Sunday, September 30, 2012

Chicken Soup with Dumplings

Trust me, this is all you need on a chilly night.  It'll warm you to your bones and satisfy your soul.  Fighting words! I very often find chicken soups to be a tad insipid, but a dash of Worcestershire sauce and some minced rosemary adds a delicious punch to this one.  The dumplings do a very good job at adding the comfort.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Welcome Home Chocolate Cake!

My husband had been away for a week so to welcome him home I thought a chocolate cake was in order - the girls agreed.  Half of it was eaten by the time he walked through the door but after all it's the thought that counts.  I adapted a recipe by the Pioneer Woman.  I must say I now realize that in my old age I've become a bit of a baking purist.  It is so ingrained in me to cream the butter and the sugar, not over mix the flour etc, etc, I had to force myself to follow her recipe of melting the butter and adding boiling water and beating everything up together.  It had a different taste but it was a hit - I can tell you this because it didn't last more than 24 hours.  It looked like an enormous whoopie pie - what could be more welcoming than that?

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Carrot and Ginger Soup to celebrate Autumn.

Yesterday was the first day of autumn and as if by magic the sniffles and sore throats started.  My standard response to most complaints is as follows;

1. Have a drink of water. 

2. Have an early night.

3. Rub it and it will feel better. 

If all the above fail, I make soup.  Lots of it.  Last night was carrot and ginger, which I thought would soothe the throats and chase away the sniffles.  Well, it worked.  This morning all was right with the world, plus there's more soup in the fridge for emergencies.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Spiced Roast Sweet Potatoes, Goat's Cheese, Tomato and Arugula Salad

Here's a nod to Fall yet with the flavors of summer.  Sweet potatoes I believe are the best vegetable on earth.  Toss them in cumin, coriander, cinnamon and some olive oil and roast them - OH - they are absolutely lip smacking good.  It's important to douse them with more olive oil, lime juice, salt and pepper just before serving, you won't be disappointed.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Betty Friedan, The Feminine Mystique, 40 years later. Same House, Different Time.

Betty Friedan wrote The Feminine Mystique in my home.  She crafted the book that changed the lives of American women on my 3rd floor.  She shone a harsh light on the dark secrets of despair, loneliness and frustration felt by the suburban housewife which hitherto had been shrouded from view.

I can relate only too well to "housewife's fatigue."  If you're a housewife, or as we like to call ourselves these days a "Stay at Home Mom," you will be all too familiar with the mind numbing routine of cleaning, laundry, cooking and chauffeuring. The bone aching exhaustion as you carry out these relentless duties is commonplace. 

In the 50's, Betty tells us many women felt trapped in their homes, their college educated minds dulled by tranquillizers, their spirits turned to dust.  Despite the popular culture of the happy housewife, envied the world over for her gleaming split level home with every up to date appliance, she couldn't shake the nagging feeling that there must be "something more." 

The irony is not lost on me that 40 years on I live in the same house where she wrote the book and I am a "housewife".  What would Betty think? Would she be horrified, surprised, disappointed? What has changed over the years to make this a happy situation?

Two words make all the difference to my life as a stay at home mum.  "Choice" and "Opportunity."  We now have a choice.  Finances permitting we can "choose" to devote ourselves to our families because that is what we want to do.  I spend my time in the kitchen because it makes my heart sing, because I choose to, not because I'm chained to it.  We can be proud of our choices and believe in what we do. Whether we work full or part time, have a fully fledged career or are a full time mum, this belief in our choices carries us through the tough times. 

With the advent of technology we now have opportunities never dreamt of in the 50's.  Every woman has a creative force which, if she is to thrive, must be allowed to flourish. With the world wide web at our fingertips the opportunities are endless.  Every conceivable interest or passion can and must be fed. I blog, I write, I teach online cooking classes.  There is money just waiting to be earned.  

I'm deeply thankful that I had the choice to devote these years to my family while feeding my mind and developing my skills through technology.  As my children grow older I have no regrets. I was present.  I was and will always be the best mum I can and because of the opportunities now available I have a future.

As I imagine Betty sitting up on the 3rd floor of my home, I realize that my life is perhaps not what she had envisaged for future generations of women, but I'm grateful to her and the battles she fought.  We now have a choice we can be proud of and no matter what those choices are, we have every opportunity for a future we can believe in.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Chocolate Pudding, Quantity versus Quality?

Sinfully delicious traditional chocolate pudding.

Skinny tofu chocolate pudding.

I have a philosophical question for you.  It's a quality versus quantity issue.  Would you rather have a fully charged humdinger of a chocolate pudding with all the traditional ingredients of cream, eggs and sugar once in a long while, OR a skinny impostor made of tofu more often with a fraction of the fat and calories???  In my mind there's no question which tastes better.  The original makes your taste buds sing, just not your arteries.  The tofu version is fine, in fact if would be good if you've never tasted the real thing and certainly quells any unmanageable chocolate cravings.  I'm in a quandary, which would you choose,  once in a while treat or everyday ordinary??

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Lunch from the Garden. Tomato Basil Panzanella Salad

I'm going to miss these beauties in the middle of January.  These tomatoes are so sweet and succulent, plucked from the garden.  They're an instant, delicious lunch.  I had some leftover baguette, which could be toasted, then cut into chunks, but I was too lazy (or hungry) to toast them and my salad was still fabulous. Throw in a handful of fresh basil, some olives and a couple of chunks of goats cheese, toss with a red wine vinegar and voila! the perfect lunch.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Mussels With The Most Wonderful Garlicky White Wine Broth.

I was wondering around the supermarket the other day doing my usual "what on earth am I going to cook for dinner" routine.  No more chicken. I'm trying to cut down on red meat. Not pasta, not again, too many carbs. Then I spied their lovely shiny black, blue shells nestled in a mound of ice.  Mussels! The first time I ever ate mussels was in the Channel Isles just off the south coast of England, on holiday with a school friend.  I was enchanted.  It was sunny and warm, people spoke French and being about 13 or so I felt I was on a wonderful adventure.  Every time I've eaten mussels since I'm reminded of that lovely holiday and still feel transported back to the warm, sunny beach.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Ina Garten's Bountiful Tomato, Feta, Basil Bruschetta

Hand on heart, this is what I've been eating all summer.  Tomatoes and basil from the garden, combined with the best bruschetta recipe on earth.  Ina Garten of course, is a culinary genius and this I believe is one of her best EVER recipes. Really. Try it. PLEASE! You will not be disappointed.  I've been serving it to anyone who knocks on the front door and everyone loves it.  The secret to the extra explosion of flavor is the red onion and red wine vinegar.  I'm not a raw onion sort of a girl but diced very finely, it's perfection.