Foodie Cookie Exchange

If you’re one of the special (and lucky) people who participate in holiday cookie exchanges, I’ll bet you’ve already begun to haul out the mixing bowls, cookie sheets, and wooden spoons.

My experience with cookie exchanges is like this: “Help!”

Okay, to be fair, it’s a lot of work, but it’s also worth it. My ladies’ small groups met one winter night to bring cookies, fudge, and brownies to share. The idea was to bring a dozen (or more) cookies to share and we all got to select a dozen (or more). The tables were so full and the choices were so varied. How do you make up your mind?

I guess that’s another opportunity to say, “Help!”

I’m sure you have favorites you like to make, including the traditional choices and family must-haves. If you want to try something new, try these. I especially like the coal ones because it’s such a cute idea and I like chocolate, of course. These are richer than the usual crispy treat variety, don’t look as dark, and take a bit more time, but again, worth it. Both recipes require a dough from the fridge or freezer. The shortbread cookies require baking, but maybe you want the oven hot so it’s all nice and cozy while you sip hot chocolate.

Funfetti Shortbread Bites

  • 1 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp. powdered sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 c. (1 stick) butter, softened
  • 1 tbsp. red and green nonpareils or sprinkles

Cream together the sugar, salt, vanilla, and butter until combined. Add the flour and mix well. Transfer dough to a large bowl and knead until it’s nicely formed. Add nonpareils and knead again to combine them well. Now is a good time to preheat the oven to 325º.

On waxed paper, roll dough into a 1/2″-thick square. Freeze 15 minutes. Cut dough into 1/2″ squares and transfer to a large baking sheet. Bake until cookies are golden, 18 to 20 minutes.

Oreo Coal Cookie Bites

  • 40 Oreos
  • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 16 oz. semisweet or melting chocolate
  • 1/3 c. Oreo cookies, crushed or cocoa powder, for dusting

Grind the Oreos into crumbs, using a blender or food processor. Transfer crumbs to a medium bowl, add the cream cheese, and mix together. (A fork works well for this.)

Form balls using about one tablespoon of the Oreo mixture, making them misshapen like a lump of coal. Place them on a plate and into the fridge for about 30 minutes, up to 1 hour to become firm. Microwave the melting chocolate or morsels in 10 to 15 second increments until smooth.

With a fork or toothpick, dip each Oreo ball into the melted chocolate, then set onto parchment paper. Sprinkle immediately with crumbs from Oreos. If using cocoa powder, once the balls are chilled and firm, dip your fingers into the cocoa and lightly rub onto Oreo balls to complete the “coal” look. Store balls in the fridge until ready to serve.

Stay safe and sane and enjoy your holiday season. Eat hardy.

Foodie Sipping Hot Chocolate

It’s that time of year In my neck of the woods, now and all through winter, we like to drink hot chocolate. I like mine made from scratch (naturally). It’s easy to mix up a batch from a container of baking cocoa, sugar (or your choice of sweetener), and milk.

In the Midwest, we might still be having bonfires in our  back yards or that of a friend. Think “s’mores.” Think “roasted marshmallows on a stick.” Think “hot chocolate with roasted marshmallows.”

But try to think in a different vein.

If candy manufacturers can add a twist to their chocolate confections, why not do the same to your cup of hot chocolate? I like chocolate with raspberries or cherries and I’m game for just about anything when it comes to chocolate. Try giving your hot chocolate a little zip with one of these suggestions.

Caramel: A tablespoon of caramel sauce can do wonders for hot chocolate. Spoon in your favorite brand and give it a good stir right before you take your first sip.

Cinnamon, Nutmeg or Vanilla extract: A 1/4 teaspoon of any of these adds that homespun flavor.

Orange Zest: Carve three 2-inch long strips of orange rind (the skin) and let them steep in your drink for a while before tasting. That citrus flavor is a delight. It reminds me of the chocolate “oranges” in the fancy Christmas packages.

Espresso or Coffee: You can either add a tablespoon of fresh-brewed coffee or espresso, or you can use the instant stuff.

Peppermint Stick: Drop a peppermint stick or even one of those peppermint candies you picked up at your last restaurant visit. It adds great flavor, and a great smell. This version is nice if you’ve got a cold. Peppermint also calms an upset tummy.

Peanut Butter: If you’re crazy for peanut butter, take a tablespoon or two and mix it into your cocoa. Just be sure to mix well until it melts. Chunky or ‘natural’ with the oil on top is probably not a good idea, right?

Habanero Pepper or a Shot of Hot Sauce: Got a hankering for something hot and spicy? A dash of your favorite hot sauce kicks a hot chocolate into high gear. You can even drop in 2 slices of a fresh Habanero pepper into your cocoa and stir the flavor in. I like hot sauce, but admit this choice isn’t for the faint of heart.

Hot Cherries: Nearly everyone has that just-in-case jar of maraschino cherries sitting in the fridge, so drop two or three teaspoons of the juice into your drink, along with a cherry. It tastes like drinking a chocolate cordial.

Coconut Milk: Put a tropical spin on your hot chocolate by substituting some of the milk required with a 1/4 cup of coconut milk.

Maple Syrup: It’s not just for waffles and pancakes! A squirt of the unique taste of pure maple syrup livens up ordinary hot chocolate.

If you’re interested in making a single cup of cocoa for yourself, Epicurious has a recipe for that.

Make your own hot chocolate mix to have on hand whenever you want a cup. The Pioneer Woman has a recipe which is easy and makes a really creamy concoction you can share as gifts.

So, cozy up in your chair or in front of the fireplace with a nice cup of hot chocolate. Boy, I think I’ll go make a cup right now.

Foodie Dips Into the Holidays

Foods that often turn up at a get-together are dips accompanying a chip of some kind. Right? But what if you’re tired of store-bought dips and want to bring one that’s as easy to prepare as it tasty?

The holiday season upon us, we’ll be invited to work, family, church, and other sorts of buffets. Foodie Friday helps out with a handful (not literally) of recipes featuring ease of prep and variety to boot.

Not to say men can’t be great cooks, but even the average guy who wants to show off a little can whip up a simple dip. In fact, the first recipe on the list comes from a man I used to work with. People raved over this dip from our department’s Christmas soiree and I was smart enough to ask for his recipe. (Thanks, Jerry!)

Seafood Dip

  • 2 T. dry onions
  • 2 T. water
  • 1 large can Albacore tuna, drained
  • 8 oz. cream cheese (fat-free, if preferred)
  • 1 T. hot sauce
  • 2 t. parsley flakes
  • 2 T. chili sauce
  • 2 T. horseradish

Mix dry onions and water together and let sit while mixing remaining ingredients. Blend onions into tuna mixture. Chill before serving.

Seafood dip made with salmon and plain yogurt

You can also use the same amount of red salmon in place of tuna. For either kind of seafood, be sure to drain it completely (“smash” it with a fork if you have to in order to get all the moisture out). Flake it so that it stirs in evenly.

Creamy Hot Artichoke Dip

  • 1 14-oz. jar artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
  • 1 c. low fat mayonnaise
  • 1 c. grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 clove garlic, minced

Combine all ingredients and bake uncovered at 350 degrees or until heated through. Serve warm. Although it’s better baked because you can get a nice brown crust on top, this dip can be prepared in one of those mini crock pots too. That will make it easier to transport and keep it warm once you get it to its destination. That’s also a great idea in summer when you don’t want to heat up the kitchen.

Veggie Dip

  • 1 c. plain nonfat Greek yogurt
  • ¼ c. minced onion
  • ¼ t. salt
  • 1 t. chili powder
  • ½ t. garlic powder
  • 1 t. dill weed
  • ½ t. cumin

Whisk all ingredients together. Chill before serving. This dip is also pretty good on baked potatoes.

Serving suggestions: Naturally, dips are great with chips of some kind. Depending on the dip, select pita chips, corn chips, veggie chips, or Fritos. Some work well when spread on crackers. You might even discover a dip that works like a condiment in a wrap or pita pocket.

I like when a recipe doesn’t require fancy ingredients, especially when the ingredients called for don’t cost a lot. Move past the French onion and ranch dips and go bolder! You may come up with a winner like my friend, Jerry. Try substituting plain nonfat Greek yogurt for the mayo or cream cheese if you like. The consistency will be different (and you’ll have to really mash out the liquid in canned seafood), but you’ll have less fat and more protein.

And here are a couple bonus selections from the Iowa Girl. A fruit dip and Southwestern Black Bean Dip.

Eat hardy!

 

Hey Foodie, Say “Cheese”

I’ve never met a cheese I didn’t like.

It could be that someday a new taste will not sit well with me in that dairy category, but so far, cheese has always made me smile. Like Little Miss Muffet, I even like my curds and whey.**

Here in my area of the planet, it’s autumn and getting chillier outside every day. We naturally begin to add comfort foods to the menu which we might not have eaten during the hot summer days.

Like soup. Chicken soup, chili, bean soup, pea soup. Nothing like a steaming bowl of homemade soup or stew.

I’ll keep my pie hole closed for most of this post and give you a couple recipes using cheese. These come right out of my recipe box (stained 3×5 cards and all). First, the soup, featuring two favorite foods.about-cheese

Cheddar and Bacon Soup

  • 6 slices bacon cut into ½-inch pieces
  • 2/3 c. chopped onion
  • 2 T. flour
  • 3 c. shredded cheese (I use cheddar)
  • 1 quart milk
  • ¼ t. pepper

In a medium saucepan, fry the bacon over medium heat until browned and crisp. Reduce heat to low. Add onions and sauté about 5 minutes or until onions are tender.

Stir in flour; cook one minute. Stir in milk. Raise heat to medium-high. Add cheese and cook, stirring frequently with a wire whisk until cheese is melted and soup is heated through (about 10 minutes). Do Not Boil! Add the pepper; stir until mixed. Yields about 6 1-cup servings

Now for a quick appetizer for snacking on crackers while you cuddle up in your recliner to watch a good movie. Or “Walking Dead,” if that’s your thing. This spread also tastes good on a sandwich with tomato. Use whole grain bread, an English muffin, croissant, bagel thins or whatever you like. You know me, I throw it together and see what comes out.

Pimiento Cheese Spread

  • 2 7-oz. jars sliced pimientos, drained
  • 3 8 oz. bricks sharp cheddar cheese, finely shredded
  • 1 c. mayonnaise

Place the drained pimientos in a blender or food processor and puree them until almost smooth. In a very large bowl, using an electric mixer, combine the cheese and pimiento, beating until partially blended. Beat in the mayonnaise.

The spread can be stored, covered in the refrigerator for up to one week. Allow the spread to reach room temperature before serving. Yields about 32 servings, 2 T. each.

Don’t forget the family favorite: grilled cheese sandwiches with tomato soup. Or homemade macaroni and cheese. Loaded baked potatoes. Big old cheeseburgers, and, well you get the idea. In my world, any time is a great time for a dish made with cheese.

Eat hardy!

*Cottage Cheese

Foodies Can Make Their Own Stuff

It’s a great idea to keep your own stash of cooking mixes handy. I prefer to make my own with the ingredients I have right in my pantry. I save money that way and I know what’s in my mixes. Most of the time, with a minimum of preservatives. Here’s some DIY mixes I have on hand all the time, with the exception of those that require cooking or preparation immediately for the dish I’m making.

Taco Seasoning (mild)

  • ½ c. + 1 T. chili powder
  • 3 T. cumin
  • 1 T. salt
  • 1 T. ground pepper
  • 1 T. paprika
  • 2 T. garlic powder
  • 2 tsp. onion powder
  • 2 tsp. oregano

For a spicier mix, add up to 2 tsp. red pepper flakes or up to 2 tsp. more of the chili powder. Use 2 ½ Tbsp. seasoning for each pound of meat. Stores well in a plastic zipper bag or small jar.

Hot Cocoa Mix

Hot Cocoa Mix

  • 2 c. non-fat dry milk
  • ½ c. baking cocoa
  • 1 c. sugar (or substitute)
  • ¼ tsp. salt

Mix all ingredients and store in an airtight container. Use as much as you need for your individual taste per cup.

 

 

Seasoned Baking Mix (for meat)

  • 1 c. bread crumbs
  • ½ c. flour
  • 2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 2 tsp. poultry seasoning
  • 1 tsp. paprika
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Combine the ingredients and store the mixture in a resealable container or zipper bag. This will keep in the pantry up to four months, depending on the humidity. It’s okay to freeze or refrigerate this mix. Easily doubled or tripled. Use recipe one cup at a time as you would the commercial mix. I like to dip my chicken in a mixture of ½ c. milk (or buttermilk, which you can also make yourself) and one beaten egg. I also make my own bread crumbs using stale bread or the crusts of bread by pulverizing them in a blender. The crumbs can be stored in the fridge too for use in other recipes.

  Hot Fudge Topping

Left: Pumpkin Pie Spice
Right: Taco Seasoning

  •   1 c. sugar
  •   2 Tbsp. flour
  •   3 Tbsp. cocoa
  •   1 c. milk
  •   1 tsp. vanilla
  •   Salt to taste

Combine first four ingredients in a small saucepan. Add cold milk gradually, stirring constantly and cook until thickened. Just before it thickens, add the vanilla.

Enchilada Sauce

  • 3 c. chicken broth                                      1 tsp. cumin
  • 3/4 tsp. salt                                                 3 Tbsp. chili powder
  • 2 heaping tsp. garlic powder                   1/8 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/3 tsp sugar or substitute                      1 Tbsp. cocoa powder
  • 2 tsp. oregano                                            8 oz. can tomato paste
  • 5 Tbsp. cold water                                     5 Tbsp. flour

In a 2 quart saucepan, blend broth, cumin, salt, chili powder, garlic powder, cinnamon, cocoa, oregano, and sugar. Whisk to blend well. As mixture is heating, slowly blend in the tomato paste. Heat to boiling, then quickly reduce heat to a low boil. Cook for 3 minutes more. Whisk frequently to thoroughly dissolve spices.

While sauce simmers, make a thickener adding flour to the water 1 tablespoon at a time. (Whisk or shake vigorously in a shaker to avoid lumps.) Use more flour as needed. While sauce is at a low boil, add thickener, stirring constantly. If sauce forms a skin while cooling, peel it off and toss it. This particular homemade specialty will impress you and your family or guests. It’s much tastier and, like I said, you know what’s in it.

Eazy Peazy Pizza Crust

1 ½ c. Baking mix              1/3 c. boiling water

Make a soft dough from the mix and water, using a little flour to keep dough from being too sticky. Boiling the water is what will make the crust more chewy and flavorful. Makes enough for one pizza or 4 six-inch pizzas, depending on how thick you like your crust. If you know how to make your own baking mix, all the better.

Just for Fun: The Classic English Breakfast

Eggs, Sausage, Bacon, Toast, Mushrooms, Beans, Sliced tomatoes, and of course, Tea.

Foodie Snacks at 100 Calories or Less

I can always make a long story longer, but the short of it is I don’t eat the way I used to.

That means I read food product labels; I don’t eat as much processed food; I cook from scratch even more than I used to; I log my food with an online app; and I eat ‘normal’ portion sizes. Most of the time, anyway.

Today’s post is about snacking. I still snack because I need to. Snacking is “doctor’s orders” and a strong suggestion from a dietician I see regularly.

You all know how much I like to cook, how much I like to try new flavors, and how much I enjoy experimenting with new recipes. My doctor isn’t into counting calories as much as making sure I stay with the necessary nutrients and portion size. Man, have I learned a lot about portion size.

This list is a sampling of my favorite snacks that are 100 calories or fewer. You can find such help all over the internet by doing searches. I use MyFitnessPal.

It’s Almost Apple Pie Sprinkle a dash of cinnamon on 1 cup unsweetened applesauce.

Miniature Tostada On a small corn tortilla, spread ¼ cup nonfat refried beans. Top it with shredded lettuce, diced tomato, and a sprinkle of shredded low fat cheese.

Mediterranean Tomato Dice a medium tomato and top it with 2 tablespoons feta cheese.

Oh-So-Sweet-Potato This is not a sugary sweet potato; it’s sweet because of the lack of sugar. You’d be surprised how quickly you can get used to not eating sugar on food. Just bake a small sweet potato and sprinkle salt or cinnamon on it. If you want to, microwave it in a potato bag. Here’s an easy pattern for making your own bag. They come out great this way and it’s so quick.

Carrots With Hummus This is the old veggie dip idea but with protein instead of fat. Crunch on 9 or 10 2-inch carrot sticks dipped in hummus. Bonus points if you make your own hummus. Hey, it’s easy.

Santa Fe Black Beans Combine ¼ cup drained and rinsed black beans, ¼ teaspoon salt, and 1 tablespoon nonfat Greek yogurt. It’s a hearty snack with protein that won’t quit.

Greek Watermelon Can you tell I enjoy the flavors of the Mediterranean? This one combines watermelon (1 cup) and 2 tablespoons feta cheese. Those seemingly incompatible flavors do work. (And I really like feta cheese.)

Turkey Tartine A fancy name for a foodie snack that’s a tasty open faced sandwich. Spread 1 teaspoon mustard on a slice of toasted whole grain bread and lay on 2 slices of deli turkey.

Carrot ‘Salad’ Mix two grated carrots with 1 tablespoon raisins, 1 teaspoon raw sunflower seeds, and 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar.

Black Bean Salad This one’s not only lean, it has protein and fiber. Mix ¼ cup drained and rinsed black beans, 1 small chopped tomato, ¼ cup chopped green bell pepper, and a pinch of chili powder.

Spiced Cottage Cheese Mix ¾ cup nonfat cottage cheese with a pinch of chili powder and a pinch of curry powder. A garnish of chopped scallions is nice.

Strawberry and Spinach Salad Mixing savory and sweet reminds me of those cooking shows on the food networks. So be a pro and mix 1 cup baby spinach with ½ cup sliced strawberries. Drizzle on 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar.

Cottage Cheese With Melon For a twist on cottage cheese with fruit, combine ¾ cup diced cantaloupe with ¼ cup nonfat cottage cheese. If you’re craving sweetness, drizzle a little raw honey over it.

My tastes run to the spicy and savory so this baker’s dozen sampling reflects that. You know me: get creative in the kitchen. Life’s too short to eat boring food.

Eat hardy!

Foodie Eats Her Cereal

Yesterday, March 7, was National Cereal Day. Since I hail from Battle Creek, Michigan, the “Cereal Capital of the World,” it was only fitting to celebrate on social media. Hashtags and everything.

Foodies today are going to answer a couple questions for me. What’s your favorite cereal? (Hot, cold, homemade, weird, whatever.) What was your favorite when you were a kid?

We’ve long been told breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but I admit to enjoying breakfast foods any time of day. Sometimes when I was young, on a Sunday evening after being busy all day and having fixed a big Sunday dinner, Mom would say about supper, “Just have a bowl of cereal.”

Reading the side panels of cereal boxes, I learned to sound out big words. I had no idea what riboflavin was, but I knew how to pronounce it.

I have plenty of recipes for homemade cereals (and other traditional breakfast foods), but you might want to try this granola recipe from All Recipes. If you’re partial to pancakes and waffles for breakfast, try this strawberry syrup.

Battle Creek’s history with cereal production is well-known here in the Mitten State. At one time, there was over 100 different cereal companies operating in our fair city. For trivia buffs, here’s some cool information about cereal manufacturing and how it all began.

Ferdinand Schumacher, a German immigrant, began the cereal revolution in 1854 with a hand oats grinder in the back room of a small store in Akron, Ohio. His German Mills American Oatmeal Company was the nation’s first commercial oatmeal manufacturer. In 1877, Schumacher adopted the Quaker symbol, the first registered trademark for a breakfast cereal.

Granula, the first breakfast cereal, was invented in the United States in 1863 by James Caleb Jackson, operator of Our Home on the Hillside, which was later replaced by the Jackson Sanatorium in Dansville, New York. The cereal never became popular since it was inconvenient as the heavy bran nuggets needed soaking overnight before they were tender enough to eat.

The cereal industry rose from a combination of sincere religious beliefs and commercial interest in health foods. Dr. John Harvey Kellogg experimented with granola. He boiled some wheat, rolled it into thin films, and baked the resulting flakes in the oven; he acquired a patent in 1891. In 1895 he launched Cornflakes, which overnight captured a national market.

In 1906, Dr. John Harvey Kellogg’s brother, William K. Kellogg, after working for John, broke away, bought the corn flakes rights from his brother and set up the Battle Creek Toasted Corn Flake Company. His signature on every package became the company trademark and assurance of quality.

Charles W. Post introduced Grape-nuts in 1898 and soon followed with Post Toasties.

Have a bowl of cereal for breakfast some time to celebrate a pantry staple that appears in one form or another all over the world. Eat hardy.

 

 

7 Foodie Family Traditions Ideas

Families have traditions. Even when the family hasn’t officially named their practice a “tradition,” you can tell by watching them, that’s exactly what it is.

One of the most common traditions if you celebrate birthdays is to have a little “party” by serving cake, often with candles. You include as many people as possible because you want everyone to know the significance of the day. “I’m glad you were born” is what birthday celebrations boil down to. What a nice tradition.

My dad with his birthday cake that sports a Batman figure supplied by my eight-year-old son, Rich.

Here are some traditions revolving around meal time you might want to try. They’re ideas for celebrating the people you love, enjoying, as Foodies, a meal prepared with love.

Have Favorite Meal Day For instance, if a child has a birthday on the tenth of the month, on the 10th of every month, that child picks the main dish. You could also do this for wedding anniversaries where the wife picks on even months and hubby picks on the odd months.

All the men in the family cook and clean up on Mother’s Day.

Since restaurants are the busiest they are all year on Mother’s Day, stay at home and cook for Mom. If you don’t already know how, learn to cook one of those dishes (or a dessert) that was a favorite of everyone’s when you were growing up.  Make place cards for everyone using ideas you can get from Pinterest or any where you can find craft ideas on the internet. Going the extra mile is one way to tell Mom how much you appreciate her.

One night a month the evening meal is designated as Finger Food Night.

On the first and last days of school, Mom or Dad prepares a special meal. You know what your kids like best. Let them know you’re proud and that you appreciate their individual tastes in food.

Upside Down Day is something you can do on weekends when you’re home. Serve dinner for breakfast, breakfast at dinner time and “midnight snacks” for lunch.

Celebrate ethnicity One day in the month, try a new recipe reflecting the culture of another country or ethnic group. Before you eat dessert, discuss some things you know about the culture from which the food may have originated or trivia about the country or group you selected. It’s a great way to connect and get a little bit of education.

And speaking of connecting, it’s good for us to remember how traditions almost always help families and friends celebrate each other and the relationships we’re engaged in. It’s hard to deny that meal time is often the only way we connect when life keeps us busy.

At your house, what traditions do you already participate in? If you live alone with no family around you, how can you begin a tradition with a friend or a group of friends? Is there an event that occurs regularly around which you can build a tradition? Where I live, the Super Bowl is coming up. Lots of families and friends who enjoy football–rivalries not withstanding–use the even to “celebrate.”

Celebrate one another and Eat Hardy.

Pumpkin Head Foodie

Well, it really is pumpkin season.

And that odd phenomenon called Pumpkin Spice in coffee, ice cream, pudding, bacon, and just about anything you can imagine pumpkin flavor showing up in made its appearance on the scene right around the first of September (at least in my neck of the woods). However you feel about putting that particular flavor in stuff, the idea is here to stay.

I’m sort of a purist. So today I’m giving out a recipe for a pumpkin bread I like to bake. I also happen to use dried cranberries a lot. This is the season for cranberries too so you could maybe use this one for a holiday coming up. They’re coming up in my neck of the woods anyway.

Normally, I’d tell you that you can exchange out ingredients, because you know I do that a lot when I cook. But in the case of baking, I like to be fairly exact. The only thing I can suggest is cutting down on the sugar. Sometimes I do that because I don’t like stuff as sweet as the average Joe/Jill. Naturally, if you’re gluten intolerant, you know what to do.

I like it with the orange juice because it helps the cranberry flavor along.

Mini Pumpkin Cranberry Bread

Makes 5 mini loaves

  • 3 cups flour
  • 1T. + 2 t. pumpkin pie spice
  • 2 t. baking soda
  • 1 ½ t. salt
  • 3 c. sugar
  • 1 15 oz. can pumpkin
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 c. vegetable oil
  • ½ c. orange juice or water
  • 1 c. dried cranberries

Combine flour, spice, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. Combine sugar, pumpkin, eggs, oil and juice in small mixing bowl; beat until just blended. Add pumpkin mixture to dry ingredients and stir until just moistened. Fold in cranberries.

Spoon batter into 5 greased and floured 5 x 3 disposable foil loaf pans.

Bake in preheated 350 degree oven  for 50-55 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans for 10 minutes then remove to wire racks to cool.

Eat Hardy!

 

Foodie is Stewing

I promised this recipe to friend who was curious. I made it earlier this week because I was in the mood for something substantial, but heart healthy. This turns out to be more of a stew than a soup because lentils soak up so much liquid and because the large veggies aren’t reminiscent of a thinner dish. I usually use brown lentils, but if you aren’t sure what kind you should use in a particular recipe, this might help.

I’m a cook who uses what’s on hand if it works.  I also make substitutions all the time to go along with my own taste and health needs. This stew can easily translate if you want it to. This is the basic recipe; you’ll find some alternative additions/substitutions at the end of the post.

Use your imagination. It’s your kitchen!

Tugboat Lentil Stew

  • 1 lb. dried lentils
  • 1 T. olive oil
  • 1 c. chopped onion
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 c. sliced carrots
  • 1 c. sliced celery
  • 1 8 oz. can tomato sauce
  • 1 c. water
  • 1 14 oz. can vegetable broth
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 lb. sliced chicken sausage (or 1/2 c. shredded chicken)
  • Black pepper to taste
  • 1 t. sea salt
  • 1/2 t. hot sauce (if desired)
  • Lemon slices for garnish
  • Red wine vinegar

Rinse and pick over lentils for stones. In a Dutch oven, heat oil till hot. Toss in onion, garlic, carrots and celery. Sauté for 10 minutes or till onion is translucent and vegetables are tender crisp. Add tomato sauce, water, vegetable broth, bay leaves and lentils. Bring mixture to a boil. Cover; reduce heat and let simmer for about 25 minutes or till vegetables are slightly soft. Add chicken sausage and pepper. Cover and let cook another 10 minutes or until chicken is heated through. Add salt. Ladle into bowls and garnish with lemon slices and a dash of red wine vinegar. Serves 8-10.

Meat: I have never used chicken sausage because I can’t find it. I have used ground turkey because I like cooking with it and it’s less fatty. When I use ground turkey in this recipe, I cook it until done in a frying pan with the olive oil first and add some ground fennel. Fennel will give a sausage-like flavor. Experiment with it for your own taste.

Veggies: I’m not a fan of celery so I’ve never used it in Tugboat Lentil Stew. Sometimes, if I have them, I’ll throw in 2 cups of frozen mixed vegetable instead. Or one cup each of frozen carrots and green beans (or peas). I always use onion because what’s a stew without it?

Liquid: I like the flavor we get using tomatoes. But if I don’t have tomato sauce, I almost always have a can of petite diced tomatoes around. A large can is okay because I’ve found that those lentils really soak up the liquid. In fact, I use more broth too. I add it as needed as the stew cooks. Unsalted chicken broth is my favorite because there’s so much sodium in the other types.

Spices/Herbs and Garnish: Bay leaves are a must. It’s a stew, after all. If you don’t like garlic, leave it out. No sea salt? Use whatever kind you have. Remember that with sea salt, you don’t need as much for flavor. I don’t garnish mine. I usually want my stew right away and I’m not so fancy I need that. Although the vinegar sounds good for a little kick. Speaking of “kick,” I’m all for just a pinch of red pepper too. You can add that to the pan when you pour in the liquids.

Enjoy your stew. Would love to hear your comments and if you’re one of those “by guess and by golly” cooks like me.