The Benefits and the Curse of a Well Trained Nose

Today as I was outside walking Shay in her normal sniff, sniff, sniff “don’t pull me along mommy I’m smelling everything” walk I just closed my eyes and took a big whiff too.  I could really smell the summer.  The overwhelming scents of honeysuckle with undertones of magnolia were the first scents that hit me.  Once of the best things about living in North Carolina is smell.  As we walked past our vegetable garden the basil and mint competed with the flowers.  Then I drew in the very distinct odor of the tomato plants.


Shay all along was concentrating on the ground smells of deer that had certainly passed through the property the night before.  I wanted to teach her to enjoy the beautiful scents and not just those of other animals so I dragged my hand among the sage leaves and held it to her nose.  She pretended to be interested in it for just a moment and then pushed her face deeper into my hand for a good petting.


From the sage I moved to the lemon thyme and then gave Shay another whiff.  This prompted her to go right over to the low growing herb and sniff around.  I realized she thought it might be a good place to leave her own scent so we quickly moved onto the grass.


As we walked in the yard the freshly cutgrass mixed with the clover top notes to make a familiar bouquet. I stopped and closed my eyes and sucked in the air hard, holding it in my throat like my yoga instructor has taught me to do.  For a moment I felt as I could smell the fireflies and the dust on the gravel driveway.  With my eyes closed I felt a tingle and the smell changed to something more pungent for just a second, then just as I opened my eyes to see if perhaps another animal was crossing our path I saw a flash of lightening and a few seconds later heard the confirmation of thunder.  I think I actually smelled the lightening coming.


Paying attention to smells has served me well in the cooking part of my life.  I’ve always been good at deciphering what ingredients are in a dish someone else has made because of my detective like nose.  I also have not done things that dull my sense of smell, which can naturally diminish with age and abuse.


The only problem with a well-trained olfactory machine is that if I smell something tasty it starts my salivary glands going and makes my brain think I need to not just smell something good, but taste it as well.  So for now I am going to spend as much time as possible with the flowers outside.  I have never developed a taste for rosewater and the lavender is supposed to make you feel relaxed.  So to combat any hunger pangs I might get I’m just going to go outside and stick my head in the gardenia bush that grows above my lavender and stay then until the feeling passes.   Feel free to come and take a smelling tour of my garden anytime your diets needs it, but I suggest you stay away from the sage which may prompt you to go in search of an entire Thanksgiving meal.

Mediterranean Half Cooked Half Raw Salad



YUM!  This is now a new favorite.  I created this salad as a way of using up smaller amounts of vegetables. The creation of half roasted vegetables with their more complex flavors, raw vegetables with their crunch, capers and feta cheese for it’s saltiness and vinegar for the tang makes a really satisfying dish.


Four cups of roasted vegetables – I used Eggplant and zucchini, but you could use carrots, yellow squash, fennel, or even sweet potatoes

1 pint of cherry tomatoes –halved

½ small red onion chopped

25 fresh mint leaves chopped

3 T. capers

1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese

3 T. rice vinegar

1 T. olive oil

2 packets of Splenda

Salt and pepper


Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Cut the vegetables you are going to roast in uniform sizes about the sixe of a cherry tomato.  Cover a cookie sheet with foil and spray with pam.  Spread the vegetables in a single layer.  Roast in oven until browned and soft about 30 mins.


Remove from oven and let cool.  Mix the vinegar, oil and Splenda together.  Toss the cooled roasted vegetables with the tomatoes, red onion, mint, capers and dressing in a bowl.  Add the feta and toss gently.  Can be served at room temperature or chilled.

Turkey Meatballs and Tomato Sauce



It helps when everyone in the family is interested in eating something healthy.  I bought a spaghetti squash and thought that others might eat it if they had a great sauce to put on it.


Make a poaching liquid for the meatballs


1 large yellow onions – chopped

5 carrots – peeled and chopped

2 stalks of celery chopped

4 cloves of garlic grated

2 14 oz. cans of chopped tomatoes

1 t. garlic powder

1 t. dried oregano

Salt and pepper

1 cup of water


Put the onions, carrots, celery and garlic in a stockpot and cook on medium high for about 5 five minutes.  Add everything else and bring to a boil and reduce to simmer.


While the pot is coming up to boil make the meatballs


20 oz. ground turkey breast

½ red onion finely chopped

3 cloves of garlic- grated

1 egg- beaten

½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

1/3 cup minced flat leaf parsley

1/3 cup minced fresh basil

½ t. red pepper flakes

Black pepper

½ t. garlic powder


1 jar of tomato sauce

2 T. tomato paste

5 Splenda packets


Mix together gently and form into ball about the size of golf balls.  Add carefully to poaching liquid just at a simmer.  Pour one jar of tomato sauce over the top of meatballs.  Cover the pot with a lid and simmer for 30 minutes.  With a slotted spoon remove the meatballs and increase the heat to high and boil the sauce adding the tomato paste and Splenda.  Reduce the sauce by about half.

My Lightened Up Version Romesco Sauce

My favorite restaurant we went to in the Pacific Northwest was Toro Bravo in Portland.  We had a Tortilla Española with Romesco sauce.  Calling the Tortilla a Spanish potato omelet does not do it justice.  My favorite part was the Romesco Sauce that was served with it, so I have recreated it with a lot less oil, nuts or bread to cut down on calories.  I served it here on grilled salmon.


1 cup of canned fire roasted tomatoes

2 fire roasted red peppers (I used jarred ones)

1 head of garlic

1 slice of sour dough bread

1/3 c. almonds

5 Mexican red chilies (I used dried and rehydrated them in warm water)

2.T. sherry vinegar

1 T. olive oil

½ Smoked paprika

Salt and Pepper


Preheat the oven to 350º

Cut the top off the head of garlic to just reveal the cloves.  Place the garlic in a piece of foil and drizzle the top of it with three drops of oil.  Close the foil up around the garlic and place in the oven for 30 minutes.  Place the piece of sour dough bread in the oven, placing it on the rack to toast for about 8 minutes.  Spread the almonds on a cookie sheet and place in the oven just long enough for them to toast, about 4 minutes.

After the garlic is cooked, squish all the garlic cloves out of the head.  Put all the ingredients in a cuisineart and pulse it on and off until it is well chopped, but stop before it turns into a complete paste.


This sauce is good on chicken, fish as pasta sauce on a frittata or as a dip.

Too Many Tomatoes Summer Soup

My first disclaimer is that I don’t have too many tomatoes despite the beautiful plants I have.  There are a bunch of stupid squirrels who come and eat a bite out of each tomato and after deciding they don’t like that one they move on to the next one to see if it is better. UGH!!  My next recipe might be low fat squirrel stew if I could just catch one.

Anyway, this is an easy soup that is good hot or cold.  It really is easy if you have a stick blender.  You can use a regular blender or food processor, but go to Target and get a stick blender and you will have so much less washing up to do because of it.

I am going to give you the recipe in a ratio so you can make any amount you want.  The base recipe is enough for about two servings so at least double it.

1 big yellow onion – peeled and quartered

2 Tomatoes – stemmed and quartered

2 Carrots – peeled

1 cup of chicken or vegetable stock

1 T. Pesto

Salt and Pepper

Preheat the oven to 400º.  Line a jelly roll pan with foil and spray with pam.  Put the onions and the carrots on the foil and place the pan in the oven for 15 minutes.  Add the tomatoes to the pan and continue cooking in the oven for 45 more minutes.

Dump all the vegetables from the pan into a stockpot and add the stock and bring to a boil.  Reduce to simmer for 10 minutes.  Using a stick blender, whirl everything up until pureed or pour everything in a blend and let it do its thing.  Add the pesto and salt and pepper to taste.  Summer in a cup and hardly a calorie in sight.

Ratatouille – Not Like The Movie – but served in an omlette

When I was in college I lived off campus for two years with three roommates.  We each had responsibility to cook dinner for the house Monday through Thursday whether you were going to be eating there or not.  One of our roommates, Annie, was a vegetarian, so I was always searching for good ideas of what to make that we all would like as well as something that was inexpensive.


Ratatouille was a go to dish, but back then I made it with a ton of olive oil and served it covered in cheese.  It was vegetarian, but certainly was not healthy.  Since then I have discovered that both the oil and cheese were unnecessary to make a great dish.


Here is my much lighter version, which I used as the filling for an omelet.


1 large yellow onion diced

3 cloves of garlic minced


3 cups of diced eggplant

2 zucchini – diced

2 yellow squash – diced

1 red pepper – diced

1 15 oz. can chopped tomatoes (I have mentioned in previous recipes that fresh tomatoes are wasted on these cooked dishes, but if you are overwhelmed with fresh tomatoes go ahead and use them.)

30 fresh basil leaves chiffonade (That means finely cut)


Spray a big stockpot with Pam and place over Medium High heat.  Add the onions and the garlic and cook, stirring every 30 seconds, until softened, about 5 minutes.  Spray more Pam and add the eggplant.  Cook the same way for another 5 minutes.  Add all the other vegetables except the basil and cook another 5 minutes.  Add basil and salt and pepper.  Cook another five minutes.