No Florida Fare During a Polar Vortex ~ beet soup (Winter Borscht)

Winter Borscht

With temps in Jacksonville dipping to 32 degrees at night (not good for the orange groves), I wanted something warm and comforting to eat. Shrimp ceviche, chicken salad with white grapes,  or Caesar salad with roasted chicken pieces  wasn’t as appealing as it was a week ago.

So, I fell back on the Slavic food of my heritage and a couple of days ago whipped up a pot of vegetarian winter borscht. I didn’t eat it vegetarian. I sprinkled a healthy dose of uncured real bacon bits on top and added the dollop of light sour cream you see in the photo. I never use fat-free sour cream. It’s got imitation everything. But I often has as a staple in my fridg uncured bacon or light (reduced fat) sour cream.

I don’t give recipes any more because I don’t use them. I chopped up two stalks of organic celery and threw it in because I had it on hand, wanted to use it, and celery is healthy eating. My mother and grandmother didn’t use celery in their borscht, but I’ve found it in some recipes. Of course, to me, these are simply guidelines. I like cooking without a net.

Speaking of cooking without a net…as it hadn’t gotten any warmer, yesterday I made a pot of brats with cabbage, canned tomatoes and tomato paste, carrots, onion, celery…totally without a net. I use little to no oil and the Johnsonville beef brats were lean. So, I threw in some organic apple cider vinegar to add flavor. It was only partially successful. During the next Polar Vortex, when I make it again, I’ll also add cubed Granny Smith apples. I think that would make it absolutely yummy.

I cook without a net, however, I don’t recommend living without one. If my recipe is only semi-successful, I can improve on it the next time. In life, sometimes there is no next time. When we make a mistake, we might have to live with the consequences for years. Jesus is my net. I believe in intentional living based on biblical principals without being legalistic, and it works for me.

For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. ~ Jeremiah 29: 11 [New American Standard Bible, NASB]

There are many excellent winter borscht recipes. Here’s a simple one from Eating Well Recipes that looked really good to me and doesn’t have exotic ingredients my Ukrainian grandmother never heard of and doesn’t require a culinary degree to prepare it.

Eating Well Borscht

 

 

Chicken Cutlet Alfredo with Spinach ~ summer cooking

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The temps in northeast Florida are hitting 95 and the ‘real feel’ is over 100 degrees…so natch, I don’t feel like cooking. Even with the a/c blasting, it seems people don’t want to turn the stove on.

So, here’s how to make a luscious Chicken Cutlet Alfredo with Spinach without turning the stove on. I’m a good home cook, not a gourmet chef…and I’m heavy on veggies. With my penchant for eating, I try to keep my weight down to a dull roar. Veggies help. I say, ‘home cook’ because in extreme heat, I’m totally okay with using quality prepared foods and this recipes uses them.

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I started with Perdue prepared cutlets because the chickens are cage-free, are fed an all vegetarian diet and they use no antibiotics. You can use whatever cutlets you like. There are other good ones out there.

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Then I assemble my other ingredients. I use as many organic ingredients as possible. When I was younger, my body quickly repaired itself, now I’d like to give it all the help I can to fully function healthily. So: Prepared Alfredo Sauce, frozen peas, frozen chopped spinach, jarred mushrooms.

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Then I heat a chicken cutlet in my microwave oven. I heat one cutlet just under 1 minute. You have to know your microwave. Just heat it, don’t cook it. Then set it aside. [This recipe easily doubles, triples. You can nuke two, three, or all four cutlets in the package. Don’t worry too much about proportions. If you have extra spinach mixture, eat it for lunch the next day.]

IMG_2748Next, for one cutlet, I cook frozen spinach and frozen peas together. I like lots of veggies so I cook a half a bag of frozen spinach for myself many people would use one quarter of a bag for one, then I add 1/4+ C frozen peas, salt and pepper to taste. Cook them in your microwave until done according to your microwave. In mine 2-3 minutes. Take them out and mix well.  Don’t over cook. Then add 1/3C Alfredo sauce and 1/4 C jarred mushrooms without any of the water. Mix well and cook in the microwave a minute or so. I eyeball stuff. It really doesn’t matter if your spinach to peas ratio isn’t like mine. I hardly ever use salt, but most people do, so I added it in the recipe. You can use an herbal salt substitute. This is not rocket science. It’s summer cooking in a microwave. It’s supposed to be relaxed.

Then remember the chicken cutlet you set aside? Place it on top of the Alfredo spinach/peas/mushroom mixture. Drizzle 1/4 C of Alfredo sauce on top and heat in microwave. The whole process takes about 15 minutes and doesn’t heat up the kitchen at all.

Dust with grated Italian cheese. I use a mixture of Parmesan, Romano, Provolone, and Mozzarella. Pour a glass of iced tea, or a glass of chilled white wine. Get your fork and eat. You might have to let it cool a bit. Things that come directly out of a microwave can be hot.

This can be served over cooked pasta mixed with Alfredo sauce, but the peas are enough carbs for me and I don’t want to boil water for pasta in summer heat.

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