Month: December 2014

Black-Eyed Pea Soup with Yellow Pepper Salsa

Black-Eyed Pea Soup with Yellow Pepper Salsa

DSC05479-2This black eyed pea soup appeared one noon when I just wanted something real to eat…something warm and filling, but not fattening.  Contrary to common opinions or the instructions on the package, black eyed peas do not have to soak, nor do they take two hours to cook.   Took about an hour cooking time plus prep.   Perfect for a lucky New Year’s Day when you’re too tired to cook much.  Or hungover and in need of healthy, filling food.  Want corn bread?  I include my favorite recipe at the bottom of the post. Don’t forget to dunk.

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Cranberry-Citrus Cheesecake with Cinnamon-Nutmeg Graham Crust

Cranberry-Citrus Cheesecake with Cinnamon-Nutmeg Graham Crust

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By the time Christmas or New Year’s comes you might not have the energy for a dessert just for the holiday dinner.  This especially if you’ve entertained or baked throughout the season and simply feel all the cookies and goodies you’ve gotten through the kitchen must certainly be enough.  If that’s the case, and you’ve frozen a few of each of your favorites, pull them out and arrange them in loving fashion on your favorite platter and call it quits.  If, however, you haven’t worn your dear baking self out by now, make my gorgeous cranberry compote cheesecake. Even if you’re not a baker at heart, this is a fairly easy endeavor as long as you have a 9-inch springform pan and said ingredients.

There’s no special skill needed to make a cheesecake.  The filling can be made with a hand-held electric mixer, a standing mixer, or with my favorite machine, the food processor.  If you’ve strong arms or can borrow some, and have your cream cheese truly at close to warm room temperature, you can make this with no machines at all.  Imagine. (I went without an electric mixer for many years of my baking life, so I know wherein I speak.)  You can crush the graham crackers in a bag with a rolling pin or a hammer.  If you’ve any sauce pan at all, you can make the cranberry topping.  So go ahead.  Start now; it’s better really well-chilled and keeps for days and days.  Baking blessings, friend.

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Make-Ahead Christmas Eve Dinner with Activities for All

Make-Ahead Christmas Eve Dinner with Activities for All

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I’ve worked on Christmas Eve for many years, so our Christmas Eve dinner was always something like a soup I left in the crock-pot while I directed the choir at church.  Or it might have been a made-ahead casserole like cassoulet that finished up in the oven while “Silent Night” was sung. One year I made a fish stew base early in the morning, heated it around 9pm, and threw in the seafood and fish for a few minutes until it had just cooked through.  On a rare occasion we’d go out for dinner before the first service or in between services if I had to direct an 11 o’clock.  (at left:  PPUMC Choir, Minneapolis)

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Make-Ahead Holiday Brunch for 12

Make-Ahead Holiday Brunch for 12

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I might love brunch more than any meal...perhaps I like the laid-back time involved or the old-school approach.  There’s barely a noted beginning –sitting around drinking coffee as the food is put out — and there needn’t be any end. (Movie with the coffee and brandy??)  It’s almost always a group.  Nearly certainly a special occasion.  More fun at home than at some swanky, pay-through-the-nose, eat-til-you-drop place, I think.  Even the dogs are at ease.

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Ina Fridays — Appetizers — Marinated Herbed Feta

Ina Fridays — Appetizers — Marinated Herbed Feta

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It seems like just yesterday I was emailing blogging friends to join in a new group-blogging venture called Ina Fridays.  Nearly two years ago, we began to come together monthly to cook just one special dish from Barefoot Contessa recipes, and we’ve been here the first Friday of the month ever since.  Some of us have been regulars; some have been in and out or left the team a bit ago.  All of us have adored having a reason to, just once a month, not be the typical all-on-our-own blogger.  (Blogging can have its lonely moments and we food bloggers need friends!)  Today marks the end of my participation in the group, though some bloggers may continue on.  I may pop in once in a while, but am mostly moving on to other blogging, writing, and cooking opportunities.  I’m grateful for the time we’ve spent together, happy to have gotten to know these fine cook-writers — if only online — and am mostly indebted to all of them for everything I’ve learned from all of the posts.    I’ll miss our monthly gatherings and will look forward to seeing what new food pops up on the blogs.  Many thanks, friends.  Cook on and don’t forget to sing a new song!

Want the recipe for the ginger cookies at the top of the blog?  Click here.

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Turkey-Acorn Squash Salad with Apples +  Parmesan Dressing

Turkey-Acorn Squash Salad with Apples + Parmesan Dressing

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I had no leftover turkey as I traveled for the holiday, but I did have some from the deli and, in need of lunch, made this sweet and savory salad.  It was just the ticket for a day when, after boatloads of family dinners, my jeans were not exactly in their happy place.  This meal is fast, nutritious, figure-friendly, and family-pleasing.  Could you add a little of that leftover cranberry salad or relish off to the side of the plate?  I’m thinking you could.  Happy Giving Tuesday!

STILL HAVE FROZEN TURKEY? Take out a bit, unthaw, and use that.  By the way, your frozen turkey is at its best-tasting for 2-3 months if it’s wrapped properly and stored at 0 degrees Fahrenheit, according to STILL TASTY DOT COM, my go-to for storage questions.  If it’s in your refrigerator since last Thursday, it’s past time to throw it away; it was good/safe for 3-4 days only.  In fact, even simple vegetables cooked Thanksgiving day and stored in the refrigerator should be tossed after today.  Sad, I know.

IMG_0049 above:  Rosie thinks she’s Alpha

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TURKEY-ACORN SQUASH SALAD WITH APPLES AND PARMESAN DRESSING

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