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

 

 

Cream of Brocolli Soup ~ on a cold Florida day

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I’ve attempted posting recipes with moderate success. That’s because I don’t cook with a recipe. I’ve tried measuring a 1/2 C of such and so and typing that in the blog article next to the photo, but then as it cooks, I say to myself, “Self, that doesn’t look right,” and I throw in some more. So, how much of that ingredient did I use? I don’t know!!! Just enough to taste good. I taste as I cook, look at the colors of the ingredients, and smell the aromas to know. Do I make mistakes? YES, but all cooks make them, and you can make a mistake following a recipe to the letter. Trust me on that one.

So, It was in the low 40s last night in northeastern coastal Florida. I had to bundle Sophie the Wonder Dog up when I took her for her morning walk. Not to mention, I actually put on a pair of socks, and I never wear socks. May I digress…I was without socks yesterday at the Post Office to mail a Christmas gift. I noticed roughly half the women were in jeans, a sweat shirt and a hoodie or jeans and a heavy cable knit sweater, and over-sized clunky sandals (not the dainty, pretty kind you see all summer) with socks on. This is Florida in winter.

Sophie Winter Coat 2011

Well then, after Sophie, the cats, and I had breakfast, I realized I had a small container of half ‘n half in the refrigerator I had to use. Now, my doctor just reminded me I’d put on weight since my last visit three months ago (Thanksgiving will do that) and my blood pressure had gone up. No alarm siren, but it had gone up. So, I wanted to use the half ‘n half, but not in a super high-cal way

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Light bulb moment…cream of broccoli soup. So, I cut my broccoli florets up into soup-spoon size pieces and covered them with water in the pot and started them simmering on a medium heat? How much water? Enough to cover them. I had red onion (I always do), carrots, and two white potatoes. So, I chopped those up and threw them in. Added parsley flakes, garlic powder, a couple of bay leaves, some jarred seasoned vegetable base, and pepper. (I put some base in, tasted and put some more in…so don’t even think about asking me how much.) No salt. Remember my blood pressure had just gone up. Besides, the veggie base has salt.

I tasted it as it simmered and added more pepper and lowered the heat to low-medium. If I’m cooking only for myself, I taste with the same teaspoon. If I’m cooking for others, I go through all my teaspoons. After about twenty minutes, I tasted again and wanted to thicken it. I often have some Campbell’s turkey gravy on hand and did this time. I added some by eye, stirred and tasted, and added some more. I let it simmer again on low to have the gravy kind of amalgamate with the other flavors. Then I tasted and turned it off. When it cooled off substantially, I added the entire container of half ‘n half, stirred, and tasted. Very good, but it had to cook with the half ‘n half just a bit. Besides it had cooled too much, so I turned on the heat to low and got it to an edible temp. Then I scooped it into a bowl, sprinkled on mozzarella cheese I had on hand and some Parm/Romano… and then I sat down to eat lunch. Good, very good.

I cook by the seat of the pants, and I write by the seat of the pants.

 

Turkey Sausage Toscana Soup ~ Killing Belly Fat Is Murder

IMG_20151011_130937The last time I went to see my doctor for a regular check up, I’d lost another 4 pounds. That’s 44 pound gone in all (yippee). However, my doctor detected that my triglycerides were going up. That is a huge clue that means I’d been eating carbs. Yes, I had to confess; it was true.

Oh dear, found out and nothing to do but explain to my doctor. Yes, I’d been eating on the run lately. Eating prepared foods. High in carbs, sugar, salt. Not good. So, I vowed to get back in the saddle and fight the urge to eat bad carbs.

Here’s a tasty recipe, while not carb free, the carbs are all healthy veggie carbs.

Turkey Sausage Toscana Soup

  1. Spray the bottom of a 1 pt pot. Coarsely chop 1/4 – 1/2 C sweet onion, 1/8 – 1/4 C green pepper (mine came off the vine in my garden) and saute until translucent. If you need more spray, add 1 – 2 Tbsp water instead and continue to saute.
  2. Add 4 C chicken broth (low sodium if you’re watching salt), 1/2 package frozen spinach and bring to a soft  boil. (If you’re not counting carbs you can add a 1/2 can of rinsed and drained white beans here. I didn’t add the beans to mine.)
  3. Remove the casing off of 2 Turkey Italian Sausage links (I used Shady Brook Farms). Cut into bite-size pieces and drop into the boiling liquid. Season to taste with any or all of these (salt, pepper, celery seed, garlic powder, paprika, basil, oregano).
  4. Add 1/4 C – 1/3 C halved cherry tomatoes. (I used red and yellow cherry tomatoes from my garden.)
  5. Not to thicken, but simply to give body, add 1 level tsp of corn starch to several Tbsp cold water and shake until smooth. Add to the soup. Simmer about 3 minutes stirring occasionally. If you don’t want the carbs in corn starch, leave this out.
  6. Can serve with grated Parmesan cheese, or eat as is.

Serves 3 for lunch, 2 for dinner.

Deadly Designs 1400

In my new release, DEADLY DESIGNS, sharp-shooting, feisty and sassy female private detective Veronica “Ronnie” Ingels has embarked on a new, healthy way of eating. Even though she’s been injured by the villain, she insists upon cooking a meal with organic chicken for the hero. In the previous book in the series, HARMFUL INTENT, she went undercover at an organic cooking class and it changed her way of eating and viewing food.HI Price Reduction $1.99 PP