Month: October 2014

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

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

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. By the way, this makes a small batch. Make it twice if you need more!

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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.

{printable recipe}

♥♥♥

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

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 “Bolognese Sauce — I Did it My Way”

One-Pan Chicken with Brussels Sprouts and Potatoes

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 “One-Pan Chicken with Brussels Sprouts and Potatoes”

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

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

10 Easy Meals For Two Weeks–Dinners Are Planned!

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 “10 Easy Meals For Two Weeks–Dinners Are Planned!”

Ina Fridays — Main Courses — Chicken Noodle Soup

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 “Ina Fridays — Main Courses — Chicken Noodle Soup”