Month: December 2012

Sparkly, Very Sparkly Stars

Sparkly, Very Sparkly Stars

More Time will be on vacation for a short time.  
When I’ve cooked a bunch more, I’ll be back! 
In the meantime, make my Sparkly cookies.   Make merry, friends!

Sparkly, Very Sparkly Stars

This not-too-sweet, pie crust-like, melt in your mouth gem is actually a tiny, fluted piece of shortbread showered in white sanding sugar.  Regular old white sugar will work just as well, as would bright red cookie sugar from the grocery store.  The white sanding sugar, however, gives the cookies a sheen and a sophisticated sparkle unlike any other.  It yells, “I‘m special.”

While other cookies try and steal the show with great globs of frosting or hunks of high-quality chocolate, this cookie (tiny, but mighty) shows strength and endurance because after you put out a big bowl of them, folks will just keep nipping in until they’re gone.  One isn’t enough.  Especially with hot tea… or a little snifter of brandy. Try this:
  

 Sparkly, Very Sparkly Stars

3/4# soft unsalted butter
1 c white sugar
1 t vanilla extract
3 1/2 c unbleached flour
1/4 t salt (no salt if you used salted butter)

Mix together together the butter and the sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer until just combined.  Add vanilla.  Sift the flour and salt and add it to the butter an d sugar.  Mix until the dough starts to come together.  Dump on a floured board and shape into a flat disc. Refrigerate, tightly wrapped, for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 350 F. 

Roll dough out 1/4″   thick on a floured surface and cut with 1 – 1.5″   fluted cookie/biscuit cutter.   Sprinkle each cookie with a little white sanding sugar and, using one finger, press sugar very lightly into each cookie.  Bake on an ungreased sheet for about 10 minutes–until edges show the faintest signs of gold.  Let cool to room temperature.

The original recipe for this shortbread is from Ina Garten and she got it from Eli Zabar.  I make a couple of other cookies out of this same dough–actually I make hundreds of other cookies out of it!
While the dough operates similarly to sugar cookies, it only has to chill 30 minutes and the taste and texture are intensely better…unless, of course, you make your grandma’s sugar cookies–in which case, I know they’re much better.  Really.

Recipes here for the cookies below:

Valhrona-Sea Salt Shortbreads
Raspberry Shortbread Sandwich Cookies

  

Sing a new song, 
Alyce

Are you done baking yet, Mom?
Great Holiday Links–Enjoy!

Great Holiday Links–Enjoy!

Just for grins and giggles, here are some of the links I’ve enjoyed this season….

cookbooks for gifts

Shine’s List of the Best of 2012
Best Cookbooks of all Time
Epicurious 10 Cookbooks Worth Giving                                             

cookies you might not have made

Candy Cane Crinkles
Chocolate Chip Cookies- Saveur
Chocolate Dipped Espresso Cookies
Ginger Snap Cookies with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting
Gluten-Free Cookies — Saveur
Holiday Sables – Breton
Italian Christmas Cookies

Richart Parisian Chocolate Macarons

no-bake treats                                             

Dark Chocolate Pudding with Candied Ginger
No Bake Chocolate and Peanut Butter Oatmeal Bars
DIY Sriracha for Gifting
Peppermint Crunch Bark 

Alyce’s Go Nuts

 holiday food and drink

Alyce’s Afternoon Open House
Boston Globe‘s 12 Beers of Christmas 
David Lebovitz’ Hot Mulled Wine
Gourmet Live’s Christmas Eve Feast 

Peppermint Hot Chocolate
Saveur Christmas Recipes
Wines at Christmas 

alyce’s easy meals for busy nights                

 Alyce’s Beans and Cornbread
Oven-Roasted Rosemary Chicken Thighs and Butternut Squash

  White Wine and Lemon-Steamed Salmon with Broccoli
Foiled Flounder with Roasted Green Beans and Rosemary Potatoes
Pear-Fig Salad with Goat Cheese
ShrimpWinter Fruit Salad with Quinoa and Pomegranate Seeds 
Spicy Cream of Pumpkin Soup with Wendy’s Sage and Thyme
Turkey-Lentil Crock Pot Chili

 

holiday desserts and goodies

Chocolate Date Caramel Tart from Gourmande in the Kitchen
Cranberry-Streusel Cake 
Crunchy Milk Chocolate-Peanut Butter Layer Cake 
Dark Chocolate Pudding with Candied Ginger 
Gingerbread with Quark Cheesecake
Kaiserschmarrn Austrian pancake, cut up while cooking; Topped with Fruit (dessert or breakfast)
Wonderful Food Gifts in Jars from Bon Appetit

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 Christmas Movie List all in one place

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courtesy share our strength

 

gifts to help end hunger   

   

 Give the Gift of No Kid HungryHonor someone by giving a gift to No Kid Hungry in their name – a powerful way to pay tribute to a person’s life, whether you are honoring their memory or celebrating an important milestone.    Honor Someone Today

*Find a Food Bank 
*Give to No Kid Hungry/Share our Strength–END CHILDHOOD HUNGER
*Give to Feeding America 

*Give to World Food Program


  

LISTS OF CHRISTMAS MUSIC ALBUMS

Best Christmas Albums of 2012 (new)
The 10 Best Christmas Albums Ever?

Another List of the “best” Christmas albums…in case you didn’t like the ones above.  

  A Few of Alyce’s Favorite Christmas/Holiday Albums: 

A Charlie Brown Christmas   

An American Christmas:  Boston Camerata/Joel Cohen

James Taylor at Christmas 
Peter, Paul, and Mary:  A Holiday Celebration with NY Choral Society
The Rose Ensemble:  Slavic Holiday
Tony Bennett:  Snowfall

                                                                                                  courtesy heifer.org

giving in other ways 

Donate to the Newtown, Connecticut Memorial Fund (help fund the funerals)

Divine (Fair Trade) Chocolate               

One Simple Wish (dot org)  ––  A place to donate cash for specific gifts for foster children

                     for example:  music lessons, a trip to the zoo, senior photos…. 

Make a Wish (dot org)  —  A place to donate to fulfilling children’s final wishes.

Toys for Tots 

Volunteer (or donate) for Fema/Hurricane Sandy 

Food52’s Guide to Helping Sandy Victims

Habitat for Humanity

Donate an animal…Heifer dot org  

Blessings of the Season,
Alyce

DON’T LET THE LIGHT GO OUT!

DON’T LET THE LIGHT GO OUT!

“Light One Candle”  Peter, Paul, and Mary…  This is, for me, the song of the year in view of the loss of our people in Newtown, Connecticut.

     It’s a not new Hanukkah (but is also Christian, Buddhist, and whatever else ) song performed by Peter, Paul, and Mary in a holiday special years ago.  The album is available on amazon

and you can also watch a performance of it on youtube.

Here are the lyrics:

Light one candle for the Maccabees’ childrenWith thanks that their light didn’t dieLight one candle for the pain they enduredWhen their right to exist was denied
Light one candle for the terrible sacrificeJustice and freedom demandBut light one candle for the wisdom to knowWhen the peacemaker’s time is at hand
Don’t let the light go outIt’s lasted for so many yearsDon’t let the light go outLet it shine through our love and our tears
Light one candle for the strength that we needTo never become our own foeAnd light one candle for those who are sufferingPain we learned so long ago
Light one candle for all we believe inThat anger not tear us apartAnd light one candle to find us togetherWith peace as the song in our hearts
Don’t let the light go outIt’s lasted for so many yearsDon’t let the light go outLet it shine through our love and our tears
Don’t let the light go outIt’s lasted for so many yearsDon’t let the light go outLet it shine through our love and our tears
What is the memory that’s valued so highlyThat we keep it alive in that flame?What’s the commitment to those who diedThat we cry out they’ve not died in vain?
We have come this far always believingThat justice would somehow prevailThis is the burden, this is the promiseThis is why we will not fail
Don’t let the light go outIt’s lasted for so many yearsDon’t let the light go outLet it shine through our love and our tears

Read more: PETER, PAUL & MARY – LIGHT ONE CANDLE LYRICS

Friends:

Years ago, Dave and I lost two babies in two years.  To say we were devastated doesn’t begin to do justice to what we lived through.  And no, you never get “over” any of it.  You learn to go around, through, embrace, and then you pray to heal…. Which, thanks to all the loving people and God’s grace, we did.  But one thing I know is this:

None of these parents ever expected to have to bury their own children.
Most of them, I’d guess, never had a funeral fund in the bank.
They probably had barely got a college fund started.

The last thing they can do for their children is bury them.

You can donate to burial expenses fund here.

Light a candle.  Make the darkness bright.  Don’t let the light go out.  Let it shine through our love and our tears.

Sing a new song; it’s all we can do,
Alyce

38 Power Foods, Week 25 — Dried Beans — French Beans with Smoked Sausage and Chicken

38 Power Foods, Week 25 — Dried Beans — French Beans with Smoked Sausage and Chicken

Nothing like the fragrance of rosemary for remembrance filling the house in December.

 I’m not a cheap cook, but I have always looked for inexpensive ways to provide our daily bread.  Raising a house full of kids, I often had no choice.  Even today, when we’re empty nesters with a bit more funds than when the kids were home, I look for ways to save a bit here and there because it’s the right thing to do.  It’s often healthy, too.   I buy the best I can find for the least amount of money.  If you’ve ever cooked for a soup kitchen, or worked in a food pantry, you’ll know that beans go a long way, are low in calories, and high in fiber.  They’re filling and versatile.  They can also be yummy.  Hence this pot of smokey-fragrant “French” beans with lots of

  • smoked ham (or pork chop)
  • vegetables,
  • big flavors of rosemary, thyme, and bay, 
  • browned chicken thighs, legs, (I like Kadejan chicken from Glenwood, MN) and…
  • sausage pieces.

What makes the beans French?  Probably the herbs and the nod toward a très simple and abbreviated version of cassoulet, which takes three days to make using the traditional method.  I use regular navy or white beans; the French often use  tiny white beans called flageolets.  (For my easier, but still two-day version of cassoulet, click here.  I’ll freely admit it needs better photos…phewee.) If you don’t know what cassoulet is, it’s a holiday or large-group gathering winter French meal that includes beans, vegetables, sausage, duck confit, pork, and more.  There are layers of cooking involved and a final, huge deep oven-baked pan of oh-my-cook goodness to feed the masses.  Lots of lusty red Rhone wine is required, as are copious amounts of baguette to soak up the never-should-be dry bowlful.  Cassoulet is a celebration I occasionally do for Christmas Eve.  This year, I’m trying not to conquer the world in just one day; I have no idea what we’re having, though a great big bowl of Bolognese is in my freezer.  (What riches!)

While this is not a fast recipe (nor is it the three-day marathon), it’s one to enjoy making when  you need to be at home anyway.  I think it truly is a one-dish meal.  You could add a salad if you want, but I’m not sure you need bother.  A little cheese afterward perhaps.

Maybe make this when snow flies or folks are on the way and a nice pot of anything will be the relaxed ticket for the evening.  I’m convinced the reason many people don’t cook (or say they don’t have time to cook) is because they just don’t stay at home.  Our running, crazy world keeps us distracted and sometimes isolated despite all of our “connectivity.”  There’s a lot of feeling good to be done around a bit slower life that includes some cooking and sharing of meals.   Invite someone over to play cards for the afternoon while this is in the oven (and everyone oo’s and ah’s over the great smells) or serve for a post-holiday meal to use up some of the ham you made for Christmas or New Year’s.

Here’s the “recipe” in photo form…   It’s really a method and precise amounts aren’t truly necessary.  Use your inner creative cook!

french  beans with smoked sausage and chicken
  serves 6        
 Cooks note:   You’ll need to soak a pound of  dry white beans overnight just covered with water or
                       quick-soak them by covering with water, bringing to a boil, and covering for one 
                       hour before beginning this recipe. 

Simmer over medium heat a minute or two in an 6-8 quart heavy pot*: 2 tablespoons olive oil, a pinch of crushed red pepper and 1/2 teaspoon of fresh ground black pepper...until fragrant.  (Flavor the oil.)  Do not add salt until beans are at least half-way cooked.

Chop 1 large onion, 3 cloves garlic, 3 stalks celery, and 3 carrots.

Add vegetables to pot with 2 rosemary sprigs, 1 teaspoon dried Thyme and 1 bay leaf. Stir. (The rosemary will come apart during the cooking.  You’ll remove the leftover twig at the end.)

While the vegetables cook for five minutes, or so, chop 1/2 cup smoked ham, ham hock, or smoked pork chop.  (I just cut some off a ham hock and froze the rest of the ham hock.  Cook another five minutes, stirring.
To bring up the browned bits on the bottom (deglaze) the pot, add 1/2 cup white wine.  Simmer 2-3 minutes, stirring.

 

Pour in 5 cups chicken stock and 2 tablespoons tomato paste.   Bring to a boil.  Add one pound rinsed and soaked dry white beans.*   Reduce heat to simmer.

Cover and let cook an hour or so until beans have just begun to soften.  Add 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt; taste and re-season if necessary.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Meantime, pour 2 tablespoons olive oil into a large skillet heated over medium flame.  Salt and pepper well 6 chicken legs and thighs** and cook them about ten minutes on each side until nicely browned, but not done all the way through.  

Slice about 8 ounces of smoked sausage  into 1/2″ thick slices   (I used Aidell’s smoked Italian Sausage with Mozzerella; Kielbasa would be fine) and..

add to the pan of browned chicken.  Let cook about two minute or until hot.  Add chicken and sausage to the pot of beans, gently pressing chicken down into the bean mixture not necessarily to cover, but to moisten.
Bring to a boil, cover, and place pot in preheated oven.  Let bake until beans are tender and chicken is cooked through, about an hour.  Taste and re-season as needed.  Remove rosemary “branches,” but leave bay leaf in. Whoever gets it has good luck!
Serve hot in large, shallow bowls with sturdy bread and a big glass of red Rhone.

*If you use a 6 quart pot instead of a 8 quart pot, you may not be able to fit all of the chicken in it. Put four pieces of chicken and all of the sausage in the pot before baking and continue cooking additional two pieces of chicken stove top until they are done.  Cool and reserve to add to the pot when the beans are tender and  you take it out of  the oven.  I used the Le Creuset 26, which translates to close to 6 quarts.  Make sure you check your pot’s manufacturer’s directions for the safest oven temperature.  Some pots are 350 degrees Fahrenheit; some are 500 degrees Fahrenheit.

**I like dark meat for slow cooking.  If you like breasts (white meat), go ahead and use them, but I think they will get over done here unless you almost totally cook the beans stove top first and only
put the entire pot into the oven for the time it takes to finish the breasts.

about dried beans (from livestrong.com)

Pinto beans, black-eyed peas and lentils are some commonly-eaten dried beans. The recommended serving size for pinto beans is 1 cup. This serving contains 120 calories, no fat, 10 g of dietary fiber and 9 g of protein. Black-eyed peas should be eaten in 1/2 c serving sizes, which each yield 130 calories, 0.5 g of fat, 5 g of dietary fiber and 10 g of protein. Lentils should be eaten in 1/2 cup servings, each of which contains 115 calories. A serving of lentils contains 0.4 g of fat, 7.8 g of dietary fiber and 8.9 g of protein.  (White beans are a bit more calorie-wise)

about our blogging group
We’re just getting ready to take a break from group  blogging for the rest of December….We’ll be back cooking in cahoots come January:
 
 I blog with a great group of writers every Friday where we cook our way through the list of foods from Whole Living Magazine’s Power Foods:  150 Delicious Recipes with the 38 Healthiest Ingredients:    Read more about tasty beans at these sites:

Ansh – SpiceRoots.com  
Minnie Gupta from TheLady8Home.com

Sarah – Everything in the Kitchen Sink

 If you liked this, you might also like:
Sing a new song; cook some beans,
Alyce 
Winter Squash-Mushroom Salad with Sherry-Truffle Oil Vinaigrette

Winter Squash-Mushroom Salad with Sherry-Truffle Oil Vinaigrette

There are meals when the main course is light, delicate — a brothy-frothy soup  or a small piece of white fish with a few vegetables.  Or maybe you just have some squash leftover you’d like to make into a pretty “meaty” meal. On the other hand, this would also be a decidedly different and total side for a few great slices of pork loin or a lovely duck breast over the holidays.  If any of those things is the case or even if none is, this is your salad.

It starts with cooking a whole acorn squash and about half of a normal-sized butternut squash (I do both in the microwave for recipes like this.*) If you like, a Hubbard or a Turban squash could be used instead.   Let the squash cool a bit and then peel and cut it into one-inch pieces.  Meantime, a few mushrooms are sautéed, stirred into the squash pieces, and gathered together  with a decadent vinaigrette.  A bit of cheese,  a handful of fresh spinach and arugula, some chopped nuts for crunch and  you have your salad.  Couldn’t be easier, quicker, or more luscious.  So winter.  So warming.  So if you’re cooking squash one night for dinner, fix an extra couple so you have have this the next day.   Here’s how:

winter squash-mushroom salad with sherry-truffle oil vinaigrette

  • 4 cups cooked winter squash (acorn, butternut, etc.) peeled and cut into 1″ pieces*
  • 8 ounces button mushrooms sliced and sautéed in butter  (about 1 tablespoon) with 5 leaves of sage finely minced or julienned **
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley 
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup each fresh spinach and arugula
  • 12 large shards —or peels– of Parmesan cheese (use a potato peeler) 
  • Sherry-Truffle Oil Vinaigrette (below)
  • 4 tablespoons chopped nuts, your choice (I liked a mix of almonds and cashews.)  
  • 2 tablespoons chopped dried cranberries or cherries, optional 

1.  In a large bowl, mix squash and mushrooms with sage and parsley. Salt and pepper generously.  
2.  Stir in the peeled Parmesan carefully.
3.  Drizzle salad with enough vinaigrette to moisten lightly.  Toss gently, but thoroughly to make sure all of the ingredients are covered with dressing.  
4.  Divide the salad between four salad plates and top each with a tablespoon of chopped nuts and 1/2 tablespoon of chopped cranberries, if using.
5.  Serve immediately.
  
*To cook squash in the microwave:  Pour 2 tablespoons water in a 3 quart Pyrex or microwave-safe dish.  Carefully cut acorn or butternut squash in half; scoop our seeds and strings.  Add a peeled clove of garlic or a peeled shallot to each squash half.  Place squash in dish and cover tightly with plastic wrap.  Microwave on high about five minutes, remove from oven with mitts and, with a small sharp knife, check for doneness.  You want the squash just tender, not mushy.  If it’s not done, put it back in the microwave and cook another minute or two and check again until the knife is easily inserted. Repeat if necessary.  Add the garlic/shallot (mince them) to the salad.

**If you don’t have fresh sage, use 1/2 teaspoon (dry) rubbed sage. 

 Sherry-Truffle Oil Vinaigrette*

  • 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 shallot, peeled and minced.
  • pinch each kosher salt, fresh ground black pepper, and crushed red pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon-style mustart
  • 1 tablespoon Truffle oil**
  • 3 tablespoons Extra-virgin olive oil.      

In a small bowl, whisk together vinegars, shallot, salt and peppers, and mustard.  Drizzle in oils, whisking, until well-combined.

A book you can trust from beginning to end–wonderful recipes and great wine advice, ideas, and thoughts.  Nearly ten years old now, it has stood the test of time in my kitchen.

*This vinaigrette is one, with a bit of change, from Andrea Immer’s (Robinson) book, Everyday Cooking with Wine, which is one of my favorites.  She uses a recipe much like this for her Warm Wild Mushroom salad, which is one I often make.

**Can use all olive oil.

around the hood 

 My choir’s (I use the pronoun loosely) cantata was last weekend and they blew it out of the sanctuary!  In between a Taize Advent supper, Lectio Divina and service, the last rehearsals and worship, the wind whipped and more than 12 inches of snow covered our world.  More than 600 crashes and 1,000 cars in ditches in a 24-hour period!   Two of the crashes happened to my folk trying to get to worship or rehearsals in the hilly terrain of our church, Prospect Park United Methodist in Minneapolis.  (Everyone’s ok.)

The temperature sits at 8 degrees Fahrenheit now (way below zero with windchill) and the pups and I are inside except for quick forays out into the white for pee breaks.

Here are some of my favorite pics from our yard:
 

Hydrangea in snow.

South yard lilacs.

West fence picket.

Hello, snow.  How gorgeous you can be.

 Sing a new song and put on your favorite holiday album,
Alyce 

38 Power Foods, Week 24 — Quinoa — Shrimp-Quinoa Salad with Winter Fruit, Pomegranate Seeds, and Blue Cheese

38 Power Foods, Week 24 — Quinoa — Shrimp-Quinoa Salad with Winter Fruit, Pomegranate Seeds, and Blue Cheese

Festive and healthy at the same time is a winning combination.  While we often think of holiday meals leaning toward big hunks of meat and baked desserts, it may be just the time we should be thinking of cutting a bit here and there.  If you’d like a gorgeous December salad that’s colorful and filling without being heavy, try this little plate of love.  There’s plenty of shrimp (I bought cooked shrimp for ease of preparation) for those who need visible protein, but it’s off-set by the addition of lots high-fiber quinoa, green apples, red pomegranate seeds, cucumber, fresh cranberries, clementines, and spinach–to say nothing of the blue cheese grace notes.  A light orange vinaigrette spiked with a bit of crushed red pepper tops it all.   You could add some steamed, chopped asparagus or green beans, I think, but the spinach gives you lots of green.  I served a little bread and butter with this salad to round out the meal.  Try this:


shrimp-quinoa salad with winter fruit, pomegranate seeds, and blue cheese   serves 2-3

1.Make the quinoa:  1 cup dry quinoa to 2 cups water.  Bring to a boil.  Lower heat and simmer 25 minutes until tender.  Cool at least a few minutes (stir to cool more quickly) before adding to salad.  You’ll  have leftover quinoa for soup or breakfast.
2.  Make Vinaigrette:  2T white wine vinegar, 1/4 cup orange juice, 1/2 teaspoon honey, pinch each: salt, pepper, crushed red pepper, 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil. * Whisk together everything but the olive oil first, then drizzle in oil whisking until well-combined.   In a separate medium bowl, add 2 tablespoons of the vinaigrette to marinate a half-pound cooked shrimp. (Reserve the rest of the vinaigrette for the salad.)  Set aside  while you chop the fruit.

3.Chop 1/2 an at least partially peeled cucumber and 1/4 cup fresh cranberries, optional.

4. Slice thinly an unpeeled Granny Smith apple.  Peel two clementines (or one orange) and separate them into segments.

Here I began to mix just a small portion of the salad to try it out.   Hey, I liked it!

5.  In a large bowl, mix 1 cup cooled quinoa with 2 cups fresh spinach, and the marinated shrimp.
6.  Gently stir in the cucumber, cranberries, apple slices, and clementines.  Sprinkle with 1/8 teaspoon each kosher salt and pepper
7.  Drizzle with enough vinaigrette to moisten the salad well.  Squeeze just a bit of lime juice over everything.  Taste and adjust seasonings.  You could add another pinch of crushed red pepper if you like a bit of heat.

8.  Spoon the salad out onto a large serving platter and garnish with 1/2 cup pomegranate seeds and 2 tablespoons crumbled blue cheese.  (2 Tablespoons chopped walnuts or pecans–optional)  Serve immediately and pass the pepper grinder at the table.

Ingredients list:   1/2 pound cooked shrimp, 2 cups fresh spinach, 1 apple, 2 clementines or 1 orange, 1/2 cup pomegranate seeds, 1/2 cucumber,  1/4 cup fresh cranberries  (optional), Juice of one orange, 1/2 teaspoon honey, 2 T white wine vinegar, 1/2 lime, walnuts or pecans (optional), 2 tablespoons crumbled blue cheese, kosher salt, fresh ground pepper, crushed red pepper.

*If you like a sharper vinaigrette, use sherry vinegar or add 1/2 teaspoon Dijon-style mustard.
This vinaigrette is mild so that the fruit all speaks for itself. 

Want to bring this a potluck?  Put the sliced apples in with the shrimp and vinaigrette to keep them from browning.  Bring the vinaigrette separately and dress the salad right before serving.

Wine:  I liked this with a glass of California Chardonnay, but an Oregon Pinot Blanc might drink beautifully.  I just sent a half-case of Bethel Heights Pinot Blanc for a Christmas gift.  It might not be too late for you to do it, though the weather could be turning dicey for shipping. At $18 per bottle, it’s a beautiful northwest winery steal even if they have to wait until spring for delivery. 

quinoa…It’s really a seed related to spinach or tumbleweed (rather than a grain) that can be    traced back to ancient Peru…and yes, it’s gluten free.

Low in calories and fat, quinoa is  high in carbohydrates, fiber, and protein.  While it cooks in just about the same time and same way as white rice (maybe a few minutes longer), it also has close to the same amount of calories.  A good source of all the amino acids, iron, potassium, and magnesium, quinoa also offers a bit of zinc– about 1/4 of the daily allowance for women.

Try quinoa as tasty hot breakfast cereal with maple syrup and hot milk, or as a good foil for spicy hot chili.  This grain is luscious in salads and can sub for couscous or even rice in many places.   On it’s own or nestled next to your chop, add a little butter, salt and pepper and it’s ready.  Read all about quinoa here.

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I blog with a great group of writers every Friday where we cook our way through the list of foods from Whole Living Magazine’s Power Foods:  150 Delicious Recipes with the 38 Healthiest Ingredients:    Read more about tasty quinoa at these sites:

Ansh – SpiceRoots.com  
Minnie Gupta from TheLady8Home.com

Sarah – Everything in the Kitchen Sink

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If you liked this, you might like

  Shrimp-Quinoa Salad with Feta and Tomatoes
 

or…

GO NUTS

 

These nuts are whipped up in no time.  A bit of beaten egg white, some sugar, cinnamon, and cayenne and they’re into a low oven for an hour or so. Great gifts, we also serve them all  throughout the season as a nibble with drinks or a salad topping. (Original recipe from my good cook and sister Helen…I’ve tinkered and damned it into submission over the years.)

this week on dinnerplace (cooking for one)
                               
        Make 6, just 6, Cornbread Muffins


Sing a new song,
Alyce 

Beans and Cornbread — Cold Day Supper

Beans and Cornbread — Cold Day Supper

I don’t know if Friday Night “Dinner and a Movie” is still on. Last time I tuned in, it offered decent film viewing as well as little vignettes and cooking segments presented by talented folk.  The music was the late 40’s jump tune (Louis Thomas Jordan), “Beans and Cornbread!”  Loved it.  I don’t know what it is about the phrase…  Once you hear it, you just start walking around going, “Beans and cornbread uh uh uh…Beans and cornbread…”  The “uh uh uh” is the tenor sax.

I raised my kids on bean soup and corn bread (or plain old beans and cornbread), though I don’t think I knew the tune back then…  It’s a good tune!!  And  I still make it a couple of times a season. Simply put, we’re always glad to get it.  It’s inexpensive, fairly healthy, and goes a long way.  Dried beans have a long history south and north of the Mason-Dixon line and both Dave’s mom and my mom made big pots to feed their families.  So it’s comfort food for both of us.   In fact, the first meal I had at Dave’s house when we were dating was a pot of ham and beans.  (Crock-pot fare was big in the mid-70’s.) He’s quick to remind me that in his house, beans were always served with ketchup.  In my house, ketchup with beans would have been anathema.  Yuck.  Hot sauce, yes.  Vinegar with hot peppers, probably.  Ketchup, no.

 

This is a ham hock from our little corner store, Widmer’s.

Beans are a good reason to cook a ham; you’ll  have the ham bone.  No ham bone?  Buy a ham hock or two as well as a ham steak if you like a lot of meat. Have a great butcher?   Have him/her cut that big ham hock in half for you.  You’ll only need half.  Wrap the other half well in foil and freeze for up to two months.

But there are beans and there are beans. There’s cornbread and there’s cornbread. You can make all kinds…  Here’s another version I offered on Dinner Place last spring:

Black-eyed Pea Soup with Yellow Pepper Salsa and Corn Muffins

Just for grins and giggles, let’s say you just want to make plain old very yummy bean soup.   You’d like to know how to make a truly tasty cast iron pan of corn bread.   You can.   You can scratch that itch for a fine, old-fashioned meal.  Even if  years ago you did do the Elvis sneer– or squint and whistle in through your teeth when you knew there were beans for supper.   My guess is you don’t do that any more.  In fact, when you’re on a road trip, you may pull in to Cracker Barrel for just such a lunch.

And, uh, oh, by the way, if you invite friends to share this sumptuous repast and throw in a couple of bottles of Côtes du Rhône (choose an inexpensive version of this dry French red blend)…you’ll be at the top of the heap with them for your “rustic” choice in dinner fare.  Pick up a baguette to add to the bread basket.  A few olives in a bowl for starters.  Sounds like a good New Year’s Day plan.

(Cups to grams conversion here.)

Here’s how:

beans and cornbread alyce style

              bean soup  (made in two stages–broth/beans and soup)
                                         makes 10 – 12 servings
 First the broth and cooking the beans half-way:
 1# dried white or navy beans, rinsed well, picked over and soaked overnight or quick-soaked*
1 Smoked ham bone or smoked ham hock
6 cups chicken stock
3 quarts water (or more as needed to keep beans cooking freely) 
2 bay leaves  
1/2 teaspoon Fresh ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
3 cloves garlic,  minced
1 onion, cut in half                                                
1 stalk celery
1 carrot  
10 sprigs fresh parsley and 2 large sprigs thyme tied in a bundle**
4 drops hot sauce (or to taste) 

*You do not have to soak beans contrary to common wisdom.  They will, however, cook more evenly and (rumor has it) be less gassy if you do soak them.  Place the cleaned and sorted beans in the pot with water just to cover overnight.  Or for quick soak:  place cleaned and sorted beans in pot just barely covered with water and bring to a boil for two minutes.  Turn heat off, cover pot, and let sit one hour before making soup.  Discard soaking liquid for either method.
 
**Or use just the parsley tied and add 1 teaspoon dried thyme
 

  Add all of the broth ingredients to a large (10-12 quart) stock pot.  Bring to a boil.  Lower heat to a simmer.   Let cook about an hour or until beans are just beginning to soften. Take out ham hock or bone and cool a bit.  Remove any usable meat, chop, and return to pot.  Discard bone.  Remove herb bundle and discard.  Remove large pieces of vegetables, cool briefly and chop; return to pot. Don’t take out the bay leaves. Whoever gets them has good luck. Continue below at “Make the Soup.”

 Second, make the soup:

Add to the broth the following:

2 cups ham cut into half-inch pieces
3 tablespoons tomato paste (or 15 ounce can chopped tomatoes)   
2 cups chopped celery
1 cup each chopped onion and carrots 
  
 Bring the pot of soup to a boil.  Reduce heat to a healthy simmer and cook another 1-2  hours until beans and all vegetables are tender.  (The time will depend somewhat on how high you have the heat, how done the beans already were, etc.)  Add water, if needed, to ensure vegetables are all cooking very freely in liquid.  Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary.   If you’d like  a thicker soup, remove two cups of beans and vegetables and mash or puree in the food processor.  Return mashed vegetables to pot and taste again for seasoning.  Serve hot with corn bread, butter, and honey.  Store cooled leftovers well-covered in the refrigerator three days or in the freezer for up to six months.

Variations:  Want a slow-cooker bean soup?  Try this one.
You can also slow“cook” bean soup in the oven like my friend Tony does.  Try this.
It doesn’t take much to convert this to a more French version.  Read here. 

{printable recipe for bean soup}

 

       alyce’s corn bread
makes one 9″inch cast iron pan  (can use 9″ baking pan if necessary)  
8-10 servings

  • 5 tablespoons butter, divided  (1/4 cup or 4 tablespoons for batter; 1 tablespoon to grease pan)
    2 eggs, beaten
    1 cup milk
    1 tablespoon finely minced onion
  • 1 1/4 cups white or yellow cornmeal
    3/4 cup unbleached white flour
    1/4 cup white, granulated sugar
    2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper    or more to taste
  1. Pre heat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit (205 Celsius).  Place rack at center.
  2.  Melt 4 tablespoons of the butter and set aside.
  3. Heat a 9″ cast iron skillet (23 Le Creuset) on the stove top over low flame with  the tablespoon of remaining butter.   (If using a baking pan, simply grease the pan.)  Tilt and tip skillet from side to side to coat the entire pan with a film of butter.  Remove from heat if butter begins to burn.
  4. In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, onion, and reserved melted butter.  Set aside.
  5. In a large bowl, mix well the dry ingredients (cornmeal – pepper).  Pour milk mixture into dry ingredients and mix until just barely combined.
  6. Pour batter into hot skillet or greased pan. I let the pan sit there a minute or two.  Using hot pad for skillet, carefully move skillet to oven center rack. 
  7. Bake about twenty minutes or until bread is golden brown with crispy edges and a toothpick inserted at center comes out clean.  Serve hot with honey and butter.   Wrap leftovers carefully and store at room temperature for one-two days or up to one week in the refrigerator.  (Good crumbled in milk for breakfast.) 

{printable recipe-corn bread}

  two-dog kitchen and around the ‘hood

Came home from a trip to find someone had (we guess) a bit too much holiday eggnog and ran our fence down.  Sad.

 

Back from the groomer.  A bit embarrassed by the regalia.  Cute babies, HUH?!

Better late than never:  a little of the Thanksgiving baking above and below:

Maple-Bourbon Pecan Pie

 

 

Cranberry-Apple Tart with Almond Paste Crust

 

Pour the pumpkin mixture into a pie plate on a baking sheet that’s already in the oven.

 

C is for Cherry

 

My One-Minute (microwave) Pumpkin Custards made into tiny pies with an Anna’s Ginger Thin.

 Sing a new song; make a pot of beans,
Alyce