Apple-Pear-Cranberry Pie and Being a Food Blogger at Thanksgiving


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Other food bloggers or food writers will get this:  Thanksgiving is so over photographed, written about, schmoozed on, slobbered over, that we usually just don’t know what to do with it that hasn’t been done ad nauseum.  (How about another post on SIDES??? Another torch-browned turkey on the front of a magazine?)

It’s my favorite holiday. I love it because it’s food, of course!  I love it because I don’t have to worry about the gifts and tree; I’m not good at those things and they eat me up. (I decorated a tree by myself for the first time last year. My kids and Dave always did it while I baked cookies. Later I paid friends’ grandchildren to do it. No, I’m not picky about it–just getterdone.)  I love it because it ties together my faith and a secular holiday. I can worship with just about anyone at Thanksgiving. And have. Nothing cooler. As a longtime church musician, Christmas was always a bit over-the-top work wise. Another reason Thanksgiving has remained a time of joy to this day.  I just always collapsed in front of the tv on Christmas day if possible. (Let’s watch, “It’s a Wonderful Life” again. And again.)

my spicy cream of pumpkin with peanuts soup

But foodwise, folks, it just goes on and on and on and it doesn’t go on and on in a really interesting or edifying or fun way. Should I add my two cents to that?

(a little tongue in cheek now…)

*Can we talk turkey here?  (Brine, brine, brine.)

*Shall we put pumpkin pie up for discussion? (Just make it at home, please. Any recipe will do. No, do not buy that Costco monstrosity; it’s been sitting there a  month. This is a custard pie, for God’s sake.)

*Will one more food writer encourage you to make biscuits ahead and put them in the freezer on trays? (WHO HAS THAT KIND OF ROOM? AND I LIKE YEAST ROLLS FOR THANKSGIVING ANYWAY.)

*Maybe we could tackle the wine? (Drink what you like.  Or, if you really don’t know, buy the best Pinot Noir and Riesling you can afford and stick with American wines. It’s just the right thing to do. Period. Make sure you have beer, by the way.)

*In other words, there are the same questions since God was a boy, and the answers, while they try to change, pretty much just don’t.  (Does anyone truly ever call the Butterball Hotline? What the hell’s wrong with reading a basic cookbook?) Scream. Continue reading

Rosemary Pork Chops with Sweet Potato Mash, Garlicky Spinach, and Mushroom Sauce — Dinner with French Wine, Please




On a night when the world reeled from the Paris attacks — and from the unending hate and carnage we seem to constantly face (Do we humans desire to end our world?) — I had planned some sort of a pork chop dinner.  That said, you’ll imagine I had a couple of great big, thick babies unthawed (1 1/2 -2-inches thick) and a few vegetables basking on the counter waiting to see what I’d do with them. I kept one eye on the tv and another on the sauté pans. I began without a perfectly clear idea, but it quickly came into focus:  tender, rosemary for remembrance-scented pork snuggled up to garlicky spinach and cozy mashed sweet potatoes, to which I added a regular Idaho potato.  A lusty French-style white wine-mushroom sauce tied the whole thing together. Why not? Love was the key, the answer here.  Wasn’t it?

Quote of the Day: Love

THE LOVE FOR equals is a human thing—of friend for friend, brother for brother. It is to love what is loving and lovely. The world smiles.

The love for the less fortunate is a beautiful thing—the love for those who suffer, for those who are poor, the sick, the failures, the unlovely. This is compassion, and it touches the heart of the world.

The love for the more fortunate is a rare thing—to love those who succeed where we fail, to rejoice without envy with those who rejoice, the love of the poor for the rich, of the black man for the white man. The world is always bewildered by its saints.

And then there is the love for the enemy—love for the one who does not love you but mocks, threatens, and inflicts pain. The tortured’s love for the torturer. This is God’s love. It conquers the world.

-Originally published in The Magnificent Defeat by Frederick Buechner

And I can’t help but think of the hundred of thousands of Syrians already killed in this horrific time.  No one has changed their Facebook page to mourn them.  Last count was 250,000, I thought–but as I researched it that number might be just a little too high.  Here’s what I found.


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Salmon on Eggplant Sauté with Olives and Peppadews




My cooking brain is sometimes most creative when first given a few desperate (or not so desperate) things with which to work.  For example, it’s cool to see there are almost-spotted sweet potatoes on the counter, bell peppers in the fridge shrinking, and come up with dinner.  I like a conservative approach to cooking and often think of the old, “Waste not, want not” adage.  I’m not perfect at using every tidbit, but I work on it. I hate throwing things away.  

Last week I had some olives and peppadews leftover from a birthday antipasti tray and had just bought a bag of frozen, wild salmon fillets — two pounds for $22.00. A real bargain. You know how I love salmon.


Eggplant, red bell peppers (and a few other things) languished–leftover from making a veggie lasagna. I needed dinner in a half hour. I stuck the individually-sealed salmon fillets in a pot of water to thaw and made the nearly-instant couscous.  Next, a quick sauté of the eggplant with peppers and onions while grilling the asparagus.   4 minutes in the grill pan for the salmon and I think it was done just about exactly in the time I had allotted.  Try this, making the components in the order that suits you:


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Butternut Squash-Wild Rice Soup


above: soup without half and half

If you’re a soup cookbook writer, you probably love soup. I love soup. I’m seldom happier than when I’m heating up a kettle while chopping a big pile of vegetables.  Perhaps I’m happier at the table with a hot bowl and a cold class of wine or driving home knowing there’s a big pot of soup in the fridge making me feel rich. I don’t know.  


above: Vegetable soup was a puréed delight at a street cafe in Dubrovnik, Croatia last month

Coming up with a new soup happens in one of many different ways. Maybe there’s  something on sale I drag home or someone somewhere has a special dietary need. I might be watching my weight. Perhaps someone leaves garden bounty on my front porch.  Could be my sister’s in town and I’m cooking for her. More than once a freezer’s had to be cleaned out and some meat has to be cooked. Whatever happens, however it happens, a big pot of goodness somehow takes shape and comes to the bowl making us happy, healthy, and wondering where it came from. It’s a gift. That’s for sure.


above: my Guacamole Soup with Grilled Shrimp from the soup book–made for my sister’s visit

Come fall, I’m nuts about winter squash. I’m always looking for something to do with it. Something new. Or old again. I also have a heart for wild rice–which is not really rice, but a water-grown grass– having lived in Minnesota.  Somehow, last week, needing a big pot of vegetarian soup for a church meeting (someone else was making a soup with meat), I kept thinking of butternut squash and I kept thinking of wild rice. I wasn’t sure how the two would come together, but I knew somehow it would work.

While this soup is naturally vegetarian and gluten-free for Meatless Mondays, it’s easily vegan (see notes to the sides of ingredients in recipe) or made with meat (cook’s notes.) Make it how you’d like. It’s good with or without half and half and, if you’d like a little smoother soup, purée a few cups and add them back into the broth at the end of the cooking time.


Wild Rice is actually an acquatic grass and is the official state grain of Minnesota. Please buy Native-American grown, hand-harvested rice to support this important mid-west and Canadian industry. If it’s not available in your grocery, drive to Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, or Canada and buy some! It’s worth the trip. Or ask your grocer to carry it. Why not?  Otherwise, order on line.  

What Native-American rice growers say…

“Manoomin, or wild rice is a gift given to the Anishinaabek from the Creator, and is a centerpiece of the nutrition and sustenance for our community. In the earliest of teachings of Anishinaabeg history, there is a reference to wild rice, known as the food which grows upon the water, the food, the ancestors were told to find, then we would know when to end our migration to the west. It is this profound and historic relationship which is remembered in the wild rice harvest on the White Earth and other reservations-a food which is uniquely ours, and a food, which is used in our daily lives, our ceremonies, and our thanksgiving feasts.”  From

Wild rice is a nutritional bonanza:

Wild rice is also a great source of folate, manganese, zinc, and iron, which is great for gluten-free eaters and grain-free eaters who don’t get those nutrients in typical grains like oats, rye, wheat, and other types of grains like brown rice.

IMG_1962above: soup with half and half Continue reading

Bacon and Green Onion Tuna Steaks on Cannellini Bean Hash



For years, my good friend Sue Hall has made a favorite dish of white beans topped with grilled tuna… It might have been enhanced by some earthy fragrant rosemary or a few onions, depending on the day.  Healthy, luscious, I remember this plate of goodness as one of the perfect al fresco summer meals.

When I bought some cryovac-packed tuna steaks at my local grocery (frozen fish=good idea in Colorado/great value), I thought of Sue and wondered how many times I’d seen her make this tuna meal albeit with fresh tuna.  While I’m not at the beach where Sue loves to cook, I’m happy to be home cooking in my own kitchen…


after two weeks of restaurant and cruise food. Even Italian, Greek, Turkish, or Croatian restaurant and cruise food!

(Below– from our trip: Yummy Izmir, Turkey breakfast with honey and orange marmalade where I put a big piece of what I thought was cheese on my bread and found out it was a half-inch thick, 4″x2″ piece of butter-see bottom of photo!)


Here’s my spin on this happy fish meal.  I filled it out with a root vegetable hash mixed with time-saving canned cannellini beans, placed it on a frame of asparagus for greenery, and topped the tuna with barely steamed scallions along with the bonus: a huge thick piece of crispy bacon. Thanks, Sue! (From top left, clockwise:  Sue, Lani, Kim, and I at our last beach trip.) Continue reading

Chicken Basil Riff and the Venice to Istanbul Trip



Just coming home from a two-week vacation is work enough (back in the saddle again), but coming home to find a #deadbodysmell fridge-freezer before you’ve even unloaded the doggies is just plain nasty.  I had already needed to buy a washer and dryer on the way home as my dryer had died right before our flight to Venice and the washer was on its last legs.  I was looking forward to a fast delivery to take care of the two weeks of suitcase clothing.  Don’t want vacation tails? (sic) Scroll down past the photos for recipe.

12088334_1039242892806072_1112814192825993745_nI accused Dave of creating the wafting, unhappy-nose and brain smell-GOD, GOD, IT WAS TRAGIC; he denied it vehemently.  I looked at the dogs, who looked back at me; they had nada.  (Above:  at super Double D Ranch for camp.) As I opened the car door, I realized it was the garage that smelled and just knew an animal -ARGH- had entered and died.  We looked around and found no raccoon, bear, cat, etc. (We really do have bears in garages here.) Dave went to the 2001 double-door fridge/freezer we removed from the kitchen during the remodel–obviously none too soon–and not being able to stop himself from opening it, discovered a sickening mess that had been going on for a while. Quite a while.

In the house was a note from the woman who cleans our house and stays over occasionally when we travel.  “House is great; can’t figure out the smell in garage.”

IMG_1621Just when I was feeling oh-so-sigh-Venicy.  We did surely, surely have a glorious time with six friends taking the long route on a ship that, beginning in Venice with a side-trip to Florence, had to nearly blow through Brindisi, Italy; Katakolon, Greece (Olympia); Izmir and Istanbul, Turkey; and Dubrovnik, Croatia to make it back to Venice in a week. Just for info:  we went on MSC Cruises (ship=Magnifica), an Italian line, and they showed us a gorgeous time. Beautiful ship (a little big at 3,000 passengers for this Holland America girl), good food, polite staff, lack of constant corny announcements, and a dependable please-read-your-daily-program-we-aren’t-your-babysitters approach to cruising. Continue reading

Butternut and Other Winter Squash Roundup


The blog and I are on vacation for most of October–Dave and puppies, too.  I’ve collected my favorite butternut (and other) squash recipes for you to peruse while we’re getting out of Dodge.  Just click on the title under each picture for a link to the blog post and recipe.  Start your fall cooking NOW!

 Butternut Squash Frittata with Parmesan Cheese above photo–no link, but here’s the…


Sauté  2 chopped small tomatoes, 1/2 cup cooked chopped butternut squash, and 1 cup spinach over medium flame in an 8-inch skillet with 2 teaspoons olive oil until tender. Add three egg whites evenly on top of the vegetables, and season with salt and pepper. Cover and cook until egg whites are set to your liking.  Flip pan over onto plate, top frittata with Parmesan and eat while hot.  Serves 1.   Cook the yolks for the dogs!

Two tips about butternut  or other winter squash:

  1. You can often buy it peeled and cut in containers in the produce section.
  2. Using a whole winter squash? It’s much easier to peel if you microwave it for 5 minutes before peeling it. (Do poke several holes in it and place in a microwave-safe dish before microwaving.)  Click here for a basic article on peeling and cutting winter squash.


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Colorado Lamb-Barley Stew with Butternut Squash and Tarragon Mushrooms




And while the New Zealanders, Australians, Brits, Scots, and Irish would strenuously object, Colorado has close to the best lamb in the world.  It’s rare to find any in the store in Colorado itself–horrible pun, but there it is.  We once had some Colorado lamb in a swank restaurant in London paired with high-priced French wine. (The quintessential pairing for lamb is Bordeaux.)  But I’m an American and I adore lamb with Oregon Pinot Noir.  The lack of Colorado lamb in Colorado groceries is a common complaint of mine. I apologize to those of you who’ve heard it before.

Want to buy American lamb?  Check HERE.

If you’re like me and you can’t find any Colorado lamb without ordering it online (and that’s something you can do in the states), choose any lamb shoulder or boned leg of lamb for the meat in this stew. You can find a good-looking, decently-priced boneless leg of lamb at Costco; cut it up, use some and freeze the rest for another day. Alternately, California or other American lamb is often found in the regular grocery chains.  Any will work and you don’t need too terribly much. Lamb is rich and that’s a complimentary way of saying it’s fatty and fattening.  Let’s call it a treat.  And who wants stew made with lean meat? What would THAT taste like? We’re talking stew here. Continue reading

Squash-Parsnip Soup with Tarragon Sour Cream or Parmesan and Toasted Almonds




My friend Mary Pat’s September birthday is always a reason for celebration. I often cook her a birthday dinner and find it a happy excuse to make a fallish meal after a long, long summer.  (Is it fall YET? The garden’s dying, but it’s still in the 80’s. We sat out last night on the deck at 8 o’clock with a drink watching the blood moon.)

below: my front walk milkweed grown for the monarch butterflies


Here’s the menu that included her favorite dessert (after Cherries Jubilee, Baked Alaska, and Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie):


I like six people for dinner, eight at the most, so that I can truly pay attention to and hear each person. Otherwise, it’s a party–cacophony– and I approach it very differently.  I also like to cook a lot of recipes that only serve eight. Continue reading

Apple-Cranberry Hoisin Chicken Thighs and Rice with Sautéed Spinach, Asparagus, and Tomatoes



As summer very, very slowly wanes away, there are days when it’s cool enough to turn on the oven. My oven hasn’t been on in months with the exception of absolutely necessary baking (read birthday cakes), which is done before the sun rises lest the house take on one extra degree of warmth.  Last Friday, as Dave flew in from Bogota, Columbia, I wanted to have a dinner ready for which he didn’t have to grill one single item.  Enter SIMPLY MING ONE POT MEALS.  (Aside: I am not in the business of selling any cookbooks except my own, but Truth in Recipes requires I note this simple dish’s provenance.)

Alyce-Aspen kitchens signing books

I’ve owned this book not since in came out in 2010, but maybe since a year or two after that when a good friend mentioned she was cooking something from it.  The book sounded entertaining (it is) and helpful (also true). Who doesn’t want a new spin on one-dish or one-pot meals?  I made a few dishes from it and back it went on the shelf. If I’m not terribly intentional about looking at and using all of my cookbooks, they may sit a while before I drag them out to the kitchen again.  The quality of the book may have nothing to do with it; I cook out of my head a lot. (Why did I leave this sit all this time?)



Something drew me to the Ming book last week, and with a few very small changes, I rustled up this one-pot meal very quickly; I think you could, too.

This plate full of goodness is based on a simple happy formula many Americans swear by:  chicken and rice in the oven. Ming’s version has a bit of an Asian twist.  What better, less expensive, easier dinner might you have other than sandwiches?  The bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs are sautéed, removed from the pan, where garlic, green onions and next rice are tossed in and cooked briefly. My pot includes a crisp, off-sweet chopped apple. Hoisin sauce is the secret weapon ingredient!  Wine and broth are added; the chicken goes back in. The whole shezaam is covered and carefully stowed in the oven for just 20-30 minutes or so.

You can see and read about the recipe here. I’m not fond of printing recipes that are available in books (as Ming says–cookbook authors need to send their kids to college), but this one has been made available in several places on the internet; have at it.

Changes/additions I made were these:

  1. I added crushed red pepper to the seasoning of the chicken as it browned.
  2. With no fresh cranberries available in September here in Colorado, I substituted a peeled and diced Granny Smith apple along with a handful of dried cranberries. I didn’t want to use all dried cranberries as I thought it might sweeten the dish too much. I also knew the fresh cranberries would give off liquid and felt the apple would mimic that.
  3. I seasoned both the onions and garlic as well as the rice itself with a little salt and pepper.

The pot:  I used a 5.5 quart covered, oven-safe sauté pan for this dish. If you don’t have such a large skillet, brown the chicken in batches in a smaller skillet.  Remove the chicken, add the vegetables and rice, and then add them to a greased very large casserole dish. Cover tightly with foil and bake as the recipe directs.

A couple of other things:  A meal good enough for company, this dish contains a lot of rice. You’ll likely have rice leftover that you can take to work for lunch even if four people have already had their way with it. There are 8 thighs, so the dish will serve 4 or 6 depending on hunger.

While dishes like these are touted as a whole meal–and they are– I’m always in need of some greenery on the table and on the plate. While the chicken and rice baked, I sautéed chopped asparagus, spinach, and tomatoes in grape seed oil with minced ginger, garlic, salt, and crushed red pepper.

IMG_0042In the meantime,  Rosie enjoyed the late afternoon…

IMG_0037Sing a new song; try Ming!



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