Monday, November 29, 2010

Cranberry Salsa, Hickory Farms, Tag, Tiny Tim, whew...

My friend Brian is a congenial soul. He can come to Thanksgiving and discuss family with my mother, theatre with me as well as dogs, travel and food with everyone else. Plus, he's well-brought up and always brings something. If you're lucky he brings this cranberry salsa - mixed with apples, a pickled jalapeno, red peppers and stirred into a sweet-tart-touch-of-heat, addictive salsa that I spoon-feed myslef when only the dog and cat are looking.

After dinner - out came the pumpkin-mascarpone pie in its rustic pumpkin pie dish, out came my mother's sumptuous trifle in the sparkling glass bowl and out came the cannoli cream in the crystal. And then out came the cannoli shells in ... their... box. Which brought a retort from Brian, "You're putting cardboard on the table?" I forgave him. Because:

a. it was Thanksgiving Day

b. out of our years of friendship and working together on shows and most importantly -

c. the salsa.

Yes, it's the offending cannoli box.

But below is Brian's calling card- the jewelled-apple-lovin' salsa. A holiday on a tortilla chip.

Cranberry salsa has a lot going for it - especially for the holiday season. The salsa is low-fat and the ruby-red cranberries sparkle the colors of the season. Use it as a dip for tortilla chips or toasted pita bread. Add it to turkey sandwiches (with Brie!) or to top a sliced rotisserie chicken.

Cranberry Salsa Ingredients

12 oz fresh or frozen (thawed) cranberries
1/2 red bell pepper
1/2 med red onion
1 granny smith apple - peeled and cored and cut into 1/8's
2 tbl pickled jalapano - chopped
2 tsp lime zest
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup apple juice
2 tbls cilantro chopped

Cranberry Salsa Preparation
1. Chop cranberries, red pepper, onion and apple separately in a food processor. (You can also chop all by hand.) You want small pieces - do not pulverize them.
2. Chop the jalapeno and cilantro by hand.
3. In a large bowl combine chopped cranberries, red pepper, onion, apple and jalapeno and stir.
4. Add lime zest and sugar and stir to coat all. Add apple juice and stir. Top with cilantro and toss till combined.
5. Let sit 3-4 hours to allow the flavors to combine. Can do ahead - the salsa keeps for days in an airtight covered container in the refrigerator.

This is a salsa recipe that begs to played with. If you want it more tart, reduce the sugar. Add sweetness with a honey crisp apple instead of the granny smith. Or add two apples. Throw the entire bell pepper into the salsa. If you like more heat in your salsa, add another pickled jalapeno - or two. Or eliminate it. The variety of flavors dance on your tongue so adapt the cranberry salsa to your palate.
And to add to my holiday pleasure, because I am part of the Foodbuzz Tastemaker's Program, I received an extraordinary holiday package from Hickory Farms.
Sausages, cheeses and mustards which go right to my savory heart.

I am hosting Christmas Eve for my husband's side of the family - for about 40 people give or take ten people.

This beauty will see serious use. I will have fun providing an assortment of breads, crackers, olives and vegetables to complement this generous gift. Come back Christmas Eve - it will be quite a spread. Or drop by, there will be so many people, what does it matter if a few more arrive on the doorstep?

I have frequently used Hickory Farms gift packages as presents. Check out their website to see the variety of their Holiday Gift baskets - there's a size and price to fit all tastes. I do thank them for generously adding to my Christmas Eve Feast.

And - I have been tagged by Sophie of Sophie Foodiefiles. Sophie's website is filled with her original, healthy recipes that enchant the eye and satisfy the stomach. Please visit her when you have time. You will be enticed by her recipes.

I am not good at being tagged. I don't have favorites - for anything. I have moods and the moods dictate my cravings. And they're very much in the moment.

1. What is your most memorable meal that you ate in your life & why?

One stand-out was a dinner in Hawaii - on my honeymoon - where we had lobster just flown in from Maine. I know.

2. Why did you started blogging?

To provide a record for my family - of recipes - and family lore. But the unexpected happened and the connections made in blogosphere have enriched me and kept me blogging even when I am on deadline (oh - like today!).

3. What is your favourite restaurant, where & why?

No favorites - and as any Italian will tell you - the best restaurant is at home.

4. Which are your 3 most favourite chefs in the whole world and why?

No favorites - take a look at my blog list and the blogs I follow and that's where I find new recipes!

5. What is your favourite recipe on your own blog and why?

Hmmmm, that favorite thing again. I'm fond of my mussels and carbonara and the deeply rich butter chocolate cake Kirsten made me for my birthday. Each recipe brings a reminder of past meals, past celebrations and the promise of gracing my table again and getting me even chunkier.

6. To which music do you listen to when you cook and bake & why?

Rock 'n roll. Energizing!

7. What is the strangest food that you have ever eaten and did you like it or not?

Confession: I don't do strange foods.

8. What is your most lovely food destination in the world & why?

Italy. France does not lag far behind - but Italy. To sample what does not make it into the USA. To enjoy food that never travelled on trucks. Plus they have gondolas, the Mediterranean and wild boars.

9. What is your most favourite food shop in the world & why?

Farmer's Markets. You get to schmooze with farmers, find new vegetables and they will tell you their secret way of cooking them. Now, that's a good time!

10. Which kitchen gadget do you love the most & why?

Not a huge gadget person. Although one can really have fun with an olive pitter!

I have more catching up to do with you but as stated - I am on deadline (December 1st), so let me mention the ending of my Thanksgiving holiday. I have worked with this young boy in three shows. He's all of 8 years old and has an intuitive talent that shines and a kindness of being that glows. And he is Tiny Tim in The Guthrie Theatre's production of A Christmas Carol.
On Sunday, the theatre darkened, the lights came on center stage and there was Noah - all by himself opening the show with this lyrical, haunting rendition of "Coventry Carol." Heady stuff for an eight-year-old. I teared over and I just knew -

- having Noah end my weekend with his simple and pure "God bless us, everyone" was the perfect ending to a holiday weekend that started with salsa.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Ghosts of Thanksgiving Past, Present, Future and Italian cranberries

If the long post of Italian Thanksgiving tales overwhelm, simply scroll down for the "cranberries in wine" recipe.

This Thanksgiving will start as most of our celebrations do - with a cheese platter. Simple. Although my family had a difficult year, there is much to be thankful for. There always is. Our traditions have evolved over the years and they are evolving now. I am reminded of my Italian-Thanksgivings in New York - when I first brought Paul to meet the Italian family.

Shortly after my marriage to a Minnesotan, I decided he needed to experience a New York City, Italian-American holiday season. We settled on Thanksgiving because it segues into the holidays and New York dresses for the holiday ball.
Thanksgiving Dinner would be at Aunt Fay and Uncle Canteo's - four blocks from where I grew up in the borough of Queens. We arrived about 2 p.m. An assortment of cheeses (provolone, Parmigiano-Reggiano, asiago, gorgonzola and inexplicably some French brie), olives, meats (prosciutto, salame, mortadella) and shrimp was spread out with breadsticks, crackers and breads. And we all ate. Sharp, earthy nutty cheeses imported from Italy. Fat-laden luscious aged salami hand-picked by my aunt from her carefully selected Italian deli. None ate with more vigor than my 6'4" Midwestern husband. I told him to pace himself. But he was in Italian-appetizer heaven. Round 1 of the Thanksgiving Day feast.

Things went well. There were 16 of us. Nobody was late so Aunt Fay hadn't threatened to throw the dinner in the garbage.

Wine and cocktails were freely dispersed and hours later, we sat down to dinner. Out came the ravioli. Round 2 of the Thanksgiving feast flew around the table. Huge squares of plump cheese-stuffed pillows of pasta swimming in an herb-filled, savory tomato sauce. "Did anyone want seconds?" My husband raised his hand. He wondered why nobody else did. An hour later, my husband whispered that although the food was excellent, he had hoped for turkey on Thanksgiving Day.

Thanksgiving is 4 days away and I haven't yet decided if I will serve pasta. Ravioli is sounding very good - maybe with butter and sage. Or a simple spaghetti. Do you think the red sauce is too much? I may not decide until Thursday morning.
The gargantuan and now empty ravioli platter was whisked away and out came a turkey larger than the wee ones at the table. Lusciously browned and stuffed with savory herbs, sausage and fat-soaked bread cubes. Nobody was terribly hungry but the aromas and appearance of the Thanksgiving turkey whetted appetites. The dining table and sideboard groaned under yams, mashed potatoes, gravies, two types of stuffing, carrots, mushrooms and a proper salad. Round 3.
Everything was devoured. All chatted noisily and then there would be sudden silence - the sound of 16 people chewing. There would be one big swallow and then the clattering chatter would begin anew. Until something new was speared and eaten.
As a newly-minted family member, my husband was passed platters again and again. And he ate - again and again. And finally one could see he was finally caving under the pressure. A small sigh before a bite. A forkful slowly going into his mouth. The eagerness was waning. An Italian feast is not for the faint of heart.
Female cousins cleared the dining room table as male cousins found refuge on the couch. Unable to move, my husband stayed at the table with Uncle Cantaneo while freshly roasted chestnuts appeared. To cleanse the palate? My uncle cracked open a chestnut and presented my husband with the meat. Again and again. After thirty minutes, the chestnuts were consumed. Signalling the start of Round 4.

Last year, the turkey was made with an salted-clementine zest rub. This year, it will either be with a rosemary garlic paste or a thyme-butter rub with ginger gravy. I'm not sure. I may have an entire new idea by tomorrow.

Pumpkin-mascarpone pie. That will happen. Luscious - your all-American scattering of autumn pumpkin pie spices enriched and deepened with some dollops of mascarpone. Find the recipe here. And then there will be a chocolate pecan pie or a cranberry upside down cake or an apple pie or all of them. I'll decide on Wendesday.
As Italian-Americans, Thanksgiving has always been a day to honor America. My grandmother was fiercely proud of her citizenship papers and passed that love to her children. So in honor of America, the stars and stripes and Thanksgiving Day, out came the pumpkin pie, the mince pie and the pecan pie. And because the family is Italian, a ricotta cheese cake, cannolis and other assorted pastries. For sixteen people. Two of whom were under the age of eight. My husband tried everything.
It's a meal I'd love to emulate. But the days of four aunts cooking for a week in the kitchen are now part of our family lore. The excess has been scaled down. Pasta before the turkey dinner is slowly disappearing. But on that Thanksgiving Day, we understood what a true feast was. In the grand Italian tradition, breaking bread together equals love. And we were fed love for years. Even if someone "threatened to cut your heart out" or "throw out the lamb," - we got it. We still do.

Italian Cranberries?

Disclosure: Yes, the photo was taken with a flash. This is November in Minnesota. I may not be able to take a sunny picture until January. When it will be minus fifteen degrees out. I take advice very well if someone wants to help me through my "taking photos of food with a flash" challenge.
Back to the cranberries:
I'm sure you know about all the hidden cranberry bogs in Italy. Or not. When you're determined - you can make almost any recipe Italian. I came upon a recipe from Bon Appetit and played.
Cranberries in Marsala Wine
  • 12 oz bag - WI cranberries or other cranberries
  • 1 cup dry Marsala wine

  • 1-1/4 cups sugar

  • 1 cup pomegranate seeds (optional - adds extra tartness)

  • 1 tablespoons Pomegranate syrup

  • 2 tablespoons Italian herbs

  • garnish: chopped toasted pecans, lemon zest, orange zest

Stir to dissolve the sugar in the wine. Heat till boiling and boil down to 1 cup, stirring occasionally. (About ten minutes.) Stir in cranberries and pomegranates. Bring to boil and boil till cranberries pop and sauce thickens. (about eight minutes.) Boil down to desired consistency.
Remove from heat and stir in pomegranate syrup and Italian seasoning. Can be made one week ahead. Cover in airtight container and store in fridge. Bring to room temperature before serving. Optional: Top with chopped, toasted pecans or lemon and orange zest.
Future: Just as I adapted from my NYC Thanksgivings of my youth to my Thanksgiving traditions in Minnesota: 2 Thanksgivings
a. Midwestern, chaotic and traditional farm-fare food the afternoon with 18 nieces and nephews followed by
b. a smaller, somewhat Italian one in the evenings ...we adapt again.
`There will be one less person at my dinner table on Thursday who is greatly missed and deeply loved. We will celebrate with turns of merriment and wistfulness. With thanks for all those past Thanksgivings that taught both me and my family the importance of coming together. Gratitude is to be practiced every day.
And continuing with that sentiment, I wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving. May you always have grace and thanks at your table.
`I have been tagged by the lovely and creative Sophie of Sophie Foodiefiles and I will respond after Thanksgiving. After I make up my mind as to the menu (input desired!) and done with the cooking and the dishes are washed and put away and the table is broken down and I am happily writing while sending everyone to the fridge for leftovers.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Lost Ravioli Recipes of Hoboken by Laura Schenone

With Thanksgiving next week, the holiday wish-list may be starting. If you are a lover of food, a lover of old recipes, a lover of the connections food makes with family and friends, The Lost Ravioli Recipes of Hoboken: a Search for Food and Family by Laura Schenone is a treasure waiting for you. Laura Schenone embarks on a journey to discover the authentic recipe of her great-grandmother's ravioli recipe. For generations, the family has added cream cheese. Cream cheese? Is it possible? Is that Italian? What was it in the old country?

Schenone writes,
"A little square of ravioli is like a secret. You look at the outside and see the neatly crimped dough, puffed up in the center with a lovely pillow of something mysterious inside. It is an envelope with a message. Before you bite into it, all is unknown. And much still is possible."
That lyrical sentence of longing is akin to opening the pages of The Lost Ravioli Recipes of Hoboken. The beauty of the book is that long after the the ravioli is consumed and the book is read, the feast stays with you. And as you will doubtless have another meal of ravioli, you will also reread this book.
Schenone's journey to discover the truth of her family's recipe brings her to family members who have been distanced from her. She travels to Italy more than once and learns about making ravioli in the way Italians have made it for hundreds of year. (Only to be disconcerted when she finds that many Italians admire and prefer using a pasta machine rather than rolling out the dough on a board with a rolling pin!) In Italy, she is warmly welcomed into the homes and restaurants of the guardians of old Italian tradition. Strangers who generously pass their knowledge to her.
The twists and turns of Schenone's quest for her family's definitive recipe is a search for self as well as a search for new understanding of her family. She is sometimes Don Quixote tilting at windmills - looking for her inner being - trying to figure out the contentious nature of her own family as she nourishes the family she created. Schenone quietly muses why she is possessed to find the source of a ravioli recipe when the life she has made for herself is its own source of joy.
Schenone's pilgrimage takes her to mountains of chestnut trees that provided nourishment for hundreds of years, through meals of gnocchi and pesto. And as she tasted and learned, she questioned. Was this what her great grandparents ate? Was this the vista they saw? In her mind, she time-travelled to her grandparents time. Searching for the connections to her. To her core. To her sensibilities. But of course, sensibilities have greatly changed since her great-grandparents left Italy. A point she brings up often in the book. There is the nitty-gritty realism of life today speckled with the lure of tradition, of the fairy dust from the past.
Schenone's meeting with Giovanni Rebora who is well known for his knowledge and work in Italian food history brings insight and passion.
"We modern people make so much time to do so many stupid things," booms Rebora. "People don't have time to read a book. They don't have time to cook. I don't understand how they don't have thirty minutes a day to care about what they eat." And Rebora later surprises with,
"We don't worry so much about saving traditions. Traditions change all the time. We want to save the culture of food here."

You will read the book actively. With smiles, with nods, a few shakes of the head and in my case with some touches of envy. Why did I not embark on such a journey? And the answer is - of course, I have. With my blog, with my research, with my mother, with my cooking. Listening to the stories of my mother sitting in my grandmother's lap as Grandma Gresio shaped the dough.
"Can you feel when it is right - do you feel that?" asked Grandma Gresio.
Sadly my mother told me, "I never could."
It was a skill that I would not learn from my family. I took for granted the meals served by my aunts and grandmother. I thought they would always be there. You can understand why I sometimes relentless pester my mother. Whose clarity of recollection is always a pleasure.

My parents married at 19. For the first few months they lived in the basement of my grandmother's home. My father worked full time and was in college - a feat that had never been done in his own family. He came home tired one day with a can of Chef-boy-ar-dee ravioli. My grandmother walked into the kitchen, grew wide-eyed, grew taller and threw out the makeshift food.
"I will show you real ravioli," exclaimed this tiny but quite formidable woman.
She gathered flour and eggs, went down to her board and quickly made some cheese ravioli (of course the ingredients were always at hand), boiled it up and served it with a little butter and cheese.
My father never ate ravioli from a can again.

The Lost Ravioli Recipes of Hoboken ends with almost 30 pages of ravioli recipes which do not disappoint.
For a sneak peak of what this book has to offer, watch Ms. Schenone make ravioli here. Do seek out the book. It nourishes both body and soul. It's a trip many of us are taking in our kitchens every day.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Zuppa Confessions with Cake

I have a confession- that sunset posted on my entry last week - was not my yard. I would love Lake Superior to be in my backyard (maybe... but not necessarily during the Gales of November - Lake Superior is a lake you must respect).
Paul and I are in agreement that if we did indeed have a lake to gaze upon from our window - we would do nothing but gaze upon said lake. In the a.m. we'd gaze with our morning coffee right until we switched to cocktails or wine in the evening and nothing would ever get done. So, we remain happy to have White Bear Lake three blocks away for when we need our "gaze-at-a-lake-fix."
Below is my yard. Exactly as it looked this morning. We knew it was coming.

Sigh. If you live in the southern part of the country and post photos of your flowers from your yard, I may weep.

You can see why I needed to make soup. And not just any soup. The sort of soup that could go vegetarian - if you were in the mood. The sort of soup that could be waistline-happy brothy - if you were in that mood. Or just a tad creamy - which is not a bad alternative when the day is wintery and you want dinner to feel like a balm for the icy roads and chills.

There are so many variations to this Zuppa Toscana - I know because in my soup-questing life, I've tried them all. If you don't eat meat, omit the sausage and increase the onions, carrots and celery by a third. If you like your Tuscan bean soup brothy, leave out the evaporated milk. If you want more fat, use Italian sausage rather than turkey sausage in the soup. Substitute escarole or kale for the spinach. The important thing is to deliver a broth packed with flavor from aromatics (onions, carrots, celery and garlic) and herbs.

Zuppa Toscana Ingredients - serves 8 as a first course, 4 as an entrée
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup chopped onions (about one large onion)
1 cup chopped carrots (2-3 carrots)
1 cup chopped celery (2 celery stalks)
2-3 (or more) garlic cloves - minced
1 pound turkey sausage*
8 cups chicken broth
2 (or more) tablespoons dried Italian seasoning
2-14 oz cans cannellini beans, thoroughly rinsed (I used organic)**
1 bag baby spinach
1-14 oz can evaporated milk or evaporated skim milk (I used skim)

*Make your own turkey sausage: for each pound of ground turkey add: 1 tablespoon red pepper flakes, 1-2 tablespoons Italian seasonings (I use a lot of seasoning), 1 tablespoon garlic powder, 1 teaspoon ground cumin, 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper. Mix well with turkey, cover and refrigerate at least one hour or up to a day.)

**Substitute dried beans (1/2 pound approximately equals 2-14 oz cans. Simply soak over night as directed on the package. Your beans will be firmer.)

This was so soul-satisfying, I think I'm in love. Zuppa Toscano and I shall live happily together. And it doesn't interfere with my marriage at all.
Zuppa Toscana Preparation
In large stockpot over medium heat, heat olive oil. (Hot but not sizzling.)
Add onions, carrots and celery and toss to coat with oil. Reduce heat to medium low and cook till all is softened - stirring occasionally (7-8 minutes).
Add garlic, stirring for 30 seconds.
Add turkey sausage and stir - breaking up clumps. Cook till turkey is browned (another 7-8 minutes).
Add broth, cover and simmer for 20-30 minutes.
Add beans and simmer uncovered for ten minutes.
If using, add evaporated milk and simmer for five minutes.
Add spinach and stir until just wilted - about two minutes.
Serve. Pass pepper mill around. If you did not use the evaporated milk, consider passing freshly-grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.
And then there was the cake. Someone in my home had a birthday. The day after I joined Weight Watchers. (It had to be.) And in the wonders of her new age, she had found a recipe in Cooking Light that she asked me to make.
Chocolate Cake with Orange-Chocolate filling and Bittersweet Chocolate Glaze
(or in the spirit of this post - Chocolate Gaze)
How could I say no? And it was from Cooking Light....

It taunted me with it's lowfat lip. You know how some cakes are so pretty you proclaim, "It's a shame to cut into it." (But you do.) This richly dark cake proclaimed it was made to be eaten. It sang it. It heralded its edibility.

And we gobbled it. One my second day of Weight Watchers. I ate every moist, delicate crumb of my slice greedily.
The cake soothed. The cake sated. Orange and chocolate - a little citrus, a depth of sweetness. For the rest of the evening, people sneaked down to the fridge in the basement to have a sliver.
If you like dark chocolate spiked with orange and cake with a creamy-oozing layer topped with a glitzy glaze, find the recipe here. A word of advice - wherever it says "non-fat," substitute low-fat. Nobody else claimed to notice... but I could taste the non-fat. And deep inside I know - non-fat is not real food.

Monday, November 8, 2010

These are the "good old days"

"Look at the sky," remarked my son as we did dishes by an open window.

"November is said to have the prettiest sunsets." There's a happy sigh when you hear a statement like that from your 23 year old son. That maybe in the space of your imperfect life, you did something right. And he was right. It was worth the time to let the dishes wait and appreciate the sky. Because tomorrow - it will be a memory. Of the good old days. But this evening the blues faded into soft pale pinks with red on the horizon and promise. A promise of a new day to be savored.
"If you long for the good old days, turn off the air conditioning." - Griff Niblick
I love that line and have used it in my hugely imperfect play Betwixt and Betweened - a play that focuses on being a teen throughout the last 8 decades. A play that is near and dear to me - all the tales are culled from true life stories and it may be messy now - but one day - I will get it right. One day. It's part nostalgia and part today. As is most of my cooking.
I cannot say a lot of Italian cooking went on last week. It definitely was steeped in nostalgia. In foods from the good old days which are of course yesterday, today and tomorrow. And almost all of my cooking came from blogs.

Except for this one. This was a "use up your red peppers, your dregs of cheese and wallow in fuzzy slipper comfort."
For each stuffed (vegetarian) pepper: (2 halves)
  • 1 slice of stale bread (I used a hunk of wheat bread). crusts removed
  • 1/8 cup milk
  • 1 plum tomato
  • 1-2 ounces favorite melty cheese (I used fontina)
  • 1 ounce freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 1/8 cup chopped Italian parsley (thyme and basil also work well)
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Place bread (crusts removed) in milk. Let sit for five minutes.
  3. Line a baking sheet with foil and spray.
  4. Halve and seed your pepper.
  5. Press excess milk from bread and chop coarsely.
  6. Add a chopped tomato to the bread, coarsely-chopped fontina, Parmigiano and parsley.
  7. Gently combine. Bake for 25-30 minutes. Cool for 3-4 minutes and serve.

Panko-Crusted Chicken in Maple-Mustard Sauce

Maples are tapped for syrup in March. But for me, they always signal autumn. The thick, sweet, slightly-spicy syrup greets you after a walk in leaves -a walk that brought you past autumn bonfires, haystacks and cornstacks. A walk that asks for a little heartiness without the heavy.
I found this recipe at Lynda's Recipe Box. I cook a lot (read: A LOT) with boneless chicken breasts. The mixture of the stout sweet nectar and the spice from the mustard turns a mundane chicken breast into a destination. The protective nutty-brown coating of Panko begs to be explored. And because life is hectic, a dinner that comes together in 20 minutes must always be tried. Try it. (You'll like it.)
Loaded Baked Potato Soup

Reeni's blog Cinnamon Spice and Everything Nice yielded me two soups for the week. (I am a soup-o-holic - I will happily slurp soup at 7:30 a.m. for breakfast and will never understand why people don't consider soup a breakfast meal. Warm, nourishing and satisfies so you don't need a doughnut break.)
I loved that the soups used (or I could use) evaporated skim milk. I am taking a break from cream. I am a muffin -a giant muffin at that. So am exploring options without resorting to "non-fat products" because - they're not real. They don't do things like - melt. Ignore the bacon in the photo. As I told you earlier - I am imperfect.
In truth, I usually am a broth person. But my family is not enamoured of broth and pasta 7 days a week. (Works for me - some wilted greens, a little Parmigiano-Reggiano... really, I don't see a problem.) The soups were scented with nostalgia. The good old days. A day of coming home tired as opposed to weary. So deep-in-the-muscle satisfying that I didn't even need a piece of dark chocolate... for at least two hours.
Here's the recipe link: Loaded Baked Potato Soup

And then there is Reeni's Broccoli Cheeese Soup

From scratch. Flecked and studded with broccoli and well, yes cheese and yes, I know - the "hugely imperfect muffin" label strikes again. Am I fooling myself that the lack of cream makes up for the abundance of cheese? There are things that comfort: Bach, cannolis, Julian Bream on the lute, watching waves, sunsets and soup - this soup. And cheese. If you are part rodent which I apparently am. I wsh iceberg lettuce would comfort. (Long sigh denoting that really - it does not.) I made a double recipe thinking it would last another day. Silly me.
Here's the link to the Broccoli-Cheese Soup: Reeni's Broccoli Cheddar Cheese Soup
And for dessert... which I must speed through because I am late for a Weight Watchers meeting... if I decide to go.... if I'm not fooling myself...
Pumpkin Bread Pudding
From Proud Italian Cook. I am cooking my way through Marie's blog. I've offered to be her apprentice. I'll be her tester, her taster and will be first in line to buy a cookbook should she ever decide to create one.
This is cozy nostalgia. You enjoy, you are satisfied, you are blanketed with softness. You consider having this with your soup for breakfast. And why not? Pumpkin, spices, eggs, bread - it's a balanced breakfast, a soul-soothing dessert, easier than pie, and... made without cream. I will indugle weekly.
Marie made it in individual ramekins. My ramekins seemed to be all over the house with Halloween treats and... white vinegar (you don't want to know) so I did it in one. She topped hers with pecans - and oh - please just go look for yourself. You will feel compelled to make it and you won't be disappointed. It's worth making just for the spiced aroma in the kitchen. Last I checked aroma does not contain calories.
Here's the link: (Consider it for Thanksgiving) Pumpkin Bread Pudding
Vegetable Galettes

These vegetable galettes with an impossibly soft crunch are from La Tartine Gourmande - just the softest, prettiest blog that is part nostalgia and a celebration of today. I hugely changed her recipe - the herbs, the vegetables, the flour and it was wonderful. I think it is hard to ruin her galettes (unless you add cream) - and it is a wonderful recipe for jumping off and creating.

Serve the galettes with any roasted meats or appetizer or eggs or with your broth during breakfast. I've made them twice and have reheated them for a no-cream midday snack.
And here's the link to the recipe: Vegetable Galettes
Having confessed just the tip of my imperfections, I will add that I am also remiss about posting awards that come my way. I post infrequently, get obsessed with the post and remember later and for that I apologize. Many of you have been kind to me and I am not ungrateful. I am often unconscious.
Because I am a sometime theatre director who casts kids - I hate leaving people out. Casting is gruelling enough. In the past, I have often offered the award to any of my followers. It is what I will continue to do. I would like to thank Beth from Of Muses and Meringues for this award.
Beth is a writer and her blog is indeed filled with muses, recipes and I think you will like her light touch, creativity and optimism. I do hope you will visit her.
And spend some time - gazing at the sky.

While your maple chicken-soups-pumpking bread pudding-red peppers and galette cook.