Maui Girl Cooks

“One of the very nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating.” Luciano Pavarotti


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“Good soup is one of the prime ingredients of good living.  For soup can do more to lift the spirits and stimulate the appetite than any other one dish.”    Louis P. De Gouy, ‘The Soup Book’ (1949)

Have you noticed a change in the weather in your area?  Maybe the mornings are a bit dewier than they were last month, and a sweater hits the spot in the evening.  We have noticed that the mornings and evenings are a little cooler here on Maui, even though the days feel about the same, nice and warm.  The first day of autumn is just around the corner {9/22}, which means it’s time to get out the soup pot.  Our soup pot is never far from the stove.  Even though we live on Maui, we eat a lot of soup, and surprisingly most of it hot soup, not cold.  We live at about 1200 feet altitude, on the slopes of Haleakala Volcano, so it is often cool enough to enjoy soup, especially when the trade winds are blowing, as they are now.  While it may feel warm outside in the sun, the breeze can feel cool in the house.  We eat soup for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  The soups we enjoy are all healthy; they are full of vegetables, high in vitamins and minerals and nutrient dense.   I realize that people who live in places with 3 or 4 seasons probably don’t eat much hot soup in the summer, but like I said earlier, ready or not, autumn is on its way.

If you haven’t made home made soup, I encourage you to try out a few recipes; you will be rewarded with several delicious meals that don’t have to be complicated to prepare.  There are some elaborate soup recipes out there, but the ones I make are pretty straightforward.  I assure you that the soup you create from top notch fresh ingredients will be far superior to any soup you get from a can.

This minestrone is one of our new favorite soups, and I highly recommend it.  This is the link to the original; what follows is my adaptation.

Lentil, Celery and Tomato Minestrone

adapted from the recipe by Martha Rose Shulman, who is the author of “The Very Best of Recipes for Health.”

1 cup lentils, rinsed
1 onion, halved
A bouquet garni made with 2 sprigs each thyme and parsley, a bay leaf, and a Parmesan rind
1 1/2 quarts water
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
3 medium carrots, diced
3 celery stalks, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced {mince & let sit for 10 minutes for health benefits}
Salt, preferably kosher salt, to taste
1 28-ounce can chopped tomatoes, with liquid
Pinch of sugar
3 tablespoons tomato paste
About 1/2 small head of green cabbage, thinly sliced
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
Very thinly sliced celery, from the inner heart, for garnish
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese for serving
1. Combine the lentils, 1/2 onion and the bouquet garni with 1 quart water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, add salt to taste, cover and simmer 30 minutes.

2. Chop the remaining onion. Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy soup pot or Dutch oven over medium heat and add the onion, carrot, and celery. Cook, stirring often, until the onion is tender, about 5 minutes, and add the garlic and a pinch of salt. Stir together until fragrant, about 1 minute, and add the canned tomatoes with their liquid and the sugar. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring often, for about 10 minutes, until the tomatoes have cooked down somewhat and smell fragrant.

3. Add the lentils with their broth, the tomato paste, salt to taste, an additional 2 cups water, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer 30 minutes. During the last 10 minutes, add the cabbage.  Taste and adjust seasonings. Season to taste with freshly ground pepper, stir in the parsley and serve, garnishing each bowl with thinly sliced celery heart if you want some crunch, and passing the Parmesan at the table.

Yield: Serves 4 to 6Celery Minestrone Ready to Eat

Like most soup, this is even better the next day.

Nutritional information per serving (4 servings): 276 calories; 4 grams fat; 0 grams saturated fat; 1 gram polyunsaturated fat; 2 grams monounsaturated fat; 0 milligrams cholesterol; 49 grams carbohydrates; 12 grams dietary fiber; 392 milligrams sodium (does not include salt to taste); 17 grams protein

Nutritional information per serving (6 servings): 184 calories; 2 grams fat; 0 grams saturated fat; 0 grams polyunsaturated fat; 2 grams monounsaturated fat; 0 milligrams cholesterol; 32 grams carbohydrates; 8 grams dietary fiber; 261 milligrams sodium (does not include salt to taste); 11 grams protein

Notes:

* You may use any lentils that you like.  I usually use brown lentils, but if you like your lentils to hold their shape, you may want to use the French green lentils {lentils du puy}.

* I highly recommend the celery & Parmesan garnish.  Generally speaking, I find that if a recipe has a garnish, it’s best to put in the extra effort to put it on your soup.  A garnish can take your soup to a higher level!

*Please, please, please do not use what they call “Parmesan cheese” that comes in the green can!  Use the real thing; if you don’t use the real thing, you won’t have the Parmesan rind which adds a huge amount of flavor to your soup.  It really does make a difference!  Get more ideas on using Parmesan rinds to elevate your dishes to a whole other level here.

* If you do not have any kitchen twine, put it on your shopping list, and then you can tie your bouquet garni with a green onion top or chive {don’t tie too tight or they will break!}.

Bon appetit!

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“Reach as high as you can, and then reach a little higher.  There you will find magic and possibility.  And maybe even cookies.”  Marc Johns

If you have ever landed at an airport in Hawaii, one of the first things you probably noticed while walking through the naturally air conditioned part of the airport, is the balmy air and the sweet scent of tropical blossoms.  I love that!

large jasmine treeI am fairly certain that this tree is responsible for the sweet scents of jasmine flowers wafting into our house.  Sometimes the fragrance floats in on gentle trade winds, and other times on blustery winds that are commonly felt {and heard} in Pukalani.  A little jasmine aromatherapy while you are washing dishes or on a walk is a pleasant reminder that you live in paradise!

Jasmine

Sauteed Green BeansI made these green beans last night. . .they are. . .in a word. . .amazing.  There is a high probability that I will never, ever steam green beans again.  Unless the planets line up just so, I will probably never, ever blanch and then sauté green beans again.  I sautéed my beans in a smidgen of Organic Valley Pasture Butter {1 tbsp to be precise}, in my trusty cast iron skillet, over medium high heat.  I stirred them around until they started to sizzle and develop a tasty char, and then covered them for about 5 minutes, until they were perfectly cooked.  Into the pan went a minced clove of garlic and some crunchy fleur de sel.  The result was a mélange of delicious flavors from the butter, the perfectly cooked beans, crispy garlic bits and crunchy salt.  These beans were polished off quickly, and will be made again and again.

Last week, I made these delicious cookies to take to work.  I had a whole plateful of them. . .apricot bars topped with sliced almonds and sprinkled ever so lightly with gold pearl dust powder. . .on a coral plate. . .they looked gorgeous.  And guess who forgot to photograph them for her blog?  Didn’t even occur to me until I was washing my empty plate.  So 3 days later, I made them again, and took them to work {the people who were there both days were happy!}.   I decided to carry them in the 8″x8″ dish I made them in, for easier transport; not as pretty as a coral plate for sure.  So I took a few out and put them on a coral plate to photograph.  This picture does not do them justice, and for that I apologize, but I assure you they are quite spectacular to eat.  Next time I make them, I will repost this recipe with a beautiful picture of these cookies in all their splendor.  Hmmm, when should I make them again?

apricot bars

Apricot Bars

About 18 graham crackers
1/2 cup milk
1/3 cup water
1/2 cup brown sugar
6 tbsp butter
1 cup graham cracker crumbs from about 8 full sheets
3/4 cup sliced almonds
1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes {shreds will work, but I like flakes better}
3/4 cup chopped apricots

Line the bottom of 8 or 9 inch square baking pan with graham crackers. You can put 3 full sheets in one direction, and then fill the remaining space with however many crackers will fit.

Combine milk, water and brown sugar in a small saucepan. Cook over low heat, stirring until mixture comes to a full boil; remove from heat, stir in butter.  When the butter is almost melted, stir in graham cracker crumbs, sliced almonds, unsweetened flaked coconut and apricots {read a short bit about the difference between California dried apricots and Turkish dried apricots-we prefer California apricots}.  Spread hot mixture over graham crackers. Top with 9 more graham crackers. Press down until even and firm.  Top with icing, then sprinkle with sliced almonds.  I happen to have pearl dust, so sometimes I like to sprinkle a little golden shimmer over the top-very pretty.

Icing:
1 cup powdered sugar
2 tbsp soft butter
½ tsp almond extract {don’t be temped to use vanilla; the almond extract makes these cookies}
About 1 tbsp milk

Beat together adding milk as needed. Sprinkle with sliced nuts if desired. Chill until firm.  These cookies improve with age, so don’t gobble them up too early.  Cut into small squares.

Reading: 
Vegetable Literacy {Deborah Madison}
Eating on the Wild Side {Jo Robinson}
Yes, Chef! {Marcus Samuelsson}

Musically Speaking-On the Playlist:
Alt-J

Matthew Dear
Underworld
Jaguar Ma


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“There are five elements: earth, air, fire, water and garlic.”    Louis Diat

Head of Garlic final

Did you know. . .

……… that garlic, also known as “stinking rose” has some great health benefits, if you prepare it correctly?  If you don’t, you have tasty food, but most of the health benefits are lost.  If you are going to cook the garlic, just a minor adjustment is required to preserve the benefits.  You’ve probably heard of letting meat “rest” before you cut it.  It’s the same thing for garlic, except the garlic rests before you cook it.  Prep the garlic for your dish, and then let it hang out away from heat for at least 10 minutes.  While it is resting, amazing things happen, and that is what makes garlic so good for you.

For inquiring minds who want to know, here is the science behind garlic’s health benefits.  Raw garlic contains the 2 ingredients that are required to make allicin, which is the compound that makes garlic so healthy.  These 2 components, alliinase and alliin, comingle when you crush, chew or mince the garlic, and then make allicin.  If you heat the garlic immediately after cutting it, the heat-sensitive enzyme alliinase is destroyed, and thus no allicin will be created.  Health benefits go up in smoke!

What are some of the health benefits of garlic?  I could write pages on this, but will just refer you to a few resources instead.  Here’s a list of some things that are good about garlic:

  • helps neutralize bacteria and viruses
  • inhibits growth of cancerous tumors and reduces the risk of certain cancers, particularly stomach cancers
  • reduces risk of blood clots
  • fights free radicals, inflammation and inflammatory conditions such as allergies
  • lowers blood pressure

Sources of information:

Eating on the Wild Side cover finalSuperfoods Health Style cover finalPerricone Promise cover final

A favorite recipe of mine that uses garlic comes from The Garlic Lovers’ Cookbook {1980 The Gilroy Garlic Festival Association, Inc.}.  The recipe was a recipe contest entry by Julie and Gary Crites.  If you like Boursin Cheese, you will love this!

Creamy Garlic Herb Cheese

2 8-oz. packages cream cheese
1 pint sour cream
½ cup butter
3 cloves garlic, pressed
¼ cup snipped fresh chives

Mix all ingredients in blender or food processor.  Chill in refrigerator for several hours.  Warm to room temperature before serving with crackers or as a dip for fresh vegetables.