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Saturday, October 14, 2017

Homemade Apple Sauce

Making this applesauce from the October 2017 issue of Bon Appetit was so simple and yet so richly gratifying, as well as quite marvelicious to the taste! You may read Carla Lalli Music's delightful prose here but I've included the basics below.

Pull a few ripe apples from the nearest tree or even purchase a few from your local market. I scored four of the SweeTango variety. Halve them and put in a pot with one cinnamon stick, about two tablespoons fresh lemon juice, and one teaspoon vanilla extract over medium-low heat. Add a 1/4 cup of water, cover, and occupy yourself elsewhere. You'll know it's time to peek in on your pommes when they make their aromatic presence known. If nothing appears to be sticking in your pot, give it a stir anyway, re-cover and let the bubbling merriment continue on for about 45 minutes. Push the goods through a food mill to trap the seeds, stems, and possibly the coded sticker grocer labels (surely there's a more scientific term!).

I swear you'll experience a satisfaction equal to that of having collected an armful of nature's precious bounty from a shining orchard--without hardly having to lift a finger.

Do enjoy!

Monday, July 31, 2017

A Friend Writes...Top Health Benefits of Eating Italian

Jonathan of Maple Holistics kindly stopped by Evenings with Peter to give us the skinny on eating Italian the healthy way.

He writes: So many kitchens, so little time… nevertheless, one cuisine which I keep coming back to in any kitchen - mainly because I make a serious attempt to! - is Italian cuisine. Italy has it all - history, culture, and fine dining. These guys know how to treat food and drink with respect, and so it is one country which has always held a special place in my heart. Did I say heart? I meant stomach.

Italy has some starters, entrées, and desserts which are to die for. But the boot-shaped kitchen is not only succulent and delicious, it can also be healthy. Not all Italian dishes are healthy ones, of course. That goes without saying. There are guilty pleasures and guiltless recipes in every kind of kitchen. So, without further ado, here is our list of the top health benefits of eating Italian. Salute!

1.     Extra Virgin Olive Oil - this one comes first, because it exists in many dishes. I have read it is more prevalent in southern dishes, but I can’t really tell the difference yet. Olive oil is abundant in oleic acid (Omega-9 fatty acid) and has some Omega-3 and Omega-6. Vitamin K and E are also part of its makeup, and it is no wonder it is considered one of the healthiest oils in the world. And the taste is finger-licking good. Yum.

Remember - you don’t want to have everything dripping with oil. There is such a thing as getting too much of a good ingredient. The basis of any healthy diet, regardless of the region or individual, is proportionate use of ingredients. Keep everything in moderation, and you will be on your way to health and happiness.

If olive oil is not your thing, for whatever reason, culinary
argan oil is a great substitute. Not in all dishes, though. It is literally a matter of taste. Give it a shot, and see if it agrees with you.

2.     Salted Beef - not your run-of-the-mill beef, mind you, but rather the air-dried bresaola. When sliced nice and thin, and served with some leafy greens like arugula, it can make your mouth dance and sing with delight. While it is true that meat is not the healthiest of ingredients, this particular Italian dish is usually lean and sweet. It has significantly lesser amounts of fat and carbs, and is high in protein. Try it with a glass of semi-dry red.

3.     Pappa Al Pomodoro - sure, some Italian soups may cause your arteries to clog, but others can seriously provide your system with a hearty boost! This one soup stands out as one of the healthier options, but there are others. Traditionally prepared using fresh tomatoes, bread, garlic, and basil, Pappa Al Pomodoro is a rich, thick soup which the whole family can enjoy. As an added bonus, this specific soup can be served at any temperature - hot, chilled, or room temp - and still taste great. Not unlike the French, the Italians love fresh garlic, and they use it in a variety of dishes, though not in excess.

4.     Rabbit - while this isn’t a personal favorite of mine, it is an ingredient which has the potential to be very healthy. It is all about how you prepare it, and what sides you add to it. Rabbit is leaner and lower in bad cholesterol than other popular meats, which is why the Italian people love to roast it, braise it, grill it, and fry it. Served with a green salad and a glass of light wine - so as not to diminish the rabbit’s flavor - it can make for one amazing lunch or supper.

5.     Pasta - okay, this one is a given. You gotta have pasta on this list, right? But pasta has gotten something of a bad rap in the eyes of some. But honestly, it has some really great benefits to it. It all depends on the type of pasta, and method of preparation. It can be very healthy, if you substitute the wheat for sweet potato or cornmeal varieties of gnocchi, for instance. Do that, and you open yourself up to healthier possibilities. Served with spinach or asparagus, and with a fresh pesto made with basil and almonds to boot, it can take your dish to a whole other level. You don’t always need the obvious meat and cheese combo, you know! Sometimes, less really is more.

6.     Jam - finally, something for the sweet lovers out there. Jams are known to be quite high in sugar, but traditional mulberry jam requires less sugar to make, effectively making it a healthier option than most. Does it mean it is a health food? Nope, but it is a different and probably better way to go. Mulberries - when fresh and raw - contain nice amounts of iron and vitamin C, and lesser amounts of other vitamins and trace minerals of all kinds.

Italian for dinner? Yessir. Most definitely. It may not be the first cuisine which pops into mind but healthy Italian dishes do exist. With the right mixture of ingredients - meats, spices, veggies, and wine - it can become a delicious part of a balanced diet. The health benefits of eating Italian are there for the taking, and there are plenty of them out there.

Buon appetito!

Jonathan is a writer and researcher for Maple Holistics.

Thanks to for the image 

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

A Friend Writes...15 Health Benefits of Cheese (with recipes!)

In which I humbly submit a few more reasons to like cheese, courtesy of! Click here to read the full article and make sure to scroll down for fabulous recipes full of cheesey goodness such as Parmesan Kale Grilled Cheese and Spaghetti Squash with Bacon, Spinach and Goat Cheese. When it comes to pizza, you're on your own--but we suggest starting with extra cheese, of course.

Thanks to Jen Reviews for being a part of!

Photo courtesy of Jen Reviews

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Diana Vreeland's Wedding Soup

The story goes that one day the legendary Diana Vreeland, fashion editor of Harper's Bazaar for years and editor-in-chief of Vogue, asked a stewardess on her flight for Apple Brown Betty. The horrified stewardess politely replied, "Oh! I'm afraid that we do not have Apple Brown Betty, Ms. Vreeland." Vreeland then threw up her red-lacquered nails, triumphantly exclaimed, "Fake it!" and more than likely dismissed the shaken girl back to her post.

It's as good a credo as any, and certainly one to which I have often subscribed. Just the other day, I was rooting around the refrigerator for something to make for dinner when I spied an excess 1/2 pound of wrapped, fresh ground pork sausage that we hadn't needed for our Chinese dumplings (but that's perhaps another post). I immediately thought of little pork meatballs for an Italian Wedding Soup but according to the recipe I found, I was shy on some of the ingredients. I had all the stuff for the meatballs, but I didn't have any carrots. However, I did have a cube of vegetable broth that went in with my cubes of chicken broth for the base. I didn't have escarole or arugula, but bursting sprigs of parsley added the lovely, familiar green touch as well as flavor. Orzo? No. But I had a box of Uncle Ben's rice. I would have liked to have shaved a nice piece of Parmesan on it but we sprinkled a plastic cup of grated Parmesan from a recent take-out order instead. So, there you are. Diana Vreeland's Wedding Soup! Delicious!

As I have maintained in the past, a stroke of ingenuity is as necessary as any pot or pan in the kitchen. So, the next time you're stumped there, or anywhere really, just remember the words of the outrageous, great lady Vreeland and do your damnedest.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Spaghetti & Squash-Unboxed!

I've tried several of the food delivery services, enticed by claims of convenience, portioned ingredients for three complete meals tailored to families or couples, all cleverly packaged in boxes with attractive, tidily composed recipe cards. Here's a basic re-cap: Quinciple (expensive, recipes good, striking, unique produce but nothing is pre-measured and not all ingredients are included); Hello Fresh (pricey still, decent recipes if not a little dull, the frozen fish is not great and I recall lots of chopping). In a 'Where's Waldo?' moment, I was even featured in a promotional Blue Apron video for a few fleeting seconds. I think Blue Apron kicked off the pre-measured ingredient idea but there's still a lot of chopping involved in their wildly varying yet only mildly interesting recipes of late.

So what ultimately did I discover then, this cooking out of all these boxes? Simple. As ideal as it sounds having a menu selected for you and where the only task is assembling the ingredients given to you, I realized I don't like to be told what to make in the kitchen. I prefer instead to be inspired to make a meal that I find intriguing. This does not include the proliferation of suggested slaws that seem to unite all of these food delivery services.

No, I much prefer making things I have a hankering for and I also love composing meals based on things we already have on hand. To wit, what to do with a box of pasta staring back at you from out of the cupboard? A pureed pouch of frozen butternut squash made a lovely sauce with sage for pasta (outlining a Tyler Florence recipe, I substituted here and there--such as ground sage instead of fresh and opted out of using chopped chestnuts entirely). Another bag of chopped frozen squash and zucchini for our daily vegetables was a great mixed-in topping. It all came together quickly and I didn't have to leave the house. How's that for cooking outside the box?

Thursday, January 12, 2017

A Selection of Sweets - Tea Jammies

I made these Honey-and-Tea Jammers in my pajamas, so let's start there.

Dorie Greenspan recently shared her Honey-and-Tea Jammers adapted from Dorie's Cookies in the Dec/Jan 2017 Saveur and I was immediately enraptured by her 'dream cookies' built on French shortbread with streusel in a delightful confluence of just what you'd expect--honey, loose tea and strawberry jam. In the actual recipe here, the cookies are served individually cut, like thinly rolled tarts made in a muffin tin, but lacking that particular device, I giddily fiddled about and created a single, thickly rolled large tart (seen above) with apricot jam in a spring-form pan. For another batch, armed with a two-inch cookie cutter, I neatly fitted nine cut-out cookies in a nonstick cake pan and eased them out readily once completely cooled.

The unexpected pockets of brown sugar in the genial shortbread! The luscious jam poking out of the crumbly streusel! Best of all, I had all of the ingredients on hand (friends had recently given us wild honey and homemade vanilla extract over the holidays and we actually had loose rose tea for the shortbread!) and didn't have to leave the apartment. Comfortable as I was in my jammies, I set out to make my honorary Tea Jammies.

The smell of a bakery right at home was so incredibly pleasing I couldn't help but think what a treat such aromas would be for guests upon arrival--even before taking a single, gorgeous bite. Since none of the ingredients are particularly perishable, stock up for the next pajama day! Just remember to change before any guests shows up. Or eat them by yourself. Or not. The important thing is that you do make them.