Wimbledon Tradition: “Strawberries and Cream” (Joanna-adapted!)

In Honor of Wimbledon—“Strawberries and Cream”!

Good day friends, guests and followers,

photo (21) This li’l cutie (might be Henry, a regular) got caught red-pawed in my yard and had the nerve to look directly at the camera too. Never again in this lifetime, lol. 

rhododendron in vase Rhododendron from my front yard. Just liked how this looked and had to share! 🙂

Of course this post was supposed to be only about fruit and cream, but y’all know how easily sidetracked Joanna gets. Thanks for hanging in there with me!

So sad to watch Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer go out so early in this highly anticipated annual tournament (especially after my ranting about seeds in my previous post). End of an era? Changing of the guard?

Possibly. I’m sure though, providing a little more time between the French Open and Wimbledon Tennis Championships would so a difference make. About three weeks separate the “Channel Slams” (partly because of each’s location across the English Channel). Not exactly much time to recover from the clay court season and prepare for a ridiculously short-lived grass court season. Heck: the Australian is held the end of January. The next slam is the French, which starts the Monday before Memorial Day (U.S. A.) in May. Wimbledon follows beginning the last week of June. Then no grand-slam action until the last week of August. I’m sure there are required tournaments to be played during the hard-court season, but players can also build in a little regroup time too.  (IMHO, the scheduling officials really need to look at this. Players are human after all. Then again, what do I know?)

Oh well, it is what it is, and Wimbledon is obviously happening without these fan-favorite past champions. It’s also going on minus a handful of top male players and women (i.e., Victoria Azarenka) out with injuries after slips and slides on the slick grass surface of the first week. Former Grand Slam champion, Wimbledon finalist, Tennis Hall of Fame and current Davis cup captain Jim Courier commented about the game being so much more aggressive now. The Wimbledon courts are still being groomed as they were about a century ago, when play was with wooden racquets and the balls didn’t move as hard and fast as they do nowadays. Hmm: very interesting point.

All Wimby 2013 facts and conjecture aside, this tourney is best known for its traditions. Wearing all white garb on the court. No play on “Middle Sunday, ”  among others.

And this one (finally): The topic of today’s post: Strawberries and Cream! A favorite, I’m sure, during every “Breakfast at Wimbledon”. Here are a few images of what theirs looks like. 0:-)

This ain’t no strawberries and whipped cream, folks. European cream is a lot different. In England, it is known as double cream, is not aerated and so thick it has be spooned as it doesn’t pour.  (This, as described by late author Laurie Colwin, in her novel Home Cooking.) I’ve had a similar Italian version (a.k.a. panna), many times over granita, similar to a “slushie” or Italian ice, in strawberry or coffee versions. Yes, many people make it here, but it just ain’t the same. (And trust, me: pure fat ain’t low in the calorie count neither.)

So: what does Joanna do? Come up with a healthy—no less tasty—version of same! (Hey, if it tastes like you’re giving something up, it’s not worth it.) And of course, it’s seriously easy-peasy.

What you’ll need (serves one person):

Fresh strawberries, hulled, or hulled and sliced. (Your choice on how many 😉 )

Roughly equal parts non-fat plain regular and Greek-strained yogurts (1/2-cup each is good, but you can adjust to taste/preference in consistency)

Vanilla (a few drops to taste)

Sugar, sugar substitute (i.e., Splenda, Stevia, etc) or honey (again, you decide how much based on how sweet you like)

Sugar-free non-dairy creamer (French vanilla or hazelnut—optional)

What to do:

Combine the yogurts, vanilla, sweetener (and non-dairy creamer); stir until smooth.

Pour over strawberries or plop them into the mix, as did I.

strawberries n cream Threw this serving together last-minute before taking off to the day job. Worked for me. 🙂

Eat and watch Wimbledon!

Mixing the yogurts creates a consistency pretty similar to that of panna and most likely, double cream. It also cuts the tartness and thickness of the Greek yogurt, while thickening up the regular yogurt. Try it and let me know what you think. Feel free to substitute blueberries, peaches—whatever your favorites are!

I also keep thinking about freezing myself some yogurt pops using this mix. Again, it’s all about consistency with NO FAT (or sugar, should you go that route).

So, what do you think? Ready to give it a try?

*You can also use pre-flavored vanillas of each or one. (Doesn’t matter which one). I stick to plain yogurts b/c the ready-made tend to be very high in sugar, and the sugar-free version is a bit too sweet for my taste.

Happy rest of Wimbledon–and the week, of course!

Joanna

Blueberry Cobbler is Easier than Pie!

No rolling crusts–who’s got time for that????

Hi all!

This post is dedicated to my mamma-via-marriage, since she recently asked me to jot down the recipe.

So…

Inspired by the peach cobbler recipe hiding at my Recipe Central page, I had to try a blueberry version.  (I came by Zoe’s awesome original at New Hampshire’s Fitzwilliam Inn; it’s about the third entry, dated August 30, 2010–just scroll down the page).

It doesn’t get easier than this! I’ve put this together before school and taken it in warm! People think I worked so hard to make it… 😉

What you’ll need:

2-1/4 cups of oatmeal (old-fashioned cook type works really well, but I’m sure you can get away with using instant)

1 stick of butter (you’ll get away with ¾ of one too)—the softer the better, but NOT melted

½ cup brown sugar

1 pint container of fresh blueberries (or about ½ of a 16-oz bag of frozen, thawed)—fresh is better

¼ cup of white sugar (you can probably substitute granulated Splenda or even use packets to taste—or skip sugar entirely, if you’re into the tartness of blueberries)

What to do:

Mash the oatmeal and brown sugar with the butter until the mixture resembles a thick paste. Spray a pan with cooking spray and press about ¾ of it into a 9-inch glass pie pan to form a crust.

In a bowl mix the blueberry filling, blueberries and white sugar. Pour over the crust.

Crumble and sprinkle the remaining paste on top of the blueberry mixture.

Bake uncovered at 350º F for about 35 minutes, or until crust is very lightly browned and blueberry mixture is bubbly.

blueberry cobbler   bluberry cobbler 2

Serve warm, room temperature or cold. Top with ice cream, whipped cream (or both!). I refrigerate leftovers then heat for breakfast and top with non-fat Greek yogurt flavored with vanilla. Welcome to blueberries and “cream” minus a slew of the guilt. Yum!

TTFN and have a great week!

Joanna

Red Velvet Pancakes At Home?

Hi all,

Trying to get myself back into a routine. I am so good at getting in my own way. 😛

Wow. We may have entered a new era in clay court tennis. (View the winner of “The Little French Open” here.) So mad I missed the match! (Yes, I know I can find it somewhere on line. We’ll see what time–and overloaded memory–allow.)

Let’s move on. Last week older son said something about a renowned pancake chain and a new (?) red velvet variety. Mom thinks: Hmm. Can we make this for son at home?

Anyone who REALLY knows me is in on the fact that I don’t necessarily like to cook. I do, however, enjoy trying new recipes and getting creative with adapting them.   I have a special place in my heart too, for recipes that look complicated and elegant when done, but are actually quite easy. (Make the “chef” look amazing, know what I mean? ;)).

So I hit up the internet and found a few recipes. (I SO love the world wide web.)  I wound up going with this one that I found at recipegirl.com. I invite you to go to Lori Lange’s blog for the recipe (which, actually, came from a guest blogger, Tidy Mom, a.k.a., Cheryl). Are you all with me?

Here I’ll list the two minor changes I made to Tidy Mom’s recipe. (Hubby thinks I should follow a recipe to the letter, but those who spend a lot of time in the kitchen know tweaking is often what makes a certain recipe our own.) I also went with a basic cream cheese glaze. (That recipe follows.)

Tidy Mom’s recipe calls for 2 ½ cups of flour. I’m thinking I used about 2/3 white whole wheat and 1/3 white flour.

As per Cheryl, I also used a “buttermilk substitute,” (1 ½ cups of plain non-fat yogurt mixed with 3 tbsp of milk). She linked to here for this one and other alternatives. My choice worked really well.

Finally, I added a bit more milk to thin the batter to my liking—not unusual for any pancake recipe.

Note: I saw no significant difference using liquid food coloring (less than the 1 tbsp called for, since I ran out). Some recipes suggest red food paste gives a deeper red. IDK as I have no experience to fall back on.

I happen to like preparing pancakes on a griddle, but a good (preferably non-stick) frying pan works every bit as well. Also, rubbing the griddle with a canola oiled-napkin worked better than spraying it with cooking spray. I’ve never liked the speckled appearance pancakes get with that.)

Basic cream cheese glaze (easily increased as needed):

4 oz. cream cheese* (softened)

4 oz. butter* (softened)

2-3 tbsp milk

½ cup confectioners sugar

(*I use the whipped versions. Think it makes for a lighter glaze.)

Using an electric mixer (or by hand) cream together cream cheese and butter until smooth. Add milk and confectioners sugar. Continue mixing until glaze is as smooth as you want it. Serve over warm pancakes. Refrigerate (or try freezing) leftover glaze.

There you have it! These really were excellent, rich with flavor and brought together perfectly by the cream cheese topping—my favorite part of anything red velvet, hands down.

The finished product. Yum.
The finished product. Yum.
The finished product. Yum.

So, where do you stand on cooking? Do you follow recipes to the letter or does your brain start tweaking whenever you read one the first time? Are you a fan of pancakes? If so, what’s your favorite kind? Would you rather make reservations?

Have a great day and ttfn,

Joanna

Quick ‘N’ Healthy Tuna Salad

Hi everyone. Checking in after another busy week. Seems like there is something that has to be done every evening. Not one seems long enough.

Yes, another recipe. Came up with this one last week for some leftover tuna salad. Chances are, it’s not new, although it is to me, lol. Sorry; no photo. (Shakes head.) I always think to share the recipe AFTER I’ve put together the dish.  (At least there’s no stove-time. :))

I usually stir a 6 oz. can of tuna with mayo, onion powder (no onion breath) and a little sea salt. I top a slice of toasted multi-grain bread with cheese and half the tuna mixture and serve  it open-faced with a side salad of baby lettuces. Low-fat raspberry vinaigrette and a sprinkling of feta cheese brings it all together. Yum.

Wasn’t in the mood for that combo, since I’d had it the day before–and I was trying to skip the bread.

So:

I took the leftover tuna salad, chopped a quarter each of a red bell pepper and cucumber and stirred all together with fat-free Italian dressing. (I was out of the raspberry vinaigrette and too lazy to grab the feta from the fridge. I also love being able to add an unlimited amount of veggies to up the fill-factor w/o adding a significant amount of calories. Next time too, I might cut back the mayo or just skip it. )

Done.

Ridiculously filling and satisfying to chow down, especially for someone—like me—who prefers eating with utensils vs. biting into a sandwich.

And yes, this can easily be used to fill a pita, curl into a wrap or create an open-faced sandwich as I usually do. I imagine you can top cold pasta with it too, for an impromptu side or main dish.

I’m also thinking chicken (grilled or canned) could easily be substituted for the tuna and that either or both would could be the basis of a great appetizer: as finger sandwiches or served in a bowl surrounded by crackers, toasted pita, etc. Heck: skip the meat or fish and serve the peppers, cucumbers and feta mixed with the dressing for a vegetarian spin.

What are some of the easiest and surprisingly tasty, satisfying dishes you concocted? Share them here or link back to your site. It all works and it’s all good.

Have a wonderful weekend, folks!

Joanna

Risotto: Joanna style!

Hi all,

Working on getting back in the blogging game and picking up where I left off last time.

What’s awesome about risotto is that you truly can easily create quite the elegant dish while having some creative fun with pretty much anything edible sitting in your fridge or kitchen. My trial approach—with white long grain rice, heaven forbid!—is proof! (Never occurred to me to take a picture of it done. Sorry! Please don’t ask what’s up with the formatting on this particular paragraph of text. I am clueless.)

Jake
Here’s Jake again–to make up for the food pic I should have taken–he’s so much cuter than a bowl of rice, don’t you think?

Back to the post!

Here’s what I used to make ‘risotto’:

One small to medium onion, finely chopped

One small zucchini, chopped

One clove of garlic, coarsely chopped

About 3 tbsp of olive oil

One tbsp or so of butter/margarine

1-1/2 cups of long grain white rice

One quart of chicken broth

½ cup white wine (I had chardonnay in the fridge—BTW, you can adjust to taste here)

pepper to taste

a few slivers of dried rosemary

Here’s what I did (in a 12-inch, heavy-based non-stick frying pan):

Sautéed the onions and zucchini in the olive oil until tender;

Added the garlic and cooked until golden;

Added the rice and stirred to coat it.

Slowly poured in one cup of broth, stirring lovingly until the rice absorbed it; repeated this process until I used up the wine and 3 cups of broth total. (Somewhere along the way I added the margarine, a dash of pepper and crumbled in the rosemary.) According to the online recipe, I should have been almost done, about 25 minutes in after having added the rice to the veggies.

My rice, however, seemed to have alternate ideas about getting soft. Forget al dente; the grains were downright crunchy. So here’s where I let instinct take over: I added the rest of the broth (about a cup), raised the heat to high and let the liquid come to a boil. I immediately reduced the heat to low and covered the pan tightly, letting it simmer about 15-20 minutes total, and stirring once or twice. Afterward, I took the pan off the heat. Still covered, I set it aside another 10 minutes.

The result was quite delicious. I mean, every single grain of rice was ridiculously infused with flavor. Me, the non-rice girl having seconds AND thirds? Yes, I’ll have to further up the walks and exercise/dance sessions to make up for the extra calories…

Luckily, I’m a lazy kind of cook so I might not make this all that often.  Then again, texture and gusto-wise it was so good, the time, effort and resulting carpal tunnel syndrome may be worth the yumminess of this dish. Add a little meat and you’ve got a one-dish meal. For me, the veggie route is perfect for keeping it a side dish.

Leftovers:  James suggests frying them up as patties or rissoles. I reheated on a lower setting in the microwave–still good! If need be, one can add a bit more broth to smooth out the remains and serve as an even tastier side dish–that’s one less part of a meal I have to cook!

Have a great day and even greater weekend,

Joanna

Checking Back In and Catching Up

Hi all. Hope all of you are well. Sorry. Went a bit MIA these past weeks. Between feeling lousy (sinusitis and a nasty antibiotic that made me a tired insomniac—yes, in that order); some family matters to attend to and work beginning the end of winter-into-spring-paperwork rise, life just got in the way—again.

I am glad to be back, though. Ironically enough I recently read a wonderful post about procrastination by Darlene Steelman. Yep! Spent the rest of that day avoiding the laptop but finally parked my back end at the darn thing around 9 PM to draft this write up.

Jakee-boy
Isn’t Jake the sweetest thing? He’s my son’s girlfriend’s pitbull, 4-5 months old. Love him and I promise my son was playing with him in the gentlest way!

In other Joanna news, I’ve been working on getting back into a routine that includes some ramped-up exercise. It’s way too easy to go slack after not feeling well for close to a month. Recently finished Larry BrooksStory Engineering, too. Now there’s an awesome resource for plotters and pantsers alike. More on that in another post. A must-read book for anyone trying to find their way to story constructing nirvana.

And I finally made risotto! (Did you catch that, Dr. Stratford?) Got up the nerve last Friday evening. (Parts one and two of the post that inspired me went up last month.) Won’t tell you I followed James’ recipe but I could see his line about ‘stirring it lovingly’ throughout. (Truth is, I hunted down an alternate recipe b/c I committed risotto sacrilege and used long grain white rice. Sorry James, I didn’t have Arborio and was too lazy to go out and round some up. I found a recipe that fit the bill online, doctored it a bit and fell back on instinct to reach the finish line. It worked out, too. Well enough that I’m sharing my take on it.)

I am, however, running longer than I should so I’ll share the recipe later this week. (Besides, this lets me sneak in an extra blog post, as I am nearing the 300 mark!)

Catch y’all later!

Have a great day,

Joanna

Risotto and the Hero’s Journey–Part 1

Happy Wednesday, all! I might have posted Monday had I not been so distraught over the Packers’ undoing by Colin Kaep–I mean, the 49ers (;D)–just kidding. Hey, I pulled for Packers but the better team won. Call me a front-runner (some man I’d never met before did in Wendy’s last week, AFTER he told me and my younger son to go incinerate our Giants’ jacket and hoodie–any wonder the man sat down alone to eat?), but I’ll watch the next 49ers game–awesome is as awesome does.

Let’s move on. Hope all is well and no one has the dreaded flu circulating the Boston area. Brings to mind author and online friend Carrie Rubin’s excellent debut novel, The Seneca Scourge. Crazy parallels going on with that story, which Carrie released earlier this year. If you’re interested, read my thoughts on it here. (But don’t forget to come back!)

What I adore about the internet is the connections one gets to make all over the globe. Should I ever make it to my Aussie cousins and the Australian Open Tennis Championships–Rafa Nadal pulled out so I figured I’d skip the trip this year ;)–I’ll make sure to look up today’s guest! I’ve been inspired by his posts: he challenges the hero in each of us to answer the calls life puts out there and be our very strongest. 

About the Author: James Stratford is an educator and author of numerous publications on the hero and international strategy. His blog, Beyond the Call, shares reflections on his own approach to  learning and personal development that are often inspired by the great hero ancient and modern stories. James is also a keen cyclist and traveler and a lover of great food – preferably all together. He lives with his wife and son in Melbourne, Australia. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

Note: James has been terribly patient waiting for  me to finally get this post up–thanks, James. The floor is yours:

You’re probably wondering what risotto, the classic Italian rice dish, has to do with heroes. I can assure you, absolutely nothing.

Well almost nothing.

I realized the other day that it was almost twenty years ago exactly when I cooked risotto for the first time and when I first saw Joseph Campbell interviewed on the Power of Myth, thus starting my long relationship with the hero of myth and epic. I ended up devoting the next twenty years to researching one of the great ancient hero myths, Homer’s Iliad, which features the hero Achilles.

The hero myths stuck with me not merely because they’re wonderful stories, but because I’ve always found they resonate with whatever phase of life I’m in. I wrote about this in my book, Discover the Hero Within (published in Spanish as Descubre a tu heroe interior by Aguilar Fontanar–read an excerpt here). I’ve also found that the epic, and the hero’s journey generally, has held vital lessons which have inspired me and reminded me of the most resourceful strategies for living in the world and getting through some of the toughest times.

Eating and hospitality centered around the sharing of food have a subtle but important place in the journey of the hero. In the Iliad, meals take on a range of significance. When Achilles receives the embassy who have come to secure his return to battle, before any discussion takes place he instructs Patroklos to prepare food for his guests as an expression of xenia, or ‘guest-friendship’.

On the other hand, after the death of Patroklos, Achilles denies himself all food and is nourished by the gods who infuse him with nectar ambrosia. In the final and, many would say, the finest, book of the Iliad, Achilles graciously offers food and lodging to the old king, Priam, who has come to ransom the body of his son, Hektor, killed by Achilles in battle (in savage revenge for the death of Patroklos).

The sharing of food stands so simply and effectively as a ritual that embodies the natural order of the living. It is also symbolic of Achilles’ return to this world, not in a literal sense, but metaphorically as an agent of order rather than as a bringer of the chaos and death that characterize his grief-fueled return to battle. If you’re familiar with the Iliad, food has a similar significance in the closing stages of Book 1. When the Greeks appease the wrath of Apollo by returning Chryseis to her father, the troops bring closure to the episode by having a great feast and singing to the god. Order restored.

This is only a taste. If you read the Odyssey, eating plays an even more important role, and we see it used both properly by the venerable heroes of the Trojans and abused by the band of suitors who effectively hold Odysseus’ family under siege, and the infamous cyclops who turns Odysseus’ men into a meal.

But I don’t want to leave you on that grim image.

Rather I want to urge you to contemplate the significance of food on your journey:

the great meals you’ve shared; the satisfaction of eating simple foods after hard days in the bush, hiking or skiing or doing hard physical labour; great meals in foreign cities.

Then there are the real feasts, meals that we share to mark the most important days in our lives – marriage, birthdays, graduation.

Which ones stand out most and why?

I suspect that when you reflect on this you might find that while beautiful food is often central, what it’s really about are things like the nourishment of the spirit and the honouring of our relationships with one another. It’s no wonder food has such an important place in all the old cultures. It’s not much of an exaggeration to suggest that the sharing of food is really the axle around which our cultures function, all starting at the family meal.

We’ll stop here for today. Friday, James will share the his own special risotto recipe. Definitely a weekend undertaking, given the time and dedication James discusses for this particular dish’s preparation. In the meantime, we’d love for you to take a moment and talk about how food figures into your life and relationships, be it cooking, eating, socializing, celebrating–it’s your call. Go for it. And if you please, do take a moment to SHARE via one of the buttons below.

Thanks so much and see you Friday 🙂

Joanna