Slow Cooker Green Chili Beef Stew with Bacon on Cheddar Potatoes

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I cooked Monday for Inter-Faith Hospitality network (IHN) families; it’s something I’ve done for years at more than one church.  It’s a way of living life that makes a lot of sense to me; I like to cook and there are people who need dinner.  Here in Colorado Springs at First Congregational Church, we bring already cooked or nearly finished complete meals to a church kitchen where families without physical homes gather, eat dinner with us, and then spend the night.  A group of churches and temples work together and the homeless people spend a week at one place and then move to another while awaiting jobs and/or permanent housing.  It gives all of the congregations a chance to participate without burdening any one financially or otherwise with the full-time housing of the ever-changing group.

Typically, but not always, a dinner coordinator makes contact a couple of months ahead and asks what I’d like to make; for other churches there’s a set menu for each week.  The families aren’t the same, so it doesn’t matter if there’s meat loaf on Monday and chicken with rice on Tuesdays, etc. every time.  That gives the dinner coordinator a repeating group of  tasks that the volunteers become used to.  For instance, if I’m a shopping volunteer, I might know that every two months I’ll make a run to Costco for fresh milk, ground beef, chicken pieces, broccoli, spinach, etc.  Once a year, I might need to buy paper napkins and cocoa mix. If I’m a cooking volunteer and I’m scheduled for Wednesday, I know I’ll be making baked potatoes with toppings.  I find I like both options, though the latter gives me time to spend with other volunteers cooking in the kitchen rather than fixing food on my own at home.

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Curried Broccoli-Almond Brown Rice Salad–Gluten Free and Vegan for Thanksgiving

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IMG_6886I’ve been dreaming about a gluten-free and vegan Thanksgiving dinner for the blog.  Not that I truly follow either diet totally (thought I eat vegan quite a bit for health reasons); I simply want the challenge.   Either direction is simpler than both together, as anyone who’s tried to make both vegan and gluten-free bread will tell you.  While I’ve got several recipes in-process, I thought it might be fun to have more than one entree or main dish. As it was Dinner on the Grounds at First Congregational Church in Colorado Springs — the time when we celebrate our congregation’s giving and commitments — I made this quick brown rice and broccoli dish for the meal.  While it might feel like a salad, and perhaps it technically is, I think it’s hefty enough to fill you up for days!  This recipe makes a big bowlful and is enough for 12 side servings or maybe 8 as a main dish.  Even if you don’t eat gluten free or vegan, you’ll like this healthy and tasty dish.  I was very sad to see there was none left to take home.

how you might change it up……

I used currants in the dish, but feel free to substitute dried cranberries for a more festive Thanksgiving table. Raisins or chopped figs or dates would be fine, too; I just like the tiny sweetness of the currants myself.  There’s no garlic, though you might add some –no more than a single finely minced single clove unless you cook it with the rice. Minced celery could be an addition to increase the crunch factor. Walnuts or pecans could replace the sliced almonds; toast them in a dry skillet over low flame for 6 or 7 minutes.  Could you use white rice?  Sure; brown rice has more protein, though, which is a big consideration for a vegan dish. Wild rice would be glorious, I’d think. Carnivores:  Throw in a couple of cups chopped chicken or leftover turkey.

This morning I’m cooking a big pot of beef-vegetable soup for Inter-Faith Hospitality Network (IHN), which is a group of local churches that houses and feeds homeless families, as well as helps them find jobs and permanent homes.  I’ve been cooking these meals for many years now and not much feels better when you love to be in the kitchen like I do. Dave will go with me and we’re working with the folks from Temple Shalom. This time we have a companion dog, too; I get to bring dog treats!

Try this:

CURRIED BROCCOLI-ALMOND BROWN RICE SALAD

12 side servings  or  6-8 main dish servings

  • 3 1/2 cups water
  • 2 cups brown rice
  • Extra-virgin olive oil –can sub canola oil
  • Fresh ground black pepper
  • 10 scallions, minced – white and green parts
  • 1 1/2 – 2 pounds cooked broccoli florets
  • 1 cup sliced almonds, plus extra for garnish
  • Red wine vinegar
  • 1/3 cup dried black currants or 1/2 cup dried cranberries, plus extra for garnish
  • 1/2 – 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • Kosher salt

In a medium pot, heat water to boiling; add rice with a drizzle of olive oil and a few grinds of pepper.  Lower heat to simmer, cover, and cook 45 minutes or until tender.  While still hot, add 1/4 cup olive oil, the cooked broccoli, and almonds. Stir well and drizzle with 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar.

Stir in currants, curry powder (start with 1/2 teaspoon, adding more to taste), crushed red pepper, and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt. Mix well. Taste and readjust seasonings, including curry powder.  Add an extra drizzle or two of vinegar and/or oil to moisten and season if needed. You might also want to add more  almonds or currants to taste; I liked the dish garnished with extra for looks and flavor.

Serve immediately at room temperature.  You can also cover the dish well, refrigerate overnight, bring to room temperature, and serve the next day.  If the rice seems dry, moisten using a tablespoon or two of olive oil and stir well.

(Below:  Rosie and Tucker taking a nap while I made the beef stock this morning and granddaughter Piper doing a little dance to her own beat.)

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Piper dancing to her own beat!󾌬

Sing a new song,

Alyce

 

Ina Fridays — Desserts — Make Ahead Zabaglione with Amaretti

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On the first Friday of each month, I blog Ina Garten recipes with a fine group of writer-cooks.  Scroll down to the bottom for links to the other posts and come back the next next month  for December appetizers. See you then!

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If you’re an Ina Garten fan, you wait for the next cookbook like cheese waits for crackers…or actually, that might be “crusty bread” or “good baguette” if you’re Ina-smart.  I was sure; I would have sworn I preordered this book.  After all, I have tickets to see Ina in Denver on November 19 while she’s on the book tour. I’ve pushed it on this very blog. (No, I get no cash from Ina.)

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 Why wouldn’t I have preordered it?  Day after day I watched the front porch to no avail. Finally I checked my amazon orders and there WAS NO INA ON ORDER! *$%&#  Quick like a bunny, I punched it in with free shipping; I’m amazon prime.  It arrived just in the nick of time for Ina Fridays and a Lasagna alla Bolognese birthday dinner I’m cooking for friends Saturday night.  Phew.  Et voila,

MAKE-AHEAD ZABAGLIONE WITH AMARETTI

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If you’d like the recipe, it’s on Ina’s website here. (Kind of a surprise.) And, of course, if you’d like to buy the book, click here or go to amazon, which you knew. Continue reading

One Pan-Pork Chops with Potatoes, Onions, Squash, and Apples

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A dear friend of mine named Joyce once wrote a card — one of many she’s sent over the years — and mentioned she was still making my pork chop with potatoes and apples supper.  I vaguely remembered that meal, but it was one of those quick meals I never bothered to write down.  These days I keep a cooking journal and so have records of meals or at least titles and approximate amounts.   (Well, I’m supposed to anyway.  Since the kitchen remodel I’m still finding things.  Do you know where the lids are for my small Pyrex dishes?  Or my good silver??)

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Late Friday afternoon found me cooking up two big pots of Pumpkin-Chicken Chili *-- one for us to share with neighbors and one for me to have in the DACOR kitchen at Shouse Appliance on Saturday.  I needed to make a vat of pinto beans laced with bacon, so those were bubbling away on another burner.  Enter Dave sniffing around for dinner.IMG_6813

(Apple-Cheddar Salad recipe here.)

Since I didn’t want him to overdose on chili, I got out my big sauté pan — it’s about 5 quarts — and threw in a few quickly sliced potatoes, onions, and apples.  On the counter was a yellow (summer) squash that had seen better days.  I sliced it and threw that in, too.  After those goodies were about half-way tender, I shoved them to the side of the pan and added some oiled and seasoned pork chops.  Lid on and dinner was done by the time I set the table and Dave opened a bottle of Pinot Noir.

*If you ate this chili in the Dacor kitchen, it differs from the recipe in three ways: I used beer instead of wine and added cooked Italian sausage as well as the bacon in the beans.

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Above: I had the pups all “dressed” for Halloween and a big bowl of candy. We had two trick-or-treaters. The name Rosie seems to be sticking, despite my love for “Mara,” and all the other wonderful suggestions we’ve received.  I think it’s because I like to sing this old song to her.  This  morning I found her asleep on my feet while I was checking email.  She’s doing wonderfully well, though we’re still working hard on house training. Puppies.

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 Happy Fall cooking…

Below:  Rosie practicing “Come” with Dave in the front yard.

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ONE-PAN PORK CHOPS WITH POTATOES, ONIONS, SQUASH, AND APPLES

SERVES 2    –   Easily doubled

There is enough of the potato mixture to serve another day with eggs or you might be able to stretch it to serve four if you can fit four chops in your pan and serve a green vegetable or salad as a side.  The wine or water makes just a little sauce to keep it all moist.

To a large, deep skillet or sauté pan heated over medium-high flame, add 2 tablespoons olive or canola oil along with 3 sliced potatoes, 1 large sliced onion, 1 sliced yellow (summer) squash, and 1 cored and sliced apple.  Season generously with seasoned or kosher salt, pepper, and a good pinch of crushed red pepper.  Cook, stirring occasionally, for ten minutes or so until all are at least half-way tender. Push the potato mixture to the sides of the pan to make room for the chops.

Add 2 thick bone-in pork chops you’ve brushed with oil and seasoned well with salt, pepper, and a good pinch of dried thyme.  Cook until the chops are well- browned on one side and turn over to brown the other side.  Stir the vegetables and apples, pour in 1/4 cup white wine*, then cover and reduce heat until everything is tender.  Use an instant-read thermometer to check the chops for doneness. They should read 145 degrees.  Let dinner rest in pan five minutes, then taste and adjust seasonings. Serve hot garnished with the grated zest of one lemon.

*Can sub water or chicken broth for wine. For a more smoothly silky sauce, dab in a tablespoon of butter as well.

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Sing a new song; cook some pork chops,

Alyce

Butternut Squash-Black Bean Soup in the Microwave in 15 Minutes

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IMG_6791Could you make this in a pot?  Of course, but it would take longer.

Could you make more of it?  Certainly, cook on.

But if you’re in a hurry for a fast, healthy meal when it’s cold outside and you’ve got nothing ready, this is for you.  Garnish it as you see fit and be happy in your tummy tonight.

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Above:  Meet Rosie! She sort of jumped in the car and came home with us from Pueblo last night. (Not really:)  13-week old Labradoodle, she slept throughout the night without crying.  Of course she did steal Tucker’s bed — right next to our bed — to do it.  About 1 am, he snuck into it with her.  Otherwise Tuck’s nose is just a tish out of joint.  Watch for Rosie’s upcoming adventures. P.S.  Rosie  is her litter name.  We might rename her.  Ideas for names for a very black, wiry-haired dog with a beautiful temperament and tons of patience for a pup would be entertained! Leave in comments or on my fb page.

BUTTERNUT SQUASH-BLACK BEAN SOUP IN THE MICROWAVE in 15 minutes

If you have a food processor, pulse the carrots, celery, onion, garlic, and spices in the bowl fitted with the steel blade until finely minced.  You could easily sub pumpkin for the butternut squash or cooked brown rice for the beans if that’s more appealing.    

Makes 5-6  1-cup servings or 2 2 1/2-cup servings

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil (needn’t be extra virgin)
  • 3 each carrots and celery stalks, minced
  • 1 small onion, minced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon each:  ground cumin, crushed red pepper and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon each: grated ginger and kosher salt
  • 15-ounce can cooked, mashed butternut squash or a 12-ounce box of frozen mashed Winter Squash, or 2 cups pureed  butternut squash
  • 2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 or 2 15-ounce can drained black beans or 2 -3 cups homemade black beans
  • Sour cream, Greek yogurt, or a drizzle of cream for garnish, optional

In an 8-cup glass measuring cup or similarly-sized microwave-safe bowl, stir together the olive oil and minced carrots, celery, onion and garlic with the ginger, cumin, peppers, and salt.  Cover* and microwave on full power for 2 minutes. Uncover, stir, and cook another minute or two until nearly tender.

Stir the squash and broth into the cooked vegetables and spices and mix well.  Cover again and microwave on high 5 minutes.

Uncover carefully and stir in the black beans. (If you’d like, purée it before adding the beans using an immersion blender in the bowl or carefully in batches in the regular blender. Hold blender top down with a towel.) Cover a last time and microwave on high 2 minutes.  Taste and adjust seasonings to taste.**  Serve hot with a drizzle of sour cream, yogurt, cream, or crushed tortilla chips for garnish, if desired.

*Plastic wrap works, but so will a microwave-safe dinner plate if it will fit in your microwave.  Some of the newer 8-cup Pyrex glass measuring cups have their own lids.

**A little more ginger gives it quite the zing you might love. If you’re a zinger, that is.

♥♥♥

I often sign my books, very truthfully:

Cook soup all year long for health, wealth, and happiness…

Sing a new song; love a new puppy,

Alyce

Bolognese Sauce — I Did it My Way

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Sometimes you just have to make things the way you want them to be.  And that would go for Bolognese sauce.  Many American cooks my age, unless they were blessed with an Italian nonna, were raised with red sauce with meat and spaghetti because that’s what there was and it was cheap.  Meatballs might show up on a big day.  That’s what there still is if you go down to most of the local, inexpensive Italian places across the U.S.  They also usually make a pizza the town adores or eats anyway along with a bottle of cheap chianti for date night and American beer on tap for the rest of the time.

Soldiers returning from Italy after World War II brought with them their desire for the foods of a grateful but war-torn nation. Enterprising immigrants opened restaurants providing the soldiers with the foods they had developed a craving for and introduced the soldiers’ families to spaghetti and meatballs, sausage and peppers, ravioli, lasagna, manicotti, baked ziti and pizza.

Throughout the 50s and 60s, Italian food was becoming a part of the American diet and delicatessens offered salami, capocollo, mortadella, pepperoni, mozzarella and provolone, while spumone was a popular dessert, and variations of minestrone abounded. During the 70s and 80s, many Italian-inspired regional dishes became popular in America — Eggplant Parmigiana, Fettuccini Alfredo, Penne alla Vodka, Shrimp Scampi, Chicken Piccata, Chicken Cacciatore, Steak Pizzaiola, Osso Buco, Veal Marsala, Pasta Primavera, Fried Calamari, Saltimbocca, Caponata, Calzone and Stromboli. Grissini, semolina bread, risotto, broccoli rabe, arugula, radicchio, Gorgonzola, Parmigiano Reggiano, ricotta, olive oil, pesto, prosciutto, sun-dried tomatoes, pizzelle, cannoli, zeppole, torrone, gianduja, panettone and espresso were common additions to meals.

courtesy lagazzettaitaliana.com

I’ve had a hankering for pasta lately.  Last week, Dave and I stopped for lunch at Panino’s  –one of our local red sauce joints, albeit with the largest variety of panini I’ve ever seen — and he couldn’t believe I ordered a plate of spaghetti and meat sauce. “What?”  I simply craved it.  It was absolutely edible, but it didn’t satisfy the hunger for what I really wanted on the menu:  bolognese.IMG_6255If I get a hankering for fresh pasta and Bolognese, then I just have to make myself. (Especially if Emily’s coming home for a few days.)  I learned to cook sauce in a few places. I had an aunt who learned from the Italian restaurant down below her Chicago apartment and passed a few tidbits onto me.  Of course I watched my mom, who made the best Irish spaghetti around with her home-canned tomatoes.  I also worked in an Italian restaurant nearly all the way through college, but mostly I read Marcella Hazan. THE CLASSIC ITALIAN COOKBOOK was published in 1973, which was the year before Dave and I married, and it was updated in 1992. Combined at that point with MORE CLASSIC ITALIAN COOKING, it then became  ESSENTIALS OF CLASSIC ITALIAN COOKING.  They’re perfect, pleasant, loving, precise, and delicious tomes dedicated to just exactly how to do that Italian thing the way it should be done.  Read this NYT article for more info on my talented long-distance, long-time mentor, who by the way never wrote in English.  Her dear husband translated all of her work. Continue reading

One-Pan Chicken with Brussels Sprouts and Potatoes

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You know how when you’re in someone else’s kitchen, you’re a bit lost?  Your best and perfect meals just barely turn out?  (Where’s the whisk, the measuring cup, the plates, the vinegar, and why doesn’t she buy your brand of butter?)  I’ve got a new kitchen and it’s my own.  And I’m a bit lost. Not totally, but somewhat.

photo-66It’s not that  I don’t know it at all.  I know this kitchen REALLY WELL; I watched it being built from the studs up.  It’s just that it’s new. My stuff isn’t all put away…

WHERE ARE MY THINGS????

and I’m still looking for quite a few kitchen items.  Like the rest of my dishes and my every day glasses, which just turned up under the upstair’s bathroom’s sink.  My big fear is that all of these boxes just aren’t going to fit in this new kitchen.  Or maybe that I’ll just go on in a big mess, never sorting out the stacks and cartons in the garage, spare room, and basement.  I can see me at Christmas searching for the –this is no kidding — two-foot can of cookie cutters.  (I really haven’t seen it.) Continue reading

Apple-Cheddar Salad with Spicy Honey-Apple Cider Vinaigrette + A Little Frittata

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Dave and I often make a big frittata (open-faced omelet) in our 14-inch skillet if we have someone in for brunch.  Dave’s the better frittata maker, so if I can, I leave him to it.  Once in a while he’ll make one just for the two of us on a Saturday morning and we’ll then eat the leftovers for dinner with or on salad. Other times we’ll have it sliced up into slivers with wine, cheese, and fresh fruit.

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Last Saturday, he made a luscious breakfast using leftover roasted potatoes and sweet potatoes, lots of sautéed onion, bacon, and two different cheeses.   It was his first try at cooking on the new Blue Star range and it was wondrous!  Tucker, shown here in the almost-finished kitchen,  always prays for something — anything — to drop. There are a couple of frittata posts on the blog (some new photos needed, I know)  and you’re welcome to use one for a recipe or to substitute Dave’s Saturday ingredient list to create your own: Continue reading

10 Easy Meals For Two Weeks–Dinners Are Planned!

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My daughter-in-law Jami is home for a couple of months with a new baby.photo-64 While this is a wondrous and incredible moment in time, she also has to come up with meals.  Just like many other people who talk to me about food, she says she simply has a hard time coming up with anything for dinner for her family.  Her husband, our son Sean, has often done the cooking in their household, but Sean is working nights and the dinner is, to coin a phrase, now on Jami’s plate.

IMG_6184I’m not sure why this is the case for so many people when the stores are full of food, the tv is even more full with its cooking or food shows, the internet is jammed with food blogs and magazines and recipes galore, but I can relate.  Here are a few thoughts followed by a group of recipes that might help solve the problem. Continue reading

Ina Fridays — Main Courses — Chicken Noodle Soup

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On the first Friday of each month, I blog Ina Garten recipes with a fine group of writer-cooks.  Scroll down to the bottom for links to the other posts and come back the next two months for November desserts and December appetizers.

I’m thrilled to eat Chicken Noodle Soup nearly anytime.  Ask Dave.  I’ll eat it even if he makes it and Dave doesn’t usually make soup.  How about you?  Is there anything better when you’re hungry or don’t feel well?  It’s a whole meal in a bowl and I often add extra vegetables to add taste, nutrition, and fiber.  I don’t mind eating it a couple days in a row or for lunches for several.  I’m ecstatic if I look in the freezer and see a container waiting for me when I’m wondering what’s for dinner.  Does chicken soup really increase health?  I don’t know for sure, but I know I’m happier and feel better when I’ve had a big bowl.

The 12th-century Jewish physician, Maimonides, started the chicken soup-as-medicine trend when, in his book, On the Cause of Symptoms, he recommended the broth of hens and other fowl to “neutralize body constitution.” According to Maimonides, boiled chicken soup also played a role in curing leprosy and asthma, and–as a Jewish grandmother might put it–”putting some meat on your bones.”

In Jewish Food: The World at Table, Matthew Goodman reports on a 1978 study conducted at Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami Beach that confirmed at least part of Maimonides’ prescription: “chicken soup proved more effective than simple hot or cold water in clearing congested nasal passages.”

courtesy My Jewish Learning

I made this big pot of goodness when our kids and grandkids were coming down to visit earlier this week after the sudden loss of our sweet golden retriever, Miss Gab. (Click for the sad tale.)  This comforting potion was justly the first real meal cooked in our new kitchen, which is almost done now.  (Phewee –I include a few more photos interspersed throughout the post.) Continue reading

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