot and fresh pea soup with chive blossom.

Basic every day ingredients elevated – its the genesis of my new category “Simply Elevated“. I hope to inspire and encourage methods for using ingredients that may not appear to be much in their original form, but can be elevated into a delicious and beautiful meal. Let’s dig into to our refrigerators, freezers, pantries and herb gardens to present something everyone will look forward to eating.

I created this soup last year for my annual Mothers Tea and realized it would be the perfect example during this difficult time, of how a few ordinary ingredients can be transformed into something tasty, filling and nutritious.

Let me begin with the herb garden. If you don’t have one you can easily purchase fresh herbs at the grocery in those little plastic packs, but consider planting some in a large planter or in a small area of your back yard. The benefit of growing your own yields fresh flavors to add to your dishes nearly every day, and eventually if you gently fertilize ,you will see lovely flowers bloom from their stems that are edible and add a lovely touch to your dishes. I’ve had the most luck with an area that gets morning sun and afternoon shade. Herbs are inexpensive to grow (I start mine from small plants purchased at the grocery or hardware store) and give them a dose of Miracle Grow right after putting them in the grown. Spring (April and May) are the months they thrive the most. Some will last year round while others can’t make it through the very hot (parsley and cilantro) or very cold (basil) seasons.

The herbs I use most frequently are thyme, basil, chives (that make beautiful lavender flowers) and parsley, but I also have dill, oregano, rosemary, sage and cilantro. Cilantro and parsley require frequent trimming to avoid seeding, and they don’t like the heat. I use sweet mint with fruit, drinks and some savory dishes, but I would recommend planting mint in a completely separate container. It tends to take over in the garden. This year I’ve added some edible flowers (violas, pansies, marigolds) and Spring onions that also bloom a white version of the chive blossom.

🍃Carrot, Pea and Mint Soup🍃

6 to 8 servings
FOR THE CARROT PORTION:
2 pounds orange carrots (farm fresh for the best flavor if available )
1 or 2 small to medium purple carrots (if unable to find an orange will do)
4 tablespoons of butter
1/2 cup of vegetable stock or water *
1/2 teaspoon of salt
pinch of white pepper
FOR THE MINT-PEA PORTION:
2 – 12 oz packages of frozen sweet peas (reserve 1/2 of whole peas on the side for garnish
6 mint leaves (additional mint for garnish)
1/2 to 1 cup vegetable stock or water*
salt and pepper to taste
1 teaspoon lemon zest & juice
Note: * If chicken stock is used the pure flavor of the vegetables will be altered.

Peel all carrots with a vegetable peeler and then slice into 1/4 inch disks. Place in a medium to large skillet with butter and liquid (*vegetable stock or water), salt and pepper. (If you do not have white pepper -black pepper is acceptable.) Simmer on medium heat covered until carrots are tender when pierced with a fork. Carefully transfer to a blender and puree until smooth. (Note that hot liquid in a blender can splash and burn you. Make sure to cover the top with a dish towel or allow mixture to slightly cool prior to blending). Add small quantifies of liquid until desired consistency is achieved. In order to create the two side by side or swirl affect, it will have to be the consistency of loose mashed potatoes or the line will not hold. It cannot be watery.

Frozen peas (remove 1/2 cup of whole peas and set aside to thaw to room temperature). Cook frozen peas in microwave according to package instructions. Transfer to a clean blender and add 1/2 cup of liquid (*vegetable stock or water)and mint leaves. Puree, again to desired consistency adding small quantities of liquid – with same note indicated above. Salt and pepper to taste, lemon zest and juice. I then put the pureed soup in a squeeze bottle to control the pour into the other side of the bowl when serving to create the separations of carrot and pea.

Both can be made one to two days in advance, refrigerated in an air tight container. Gently reheat prior to serving.

Garnish: Create thin slices of purple carrot with a vegetable peeler, from stem to end tip. Gently curl and place in ice water until ready to serve. Garnish soup with raw carrot slice, several whole peas, a mint leaf, and chive blossom or other edible flower if available.

Bon Appétit! Let me know what you think if you give it a try.