Category Archives: catherine’s favorite things

Favorite things chronicles tools, programs, workshops, activities and more that Catherine doesn’t want to live with out, but of course can.

food for the soul

Tolerance, by Barcelona-based artist Jaume Plensa along Houston’s Allen Parkway – the route of the parade.

I was in Houston last week at the American Association of Museums (AAM) annual conference. Houston has one of the strongest cultural scenes in the country, and it was great to be amidst all that creative energy for a few days.  I thought I would share with you a few pictures from the Houston Art Car Parade and the Menil Collection.

The Art Car Parade should be on your bucket list if you love to laugh, to see people’s sense of creativity and humor and just want to celebrate life.

Part Airstream, part hot rod


Mobile Mastodon

Popcorn Mobile

Houston offers so much diversity. The next group of images are quite different from those of the parade, and they bear witness as previous images do of the need to create in the continuum of life . The Menil is a campus of buildings created to house the collection of John and Dominique de Menil. The collection is spiritual, inspiring and life affirming. The location, a quiet, peaceful residential neighborhood,  and is as fitting as the artwork in its midst. I felt the most profound solitude walking in the neighborhood going from one building to the next. It gave me the same safe feeling I had as a child in my front yard – filled with awe and wonder and ready for exploration within the confines and safety of my parents gaze.  As you can see the experience was quite personal, and I imagine that is part of the intent.  I hope that you will find the time to visit this gem.  I can’t wait to go back.

Outside Rothko Chapel, Menil Campus

~ Cat

Rome wasn’t built in a day …

… and neither was our garden.

The organic garden we just installed is not exactly as I had dreamed it would be when we bought our house, but its a work in progress. It has given me plenty of ideas of what would make gardening easier and ultimately more fun. I’ll have to wait a little while before I start adding major landscape elements though. For now I am happy to have just a little plot of land to dig in and put down roots.

Starting to take shape

Here’s a little recipe to get you dreaming about fresh Roma tomatoes.

Fresh Tomato Sauce

  • 1 Tbsp good olive oil
  • 1/2 small red onion, diced
  • 4 Tbsp garlic, minced
  • 6 fresh basil leaves, cut into chiffonade
  • 3 Tbsp red wine
  • 28 oz. of fresh Roma (plum) tomatoes
  • Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper

Heat the oil in a pot over medium heat (do not use a non-stick pan). Add the onion and garlic and cook until the onions are translucent about 5-7 minutes. Deglaze with red wine and add the tomatoes crushing them with the back of a wooden spoon or with your hands as you add them. Season with salt and pepper to taste and add the basil leaves. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer for a bout 20 – 25 minutes. Adjust the seasoning if needed.

Makes 3 cups. You can freeze this sauce for up to 6 months.

San Antonio ~ food and friends

The last weekend in January I traveled down to San Antonio to spend some time with my girlfriend Sarita who moved there with her husband three years ago. I met up with Sarita Saturday morning at the Pearl Brewery District – an urban revitalization project that is sublime foodie heaven.

One of the new kids on the block in the district is the CIA, San Antonio (Culinary Institute of America), and is one of only four in the country. It is a great anchor for this burgeoning urban center.

On Saturdays a crowd comes in for the Farmers Market. The market is filled with some of the most beautiful produce I’ve seen anywhere, and I am pretty spoiled by the produce at Austin’s Whole Foods and Central Market stores. I’ve heard from friends that several San Antonio chefs are exclusively buying produce for their restaurants from this market and I can see why.

The district is also home to some very nice retail and businesses including an Aveda School Salon, clothing boutiques, restaurants, The San Antonio Chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and a beautiful culinary store Tienda De Cocina owned by cookbook author Melissa Guerra.

I love this little bug netting from Tienda de Cocina that you place over the top of a pitcher ~ brilliant idea for outdoor dinning ~ it has decorative little weights on the edges that keep it from flying away in the wind. I absolutely loved this etched glassware. It’s pricey, but completely worth it for entertaining. I know I’ll be back for this.

And Sarita had her eye on this table runner we saw in a women’s clothing store around the corner.

After a couple hours of shopping and strolling the riverwalk, we headed back to Sarita’s for lunch, made from the beautiful foods we collected at the market, before I headed home to Austin. I took a bunch of photos…I hope you enjoy them.

yoga moves ~ Downward Facing Dog

Yoga Moves is a new blog category on Cook With a View. Each month my yoga teacher, Lisa Johnson of Energies Balanced, and I will highlight a single pose to practice each day of the month. At the beginning of every month a new pose will be highlighted. You can practice each month’s new pose alone, or add it to the previous months’ so that your practice will grow. We have a set of twelve poses for you to to practice in 2011. I am not a yoga instructor. I suggest you practice with a certified instructor, and or with the aid of professional texts produced by certified yoga instructors to ensure you safely practice each pose. This blog is my exploration of wellness, and a place to share what I believe in, and I really believe in the benefits of a regular yoga practice. The benefits are great. More about the benefits in future months.

I have practiced many styles of yoga and have fallen in love with Iyengar yoga. Iyengar is not a flow yoga, but rather a yoga that focuses on alignment. It asks the practitioner to hold each pose (asana) for a length of time using the breath to deepen the experience. It is has been an opportunity for me to get to know my body in a whole new way. I have been practicing with Lisa once a week since March 2010 and have seen more growth in myself in these last 10 months of practice than in  7-8 years of practicing a variety of flow yogas. When I can’t make it to Lisa’s class I practice yoga at home. A home practice has helped me to feel the changes and move a little bit closer to the full expression of each pose. At home I use Rodney Yee’s Moving Toward Balance. I can’t recommend this book enough. This book has exceptional images of each pose in its proper alignment.

In the image of Lisa below, you can see  a few elements of proper alignment: straight arms, a flat back and upper torso. The upper torso is moving up and back (which you can’t see, but is an important element) and her heels are placed firmly on the ground. The back of her legs are moving downward toward the ground (something you can’t see). Poses in yoga are active and there is usually (always??) an active inner motion moving in opposite directions within the body.

Lisa in Adho Mukha Svanasana

Downward Facing Dog Adho Mukha Svanasana

Cat in Adho Mukha Svanasana, photo by T. Johnson

This pose, or asana, helps to loosen tight shoulders. This is a great pose to practice if you are on a computer all day, or hunched over for any other reason. My biggest trouble with down dog is keeping my elbows straight (you can see in the image of me that my elbows are bent – there’s always something to work on).  Sometimes Lisa has me use a belt around my arms at my bicep level and that helps (I’m not sure why, but it helps). I have such tight shoulders that its best for me to do a series of these and hold each one for as long as I can. At the end of practicing 3-5 of these I can really feel how my shoulders loosen up and make room for my neck and head to find a better alignment. Try and practice this asana each day for the month of February. Let me know how you do~ namaste


my favorite white bean soup

This gallery contains 13 photos.

This soup has been a family favorite for years. Its one of the recipes people ask me to make as soon as the weather gets cold. This winter instead of cooking my old stand-by, I spent time trying out new … Continue reading

christmas lasagna

Christmas 2010 Lasagna

I will begin this post by qualifying that I never cook the same lasagna twice. I am constantly trying new things, making minor adjustments here, adding a little something there – this is the beauty of lasagna. It is one of the meals I amend based on what I have on hand. Lasagna is also not a food people associate with healthy eating, but I’m here to say it can be made to be very healthy, and along with a salad is a well balanced meal.

Here’s my Christmas 2010 lasagna recipe…begin with the sauce.

1-1/2 lbs. washed raw spinach with the stems removed. Coarsely chop & set aside.
4 Tbls olive oil
2/3 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 cup finely chopped carrot
1- 32oz can diced tomatoes (I use organic)
1- 6oz can tomato paste (again I use organic)
1/2 cup red cooking wine
2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp dried marjoram
1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper

In a pot heat olive oil and sauté the onions 2-3 min. Add the chopped spinach one handful at a time stirring to coat all the leaves before adding the next handful. Repeat until all spinach is incorporated. Add the carrots and cook for another 2-3 minutes before adding the dried spices, wine and paste. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat. Let simmer on low for an hour, and then cool slightly before using in the recipe.

Next make the filling…
12+ lasagna noodles cooked and separated. Let cool (use organic whole wheat – whole wheat pasta provides you with many more nutrients and tastes great. It’s an easy way to make this meal healthier) .
1 lb. low fat (or fat free) ricotta cheese
3/4 lb skim mozzarella ball – sliced in 1/4″ slices
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
Fresh ground pepper to taste

Combine ricotta with nutmeg and pepper. Spray an 11″ x 15″ baking pan with an olive oil cooking spray (I use a Misto – one of my favorite tools – filled with a good olive oil).

Fill with 100% olive oil, and use in place of cooking sprays. Another way to reduce unwanted chemicals in your food.

Spread 2 cups of sauce on the bottom of the pan, followed by 3 noodles. Top this with 1/2 of the ricotta filing, more sauce and 1/2 the mozzarella. Add a layer of noodles and repeat the cheese and sauce combination until all the ingredients are in the pan.

Cook at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Add friends. Serves 12.

From L-R: Marsha, Catherine, Anna, Stephanie. Photo by P. Pettit, 2010

cookbooks of desire

cookbooks of desire

I love reading cookbooks. In fact I’ve been reading cookbooks, and watching cooking shows long before I began to cook in earnest. My love of cooking began with special time spent with my mom when I was young. Our daily ritual was to watch Graham Kerr, The Galloping Gourmet and Julia Child on PBS every weekday afternoon.

Beginning in my 20’s I spent years buying and reading cookbooks. Below is a list of my favorite cookbooks followed by my current wish list of books.

Soup a Way of Life, by Barbara Kafka

Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, by Deborah Madison

Moosewood Restaurant Daily Special

Super Natural Cooking, by Heidi Swanson

Super Foods RX, by Steven Pratt, MD and Kathy Matthews

Clean Food, by Terry Walters

Chez Panisse Fruit, by Alice Waters

Chez Panisse Cafe Cookbook, by Alice Waters

The New Basics Cookbook, by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins

The Desired

Cookwise, by Shirley Corriher

Bakewise, by Shirley Corriher

The Silver Spoon, by Phaidon Press

Chef MD’s Big Book of Culinary Medicine: A Food Lover’s Road Map to Losing Weight, Preventing Disease, and Getting Really Healthy, by John La Puma M.D.

The Greens Cookbook, by Deborah Madison

My Favorite Ingredients, by Skye Gynell

A Year in My Kitchen, by Skye Gynell

The Flavor Bible: The Essential Guide to Culinary Creativity Based on the Wisdom of America’s Most Imaginative Chefs, by Karen Page

The Bread Baker’s Apprentice: Mastering the Art of Extraordinary Bread, by Peter Reinhart & Ron Manville

Jamie At Home: Cook Your Way to the Good Life, by Jamie Oliver

Mastering the Art of French Cooking, by Julia Child, Beck and Bertholle

Good to the Grain: Baking With Whole Grain Flours, by Kim Boyce

mason jars

One of my favorite kitchen tools is the simple mason jar. They come in all shapes and sizes and are perfect for storing ingredients purchased from the bulk section in the grocery store. They are reusable glass, which makes them cost effective, safe and easy to see what they contain.  And many jars have their measurements embedded on the side so you know how much is left without opening the jar. I use wide-mouth 3 cup jars in my pantry to hold rice, lentils, nuts, raisins and a whole host of other items. I use smaller jars to store vinaigrettes and other fresh made foods in the refrigerator.

Mason jars are the perfect way to store small amounts of a new ingredient that you want to use in a recipe without spending a fortune. Many grocery store have bulk sections, and more and more stores are carrying spices, specialty flours, sweeteners, and legumes in bulk for the adventurous cook.