Monday, May 28, 2012

Bean and Polenta Pie


This vegetarian bean pie is one of our all-time favorite dishes, and it's simple to prepare on a weeknight. I've been making this Everyday Food recipe for the past five years; it's a great stand-by. Even if you're a "die-hard" meat eater, I encourage you to go meatless one night a week. It's good for you and the environment. In my opinion, this polenta-bean pie is the ultimate comfort food -- however, it's low in saturated fat and high in protein and fiber so you don't have to feel guilty eating it. Give it a try and let me know what you think!

You can find the recipe here.

Notes: 
1) The Everyday Food recipe makes enough for two pies, one to eat and one to freeze. When I want to make one pie, I cut most - but not all - of the ingredients in half to make just one pie. The ingredients I don't cut in half are the tomatoes (use a 14.5 oz. can of diced tomatoes) and the polenta (cut 1 tube into 8 rounds rather than 16). 
2) I use olive oil rather than vegetable oil. Just be sure to use light olive oil so it doesn't burn.
3) When I don't have fresh cilantro on hand, I use dried cilantro, about 1/2 teaspoon.
4) I go light on the pepper Jack cheese -- about 1/2 cup for one pie. 
5) Be sure to use a deep dish pie plate. 
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Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Porch Planter

My front porch planter this year features these shade-tolerant plants: double impatiens (Silhouette Purple), begonia (Ambassador Rose), asparagus fern and coleus (Mosaik Lava Red), plus one little plant that didn't have a label. Does anyone know what the plant with the pink-veined leaves is called? 

Even though asparagus fern isn't a shade plant, I include it in my planter every year and it does beautifully. Aren't the blooms on the vibrant double impatiens gorgeous?
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Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Remembering Winnie


There's something I've been wanting to write about, though I haven't been able to tackle it until now. On January 20, our beautiful dog, Winnie, passed away. She was 10 years old. In November, she had been diagnosed with Cushing's disease. We started her on medicine but I quickly learned that treating Cushing's is tricky. It requires frequent tests to be sure the right amount of medication is being given. Too much can lead to Addison's disease, which is  what happened to Winnie. She was at the vet for treatment when she went into cardiac arrest. The doctor said she had been wagging her tail just seconds before she passed. That sounds like our lovely Winnie -- happy until the very end.

Rather than focus on her death, though, I would like to celebrate her life, and share the wonderful memories we have of her. I'll start at the beginning. My husband and I found Winnie on a Sunday afternoon in January 2002, wandering around a truck lot in an industrial park. She was about four months old and was very timid. When we called to her, she desperately wanted to trust us, but was very frightened. Finally she came over to the fence, tail tucked as far under her body as possible. She wore a collar, but no tags. The collar was so tight around her neck, it was nearly choking her. We had to cut it off, which wasn't easy with her fidgeting so. She was covered in fleas. We bathed her and the next day my husband took her to the vet.

At the time, we had another dog, Phoebe, who was two and a half. For that reason, we kept Winnie at my husband's office for a couple of weeks to see if someone was looking for her or might want to adopt her. But deep down we knew this sweet puppy would become part of our family, so we brought her home to meet Phoebe. They got along beautifully, and played hard. Phoebe loved having a new sister in the house.
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The girls quickly became good buddies, eating their meals side by side and sleeping side by side, often in the same position, as seen below. We were convinced they planned these moments just to mess with our heads -- and it worked.

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Winnie was a special girl. There are so many things we loved about her, but here are a few favorite memories ...
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  • Winnie loved to cuddle. All she wanted was to be near us. I would hold her head in my hands and rub on her face, which she loved! When my husband would pick her up -- all 55 pounds of her -- and flip her over onto her back, she would go limp, just like a baby. When she was small, we'd sit on the floor and she'd crawl into our laps; when she was full grown and we'd sit on the floor, she would lay with her paws and her head on our legs. She always wanted to be touching.
  • She was very vocal. That dog could talk. She loved the sound of her own voice, and so did we. Once we got her started, we could keep up a "conversation" for minutes on end. Her vocal range was quite impressive.
  • She made us laugh a lot. At feeding time, she would do this funny thing where she'd run up to us as we were holding her food bowl, spin around twice at our feet and then run back into the mudroom where she was fed. She'd repeat this routine over and over, the same way each time. It was hilarious.
  • Winnie loved to play with this little blue ball, the super-bouncy kind. She'd play with it all by herself and chase it around the room. We'd place it under her dog bed and she would pounce on it, just like a fox going after its prey. It was very funny.
  • Every evening when Winnie heard us arrive home, she would howl in excitement, knowing that dinner was just a minute away. She would get Phoebe started and the two of them would carry on so loudly, you could hear them down the street.
  • Winnie loved to ride in the car with her head out the window. She was always up for an adventure, especially a trip to the park or to grandma's house.

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It was truly a blessing to have had Winnie in our lives for ten wonderful years. She is gone, but she will never be forgotten.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Pasta Puttanesca


Pasta puttanesca is one of my favorite meals to make on a weeknight. In fact, it's what I made for dinner last night when I didn't have a clue what to make. This dish is quick and easy to throw together, and I always have the ingredients on hand in the fridge and pantry. Spaghetti is traditionally used, but we keep linguine on the shelf instead. Either will work, and so will a short tube pasta like penne or cavatappi. And here's an interesting tidbit: in Italian, "alla puttanesca" means "in the style of a prostitute." Fitting for a sauce that is spicy, tangy and a bit salty.  

Pasta Puttanesca

Directions:
1) Cook 1 pound of linguine or spaghetti in a large pot of boiling salted water according to package directions. Drain and return to pot.

2) While pasta is cooking, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add 3 thinly sliced garlic cloves and 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper. Cook, stirring, until garlic is fragrant, about 2 minutes. 

3) Add 1 can (28 oz) whole tomatoes and their juice, breaking up tomatoes with a wooden spoon or spatula. Stir in 2 tablespoons capers and 1/2 cup chopped pitted kalamata olives. Season with coarse salt and ground pepper. Bring sauce to a boil; reduce heat and simmer until thickened, 8 to 10 minutes. Toss with pasta and serve with grated cheese. Enjoy! 
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