If ever there was a dish that proved I wasn’t Italian, it’s meatballs. And that’s kind of embarrassing, because not only do I love to make Italian food, I even studied (okay, suffered, but it amounted to the same thing) under an Italian signora on the Isle of Elba. But no matter how hard I tried, I could never figure out how to keep my meatballs from falling apart, until I tried basmati rice. Now my meatballs not only taste great, they also don’t disintegrate on the fork. These are actually mini meatballs, closer to the Latin-American version known as albondiguitas, with the ginger providing a little zing. If timing is an issue, the meatballs can be prepared ahead of time and refrigerated until you’re ready to cook them. Also, this recipe makes twice as many meatballs as you’ll need for the soup. To save the remainder for later, place them in the freezer for 1 hour to firm up, then transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 5 days or freeze for up to 3 months.
Root veggies, especially when roasted, are a real comfort food, and this is the kind of soup that’s a real reviver during chilly months. Chinese medicine associates root vegetables with lung health; other peer-reviewed studies have found squash such as the nutty Kabocha squash here are immune boosters filled with gut cleansing fiber. Soups like this just welcome a spice blast, and we’ve obliged this one with cinnamon, allspice, cardamom, nutmeg, ginger, and thyme. Downing a bowl is like lighting your internal fireplace to keep winter’s chill at bay.
This healing concoction of sweet potato comfort. I crave sweet potatoes, which aren’t really potatoes at all but rather an edible root from the morning glory family. Enzymes in the root convert starch into sweetness as it grows, yet the root still retains plenty of nutrition, including vitamin B6 and potassium.
One day my friend, Mat, was reminiscing to his mom, Clair, about an ice cream store he worked at while in college. “I told her that I got so sick of ice cream that for two years after I quit I couldn’t go near it.” At which point Clair mentioned that as a girl she worked for years at the chocolate counter at Gimbel’s, one of New York’s famous retailers. Gimbel’s let you eat as much chocolate as you liked on the job, so long as you didn’t take any home. “I asked Mom if she ever got sick of chocolate. She just looked at me like I was nuts and said, ‘Why would I?’” Which brings us to these little morsels. For chocolate aficionados, nothing provides a better fix than a truffle. My friend Wendy, an incredible chocolatier, designed these confections from a scrumptious mélange of chocolate, dates, orange zest, and ground nuts, all rolled in coconut. I could tell you that the reason to eat these is because they’re high in protein and phytochemicals, but how ’bout we just call that a nice side benefit of yum! Since you’re going to indulge in a chocolate dessert, be sure to make it the best by using high-quality chocolate.
Conquering this recipe reminded me of Charlie Brown’s travails with Lucy and that football. There would be Lucy, pleading with Charlie to take one more shot at kicking the football and promising she wasn’t going to mess with him anymore—and always pulling away the ball at the last moment. The Brussels sprouts in this recipe played Lucy to my Charlie. They teased me with their offerings of wellness—especially a compound shown to keep DNA from fragmenting during cell reproduction—but they kept refusing to play nice with every taste companion I threw their way. I was about to walk away for good when an email arrived from a friend who knew about my frustrations. She sent along a picture of a beautiful Brussels sprout stalk in her garden, with the small sprouts dotting the stalk, along with a caption that said, “Please give us another chance! We’ll be good!’ So I said, “Okay. One. Last. Chance.” And whaddya know? I finally achieved success. Roasting was the key, creating a golden-brown, sweet-tasting, crunchy treat.
These Sweet Potato bars remind me of a healthier version of the lemon bars I used to make as a kid. Probably because this is a treat any youngster would like, a great combination of a vegetable-based sweet snack and a nutty, gluten-free crust. Sweet Potatoes and cinnamon have great anti-oxidant and blood sugar regulating capacity, making them a great anytime bar. They’re so nutrient dense it doesn’t take much to feel completely satiated, and the tastes are so delightful that you’re blissfully aware of every bite.
Cooks get their inspiration in the strangest of places. Like old ghost towns. No lie. For my 50th birthday Jill, my best friend from back east, decided to meet me in Jerome, Arizona. Once an abandoned copper mining town, it transformed itself into a hip arts community with a hole-in-the-wall Southwestern restaurant that we serendipitously stumbled upon. On the table was a guacamole studded with pomegranate seeds. Our eyes and tongues lit up; I think Jill said something like “Oh my! This is so good…and it looks like Christmas!” I took a mental snapshot of the look and taste and recreated it here. Both mint and pomegranates have outstanding nutrients for well- being. Jill and I both went shopping around Jerome after our meal, but I think the impetus for this recipe was the most valuable thing I brought back home.
For many people, tomato soup is a familiar and beloved comfort food. In this version, the soup benefits from roasting the tomatoes in the oven to lessen their acidity and add sweetness. Just be aware that some tomatoes are juicier than others; if they’re very juicy, you may need to drain some of the juice into a bowl during the roasting process. Using the pan juices as the broth creates supercharged scrump-dilly-iciousness! Plus, the roasted tomatoes blend beautifully (and colorfully) with the carrots. This soup is equally delicious served hot, at room temperature, or chilled.