Month: October 2013

Whole Wheat Cranberry-Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Muffins or Bread Redux–A Lighter, Healthier Version (No Paper Liners Allowed): In Memoriam–Rhonda Lundquist

Whole Wheat Cranberry-Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Muffins or Bread Redux–A Lighter, Healthier Version (No Paper Liners Allowed): In Memoriam–Rhonda Lundquist

A gentler,  kinder pumpkin muffin made with olive oil, whole wheat flour,  mini dark chocolate chips and more.

I love pumpkin. Pumpkin anything. Perhaps because I have an October birthday?  (Yes, I just loved my big 6-0.)   Each fall for most of my adult life, I’ve made loaves and loaves of pumpkin bread. The recipe has come and gone, morphed and morphed. 2013 is no different.

This one, baked in my pumpkin pan, has pumpkin seeds on top.

Below:  my typical sweet muffin:

Continue reading “Whole Wheat Cranberry-Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Muffins or Bread Redux–A Lighter, Healthier Version (No Paper Liners Allowed): In Memoriam–Rhonda Lundquist”

One-Pan Pork Tenderloin with Rosemary Vegetables

One-Pan Pork Tenderloin with Rosemary Vegetables

I’m not always in a hurry cooking.  Often I take my own sweet time and dust be damned.  Lately, with more boxes and mess than I want to own up to (after 16 days in the house), I’m still just throwing meals together in hopes that anything for which I heat the stove up will last a couple of days.  Because the larder is not up-to-snuff, I end up running to the grocery over and over; I’m wasting time on this stuff.  Bad words.

The kitchen is functioning though I have cabin knives and only four drinking glasses. #badlylabeledmovingboxes


The other day I just went and bought everything at once for a one-pan meal that sounded perfect. There was no way I was getting home and finding I didn’t have everything and that was the case.  I grabbed a package of two pork tenderloins (fast cooking), some red potatoes, carrots, onions, garlic, and prayed I had dried rosemary.  My fresh rosemary plant is mostly likely dead outside the Saint Paul house back door and I won’t be growing any new herbs here for a few months unless I try the south window approach where my son has placed a big bucket of sage thinking ahead to Thanksgiving. Continue reading “One-Pan Pork Tenderloin with Rosemary Vegetables”

Warm Quinoa Salad with Roasted Autumn Vegetables or a Vegan Thanksgiving

Warm Quinoa Salad with Roasted Autumn Vegetables or a Vegan Thanksgiving

( Just thinking:  If you’re interested in the huge South Dakota snowstorm, please read my friend Margaret Watson’s post on her blog Leave it Where Jesus Flang It.  We had just passed by there in gorgeous weather on our trip to Colorado.)

While a towering stack of boxes looms, I can’t find the stereo or my knife block, I still want to eat something delectable AND I want those around me to have a decent healthy meal as well.  For the next little bit, we’ve got our oldest son and grandson living with us while their house is being renovated.  Daughter-in-law arrives on weekends, traveling down from her job in Boulder.

Photo: :)

 We now have four dogs in the house for a Four-Dog Kitchen:  photo coming!

My plan: Keep boxes in garage, bring in a few at a time; keep house from being screaming mess.  HA!

While I cook most meals without a recipe (and you have the evidence in this blog), I’m also an avid cookbook, newspaper, blog, and newsletter reader; I like to see what others are cooking.  And, just like everyone, I give these recipes a whirl when one of them truly appeals  to me.

One of my regular email newsletters is from CHOWHOUND–a site that includes boards with local restaurant and food information, recipes, reviews of equipment, a blog, and more.  To receive the newsletter, you’ll need to sign up for the site and click on the newsletters tab in your profile.  It’s well worth it.  Another newsletter I’m really fond of is one from FINE COOKING; mine comes daily and focuses on quick meals. That it includes wine pairings makes it all the better, of course.  FOOD AND WINE has a few newsletters; I receive the daily one and love it.  I’m more apped (sic!) to use the email newsletter than the app on my ipad. Dunno why.

Over a week ago, this Chowhound Warm Quinoa Salad with Roasted Autumn Vegetables showed up in my inbox and I ran to the store, brought the recipe up on my iphone, bought the ingredients and ran home to make it for dinner. It happened to be a first full night in the house celebration and I also bought some small steaks and salmon filets for a surf  n turf motif, but I really think the salad was the star of the show.  Not only that it, the recipe made lots.  We ate it cold for lunch for two days (delicious) and I snacked on it once or twice.  If by chance you don’t like brussel sprouts, just leave them out and add some extra root vegetables.
Later, I kept thinking what a great vegan or vegetarian main for Thanksgiving. October 14 is Thanksgiving in Canada, by the way.

While you’ll need to go to Chowhound and find the recipe  (adapted from Joann Chang), you can see by looking at this that it’s very simply a gorgeous amount of roasted root vegetables on a bed of quinoa.  The idea is to roast some vegetables, cook the quinoa, and stir it all up together.  Great food; great leftovers. What you don’t see is the Asian-style dressing — YUM.

My changes:  small, but critical for this version……………

The given recipe on Chow calls for stirring the vegetables into the quinoa and doesn’t include the fresh greens.  I thought the salad would be more attractive with the vegetables on top for visibility and I just loved the idea of a bed of freshness (the spinach or other greens) underneath for color and texture.  The key element is the quinoa, which is quickly cooked –as quinoa is–and then stirred up with an Asian dressing that includes a whole bunch of chopped green onions.  If you don’t like quinoa, make brown rice; it would work perfectly well.  My other change was adding crushed red pepper to the Asian dressing.  It’s almost perfect, but I thought it needed a bit of a bang.  I didn’t do this, but next time I would add some toasted nuts of some kind–chopped walnuts or sliced almonds–for extra crunch.

——————

Coming into Colorado Springs:  Cows and brilliant sun

don’t know 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, though it looks a bit like couscous.

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.

IF YOU LIKE THIS, YOU MIGHT LIKE MY
Shrimp-Quinoa Salad with Pomegranate Seeds, and Blue Cheese

Sing a new song, unpack the house, write your editor, and keep cooking while remembering Craig Alexander–who crossed the river two years ago today,
Alyce
Butternut Squash-Zucchini Curry with Couscous or What is Home??

Butternut Squash-Zucchini Curry with Couscous or What is Home??

Last summer, when I began to make the first vegetable curries of the season, I was right here in our Colorado house up on the mesa.  I needed a quick dinner and had a bunch of vegetables lying around the counter–including lots of tomatoes.  A pot of rice was put to boil and I threw a bunch of vegetables and a little curry powder into a big skillet.  We ate quite happily very soon thereafter.

DISCLAIMER:  I’ll freely admit I’m no authenic Indian cook; check out Just a Girl from Mumbai or The Lady 8 Home (two of my Ina Friday friends’ blogs) for authentic recipes.  Or, for a general set of instructions, check out this post. 

Colorado kitchen

Last week, we moved permanently from Saint Paul back to Colorado into the house we’ve owned there for eight years by now.  To say it was or is a wrench is an understatement, because we love Saint Paul and I so loved my choir job at Prospect Park United Methodist in Minneapolis.  Finances dictated a change to owning one house only and here we are.  I’m still in the midst of figuring it all out and can’t believe what an emotional upheaval it’s been.  After all, it’s just a house–right????

St. Paul backyard

Gab and Tuck were both puppies in CO

While we are born midwesterners through and through (Dave from Champaign-Urbana, Illinois and me from the south suburbs of Chicago)–and adore the four seasons, as well as the Twin Cities culture, we have always just sunk into the beauty and comfort of our ranch house in Colorado.  At night in bed in the middle of a frozen Minnesota winter night, I’d walk through the Colorado house in my mind–poring over each room, looking out each window, nearly crying that no one was there.  Come holidays or summers when the choir was off, we’d drive out west with Miss Gab and Tucker, and I often sobbed in relief as I walked into the house.  I spent hours on the living room couch, reading and dreaming out over the city of Colorado Springs, which spreads just east of our property.  On a clear day, you can see forever.  I often watched Dave’s planes take off from the airport which is over 13 miles away.  The same distance in the opposite direction brings views of approaching winter storms from the north or, in the case of this last summer, fires from the northeast in Black Forest.    Step Inside this House–sung by Lyle Lovett.

And while it appears idyllic (“Oh, Colorado is so beautiful!”), and often is, it can be a harsh environment.  Bears, coyotes, bobcats, and the occasional mountain lion make it through our neighborhood.  Right now, we have a bear family traveling between our houses, snacking on available garbage, charging people and dogs and simply refusing to hibernate.   In other words, sitting outside at night in the summer  is best done on the deck with quick access to the house through a strong door!   Fires — and recent floods — are often our frightening nearby companions.  Sudden winter storms create havoc and, here in the ‘hood, mean walking home up the steep icy hill unless you have a great four-wheel drive vehicle.

Stollen cooling on the east deck
Photo: Mama bear and young in neighbor's backyard
bear photo borrowed from a neighbor

Cooking and baking  at 6,300 feet above sea level can be a consummate challenge.  Bread left out ten minutes can be as dry as toast; cookies must be eaten that day or frozen.  Many recipes must be adapted, though I’m pretty intuitive about it by now. Thanksgiving dinner WILL be begun really early or you won’t eat until late–as I found out when we first moved here in 1996 and ate at 7 instead of 4.  There’s little to be grown in sand or bedrock when it doesn’t rain for 9 months at a time.  Cooking local Colorado food means bison, lamb, trout, Rocky Ford cantaloupe and western slope peaches and cherries.  Southwest of us are irrigated apple orchards, but it isn’t unusual for them to produce very little any given year.  Gardening right on your own patch isn’t so simple with hardly any good dirt and strict watering restrictions.  I will say that some micro-climates within the city of Colorado Springs limits have abundant gardens, but they’re the exception.   Example:  We save every bit of water and reuse it.  When I make pasta, the water is cooled and used to water plants.   A little leftover water in a water bottle is tipped into the flower pots or herb garden as I walk into the house.  We can catch no rain water (if and when it rains) because it’s against the law.

Photo: :)
Dave with grandson, Rhyan.  One of the joys of living in Colorado is our son Sean and family are here–living with us temporarily while their house is being renovated.
But it’s all part of the challenge of being a westerner, or a south westerner, I guess–and it’s usually worth it. Million-dollar sunsets over the front range, spectacular sunrises in the high plains, fall drives into the mountains to see the golden, whispering aspens, Rocky Mountain National Park in Denver’s backyard, world-class skiing, Rockies baseball, and the unarguably most beautiful interstate drive in the country (I-70 from Denver – Utah).  And if you live here, you embrace it for what it is.  (And if you’re like me, you travel to sea-level on a regular basis so you can see green.)
Sunrise in my backyard
What’s happened is that I’ve had to regroup my notion of “home.”  I’m no longer sure what it is.  Is it where I breathe the easiest?  Is it where my heart sings as that city comes into view from 10,000 feet?  Is it where I laugh with the most people?  Is it where I can earn a living or be in love with a choir?  Is it where the best orchestra plays or I can walk across the street to the corner bar?  Where I sink into a bed dipped into my own curves?  Or is it just where Dave and the dogs are–which can be right in our Subaru Forester?  It’s an on-going discussion in my heart and head. I’ll keep you posted.
Right before we left Saint Paul, our victory garden neighbor, Wendy, gave us another huge zucchini–the very last of the season. In my kitchen was a little leftover butternut squash and the final pick of tomatoes from our Minnesota garden.  I made a big skillet of curry that we ate off of for a couple of days; we had to pack and clean, not keep cooking.  This particular early-fall prize was so tasty I thought I’d share it with you.  It’s nothing too unusual and you can change out the veg to suit yourself or your larder.  There’s not much in the vegetable family that can’t be made into a fast curry supper and you can pretend you’re in the Indian restaurant downtown.  Here’s how:
butternut squash-zucchini curry with couscous
4 generous servings
  • 4 cups–give or take– cooked couscous  (I used 1 box Near East couscous with olive oil and garlic)
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Large onion, chopped
  • Celery stalk, chopped
  • Red bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 carrots, scrubbed and thinly sliced (don’t peel)
  • 2 cups chopped zucchini
  • 1 cup chopped cooked butternut or acorn squash
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
  • 2 teaspoons curry powder*
  • 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper or a small pinch of cayenne, optional
  • 1/4 cup white wine or vegetable or chicken broth
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon grated or finely chopped ginger
  • 2 cups chopped cherry or regular tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup each chopped fresh basil and fresh parsley
Instructions:
1.  Cover couscous to keep warm while you make the curry.  Toast almonds in a small, dry pan over low heat for 5 minutes or so, stirring occasionally.  Set couscous and almonds aside.
2.  Heat the oil in a large, deep skillet or sauté pan and add onions, celery, red bell pepper, carrots, zucchini, and butternut or acorn squash.  Sprinkle with salt, pepper, curry powder, and crushed red pepper or cayenne, if using.  Let cook ten minutes or until softened, stirring regularly.  
3.  Stir in wine or broth and let cook down a few minutes, adding more if the vegetables appear dry.
4.  Add garlic, ginger, and tomatoes. Cook, stirring, another two minutes or until garlic is fragrant, tomatoes are just softening, and other vegetables are tender.  Taste and adjust seasonings.
5.  To serve, spoon over or to the side of a cup of couscous for each serving.  Top with a few sliced almonds and a sprinkling of the chopped fresh basil and parsley.  Serve hot.  Cold or hot leftovers will be luscious for lunch.  (If you reheat the curry, you’ll need to add a bit more curry powder or seasonings.)
Cook’s Note:  For a more authentic Indian curry, you can add a little tomato paste and/or coconut to the vegetables.  For a Thai style, add coconut milk and/or lime juice. (Skip my wine!) Everyone makes their curried vegetables a bit differently; my versions come from American trial and error cooking.  Do a bit of googling and see what kind of curry you might like best; there are many different kinds.
*Curry Powder comes in many varieties in the United States.  I think the most important thing about it is to use fresh curry powder.  If it’s sat a while, buy new.  Penzey’s Spices sells several sorts of curry powder and I used half Maharajah Curry Powder and half Sweet Curry Powder.  You can, of course, make your own curry powder by blending a variety of spices—you can grind them yourself–to suit your taste.  Google  “Making curry powder” or check out the CHOW recipe.
                                         
                                                                       ***

If you liked this, you might also like my curried peppers and tomatoes on rice with grilled chicken or cooking in a time of grief

“The mountains are calling and I must go.”   — John Muir

Sing a new song,Alyce

Ina Fridays–Main Courses–Chicken Chili for Two

Ina Fridays–Main Courses–Chicken Chili for Two

I once heard a woman say, “You can’t make chili for two people.”  As I began to write today, thinking about that conversation did make me do just a little bit of research…because I often make chili for one or two!

Chili is American, isn’t it?  That much we think we know, but read on.  There’s also the  beans or no beans dilemma.  “If you know beans about chili, you’ll know there are no beans in chili,” Texans say.  Minnesotans go, “Huh?”  when you quote the beans line.  Then there’s the meat.  There’s chili and there’s chili con carne.  After a while, you start wondering what is in chili.  Today, there are as many variations as there are cook-offs, parties, and so on.  Chili is served regularly at Super Bowl, Halloween, and at neighborhood or church gatherings.  Here’s an interesting bit of chili lore from whatscookingamerica.net–just for fun:


According to an old Southwestern American Indian legend and tale (several modern writer have documented – or maybe just “passed along”) it is said that the first recipe for chili con carne was put on paper in the 17th century by a beautiful nun, Sister Mary of Agreda of Spain. She was mysteriously known to the Indians of the Southwest United States as “La Dama de Azul,” the lady in blue. Sister Mary would go into trances with her body   lifeless for days. When she awoke from these trances, she said her spirit had been to a faraway land where she preached Christianity to savages and counseled them to seek out Spanish missionaries.

 It is certain that Sister Mary never physically left Spain, yet Spanish missionaries and King Philip IV of Spain believed that she was the ghostly “La Dama de Azul” or “lady in blue” of Indian Legend. It is said that sister Mary wrote down the recipe for chili which called for venison or antelope meat, onions, tomatoes, and chile peppers. No accounts of this were ever recorded, so who knows?

Whoa!  Gives me a chill or two.  But what about your chili…just for one or two?  I often make Ina Garten’s chicken chili (among others–I love Silver Palate chili for a crowd) from Barefoot Contessa Parties.  It’s on page 232 and serves 12. But as I made it last week, it seemed a perfect meal for this blog.   To begin with, it’s made with chicken breasts (skin removed after cooking) you’ve either just roasted or have in the frig from yesterday’s dinner–or even the rotisserie chicken from the store– and it also includes vegetables that cook quickly–onions and sweet peppers.

That makes it healthy, wealthy, and wise--and fast for chili.  Secondly, it doesn’t have beans so while you have less starch (and that sort of fiber), you also have more vegetables and less calories.  I do, truth to tell, often make a pot of beans alongside it… so that we can have beans and cornbread another day.

But you needn’t make beans; it’s great on its own.  Or there might be a can of some sort of beans on your pantry shelf (I hope) and you can use those should beans be needed.  While I look at the recipe for six (see Food Network link above/below) or twelve (in Ina’s book) and just cut it down by intuition/taste while cooking, I’ve tried to get approximate measurements for a smaller batch here. Do please consider this a guideline only and use your own judgement and tasting abilities.  While I think of it:  I also often add chopped zucchini and/ or mushrooms. Your frig might contain other wonders you’ll think of adding.  But, enough of all this.  Let’s stop talking chili and start making it.   Here’s the recipe with great thanks to Ina, who’s one of my heroines:

Ina Garten’s Chicken Chili cut down to– two servings

  • 1 cup chopped yellow onions
  • 1T good olive oil, plus extra for chicken
  • 1 clove garlic, minced  
  • 1 1/2 red bell peppers–or yellow (or a combination) cored, seeded, and large-diced
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cumin
  • Tiny pinch dried red pepper flakes, or to taste
  • Tiny pinch cayenne pepper, or to taste
  • 1/2 t kosher salt, plus more for chicken
  • 1 28 oz can whole peeled plum tomatoes in puree, undrained
  • 1/8 c minced fresh basil leaves
  • 1 – 1/2 split chicken breasts, bone in, skin on
  • Freshly ground black pepper

For serving:

  • Chopped onions, corn chips, grated cheddar, sour cream  (beans optional)

Directions

Chicken Breasts:  (I do these first)Rub the chicken breasts with olive oil and place them on a baking sheet. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Roast the chicken for 35 to 40 minutes, (45 at altitude) until just cooked. Let cool slightly. Separate the meat from the bones and skin and cut it into 3/4-inch chunks. 

Meanwhile, begin the chili:

Cook the onions in the oil over medium-low heat for 10 minutes, until translucent. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add the bell peppers, chili powder, cumin, red pepper flakes, cayenne, and salt. Cook for 1 minute. Crush the tomatoes by hand or in batches in a food processor fitted with a steel blade (pulse 6 to 8 times). Add to the pot with the basil. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Taste and adjust seasonings. Add baked chicken and simmer another 10 minutes or so.  Serve hot and, if you choose, with beans or toppings listed above.  Let leftovers cool completely before covering well and storing in the refrigerator for 1-2 days only.

Cook’s notes:  If you’re cooking gluten free, check the canned tomatoes and the chili powder for an ingredients list or make your own: chili powder.   If using canned beans, the same is true; check your labels or make your beans from a trusted source from scratch.

WINE:  My friend Drew Robinson has convinced me that a Syrah (all Syrah–not a blend) drinks well with something like chili.  Many folks like a barely sweet-laced beer.

DESSERT:  You’ve been so good eating a light chili, I think something warmly chocolate would be lovely.  Cinnamon chocolate chip cookies or chocolate-cayenne dipped butter cookies.  Maybe just a cup of Mexican hot chocolate topped off with a splash of Kahlua?  
                                                                         ***
                                                       
Check out Ina’s whole recipe on the Food Network site here.
Watch the video of Ina making this chili here.
                                                           ~~~~~~~~~~

Who’dve thought of looking in a party book for recipes for one or two beautiful people like you?  Never know.

ALL ABOUT INA FRIDAYS:
The first Friday of the month, food bloggers from many parts of the world join together in posting a favorite Ina recipe.  This month we have Main Courses; next month we’re cooking Dessert! 

Stop in and see what all of our fine writers are cooking up today or any day:

*Not all writers will blog Ina every week–there’s work, vacation, family–but take a peek anyway. Some bloggers will post the following day due to time change or work/family commitments.

Are you a food blogger? We’d love to have you every month or even once in a while! Email Alyce @ afmorgan53@yahoo.com to join the group or link in to join us occasionally (click on blue oval link button at bottom and follow prompts) only if you’re blogging Ina! No other posts, please?! 

                                              If you like this, you might like…

Alyce’s Pumpkin-Chicken Chili

Have fun cooking and taking care of yourself, and if you have time, listen up to a young singer named Jeremy Anderson. You can download his music here.  Guy does all his own tracks…sometimes 12.  On itunes, too.

Alyce — Back in Colorado with 300 boxes, no ipad cord, and a computer that is crashing daily
 ( portions published previously on my blog dinnerplace.blogspot.com)