As a child I used to love to eat soufflé. We had it often thanks to the good folks at Stouffers. Frozen foods were never shied away from back in the seventies. No one in my house ever made a soufflé so I did not learn to make one myself until Julia Child taught me at a cooking class at the Greenbrier. A day spent in the kitchen with Julia is still one of the great days in my life.
Since make a cheese soufflé with her I quickly learned that any cooked vegetable that has been either chopped or pureed finely enough could be added to the base of a soufflé. The other night I had a big bag of spinach that needed to be consumed. I cooked the leaves up in a big fry pan with the tiniest amount of water then squeezed it as dry as I could get it and chopped the hell out of it. Of course frozen chopped spinach cooked and drained well would work just as well for this recipe.
1 c. cooked spinach – if using fresh you need at least 2 pounds or one 10 oz. box of frozen
2 T. butter
½ c. Parmesan cheese
3 T. flour
1 c. scalded milk
Pinch of nutmeg
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper
4 egg yolks at room temperature
1 c. shredded cheese- I used Jarlsberg
5 egg whites
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Spray the inside of a soufflé dish with Pam and sprinkle ½ the Parmesan cheese in the container and twist it around so the cheese coats the inside of the dish.
IN a saucepan melt the butter and add the flour to it when melted and cook the flour on a low heat, stirring constantly for two minutes. Turn off the flame and add the milk and whisk it like hell. Put the pan back on a low heat and cook it until it gets thick, whisking the whole time to make sure it is not lumpy. Add the spices.
Turn off the flame and egg the egg yolks one at a time, whisking. Then add all the cheese and the spinach and mix well.
In a big very clean bowl beat your egg whites until they are white fluffy peaks. Take one quarter of the egg whites and whisk it into the cheese mixture then fold the rest of the egg whites in carefully. Pour the mixture into the prepared soufflé dish. Turn the oven down to 375 degrees and put the pan in the oven and shut the door for 30 minutes. It is not exactly diet food, but it is worth the calories.
Today on the news there was some story about people my age that ate meat and cheese having a higher incidence of cancer, but if you make it to 65 and still eat meat and cheese you have a lower chance of dying from cancer. I think this is a chance I am just going to have to take. I could go fairly long without meat, but once those researchers threw cheese into the study, well that’s a game changer for me.
Cheese is my favorite food. I am not alone in my household in this. Cheese is also Shay Shay’s favorite food. We have a special cheese drawer in the fridge and if anyone cracks that thing open just a hair Shay will jump up from a deep sleep five rooms away and bound to the kitchen and sit awaiting a morsel of cheese.
I know that cheese is one of the most fattening things ounce for ounce we have in our house, but I would rather have a tiny bit of real parmesan than five cookies any day. I’m sure if I removed the cheese drawer for a month I could reach my goal weight, but I can only imagine what life around me would be like.
We are about to go on spring break and I am going to two places that also consider cheese to be national treasurers. I have been doing my best to exercise every waking minute in preparation for the cheese I surly am going to eat on vacation. I am worried that it will be hard to get my 20,000 steps in that my body has become accustomed to walking everyday. Add the extra cheese to perhaps walking less and this vacation could have a negative effect on the scale.
It is a chance I am willing to take. What would the use of traveling to fabulous countries be if you don’t at least taste what they do best? It is only one week.
So to the lands of great cheeses we go without guilt. The only sad thing is that Shay Shay will be staying home and will certainly eating less cheese with her sitter. I guess I know what I should bring her as a treat.
I went to the movies with my friend Lynn this afternoon rather than write my blog, or cook dinner. When I got home late I decided I could throw together a soup to satisfy both needs.
1 softball-sized onion chopped
2 carrots- peeled and chopped
A bunch of fresh thyme tied together in a bundle or 1 T. dried Thyme
2 cups chicken stock
3 big stalks of broccoli
1 can of fat free evaporated milk
1 cup of shredded cheese- I used three kinds, cheddar, parm and jarlsburg
Salt and Pepper
In a big stockpot sprayed with Pam cook the onion on medium heat to soften for about five minutes. Add the carrots and thyme and cook another three minutes stirring every so often.
Bring a separate saucepan with two inches of water in it to a boil. Cut the trunks from the broccoli and using a vegetable peeler peel away all the tough outside parts of the broccoli and then chop the trunks up and put in the boiling sauce pan and cook about five minutes until they are tender.
Roughly chop the remaining tops of the broccoli and set aside.
Add the chicken stock to the main big stockpot with the onions and carrots and bring to a simmer.
After the broccoli stalks are cooked use a slotted spoon and remove them from the boiling water and add them to the main stockpot with the onions mixture.
Add the rest of the broccoli tops to the boiling water in the saucepan and cook that for two minutes or until it is tender. Drain that broccoli and add it to the main stockpot. If you used a bundle of thyme remove it from the pot now scraping as many little leaves off into the soup as you can. Add the can of evaporated milk and bring the whole mixture to a boil and reduce to simmer for two minutes. Take the pot off the heat and using a stick blender blend the soup slightly, leaving the vegetables a little big.
Put the pot back on medium heat add the cheese and stir the soup just so the cheese melts, about a minute. Salt and Pepper and serve.
I know the Psychiatric community is all over PTSD, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, but I think I have stumbled upon a more positive disorder I call Post Traumatic Cooking Disorder. I have self-diagnosed this after years of flash backs about food and cooking.
Today while I was buying a head of cauliflower I had a vivid memory of the summer of 1980 I spent living in Nantes, France. No Nazi’s were involved is my disorder, but I did spend a lot of time that summer walking past bombed out buildings that had sat half demolished for forty years on my way to and from school.
I was living in Nantes with a French family. Marionique and Patrice were the parents of two little boys ages five and three. Why they wanted a college girl to live with them I will never know. I don’t remember much about them, probably because my French was so bad that I had a headache all the time from concentrating on trying to understand them. I certainly know they hardly ever understood me.
My cauliflower flashback was from my first weekend with them. I arrived in Nantes after spending a week in Paris with a group of 12 other American students I was going to school with. We arrived in Nantes by train and were all met at the station by our new families. Marionque picked me up and after many false starts at conversation I finally understood her to say, ‘I think we are going to have trouble.”
We arrived at her tiny house and after she showed me to my room she told me we were going to get back in the car and go to their summer place on the coast. I was a little apprehensive because I was going to miss the fun my friends and I had planned for the weekend in Nantes and I was beginning to realize that my personality was dependant on being able to communicate humor, which I could not do in a language I hardly spoke.
I was right to be fearful because the “summer place” was the French equivalent of an airstream parked on a perch overlooking a violent Atlantic ocean. The only thing I remember Marionque teaching me all summer was how to make a steamed head of cauliflower with ham slices and cheese sauce on top, but it was well worth it.
Once we arrived at their retreat Marionque and I walked into the little village to buy food. She asked me to go to the meat counter and order “quatre tranches du jambon,” which I came to learn was four slices of ham. I was certainly not used to ordering meat by the slice, but I have never forgotten that “tranche” means slice in French and I have never used it again in my life. No wonder the French are thin when they order meat by the slice rather than by the pound.
We walked home with our basket of just enough food for dinner for five people, one cauliflower, four slices of ham, a small hunk of Gruyere like cheese and a small bottle of milk. Marionque steamed the cauliflower until it was just tender and then draped the thin slices of ham over the top and poured the Mornay sauce she had prepared with the milk and cheese over the top. I carefully watched her prepare it, helping where I could.
It was probably the most silent meal I had ever eaten but so delicious. I was incredibly lonely being in the middle of nowhere with a strange family unable to communicate, but the food was so delicious and simple. Now whenever I see a whole head of cauliflower I have a little tug-of-war internally from remembering my feeling of isolation and the divine taste of dinner at the same time. I’m sure it is already a real disorder, but for now I will just all it PTCD, short for Post-Traumatic Cooking Disorder.
For the most part I had a pretty good day. I had my first one-on-one meeting as the new Board Chair of the Food Bank with our CEO, Peter, which was very positive. I won some great hands in Mah Jongg. Was able to move Carter hither and yon to riding camp were she is a counselor, a friend’s house and a baby sitting job all while fitting in an annual exam at the Vet’s for Shay Shay and a visit to the dog groomer.
I ate my regular high protein Special-K with raspberries for breakfast and the “Dana Lange salad” at the club for lunch so I was on track for an excellent day of healthy eating.
Despite all this positive news just a few little things can really throw a wrench in a day and make me want to eat a huge hunk of fresh mozzarella. Why is that?
I know that when I describe these very little things that made me so MAD, you will begin to question my sanity. That is of course unless you have greatly fluctuating estrogen levels, which might actually be the cause of my “rage and crave.”
The first incident was the discovery that all but one of my sweet potato plants that I had been lovingly cultivating in my garden for two months had been stripped of all their leaves by some plant loving varmint that I would like to catch and boil in a pot in the back yard, Fatal Attraction style. There on the brown dry earth of the garden were long vines with naked stems sticking off of them.
The second incident came just a half an hour later and was even more insignificant, but seemed to push me right to the edge. While printing out all of Carter’s back to school lists for supplies and books an error message come up on my computer announcing the need for me to physically get off my butt and go downstairs to the printer to attend to it’s needs. I assumed it was out of paper or was jammed up in some way, but nooooo! The message on the minute little screen I have to find reading glasses to decipher read, “Pink cartridge ink out of date.” Are you F#*&ing kidding me? HP already only puts 14 pages worth of ink in any of the 5 different color inks you must buy, but now you mean I have not printed enough Pink S#*t to use my ink up in the allotted 47 days before it goes bad. Who ever heard of ink going bad? This was a new low.
My body immediately said, “Give me cheese.” I went to the kitchen, but I stopped. I was able to keep my hand away from the refrigerator door. Instead I went back to the computer and started writing this blog. God taught me two lessons. One, I don’t have to let hormones, or my lack of control of them push me over the edge into a formage filled world and two there is always a diet lesson everyday as long as your eyes are open and need something to blog about.
This is not an original idea for a recipe, but it is such a good things to know how to make I am writing my own version of this Spanish classic. It is also very healthy and good for any time of the day.
1 onion chopped (I like lots of onion so I use a big one)
1 ½ cups other chopped veggies – for this one I used Zucchini and green pepper. You can use leftover cooked veggies or raw. Asparagus, artichokes, red or green peppers, squash, cooked potatoes, green beans, spinach, broccoli or any creative combinations you can think of will work.
7 eggs beaten
½ cup of shredded cheese – I used a mixture of Parmesan, Jarlsberg and Gruyere
Salt and Pepper
Preheat the oven to 400º
You need a 12-inch skillet that can be put in the oven (that means it does not have plastic handles). Put skillet over a medium high heat and spray with Pam. Add onions to pan and cook for 3 minutes. If you are using raw peppers add them at the same time. Add any other raw veggies after the onions are partially cooked. Cook until veggies for another 3 minutes. Salt and Pepper the veggies. If you are using pre-cooked veggies add them now and get them warmed up.
Beat the eggs and add salt and pepper to them. Spray a little more Pam in the skillet with the vegetables, making sure the bottom gets lubricated and spreading out the vegetables evenly across the bottom of the pan. Turn heat on medium and pour the eggs into the skillet. Do not stir anything and let the eggs cook for about 5 minutes. Sprinkle the cheese on top of the still runny eggs and put whole skillet in the hot oven.
Continue cooking in the oven for another 5 minutes. The eggs may puff up a little.
Can be eaten hot or cold.