We are three sisters united in our search for the divine - in food, libation, literature, art, and nature. This blog will capture the true, sometimes decadent, at times humorous, and every so often transcendent adventures of the Salvation Sisters.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Gluten-Free New Year ~ Creamy and Delicious Gluten-Free Broccoli and Kale Soup

by Linda

   It is still winter here in Northern California, but as we approach the Vernal Equinox I am seeing signs of Spring. The brilliant yellow of the mustard blossoms in the vineyard rows and the vibrant canary-colored flowers of the abundant acacia trees are always a welcome sign that presages warmer weather and longer days are just ahead. Even so, the days are still mostly damp and chilly and perfect for making soup.

   We sisters are fast approaching the second birthday of our blog. Our reader's stats tell us that there are several thousand of you that take time to peruse our virtual pages each month, and we are humbly grateful that you continue to be interested in our recipes and musings, and we would love to know who more of you are. We also recognize that the Blogger format does not make it easy to leave comments. It is quite a change for me to know that now when I sit at my computer to write, real people are going to be reading my words, instead of the imaginary audience that we were writing to when we began our adventure two years ago.
   Since Michelle and her family are off to the gorgeous mountains of Colorado for a ski vacation for a few days, I am in charge of writing this week's post. I have decided that it is time for me to share a big change in my life. A month ago I began a drastic (but actually easier than I thought it was going to be) alteration of my diet. I have joined the millions in this country who are going gluten-free. I have also cut out all refined sugars. When I admitted my change in diet on my Facebook page, one of my friends commented with, "Oh, no! What about Salvation Sisters?" Good question... what about Salvation Sisters? 
Winter garden with lots of kale at Lynmar Estate winery in Sebastopol.
   Here is the lovely part of our blog not having ties to advertisers from whom we earn money. We are free to experiment, and write about anything at all that strikes our fancy. Michelle who has gone gluten-free along with me still has a family to cook for who are all very skeptical and resistant to the change and challenge of being gluten-free. She will most likely still be cooking with wheat at times even if she isn't eating it herself right now. We will see, although she has recently purchased a few gluten-free baking books, and we are both excited about trying new recipes. I on the other hand, am fully committed to the change. For the first time in my entire life, I am living in a house devoid of wheat flour, and all sugary items are gone with the exception of white sugar to make hummingbird nectar and some very dark chocolate (a must have for sweet craving emergencies). For the record, I am not counting calories (or points) and I am eating healthy fats like coconut oil, olive oil, butter and heavy cream. I cut processed vegetable oils (canola, sunflower, safflower, corn, peanut and the like) out of my diet quite some time ago. There has already been a payoff. In one month's time, I am wearing jeans that I have not worn for a year. 

   I will be writing more about my journey sans wheat and sugar in the days to come. I am already having success at finding new ways to make old favorites, and the broccoli and kale soup recipe that I am sharing in this post is a good example. Cream of broccoli soup is one of my all time favorites. The revision of my standard recipe now includes kale (which is a nutritional powerhouse as I have written previously) and some coconut oil. The soup is still thick and delicious, and I have been taking it regularly in a Thermos to work. I do not miss the wheat roux or potato that I previously used to thicken the soup one bit. 

   In my future posts, I will share the compelling evidence that finally convinced me to make this change, and tell you more about my mentor, Misty, who has held my hand and given me lots of moral support during my transition to being gluten and sugar free. Being one jeans size smaller in only a month, I am very encouraged. I also joined a health club a week ago, and come summer (however short its duration), I hope to be wearing dresses, skirts and shorts which I have not done in more summers than I care to admit. One thing hasn't changed... we sisters still love great food, and so please count on us to bring you recipes that you will want to make even if they do happen to be gluten-free.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Nutritious Bone Broths and Linda's Pho Bo ~ Vietnamese Beef Broth with Kelp Noodles

By Linda

"For to us, pho is life, love and all things that matter. We treasure pho, and most of us have loved it since the day we were old enough to hold a pair of chopsticks."~ Mai Pham

"Indeed, stock is everything in cooking... without it nothing can be done."~ Auguste Escoffier

   For years I worked in a restaurant kitchen in which we made a very large quantity of bone broth (stock) once per week. It was the base for many of our soups and sauces. Every week, we would roast a huge pan of veal bones for hours in the oven until very brown. After that, we would boil them for many more hours until a deep brown and fragrant stock was made. When eating out, I can almost always tell if a restaurant is making its own stock. Homemade stock lends the most incredible and complex flavors that simply cannot be achieved in any other way.

   Bone broths and stocks have long traditions of being made and consumed in many cultures. Beef, lamb, venison, poultry and fish and shellfish are all used. All foodies understand that these rich broths are necessary to make great tasting food. The piece of knowledge that has been lost for the most part in modern times is that these same broths provide some of the most nutritious food available to us. In our very busy lives these days, few have time to roast bones for hours and then boil them. Sally Fallon writes in one of my favorite food/cookbooks entitled "Nourishing Traditions" which is based on the research of Dr. Weston A. Price, a dentist who traveled the world studying isolated human groups and their traditional diets. Fallon writes, "Properly prepared, meat stocks are extremely nutritious, containing the minerals of bone, cartilage, marrow and vegetables as electrolytes, a form that is easy to assimilate... The public is generally unaware of the large amount of research on the beneficial effects of gelatin taken with food. Gelatin acts first and foremost as an aid to digestion and has been used successfully in the treatment of many intestinal disorders."
   I truly believe that it is well worth your time to make your own bone broth/stocks and then freeze them in pint or quart sized containers which can be used in place of commercially made stocks of dubious origin, and devoid of essential nutrients and flavor.

   Linda's Pho Bo ~ Vietnamese Beef Broth with Kelp Noodles

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Valentine's Day Celebration: Part Two~ Dessert: Amaretto Mousse with Raspberry Sauce

by Michelle

   Valentine's Day is my least favorite holiday for dining in a restaurant. Mother's Day clocks in as a close second. The meals that I have enjoyed the least in my life have fallen on the two most sentimental holidays. I gave up dining out on these occasions too many years ago to count. That, however, does not mean I forgo celebrating these holidays.

   I vaguely remember my husband and I celebrating Valentine's Day in a darkened restaurant early in our marriage. Our expectations were high for a spectacular night out. It was Valentine's Day after all, and we were together, and in love. Due to the the seating at capacity in the dining room, and a bar overflowing with people, the kitchen struggled to keep up with the offering of the full menu. The service was slow, the food lukewarm, and just about everyone in the room, servers and guests, all looked like they would rather be doing anything else, including cleaning a bathroom, than to be caught in a situation where you want to be having the time of your life, but you're not. Then the bill comes. There has got to be a better way to celebrate I thought.

   Similarly, one fateful Mother's Day in Los Gatos, California, I excitedly made reservations at a well-regarded restaurant that was making good use of a two-story Victorian near the downtown. My daughter was about three at the time; a very active three. Maddie was never a child who played contendly by herself. No two ways about it, she was high maintenance and in constant need of attention. Our family and friends were seated on the second floor. Big mistake. Our portly waiter was well into a double shift, and he was sweating like an ice bucket on a sweltering day. As the saying goes, women perspire and men sweat, and was he ever sweating! Rivulets of water dripped down his cheeks, and he tried to whisk the profusion of moisture away with whichever sleeve was available. He was such a nice guy, that to judge him would have been a guilt-inducing exercise, which is an emotion that I generally try to avoid at all costs. I felt true empathy for Mr. Waiter because he managed to maintain a smile and welcoming attitude even though the poor guy had been trudging up and down the stairs for hours on end balancing heavily-laden trays on his shoulders, all the while precariously dodging patrons while hustling to and fro. He was, Donna Summer-style, working very hard for the money.
   Again, the wait for our food seemed interminable with my child trapped in a chair wanting, or should I say begging, to be entertained. It was a full house... literally, and the kitchen was completely overwhelmed. When our dinner finally arrived, my increasing appetite came to a screeching halt when I saw a droplet of sweat break free from the deluge on our waiter's forehead, and just like in the movies, the drop made a slow motion arc onto my plate. Splat. The check for that disappointing dinner, also, inevitably landed on our table. There has got to be a better way to celebrate I resolved.

   The better way, I discovered, is for me to celebrate at home. All that is required is a little advance planning and to keep things simple. Those that know me well will laugh at the end of the last sentence. Simple is not my forté. I finally know this about myself and will admit it freely. Simplicity is my goal even though I am a woman who enjoys excesses. A menu that can be mostly made in advance is what I desire. I may start with big thoughts of grandeur, but I am learning, as I age, to whittle my grandiose plans and the menu into something much more manageable than what I initially see in my mind's eye. The pace at home is leisurely, the music is to my liking and we can really relax and enjoy ourselves. I also relish not paying nearly double the retail price for a favorite wine.
   Valentine's day isn't only for couples. The commemoration of love is for friends and family, too. For several years, I hosted Valentine's Day parties that included both married and single friends, and our children. This is when I would dress the long tables in inherited antique lace cloths and drag out every piece of crystal I own, plus the silver, and the good china. The tables are not complete until I have sufficiently overdone the flowers and candles. I heard that there is a concept that one can encounter too much of a good thing, but in my own experience, I haven't tripped upon it yet.

   A few years ago, we celebrated Easter with another couple and their children at El Conquistador, a golf resort nestled in the Santa Catalina Mountains in Tucson. The big draw was eating on the patio with a huge buffet to please both the young, the older and the oldest. I especially appreciated the elegant ice sculptures. The Easter bunny visited and the kids were able to swim in the pool all afternoon. We had a lovely time, but it was attached to a significant price tag, and although the amenities were outstanding, the food was, at best, mediocre. When the opportunity arrived the next year to repeat the experience, I opted to stay home without the slightest hesitation. I had a nice time the year before, but given the choice I'd much rather stay at home, or be invited to a friend's house.

   A key part of my simplicity plan is to make dessert a day ahead. Amaretto Mousse is a perfect ending for just about any holiday. It is light as air and smooth on the tongue. All that is needed is to unmold the mousse onto an edged serving tray and pour the velvety raspberry sauce over the top and allow it to drip over the sides. The presentation has literally made friends swoon and exclaim with oohs and aahs. Of course, the heart shape is perfect for Valentine's Day. Try it out for Mother's Day, too. Mothers everywhere will love the sentiment.

Amaretto Mousse with Raspberry Sauce

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Valentine's Day Celebration: Part One~ Entrée: Passionate Pork Tenderloin

by Juliette 

A Valentine's Day celebration in the garden.
"Sharing food with another human being is an intimate act that should not be indulged in lightly." 
                                                                                                                       ~MFK Fisher

   Choosing your favorite meal ever, is a bit like naming your favorite book, album, or film. So many fabulous options to choose from that it is difficult (at least for yours truly) to narrow it down. Top Ten lists work for David Letterman five days a week, but for me, not so much! I find it is easier to begin by breaking all my favorites things down by category... and in this instance I am writing about my favorite Valentine's Day Dinner. Ever! Or maybe it would be more apropos to say "so far", as I hope to celebrate many more Valentine's Days with old and new sweethearts before the credits roll on this lifetime.

   A great meal is about so much more than the food, however fabulous it may be. It's about the setting, the people gathered around the table (or a fire pit with the grilled offerings carefully balanced on one's knees), and the occasion at hand. I adore the film Babette's Feast, however when I look back at my favorite meals, the one thing they have in common is well-crafted simplicity.

   My favorite Valentine's Day dinner was one prepared by Linda in the cozy kitchen at the old house on Elm Street in Solvang. We shared a simple, yet memorable meal of Fettucini Alfredo (yes, she did make the fresh pasta by hand), Italian Sausages, Caesar Salad, and our family's garlic bread. For dessert we enjoyed a decadent heart-shaped Amaretto Mousse with fresh berries and a raspberry sauce. And of course, a lovely bottle of champagne... divine! I am ever grateful that I was able to share that wonderful meal with people I love so deeply – and perhaps they are what made it so special. Valentine's Day should not be a day just for lovers. It is a day for love... period. Family, friends, or lovers: I encourage you to spend it with those close to your heart, and share some lovingly prepared food. Amore!

Passionate Pork

by Linda

   When Michelle and I were tossing around ideas for our Valentine's Day post this year, she suggested a recipe that I had completely forgotten about. At first I didn't know what she was talking about when she suggested that we feature our "Passionate Pork" dish. However, a quick search through my email did indeed turn up an exchange between us and included a recipe. In the original email, Michelle was raving to Juliette about how good the dinner was that we had prepared. In Juliette's customary fashion, she had some rather crass comments in return... and we will not be including those here.

The pork is delicious with mashed gingered yams. 

   It seems that way back in 2001 when I had moved in with Michelle in San Jose while I was relocating from the Central Coast of California to the South Bay, we cooked up delectable pork tenderloins for a Valentine's dinner. The pork was delicious, and since it was in honor of celebrating Valentine's Day, we came up with the name "Passionate Pork" for the dish. Regretfully, the recipe that was the origin of our inspiration has been lost, and we cannot now acknowledge the source of our culinary creation.

Hoping that the "Boss Lady" appellation was meant with the deepest affection from
the Meat Team guys.
1 cup bourbon, or 1/2 cup brandy and 1/2 cup whiskey
1 cup of water
3 Tbsps balsamic vinegar
1 large knob of fresh ginger, peeled
1-2 jalapeños with seeds removed
10 garlic cloves
2-3 pounds pork tenderloins
3/4 cup unsulphured molasses
1 cup ketchup
1-2 Tbsps oil for the pan
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Any mincing of garlic, ginger and chiles is best done in the food processor.
1. To make the marinade, in a bowl  of a food processor, combine the first 6 ingredients and process until minced. Marinate the pork tenderloins in the refrigerator overnight, or for 1 hour at room temperature.
2. Preheat the oven to 400°F degrees. Remove the pork from the marinade; brush off any excess and allow to come to room temp. About 30 minutes.

These pork tenderloins are one pound each.
3. In a small saucepan, boil the marinade over high heat until reduced by one-third, 7 to 8 minutes. Add the molasses and ketchup. Use an immersion blender to thoroughly liquify the ingredients. Continue to cook over moderate heat until thickened, about 5 minutes.

4. Heat the 1-2 tablespoons of coconut oil in a large oven proof skillet. Season the tenderloins with sea salt and pepper, and then sear the pork in the skillet over high heat, turning occasionally until browned (5 to 7 minutes). Pour half of the barbecue sauce over the pork and transfer the skillet to the oven.

5. Roast for about 12 minutes, or until cooked through, occasionally turning the meat in the sauce. Transfer the pork to a work surface, cover with foil and let stand for at least 5 minutes. Thickly slice the meat across the grain and serve with the remaining sauce. Approximately 1/2 pound serving per person. Yield: 4-6 servings.
   To be continued next week with Part Two by Michelle featuring dessert: Amaretto Mousse with Berries and Raspberry Sauce.

The 2007 Eberle Zin has just the right amount of peppery fruitiness.
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