Archive for the ‘Soup and comfort food’ Category

~Note: I wrote this post last year right before I went into labor and had the cutest kid in the world (for more on The Cutest Kid in the World, see previous post), Thousands of wipes, diapers, and spit rags later and here I am finally posting it. Now, that I’ve set you up for an appetizing read (recipe included) I hope you enjoy this blast from my past.  Last year seems light years away. If you’re going to travel that far and fast, you might want to bring something hearty along with you for the ride.  Moussaka it is! ~


I recently had a friend bring over what must have been a 30lb foil tray of the closest thing I’ve ever had to an eggplant-free Greek-inspired potato casserole.It made me think of the fact that I would have been partially Greek if my goofy uncles hadn’t beaten up the poor guy who wanted to marry my very Sicilian grandmother back in the 1940s. Brokenhearted, she ended up marrying her, um, psychologically unhinged first cousin instead and had a wonderful marriage of ducking knife-throws and sauce spoon rampages by a bald man in a head scarf.  Don’t blame me – it was 70 years ago and people were strange, but I still think I would have made one heck of a good partial Greek (and Athena would have been such a cute middle name). But anyway, back to the casserole of wonders.

Upon tasting and devouring half of it for a week I decided to call the delightful dish Autumn Moussaka and ever since have scoured recipes for different variations of a dish my wonderful friend packed with so many different vegetables and cheeses I started to wonder if I would find the holy grail hidden between the layers of potatoes, ground beef, and copious amounts of mozzarella and ricotta.  Grail still missing in time, but what I did find gives a great alternative to the tried and true, yet exhaustively tired array of Anything Made With Butternut Squash and Pumpkin Something as a Wonderful Fall Meal.

I make mine sans the eggplant, since I’m still not sure if it’s a true allergy of mine or not, and haven’t had the gumption to sit in my car in the Good Samaritan Hospital parking lot with a big chunk of Baba Ganoush and toss the Food Allergy Dice – Swelled Tongue Edition. Plus, there’s nothing like a potato-based, baked, layered slice of delight for these chilly Fall evenings here on the East Coast.

Here you go, Loves – from my growing tummy to your deep dish baking pan.  Opa!

Autumn Moussaka

What you will need:

oven, preheated to 375

 medium-sized glass baking dish, foil pan or deep cast-iron skillet

about 4 Yukon Gold or White Potatoes, parboiled slightly and  sliced (peel if you wish)

1 med onion, sliced

1/2 lb ground meat or keep veggie if you wish, doubling the quantity of vegetables you use or fill in with a pack of med crumble tofu

assorted veggies: broccoli, cabbage, spinach, zucchini,root vegetables, etc – anything seasonal that you have on hand and want to throw in

end of season tomatoes (about 3 med) or a med can of whole tomatoes, sliced

1 cup each cheese of your choice: ricotta or other soft cheese, mozzarella or cheddar and a 1/2 cu, romano, parm or other hard cheese to grate on top cheese layer (you can also make this vegan by using a variety of non-dairy cheeses, or nutritional yeast, if you can handle the stuff)

2 eggs

oil for pan

butter or coconut oil

fresh basil leaves

 small bunch each end of year fresh herbs: rosemary, oregano, parsley, dill or dry herbs to taste

few dashes of paprika (smoked, if you have it)

How to:

 Saute onion in a large sauce pan in butter or coconut oil until just translucent.  Add cabbage (if using) and saute until soft, about 10 mins,stirring frequently. Throw in rest of veggies (except potatoes) until just slightly browned, salt and peppering mixture to taste. Set aside.

In a small saucepan, heat about a 1/2 c of butter or coconut oil under low heat, stirring, until browned.  Pour butter or oil in a bowl over sliced potatoes, add paprika, and stir carefully to mix.  Meanwhile, in a separate bowl, mix eggs with soft cheese.  Oil pan and start layering potatoes first, followed by meat, veggies, tomatoes, soft cheese mixture, and other cheeses on top of that laying or sprinkling herbs over last layer of hard cheese.  Keep layering all the way to top of pan making sure you save enough cheese for the top layer.  Make sure your herbs for the top layer go under one layer of med-texture cheese so they don’t burn on top.

Stick it in the oven and bake for about 40 minutes until a large skewer or fork goes through middle of casserole easily and cheese is melty and bubbling on top.

Let sit for about 10-15 minutes and happily devour.

This would also be good accompanied by a white sauce.  Here’s a nice, basic coconut milk based recipe:

Dairy-free White Sauce

If you don’t want to go dairy free completely, feel free to add some grated cheese in with the coconut milk for a really creamy, rich texture.

  • 1 14 oz can coconut milk
  • 3 tbs butter or cooking oil
  • 3-4 tbs arrowroot, corn, or tapioca starch
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 pinch kosher salt
  • additional seasonings as desired – like Italian seasoning, or Herbes de Provence
  • 1 sm onion or 2 sm shallots,  1 stalk celery,, minced
  • 1/4 broth -veg or other

How to:

Melt butter or heat oil over medium heat in a small saucepan. Add minced garlic or shallots, and celery and sauté until tender.

Mix 3 TBS starch into the saucepan, it should become a thick paste. If it’s runny, add a bit more starch until it’s thick.

Whisk in the broth, continue whisking, and pour in the coconut milk. Add salt and spices and continue whisking over med head until sauce thickens to desired texture.

Try not to drink it straight from the pan (always my downfall).

Athena may not publicly approve but she’d lick her lips between forkfuls in the privacy of her own temple atop Mt. Olympus while going over final blueprints of the EuroDisney mini Greek Parthenon exhibit.  Or something like that.  Just go with it.


Cellina – The Hopeful Foodie.

Special thanks to Julie Baker for inspiring this recipe and filling my tummy with Large Baked Things on an almost weekly basis.


Read Full Post »

There is something to be said about the perils of dental surgery.

In a word,  “Ow.”

Two days ago I went under the needle to get the last three remains of my way-back-there molars removed.  Since then, I’ve lived on a very basic diet of soup, scrambled eggs, and cable TV.  Don’t feel sorry for me too much, for I am well taken care of by my fellow foodie in marriage, who never lets an unsalted egg or bland broth pass my lips.

See, even when the Novocaine has me so numb from cheek to chin that drinking a glass of water becomes a day at the kiddie pool, I still can’t complain about what makes this home-made life so good: what’s on the plate (even if it does end up all over me)!

When I finally came out of my anesthesia-induced nap I overheard the nurses chatting about lunch and the various summer parties they planned to attend this year.

“Haphla keggah!,” I yelled over from the dental chair I was slumped over.

“What’s that, honey?”

“Youf theard me,” I somewhat intelligibly exclaimed, “Haph a kegger!  Haph thsome fun!  Woo-hoo! You detherf vit!”

Don’t we all?

I think so.

So go, take this as a token of my abundant plethora of wonders and delights.  I might be out of wisdom, but I’m never out of potatoes.

Potato Leek Soup

file under: Mmmmmmmmm!

  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups chopped Spanish onion
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 4 cups peeled and chopped russet potatoes
  • 2 cups chopped leeks (white AND green parts)
  • 5 cups veggie broth
  • 1/2 cup soaked cashews (optional), or 1/2 cup of cream (soy creamer works really well for this)
  • S&P as you like it

Heat a saucepan over med heat. Add the oil and heat until hot (but don’t let that baby smoke….so bad for you!).  Add the onion and saute ‘ till clear. Add the celery, ‘taters and leeks, turn down the heat and sweat ’em till they’re soft.

Add the broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook until the veggies are tender. At this point you can go for the cashew option, which would be to place the soup, a bit at a time, into a blender or food processor along with the nuts and puree till smooth.  If you like a chunkier soup, you can just puree half.  If not, turn of heat and stir in the cream(er).  Then, puree as much as you like and sprinkle with the S&P before serving.

Awww, yeah.


(which I did a lot of, anyway, due to the fact that I couldn’t feel my tongue).

Until next time, fellow toothless friends!


The Hopeful Foodie

Read Full Post »

My husband, Tim,  is a musician (drummer to be exact) and with the current band he plays with he gets these great gigs at places like used book stores.  Going through the cookbook section while the band plays Irish-like folk in the backround is quite an amazing experience.  Not only do you tend the find the craziest books (Aspics and More!) that offer great conversational pieces in and out of the store, but they’re dirt cheap, too!

While roving around, our former massage therapist and fellow non-yeasty found what must be one of the first modern books for Systemic Yeast.  Published in 1986, by Annette Annechild & Laura Johnson, Yeast-Free Living is packed with recipes, research and quite an impressive mound of information for its time.

I know what you’re thinking: “’86 wasn’t that long ago.  Why I was only in 11th grade, or um, something close to that….”

But the thing is, compared with the immense research and marketing concerning our nation’s wide-spread gluten intolerance, and even that isn’t nearly where it needs to be,  yeast issues are something that hardly anyone has heard of now, no less 24 years ago.

This is why I’m amazed at how much these ladies knew.  Granted, you can tell they were in the very first years of systemic yeast research, when no one in the modern world really knew what was causing such a strange and wide variety of symptoms.  They didn’t yet know that there was a difference between the good and not-so-good bacteria, and that some strains of yeast, like the ones found in certain fermented foods, were actually good for you when it came to building up the system and fighting off those pesky overgrown colonies of microscopic baked bread.  It’s funny to read that tofu and sauerkraut, for example, are on the forbidden list.  There is also no mention of probiotics, and since whole wheat pasta was so hard to come by almost 25 years ago some of the recipes include plain ‘ol refined semolina noodles.

25 years ago.  Are you kidding me?  Wasn’t it just 1986????  Anyway…..

Now that I’m almost past the throes of die-off, which I recently learned can be worse the second time around (sista fell off the wagon and went for the comforts of pasta, pasta, pasta, sushi), I’m starting to feel better about the yeast-thing and better about myself.  I’m grateful for those who paved the way for us fungi-fighting citizens of the human body and do hope soon that I can find more recipes, websites and blogs dedicated not only the wide world of gluten redemption but yeast deliverance, as well.

In the meantime, enjoy tonight’s wonderful dinner, courtesy of my brother-in-law, Jack, and a sweet little grain called millet!

Butternut squash for two with peppery millet polenta and broccoli with saute´ed garlic – yum!


  • one big ‘ol butternut sqaush
  • a tbs of coconut oil per halve
  • savory spices, such as whole or ground cloves, allspice, ground cardemom, sea salt and cracked pepper

Pre-heat the oven to 450. Half your squash lengthwise and scoop out the seeds.  In the well of the squash and around the hard flesh spread some softened coconut oil.  Sprinkle in your spices and if you have whole cloves, push them into the squash halfway.  Dust with a few pinches of the sea salt (coarse works well) and fresh pepper.  Wrap both halves in foil and place them on a foil-covered cookie sheet.  Cook for about 1 hour.  After an hour, remove the foil wrappings and cook for another half hour as the natural juices start to boil.  Take those babies out, smash the flesh with a fork and let stand for about 5 mins before devouring.  Mmmmm.

Now, onto the “polenta”

Millet rocks the hasbah.  It really does.  It’s an amazing little grain that most people don’t realize is edible by humans  ’cause they’re busy feeding it to their parrots.  Millet is so edible in fact, that in soups and stews it resembles barley, but is better than barley if you are strictly gluten-free.  It’s also great served like rice for side dishes and porridge-style for breakfast.  Ah, millet.  Now, that’s what I call a grain!

Peppery Millet Polenta

If corn gives you the riot act like it does to me, then you’ll love this recipe.  Bring on the Mediterranean Diet – I dare ya!

  • 1 cup whole millet
  • 2 1/4 cups water or stock of your choice
  • 1tbs coconut oil
  • dash or so of salt

Put all ingredients in a saucepan on high and bring to a boil.  Lower the temp to simmer and cover for about 20 mins. Remove from heat and let sit for a good 5 mins.

Then, spread the millet evenlyonto a baking sheet and let cool.  As you do this, get creative with your spices.  I love, love, LOVE parm on my polenta, but it’s too moldy for regular use so I imitate the flavor by using ground red pepper, garlic powder, black pepper and rosemary. Be careful with the garlic powder so you don’t over salt your creation.

Let the mixture cool and then slice into short rectangles and fry until crispy and golden.  The millet will pop a bit like popcorn and your stove will get messy, but it’s worth it!

recipe based off of Rebecca Wood’s awesome website!

Broccoli-how I love thee!

  • a good bowlful of frozen or leftover broc
  • olive oil
  • 2 cloves sliced garlic

I use the pan I’m gonna use for the polenta and sweat my garlic real slow (oooh, steamy). Then I simply mix it with my broc and save most of the oil for the polenta.  That way, it’s infused with the flavor and scent of garlic and I don’t be wasting no oil, honey child!

Eat it all together till you can’t move and save some for the musicians who will be in and out, practicing their beautiful tunes upstairs in the drum room as you joyfully listen downstair while typing out your blog til 10:18 at night…….or something like that.

Love, luck and butternut (no not sugarnut) squash,


The Hopeful Foodie

Read Full Post »

dark autumn road

Ah, the lone road

Soooooooo……*awkward silence*…it has indeed been a while.

I guess I could say I needed a “break.”  It wasn’t you, it was me.  I’m happy to say, however, that in the span of a month or so I’ve “found” myself and am ready to pick back up….but not where we left off.

Food is…emotional.  There are thousands of support  groups, diet clubs, and nutritional message boards dedicated to the emotions surrounding the way we eat, or don’t eat.  I’m very lucky and blessed that I don’t have to go through the hardships of having an eating disorder, whether it’s excessive comspumtion, not enough of it, or the many dark rooms where buckets and jars of a scarred exsistance lay hidden.  I can’t imagine what that must be like and it makes me grateful that food sensitivies are all that ails me.  Sure, I miss mushrooms, oranges, corn-on-the-cob, and pizza, but I’m not starving myself to death, or eating myself to obesity.  For that, I give thanks.

Ah, thanks. I’m about a week early, I know, but I still must be thankful.  I went to the dentist a few weeks ago for the first time in seven years (I know, I know – I’ve been a naughty girl.  As the supporting actor in some anonymous movie always says, ” I had a bad experrrrrience”) and it was amazing to me how much we pack into our pieholes without even thinking of the effects our eating habits have on our bodies.  Granted, your first cavity at the age of 27 ain’t so bad, and with all the sugar I was packing into my system without even knowing it I should be happy that I have teeth to speak of, but still.

Still.  When do we ever do that?  When do we ever get still and just look at where we are, what we’re doing, what we could be doing, and what we really need to change?  When did we start depending on the Food & Drug and these flashy named-brands to nourish our bodies  and trust that these ingredients that we can’t even pronounce are good for us because they are quick and easy and allow us to work ourselves to death  everyday for the greater good of our society?  When did we stop listening to our bodies for the sake of convience?

I truly do believe that half of our problems are because we as humans just can’t let nature be perfect in itself.  This week I will get nice and still in preperation for my thanks.  I took my break.  I “found” myself.  I got scary and emotional, and now I will be still.  Not quiet, necessarily, but quite still. The next time you hear from me you will hear the gift of my gratitude…and possibly the recipe for a great gluten free/ yeast free baked good.  That will the the “face my fears” step since baking and me mix about as well as anchovies and apples.

With that, I will leave you with a recipe and a little bit of inspiration:

Clean-out-the-freezer Turkey lentil soup

This is a great Fall soup for when all you have in the ‘fridge are limp veggies and half a bag of okra/green beans/broccoli in the freezer

  • 4 cups or so of chicken or veggie stock*
  • 2 cups of water (or more stock, if you have it)
  • 1 small onion
  • 2 or so garlic cloves
  • 1-2 cups leftover turkey (or chicken), frozen or fresh
  • 1 cup lentils
  • 1 fresh/frozen ham hock
  • 1/half bag green veggie (okra, green beans,broccoli, etc)
  • fresh or dried herbs such as cilantro and thyme, to taste.
  • s&p, to taste

Saute the onion and garlic in a few swirls of olive oil or oil of your choice until nice and soft, in a big ‘ol stock pot.  Add the turkey/chicken until defrosted or heated thoroughly.  Add your stock and bring to a boil.  You can also turn up the heat and deglaze the pot with white wine before adding the stock for some extra richness.  Once you’re boiling, add the lentils, ham hock and herbs.  Turn that baby down and let it simmer, uncovered for a good half hour.  After that you can cover if you like, stirring occasionally.  Last 10 minutes, turn it up, add the bag o’ veg  and stir until it’s completely hot and bubbly. (you can also take out the ham hock and shave the meat off to add to the pot.  I always put the bone back in for a rustic look).

S&P to taste with your fav. gluten-free mini loaf and you’ve got yourself a hot bowl of Autumn goodness!

*I make my own stock by saving the ends of cut veggies.  I freeze them until soup-making time.  Then, I  just throw the contents of the bags into a big pot of water, bring to a boil and simmer down for a good hour+. Strain goes the stock, and the rest for the garbage disposal.  I also save the juice from my Coq au Vin to make a bitchin’-delishin’ chicken-wine stock.  Awww yeah, baby.

With Autumny goodness in the belly and hopefullness always,


The Hopeful Foodie

Read Full Post »