Go to Home Page

30 of 30, and Arroz Amarillo (Yellow Rice)

November 30th, 2010 | 3 Comments »

The last gasp, Day 30 of NaBloPoMo 2010. Like I said a week or so ago, it was a lot easier than I expected, what with going back and recycling previous posts and recipes. I like bringing back some old favorites, plenty of which none of you have seen before unless you’ve been hanging around here for almost 5 years.

I am looking forward to a few days off, but right around the corner is the Iron Foodie contest entry that I will be preparing, and another big blog milestone is coming up on the heels of that, one I am looking forward to sharing with everyone. I’m kind of excited about it; maybe it won’t be that huge to some, but to me, it’s BIG.

And with that, I leave the 2010 version of National Blog Posting Month with this delicious recipe for Arroz Amarillo, or Yellow Rice, a delicious side dish that goes with just about anything.

Yeah, yeah. Photo… not so great. Recipe? Awesome!!! Color? Gorgeous! Taste? Spectacular.

Arroz Amarillo or Yellow Rice
original recipe- A Cooks Tour of Mexico by Nancy Zaslavsky

This is Kate’s version:

2 T. vegetable oil
1 c. white rice, rinsed and shaken dry
One medium onion, sliced
One Jalapeno pepper, seeded and sliced thin
One poblano pepper, seeded and cut in half
One red pepper, seeded and cut in half
2 cloves garlic, minced
One medium tomato coarsely chopped
Half of a 14-oz can of black beans, drained and rinsed
2 c. chicken stock
1 t. turmeric
2 t. ground cumin
Cilantro leaves

Place poblano and red peppers on foil covered cookie sheet and spray lightly with cooking spray. Broil until skins are charred, watching carefully. Place in bowl and cover with plastic wrap to sweat. Remove skins when cooled and coarsely chop.

Heat oil in deep skillet; add in onion and saute over medium heat until soft and slightly browned, about 5-8 minutes. Add in garlic and jalapeno and cook for about a minute, until fragrant. Remove vegetables from heat and add a tablespoon of oil to pan. Stir in rice and coat with oil. Cook, stirring continually until rice is nutty, browned and fragrant, about 8-10 minutes. Do not allow to scorch. Stir turmeric and cumin into hot stock until dissolved. Add vegetables back to pan, stir to combine, then add stock. Bring to a boil and reduce heat. Add tomatoes to pan, cover and allow to simmer until nearly all the liquid is absorbed. Stir in beans, roasted peppers and a handful of cilantro leaves. Cover and cook for about 5 more minutes. Serve with lime wedges and pimento stuffed green olives if desired.


Yay!! I finished!! 30 posts in 30 days!!


little things

November 29th, 2010 | Comments Off

For some reason, I’ve been thinking a lot about the little things in life, you know, those tiny aspects of your day that maybe you don’t always think about, but doing them makes you happy and feel better, and not doing them kind of stinks.

Such as…..

~~ always having something in the car for a snack. I like Clif bars. They work in a pinch when you’ve over-stepped your errands or some other outings and you’re really hungry. And they keep for ever. Bonus little thing in the car- water. I like to always have some on hand as it tends to help quell hunger too.

~~taking the time to do something just for yourself. Make some tea, do some deep breathing or just get up and stretch for 10 minutes. Stop everything necessary for just a bit. The world will not come crashing down if you do.

~~smiling at everyone. Come on…. how hard is this one? You’d be amazed at how it makes you feel, even if you think no one notices.

~~saying ‘Please’ and ‘Thank you’. Again, not hard, but necessary. I’m always surprised at how much quicker something happens when you are polite and sincere.

~~being patient. I know this one is hard, but it helps make everyone’s day better. Lines don’t move, elevators take forever, stories get drawn out…. it happens.

~~and to go with that patience….. being tolerant. Everyone around you has some kind of battle, and that person who is crabby, rude or taking up two parking spots might just be having a really rotten day. We all need a little grace. Include yourself, too.

~~apologizing when something just doesn’t go right. And most importantly, apologize to yourself. We’re imperfect and we have days that simply crumble at the seams. Let it go and try again. Being perfect is unattainable.

~~complimenting someone. Anyone. I saw an elderly woman at the grocer who had a big brooch on her coat, the kind my Grandma wore a lot. It made me think of her, and I told the woman her brooch was lovely. She beamed like she’d won the lottery. Not difficult at all, and it made both of us happy.

~~eating slowly. Savoring the taste, the flavor, the texture. This may be hard if you have little kids, but if you don’t eat every single meal with them, when you can, take your time. The best part? You fill up without over-eating.

“Every time you appreciate something; every time you praise something; every time you feel good about something, you are telling the Universe: “MORE OF THIS, PLEASE!” You need never make another verbal statement of this intent and, if you are mostly in a state of appreciation, all good things will flow to you.”
~Esther Abraham-Hicks


That’s what’s on my mind today. Thanks for listening. One more day left of NaBloPoMo!!

easy like sunday

November 28th, 2010 | 8 Comments »

This is the best kind of morning. It’s so quiet as I’m the only one awake. We decided last night to attend the late church service this morning, so instead of rolling everyone out of bed to get out of the house by 8:30, we’re not needing to be coherent until a few hours later. And when the cats started their pre-dawn routine of scratching at the bed to get someone up, I arose to greet the sunrise with them, affording my hard-working spouse yet another day of extended sleep. Five days a week he rises before the sun to delve into his work, to think and sip his coffee and deal with these cats that somehow think going outside on these dark, cold mornings is a really good idea. And apparently, it is for like 2 minutes, then they race back in for the nearest blanket and cozy fleece bed. The little turds.

But today is my day. And I’ve found an amazing sense of calm in these quiet hours. I can write, and think and plot and dream. I can surf, lurk and sip dark, rich coffee. I can hear myself think and often find some wonders brewing in my own head.

And I can nibble on these incredible Sweet Potato biscuits.

This is my morning; it’s me, the coffee pot, my big mug and a stack of inspiration. It’s the sunrise outside the windows, a fleece blanket on my lap and sometimes a cat. It’s peaceful. It’s contemplative. The birds flit around the feeders outside, gathering in the hawthorn tree while I watch and observe. The cardinal flashes his bright red feathers against the white of the snow. The bluejay squawks. The goldfinch chatter. The crows call from the rooftops and the sun turns the sky from winter’s deep blue to hints of azure and bronze. The sunrises lately have been lovely, even when so fleeting. I’m happy to be sitting here to appreciate them.

It’s my morning time. It’s perfect. And these biscuits? Well, you would do yourself a favor to have a pan of them at any meal, and then steal away one quiet morning with a mug of dark coffee and a few of them on a plate to fill your belly. The lovely hue of orange is one of their many appealing features, but the fluffy, moist and tender crumb that spills out when you crack one open is the best part about them. With a cat, or not; with a sunrise or a bowl of steaming soup, served with any meal they will compliment it highly. They will inspire. Like the sunrise and a quiet morning.

Sweet Potato Biscuits
from The Kitchen Sink Recipes (and from Bon Appetit)

Yield: 12 to 15 biscuits

One 3/4-pound red-skinned sweet potato (yam), peeled, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon (packed) dark brown sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
Pinch of cayenne pepper
8 tablespoons (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes, plus 2 tablespoons butter, melted
1/3 cup chilled buttermilk

Cook sweet potato in medium saucepan of boiling salted water until tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Drain, cool, and mash.

Position rack in lower third of oven; preheat to 425°F. Butter bottom and sides of 8- or 9-inch cast iron skillet (or 8- or 9-inch cake pan).

Whisk flour and next 5 ingredients in large bowl. Add cubed butter to flour mixture; toss to coat and rub in with fingertips until mixture resembles coarse meal. Whisk 3/4 cup mashed sweet potatoes and buttermilk in medium bowl. Add to flour mixture; toss with fork. Gather mixture in bowl, kneading until dough comes together. Turn dough out onto floured work surface and pat into 1-inch-thick round. Using 2-inch round biscuit cutter, cut out biscuits, flouring cutter after each cut. Gather scraps; pat into 1-inch-thick round. Cut out additional biscuits, until the dough has been used.

Arrange biscuits side by side in prepared skillet or pan. Brush with melted butter. Bake until puffed and golden on top and tester inserted into center biscuit comes out clean, about 22 minutes. Cool 10 minutes in pan. Turn biscuits out and gently pull them apart.

Just a few days left of National Blog Posting Month!!!

turkey hangover, with extras

November 27th, 2010 | 5 Comments »

It happens, right? There’s so much turkey, and celebrating and eating, then more eating and more celebrating and having another piece of pie before we drag full tummies home and into bed, falling exhausted against the pillows.

Then we open the fridge to see all that leftover turkey. That is, if you’re lucky enough to be gifted with leftovers.

I always make more than I think I even need. I’m fine with leftovers, in fact, I love having to re-purpose my food into something else. And this year, with a huge ziploc bag of turkey, I am chomping at the bit to make some awesome meals in the next few days. So, what’s in your plan for that meat? The leftover gravy? The stuffing? Extra potatoes?

These are some ideas for that extra bounty from our holiday.

The simplest of all meals would be to combine turkey, and any leftover gravy that you have and serve it over bread. or leftover mashed potatoes. Or both. Talk about comfort food. This is one of Griffin’s most favorite meals to eat, and I’m sure if I suggest this to him, he will roll his eyes in pleasure, nodding emphatically for me to put it together.

A good frittata is perfect for using up leftovers, and if there are leftover mashed potatoes, you can whip up an interesting version of it by whisking the potatoes and eggs together. This will create a fluffier version of frittata, or make it into a scramble by adding chopped turkey and a little bit of cranberry relish if you have it. Cranberries in eggs is surprisingly good, but just a little as it can easily overpower all other flavors.

Leftover mashed potatoes can be made into Potato Cakes. This rich and comforting food is a rare indulgence in our house, but perfect for those potatoes. Form the mashed potatoes into a cake and dredge it in seasoned flour. Heat a skillet, and melt some butter then place the cake in the skillet and let it sit until the bottom is superbly browned and crispy. Carefully flip it over and do the same to the other side. Be patient and keep the heat moderate, as you will be amply rewarded with a crusty and hot little side for your breakfast.

Will you make soup? That’s pretty standard, especially if you have a turkey carcass to use. I love a good soup, and we eat soup in the wintertime every week. My friend Missy has a wonderful recipe for Creamy Turkey Wild Rice soup on her blog. The photos make my mouth water. That’s the kind of soup that will make an appearance in my kitchen too, as there’s nothing better for a cold night than a warm and creamy, comforting pot of soup. One year I discovered just how good leftover gravy was in making soup. I started a pot of vegetables sizzling before I realized that I was out of soup stock base. I did have gravy, leftover in the freezer so I pulled out the container and chopped out just enough pieces, adding it to the pot with water. It made for a perfect soup.

A quick meal to throw together with leftover turkey could be Turkey Quesadillas. We like to keep tortillas on hand, as well as cheese so that a quick meal can be put on the table when the creativity flow has been stymied. Heat your tortilla in a pan then top with shredded cheese and chopped turkey. If you enjoy them, you could add canned beans too, like pinto or black beans. Top with another tortilla, and cook, turning once until tortillas are crispy and browned. Serve with salsa and sour cream.

A good option for lunch would be a turkey salad. I love Curried Chicken Salad, and substituting turkey is perfect. The recipe I include below calls for dried cherries, but subbing either dried cranberries, or even a scoop of extra cranberry relish would make this really delicious. Bonus points for utilization!

Another favorite salad option, one that would be perfect for lunches at work is this Turkey and Dried Cherry Pasta Salad. Again, sub in dried cranberries, or the fresh relish for a unique taste. And another good salad option, making a hearty dish that’s perfect for a meal or as a side is this Turkey & Wild Rice Curry Salad from Brenda, of A Farm Girl’s Dabbles. I saw her recipe and just about started drooling. I love salads like that; there’s just so much going on in one bowl. It’s a party for anyone’s tastes buds.

And naturally, a turkey sandwich is standard. Jazz it up by spreading your bread with cranberry relish first for a nice twist.

Curry Cashew Chicken Salad
From The Curry Book by Nancie McDermott

2 cups cooked chicken
1/2 c. dried cherries, cranberries or raisins
1/2 c. chopped roasted salted cashews
2 green onions, finely chopped

Dressing:
1/2 c. mayo or preferred creamy spread
2 T. mango chutney or fruit spread of choice
2 t. curry powder
2 t. red wine vinegar
1/4 t. fresh ground pepper
1 t. dijon mustard

Combine chicken, fruit, nuts and onion in bowl. Separately, mix together dressing ingredients and stir until combined and creamy. Pour over salad and stir thoroughly to coat. Chill. Eat.

Turkey & Dried Cherry Pasta Salad

1# pasta of choice
2 c. cooked turkey, chopped
1 c. dried cherries (sub cranberries, or even raisins)
1/2 c. minced red onion
1/2 c. minced celery
1/2 c. chopped toasted almonds

Dressing:
1/4 c. powdered sugar
2 T. white vinegar
1-1/2 c. mayonnaise
2 T. cold water
2 T. poppyseeds
Salt and Pepper to taste

Combine cooked pasta, turkey, dried fruit, onion, celery and almonds in a bowl. Whisk dressing ingredients together until smooth and pour over pasta mixture, tossing to coat. Serve topped with extra almonds, if desired.

round 2

November 26th, 2010 | 3 Comments »

Holidays are always doubly fun when you have in-laws. There’s two Thanksgiving celebrations, and two Christmas gatherings. We juggle, we travel and we eat way too much food in a short amount of time. But that’s the way it is, and the celebrations are always a good time. I’m blessed to have a wonderful and huge clan on Mike’s side of the family tree.

The nice thing about celebrating with the extended in-law family is that I only need to do one dish. For my family, I make the whole spread, and I’m happy to do it. Mostly because they’re so happy to come to my home, eat a good meal and hang out with one another. I love offering them that. Then when it’s all over, I get lots of awesome leftovers to play with. Every year at Thanksgiving, I make an enormous turkey, way more than I have to, and I’m always plotting what gets put together with the excess. This year, even with our 8 people at my house, I made a 20-pound turkey. The remains that my sister-in-law and I pulled off the carcass filled a huge ziploc bag, and left me with visions of turkey wild rice soup, turkey sandwiches and a few bags of meat to go in the freezer for meal time in the months ahead.

And for our next celebration with Mike’s family, all I need to do is bring a pan of roasted root vegetables. That’s a piece of cake. Chop, peel, roast and deliver. It’s almost too easy. That gives me more time to be able to visit with everyone, play with the littlest nieces and hang out with people I love.

Problem is….. I’m still full from yesterday.

Many blessings to you and yours

November 25th, 2010 | Comments Off

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving, everyone…. and many thanks to you for coming by to visit.

thankful~~

November 24th, 2010 | 12 Comments »

~~ for my health, especially following last month’s car accident.

~~ for the fact that last month’s car accident was not serious

~~ for good insurance, oh thank goodness for good insurance

~~ for the 5 kittens and their mama who were rescued last month, and that someone may open their hearts and homes to them.

~~ for a wonderful, amazing, supportive, loving, accepting, gracious spouse

~~ for the best 16 year old boy anyone could ask for

~~ for the skills of my masseuse and chiropractor who keep me feeling good, and my hairdresser who is nothing short of amazing with both her talent and her personality

~~ for a nice home, good cars, warm clothes, sturdy shoes, hats & mittens, central heat, cozy blankets, good furniture, entertainment and rest

~~ for the food in our kitchen, and the ability to buy what I need

~~ for the warm fuzzy felines that lay all over me purring their love, and for their vet who keeps them healthy

~~ for the fact that life sometimes breaks your heart, then turns around and unexpectedly gives you another chance, a better story, a happier outcome. We would never appreciate those peaks of life if it weren’t for the dark valleys we travel through to get there.

~~ for being able to choose my happiness, for being strong enough to say ‘No’, for the ability to say ‘Yes’, for knowing when it’s time to let others make the decisions, for being wise enough to ask ‘Can you help me?’

~~ for being able to see that the little things in life are often far more important than anything else

~~ for family, as imperfect as they are

~~and last, but most definitely not least, I am incredibly thankful for the ladies who give me reason to smile every day, regardless of how close they are to me, or even if I’ve yet to meet them in person; wonderful and warm women who support me, encourage me, inspire me, humble me, remind me of who I am, and love me anyway. Women who seek me out, who point me out, who rave over what I do and jump with glee when they see me. Women who give me bone-crushing embraces while smiling to the end of the universe. Women who share their lives, their expertise, their failures and victories, their beautiful children, their humor and grace, and most of all, themselves……. people like Liz, Missy, Molly, Tracy, Darcie, Jennifer, Liz, Samara, Jen, Stephanie, Shaina, Crystal, Anna, Heather, Monika, Kristen, Chris Ann, Trish, Jen, Laura and Barb, Cindy ……. I suppose if I’m going to be thankful for these wonderful ladies, and the presence of them in my life then I need to also be thankful for Twitter because without that platform, and without me jumping in to it headfirst just one year ago, I wouldn’t have met any of them. And to try and stress how much it’s changed my life, and how grateful and thankful I am for them…. well, I would need an entire post to do that.

pre-turkey

November 23rd, 2010 | 2 Comments »

Thanksgiving is just a few days away. Like you need to be reminded of that? We’ll be experiencing a pre-Thanksgiving snowstorm this year but I’m thinking it won’t hamper any of our plans. My family is all local, and hardy winter souls with dependable cars and a lifetime of snow experience. Plus it’s a homemade meal. They don’t miss that for anything.

My menu is planned and it’s always pretty simple. The family is not much for experimenting with rambunctious flair; they like their mashed potatoes, a good smoked turkey on the grill and plenty of gravy. We’ll drink wine, snack on cheese and crackers and enjoy each other’s company and really, that’s all that matters at all on a holiday, isn’t it?

Snacks are an important part of any gathering, and since I’m doing the cooking, someone else is bringing the pre-meal offerings. But if it’s me making something for nibbling, I like a bit of variety and spice.

For something delicate and different, this Herb Flatbread from a long ago Gourmet magazine is a simple and delicious option. It’s good enough to eat alone, or topped with a thin slice of sharp cheese. It’s a bit too delicate to spread much on, but nice to have in a cracker basket.

For something really different to spread on your dinner rolls, or a good hearty cracker, this Roasted Red Pepper butter is an awesome option. It’s rich, with the sharp tang of roasted peppers, and could even turn a pan of mashed potatoes into a unique delight.

And if you want to really stretch your wings and offer something bold, spicy and off the beaten track, this fragrant nut and spice mix called Dukka is a wonderful option for an appetizer. A fragrant crush of nuts, cumin and coriander seeds and a little coconut, it makes for a good crunchy texture against soft bread that’s been dipped in olive oil.

The  most important aspect of any holiday gathering, though, is to relax, enjoy the day and the company and don’t sweat out every detail. Here’s hoping your Thanksgiving is full of warm smiles, plenty of laughter and lots of delicious food.

Dukka- middle eastern spice mix
From July 2008 Food and Wine magazine

1/4 c. each raw pistachios, almonds, hazelnuts and cashews
1/4 c. coriander seeds
1/4 c. unsweetened coconut
1 1/2 T. cumin seeds
1/4 c. sesame seeds

In a 350 degree oven, roast the nuts until golden brown and fragrant, stirring occasionally, about 10-15 minutes. Empty into bowl to cool slightly. In a skillet over medium heat, toast coriander seeds until fragrant and browned, about 6-8 minutes. Remove from pan to bowl for cooling. Toast cumin and coconut until coconut is golden, 4-8 minutes. Cool with coriander. Toast sesame seeds until golden, 4-6 minutes. Cool separately.

In work bowl of food processor, combine nuts, coriander, cumin and coconut; pulse until coarsely chopped, or preferred consistency. Empty into large bowl and add sesame seeds, stirring to combine. Season with a little kosher salt and black pepper if desired. Keep in airtight container, either refrigerated or frozen.

Roasted Red Pepper Butter

1 c. room temp butter
7-oz jar roasted red pepper, drained and finely minced
2 t. milk
1 T. fresh chives, minced
1 T. fresh parsley, minced
1/4. c. fresh grated parmesan or asiago cheese
Salt and Pepper

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and beat with a hand mixer until smooth and fluffy. Can be shaped into a log and chilled, or stored in a plastic container.

Hint: with the peppers, the finer you mince, the prettier and more spreadable the butter will be. I used a knife on mine but next time will use a food processor or chopper to get them even finer.

Herb Flatbread (from Gourmet magazine)
1 3/4 c. unbleached flour
1 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
1-2 T. fresh herb of choice
1/2 c. water
1/3 c. oil

Heat oven to 450 with a pizza stone on middle rack. Combine dry ingredients and herbs. Make well in center and pour in oil and water. Stir with spoon until a soft dough forms. Turn out onto parchment paper and knead about 5-6 times to bring dough together. Can be divided into 2-3 small balls and rolled flat, or rolled out as one large circle. Drizzle olive oil over top, sprinkle with sea salt and more herb and transfer, parchment and all to heated stone. Bake until browned in spots and fragrant- time will depend on how thin dough is rolled. Remove from oven and cool (don’t cool on stone- it will continue to bake). Slice with pizza cutter and enjoy.

weekend time

November 20th, 2010 | 2 Comments »

It’s the weekend before Thanksgiving. I’ve done my shopping and planning and am ready to cook, and eat and enjoy. I love Thanksgiving, especially the turkey and stuffing. I always buy a huge bird to insure plenty of leftovers, and there’s always a soup in the days after, or a few morning of making crunchy little cakes from leftover stuffing, or a frittata maybe, with some cranberries and bits of turkey mixed in.

Looking for a nice treat to start your holiday off right? How about a Dried Cherry Poppyseed Scone?

If you’ve got house guests coming, these delicious dried cherry scones are a perfect offering for a simple, but elegant start to your day. Heck, even without house guests, you should find a reason to put these on your weekend menu. They’re light and fluffy, with chewy cherries and the crunch and snap of poppy seeds. No cherries? Use cranberries, or even raisins. A wintery morning, chilly and bright can be made much nicer with the humming oven and the warmth of a fresh scone. Next to a fragrant cup of coffee or tea, I can’t think of a nicer way to wake up.

Dried Cherry Poppyseed Scones
from Tyler Florence, Real Kitchen

2 c. AP flour
1 T. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
2 T. sugar
3 T. poppyseeds
5 T. butter, cold
1 c. milk or cream
1 c. dried cherries

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Place parchment on a cookie sheet.  Place cherries in a heat proof bowl. Boil water to vigorous bubbles and pour just enough in the bowl to cover the cherries. Stir to combine and allow to sit, stirring occasionally until the water is tepid and the fruit soft. Drain the fruit, reserving the juice.

Sift together flour, baking powder, salt, sugar and poppyseeds. Using a pastry blender, cut in the butter until the mixture looks like coarse crumbs. You want to leave larger pieces of butter. Make a well in the center and add the milk, stir to just combine everything, making sure you scrape across the bottom of the bowl. Toss the drained fruit with just enough flour to coat them lightly, then add to the dough, stirring carefully until just incorporated.

Lightly flour your countertop and turn the dough out. With your hands, shape into a square, roughly about 10″x12″ or so. With a sharp knife, bench scraper or spatula, cut the square into four equal portions, then cut each portion in half, corner to corner, to form triangles. Carefully lift the triangles with a spatula onto your prepared sheet. Alternately, you can scoop the dough straight from the bowl to the cookie sheet. Bake for 15-18 minutes until lightly browned and fragrant. Allow to cool.

For a glaze, combine reserved juice with about 1 1/3 cups powdered sugar and a little melted butter. Drizzle over scones before serving.

build me up, butternut

November 19th, 2010 | 4 Comments »

(photo from “That’s Yummy”)

We’re woefully into November’s gray and flat winter light. The cloud cover expanse across the sky is leaden and heavy and daylight begins to fade around 4:00pm, yet even in the best of midday light, the ability to take a good photo often is a crapshoot. I don’t really mind the changes that come around this time of year, this first adventure into winter, the shorter days and descent into wool sweaters, layers, warm socks and extra blankets on the bed. The coziness of it is good, it’s necessary, and there’s a lot of it that can be so soothing- like the leaping blue flame under the daily tea-kettle, the ritual of a warm steaming cup to carry me through the late afternoon; there’s the presence of the strands of tiny twinkling lights we’ve used to adorn certain areas of our home- the stairwell for those dark, dark mornings, the top of the cupboard in the kitchen, and the fancy festooned bakers rack in the corner of our kitchen.


The tiny lights are nice in those early mornings before the dawn when Mike is awake; it provides enough light to get the coffee pot going and the cat dishes filled without having that eye-burning glare that we encounter when first out of bed. The stairwell lights guide him safely down in the darkness. We put these lights up many years ago at Christmas time, and they’ve proven to be so useful that we never removed them. In those gloomy November afternoons they add a warm touch to our home, along with the singing tea kettle, and those steaming cups. Add a candle or two and you can chase those dark hours away a lot easier.

A good warm oven and simmering pot on the stove does that too. I recently came across a recipe for Butternut Squash Pasta, in Gourmet magazine’s Best of 65 Years cookbook. It was a simple process of cooking cubed squash then tossing it with garlic and pasta, but I thought to take it one step further and create an awesome squash puree to mix in with pasta, creating a saucy topping that clung to every single bite.

Problem was, as delicious as it tasted, it looked just ghastly. Imagine, brightly colored orange squash mixed with cooked whole wheat pasta. Oh gads…. it was homely as all get out, but tasted glorious and superbly like comfort in my bowl. I do recommend it, even if I can’t show you the result. Roast your halved butternut squash until it’s good and soft. Scrape the flesh into a bowl, add a little broth or milk to help thin it, then mash it smooth. You can whiz it in the food processor too. The resulting puree should be thick, close to the texture of canned pumpkin, and can be used like canned pumpkin, which, after all, is squash right?

Having the use of pureed squash on hand made it a cinch to whip up a batch of muffins too, and after finding a recipe for Whole Wheat Muffins with Pumpkin and Quinoa on Fork, Knife and Spoon, I knew those had to somehow come out of my oven in the near future. With a little trip towards the healthy side of muffins, these little beauties came out bouncy soft, only the slightest bite of sweet and full of chewy nibs of quinoa blended with the sweet taste of roasted squash.

Touched inside and out with toasted coconut, they had a lot going for them. A bite for breakfast, a quick pick me up snack or a nice late night treat before climbing under piles of blankets, they fill in all parts of your day with a compliment for your tummy. Follow the link to Kate’s blog  ( I know! Another Kate! ) for the original recipe. I doctored mine up to utilize what I had on hand for my version.

Whole Wheat Muffins with Quinoa and Squash

2 c. whole wheat flour
1-1/2 c. cooked quinoa
1/2 c. pure maple syrup
2 t. baking powder
1 t. baking soda
1 t. ground cinnamon
1/2 t. ground nutmeg
1/4 t. ground allspice
1/2 t. sea salt
1 c. cooked butternut squash
1 egg
3/4 c. buttermilk
3 T. oil
1 t. vanilla extract
1/2 c. shredded coconut, toasted

Preheat oven to 375 and spray muffin pans, or line with paper. You will get approximately 18 muffins.

To cook quinoa- measure one cup of water in a saucepan and place over medium burner. Rinse 1/2 cup of quinoa in a wire strainer under cold running water, shaking to rinse thoroughly. Place quinoa in saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer about 10-15 minutes until all the water is absorbed. Remove pan from heat and let stand for 10 minutes, then scrape cooked quinoa onto a plate and spread out to cool.

When cooled, measure flour and quinoa into a large bowl. With your hands, gently toss together until blended, and quinoa appears the size of tapioca pearls. Add in baking powder, soda, spices and salt and mix thoroughly.

In another bowl, measure buttermilk, then whisk in syrup, egg, squash, oil and vanilla. Whisk together, then add to dry ingredients with coconut. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold ingredients together until incorporated. Do not overmix. Scoop into muffin tins, about 2/3 full and bake for 15-18 minutes, or until tops are browned and spring back when touched. Allow to cool in muffin pans for 15 minutes or so, then turn out onto wire racks to cool completely.

And without even realizing it, I’m more than halfway through NaBloPoMo, or National Blog Posting Month. It’s proven to be way easier than I anticipated, but with 4-1/2 years of archives to wander through and re-introduce, I’m never at a loss for material.