Food And Cooking

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My Christmas cactus always blooms at Thanksgiving!

My Christmas cactus always blooms at Thanksgiving!

I love to prepare meals and nourish my loved-ones with simple, delicious, healthy food. And I’m always happiest when the ingredients are local and organic. I especially enjoyed putting together our Thanksgiving meal last week. With my daughter, her partner, and the grandkids here, I found it especially rewarding to share the bounty of our local and organic gardens and farms.

I was first introduced to good food, when I was just a little kid. At the time I didn’t really appreciate the then yucky flavors that would one day become the those that are are my favorites. Take spinach for example. Once when I was about four years old, my mother warned me that there would be no dessert unless the spinach was gone from my plate. I hated spinach. When she wasn’t looking, I squirreled away of the dreaded green stuff by the forkful under the cushion I was seated on. I got my dessert that night, but she discovered the sticky mess the next day. I got into a bit of trouble.

These days, however, I adore spinach, especially cooked in a bit of olive oil and laced with lots of minced garlic. I also regularly add raw spinach to salads, frittatas and soups. You can never have enough leafy greens. I add garlic to almost everything I cook. When Bill and I eat out, our first critique of the food is often, “where’s the garlic?”

I haven’t cooked a huge holiday meal in many years. When it’s just  Bill and me, I prepare a lovely meal, but usually without the dessert and the multiple side dishes I like to prepare. Since we both have some weight issues, one of the house rules is that if you want a something sweet after a meal, you have to go out and enjoy it at the ice cream shop, or one of the fine bakeries nearby. And only one serving, please. If we brought home whole cakes, a dozen cookies, ice-cream by the pint, or any other tempting sweet, they’d be polished off within a few eye blinks.

This year I prepared my famous pumpkin pie which includes a few secret ingredients and is loved by all who take a bite. Being gluten free, I tried a piecrust made with coconut flour this year. Though everyone else liked it, I prefer the delicious nut crust I usually make. The secret ingredients include a layer of tart orange marmalade spread onto the crust before adding the pumpkin filling, to which I have added several tablespoons of brandy. Oh my, what a treat. I think I’m going to make it for Christmas dinner as well, just because we love it so much. Then back to no dessert in the New Year.

I also managed to prepare a knock-off of our favorite stuffing with dried Gluten free bread cubes I picked up the grocery store. The great taste comes from adding butter sautéed turkey giblets, onions, and again garlic. I also add diced apples, pecans, dried cranberries, homemade bone broth, an egg or two, and fresh cut sage, thyme, and parsley from my garden. We just finished off the leftover stuffing on turkey sandwiches that we also smother with homemade cranberry sauce. Oh, my gosh, YUM!

We’ve been eating high off the hog and we’re just finishing up the leftovers. I think I’m going to make the remaining sweet potato puree into muffins or a creamy soup to which I’ll add whatever grabs my fancy at the time. To the muffins I might add some walnuts and dried cranberries, or a dollop of cream cheese. To the soup, I’ll dilute the puree a bit with bone broth or coconut milk ing add some curry powder. Chick peas would give it bit of crunch, and a handful of greens of some kind, would add more color.

Ready to make turkey bone broth!

Ready to make turkey bone broth!

Yesterday I made bone broth from all the turkey bones, leftover skin, and whatever else remained. There is enough sliced turkey left to make a warming soup, a few more sandwiches, and we’ll finish off the bits and pieces with turkey fried rice.

For me preparing food is much like making art. You take your givens and make something beautiful by adding whatever else you find in the pantry or fridge. It’s a creative act and loads of fun. Along with writing, painting, and working in the garden, I do love cooking.

Do you like to cook and experiment with different ingredients in your kitchen? What kinds of things do you enjoy preparing most?

I hope your Thanksgiving was as wonderful as mine.
Guess what? There are more holidays just around the corner!


  1. I’m thinking of you now with a cook’s apron or chef’s hat on, Joan. You are right: Cooking, like writing and painting, is an art. Louise deSalvo is an example of another author who loves to cook and maintains that cooking enables her writing.

    Do you have an Aldi’s grocery store near you? I discovered one less than a mile from home and they sell only organic, pesticide and antibiotic-free meats and produce. Aldi’s has become my go-to store now, and I visit supermarkets only for products I can’t get anywhere else.

    Very heart-warming, belly-satisfying post, Joan!

  2. Thanks so much, Marian. No, there is no Aldi’s here in C’ville. But it sounds wonderful and a place I’d love to shop. We have several health food stores here that only carry organic produce and a few butchers who sell locally, grass-feed beef, lamb, pork, and poultry. I go to those places as well as Whole Foods and of course the Farmers Market in the warm weather. I feel very fortunate that this area is a “Foodie Haven,” where most of the best restaurants server locally grown, organic food.

    I hope you had a Yummy Thanksgiving and that good food always plays an important role in your life!

    • Aldi’s is a smaller store and much, much less expensive than Whole Foods. That’s why I’m singing its praises. Also it is much closer to me than any other “healthy” outlet. It sounds like you are doing just fine in your setting though.

  3. “The secret ingredients include a layer of tart orange marmalade spread onto the crust before adding the pumpkin filling, to which I have added several tablespoons of brandy.”

    Joan — That sounds sinfully, decadently D-E-L-I-C-I-O-U-S!

  4. You’re making me feel very hungry, Joan, by your yummy descriptions of healthy foods! I too love to cook healthy meals. I’ve even started trying to go gluten-free and think of you when I do. Glad to hear you had a wonderful holiday. I did too. Family , food and friends make for a memorable time.

    • Joan Rough says:

      Thanks, Kathy. Going completely gluten free can be hard and can take time. I’m so glad to hear you had a wonderful holiday!

  5. I enjoy cooking as well, tonight we are having a simple dinner of Roast beef and sweet potatoes, lemon meringue pie. Hopefully puffy Yorkshire pudding before my sons grand adventure.
    Have you tried making your stuffing with quinoa? I made it that way one year for something different.
    I do agree we eat too much. The one vegetable I was never too fond of that I now love is brussel sprouts saute in butter and drizzled with balsamic vinegar.

    • Joan Rough says:

      Your dinner sounds great, June. I haven’t tried quinoa for a stuffing, but I eat a lot of it. I love a crunchy salad with quinoa in it. And I LOVE brussel sprouts, but alas Bill doesn’t, so they are not on the menu that often unless I cook several veggies and keep the sprouts to myself. I especially love them roasted with lots of garlic!

  6. I’m with Kathy, Joan. Feeling hungry! We cooked a huge meal for 19 people this year. Lots of help from my children and aunts, uncles, and cousins, who added the most amazing array of traditional favorites and new side dishes. We also cooked the bones and made a delicious soup. I had to leave the leftovers behind when I returned to Minnesota. Could use some of them right now!

    Would love to taste that pie of yours!

  7. Joan Rough says:

    Wow, Shirley, 19 is a lot of people to feed and yes, you’d need tons of help. There were only 6 of us so not a problem. I made turkey soup a few nights ago. Yummy. I think I’m getting hungry and morning is just starting.

    When you get home and visit me in C’ville, I’ll make one of those pies for you to taste!